There is in John 3 a twofold aspect of Christ presented to us, as the object of faith, through which we do not perish but have everlasting life. As Son of man, He must be lifted up; as only-begotten Son of God, He is given by the infinite love of God.
Many souls stop at the first, the Son of man’s meeting the necessity in which men stood as sinners before God, and do not look on to that infinite love of God which gave His only-begotten Son—the love which provided the needed lamb, the true source of all this work of grace, which stamps on it its true character and effect, and without which it could not be.
Hence such souls have not true peace and liberty with God. Practically for them the love is only in Christ, and God remains a just and unbending judge. They do not really know Him, the God of love, our Saviour. Others alas! with more fatal error, false as to their own state and God’s holiness, with no true or adequate sense of sin, reject all true propitiation. The “must be lifted up” has no moral force for them, nothing that the conscience with a true sense of sin needs.
The former was one great defect of the Reformation, the other comes of modern infidelity, for such it really is. Alas! that defect of the Reformation, as a system of doctrine, is the habitual state of many sincere souls now. But it is sad. Righteousness may reign for them, with hope; but it is not grace reigning through righteousness. I repeat, God is not known in His nature of love, nor indeed the present completeness of redemption.
The statement of John 3 begins with the need of man in view of what God is, as indeed it must; but it gives as the source and result of it for the soul, its measure too in grace, that which was in the heart of God towards a ruined world. As in Hebrews 10, to give us boldness to enter into the holiest, the origin is “Lo! I come to do thy will; by the which will we are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all.” The offering was the means, but He was accomplishing the will of God in grace, and by the exercise of the same grace in which He came to do it: for “hereby know we love, that he laid down his life for us.” So in Romans 5 God commends His love to us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. It is summed up in the full saying: Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
This point being premised, and it is an important one, I add that we cannot present too simply the value of Christ’s blood, and redemption and forgiveness through it, to the awakened sinner whom that love may have drawn to feel his need; for by need, and because of need, the sinner must come—it is his only just place before God. The love of God, and even His love announced in forgiveness through the work of Christ, may, through the power of the Holy Ghost, awaken the sense of need; still having the forgiveness is another thing. That love, brought home to the soul through grace, produces confidence, not peace; but it does produce confidence. Hence we come into the fight. God is light and God is love. Christ in the world was the light of the world, and He was there in divine love. Grace and truth came (egeneto) by Jesus Christ. When God reveals Himself, He must be both—light and love. The love draws and produces confidence; as with the woman in the city who was a sinner, the prodigal, Peter in the boat. The light shews us our sinfulness. We are before God according to the truth of what He is, and the truth of what we are. But the atonement does more than shew this; it meets and is the answer to our case when known. It is the ground, through faith, of forgiveness and peace. (See Luke 7:47-50.) Christ could anticipate His work, and the child of wisdom go in peace. The law may by grace reach the conscience and make us feel our guilt, but it does not reveal God in love. But that love has done what was needed for our sinful state. Hereby know we love, that He laid down His life for us. He was delivered for our offences, died for our sins according to the Scriptures, is the propitiation for our sins, set forth as a mercy-seat through faith in His blood, which cleanses from all sin. With His stripes we are healed. I might multiply passages; I only now cite these, that the simple basis of the gospel on the one side, and on the other the work that love has wrought to purge our sins and withal our consciences, so that we may be in peace before a holy God, who is of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look on iniquity, may be simply and fully before us.
We must come as sinners to God, because we are sinners; and we can only come in virtue of that which, while it is the fruit of God’s love, meets according to His holy nature the sins we are guilty of. But then, while it is true that our sins are removed far from us who believe through grace, as they were carried into a land not inhabited by the scapegoat in Israel, yet we have only an imperfect view of the matter in seeing our sins put away. In that great day of atonement the blood was sprinkled on the mercy-seat and before it; just as it was sprinkled on the lintel and two door-posts to meet God’s eye. “When I see the blood,” He says, “I will pass over.” It was in view of the sin of Israel, but presented to God. The goat whose blood was shed was called, on the great day of atonement, “Jehovah’s lot.” The blood was carried within; so it was with the bullock, and with the bullock it was exclusively this. The testimony was there, blessed be God, that as dwellers on the earth our sins have been carried off where none shall find them; but what characterised the day was putting the blood on the mercy-seat—presenting it to God. On this day only, too, it was done. In the case of the sin of the congregation, or of the high priest, it was sprinkled on the altar outside the veil; but on the great day of atonement alone on the mercy-seat within.
Now, though the sinner must come as guilty and because of his need, and can come rightly in no other way, as the poor prodigal and so many other actual cases, yet this does not reach to the full character of propitiation or atonement, though in fact involving it. The divine glory and nature are in question. In coming we come by our need and wants; but if we have passed in through the veil, we can contemplate the work of Christ in peace, as viewed in connection with God’s nature, though on our part referring to sin. The sins, then, were carried away on the scapegoat, but what God is was specially in view in the blood carried within the veil. The sins were totally and for ever taken off the believers, and never found; but there was much more in that which did it, and much more even for us. God’s character and nature were met in the atonement, and through this we have boldness to enter into the holiest. This distinction appears in the ordinary sacrifices. They were offered on the brazen altar, and the blood sprinkled there. Man’s responsibility was the measure of what was required. His case was met as to guilt; but if he was to come to God, into His presence, he must be fit for the holiness of that presence.
Not only Christ has borne our sins, but He has perfectly glorified God on the cross, and the veil is rent, and we have boldness to enter into the holiest. The blood, therefore, of the bullock and of the goat, which was Jehovah’s lot, was brought into the holiest. The other goat was the people’s lot, this Jehovah’s: He was dishonoured by sin; and Christ the holy One was made sin for us, was before God according to what God was in His holy and righteous nature.
Now, says the Lord, is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him; and man entered into the holiest, into heaven itself. Having glorified God in the very place of sin as made it before God, He enters into that glory on high. Love to God, His Father, and absolute obedience at all costs, was perfected where He stood as sin before God. All that God is was glorified here, and here only: His majesty—it became Him to maintain His glory in the moral universe, and thus in bringing many sons to glory, that He should make the Captain of our salvation perfect through suffering; His truth was made good; perfect, righteous judgment against sin, yet perfect love to the sinner. Had God cut off man for sin, there was no love; had He simply forgiven and passed over all sins, there would have been no righteousness. People might have sinned on without its being any matter. There would have been no moral government. Man must have stayed away from God, and misery and allowed sin have had their fling; or he must have been admitted into God’s presence in sin, and sin been allowed there; man incapable withal of enjoying God, and, as sensible of good and evil, more miserable than ever.
But in the cross perfect righteousness against sin is displayed and exercised, and infinite love to the sinner. God is glorified in His nature, and salvation to the vilest, and access to God, according to the holiness of that nature, provided for and made good, and this in the knowledge, in the conscious object of it, of the love that had brought it there; a perfect and cleansing work in which that love was known. This, while the sins were put away, could only be by the cross: God revealed in love, God holy and righteous against sin, while the sins of the sinner were put away, his conscience purged, and by grace, his heart renewed, in the knowledge of a love beyond all his thoughts; himself reconciled to God, and God glorified in all that He is, as He could not else be; perfect access to God in the holiest, where that blood, the testimony to all this, has been presented to God, and the sins gone for ever, according to God’s righteousness while the sinner has the consciousness of being accepted according to the value of that sacrifice, in which God has been perfectly glorified, so that the glory of God and the sinner’s presence there were identified. Angels would learn, and principalities and powers, what they could learn nowhere else.
And this marks the two parts of propitiation—man’s responsibility, and access to God given according to His glory and nature: in the sins borne and put away, the scapegoat, God judging evil according to what man ought to be; and access to God according to what He is. The last specifically characterises the Christian; but the former was necessary, and accomplished for every one that believes; both by the same work of the cross, but each distinct—judicial dealing according to man’s responsibility, access to God according to His nature and holiness. The law in itself was the measure of the former, the child of Adam’s duty; the nature of God, of the latter, so that we have the infinite blessedness of being with God according to His nature and perfection, partaking of the divine nature, so as to be able to enjoy it, holy and without blame before Him in love. Of this Christ as Man, and we must add as Son withal, is the measure and perfection; and let it not be said that, if we partake of this nature, we need not this propitiation and substitution. This can only be said or supposed by those who have not got it; because, if we partake of the divine nature, we judge of sin in principle as God does, we have His mind as to it, and as upright of ourselves as in it, and so come, as I have said, first in lowliness in our need to the cross, and, then purged in conscience, comprehend the glory of God in it.
