The Second Man
If the title of the Lord as Son of man shows the continuity of humanity in Him with humanity as found in men in general,—body, soul, and spirit truly human,—there is all the more need for us to realize on the other side the uniqueness of this humanity in Him,—the wondrous new step that humanity has gained in the Person of the “Man, Christ Jesus.”
We may say, and rightly say, that if we know Him as the “Word made flesh,” we know Him necessarily as the Unique Man, peerless and apart from every other. That is true, indeed, but it is not all the truth. We could not in fact, if this were all the truth, speak of humanity having gained a step in Him. He would be simply alone in this: in this sense He could have no “brethren;” the deity raying through His manhood could not be partaken of, as is plain: in this respect He must be ever alone.
But Scripture does not leave us to such a conclusion. It joins together two titles that are His as man, and as a unique man, in such a way as to assure us of our gain in this very uniqueness;—of our manhood being by divine grace raised to a new plane in Him, so as to make Him in a peculiar sense “Firstborn among many brethren”(Rom. 8:29). These two titles are “the Second Man,” and the “Last Adam,”—the antitypical parallel, (and so necessarily contrast) with the “first man Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45, 47). As the first man was head of a race, and not to remain alone, but to be in fact a “First-born among many brethren,” so is it also with the “Second Man.” He is to be such, Head of a race, a race of men, but a new race; and it is said as to Him “the Last Adam,” because there is no other Adam to succeed Him, as with the first man. In Him God’s thought as to man is completely fulfilled, and His heart completely satisfied.
But it is not of the Last Adam that we are now to think, but of the Second Man as such: “Second,” as a new order of man, in contrast (as is here seen) with the First: “the first man is of earth earthy; the Second Man is of heaven.” Corresponding to this, “the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” These differences will be found to be in relation to one another: “as is the earthy such are they also that are earthy, and as is the Heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly; and, as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the Heavenly.”
It is the failure of the first man which has made way for the Second; but the Second it is who alone developes God’s thought from the beginning, and justifies fully His delights in the sons of men. It is not with the failed first man merely that the Second is put in contrast, but with the first also, as here, apart from any failure. The earthy typifies the heavenly; but in every type the contrast is as plain as the resemblance.
Man is a microcosm, the world in little, in which is embodied all that went before him, which in him is raised also to its full natural perfection. He is the crown and epitome of it all. And nature rises up to him in successive steps of progress, each retaining what has gone before, while it transcends it. In the whole series God’s principle of advance is made so plain, that, while we cannot predict, at any point at which we stop, just what may be (or whether anything may be) beyond it, yet we are prepared to estimate it when it comes, and trace the unity of the divine handiwork, and see how the end has been before Him from the beginning, and how one blessed purpose runs through all. It may not be in vain for us, even with such a theme as we have now before us, to look back to the beginning, before man himself was upon the earth, and learn from nature itself what it may teach us of the supernatural, and how the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has ruled throughout the ages.
Scripture testifies to a gradual development of creation up to man; whether we see in it the immense periods which science claims for such development, or just six literal days, or whether, perhaps, we may be permitted to believe that both views have a measure of truth in them, and one need not exclude the other. Any way, a development there is,—from inorganic to organic, through the plant and animal up to man. So plain is this that Moses has been claimed as an evolutionist on this account. Progress he certainly believes in; and if we look at it with sufficient care, a very orderly progress we shall find it; and its four divisions of nature can better justify themselves than the three which people commonly believe in, by which man is sunk into the animal merely, and that which distinguishes him as man is ignored and set aside.
“Divisions” we may call them, because Scripture clearly distinguishes them as lifeless; living; the animal with life and soul; man with life, soul and spirit. Each of these takes up into itself what has gone before it, and adds its own distinctive element of being, which in the case of the animal and man are distinctly asserted to be anew “creation.” It will repay us to look more distinctly at them.
The lifeless or inorganic lies at the bottom of the whole, and need not detain us. In the crystal it seems to prophesy the organization which it never attains: for there is a bound here which cannot be passed. No life except from life is the well ascertained conclusion of science itself.
The plant takes up the lifeless into itself, and by some process peculiar to the living thing transforms it into the living. Out of this it builds up its tissues, a multitude of small cells combining in the most marvelous way to construct a most complicated structure; each filling its place and taking its part, with a division of labor and unity of interest such as have never been excelled anywhere else. Here is an instinct before instinct, a wisdom below consciousness, and which cannot belong to these particles of living matter, or in some ways the higher life that follows it must be a degeneration from it. The life that has come in is something one cannot define—cannot separate by any chemical or other test from the matter which it permeates and controls in so marvelous a way. The invisible and intangible assumes here at the start a kind of royal state, yet in service: not separating itself from what is lower than itself, but lifting it up and transforming it. And this is the progress Scripture shows us to be constantly in nature. It is not evolution: the lower does not lift itself to higher condition; the higher element is not developed from the lower, but stoops to it and raises it. Thus already the principle begins to be revealed, which will carry us on to quite other scenes before its full power is declared.
