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Following closely upon what we said at the end of our last chapter, we come to the place and meaning of the Cross in the realm of principalities and powers, world rulers of this darkness, and hosts of evil spirits in the heavenlies (Eph. 6:12).
Again, we must bear in mind that it is in and by the Church that the Cross has its registration in that realm. It is always a dangerous thing for units of the Church, i.e., individuals, to assail that kingdom, or enter it with intent to upset it. Christ alone can meet that, or to Him only as its conqueror will it yield, and, we repeat, Christ is implied by the corporate means. There is much spiritual history, both glorious and tragic, bound up with this principle, its observance or its neglect or violation. The whole matter of Headship is involved in this. Headship has never been relegated or delegated by the Lord to any individual. Autocracy or individual domination in the Church is a positive violation of the Church's major principle - the Sovereign Headship of Christ. Hence 'the oversight' in the New Testament was always plural, never singular; elders, not an elder. In so far as authority was concerned it was corporate, not individual.
This does not mean that New Testament technique rigidly adhered to will result in a mighty impact of Christ's Headship of all principalities and powers. History proves otherwise. But this failure does not prove the principle to be false, it only shows that it is more technique than spiritual position.
But to come to our main subject of which such points are but the outworking, the inclusive thing about which we must be quite clear is that the ultimate place of the Cross is in that realm from which the Cross takes its original rise. The Cross is set at the very heart of
A Cosmic Struggle for the Mastery of the Creation
We use the word Cosmic in the sense of super-earthly. It embraces the earth, the heavenlies around the earth, and beyond. Here we find ourselves outside of time in eternity, outside of the local in the universal. There is an aspect of the Cross which is beyond atonement. Atonement has to do firstly with time and this world. It relates to man's sin and reprobation. But atonement is not for Satan and "the angels that kept not their own principality" (Jude 6). The last thing that the Bible says about the former is that he is cast into the lake of fire "unto the ages of the ages" (Rev. 20:10). (The same phrase is used of the glory of God in the Church [Eph. 3:21]. The one is the counterpart of the other, and must be of the same duration.) Of the fallen angels it is said that they are "kept in everlasting bonds under darkness unto the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6) and "cast down to hell... to pits (or chains) of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment" (not salvation) (2 Pet. 2:4).
to pits (or chains) of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment" (not salvation) (2 Pet. 2:4).
When we speak of a cosmic struggle for the mastery of creation, some might find it difficult to contemplate the infinite, almighty, eternal God involved in a struggle, as though He could not, with a word, a stroke of His hand, wipe out of existence everything that gets in His way. To overcome this mental difficulty, we must remember that the creation rests upon a moral foundation. In creation God has bound Himself to moral conditions, and has therefore brought Himself to the place where His authority operates only on moral grounds. He intervenes for salvation only when He has the ground which is in accord with His own moral nature. If the ground is positively and incorrigibly antagonistic to His moral nature, His interventions have been, and will be, unto judgment and destruction. Justification by faith has its place here in that God has provided or secured the ground of His own moral perfection in His Son, Jesus Christ, and that ground is provided for faith in Him. Persistent and final rejection of Christ and God's righteousness in Him puts those concerned into another realm, to which the Apostle Paul referred when he said "Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Cor. 5:11). (This word "fear" is strong; really - 'to terrify.') Just as God must have suitable ground for the beneficent exercise of His authority and power, so must Satan have ground suitable to his nature to exercise his authority. Take God's ground from Him and He cannot work for you. Give Him His ground, and He moves. All the meaning of power through sanctification lies here. "He did not many mighty works... because of their unbelief." Likewise, give Satan his ground and his authority is established. Take his ground away and he is helpless. Hence his one object, in order to establish his kingdom, is to corrupt, for then he knows that God cannot save; it is a moral issue. So the battle is waged, not between two potentates on official and personal grounds, but between two moral orders represented by two lords, of righteousness and unrighteousness respectively.
It is in this direction that the Cross goes beyond atonement and puts the Church in the strong position of moral and spiritual authority in the realm where the evil forces have their seat. 'By the Cross He conquered.' That was because the Cross took Satan's moral ground from him.
The Church is a heavenly Body; which means that it is out of Satan's domain spiritually and morally. "Delivered... out of the authority of darkness, and translated... into the kingdom of the Son of His love" (Col. 1:13). For its spiritual authority the Church must stand in all the good of the Cross as a separating and sanctifying power. Satan's one aim is to corrupt the Church. The wrestling against principalities and powers (Eph. 6:12) is not physical, it is not to obtain a position of ascendancy, it is against the "wiles of the devil." These wiles are twofold; to obtain a lodgement for darts of accusation - that is a denial of our justification and righteousness by faith: and, or, to corrupt and seduce on to earthly, carnal, and unholy ground. This explains the spiritual and moral nature of the armour provided.
The Church does not carry the Gospel of salvation and atonement to the kingdom of Satan itself, but only to those who are his prisoners, to give them the option of deliverance or remaining with him. To the evil powers the Church stands to express the moral Lordship of Jesus Christ in virtue of His Cross, and to exercise that authority in virtue of its own standing in Him.
The position is this. Before the world was, God purposed to gather under one Head all the creation. That Head was His Son. It was irrevocably and unalterably settled in the eternal counsels. Knowing that it could never be its best by mere compulsion or as a mechanical order and that faith, love, and positive holiness (not passive innocence) were essential to that best, and foreseeing the advent of evil, a working of a subversive system, He provided against the ultimate triumph of the system in "the Lamb slain from the foundation (literally the laying down) of the world." All that was foreseen, and the Lamb came out of eternity into time, was literally - not potentially - slain, the ground of evil power was taken in that slaying, and the link-up renewed with the original purpose - "all things in Christ." The Church - the elect Body - was brought into being on the ground of the Cross. He was given to be "Head over all things to (not merely of) the Church which is His Body, the fullness of Him That filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22-23). The Church moved out and registered His rights behind the temporal and sentient world, in the spiritual kingdom of Satan, and it worked! - until the Church declined from its spiritual and heavenly position. The Cross is still the moral battle-axe of the Church, and the evil system can still feel its overthrowing power. It rests with the Church to adjust to
1. The meaning of the Cross;
2. The place into which the Cross puts the Church;
3. Positive aggression in its whole armour.
Our object has not been to deal at any length with the connected matters. Each one of them could easily fill a book to itself. We have aimed at indicating the place which the Cross has in all things related to God's eternal and universal purpose in Christ.
There remains but one realm indicated on our diagram. But before we pass to consider that, we would add something to this chapter with the object of doubly emphasising that power is a matter of position.