These two points, in their general aspect, are clearly presented in Hebrews 9:26-28: Christ appeared once in the end of the world to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself; and as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment, so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. It is carried out in application in chapter 10, where we have no more conscience of sins, and boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.
But this leads us to a still wider bearing of the work of the cross. The whole question of good and evil was brought to an issue there: man in absolute wickedness and hatred against God manifested in goodness and love; Satan’s whole power as prince of this world, and having the power of death; man in perfect goodness in Christ, obedience and love to His Father, and this in the place of sin as made it, for it was there the need was for God’s glory and eternal redemption; God in perfect righteousness, and majesty, and in perfect love. So that all was perfectly settled morally for ever. The fruits will be only complete in the new heavens and new earth, though the value of that work be now known to faith; but what is eternal is settled for ever by it, for its value is such and cannot change.
Propitiation, then, meets our sins through grace, according to God’s holy nature, to which it is presented and which has been fully glorified in it. It meets the requirements of that nature. Yet is it perfect love to us; love, indeed, only thus known as wrought between Christ and God alone, the only part we had in it being our sins, and the hatred to God which killed Christ.
But it does more, being according to God’s nature, and all that this nature is in every respect. It not only judicially meets what is required by reason of our sins, man’s failure in duty, and his guilt, but it opens access into the presence of God Himself known in that nature which has been glorified in it. Love, God in love working unsought, has through grace made us love, and we are reconciled to God Himself according to all that He is, our conscience having been purged according to His glory, so that love may be in unhindered confidence. Man sits at the right hand of God in virtue of it, and our souls can delight in all that God is, our conscience being made perfect by that which has been wrought. No enfeebling or lowering the holiness of God in His judicial estimate of and dealing with sin; on the contrary, all that He is thus glorified, no pleading goodness to make sin fight; but God in the will and love of salvation met in that judgment and holiness, and the soul brought to walk in the light, as He is in the light, and in the love which is His being and nature, without blame before Him, a perfect conscience so as to be free before Him, but a purged one which has judged of sin as He does, but learned what sin is in the putting of it away. Without the atonement or propitiation of Christ this is impossible. God is not brought in: it is but human goodness which drops holiness and overlooks sin or estimates it according to mere natural conscience. Christ has died, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.
It is not innocence, for the knowledge of good and evil is there, nor the slighting of God and an unpurged conscience, nor even the return to the former state of Adam (not knowing good and evil, innocent), but God fully revealed and known in majesty and light and love, and we brought to Him according to that revelation in perfect peace and joy by a work done for us, which has met and glorified His majesty and light and love in the place of sin, as made it, by Him who knew no sin.
The full result will only be in the new heavens and new earth, the eternal state of blessedness, a condition of happiness not dependent on fulfilling the responsibility in which he who enjoyed it was placed and in which he failed, but based on a finished work accomplished to the glory of God in the very place of ruin, the value of which can never in the nature of things change; it is according to the nature and character of God, it is done and is always what it is, and all is eternally stable. Righteousness, not innocence, dwells in the new heavens and the new earth, not feeble man responsible, but God glorified for evermore. The result is not all there yet; but we know that the work is done through the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, and we wait as believers for our portion in the rest when all shall be accomplished, accepted in the Beloved.
Judgment is according to man’s responsibility, shut out then judicially into that exclusion from God into which man has cast himself: blessing is according to the thoughts and purpose and nature of God in the exceeding riches of His grace displayed in our salvation through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ come to bring us into His presence as sons.
Sin and sins are before God in the cross, and propitiation wrought. There sin and sins met God, but in the work of love according to holiness and righteousness, which brings to God according to His nature those who come to Him by it, cleared from them all for ever.
In commenting on Dr. Waldenstrom’s statements60 as to the atonement, I would begin by saying that I entirely agree with him (and indeed I have long insisted on this in contrast with the church confessions of the Reformation), that it is man who is reconciled to God, and that Scripture never speaks of God’s being reconciled to man. The statement and the thought are wholly unscriptural, and shock rather the scripturally-taught mind. And it alters the whole tone of the gospel and the state of soul as to God, both as to peace and the sanctifying power of the truth, for it is the truth which sanctifies. That God is always the same and immutable is assuredly true. Thank God, it is so. There is one thing stable; or what would be?
But while fully acknowledging this, it seems to me that some of Dr. Waldenstrom’s thoughts come from tradition, or from his own mind, not from the word of God; and these I would briefly notice, while my heart would encourage him in his conflict in maintaining the truth of which I have just spoken. And here I would add that I look to the Scriptures alone as the foundation and source of truth; on them alone I shall base any doctrine; and if I call in question any statement of Dr. W.’s, it will be because it is not in the word; and I present to him these remarks, first of all, that he may weigh them before the Lord, remembering how important the truth is, and how all blessing and sanctification flow to our souls by it through grace. It is to the Scriptures that the apostle refers us in 2 Timothy 3 when the perilous times should be come. And are they not here?
Dr. Waldenstrom’s first proposition is “that no change has been effected in the heart of God by the fall.” Now as to God’s nature, this is surely true. If He is love, He is always love; if righteous, always righteous; if holy, always holy. But because He changes not, His relationship towards others changes, and His conduct and dealings, because they are changed.
God would not, could not, because He did not change, drive man out of paradise when he was innocent. This would have been a change in God if there was none in man. But He did drive him out when he had sinned, because the righteousness (which would have left him to enjoy in innocence the blessings in the midst of which He had placed him while unchanged, and because He Himself did not change) now had to deal with one that was changed, and therefore dealt differently, dealt judicially, with the guilty and alienated, which He had not to do before. Leaving him to enjoy the tree of life, and turning him out and barring the way to it was an immense difference, an immense change, not in God, but in God’s ways and dealings with man because He did not change. And to say that God does not change in Himself does not meet the question. Even the love was quite different in its ways and character. The. love of complacency in what He had made good is very different from the sovereign love of mercy which works to redeem a fallen, denied, and guilty creature. God rested when all was created, and all was good; but, when Jesus was maliciously accused of violating the Sabbath, His sovereignly beautiful answer was, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” How could the love of God, a holy God, rest in sin and misery? It could work in grace, but it could not rest. And there is a revelation of that in God in redemption which had no place in innocence. “God commendeth his love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Love takes the character of grace to what is in enmity, not of complacency in what was His own work.
Here let me remark that, if I do not mistake him, Dr. W., with all who rest in theological traditions, reckons Adam to be righteous and holy. He was neither, but innocent. To be righteous or holy requires the knowledge of good and evil, and this Adam had not till he fell; and the difference is immense. We have only to speak of God as innocent, and the believer’s heart at once revolts from it—is offended by it. Righteous and holy He surely is.
This difference in Adam is clearly and formally stated in Scripture. It was the promise of Satan (Gen. 3:5), and Jehovah Elohim declares it to be so (v. 22). Tradition has falsified all this, but the word is clear and certain. It does not mean, “You shall know evil who before knew only good.” Would Satan have proposed such a thing as this to him, or, still more, could it have this sense in God’s mouth? “The man is become as one of us, knowing good and evil.” No, he was before innocent, and now makes inwardly the difference between right and wrong, not merely by an imposed law as tradition teaches, but inwardly as God does, though he may be hardened or misled as God cannot be. We must not confound the rule for conscience with conscience. The law is the perfect rule for the conscience of Adam’s fallen children, Christ’s walk for the Christian; and this the soul taught of God accepts, and with delight. The conscience takes knowledge of the difference of what is right and what is wrong.
Further, the question is not, as Dr. W. states it, “If the fall was an obstacle in the way of man’s salvation.” It was no obstacle to his salvation. Salvation was not needed without the fall; but it was an obstacle, and in itself an absolute one, to man’s acceptance as he was. Christ came to save what was lost, and that, because God was not changed but remained holy and righteous—is “of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look on iniquity.” I do not speak of God’s wrath against the world being the obstacle; but the unconverted man is under wrath, a child of wrath. I do not say this was an obstacle to salvation; it was not, because God was sovereign in goodness.
But Scripture does not speak of the matter as Dr. W. does. He asks, “How could he be propitiated that loved?” A person who loves deeply and truly may require something in order that he may shew favour. The eternal maintenance of the unchangeableness of God’s character, of the nature of good and evil as He sees it, may require it. Not merely man’s being saved is in question, for that is not the result of Christ’s death as to all men, if He did die for all, but the public testimony to the immutability of God’s nature, and to maintain it in the sight of the universe; yea, to lay the foundation of the immutable blessing of the new heavens and the new earth according to what God is, supreme as righteous, holy, and love. A father with the most perfect love to his child may require for the order of his family that satisfaction to his authority, what maintains it before all, and the rules of his house, be done. “It became him [God] for whom are all things and by whom are all things in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings,” Heb. 2:10. It became Him. Did He not love that blessed One? Yet it became Him to do this. So that this statement of Dr. W.’s is alike inadequate and incorrect. There is that which becomes God because of what He is, which is not love, though love be His unchangeable nature.
