3-10 Private People: The Problem of Introverted Christians
Many brethren and sisters struggle with the problem of feeling rejected. It may be that we preached zealously, distributed leaflets, placed advertisements, tutored students, spoke to our family and contacts about the Truth- and ultimately, there was no response. Our efforts were rejected and even mocked. Or it may be that we feel not accepted somehow by our brethren, not understood, not appreciated. This can especially be a problem in small ecclesias of new converts. Our high expectations of our Christian brethren may be dashed by negative experiences with them. Perhaps the thought can even occur to us that they simply don't live the Truth as they should in the small things of life, but it is just pointless to try to correct them. And what seem to us to be their failings can start to irritate us unbearably, until in some way we retreat from them. Or it may be that we have been unfairly rejected on a formal level by the Christians with whom we once associated, even though we know we have not changed our beliefs at all. All these are very real problems which many readers face. Our likely response is not necessarily to question our faith, but rather to become private people; to withdraw onto our own spiritual island, to have responsibility for ourselves alone, to look inwards.
Unfortunately, we live in a world which encourages us to adopt this kind of stance. Sometimes as one stands on a corner distributing leaflets to an endless stream of people, it seems to me that in essence, their faces all tell the same story: private people, very private, who can't open to anyone. At work people play games to survive and keep their job down; they return to a domestic life usually centred on the television (and this increasingly applies to African family life too, not just European). All attention is there on that box, rather than on inter-personal contact between the family members. And they rise again in the morning to the same old scene. Weekend and holiday relaxation becomes simply a method of letting off nervous stress. 'Entertainment' becomes a tickling of the senses rather than a serious expression of thought. 'Religion' becomes a kind of self-help psychology for the hobbyist, designed to help the private needs of the individual. And thus the art of deep conversation and personal communication- and it is an art- is rapidly being lost. Serious, deep, open-hearted discussion of anything, not just religion, is a rarity. The idea of responsibility for others goes out of the window- whether for their spiritual needs, or for the need of an elderly woman for some help to climb onto a bus. No wonder relationships of every kind break down all around us. No wonder there are so many introverted Christians.
On a human level, I could answer the feeling of disappointment, rejection and lack of appreciation by saying that generally in every office department, every school or college, every society, every family unit- those who really work and sweat themselves are usually unrecognized or treated badly by those they do so much for. But for us who have been eternally redeemed by the outgoing, outflowing love of the Father and Son, redeemed by pure, undeserved grace: we are called to not just to do a bit better than our neighbour, not just to grin and bear it and keep on, but to go right against this tide, to walk out squarely against that wind. It is not for us to be private people. Whilst holding on to our intensely personal relationship with the Lord who bought us, we are called to be lights in this dark world, to show forth, time and again, in the face of every kind of rejection, the constant unselfishness which was epitomized in the cross. John began his Gospel record with this theme clearly in mind: that the glorious light of the Lord's life and character was a solitary light, in the midst of a darkness which although generally uninfluenced by it, was unable to overcome it (Jn. 1:5-9).
But a very few in that darkness did receive the light. There are some fine passages in the New Testament which dwell upon the spirit of true service which was shown forth on the cross, both by the Father and Son. There the love that passeth knowledge (Eph. 3:19), love unto the end (Jn. 13:1), greater love than was ever showed (Jn. 15:13), was poured out and spat upon and rejected and mocked by those for whom it was shown- for first and foremost, the Lord Jesus died to redeem Israel, those who rejected and slew Him (Gal. 4:5). Our Gentile salvation is only by taking part in the hope and salvation of Israel. And even for those who would ultimately accept the Lord's love, we were then enemies and sinners. God commendeth His love to us (as if He should need to...), in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:8). When we were enemies, we were reconciled by the cross (Rom. 5:10 cp. Eph. 2:12-14).
And those few, those very few, who at the time of the cross claimed to have accepted the Lord- they had forsaken Him and fled. They became introverted Christians. " Ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone" (Jn. 16:32). Each of them ran off to their own little family, to safeguard their own petty little human possessions, and left Him alone; alone, when He most needed some human comfort and compassion, a wave from a friend in the crowd, a few silently mouthed words, a catching of the eye, perhaps even the courtesy of a brief hand-shake or clap on the shoulders before the 11 ran off into the night, the word 'thank-you' called out as He stumbled along the Via Dolorosa. But nothing. They cleared off, they got out, every man to his own. And the pain of betrayal with a kiss by a man He was gracious enough to think of as His equal, with whom He had shared sweet fellowship (Ps. 55:13,14). And to hear Peter's cursing, perhaps cursing of Him; his denial that he'd ever known the guy from Nazareth. And yet in the face of all this, the Lord went on: He laid down His life for us, we who betrayed Him, scattered from Him, hated Him, did Him to death in the most degrading and painful way our race knew how. In the face of rejection to the uttermost, He served us to the end, even to death, and even to the death of the cross.
