Man is so different from every other creature that God has made. There is with him an intelligence far beyond every other creature of earth, and a capacity for knowledge that has been divinely implanted. Besides, there is within man that which enables him to take account of that which lies outside the realm in which he lives. He has a mind that reasons about the vast creation, and moral sensibilities regarding his Creator and the creatures around him. Moreover, he has a spiritual capacity for communion with God: that which lifts the heart and mind above what is material and belonging to time and sense. Man has been made a little lower than the angels, but he is the greatest of all God’s earthly creatures.
Adam, the first man, “was made a living soul” (1 Corinthians 15:45), and God spoke to him saying, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16–17). There was everything to meet man’s need, and to give him pleasure, in such a wonderful garden, and God, as the creator and owner of the world, only reserved for Himself one tree, which He forbade to man.
Whether man was deeply thankful to God for His great kindness, we cannot say, but if he was, such thoughts were quickly removed by the temptation of Satan, and in base ingratitude he disobeyed God, eating of the only tree that God had reserved for Himself. How very solemn were the results for man. The judgment of God was pronounced on him and he was expelled from fair Eden. Instead of remaining in the leisurely enjoyment of the garden planted by the hand of God, he had to toil for his bread by the sweat of his face to await the sentence of death that God had pronounced for disobedience.
But the first man is of the earth, “earthy” (1 Corinthians 15:47), and, since his fall, his pursuits, habits, thoughts, desires and character have been centred in himself. God is not in all his thoughts; and having come under the influence of Satan, he hates God, and lives in self-will and sin. Not only was one sin put to man’s account by his disobedience, but sin entered into his nature, making it a sinful nature; and he put himself at a distance from God. There was no power with man to do what was good, or to resist the evil; and he could neither regain his place in Eden nor remove from his nature the principle of sin that had entered there.
In the nature that God gave to man there is that which is lovely. Natural affection, in its purity, is most attractive; and in man’s relations with his fellows, and with the creatures around him, there are expressions of natural goodness, kindness, and other traits that make relationships on earth not only tolerable, but also happy. Yet all has been spoiled by sin. Even the purist of natural affections have been affected, and ruin marks all that is best in man by nature. There were lovely traits in the young ruler who told Jesus that he had observed all the commandments from his youth up, and we read, “Then Jesus beholding him loved him” (Mark 10:21). Beneath the ruin of fallen nature there can still be seen the lovely traits of the nature that God gave to Adam unfallen; but all lies in ruin and sin, and man of the first order can never please God.
How very different is the Second Man from the first. The first man is of the earth, but the Second Man is out of heaven. In origin, there is an immense difference, as there is also in nature and character. Something of the contrast between these two men can be learned from Philippians 2:5–11. The first man, made of dust, was not content with the place of honour that God gave him, but, at the instigation of the devil, he sought a higher place, to “be as gods.” In reaching for a higher place he fell into sin, and brought down with him all the lower creation. The Second Man could go no higher, for Godhead was His; but such was His lowly mind that He laid aside the form of God, and took upon Him the form of a Servant, and was made in the likeness of men.
But down to Manhood was not the full extent of the stoop of the Second Man, out of heaven, for “being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” It has often been said that the first man was disobedient unto death, but the Second Man was obedient unto death. Because of his disobedience, the first man dishonoured God, and fell from his place of honour; the Second Man, because of His obedience unto death, has brought glory to God, and He has received a place of glory, for “God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name, which is above every name.”
And how great a contrast there is between the traits of the first man and the Second. In the first man we see arrogance, pride, selfishness, and all the evil features of which the Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 5:19–21; but the traits of the Second Man are those which are given as the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” These precious fruits are seen in their fulness and perfection in the life of Jesus here below.
It was not until Adam had sinned, and had been expelled from Eden, that he became the head of a race of men, all bearing his features and inheriting his sinful nature. Unfallen he was the head of the lower creation, but children were not born to him till he was outside the paradise of Eden. Those born under Adam’s headship share the results of his fall, and this is brought before us in Romans 5. Adam came under the sentence of death, and “death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression” (Romans 5:14). Adam, we are told in this same Scripture, “is the figure of Him that was to come.” As the head of a race, Adam was the figure of Christ.
But death has “passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” It is not Adam’s transgression that brings death directly to us, but the possession of his sinful nature through which we have sinned and come under death’s sentence. Yet it was his offence that brought death upon himself, and upon all under his headship, for that offence made his nature sinful, and this he passed on to all his race. The dire effects of Adam’s sin cannot be escaped by any under his headship; all come under judgment, condemnation and death.
When the book of the generations of Adam was written, it is recorded, “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image” (Genesis 5:3); and every child of Adam has been born in his likeness and image. We are naturally morally like him, and bear his image as representing him in this world, and as having the same physical resemblance, being made of dust. Flesh and blood were made for this world, and that condition finishes with this world; it has no relation or connection with the kingdom of God; it is born in sin, and leaves this world by way of death and corruption.