And now see how Scripture actually speaks of the very point. It does not simply say that, where sin abounded, love did much more abound, but grace did much more abound. But more. We were by nature the children of wrath: it was our natural inheritance from God; for whose wrath is spoken of? What belonged to us? “But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us.” So that wrath against us, as our natural portion from God, is not inconsistent with infinite and sovereign love. Thus Christ in the synagogue looked upon them with anger, being grieved at the hardness of their hearts. The grief was love, the anger His righteous estimate of their sin.
Grace reigns, blessed be God, but it is through righteousness; Rom. 5. Dr. W. seems to say it is in making us practically righteous by removing our sins. But it is “God’s righteousness.” Does he question it is God’s wrath? I quote Romans 1:17, 18, for both, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for therein is the righteousness of God revealed.” Why? “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven.” And then Paul proceeds to prove all the world guilty before God as the reason of this. It is not true, therefore, that wrath cannot be where there is love. A father full of love may be rightly angry with his child, and when Dr. W. says “wrath in the heart,” he is misled altogether, and confounds hatred with judicial anger. There is no hatred in God to man assuredly. Yet God is a righteous judge, and God is angry every day and ought to be so.
Farther on Dr. W. admits that there is wrath against sin in God’s mind, and therefore against the sinner while he abides in the sin; but what God does is to take away the criminality by Christ, and so He can love the sinner, and His wrath has no ground as the sin is gone. Now, as thus put, it is merely the personal state of the sinner which removes the wrath in removing the occasion of it. And this is doubly, and in every way false. First, it mars the perfectness of God’s sovereign love. God loved us while we were sinners, and this is characteristic of His love, His saving love; and, secondly, it ignores the righteousness of God, and the work by which judicially the sins were put away. I do not mean that he denies that Christ died for our sins as a fact; but it is merely the effect in us which removes the wrath, the state we are in which leaves God free to love us; our criminality is gone, we are cleansed, so there is no object of wrath left because we are clean. He speaks indeed of God’s wrath being His justice, but all his reasoning is that there is no “change in the .disposition from anger to kindness.”
But peace had to be made when there was wrath, and the sovereign love that saves is not the favour which rests on those reconciled; Rom. 5:1. God loved us when we were sinners; He loves us without any change when we are cleansed. But we are cleansed, reconciled, we are told. Now I fully recognise, and insist on it, that God loved us when we were sinners, and that we are reconciled. But then, according to Dr. W., the only change is in our state, which leaves God free to love us; whereas He loved us when we were in our sins. The change spoken of is by the operation and work of grace in us. The work of Christ we needed is wholly left out. I do not mean that Dr. W. in terms denies there was an atonement; he says, Scripture teaches the necessity of an atonement. But what is this? Is it anything towards God? “The reconciliation must be effected by our recovering the righteousness in which God through His righteousness could again become our eternal life.” There are as many errors as thoughts here; but I only notice now that the mediatorial work of atonement is simply a change in our actual state, otherwise “the righteous One is a consuming fire for the unrighteous,” and so over and over again. I quote one passage more: “No: where there is sin, there is wrath; God’s wrath is unchangeably manifest, as sure as God is God.” I ask in passing, Is there no sin in us? “His justice can take no other form against sin but that of wrath, and it is impossible that there should be sin without the wrath of God.” “But where there is righteousness, there is no wrath to be quenched, for there can be none.” “But an individual who is blameless respecting the law is outside its wrath, and instead thereof enjoys its blessings.” Did God then not love us when we were sinners? If He did, and it is impossible there should be sin without the wrath of God, wrath and love go together. All Dr. W.’s system is false.
The truth is, all this confounds divine favour resting on us in Christ, and sovereign love to the sinner. The first part of what the Lord says in John 3 is thus left out: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” The Son of man, He who represented man, must be lifted up—die on the cross, and where was such a lamb to be found? “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son.” The “Son of man” must be lifted up, the “Son of God” was given, the same blessed Person; but “Son of man,” to die for man’s need, standing for man before God; “Son of God,” vessel and proof of God’s sovereign love. He is therefore spoken pf as representing man, which Dr. W. denies, and not merely God. Nor did He, properly speaking, represent God in dying, nor in being made sin. His doing so was the effect of God’s infinite love to man, which was His own withal; but in the work thus wrought He suffered as Son of man made sin. This could not represent God. If the world be reconciled, the relationship is changed, though God be not. But this Scripture never says.61 Christ, Dr. W. tells us, “was struck by the curse of God’s wrath against sin.” “He descended,” he says, “into our sin,” and so was “struck by the curse of God’s wrath.”62 Whom did He represent then? Was Christ, as Man made sin for us and struck by the curse, representing God in this place? That His doing so was the effect of infinite divine love is true; but did sin, and wrath, and the curse represent in the infliction of it God’s love or God’s righteous wrath against sin? By the grace of God He tasted death, being made a little lower than the angels to that end; but was His tasting death, and drinking that dreadful cup, and sweating as it were great drops of blood at only thinking of it, God’s love to Him or apprehended by Him? Did He pray, that if it were possible, the cup might pass, meaning the cup of God’s love?
I am told it was to justify us, to make us righteous. All true; and His not sparing His own Son was the infinite love of God. But what was Christ doing and suffering then in order to that end? We must not slip away from it by confounding the effect in believers and the work or suffering which wrought that effect. God does look upon believers with complacency as righteous in Christ, and the result is far greater and more admirable than all that Dr. W. speaks of. He has obtained for us to be partakers of His own glory according to the counsels of God; but the wrath of God, His judicial wrath against the sin, was removed by Christ’s being made sin for us and bearing our sins, not by our state in consequence of it, which is the effect of that. “He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” If the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, He was substituted in drinking that dreadful cup for us. He was our (believers’) representative there. God dealt with Him so because of our sins which were laid upon Him, and for that reason peace comes to us; not because we became actually righteous: our peace is the effect of His chastisement. You may quarrel with the word ‘appease,’ and confound judicial stripes with ‘hatred’; but do not let us lose what Dr. W. does not deny, though he argues it away in taking ‘wrath’ for ‘hatred,’ and making the ground of our peace our actual state of righteousness; whereas we are made the righteousness of God in Christ because He has been made sin for us; 2 Cor. 5:21.
Our peace is the fruit of God’s judicial chastisement falling on Christ. If not, of what is it the fruit? “He was struck when he descended into our sin” (was made sin for us) “by the curse of God’s wrath against sin.” The sin then, according to Dr. W., has been dealt with in wrath. Whose sin? If Christ descended into our sin (an expression by no means agreeable to me), and the curse of God’s wrath came upon Him for it, it is not simply God’s loving us. Righteousness dealt with sin in wrath, and thus God’s anger (the curse) was executed, and so peace was made: His anger was turned away from us. When He who knew no sin was made sin for us, the curse fell on Him. Never was Christ so precious to His Father as then. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life.” But this is not the question. Did not “the curse of God’s wrath “which was due to our sins come upon Him? He had no sin; He was delivered for our offences, and “the curse of wrath” came. If as our representative He bore our sins, and God’s curse and wrath came upon Him, He was our representative so as to have the curse upon Him, for because of those sins He so suffered and drank the cup, and the anger was over and gone, as regards all that believe. The anger against our sins had to be executed, and so ceased; with us it would have been eternal condemnation, but through a mediator’s stepping in and taking the curse He has redeemed us from it. Christ has redeemed us from the curse by being made a curse for us. Infinite love, no doubt; but whom did Christ represent when “the curse” came upon Him for sin? Was it God when He laid on Him our iniquity? That He was God, and else could not have done it, is all blessedly true; but it is not the question. Did He represent God in suffering the curse which God laid upon Him? He glorified God: that is true (“Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him”). And glorifying God was the first grand object, and not merely love to us. This was part of the glory, no doubt, but it was not all. It is not simply that God was putting away our sins, but there was a mediator with whom He was dealing about sins. God was making Him sin, and dealing with Him in the way of a curse because of it, when He had “offered himself without spot to God.” Curse and wrath have been executed; and thus peace has been made. It is not without God’s dealing with sin, that He has treated us as righteous, nor was our being made righteous “recovering our righteousness” (a wholly unscriptural thought) which made God righteously favourable to us; but He held us to be righteous because of what the mediator had done, and this was not representing God, but “the man Christ Jesus” bearing the curse of wrath from God. According to Dr. W. himself God takes vengeance. He is not unrighteous who taketh vengeance, and He claims it exclusively to Himself: “Vengeance is mine, I will recompense, saith the Lord.” Assuredly this is righteous judgment with Him, not passion or hatred; but it is real. Christ will appear “taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
But through a mediator there is peace made for us. The Red Sea which destroyed the Egyptians was a safeguard, and the way of deliverance, for Israel. And it is to this work of Christ God looks in sparing and forgiving, not to the state we are in in consequence of it, true as that consequence may be. When Jehovah executed judgment in Egypt, He did not say, “When I see them righteous, through the slain lamb of course, I shall not smite them”; nor “I will spare them because they have recovered righteousness.” The blood was to be put outside the house to meet God’s eye, and He says— “When I see the blood, I will pass over you,” Exod. 12:13. And if I am justified by faith, faith in what? Not faith in my state of righteousness; but faith in the Person and blood-shedding and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. I do know I am forgiven and cleansed through it, but my faith is not in that; for faith in my being righteous cannot be what justifies me, but faith in Christ and His work does justify me. I believe that God has accepted that work. Anger and wrath rested on me; Christ stepped in between and drank the dreadful cup, and there is no more anger for me. There was wrath outstanding against me, and now there is not: call it “appeasing” or not, that is the truth. It is not that God does not impute my sins, because I am now righteous and there is nothing to impute, but because Christ has borne them. I believe on Him who raised up Christ from the dead, delivered for our offences, raised again for our justification; and having been justified by faith I have peace with God; Rom. 4:24, 25; 5:1.
