THE VITALITY OF THE INCORRUPTIBLE
"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever." Ist Peter 1:23
The text concerns those who know (v. 18) an experience of redemption. The orbit of this redemption is from what the apostle terms " your vain conversation, " to a vital faith and hope in God. There is a process of grace that brings us to it from vanity to vitality, and the medium of this grace is the implanting of the incorruptible seed of the Word of God. This vain conversation is really a vain manner of life. The persons to whom Peter is addressing his letter know how vain their life once was, and they know too how vital it became. It is only those who know the new vitality that can see the one time vanity! A vain life is one in which self is the normal end, sin is its behaviour, and hope springs out of "silver and gold."
This is the characteristic of the world. When we go down far enough, the motive of the race of Adam is self. Only One has "freely given Himself up for us all." And the normal behaviour of "self " is sin, that is to say actions, thoughts, words are determined by considerations of self. Sin is the behaviour of "self." Hope is in silver and gold, whether we think of money as being the expression of the visible, or whether it is the essence of all reforms,. The world, at this moment thinks the moral problems of society can be solved by greater expenditure on education, greater expenditure on arms, greater expenditure on prisons and greater expenditure on pleasure, but always " silver and gold." Peter told the lame man at the gate of the temple that he had no silver and gold, yet he solved the man's predicament.
This is the vain manner of life out of which these Christians had been delivered. The new life into which they had come was indeed life. It was no longer a vain life ending with the grave, and in the meantime, leaving the vast beyond a victim to speculation. It was a vital life expressing itself here and now in being " purified." The "self " centre was dislodged, sin was no longer the normal channel of real living. The soul, the seat of self, had been purified so that it was no longer corresponding with its own natural behaviour but had sensed the supremacy of the will of God and was moving in obedience to Him by the light and power of the Spirit. There might, of course, still be conflict. There was, however, some victory. These Christians could not be content to express the behaviour of a vain manner of life. Now they realised the need of discipline to the will of God as the Spirit revealed that will and Himself provided the essential energy for its accomplishment. They were moving from behaviour which could end only in death to disciplined submission to the will of God, the end of which was glorious life.
The new vitality expressed itself in love. Love that had no affectation about it, love in Peter's characteristic adjective, "boiling hot." The love that sprang out of a pure heart because only when the heart is pure will the heart really love. That is indeed its function and no matter what anybody else may have done, when love is arrested it is arrested not by somebody outside of ourselves but by the self spirit within! We are not as concerned, as we should be, about the fervent love that is bound to be in the heart of the one whose soul has been purified by the new life in the Spirit. Finally, in the new life there is hope. Hope is not speculation, it is not what some would term " pie-in-the-sky." Hope is the assurance and confidence of the purified soul, born again of the Spirit, knowing so much experimentally of the glory of Christ now as to experience that creative ministry within.
He realises immortality and incorruption as the essential and inevitable boon of the pure in heart; for such shall not see death but shall most gloriously see God! Hence the believer perceives what he could not see when he was dead in sin; the vast and substantial movement out from the vanity of the perishing world of sin into the marvellous vitality of incorruption and immortality. He knows too that all this is in the incorruptible seed, the Word of God that has within it life. The grass withereth the flower thereof falleth and those who feed on it must wither and fall with it, but he who receives the life-giving word shall know its eternal vitality, the vitality of the incorruptible. This seed is a Person whose being is clearly expounded in this passage. He is the Word, in Himself, the speech of God. In all that He is and does He speaks forth God in His Being. He is also the word, the "saying," the operating word, expressed in what we call the Gospel, and Peter declares that as men receive Him in the word in which He interprets Himself, shall find that they have received that vitality which is incorruptible. This incorruptible seed is set forth in this passage as first
1) THE PRE-EXISTENT ONE
" Foreordained before the foundation of the world." Here then is the "Beginningless Beginning! " The material thing we call the world, has its roots deep in the Lamb without blemish and without spot, eternal in the being of God and as pure as the eternal to which He belongs and from which He comes forth. Here in the counsels of God, the Form of God comes into Being, the uncreated Lamb, Source and Spring, and by His blood, guarantor of all the processes of grace within and through the material universe. All this is hidden from the man of the world. It is not vividly realised even by the child of God, but it is out of such an One that most appropriately, this new life proceeds. We shall not do Scriptural justice to the Man slain on the Cross for our sins, if we do not see this Pre-Existent One in the form of God in Whom the work of redemption is essentially accomplished. The blood that is shed is not the blood of any ordinary Man; it is the blood of One Who has counselled with the Father from the foundation of the world to meet its need by the shedding of His blood. The transition is from pure Deity to pure Form in God, and so to the form of Man.
