By: Dr. Ellet Waggoner | The First Day
Creation and Redemption
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). In this brief sentence we have the whole of the truth of the gospel summed up. He who reads aright may derive a world of comfort from it.
In the first place, let us consider who it was that created the heaven and the earth. “God created.” But Christ is God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of His person. (See Hebrews 1:3.) He Himself said, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). He it was who, representing the Father, created the heaven and the earth. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1-3). And again we read of Christ, that “by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16, 17).
The Father Himself addresses the Son as God and as Creator. The first chapter of Hebrews says that God has not at any time said to any of the angels, “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten thee.” “But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom.” And He has also said to the Son, “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thine hands” (Hebrews 1:5, 8, 10). So we are well assured that when we read in the first chapter of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” it refers to God in Christ.
Creative power is the distinguishing mark of divinity. The Spirit of the Lord, through the prophet Jeremiah, described the vanity of idols, and then continues, “But the Lord is the true God, He is the living God, and an everlasting King: at His wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide His indignation. Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. He hath made the earth by His power. He hath established the world by His wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by His discretion” (Jeremiah 10:10-12). The earth was made by His power, and established by His wisdom. But Christ is “the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” So here again we find Christ inseparably connected with creation as the Creator. Only as we acknowledge and worship Christ as the Creator do we acknowledge His divinity.
Christ is Redeemer by virtue of His power as Creator. We read that “we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins,” because that “by Him were all things created” (Colossians 1:14, 16). If He were not Creator, He could not be Redeemer. This means simply that redemptive power and creative power are the same. To redeem is to create. This is shown in the statement of the apostle that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation; which statement is immediately followed by another to the effect that the power of God is seen by means of the things that have been made. (Romans 1:16-20). When we consider the works of creation and the power manifested in them, we are contemplating the power of redemption.
There has been a great deal of idle speculation as to which is the greater, redemption or creation. Many have thought that redemption is a greater work than creation. Such speculation is idle, because only infinite power could perform either work, and infinite power cannot be measured by human minds. But while we cannot measure the power, we can easily settle the question of which is the greater, because the Scriptures give us the information. Neither is greater than the other, for both are the same. Redemption is creation. Redemption is the same power that was put forth in the beginning to create the world and all that is in it, now put forth to save men and the earth from the curse of sin.
The Scriptures are very clear on this point. The psalmist prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). The apostle says, that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17), or a new creation. And again we read, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Compared with God, man is “less than nothing, and vanity.” Isaiah 40:17. In him “dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). Now the same power that in the beginning made the earth from nothing, takes man, if he is willing, and makes of him that which is “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:6).
THE CREATIVE WORD
Having seen that Christ the word, is the Creator of all things, and that He redeems by His creative power, let us now learn what the bible says as to how He created. Here is the answer: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: He layeth up the depth in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:6-9). It is very simple, and most wonderful because of its very simplicity. Well may we all exclaim, “What a word is this!”
“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:3). How do we know how the worlds were made? By faith. Faith gives knowledge. That is its special work. Knowledge gained by faith is not vague and uncertain, but is the most absolutely certain of any knowledge. In fact, there is no real knowledge that does not spring from faith. Knowledge that comes in any other way is speculation. The unbelieving soul regards faith as folly, but the faithful soul knows that faith makes for it a solid foundation. Whoever will believe may know.
The knowledge of the alphabet is one of the most common things in the world. It lies at the very foundation of all learning. No one ridicules the child for saying that he knows the letters of the alphabet, and for declaring most positively, in spite of all contradiction, that “A” is “A.” And yet he knows that only by faith. He has never investigated the subject for himself; he has accepted the statement of his teacher. The teacher himself had to learn the alphabet in the same way–by faith. It was not demonstrated to him that “A” is “A.” It could not have been. If he had refused to believe the fact till it was demonstrated to him, he never would have learned to read. He had to accept the fact by faith, and then it would prove itself true under every circumstance. There is nothing of which people are more absolutely sure than they are of the letters of the alphabet, and there is nothing for which they are more absolutely dependent on faith.
