A Study of 1 Corinthians 1:30-31
Preached at Eden Street Chapel, Hampstead Road, London, on Lord’s Day Evening, August 17, 1845, by Joseph Philpot
“But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
(1st Corinthians 1:30-31)
These words, or rather a portion of them, came to my mind this morning as I was sitting in the pulpit after I had done preaching. And as I have usually found it far better that a text should come to me, than that I should go to a text, I have been induced to take them, and endeavor to speak from them this evening.
Some of my enemies, and alas, some of my professed friends, have endeavored to make out that it was my natural ability, or my acquired learning, which enabled me to preach; though I must say that I have but slender pretensions to either. But I know, if either were the case, I would have the whole word of God, and especially this chapter and this epistle against me–and did I look to, or lean upon myself, I had better have remained where I was, in Babylon, than attempt to stand up in God’s name. But, through mercy, I have a witness in my conscience, which contradicts such representations.
I believe I have the same perplexities and exercises with respect to texts, and also with respect to sermons to be preached from texts, as others of my brethren in the ministry. I know what it is to be in thick darkness, and what it is to have a measure of sensible light; I know what it is to be shut up, and what it is to enjoy a degree of liberty; I know what the absence of life and feeling is, and at times what is their presence; I know (to use an expression of Brainerd’s) ‘what it is to work with stumps, and what it is to work with fingers.’ So that, with respect to both my texts and sermons, I stand precisely on a level with my other brethren. I have often to cry to the Lord to give me texts from which to preach; and when I have got the text, to cry to the Lord to give me matter out of it. For I know by experience that all wisdom which does not come down from “the Father of lights” is folly; that all strength not divinely wrought in the soul is weakness; and that all knowledge that does not spring from the Lord’s own teaching in the conscience is the depth of ignorance. To him therefore do I desire to look that he would teach me this evening how and what to speak. And may he grant that a savor from his own most blessed Majesty may rest upon the words that may drop from my lips.
With respect to the text, we may observe in it three leading features–
I. The eternal purpose and counsel of God with respect to his peculiar people–“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus.”
II. The execution of that eternal purpose, in what Christ is made unto this peculiar people–“wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.”
III. The final purpose and grand result of God’s counsel, and of its execution–“He that boasts, let him boast in the Lord.”
I. The eternal purpose and counsel of God with respect to his peculiar people.
But it will be first desirable to point out WHO THE PEOPLE ARE, concerning whom the apostle makes this declaration, “It is because of him that YOU are in Christ Jesus.”
The word “you,” though it is but a monosyllable, though but three letters compose the whole of it, yet has a vast meaning connected with it. We must go to the beginning of the epistle to know who are intended by this little monosyllable. “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” These are the people to whom the apostle addresses this epistle; these are the people comprehended in that little monosyllable “you”–the church of God, sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints; with all who know what it is, by prayer and supplication, to call upon the name of Jesus Christ.
The “you” then, in the text, means quickened souls, believing characters; those who, by a work of grace upon their hearts, are sanctified, and enabled, by a spirit of grace and supplication, to call upon the name of Jesus Christ as their Lord and God.
Now, in the text, the apostle traces out what brought them into this state of saintship, “it is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus.” The expression refers to two distinct things–
1. The original purpose of God
2. The execution of that purpose
Both are “of Him.”–flowing out of him, arising from him, purposed by him in eternity, and executed by him in time. “Of Him”–not of yourselves–“not of him that wills, nor of him that runs,” not by the exertion of creature intellect, not by the instrumentality of human operation, not by anything the creature has done, not by anything the creature can do. The apostle traces up the standing of Christ’s people in him to its origin–the eternal purpose and counsel of God. All that takes place in time he represents as flowing out of the eternal mind, and happening according to the original purpose and covenant plan of Jehovah.
