3.10 Private People: The Problem Of Introverted
Many brethren and sisters struggle with the problem of feeling
rejected. It may be that we preached zealously, distributed leaflets,
placed advertisements, tutored students, spoke to our family and
contacts about the Truth- and ultimately, there was no response.
Our efforts were rejected and even mocked. Or it may be that we
feel not accepted somehow by our brethren, not understood, not appreciated.
This can especially be a problem in small ecclesias of new converts.
Our high expectations of our Christian brethren may be dashed by
negative experiences with them. Perhaps the thought can even occur
to us that they simply don't live the Truth as they should in the
small things of life, but it is just pointless to try to correct
them. And what seem to us to be their failings can start to irritate
us unbearably, until in some way we retreat from them. Or it may
be that we have been unfairly rejected on a formal level by the
Christians with whom we once associated, even though we know we
have not changed our beliefs at all. All these are very real problems
which many readers face. Our likely response is not necessarily
to question our faith, but rather to become private people; to withdraw
onto our own spiritual island, to have responsibility for ourselves
alone, to look inwards.
Unfortunately, we live in a world which encourages us to adopt
this kind of stance. Sometimes as one stands on a corner distributing
leaflets to an endless stream of people, it seems to me that in
essence, their faces all tell the same story: private people, very
private, who can't open to anyone. At work people play games to
survive and keep their job down; they return to a domestic life
usually centred on the television (and this increasingly applies
to African family life too, not just European). All attention is
there on that box, rather than on inter-personal contact between
the family members. And they rise again in the morning to the same
old scene. Weekend and holiday relaxation becomes simply a method
of letting off nervous stress. 'Entertainment' becomes a tickling
of the senses rather than a serious expression of thought. 'Religion'
becomes a kind of self-help psychology for the hobbyist, designed
to help the private needs of the individual. And thus the art of
deep conversation and personal communication- and it is an art-
is rapidly being lost. Serious, deep, open-hearted discussion of
anything, not just religion, is a rarity. The idea of responsibility
for others goes out of the window- whether for their spiritual
needs, or for the need of an elderly woman for some help to climb
onto a bus. No wonder relationships of every kind break down all
around us. No wonder there are so many introverted Christians.
On a human level, I could answer the feeling of disappointment,
rejection and lack of appreciation by saying that generally in every
office department, every school or college, every society, every
family unit- those who really work and sweat themselves
are usually unrecognized or treated badly by those they do so much
for. But for us who have been eternally redeemed by the outgoing,
outflowing love of the Father and Son, redeemed by pure, undeserved
grace: we are called to not just to do a bit better
than our neighbour, not just to grin and bear it and keep on, but
to go right against this tide, to walk out squarely against
that wind. It is not for us to be private people. Whilst holding
on to our intensely personal relationship with the Lord who bought
us, we are called to be lights in this dark world, to show forth,
time and again, in the face of every kind of rejection,
the constant unselfishness which was epitomized in the cross. John
began his Gospel record with this theme clearly in mind: that the
glorious light of the Lord's life and character was a solitary light,
in the midst of a darkness which although generally uninfluenced
by it, was unable to overcome it (Jn. 1:5-9).
But a very few in that darkness did receive the light.
There are some fine passages in the New Testament which dwell upon
the spirit of true service which was shown forth on the cross, both
by the Father and Son. There the love that passeth knowledge (Eph.
3:19), love unto the end (Jn. 13:1), greater love than was ever
showed (Jn. 15:13), was poured out and spat upon and rejected
and mocked by those for whom it was shown- for first and foremost,
the Lord Jesus died to redeem Israel, those who rejected and slew
Him (Gal. 4:5). Our Gentile salvation is only by taking part in
the hope and salvation of Israel. And even for those who would ultimately
accept the Lord's love, we were then enemies and sinners. God commendeth
His love to us (as if He should need to...), in that while we were
yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:8). When we were
enemies, we were reconciled by the cross (Rom. 5:10 cp. Eph. 2:12-14).
