The eternal purpose of God’s counsel, as we saw in the foregoing article, was realized in one of its most major steps in the divine incarnation. The independent, self-sufficient God is also sovereign and absolute in His purpose. It is not in any way dependent upon the creature. The creature is in every way preceded, followed and bounded by God. So with election: God chose His people (a covenant-related creature) in Christ. He, therefore, thought of them as in Christ, to think in terms of logical order, before He thought of them as in the world. In His mind they were embraced in the eternal love of Christ before the foundation of the world was planned. He knew them as His own, perfect and glorified, before He knew them as fallen. He loved them with an everlasting love, but not for any foresight of their faith or works. He first ordained the end, then the means. From eternity, He bounded His children, including their works, with grace. Christ himself was foreordained before the foundation of the world to a higher purpose than the saving of His people from the result of the fall of man. He himself was chosen as the object of God’s supreme delight (Isa. 42:1). He was so chosen of God that the fulness and image of God might dwell in the man, Christ Jesus, bodily. For human nature was destined to be, and in Christ was actually, brought up into fellowship with the holy trinity, who eternally live a blessed covenant life.
Thus the Father not only loved the eternal Son of God in the Spirit, but also loved the Son of God incarnate, and, in Him, all the many sons He gave to Christ in His eternal purpose. We may agree with the proposition, though it be an infralapsarian motto, that God cannot love a non-entity. Who would say otherwise? But Christ, the great Fountain of life, and His people in Him, have existence in the mind of God, and as they are there the objects of His everlasting love (Jer. 31:3) and His everlasting consolation (II Thess. 2:16), they can not be said to be non-entities. Christ was foreordained from times eternal as the heavenly Bridegroom, and then His bride was chosen for Him. They were chosen together, since the decree of God is one, the Husband the head of the wife, and the wife for the Husband. Yet the Husband, the Bridegroom is the first in the order of the decree. With Christ and His people set up from everlasting in the mind and purpose of God, He could and did love and delight in them before all worlds. “Thou has sent Me and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me . . . for Thou lovest Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:23f).
This is further evident in that wonderful passage, Proverbs, chapter eight, where wisdom appears, not a mere attribute of God, but having specific reference to Christ, who is “the Wisdom of God.” (I Cor. 1:24) That a real person is in view is evident from “I love them that love Me.” (17) That he is a divine person is plain from, “By Me kings reign.” (31) “The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old.” (22) The Ring James Version is not the best at this point, inserting as it does the preposition “in,” which does not appear in the Hebrew. The American Standard Version is no improvement inserting “as” in its margin. If any insertion would be desirable, it would be better to read the text this way, “The Lord possessed Me who am the Beginning of His way.” But it is best to simply translate, “The Lord possessed Me, the Beginning of His way.” Christ who is made unto us Wisdom speaks of Himself under one of His many names, The Beginning. “He is the head of the body, the church, who is. The Beginning, the Firstborn from the dead.” (Col. 1:18) He has other names: “the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.” (Rev. 3:14) Jehovah possessed the One called The Beginning of His way. In what sense He was possessed is explained where the same word is used in Genesis 4:1. There Eve says at the birth of Cain, “I have gotten (possessed) a man.” The idea is that of a begetting. This begetting is probably not to be understood in the sense of the eternal generation of the son of God the Second Person of the trinity, as inJohn 1:18. (ASVm and Gk.), “the only begotten God,” but rather in the sense of Psalm 2:7, He speaks of himself thus, “I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto Me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee” (ASV). We know, from the New Testament commentary on this verse, that “this day” is the day of Christ’s resurrection. It was on that day that historically He became the First begotten from the dead. “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was” (23). The personal pronoun “I” denotes a person, not a mere abstract attribute, and “from everlasting” indicates a divine person speaking. “I was set up,” that is, ordained, established, anointed “from eternity.” Christ is not ordained as the eternal Son of God in His eternal generation by the Father. He is not the eternal Son by decree, but in His own being and essence. But the eternal Son is ordained to be the Christ, the Anointed One, the Man, Christ Jesus, in the great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh. In that sense He comes forth from the womb of the decree of God, and in fulfillment of that decree He historically comes forth from the womb of the Virgin as “that Holy Thing, begotten of thee.”