From the vegetable we pass on to the animal—to the living soul.8 This is defined, in Gen. 1:30, as “every thing wherein there is a living soul.” That this “soul” is not the same as life is shown by the very term “living” which is connected with it. But the connection shows also that a principle of life is in it: a life which is now on a higher plane than before. As in the plant life and matter are found inseparably, so in the animal it is with soul and life. The “soul” (nephesh, psuche) is indeed the life of the animal,—is the word used for it, though it means much more than this, and although there is a distinct word for life also (chai, zoe). But the soul is the seat of the emotions, instincts, and appetites of the body—the whole sensitive nature; and while in the animal the functions of nutrition and reproduction are styled by physiologists “vegetative functions,” the distinctly animal ones are those of sensation and voluntary motion. The “living soul that moveth” indicates both these.
We see, therefore, how by the connection of the soul with it, life is lifted in the animal to a higher plane; while soul is not just this higher life itself, but a new element of being, as expressly indicated by the term “created,”—“God created every living soul.”
In man, once more we have a distinct addition, that of spirit; and by this it is, clearly, that he is created in the image of God. For God is Spirit, and the Father of spirits (Heb. 12:9). The son is therefore in the Father’s image; and in the human spirit, the mental and moral faculties are added to the instinctive and emotional ones. But then by this union the gain of the soul over that of the animal merely is easily to be seen. The law we have traced thus far manifests itself again; the soul in its turn acquires an inseparable union with spirit, by which it shares in the light of self-consciousness in which the spirit moves, and becomes partaker also in its immortality. The beast perishes, but not the soul of man, which they that kill the body cannot touch.9
Thus the spiritual law manifests itself at each step of progress in creation up to man. It is by the abasement of the higher to the lower that all progress is accomplished; and here redemption is not dimly shadowed in creation. Christ comes in at the next step; and in the Second Man the abasement of the Higher to the lower finds its complete exemplification in the inseparable union of the divine and human. The Eternal Life is linked with humanity, and the Second Man becomes the First-born among many brethren, the Last Adam-Head of a new race of men.
Contrast there must be, therefore, between humanity as found in the first man and in Christ the Second; and this, apart from question of the fall. The first man was, from the beginning, “of the earth, earthy; the Second Man is of heaven.” He is born as we are newborn, by the direct interposition of the Spirit of God. Not like Adam, simply “made upright,” He is at His birth “that holy Thing,” who “shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). His nature as Man is the “divine nature”; and there is not with Him, as there is in us, though born of God, any contradiction to it. In other respects He does not at first show His dignity: for sin has come in, and there is a work to be done by Him in view of it, which can only be done in humiliation. He comes therefore, not in sinful flesh, (that were wholly impossible and abhorrent to Him), but “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3). His circumstances are those of other men,—intensified when He comes forth to take up His special work. His spotless righteousness interposes no external guard against surrounding evil in a world to which sin has given the character it has. He is specifically in it the “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Infliction from God, of course, there could not be, but only the testimony of fullest delight on His part in His Holy One; until He entered that one awful shadow which at the end of His course here fell upon Him as He came at last to the dread place, our place, in which alone He could lay hold upon us, and bring us out with Himself into the light of God.
We must look on, then, to resurrection to see the Second Man in full character as that, and to see fully what humanity has gained in Him. But this will be better considered when we contemplate Him as last Adam, the Head of the new race of men. For moral perfection, as already said, He could not wait for that, but was (as even the demons confessed Him) “the Holy One of God,” perfectly according to His mind, all through. There was no possible mutability of nature in Him; and we must not pervert the idea of His full moral freedom to the admission of such a thought. Perfectly free He was, of course, in glorious holiness: it was the devil’s thought that He was free to sin,—free as implying in Him a sort of balance of possibilities, and as if this were even necessary to His perfect trial and the reality of a final victory over evil: for without struggle, they would say, there can be no victory.
But struggle with Himself there was not, and victory over Himself would have been already defeat: He would be no more the Christ of Scripture, “tempted in all things as we are, apart from sin” (Heb. 4:15). The “yet without sin” of our common version, and still remaining in the revised, has done terrible work in lowering Christ in the imaginations of men. There is no justification of the “yet” possible. The Greek has nothing of it. It came in through the mere supposition that “without sin” spoke of final result, instead of an exception to the kind of temptation. Sin was no possible temptation to Him: there was absolutely no power of seduction in it. That did not touch the question of His freedom, but characterized it. The more unassailable by sin we are, the freer we are, not the less free. We are not perfected by loss of liberty. To walk with God is to walk in the consciousness of the reality of things, undeceived and unperverted.
If I say of any one, “He cannot do a dishonest act,” do I think of him on that account, as less a free man? If there is no moral certainty about his actions, do I credit him, therefore, with a firmer will and more perfect self-control? No one can say or think so.
Nor did He who came into the world as man’s Deliverer divest Himself of His necessary perfection, that He might be on more equal terms with the adversary. Had it been a necessity to do so, it is hard to see how it could have been accomplished. For how could moral perfection consent to its own debasement? or how could its enfeeblement be other than debasement? For even a divine Being there are impossibilities, which proceed from perfection, and which therefore are perfection. The impossibility of sinning was a necessary glory of the Christ of God.
