Believers today are being challenged and exhorted to develop a better self-image, and to exercise more self-love. It is our intent to present both the unscriptural, and the scriptural aspects of this important facet of the Christian life.
If I have anything prominently before me except the Lord Jesus, that thing, however good it is, becomes a screen for something of myself, and where there is any self- consideration, the region of spirituality is lost. It may be an amiable thing, but because it is of man and not of God, it is not spirituality. –J. B. Stoney
Fall Of The Fall
There is a growing number of Christians for whom the fall has fallen. To the degree that the believer weakens his concept of the fall, he weakens his Christian life and service. Error concerning the fall results in error concerning the two Adams; and error concerning the two Adams results in error concerning one’s spiritual growth and outreach.
Totality Of The Fall
Scripture leaves no doubt as to the totality of the fall. It was utter, and irrevocable. God made it very clear to Adam that if and when he should sin, he would surely die. And the day that Adam disobeyed God’s single stipulation, he died spiritually–he died unto God. And all the race of mankind died unto God in Adam that day.
“For as in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22). As a result, “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” “Therefore, as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation” (Heb. 9:27; Rom. 5:18). “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:10, 23).
Without question Adam was originally created in the image of God. “And God said, Let us create man in our image, after our likeness….”So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him” (Gen. 1:26, 27).
But when Adam died to God, his God-like image perished with him. “And the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh” (Gen. 6:3). “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6). “Among whom also we all had our manner of life in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Eph. 2:3). “For to be carnally (fleshly) minded is death….Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither, indeed, can be. So, then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:6–8).
The extent of the apprehension of the depth and utter ruin of the first Adam nature caused by the fall, determines the extent to which the new life in Christ can be brought to full growth in the believer; for just so far as man clings to one supposed “good thing” in him, so for the power of the Cross is nullified in his life, and so far the growth of the new life is constricted in him.
Freedom from the dominion of sin is the message of the Cross, but it can only be realized in experience up to the extent of the believer’s recognition of the fall, and a consequent offcasting of the fallen life of the first Adam at the place called Calvary.
Those who slight the fall refer consistently to the image of fallen Adam as “marred,” or “blurred,” or “in need of restoration.” They dare not consider Adam’s image a total ruin because they are seeking its restoration, its reformation. For them it is back to the unfallen Adam, via Christ!
There is a strange anomaly at the core of the Reformation realm. On the one hand they go to the extreme of teaching that the fall was not beyond recovery of the original; while on the other hand they go so far as to insist that man is so dead in sin that it is impossible for him to believe–”total depravity.”
These Calvinists insist that the Spirit must first regenerate the dead-unto-God individual, thereby giving him life in order that he may believe unto life. This the Covenant theologians refer to as “monergistic regeneration: the faith which receives Christ for justification is itself the free gift of a sovereign God, bestowed by spiritual regeneration in the act of effectual calling.” –J.I. Packer
“Faith Cometh By Hearing”
The Scriptures present the reverse of this theory. “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). First believe, then receive. John writes, “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life” (5:24). First hear, then believe, then receive. “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live” (John 5:25). As a result of hearing, the dead are given life.
James, Peter, and John all clearly testify to the fact that life is entered into by believing, by faith. James: “Of his own will begot he us with the word of truth (1:18). Peter, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23). John: “But these are written, that ye might have life through his name” (20:31).
God commanded Israel to choose life. “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deut. 30:19). Concerning this plea to choose life, Dr. L.S. Chafer wrote:
God having designed that man as creature shall be possessed of an independent will [volition], no step can be taken in the accomplishment of His sovereign purpose which will even tend to coerce the human volition.
God does awaken the mind of man to spiritual sanity and brings before him the desirability of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. If by His power, God creates conviction of the reality of sin and of the blessedness of the Lord Jesus as Saviour and under this enlightenment men choose to be saved, their wills are not coerced nor are they deprived of action of any part of their own beings.
(Systematic Theology, Vol. 2, p. 284.)
[Webcurator's Note: A more in depth discussion of the above is found in the MJS Position Paper entitled Sovereignty and Responsibility.]
In his book True Spirituality, Dr. Francis Schaeffer wrote:
When I accepted Christ as my Savior, when my guilt was gone, I returned to the place I was originally made. When I accept Christ as my Savior, the guilt that has separated me from God, and from the fulfillment of my purpose, is removed. I then stand in the place in which man was made to stand at his creation (pp. 75, 76).
Consider the fact that he is referring to guilt, not the guilty; he is dealing with the subject of sins, not sin; the symptoms, not the source. Dr. Schaeffer believes that once the guilt of his sins is removed he is then free to be restored to what he considers to be his original standing– that of unfallen, innocent Adam.
There are thousands who profess to believe in the atoning virtue of the death of the Lord Jesus, but who do not see therein beyond the forgiveness of sins. They do not yet see the crucifixion, death, and burial of the sinner– the entire displacement of the old system of things belonging to their first-Adam condition– in a word, their perfect identification with their dead and risen Lord. –C.A.C.
Ranald Macaulay is secretary of Dr. Schaeffer’s L’Abri Fellowship. Jerram Barrs is also on the L’Abri office staff. In their IVF Press book, Being Human: The Nature of Spiritual Experience, they write: “The reflection of God’s character has been marred by sin” (p. 60). “The Bible’s view of spiritual experience is an affirmation of life, that is, as a recovery of the human experience lost at the fall” (p. 117).
It is plain to see just which Adam these Reformation people focus upon. Or is it? They say the right thing to begin with, but actually mean the wrong thing, i.e., the wrong man:
Christ, not Adam, is our model. The focus is to be on Christ. But we must be clear in what sense Christ is our model. Here is the connection with Adam: the model of the Christian life is the recovery of ordinary human experience–”ordinary” not in the sense of sinfulness, but as opposed to suprehuman; “ordinary” in terms of God’s
original creation and Jesus’ perfect example. (Emphasis mine. )
The natural, the human, the categories of experience which come down to us from Adam, are all good and are to be received with thanksgiving. Although our natural experiences since the fall are also the vehicles of sin, the Bible identifies sin as the evil, not the experiences themselves. Just as impurities in water must be filtered out leaving the water itself good, so sin is to be removed leaving the human faculties themselves good (p. 26).
How aghast these Calvinists would be if they but realized that this is Wesleyan “holiness” teaching–the amelioration of the first Adam! (See Tri-S-IV). They go on to say:
The natural (Adamic) need not be crushed, nor superseded. It needs to be restored so that it resembles its new Creator, Christ; who in turn resembles Adam before the fall (p. 27).
How does that statement set with you, and with your Bible? These men are not alone in their error. J.B. Stoney states just how general it is:
In the Reformation there was, through grace, a great deliverance. The groundwork of Christianity was recovered; namely, justification by faith. But though this was recovered, it was not maintained that the old man Adam was crucified on the Cross. Retention of the old man is the weakness of the Reformation.
(Ministry, Vol. IX, p. 117.)
Wrong way – wrong man! They are expecting “the last Adam…a life-giving spirit” to take them back to “the first man, Adam…made a living soul” (1 Cor. 15:45). They look for “the second man…the Lord from heaven” to restore them to “the first man…of the earth, earthy” (1 Cor. 15:47). In essence, their expectation is in the shadow, rather than in the reality; in “Adam…who is the figure (type) of him that is to come” (Rom. 5:14). C. Crain gives us the Biblical rectification:
We know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2). We are to be conformed to the Lord Jesus as He is, not as He was. We are to be like Him as He is–in manhood indeed, but in the form of humanity in which He now is. To be changed into His image means to have bodies fashioned after the body He now has. Not to have unfallen, sinless humanity, but in the risen, glorified condition in which our Lord now is. (The Serious Christian, Vol. VIII, p. 94. )
The co-authors of Being Human, Macaulay and Barrs, disciples of the Schaeffers, dedicated their book on Christian humanness, “To Francis and Edith Schaeffer who have shown us so much about serving God and being human, both in their lives and by their teaching.”
