Another Vessel (continued)
This is an example of how the Old Testament, as their Bible, was used to preach Jesus. There is something here which always amuses me. Philip preached Jesus out of Isaiah 53, and the very next thing the Ethiopian said was: "Behold, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" (Acts 8:36). Please turn to Isaiah 53 and tell me where it mentions baptism! You will read it a hundred times and, on the face of it, you will never discover the word "baptism." There is only one conclusion that we can draw. That chapter is about the death, the burial and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and Philip must have said to this Ethiopian: 'To be united with Christ means being united with Him in His death, His burial, and His resurrection.' The man believed and said, "Here is water ..." I always think the next phrase is significant: "And they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him" (Acts 8:38). Well, I leave that with you, but the fact is that that Ethiopian was baptized on Isaiah 53. That is just one instance of what we are saying. Whether it is the great persons in the Old Testament, or whether it is the central nation in it - Israel - or whether it is particular places, like Jerusalem and the Jordan, or whether it is special objects like the tabernacle and the temple, the fact is that in some way they all point to Jesus Christ.
So we come back to this: that He, God's Son, is the Pattern for the vessel, and we have commenced - and only commenced! - to study that Pattern.
Now just a further word about the beginning of the showing of the Pattern. The first thing about this Pattern is the mystery and the miracle of His birth from heaven. It is such a mystery that all the great brains of theology cannot accept it. I suppose the main point of controversy about the Lord Jesus is His virgin birth, but if you set that aside you reduce Him to the level of an ordinary man. In His very origin He would be no different from other men. I say again: many of the great brains of theology have decided against that birth. Nevertheless, this has been, and still is, the great point of controversy, and this is an example of the fact that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God ... and he cannot know them" (1 Corinthians 2:14).
The birth of Jesus Christ is a mystery and a miracle. At Christmas time we see all sorts of things set up which are called 'the Nativity.' There are some animals in a stable, a man and a woman with a little baby, and we are told: 'That is the Nativity.' There was never anything more false. Bethlehem was never the birthplace of the Son of God. He was with the Father before this world was (John 17:5). Bethlehem was only the point at which He came out of eternity into time. His nativity was not in Bethlehem; it was in heaven. He repudiated His earthly father and mother and always spoke about "My Father Which is in heaven" (Matthew 18:10).
Do you notice that when Luke wrote the genealogy of Jesus, he said of Him: "being the son of Joseph" (Luke 3:23), and then He protected that by putting into brackets "as was supposed." This was just what man supposed, but it was not true. He never was the son of Joseph.
What has this to do with us? This is the Pattern. The beginning of every Christian life is on the same principle as that of Jesus Christ. The Christian is not of time, but of eternity - thus the Apostle says: "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4). Our coming into relation with the Lord Jesus is only our coming out of eternity into time, out of heaven into this world. Where is your true nativity? If you were asked that by people of the world, you would say: 'I was born in France ... in Switzerland ... in England.' If you were to say: 'I was born in heaven,' the world would look at you and say: 'You are a funny creature!' At best they would say: 'What do you mean? I don't understand.' Jesus said of Himself: "I am come down from heaven" (John 6:38) ... "I am not of this world" (John 8:23), and in that sense He is the Pattern. We do not belong here, and the consciousness of that ought to be growing stronger all the time. As we have we said, there ought to be a mystery and a miracle in the life of every child of God.
I am not sure how your Bibles put this, but I am sorry that in the English Bible the words of the Lord Jesus to Nicodemus are put as they are, although in the Revised Version there is a correction in the margin. In the Old Version it says: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). That is quite good, as far as it goes, but what Jesus really said was: "Except a man be born from above". The real beginning of a Christian life is from above, and not from beneath. Of course, dear friends, you and I have to learn the meaning of this all our life, but we just state the fact and leave it there for the moment.
(continued with # 18)