A Study for a Doctrine of the Atonement
Luke 18:31-34
Then he took to him the twelve, and said to them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem…

I shall proceed, accordingly, to indicate some personal ways in which it seems to me we may learn to enter, in some degree, into Jesus' consciousness that He must needs suffer. Yet only in some degree, and in no full measure, can we hope to comprehend in our human experience the mind that was in Jesus. The open and most natural way of thought for us to take, in our desire to understand this most sacred truth, seems to me to be in general as follows: Study what forgiveness of injuries involves to the most Christian man or woman, learn what forgiveness of wrong may cost the most Christlike heart, and from such knowledge gain the means of understanding why the Christ from God must needs suffer on the Cross. If we have not been compelled by some bitter experience of our own to learn the moral necessities of suffering in forgiving sin, let us search with reverent sympathies the depth of the trouble into which others have been plunged by some erring one to whom they were bound by vital ties; learn how father, mother, wife, must needs suffer in the continued charity, and shielding love, and ever open forgiveness of the home towards one who has gone forth from it, unworthy of it, and been lost in the world. Such in general is the vital method, the personal way, in which we may study the doctrine of the atonement of Christ for the sin of the world. Let me briefly indicate several more definite truths which we may find in such study of the Cross. First, In our experience of forgiveness, and its moral necessities, we find that there must be penitence or confession on the part of the person who has done wrong. The sense of justice and right which demands confession of wrong and restitution is as human and as Divine as the love which would forgive an offence, and accept another's willingness to make restitution. Secondly, Human forgiveness involves a painful knowledge of the wrong which has been inflicted. Forgiveness is always born of suffering. You surely cannot forgive a friend if you have never known and felt the hurt of his unkindness. Some suffering for the injury received is an indispensable condition, or antecedent, of the exercise of forgiveness. Thirdly, We approach now another element in the history of human forgiveness, which is of deep moral significance; viz., the suffering of the injured person must be so discovered to the wrong-doer that he can know it, and have some appreciation of it, in order that forgiveness may be granted and received, and its perfect work accomplished. But you will ask, Is it not the glory of the forgiving spirit to hide its sense of hurt? And the human forgiveness is never more than a polite fiction, if there is not in the hour of reconciliation this frank declaration and acknowledgment of the wrong done, and the suffering received from it. One thing in it seems to me clear as conscience. That wronged man cannot forgive his repentant enemy by treating his sin as though it had been nothing, by making light of it as though it had not cost him days of trouble, by hiding it in his good nature as though it were not an evil thing. Somehow that sense of injustice in his soul must find vent and burn itself out. Somehow that sense of wrong must manifest itself, and in some pure revelation of itself pass away. It cannot pass forever away except through revelation, as the fire expires through the flame. Yet in forgiveness justice must be a self-revealing flame, and not a consuming fire. Something like this has been the process of all genuine human reconciliations which I have observed. As an essential element of the reconciliation there was some revelation of pure justice. There was no hiding of the wrong. On either side there was no belittling the injury. There was no trifling with it as though a sin were nothing. It was no thoughtless forgiveness out of mere good nature, in which the heart's deeper sense of righteousness was not satisfied. I have left myself time only to point to the way by which we may ascend from this our human experience of forgiveness to the Cross of Christ, and the necessity for it in the love of God. It is a part of the penalty of sin that in every human transgression some just one must needs suffer with the guilty. This is a natural necessity of our human, or organic, relationship. And because we are so bound up together in good and in evil, we can bear one another's burdens, suffer helpfully for another, and to a certain extent save one another from the evil of the world. Now, according to these Gospels, God in Christ puts himself into this human relationship, and, as one with man, bears his burden and suffers under the sin of the world. The Father of spirits in His own eternal blessedness may not suffer with men; but in Christ God has humbled Himself to our consciousness of sin and death. In Christ the eternal love comes under the moral law of suffering, under which forgiveness may work its perfect work. More particularly, in the life and death of Christ these several elements which we have found belonging essentially to our experience of reconciliation with one another, have full exercise and scope. For Christ, identifying Himself with our sinful consciousness, makes a perfect repentance for sin and confession of it unto the Father. Christ experiences our sin as sinful, and confesses it. And again, Christ realizes the cost of the sin of the world. His loneliness of spirit, the cruel misunderstandings of Him by all men, His Gethsemane, His Cross — all realize the cost and suffering of sin, and in view of such sufferings of the Son of Man sin never can be regarded as a light and trifling thing. And still further, Christ reveals to the world what its sin has cost, and enables man who would be forgiven to appreciate it, and to acknowledge it.

(N. Smyth, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.

WEB: He took the twelve aside, and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all the things that are written through the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be completed.

Christ's Estimate of a Christian Life
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