“When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth.” (24, 25) It is the Son who is made unto us Wisdom who says, “I was brought forth,” and “before the hills was I brought forth,” from the womb of God’s decree into the world as “the Word made flesh.” “When He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass (transgress) His commandment: when He appointed the foundations of the earth, then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.” (29, 30) Here you see, in keeping with the idea above, Christ refers to himself not only as the second Person, the eternal Son of God, which is an essential idea inseparable from the entire passage, but as the Mediator, the ordained Head of the church, the First in the book of God’s decrees. Not as to time, of course, but as to order, Christ is the Beginning of God’s eternal counsel. “Then I was beside Him (as a co-equal), a father.” (Hebrew) Christ, in His own right, is a father. He is “the Father of eternity,” (Isa. 9:6) that is, beside the Father, He is himself a father, or a founder, and so may be said to be the father, the architect of eternity. He is the founder and builder, both of the universe and of the House of God (John 1:3; Ps. 127:1). He is such a father to us, and as such a father is not without children. (Isa. 8:18)
“I was daily His delights.” God was always eternally delighting in His only begotten Son, but also as His Son was conceived of as the perfect Mediator, as the visible representation of the invisible God. God eternally delighted himself in Him as the One in His counsel seen and loved as the Son incarnate in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. “Yea, true God and Man,” the express image of God’s person, the brightness of His glory, His own likeness,ever being in the form of God while yet taking upon himself the form of a servant and being made in the likeness of men. “I was daily His delights, rejoicing always before Him,” or “rejoicing toward His persons,” (Hebrew; cp. same word in Lev. 19:15) that is, here is God’s Elect, in whom His soul delights, “My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth; and My delights were with the sons of men.” (31) Here we still see from the point of view of back in eternity, the decree of the incarnation (God with men), which also includes the cross, for it was through the cross that He could delight in the sons of men.
In the light of what we have just shown from Scripture, we cannot understand certain brethren who cling. to their non-doctrinal faith, even their aversion to doctrine, and especially their detestation of the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty, and who exhort us to busy ourselves not with our Calvinistic intricacies, but with “preaching Christ.” Certainly, the way we preach Proverbs 8 is “preaching Christ” as they never have. We have had our eyes on them for years, but have never known them to preach Christ in His most important character, the covenant Head of His people. They never preach Christ as God’s Elect in whom His soul delighteth. They cannot have a comprehensive preaching of Christ, because they do not begin at the beginning and preach Christ as the foreordained Lamb delivered up as a sacrifice to divine justice for His own in the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. They often boast of giving Christ the pre-eminence in all things, yet they do not give it to Him as the center and revealer of the eternal purpose of God which He purposed in Christ Jesus.
The wonderful and utterly fundamental and indispensable truth which these superficial preachers of Christ regularly omit is that which the Lord himself proclaimed: “the men which Thou gavest Me . . . Thinethey were, and Thou gavest them Me. I pray for them. I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine” (John 17:6, 9). When were these men given to Christ? In eternity, before the foundation of the world, for since then God loved His Son, and as well loved them (cp. Jer. 31:3 with John 17:24). What did God do, then, in eternity, when He gave these persons to Christ? We have an example in the creation of Eve and the giving of her to Adam in the union of marriage. As Adam saw her, loved her in the sight, and took her unto himself as his bride, so the church was given to Christ in a marriage covenant from eternity. As Eve was given to Adam before the fall, so the church was given to Christ in the mind of God before the fall, indeed, before any regard to sin.
Preach Christ in His highest glory? Then let the preaching show that Christ was not ordained in the eternal counsel of God for the church, but that the church was ordained for Him. Adam was not created for Eve, but Eve was formed for Adam. (I Cor. 11:7-9) Further, Adam was not complete in himself without Eve. He needed a help meet (fit) for him. In Eve he found his complement. So the Man Christ Jesus was not complete without the church, which is His fulness. The body is not complete without the head. Yet the head needs the body. For it is through the body that the glory of the head is manifested.
(To be continued, D.V.)