29. Like Christ: In His Life Through The Father.
"Even as I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me."óJohn 6:57.
Every contemplation of a walk in the footsteps of Christ, and in His likeness, reveals anew the need of fixing the eye on the deep living union between the Forerunner and His followers. Like Christ: the longer we meditate on the word, the more we realize how impossible it is without that other: In Christ. The outward likeness can only be the manifestation of a living inward union. To do the same works as Christ, I must have the same life. The more earnestly I take Him for my example, the more I am driven to Him as my Head. Only an inner life essentially like His, can lead us to a visible walk like His.
What a blessed word we have here, to assure us that His life on earth and ours are really like each other: "Even as I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." If you desire to understand your life in Christ, what He will be for you and how He will work in you, you have only to contemplate what the Father was for, and how He worked in Him. Christís life in and through the Father is the image and the measure of what your life in and through the Son may be. Let us meditate on this.
As Christís life was a life hidden in God in heaven, so must ours be. When He emptied Himself of His Divine glory, He laid aside the free use of His Divine attributes. He needed thus as a man to live by faith; He needed to wait on the Father for such communications of wisdom and power, as it pleased the Father to impart to Him. He was entirely dependent on the Father; His life was hid in God. Not in virtue of His own independent Godhead, but through the operations of the Holy Spirit, He spoke and acted as the Father from time to time taught Him.
Exactly so, believer, must your life be hid with Christ in God. Let this encourage you. Christ calls you to a life of faith and dependence, because it is the life He Himself led. He has tried it and proved its blessedness; He is willing now to live over again His life in you, to teach you also to live in no other way. He knew that the Father was His life, and that He lived through the Father, and that the Father supplied His need moment by moment. And now He assures you that as He lived through the Father, even so you shall live through Him. Take this assurance in faith. Let your heart be filled with the thought of the blessedness of this fulness of life, which is prepared for you in Christ, and will be abundantly supplied as you need it. Do not think any more of your spiritual life, as something that you must watch over and nourish with care and anxiety. Rejoice every day that you need not live on your own strength, but in your Lord Jesus, even as He lived through His Father.
Even as Christís life was a life of Divine power, although a life of dependence, so ours will also be. He never repented having laid aside His glory, to live before God as a man upon earth. The Father never disappointed His confidence, He gave Him all He needed to accomplish His work. Christ experienced that blessed as it was to be like God in heaven, and to dwell in the enjoyment of Divine perfection, it was no less blessed to live in the relation of entire dependence on earth, and to receive everything day by day from His hands.
Believer, if you will have it so, your life can be the same. The Divine power of the Lord Jesus will work in and through us. Do not think that your earthly circumstances make a holy life to Godís glory impossible. It was just to manifest, in the midst of earthly surroundings which were even more difficult, the Divine life, that Christ came and lived on earth. As He lived so blessed an earthly life through the Father, so may ye also live your earthly life through Him. Only cultivate large expectations of what the Lord will do for you. Let it be your sole desire to attain to an entire union with Him. It is impossible to say what the Lord Jesus would do for a soul who is truly willing to live as entirely through Him as He through the Father. Because just as He lived through the Father, and the Father made that life with all its work so glorious, so will you experience in all your work how entirely He has undertaken to work all in you.
As the life of Christ was the manifestation of His real union with the Father, so ours also. Christ says "Even as the Father has sent me, and I live by the Father." When the Father desired to manifest Himself on earth in His love, He could entrust that work to no one less than His beloved Son, who was one with Him. It was because He was Son that the Father sent Him: it was because the Father had sent Him that it could not be otherwise, but He must care for His life. In the union upon which the mission rested, rested the blessed certainty that Jesus would live on earth through the Father.
"Even so," Christ said, "He that eateth me, liveth by me." He had said before, "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me, and I in Him." In death He had given His flesh and blood for the life of the world; through faith the soul partakes of the power of His death and resurrection, and receives its right to His life, as He had a right to His Fatherís life. In the words, "Whosoever eateth Me," is expressed the intimate union and unbroken communion with the Lord Jesus, which is the power of a life in Him. The one great work for the soul, who truly longs to live entirely and only by Christ, is to eat Him, daily to feed on Him, to make Him his own. [*See Note.]
To attain this, seek continually to have your heart filled with a believing and lively assurance that all Christís fulness of life is truly yours. Rejoice in the contemplation of His humanity in heaven, and the wonderful provision God has made through the Holy Spirit for the communication of this life of your Head in heaven, to flow unbroken and unhindered down upon you. Thank God unceasingly for the redemption in which He opened the way to the life of God, and for the wonderful life now provided for you in the Son. Offer yourself unreservedly to Him with an open heart and consecrated life that seeks His service alone. In such trust and consecration of faith, in the outpouring of love and cultivation of communion, with His words abiding in you, let Jesus be your daily food. He who eateth me shall live by me: even as the Father has sent me, and I live by the Father.
Beloved Christian! what think you? Does not the imitation of Christ begin to seem possible in the light of this promise? He who lives through Christ can also live like Him. Therefore let this wonderful life of Christ on earth through the Father be the object of our adoring contemplation, until our whole heart understands and accepts the word, "Even so, He who eateth me shall live through me." Then we shall dismiss all care and anxiety, because the same Christ who set us the example works in us from heaven that life which can live out the example. And our life will become a continual song: To Him who lives in us, in order that we may live like Him, be the love and praise of our hearts. Amen.
O my God I how shall I thank Thee for this wonderful grace! Thy Son became man to teach us the blessedness of a life of human dependence on the Father; He lived through the Father. It has been given us to see in Him how the Divine life can live and work, and conquer on earth. And now He is ascended into heaven, and has all power to let that life work in us, we are called to live even as He did on earth: we live through Him. O God, praised be Thy name for this unspeakable grace.
