Giant of the Bible


The Last Adam and the New Creation.

WE are going to look at the truth of atonement in the way in which Scripture develops and puts it before us; beginning with the Old Testament and proceeding, in the regular order of its books as we have them, onward to the New; except that we shall necessarily take the light of the New Testament to enable us to read the Old Testament lessons aright, remembering that the "vail is done away in Christ." I choose this method, rather than what might seem the simpler one, of stating the doctrine after the manner of the creed or theological text-book, for many reasons.

God’s method of teaching plainly has not been by the creed. He could surely have given one, not only better than any human could claim to be, but one absolutely perfect, avoiding all the errors and all the incompleteness of the best of creeds, and giving what would be indeed a royal road to knowledge in divine things. It has pleased Him otherwise; and in this there must be wisdom worthy of Him, and care too for the real need of His people. God’s way has been to speak to us in a far different manner. He has given us truth in fragments, which at first sight seem even to have little orderly connection - which gleam out upon us from history, psalm, and prophecy, as well as in more detached statement sometimes in an apostolical epistle. Even here we have seldom what the systematic theologian would call a treatise; certainly nothing at all resembling the articles of a confession of faith or of a creed.

Understand me, I am not denying that such things have their place. Unfortunately they are valuable precisely when stripped of that in which to most lies all their value. As authoritative expositions of doctrine, they substitute human authority for divine; the confession, with all its admitted liability to error, in place of the unfailing, infallible Word, by which the Holy Spirit, the sure and only Guardian of the Church in the absence of Christ its Head, works in the hearts and consciences of men. Stripped of the false claim, and left as the witness of what individual faith has found in the inspired Word, they may be used of God as the voice of the living witness. However, to that Word, with all its perplexities of interpretation, as men speak, we must come for that which can alone give certainty to the soul; these very perplexities used of God to give needful exercise, to deepen the sense of dependence upon Him, and discipline us by the exercise.

The truth given in this way, moreover, only to be learnt fragment by fragment, by constant research into and occupation with the precious book in which the treasure lies, enforces its lessons by that needful frequent "putting in remembrance" of which an apostle speaks. We realize its many sides and internal relationships; we discern how little all our systems are, compared with the truth itself; that the completeness we desired was only narrowness. Finally, that God’s method of teaching is divine, as the truth taught is; His way to lead us out, at least into more apprehension of the infinity of that which, cramped into the human measure. necessarily becomes dwarfed and distorted by it.

In the historical part of the Old Testament, the lessons given to us are mainly those pictured lessons which we call types. But before we come to the types of atonement proper, there is one we must consider, which, although not that, is in the deepest and most intimate relation to it, and the right or wrong conception of which will influence correspondingly our view of atonement itself. The apostle tells us, with regard to the first man, that Adam was "a figure of Him that was to come" (Rom. v. 14.); and in i Cor. xv. 45, he speaks of Christ as the "last Adam." He is again spoken of by the same apostle as the "First-born of every creature," or, "of all creation" (Col. i. 15.); and speaks of Himself, in the address to Laodicea, as the "beginning of the creation of God." (Rev. iii.14) So again, "If any one be in Christ, he is a new creature [or, "it is new creation"]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Cor. v. 17.); and this is insisted on as the governing principle of a Christian life; "for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation; and as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy." (Gal. vi. 15, 16.)

The fallen first man and the old creation are thus, according to God’s thought, replaced by the last Adam and a new creation. There is no restoration of the old; it is set aside, or becomes the material out of which the new creation is to be built up; and this last is God’s creation - what was in His mind from the beginning. So, when the Psalmist asks, "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him or the son of man, that Thou visitest him?" The answer is, "Thou madest him a little lower than the angels. Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour." This the apostle interprets for us in the epistle to the Hebrews, - "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour."

This last Adam, true man as He surely is, is emphatically the "Second Man." "The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit." "The first man is of the earth, earthy; the Second Man is of heaven [so all the editors read it now]. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." Here, as elsewhere, the type is the shadow only, and therefore in many things the contrast, of the antitype; and so precisely as to what is connected with each.