And those few, those very few, who at the time of the cross claimed
to have accepted the Lord- they had forsaken Him and fled. They
became introverted Christians. " Ye shall be scattered, every
man to his own, and shall leave me alone" (Jn. 16:32). Each
of them ran off to their own little family, to safeguard their own
petty little human possessions, and left Him alone; alone, when
He most needed some human comfort and compassion, a wave from a
friend in the crowd, a few silently mouthed words, a catching
of the eye, perhaps even the courtesy of a brief hand-shake or clap
on the shoulders before the 11 ran off into the night, the word
'thank-you' called out as He stumbled along the Via Dolorosa. But
nothing. They cleared off, they got out, every man to his own. And
the pain of betrayal with a kiss by a man He was gracious enough
to think of as His equal, with whom He had shared sweet fellowship
(Ps. 55:13,14). And to hear Peter's cursing, perhaps cursing of
Him; his denial that he'd ever known the guy from Nazareth. And
yet in the face of all this, the Lord went on: He laid
down His life for us, we who betrayed Him, scattered from
Him, hated Him, did Him to death in the most degrading and painful
way our race knew how. In the face of rejection to the uttermost,
He served us to the end, even to death, and even to the death of
God And The Cross
And it was not only the Lord Jesus who did all this for us, in
the face of such rejection and lack of appreciation. There is good
reason to understand that in those wretched hours of crucifixion,
God was especially manifested to the world. There was a matchless,
never to be surpassed partnership between Father and Son in the
cross. God was in Christ on the cross, reconciling the world unto
Himself (2 Cor. 5:19). There the Lord Jesus manifested and declared
the Father's Name, His essential character, to the full (Jn. 12:28;
13:31,32; 17:5,6,26). The Lord's references to 'going to the Father'
referred to His coming crucifixion. In the very moment of
His death the observing Centurion gasped, twice: " Truly
this was the Son of God" (Mk. 15:40; Lk. 23:46). There was
something so evidently Godly in that death. God was so near.
There are a number of incidental reasons for seeing the cross as
the ultimate manifestation / declaration of God Himself.
- According to some, " Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews"
written in Hebrew would require the use of words, the first letters
of which created the word YHWH. This is why the Jews minded it
so strongly when the title was put up. Pilate’s retort “What I
have written I have written” may well have been an oblique reference
to ‘I am that I am’. It was his attempt to have the last laugh
with the Jews who had manipulated him into crucifying a man against
whom there was no real charge. It was as if the Lord suffered
as He did with a placard above Him which effectively said: 'This
is Yahweh'. The Name was declared there, as the Lord had foreseen
(Jn. 17:26). The declaration of Yahweh’s Name to Moses in Ex.
34:6 thus becomes a foretaste of the Lord’s crucifixion. Some
texts render Ex. 34:6 as ‘Yahweh, Yahweh, a man full
of mercy....’. In the crucifixion of the man Christ Jesus, the
essence of Yahweh was declared. And we, John says with reference
to the cross, saw that glory,as it were cowering in the rock like
Moses, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14 cp. Ex.
- The Lord was crucified for blasphemy; this was the charge on
which He was found guilty at His trial by the Jews, and the basis
upon which they demanded His crucifixion. The Mishnah claims that
this was only possible if someone actually used the Yahweh Name.
Sanhedrin 7.5 outlines the protocol for condemning someone
for this, in terms which have accurate correspondence with the
Lord’s trial: “The blasphemer is not guilty until he have expressly
uttered the Name...When the trial is over...the judges stand up
and rend their clothes” (quoted in F.F. Bruce, The Spreading
Flame, 1995 ed., p. 53). So when the Lord responded to their
question as to His Messiahship by saying “I am”, and went on to
appropriate the Messianic words of Dan. 7:13 and Ps. 110:1 to
Himself, He must have explicitly used the Yahweh Name about Himself.
This is why they were so quick to accuse Him of blasphemy, and
why the High Priest rent his clothes. The Lord died because He
declared the Yahweh Name, unashamedly, knowing that His declaration
of it would take Him to the cross. Our declaration of the essence
of Yahweh, by truthfulness, forgiveness...this may cost us, although
maybe not so dearly. Yet we can be inspired by the Lord’s example.