The fellowship with the Father, before the world was is in the fellowship of this great redemption wherein the One in the Form of God consents in obedience to become Man, that He might become sin! Whatever we may rightly observe of the growing consciousness of our Lord as He measured His way to the Cross, the deeper secret is this committing of Himself before the foundation of the world to such a course of obedience in the form of God and then in the form of Man, that by these age long processes He should, as the slain Lamb of Calvary be the Vital Seed in Himself of the people of God. This, then, is an aspect of the shed blood we must not overlook. Judas, the chief priests, have their part in His death and must accept responsibility for their attitudes and actions, but this is much more than an event at Calvary, terrible indeed as that was. It is the bringing forth within the visible realm of an expiation of the sin of mankind that had its beginnings before sin was. This remedy for sin is no artifice, no afterthought in the light of the tragedy of man's disobedience. This at Calvary is the consummation of the prolonged thought and anguish of God, and it springs out of the depths of Deity even out of the precious blood of Christ, and He brings it to perfection as obedience finds its consummate expression within the realm of fallen man. If we do not see this we may be tempted to rely on the expedients of philosophers, politicians and moralists whose thinking begins in time and is confined within the boundaries of time. This precious blood tells us the answer is in the Being of God before the world was The Pre-Existent One is also
2) THE RISEN AND GLORIFIED MAN
The precious blood of this Man is shed, for without the shedding of blood there is nothing but vanity! It is the blood that makes atonement for the soul, but this Man Who thus sheds His blood, meeting death in all its expiatory violence, has within Him the secret of incorruptibility. He is in the realm of death, as none other is there, because He has utterly pleased God by His obedience. By reason of His absolute obedience to the Father before the foundation of the world, carried out in time even unto death, the death of the Cross, He is now raised from the dead by an act of God. This raising from the dead is not an act of omnipotence by God upon One Who otherwise was helplessly in the grip of death; it is the far deeper fact that by His obedience unto death He has as a man, the capacity to appropriate the power of God even within the realm of death.
The power of God is not an external force that can be exerted on our behalf, it is God Himself moving within us in the measure of our capacity. The power of God is limitless, but its revelation in experience is determined by the measure of our obedience. The omnipotence of God and the obedience of believers are the essential elements in revival. Capacity is the secret of the demonstration of omnipotence, and capacity depends on obedience, obedience, if need be, even unto death. Thus, the precious blood was the expression of a perfect and complete obedience in every realm and it demonstrated the power of God in resurrection as never had been known before or since in the history of the human race. It was more than that, however, for His resurrection was the prelude to His reception in Heaven as the Unique Being not only of earth but Heaven, for in Him the nature of God and the nature of Man were One, in the form of the God-Man. The terms of that exaltation are set forth in the Scripture in words that tax even the vocabulary of Paul. He is highly exalted not against God but by the will and power of God. It is the Father's pleasure we should call Him LORD!
This precious blood, shed in obedience to God, creating capacity to express all the power of God in life out of the dead, is now the secret of the glory of the Son. He has the power likewise to transmit the omnipotence of the Deity to men and women once the bondslaves of sin but now born again of the incorruptible life seed that has no origin within the realm of man but is the vital seed of God for a lost world. And this brings us to
3) THE REDEEMED MAN
All this is for the man whom God purposes to redeem. This is a sketched background to a marvellous salvation. These heavenly things are not readily apprehended by mortal man. The carnal mind sees no beauty to desire the Lord but nevertheless this is the secret of the salvation God designs for man in his sin. All flesh is as grass. Man endeavours to throw off the sense of the frailty and uncertainty of life. But whether by virtue of particular strength the evil day is put off longer for some than others, the truth is that all the so called glory of man is just like a flower of the field. It has a beauty not to be despised, but it is here today and gone tomorrow! Frailty, uncertainty, vanity, these are the impressive subconscious convictions of mortal man.
Before man, in his sin, grasped this new secret of life, it was dawning upon the angels. Their serious minds were directed to this marvellous secret of the gospel, a new life seed, incorruptible,vital surely and eternally secreted deep in the being of mortal man, this seed of the incorruptible. They are amazed to find such a salvation possible, to learn of Divine forgiveness, the remission of sins, the power of an expiatory death, the mystery of resurrection life and, wonder of wonders, the Son of God in Eternal Manhood, glorified in the limitless power of the Father. Most of all, however, they see this final issue. The incorruptible life of the Son is transmitted by Divine means to the sinner whose heart is capable of faith in God. The God who expiates the sinner's sin by the precious blood of Christ and who raises Him from the dead to become a channel of eternal life to all who believe in Him. This is the word that is preached unto us. This is the incorruptible seed of the Gospel, this is the life that is life indeed. Unique in Heaven in the Son, unique on earth in all those who, renouncing their sin, turn to Him for life. And so and only so are we born again from above by the Spirit of life in Jesus our Lord.
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