The Two Beginnings
It would be a very wonderful thing if we could spend some time in seeing God’s line right from the beginning up to Christ. There were many generations which came to an end, and in one place there is a large summary of what came and what finished. It says “So-and-So lived, for so long, and he died.” That is said about a long list of people – they lived and then they died. However, right through there is one line that is the living line, continuing straight through history up to Christ. You can follow that line quite clearly, although, at times, it seemed to go under ground.
At at certain point in that movement of God, we find ourselves in the presence of His beginning with Israel. It has moved from individuals to the point where the nation comes into view. Up to then the movement had been with individuals – Abel, Enoch, Noah. Then, when it reached Abraham the nation came on the horizon, that is, the Israel of history, of this earth.
We are going to note how God began with Israel, and how the principle of that beginning is transferred to the new, heavenly Israel in Christ. It is very impressive to find that the beginning of the first Israel is in the New Testament, in the Book of Acts. Note that, for it is a significant thing. The Book of Acts is the link between the old and the new: the focal point of the transition from the one to the other is there. Interestingly enough, it is in the discourse of the martyr, Stephen. The new Israel received a great impetus by his death.
The first thing that Stephen said to the old Israel was: “The God of glory appeared unto our father, Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia (Acts 7:2) … “The God of glory appeared.” That was the first movement toward the old Israel, and that is exactly the first movement toward the new Israel: and we find that beginning in the New Testament.
We turn again to the Gospel by John: “In the beginning was the Word … and the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us” (now note!) … ” and we beheld his glory” (John 1:1, 14). Then turn again to the Letter to the Hebrews: “God … hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son … the effulgence of his glory” (Hebrews 1:1-3) … “The God of glory appeared … and hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son … the effulgence of his glory.”
First of all, then, God is breaking into human history. That is how it was with the first Israel. Away there, in Ur of the Chaldees, a pagan country with two thousand others gods, the God of glory broke in and changed the course of history. Thus He took His first step toward the securing of Israel.
The first chapter of John shows the God of glory breaking into human history in a new way.
That, of course, and you may have taken it in mentally, viewing it in an objective way. But you must just take hold of that and let it apply to you personally, because it relates to you and to me. You and I are called by God to be the companions of Christ in a heavenly calling and this belongs to all of us. The very beginning of our history as God’s heaven Israel is His intervention in our lives. Perhaps it was just as unexpected to some of us as it was to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees. We were living our lives in this world, were mixed up in the course of things here and were ruled by the god of this world. We were just there, one in a great crowd … and then God broke in. When God breaks into a life there is no doubt about it. It is a turning point in our history, and the nature of the change is that we no longer belong to this world. We have become members of a New Israel, of a heavenly people with a new spiritual nature. It may not have been with us just as it was with Abraham, but it is essential for every one of us to know that God has entered into our human history. In the first place it was not something from our side, but it was from God’s side. He took the initiative, perhaps in a wonderful way, or in a very simple way. It may belong to a moment in time, or it may belong to days, weeks or months. However, the fact is that God came in where we were. How did God come in? How should we put it, if we wanted to put it into worlds? Well, it says here about the old Israel: “The God of glory appeared”. Could you put it like that in your experience?
These words in the New Testament explain that. God came in Jesus Christ, and in Him is the glory of God. And as we have seen Jesus Christ, so we have come into touch with the God of glory. In the words of the Letter to the Hebrews: “God … hath … spoken unto us in his Son”. All those who know that Jesus Christ has come into their lives really do know that the God of glory has come in. And so John, after saying that “the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us”, says, “and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father.”
And what is the glory? John goes on to say “full of grace and truth.” You will notice that in the New Testament grace and glory always go together. If you want to know what is the glory of God, well, it is the grace of God, and if you want to know what is the grace of God, it is the glory of God. It is the glory of God to be gracious. He glories in being gracious, and when you know the grace of God, then you know the glory of God. The glory of God will always come to us along the line of grace, and so, because of grace, we shall be able to say: “We beheld his glory”.
Perhaps you know that that word “glory” is one of the big words in John’s Gospel. If you have never done so, I advise you to go through the Gospel and underline that word.
(continue with #19)