Each of us occupies one of two positions — Adam or Christ. God’s dealings have reference to two men — the first and the last Adam. The whole human race was headed up in Adam. We must not regard humanity as so many separate individuals — like a heap of sand — but as an organic unity — like a tree — though consisting of an innumerable number of parts, yet forming one whole. In Adam, then, we see the whole family of man summed up; and there, in him, we see the whole race on its trial.
Adam’s trial was man’s probation. It was not the trial of a single individual, it was the trial of the whole human race. All were included in him. His fall was the fall of the whole family. “as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” [“All sinned” (aorist tense) i.e., in Adam.] Probation may be looked at either as having reference to salvation or to service. Probation so far as salvation is concerned is no longer a question of our own works. In that sense our probation terminated with Adam’s failure. But probation in connection with service is still going on. And it is in that sense that we must understand the apostle as writing when he says, “lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway,” or “should be rejected” (R.V.) – (1 Cor. 9.:27) — disproved or rejected, that is, as to service.]
There we have the end of the trial. That terminates, strictly speaking, human probation (Rom. 5:12).
It is to such that the Gospel comes. Not to those whose trial is undecided, who are in process of being tested, who are still on probation; but to those whose opportunity on that ground is forever gone — to those, therefore, who are “lost.”
And what does the Gospel propose? Does it come proposing another trial? Does it come offering to put man on a second probation? Nothing of the sort. The burden of its message is not probation, but redemption.
Take an illustration. Here is a tree with numerous branches. Cut the root, and what happens? Death; it not only enters into the stem, it passes over the whole tree, it affects each branch, and every leaf.
To propose the improvement of the old position in Adam, is like the vain effort of endeavouring to revive the life in the separate branches of the dead tree.
The Gospel proclaims a new creation: a new tree – union with a new root – being grafted on to a new stock. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Cor. 5. 17). This is not to improve the old, but to be translated into a new position.
Take another illustration. Here is a man, let us suppose, who has failed in business. He is not only hopelessly insolvent, his credit is gone, and his name is disgraced. All efforts of his own to retrieve his position are utterly fruitless; he is beyond all hope of recovery in that direction. But hope comes to him from another quarter. Let us suppose he is taken into partnership by one whose name stands high in the commercial world. He becomes a partner in a wealthy and honourable firm. All his debts are paid by that firm, and the past is cancelled. But this is not all. He gets an entirely new standing. His old name is set aside, forgotten, buried for ever. He has now a new name. In that name he transacts all his business. His old name is never again mentioned.
We have here a faint shadow of what the Gospel bestows. To be a believer in Christ is to have passed out of our old position — to lose our old name — and to take our stand on an entirely new ground. We are baptized “into the name of the Lord, ” — we are “in Christ.”
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” This is not a privilege that comes to the believer by degrees; it is complete and absolute at once. And the moment the transition takes place, the believer stands, not on the ground of probation, but on the ground of redemption.
This truth is fundamental. The “in Christ” of standing is the foundation of all practical godliness, of all Christian service. We must start here, or we cannot take a single step in the way of holiness.
This article is an excerpt from The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life, chapter 2, by Evan Hopkins. “Hopkins (1837-1918), was an evangelical Angelican vicar whose ministry spanned 52 years, is best known for his faithful Bible-conference ministry throughout the British Isles.” The book is online at Gracenotebook.com and in print from CLC Publications