My present state of righteousness, though it may be the reason why there is no cause for wrath now, says nothing about my past sins, nor can it be the means of clearing them away; but a real work of Christ suffering for sins, the Just for the unjust. That work may be the means of bringing us into that state, so that God looks on us with complacency. But what did the work? what cleared the sins? Was the cup, and what Dr. W. calls “the curse of wrath,” love in itself? Love to us may have caused its being done; but what was it that was done?
And here I must make a remark as to Dr. W.’s use of Romans. He only uses the second part, which does not treat of our guilt by our sins, but of our state by Adam’s sin. “By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners,” Rom. 5:19. The two parts of the Epistle are quite distinct. The division is between verses 11 and 12 of chapter 5. The first treats of our sins and guilt, the second of our sin and state before God; and, though the cross be the remedy for both, yet the difference of its use is very marked. “Christ died for our sins “is what avails in the first part. Believers have died with Christ in the second; they are no longer before God in the flesh. They are “in Christ,” “in the Spirit.” Their status is changed, they pass (having been “crucified with Christ”) out of Adam into Christ. Now this does refer to their standing or state. The first part of the Epistle on the contrary deals with the guilt of their own sins, the sins they are guilty of as children of Adam. This first part escapes Dr. W.’s attention altogether, and it is in this that “propitiation” is found (Rom. 3:25), not in the second. Christ died for us in the first part; in the second we are “in Christ,” “not in the flesh.” He was “delivered for our offences,” in the first part (Rom. 4:25); “our old man is crucified with him” in the second.
Now I shall have some remarks to make on the use of the second part; but I here notice the first. After having spoken of the guilt of Gentiles and Jews, and that God’s wrath was revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness, the apostle tells us that God had “set forth Christ for a mercy-seat through faith in his blood to declare his [God’s] righteousness for the remission of sins that are past… to declare at this time his righteousness, so that he is righteous and the justifier of him that believes in Jesus,” Rom. 3:25, 26. It is not man’s righteousness, but God’s in justifying a sinner. God’s wrath has been “revealed from heaven.” Guilt was there, and consequently wrath was there. Guilt is put away, so that wrath should not and does not reach the believer, though one guilty and deserving it. How so? Christ is presented to man as “a mercy-seat,” where he could approach God according to “God’s righteousness.” And how so? “By faith in his blood.” And to whom was the blood presented on the mercy-seat, as on the lintel and the two door-posts? To God. It was not God seeing man’s righteousness, and so having nothing about which to shew wrath, but having Christ’s blood presented to Him which caused the wrath due to man, as guilty, to be passed away, and not to be inflicted. God sets forth Christ in this character to poor sinners in the gospel to reconcile them; but what He presents is that the blood has been presented to Him in the sanctuary, and He justifies not the righteous, because they are so, but the ungodly, because Christ has died for our sins, and He sees the blood and passes over, and man can approach through faith in Christ’s blood.
All this aspect of the truth is passed over by Dr. W. He turns to the state of those in Christ in contrast with Adam, the second part of the Romans, and speaks of “justification of life” for those who have died with Him, and forgets the justification of “the ungodly” through faith in the blood shed for our sins. My faith, in coming to the mercy-seat, is in that which has been done for the ungodly, in the blood which has been carried into the holiest, and not in my state as having “recovered righteousness,” so that there can be no wrath against me. God justifies the ungodly through faith in Christ’s blood; not the righteous, because there is no ground for wrath. Justifying is even wrongly used. Even in the second part of Romans it is “of many offences to justification “; not complacency and absence of wrath, because man has righteousness. And wrath is not spoken of there as ceased; but that, if He has reconciled us when enemies, having been reconciled “we shall be saved from wrath through him” in “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”
Nor was it merely forgiving our transgressions that was the effect of Christ’s work. He “suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” The great day of atonement tells us the same tale and the same truth: only then it was signified by “the veil” that men could not go into “the holiest”; whereas now the believer can boldly. Dr. W. affirms that there was but one meaning to both goats; but this is contrary both to the institution and to the explanation in Hebrews. As to the institution, one was called “Jehovah’s lot,” the other was for the people: not that the first was not in view of the people’s sins, but there was the double thought— (1) of Jehovah’s glory and nature in the holiest; and (2) the removing the sins of the people according to their responsibility, gone where they never should be found. Nothing can be more distinctly set before us than this double character; it is one that runs through all the sacrifices and estimates of sin. They may be measured by the responsibility of man as God’s creature, and the law is the perfect measure of that, and that is a question of positive guilt, and in general sacrifices at the brazen altar were in view of that; or they may be looked at as fitting me for the presence of God in light. Into this the Jew could not come, whereas we have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the new and living way.” The goat whose blood was shed and Hazazel were practically one; but it is evidently a double aspect of Christ’s atoning sacrifice: the slain goat was “Jehovah’s lot,” the other not. This surely meant something; all God’s nature and character were connected with it.
I say this not as an opinion, but as stated of Christ as the ground of His being in glory as Man. “Now” (when Judas went out) “is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him; if God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him,” John 13:31. So in John 17:4, “I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do; and now glorify thou me with thine ownself with the glory I had with thee before the world was.” God’s glory and the glorifying of Christ are the effects of the cross here, not the putting away of our sins only, which lowers it in its character, blessed as that truth is for us. It was thus “Jehovah’s lot.” So He was “God’s lamb to put away the sin [not the sins] of the world.” “He appeared once in the end of the world to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26), a matter clearly distinct in Hebrews 9 from “bearing the sins of many” (v. 28). The blood was presented to God. God had been dishonoured by sin, His fair creation all spoiled and come under the bondage of corruption, His race of predilection (man, in whom His purposes were) the slave of sin and Satan. His glory had to be retrieved, and in the very place of sin; thank God that such a thing should be! As a Man, Christ did so. All that God is was glorified, man perfectly obedient at all cost, the Father perfectly loved, His majesty, truth, righteousness against sin, and love to sinners, all brought out and made good through the blessed One who suffered. We bless God unceasingly, and shall for ever, that it was in that which was done for us. Still we have the Lord’s words for it that it was “glorifying God” where He makes no allusion to its being for us. Only man gone into God’s glory through it.
Hence the blood was sprinkled on the mercy-seat and before it, and also on the altar of incense; and this was the way of approach to God, not merely of putting away guilt, for we have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, and the incense altar is our place as priests. Nor, though it was done in respect of the sins of the people, was it the cleansing them or forgiving them. It’ was what belonged to God, the holy place and the altar of incense, the place where God dwelt, which had to be cleansed, not the people. It was not forgiving them, though the basis of that, but “Jehovah’s lot” cleansing the place of His presence, shewing the character of Him who dwelt there who could not bear sin and uncleanness. Then the people’s sins were laid on Hazazel and carried away. But what concerns “Jehovah’s lot” is all left out in Dr. W.’s scheme; it is reduced to what was accomplished in Hazazel. Even as to this Dr. W. in his general thought loses its real force, and makes it a reconciliation of the world, an abstract putting away of sin for all, not the actual real, effectual, putting away of sins; but of this I will speak further on, when I come to speak of certain passages which he quotes not according to the word of God.
