Things that are New.

(Revised notes of an address.)

Luke 5:36-39; Cor. 3:6-9; 5:17; Eph. 4:20-24; Rev. 3:12; Rev. 21:1-6.

We have been considering the revelation of God in the Person of the Son, and the manifestation of the Father's Name, which brings to us the truth of eternal life. The Apostle John wrote, "The life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." Eternal life had been with the Father in eternity, but so far as its manifestation in this world was concerned, it was an entirely new thing; it had never been here until it came in the Person of the Son. Christianity brings to us things that are entirely new, and some of these new things are found in the Scriptures we have just read together.

In Luke 5, the Lord Jesus speaks of a new garment, new bottles, and new wine. This new garment is to be distinguished from the new or unmilled cloth referred to in Matthew 9:16, and Mark 2:21. In these Scriptures the unmilled cloth, which has not been shrunk, would increase the rent in the old garment when shrinking took place. Here the Lord tells His hearers that no one would be foolish enough to tear a piece from a new garment to patch an old one. To do so would spoil the new garment; and the new patch would but expose the wretched nature of the old garment. Yet this is the very thing that men are seeking to do in spiritual things. Isaiah had said All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6), but men are unwilling to accept this divine verdict through the prophet. They know that their own garment will not do for God's presence, but think that if it could only be some-what improved they could stand before God in it. They think that a little of God's righteousness added to their own self-righteousness will make them suitable for the holiness of God's eye. But God's righteousness is presented to us in a beautiful garment; it is the best robe that he had in reserve for the Prodigal (Luke 15); the wedding garment provided for the marriage feast of the king's son (Matt. 22). And it is this garment that men would spoil, supposing that a bit of it would fit them, along with their own righteousness for the presence of God. The believer is graced in Christ before God, and the lovely features of Christ would but bring out the vile character of man's fancied righteousness if the two were brought together.

Some are like the man at the marriage feast, who thought his own garment good enough for the king's presence; others would not go quite so far, but think that their deficiency in righteousness could be made up with some-thing of Christ. Both refuse the garment of God's providing; like the Jews of whom Paul speaks, they are "ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God" (Rom. 10:3).

The new wine came with the teaching of grace, with the truth and principles of Christianity introduced by the coming of the Lord Jesus, and maintained in the power of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. These things brought into the hearts of those who could receive them an entirely new kind of joy, that which was heavenly in character; which the law could not give, nor could it be found in any of the things of this poor world. Before departing to be with the Father, the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:11).

Man in his natural estate, even if a very religious man under the law, could not contain the teachings and principles of Christianity. The truth of God could only be contained in vessels prepared of God; entirely new vessels, formed in the power of the Spirit of God. Therefore Scripture says, "If any man be in Christ (there is) a new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17), and "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:10). The truth of Christianity can never be retained in the heart of the natural man, for it exposes him as utterly unfit for God, and shows that man after the flesh has been set aside in judgment in the cross of Christ.

Not only is the natural man incapable of receiving the things of Christianity, the things of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:14); he has no taste for them. Israel, after the flesh, had no taste for the heavenly teaching of the Lord Jesus: they preferred the old wine of Judaism. And so it is with the man of the world; he prefers the joys of this world to the joys that come through Christ; he would rather have "the pleasures of sin for a season" than "the pleasures for evermore." The religious man in Christendom may not be very different from the religious Jew; preferring all his forms and ceremonies to the spiritual realities that abide only in Christ, and that can only be enjoyed in communion with Him in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In 2nd Corinthians 3 the Apostle Paul speaks of the ministry committed to him by God, saying, "Our competency is of God; Who also made us competent, as ministers of the new covenant; not of letter, but of spirit" (2 Cor. 3:5 and 6). The new covenant had been prophesied in the Old Testament, and is yet to be made with the whole house of Israel, but its spirit is ministered to Christians now in the blessings brought to them in the Gospel. For us, it is a "ministry of the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:8), and a "ministry of righteousness" (2 Cor. 3:9). How glorious is this new covenant ministry in which the knowledge of God is brought to men, and where all in relation to it shines undimmed in the unveiled face of Jesus in the presence of God. All this is for us to enjoy, even as the Apostle writes. "But we all, looking on the glory of the Lord with unveiled face, are transformed according to the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit." In the power of the Spirit of God, it is the privilege of the Christian to be engaged with what lies outside the ken of the natural man; the things that centre in the glorified Christ, and with which we shall so soon be constantly occupied when in His presence for ever.

