Life on the Highest Plane
Vol. 1: The Person and Work of Christ
Four Spans in the Bridge of Salvation — Incarnation
God in His infinite love has undertaken the restoration of mankind and the reconciliation of all things to Himself through the mediation of Christ Jesus. It is to be salvation through a Saviour.
If man's complete salvation is effectually accomplished, five things must be done.
First: Man must be restored to such a relationship with God as shall make possible the fulfilment of the original, divine intention in his creation.
Second: The sin question must be fully and finally settled. Sin must be dealt with in respect to its guilt, penalty, power and presence.
Third: Such propitiation and reconciliation must be effected as shall remove the barrier of separation between God and man and give to every person the opportunity of restoration to God's favour and fellowship.
Fourth: A new order of human beings must be inaugurated to supersede the old order which is in ruin and rejection.
Fifth: Satan, the original cause and continual instigator of sin in man, must be defeated and dethroned. God's sovereignty over all things must be fully restored.
To accomplish such a salvation God erected a bridge of four spans over the chasm made by sin. Each span is an integral part of the whole. Without any one span the bridge would be incomplete and inadequate. The four spans are incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. Incarnation is the first span in the bridge of salvation.
That there would be an incarnation God's prophet had plainly foretold.
Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
Isaiah 9:6, "For unto as a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."
The moment sin stained the heart of humanity God gave the promise of a Saviour. All down through the centuries those who, like Simeon and Anna were eagerly anticipating the Coming One, could hear the advancing steps of the Lord of glory on His way from heaven to earth.
In the fulness of time He came. "Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king." "God manifest in the flesh " was God's first step in the fulfilment of His prophecy-promise in Eden.
God's original intention in the creation of man was a being made in His own image. Through sin man lost all true knowledge both of God and of himself as God meant him to be.
Living in a world of sinful men the sinner had no one better than himself with whom to compare himself. So he measured himself with himself and with others like himself and the result has been self-complacency and self-sufficiency. Left to himself alone there is no desire for anything better for there is no sense of need. In his moral and spiritual darkness and degradation man is incapable of knowing aright either God or himself. Hence it is clearly evident that if man is to be restored to favour with God he needs a twofold revelation, a revelation of God as He is, and of himself as he is and as God means him to be.
REVELATION — THE PRELIMINARY PURPOSE IN INCARNATION
God gave that twofold revelation in Christ Jesus, the God-man. Only the Son could reveal accurately and authoritatively the Father because He alone had seen the Father.
John 1:18, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him."
Matthew 11:27, "No man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son."
But how could the Son make known to sinners on earth the ineffable beauty, the infinite love, the immeasurable worth of the Father in Heaven if He remained in the Father's bosom? There was but one way that the age-long cry of "orphaned humanity," "Shew us the Father," could be answered and that was by way of the incarnation. This is the way the Lord Jesus took and He told those who saw Him on earth that when they had seen Him they had seen the Father.
John 14:9, "Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?"
In the incarnate Son the everlasting Father stooped to the level of man's power to comprehend Him. "Jesus is God spelling Himself out in a language that men can understand."
In the glorious person and the gracious work of the Son God was manifest. What the Son was God is. His character and conduct on earth is a mirrored reflection of His Father in Heaven. Blessing the little children and bidding them come unto Him; entering into the joys of the wedding feast and the dinner party; weeping with the bereaved sisters at the brother's tomb; seeking the companionship of kindred spirits in the Bethany home; talking with an outcast woman at Jacob's well; feeding the hungry multitudes who have followed Him into the desert; giving sight to the eyes of the man born blind; cleansing the temple of the avaricious moneychangers; denouncing the hypocrisy and self-righteousness of the unbelieving Pharisees; suffering in Gethsemane; dying upon Calvary; in all these ministries the invisible God is made intelligible to men.