My object now is to shew that the great effect of the distinction of the two goats, and, I may add, of what was done with the bullock, whose blood was employed as one of them, is lost and set aside by Dr. W., and the bringing us to God in the holiest (not merely clearing the world) dropped—the highest and especial blessing of the saint; and this done, not by forgiving His people, but by presentation of the blood to God, by whom the excellency of this sacrifice in which He has been glorified in respect, yea, through the very means, of sin, is justly estimated. It is far more than forgiveness, it is being brought to God; and by that which is done Godward, in respect of what God is, not manward, though the occasion be what man has done. It is entirely arbitrary to say that Jehovah’s lot and the goat for the people have the same signification, though both refer to the sacrifice of Christ. In one God was glorified in respect of the sin that had come in, in the other the sins were removed from the people. It is not all that men be forgiven: sin must be removed out of God’s sight; and He has done what accomplishes this blessed purpose. It is what reveals and glorifies God Himself in a wholly new way.
Moreover, the just anger which rested on the guilty on God’s part is removed as to the believer by the sacrifice of Christ, call it “appeasing “or what you will. It did not change God, but it changed the relative attitude of God towards the sinner. What He is, and will be in judging, actually towards the sinner, He is not towards the believer, not because of what the believer is become, but because of what has been done for him in the sacrifice of Christ. As when God said when He smelt the sweet savour of Noah’s sacrifice, “I will no more curse”; not because man was become good, for He adds for “the imagination of the thoughts of his heart is evil from his youth.”
In sum, then, the blood was presented to God for Him to see, on the door, on the mercy-seat; and Christ entering in not without blood was the witness that He had suffered, borne the sins, been forsaken of God, drunk the dreadful cup. That was not love, it was death, the curse, what Dr. W. calls “the curse of wrath “(an expression I should not use), and consequently God acted differently towards the believer from what He must have acted, had this not been done; not because He was changed, but because He was not; but acted according to His constantly righteous nature. He did not love us because we had recovered righteousness, but when we were sinners. The system of Dr. W. diminishes the love, and alters its character as much as it does the righteousness. God smelled a sweet savour, a eth reach hanichoach, the odour of rest, and said, I will no more curse, and this is called ilasmos, ilaskesthai, and the mercy-seat ilasterion in the New Testament. Now, those words refer to God. They involve forgiveness and favour, but favour obtained by the sacrifice of Christ presented to God. I do not say love caused, for it was infinite love gave the Son to be the lamb of propitiation; but that love wrought by a work which maintained the righteousness and holiness of God in forgiving and justifying: and, though the word may be used for the effect, it is applied to God in the New Testament, and its meaning is “propitiation” or “appeasing.” “Reconciling,” which is applied to believers, is a totally different word, katallasso katallage. The ilasmos was offered to God, ilasterion was where His blood was placed on God’s throne, and it was God who was the object of ilaskesthai, man of katallage (1 John 2:2; Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17); and as to katallasso, see Romans 5:10, 11; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Colossians 1:20, 21. As to the last word Dr. W. is right. It is man, not God, who is reconciled; but Dr. W. has failed in giving its force to the former.
I must now shew that connected with this there are a number of statements made by Dr. W. which are from traditional habits of thinking, not from Scripture. The question of sin has wholly lost its judicial character in Dr. W.’s mind. He sees only the moral condition of the sinner. “He who continues in sin is struck by God’s wrath against sin, nor is this relationship altered by the death of Christ.” “To be carnally minded is death; if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: whenever there is sin, there is unchangeably God’s wrath, as surely as God is a righteous God, and salvation from this wrath is only to be obtained by justification from sin,” Rom. 5:9. Now all this seems fair enough; but it misrepresents the case, because it confounds the ceasing to be carnally minded (that is, my state) with justification from sin, which is wholly and solely by the work of another, though it may be accompanied by a work in me which does change my state. But the whole statement is a mistake as to the gospel, even as to the love shewn in it. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them”: and this was when the blessed Lord was here in the world. It was God’s way of dealing when the trespasses were there. And, as to justification, it is not the morally righteous He justifies, but the ungodly; Rom. 4:5. We are “justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [mercy-seat] through faith in his blood.” Do not let the reader suppose that this implies continuance in sin. That question is met by Romans 6, but not by weakening what goes before in Romans, which really treats the judicial question, but by adding the truth of a new divine life, and death to sin, in Christ. It remains that by one man’s obedience many are made righteous. The world will always charge this as being an allowance of sin; but the believer who has a new life knows better. A holy nature, Christ become his life, hates the sin; but this is holiness, not righteousness; and one who is convinced of guilt does not reject the forgiveness and justification of the guilty, because he knows he wants it, though he may be kept a long while from peace because he confounds the two.
Dr. W. does not deny, it will be said, that Christ was a propitiatory sacrifice.63 He does not. What then does a propitiatory sacrifice mean? Was it offered to God or to man? Whom does it propitiate? It is not that man is versöhnt (reconciled), but sühne (propitiation) presented to God. He accepts the words but denies the thing; for example, “If we regard the plain words of Scripture respecting Christ’s redemption, we find them treat solely of man’s reconciliation.” “It is not, God laid His wrath on Him.” This is quite untrue. I do not use the word ‘wrath’; but stripes, chastisement. He was wounded, bruised for our iniquities, is said. Dr. W. will answer, It was that we might be healed. Thank God it was. But what happened that we might be? Dr. W. calls it “the curse of God’s wrath.” How can he say God did not lay His wrath upon Him? His mind is running rightly on our being reconciled, and divine love in it; but he contradicts himself when he admits that, when Christ descended into our sin (was made sin for us), the curse of wrath came upon Him. And what he says just afterwards is unfounded and contradictory to itself and Scripture. “It is correct to say that God’s justice was satisfied by Christ’s atonement, not any demand of God’s justice for vengeance over the sinner, for God loved him, but the demand of God’s justice for the sinner’s justification as a condition of his salvation.” This is the merest sophistry. What did that justice demand for this justification? Was it not, according to Dr. W., “the curse of wrath” on Christ? Call it “curse of wrath” or just vengeance against sin, is alike. “Vengeance is mine: I will recompense, saith the Lord” — emoi ekdikesis, ego antapodoso, legei Kurios. nagam ushilem belong to God, and wrath is revealed now from heaven against all ungodliness, not merely temporal judgment, as in the government of the world. What was the “demand of God’s justice for the sinner’s justification”? Was it “the curse of wrath” or not? I use in both cases Dr. W.’s words. All this reasoning of Dr. W. avoids the question. The object of the atonement, he tells us, was to remove his (man’s) sins; but this was not all: there was glorifying God; but I only ask now, What in the atonement did remove the sins? Was it “the curse of wrath”? and, if so, whose wrath?
But I turn now to expressions in which Dr. W. states his system, for which he has no warrant in Scripture: “I find it everywhere written that God through Christ reconciled the world to himself.” It is nowhere so written.64 If it be said, let us have “faithful adherence to the words of Scripture,” I read, “God was in Christ reconciling the world.” But, so far from its being reconciled, “the world knew him not,” and “his own received him not.” It is the statement of God’s dealing with the world when here, and goes on then, as a distinct thing, to “the ministry of reconciliation” in the apostle; Christ, who knew no sin, having been “made sin for us.” But in no way or form does it say the world has been reconciled. 2 Corinthians 5:17, 18, distinctly shews that it is those who belong to the “new creation” who are reconciled, and what follows shews that it is by the word; and that God in love is beseeching men to be reconciled. God could not beseech the men of the world to be reconciled if they already were. Again, in Colossians 1:20, 21, he speaks of the time to come, when the whole order of things in heaven and earth will be reconciled, and then speaks of Christian believers, the holy and faithful brethren at Colosse, “and you that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your minds by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.” So far from saying the world is reconciled, Scripture carefully teaches an exclusive actual present reconciliation of believers. The nearest approach to such a thought does not refer to the efficacy of Christ’s death at all, but to the dispensational dealings of God, in which the casting away of the Jews opened the door of grace to the Gentiles as such; Rom. 11:15. In Ephesians 2 again you have peace being made: it was to make of Jew and Gentile together one new man, reconciling both to God in one body, and to that end He goes and preaches peace to the nigh (Jews) and those afar off (Gentiles): but a reconciled world by the cross is unknown to and denied by Scripture. “The whole world is lying in wickedness.” That the door of grace and preaching peace to it is opened is true; but believers only are reconciled (“you hath he reconciled,” you who are in the faith) according to the positive statement of Scripture; and this affects the whole scheme of Dr. W.
