J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 1.)
The questions which are put to man by God are very remarkable, as shewing the position in which man was, whether in the first Adam, or when put by Jesus in the second - for it is this difference which is the wonder. First, God says, "Adam, where art thou?" - he was away from God - He had to ask where he was, i.e., to put his real state to Adam's conscience. Adam had hid himself; he was naked, and could not, dared not appear. Away from God, naked - but the question said he was separated from God, and that by his own conscience. Terrible, horrible condition! Such was what the first question brought out.
The second is, "Where is Abel thy brother?" here his malice, as murderer, against his brother. Here it was the not loving his brother or neighbour, as before not loving God; I speak of the principle. It was the positive active wickedness of man's heart when departed from God, and here also it was hatred against what was connected with God, and in His favour, and had the signs of His favour upon him. This was fully shewn in the rejection of Christ, of which this was the first manifestation in principle and type. (It is a clear figure of the blessed Lord's rejection by the Jews, as Cain is of them.)
Last, it is not God simply addressing responsible man as such, but a glorified Man who is indeed the Son of God - the Lord, gone into the glory which He had with the Father before the world was. But though the Lord "God over all blessed for ever" (for who but He had the title to put such a question?), yet He was Himself a man who had died for sin, for the sins of others, had accomplished Abel's sacrifice; Himself had put all His people's sins away, glorified God as man - accomplished righteousness, so that in virtue of God's righteousness, He, as man, was on high - in whom man had taken his place in the presence of God in the divine glory - the new Man - the heavenly One - according to the full glory of the desires and counsels, and the perfect display of God's character, power and glory - and that in respect of sin and man's ruin.
A Man in divine righteousness in divine glory, and the perfect display of divine love in being there. It is not now simply God supreme, and Judge who asks "Where art thou?" "Where thy brother?" It is Jesus in glory in righteousness, who owns His poor members on earth as Himself - "Why persecutest thou me?" He had men on earth who were one with Himself - what an infinite change! Man, too, had been manifested in Paul in the Cain state; not even content with that, he was in the condition of a Christ-rejecting, Abel-slaying Israel. He is active enmity, not content with Christ's death, nor passively resisting them at Jerusalem, persecutes them even to strange cities. He is the strongest expression of resisting the Holy Ghost's testimony, and gives his testimony to putting Christ-beloved ones to death, and seeks himself to kill them. To him sovereign grace is shewed as a pattern of God's ways, - forgiving even the Cains - now rising up over the extreme and highest wickedness of man, and on the other side owns the poor remnant as being Himself. Grace to the chief of sinners, to hostile - resisting - Christ persecuting - Holy Ghost resisting Israel; and the poorest feeble saints one with Christ, members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones - the Church. Such is the testimony of the question of grace (though addressed to the very then form, and that, the highest possible form of sin) when Christ has taken His place as Man glorified, when redemption for the chief of sinners is accomplished, and the Head has taken His place, so as to own the Body as in His blessing below.
182 It would state it clearer to say, how remarkable the difference between the questions God puts to man in respect of his responsibility, and that which can be put, and is put when Man is in the glory of God, in virtue of the accomplished work. That was then man's place in the presence of Him who is "God over all blessed for ever," owning others as one with Him. It is the contrast between God on earth putting the question, according to His majesty, to man in his responsibility - he was in sin, and Man, "God over all blessed for ever," who puts it, being in Heaven in virtue of accomplished redemption.
He cannot accuse of that height of wickedness at which Paul was, without owning all believers as one with Himself in glory. Paul (Saul) was slaying them because of Christ whom he could not reach in heaven; his resistance to the witness of the Holy Ghost was against the members - to convict him of the sin, Christ owns them such.
This was one part of this wondrous truth, the other is shown in the reasoning of Ananias. The reasoning and confidence of heart with the Lord, shows the intimacy and familiarity of the disciple, produced by Christ's speaking as One having a common interest with His people. Blessed community of interest in grace! Hence Ananias speaks in the same, and reasons with the Lord in his foolishness. Yet as He had spoken of Saul's praying as the happy sign as we might be, now He does not reproach Ananias, but tells him to go as Saul was a chosen vessel to Him, to bear His name, and so on. What a place we are thus set in relatively to all without us and within, through union with the Lord Jesus!
183 NOTE. - God justifies. How ineffable must our state be in His eyes, i.e., in truth. He cannot approve or justify, but according to His own nature and being. His approbation must be according to what He approves. What a state for us to be in! In Christ, that God not only pardons our sins, but justifies us. No doubt those whom He justifies are ungodly in themselves, but His justification is the seal of His absolute approval of what they are, according to what He is. What an infinitely perfect place to be in! It is God who justifies - who justifies according to the unalterable judgment of His nature. This is true even as regards our sins, for He is just by reason of Christ's work in doing it. But how much more as in Christ, when it is the positive approbation of us in our place. And in fact, not only has He perfectly set aside our old sins, but glorified God so as to have this place as man, and we in Him.