This also explains why, as suggested above, Pilate tried to have
the last laugh over the Jews by writing the Lord’s ‘crime’ over
His body in such a way which spelt out the name ‘Yahweh’.
- It has been observed that the blood of the Passover Lamb on
the lintels of the doors at the Exodus, three sides of a square,
would have recalled the Hebrew letter repeated in ‘Yahweh’, as
if His Name was manifested in the blood of the slain lamb.
- Yahweh laid on the Lord the iniquity of us all, as if He was
present there when the soldiers laid the cross upon the Lord's
shoulders (Is. 53:6).
- Yahweh had prophesied of what He would achieve through the
crucified Christ: “I am, I am: He that blots out thy trangressions”
(Is. 43:25 LXX). He declares His Name as being supremely demonstrated
in His forgiveness of our sins through and in the Lord’s cross.
- The LXX uses the word translated “propitiation” in the NT with
reference to how God forgave / propitiated for Israel’s sins for
His Name’s sake (Ex. 32:14; Ps. 79:9). That propitiation was only
for the sake of the Lord’s future death, which would be the propitiation
God ultimately accepted. Having no past or future with Him, Yahweh
could act as if His Son’s death had already occurred. But that
death and forgiveness for “His name’s sake” were one and the same
thing. The Son’s death was the expression of the Father’s Name.
- There was a Jewish tradition that the only time when the Yahweh
Name could be pronounced was by the High Priest, when he sprinkled
the blood of Israel's atonement on the altar. The Name was expressed
in that blood.
- The Red Heifer was to be slain before the face of the priest,
" as he watches" (Num. 19:3-5 NIV), pointing forward
to the Lord's slaughter in the personal presence of the Father.
- It seems reasonable to conclude that Isaac was offered on or
near the hill of Calvary, one of the hills (Heb.) near Jerusalem,
in the ancient “land of Moriah” (cp. 2 Chron. 3:1). The name given
to the place, Yahweh-Yireh, means ‘in this mount I have seen Yahweh’.
The events of the death and resurrection of the Lord which Isaac’s
experience pointed forward to were therefore the prophesied ‘seeing’
- Paul saw the cross of Christ as parallel with “the things of
the Spirit of God”, the wisdom of God, what eye has not seen nor
ear heard, but what is revealed unto the believer and not to the
world (1 Cor. 1:18,23,24; 2:7-13). The cross of Christ was the
supreme expression of the Spirit of God, and it’s true meaning
is incomprehensible to the world. In the cross, according to Paul’s
allusion back to Isaiah, God bowed the Heavens and came down.
He did wonderful things which we looked not for. The thick darkness
there is to be associated with a theophany presence of God Himself.
- The smitten rock was an evident type of the Lord’s smiting
on the cross. And yet in Deuteronomy especially it is made clear
that Israel were to understand Yahweh as their rock. And yet “that
rock was Christ”. God Himself said that he would stand upon the
rock as it was smitten- presumably fulfilled by the Angel standing
or hovering above / upon the rock, while Moses smote it. And yet
again it is Yahweh who is described as smiting the rock in Ps.
78 and Is. 48:21. He was with Christ, directly identified with
Him, at the very same time as He ‘smote’ Him.
- Consider the implications of 2 Cor. 5:20: “On behalf of Christ,
as though God were intreating by us: we beseech you on behalf
of Christ: be ye reconciled to God [because] him who knew no sin
he made to be a sin [a sin offering?] on our behalf; that we might
become the righteousness of God in him”. Because of the
cross, the atonement which God wrought in Christ’s offering, we
beseech men to be reconciled to God. Appreciating the cross and
the nature of the atonement should be the basis of our appeal
to men. And indeed, such an appeal is God appealing to
men and women, in that there on the cross “God was in Christ,
reconciling the world unto Himself”. The blood and spittle covered
body of the Lord lifted up was and is the appeal, the beseeching
of God Himself to men. And this is the message that we are honoured
to preach on His behalf; we preach the appeal of God through the
- “Behold, the hour [s.w. “time”] cometh, yea, is now come, that
ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me
alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me”
(Jn. 16:32). The Lord’s ‘hour’ which was to come was His death
(Jn. 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23,27; 13:1; 17:1; 19:27). The disciples
scattered at the crucifixion, probably they came to see it and
then scattered in fear after the first hour or so. But He was
not left alone; for the Father was with Him there. Just as John
began his Gospel by saying that “the word was with God”, with
specific reference to the cross (see The Cross In John’s Gospel
for justification of this).