Now, just as the child learns the alphabet, so we learn the truths of God. Whoever receives the kingdom of heaven must receive it as a little child. By faith we learn to know Jesus Christ, who is the Alpha and the Omega– the entire alphabet of God. He who believes the simple statement of the bible, concerning creation, may know for a certainty that God did create the heaven and the earth by the power of His word. The fact that some unbeliever doubts this, and thinks that it is foolish, does not shake his knowledge, nor prove that he does not know it, any more than our knowledge of the alphabet is shaken or disproved by some other person’s ignorance of it.
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” In the Century Magazine of May, 1891, there was a very interesting description of the production of voice-figures. The article was entitled “Visible Sound.” Mrs. Watts Hughes had employed a simple device to test the intensities of vocal sounds. It was an elastic membrane stretched over the mouth of a receiver, into which receiver the voice was introduced by means of a wide-mouthed tube. On this membrane sand or a fine power was sprinkled. It was found that upon singing into the tube the powder was gently agitated by the vibrations of the membrane, which vibrations corresponded to those of the voice, differing according to the pitch and intensity of the sound. This, of course, is what might be expected. But the wonder was that in every instance the agitation produced the shape of some plant or flower, or even of some of the lower forms of animal life. Something similar to this may be seen when one breathes upon the window pane in frosty weather.
It was found that when the powder was dry, it would not retain the form after the vibration of the voice ceased. So the expedient was adopted of slightly moistening it, when the various shapes could be retained and photographed.
This shows that the breath, as it comes from the lungs has the shape of living things, and to the singer suggested a thought which she thus expresses:
“Closing now my brief sketch of these voice-figures, as I have observed them, I would add that my experiments have been made as a vocalist, using my own voice as the instrument of investigation; and I must leave it for others more acquainted with natural science to adjust the accordance of these appearances with facts and laws already known. Yet, passing from one stage to another of these inquiries, question after question has presented itself to me, until I have continually felt myself standing before mystery, in great part hidden, although some glimpses seem revealed. And I must say, besides, that as day by day I have gone on singing into shape these peculiar forms, and, stepping out of doors, have seen their parallels living in the flowers, ferns and trees around me; and, again, as I have watched the little heaps in the formation of the floral figures gather themselves up, and then shoot out their petals, just as a flower springs from the swollen bud–the hope has come to me that these humble experiments may afford some suggestions in regard to Nature’s production of her own beautiful forms, and may thereby aid, in some slight degree, the revelation of yet another link in the great chain of the organized universe that, we are told in Holy Writ, took its shape at the voice of God.”
This is not given as an example of how the Lord spoke the earth into existence in the beginning, for we cannot know how He did it, but it will serve to help us to grasp the fact. Man is made in the image of God, but he has no creative power. In his breath there can be only the forms of living things; but in the breath of God there are not only the forms, but the very living things themselves, for He is the living God, and with Him is “the fountain of life.” When He speaks, the word which names the thing, contains the very thing itself. Whatever the word describes exists in living form in that word.
This is indicated by the words of the apostle Paul concerning God that He “calleth those things which be not as though they were.” This is an attribute of Divinity alone. If a man calls a thing that is not, as though it were, it is a lie. But God does so, and He cannot lie. How is this? Simply because that when He calls a thing by name, or says that a thing will be, it already exists, even though it cannot be seen. The thing is in His word. When He names a thing that previously had no existence, that instant the thing will be, then it is as sure as though it had already appeared, because it does really exist in the word that has been spoken. It is for this reason that so much of prophecy is in the perfect tense, as though already accomplished. So when the worlds were to be brought into existence, God spoke, and there they were. They were formed by the breath of His mouth.
Now see how firm a foundation is given the believing one who knows that all things were created by the word of God, and that when God speaks, the thing named exists, full of life. The psalmist says, “I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints” (Psalm 85:8). “He speaks peace through the Divine Word, for He is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). But peace means righteousness, for we read, “Great peace have they which love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165), or cause them to stumble. And again, “O that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea” Isaiah 48:18. Then it must be that God speaks righteousness when He speaks peace. And so it is, for again we read:
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified [made righteous, or doers of the law] freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set for to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-26).
