Our thoughts about Christ leave a lot to be desired. All too often they are inadequate and demeaning. Two notions I have been disputing over the past few months illustrate this well. I have been inveighing against a rising tide that seems to suggest that new creation is simply Eden restored. Christ takes us back to a pre-fall Adam. At the same time I have been decrying the notion that Adam was created with the promise that if he obeyed he would gain eternal life for himself and his posterity; he failed, however, where the first Adam failed, Jesus, the second Adam, succeeded and by his law-obedience gained eternal life for himself and his posterity.
Both notions reveal a disturbingly low view of Christ. They place far too small a gap between the humanity of Adam and Christ. All agree that Adam and Christ are heads of two humanities, indeed of two creations. All agree there is real continuity between Adam and Christ. In a real sense Christ is the son of Adam (Lk 3:38). ‘Since… the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil and deliver all those who l through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery… it is not angels that he helps, but… the offspring of Abraham’ (Hebs 2:14-16). For the purposes of salvation, ‘… he had to be made like his brothers in every respect’ (Hebs 2:17). Thus he is truly ‘the seed of the woman’. His humanity is neither false nor phantom. There is real continuity, real organic union with the race. However, there is also real discontinuity, or, perhaps better, distinction, and all too often this discontinuity or distinction is downplayed.
We must understand that Adam and Christ are contrasted as much as they are compared, perhaps more so (Cf. Roms 5:12-20). At the very least we must say Adam (before sin) was humanity in a state of infancy while Christ (even before resurrection) is humanity in maturity. We may put it another way. Adam (pre and post fall) was humanity as ‘flesh’ while Christ (pre and post resurrection) is humanity ‘in Spirit’. Or, in the language of 1 Cor 15
1Cor 15:45-49 (ESV)
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
Let me express this difference in a specific example: Adam was morally vulnerable, Christ was not. We must never think that there was any possibility that Christ would fail to realise a new creation beyond sin. He was not Adam trying to achieve new creation; he was in himself new creation. The OT itself had asserted the certain triumph of his mission. Hear the ringing confidence God has in Christ in Isaiah,
Isa 42:1-13 (ESV)
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the habitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare his praise in the coastlands. The Lord goes out like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his zeal; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes.
The servant is invincible. It is an invincibility borne of the fact that he is anointed by the Spirit of the Lord (I have put my Spirit upon him) and upheld by the Lord himself (I will take you by the hand and keep you); the Lord who is ‘mighty against his foes’ is with his servant.
When we turn to the NT we see that Christ is the one to whom the Spirit is given without measure (Jn 3:34). He is not old creation in the flesh but new creation in the Spirit. He is sustained by the Spirit in all he does. He is born (conceived) of the Spirit (Lk 1:35, Matt 1:18) He is led and filled by the Spirit (Matt 4:1; Lk 4:1). The Spirit of the Lord anoints him and remains on him in his baptism (Jn 1:32,33) appointing him as the Spirit-empowered Messianic Redeemer who would bring salvation (Lk 4; Isa 49, 61). His Kingdom revealing miracles are miracles of the Spirit (Matt 12;28) and his words are words of the Spirit (Jn 6:53). He is the Messianic Son who not only was himself baptised in the Spirit but would baptize others into this new covenant, new creation, life in the Spirit (Jn 1:33). The Spirit who indwelt him he would sent to indwell his own new creation people (Jn 15:26). As flesh can only give birth to flesh so only One who is ‘Spirit’ can give birth to ‘Spirit’ (Jn 3:6). It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is no help at all, and the words of Christ are Spirit and life (Jn 6:63). ‘Flesh’ never produces ‘Spirit’, old creation never produces new creation, only that which is already Spirit can produce Spirit, only new creation can produce new creation. Again, in the words of 1 Cor 15, Christ is no mere Adam, of the earth and mere dust, he is ‘a life-giving Spirit’ (1 Cor 15).
