The Spiritual Background of the Word of God
Chapter 1 - The Nature, Purpose and Destiny of Man
We are going to be occupied with THE SPIRITUAL BACKGROUND OF THE
WORD OF GOD. We will start at the beginning, having the Word open at
the first chapter.
The first observation which we make is that this world is
represented as within a greater sphere. That is a broad statement,
but it is the commencing point of any comprehensive and adequate
grasp of the whole purpose of God. This world is represented as
within a greater sphere; and I think that is quite obvious in
reading the first chapter of Genesis.
And then the heavenly bodies are said to have been created with a
relationship to this world.
Then we take a leap forward. The encircling realm of this world is
said to be occupied by spiritual intelligences. We must draw a line
somewhere between the immediate encompassing of this world, and that
place to which Satan mysteriously enough has access to the very
presence of God. There are, undoubtedly, two realms. One is toward
this earth; and one is toward God Himself, in His Own Presence
wherever that is. The encircling realm of this world is said to be
occupied by spiritual intelligences. The Scriptures in that
connection are: "Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but
against the principalities, against the powers, against the world
rulers of this darkness...." Then Satan as: "...the prince of the
power of the air," and such like passages.
The Godhead in Action
The next thing is that the creation of this universe is said to have
been the work of the Divine Trinity in a certain order of operation.
I do not mean creation in a certain order of operation, but the
Divine Trinity in a certain order of operation.
First of all, what is the Divine order? Let us make a general
statement so far as the Godhead was concerned in the creation. From
the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. Now, can you
substantiate that with the Word? These are not unimportant things;
they relate to the whole of the spiritual background of things right
to the end. If you lay your foundations here, then you will
understand later that those things hold good and apply. Perhaps if I
just suggest to you the thing that is in my mind you will more fully
work it out afterward. I have suggested to you, that passage
concerning the Spirit of God brooding, that there is a state of
death and ruin from which the Lord has not finally departed, over
which He is still hovering with the intention maintained in His mind
that there should be out of that, something for His absolute
satisfaction. That carries you right on to that central thing in
which God does, ultimately and finally without any chance of the
thing breaking down again, accomplish His purpose.
When you see the Lord Jesus dying on the cross, you have on the
human side and on the side of the old creation another scene such
as you have in the beginning of the book of Genesis. Darkness - and
even nature witnesses thereto - over the face of the earth until the
ninth hour; darkness, ruin, judgment, death, over that old order of
things; it is nothing but void; but the Spirit of God is brooding;
"...the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead"; the
Spirit of God brings back our Lord Jesus from the dead, and in
bringing Him back He becomes the Firstborn from among the dead, and
the new order is brought in. The Father; in the Son, by the Spirit.
That indicates what I mean by the spiritual background of things,
and it is important that we see, not only the order, but where each
one comes in in the Divine intention. God is the instigator, the
originator; the Son is the sphere of His work; the Spirit is the
Agent for realising it; and even the Lord Jesus does nothing apart
from the Holy Ghost. He is the Spirit of Jesus, and in Him there is
nothing without the Holy Ghost. In His birth it is the Holy Ghost;
in the first step of public ministry in relation to the purpose for
which He has come, it is the Holy Ghost; all the way through it is
the Holy Ghost. To the Cross: "...who through the eternal Spirit
offered himself..."; and then in the resurrection it is the Holy
Spirit; and He receives the Holy Spirit in ascension and exaltation
for His Church; and it is everything still by the Spirit even in the
Church. So that the Holy Spirit is seen - from this standpoint
deductively as well as from the Word emphatically - to be the
executive instrument in all the purpose of God; and the Divine order
is just that. Everything originates with the Father; it is in the
Son; and it is by the Spirit.
Now there are some very comprehensive, although familiar things
bound up with that, they are these.
Christ - The Inclusive Sphere of all Divine
God has a great purpose. That purpose is answered inclusively and
exclusively in Christ, and nothing of the Divine purpose is possible
outside of Christ; and the formula "In Christ" represents the A and
the Z, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega of the Divine
intention and purpose. Then within the sphere of Christ, and only
within the sphere of Christ, does the Holy Spirit operate in
relation to the Divine purpose; that is, so far as having a place in
that purpose is concerned. The Spirit of God moves universally in
relation to the purpose, but when it is a matter of participating or
having a place in the purpose of God, you have got to find your
place in Christ. And you will find that everything upon which the
Holy Spirit alights to make it fulfil the Divine purpose and give it
life, is something relative to Christ, and it represents a new
discovery, or a new movement in Christ. We were speaking about
Ezekiel's great vision of the temple, and you will remember that we
said that that vision of the temple was spiritually an unveiling of
Jesus Christ; and Ezekiel, under the control, government, direction
of the Spirit of God representatively, is taken into the confines of
that temple; he is taken in, through, round, and he is shown every
detail of that temple and given the exact dimensions of it. All the
chambers, their arrangement, their number, order, position;
everything; and an exact figure is put upon everything, every bit
within and without; and all that becomes the place in which the
Priests and the Levites are to fulfil their ministry in the eternal
purpose of God.