But Jesus Christ came not alone to reveal God to man but to reveal man to himself. Through sin man was blinded both to the worth of God and the worthlessness of self. But in the man Christ Jesus God revealed to humanity His perfect Man, the divine Ideal. In Him man not only found all that he could ever want in God but all that God could ever want in man. What the God-man was on earth God desires every human being to be. "In him we see in perfect form what man in the divine idea of him is." By comparison of his life with that of the man Christ Jesus each one may see the depth of sin into which he has fallen and the height of holiness to which he may rise.
The twofold revelation in the God-man of God as He is and of man as he may be is surely the preliminary purpose in the incarnation but it is not the primary one. If the natural man had nothing beyond this revelation it would do him very little good. In the first place, how could his blinded mind apprehend it? His darkened heart accept it? His biased will act upon it? And if he could apprehend, accept, and act upon this revelation of God and of himself given in Jesus, where would it bring him? Such a revelation does not touch the sin question except to reveal to what depths man has fallen. In no sense can it settle it. It would only leave the awakened sinner with a greater consciousness of condemnation and a deeper experience of despair.
REDEMPTION — THE PRIMARY PURPOSE IN INCARNATION
Revelation in itself is not a sufficient reason for the incarnation. God was not manifest in the flesh to mock sinners by giving them an example of a perfect life which they had absolutely no power within themselves to imitate. The God-man is an example for the saint to follow but not for the sinner.
Again Jesus Christ did not come to impart teachings which the natural man could obey. Nor did He come to earth to make it a more comfortable and habitable place for the sinner through the social reforms He would effect. Nor did He come as the founder of a new religion the spiritual head of another sect, which would go a step beyond other religions in resuscitating the old creation and in lifting the human race through gradual development to a higher moral and spiritual attainment.
Jesus Christ clearly conceived His mission to this sinful world to be that of a Saviour. Scripture always speaks of the incarnation in relationship to sin and to God's purpose in redemption. Redemption is the primary purpose in the incarnation. Christ came to save sinners like you and me.
Luke 19:1O, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
Galatians 4:4, R.V., "But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons."
1 John 3:5, R.V., "And ye know that he was manifested to take away sins: and in him is no sin."
The incarnation is undoubtedly the first span in God's bridge of salvation. But in what way is the fulfilment of God's redemptive purpose begun in the incarnation? What part does it have in man's restoration to the favour and fellowship of God?
We have already stated two consequences of the fall; first, the utter failure of God's first man to fulfil God's original intention in His creation; secondly, the total ruin of the old order of humanity of which Adam was the head. The first Adam failed both as a man and as a representative man. Through his sin God's union established in creation with himself and through him with the whole human race was broken. This must be restored. Sin had injected into man an evil nature which made man hostile to God. He must be reconciled. Salvation demands reconciliation and reconciliation must be followed by conformity. Salvation from God's viewpoint does not mean merely the recovery of men from the guilt, penalty and power of sin but it means restoration to the likeness of God, even conformity to the image of His Son. It is not only a negative deliverance from a state of estrangement from and hostility to God but it is a positive entrance into a state of righteousness and holiness in God.
To accomplish such a salvation an altogether new union with the race must be made and it must be a union based on kinship of nature so that both God and man could find their fullest satisfaction and greatest blessedness in such fellowship. It was impossible for God to permit, or for man to enjoy, such an union as long as man had only an evil nature. For man to enjoy fellowship with God he must have a nature like God's. But how could he become a partaker of the divine nature? Here we discover the measure of God's grace. Here God's grace at its highest height stoops to man's need at its deepest depth. In order that man might become a partaker of the divine nature God would Himself become a partaker of human nature. In order to condemn sin in the flesh God would send His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.
Hebrews 2:14, 16-17, "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people."
Romans 8:3, "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh."
The act of the Son of God in becoming a partaker of our nature is the incarnation. This is followed very shortly by His death, resurrection and ascension by which we may become partakers of His nature. Thus in the incarnation we find the corner stone of the new union between God and man. But let us go further into its meaning.
