What It Means to Be A Christian # 2
Christ The Object and Integrator of Creation
He is the object of creation. "In Him were all things created." "All things have been created through Him, and unto Him." And yet another statement: "For of Him, and through Him, and unto Him, are all things" (Romans 11:36). And then a further movement, or a further constituent of this creative activity and purpose, is indicated. It is found in the little clause which completes that wonderful statement that we have read earlier. "He is before all things, and in Him all things consist" (Colossians 1:17). The agent, the object, the integrated. "In Him all things hold together" - are integrated. He is therefore the very reason for the creation. Remove Him, and the creation will disintegrate. When they crucified Him and He committed His Spirit to God, saying: "Father, into Thy hands I commit My Spirit," there was a great earthquake, and the sun was hidden, and darkness was over the face of the earth. The very Object of the creation has been put out of His place by man. The creation knows that its very Integrator has been rejected. These are but tokens of a great fact. Jesus Christ is the very meaning of this creation: without Him the creation has no meaning.
Perhaps, if you are a thinking person, you are saying, 'Well, these are tremendous statements; they may be a wonderful theory, a system of teaching, wonderful ideas; but are they facts? How can you prove them?' My dear friend, you are yourself a proof of them. In these talks we are seeking to discover the meaning of the Christian life. Until you find Jesus Christ YOU have NO meaning at all in your own creation. The first thing that is livingly true about one who finds Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour is that they are conscious of having found the meaning of their very being! - they have discovered why they are alive! Life then takes on its true meaning, and these are no longer just great wonderful truths, suspended in an abstract way for our contemplation, acceptance or rejection. They are borne out in the creation, and you and I are a part of it. There is no unification of our own individual lives; we are divided, scattered people; life is not an order at all - it is a chaos - until Jesus becomes the center. But when that happens, there is a marvelous integration.
We shall have to come back to that presently. At the moment we are occupied with Jesus Christ, firstly away back before the world was, and then as the Agent, Object, and Integrator of the creation. Out of this, three wonderful, though simple, things quite clearly arise. Firstly, His likeness to God - He was the very image, or impress, as the word is, of God's substance; secondly, His oneness with God; and thirdly, that aspect of His Person as the agency of God. I want you to keep those things in mind, because they are carried over and they come very much into this matter of the Christian life. With all this, however, we have to recognize a uniqueness and exclusiveness about Him, and I want to underline that as many times as I can, lest presently it might look as though I were on very dangerous ground. But I want you to extract those three things: likeness to God, oneness with God, and agency of God's purpose and God's work - in the case of Christ something unique and absolutely exclusive, gathered into the word "deity," 'very God of very God.' That, in brief - but oh, what a comprehensiveness, what a profundity, what a fullness! - that is brief is what we are told about Jesus Christ before He came into this world. Let us now pass on to what the Bible has to say about man.
Man Made to Represent God
What is the very first thing that the Bible says about man? "And God said, 'Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness' " (Genesis 1:26). That is the Divine conception, that is the Divine idea. And what does that amount to? Surely it amounts to representation of God. Any image of a thing is supposed to be the representation of that thing, and the idea or conception of man in the Divine mind was that man should represent God. Not, of course, in that exclusive sense - Deity - of which I have just spoken: that does not come into it with man at all; but in this matter of being an expression of God, bearing the likeness of God: so that if you should meet a man who answers to the Divine idea you have a very good idea of what God is like. If only that were more true! - but in a very limited way we do know something of it, when we sometimes meet what we call a 'godly' man (and 'godly' is only 'God-like' abbreviated), and we say to one another, 'When you meet that man, you seem to meet the Lord, you seem to find something of the Lord - you seem to touch what you think the Lord would be like.'
Now, that was the Divine intention, conception, idea, as to man; but the intention was that the representation should be a full one, that the existence of man should convey the knowledge of what God is like in His moral character, in the beauty of His personality, that in touching man you should touch an expression of God, and be led back to God. And therein is a principle, mark you, a principle that we ought to take up, and that is to be carried into this matter of what it means to be a Christian. All our talking about God or Christ is utterly worthless unless we convey God and Christ - unless our Lord is found in us. That is the best thing, and sometimes that does its work without any talking, whereas a vast amount of talking will do nothing unless there is a touch of the Lord there. The conception of man in the heart of God is just that He should be found in a creation.
You see, the Lord Jesus when He was here was always trying to convey, by different means, sometimes by stories or parables, an impression of what God is like. He was speaking to people of very small spiritual apprehension. He could not go beyond illustrations, pictures and figures such as, for instance, the parable - or was it a life-story? - known as "The Prodigal Son.' I think it is a misnomer. It would be better to call the story 'A Father's Love,' and you would get to the heart of what the Lord Jesus was after. What He was saying was that when you have contemplated that father, his broken heart and his marvelous forgiveness and restoration, even smothering confession before it is finished, and lavishing upon that renegade son all that he had, you have got a faint idea of what God is like. And man was intended to be endowed and endued with the Divine nature. Peter even uses those words. "He hath granted unto us His precious and exceeding great promises; that through these ye may become partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). Once again, let me emphasize that we leave Deity out. It is enough that we may bear the Divine likeness - a likeness in nature - without aspiring to Deity.
Oneness In Life
It was God's thought, moreover, that man should become an inheritor of the very uncreated life of God. He was put on test, on probation, and missed it. It was there in the symbolic form of the tree of life, to be had on condition, but he missed it: and so man by nature - all the children of Adam right up to our own time and ourselves - has never possessed that Divine life outside of Jesus Christ. But that is the gift. As we shall see later, that is one of the great things that happen when we become Christians: we become partakers of God's own, Divine, eternal, uncreated life.
Fellowship In Purpose
Then again, God's idea for man was not only likeness and oneness, but fellowship in purpose: that man should be brought into a working relationship with God in His great, His vast, purposes in this universe. The statement of Scripture is: "Thou madest Him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands" (Psalm 8:6) - fellowship with God. Here again we have a vast amount in the New Testament. I think we could probably say that ninety percent of the New Testament is occupied with this cooperation with God in His great purposes on the part of Christians. The Apostle Paul is so fond of using that phrase, 'according to His purpose.' Fellowship in the purpose of God - that was in God's mind in creating man.
But note, that all this likeness in nature, oneness in life, and fellowship in purpose, is related inseparably to God's Son, Jesus Christ: there can be none of it apart from the appointed Heir. We are said to be "joint heirs"; that is, we come into things by union with Christ. So the Apostle Paul has as his abundant phrase, found everywhere (two hundred times) in his writings ' "in Christ", "in Christ": nothing apart from Christ, nothing outside of Christ. It is all in Christ, inseparably bound up with God's eternally appointed Heir of all things.
(continued with # 3 - The Failure of Man