Some years ago Edith Schaeffer wrote a book entitled Christianity Is Jewish, published by Tyndale House. The problem is compounded by her new work, just produced by Crossway Books. The title is telling: Lifelines–The Ten Commandments for Today. The ad information is as follows:
Who am I? What will fulfill me? Many have searched the world for answers. Yet the answer is right at hand.
The loving God who made us in His image has given us His perfect pattern for living–the Ten Commandments. In a time when the Commandments are often ridiculed or ignored, Edith Schaeffer shows that they are vitally relevant today, the only sufficient basis for a rich and fulfilling Christian life.
Upon encountering this ad a fairly new believer asked, “Is this woman Jewish?” One might also ask, “Is this man Jewish?” Dr. Schaeffer concurs completely with his wife:
Our desire must be for a deeper life. And when I think of this, the Bible presents to me the whole of the Ten Commandments and the whole of the Law of Love.
(True Spirituality, p. 17)
It should not require mention, but the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, Dr. L. S. Chafer, wrote concerning the Law:
The Ten Commandments require no life of prayer, no Christian service, no evangelism, no missionary outreach, no Gospel preaching, no life and walk in the Spirit, no union with the risen Lord Jesus Christ, no fellowship of saints, no hope of salvation. and no hope of heaven.
(Systematic Theology, Vol. IV, p. 211)
Long ago J. B. Stoney put his finger on the main Reformation weakness:
There is a grievous leaven in Christendom. The Lord Jesus’ death is presented to the soul after the manner of the sacrifices under the law, where the pious Jew found relief from his immediate sins, but he still retained the flesh with its enmity against God–he knew no freedom from its dominion upon which to reckon.
Weaken the fall and you weaken all! Dr. Schaeffer also touches tellingly on the above question, “Who am I?” It is sadly evident that he really does not know. It is true that he thinks he does–but we all have to be careful concerning much that we are “sure” of. On page 48 of his Genesis in Space and Time, he writes:
For twentieth century man, this phrase, the image of God, is as important as anything in Scripture, because men today can no longer answer that crucial question, “Who am I?” In contrast, I stand in the flow of history. I know my origin. As I look at myself in the flow of space-time reality, I see my origin in Adam and in God’s creating man in His own image.
Lack Of Differentiation
One refrains from being too hard on this outstanding brother, especially since his Reformation theology made him say it. Those who cannot recognize the full fall, cannot repudiate Adam. They will even see the Last Adam as but a means of their getting back to the first Adam. Again Stoney probes this error to the quick:
I do not see the Cross truly if I only see it as opening a way of escape for me, and yet allowing that in me to escape which has incurred the judgment.
(Ministry, Vol. IX, p. 99)
The believer’s origin stems from Calvary, not from Eden. Actually, in the Father’s mind, his origin is in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). There is a severe drawback involved for those Christians who erroneously see their origin in Adam. Oriented to an earthly Adam, they become law-governed, kingdom centered, legal, and earthbound. Unable to “rightly divide the word of truth,” they tend to be anti-dispensational, and amillennial.
What we have touched on thus far is but to prepare you for the worst. Before going on, however, we will share a further thought from Dr. Schaeffer’s book on growth–True Spirituality–in order to leave no question as to his true Adam centeredness.
The only difference between our relationship with God now (as Christians), and that which man’s would have been if he had not sinned, is that now it is under the covenant of grace, and not under the covenant of works. That is the only difference
What Dr. Schaeffer is saying is that there is but one difference between being in the unfallen first Adam, and being in the risen, glorified Last Adam. In the first, he says, one would be under law; in the Last, one is under grace. Otherwise, no difference.
No difference? No difference between being in a created, earthly, innocent, figure-of-the-true, susceptible- to-death, man; and being in the man Christ Jesus, the Lord from heaven, Creator, the life-giving spirit, God the Son, the resurrection and the life? No difference? “As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (I Cor. 15:49).
Viva la différence infinite!
New Kingdom Covenant
The weakness and inadequacy of all this is summed up by J.N. Darby:
Covenant theology, at the utmost, is forgiveness of sins and divine favor enjoyed; and all that concerns their new position in the Lord Jesus is ignored, or alas! guarded against as dangerous.
Men are placed under the New Covenant which does not go beyond remission of sins and the law written in the heart. But being in the Lord Jesus Christ, and knowing it by the Holy Spirit, and what it involves now, has all but dropped out of their creed.
(The Bible Treasury, Vol. XIV, p. 263)
The Covenant theologians are not the only ones who seek to bring members of the Body of Christ under the restrictions of the New Covenant–it is but the general teaching of the day. Two more of the early Plymouth Brethren leaders can help us here. First, William Kelly:
Scripture carefully avoids the error of assuming that the New Covenant in Hebrews Ten expresses the standing of the believer. The Blood of it is shed; the spiritual blessedness of it is ours who believe, that is true. But its strict and full import awaits the House of Israel and the House of Judah at a future day, as we see in Hebrews Eight. Then all its terms will be verified.
(The Bible Treasury, Vol. XIX, p. 344.
On the same subject, H. H. Snell wrote:
We are come “to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant” (Heb. 12:24). We are not come to the New Covenant, but to Jesus the Mediator of it. We are associated with Him Who is the Mediator; that is a much higher thing than if merely come to the Covenant. He will make this New Covenant with Israel on earth.
(The Bible Treasury, Vol. XIX, p. 367)
What an indignity religion puts to every person of the Godhead alike, on the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ, when it drags souls back to the dread distance of Judaism.
(The Bible Treasury, Vol. XIX, p. 344)
God In The Image Of Man
Another Reformed theologian, Dr. Stephen Board, as executive editor of Eternity magazine, ended his April 1982 editorial as follows:
Since we are made in God’s image, the original is with him, not us. And since the great Original has told us with his mouth how we are like him, we can know what he is like.
Once again, wrong man. Adam was the only man made in God’s image. When he fell, that image was obliterated in sin and death. As the fallen head of the human race, Adam consequently brought forth sons and daughters [mankind] “in his own likeness, after his (fallen) image” (Gen. 5:3).
Even as believers we cannot tell what God is like by looking at ourselves, or any other Christian. We are being conformed to the Lord Jesus’ image. “Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
If anyone would know what the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is like, he must look away from Adamic man, away from Christian man, away from the Law, beyond the heavens that declare the glory of God, and by means of the Word of God simply look “unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).
“God…hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son…who, being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person…” (Heb. 1:1–3). “He that hath seen me (Jesus) hath seen the Father.” “Neither knoweth any man the Father, except the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (John 14:9; Matt. 11:27). William Kelly knew where to look:
Certainly the child of God has eternal life. But where shall I look at it? I see a beautiful trait of the divine life in this saint; I see something sweet, and at the same time humbling to my soul, in another–perhaps where least expected.
But in all this is weakness and even positive failure. Who would not confess it? Who does not feel it? This, then, is but an unworthy expression of what divine life is, because it is shaded too often and modified by the effect of the world, by the allowance of nature, by a thousand thoughts, feelings, ways, habits which do not savor of the Lord Jesus Christ.
All these things break in upon and mar the perfect outshining of that new life that is communicated to all the children of God. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Cor. 4:7). There is but one adequate and worthy object of the Holy Spirit, and that is the ascended and glorified Lord Jesus Christ! How could it be otherwise?
(First John, p. 297.)
This self-image question is extremely crucial, and it affects every Christian today. We are being exhorted and taught by the professionals, Christian and otherwise, that we are to love ourselves more. We are advised to improve our self-concept, to become self-fulfilled and self actualized, because a poor self-image is the source of all our problems. Further, it is insisted that we must love ourselves before we can really love God and others.
In the current effort to get the Christian to build up his self-image, we have religious leaders talking and writing like this: “There must be something truly wonderful about us if God can love and accept us so readily. ” –Cecil Osborne (The Art of Learning to Love Yourself)
Readily? In the face of Calvary?
Sorry, but there is nothing wonderful about us that God can love and accept. Rather the contrary. We were born dead in trespasses and sins, at enmity against God, and the Lord Jesus saved us as such. “But God commendeth his love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). The Father did not save us on the basis of our personal worth–there was “no good thing.” We were “condemned already” in the fallen and rejected Adam.