God was faced with two necessities in any effectual plan of salvation: first, the sending forth of a second Man who would fulfil His original intention in man's creation; secondly, the providing of another Adam who would act representatively for the human race as the Head of a new order. The Man Christ Jesus meets both these necessities. He is God's second Man.
1 Corinthians 15:41, "The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven."
He is God's last Adam.
1 Corinthians 15:45, "And so it is written, the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit."
In the God-man, God made a new union with the human race; the ultimate issue of this union is a new race of redeemed men of whom Christ Jesus is the Head.
To fully qualify, however, as the last Adam in this mediatorial redemptive work, God's second Man must succeed where His first man failed, and He must succeed under the same circumstances and limitations. The first man failed on earth: the second Man must succeed on earth. The first man had a tripartite human nature subject to human limitations. The second Man must have a tripartite human nature subject to human limitations. The first man was tempted from without by Satan to doubt, disobedience and disloyalty. The second Man must be tempted in the same way, by the same person, to do the same thing. If God's second Man succeeded where God's first man failed then He would qualify as the last Adam to become the Redeemer of the human race and the Head of a new order of beings.
Let us see how God's second Man in the incarnation met every one of these requirements.
The eternal Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. The only begotten Son left the Father's bosom in glory to be born of a virgin in a manger in Bethlehem. A Saviour was born in the city of David. The Lord from heaven came to earth.
God's second Man was human subject to human limitations. Christ's humanity began where ours did and went through all the stages of human life from infancy to manhood. Christ had a human ancestry.
Romans 1:3, "Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh."
Acts 13:23, "Of this man's [David] seed hath God, according to his promise, raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus."
The Son of God became the Son of Man by a human birth. He was "a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes." Mary was His mother.
Luke 1:30-31, "And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS."
He was a "child" subject to the law of regular development, living in a home with brothers and sisters and growing under the training and discipline of His home life as other boys grow.
Luke 2:40, "And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him."
He was "a man" and as a son and brother in the home, as a neighbour and tradesman in the community, as a citizen of the nation, He performed every duty and met every obligation that these human relationships demanded. Christ Jesus was not only "made in the likeness of men" but He was in His earthly life "found in fashion as a man" (Philippians 2:7-8). "In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren" (Heb. 2:17). In everything the Son of Man was not only humanly perfect but He was perfectly human.
God's second Man had a tripartite human nature.
Luke 23:46, "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said this, he gave up the ghost."
Matthew 26:38, "Then said he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me."
Matthew 26:12, "For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial."
God's second Man had a spirit. It was ever open Godward and heavenward. He loved His Father and delighted in His Father's world, word and will. Communion with His Father was His supreme delight and He ever lived in the consciousness of the Father's presence (John 8:29) and in the joy of the Father's smile (Matthew 17:5). In Jesus the human spirit was always in perfect adjustment with the Spirit of God and was dominant over both His soul and body.
God's second Man had a soul. The last Adam thought, loved and willed as the first Adam had done. His familiarity with the Holy Scripture shows how He must have read and pondered the sacred writings. His parables taken largely from nature or the events of human life reveal the mould that shaped His thought life. He loved people and enjoyed fellowship with them. He was capable of intense sympathy and sorrow, of great indignation and anger, of deep joy and gladness, of exquisite appreciation and gratitude. Jesus had a soul in which was manifested a mighty capacity to think, love and will.
God's second Man had a body. He was made "in the likeness of sinful flesh." The Samaritan woman knew Him to be a Jew. Mary Magdalene thought Him to be a gardener. Those who saw and heard Him in the synagogue at Nazareth while wondering at His gracious words still took Him to be only Joseph's son. He ate, slept, walked, worked and lived as other men did. While in His countenance, conversation and carriage there must have been that which His sinlessness and holiness produced which made Him different from all other men yet in His physical form there was nothing which differentiated Him.