God And The Cross
And it was not only the Lord Jesus who did all this for us, in the face of such rejection and lack of appreciation. There is good reason to understand that in those wretched hours of crucifixion, God was especially manifested to the world. There was a matchless, never to be surpassed partnership between Father and Son in the cross. God was in Christ on the cross, reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Cor. 5:19). There the Lord Jesus manifested and declared the Father's Name, His essential character, to the full (Jn. 12:28; 13:31,32; 17:5,6,26). The Lord's references to 'going to the Father' referred to His coming crucifixion. In the very moment of His death the observing Centurion gasped, twice: " Truly this was the Son of God" (Mk. 15:40; Lk. 23:46). There was something so evidently Godly in that death. God was so near.
There are a number of incidental reasons for seeing the cross as the ultimate manifestation / declaration of God Himself.
- According to some, " Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" written in Hebrew would require the use of words, the first letters of which created the word YHWH. This is why the Jews minded it so strongly when the title was put up. Pilate’s retort “What I have written I have written” may well have been an oblique reference to ‘I am that I am’. It was his attempt to have the last laugh with the Jews who had manipulated him into crucifying a man against whom there was no real charge. It was as if the Lord suffered as He did with a placard above Him which effectively said: 'This is Yahweh'. The Name was declared there, as the Lord had foreseen (Jn. 17:26). The declaration of Yahweh’s Name to Moses in Ex. 34:6 thus becomes a foretaste of the Lord’s crucifixion. Some texts render Ex. 34:6 as ‘Yahweh, Yahweh, a man full of mercy....’. In the crucifixion of the man Christ Jesus, the essence of Yahweh was declared. And we, John says with reference to the cross, saw that glory,as it were cowering in the rock like Moses, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14 cp. Ex. 34:6 RV).
- The Lord was crucified for blasphemy; this was the charge on which He was found guilty at His trial by the Jews, and the basis upon which they demanded His crucifixion. The Mishnah claims that this was only possible if someone actually used the Yahweh Name. Sanhedrin 7.5 outlines the protocol for condemning someone for this, in terms which have accurate correspondence with the Lord’s trial: “The blasphemer is not guilty until he have expressly uttered the Name...When the trial is over...the judges stand up and rend their clothes” (quoted in F.F. Bruce, The Spreading Flame, 1995 ed., p. 53). So when the Lord responded to their question as to His Messiahship by saying “I am”, and went on to appropriate the Messianic words of Dan. 7:13 and Ps. 110:1 to Himself, He must have explicitly used the Yahweh Name about Himself. This is why they were so quick to accuse Him of blasphemy, and why the High Priest rent his clothes. The Lord died because He declared the Yahweh Name, unashamedly, knowing that His declaration of it would take Him to the cross. Our declaration of the essence of Yahweh, by truthfulness, forgiveness...this may cost us, although maybe not so dearly. Yet we can be inspired by the Lord’s example. This also explains why, as suggested above, Pilate tried to have the last laugh over the Jews by writing the Lord’s ‘crime’ over His body in such a way which spelt out the name ‘Yahweh’.
- It has been observed that the blood of the Passover Lamb on the lintels of the doors at the Exodus, three sides of a square, would have recalled the Hebrew letter repeated in ‘Yahweh’, as if His Name was manifested in the blood of the slain lamb.
- Yahweh laid on the Lord the iniquity of us all, as if He was present there when the soldiers laid the cross upon the Lord's shoulders (Is. 53:6).
- Yahweh had prophesied of what He would achieve through the crucified Christ: “I am, I am: He that blots out thy trangressions” (Is. 43:25 LXX). He declares His Name as being supremely demonstrated in His forgiveness of our sins through and in the Lord’s cross.