Here is the great and fundamental mistake with the general mass of theological systems. They make the first man God’s real thought instead of the Second, and bring Christ in to restore the first creation; to gain what Adam should have gained or kept. Thus many now think of no more than earthly blessing for the saint, while those who are not able to resign their heavenly inheritance would make this Adam’s natural birthright also. The so-called evangelical creeds of christendom put Adam under the moral law to win heaven for himself and his posterity, and write "This do, and thou shalt live" over the gate of entrance. The Lord’s suffering in death, they say, puts away our sins; His obedience to the law is our title to heaven. But in this way, not only is the full blessedness of the Christian’s place unknown, but Christ’s work is necessarily however unintentionally degraded.

To Adam in Eden God spoke nothing of heaven, nor ever connected going to it with the keeping of the law. "This do, and thou shalt live," He did say; never, "This do, and thou shalt go to heaven." God never proposed to the creature He had made to win by His obedience a higher place than He had put him in at first. To have proposed it would have been to have made man from the start what sin has so long made him - a worker for himself rather than for God. He who has said, "When ye have done all, say, we are unprofitable servants," could never have taught him any thing so perilously like a doctrine of human merit.

Under law Adam was, as is evident; but not under the moral law, which an innocent being could not even have understood. The commandment to him was simply not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; the terms, not "This do, and thou shalt live," but "Do this, and thou shalt die." He had not to seek a better place, but enjoy the place he had. Men may reason and speculate, but they cannot find one word of Scripture to justify the thought that unfallen Adam was what sin has made man now - a stranger, or what grace has made the saint - a pilgrim. He was made to abide, and his punishment not to abide, where God had put him.

It is to man fallen, not innocent, that God speaks of heaven; and by grace, not law at all. It is the fruit of another’s work, who, not owing obedience for Himself, as a creature must, could give thus to what He undertook, a real and infinite merit. Christ’s work alone has opened heaven to man; the value of the work being according to the value of Him whose work it is. Apart from any question of the fall, the first and the last Adam are in this way contrasts: "the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit;" "the first man is of the earth, earthy; the Second Man is the Lord from heaven;" or rather, as the editors read it now, "the Second Man is of heaven."

Here the first man, as a type, images however the Second, where God breathes into his nostrils the breath of life. This is an essential difference between man and the beast below him: he has by the inspiration of God what the beast has not; and thus Elihu has the justification of his claim. That his "lips shall utter knowledge clearly" refers back to the original creation: "The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life." In the doctrine of Scripture elsewhere we find distinctly what the breath of the Almighty has given to man which distinguishes him from the beast. It is the "spirit of man which is in him," and by which alone he knows the things of a man. (i Cor. 2. II.) He has a spirit, as "God is spirit," and thus by creation, as Paul quotes from the Greek poet to show the general sense of man, declares, "We are God’s offspring." *
*See "Facts and Theories as to a Future State," or "Creation in Genesis and in Geology," for a fall exposition of this.

And yet "the first man Adam was made a living soul," as this history in Genesis itself declares - "Man became a living soul." In this he was what the beasts were. In this, Scripture anticipates all that is real in what the science of the day vaunts as its own discovery. Man is as the beast is, a being bound within the limits of sense-perception, through which all the stores of the knowledge upon which he so prides himself have to be painfully acquired. The spirit of man is in this way, by the necessity of his nature (I speak not of the fall), subjected to the soul. And the apostle connects this, in the passage before us, with the possession of a "natural body," as he does the "spiritual body" of the resurrection with the "image of the heavenly" last Adam. This "natural body" is rather, literally, a soul-body (the English language has no adjective for "soul"), - that is, a body fitted for the soul, as the spiritual body will be for the spirit. Hence it is that with the body the mind grows, and with it languishes and apparently decays; and hence in Scripture the title for one absent from the body is higher than for one in it. In the body, he is a "living soul;" absent from the body, he is a ghost, or spirit.