Notice that man is declared to have no righteousness: “There is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12). No one has anything in him out of which righteousness can be made. Then the righteousness of God is put, literally, into and upon all that believe. Then they are both clothed with righteousness, and filled with it, according to the Scripture. In fact, they then become “the righteousness of God” in Christ. And how is this accomplished? God declares His righteousness upon the one who believes. To declare is to speak. So God speaks to the sinner, who is nothing, and who has nothing, and says, “You are righteous,” and immediately that believing sinner ceases to be a sinner, and is the righteousness of God. The word of God which speaks righteousness has the righteousness itself in it, and as soon as the sinner believes, and receives that word into his own heart by faith, that moment he has the righteousness of God in his heart; and since out of the heart are the issues of life, it follows that a new life is thus begun in him; and that life is a life of obedience to the commandments of God. Thus faith is indeed the substance of things hoped for; because faith appropriates the word of God, and the word of God is substance.
THE WORD A SURE FOUNDATION
The same word that created the earth also upholds it. We quote again the words concerning Christ: “For in Him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions, principalities or powers; all things have been created through Him, and unto Him; and He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16, 17, R.V.). To consist means to hold together. Therefore all things on the earth, and the earth itself, owe their continued existence to Christ. So Paul declared on Mars’ Hill, “In Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
This upholding is by His word. Thus: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3). Christ is the Divine Word; He is in the spoken word; and so, since all things hold together in Him, they are upheld by His powerful word.
Read also the words written by the apostle Peter: “By the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgement and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:5-7). The same word that made the earth caused its overflow by a flood, brought it transformed from the waters, and still upholds it. That word, therefore, must indeed be substantial. It is more real and solid than the earth itself, even as the foundation of a thing must be more substantial than the thing. That word “liveth and abideth forever” (1 Peter 1:23). Therefore the one who trusts it will never be at a loss.
There will come a time when “the earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage” (Isaiah 24:19, 20); when every island shall flee away, and “the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” But even in that awful time the Christian can say, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear” (Psalm 46:1, 2).
BUILDING ON THE WORD
“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell; and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).
Christ is a rock. Of the ancient Israelites we read that “they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed [went with] them; and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). The psalmist says, “He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him” Psalm 92:15. To those who take Him as their peace, it is said: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:19, 20). We are not built upon the apostles and prophets, but upon the foundation which they have built upon; “for other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).
According to the words of Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount, we build upon the rock by hearing and doing His words. The word of God is “God breathed,” and therefore full of His own life. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17), and Christ dwells in the heart by faith; therefore the word has Christ in it, because it brings Christ into the heart. The word of a man stands for the man himself. It is worth just as much as he is. If he is a worthless character, his word is worth nothing; but if he is an honorable man, and has promised a thing, his word is worth all that he is worth, or all that he can do. The word represents him. We say that a man does a thing which his servant does in obedience to his word. So the word of God stands for Himself. All that God is worth, His word is worth. It represents Him, because it is full of His life.
Abraham is a wonderful example of building on Christ by believing His word. God made a promise to Abraham, which, like all the promises of God, was in Christ. Then the record says of Abraham, “And he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). There is something very peculiar about this expression “He believed in the Lord.” The word rendered “believed” is from the Hebrew word “Amen.” In the word “Amen” we have as nearly as possible the exact form of the Hebrew. The word is not translated, but simply transferred. It is a Hebrew word and appears in the different languages into which the Bible is translated. Greek, Latin, French, German, Spanish, Danish, English, etc.–All have the same word, “Amen.”
The root idea of the word is firmness. The idea of solidity and stability attaches to it. It has a variety of definitions, all carrying this thought. One definition is “to build, or depend, on.” So, literally, Abraham built upon God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. This agrees with the idea that the word of the Lord is a foundation. The root idea of the word being that of something substantial, upon which one can build, is carried into our ordinary speech. We say of a certain man, “You can depend on his word.” That means that you can rest your weight upon it. Now if this be true of a man, how much more so of God! We may rest upon His word, for it will always hold us up.
This gives a better idea of the Bible meaning of belief than is commonly held. People generally think that to believe is nothing more than to nod assent. But believing the Lord is much more than this. It is to count that word as the surest thing in the universe, since it is that which upholds the universe, and to rest the whole soul, and all the hopes, upon it, even though everything appears contrary to it. It is to walk where there seems to be nothing, provided the word of the Lord is there, knowing that it is a firm foundation. The poet Whittier has thus expressed it:
Nothing before, nothing behind:
The steps of faith
Fall on the seeming void, and find
The rock beneath.