- Both Jew and Gentile were gathered together against the Lord
(God) and His Christ on the cross (Acts 4:26). Peter thus makes
a connection between the Father and Son on the cross.
- There are several NT passages which make an explicit link between
God and Jesus in the context of the salvation of men. Phrases
such as “God our Saviour, Jesus...” are relatively common in the
pastorals (1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; Tit. 1:3,4; 2:10 cp. 13 and see also
Jude 24; 2 Pet. 1:1). These and many other passages quoted by
trinitarians evidently don’t mean that ‘Jesus = God’ in the way
they take them to mean. But what they are saying is that
there was an intense unity between the Father and Son in the work
of salvation achieved on the cross.
- Just before His death, the Saviour spoke of going to the Father,
and coming again in resurrection (Jn. 13:36,37 cp. 14:28; 16:16,17;
17:11). He somehow saw the cross as a being with God, a going
to Him there (‘going to the Father’ in these Johanine passages
is hard to apply to His ascent to Heaven after the resurrection).
Note in passing that when in this context He speaks of us
coming to the Father, He refers to our taking up of His cross,
and in this coming to the essence of God (Jn. 14:6 cp. 4, 13:36).
- The altar " Jehovah-Nissi" connected Yahweh personally
with the pole / standard / ensign of Israel (Ex. 17:15). Yet nissi
is the Hebrew word used for the pole on which the brass serpent
was lifted up, and for the standard pole which would lift up Christ.
Somehow Yahweh Himself was essentially connected with the cross
of Christ. “There is no God else beside; a just God and a Saviour
(Jesus)...look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth”
(Is. 45:21,22) is evident allusion to the snake on the pole to
which all Israel were bidden look and be saved. And yet that saving
symbol of the crucified Jesus is in fact God Himself held up to
- " God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself"
(2 Cor. 5:19) seems to be a comment on the death, rather than
the nature, of the Lord Jesus. It is in the context of the statement
that Christ died for all men (2 Cor. 5:14). In that death, God
was especially in Christ. Perhaps it was partly with reference
to the cross that the Lord said: “I shall shew you plainly of
the Father” (Jn. 16:25).
- The mention that Jesus stood before Pilate “in a place that
is called the Pavement” (Jn. 19:13) reminds us of Ex. 24:10, where
Yahweh was enthroned in glory on another ‘pavement’ when the old
covenant was made with Israel. The New Covenant was inaugurated
with something similar. “In him dwelleth all the fullness of the
Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9) would have been easily perceived as
an allusion to the way that Yahweh Himself as it were dwelt between
the cherubim on the mercy seat (2 Kings 19:15; Ps. 80:1). And
yet the Lord Jesus in His death was the “[place of] propitiation”
(Heb. 2:17), the blood-sprinkled mercy seat. “There I will
meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat...of
all things which I will give thee in commandment” (Ex. 25:20-22).
In the cross, God met with man and communed with us, commanding
us the life we ought to lead through all the unspoken, unarticulated
imperatives which there are within the blood of His Son. There
in the person of Jesus nailed to the tree do we find the focus
of God’s glory and self-revelation, and to this place we may come
to seek redemption.
- The High Priest on the day of Atonement sprinkled the blood
eastwards, on the mercy seat. He would therefore have had to walk
round to God's side of the mercy seat and sprinkle the blood back
the way he had come. This would have given the picture of the
blood coming out from the presence of God Himself; as if He
was the sacrifice. Acts 20:28 seems to teach (in the AV) that
God purchased the church with His own blood. His manifestation
in His Son was especially intense.
