The fourth tells us of his Meat, the living Word, that bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat and not die (John 6:24-35). The fifth shows us the Liberty which he has and gives; even to be free from sin; for whosoever commiteth sin is the servant of sin, and the servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the son abideth ever (John 8: 31-35). The sixth declares his Divinity, that, as he “proceeded forth and came from God,” his is a partaker of God’s nature, and can truly say “I am” (John 8:48-58). The seventh describes his Service, as a shepherd with his sheep, first walking with them where they walk, and then laying down his life for them that they may live (John 10:1-15).
The eighth more fully opens his Sacrifice, and its results, showing that except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit; that therefore he that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal (John 7:24-26). The ninth show us his Lowliness, and that disciples are cleansed, and God is glorified by his humiliation (John 13:1-32). In the tenth we are shown his Glory, that he reveals God, so that he that hath seen the Son hath seen the Father also (John 14:8-14). In the eleventh we have his Sorrow and Joy (John 16:16-25). The twelfth and last shows us his Perfecting; the end, even as the beginning, of this wondrous life, being still marked by the same entire surrender of self to God in everything (John 21:15-23).
Such is the series, each stage of which unveils some further truth or new aspect of the distinctive life of “the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4:24). The first six are mainly doctrinal, and the latter six are all practical. Throughout it is, as I have already said, no so much the outward form, in which Christ first comes, which here is drawn, that form which is our likeness rather than His own; the veil under which the real man is hidden, for He was made “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3), “made flesh” (John 1:14), nay even “made sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21); but rather the “new creature” (2nd Cor. 5:17), which lies hid under and breaks forth from that outward form, when, as it must be, it is marred and broken to put on its true glory. And what a sight it is! The whole universe contains no wonder equal to this of man reformed by God into His own image. Such a man belongs to heaven and earth; nay more, heaven and earth belong to him, for he is “heir of all” (Heb 1:2; Romans 8:17; 1 Cor. 3:21-23).
He is indeed the image of all worlds, for the essences of all things, matter and spirit, seen and unseen, temporal and eternal, all are hidden in him. He is even the “image and glory of God” (1 Cor. 11:7; Col. 1: 15); for there is nothing in him which does not show something of God, not anything in God which may not be seen in him, even while He is in this world.
Thus linked with all; in spirit with God and all good spirits; for his will is in union with the will and purpose of God, the Father of spirits, who is a spirit; and in body with the world and all its creatures and powers, which shall in due time be re-headed and reconciled in him, for this new man shall draw and bring all things to himself, as a loadstone draws iron; he is able to act with and have power upon all, not on creatures only, but on God Himself also.
The shadowy body of sense, our raiment of humiliation, for a season hides this new man from us; yet there are times, as we see in Christ’s transfiguration, when an earnest of his glory is seen even here by some of those who are his fellow-heirs. And though the appointed way for this new man, now as of old, must lie along the highway of the holy cross; though shame and sorrow are his portion here, for he is ever a “stone which the builders disallow” (Matt 21:42); though he finds scant welcome, few knowing what he really is, or, if they know it, confessing him in his humiliation; though he seems shut up and shut out from much which others enjoy, having it may be less of this world than some of the poorest here; yet all things serve him; all things are his; nor can anything in the end resist his rightful authority.
Of course, according to the law referred to by St. Paul, we cannot expect to understand all that is written of this life, unless we have it quickened and growing and working in us; for who can know the things of a man, unless he have first received a man’s spirit? (1st Cor. 2:11). Even possessing this life, if yet we are only babes, if heaven is not yet open to us, we shall find many things said of the new man which must be hard to be understood, though these same things may be the daily experience of others of our brethren. Only let us follow on to know the Lord; and then the things which we cannot now receive will one day be plain, and where we cannot now follow we shall follow hereafter. God has provided for every stage, even as He has provided for all.
Not without a purpose has He given four Gospels, three of which show us the Christ, that is the new man, either as Son of Abraham, or Son of Adam, or as Servant of God, that is in His earthly, rather than His heavenly relationships, that we, as the sons of Abraham, and of Adam, or as God’s servants, may see what we can of Him in these lower aspects and relations, till we are able to see Him as Son of the Father also, and, so seeing, learn to walk as sons of God with Him. The life in each case is the light of men. Just in proportion as we do the works we understand the doctrine.
This, then, is our subject, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and has been manifested unto us. Most men are now content with the bare tradition of this life, and look upon it as a thing well nigh unattainable, or to be attained only in the world to come. But this life has been, and may be, and shall be, manifested here. Seeing is not being; but seeing may help us, not only to understand what man’s true life really is, but also to draw nearer to Him who is our life and ever near us, that so, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we may be changed into the same image. Amen.