God's second Man was not only human but He was subject to all the sinless infirmities and limitations of humanity. Jesus hungered, thirsted, slept, wept, wearied, mourned, suffered and died. "There is not a note in the great organ of our humanity which, when touched, does not find a sympathetic vibration in the might, range and scope of our Lord's being, saving, of course, the jarring discord of sin."
Hebrews 2:1O-11, "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren."
Lastly God's second Man was tempted from without by Satan to doubt, disobedience and disloyalty.
When Satan said "I will" to God, setting his creaturely will in opposition to that of his Creator, he broke the unwritten law that in God's universe there can be but one will and that the will of the Maker of all things. Lawlessness then became a fact in the celestial realm. It entered the world and began coursing through the veins of human life when God's first man broke God's law and disobeyed God's command.
From that day on down through the centuries until the angels sang the first Christmas carols over the manger cradle in Bethlehem there had never lived a man who had been perfectly obedient to God, who had fully kept God's law. Men had turned to their own way and done that which was right in their own sight. Even among those who through faith followed the Lord there was not one who lived only and wholly in the will of God.
But through the incarnation there entered into human life a second Man in whom mankind was again to be put to the test; a last Adam in whom the human race had its only and final hope of restoration to God.
The first man, Adam, and the whole race latent in him had gone down into ruin and rejection through disobedience. Now God had sent forth a second Man, a last Adam, who might lift the race into restoration and reconciliation upon the one condition of obedience. It must, however, be obedience from the beginning to the end of life; obedience at all times, in all things, under all circumstances, to all limits, in spite of all consequences; obedience, too, not merely in the letter but in the spirit; obedience to the whole will of God as the unalterable rule of life; such obedience as made the will of God the center of His life, the circumference, and all in between. The ruling passion of His whole being must be "God's will — Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else."
Romans 5:19, "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."
Would the Son of Man be able to qualify for Saviourhood under such a condition? Would He choose in all things to will Godward?
In coming into the world Christ Jesus had declared that the purpose of the incarnation was to do His Father's will.
John 6:38, "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me."
Part of His humbling in becoming the Son of Man was His willingness to leave the place of equality in sovereignty as God to take the place of subordination in subserviency as man. The Father's will was the Son's delight; it was the very sustenance of His life.
John 4:34, "Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work."
He came, He lived, He worked, all with one purpose and one passion to do His Father's will. And what was the Father's will in relation to the human race and to the incarnation of His Son?
Joel 6:40, "And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day."
God's will was that every sinner should see in His Son a Saviour and believe on Him as such that the Father might lift from him the sentence of death and raise him up into eternal life in Him.
That this was the Father's will Satan knew; that Jesus Christ had yielded Himself unreservedly to the Father to carry out that will Satan also knew. His Satanic desire, his devilish determination, was to keep the Son of Man from doing the Father's will if possible. The slightest shadow of questioning regarding His Father's goodness would be doubt: failure to keep the holy law of God even in one point would be disobedience: the merest deflection of desire toward self-will would be disloyalty, and God's second Man, His last Adam, would have been disqualified for becoming the world's Saviour and the Head of a race of holy, heavenly men. That He would be tempted by Satan from the center to the circumference of His life, yea, that His Father must even permit such temptation would be easily understood even if Scripture did not state it so plainly.
Hebrews 4:15 "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."
Hebrews 2:18, "For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted."
Hebrews 2:1O, "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings."
To qualify as the Saviour of men and the Head of a race of redeemed men the Man Christ Jesus must be a victor over humanity's temptations one by one.
Throughout the thirty years of private life as a child, a boy and a young man, He had no doubt been tempted over and over again to doubt the Father's goodness, to disobey the Father's law and to be disloyal to the Father's will. In the home, at the carpenter's bench, in the manifold contacts of community life He met a daily assault in the common temptations of man. That He came through these years of obscurity with His manhood unsullied and unstained is amply attested by the Father's voice speaking those words of unqualified approval at His baptism. "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." As a Man Jesus had lived in private a life not only of absolute sinlessness but one that was wholly obedient to the will of God.
