The Cross of Calvary # 16
The Severing Power of the Cross
"Wherefore we henceforth know no man after the flesh" (v. 16).
In the light of the Cross, Paul looks out at the world of men, from a different standpoint to that he held, when as a Pharisee he walked in the streets of Jerusalem.
Then he was a "Hebrew of Hebrews". He would have no dealing with Samaritans". But all his exclusive caste has passed away in the light of Calvary, and in the life in union with the Risen Lord. "Henceforth I know no man after the flesh," cries Paul - for I live now in the sphere where all distinctions are done away, where there "can be neither Jew nor Greek ... but all are one in Christ Jesus."
Separated still from men, "stand by thyself, I am holier than thou," but separated unto God by the indwelling Presence of the Holy One Himself. Yet living unto God he is nearer to men, for he sees them as souls for whom Christ died," and knows that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek" in His sight, for "the same Lord is Lord of all", and is rich unto all that call upon Him." He is separated by the Cross from earth-born exclusive pride, to be toward all men in Christ's stead, and, as his Lord, the servant of all.
Paul sees, too, as possible a knowledge of Christ "after the flesh," from which the Cross severs by the power of the Holy Spirit. A knowledge of Christ which is, so to speak, an exterior knowledge, even as the disciples knew Him before Calvary; knowing Him, and yet not knowing Him, as He really was within the veil of His human body.
Even so today is it possible to know the historical Christ. His life, His death, His resurrection, and ascension, all may be exterior facts, known to the mind, but exercising no real power in the life. Participation with Christ's death changes all this, for on the life-side of the Cross, the Holy Spirit reveals the Risen Lord, and He is known "after the Spirit," as the living One.
The New Life in Christ
"wherefore if any man is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new" (v. 17).
The "wherefore" in verses 16 and 17 both point back to verse 14. If any man is in Christ - baptized into His death - through the gateway of the Cross he enters the sphere where Christ becomes his environment, as well as his new source of life. Joined to the living Christ, old things pass away, for in Christ there is a new creation, not an improving, or culture of the old.
On the life side of the Cross, the soul united to the Living Christ is said to put on the "new man."
By the daily supply of the Spirit of Jesus the "new man" grows continually to a more perfect knowledge and likeness of His Creator and grows up "after the image of Him that created him," in the sphere where "Christ is all, and in all." The child naturally grows up in the likeness of his father, and the new life communicated to the redeemed grows up in the likeness of Him Who is the Creator of the new creation, if so be that the death with Christ is unflinchingly recognized, and "old things" are truly allowed to pass away to make room for the growth of the new man "which is after God ... created in righteousness and holiness of truth.
The New Service for Others
"All things are of God..."
"Having placed in us the word of reconciliation. We are ambassadors ... on behalf of Christ" (verses 18, 19, 20).
It is to the new man in Christ, who clearly knows his separation unto God, and meets no man any longer on earthly ground, but in the name of Him Who died for all, that God commits the "ministry of reconciliation."
It is written upon their hearts, wrought into their very beings, even as Ezekiel did "eat the roll", ere he spake with the very words of God to Israel. Even so are Christ's ambassadors prepared that they may truly speak on behalf of Christ, and "in God's stead."
Through them the "word of the Cross" is manifestly the power of God, for they are "working together with Him," Who through them entreats the souls for whom He died, that they will not "receive the grace of God in vain," but give heed to His call in this day of salvation.
The Outward Life Depicted
"Giving no occasion of stumbling ... but in everything commending ourselves" (2 Corinthians 6:3, 4).
From the basis of the Cross in chapter 5:14 we have seen depicted, in steady progression, the characteristics of the life which springs from Calvary, and is lived in union with Him Who died, and rose again.
"No longer unto self" is the fixed decision; "unto Him who for my sake died" the unvarying aim; "I see all souls as those for whom He died" the principle of action toward others; "old things have passed away" the continual attitude to the past; "He has placed in me the word of reconciliation," the constant responsibility to others; I must work together with Him, the restraining and watching attitude day by day.
"No longer unto self" is shown in vivid object lesson in the brief sketch of the Apostle's own life which follows. His outward circumstances meant afflictions, watchings, distresses, stripes, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watchings, fastings, but the new life was manifested in much patience, pureness, knowledge of God, long-suffering and kindness. A life truly lived "in the Holy Spirit," in genuine love, speaking the word of truth in the manifested power of God.
Protected by the armor of righteousness on every side, Paul had lived this life through glory and dishonor; through evil report and good report. He had been counted as a deceiver, and yet he was true; he was unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and yet behold he lived, by the daily renewed power of the life within him.
As chastened with keenest suffering, yet not killed, for the enemy could not touch his life; as sorrowful over all the need of the dying world, yet always rejoicing in Him Whom he had learned to know; poor in every way, but making many rich with eternal treasure; having nothing in, or for himself, yet possessing all things in Christ, in Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
There is no room for living unto self in this pattern, oh, child of God, and so far as thou art truly united to thy Lord, and made conformable to His death, shalt thou know in thy measure, this life which springs from Calvary, and walk even as He walked, to the glory and praise of God.
Measure thy life by loss instead of gain;
Not by the wine drunk, but the wine poured forth,
For love's strength standeth in love's sacrifice -
And whoso suffers most hath most to give.
(continued with # 17)