We learned from Luke 5 that new creation vessels were required to hold the new wine of Christianity brought into the world by the Lord Jesus. Here is the teaching of it by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "So if any one (be) in Christ (there is) a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new." True Christians are viewed by God as "In Christ;" and we are able to consider ourselves in this way also. This the Apostle Paul does in the twelfth chapter of this Epistle, where he says, "I know a man in Christ." He viewed himself as "a man in Christ," that is, in the abstract way in which the Christian is viewed in our chapter, apart from all that marked him in his responsible course, but as being in "new creation" before God. To see ourselves as "in Christ," in "new creation," is to view ourselves according to God's workmanship, as vessels formed for His pleasure to set forth the beautiful features of Christ.

The man in Christ belongs to a sphere where "old things have passed away" and where "all things have become new." This is truly Christianity according to the thought of God. All in Christianity proper is new; the revelation of God is entirely new; a new life has been manifested; new relationships have been formed; new associations now exist; a new man has been created; everything is heavenly in origin and character, and all our thoughts, desires, feelings, joys and affections, are altogether new. How good for us when we live in the light and power of these things; when we view the old order of things in which we once lived as gone forever from the sight of God, and gone forever for us also. It is true that we have to live still in old creation relationships and circumstances, but we can bring into them the light and character of the things that are heavenly and new.

When we come to Ephesians 4:20-24, we learn how the truth of the new creation is to be brought into our everyday lives. The truth as it is in Jesus is brought out in its three parts: first, "Your having put off according to the former conversation the old man which corrupts itself according to the deceitful lusts;" secondly, "being renewed in the spirit of your mind;" thirdly, "having put on the new man, which according to God is created in truthful righteousness and holiness." As having learnt the Christ, we learned that we were finished with the life in which once we lived according to the flesh, and that the spirit of the mind is renewed in being occupied with Christ and His things. How different are the outlook and thoughts of the Christian as having Christ as his object. Then we have put on the new man; our life now is lived according to the truth of new creation, where all is marked by holiness and righteousness, features that spring from the nature and character of God. What follows shows how very practical the truth is; these great truths are to affect us in every relationship down here, and in every detail of our lives.

In the address to Laodicea in Revelation 3, the Lord Jesus in speaking of the blessedness of the portion of the overcomer says, "I will write upon him the name of the city of my God, new Jerusalem — and my new Name." The new Jerusalem belongs to an eternal condition of heavenly things, of which this world is entirely ignorant, and the saints of this dispensation form part of it; it is divine in origin and character, as they are. Already we have our part in new creation as being "in Christ," but then all that connects us with this scene will have gone, and only what belongs to us in new creation will remain. Our bodies will then be like Christ's we shall be conformed to the image of God's Son, and shall bear His likeness. Christ's new name tells of the part that is His in the eternal scene, and having His new Name written upon us surely speaks of the place of nearness and likeness to Christ that will belong to the saints for evermore.

What is indicated in Revelation 3, is pursued in Revelation 21, where we reach the eternal climax of all God's ways, where there is the fulfilment of His eternal counsels; it is indeed the meeting point of God's ways and His purposes. At that time, the present heavens and earth will have completed the purpose for which God created them, and so they pass away. How much has transpired down here; God's ways with men have manifested His inscrutable wisdom and His infinite power; He has fully revealed Himself in the Person of the Son; He has been displaying to principalities and authorities in the church His all-varied wisdom; He is about to display the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus; and after this world has gone, He will display His glory in the church, in Christ Jesus, for all eternity. Then, all things will be new. Not a vestige of man's world will remain: all that has found its origin in man after the flesh will have perished for ever, and only what is divine in origin and character will have part in the eternal rest of God.

How wonderful it is that God has been pleased to unfold to us now these new things; the new things that we can enjoy even now while passing through the old creation, and the new things that shall soon be ours with Christ in heaven, where all things are perennially new, and the new things that will soon burst into view, the new heavens and the new earth. May God grant that we shall seek more after the things that belong to Christ and to God, for we have in God's grace already been brought in our spirits to where "all things are become new."