When the Lord said to Peter, “Come,” as He walked on the water, Peter got out of the boat and started to his Lord. It is contrary to nature for a man to walk on the water. It is impossible that water should hold a man up. What did hold Peter up? It was that word, “Come.” When the Lord utters a word, the thing described is in the word; and so when He said to Peter, “Come,” the power to come was in the word. It was on that that Peter walked as long as he walked at all. When he looked around him at the boisterous waves, he began to sink. Why? Because he then forgot the word, and thought only of the water. As soon as he left the word he began to sink, because the water had no power to hold him up. It was only the word of the Lord that could keep him above the water. If the word of the Lord had told Peter to walk in the air; he could have done that just as easily as he could have walked on the water. The word of the Lord bore Elijah through the air, and so it will soon do for all who learn the power of it.
But note the fact, that when Abraham built on the Lord it was counted to him for righteousness. The Lord never makes any mistakes in His reckoning. When Abraham’s faith was reckoned to him for righteousness, it was because it was indeed righteousness. How so? Why, as Abraham built on God, he built on everlasting righteousness. “He is my Rock and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” He became one with the Lord, and so God’s righteousness was his own.
“The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6). Therefore he who builds upon the Rock Jesus Christ, by accepting His word in living faith, builds upon a tried foundation. So we read: “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious, and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded” (1 Peter 2:1-6).
The force of this is not so clearly seen until we read the passage of Scripture which is quoted by the apostle, in connection with the one that we have quoted from the Saviour’s Sermon on the Mount. Recalling the latter, we read from the prophecy of Isaiah:
“Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone of sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. And I will make judgment the line, and righteousness the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. As often as it passeth through, it shall take you; for morning by morning shall it pass through, by day and by night: and it shall be nought but terror to understand the message” (Isaiah 28:16-19, R.V.).
Christ is the tried foundation. Righteousness is the plummet by which He is laid. His character is perfectly true and right. Satan exhausted all his arts in trying to lead Him to sin, and was unsuccessful. He is a sure foundation. We build on Him by believing His word, as He Himself said. The floods will surely come. There will be an overflowing scourge that will sweep away the refuge of lies, and all who have built on a false foundation. The house built on the sand will certainly fall. When the storm begins to beat with fury, those who have made lies their refuge will flee for their lives as their foundation begins to totter; but the flood will carry them away. This is the picture presented by the two passages of Scripture.
But far different will it be with those who have built on the Rock of Ages. That sure foundation will stand every blast. Nothing can shake it. Those who have built on it will not make haste. They have often proved that it is a sure refuge, and so they can calmly watch the torrent. They do not need to flee for their lives. Having built on the rock, they are as secure as the rock itself. And why? Because they are really a part of the rock, for –
The Rock builds up
all who build upon it. Listen to the words of the apostle: “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” Acts 20:32. When one builds upon the Rock, the rock itself, being a living rock, grows up into him, so that the foundation and the building are all one piece. This is shown by many passages of Scripture. We will repeat a few.
“For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:11).
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
“To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:4, 5).
“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him: rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith” (Colossians 2:6, 7).
Here we have combined the figure of a house with that of a plant. This is perfectly natural, because the Rock upon which we build is a living stone, and gives life to those who are built upon it, so that they, as lively stones, grow into a building. The two figures are combined by the apostle Paul, “Ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9).
This is also shown very beautifully in the exhortation which Jehoshaphat gave to Israel when at the command of the Lord they were going out against a vastly superior force, trusting in His word that He would fight for them. “And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper” (2 Chronicles 20:20). Here as we have seen in the case of Abraham, the word “believe” is from the Hebrew word “Amen.” The word “established” is also another form of the very same word. So that the passage might properly be rendered thus: “Build upon the Lord your God, so shall ye be built up.”
THE MESSAGE OF COMFORT
One more point only will be given to show the hope and comfort that are contained in the things that were written aforetime. The fortieth chapter of Isaiah is wholly a message of comfort. It begins, “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God.” Then follows an assurance of forgiveness, and then the special message is given by the voice of one crying in the wilderness. That message is the power of the word of God, as contrasted with the weakness of men. “The voice said, Cry. And he said, what shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever” (verses 6-8).
Then follow illustrations of the power of the word. The facts of creation are referred to, and the power of God is contrasted with the weakness of men. Then comes this beautiful passage: “To whom then will ye liken Me, that I should be equal to him? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and see who hath created these, that bringeth out their host by number: He calleth them all by name; by the greatness of His might, and for that He is strong in power, not one is lacking” (Isaiah 121:25, 26, R. V.).