Everything is measured for us in Christ, and we have got to find our
measure. Some people are too big to be of any use in the House of
God; they have to have their measure reduced. Some people are too
small and they have to have their measure increased; but they have
got to find their measure in Christ, to occupy their place, and
fulfil their ministry. The whole thing is presented by God. That
which is presented is Christ. And the Holy Spirit brings in and
gives the measure of Christ for every one, and the place in Christ
for every one; and that is the sphere of the purpose of God, the
vocation of His people. It is a simple illustration, but it is
important for us to recognise that everything is bound up with
Christ, of the purpose of God, and the Holy Spirit's work is to show
us the things of Christ.
The Nature, Purpose and Destiny of Man
Now we go on. Certain things are said about man, as to the nature,
the purpose, and the destiny of his being. Can you say how, and why
this is so, respectively?
Firstly, how? In the image of God; for the glory of God; in the
image of God's Son.
What is the nature of man's being? "In the image of God." The
purpose of his being? For the glory of God. As to the destiny of His
being? "...conformed to the image of God's Son."
1. The Nature of Man.
The image of God! What is the image of God? To what does that
fundamentally refer? Trinity!
Tripartite; but it is important for us to get more than a general
statement; it is important for us to see the greater fulness of
that. We can see, of course, it is so well known, that man is
tripartite. He is spirit, soul, and body; but we have been dealing
with the order of the Godhead in creation, and there is a close
Take the Godhead. The Father is the Source; the Son is the Channel;
the Spirit is that which comes from the Source and flows through the
Channel. Now if you take that as an illustration and carry that
threefold, tripartite, element into man you have got a better truth
about the nature of man's being. There is a spring and there is a
channel, and there is something that flows through in every part of
man's being. This principle of the Divine image, the Godhead, is
written upon everything that God has created; specifically, upon
man, and man rises to a level of this image, of course, much higher
than anything else. Take nature; take the creation, and see the
principle upon which God has generally constituted it. It is that
threefoldness. What have you in the matter of the constituents of
the universe? Well, you have matter, you have energy, you have
space. You cannot get outside of those; they encompass everything.
Everything is bound up within those three. What is space? Space is
height, length, breadth, not depth; only three. The depth is the
height of a thing always; that is a dimension that does not come in.
You cannot get away from that at all. When you are dealing with
space you have got to reckon on one of those three things.
Time; what is time? Past, present, future. You cannot get outside of
that. It does not matter where you look in this universe you are
bound by three.
If you look into your own being not only to spirit, soul and body,
but more closely, you will find the law of three everywhere. You go
to the eye and you find your eye is composed of three distinct
parts; go to your ear and you find that your ear is composed of
three distinct parts; go to your body and you find tissue, blood,
Take all the chemical elements as you find them and you have the law
of three. And then you will find that you come back to this; a
spring, a channel, and something that flows through. The principle
of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. You have a body; you
have a nervous system; and you have life. They are all there. So
that this creation is an expression to the last detail, the most
minute point, of the threefoldness of God, of the Trinity, of the
Godhead. That is the image.
2. The Object of Man.
Now you go to the next thing; the object of His creation. First, as
to the nature of his being; then as to the object of his being. We
have said, for the glory of God. Put that into one word -
Representation. For His glory; representation! Carry that right
forward and you will find that the end is this, that eventually the
race fulfils its original thought of God in this way: that God is
expressed in the universality of His Son Who is eventually, as it
were, distributed in the race, that every part of the race partakes
vitally of Christ, is corporately one with Christ; not only
spiritually, as now, but then literally. There is something more in
the corporate than only the spiritual; later the race will be a
corporate expression of God's thought in Christ. In effect, while
Christ will remain personal and individual, it will be a universal
Christ by the Spirit. The work of the Spirit of God. The Trinity is
not going to dissolve, break up in the coming eternity. The original
creative thought of God is going to be realised to the full in the
ages to come. God is really going as a Trinity to be represented in
the race; an origin, a sphere, and a life, a power. Father, Son and
Holy Spirit are going to be represented by a race. That is the
background of the Word of God. If you have never thought of it like
that, if you go back to the Word of God with that comprehensive
thought, you will find that the Word of God lives anew. I am not
talking about the Deification of humanity, that the race is going to
be Deified and absorbed in the Godhead; I am talking about God's
thought for man and its ultimate realisation that it shall represent
Him and express His image and that will be Christ manifested in
every part of that race, in all that universe He fills all things;
He is all and in all.
