Fundamental Questions of the Christian Life # 2
Behind the Scenes With the Bible
Now, let us take up our Bibles and allow them to lead us to this whole matter of the knowledge of Christ.
The Christian, with his Bible in his hand, is led behind the whole scene of history. On the stage of the world, a wonderful drama is being worked out, set in all the branches of science: the earth -geology; the heavens - astronomy; life - biology; the human body - physiology; and the human mind - psychology. All these things - the world and man and history - are in the foreground. But with the Bible in hand the Christian is led behind them all - behind the state, so to speak, behind the scenes - into the background of these things. He is led into the very presence of God - to God behind it all. Moreover, with Bible in hand the Christian is brought to see that God is a God of purpose, a God of plan, a God Who has conceived and projected this wonderful design which is being worked out. And as a third step, the Christian is led through the Bible to see that that great design, that great purpose, that great plan, with all the Divine resources for its accomplishment is all centered and summed up in one Person, God's Son. The whole design, the whole scene, the whole intention and all the Divine resources are focused upon one Person, the Son of God. It all concerns Him.
Seven Sections of the Bible
Next, the Christian discovers that, in relation to that God of purpose, and to His great purpose concerning His Son, the Bible falls into seven distinct sections. The first - the Creation - is comprehended in quite a small compass of the record. The Bible has much to say about the creation in relation to the Son of God. In Him, through Him, and unto Him were all things created (Col. 1:16). That is comprehensive!
The second, which we will call the patriarchal section, runs from the fourth chapter of Genesis almost to the close of the book in chapter fifty. We shall look at this more closely in a moment.
The third section, beginning with the Book of Exodus, is what we call the Israelitish section. This runs from the beginning of the Bood of Exodus right to the end of the Old Testament. But it has some sub-sections. There is the priestly sub-section, running from the twelfth chapter of the Book of Exodus to the First Book of Samuel, the kingly or monarchical sub-section,from the First Book of Samuel to the end of the Books of Kings and Chronicles, where the kingship is set aside and the people go into captivity, and the prophetical sub-section, which occupies the last quarter of the Old Testament.
The fourth of the main sections of the Bible comprises the Incarnation, the Life, Death and Resurrection, of God's Son.
The fifth, a short but very important section, embraces the forty days after His Resurrection.
The sixth section is the heavenly session of the ascended Lord, with its two aspects - the advent of the Holy Spirit, and the birth, vocation and completion of the Church.
The seventh and final section - the Son coming in His Kingdom - has various aspects and implications and effects, in three particular connections: firstly, in relation to the Church; secondly, in relation to the nations; and thirdly, in relation to satan and his kingdom.
That comprehends the whole Bible in seven sections. For the present I am goin to confine myself to the second and third, the patriarchal and the Israelitish sections, keeping in mind our object, which is to discover the place and significance of the Lord Jesus in the Divine scheme of things, so that we may come to that adequate knowledge of Him which is essential to spiritual fullness in the Church and in the believer.
The Patriarchal Section
In the patriarchal section of the Old Testament, we find seven outstanding personages, who dominate the scene. Seven, as we know, is the biblical number for spiritual fullness or completeness; and, if we rightly understood the significance of these seven men, who were Divinely and sovereignly chosen for this very purpose, we should see that in them God has outlined seven features of His Son, which give a complete spiritual portrait of Him. It is not my intention to follow that out in detail, but I take it up in a general way in relation to our present specific purpose. Here are the seven dominating characters of that period: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Every one of these represents a distinct feature in the drawing of the portrait of Christ.
Abel: the door of Heaven had been closed to Adam, but re-opens to a man who was prepared to let go everything in this life in order to serve the thought of God. Cain tried in his own way to get through the door of the garden, but found it closed and barred to man - there was no access. To Abel the closed door of Heaven re-opened: Abel got through because he was prepared to let go everything in this life, and even life itself, in order to correspond to the thought of God. Here we can see an outstanding feature of the Lord Jesus.
Enoch: the man who alone walked with God on this earth, when everyone else walked away from or far from God. The Lord Jesus did that, and He was probably the only man who did that in His day. He walked with the Father, as no one else did. And so, when everyone else was walking apart from God, or away from God, Enoch walked with God.
Noah: the man who lived in the light of a coming day of judgment and renewal, and worked in relation to that day. That is a brief and very comprehensive statement. The whole life of Noah was a long-drawn-out business. Tested by time; tested by all appearances which seemed to contradict and deny the line that he had taken, yet he lived and worked through a long life in the light of a day to come - a day of judgment, and a day beyond judgment in renewal. Is not that a picture of the Lord Jesus?
Abraham: the man whose portion alone was the Lord. "Fear not, Abram: I am Thy ... reward" (Genesis 15:1). That is all. A man deprived of his country and deprived of all foothold in the land of his sojourn, he went up and down that land as "a stranger and a sojourner" (Gen. 23:4), but his portion was the Lord. We are told that he was looking for "a better country ... a heavenly"; for "the city... whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:16, 10). Abraham's alone portion was the Lord. There is very much more in it than that, but that sums it up. And such was the Lord Jesus. What a lonely life was His, and, so far as things here were concerned, what a life of forgoing, of deprivation! But the Father was His portion, and that was enough for Him.
Isaac: the living embodiment of the fact that there is a life which cheats death of its prey, renders death null and void and leaves it behind, and goes on. Again, that is the Lord Jesus: a life which all the time declares that death is vanquished; and death is cheated; life that goes on and ever on, triumphant over death.
Jacob: a difficult character, Jacob. Yet, when you come to sum up his story, here was a man who came to know the thing which the Lord Jesus knew, and which characterized Him perhaps more than anything else: that it is only the life in the Spirit that is ascendent life. Jacob made a very thorough and exhaustive trial of gaining ascendency in the flesh. The day came when his flesh was smitten, and he was weakened and broken. He discovered in that moment that ascendency is not by the wit and cunning and strength of the flesh, but wholly by the Spirit. The Lord Jesus lived on that principle. God brought Jacob through to the ground of His own Son - the ground of ascendency in the Spirit.
Joseph: he sums up all the others and embodies the great truths of Christ: suffering and glory.
Here, then, in outline, we have God's portrait of His Son. Now remember: it is said that it was by the Son that all things were created (John 1:3; Col. 1:16). The end of the first section, the creation, therefore, is arrived at by the Son. What is He doing after that? It is true that God has entered into His rest - but what is the Son doing? Has the Son sat down and said, 'That is the end of everything?' For the whole of that long period afterward, what is the Son doing? The Son is active in the inculcation of Himself in the lives of those seven men. He is building Himself into their spiritual experience. He is bringing out the lines of those seven men. He is bringing out the lines of His own character in this sevenfold way. The only profitable and right way to study the Patriarchs is to study them in the light of Jesus Christ. They are interesting as human studies, but that will not get you anywhere. If you can see that what God is after, what He has committed Himself to, and what the Son is engaged upon, is to reproduce Himself in the spiritual life of men, then you have something to bring you into a knowledge of Christ that is helpful knowledge, building knowledge, constructive knowledge, knowledge that is power and life.
(continued with # 2 - The Israelitish Section