Here again we are referred to the fact that God is the upholder of the heavens; that it is His power that keeps the heavenly bodies in their places. But for His direct interposition there would be chaos. In the following verses this fact is offered to the people of God for their special encouragement. “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, my way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of His understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength” (Isaiah 40:27-29).
What a lesson of trust is here! “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God” (Psalm 62:11). That power is the power that upholds the heavens, and causes the stars and planets to hold their courses. It is this power that He gives to the faint, and to those who have no might, if they will but trust Him. Let a despondent soul but spend a little time in contemplation of the heavens, thinking the while of this passage, and he will be better able than ever before to realize what the apostle means when he says, “Strengthened with all might according to His glorious power, unto patience and longsuffering, with joyfulness” (Colossians 1:11).
But what is all this intended to show? The power of the word; for it is by the word of His power that all things are upheld. It is the word of the Lord that has created all things. That word is brought to our attention in the first part of the chapter, in contrast with all flesh, as the word that abideth forever. Read now the fortieth chapter of Isaiah entire, especially verses 6-8, and 26, and then read the apostle Peter’s comment:
“Being born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth, and abideth forever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth forever” 1 Peter 1:23-25. Here we have the quotation from the fortieth of Isaiah concerning the word of God, which creates and upholds all things. It is the living word, which is the life and strength of all things. Take this all in, and then read the closing words of the apostle: “And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
The gospel, then, is simply the creative power of God applied to men. Any gospel that leaves creation out, or which does not preach the creative power of God, as seen in the things that He has made, and which does not comfort men by that power, calling upon them ever to keep it in mind as their only source of strength, is “another gospel,” which is simply no gospel at all, since there can be no other.
This, then, is the lesson to be learned “in the beginning.” He who has learned it is a new creature in Christ, and is ready to learn that which follows; namely, the lesson of growth. With these wonderful facts in mind, how worse than useless do the fears seem which some express: “I am afraid that if I begin the Christian life, I shall not be able to hold out.” Of course, you wouldn’t be able to hold out. You are without strength, but help has been laid upon One that is mighty. He is able to make you stand, and to keep you to the end. “Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Therefore:
“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 24, 25).
LET THERE BE LIGHT:
“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:3,4).
Hitherto there had been darkness upon the face of the abyss. It was not such darkness as we are accustomed to; for in the thickest darkness man has ever known since that time (with the possible exception of the plague of darkness in Egypt) there has been some mixture of light. Some light tempers the darkness, even in the black night when no moon nor stars appear; but here there was darkness such as man cannot conceive of, for light had not yet been created.
Out of this thick darkness God commanded the light to shine. The apostle tells us that God “commanded the light to shine out of darkness.” Here again we are brought to see the wonder of creative power. God does not work as man does. Man has to have the material all ready to his hand when he makes a thing. God is not limited in that way. Utter nothingness is as suitable for His purpose as anything can be. “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). This is done for our sakes, that we may learn to put our trust in Him.
So when God would make the light, He caused it to shine out of darkness. Shall we say that He made the light out of the darkness? It would not be improper, for that is in God’s power. “If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee” (Psalm 139:11, 12). And in speaking for the comfort of His people in time of trouble, God says: “I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known; I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16).
Nothing is too hard for the Lord. He Himself is the source of all things. The wise soul sees God in all His works. He has impressed Himself upon all creation. It is all stamped with His own personality. The gross darkness of the heathen came from perverting this truth. Instead of seeing the power of God in everything, they said that everything is God. Thus they turned the truth of God into a lie. But it is a fact that from God Himself everything springs. So God could make light shine out of darkness, because He Himself is light. “This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
Let us not forget as we study creation, that Christ is the Creator. He is the wisdom of God and the power of God. He it was that created light. He made it from Himself, for in Him are all things created. It is not alone in the spiritual sense that Christ is the light of the world. The light that rejoices the eyes of all mankind is light that is shed on them from Christ. The visible is to teach us the invisible. From the natural we are to learn of the spiritual. The physical light that shines in the world is designed to teach us that God is light, and that spiritual light from Him shines as freely for all, and is none the less read. “Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness” (Psalm 112:4), so that He may say, “Rejoice not against Me, O Mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto Me” (Micah 7:8).