He emerged from private into public life and engaged upon His three years of public ministry. He publicly proclaimed Himself as the Messiah. But before He did this an event of tremendous significance occurred. At the Jordan Jesus was baptized by John. This was His first act of identification with humanity's sin, it was the preliminary step in becoming the sinner's Substitute.
Crowds of people were thronging to John to be baptized, confessing their sins. Jesus came to be baptized. He had no sin to confess and He had no disobedience to God's law to repent of. But there on the banks of the Jordan God's second Man publicly acknowledged and accepted His responsibility as the world's Saviour by thus identifying Himself with the world's sin. The last Adam through His baptism committed Himself to bear all the consequences of a broken law on the part of sinners. At His baptism the Man Christ Jesus began to be numbered with the transgressors and the work of personal substitution which ended at Calvary was commenced.
Immediately after His baptism His public ministry began and we read, "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil." As a man Jesus had met the manifold testings through the daily temptations incidental to private life and in them all had come forth Victor. But now as the Son of Man He is to have the decisive test of His whole life in a personal conflict with the devil himself. Man's salvation does not consist in deliverance from temptation but in deliverance from the possession and power of the tempter. The utter defeat and destruction of the devil himself was part of Christ's work as Saviour. Jesus Christ was committed to the salvation of mankind from sin in toto; this necessitated His going back to the very origin of sin in man and confronting and conquering its instigator. To such a task and to such a test "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness."
In this wilderness conflict the God-man is there not alone as a man but as the Son of Man, not only as an individual but as the Representative of mankind. Satan is there not only as a personal enemy of "the seed of the woman" but as the avowed foe of God and of the human race. The enmity prophesied in Eden is having there a concrete fulfilment; the conflict foretold, which has gone on in secret for centuries and which has its manifest fulfilment on Calvary, is brought out into the open and crystallized into actual combat here in the wilderness. The devil is no longer allowed to cover his identity through impersonation but is exposed as the devil and his purposes are openly revealed. There in the wilderness the spoiler of the human race faces the Saviour of the human race in a decisive and terrible conflict. It will be proven here for all ages to come who is the vanquished and who the Victor.
Satan had tempted Adam with the one purpose of gaining sovereignty over him and securing his worship. He had tempted God's first man in the garden of Eden at the one point where he could be disobedient and had met marked success. He had come forth victor. Adam had made a personal choice against the choice of God. He had acted independently of God and by so doing had stepped outside of God's will into self-will.
In the wilderness Satan impelled by the same purpose, tempted God's second Man employing the same methods and working toward the same end. A careful study of the great temptation (Matthew 4:1-11) will show that Satan made three separate attacks along three distinct avenues but with one purpose: to draw the God-man in desire and in deed outside the will of God; to induce Him to make a personal choice against the choice of God; to persuade Him to act independently. The supreme effort in each attack was to dislodge the God-man from the center of God's will and to lead Him into disloyalty to His Father.
The temptation in the wilderness was the decisive test not only for Christ but for Satan as well. If Satan could only triumph over the last Adam as he had over the first then he would be victor for all time to come. So he offered to Him in the wilderness all that he had gained in the garden even the kingdoms of this world if He would only fall down and worship him. Then he would indeed have dethroned God and the Satanic passion to be "like the Most High" would have been realized. The only hope of man's salvation would have gone, for Christ is the last Adam.
God's first man exercised his right to will and willed Satanward. God's second Man had also been given the same right to will and the power to will Godward. He exercised the right to will and chose to will Godward. The first Adam became the victim of sin and of Satan; the last Adam became the Victor over sin and Satan.
