Azazel, or, the people’s lot.
The subject-matter calling for consideration tonight is the detail which God gives us of the scapegoat. This will be made somewhat clearer by recalling, for comparison in a general way, the force of Jehovah’s lot, or the first goat. For there were, as we have seen, two goats on behalf of Israel. Unquestionably they together constituted the sin-offering (ver. 5), and both were set before the Lord (ver. 7), but the first goat is of the two the more important in its aim. Its aspect is not toward the people, but toward Jehovah. It was strictly and manifestly Godward. This is to be particularly noticed; because the constant danger of the heart when awakened is to think only of what will relieve it of its newly-felt distress. One becomes absorbed with a remedy for the disease, which the Spirit of God has discerned to the soul, that utter ruin through sin, by which it is then truly burdened, and for which it pours out its groans and lamentations to God.
Now the first goat, or Jehovah’s lot, takes up quite another necessity — His glory, as being struck at and violated by sin. Were there not one soul to be delivered, Jehovah’s lot were essential, and in the first place as it is. Before there could be, on any righteous basis, the thought of saving sinners, God must be glorified about sin, and here Jehovah’s lot finds its place. Therefore it is that by virtue of the blood which was carried within the veil, and put upon the mercy-seat and before it, God has His deep satisfaction in that infinite work of His Son, our Lord Jesus, which has replaced man’s iniquity by His own devotedness, entirely and at all cost, to His nature and glory. God found His rest in that blood, which spoke of divine love and perfect suffering for sin. The incense was rather the sweet savour under judgment of His personal grace. But the obedience was perfected in shame and suffering up to a death of judgment of sin itself, and such a death as could never be known by any, save the Son of God. The work was done, so that all hindrance from sin is taken away, and God can send out the message of His grace to every creature under heaven. We saw that this could not be revealed while the law had a standing. The law necessarily looked at Israel only. They were the people, they only, under it. All other nations were without and unclean, or, according to the ancient figure, dogs, whatever might be the pitiful affections of God; and God was always plenteous in mercy, and in Himself love, as truly as light. Still, whatever might be not only God’s nature, but also His purpose, as long as the barrier of the law was before Him, until it was righteously taken down, there could not be as yet the expression of that grace which in the death of our Lord Jesus swept away every obstacle between God’s love and man.
We must remember that all this time, while the day of atonement was pre-figured for Israel, the law was in power over them. It would have neutralised that law if the grace had been revealed which treats a Gentile, even who believes, exactly as a Jew. Law in point of fact is the system which insists on the distinction between the chosen seed of Abraham and the nations. That this is now done away with is essentially true of the gospel, as well as of the church of God; and both the gospel and the church are the fruit, not of the type, but of the anti-type in Christ The Day of Atonement which Israel observed once a year kept up the difference; but the grace and truth which came by Jesus and shone out in the cross, as well as the light of the glory, have now set aside every shadow of the sort. This entirely accounts for the fact that we hear nothing at all about the Gentiles in the typo. At the same time we may notice again how little is said of Israel in the first goat. The reason is plain. God was in the highest degree concerned; He therefore must be glorified; His nature must be vindicated, as must be also His majesty and His truth.
All this was the object sought in the first goat, as far as a figure could show it. There was Jehovah’s lot. But was this all that atonement includes? Far from it. That which far more nearly concerns and immediately contemplates the sinner, comes before us in the second goat; and this it is of which we have been reading tonight. “And when he had made an end of reconciling (atoning for) the holy the place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and altar, etc.” All this goes along with the first goat. So it was with the bullock, save that it had the special idea of providing for the priestly house. In both the first goat and the bullock there was not only the vindication of God as to His own glory in having to do with those who were sinful, but, further, the making good the heavenly places sot forth by the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar.
This is not at all left to be interpreted by our imagination. In the first chapter to the Colossians we have the answering truth: “And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself.” What is meant by “all things”? People on earth or in heaven? Neither. This is what is said, “All things, whether they be things in heaven or things on earth.” To prove that such is the meaning, you have only to read on, “And you hath He reconciled.” Nothing can be more exact. The allusion to the reconciling of all things is boned up with the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. There we hear of a future purpose of God, when peace was made through the blood of His cross, “by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself.” But next there follows the application of Christ’s reconciling work to those who now believe. It is exactly the order we have here: “And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat; and Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins.” Here you have a most lively picture of that which the soul, now awakened, feels to be an intolerable burden. The high priest is seen and heard occupying himself simply and solely with the distressed heart and burdened conscience of Israel. All that which might well have overwhelmed the soul God provides for according to His goodness. “Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins.”
