Jim D Gray
1 Corinthians 15: 44 (from “if there is”) - 50
This section deals with two races, the first man, Adam, and the last Adam, that is, Christ. It says that if there is a natural body then there is going to be a spiritual one. We all know there is a natural body, because we are in a natural body, in a condition that cannot inherit God’s kingdom. But what do we derive from these two, for I speak in respect of them both, particularly of Christ as the last Adam?
God brought in man and He tested him; He tested the first man Adam. We do not inherit what Adam was in innocence; we do not inherit that; that was finished before any children were born. We inherit what he was after God tested him. He failed the test, and he ate of the fruit that was forbidden; he disobeyed God. So we have inherited a lawless nature; thus there was a need of change. There may be, for example, natural love which is of God, but we inherit from Adam, as fallen, everything that is seen in this world; the Roman epistle tells us of all the awful development of sin in man, and we belong to that race.
But God had in mind that men should be saved. God had in mind to change us, that there should be change in persons; and the last Adam comes in and that is Christ. He was tested too. We have inherited from Him, as coming to Christ, the benefits of His trial. In Him sin is not (1 John 3: 5); there was no point of attack. He is the sinless Man, “the second man, out of heaven”; that is the last Adam. The work of God in us begins in new birth as set out in John’s gospel chapter 3. That is where it starts and it has its culmination upon the confession of Christ as Saviour and Lord, and on that account it says in Acts 2: 38, “repent … for remission of sins, and ye will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. Both those things are necessary for the believer to come into this lineage after Christ. Adam has his race and, as fallen men, we belong to that race, but as God works in our souls through new birth and brings us to an acknowledgment of the Lord as our Lord and Saviour we can look on ourselves as born of God, a wholly new matter. It is an entering in of a new source, and it has its culmination and expression when a person trusts Christ as Saviour and he receives the righteousness which is given to him of God which fits him for heaven.
But God has in mind to develop that work in the believer normally through life. He uses life to develop what is after Christ. So that what we have to begin with - forgiveness and the gift of the Spirit - forms a moral and spiritual foundation on which it is all built. It is not built on Adam’s race, after the flesh; it is built on persons who have been quickened by the last Adam. Thus God has given us through the glad tidings the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, a basic moral and spiritual foundation, and He is going to build on it. So that the first thing was the natural body; that which was natural was first, not that which was spiritual. But the spiritual is to continue, so that when you come into blessing you can take account of yourself as “such as the heavenly one, such also the heavenly ones”. Now it says before that, “Such as he made of dust, such also those made of dust”; we know about that: it is what we are by natural descent. “Such as the heavenly one, such also the heavenly ones”; when you come to Christ you can take account of yourself as a “heavenly one”, the moral question being cleared, as I have said. There is a spiritual foundation in your soul to build what is heavenly. It says in Peter’s epistle, “in brotherly love love”, 2 Pet 1: 7. That is greater than brotherly love - love. It derives from the divine nature in the believer, and the Holy Spirit is the power in the believer to give expression to it. That is how it is developed. God uses our lives to form us after this heavenly One.
God has in mind not only that we have a spiritual base, but we become characterised by what is spiritual as being led and being guided by the Holy Spirit. The Corinthian saints were carnal; that means they were going back to act like an unbeliever, that is, after the flesh, as if they had not been converted. Paul says that to them, “ye are yet carnal”, 1 Cor 3: 3. So they needed good food to build themselves up again, and he sought to build them up, and secured it to some degree. But God has not in mind that we should be carnal. Do not go back to what we were after Adam with all the fickleness and hatred and other features. As coming to Christ we belong to Him; so God is building us in relation to this heavenly One. So we radiate the features of the heavenly One. It does not have to wait until eternity, until the race of life is done, it is developed now: “Such also the heavenly ones”; that is present. No doubt there will be a fuller expression of it when we bear the image of the heavenly One; that would be a fuller expression of it. Conformed to the image of God’s Son involves as I understand it the actuality of having a body of glory in its fulness. We have to look forward to that, but be encouraged now to develop in these features of the heavenly One. So what is in testimony is the Man of the gospels; what a thing to see persons here amongst men, testifying amongst one and another the features of that Man of the gospels. What shone out in Him was what was heavenly; “the second man, out of heaven”, shone out in Christ while here. Now in glory He is active, and by the Holy Spirit has in mind to produce a race after Himself that will radiate Him now and in the future, in eternity, the glories of that blessed, heavenly One.
So that we who believe are destined for heaven, and may we be encouraged to seek the Holy Spirit’s help to develop what is laid in our souls as a basic spiritual foundation, so that we pay attention to the truth and relations with divine Persons, and communion with the Holy Spirit. Then we will be helped to develop now in the face of everything, through tests - for you will be tested. God tests His work; that is the divine prerogative: He tests His work. I say this with respect, He tested it in Christ, and that was great, to show that here was a blessed Man who was impervious to sin and Satan’s wiles, and now He is going to have a race after Him. We have to be dependent because of the present condition of sinful flesh still remaining with us; we have got to overcome that. The Lord Jesus says,”In the world ye have tribulation; but be of good courage: I have overcome the world”, John 16: 33. We have to overcome, but He has given us the power to do so, so that what shines out in testing and trials in the way, are the features of the heavenly One.
May we be encouraged for His Name’s sake.
6th November 2013