The Lord Jesus saved us for the glory of His Father. “I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4). The Father called us as a gift to His beloved Son. “Thine they were, and thou gavest them to me” (John 17:6).
Before time began the Father called us by making us the subjects of his gracious thought and counsel, and His purpose and object in thus taking possession of us was that He might give us to His Son. We shall be forever the expression to the Son of the Father’s love to him.
–C. A. C. (Spiritual Blessings, p. 92. )
“You’re Someone Special”
The further we progress into this problem, the more painful it becomes. Dr. Bruce Narramore, nephew of Dr. Clyde Narramore, is Professor of Psychology at the Rosemead Graduate School of Professional Psychology. Bruce has written a book entitled, You’re Someone Special. At the outset we had better see where Dr. Bruce is coming from.
The infant in the crib is a product of God’s handiwork. Although marred by sin, the design passed down through his genetic structure is straight from the hand of God. Made in God’s image, according to His design, the infant has wonderful, complex potential for physical, intellectual, spiritual, and social development
God built into Adam and Eve an inherent goodness. We know that God was pleased with His creation because the Book of Genesis states that He “saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good”
But what about sin? Weren’t we ruined and didn’t we become worthless when Adam and Eve plunged our race into rebellion? Definitely not! Sin greatly corrupts our lives and mars the image of God, but it does not wipe it out. We are still divine creations, with intellectual abilities, a knowledge of right and wrong, the capability to make choices, and the powers of communication and creativity. While these likenesses have been damaged, they continue to exist and will be totally restored in eternity. No matter what our state in life, God sees us in His image (p. 23).
Hear him reflect the thoughts of others in this reversed-image realm:
When I discuss self-love, I am talking about how we can learn to accept God’s total evaluation of us. This is exceedingly important, since our attitude toward ourselves influences the quality of our relationships with God and others. In fact, our attitude toward ourselves is a major factor in determining the type of attitude we have toward God
Still the wrong man! When we come to know the Lord Jesus Christ for what He did for us, and for what He did with us, and for what He is to the Father, we will thereby have the right attitude toward our Father, and we will grow in Christlikeness toward others. “To the praise of the glory of his grace, through which he hath made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6).
As to his direction in life, Dr. Narramore is on the same backtrack as those in the Reformation realm.
When we begin our life in eternity, we will be totally restored to our original condition. In the meantime, we are moving in that direction. We must base our principles of self-esteem on this most basic aspect of our nature. Only in the fact that we are God’s creations do we have a solid base for self-acceptance and self-love.
Back to Eden, instead of on to Glory! To bolster his basis for restoration, Dr. Bruce quotes Philippians 1:6–”Being confident of this, that he who hath begun a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” But as believers our Father did not begin His good work in us in Adam in Eden. He began it in the Last Adam, at Calvary. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).
This wrong-image influence has a devastating effect upon the conviction of sin, the all-important basis for true evangelism. Dr. Narramore is typical:
Focusing on man’s sinfulness in order to demonstrate his need for redemption, the church has overlooked the fact that God has created man in His image. Many churches, for example. emphasize man’s sinfulness to such an extent that they overlook our great value and significance to God. In sermon after sermon we are told that we are sinful, wrong, bad. These messages tend to undermine our self-acceptance, especially if we are already prone to feelings of self-rejection
William Kelly would remind us of the lost chord of true evangelism–repentance.
Consider the case of God’s dealing with my soul when He is converting me. Is faith the only thing produced by the Holy Spirit? What is the first effect of His breaking in upon the lost sinner? It is making nothing of him. Is not this love? Yes; but it is God’s love that deals with me in the truth of what He is, and of what the sinner’s awful condition is. So the effect produced on the heart of him that is renewed is not merely faith in the Saviour, but repentance toward God. “Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:27),
(The Bible Treasury , Vol. V, p. 10)
From the evangelistic field Dr. Narramore moves on to the so-called deeper life area. Now this unfallen fall theory really begins to reveal itself for just what it is.
Followers of the Keswick Movement believe that we really don’t possess any dignity or worth and that we should not like ourselves. “Since we are sinful and worthless,” they argue, “we should give up all our efforts to develop and think positively about ourselves. In fact, we should find a way of bringing our life to an end so that Christ’s life can live through us”
This is simply too much for those who would seek to renew the Adamic image.
This view is degrading to God because it pronounces His creation to be a total waste and implies that nothing can be done to renew our fallen lives. They are so worthless that they can only be replaced
Those who thus hold themselves dear, must look upon the Cross with fear.
Those who hold this Keswick view take a few Scripture verses out of context, mix them with the truth of man’s sinfulness, and come to the conclusion that it is somehow possible to bring an end to life and substitute Christ’s life in its place. By acknowledging that they are absolutely worthless, they can become the recipient of something great–”Christ’s life.”
I appreciate their sincere goal. They want to overcome their sinfulness. But replacing their lives with God is not the way to do it. God does not hate us and He does not yearn to put us to the cross of Christ. Christ has already gone to the cross for our sins (p. 105).
Alas! A Lack
Did you hear him? “Christ has already gone to the cross for our sins.” True, but what about the Adamic sinner? God forgave the believing sinner’s sins, but He did not forgive sin–He did not forgive the sinner. Both sin and the sinner were condemned on the Cross. As for sin: “God sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemnedsin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). As for the believing sinner: “I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20).
Even in Romans Six, these Adam-bound teachers see only the forgiveness of sins. They are unable to face up to the fact that God dealt with sin in toto: Adamic nature, image, life and all, in the crucifixion of the death-dealing Cross. The death of the first-Adam life on the Cross released the resurrection and new-creation life of the Last Adam, and He came forth from the tomb as the Head and the ascended life of every newly-born, newly-created believer.
The Lord Jesus did not merely die to put away my sins, but to give me the infinite privilege of being placed before the Father in all His acceptance and loveliness.
(For this the first Adam would never do, however pristine.)
I could not be in heaven if it were not so–if it were only that sins were put away. God cannot have anything in heaven merely negative. Mere absence of evil is not enough.
(Hence the inadequacy of pre-fall innocence.)
If we are to be in heaven at all, God must have us there, lovely in all the loveliness of His beloved Son; and that, as far as the new man is concerned, He communicates to us here and now. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who once were far off are made near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13). –J. N. Darby
(The “old man” is Adamic, put off forever at Calvary!)
Finally, Dr. Narramore summarizes his case for self-love, concerning which we make no further comment.
Self-love is not a narcissistic or self-centered goal. It is a central part of seeing ourselves as God sees us. We should learn to value ourselves, both because God values us and because we will then be able to love God and others more.
We must make a commitment to seeing ourselves as God sees us. We must acknowledge to ourselves, “God, You have made me in your image and made me to live eternally with You. Like Adam and Eve and all the other members of the human race, I have sinned and marred that image. But Christ has paid the penalty for my sins. I know that You want me to recognize the facts. I know that You want me to lovingly respect myself and every other member of the human race” (p. 127).
It is quite evident that these men have not yet learned to say, “I always knew there was plenty of bad in me, but it took a long time for me to know and acknowledge that there is no good! “
The level upon which these leaders are thinking should be obvious to all. They are dealing with mere symptoms. To them, all that is required is the removal of guilt, and the payment for sins. And, to get back to Adam’s innocence, that is all it would take.
The problem is that once innocence is lost it can never be regained. Plus the wonderful fact that God is not returning us to pre-fall conditions, but rather He has re-created and positioned us in His righteous and holy Last Adam. J. B. Stoney gives us another good evaluation:
If I have lost anything by sin which was a glory to man, that is not restored to me in grace. Grace gives me something altogether new and infinitely better, not to suit the man that was, but to suit me as recreated by God.
The grace of God does not reinstate me in the paradise lost by sin, but sets me in a much greater one. I am forgiven, like the prodigal, for all I have done, but nothing that I squandered is restored to me. I get something entirely new; and I am made, as he was in figure, quite new, and fitted for the immense exaltation to which I am raised by grace.