Can one conceive language more fitted to take up whatever was thus resting heavily as a heart trouble? How deeply affecting that God should show so strongly His desire that they should not be charged with undue weight upon their souls! “Aaron..... shall confess over him all the iniquities, etc.”
It has been already pointed out that in the first goat there was no laying on of hands, any more than there was at that time confession of their sins Nevertheless what was done exceeded in importance; for there is nothing that so completely goes to the root of sin as God’s judgment of it in death; nor does anything more testify to the cancelling of the defilement of sin than the fact that the blood was put on the mercy-seat and before it. It was God met in what sin deserved, and His witness borne that, if sin cannot escape the presence of God, He had provided that the blood which cleanses from all should penetrate shore. Thus, what abides before God is not the sin, but the blood which makes full atonement for the sin. Still the sinners were as yet outside. There was no question of putting blood upon them. Therein lies one serious misapprehension, and indeed ruinous mistake, as to atonement.
Men only think of the sinner in the work of our Lord Jesus. But not so: the primary aspect of atonement is toward God. Sin is judged before Him. But the sinner is most fully considered in his place; and when he does come before us, we have the utmost minuteness of confession. Is there anything that has a more searching and purging effect than confession? Romanism knows how to avail itself of confession; for the weaker the faith of any one is, the greater is the comfort that he takes from pouring out the acknowledgment of his sins into the ear of a fellow-mortal. God is really nothing in such a case; but the man’s own hardened mind fools intense relief from the assumption that the priest to whom he confesses stands authoritatively in the room of God, and is entitled to absolve him in His name.
Now whatever of truth there is in confession comes here before us in its most important form. Not that one in the least would deny that there is confession on the part of the soul. We know from the First Epistle of John, that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse as from all unrighteousness.” This is an important fact morally, the “cleansing from all unrighteousness.” The desire to hide aught from God is a wrong, and there never is a wrong done to Him but what involves with it loss to the soul that is not delivered from evil. But what is it that opens the heart and gives confidence in confession? The certainly that another has charged Himself with the whole of the sins in all their enormity. Who He is is not doubtful. Jesus is the only Man Who knew, and felt, and owned all the sins. I do not speak of His death only as propitiating nor of our conscience; for much of true grief consists in the feeling that our self-judgment is so shallow. This then could not give rest to the troubled soul. How blessed to have an absolutely full confession by one so competent as the High Priest!
According to the language of the New Testament, the mediator between God and man is a man, Christ Jesus. Were He not God, it were little indeed; but, being God, it is an infinite truth that He was also the responsible man, Who knowing every secret thing of every man, told out all the sins and iniquities of every believer to God in the same perfection as He suffered sacrificially. He became man that shore might be an adequate representative for our sins laid and abhorred before God. The same One, Who to judge must search the reins and the hearts of all, does here in grace identify Himself with “innumerable evils,” with our iniquities, as His own, so as to be unable to look up. It is not priestly work within the holies, but the Holy One our substitute in absolute integrity of confession, represented here by the high priest. He it is whose hands are laid upon the head of the goat. The blood was shed and carried into the presence of God, as the groundwork; but the sins were none the less, but the more confessed unsparingly. God was thus furnishing in type the fulness of Christ’s atoning work for Israel; for Israel comes up in the most distinct manner when we have the second goat. Then and there the sins are confessed in all their variety of guilt.
The same principle is in what our Lord said to the sinful woman of whom we read in the house of Simon the Pharisee. Grace does not in the least degree extenuate the sins of the saved. This could not be in salvation according to God. Christ makes no excuse for her, whatever the traps that may have been laid for her in her life of folly. She had not always behaved as she did of late; yet had she been long a sinner in the deepest sense, as were those who despised her. But she was now, as alas! too few are, at the feet of Jesus. There she was, it is true, without a word; but all she did, and all she felt, were perfectly open to His gaze, though she stood behind Him. He did not need to have her before His face. All was in the light to Him; and if not a word was uttered, her ways, thoughts, feelings, were fully and equally known to Him Who reads the life of every soul. To Him only she looked for the mercy she needed. Therefore, said He, her sins, which are many, are forgiven. Yet surely here was no glossing over her sins. It was not enough to say, “They are to be all met shortly in the atoning blood;” they are none the less aggravated but the more, because of the grace which gave in Christ the blood that alone can cleanse all away. They are felt every one in all their heinousness. They were laid upon the head of the live goat; for such was the form which God prescribed to give Israel satisfactory witness that their sins were gone, and, as far as the figure was concerned, gone never to be found again.