When the Lord Jesus entered this world, He came as the Second Man, but in resurrection He became the Last Adam. Historically, the Second Man follows the first, but is of an entirely different order. As the Last Adam the Lord Jesus not only follows Adam, but sets him aside; and being the LAST, there will never be another Adam. There have only been two races of men on this earth, and there will not be another; one race springs from Adam, the other springs from Christ.
We see the Last Adam as a life-giving Spirit in resurrection, when, as seen in John 20:22, He breathed on His disciples, and said unto them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Here the Last Adam was communicating His own life to those who belonged to Him; and this is the life that has been communicated to every one who truly believes in our Lord Jesus Christ. It is because of this it is written in Romans 8:9, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” Only those who have Christ’s life, Christ’s Spirit, belong to His race.
Romans 5 tells us of some of the things that Christ has given to those who are under His Headship. There is the free gift of grace, the grace of God that has justified us, who once were ungodly sinners and far from Him. Indeed, we have now “the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness”; we also have the life of the One in whom we have been justified, justification of life. Soon we shall reign in life with Christ and enter into the fulness of divine blessing when we have eternal life in the heavenly scene as brought to Christ’s image and likeness.
As a quickening Spirit the Lord Jesus not only gives us divine life in our souls now, soon He will quicken our mortal bodies, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:22–23). This quickening includes the changing of the living, and the raising of the dead, even as it is written, “the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52). It is then that we shall “also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Corinthians 15:49).
Romans 6:6 tells of “Our old man,” the order of man to which we belonged as in Adam. Now we are enabled to look at ourselves as belonging to another order as being in Christ, and so freed from the old order of man that God has finished with in the death of Christ. The old man is the embodiment of every feature found in the human race, the development of every evil trait of human nature personified in the man that has been crucified with Christ. In the old man every shade of evil has come into evidence, the violence and corruption that filled the earth in the days of Noah, the evil lust that is in every human breast, and the falsehood to which all are naturally prone.
The truth that is in Jesus teaches that we have “put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Ephesians 4:22). Our former manner of life, before we accepted the Gospel of God, was spent in the distance from God, and in the manifestation of the features of the old man that God ended in the cross. In Christendom the gross features of the old man are often hidden beneath a veneer of respectability, but among the heathen the horrible traits of the old man are more often evident to all.
Colossians 3:9 exhorts, “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds.” Here we learn that falsehood, one of the traits of the old man, is apt to be seen even in those who have, in the acceptance of Christ, virtually rejected the old man and all that marks him in his life of sin. Our confession of the Lordship of Christ is tantamount to saying that we have finished with the life that we formerly led, the life that is marked by the features of the man crucified with Christ. Baptism also signifies the putting off of the old man; but it does not mean that every one that is baptized has finished with the old man, or even realizes the meaning of his baptism.
If God finished with the old man in Christ’s death, He had another man in view, a new kind of man altogether, different in nature and character, with traits that are pleasurable to Him. In the Jew and in the Gentile different features of the old man were found; for the old man could be religious like the Jew or lawless like the Gentile. These two men were at enmity with each other, the law keeping them separate, and at enmity. But when the old man was crucified with Christ, there was also “abolished in His flesh the enmity,” so that He might “make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace” (Ephesians 2:15).
Instead of two men at enmity with each other, there is now but one man, and that an altogether new kind of man. None of the features of the Jew or of the Gentile are found in this new man. Some would have the best of both preserved, but the best in God’s sight is only evil. What things are highly esteemed by men are abomination in the sight of God. But the features of this new man have been exhibited here on earth in the Person of Jesus, and believing Jews and Gentiles have been made “in Himself” one new man. This is a new creation work attributed to the Lord Jesus; and all who have part in this new man are “in Himself,” that is a new creation “in Christ.”
Something of the character of the new man is brought before us in Ephesians 4:24, where we have him presented as “after God…created in righteousness and true holiness.” Righteousness and holiness of truth were never found in the old man; they were seen in their perfection in Jesus here in this world, and God has created a new man with the features that belong to His own nature, the nature revealed in His Son in Manhood.
In Colossians 3:10, we are viewed as having put on the “new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him.” There are none of the racial, religious, cultural, or social distinctions in the new man that are to be found with “Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond and free.” Nor are there any of the features that are found in any of these men, “but Christ is all, and in all.” Christ is everything to those who form this new man, and He is in every one who, by grace, is there. Christ is the object and the life of every Christian: and every feature of the new man is to be seen in Christ.
The new man gives an abstract presentation, and also a collective presentation, of what God has formed for His pleasure; a new kind of man, entirely new, a new creation, with the features of Christ. A man in Christ is an individual aspect of God’s new creation, for “If any man be in Christ, it is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). How blessed it is for every Christian to be able to take account of himself as being “in Christ.” Looking upon Christ in the presence of God we see One who is altogether pleasurable to God; and we can say, That is how God sees me, in Christ; and that is how I can take account of myself. Paul took account of himself in this way.
In 2 Corinthians 12:2 he writes, “I know a man in Christ.” It was himself he was writing about, and of the experience he had as caught up to the third heaven, into the paradise of God; but he does not view himself in his mixed condition, but tells of his experience as “a man in Christ.”