The prodigal was not restored to the land, as a Jew would have expected, but he was received into the father’s house with a favor and distinction never accorded to any one before; and this was all simply of grace.
(Ministry, Vol. XI, p. 383.)
We have seen how Dr. Schaeffer levels off at the symptom of “guilt.” “When I accepted Christ as my Savior, when my guilt was gone…” (True Spirituality, p. 75.) Dr. Narramore goes no further than the symptom of “sins,” and their “penalty.” “Christ has already gone to the cross for my sins. ” “I have sinned and marred the image. But Christ has paid the penalty for my sins.” (You’re Someone Special, p. 212.)
Macaulay and Barrs insist that “the whole purpose of the Christian life is the recovery of the original image of God.” Then they present to us the road to that “recovery.”
Only as we strive to put to death the desires of our sinful natures do we become truly conscious of how great our gratitude for Christ’s work should be and how dependent we are on the power of the Holy Spirit. In our weakness, wearied by the battle against sin, we learn to cry out, “Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! ” (Rom. 7:24, 25).
Some read Paul here as if he were suggesting passivity. For from saying “Give up trying,” Paul is making the point that our very striving against sin causes us to be aware of the riches of Christ’s work for us and our need for the Spirit’s help. Only as we actively obey God’s commands to put away sin and do right do we learn to appreciate truly the love of Christ and grow in our dependence on His Spirit. (On Being Human, pp. 16,96)
In the face of this attempt to correlate the two Adams, F.W. Grant simply and scripturally shows the absolute differentiation between them:
The Lord Jesus’ work is different in its character and results, Godward, from anything that could be of Adam. It was such as the “Only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father” alone could accomplish.
Peerless in His person and work, the place which He has taken as the result of it with the Father is one suited not to the first man, “of the earth, earthy,” but to “the second man…the Lord from heaven” (1 Cor. 15:47).
Taking His seat at the right hand of the Father, He is become Head of the “new creation, ” not Restorer of the “old.” He is not the first Adam set up again, but the Last Adam, and He is “the beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14).
All things are restored by Him and in Him, but not in the primitive condition before the fall. They are all “made new.” The old condition of things is done away. “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). (Leaves From the Book, p. 274. )
Although we may not go to the depths of this sad self-image theme, we must yet delve deeper before we rise to the level of Scripture. In the February 1979 issue of Eternity magazine, Raymond Foster wrote:
Because I love me, I seek to expose myself to pleasant things. Because I love me, I avoid feelings that are disagreeable. I hate burnt toast and sour milk.
Because I love me, I often wonder why other people hurt me so easily. I wonder how they can pass me by without showing compassion–without helping me. I wonder how they can ignore me when I am reaching out to them.
Yes, I love me very much! I’ll admit it. It is true! Should I deny it? And what is so bad about that? I show my love for me every moment, in every action. And while I am counting the ways in which I love me, I am overwhelmed by Jesus’ command, “Love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself.”
Granted that under the Old Testament commandment God’s standard for Adamic man, man in the flesh, was to love others as he loved himself. And the ultimate purpose of God’s holy and just Law was to reveal to Adamic man what he could not accomplish.
David loved God’s Law (Ps. 119:97). David loved himself–and he remained home from the battlefield. David loved his neighbor…and raped her. David loved himself, and had her faithful husband murdered so that he could have her for himself. In all this David loved himself, and as a result God said to him through Nathan, “Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from thine house…” (2 Sam. 12:10). So much for self-love via the Law.
Dr. L.S. Chafer certainly knew the difference between the two Adams:
The New Commandment for believers in the Last Adam is love for others “as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” “By this we perceive the love of God, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
Under the Mosaic (first Adam) system, love for others was to be the degree in which one loved himself; under grace it is to be the degree in which the Lord Jesus has loved the believer and given his life for him. (Systematic Theology, Vol. IV, p. 187. )
One more step down–the final step to which all of the foregoing inevitably leads. In the February 1979 issue of Eternity magazine Dr. Robert Schuller said:
If I violate the self-respect, the self-dignity, the personhood, the self-worth of any person, no matter what my goal might be, if I have to insult them to try to convert them, that is a sinful strategy of evangelism.
In his October 1981 issue of Cathedral Chronicle, he wrote:
I want to rewrite the classical historical theology and synchronize psychological truths in such a way that the gospel is proclaimed positively and in purity–purged of the destructive negativity which often accompanies its interpretation which would demean a human being. The gospel of Jesus Christ is unhealthy and unfaithful to its Lord, if when it is communicated, it has to put a person down in an effort to try to lift him up.
Thus we have the outcome spawned from the false image:
Dear Dr. Schuller: My husband and I listen to your program and messages on positive thinking. We always feel joyous afterward. Before this we were both non-believers, but now we have faith in ourselves and others.
We share here a picture of the overall effects of wrong-Adamism, drawn by J.B. Stoney a century ago:
There has been on atonement in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ for the sins of the man who has failed; and as the sacrifice has been provided by God, it testified of the entire inability of man to do anything for himself or God; and as it is in God’s hand only, He does not restore that which had ever proved itself unworthy and incompetent; but He introduces, in the Last Adam risen from the dead, an entirely new man.
If man, since the Cross, is still under trial, one consequence or another must ensue. The trial must either succeed–and if man answered to the trial, then he is sinless–or if unsuccessful, then there must be another sacrifice; for if man is under trial again and fails, there must be another atonement, or he is lost.
Now to escape this dilemma, there are the present two systems of theology. One, the Romish [Roman Catholic], maintains that the sacrifice or mass is a continual one; and hence there is no room for seeing that there is an end of the Adamic man judicially in the Cross, or that the new man has come in and is before God in His Last Adam, risen from the dead. The first Adam is looked at as still the one under trial.
The other – Calvinistic Protestantism, set on foot by the Reformers–admits that the sacrifice is one and sufficient, but with no consistency; for practically they neither own that the trial of the first Adam is over on the Cross, nor the Last Adam’s rejection from the earth.
Hence the law is their rule of life, and the believer seeks a position on earth as if the Last Adam were reigning here. They call the sacrifice of Christ a full and sufficient atonement, but they do not see it as brought in by God in His love, when the first Adam was proved utterly worthless and rejected in crucifixion; or that the believer is risen with the Last Adam, in whom and from whom he received new-creation life.
Nothing is more evident than that, the atonement being provided by God for that which has been proved thoroughly worthless and unfit for Himself. He does not restore it; He judged it in death on the Cross of His Son, and, in Him risen, receives every returning prodigal in a new and risen life. The Last Adam is a life-giving spirit, and therefore everything for the saint is now determined by the position of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory as the Second Man.
(Ministry, Vol. IX, pp. 169,170)
The Growing Believer
In the second half of this paper we will seek to establish the scriptural basis of the true Christian self image and self-love. And in so doing we refer only to the growing believer, i.e., the one who is yearning to be free from the dominion of the sinful Adamic life, while hungering to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
You remember the earthy adage, “No matter how you slice it, it is still baloney.” Similarly, no matter what is done with the Adamic race, it will be forever earthly. That part of it which remains lost will be forever in hell; that portion of it which is redeemed will be forever on earth – first the renewed millennial earth, then the new eternal earth.
If you begin with Adam, you end with Adam. “The first man is of the earth, earthy…. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy” (1 Cor. 15:47, 48). All of those who believed on the coming One and died before the Day of Pentecost, were saved–saved for the earthly kingdom, both millennial and eternal. All are either saved Israelites, or saved Gentiles–none are Christians, none are members of the Body of Christ: none are heavenly, no, not one!
Hence it is a serious matter for a believer to be locked into Adamic, earthly, law-oriented, kingdom-environed theology and thinking. One should have a heart for the welfare of these back-tracking Christians, and their name is legion–they are second in number only to the pitiable charismatics.
In deep, eternal counsels,
Before the world was made,
Before its deep foundations
On nothingness was laid;
God purchased us for blessing
And chose us in His Son,
To Him to be conformed,
When here our course was run.