You will observe, then, that when the apostle speaks of these Corinthian believers as being “in Christ Jesus,” he intends thereby to set forth their personal standing in the Son of God under two distinct points of view–
1. As originating in eternity.
2. As taking place in time.
In other words, every believer has a twofold union with Christ; one from all eternity, which we may call, an eternal, or election-union; the other in time, through the Spirit’s operation in his heart, which we may call a time, or regeneration-union. Let us attempt to unfold these two kinds of union separately.
1. Every soul, then, that ever had, has now, or ever will have a standing in Christ, had this standing in Him from all eternity. Just in the same way as the vine, according to the Lord’s own figure, puts forth the branches out of the stem; not a single branch comes out of the stock but what previously was in the stock–so, not a single soul comes manifestatively into spiritual existence which had not first an invisible and eternal union with the Son of God. This eternal, immanent, and invisible union with the Person of Christ, God blessed his people with before all worlds, by his eternal purpose, and according to his own eternal counsel.
2. Now, out of this eternal and immanent union springs the second union that we have spoken of, which is a time union–a union in grace–a vital union between a living soul and a living Head. Until the Lord quickens elect vessels of mercy they have eternal union, but they have not time union. Their eternal union never can be altered–that never can be dissolved–that accompanies them all through their unregenerate state–but their vital, spiritual, and experimental union takes place in time, through the teaching, and under the operations of the blessed Spirit.
But what a mercy it is for God’s people that before they have a vital union with Christ, before they are grafted into him experimentally, they have an eternal, immanent union with him before all worlds. It is this eternal union that brings them into time existence. It is by virtue of this eternal union that they come into the world at such a time, at such a place, from such parents, under such circumstances, as God has appointed. It is by virtue of this eternal union that the circumstances of their time-state are ordained. By virtue of this eternal union they are preserved in Christ before they are called; they cannot die until God has brought about a vital union with Christ.
Whatever sickness they may pass through, whatever injuries they may be exposed to, whatever perils assault them on sea or land, die they will not, die they cannot, until God’s purposes are executed in bringing them into a vital union with the Son of his love. Thus, this eternal union watched over every circumstance of their birth, watched over their childhood, watched over their manhood, watched over them until the appointed time and spot, when “the God of all grace,” according to his eternal purpose, was pleased to quicken their souls, and thus bring about an experimental union with the Lord of life and glory.
But this time-union, this vital, experimental union, we may speak of also under two distinct points of view–
1. Directly that God the Spirit is pleased to quicken the soul, there commences a vital union with Christ. But this vital union is not then known to the soul. What says the scripture? “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” 1 Cor 6:17 One spirit! The Spirit that rests upon the soul to quicken it into spiritual life, by that very visitation, that very indwelling, gives a vital union to Jesus. But it is not at first known, it is not brought forth into the soul’s enjoyment, it is not made manifest in our personal experience. It is, to use a figure that the scriptures have adopted, like the process of grafting.
Now we know that the process of grafting is this. A scion is cut off an old stock, and grafted into a new one. Before the scion can be grafted into the new stock, it must be cut off from the old–but when it is cut off from the old, and applied to the new, union does not immediately take place. The wounded scion and the wounded stock are brought into close approximation–they are joined together–and yet a time elapses before the sap flows forth out of the new stock, so as to give the scion a union to the tree. This may throw a little light upon spiritual grafting.
Though the soul is cut off from the old stock, and brought into close apposition with the Lord of life and glory, yet full union is not at once nor immediately enjoyed; though the scion is cut off from the old stock, and grafted into the new, joined together never to be separated, yet a certain time is needed that they may coalesce, that the cut stock and the cut scion may both grow together, that the sap out of the living stock may flow into the living scion.