No doubt under the law eternity does not strictly appear; but what was yearly to the Jews is for over to the Christian. We are not left to an inference of reasoning in this matter, but have the positive and distinct revelation of God in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 10:1, 2). What God was testifying was, at least to worshippers once purged, “no more conscience of sins.”
Have you, my dear friends, such a clearance by the blood of Christ as gives you no more conscience of sins? How rare a thing it is to find a child of God with no more burden or doubt! In a mere man there is no sign of hardness more terrible than to have no conscience of sins. The quickening work of the Holy Spirit produces the deepest sense of sins before God; but the effect of the work of Christ is that, while the sense of sin is awakened in the highest degree, the soul is delivered from all dread or anxiety, because of the judgment on the cross which our Lord has already borne. Faith rests on that as the word of God for one’s own guilt.
Let it be observed in this case that there is no vagueness. The live goat is most definite in its application. We hear confessed over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins. It is not mere piecemeal work; not just thus far and no farther; not 999 sins out of a thousand, or even 9999 out of ten thousand. Far be it from our hearts to make light of that which is abhorrent to the very nature of God, of which we now partake, as the apostle Peter lots us know. He that is born of God sinneth not, as says St. John. But there is on the one hand the fact that we have sin, and have sinned. Any endeavour either to deny sin, or to make an apology for it, is as obnoxious to God as destructive morally. On the other hand, God has brought in Christ to annul sin from the universe finally, as He now does for every one that believes. But sacrifice (prefiguring Christ’s) was the way of Abel by faith. It was the way of Cain to offer the fruits of the earth, wholly indifferent to the curse of God, as if He were as oblivious of sin as such an offerer is. Certainly such an one soon betrayed murderous hatred of him who was accepted when himself was refused.
Alas! it is the too constant history of souls, that when they find themselves and their worship unacceptable to God, they turn away in despair, and seek to bury themselves in the pursuits and hopes and enjoyments of the world. This was “the way of Cain.” If you, on the other hand, have been awakened to feel your sins and your sinfulness, have you now “no more conscience of sins”? This is what the apostle Paul contrasts as a Christian privilege of the first magnitude with an Old Testament worshipper resting on his annual sacrifices. Their effect was temporal; consequently they had to be repeated, whenever the anxious calls of another year arose. This could not perfectly suit either God or man. No adequate sacrifice had yet abolished sin before Him; an inadequate one could not make the comers thereunto perfect. Once the worshippers were divinely purged, they had no more conscience of sins.
This is what alone meets God and the believer, a basis of righteousness, where the Christian is perfectly cleansed. I am not now speaking of his being dead and risen with Christ, which line of truth does not occur in the Epistle to the Hebrews; still less is there any question of being members of Christ. A more fundamental need is mot by the sacrifice of Christ, which none can overlook without loss and danger, not to speak of the fresh and deep interest with which it invests the Old Testament. In Heb. 2 we are “all of one”; but we are nowhere there exactly said to be one spirit with the Lord. The body of Christ and the baptism of the Spirit are not revealed there. It never rises up to the revelation that we are one with Christ, — members of the body of which He is the Head on high. Indeed, to have introduced that truth in the Epistle to the Hebrews would have been wholly out of harmony; because the Spirit here occupies us with the divine idea of the sacrifices and the priesthood. Such are the two pillars of the Epistle to the Hebrews, resting on the personal glory of our Lord, Son of God and Son of man in one person. Hence, instead of learning that we are one with Him glorified, we are taught in all its force that He died for our sins, and that He now appears before the face of God for us. “For us” and “head of the body” are two totally different departments of truth. It would have brought in complete confusion to have mingled them in the same communication.
The same writer, I do not doubt, was inspired by God to make both known; for I explode the precarious theories, old or now, that Barnabas, or Titus, or Silas, or anybody else than the great apostle Paul wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is not a more question of tradition, which is never sure, but because holy scripture (2 Peter 3) intimates it clearly. However differing in style as being addressed to Christian Israelites, below the surface it bears the intrinsic marks of Paul most thoroughly in its depth, height, and comprehensive swoop. For instance we see from the very beginning Christ in heaven in the fall rights of His work on earth. There He is seated at the right hand of the majesty on high. It is not that He is traced up to heaven merely as by Peter; but there He is found throughout the whole Epistle. It was thus that Paul was converted; he only saw Christ in heaven. Therefore it is that he calls the good news the gospel of Christ’s glory — the glory of God in Christ’s face. It was so that it pleased God to reveal His Son in Paul who learnt that to persecute His saints was to persecute Him. The Epistle to the Hebrews bears the imprint just as strongly as any other, though in a remarkably different form, as from the apostle of the uncircumcision writing to the circumcision.