- There are links between the concept of ‘truth’ and the cross.
In Ps. 60:4 God’s Truth is displayed on the banner (s.w. “pole”
, on which the snake was lifted up). John struggled with words,
even under inspiration, to get over to us the tremendous truth
and reality of what he witnessed at the cross (Jn. 19:35). God
is the ultimate Truth, and the cross was the ultimate declaration
of His Truth. I would even suggest a chronological progression
in Jn. 1:14:
“The word was made flesh”- His birth
“And dwelt among us”- His life
“And we beheld his glory, full of grace and truth”- His death
on the cross. Christ’s glory is elsewhere used by John with
reference to the glory He displayed on the cross (Jn. 12:38-41;
12:28; 13:32; 17:1,5,24). John thus begins his Gospel with the
statement that he saw the Lord’s death. However, it is also
so that John “saw his glory” at the transfiguration; and yet
even there, “they saw his glory” (Lk. 9:32) as “they spake of
his decease which he should accomplish”. His glory and His death
were ever linked. The fullness of grace and truth is one of
John’s many allusions to Moses’ experience when the Name was
declared to him- of Yahweh, a God full of grace and
truth (Ex. 34:6 RV). The Name was fully declared, as fully as
could be, in the cross. The Law gave way, through the cross,
to the grace and truth that was revealed by Christ after the
Law ended (Jn. 1:17). In His dead, outspent body grace and truth
finally replaced law. John goes on to say that the Son has declared
the invisible God (Jn. 1:18)- another reference to the
cross. The implication may be that as Moses cowered before the
glory of the Lord, even he exceedingly feared
and quaked, we likewise should make an appropriate response
to the glory that was and is (note John’s tenses) displayed
to us in the cross.
Isa 64:1-4 had foretold: “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens,
that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down
at thy presence...For since the beginning of the world men have
not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen,
O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for
him”. This latter verse is quoted in 1 Cor. 2 about how the “foolishness”
of the cross is not accepted by the wise of this world. Only the
humble and spiritually perceptive eye of faith realized that there
in the naked shame of Golgotha, God Himself had as it were rent
the heavens and come down, as all the faithful had somehow, in some
sense, foreseen and yearned for. There, in the battered body of
Jesus, was God revealed to men.
1 Tim. 3:16 seems to have been a well known confessional formula
in the first century church; perhaps it was recited by the candidate
in the water before being baptized. It can be read as a chronological
description of the Lord's death and resurrection:
1. " God was manifested in the flesh" in the Lord's
crucifixion, not just His life. The manifestation
of the Son was supremely in His death (s.w. 1 Jn. 3:5,8; 4:9 cp.
Jn. 3:16; Heb. 9:26 Gk.; Jn. 17:6 cp. 26).
2. " Justified in the Spirit" - the resurrection (Rom.
3. " Seen of Angels" - at the tomb (Mt. 28:2)
4. 'Preached unto the Gentiles for belief in the world' (Gk.)-
cp. Mk. 16:15,16
5. " Received up into glory" - what happened straight
after the commission to preach the Gospel world-wide.
This chronological approach suggests that " God was manifest
in the flesh" refers to the Father's especial manifestation
in His Son's crucified human nature during those hours of final
suffering- rather than just to His birth. There on Calvary, Almighty
God Himself was supremely revealed. He, God Himself, was
despised and rejected by men; His love and self-sacrifice
were so cruelly spurned; He was spat upon and made the
song of the drunkards (Ps. 69:12).
The crucified Son of God was the full representation of God. The
love of Christ was shown in His cross; and through the Spirit's
enlightenment we can know the height, length, breadth of
that love (Eph. 3:18,19). But this passage in Ephesians is building
on Job 11:7-9: " Canst thou by searching find out God? canst
thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is high as heaven,
what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The
measure thereof is longer than the earth and broader than the sea"
. The purpose of the connection is to show that through appreciating
the love of Christ, unknowable to the unenlightened mind, we see
the Almighty unto perfection, in a way which the Old Testament believers
were unable to do. It was as high as Heaven, and what could they
do? And yet it must be confessed that we do not in practice attain
to such fullness of knowledge and vision. We look to the Kingdom,
one of the excellencies of which will be the full grasp of the Almighty
unto perfection, as manifest in the death of His Son. All we now
know is that that cross was the fullness of God, it was " the
Almighty unto perfection" . But then, we shall know, we shall
find it out.