In order to become heavenly, one must begin heavenly; in order to get to heaven, one must originate in heaven. That can never be said of the Adamic race, which began, and ever remains, earthly.
The believer is to have nothing to do with the first-Adam life; it has been rejected in crucifixion. “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin” (Rom. 6:11). On the contrary, the believer is to have everything to do with the Last-Adam life; it has been accepted in glory. Reckon yourselves to be “alive unto God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11, ARV).
The first recorded thing God did, back in eternity before creating anything, was to make a promise to the Son. God conceived and formulated, in His heart and mind, every single believer, and promised each one to His beloved Son. “in hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2).
Our portion in life existed before the foundation of the world, not only in the counsels of God, not only in the Person of the Son, but in the promise made to the Son as our portion in Him.
It was the subject of those communications from the Father to the Son, of which we were the objects; the Son being their depository. Marvelous knowledge which has been given us of the heavenly pronouncement of which the Son was the object in order that we might understand the interest which we have in the thought and intent of God, of which we were the objects in Christ before all ages. –J. N. Darby
There, in eternity past, prior to all creation, each Christian began–not actually, but intentionally and potentially, in God’s heart and purpose, and in His Son, the Last Adam. Not in the first man, Adam, but in the Second Man, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 1:4).
Chosen In Heavenly Adam; Created In Earthly Adam
The earthly, created Adam was but a step in the process of God’s eternal purpose for us in His heavenly Adam. We were identified with the unfallen first Adam, the federal head of the human race. That first man sinned, and we sinned and died unto God in him.
Doomed in Adam! “For as in Adam all die.” “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (1 Cor. 15:22; Heb. 9:27). “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned.” “Therefore, as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation” (Rom. 5:12, 18).
But God had chosen us in His Last Adam, eons before the first Adam was created. And to carry out His eternal choice, His promise to His Son, God set up the Cross of Calvary – the instrument of death to realize the intention of life.
In God’s foreordained time the Last Adam came to that Cross, to retrieve each called one from the first-Adam death, to the last-Adam life. The Father identified each one of us with His Son on the Cross, thereby making Him to become (our) sin. “For he hath made him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
Hence the Lord Jesus died for our sins–and in that respect of His death sins were identified with Him, but not the sinner. At the same time, in His death unto sin, each one of us died unto sin with Him. “I have been crucified with Christ.” “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him” (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:6).
By His substitutionary payment for our sins, we were freed from our Adamic guilt and penalty. In our identification with Him in His death unto sin, we were freed from the fallen Adam life and nature. Therefore, in the resurrection from Calvary death, the Father was free to re-create us in His Last Adam. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).
J.B. Stoney brings out the fact that while sins demand payment, sin requires a totally new creation.
Every believer knows that he is forgiven, that his offences are cleared away; but the lack is this, that while he knows that he was guilty, and that he is now clear of guilt, he does not really know what it is to be re-created.
We are not only guilty but lost, and we are not merely forgiven, but we are given a new place with God. As having been at the greatest distance, the lost one is made meet for the Father’s house.
In Luke Seven the woman who was a sinner, comes to Jesus; an affection is established between her and the Saviour; her sins are forgiven, but with no sense of a new place with God and fitness for it. That is where thousands are now; they know they are forgiven, but they have not the joy and assurance of having been brought to God.
In Luke Ten the sinner is cured, carried, and cared for all the journey, until “I come again.” Very blessed, you may say; so it is, but there is no new place with God there; it is all man’s benefit in the place where he is. We must bear in mind that man was driven out of Eden, and in order that he should obtain a new place with God he must be a man after a new order, a new race.
As Paul says, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him” (1 Thess. 5:10). When? Now! “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6).
It is not only essential for the believer to know that there is an old creation and a new creation, but that he understand his relationship to each. The first creation was made by the Lord Jesus, with the first Adam as its head and source. The first creation began with the heavens and the earth, and culminated in an earthly man.
“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers–all things were created by him.” “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (Col. 1:16; John 1:3).
When Satan sinned the entire created universe went into ruin with him. When Adam sinned the entire race died in him, as did all the earth. “As in Adam all die.” Cursed is the ground for thy (Adam’s) sake.” “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (1 Cor. 15:22; Gen. 3:17; Rom. 8:22).
All of this condemnation and judgment was positionally accomplished at the Cross in the death of the Lord Jesus. “God sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” “The heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment” (Rom. 8:3; 2 Peter 3:7). “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also and the works that are in it, shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).
Judicially, Calvary ended Adam and all of his creation. In God’s own time, the judgment of it will be carried out, The Last Adam did away with all of the creation that He produced in and for the first Adam.
After the total termination of the first creation on the Cross, the Last Adam was free to rise as the Head and life of the spiritual, eternal, all-new creation. And as such He stepped forth on resurrection ground bearing in His heart every single believer whom by death He has separated from the first Adam. Whereas the first creation began with the heavens and the earth, followed by the creation of the earthly man, the “new creation” began with the heavenly Man, to be followed by the new heavens and the new earth.
“These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14). The first creation was produced by the Lord Jesus as the groundwork for the new creation of God.
Each believer’s relationship to the fallen Adam race was terminated at the Cross. “Our old (Adamic) man was crucified with him.” “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom. 6:6; 6:5).
Risen, the Lord Jesus “is the head of the body, the church; who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18). No restoration, no reformation of the old, but a totally new beginning from death unto eternal life. “Therefore, we were buried with him by baptism into death, that as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).
Now the Father has every believer whom He chose in eternity past, every single one whom He then promised to His Son, safely and eternally in His risen Son. “And this is the Father’s will who hath sent me, that of all that He hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:39).
And in His prayer to His Father in the Garden He said, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me; for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:2, 6, 24).
The Lord Jesus prayed this prayer on the eve of His death on the Cross. It was all settled, and had been settled since eternity past. It was there we were “chosen …in him,” the Father “having predestinated us unto the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph. 1:4, 5).
The Lord Jesus had to die in order to bring us to Himself, in order to fulfill the eternal calling of the Father who “hath chosen us in Him.” “Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” “Of his own will begot he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures” (John 12:24; James 1:18).
“All Things Are Become New”
In dying and rising again He begot us, recreated us, as His “first-fruits.” No recycling, no reclamation, no restoration, no reformation–no first Adam at all. Now Paul says to each believer, risen in Christ, “seeing that ye have put off (in death) the old man (Adam) … and have put on the new man, that is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him; where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:9–11).
As believers we are “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him,” not in the image of him that was created.
Since we were cut off from Adam in the death of the Cross, and re-created in the Lord Jesus in the resurrection, Paul says that we are to reckon upon these facts and by faith “put off concerning the former manner of life the old (Adamic) man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts … and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:22, 24).
Despite the reformation hopes of the light-fall folk, Paul says that we are to put off the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:10).
When the great Grain of Wheat emerged from the tomb and ascended into the eternal Harvest Home, He took His precious harvest of “new creations” back with Him. “Hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 2:6; 1:3).
We can rejoice together in what these long-departed grains of wheat had to say about our new-creation position in glory.
The Lord Jesus come from God alone, but He has gone back to the Father as the Head of a new and blessed race, as One who has secured everything for God. He is the perfect contrast to Adam the first, who came from God’s creative hand, and then lost everything, and went to the dust. –C.A. Coates
(Spiritual Blessings, p. 90.)
“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Does this not mean a new sort of creature, as the Word implies? Do we go back to Adam, the innocent man in the garden in which God set him to dress and keep? No, that would be no creature new in kind. Adam even, pure and good before his fall, was yet of the earth, earthy.
Is the Lord Jesus Christ but the first man set up afresh? No. He is the second Man, the Lord from heaven! He is a heavenly man, the Last Adam–Head of a new race; beginning of a new creation–and you and I who believe are “in Him, seen and accepted before God in the Beloved! The full image of Him we have not yet: true. That will be ours in the day of His coming. The thing we are! –F. W. Grant
(Leaves From the Book, p. 403.)
In creation God planted man in the garden in innocence; in redemption God planted a Man in heaven, in glory. There is a glory that excelleth! The glory in redemption leaves the glory that was once in creation as nothing. –J. G. Bellett
(Hebrews, p. 23.)