- The LXX uses the word translated “propitiation” in the NT with reference to how God forgave / propitiated for Israel’s sins for His Name’s sake (Ex. 32:14; Ps. 79:9). That propitiation was only for the sake of the Lord’s future death, which would be the propitiation God ultimately accepted. Having no past or future with Him, Yahweh could act as if His Son’s death had already occurred. But that death and forgiveness for “His name’s sake” were one and the same thing. The Son’s death was the expression of the Father’s Name.
- There was a Jewish tradition that the only time when the Yahweh Name could be pronounced was by the High Priest, when he sprinkled the blood of Israel's atonement on the altar. The Name was expressed in that blood.
- The Red Heifer was to be slain before the face of the priest, " as he watches" (Num. 19:3-5 NIV), pointing forward to the Lord's slaughter in the personal presence of the Father.
- It seems reasonable to conclude that Isaac was offered on or near the hill of Calvary, one of the hills (Heb.) near Jerusalem, in the ancient “land of Moriah” (cp. 2 Chron. 3:1). The name given to the place, Yahweh-Yireh, means ‘in this mount I have seen Yahweh’. The events of the death and resurrection of the Lord which Isaac’s experience pointed forward to were therefore the prophesied ‘seeing’ of Yahweh.
- Paul saw the cross of Christ as parallel with “the things of the Spirit of God”, the wisdom of God, what eye has not seen nor ear heard, but what is revealed unto the believer and not to the world (1 Cor. 1:18,23,24; 2:7-13). The cross of Christ was the supreme expression of the Spirit of God, and it’s true meaning is incomprehensible to the world. In the cross, according to Paul’s allusion back to Isaiah, God bowed the Heavens and came down. He did wonderful things which we looked not for. The thick darkness there is to be associated with a theophany presence of God Himself.
- The smitten rock was an evident type of the Lord’s smiting on the cross. And yet in Deuteronomy especially it is made clear that Israel were to understand Yahweh as their rock. And yet “that rock was Christ”. God Himself said that he would stand upon the rock as it was smitten- presumably fulfilled by the Angel standing or hovering above / upon the rock, while Moses smote it. And yet again it is Yahweh who is described as smiting the rock in Ps. 78 and Is. 48:21. He was with Christ, directly identified with Him, at the very same time as He ‘smote’ Him.
- Consider the implications of 2 Cor. 5:20: “On behalf of Christ, as though God were intreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ: be ye reconciled to God [because] him who knew no sin he made to be a sin [a sin offering?] on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him”. Because of the cross, the atonement which God wrought in Christ’s offering, we beseech men to be reconciled to God. Appreciating the cross and the nature of the atonement should be the basis of our appeal to men. And indeed, such an appeal is God appealing to men and women, in that there on the cross “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself”. The blood and spittle covered body of the Lord lifted up was and is the appeal, the beseeching of God Himself to men. And this is the message that we are honoured to preach on His behalf; we preach the appeal of God through the cross.
- “Behold, the hour [s.w. “time”] cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (Jn. 16:32). The Lord’s ‘hour’ which was to come was His death (Jn. 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23,27; 13:1; 17:1; 19:27). The disciples scattered at the crucifixion, probably they came to see it and then scattered in fear after the first hour or so. But He was not left alone; for the Father was with Him there. Just as John began his Gospel by saying that “the word was with God”, with specific reference to the cross (see The Cross In John’s Gospel for justification of this).
- Both Jew and Gentile were gathered together against the Lord (God) and His Christ on the cross (Acts 4:26). Peter thus makes a connection between the Father and Son on the cross.
- There are several NT passages which make an explicit link between God and Jesus in the context of the salvation of men. Phrases such as “God our Saviour, Jesus...” are relatively common in the pastorals (1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; Tit. 1:3,4; 2:10 cp. 13 and see also Jude 24; 2 Pet. 1:1). These and many other passages quoted by trinitarians evidently don’t mean that ‘Jesus = God’ in the way they take them to mean. But what they are saying is that there was an intense unity between the Father and Son in the work of salvation achieved on the cross.
- Just before His death, the Saviour spoke of going to the Father, and coming again in resurrection (Jn. 13:36,37 cp. 14:28; 16:16,17; 17:11). He somehow saw the cross as a being with God, a going to Him there (‘going to the Father’ in these Johanine passages is hard to apply to His ascent to Heaven after the resurrection). Note in passing that when in this context He speaks of us coming to the Father, He refers to our taking up of His cross, and in this coming to the essence of God (Jn. 14:6 cp. 4, 13:36).