What we gather from Hebrews then — returning to the great truth before us — is, that God would give the Christian the distinct knowledge that all his sins are so completely gone that he is already free to draw near habitually into the holiest of all. How could the witness to that clearance be represented so well as in the figure of a live animal — the second goat — charged with all the iniquities and transgressions and sins confessed upon its head, and, by a man appointed, or in readiness, to be sent into a solitary land, or let go in the wilderness?
You must drop from your mind all thoughts of resurrection here. It is well known that some are disposed to see the resurrection in the type. It seems rather a taking thought that, as we have had in the first goat death, or as with the two birds in the cleansing of the leper (Lev. 14), so resurrection should follow in the live goat. But when the matter is looked into somewhat more closely, it will be found that the interpretation will not really hold. When Christ rose from the dead, it was in view of His going to heaven, whereas the live goat here is vent into the wilderness. But the wilderness cannot represent a scene of glory: heaven is anything but a land that is not inhabited. No; resurrection has no place whatever in this type; which is just God giving a lively figure of the dismissal of the sins that were confessed to where they could never be found again.
It is beyond controversy that in the New Testament the resurrection of Christ is treated as the blessed proof that our sins are remitted; as it is said, “He was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.” But we must be content with the type that God has given us here. We must not interweave truths that are really distinct by a forced connection of our own. It is quite enough to say that, as the sequel of Jehovah’s lot, we have here the people’s lot; and that, in this case, the sins confessed by the high priest, and laid on the head of the scape-goat, are by this most significant action vent away, never to be found more. If this be really what is intended by it, certainly it is of the deepest moment to souls.
Now we come to an important difference between the two goats. The first goat, we have seen, was not expressly limited like the second; the bearing of the Antitype assuredly is infinite. It was not only that the first goat was slain, and the blood carried into the holiest, but we hear of it also atoning for the holy place, the tabernacle and the altar. The application of the blood goes far beyond man. Just in the same way, in the New Testament, the blood of Christ is not at all limited to His people or that to which it is applied. Its efficacy is infinite for all those who come at God’s call, and believe in Christ.
But the assumption that His blood has no scope beyond the elect is a serious error. Not that to me God’s electing love is a doubtful question, but as sure as any other truth of revelation, and a spring of solid comfort to the household of faith, humbling to man’s pride and glorifying to the God of all grace. One may be quite willing to allow, therefore, that election is behind the second goat, if such an expression may be allowed. For there limitation comes; but the first goat typically is unlimited in its range. For this reason is grounded upon it the going forth of the gospel to every creature under heaven. What can be less limited, if other truth be safeguarded? Nothing can be conceived more disastrous to the intended width of the gospel than to address the elect merely. The Lord commanded that it be preached to every creature. Therefore you do well to act on His word, and need not fear for God’s glory. Be assured that God has found a ransom and is fully vindicated. Do not imaging for a moment that you are in danger of going beyond what the blood of Christ deserves, and what God estimates of His efficacious sacrifice. Were there a thousand worlds to save, were there sinners beyond all numbering to hear God’s glad tidings, there is that in the blood of Jesus which would moot every sinner of every world. Such is the unlimited value God finds in the death of His Son.
Yet if God did no more than proclaim the gospel, no person would hearken or could find peace. You may be arrested by the gospel, you may receive the word straightway with joy; but the word so received by nothing deeper than the affections as quickly comes to nought. The soul requires more than that, and the believer by grace is the object of a deeper work. The truth pierces the conscience under the hand of God’s Spirit, and the believer being thus brought to God, in a true self-judgment as well as sense of His grace in the person and work of Christ, is justified from all things, Hence one is not entitled to say to an unconverted person “Your sins are blotted out, and you are justified from all things.” It is going beyond the word of God for a servant of His to toll an unbeliever that by the work of Christ he, and all the world, are saved; so that all they need is to believe it. On the contrary, till you believe, you are not forgiven. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
In going beyond God’s gospel, you are preaching a spurious one of your own. You are bolder than man ought to be, without the word of God, and even against it. That the blood of Christ is capable of meeting every needy soul is assuredly true. But you have no warrant to toll a soul, until there is faith in Christ, that his sins are all gong. When he believes the gospel, you are entitled to tell him, in virtue of the truth figured in the second goat, that Christ bore his sins in His own body on the tree, and bore them away for over. The work of propitiation is seen under the first goat. When the sins are confessed and sent away, then is the comfort of knowing that all that heavy burden is clean gone never to reappear. This you cannot say to every soul. Here it is that the limitation of Israel has its importance. The people are concerned in the second goat in a very definite manner. In the former case it was Jehovah’s lot; in the second place, it is the people’s lot. By the “people” is not meant everybody, but (as far as Leviticus speaks) the chosen nation, and that nation only.
