The Two Heads—Adam and Christ
It has been often remarked that Scripture is not a book of texts, but of principles. The divine wisdom of this is very apparent. The legal mind seeks to regulate conduct by precise commands, such as texts or precepts would afford. These have their value, but principles bring out the character of God, and as we increase by the true knowledge of God it requires a moral state of soul to recognise truth in its reality. Truth, then, holds us, subduing what is contrary to the God whom it brings us to know.
And further, Scripture principles run throughout the Word of God—enfolded in the Old Testament in type and illustration, unfolded in the New in doctrine and revelation.
The truth of the two headships—in Adam and in Christ—is unfolded in the New Testament (see Romans 5 and other scriptures). It is illustrated beautifully in the Old Testament, and nowhere more so than in Genesis 36 to 46.
Look at these two texts side by side:—
“Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom” (Gen. 36:1).
“These are the generations of Jacob” (Gen. 37:2).
Looking at these two verses they appear parallel in many ways. But following the declaration of the sons of Esau we find immediately a full list of his descendants. Following the declaration of the sons of Jacob we do not have a list of his sons. The infidel would triumphantly proclaim that he had found a discrepancy in the Word of God. Not so. The Holy Ghost has a blessed purpose in the omission. We turn over chapter after chapter to find the list of the sons of Jacob, and do not discover it till we have gone through no less than nine—no inconsiderable portion of the Book of Genesis!
Following the announcement of Esau’s generations we notice that he married wives that were Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, implacable enemies of God’s people. We see, too, that he lived in Mount Seir, a land afterwards cursed, and on which the curse would remain even in millennial days, when the wilderness shall blossom as the rose. It is an illustration of the flesh, which, under the very best influence, is incapable of improvement.
Further, we have it insisted that Esau is Edom, that he is the father of the Edomites. His sons are dukes, and before Israel had a king they had kings. As it passes in review, the pride and pomp of dukes and kings, the alliances with God’s enemies, and the whole unmarked by any feature of God, we cannot but recognise the line of the flesh and see an illustration of the headship of Adam.
We turn with relief from such a picture, though it is good to look it well in the face, for we never make a true start till we have. The wholesome acknowledgment of the worst prevents us from looking for any good in the flesh. Good self is what tests us, not bad self; and here we learn that what we might call good, and be deceived by, is thoroughly opposed to God.
Turning, we repeat, with relief from such a picture, we behold a bright and touching contrast. Immediately after the words “These are the generations of Jacob” we read: “JOSEPH, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren”; and then follows the history, not of Reuben or Judah or Simeon, but of Joseph. It is an attractive story, and the more so when we find it illustrative of One who is greater than Joseph.
In short, we read of Joseph being beloved by his father. Conscious of future exaltation, he is hated by his brethren, and sold for twenty pieces of silver. Put in prison (typically going through death), brought out of prison (typical of resurrection), he is exalted and becomes the administrator of all blessing to a starving world.
Then, as grouped round Joseph in the place of his exaltation, Israel’s generations are detailed in Genesis 46.
So, if we turn with relief from the gloomy picture of Esau’s generations—type of Adam and his line—it is with joy we dwell on the way and manner in which the line of the Spirit is here illustrated.
In the picture we begin with Joseph. So, if we would learn divinely of God’s generations, we must begin with Christ. We cannot insist too strongly on this point. Adam has failed. Fallen, he became the head of a race, transmitting his own qualities and characteristics. Adam’s descendants are Adam reproduced.
Christ is the Head of a race. And if we would understand the race we must understand the head. As Head He transmits His own qualities and characteristics.
If nine chapters (chap. 38 excepted) are taken up with Joseph’s history, we may say the whole body of Scripture is taken up with Christ. “He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.” “They are they which testify of Me.”
As an illustration of how we must begin with Christ, let me simply relate the blessing received to my soul when I first saw the force in Romans 8:29 of the word “that He might be the first-born among many brethren.” For years I had enjoyed the verse, dwelling on the thought that I was predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s blessed Son, but one day the words “that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” transferred my thoughts from self to Christ. I did not lose any of the blessing, but it was the blessed office of the Holy Ghost to testify of Him, and in seeing God’s purpose in that verse the heart was drawn to Christ, and in an unselfish way the thought of one’s own blessing was greatly enlarged. Christ is the Object and Pattern of God’s blessed purpose.
Now it is not till the Beloved of the Father, hated of His brethren according to the flesh, goes through death and resurrection that He becomes the Head of the new race—the only race that can stand before God, as far as man is concerned. Nor apart from His death could this have been brought about, for “except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth ALONE: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” “Though we have known Christ after the flesh [that is, as born of Mary, heir of David’s throne, etc.], yet now henceforth know we Him no more.” This last verse is beautifully illustrated by the Lord saying to Mary, on the resurrection morning, “Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.”
Mary evidently was about to reclaim Him, as she knew Him upon earth, as the Messiah; but she has now to touch Him in a new place, as one of His brethren, brought into the light and glory of the Father’s presence. Christ is the Head of that new race, and He has so identified us with Himself that His Father is ours, His God is ours. This is Christianity. He has been through death, and is now in the place of exaltation, the Administrator of all blessing for man.
May God lead our hearts more and more to Christ, so that He may become the Centre of all our thoughts!
Simple Testimony 1900