2. When the Lord is pleased to bring the soul experimentally near to the Son of his love, and communicates a measure of that precious faith whereby Jesus is looked unto, leaned upon, believed in, trusted in, hoped in, and cleaved unto, and a taste of his love and blood is felt in the soul–that produces vital union. Then, if I may use the illustration I have before adopted, the scion and the stock are not merely in close apposition, as when first grafted; but the scion and the stock grow together–there is a coalescing between the two, a union never to be dissolved and the sap out of the stock flows out freely into the scion, so that it puts forth first its leaves of honest and tender profession, then its blossoms of faith, hope, and love, and finally those “fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”
Now the grand struggle of a living soul before he feels this vital union is to have it made manifest in his conscience. How many of the Lord’s people are in this state–cut off from the old stock, coming, as far as they are able, unto Jesus, crying to be saved by his blood and righteousness, desiring above all things to know him and the power of his resurrection; yet no divine power communicated, no inward testimony sensibly felt, no precious sap manifestatively brought into their heart, no enjoyment of the Lord of life and glory in their soul. Though there is an eye of faith to see, a hand of faith to touch, an ear of faith to hear his voice, a heart of faith to receive Jesus into its very secret chambers, yet there is not brought about a clear, manifest, experimental union with the Lord of life and glory.
But wherever this vital union is brought about, it is a union of that nature which never can be broken–“Of him are you in Christ Jesus.” See how the Holy Spirit, by the pen of Paul, ascribes the whole to God; nothing is given to the creature to do; not the weight of a straw is laid upon the back of freewill. God does it altogether. In eternity, God ordained and gave the everlasting union; and in time, by a work of grace, he cut the scion off the old stock, brought it in close apposition to the new, bound them round together, that they may never more be separated, by the cords of faith and the cement of love; and in time brought about also that close coalescing, that vital junction between the two, which causes the sap to flow freely into their souls, and make them abundant in every good word and work.
II. The execution of that eternal purpose, in what Christ is made unto this peculiar people–“wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.”
We pass on to consider what flows out of this eternal, and this time-union. Observe again–we cannot observe it too often–how the whole of salvation is ascribed to the Lord; how completely the creature is set aside; how entirely man’s wisdom, and man’s exertions, and man’s righteousness are put into the background; and how the Lord of grace and glory reigns triumphant. The apostle had ascribed the eternal and vital union, which the people of Christ have with their Head wholly to the purpose, and wholly to the execution of the Father; and now what Christ is to his people, he also ascribes wholly and solely to the same almighty and merciful God.
“Who of God”–observe, “of God”–that is first, by the eternal purpose and secret determination of Jehovah; and secondly, by the fulfillment of his eternal counsels, in the execution of his own almighty appointment–who thus of God “is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” The “us” here are the same persons as the “you.” There is no distinction between the two. The apostle sometimes addresses the church of God as distinct from himself, and he sometimes addresses the church of God as one with himself. But whether he uses we or you the persons meant are the same–the saints of God, the elect unto eternal life.
Now, to these, and to these only, Christ Jesus is of God made “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” The Lord knows the needs of his people. He knew in eternity what they would need in time. The fall did not take God unawares. It was not an interruption to his eternal purposes. It was not an unexpected hindrance, which God never foresaw, never provided for. God decreed it by his own permissive decree. There are active decrees, and there are permissive decrees. There are good things which God decrees, and which he himself performs–and there are evils which God decrees, that out of them good might come. But God does not put his hands to the execution of those evils. He decrees to permit them, not himself to do them; for God is not, and never can be the author of sin. We must make this distinction, or we shall impute to God that which he hates. At the same time, we must admit, that God decrees permissively, or the whole chain of events would be thrown into a mass of confusion. The distinction is beautifully set forth in what Peter said to those that crucified the Lord–“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”–there is the decree–“you have taken, and by wicked hands”–there is the agency of man–“have crucified and slain” Ac 2:23
The Lord, then, foresaw what his people would be, and foreseeing what his people would be–how completely ignorant, how deeply dyed in guilt, how awfully depraved, how entirely destroyed–he took care to provide a remedy beforehand. He set up, in his own eternal counsels, the God-man Mediator, that he might be, in his fullness, all that they should need in time, and enjoy in eternity. For instance–
1. He saw that they would be sunk into utter FOLLY–that all the WISDOM of man would be foolishness with God. “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” God saw that when man fell from original righteousness, he fell from all wisdom, and became a fool, mistaking good for evil and evil for good, sweet for bitter and bitter for sweet, light for darkness and darkness for light. God knew that he would stumble upon the dark mountains, far away from peace and righteousness. Therefore, knowing how folly would be bound up in the hearts of his elect children, he beforehand appointed Jesus to be their wisdom.