The question is bound to force itself upon us, "Was it as God or as man that the God-man triumphed over Satan?" Unconsciously perhaps we may comfort our-selves in defeat by thinking that He made use of the prerogatives and powers of Deity and that His victory was gained through means beyond the reach of man. If this be true the whole benefit to mankind of that wilderness experience is lost and it was only a personal and not a racial victory which the God-man gained. He alone would have profited by it but there would have been no meaning in it for you and for me. For if He had recourse to Deity and to divine power not at our disposal, then His triumph over sin and Satan does not avail for us.
This, however, was the very thing the devil was tempting Him to do and the very thing He resolutely refused to do. Satan tempted Him to use His power as the Son of God. "He declined to use the prerogatives and powers of Deity in any other way than was possible to every other man. He did not face temptation or overcome it in the realm of His Deity but in the Magnificence of His pure, strong Manhood: tested for thirty years in ordinary private life and for forty days in the loneliness of the wilderness. Jesus was in the wilderness as Man's representative" (G. Campbell Morgan, The Crises of the Christ, p. 170)
The last Adam gained His victory precisely where the first Adam failed. Scripture reveals two constituent elements in the God-man's triumph in the wilderness. The first is the sovereign control of the Holy Spirit over His whole being, spirit, soul and body. The second is His implicit obedience to God's Word.
Matthew 4:1, "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil."
God, the Holy Spirit, led Him into the wilderness to gain this racial victory. The temptation in the wilderness was no accident; it was not even the devil's doings; it was part of the plan. The temptation from without did not take Jesus unawares; He was prepared for this crisis. In His earthly life He was begotten, ruled, led, filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. While still having all the attributes of Deity, yet as God's second Man, He voluntarily submitted to a life of human limitations that He might be tempted in all points like as we are and gain the victory over temptation in the only way in which we can gain the victory. So He voluntarily put Himself under the control of the Holy Spirit, and lived His life and did His work only in the Spirit's power.
The temptation of the last Adam in the wilderness was an assault upon His entire personality. Satan approached Jesus through "the lust of the flesh," "the lust of the eye," and "the pride of life," but He found no vulnerable spot in Him. The human spirit in Jesus was dominant over both soul and body because it in turn was yielded wholly to the Spirit of God. The constituent parts of Jesus' wondrous personality were in perfect adjustment to each other because the whole life was lived in right relationship to God. Hence when Satan came he "found nothing in Him." It was victory gained through submission to the dominant control of the Holy Spirit. Such a victory may daily be yours and mine.
The second factor in the triumph of the God-man was His obedience to and use of God's Word. In Eden God's first man was defeated because he had listened to the devil's voice instead of to God's; he had believed the devil's lie instead of God's truth. In the wilderness God's second Man was victorious because He had listened to God's voice instead of to Satan's; He had believed God's Word instead of the devil's lie. More than that, He had used that Word as a weapon against the devil and with it alone repulsed the threefold attack.
Matthew 4:4, "But he answered and said, It is written."
Matthew 4:7, "Jesus said unto him, It is written."
Matthew 4:1O, "Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written."
"Then the devil leaveth him" for the victory was won. It was the victory of perfect obedience to the will of God revealed in the Word of God. Such a victory may daily be yours and mine.
The victory won in the wilderness over the tempter was both perfect and permanent. For both Satan and Christ it had been a decisive test. From that time the devil never again approached Christ in the same way and Christ ever treated Satan and his emissaries as a Victor treats the vanquished.
But the temptation in the wilderness was humanity's test as well as Christ's. God was giving man another chance, a last chance. Therefore the victory was humanity's victory. The Lord Jesus was there as God's second Man qualifying to become man's Saviour and as the last Adam preparing to become the Head of a new race of men. "The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" must be without spot. Satan had used every avenue of approach and every method of attack to make Him sin and to win His allegiance but he had failed utterly. The Son of Man came forth from this fierce conflict unscathed, un-sullied, unstained. At every point where the first man had failed, the second Man had succeeded; at every place where the first Adam met defeat, the last Adam won victory. The fight against sin, self and Satan had been completely won. His sinlessness qualified Him for Saviourhood. The victory in the wilderness was more than personal, it was racial; it was your victory and mine, if we will.