Further on, replying to Mr. Welinder, Dr. W. confounds the sovereign love of goodness to a fallen world with love of relationship. Both writers assume the world to be reconciled, and neither sees the difference of special affections and absolute general goodness. I ought to love everybody; but my love to my wife and children is another thing. God loved the world; but believers are His children, and the church of God Christ’s bride and body. We are “God’s children by faith in Christ Jesus “(Gal. 3), sons of God, and “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it” to present it to Himself as God did Eve to Adam. I cannot go farther into this here; but it does shew that in both these writers theology and tradition have eclipsed the light of Scripture.
Dr. W. says: “The atonement spoken of in Scripture was an atonement by which the sins of the world were removed.” No such thought is found in Scripture; that He is an ilasmos for the world is said, but that the sins of the world are removed is wholly unscriptural. If so, there could be nothing to judge men for; for they are judged according to their works (Rev. 20:13), and the Lord says: “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins”; and the apostle, “Because of these things the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience.” It is said of Christ that He is o airon, not of the sins, but of the sin of the world, and that He baptises with the Holy Ghost, not that He has taken away our sins. This taking away of sin will be completely fulfilled only in the new heavens and the new earth, and He, as Lamb of God, is this taker away; but that the atonement spoken of in Scripture was one by which the sins of the world were removed is utterly and wholly untrue.
Further, there is no statement that God gave His Son that the world might recover the righteousness it had lost in the fall—not even that Adam had righteousness before the fall; nor had the world or Adam any union with God before the fall or after; nor is “union with God” a scriptural expression or thought at all: “dwelling in God and God in us” is, but not union. It is utterly unscriptural. Union with the glorified man Christ is scriptural, and that is by the Holy Ghost. We are “members of his body,” but this is the result of redemption (see Eph. 1, 2); and this even Adam unfallen had not at all. In what follows both controversialists again confound His love of divine goodness towards the world and the love of relationship, and that love of goodness towards the world, as such, with individuals personally; and though I doubt not, thank God, that God sought and seeks wandering sinners in their sins, Dr. W. forgets that in the prodigal son it was a returning prodigal come back to his father, to whom a father’s love was displayed, and the best robe put on him, and he received into the house. The two first parables in Luke 15 give the love that seeks, the last the love that receives; and though all be grace in this chapter, and the father went out and sought the elder brother (the Pharisee), he never got what the father’s love gave to the prodigal—his own fault, doubtless, but still true—he had neither kiss, nor best robe, nor ring.
When Dr. W. says “God’s point of view is solely as follows: God loved the fallen world, and, moved solely by his own love, sent his Son to save and restore us from sin,” he states what is quite unscriptural. That God did so love the world is true, but that God’s point of view is solely this is not true. Nor is it said that He might remove its sins. God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting fife; but His point of view is not solely this. This phrase, “that whosoever,” etc., is carefully repeated, and what Dr. W. states is not even put first; but “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever.” That is, the scripture carefully states two things, and puts that first which Dr. W. leaves out. I am not objecting, assuredly, to God’s love being the source of it. I sympathise with Dr. W. wholly in this; but his statement is contrary to Scripture on the point in question. It obliterates what was needed that this love might be made good. He will say, “I have stated elsewhere that the atonement, a propitiation, was needed.” He has; but he has, through pre-occupation with his side of the question, cast out what he fancies opposes this, and falsified its nature, and here falsely stated that God’s only point of view is, “God so loved”; whereas, in the very place where this is said, another point of view is formally and in the first place stated, and the blessed Lord is revealed in another aspect in which He had to be presented to God, on man’s part, for atonement. “So must the Son of man be lifted up.” Had not God given His Son, there could have been none such; but this is added as the way by which the first was accomplished. But there was need that man, for man, should be presented to God, and that “lifted up” —that is, take “the curse,” drink “the cup” (suffer according to Dr. W.’s words) “the curse of wrath.” Love provided the Lamb in God’s Son; but the Lamb must be slain, presenting Himself as man, “who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God “on man’s behalf, and take “the curse “and drink “the cup “from God’s hand, forsaken of God. This was not in itself love; but it was propitiation. God’s love (though the work was so perfect for His glory that the blessed Lord could say, “Therefore doth my Father love me”) did not shew itself to Christ then.
Dr. W.’s statement as to Ephesians 1 is also ungrounded. He says, “it means”; but it is not what it says, but quite a different thing; and the meaning Dr. W. gives to it is wholly and utterly below and aside from God’s thoughts in it. Saving us “through “is not choosing us “in.” Our being “in Christ,” “the last Adam, the second man,” is a great scriptural truth, not yet in Dr. W.’s mind at all. But, for that very reason, I do not go farther with it here.
As to His justice suffering a violation and so demanding an indemnity, I should not perhaps so express it. But “the Son of man must be lifted up” is just that, “the chastisement of our peace” being upon Him is just that. “He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.” His being “made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” and countless other passages, state clearly what Dr. W. denies. Righteousness declared in the remission of past (that is, Old Testament) sins is declared by Christ’s shedding His blood; forbearance had been exercised as to them. This was now proved to be righteous.
Dr. W. has not at all seen that it is God’s righteousness which is revealed, when things “worthy of death” had been done, and that through Christ’s death, God’s wrath being revealed as well as His love. We are “justified by his blood,” and using such words as “indemnity” will not alter the divine and substantial truth that “by stripes” and “chastisement from God” we are justified and healed; that by His bearing our sins and receiving from God what was due to them, the cup He had to drink, being forsaken of God and dying, we are cleared and justified. He offered Himself without spot to God to be a sacrifice, He must be lifted up; He prayed that if it were possible the cup might pass, but it was not if we were to be saved; and so, call it “indemnity” or what you please, we are saved from wrath through Him. His death was an apolutrosis, it was a lutrosis, without which there is no apolutrosis for us. Luke and Hebrews both use the word lutrosis which is just redemption by ransom, lösegeld, or indemnity, loskaufung. These are exactly what Dr. W. says is not in Scripture. He says “we obtained the righteousness which was a necessary condition for our salvation.” Where is this in Scripture? And so far as it is scriptural that “we are made the righteousness of God in him,” how is that so? is the question. “He was made sin for us.”
Dr. W., as I have said, forgets it is God’s righteousness. God’s wrath is the shape or form assumed by God’s justice with reference to sin. I agree. But where was this displayed? Was it not in Christ’s suffering “the Just for the unjust,” a lutrosis, the substitution of Christ as “made sin for us”? And Dr. W.’s argument is all false. He says quenching wrath is then the same as quenching justice. Supposing another is punished in my stead: as to me the wrath or punishment is quenched, and by justice; and justice is executed. The justice remains: but in my going free, and there being no wrath for me. God’s wrath against the sinner, by reason of the sin and guilt he lay under, is taken away for the believer by the death of Christ; “by his stripes we are healed.” The Lord has laid on Him our iniquity. We were children of wrath, a wrath which will be executed against unbelievers, but we are saved from wrath by Him; He is our deliverer from the wrath to come; 1 Thess. 1:10. And this was by Jehovah laying on Him our iniquity when He made His soul an offering for sin, and His taking the stripes due to us.
It is written; the whole of Isaiah 53 states it. “Christ bare our sins [1 Pet. 2:24] in his own body on the tree,” and drank that dreadful cup, the thought of which made Him sweat as it were great drops of blood, “suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust” (chap. 3:12), “bore the sins of many,” and, had He not then fully completed the work, must have suffered often (Heb. 9). “He was offered to bear the sins of many.” Before whom, and from whom, did He suffer? He is gone in “not without blood.” To whom presented? Blood must be shed for remission. Why? Dr. W. tells us it was to cleanse us, to obtain righteousness: but why that in order to such an end? He will say he cannot tell. Scripture says it was a lutrosis, an ilasmos, and that it was presented to God. No Christian doubts its cleansing power for faith on which Dr. W. insists. But the present question does not lie there.
Dr. W. talks of God loving the world less after than before the fall. But all this is misapprehension. There was no world before the fall. There was a being whom God had formed according to His own mind, in which, as the fruit of His own handiwork, He could take pleasure, and view him with complacency. After the fall there was not. It repented the Lord that He had made man upon the earth and grieved Him at His heart; Gen. 6:6. “The friendship of the world is enmity against God.” “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” God could not have the love of complacency in a fallen sinful creature as He had in His own perfect handiwork; and the plain proof is, “He drove out the man.” What was that? His love, in the sense of sovereign mercy in Himself, was greater after the fall than before. Unfallen Adam did not need it.