Now, I think, with respect to these four things which the Lord of life and glory is said to be to his people, we may view them, first, as imputed, and secondly, as imparted. Some who hold imputed righteousness, object to imputed wisdom, imputed sanctification, and imputed redemption. But why should we stand aghast, as though this would lead us into the depths of Antinomian licentiousness? If we take care to state that there is imparted wisdom, as well as imputed wisdom; imparted sanctification, as well as imputed sanctification–imparted redemption, as well as imputed redemption; if we do not by imputation destroy impartation–I do not see why we should shrink from imputed wisdom more than from imputed righteousness. Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Eph 1:3 Is not wisdom a spiritual blessing? and if this be “in heavenly places in Christ,” is it not a blessing by imputation? For what am I by nature? A fool–all my wisdom, outside of Christ, is nothing but the height of foolishness, and all my knowledge nothing but the depth of ignorance. Can I then ever be considered as wise? I can, if Christ is made wisdom to me. If I have a standing in Christ, then I have a standing in all that Christ is to me. Is Christ wise? the only wise God? infinitely wise? unerringly wise? Is he Wisdom itself, Wisdom in the abstract, set forth by that title in the 8th of Proverbs?
Then if I have a standing in him, a living union with him, I am wise in him, because his wisdom is mine. Can you find anything in the stem that is not in the branches? Penetrate the branch–does not sap ooze and flow forth? Penetrate the stem–does not sap flow forth too? Take your microscope–examine both minutely. Is not the sap in the stem and the sap in the branch identical? Is it not so with respect to Christ and his people? Have they an eternal standing in him? Have they a vital union with him? Is he wise? Then they are wise. Not indeed wise as he is, originally, eternally, intrinsically, infinitely–but wise because he of God is made unto them wisdom.
But in what sense is Christ thus made “wisdom?” Not as the second Person in the glorious Godhead, the eternal “Son of the Father, in truth and love.” As a Person in the Godhead, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the blessed Spirit, he could not be made. It is therefore by virtue of the eternal covenant whereby he became a glorious Mediator, the Bridegroom of the Bride, the Head of the church, and in due time by actual assumption of the flesh and blood of the children, Immanuel, God with us. In this way, the Lord Jesus Christ is made unto his people wisdom, and they are thus accounted wise before God, as having a covenant standing in Christ.
Now, how this sets all the Lord’s people on a level! Some of them are educated, others uneducated–some can scarcely, perhaps, read the letters in the Bible; others have had instruction in the arts and sciences–some have had deep spiritual teachings, and the teachings of others have been more shallow. But do they not all stand on one level when we view them as wise in Christ? Are not all distinctions at once abrogated? Does not the wise man naturally come to be a fool? Does not the fool naturally come to be wise? Do not all the family of God who have a standing in Jesus, by having Christ’s wisdom imputed to them, stand upon the same level–wise in Christ–because they are one in Christ?