Christ is the light of the world. So we read that when He went into Galilee the words of the prophet concerning that region were fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun, the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw a great light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death, to them did light spring up” (Matthew 4:15, 16, R.V.). Sin is darkness. It comes from the prince of darkness, and it brings darkness. The word of the Lord is light; but that was virtually hidden from the people when the Lord came to earth. Men wise in their own conceit had taken upon themselves the “interpretation” of the law of God, and, as a consequence, had covered it up. They had taken away the key of knowledge. Even thus it was in the Middle Ages, which are generally known as the Dark Ages, for then the Bible was a proscribed book. It was imprisoned in the dark cell, and its rays did not enlighten the people. Men groped for light and did not know which way to go. The knowledge of God well-nigh departed from the land; for even the priests, whose lips should keep knowledge, were ignorant of the Living Oracles. Satan had caused false ideas of God and the right to prevail.
It was into darkness similar to this, that Christ, the Light of the world, came. To them that sat in darkness, light sprang up. The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not apprehend or overcome it. Nothing could quench that holy, living Light. When men groped in darkness, and knew not the way of truth, the light of Christ’s life shone forth in the darkness, to show them the way. All this the aged Simeon saw when he took the infant Jesus in his arms and said, “Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32).
THE LIGHT OF LIFE:
As sin is darkness, so it is death. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12). “For to be carnally minded is death” Romans 8:6. “Sin, when it is full grown, bringeth forth death” (James 1:15, R.V.); for “the sting of death is sin.” (1 Corinthians 15:56). Sin and death come from Satan, for it is he that has the power of death. Therefore it is that we are told that we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with the rulers of the darkness of this world. The darkness of this world is the darkness of sin, and that is the darkness of the shadow of death. Those who sit in sin, sit in the shadow of death; and the light that springs up to such is the light of Christ’s sinless life.
As sin is death, so righteousness is life. “To be spiritually minded is life.” To be spiritually minded is to have the mind of the Spirit of God; and that is to have His life and righteousness. It is to have the law of God in the mind, “for we know that the law is spiritual.” The only thing that can dispel darkness is light. So the only thing that can take away sin is righteousness. And the only thing that can overcome death is life.
But the life of man cannot gain the victory over death, for it is death itself. Sin is natural to the heart of mankind. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23). But the heart is the seat of life, “for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Therefore, since sin is death and sin in all its various forms springs from the heart, it follows that the very source of man’s life is poisoned with death. The life of man is but a living death. The apostle Paul, after bemoaning the utter sinfulness of the natural man, cried out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24, margin).
Since righteousness, and that alone, is life, man can have no hope of life from himself, for he can get no righteousness from himself. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil” (Luke 6:45). Man has only evil in his heart by nature, therefore he can bring forth only that which is evil. The Scriptures give abundant witness to this. Let them tell their own story.
“All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12). “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7,8). No matter how much the awakened soul may wish that he could do what he knows is right, he has no power in himself to do it. “For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17).
Now, since only evil can come from evil, and the heart of man brings forth only evil, it is a denial of the Scripture to claim that man can of himself do any good thing. First, because the Bible says that he cannot. Second, whoever says that there is any power in man to do that which is good, thereby denies that there is any such thing as evil in man. For there cannot be some evil and some good in man by nature. A fountain cannot send forth from the same opening both sweet water and bitter. A little poisonous water will taint the entire fountain. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6). So, if there is any evil in a man by nature, he must be, as the Scripture says, wholly evil. Therefore it is, that whoever says that he can of himself do any good thing, however small, denies that there is any trace of evil in him. But Christ has told the truth about man in the words, “Apart from Me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5, R.V.).
Third, there is one other possible position for the one who says that he can of himself do that which is good, and that is to claim that he can make good out of evil. There are many who openly claim that evil is only “undeveloped good”; but they do not any more strongly assert that claim than do those who think that they are able of themselves to do that which is good. To say that evil is undeveloped good is to deny the Bible, which says that man has no good thing in him. And to intimate that sin can be changed into goodness is to set one’s self above God; for He cannot do that. To do that would be to deny Himself, for He is righteousness.
