The first work in the soul is new birth. It is altogether from God and of God. Then the light of His grace shines in, and, as there is faith in the blood of Christ, there is relief. God has set Him forth “a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins to declare his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus”, Romans 3:25, 26. It is important to see that it is all from God, and as we rest in the fact that He is just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus, we are assured of His grace; as Israel under the shelter of the blood in Exodus 12.
Next, when we believe that God has raised Christ from the dead, we know that not only is the power of death overcome, but the judgment that lay upon us has been removed. We pass in figure through the Red Sea, the death and resurrection of Christ; we are justified by faith; now we have peace with God, and can sing unto the Lord, “for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea”. (Exodus 15:1) Great and glorious as His grace is up to this, the first great delight known to the heart, and which many are satisfied to stop in – the joy of their own salvation – there is still much more.
As we see in the type (Exodus 15:22), there was no water for Israel in the wilderness but Marah; so it is with us, this world is a scene of death. But God gave manna and the smitten rock. Now manna is the life of Jesus: the way in which He walked down here, encountering every difficulty where everything was unsuited to Him; and we cannot feed on manna or appropriate His grace to go through the wilderness until we know this life in its own sphere, where everything ministers to it and suits it. In order to be in the wilderness according to the mind of God, we must know that we are in the life of Christ in its own sphere; we first know we are in Christ’s life when we have deliverance; there is no sense of life till then.
Many suppose, because by faith they see they are clear in the sight of God, and by the reckoning of faith are also clear in their own conscience, that they have deliverance, but this is spurious and misleading; they are not truly in deliverance from “the body of this death” (Romans 7:24) – the wretched man – until they know by the Spirit that they are in Christ, and that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death”.
It is now that the subject of life comes in; John 3. You are not in deliverance until you are in life. The work of Christ gives you peace with God; that is, His work for us; this is the joy of salvation; but it is the work of the Spirit in us that sets us in deliverance this sets us consciously in life, and there is no step in the christian’s history so slowly entered upon as this, but when it is entered on, Christ’s life is known and wonderful effects follow.
Every believer is entitled to it by the grace of God, but every believer does not enjoy it, it is when he enjoys it that the effects follow. When a christian knows he is not in the flesh but in the Spirit, he walks here in a new state and a new manner of life. This is deliverance. When there is not deliverance, there is occupation with our tempers and failings, and a constant effort to correct them instead of seeing that we are clear of the flesh in which those tempers and failings are, and we are in Christ with new tempers and manners. (Note: It is quite right to judge our tempers as part of the old man which God has set aside in judgment.) When Christ is formed in us, the old man is crucified, “and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me”. Galatians 2:20.
If I know His salvation, I am bound to Him as Jonathan was to David, and I surrender for Him; but when I enjoy His life, I know His love and nothing can separate me from it; Romans 8:39. The abounding of grace over sin is not reached otherwise. Where sin abounded grace superabounded, in order that even as sin has reigned unto death, so also grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord; Romans 5:20,21. Thus also we are clear from human wisdom by beholding the Lord’s glory, and a marvellous effect is produced; we are brought into moral correspondence with Himself, first as to our own individual affairs, and collectively as to His interests down here; a matter surely for our wonder and praise, that being in the life of Christ can so affect us. Then it behoves us to be “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body”. (2 Corinthians 4:10) While the old man is never altered, however it may be suppressed, it is a new day for the heart and conscience when we count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; then we can “worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh”. (Philippians 3:3)
It is plain from Scripture that when you enjoy the life of Christ, you have believed in Him as the Son of God, and also that the old man has been set aside; in that the law “was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh”. When we know that sin has been condemned, and believe in the Son of God, we enjoy life in Him, He lives in us.
Now, when we are really at rest about ourselves, not only rejoicing in our salvation, but in the love of Him who saved us, we necessarily seek Him in His assembly; we learn like Peter to leave the ship that was made for water, to join Him in the new place above all the power of evil, and as we come to Him there, we are living stones, “built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ”. (1 Peter 2:5) We can only be there in His life, as we find in John 6, which is the divine side of it, while Matthew 14 is the way we reach it.
The effect of knowing the Lord in the assembly as Son over God’s house is very marked. You come from it with your heart set upon His interests here. This is well illustrated by the two disciples going to Emmaus; their hearts burned within them at the wonderful unfolding of Scripture, but they were not diverted from their own interests to His, until they had seen Himself.
Here I may remark that many are greatly moved by a word in spiritual power, and get, as I may say, a glimpse of the truth, but they are not yet rooted and grounded in it. Nothing can establish you, but the word of God formed in you, as we read: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby”. (1 Peter 2:2) Thus we grow up to Him in all things who is the Head.
But to resume; the more you are occupied with Christ’s interests here, the more sensible you will be of the opposition of the world, and how opposed it is to His things; thus you are prepared for entering upon the great blessedness of being dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world. A wonderful new day opens to you as you realise that you have died with Him from the things here, and are risen with Him, so that you can seek the things that are above where He sits at the right hand of God. Then the new and heavenly home is become known to you, and you realise that you have put off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ. Bear in mind that this circumcision cannot be known save as you have died to the world, and thus, as in the type, have crossed the Jordan. Then you are in the sphere of Christ’s life; you know Him as Head, so that you get counsel and direction from Him in relation to His interests here: and you fulfil the relative duties in a divine way when you can glory that you are not of the world; you are crucified to the world and the world to you. Its interests, plans and ways cease to be of interest to you, for you belong to a new world; you have the incomparable enjoyment of having come to the dwelling place of God in company with Christ. Now we begin to realise Ephesians 1:19. It is deeply affecting to see that when we know Christ as Head we are in the home above. We know Him there, and when we realise the power of the Spirit working in us, we know that we are raised up and made to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus”. It is not only that we get there, but that we know that we are united to Him there, and our home is where He is. It is here the grace of God culminates. Then we turn to the earth in quite a new way; we come out in divine power as heavenly men to carry out Christ’s pleasure in the circle of His people and in our family circle, enabled to stand against all the wiles of the enemy, as witnesses for Christ in the scene of Satan’s power. We are in the power and testimony of John 16. But who can describe these wonderful effects!
The Lord lead our hearts to realise our union with Christ, that we may be in the power and blessedness of it, walking in heavenly beauty in the scene of His rejection, for His name’s sake.
James B. Stoney
2 January 1897