But besides this wisdom by imputation, there is also wisdom by impartation. Without imparted wisdom, we have no manifested saving interest in imputed wisdom. Imparted wisdom is by the Holy Spirit making the soul wise unto salvation–and his first step in making the soul wise unto salvation is to convince it of its folly. The wisdom of the world is foolishness with God, and the wisdom of God is foolishness with the world. There must then be a complete reversal– a turning of things upside down–before we can be brought into a state to have wisdom divinely imparted. But when we are brought into that spot where, I am convinced, the Lord will bring all his people, that left to ourselves we are utter fools–that we have no wisdom whatever to direct our feet–that we are blind, ignorant, weak, helpless, and utterly unable to find our way to the city–when by painful experience we stumble upon the dark mountains, and grope for the wall like the blind, and grope as if we had no eyes, then we value the least spark of divine wisdom communicated and dropped into our souls from those lips into which grace was poured.
We must know the value of the gem before we can really prize it. When diamonds were first discovered in Brazil, nobody knew that they were diamonds. They were handed about as pretty, shining pebbles. But as soon it was discovered they were diamonds, they were eagerly sought, and their value rose a thousandfold. So spiritually–until we are brought in our souls to prize the teachings of God and the communications of divine wisdom–until we can distinguish between the pebble of man’s teaching and the diamond of divine illumination–we shall neglect, we shall despise, we shall not value divine wisdom. But when we are brought to see and feel how, in every instance, we have erred when left to ourselves; what mistakes we have made; what backslidings we have been guilty of; what foolish things we have said, and what worse than foolish things we have done–when we see folly bound up in our hearts, and stamped upon every word and action, then how we prize any portion of that wisdom which makes wise unto salvation! and how at times we long for the droppings in of that dew and power into our souls, which shed abroad a sweet and unctuous light and lead the soul unto Jesus, to find peace in him!
2. But Jesus is also made unto us RIGHTEOUSNESS. Does not this imply that we are unrighteousness? For is not all that Jesus is, in exact proportion to our needs? So far as we are God’s people, we find all our needs precisely met by him. Can we find a single spot into which a child of God can sink, to which some character of the Lord of life and glory is not adapted? Does he sink down as a fool before God? Does he feel such ignorance that he scarcely knows what he is, or where he is? Are the scriptures hidden from his understanding, his experience buried in darkness, and he himself in his own eyes, the worst of fools? How suitable, that Jesus, the Son of God, should be made unto him wisdom!
Is he made to feel himself a polluted wretch, and brought painfully to know that all his righteousnesses are but filthy rags? that his iniquities, like the wind have taken him away? that he has not by nature one grain of that which is pleasing in the sight of God? that all his motives, all his thoughts, all his desires all his actions, all his words, bear upon them, bear in them, the deep-grained dye of guilt? Does he shrink into self-abasement at the sight? Does he loathe himself in dust and ashes? Does he feel that he is only fit to be trampled into hell as a polluted worm? When brought here, how suitable, how precious, is it to see that Jesus is made unto him righteousness!
Observe the word. It does not say, that the obedience of Jesus is made righteousness; but it says, that Jesus himself is made righteousness. It is perfectly true that the obedience of Christ to the law is the justifying righteousness of those who believe in his name; “for by one offering he has perfected forever those who are sanctified,” and “by one man’s obedience many are made righteous.” But besides that, the Lord himself is their righteousness. Is not this the sure declaration of holy writ? “In him shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.” “This is the name whereby he shall be called, the Lord our Righteousness.” What a sweet view does this give of Jesus!
We look sometimes at Christ’s righteousness as distinct from Christ. Shall I use a figure? We look at the garment as distinct from the Maker and Wearer of the garment. We look at the righteousness so much, that we scarcely look at him who wrought out that righteousness. Now, we must not separate Jesus from his righteousness. We must not look merely at the garment, the imputed robe, and forget him who wrought it out, who puts it on, and who keeps it to this day in firm possession. But when we can see, that not only the obedience of Christ, but Christ himself–all that Jesus is–all that Jesus has, as the head of his church, as the risen Mediator, as the great High Priest over the house of God–when we can see that this God-man, Immanuel, is made unto his people righteousness, how it expands the prospect! Then we look, not merely at the robe itself, beautiful, lovely, and glorious; we look farther–we look at him who made it. We do not look merely at the robe as distinct from him. We look at him who made that robe what it is– Jesus, who ever lives at the right hand of the Father to make intercession for us.