Isaiah’s Servant had the promise that the Lord himself would take him by the hand and lead him. When we come to the NT this translates into the Father and Son relationship that John’s gospel particularly develops. Christ cannot fail because he can do nothing of his own accord, he can do only the things he sees his Father doing (Jn 5:19). He and his Father are One (Jn 10:30). He lives in the bosom of the Father (Jn 1:18), he is in the father and the Father in him (Jn 10:3, 14:10). He dwells in the Father and the Father dwells in him (Jn 14:10). All that the Father has he gives to Christ (Jn 16:15). He lives by the Father, is consecrated and sent by the Father (Jn 10:36), does the works of his Father (Jn 10:37), speaks the words of the Father (Jn 12:49, 50), and follows the commands of his Father (Jn 14:31). He and the Father work side by side (Jn 5:17). To see and know Christ is to see and know the Father (Jn 14:9). He had come from the Father and would return to the Father (Jn 16: 28, 13:1). He had come from God and would return to God (Jn 13:3). His origin is heaven not earth. The first Man is of the dust of the earth, the second Man is the Lord from heaven (1 Cor 15). In fact, he is a divine person.
Christ, the man, is no mere Adam, he is no mere ‘Son of Adam’ trying to find the reward of eternal life through obedience and trying to rise from the humanity of flesh (old creation) to the humanity of Spirit (new creation). Such ideas are woefully inadequate. Christ has life ‘in himself’ (Jn 5:26). In him was life (Jn 1:4). He gives life to whomsoever he will (Jn 5;21). His words are life ( Jn 6:63). He is the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25) No-one takes his life from him. He has authority to lay it down and to take it up again (Jn 10:17,18). He is the bread of Life (Jn 6:35). He is the light of life (Jn 8:12). He not only brings light, he is ‘the light’ (Jn 8:12). the ‘true light’ that lightens every man (Jn 1:9). Language like this cannot be used of Adam. This can only describe someone substantially different from Adam (pre or post-fall). This is not simply a description of a new sinless Adam seeking to gain eternal life. This language can only describe someone who is and brings others into a new order of humanity; Christ is not Adam restored, he is Adam reconfigured.
Adam was innocent, innocence implies an absence of sin: Christ was holy, holiness implies an abhorrence of sin. Adam did not hate sin, he chose sin. Christ loved righteousness and hated lawlessness (Hebs 1:9). We are not encouraged to praise Christ because in moral vulnerability he faced sin and triumphed. Rather we praise him because in the integrity of a humanity opposed to sin root and branch he bore all the opposition and grief that such a humanity would experience in a fallen and foul world to the extent of being made on the cross by God his Father what his holy humanity shrank from above all else , namely, sin.
Christ is invincible life, invincible new creation. This is his great glory. But this invincibility was at great cost. He suffered being tempted. Christ would not fail but the cost in not failing for him was enormous. As new creation living in the hostile world of old creation he knew what it was to experience the opposition of sinners against himself (Hebs 12:3). He would not turn away from the Father’s will, he would drink the cup his Father gave him to drink, although that cup involved immeasurable suffering (Jn 18:11). It was the cup drunk when through the eternal Spirit he offered himself without spot to God (Hebs 9;14), the cup of being the flesh in which sin was condemned (Roms 8:3). His faith as a true man was tested to the utmost. He made faith chart new territory (Hebs 12:3) for he never faltered or deviated from the divine will however demanding or distasteful (Matt 26:39). He may face great odds but he will do so with confidence and boldness; he is certain he will triumph and not be shamed for the Lord is with him.
Isa 50:4-11 (ESV)
The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.
This is the Christ of Scripture. This is the Christ I know, worship and serve. Not a weak uncertain Christ but an invincible Christ. A Spirit-empowered Christ. A Christ filled with all the fulness of the Godhead. A Christ who is the man from heaven. Man in perfect and holy communion with God. The Christ of new creation, a new creation whose fulness he enters finally and forever upon resurrection. We, united to him in his resurrection, share in this new creation which before and without his death and resurrection we could not, for, ‘unless a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abides alone but if it dies it brings much fruit’.
Let’s have great thoughts, biblical thoughts, of Christ. He is God the Son who in incarnation not only introduced us to the Father but in becoming human introduced eschatological humanity, eternal life humanity, humanity in the Spirit, the humanity of new creation.