No doubt if you believe the gospel, you are one of God’s elect, you are one of His children, crying, Abba, Father. Now you know from His word that you were the object of God’s love before the world was made; but you had no right to appropriate one word about it until you believed in His Son. Till then all beyond was a secret; the fact was that you were a child of wrath like another. But when the soul confessed Christ, when the blood was owned in its propitiating value, then you had a true title from God to hear, “Your sins, which are many, are forgiven.” Then one can tell the full truth unhesitatingly to the soul which believes and repents; and there never is a divinely wrought repentance without a divinely given faith, nor a divinely given faith without a similar repentance. Be ready to comfort a soul whenever there is either the one or the other apparent. For in some cases the soul is filled with the anguish of its sins before God, so as to cloud the sense of pardoning love. This should not be, for the gospel is plain. Yet what can be more wholesome for the soul than to pass through a searching self-judgment in the sight of God. Be not uneasy about such an one, nor hurry it too much. Do not turn it away prematurely from these profitable exercises of conscience, along with looking to Christ and the cross. Lot it bow to an overwhelming sense of its own evil, while learning what the grace of God has wrought in the Lord Jesus, but do not enfeeble that deep work of unsparing self-judgment before God. You may now say confidently in the Lord’s name, “Your sins are completely borne away.” This is just for us the teaching of the scapegoat.
Let me repeat that here you have not the broad truth of the work of expiation effected by His blood that grace is sending out to all the world — the work which has for ever vindicated the glory of God where sin had put dishonour on Him, and has left Him righteously free to bless according to all that is in His heart. But here we see the witness to what is imperatively needed for the unburdening of the soul. Yet the second goat would be ineffective and vain without the first. If God be not first approached with atoning blood, it is the merest delusion to extract from the scapegoat the shadow of a comfort that your sins are borne away. But here the New Testament speaks so plainly that we may turn profitably to a few scriptures in illustration. Take the earliest that can be in order, the first chapter of Matthew: “Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for it is He that shall save His people from their sins.” “Save His people” does not mean save everybody. By “His people” is not meant those of all nations. Jesus is shown to be the divine Messiah. Jehovah’s people are His people, whom He will save from their sins, and not merely come to govern, as a Jew might have thought. His glory is divine, He is truly Emmanuel, which is, being interpreted, God with us. Yea, if possible, He is more than Emmanuel, He is Jehovah; He was therefore to be called Jesus, which involves the ineffable name of Jehovah, “For He shall save His people from their sins.” Thus all is definite. The Saviour accomplishes the gracious purpose of God.
In the same Gospel of Matthew later on, we have not merely words about the Lord, but His own words. Some have the fooling that when we have the very expressions of our blessed Lord, there is more in them than in any other communications of scripture, though these may ever so forcibly sot forth the same truth. There is indeed a majesty and a depth in the utterance of our Saviour, which is quite peculiar and characteristic of Himself; but the authority of scripture throughout is really and precisely the same. The moment you bring in varying degrees of authority, you take away the essence of its power, you bring in uncertainty; and uncertainty as to God’s word is deadly. However, in Matthew 20:28 it is written, “Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for” — all? Nay; for “many.” There is a true sense in which our Lord is a ransom for all; and the apostle speaks of it in 1 Tim. 2, the testimony to be borne in its own seasons. But a nice difference distinguishes the two texts. When, as in Matthew, it is a ransom for many, we have it clearly defined. The “for” is “instead of” (
ἀντὶ) many. It is strict substitution. When, as in 1 Tim., all are in view, it is simply “on behalf of” (
ὑπὲρ) all. “For” is not always the same word in Scripture. It is the more needful to make the remark, because so many are apt to reason that if “for” means one thing in one place, it must have the same force in another. Now take Romans 4:25, He “was delivered for our offences,” and next “raised again for our justification.” The “for” (
διὰ), though it be in Greek the strongest case of the same word, coos not mean the same thing in the two clauses. “For our offences” expresses the reason why He was given up; but His being raised is in order to our justification, not because we were justified, which would contradict all truth, and particularly the words immediately after.