God alone is good. This the Scriptures plainly declare. When Christ was on earth “there came one running, and kneeled to Him, and asked Him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? there is none good but one, that is God” (Mark 10:17, 18). Since God alone is good, it follows that for any one to claim that he has goodness in himself, is to make himself equal to God. The man who does that virtually makes himself God.
It is plain that if a man is to get righteousness he must get it from outside himself. He must, in fact, be made into another man. He must have life entirely different from his natural life. This is dimly recognized in the frequently- expressed desire to “live a different life.” That is just what everyone needs to do. The trouble is that so many try to live another life with the old life of sin, and that is impossible. In order for man to live a different life from what he has been living, it is necessary for him to have a different life.
From the text last quoted it is evident where he must get this life. God alone is good. His life is goodness itself. God’s life consists in acts of goodness. One’s life is just what his ways are, and all God’s ways are right. The law of God expresses His ways, for we read, “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek Him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways.” (Psalm 119:1-3). And His ways are as much higher than man’s ways as the heavens are higher than the earth.
Now the righteousness of God is a thing that man may have. The Saviour said to His disciples, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). But where are we to seek for it? In Christ, because God has made Him unto us “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). It is in Him that we may be made the righteousness of God. But since God’s righteousness is His life, it is impossible for us to have His righteousness without having His life. This life is in Christ, for Christ is God, and God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself. The only life ever lived on this earth that was perfectly righteous was the life of Christ. His life alone could resist sin. “Ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him is no sin” (1 John 3:5). The life of Christ is the righteousness of God. It is that which we are to seek.
But man cannot live God’s life. Only God can live His own life. It would be the height of presumption for anyone to think that he could live the life of God. The life of God must be manifested in the man, if he has any righteousness, but God Himself must live the life. The apostle Paul expresses it thus: “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Note again how easy it is for a man to set himself up as above God. Since righteousness is life, even the life of God, it is evident that for a man to claim that he has life in himself–that he has by nature in himself a principle that cannot by any possibility die–is the same as saying that he has righteousness in himself, and thus again to claim indirectly that he is God. This again is that man of sin.
It was this feeling that kept the Pharisees from accepting Christ. They “trusted in themselves that they were righteous” (Luke 18:9). They professed to believe in eternal life, and searched the Scriptures with that in view; but Jesus sadly said to them “Ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40). Why would they not come to Him, that they might have life? For the reason that they thought they had it in themselves. For righteousness is life. Christ came to this earth for the sole purpose of giving life to men, for they had forfeited life by sin. He gives His life to us, and that gives us His righteousness. The only reason why anyone will not come to Christ for life is that he thinks that he has it already. Again we repeat, that whoever claims that one may have eternal life without Christ, thereby claims that one may have righteousness without Christ. The two must go together.
Let us read a few familiar texts to impress this fact the more strongly on our minds. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “Thou has given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him. And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:2, 3). “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you” (John 6:53). “As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me” John 6:57. This life in the man is the only way of righteousness. We are to be “made the righteousness of God in Him” 2 Corinthians 5:21.
This life is ours by faith, for the just shall live by faith. That does not mean that the life is not real, but that it can be retained only by faith. As the life is received, so must it be retained. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him” (Colossians 2:6). Man does not have this life in his own right, and within his own power. It is the life of God, and not the life of man. “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11, 12). It is the life of Jesus manifest in mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:11).
This life is the light of men. “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). This life of righteousness is given to men as freely as the light of day. It is as abundant as the light; there is enough for all. A characteristic of light is that it can multiply itself. A single torch may light a thousand other torches, and still have as much light as in the beginning. So it is with the light of Christ’s life. With Him is the fountain of life. It comes from Him in abundance. He can give life to every man in the world, if they would all receive it, and still have as much left as in the beginning. He can live in His fullness in every man. Everyone who believes gets the benefit of the entire life of Christ. Christ is not divided.
Those who sit in the shadow of death, which is the shadow that sin casts, may have that shadow dispelled by allowing the light to shine in. That light is to be manifested in its fullness in the church before the end, so that the life of Christ will be manifested before the world as plainly as when Christ was here on earth in person. This will be the standard around which thousands will rally, even as they did on the day of Pentecost. It is this light of Christ’s life of which the prophet speaks in these words:
“Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” (Isaiah 60:1-3). All this, and much more than can possibly be expressed by the pen of an uninspired person, is taught us in the simple words, “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”