- The altar " Jehovah-Nissi" connected Yahweh personally with the pole / standard / ensign of Israel (Ex. 17:15). Yet nissi is the Hebrew word used for the pole on which the brass serpent was lifted up, and for the standard pole which would lift up Christ. Somehow Yahweh Himself was essentially connected with the cross of Christ. “There is no God else beside; a just God and a Saviour (Jesus)...look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth” (Is. 45:21,22) is evident allusion to the snake on the pole to which all Israel were bidden look and be saved. And yet that saving symbol of the crucified Jesus is in fact God Himself held up to all men.
- " God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself" (2 Cor. 5:19) seems to be a comment on the death, rather than the nature, of the Lord Jesus. It is in the context of the statement that Christ died for all men (2 Cor. 5:14). In that death, God was especially in Christ. Perhaps it was partly with reference to the cross that the Lord said: “I shall shew you plainly of the Father” (Jn. 16:25).
- The mention that Jesus stood before Pilate “in a place that is called the Pavement” (Jn. 19:13) reminds us of Ex. 24:10, where Yahweh was enthroned in glory on another ‘pavement’ when the old covenant was made with Israel. The New Covenant was inaugurated with something similar. “In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9) would have been easily perceived as an allusion to the way that Yahweh Himself as it were dwelt between the cherubim on the mercy seat (2 Kings 19:15; Ps. 80:1). And yet the Lord Jesus in His death was the “[place of] propitiation” (Heb. 2:17), the blood-sprinkled mercy seat. “There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat...of all things which I will give thee in commandment” (Ex. 25:20-22). In the cross, God met with man and communed with us, commanding us the life we ought to lead through all the unspoken, unarticulated imperatives which there are within the blood of His Son. There in the person of Jesus nailed to the tree do we find the focus of God’s glory and self-revelation, and to this place we may come to seek redemption.
- The High Priest on the day of Atonement sprinkled the blood eastwards, on the mercy seat. He would therefore have had to walk round to God's side of the mercy seat and sprinkle the blood back the way he had come. This would have given the picture of the blood coming out from the presence of God Himself; as if He was the sacrifice. Acts 20:28 seems to teach (in the AV) that God purchased the church with His own blood. His manifestation in His Son was especially intense.
- There are links between the concept of ‘truth’ and the cross. In Ps. 60:4 God’s Truth is displayed on the banner (s.w. “pole” , on which the snake was lifted up). John struggled with words, even under inspiration, to get over to us the tremendous truth and reality of what he witnessed at the cross (Jn. 19:35). God is the ultimate Truth, and the cross was the ultimate declaration of His Truth. I would even suggest a chronological progression in Jn. 1:14:
“The word was made flesh”- His birth
“And dwelt among us”- His life
“And we beheld his glory, full of grace and truth”- His death on the cross. Christ’s glory is elsewhere used by John with reference to the glory He displayed on the cross (Jn. 12:38-41; 12:28; 13:32; 17:1,5,24). John thus begins his Gospel with the statement that he saw the Lord’s death. However, it is also so that John “saw his glory” at the transfiguration; and yet even there, “they saw his glory” (Lk. 9:32) as “they spake of his decease which he should accomplish”. His glory and His death were ever linked. The fullness of grace and truth is one of John’s many allusions to Moses’ experience when the Name was declared to him- of Yahweh, a God full of grace and truth (Ex. 34:6 RV). The Name was fully declared, as fully as could be, in the cross. The Law gave way, through the cross, to the grace and truth that was revealed by Christ after the Law ended (Jn. 1:17). In His dead, outspent body grace and truth finally replaced law. John goes on to say that the Son has declared the invisible God (Jn. 1:18)- another reference to the cross. The implication may be that as Moses cowered before the glory of the Lord, even he exceedingly feared and quaked, we likewise should make an appropriate response to the glory that was and is (note John’s tenses) displayed to us in the cross.
Isa 64:1-4 had foretold: “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence...For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him”. This latter verse is quoted in 1 Cor. 2 about how the “foolishness” of the cross is not accepted by the wise of this world. Only the humble and spiritually perceptive eye of faith realized that there in the naked shame of Golgotha, God Himself had as it were rent the heavens and come down, as all the faithful had somehow, in some sense, foreseen and yearned for. There, in the battered body of Jesus, was God revealed to men.