But men object to this on the other side that it involves an impossibility of sympathy with those encompassed with infirmity such as belongs to fallen creatures. No doubt it does with everything that implies sin, or that depravity of nature which cannot be separated from it. But sympathy with this is (as has often been pointed out) as far as possible from what a Christian needs or could find true comfort in. He finds in Christ a perfect atonement for it, and, if he knows deliverance, a power in divine grace which has broken for him the dominion of sin. Walking in the Spirit, he does not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. Moreover, the evil in him is that which God in His wonderful wisdom uses to turn him from self-occupation to Christ, and to hide from him all pride and self-complacency. But the evil itself he does not sympathize with, but condemns, while in all else he finds truest sympathy. But this is not the place in which to enlarge upon all this: it ought to be enough to quote here the apostle’s words that “such a high-priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from, sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26). But the examination of this belongs also rightly to another place.
The “Second Man” is, necessarily and emphatically “of heaven,” heavenly. True, His manhood has in it promise for the earth also, gives indeed for the inhabitants of earth the sweetest possible assurance; but this too gains, and not loses, by such heavenly character. This is inseparable, of course, from His being the Son of God in humanity; but it attaches to the Second Man as such, as the text from Corinthians clearly intimates: for, in contrast with the first man being “of the earth earthy,” the “Second Man is of heaven.”
If we look on to the full “image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:49), which we are yet to bear, the glorious body which is to be our own, though the resurrection of what has been sown in the dust, or the present mortal one changed to immortality, is yet spoken of as “our house which is of heaven” (2 Cor. 5:2). “Mortality” will then, says the apostle, be swallowed up of “life” (ver. 4). There will be then the quickening of our mortal bodies, now “dead because of sin” (Rom. 8:10, 11), which will make them, as yet they are not, to be partakers of “redemption” (ver. 33). Thus the new life power it is which, pervading and moulding them, will make them heavenly, the “image of the heavenly” being reached in them also.
But even now, and while yet we wait for this, by virtue of the work which has begun in us, we are already “heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:48). For the quickening of the Spirit we already have; the heavenly life is begun, though amid hindrances and in obscurity, in that which is the highest part of our humanity.
When we turn to consider the Lord as among us “in the days of His flesh,” we find in Him also not as yet the full heavenly character. As to His body, though in no wise (as with us) under the power of death, and with none of the penalty of sin upon it, He is yet “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3),—according to the pattern of the humanity that has failed in Adam, though without failure or any consequences of it, save as in grace He might stoop to these.
Every way He is without blemish, but more: this body of flesh and blood which He has assumed—as the vessel of earth in which the bird of heaven may die for the cleansing of our leprosy (Lev. 14:5)—is itself, all true as it is, of course, a “veil” of the higher humanity which has come in with Him, and which is not innocent and earthy, as in the first man, but holy and heavenly. In Him is manifested to us “that Eternal Life, which was with the Father” (1 Jno. 1:2), and is now, without fleck of shade or moment of intermission, “the light of men” (Jno. 1:4).
This Life is “in Him,” as it could not be in any other: “for as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself” (John 5:26). He is thus the Source and Spring of it for us as the “last Adam;” and possessing it as Man, is characterized absolutely by that “divine nature” which it implies as divine life. This touches in no way the full reality of manhood in Him—spirit and soul and body: for little as we know of the mystery of “life,” we do know that it sets aside none of these, but gives them their full value and reality.
As the “First-born among many brethren,” this life manifests itself in Him as a life of faith, in constant dependence upon God, nay, living (as we would not have dared to think of Him, had He not Himself taught us so to apply the scripture) “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). To this indeed, as we know, was His constant appeal, treading in this respect in a path in which He calls us to follow Him as “Leader” in “and Completer of faith” in His own Person (Heb. 12:2, Gk.); while this perfection He did not plead as title to escape the trials and sorrows of a pilgrim path, but on the contrary tasted the cup of affliction fully, even to death, yea, the death of the cross. But this was His grace and our need only: for Himself He was no debtor to death at all. No one took His life from Him, but He laid it down of Himself, having power both to lay it down and to take it again.
Upon this it does not need to insist here. The word of God speaks with absolute decision about it all: did one enlarge, how much would have to be written! We are here, however, but attempting an outline of truth, to fill in which materials are everywhere to be found, while the full reality is unspeakable. Heaven and earth meet here together, and all the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily in the Man Christ Jesus. How marvelous to be told in this very connection, that “in Him we are filled up” (Col. 2:9, 10)!
8. A term which the Revised Version, following the older one, disguises as “living creature,” “life,”—to the great detriment of the sense.
9. The subject is too large to enter into further here. It may be found more fully considered in “Creation in Genesis and Geology,” pp. 25-35; “Spiritual Law in the Natural World,” chaps. 7 and 8; “Facts and Theories as to a Future State,” chaps. 4–7.
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