The Form Of God
Philippians 2:6-9 describes the progressive humiliation of the
Lord Jesus on the cross (not in His birth, as Trinitarian theology
has mistakenly supposed. Note the allusions back to Isaiah 53).
There He was supremely " in the form of God"
, but notwithstanding this He took even further the form of a servant.
In that blood and spittle covered humility and service, we see the
very form and essence of God. My understanding of Phil. 2:8 is that
being in the form of God, being the Son of God and having equality
with God are parallel statements. The Lord understood being 'equal
with God' as some kind of idiom for His Divine Sonship (Jn. 5:18;
10:33; 19:7). He was in God's form, as His Son, and He therefore
didn't consider equality with God something to be snatched; He had
it already, in that He was the Son of God. In other words, "
He considered it not robbery to be equal with God" is to be
read as a description of the exaltedness of His position as Son
of God; not as meaning that it never even occurred to Him to try
to be equal with God. He was equal with God in the sense that He
and the Father were one, spiritually, and on account of the fact
that Jesus was the begotten Son of the Father.
This interpretation depends upon understanding 'being equal with
God' as an idiom for being the Son of God; it doesn't mean that
'Jesus is God' in the Trinitarian sense. There, on the cross, the
Lord Jesus was the form of God, equal with God in that sense, the
only begotten Son. And yet on the cross His form was marred more
than that of any man, He finally had no form that could be desired
(Is. 52:14; 53:2). And yet this was the form of God. He
was contorted and marred more than ever, there was no beauty in
Him that men should desire Him, in those hours in which
His Son suffered there. The Lord Jesus then had the form of God,
although in His mind He had taken the form of a servant. The Lord
made Himself a servant in His mind; He looked not on His own things,
but on those of others (Phil. 2:4,7). This is the context of Philippians
2; that we should have the mind of Christ, who disregarded
His own status as Son of God and humbled Himself, even to death
on the cross (1), so that we might
share His status. His example really is ours, Paul is saying (which
precludes this passage describing any 'incarnation' at the birth
of Christ). The Lord had spoken about the crucial need for a man
to humble himself if he is to be exalted (Lk. 14:11); and this is
evidently in Paul's mind when he writes of Christ humbling Himself
and then being exalted. He saw that the Lord lived out on the cross
what He had asked of us all. If that example must be ours, we can't
quit just because we feel rejected and misunderstood and not appreciated
by our brethren. For this is the very essence of the cross we
are asked to share.
The Serving Master
The Lord taking upon himself the form of a servant (Phil.
2:7) is to be connected with how at the Last Supper, He took
(s.w.) a towel and girded Himself for service (Jn. 13:4). He was
no introverted Christian. The connection between the Last Supper
and Phil. 2, which describes the Lord's death on the cross, would
suggest that the Lord's washing the disciples' feet was an epitome
of His whole sacrifice on the cross. The passage describing the
Last Supper begins with the statement that the Lord " loved
us unto the end" (Jn. 13:1). This is an evident description
of the cross itself; and yet His service of His followers at the
Last Supper was therefore an epitome of the cross. As that Supper
was " prepared" (Mt. 26:17,19), so the Lord on the cross
" prepared" a place for us in the Kingdom (Jn. 14:1 s.w.).
As the observing disciples didn't understand what the Lord was doing
by washing their feet, so they didn't understand the way to the
cross (Jn. 13:7 cp. 36). There is thus a parallel between the feet
washing and His death. But in both cases, the Lord Jesus promised
them that there was coming a time when they would understand His
washing of their feet; and then they would know the way to the cross,
and follow Him.