Negative And Positive
At this point you may be tempted to ask what all of this has to do with your self-image and self-love. Just keep on taking in all these truths concerning yourself and your Lord, and you will soon see.
In paying the penalty for our sins, and taking us into death with Himself, the Lord Jesus dealt with the negative aspects of our need as lost Adamic sinners. As to the penalty: “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). And as to our death with Him unto sin: “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:11). “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
However, as we noted previously, clearing us from the negative would never qualify us for the Lord Jesus or for heaven. There had to be the positive. Innocence in itself would never do–that is but the basis for righteousness and true holiness.
Adam prior to the fall had the negative–no sin; but he did not possess the positive–the knowledge of good and evil as God knows it: that of loving the good, and hating the evil. That alone is holiness. “That ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24). It is not only that we have been forever Cross-cleared from the unholy first Adam, but we have been forever reborn into the righteous and holy Last Adam.
Having freed us from the fallen Adamic life and justified us, the Father brought us into newness of life. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 John 5:11; 1 Peter 1:3).
Once justified, we were sanctified simultaneously. “To them that are sanctified by God, the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called” (Jude 1).
Further, it was necessary that we be glorified. “Whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30).
Now the Father has the necessary work completed. “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, who is the head of all principality and power” (Col. 2:9, 10).
Hence we are in the full benefit of His finished work on our behalf–fully and forever accepted. “To the praise of the glory of his grace, through which he hath made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6).
Intimacy with Himself is the marvelous thought of our Father concerning us, who, in the first Adam, hid ourselves from His voice; and who, until He gave us in His sovereign grace to believe on His Last Adam, dreaded the very thought of meeting Him.
Formerly the thoughts of His holiness were terrible; and the contemplation of Him as light made us shrink from His presence. But the Cross of His Son, the body of the Lord Jesus in death–the end of all that we were as children of Adam, in God’s sight–has calmed every fear, and therefore we are perfectly happy in the presence of our Father. –H.F. Witherby
(The Serious Christian, Series II, Vol. II, p. 210.)
The Father accomplished all of this in His mind concerning us, and much, much more, prior to creation. Then He accomplished all of it for us in the Son, through His death, resurrection and ascension. Now He is accomplishing it in us, by His Spirit, for His Son. All will be actually completed in us at the Rapture, plus a few finishing touches at the Bema!
As co-working with the Father and the Son, think of the ministry of God the Spirit in all of this. Once He has each and every eternally chosen and called one complete and accepted in the risen Lord Jesus at the Father’s right hand in glory, once He has us positionally established there, down He comes to earth in order to place each believer there in his eternally decreed position.
On the Day of Pentecost He descended to earth and immediately began to baptize believers into their position in the Body of Christ. “For by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body” (I Cor. 12:13). And think of all that He has accomplished in order to place us in our position: He has to seek each of us in our sin, woo us, convict us, present the Saviour to us, and enable us to carry out our responsibility of accepting the Lord Jesus as our own personal Saviour.
Then, having hidden us in Him, He begins the patient, unseen, life-long work of causing us to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus–slowly conforming us to His blessed image. It is the Spirit who works all things together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to the Father’s eternal purpose.
The Holy Spirit never rests nor hesitates until He has every single called one raptured and possessed of his glorified body–so shall we ever be with the Lord. Does the Spirit then stop to draw a breath of relief, so to speak? Not He! Back down to earth he descends, to seek out from the four corners of the earth every elect Israelite, to bring him to Jerusalem and to the Messiah-King and the glorious kingdom he has been longing and waiting for.
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him.” “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh …. And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Zech. 12:10; Acts 2:17, 21).
Wrong Is Right
However wrong the self-love advocates may have proven to be thus far, they are perfectly right in the accusation that most Christians have a very poor self-image. We had better face up to this taunt, and look it in the face.
First of all there is the mass of up-front “born again” show folk, athletes, musicians, writers, TV stars, self-monument builders, and all of the other super-luminaries.
In this vast realm there is some talent, and much flash–all driven by a highly confident self-image and, for the most part, carnal to the core. Many of these, it seems, would have Christ conform to their image. This type of positive self-image and self-love is simply bizarre in comparison to the image of the Lord Jesus, in which the believer is to be conformed by the Holy Spirit.
Those who seek to build and maintain a good self-image by means of law-keeping seem to have a great advantage. Their lives for the most part are exemplary, and a great deal of good works are displayed in their walk and service. They feel good about themselves much of the time, and where sincere, make a good impression upon others.
Where the language of morality is that of rules, principles and laws, prescribing duties, asserting rights and enshrining obligations, we have moved out of the sphere of personal relations, with its emphasis on intimacy, attitudes and dispositions, and into the sphere of law, with its emphasis on generality, conformity and behaviour.
In law, as in legalistic morality, what ultimately matters is conduct, not character; as long as rules are obeyed, principles observed, laws followed, duties fulfilled and obligations met, it does not particularly matter what manner of person does them. It is more a matter of doing, than of being. –J. K.
There is only one problem. They are not like Paul, who said, “Not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:9). Paul also said, “The law is not of faith, but, ‘The man that doeth them shall live in them.’” (Gal. 3:12). J.B. Stoney supplies us with a composite of this legal mode:
The mistake with many is that they begin with the attempt to control or correct their characters or nature. It is a matter of self-culture when the standard is law and not simply the Lord Jesus Christ. And hence, after much self-control and education, they do not make any true spiritual progress.
They may be able to attain an appearance among men, as the Pharisees had done, but there is really little growth in the Lord Jesus. Their knowledge and apprehension of or satisfaction in Him is not increased, and their own consciences are not satisfied by their attainments. Their old tendencies break out when they least expect it, and they feel they have to try all the harder.
With this class of legalists there is generally a better appearance, because the flesh is not so openly or manifestly opposed as when there is a distinct attempt to displace it. The lion would much rather be tamed than put to death. It may entail serious trouble to tame him, but he cannot be trusted. Just so with the flesh; while there is only a controlling or correcting of it, it never discloses its real animosity to the Lord Jesus. And in a way the flesh is flattered by its own apparent improvement.
J.N. Darby gives a further thought along this line from his Collected Writings, Vol. X V1, p. 158:
While a Christian may be walking outwardly upright and blamelessly, it may be very feebly as a believer and without spirituality. You will find many a true Christian with nothing to reproach him as to his walk, and yet he has no spirituality whatever. If you talk to him about the risen Lord Jesus Christ there is nothing that answers. There is, between the life that is at the bottom and the blamelessness that is at the top, between him and the Lord Jesus, a whole host of affections and objects that are not Christ at all.
There is an extended stage in the growing believer’s progress when he is the epitome of the poor self-image, the very quintessence of all poor self-images. He is really the one the self-lovers are complaining about. And although they are right in their observation, they are totally wrong in their evaluation, their diagnosis–as we shall see.
Let’s trace the cause and development of this poor image of the growing believer. He, or she, becomes a Christian and starts out on the eternal path–in which, unknown to him, the way up is down. Before long he may be drawn into the charismatic error, a catastrophe from which he may never recover.
In the opposite erroneous direction the young believer may fall into the grip of a legal church or para-church organization. The result in either case is that he is organized, “disciplized,” memorized–and put to work. And from this, humanly speaking, he may never recover- -although the law may accomplish its designated “Oh, wretched man” work, in the course of time.
The theological teaching since the Reformation has never set forth clearly our utter end in death with the Lord Jesus at the Cross. The fatal result of this terrible error is to leave the Law as claimant over those in Christ: for “law has dominion over a man as long as he liveth” (Rom. 7:7).
Unless you are able to believe in your very heart that you died unto the law in Him, and that you were buried, and that your history before God in Adam the first came to an utter end at Calvary, you will never get free from the claims of the law upon your conscience. –Wm. R. Newell
Now if we were to tote up these two present-day categories, there is nothing left but a minority–the truly “poor self-image” folk. And what of this type? This believer begins well, and makes good progress for the first year or so. He loves the Lord, himself, and everyone else. But, as the saying goes, you can’t live on love alone–especially if it is puppy-love.
