By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
I. no one can read the Gospels in the most careless manner without noticing THAT IN THEM IS A SPECIAL IMPORTANCE ATTACHED TO "THE DEATH OF JESUS CHRIST, apart from that which belongs to His life, with its absolute sinlessness and perfect obedience. As a general rule, it will be found that Scripture attaches very little importance to a man's death, and lays all the stress upon his life. The solitary exception in the Bible is the death of Jesus Christ. Then notice also the way in which our Lord Himself speaks of it beforehand. Again and again He speaks of His death as a necessity, as if there was a Divine "must" which rendered it indispensable. There are frequent allusions to it in parable and allegory. The shadow of the Cross is resting upon Him. He speaks with the utmost plainness, and tells the Twelve that He has come "to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). All this prepares us for the teaching of the apostles, namely, the fact that throughout their writings the utmost stress is laid on the death of Christ, as distinct from His life; and that the greatest blessings .and highest gifts are always connected with His suffering and with the shedding of His blood. You will find that the Epistle to the Hebrews especially is full from beginning to end of the thought of the sacrificial character of the death of Christ. Vie was incarnate "that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." "He needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins and then for the people's: for this He did once, when He offered up Himself." "By His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." "The blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God" shall" purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God." "Once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." He was "once offered to bear the sins of many." "He offered one sacrifice for sins for ever." "We are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." We have "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." It is the "blood of the covenant wherewith" we are "sanctified." "Jesus, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate."
II. THE ATONEMENT. What controversies have raged round it! What a stumbling-block it is even now to many! Let us beware not only of endeavouring "to explain the efficacy of what Christ has done and suffered for us beyond what the Scripture has authorised" — this is a danger on one Side — but also let us beware of endeavouring to explain it away, and of "confining His office as Redeemer of the world to His instruction, example, and government of the Church" — this is danger on the other side. Both dangers are real ones. A great statesman once said in eloquent words of our own Church, "Take the history of the Church of England out of the history of England, and the history of England becomes a chaos without order, without life, and without meaning." And may we not say with all reverence, "Take the history of the death of Christ out of the history of the world, and the history of the world becomes a chaos without order, without life, and without meaning"? We must cling to the fact that Christ is "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," and that by "the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all," there was made "a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world." The fact of the Atonement is revealed, but how it is efficacious, or why it was " necessary," we are nowhere fully told. Still, we are not to make it more mysterious by shutting our eyes to what is told us; and we must not forget that the doctrine does not stand alone. It should never be dissociated from the great truths of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation. Take the doctrine of the Atonement in connection with these two central doctrines of the Christian faith, and then these three things follow, each of which is worthy of serious consideration:
1. He who bore our human nature, and wrought human acts, and died on the Cross for us was a Divine Person. "Not, indeed, God alone; for as such," it has been truly said, "He would never have been in the condition to offer, or to die; nor man alone, for then the worth of His offering would never have reached so far; but He was God and man in one person, and in this person performing all those acts; man, that He might obey and suffer and die; God, that He might add to every act of His obedience, His suffering, His death, an immeasurable worth, steeping in the glory of His Divine personality all of human that He wrought."
2. From the fact that He was God the Son, the Second Person in the Blessed Trinity, who is one with the Father, it follows that we must never, even in thought, imagine a discordance of will between the Father and the Son, nor so represent the Atonement as if there was a clashing of will within the Godhead. "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself," and "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." And what greater proof of love can be imagined than this?
3. In considering the doctrine of the Incarnation, we are to remember that it was not the death of a man which brought about such great results. He who died for us was the "Second Adam," the Head of the redeemed humanity. If it is His Godhead which gives His offering its infinite worth, it is His position as the Second Adam which qualifies Him to represent us. It is often said that if you would win back to self-respect some poor despairing wretch who has fallen so low as to be utterly reckless, and lost to all sense of shame, you must begin by making him understand that there is some one who cares for him yet. And if we can learn at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ that though we are sinful and hardened, it may be, and despairing, yet, in spite of all, God loves us with that yearning, passionate love which led Him to give Himself for us, then I think that our hearts will be broken, and we shall yield to the power of that love which knows no rest, and can never tire until it has found those it died to win.
(E. C. S. Gibson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.