John describes the Lord laying aside His clothes in order
to wash the feet of His followers with the same word he frequently
employs to describe how Christ of His own volition laid down
His life on the cross, as an act of the will (Jn. 10:11,15,17,18);
and how later His sacrificed body was laid aside (19:41,42;
20:2,13,15). As the Lord laid Himself down for us, epitomized by
that deft laying aside of His clothes, so, John reasons, we must
likewise purposefully lay down our lives for our brethren (1 Jn.
3:16). As He did at the last supper, so He bids us do for each other.
John uses the same word for Christ's " garments" in his
records of both the last supper and the crucifixion (13:4,12 cp.
19:23). It could be noted that the man at the supper without
garments was seen by the Lord as a symbol of the unworthy (Mt. 22:11
cp. Lk. 14:16,17). He humbled Himself to the level of a sinner;
He created the story of the sinful man who could not lift up His
eyes to Heaven to illustrate what He meant by a man humbling himself
so that he might be exalted (Lk. 18:14). And He humbled Himself
(Phil. 2:9), He took upon Himself the form of a servant and of a
sinner, both in the last supper and the final crucifixion which
it epitomized. As the Lord Jesus laid aside His garments and then
washed the disciples' feet with only a towel around His waist, so
at the crucifixion He laid aside His clothes and perhaps with a
like nakedness, served us unto the end: the betrayers and the indifferent
and the cautiously believing alike. Throughout the record of the
Last Supper, there is ample evidence on the Lord's awareness of
Judas' betrayal (Jn. 13:10,11,18,21,25). The account in 1 Cor. 11:23
likewise stresses how the Supper was performed with the Lord's full
awareness of Judas' betrayal. It is perhaps therefore inevitable
that we in some ways struggle with the problems of rejection, of
betrayal, of being misunderstood and not appreciated by our brethren.
For these were all essential parts of the Lord's passion, which
He asks us to share with Him.
The Lord Jesus " humbled himself" , and was later "
highly exalted" (Phil. 2:9), practising His earlier teaching
that he who would humble himself and take the lowest seat at the
meal would be exalted higher (Mt. 23:11,12; Lk. 14:10,11). The Lord
Jesus at the Last Supper humbled Himself from the seat of honour
which He had and took not only the lowest seat, but even lower than
that: He washed their feet as the servant who didn't even have a
place at the meal. And both James and Peter saw the Lord's humbling
Himself at that supper and His subsequent exaltation as a direct
pattern for us to copy (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6). Paul takes things
one stage even further. He speaks of how he humbled himself, so
that his hopelessly weak and ungrateful brethren might
be exalted (2 Cor. 11:7). He is evidently alluding to the Gospel
passages which speak of how we must humble ourselves so that we
may be exalted (Mt. 23:11,12; Lk. 14:10,11). But Paul sees his
exaltation, which his humbling would enable, as being identical
to theirs. He doesn't say: 'I humbled myself so that I
may be exalted'. He speaks of how he humbled himself so that they
might be exalted.
He saw his reward, his eternal destiny, as so intimately bound
up with theirs. " For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of
rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ
at His coming? For ye are our glory and joy" (1 Thess. 2:19,20;
Phil. 4:1). This was why Paul could just not restrain himself any
longer when for a time he had no news from the Thessalonians; he
so earnestly wanted to know of their spiritual growth (1 Thess.
3:5,6). If they failed to be in the Kingdom, it would be a great
personal loss to Paul (1 Cor. 3:11-15); even though he himself would
be saved. Thus he feared greatly if his labour for the converts
had been in vain (Gal. 2:2; 4:11; Phil. 2:16). Paul looked to that
very moment when the sentence of acceptance would be pronounced
at the judgment seat; he imagined them being accepted, and truly
felt that they, then, would be his crown of reward. They
being in the Kingdom was his reward. The Philippians being there
would be Paul's eternal joy (Phil. 2:16). Their spiritual strength
was all Paul lived for; he lived, if they stood fast (1 Thess. 3:8).