From the new life within, there is a yearning to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). But the more he learns of Him in the Word, the more he realizes how unlike Him he is. Hence, meaning well, he begins to try harder. He has begun to place himself under law in his effort to grow in grace.
What would be effected by the law, if all its commands and precepts were carried out and maintained? It would form man in the flesh; it would make Adam what he ought to be for God in this world. The law would only form Adam in us. –C. A. Coates
(The Believer Established, p. 36.)
But Paul states that “the just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith” (Gal. 3:11, 12). As a matter of fact, “the strength of sin is the law,” and “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (I Cor. 15:56; Rom. 3:20). It doesn’t take the law long to cool off his love, deplete his joy–and there goes his peace. Good riddance! This process usually covers years, and all the time the struggling believer is seeking to cover up his failure.
Although he may maintain an outwardly acceptable self-image, his self-love has turned to self-hatred. Good riddance for that, too! “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal” (John 12:25). He is totally unaware that the Father has him well on the path of spiritual growth. All he can think of is his utterly desperate plight and condition.
It is under these conditions that the Spirit is apprising the believer of the growth truths. He begins to see the wonderful fact of his identification with the Lord Jesus in His death unto sin, and His resurrection and ascension to “newness of life.” In time Romans 6:11 becomes his key verse, as he steadfastly seeks to reckon himself dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Jesus Christ. His expectations are high, but his new results are low.
He is making the common miscalculation. Having been saved by faith, he naturally expects to be liberated from the dominion of sin by faith. It is the Arminian error of “holiness by faith.” What he does not yet realize is that while he entered into the new birth by faith plus nothing, instantly and eternally, he is to grow by the Holy Spirit–a measured, life-time process. “Walk (step by step) in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). Faith in the facts, but dependence upon the Holy Spirit. And, let it be remembered, “if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law” (Gal. 5:18).
The Scriptures tell me what God gives me, but they do not
give it to me. The Spirit applies the Word to me in its divine meaning, and then I possess what the Word tells me is mine through God’s grace.
For instance, Scripture tells me that if I behold the Lord’s glory I shall be transformed (2 Cor. 3:18). It does not transform me, however clearly I may see what it states. It communicates to me a very great thing, but the communication is in order that a very great thing may happen to me, and this can be only by the Spirit. “Even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” –J. B. Stoney
(Ministry, Vol. VIII, p. 467.)
In this frustration the growing believer neglects to reckon himself to be alive unto God through Christ Jesus our Lord, as he diligently works to reckon himself to be dead indeed unto sin. Since his reckoning does not seem to work, he continually works himself back under the principle of law in a futile effort to free himself from the reign of indwelling sin. As Stoney says:
When grace comes in, the new believer rejoices in the assurance of forgiveness.. and, as he knows atonement, his conscience constrains him to live to please God; but this is often taken up on the principle of law, so that self-improvement becomes his great aim, and the law his standard of conduct.
(Ministry, Vol. VIII, p. 397)
Now he is well submerged in the throes of Romans Seven, as the law irresistibly brings him to the realization that he is a totally wretched man. Now he has lost both his self-love, and his acceptable self image. He is not only being crushed by the relentless power of the external law, but he is also in helpless captivity to the law of sin which is in his members (Rom. 7:23).
We were born in the first Adam. He was responsible before God to stand in righteousness. He failed. We were responsible in him and we failed. We sinned in him (Rom. 5:12, 19).
What did God do with us? He gathered us up into the Last Adam, and we died with him. God allowed His holy law to condemn us utterly and the law seeking to slay us, found us in Christ on the Cross and set upon us and slew us. “I through the law died unto the law” (Gal. 2:19). –Wm. R. Newell
“The law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth” (Rom. 7:1), but when it has cursed him, and killed him, the law has no more to say to him; and we “are become dead to the law by the body of Christ” (Rom. 7:4), for we have died judicially with Christ. The new life which we have in Him comes to us from Him in heaven, the risen Man before God. –H. F. Witherby
(The Serious Christian, Series II, Vol. II, p. 136.)
The struggling believer is in the process of seeing the truth that he has died unto the law in Christ on the Cross. In this conflict the Spirit increasingly reveals to him the awful facts concerning the old nature. He is being taken further into death, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in his mortal flesh (2 Cor. 4:11). The harder he tries to live the Christian life, the worse he proves to be. Consequently we have the classic poor self-image of the growing believer, which is exaggerated as it is compared to the legal believer and his good showing in the flesh. J.B. Stoney explains this unfair comparison to us:
The law addresses a man in the flesh, in the Adam-life. “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners” (I Tim. 1:9). “The law is good if a man use it lawfully” (I Tim. 1:8), but for the Christian to be under it is to use it unlawfully. I do not disown or ignore the old man by the law; rather, I cultivate and restrain him, and according as this is successful, I add to his self-respect and self-distinction.
On the other hand, as the Lord Jesus is known as life, man as he is in the flesh is ignored; and the Spirit, which controls and uses his body and mind as belonging to the Lord Jesus, is alone acknowledged and depended upon. The Lord Jesus is only known and maintained by His own Spirit. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).
Now there is a great difference between these two standards; and not only so, but the effect or demand which each has on me is vastly different. In the one case I am required to exalt man to the only true, proper, and divine revelation for an Adamic man; on the other hand I am required to reckon on being a dead man and accept another and a higher life, and in the power of it to manifest Him who is the fountain and source of it to me. Surely the difference is immeasurable.
Therefore, if I analyze the history of a disciple of each of these standards, I cannot fail to see that the one who is required to exalt himself to his highest moral point makes a much better experience, and walks apparently with more consistency than the one who is called to set aside the old man at every point–which is the ground he has professed to take, i.e., “Not I, but Christ,”–and to walk outside that which is of the flesh, in the Spirit of Christ, as a heavenly man.
It is plain that if I make myself my study with any true purpose, I cultivate myself to exhibit a certain commendable appearance. The law was to set up the first-Adam life in its best estate. But if through grace I seek to live outside the first Adam, and to live in the Last Adam, I am infinitely worse off in appearance when I seek to do so by the principle of law, or when I fall back to my old nature, than the one who never abandoned the old man at all.
Another thing has to be taken into account. The man who cultivates himself obtains commendation from man in a measure that the one who cultivates the life of the Lord Jesus will never receive or elicit. The one cultivates what exalts man, and therefore what suits man; the other, that which ignores and condemns man and rises above him. We must not forget that that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God (Lu. 16:15).
Many a one. falling, or failing to fly, but still accepting no lower position, is more acceptable in the eye of God than one very fair in his conduct and walk among men, who seeks only to raise himself to the standard of the law, which is the first Adam’s highest elevation.
The inconsistency complained of arises in fact not from the high position to which we are called, but from our not walking according to it. There is no fault in the high position, but it is easier to nature to walk in the lower position. But then this lower law position, however commended by man, loses all its value before God when I find He has called me to a higher one, and not to the lower at all. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).
A saint may be censured for not walking up to his high position, but one cannot be commended who excuses himself for taking a lower position to which God has not called him. “Now are we delivered from the law ‘having died to that in which we were held, that we should serve in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” (Rom. 7:6).
(Ministry, Vol. IX, p. 21-23)
As the Spirit patiently takes the hungry-hearted believer through this poor-image processing of Romans Seven, he is slowly being brought to some all-essential realizations. He is beginning to see that the actual source of sin in his life is not himself as a new creation in Christ Jesus, but that it is the sinful old Adam-life. “Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (Rom. 7:20).
Many a justified man might describe his experience in words like this: “I fully recognize, and rejoice in the fact, that I am righteous before God according to Christ risen; and this being so, nothing but Christ can be my standard of holiness or rule of life. If I could only walk up to it I think I should be a perfectly happy man. But it is one failure after another; and when I think I have got on a bit, something turns up, and I find myself as bad as ever, and the thought of this damps all my spiritual joy.”