Perhaps the prejudices of some may be wounded at hearing this; but allow me to convince you, if you are open to conviction, that what is said is true It would involve the consequence that a man is justified before he believes, which is clearly falsehood. It is by faith that one is justified, not before he believes. If this last were allowed, just think of the inevitable inference! One is a child of God while still a child of wrath! under guilty condemnation while justified! Can you conceive anything more heinous as well as monstrous, as it might well be, flying in the face of scripture? None but the believer is justified. Before he believed, he was neither washed, nor sanctified, nor justified. It is not a question of God’s purpose, but of man’s faith. There was divine purpose beyond just doubt before man or the world was made; but what has this to do with the epoch when a man is justified? How absurd to argue that a man is justified before he is born! That God has a purpose of grace about him is another thing; but in order to justification, he must be born again and believe the gospel, knowing Christ from God’s word. You cannot have a man justified without knowing it. Justification is a condition or status into which a person is brought by faith. “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Justification, it is allowed, must have a righteous basis, or, according to theological language, rest on an adequately meritorious cause. But the antecedent ground or cause must not be confounded with the means or principle by which the soul is brought into it. If scripture decide, a man is not justified until he believes in Christ, and has consequently peace with God. Peace with Him is a state of mind that the man cannot have without knowing that he has it. It is clangorous work, and ruinous to the soul, to tell a man that he has peace with God, if he have no enjoyment of it. Peace is that blessed change which possesses the soul when, through believing in Christ, he gives up warfare against God. When he receives, not only the Saviour, but the atoning work which the Saviour has done, he rests upon it before God. Then, and not before, having been justified by faith, he has peace with God to the praise of Christ, not of his faith, though without faith it cannot be.
So also, if we appeal to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, we read in chap. 15 how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (ver. 3). Now this is a great truth to lay before an anxious or enquiring soul. But you can only say it in the most vague and general manner to an unbeliever. You can freely say that He tasted death for every one (perhaps indeed every “thing”), Heb. 2:9. If He had not died as a sacrifice for sin, if He had not shed His blood as a propitiation, there could have been no gospel to a guilty world. But, it is when the soul believes in the efficacy of Christ’s death, that the burden of guilt is taken away, and this with the surest warrant of God to every one that believes. Where faith is, one cannot exaggerate the assurance He gives to the soul. Accordingly in Galatians 2:20, if we turn now to the next Epistle after those to the Corinthians, Christ “loved me and gave Himself for me.” Impossible to have language more personal. It is not merely the general truth that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Here the soul, now believing, is entitled to claim the love of Christ specially, “He loved me and gave Himself for me.” Are you entitled to preach this to an unbeliever? No scripture admits of such a licence.
But we may briefly look back at the third chapter of the Epistle to the Romans too, more cursorily tonight, though it was recently used for another purpose: “Whom God set forth as a propitiatory through faith in His blood, for the showing of His righteousness, for the passing over of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; for showing, I say, at this time of His righteousness that He might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” Evidently there is no such thing as justifying unless there be also the believing in Jesus. Faith must be in order to justification.
Still the message goes forth to all, for in verse 23 it is written, “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all.” But the moment you come to application it is said, “And upon all them that believe.” These are justified, but the word of grace goes out to every one. Thus the two truths are borne witness to in a remarkable manner throughout the Now Testament. There is universal proclamation by virtue of Christ’s precious blood; and there is the positive assurance of justification wherever there is faith in Him. So in Rom. 5 we are told, “God commendeth His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”
We may observe, by the way, that Scripture speaks in three ways of justification as the need of man naturally unrighteous: — justified by His grace (Titus 3:7); justified by His blood (Rom. 5:9), if you seek the procuring cause in the work of our Lord Jesus Christ; and justified by faith, if we ask the way by which the soul is individually brought into the blessing (Rom. 5:1).
You may have heard possibly that there are those who will have faith to mean the sum and substance of all Christian virtues! This is absolutely to annul the gospel of God. Faith means the soul’s reception of divine testimony. He who believes is one who sets to his veal that God is true. If God testifies of Jesus as His Son, he who believes receives it heartily. It is for the guilty and lost: how then can it be the sum and substance of all Christian virtues, when the gospel is expressly for any poor soul as a sinner? When we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Take even a stronger word, “To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that Justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness.” Is this the sum and substance of Christian virtues? It is the full contradiction of such a thought. Alas! what is thus expressed is the doctrine of men that do not understand the gospel, though the particular person referred to is the late Dr. Pusey, and indeed men of that school, besides that party in particular. Their heterodoxy or rather misbelief is, that in effect we become our own saviours by the help of the Holy Ghost. Redemption is unknown, little as they suspect it; for outwardly they pay reverence to more than Christ, some seeming to adore the sign of the cross. They believe that Chris, died to put every one, especially the baptised, in the way of salvation, and that without baptism nobody in general can be saved. But when it comes to the application, they bring in ordinances and morally the sum of all Christian virtues. So that it is a complete robbing the Lord of His redemption spoil, as it deprives the soul of all possibility of peace with God. How could any upright man say to God, “Now let me have peace with Thee, for I have the sum and substance of all the Christian virtues.” The very thing the Holy Spirit has been proving home is that the soul has not one as it ought to have; and therefore He forces it to fall back on God’s sovereign mercy in Christ. The idea completely nullifies the direct operation of God in quickening souls, as well as in redemption. Yet these are the sentiments of pious men. But withal they are blinded by human tradition. They read the Bible only through deceiving mists, unless when they defend it against rationalists.