1 Tim. 3:16 seems to have been a well known confessional formula in the first century church; perhaps it was recited by the candidate in the water before being baptized. It can be read as a chronological description of the Lord's death and resurrection:
1. " God was manifested in the flesh" in the Lord's crucifixion, not just His life. The manifestation of the Son was supremely in His death (s.w. 1 Jn. 3:5,8; 4:9 cp. Jn. 3:16; Heb. 9:26 Gk.; Jn. 17:6 cp. 26).
2. " Justified in the Spirit" - the resurrection (Rom. 1:4)
3. " Seen of Angels" - at the tomb (Mt. 28:2)
4. 'Preached unto the Gentiles for belief in the world' (Gk.)- cp. Mk. 16:15,16
5. " Received up into glory" - what happened straight after the commission to preach the Gospel world-wide.
This chronological approach suggests that " God was manifest in the flesh" refers to the Father's especial manifestation in His Son's crucified human nature during those hours of final suffering- rather than just to His birth. There on Calvary, Almighty God Himself was supremely revealed. He, God Himself, was despised and rejected by men; His love and self-sacrifice were so cruelly spurned; He was spat upon and made the song of the drunkards (Ps. 69:12).
The crucified Son of God was the full representation of God. The love of Christ was shown in His cross; and through the Spirit's enlightenment we can know the height, length, breadth of that love (Eph. 3:18,19). But this passage in Ephesians is building on Job 11:7-9: " Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is high as heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth and broader than the sea" . The purpose of the connection is to show that through appreciating the love of Christ, unknowable to the unenlightened mind, we see the Almighty unto perfection, in a way which the Old Testament believers were unable to do. It was as high as Heaven, and what could they do? And yet it must be confessed that we do not in practice attain to such fullness of knowledge and vision. We look to the Kingdom, one of the excellencies of which will be the full grasp of the Almighty unto perfection, as manifest in the death of His Son. All we now know is that that cross was the fullness of God, it was " the Almighty unto perfection" . But then, we shall know, we shall find it out.
The Form Of God
Philippians 2:6-9 describes the progressive humiliation of the Lord Jesus on the cross (not in His birth, as Trinitarian theology has mistakenly supposed. Note the allusions back to Isaiah 53). There He was supremely " in the form of God" , but notwithstanding this He took even further the form of a servant. In that blood and spittle covered humility and service, we see the very form and essence of God. My understanding of Phil. 2:8 is that being in the form of God, being the Son of God and having equality with God are parallel statements. The Lord understood being 'equal with God' as some kind of idiom for His Divine Sonship (Jn. 5:18; 10:33; 19:7). He was in God's form, as His Son, and He therefore didn't consider equality with God something to be snatched; He had it already, in that He was the Son of God. In other words, " He considered it not robbery to be equal with God" is to be read as a description of the exaltedness of His position as Son of God; not as meaning that it never even occurred to Him to try to be equal with God. He was equal with God in the sense that He and the Father were one, spiritually, and on account of the fact that Jesus was the begotten Son of the Father.
This interpretation depends upon understanding 'being equal with God' as an idiom for being the Son of God; it doesn't mean that 'Jesus is God' in the Trinitarian sense. There, on the cross, the Lord Jesus was the form of God, equal with God in that sense, the only begotten Son. And yet on the cross His form was marred more than that of any man, He finally had no form that could be desired (Is. 52:14; 53:2). And yet this was the form of God. He was contorted and marred more than ever, there was no beauty in Him that men should desire Him, in those hours in which His Son suffered there. The Lord Jesus then had the form of God, although in His mind He had taken the form of a servant. The Lord made Himself a servant in His mind; He looked not on His own things, but on those of others (Phil. 2:4,7). This is the context of Philippians 2; that we should have the mind of Christ, who disregarded His own status as Son of God and humbled Himself, even to death on the cross (1), so that we might share His status. His example really is ours, Paul is saying (which precludes this passage describing any 'incarnation' at the birth of Christ). The Lord had spoken about the crucial need for a man to humble himself if he is to be exalted (Lk. 14:11); and this is evidently in Paul's mind when he writes of Christ humbling Himself and then being exalted. He saw that the Lord lived out on the cross what He had asked of us all. If that example must be ours, we can't quit just because we feel rejected and misunderstood and not appreciated by our brethren. For this is the very essence of the cross we are asked to share.