This, to my mind, is a sweet view. If I sink down into creature sinfulness, shame, and guilt, and see Jesus made of God unto me righteousness, what need I more? Has God made him so? Who can unmake him so? Has God made the Son of his love righteousness to my soul, that I may stand in him without spot, speck, or blemish? Who is to alter it? Can sin alter it? That is atoned for. Can the devil alter it? He is chained down unto the judgment of the great day. Can the world alter it? They cannot stretch forth their finger to touch one thread of that robe, to touch one lineament of the Redeemer’s countenance. If he is made unto me righteousness, what more do I need? If I can find a shield, a shelter, and a refuge in him as my righteousness, what more can I need to preserve me from the charge of men or devils?
But there is the impartation of righteousness, as well as the imputation of it; and the impartation of it is the communication of a divine nature to the soul. Not merely the sheltering of the soul from the wrath to come by a robe cast around it, and by the interposition of the Redeemer’s glorious Person, but also the breathing of God’s image, the raising up of a new creature, and the stamping of Christ’s likeness on the heart.
3. We pass on to another thing that Christ is made to his people- that is, SANCTIFICATION. What am I? What are you? Filthy, polluted, defiled; are we not? Do not some of us, more or less, daily feel altogether as an unclean thing? Is not every thought of our heart altogether vile? Does any holiness, any spirituality, any heavenly-mindedness, any purity, any resemblance to the divine image dwell in our hearts by nature? Not a grain, not an atom. How then can I, a polluted sinner, ever see the face of a holy God? How can I, a worm of earth, corrupted within and without by indwelling and committed sin, ever hope to see a holy God without shrinking into destruction?
I cannot see him, except so far as the Lord of life and glory is made sanctification to me. Why should men shrink so at imputed sanctification? Why should not Christ’s holiness be imputed to his people as well as Christ’s righteousness? Why should they not stand sanctified in him, as well as justified? Why not? Is there anything in Jesus, as God-man Mediator, which he has not for his people? Has he any perfection, any attribute, any gift, any blessing, which is not for their use? Did he not sanctify himself that they might be sanctified by the truth? Is he not the holy Lamb of God, that they might be “holy, and without blame before him in love?” What is my holiness, even such as God may be pleased to impart to me? Is it not, to say the least, scanty? Is it not, to say the least, but little in measure? But when we view the pure and spotless holiness of Jesus imputed to his people, and view them holy in him, pure in him, without spot in him, how it does away with all the wrinkles of the creature, and makes them stand holy and spotless before God.
But there is not only imputed sanctification, there is also imparted sanctification. Have I one grain of holiness in myself? Not one. Can all the men in the world, by all their united exertions, raise up a grain of spiritual holiness in their hearts? Not an atom, with all their efforts. If all the preachers in the world were to unite together for the purpose of working a grain of holiness in one man’s soul, they might strive to all eternity–they could no more by their preaching create holiness, than by their preaching they could create a lump of gold. But because, by a gracious act of God the Father, Jesus is made unto his people sanctification, he imparts a measure of his own holiness to them. He works in them to will and to do of his own good pleasure; he sends the Holy Spirit, to raise up holy desires–in a word, he communicates a nature perfectly holy, which therefore loves holiness and has communion with a holy God–a heavenly, spiritual, and divine nature, which bathes in eternal things as its element, and enjoys spiritual things as sweet and precious. It may indeed be small in measure; and he that has it is often exercised and troubled because he has so little of it; yet he has enough just to know what it is.