There is no more fruitful source of darkening the spiritual understanding than the allowance of man between the soul and God, particularly at that solemn moment of a soul’s coming for the first time into God’s marvellous light, the knowledge of the Saviour for eternity.
But, passing on, we may see the same truth in the twin Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, and with no small precision and brilliancy. It may assume a somewhat different figure. For instance, “In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Although redemption and atonement are very distinguishable, they are indeed none the less in fact inseparable. You cannot have atonement without redemption, or redemption without atonement. Therefore it appears to me quite lawful to adduce the force of these scriptures into the case. As all is based on the blood of Christ, so it cannot be enjoyed without faith. The “we,” who “have redemption,” are those who believe, those described in a previous verse as the faithful in Christ.
So again we may look at a scripture very distinct indeed in the First Epistle of Peter. I purposely pass over the Epistle to the Hebrews for the moment, but in 1 Peter 2 we have what distinctly refers to Christ making good the Day of Atonement. “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His stops; Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth; Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again, when He suffered, reviled not, but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously; Who His own self bare our sins in His body on the tree.” It is not “up to” the tree. The margin, after many others, so gave it; but this was an ignorant and total oversight of the sacrificial language of the Old Testament. There are two forms employed in the LXX, and always distinctly. When it is a question of “up to,” or “to,” another wholly different preposition is used. Where the one found here is expressed, it invariably means “upon,” and not “to.” It is allowed that in other connections this may not always hold; but in sacrificial language the distinction is certain and constant. Now it is plain that here the apostle Peter is referring to the sacrificial language of the Old Testament. All his Epistle indeed abounds in allusions of a similar kind. If the world tells us that Peter was an unlearned man, let not believers forgot that the Holy Ghost inspired him. There may be no show of human reasoning or eloquence, no effort to gild the golden truths that he was given to announce; but the language for all that is divinely accurate. Any scholar ought to understand it also on the surface of the passage.
It is sadly plain that there is, at the bottom of all these efforts to mystify, a want of faith in the true inspiration of God’s word as well as in the unique efficacy of Christ’s work. But lot me refer to another thing to show you how unfounded is the idea that our Lord was bearing sins all His life. The word “bare” excludes the desired notion. “Bare” (
ἀνήνεγκεν) does not convey continuity but a transient act. The aorist is the definite expression of such an act. It expresses therefore what took place on the cross, certainly not what was in process before, any more than after. Christ’s bearing our sins in His body was complete then, and only then. The form of the word excludes anything begun before that solemn time, and it implies a completeness on the cross, where it began. Therefore, the notion “up to” is false, not only in the form of the word itself, but in its contextual sacrificial usage.
We may add another thing. When our Lord became a sin-bearer, He was surrounded by a supernatural darkness. It is notorious that, on scientific grounds, there could not have been an eclipse at that time. It was not then a mere natural eclipse; it was a supernatural darkness. There were other supernatural tokens which accompanied it. The veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom. The graves were opened. The sun was darkened, and the darkness, we saw, was of a most remarkable kind. Thus and then it was that Christ was made sin for us. If Christ had been bearing our sins all His life, there ought to have been these mysterious tokens all the while. If Christ had been made sin before, as such He must also have been forsaken of God. But plainly the forsaking of God was then, and only then. The supernatural darkness, the forsaking of God, and all the other wonderful signs, marked the presence of a crisis unequalled and unfathomable, that stands apart from all before and after. Is it too much, with scripture for our warrant to say, that in all eternity there never can be such a crisis again? How blessed it is to know that it all points to Christ made sin for us. No doubt it was God’s doing for His own glory, whatever the wickedness of the creature in its part about it. The heart is not to be envied which can reason such things away, instead of growing by the truth that what Christ suffered that day constitutes the most important fact that ever was, or can be.