Sinlessness, however, is a negative condition of life and God requires more than that. For the fullest fellowship with Himself He demands something positive, even the perfection of holiness. So Christ went forth from the wilderness to live a perfect life perfect in its words, walk, ways and work. Perfection marked everything in His character and conduct. He Himself testified both negatively and positively to the perfection of His life when He said "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me" (John 14:30) and "The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him" (John 8:29). He was not only the sinless One but the perfect One.
The perfection of His life was the perfection of obedience, of unwavering, unvarying submission to His Father's will. When He emptied Himself of His equality with the Father and yielded the place of sovereignty for one of subserviency He surrendered completely His right to speak, to act, to will independently of His Father.
John 12:49-50, "For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak."
John 5:19, "Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise."
Matthew 26:39, "And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."
His obedience was the obedience of the God-man: of the divine-human Mediator, of God's second representative Man. It was therefore not due to any divine attributes of the Son of God but was an obedience the Son of Man learned through sufferings and sorrow, through trial and tribulation as He trod the pathway of all humanity.
Hebrews 5:8-9, "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him."
Hebrews 2:1O, "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings."
It was an obedience that did not end simply in the perfection of moral beauty and spiritual grace in daily life but one which led Him to drink the cup of suffering to its very dregs. It constrained Him, even compelled Him to be obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross, because this was the Father's will. He measured up to the full stature of the perfection of holiness in God the Father through His perfect obedience as the incarnate Son.
In the person of the God-man the broken unity between God and man has been reestablished. For what purpose? For none other than that of restoring in man the image of God, disfigured and marred by sin. In the holiness of the perfect Man sinful humanity has not only a revelation of what God meant man to be but also a pledge of what man may become. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself that He might lift man out of what he is into what God is.
Romans 5:1O, "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."
God proposes the inauguration of a new order of beings who are to be as heavenly and holy, as pure and perfect as He is; a race of redeemed men who shall be "conformed to the image of his Son." Undiscouraged by sin's tragic work God purposes to carry out His original intention that man shall be like Himself. The new union God made with humanity in the incarnation is His pledge of the fulfilment of such a purpose. He stooped to an actual identification with human nature and by that stoop He lifted human na-ture into an actual identification with the divine nature.
RECONCILIATION — THE PLENARY PURPOSE IN THE INCARNATION
The revelation of God in Christ to man and the redemption by God in Christ of man were undoubtedly the preliminary and the primary purpose in the incarnation. But they do not exhaust the exceeding riches of God's grace in salvation nor complete His purpose in sending His only begotten Son into the world.
Sin despoiled both the human race and the natural universe. Sin produced chaos in the place of cosmos. Both heaven and earth suffered through sin.
Christ the Son is the Alpha and He is the Omega. He is the goal of all things in God's universe as He is the beginning. Christ Jesus is the firstborn of all creation; by Him all things consist and in Him shall all things be gathered together. God's eternal purpose in Christ His Son will be consummated in the reconciliation of all things in heaven and in earth unto Himself.
Colossians 1:20, "And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven."
Ephesians 1:1O, "That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him."
Incarnation then is the first span in the bridge of salvation, the first great movement toward the restoration of man to God and toward the reconciliation of all things in God's universe. It is no wonder the angels of heaven sang on that first Christmas morning. The birth of the Lord Jesus was the beginning of the fulfilment of the prophecy-promise of Genesis 3:15. It was the first step in the overthrow of God's arch-enemy; the first victory in the agelong conflict; the beginning of the end of sin. It was to the angels as to us, "the central point from which all events were to be hereafter measured. To Heaven as to earth it was to be the reckoning point of all time, and more, for B.C. and A.D. are to be the extensions of eternity" (A. Patterson, The Greater Life and Work of Christ, p. 136).