From hence arises an important consideration. For while ever the Second Man, and as such "of heaven," it is plain that the Lord was pleased to be subject through His life here, as man, to the conditions of man. Ever "apart from sin," save as in grace bearing it upon the cross, the limitations springing from disease and decay He could not know, of course; but of His childhood we read expressly that He "grew in wisdom and in stature"- mind unfolding with the body as with men in general. How differently inspired Scripture speaks from what a mere human biographer would have written of the "Word made flesh"! But what such words decisively prove, in opposition to men’s thoughts about it, is that while Second Man from the beginning of His human life, as I have said, He ever was, He did not take the place of last Adam until His sacrificial work was finished and in His spiritual body He rose from the dead. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone," such are His own words; "but if it die, it bringeth forth much, fruit."

This explains the Lord’s significant action when after the resurrection He appears to His disciples. and, breathing on them, says, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." For the first Adam had as a living. soul been breathed into when quickened of God; the last Adam as a quickening spirit breathes into others. Not, of course, that it was quickening here: they had surely been already quickened; but now He puts them formally into the place of participants in a life now come through death, and to which justification attached as fruit of the death through which it had come. They are to be in a definite place of acceptance and peace with God, according to His words before He breathes on them - "Peace be unto you," twice spoken. "Justification of life" is thus assured to them, the doctrine of which the apostle develops in the fifth of; Romans.

The same chapter distinctly brings forward the first Adam as the "figure of Him that was to come." The contrast between the two does not affect the comparison: it is a comparison of contrasts. In the first Adam’s case, "through the offence of one the many have died," and "by one that sinned" "the judgment was by one to condemnation;" and "by the disobedience of the one the many have been constituted sinners." The point here is the bearing of the act of the one, the father of the race, upon the state of the many, his children: corruption of nature, death, the present judgment, tending to final condemnation, have come to them in this way. So in the case of the Second Adam has His obedience resulted in blessing to those connected with Him. Only, "not as the offence is the free gift." God is not satisfied with a mere obliterating the effect of the first man’s sin, He will go far beyond that in His grace: "If through the offence of one the many have died, much more has the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded unto the many. If many offences have been added by Adam’s posterity to the primal sin, "the free gift is of many offenses unto justification;" "if by the offence of one death reigned by one, much more shall they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life by One, Jesus Christ."

It is this "much more" of divine grace, which has been so forgotten, and which we must ever bear in mind. The value of the person of the Second Adam gives proportionate value to His work. The work itself, moreover, is such as none but He could possibly have accomplished. And the value of person and work together gives those in whose behalf it is accomplished a place of acceptance with God of which He Himself, gone into His presence, is the only measure. It is not now the time to speak at large of this, but it is essential to keep it in mind. Christ and the new creation must get their due place for our souls, or all will be confusion.

The two verses which follow in the fifth of Romans we must carefully distinguish in their scope. The eighteenth verse contemplates "all men, the nineteenth, the "many" who are connected with the one or the other of these two heads. The first gives us the tendency of Christ’s work; the second, the actual result. It is as impossible to make the "all men" mean just those in effect saved, as it is to extend the "many" with whom Christ is connected into the whole human race. The tendency of the "one offence" was "toward all men to condemnation" (I do not quote the common version, which has here supplied words which the original has nothing of); the tendency or aspect of the "one righteousness," "toward all men to justification of life." On the other hand, in actual result, "as by the disobedience of the one man the many were constituted sinners, so by the obedience of the One the many shall be constituted righteous."

The result contemplates all those, obviously, of whatever age or dispensation, who obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ; and it should be as evident that the connection with Christ that is spoken of is with Him as the last Adam, that is, vital connection. The many being constituted righteous gives, I have no doubt, the fullness both of imputed and imparted righteousness. For as the life communicated by the last Adam is necessarily such as He Himself is, so also it carries with it the efficacy of the work accomplished - of the death through which the corn of wheat could alone bring forth fruit. "The gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord "(ch. vi. 23, Greek): justification is therefore "justification of life." These go together. How completely this connection harmonizes with the apostle’s argument in the next three chapters will be plain to those who are happily familiar with the doctrine there, - a doctrine which comes in as the answer to the practical question with which they begin: "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" Upon this, however, I cannot enter here.
We are only upon the threshold of the subject which is before us yet, and all that we have done is just to indicate certain connections of atonement, which will find their development as we take up, as we have now to take up, in its gradual unfolding from the beginning, the doctrine of atonement itself.
Go To Chapter Three

Home | Links | Literature