Why then do we find this trinity in everything in the universe and
particularly in man? It is an expression of God's thought along the
line of representation; but you cannot take the fallen race now as
wholly representing God; neither can you take a redeemed life, a
sanctified believer as wholly approximating to God's original
thought. There has yet to be a spiritual body before that full
thought is realised. It will be a body; a real body. It is necessary
to the original thought of God to have a body; it is a part of the
trinity; it has got to be maintained. The fall of angels at the
beginning with Satan is the fall out of God's thought. Angels have
spiritual bodies. They appeared to men from time to time; if the
veil were taken away we should see them. What Satan and his angels
lost was their spiritual body; they are disembodied, and their one
eternal craving is to inhabit something. You never find an occasion
when Satan appears in his own body, nor a demon, but they always
appropriate some other, and their longing is to inhabit something.
They were disinherited of a body. They have lost God's thought
eternally; God's thought for a representation of His mind. We come
into our spiritual body and we have come to the last part of God's
thought for the race; that is, the purpose is consummated.
Representation is a very comprehensive term. It takes you right back
and right on and shows you what the Lord is doing now in the saints
and in the Church.
3. The Destiny of Man.
The third thing; as to the destiny of his being. That has been said
to be, according to the Word, conformity to the image of His Son.
You see how closely that is related to what we have just said. What
is the difference between the image of God in the first case and the
image of His Son in the last case?
The Godhead is trinity.
The image of God's Son is purely moral. The other - so far as we are
concerned - is constitutional in the sense of creation. But now,
conformity; being made like God's Son, is a moral thing. The
consummation is moral. And that work of conformity, of course, is a
going back over the whole ground of moral ruin and recovering God's
thought in a moral universe. So that simply, the difference between
the image of God and the image of God's Son, is the difference
between the constitution of things inwardly, morally and
spiritually. One way by which that is brought about is the putting
of the man in order. Instead of his soul having predominance, his
spirit does. The Word of God all the way through shows that it is
the moral excellencies of the glory of the Lord Jesus that have got
to be appreciated, and by faith appropriated, and inwrought by the
Holy Ghost. We are working in this threefold sphere all the time.
Now it is said that God came and walked and talked on earth before
man fell. This implies a thought and intent of God. It implies the
thought of fellowship; identification with what He had created.
The next phase is that of a usurping of God's place in the life of
man on this earth, resulting in God withdrawing from the earth in
general, as an accursed thing, and confining Himself to that in
which the curse has been virtually or actually judged and removed.
You see that thought is a fresh door through which we enter another
large realm of Scriptural truth - the usurping of God's place in the
life of man on this earth (we need not discuss that, it is clear
enough), resulting in God withdrawing from the earth in general as
an accursed thing (that also we can assent to). That carries with it
in itself a very great deal and has a line of its own. The fact that
man ignores that truth, as in the case of Cain, seeking to bring to
God the best products of this earth, over-looking the fact that the
earth at its best was an accursed thing, and believing that he would
find acceptance with God on the ground of the world's best, and
finding the door closed.
That is a history which runs right through to our own time. The
whole philosophy of humanitarianism is constructed upon that, and is
the Devil's lie, and the Devil's negation of Calvary. Then God is
seen confining Himself to that in which the curse has been virtually
or actually judged and removed. Virtually or actually. Do you get
the significance of that? Virtually applies to typology. The thing
has been virtually done by the type; actually, later, in the work of
the cross of the Lord Jesus. There you get your line running right
through. Where is the Name of the Lord? Where can you have
fellowship with the Lord? Where can you find the Lord? Where is the
Lord at work? Where does the Lord pursue His purpose? Just there
where the curse has been virtually or actually judged and removed.
So you find an altar represents that place every time. In the
passage which we have considered in the conference (Exodus 20),
where the Lord speaks about the building of an altar, He says: "An
altar of earth thou shalt make unto me and if thou wilt make me an
altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou
lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it." And immediately:
"in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will
Where is the Lord? At the altar that is according to
His Own mind, not man's man-made altar; the altar which embodies the
thought of God which no tool of man's intellect can carve out. It is
the deep mystery of God's thought in the Cross of Christ. Where that
is is the place where God is, and to that He confines Himself.
Therein is the great importance of recognising that fellowship with
God is only, but is always upon the ground of the Cross. The Table
of the Lord is the central thing in spiritual fellowship, in
assembly life. Wheresoever two or three are gathered, the Lord is,
but they are there on the ground of the Cross. The thing that brings
the Lord in is that there is a standing upon the ground of Calvary.
Abel got through that way, and all who have ever got through have
only got through on that ground. God comes in on that ground. Hence,
to keep God out of the world, and to maintain his usurping place,
the Cross in its true spiritual meaning must be countered,
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