Lord, my God, hear the prayer that I now offer to Thee. If it may be, show me more, much more of Christís life through the Father. I need to know it, O my God, if I am to live as He did! Oh, give me the spirit of wisdom in the knowledge of Him. Then shall I know what I may expect from Him, what I can do through Him, It will then no longer be a struggle and an effort to live according to Thy will, and His example. Because I shall then know that this blessed life on earth is now mine, according to the word, "Even as I through the Father, so ye through me." Then shall I daily feed upon Christ in the joyful experience: I live through Him. O my Father! grant this in full measure for His nameís sake. Amen.
Though the words of our Lord Jesus in the sixth of John were not spoken directly of the Lordís Supper, they are yet applicable to it, because they set forth that spiritual blessing of which the Holy Supper is the communication in a visible form. In eating the bread and drinking the wine, our spiritual life is not only strengthened because therein the pardon of our sins is signified and sealed to us, but because the Holy Spirit does indeed make us partakers of the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus as a spiritual reality. So one of our Reformed Church Catechisms, the Heidelberg (Qu. 78), puts it, "What is it then to eat the broken body and drink the shed blood of Christ" "It is not only to embrace with a believing heart the sufferings and death of Christ, and so to obtain the pardon of sin and life eternal; but moreover also that we are united to His sacred body by the Holy Ghost, who dwells both in Christ and in us, so that we, though Christ be in heaven and we on earth, are nevertheless flesh of His flesh and bones of His bones."
It is known that there are in our Protestant Churches three views of the Lordís Supper. On the one hand, the Lutheran with its consubstantiation, teaching that the body of our Lord is so present in the bread, that even an unbeliever eats no longer only bread, but the body of the Lord. On the other the Zwinglian view, according to which the effect of the Sacrament is a very impressive exhibition of the truth that the death of Christ is to us what wine and bread are to the body, and a very expressive confession of our faith in this truth, and so of our interest in the blessings of that death. As the Holy Spirit in the Word speaks to us through the ear, so in the Sacrament through the eye. Midway between these views is that of Calvin, who strongly urges that there is in it a mysterious blessing, not well to be expressed in words; that it is not enough to speak of the life which the Spirit gives to our spirit through faith but that there is a real communication by the Holy Spirit of the very flesh and blood of Jesus in heaven to our very body, so that in virtue of this we are called members of His body, and have His body in us as the seed of the spiritual body of the resurrection. While avoiding, on the one hand, the sacramentarian view of a change in the bread, it seeks to hold fast, on the other, the reality of a spiritual substantial participation of the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus.
This is not the place to enter on this more fully. But I am persuaded that, when a more scriptural view prevails as to the relation between body and spirit, it will not be thought strange to believe that without anything like a real presence in the bread itself. we are indeed fed with the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus. The body of our Lord is now a spiritual body, transfigured and glorified into the spirit-life of the heavenly world, the spirit and the body in perfect, unity and harmony, so that now the Holy Spirit can freely dispense and communicate that body as He will. Our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us; our bodies are members of Christ; our mortal board are even now being quickened and prepared by the indwelling Spirit for the resurrection (Rom. 8:11): why should it be thought strange that "by the Holy Spirit the communion" of the body of Christ, so distinctly promised, should be, not an Old Testament symbol or shadow, but a blessed heavenly reality?
Calvinís words are as follows: "I am not satisfied with the view of those who, while acknowledging that we have some kind of communion with Christ, only make us partakers of the Spirit, omitting all mention of flesh and blood." "In His humanity also the fulness of life resides, so that every one who communicates in His flesh and blood, at the same time enjoys the participation of life". The flesh of Christ is like a perennial fountain which transfuses into us the life flowing forth from the Godhead into itself. The communion of the flesh and blood of Christ is necessary to all who aspire to the Christian life. Hence these expressions: "The Church is Ďthe body of Christ.í " "Our bodies are Ďthe members of Christ.í " "We are members of His body, of His flesh and His bones." "What our mind does not comprehend, let faith receive, that the Spirit unites things separated by space. That sacred communion of flesh and blood by which Christ transfuses His life into us, just as if it penetrated our bones and marrow, He testifies and seals in the Supper, not by representing a vain or empty sign, but by these exerting an efficacy of the Spirit by which He fulfils what He promises." "I willingly admit anything which helps to express the true and substantial communication of the body and blood of the Lord, as exhibited to believers under the sacred symbols of the Supper, understanding that they are not received by the imagination or the intellect merely, but are enjoyed in reality as the food of eternal life." "We say that Christ descends to us, as well by the external symbol as by His Spirit, that He may truly quicken our souls by the substance of His flesh and blood." "Such is the corporeal presence which the sacrament requires, and which we say is here displayed in such power and efficacy, that it not only gives our minds undoubted assurance of heavenly life, but also secures the immortality of our flesh." - Calvinís Institutes 4. 17, ß 7, 9, 10, 19, 24.
To the soul who seeks fully to live by Christ as He did by the Father, the sacrament is a real spiritual blessing, something more than what faith in the word gives. Let all the praying and believing and living in which we seek to realize the wonderful blessing of living just as Christ did by the Father, ever culminate in our communion of the body and blood at the Lordís table. And let us go forth from each such celebration with new confidence, that what has been given and confirmed on the great day of the feast, will by Jesus Himself be maintained in power in the daily life through the more ordinary channels of His graceóthe blessed fellowship with Himself in the word and prayer.