If any stumbled from the faith, he felt as if he was already being
burned in the symbolic fire of their condemnation; he was weak in
the faith if they were (2 Cor. 11:29). John likewise saw a parallel
between looking to ourselves and looking to the doctrinal welfare
of our converts, as if their reward and ours are bound together
(2 Jn. 8 cp. Jn. 15:16). After the pattern of the Reubenites, we
have been given the promised rest of the Kingdom here and now (Josh.
1:13 cp. Heb. 4:3); but we will, like them, only take possession
of that inheritance after we have ensured that our brethren have
received their possession (Josh. 1:15). Josh. 1:13,15 present a
paradox: the Reubenites were given their " rest" , but
they would only get their " rest" once their brethren
had. Those Reubenites really were symbols of us: for this passage
is surely behind the reasoning of Heb. 4, where we are
told that we have entered into rest, but that we must labour
if we want to enter into it.
" If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death...if
thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not...He that keepeth thy
soul (as you should keep your brother's), doth not he know it? and
shall he not (at the judgment seat) render to every man according
to his works" for others (Prov. 24:12 cp. Rev. 22:12)? The
redemption of our brethren is so tied to our personal redemption.
And likewise with the Lord; we cannot separate His salvation, nor
His cross and resurrection, from ours. And further, we cannot separate
our salvation from that of our brethren. These things all follow
from the profound implications of our being part of the one body
of Christ. Thus " Christ" is not only the personal title
of the Lord Jesus, but also of the whole community of believers
who comprise His body (1 Cor. 12:12). To love Christ is therefore
to care for His people (Jn. 21:15-17).
If we love the Father, we must love all those whom He has begotten
(1 Jn. 5:1,2). We can't be introverted Christians. If we love the
children of God, this is the proof that we truly love God. We simply
can't claim to love the Father and Son if we have the 'private people'
mindset. Cain, the epitome of 'the devil' (Jn. 8:44), was characterized
by the attitude that he was not his brother's keeper (Gen. 4:9).
It was for this reason that his sacrifice wasn't accepted; it was
not impossible for God to accept non-blood sacrifices (Num. 15:17-21;
18:12,13; Dt. 26:1-4). But the Lord Jesus perhaps offered a commentary
on the incident when he said that our offering can only be accepted
if we are first reconciled to our brother (Mt. 5:24). Cain's insistent
lack of responsibility for his brother was the real sin, and therefore
his sacrifice wasn't accepted by God. He wanted to serve God his
own way, disregard his brother, justify his disagreement with him...
to be a private person. But this was the basis of his rejection.
Our unity with the rest of the body doesn't only mean that we must
have a sense of unity with and responsibility for the rest of our
brethren whom we now know. David seems to have sensed his unity
with the rest of the body over time, not just over space
at the present time. He felt as if he was with Israel at the Red
Sea, that their wondrous deliverance really was his, in
the crises of his own life. And great Paul likewise had this sense.
He confidently expected that he would be alive at the Lord's return,
and would not therefore need bodily resurrection from death (1 Cor.
15:51; 1 Thess. 4:15). And yet he speaks of how " God not only
raised our Lord from the dead; he will also raise us by his own
power" (1 Cor. 6:14; 2 Cor. 4:14). This is no contradiction;
it's simply that there were times when Paul so strongly associated
himself with the rest of the body of Christ in the past
that he spoke as if he with them would be raised from the grave.
And so we return to our original problem: being private people.
Crying out for understanding and appreciation and gratitude, not
finding it, and withdrawing into ourselves, joining the crowds of
hopelessly private people who surround us. But we are faced with
the kneeling, washing, towel-holding Son of God as our living example,
and the matchless pattern of the love of the Father and Son on the
cross: a suffering, self-crucifying love which shone through the
cruellest of rejection, of lack of appreciation. And it kept
on shining, and even now keeps on shining in the hearts of
all His true people, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory
of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). And we all, with
unveiled face, " beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord,
are changed into the same image from glory to glory" (2 Cor.
(1) Note how the seven
downward steps in the Saviour's humiliation (Phil. 2:6-8) are followed
in vv. 9-11 by seven upward steps of glorification.