The Underlying Truth of the Prodigal Son
Reverting to our illustration in that transition which is the underlying truth of the parable of 'The Prodigal Son,' namely the transition from a relationship on the ground of law, in the flesh, to that on the ground of grace, in the spirit, we have come to see that his knowledge of the Father in the Spirit was such as he had never possessed before. He never knew his Father before grace was revealed and the gift and operation of the Father's Spirit was manifested as he knew Him afterward. His spirit had been brought from death, darkness, distance, desolation, and now he had, not merely an objective knowledge of one whom he had termed Father, but a subjective understanding and appreciation of the Father, but a subjective understanding and appreciation of the Father. This is because the spirit of sonship had now been put within him whereby he cried "Father." There is no saving relationship to, or knowledge of God: only through grace and by new birth. Such knowledge is spiritual not "natural."
So, then, those who by being born again have become "little children," (Matthew 18:3), or "babes" in spiritual things, (1 Corinthians 3:1) have to learn everything afresh because "all things are new," and - now - "all things are out from God," (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). Such have to learn, a new kind of knowledge, as we have shown. But before this, and every and always, such have to learn to live by a new life - "to walk in newness of life." This life is always related to the resurrection of Christ, and is "the life whereby Jesus conquered death." The Apostle Paul says that our condition is to be "as those who are alive from the dead," and so saying he means that the manifestation in and by us is to be that of the shared power and triumph of the mighty resurrection life of Christ. Again, in order that we may learn how to live by this life, which is a superlative purpose of God concerning us, He is bound to bring our natural life to an end in all its effectiveness and value in the sphere of spiritual achievement, both in life and service. We cannot be or do what God requires: His life alone can produce after its kind. But while this is a law and a test, it is also a blessed truth that Christ came that we might have this life and have it abundantly. Read through your New Testament with the object of seeing how the Divine life is manifested by and in the enforced insufficiency of natural life, and you will see it to be the secret of the romance of New Testament accomplishments.
An element of offence in this teaching is that it demands a recognized and acknowledged weakness; it requires that we have to confess that in ourselves, for all Divine purposes, we are powerless and worthless, and of ourselves we can do nothing. The natural man's worship of strength, efficiency, fitness, ability meets with a terrible rebuff when it is confronted with the declaration that the universal triumph of Christ over hierarchies more mighty than those of flesh and blood was because "He was crucified through weakness" - God reduced to a certain impotence! - and "God hath chosen the weak things to confound the mighty" (2 Corinthians 13:4; 1 Corinthians 1:27).
To "glory in infirmity that His power may be the more manifest" is a far cry from the original Saul of Tarsus, but what an extraordinary change in mentality! God has, however, always drawn a very broad line between natural "might and power" on the one hand, and "My Spirit" on the other - and for evermore the law abides that "He that hateth his life (psuche, natural life) shall find it unto life eternal (aionian-zoe, Divine life of the ages) (John 12:25). This is said, of course, in relation to the interests of Christ.
(continued with # 9)