The Serving Master
The Lord taking upon himself the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7) is to be connected with how at the Last Supper, He took (s.w.) a towel and girded Himself for service (Jn. 13:4). He was no introverted Christian. The connection between the Last Supper and Phil. 2, which describes the Lord's death on the cross, would suggest that the Lord's washing the disciples' feet was an epitome of His whole sacrifice on the cross. The passage describing the Last Supper begins with the statement that the Lord " loved us unto the end" (Jn. 13:1). This is an evident description of the cross itself; and yet His service of His followers at the Last Supper was therefore an epitome of the cross. As that Supper was " prepared" (Mt. 26:17,19), so the Lord on the cross " prepared" a place for us in the Kingdom (Jn. 14:1 s.w.). As the observing disciples didn't understand what the Lord was doing by washing their feet, so they didn't understand the way to the cross (Jn. 13:7 cp. 36). There is thus a parallel between the feet washing and His death. But in both cases, the Lord Jesus promised them that there was coming a time when they would understand His washing of their feet; and then they would know the way to the cross, and follow Him.
John describes the Lord laying aside His clothes in order to wash the feet of His followers with the same word he frequently employs to describe how Christ of His own volition laid down His life on the cross, as an act of the will (Jn. 10:11,15,17,18); and how later His sacrificed body was laid aside (19:41,42; 20:2,13,15). As the Lord laid Himself down for us, epitomized by that deft laying aside of His clothes, so, John reasons, we must likewise purposefully lay down our lives for our brethren (1 Jn. 3:16). As He did at the last supper, so He bids us do for each other. John uses the same word for Christ's " garments" in his records of both the last supper and the crucifixion (13:4,12 cp. 19:23). It could be noted that the man at the supper without garments was seen by the Lord as a symbol of the unworthy (Mt. 22:11 cp. Lk. 14:16,17). He humbled Himself to the level of a sinner; He created the story of the sinful man who could not lift up His eyes to Heaven to illustrate what He meant by a man humbling himself so that he might be exalted (Lk. 18:14). And He humbled Himself (Phil. 2:9), He took upon Himself the form of a servant and of a sinner, both in the last supper and the final crucifixion which it epitomized. As the Lord Jesus laid aside His garments and then washed the disciples' feet with only a towel around His waist, so at the crucifixion He laid aside His clothes and perhaps with a like nakedness, served us unto the end: the betrayers and the indifferent and the cautiously believing alike. Throughout the record of the Last Supper, there is ample evidence on the Lord's awareness of Judas' betrayal (Jn. 13:10,11,18,21,25). The account in 1 Cor. 11:23 likewise stresses how the Supper was performed with the Lord's full awareness of Judas' betrayal. It is perhaps therefore inevitable that we in some ways struggle with the problems of rejection, of betrayal, of being misunderstood and not appreciated by our brethren. For these were all essential parts of the Lord's passion, which He asks us to share with Him.
The Lord Jesus " humbled himself" , and was later " highly exalted" (Phil. 2:9), practising His earlier teaching that he who would humble himself and take the lowest seat at the meal would be exalted higher (Mt. 23:11,12; Lk. 14:10,11). The Lord Jesus at the Last Supper humbled Himself from the seat of honour which He had and took not only the lowest seat, but even lower than that: He washed their feet as the servant who didn't even have a place at the meal. And both James and Peter saw the Lord's humbling Himself at that supper and His subsequent exaltation as a direct pattern for us to copy (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6). Paul takes things one stage even further. He speaks of how he humbled himself, so that his hopelessly weak and ungrateful brethren might be exalted (2 Cor. 11:7). He is evidently alluding to the Gospel passages which speak of how we must humble ourselves so that we may be exalted (Mt. 23:11,12; Lk. 14:10,11). But Paul sees his exaltation, which his humbling would enable, as being identical to theirs. He doesn't say: 'I humbled myself so that I may be exalted'. He speaks of how he humbled himself so that they might be exalted.