When a soul is awakened, not merely to the deep and outrageous evil done to the Son of God, but to His and the Father’s unspeakable grace in achieving infinitely more than mere man could either do or suffer, that sin might be judged and put away as well as forgiven, and God be glorified even as to that which in itself is most hateful to His nature, how immense the change and blessed the victory of good over evil! Conscience, in us who believe, feels that God ought to be vindicated. But if we cannot but care for His moral glory, yet more has God sot His heart on the blessing of man lost in sin. Therefore has He in the cross of Christ made peace, and given us to have redemption through His blood, rising in the majesty of His love above our hatred where it was highest against His Son going down to the uttermost to save us out of our miserable selfishness, rebellious work, and foreboding of just wrath and judgment. He, therefore, gives us to know that the same death of our Lord Jesus Christ was both the complete meeting of His glory as Judge of sin on the one hand, and the blotting out by His blood of our sins on the other. Irreconcilable everywhere else, they are united in the reality of Christ’s death; as His person along afforded the sole Being capable of solving the problem of sin to the sinner’s blessing and God’s honour.
The sending away of the people’s sins, grounded on the sin-offering of atonement day, is the meaning of the scapegoat. We have but glanced at certain unhallowed speculations which need not be dwelt on. Suffice it now to say that from the early days of Christendom’s departure from apostolic truth till our own day, not a few learned persons have not been wanting who have dared to conjecture that the scapegoat represents the devil! Plain Christians might think that these men must have lost their senses to broach such defiling notions. But one form of the dream was put forward by a chief champion of orthodoxy as opposed to the neologists of Germany. It was quite common among the Fathers, so called, some of whom wont so far as to think that there was even a sacrifice to the devil! Far be it from me to attribute such vile heathenism to the learned Dr. Hengstenberg of Berlin, or to the respected Mr. George Stanley Faber of our own country. They were Christians, but slipped into the extraordinary delusion that the scapegoat means Satan dealing with our Lord Jesus Christ. No! it was the figure which God graciously vouchsafed as the complement of the sacrificed goat of the removal of all their sins from the burdened souls of His people. It was God Who, as He found His rest as to sin in the shed blood of Christ on the cross, would also signify His banishment of all dread of judgment from the verily and confessedly guilty who looked to Him that confessed and bore their sins on the tree.
It is almost superfluous to commend the subject as one of urgent and exceeding moment to souls. May the Lord grant, if any here who look to Him be still troubled by their sins, that they may see God’s written testimony to the cross, blood, and death of Christ, if one may put it in the largest form. It is not a mere question of their loss through unbelief of scripture; but are they truly doing honour to the atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ? The Holy Spirit testifies strongly the virtue of Christ’s death (Heb. 10:15). It is not the bare fact of His death of course, but God’s declaration to and for man of its value in His sight that you are called to weigh, — the revealed power of it for your sins. It is the cleansing and peace which God gives the believer by reason of Christ. He wants you to have the settled assurance that all against you is so clean gone that God will never remember it more.
Some of my hearers may remember the teaching founded on the bullock, and perhaps wonder that the scapegoat seems applied to the same purport. Let me explain in a few moments how the truth stands. We all begin standing without, just like Israel; we who believe were no loss guilty of sins and iniquities. The bullock is for us when we come to the knowledge that we are made free of entrance into the Holy Place, that we can as priests draw near where God is. This is very far from being our state of mind when first, however truly, awakened. The soul then feels itself without the sanctuary, and cries for mercy, while owning itself a just object of divine judgment. Such is the state to which the two goats apply. Not only do we plead the blood as vindicating God on the one hand, but the remission of our sins to give us assurance that they are gone.
But are we left there? Not so. Christ is gone into the holiest of all. Are we, now like Israel, waiting for Christ to come out? This is the type strictly for them. The second goat shows the high priest come out of the sanctuary, to the unspeakable relief of the people who cannot in any sense enter within. When any one presses the literal accomplishment of the scapegoat, it is Israel. They are outside now, and will be so even then. But the Lord Jesus will leave the heavenly sanctuary and will come with power, glory, and blessing. Are we in any such position as Christians? Certainly not, when we know the full efficacy of His blood. The gospel brings us far more than the comfort of the second goat to the people without. We give thanks to the Father Who made us meet for sharing the inheritance of the saints in light. Through Christ we have access, whether Jew or Gentile who believe, by one Spirit unto the Father. Even those who were once afar off are become nigh by the blood of Christ. The Holy Ghost, as already come out of the sanctuary, makes us know this while Christ is within, so that we may await Christ’s coming, not to announce remission of sins, but to change our bodies into conformity with His own, and to present the church to Himself glorious. Such, beyond controversy, is Christianity and the Christian hope. Through the Holy Ghost come out we draw near within, where Christ is. When Christ quits heaven and appears to bless His people, the Holy Ghost will be shed on all flesh at the same and a second time. The blessing of Christianity is that we know Christ while He is in the heavens. This is where the application of the bullock applies to us in all its force; though one must always begin, where Israel ends, with the two goats.