But all this is lost in the confusion of Dr. W.’s statement. He confounds God’s nature with His relationships in respect of good and evil, and leaves out His righteous judgment. He insists that the law condemns sin against it as before. Of course it does. But “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” The curse does not reach believers because Christ was made a curse for them. It is a poor cavil to say being made a curse was not punishment; it is “chastisement, stripes, wounding, bruising, forsaken of God,” according to the word of God; “the curse of wrath,” according to Dr. W. I do not at all admit that it is only unbelief that is punished; but God’s wise order is that it is by faith we have forgiveness and justification j and the unbeliever dies in his sins, and is also guilty of refusing the Son of God and despising mercy. His whole theory and all its applications are false, because he holds without a trace of scripture that the atonement has removed the sins of the world. His confounding the distress of unrepentant David (“while I kept silence”) with Christ’s taking the curse atoningly, shews how far a false theory can lead into darkness; and that is all.
His statement that “where there is sin, God’s wrath is unchangeably manifest as surely as God is God,” is deplorable in every way; for what then is love to a sinful world, which he rightly holds, and declares incompatible with wrath? (And see Eph. 2:3, 4, and following verses as to activity in grace.) It denies the atonement—Christ “suffering, the Just for the unjust” —and it leaves us always under wrath; for “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” This is the effect of theoretical reasoning instead of simply receiving Scripture. What is said withal in Scripture is that Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree—bore the sins of many. “Gave us his righteousness” is not found in Scripture. If it be, let Dr. W. shew it. This is tradition also, not Scripture. He is “made righteousness to us of God” (1 Cor. 1:30), is said; but “gave us his righteousness” is never said in Scripture. The difference is total; and, I insist, with Dr. W., “I must have scripture, not theological theories.” And let Dr. W. remember, too, that it is Christ suffering (from whom? of whom was He forsaken?), “the Just for the unjust,” that was to bring us to God.
But Dr. W. boldly asks, “Where is it written that man is free from wrath because God in His Son punished sins against the law, so that He can no longer be justly angry with us because of these?” Did Dr. W. ever read Isaiah 53? was “the curse of the law” not the punishment of sins? did He not suffer, “the Just for the unjust”? was He not forsaken of God? what was the cup He had to drink? was not the chastisement of our peace upon Him? is it not with His stripes we are healed? was it not for our transgressions He was wounded? was it not for sins Christ suffered, “the Just for the unjust”? It is, then, “so written.” Did it not please Jehovah to bruise Him? put Him to grief when He was making His soul an offering for sin? To whom? Was He not bearing others’ iniquities there? was He not bruised for their iniquities? was it not for the transgression of Jehovah’s people He was stricken? Was He not bearing the sins of many there? It is written, and written in both Testaments, that “by his stripes we are healed.” Stripes from whom? “It pleased Jehovah to bruise him.” Oh, it is sorrowful to think that any one, for a theory, can pass over the deep mystery, but revealed truth, that God was dealing with sins, our sins, in the atoning sufferings of the Son of God, “made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death”! What is hard to conceive is, how Dr. W. could ask where it is written.65
But we are “justified by faith,” and it is wholly unscriptural to apply this to the whole world. Scripture applies it solely to believers. I have already said I entirely agree with Dr. W. that Scripture speaks of our being reconciled to God, not God to us. I would insist on it; still I do not agree with what is said of saints and forgiveness; but I make no remark on it. Only Dr. W. seems to have forgotten that the publican’s supplication was ilastheti. I admit the expression came to be used in a very general sense; but it would not support Dr. W. in his statements, but the contrary. It is based on the idea of the propitiation; of the offended person being propitiated, and so propitious. Nor does his reasoning on 2 Samuel 21:14 meet the citation. I have no objection to his translating ahther to be entreated for the land, as the English translation has it. But why was He acherei-ken, thereupon, entreated for it? was it not on a reparation done to His judicial authority on the violated engagement made by Joshua and the princes (Josh. 9:18,19)? The same remark applies to 2 Samuel 24:25. I do not say reconciled; but I ask why, on what ground, was God entreated—that is, heard the entreaty—as to the plague, so that it ceased? Was it not because offerings were offered to Him?
His argument as to the ransom money has no force, because the question is, what is the meaning of ransom or atonement through which their lives were spared? That Christ is the only one for eternal salvation no Christian denies.
Dr. W. rests on objectionable words in his adversaries’ statements. Thus he alludes to sacrifices inducing a disposition in God. Now I object to these expressions, as does Dr. W. They are drawn from the false idea of reconciling God, producing (so to speak) love in Him; and this is quite wrong, and Dr. W. on this point quite right. But they were not presented to God simply to reconcile or induce a disposition in the sinner. But, if Jehovah was entreated for the land, it is not that men entreated Him but were not heard; but that they were now heard when they entreated. What was the cause of this? The offerings presented to God, or satisfaction made to His outraged justice. When Jehovah smelled a savour of rest and said, “I will no more curse the ground,” on whom was the effect produced by the sacrifice of Noah? The result was the ground was no more cursed, Dr. W. will say. No doubt. So the passage says. But why? Who says that it should not be cursed any more? Who smelled the odour of rest so as not to curse any more? It is too plain and intentionally positive to admit of any question. Dr. W. is not correct when he says “the enmity” in Ephesians is the enmity between Jews and Gentiles, to the exclusion of all else. The passage speaks of reconciling both to God; still God’s enmity is not spoken of. In his statements about the goats, Dr. W. seems to me wholly to have missed the mark, but I have spoken of it. I only remark here that one goat secured admission to the presence of God according to His holy nature— “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,” as is expressly and elaborately taught in Heb. 9, 10—and the other, the removing of all the sins of God’s people according to their responsibility towards Him; and Dr. W. loses an immense deal if he does not see both; and alas! it is the case with many Christians.
It is utterly untrue that nothing else is said of sacrifices than perfecting us. This is not the case, even in the Hebrews, “for then must he often have suffered.” What and from whom? Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. Offered to whom? What was bearing sins? what did it mean as to Christ? Did He sweat as it were great drops of blood at the thought of justifying us? The whole work was done, “finished” on the cross, before my conscience was perfected, or even felt the need of it. He is sitting down because the work is perfect; and God has accepted it in righteousness, has glorified the Man Christ at His right hand, because the Man Christ had glorified Him when made sin upon the cross. It was, I repeat, wholly done, and Christ, sitting at God’s right hand in consequence, before anything was done with my conscience at all—done with God alone—and, if it had not been, my conscience could not have been perfected at all. Christ’s own glory as a Redeemer depended on it. And even as to us, that is not all its import; He “obtained eternal redemption” and an “eternal inheritance.” If His blood does purge our conscience, it is because “through the eternal Spirit he offered himself without spot to God.” Yea, He fills all things through it. (Eph. 4:9, 10, and indeed chap. 1:23.)
Besides, it is not said only “God so loved the world,” but “the Son of man must be lifted up.” There was an incumbent necessity which He had to bear. So, as we have seen, “Jehovah smelled a sweet savour; and Jehovah said, I will no more curse.” It is totally untrue that nothing else is said about it in Scripture than that “God so loved the world.”
Again, I say, in reply to the assertion “that the world was reconciled to God” in the cross, not God to the world, that it is not the manner in which God’s word expresses the matter. Not a text can be cited that says anything of the sort. It is wholly unscriptural, and one of the grand mistakes of Dr. W. which misleads him as to everything. Nor, above all when Christ said, It is finished, was it said that the world was reconciled. It was the closing of the scene as regards the world which proves they had both seen and hated both Him and His Father, and, in that character of reconciling the world which He bore in earth, it would see Him no more; John 14:19.
I do not accept Dr. W.’s, criticism as to “reconcile.” In the first place, ilasmos and katallage are quite different, that is, “propitiation “and “reconciliation.” And this makes his whole argument utterly worthless. But besides, though kaphar may etymologically mean to cover, it does not follow that the Piel (kipper) does, which he would, in many cases, find wholly out of place. The word for covering sins, in the ordinary sense, is kasah as kasui in Psalm 32; and, as far as kaphar is connected with covering, out of whose sight were they put? and how? Were they not before God, in His sight, when Christ bore them? and what was the consequence as to Him? Was not this the propitiation? In Daniel 9:24 it is not said, “then shall the transgression be taken away,”66 but to take away. To cover sin is quite another word, kasah. To atone for iniquity is l’kaphar.
Further, in Hebrews 9, as to “once hath he appeared to put away sin,” it is eis athetesin amartias, “to the removing of sin” (not sins), a wholly different matter, bearing our sins being added as a distinct thing just below. Sin will not be removed, as a result, entirely, till the new heavens and the new earth, though the effectual work which is the ground of it be accomplished.
Nor are the weeks of Daniel accomplished yet. Messiah was cut off after the sixty-ninth, wa ayin lo, and took nothing of the kingdom and Messiah-glory. But to enter into this would lead me too far, though the not giving heed to it has led to much misinterpretation of Scripture in Dr. W.’s statements.
