The question having been raised as to verse 26 of Hebrews 9 and the putting away of sin, I send you a few lines on this subject.
In the first place I have frequently insisted on sin being put away by the sacrifice of Christ, in the sense that the believer stands before God perfectly justified and accepted, the Lord imputing no sin; he is perfectly clear before God. And this, thank God, I believe as I ever did. It is our blessed privilege in Christ. May every quickened soul enjoy it! God forbid that any nicety of expression should enfeeble it. But when expressions, not actually the word of God, are used, and conclusions are drawn from them, as if they were scriptural statements, we are forced to be more accurate. And this has been the case in the statement that sin has been put away by the sacrifice of Christ. This scripture does not state. He appeared once, in the consummation of ages, for the putting away of sin (eis athetesin) by the sacrifice of Himself.
I had long ago noticed that the expression, “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” would have its perfect completion only in the new heaven and the new earth, though the work on which that state was based was finished by God’s Lamb once for all on the cross; but the force of Hebrews 9:26 had not been so especially noted. Yet it is essentially the same truth. Sin, that hated thing, must be put out of that world which God created for His own glory.
We must not confound clearing our conscience and redeeming us, and putting away sin out of God’s world as that which is offensive to Him. Verse 28 speaks of Christ’s bearing the sins of many. Thus they are perfectly cleared.
But sin remains in the flesh and in the world, and it must be set aside, all things in heaven and earth reconciled to God; and this will take place. The work on which it is based, in virtue of which it will be accomplished by power, the work in which God is morally glorified perfectly and for ever, is accomplished, and Christ sits at the right hand of God in virtue of it. But the sins of the many who come under grace have been borne by Him, and the believer has been washed from all. Nor is this all as to him. Not only has Christ borne all his sins, but for faith he has died with Christ, and as dead he is justified from sin; the old man has been crucified with Christ. Sin in the flesh was condemned on the cross, and there is no condemnation for him.
It is in this general sense of our standing before God that it has been said that sin was put away, and, thank God, it is so. But the real thought was all guilt and imputation in our standing before God. But the putting away sin has a wider application in scripture; all things in heaven and earth are to be reconciled to God. Righteousness is to dwell in the new heaven and the new earth, and in a modified sense this will be the case even in the reign of Christ. Then it will be effected by power. But the work by which morally that is done in righteousness and for God’s glory, in which it is really done in the moral sense, is accomplished, all that God is having been glorified on the cross where Christ was made sin; and faith lays hold on this.
Alas! very few Christians even make the difference of sins or guilt, and sin. Our sins are all forgiven, we are perfectly washed from them; and, besides this, as dead with Christ, the old man is for faith put off; its condemnation was in Christ’s death. We are not in the flesh, though actually the flesh is in us. But the putting away of sin goes far wider, the putting it away out of God’s sight in the world. And this, as a result, is not accomplished, though the work be perfectly accomplished on which that result is founded, and that work is in one sense more important than the fact, because God has been perfectly glorified there, in virtue of which it will be accomplished; and faith knows this work is done, and rejoices that there is no condemnation for the believer before God, the conscience being purged from sins, and sin in the flesh being condemned in the cross. So that there is no imputation and no condemnation. But sin exists. The effect of the work, as in God’s purpose, is not as yet made good. Even as to the believer, he cannot say, I have no sin. “He that is dead is justified from sin “(not sins) here; but I have this title to reckon myself dead, Christ having died to sin.
If I say sin is put away, I weaken the force of “putting away,” for sin is still there. It is not the world in which righteousness dwells. The sins of God’s people have been borne, and the blood of propitiation is on the mercy-seat; so that we can go to the world and beseech sinners to come, as though God did beseech by us, in our little measure. That work is all done and accepted which enables me to do it. I can say to the believer that he is all clear, white as snow before God. But the putting away of sin is a wider thing. John I itself shews this—the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (not has taken away, nor sins). It is the removal of sin in God’s sight in the world, a result not yet accomplished. This passage refers specifically to the result, Hebrews 9:26 to the purpose and means of its being done, as verse 28 does to the other question of our actual guilt.
Incorrect expressions I should not make a fuss about; God graciously bears with them, if the heart is earnest and right. I do not stand in the gate to make a man an offender for a word. Here I inquire merely what is correct when the question is raised. Conclusions from what is not in scripture I do not allow.