Has not your soul, though you feel to be a defiled wretch, though every iniquity is at times working in your heart, though every worm of obscenity and corruption is too often trailing its filthy slime upon your carnal mind–has it not felt, does it not sometimes feel, a measure of holiness Godwards? Do you never feel a breathing forth of your soul into the bosom of a holy God? Heavenly desires–pure affections–singleness of eye–simplicity of purpose–a heart that longs to have the mind, image, and likeness of Jesus stamped upon it–this is a holiness such as the Lord of life and glory imparts out of his fullness to his poor and needy family.
4. But lastly, he is made of God unto them REDEMPTION. Now, whatever Jesus is to his people, he is to them precisely according to their needs. Are they fools? He is their wisdom. Are they condemned? He is their righteousness. Are they unholy? He is their sanctification. Are they captives and prisoners, who have sold themselves under sin, and become slaves to Satan? He is made unto them redemption. His redemption is imputed to them, is put to their account, is considered as theirs. When Jesus died upon the cross, he purchased a peculiar people. What he did then, and what he did there, is put to their account. The debt that he paid is crossed out of the books. The sum that he laid down is transferred to their account. Thus he is made unto them redemption.
But besides that, there is imparted redemption, as well as imputed redemption. What do I know of imputed redemption unless I know something of imparted redemption? But what can I know of imparted redemption, unless I have known what it is to be a captive, in bondage, in hard chains, oppressed by cruel slavery, unable to deliver myself, chained like a galley-slave to the galling oar, bound down with fetters, so that I cannot release myself? If I never have known that, how can I desire to know Jesus Christ as of God made unto me redemption? But if I catch a sight of Christ, as made unto me redemption, that communicates a gracious feeling of redemption by impartation. No sooner does the eye of faith catch what Jesus is made unto his people, than what he is to his people comes instantaneously into their heart.
What he is to them, he is by imputation; and when they see what he is by imputation, then they enjoy it by impartation. Do I see redemption? Do I feel it, count it my own, and enjoy it? Then what does it do for me? Does it not break, in a measure, the chain of slavery? Does it not bring me out of captivity? Does it not, so long as it lasts, subdue my lusts, and overcome my pride? Does it not shatter the galling fetters of bondage? Does not faith in Christ as my redemption, communicate a measure of that redemption to my spirit? It does! This is the connecting link between imputation and impartation.
God has made Christ all these to his people. He has set him up as their eternal Head, made him the Bridegroom of their souls, that out of his fullness they may all receive. Then, just in proportion as they learn these two lessons–what they are, and what he is–they receive him into their hearts and they see actually what he is to them in the purpose of God. Am I a fool? Do I feel it and know it? Have I had painful experience of it, so that all my creature wisdom is turned into one mass of foolishness? Do I catch by the eye of faith a view of the risen Mediator, “Immanuel, God with us,” and see what he is made of God to us? The moment my eye sees him as “wisdom,” that moment a measure of divine wisdom flows into my conscience.
Am I polluted and defiled throughout? Have I no righteousness of my own? Is all my obedience imperfect? Am I unable to fulfill the requirements of God’s holy law? If once I catch by the eye of faith this glorious truth, through him who is the truth, that Jesus Christ is of God made unto me “righteousness”–the moment I see that by the eye of faith, that moment a measure of imparted righteousness flows into my heart?
Am I an unholy, depraved, filthy wretch? Does corruption work in my heart? The moment I catch by the eye of faith Jesus made unto me of God “sanctification,” that moment a measure of sanctification comes into my heart, drawing up holy affections, casting out the love of the world, curbing my reigning lusts, and bringing my soul into submission at his footstool. Am I a poor captive, entangled by Satan, by the world, and my own evil heart?
The moment that I catch this glorious view, that Jesus Christ at the right hand of the Father is made unto me “redemption”–if I can believe that he is made such for me, that I have a standing in him, and a union with him, so that he is my redemption–that moment a measure of deliverance comes into my soul, and redemption imputed becomes redemption imparted; the soul receives then internally what Christ has done externally. In a word, when Christ is received as “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,” he becomes all these in vital manifestation.