He saw his reward, his eternal destiny, as so intimately bound up with theirs. " For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For ye are our glory and joy" (1 Thess. 2:19,20; Phil. 4:1). This was why Paul could just not restrain himself any longer when for a time he had no news from the Thessalonians; he so earnestly wanted to know of their spiritual growth (1 Thess. 3:5,6). If they failed to be in the Kingdom, it would be a great personal loss to Paul (1 Cor. 3:11-15); even though he himself would be saved. Thus he feared greatly if his labour for the converts had been in vain (Gal. 2:2; 4:11; Phil. 2:16). Paul looked to that very moment when the sentence of acceptance would be pronounced at the judgment seat; he imagined them being accepted, and truly felt that they, then, would be his crown of reward. They being in the Kingdom was his reward. The Philippians being there would be Paul's eternal joy (Phil. 2:16). Their spiritual strength was all Paul lived for; he lived, if they stood fast (1 Thess. 3:8). If any stumbled from the faith, he felt as if he was already being burned in the symbolic fire of their condemnation; he was weak in the faith if they were (2 Cor. 11:29). John likewise saw a parallel between looking to ourselves and looking to the doctrinal welfare of our converts, as if their reward and ours are bound together (2 Jn. 8 cp. Jn. 15:16). After the pattern of the Reubenites, we have been given the promised rest of the Kingdom here and now (Josh. 1:13 cp. Heb. 4:3); but we will, like them, only take possession of that inheritance after we have ensured that our brethren have received their possession (Josh. 1:15). Josh. 1:13,15 present a paradox: the Reubenites were given their " rest" , but they would only get their " rest" once their brethren had. Those Reubenites really were symbols of us: for this passage is surely behind the reasoning of Heb. 4, where we are told that we have entered into rest, but that we must labour if we want to enter into it.
" If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death...if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not...He that keepeth thy soul (as you should keep your brother's), doth not he know it? and shall he not (at the judgment seat) render to every man according to his works" for others (Prov. 24:12 cp. Rev. 22:12)? The redemption of our brethren is so tied to our personal redemption. And likewise with the Lord; we cannot separate His salvation, nor His cross and resurrection, from ours. And further, we cannot separate our salvation from that of our brethren. These things all follow from the profound implications of our being part of the one body of Christ. Thus " Christ" is not only the personal title of the Lord Jesus, but also of the whole community of believers who comprise His body (1 Cor. 12:12). To love Christ is therefore to care for His people (Jn. 21:15-17).
If we love the Father, we must love all those whom He has begotten (1 Jn. 5:1,2). We can't be introverted Christians. If we love the children of God, this is the proof that we truly love God. We simply can't claim to love the Father and Son if we have the 'private people' mindset. Cain, the epitome of 'the devil' (Jn. 8:44), was characterized by the attitude that he was not his brother's keeper (Gen. 4:9). It was for this reason that his sacrifice wasn't accepted; it was not impossible for God to accept non-blood sacrifices (Num. 15:17-21; 18:12,13; Dt. 26:1-4). But the Lord Jesus perhaps offered a commentary on the incident when he said that our offering can only be accepted if we are first reconciled to our brother (Mt. 5:24). Cain's insistent lack of responsibility for his brother was the real sin, and therefore his sacrifice wasn't accepted by God. He wanted to serve God his own way, disregard his brother, justify his disagreement with him... to be a private person. But this was the basis of his rejection. Our unity with the rest of the body doesn't only mean that we must have a sense of unity with and responsibility for the rest of our brethren whom we now know. David seems to have sensed his unity with the rest of the body over time, not just over space at the present time. He felt as if he was with Israel at the Red Sea, that their wondrous deliverance really was his, in the crises of his own life. And great Paul likewise had this sense. He confidently expected that he would be alive at the Lord's return, and would not therefore need bodily resurrection from death (1 Cor. 15:51; 1 Thess. 4:15). And yet he speaks of how " God not only raised our Lord from the dead; he will also raise us by his own power" (1 Cor. 6:14; 2 Cor. 4:14). This is no contradiction; it's simply that there were times when Paul so strongly associated himself with the rest of the body of Christ in the past that he spoke as if he with them would be raised from the grave.
And so we return to our original problem: being private people. Crying out for understanding and appreciation and gratitude, not finding it, and withdrawing into ourselves, joining the crowds of hopelessly private people who surround us. But we are faced with the kneeling, washing, towel-holding Son of God as our living example, and the matchless pattern of the love of the Father and Son on the cross: a suffering, self-crucifying love which shone through the cruellest of rejection, of lack of appreciation. And it kept on shining, and even now keeps on shining in the hearts of all His true people, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). And we all, with unveiled face, " beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory" (2 Cor. 3:18).
(1) Note how the seven downward steps in the Saviour's humiliation (Phil. 2:6-8) are followed in vv. 9-11 by seven upward steps of glorification.