In this stage of spiritual experience there are continual discoveries of the old man which make him more and more repulsive; and there is also the presentation of Christ again and again in which the soul finds increasing delight. Growth. “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
This repulsion and attraction go on together until the soul accepts with God the reality of the incorrigible badness of the Adamic life. This fact prepares one to see that the death of Christ severs us from our old man, and that the Lord Jesus is our life. We are free. by the finished work of the Cross, from the dominion of the man who is now so repugnant to us, and we discover with untold delight that the One who has so attracted our hearts is our very life. –C.A. Coates
However valuable and essential it is for him to see the differentiation between these two indwelling Adams–the crucified first and the ascended Last–his misery is only accentuated because of the total captivity to the law of sin which is in his members (Rom. 7:23). But all of this wretchedness is carefully calculated by the indwelling Holy Spirit to bring him to the truth of these two following statements:
“Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Rom. 7:24, 25).
His Spirit-wrought wretchedness has finally brought him to understand that reckoning himself dead to sin does not liberate him from the power of sin itself, but rather it delivers him to the Deliverer.
I must not only see my position in the risen Lord Jesus, but I must come near to the One who set me there. Many are disappointed that after hearing the truth and reckoning on their position they are not more affected by it.
The reason is that they rest too much in the position and have not occupied themselves increasingly with their risen Lord; have not drawn nearer to Him, and recognized Him as the only One who can make it all experiential to them.
Conception of a truth is one thing, and execution is quite another. Grace may have furnished you with a true conception, but you must depend and wait on the Holy Spirit to carry it out. The working out of a true conception is the real discipline. –J. B. Stoney
(Letters, Vol. II, pp. 200, 249)
Slowly the Spirit turns the believer’s attention to where and who he is in the risen Lord Jesus Christ, who is his Christian life. The Spirit speaks to his heart by means of the Word: “If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth. For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1–3, ASV).
It is a wonderful moment for the believer when by faith he occupies his position in the favor of his Father–when he knows that he is received by Him in all the acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He does not then think of himself, of his worthiness or unworthiness, at all. He thinks of the Lord Jesus–His perfections, His suitability to divine favor, His infinite acceptance with the Father–and by faith, he has access into the favor of which He is so worthy. –C.A. Coates
(Spiritual Blessings, p. 34)
The Great Divide
This is the spiritual watershed, the great turning point in the life of the growing believer. Knowing and counting upon the fact that he is “alive unto God in Jesus Christ” – that he is free to turn his full affection and faith upon the risen Lord Jesus in whom he is; yes, with Him where He is before the Father in glory.
The reality in the Christian life is in the measure in which the Lord Jesus is the Object. There is where the Christian is happy. His soul’s affections are set free and occupied with Him. He is the One we love and delight in, and we rejoice to be with Him, and hunger to be like Him.
If your heart is dragging through this world, and you are trying to get as free from all the spots as you can, you cannot be happy. This personal abiding life is real liberty of heart, and that is what happiness means. –J. N. Darby
(Collected Writings, Vol. XXVIII, p. 283)
It is thus by occupation with, feeding upon, and contemplating the risen Lord Jesus that we are brought, by the Holy Spirit, into fellowship with our Father; enabled to enter into His own thoughts concerning, and even to share His own affections for, that blessed One who is now seated at His own right hand. Surely here, then, is the source of all growth, strength, and blessing! –E. Dennett
(The Spiritual Christian, Vol. XVII, p. 88)
“No Longer I”
Rather than being wretched and distracted by what may be going on within him, he is progressively occupied with the One in whom he is. The Holy Spirit is establishing the growing believer in one of the principles of growth as set forth in 2 Corinthians 5:15–”And that he died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again.”
The believer accepts the Lord Jesus, and finds life in Him, outside the life and being which is judged in the Cross; and as he lives in this life, now his in the Lord Jesus, he is consciously above and apart from all that man which was judged at Calvary; so that he seeks to live no longer unto himself, but unto Him who died for him, and rose again. –J.B. Stoney
(Ministry, Vol. VII, p. 318.)
The Lord Jesus in glory, and He alone, is faith’s object; it knows no other. Ought I to have faith in myself? Ought I to have an object there? The Cross of the Lord Jesus, then, is the death of the old man. His grave its burial, that, burying my dead out of my sight, I may be free to concentrate upon the One who is not dead, but living, and in Whom I live. –F. W. Grant
(Leaves From the Book, p. 216.)
The progressing believer is learning, by faith, to rest in his position in the Lord Jesus, in the presence of his Father. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who once were far off are made near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13). He knows that “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son” (I Cor. 1:9).
What many legalists object to is the wonderful position in which grace sets us. I have often asked myself what is the measure of grace? No one can tell, because it is not the need which is the measure of grace, but the Father’s heart which is the measure.
He has removed everything to His entire satisfaction in the Cross of the Lord Jesus, so that He can now do His heart’s pleasure in taking this poor prodigal and conducting him into all the blessing of His own presence, and that not by and by, but now (Eph. 2:13). –J. B. Stoney
(Ministry, Vol. V, p. 265.)
Further, the maturing one is given more light and assurance as to 2 Corinthians 5:17–”Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” By faith he has “put on the new man, that is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:10). He also has the spiritual awareness that he is predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, and that all things are working together for his good according to that purpose (Rom. 8:28, 29).
Walking in the Spirit, He leads our hearts to where we are in the risen Lord Jesus. The new man finds delight in Him, nowhere else. The Spirit is the living link between us and Christ Jesus in glory. He causes us to gaze upon Him, and we slowly become changed into the same image from glory to glory. This is true Christianity–the heart drawn off from things here, and lovingly occupied with the One who is our life. –W. W. Fereday
(The Bible Treasury, Vol. N 1, p. 285.)
Now the believer knows who is his Christian life; he abides in and looks upon his Source of life. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). As he looks upon and fellowships with the Father and the Son, the Spirit carries out His ministry within. “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).
The Christian’s Self-image
We have finally arrived at the purpose of this paper! The growing believer understands that he is a new man in the Man, the glorified Man, Christ Jesus. “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” “For we are members of his body of his flesh, and of his bones.” (1 Cor. 6:17; Eph. 5:30). He knows that he is a new creation in Christ; that he has the divine nature of the very essence of the Lord Jesus’ glorified Manhood.
Just here we would make it very clear that our Christian life consists of the divine nature of the Lord Jesus’ glorified Manhood. We do not, nor shall we ever, partake of His Godhood. Further, we repudiate in toto the faith-fantasy theory of “holiness by faith,” along with the no-nature teaching that “now I am Christ in human form”?
The believer is now before the Father, not in the man who was under judgment, but in the Man who has glorified God in bearing the judgment; and consequently, there is not a cloud between his soul and the Father, because the man who caused the distance has been judicially displaced in the judgment of the Cross. –J. B. Stoney
(Ministry, Vol. VIII, p. 285.)
There can be no doubt as to the believer’s self-image. It is nothing less than the risen Lord Jesus Christ, who in turn is the express image of the Father. When the believer looks upon the Lord Jesus, via the Word, he is contemplating his own Christian image. That is how he is to see himself; that is how the Father sees him. There is his rest and his confidence–and the indwelling Spirit of Christ begins to reflect that image in his Christian walk and service.
The believer is positioned before the Father according to the beauty of the Lord Jesus, and is, according to the Father’s eye and heart, as His Beloved.
By faith, the believer has taken upon him the beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has been made the righteousness of God in Him. He is “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). Faith alone gives him all this comeliness. He has been re-created in the Lord Jesus–he has “put on Christ. ” This is the beauty of the believer; and he is lovely in the eye of the Lord Jesus. “So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty; for he is thy Lord, and worship thou him” (Ps. 45:17).
The Christian’s Self-love
We can now forget the indwelling first Adam and his totally ruined and rejected self-image. We can also forget about him in his unrecoverable innocence–that is not our Father’s intention or purpose for members of the Body of His Son. We have been made free to fellowship with and rejoice in the Last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Since the Lord Jesus is our Christian life, to love Him is true Christian self-love. If you want to love and esteem yourself, love and esteem Him, who is your life!