Now, do you see the steps? Just observe the connecting links. What do we learn first? We learn, first of all, what we are by nature. That is the first thing; there is no overstepping that. Then, just in proportion as we learn what we are by nature, and the Lord the Spirit unfolds the mysteries of the gospel to our understanding, and brings a sweet revelation of them into our conscience, do we see and feel what Jesus is made unto his people–and we see and feel that he has everything our souls need–that we have not a single necessity that there is not ample provision made for in the gospel–not a need unsupplied–not a malady without a remedy–not a sinking without a corresponding rising. But what is the effect of it? Why, no sooner is this seen, than a measure of it is communicated to the heart.
First, I must see what I am;
secondly, I must see what Christ is;
thirdly, I must feel that Christ is all this to me.
And when I see what I am, and see what Christ is, and then feel a measure of what Christ is for my soul, then Christ becomes to me inwardly what he is outwardly. He becomes in my heart what he is revealed in the word of truth; and this is the only way whereby we can have a vital and manifest union with him.
III. THE FINAL PURPOSE AND GRAND RESULT OF GOD’S COUNSEL, AND OF ITS EXECUTION. This leads me to the grand crowning point– “According as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord.” Man may glory. Yes–God has determined that man shall glory. But in what, and in whom? In himself? No; God has forever trampled man’s glory under foot. He shall glory, but he shall never glory in SELF; for if he glories in himself, he never will come where God is. God’s purpose is to stain the pride of human glory.
“He that glories”–yes, we may glory; we may have a song of triumph; if the Lord does but tune our hearts to sweet melody, we may speak in accents of glory and thanksgiving–“he that glories, let him glory in the Lord.” Look at the words–“Glory in the Lord.” Not glory in himself, whatever he is–however deep his experience, however great his abilities, however consistent his conduct. No creature shall ever, in the sight of God, glory in itself; but we may glory in the Lord as of God made unto us all that he has determined he shall be.
O what a sweet losing of one’s self there is in Christ! See how he has raised up Adam’s fallen progeny! See how he has given the elect a standing in Christ which they never had in their fallen progenitor! Adam could glory. Adam had natural wisdom, creature righteousness, native strength, and created innocency. He might glory in these. Just as a horse can, without sin or shame, curve his proud neck, and glory in his strength when he paws in the valley, as Job speaks–so Adam, in his native innocency, could glory in what God had made him. But when Adam fell to the very depths of creature depravity, all his glory was forever lost–the pride of the creature was forever stained.
But God has determined that men may glory still–only he has changed the object of that glory, and put that glory upon, and centered that glory in his only-begotten Son. He turns the eyes of his poor needy family to look to him for salvation, and to glory in him–for “in him shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.”
I am sure, from the little I have felt (and it is but a little), there never can be any feeling so sweet as to glory in the Lord alone. Glory in my wisdom! Why, if I were to do so, there is a worm at the very bud of that glory. There is misery in the very feeling of self-esteem. Glory in anything I am! It is nothing but “vanity and vexation of spirit.” But if I lose myself, trample myself under foot–cease from my own glory, strength, and wisdom–lose it all, put it all aside, despise it as worth nothing, and look unto him who “of God is made wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” to his people–I may glory then, and my glory shall be this–may it be my glory in time, and may it be my and your glory in eternity–to glory in the Lord–to glory in his wisdom, in his righteousness, in his sanctification, in his redemption–to glory in him for what he is in himself, and glory in him for what he is to his people. This is a sweet absorption of the creature into the Lord of life and glory. This is indeed taking off the crown of human pride, and setting it upon the head of him who alone is worthy to wear it.
This is indeed a sweet loss; to lose our own wisdom and obtain divine wisdom; lose all that the flesh can boast of, and the flesh can rejoice in–and find it all again heightened, shall I say?–no, not heightened, for it is of a totally distinct nature–find it all of different and more glorious kind in the Lord Jesus, as of God made unto us “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.”