3. The Greatness of Christ is Spiritual and Moral
You may not like that word "moral," but I am using it in a particular and limited sense. "Spiritual" looks in a Godward direction, and speaks of His union with the Father. "Moral" is a word which comes in after the Fall, and relates to a whole system of things which originates with fallen humanity - morals; so that when we speak of moral, we mean that which touches downward, not upward, that which links with evil and not with God. Christ's greatness therefore is spiritual by reason of His life with the Father. His greatness is moral by reason of His perfect separation from that which is from beneath, the realm of the fallen nature with all that it means. That is all I mean at the moment in the use of those words - spiritual and moral, and as you read your Gospels that is what you find to be the background of everything. It is these two things all the time that are the ground of the challenge. Perhaps we shall see more of that as we go on.
But I want to remind you that the whole of the Old Testament is constituted upon the idea of a coming Holy One, or Righteous One, or Righteous Servant. "Neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption" (Psalm 16:10). That is in a Psalm, and is quoted, as you know, by Peter on the day of Pentecost concerning Christ. "Thy holy one." That One, by that title, was recognized in the spiritual realm.
Demons knew Him altogether apart from incarnation. "I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God" (Mark 1:24). That takes you a long way back in the Old Testament. From a prophet we get Paul's quotation - "My righteous one." There was from the beginning, when sin entered through what we call the Fall, a quest for a holy one, for a righteous one. Heaven was in quest for a righteous one. Where shall a righteous man be found? If he can be found, he is the solution to the whole problem. Countless figures of the righteous One are given us. Abel had witness born that he was righteous. Because of his faith, Abraham was called righteous. Noah was a preacher of righteousness. You who know the Bible do not need me to follow that further. The figures of the righteous One are there in great numbers. But with all the figures there was failure, leaving the quest for the fully righteous One still unanswered and unmet, and the Old Testament closes still with the cry and sigh for this righteous and this holy One. The creation is left in suspense. Men were still awaiting the realization of a glorious intention, and destiny was hanging upon an essential state, and that an inward state of man; not a ceremonial state, but an inward state, that is, a state of inward righteousness and holiness. Everything was in suspense until that state was found in man. All this great and glorious intention and destiny was impossible of realization without a state. I want you to focus upon that and think much about it. God did His best to help men on, to encourage men on, to get them there, but may I say it reverently, there is a sense in which God's intentions broke down. The situation did not allow of His just getting a people through to glory by a sovereign act. God could not do that. Everything depended upon an inward state. There could be no realization, no answer to God's intention, no possibility of reaching the intended end without an inward state. He got them as far as he could by ceremonial conditions, but we know how that failed. The contrary inward state was far too much for the ceremonial. No, sacraments do not achieve it, there must be an inward condition of righteousness.
Ah, well, blessed be God, the inward state of Christ was the state that made everything possible. Yes, the excellence of Christ was His inward state, not His legal status or His official position. Always remember that. He has gone far beyond all ceremonies, all sacraments, all rites, all ordinances, all that system which broke down. He surpassed it all because of what He was inwardly. That is His excellence!
a. Heaven Knows It
Heaven knows it, and that is why He was anointed of the Holy Spirit; for, while you have anointings in the Old Testament, they are partial and transient, there is no fullness and there is no permanence about them. They were for the fulfillment of a temporary purpose. He was anointed of God in fullness and finality. He evermore is the Anointed, and God gave to Him the Spirit without measure. To anoint, as we have often said, is simply a symbol of God committing Himself. Do you think God would commit Himself like that to any state that did not answer to His requirements? Haven attested Him: "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
He triumphed through testing. His inward state was subjected to every form and kind of testing at the defiled hands of the evil one himself, and He triumphed over every attempt at spiritual defilement, that is, to get something in between Himself and God to spoil that relationship and fellowship and walk with God in purity, in holiness, in truth. He triumphed upward, and He triumphed over every effort to get Him to make a contact with the cursed earth, and so make a link with that which was outside of the blessing of God. That is His excellence. It is inward. Heaven knows it.
(continued with # 11)