We never find the reconciling of the world to God as an effect of the cross. But if sin were “a wall of separation between God and man,” as it was, was not Christ made sin for us, and forsaken of God, according to Psalm 22, and was not propitiation wrought there when He made His soul an offering for sin, and bore the sins of many? What relation was Christ placed in to God then? Never obedience so fully accomplished, never so fully shewing love to His Father, but “made sin for us who knew no sin.” It is not, I agree, reconciling God to us; but both Dr. W. and his adversaries take “We are reconciled,” for the world, which is wholly unscriptural; the apostle speaks of believers. In 2 Corinthians 5 he is speaking of those in Christ and the new creation. He was reconciling the world; He hath reconciled us. The passage is quite clear, and the ministry of reconciliation was then committed to them, and that toward the world, Christ having been made sin for us. In Colossians it is distinctly “you,” that is, the believers at Colosse.
The effect of this error runs through every page. “God was in Christ reconciling “is spoken of as if it was the world which was reconciled, a totally different matter. The statement is wholly unscriptural. “Be ye reconciled “was the apostle’s ministry to the world; that is, they were not so yet. The Scriptures are “uniform” in not saying God was reconciled, uniform (it is spoken of twice) in saying believers are, and equally uniform in presenting the world as not so by Christ’s death, but that His death gave the basis of the apostle’s “ministry of reconciliation.” Being reconciled does not mean God being appeased. But what was the basis of that ministry? Was it Christ’s taking “the curse of wrath” or not? Was that necessary in order to it, or otherwise the wrath have abode on us? God’s love to us was not free “because we were righteous,” but wrought its perfect work while we were sinners. “Hereby know we love that he laid down his life for us.” That righteous state was the effect of something else, and faith in that was needed to become righteous. This theory destroys the sovereign freeness and fulness of love, as well as the propitiation by a work wrought when we were far from God and unrighteous. “God justifies the ungodly”—so Scripture says at least—and that “by faith.” Faith in whom and what? Reconciling the “things,” which is yet to come, is of the “things,” not of God; but Dr. W., in his explanation, does not give any meaning to “having made peace by the blood of his cross,” which precedes reconciliation.
There are many things I should not accept in Dr. W.’s statement here, but I pass them over as not the main point; but he has not explained the ilastheti of the publican in the temple. I am not insisting on reconciling God, for I do not think it scriptural; but the “making peace by the blood of the cross” suffers in the hands of Dr. W. To say that God is not angry with the sinner, because He loves him, is confusion of mind. I can be angry morally and judicially, I cannot perhaps be righteously anything else, with those I dearly love. Did Christ not love those whom He looked at “with anger, being grieved at the hardness of their hearts”? Wrath may be come upon a people to the uttermost, and God not cease to be love, and he even who says it—Paul—not have ceased to love them devotedly. The union or meeting of infinite love and “the curse of wrath” is, by Dr. W.’s own admission, the essential character of the cross. Dr. W. must allow me to say that his argument as to the atonement-money or the numbering of the children of Israel is wholly without force. The commandment was not concerning the numbering, but concerning giving a ransom for their souls; lest they should die when they were numbered, being brought, poor sinners that they were, personally and individually under God’s eye when thus numbered.
I must repeat, because the fallacy is incessantly repeated by Dr. W., that the effect produced is not that by which it is produced. He insists that the work of Christ was in order to reconcile men, to cleanse them, to justify them. Agreed. And he cites passage after passage to shew this. I accept them all fully. But this does not touch the question, What was the work done, or what the sufferings endured, that this effect might be produced? What was presented to God? Christ was made a curse for us, made sin for us, suffered the Just for the unjust, was forsaken of God, drinking that dreadful cup, which could not pass away if we were to be saved. The effect was the cleansing of believers; but what was the meaning of that which cleanses them through faith, in which Christ was alone with God that they might be so cleansed? Were not men redeemed from the curse by His being made a curse for them? Was that curse God’s love to Him?
And so with the goat of atonement. It was cleansing the holy place and altar, etc. No doubt; but what was done that they might be cleansed? Did not death, in figure, “suffering the Just for the unjust,” come in that they might be cleansed, by reason of Israel’s sins? As to the two goats, I have spoken of them; but God does not give one explanation of them, as Dr. W. says. It is not said of the first goat, “He shall bear upon him all their iniquities into a land not inhabited”; Aaron having confessed their sins on the head of that goat, not on the other. That both represent one Christ and one cross is true; but in confounding these two aspects of the cross Dr. W. loses a great deal. At any rate, Scripture does not give the same explanation. Is it nothing to have all one’s sins taken away, never to be found again? It is Dr. W. who neglects the meaning Scripture attaches to these figures.
In his remarks on Hebrews, Dr. W. omits to notice the real point of the case: the “perfecting” is “as pertaining to the conscience,” and: by the blood carried in. Through Christ presenting Himself, and then entering in “not without blood,” the conscience was purged. And this alone is the purging spoken of, so that we have “no more conscience of sins”; not consciousness of sin, but conscience of sins, sins on the conscience, because Christ has borne them and gone within, “not without blood.” It is not our state, but the state of our conscience before God; we as to this are “perfected for ever” (eis to dienekes), always and perpetually, because Christ is always now (eis to dienekes) sitting at the right hand of God; not like the Jewish priests, standing, renewing a work which was never done. No cleansing of our state is spoken of, but of our conscience by Christ’s offering who is gone in not without blood. Dr. W. does not state what Scripture states here. It is false that no other import of Christ’s sacrifice for God is spoken of than that it was a consequence of God’s unchanging love. It hides Christ’s forsaking of God and drinking the dreadful cup, and His standing as Son of man who must be lifted up.
Dr. W. says “God so loved the fallen world that He gave it the offering to restore it. And as there is nothing else said about it in Scripture,” etc. There is something else said about it in Scripture. Christ “offered himself without spot to God through the eternal Spirit,” and “the Son of man must be lifted up.” Dr. W. will say, “that whosoever believeth might not perish.” No doubt; but why must He be “lifted up” on the cross as “Son of man” that they might not? And this is said, as well as that “God so loved”; but Dr. W. always passes it over.
It is not true that Scripture says that God never had any anger against him (the sinner). It is expressly said, “indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish,” will be rendered “to every soul of man that doeth evil,” and “wrath from heaven is now revealed.” “Now is the accepted time, the day of salvation”; but those who despise the grace of it are “treasuring up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Wrath from God, therefore, rests on and is executed against men; yet God does not change. Vengeance belongs to Him. “Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance?”
But Dr. W. is all out of the way as to reconciling. I do not return to what I have already insisted on, that Scripture never says the world is reconciled any more than God. Christians are, and Christians only; but there is no foundation for what he says as to the force of the word. Kaphar is a difficult word, at least with al (see Lev. 16); but Numbers 25:13 shews Dr. W. cannot make good his statements. But into this I will enter no farther, because it is perfectly plain that in the New Testament reconciling does mean reconciling the people, changing their disposition; and we have no need of turning to nice discussions on words, and their use in the LXX. It is somewhat more than changing the disposition, because it includes a relative object as to which that change takes place— one is reconciled to some person or thing. This being by an offering or the like, the meaning of the word is extended; but it is not merely cleansing, or anything of the kind. In Romans 5 we have, “If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more,” etc. Now this is changing the disposition when one was an enemy, and thus bringing back the mind to God. So Colossians 1:21, “And you that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.” That it is by an offering which cleanses and purges the conscience, is true, and what I should insist on. The heart could not return really, if the conscience were not purged, nor this unless the sins were purged; but this was by Christ’s suffering the agony of the cross, forsaken of God, God’s infinite love to us bringing back the renewed heart to Him thereby. The end of 2 Corinthians 5 fully confirms this. Reconciling is bringing into happy relationship with another when we have been out of it, as Matthew 5:24; and to speak of katallage, diallagethi, as equivalent to ilasmos and ilaskesthai, is unfounded; as making such words as ratsah, or nathar, or chata, or hithchata, or naathar and kaphar the same, is falsifying the sense of words; so yom kasui; so in Numbers 16:46 (Heb. 17:11), wrath, getseph was gone out from the presence of Jehovah, and Aaron was l’kaphar; nor was it to reconcile the people, but to stay the plague, to stop the wrath that was gone out.
And it is an unhappy thing, because the effect of atonement (when wrath would justly come out against us) is to cleanse and reconcile us, to weaken the truth of that righteous wrath, and its being righteously arrested by the precious blood presented to God, and that bearing of sins, which makes it righteous in God to justify the ungodly and forgive their sins. Appeasing God, ilaskomai, placare, let the word be what it may, is not changing God, but glorifying and satisfying God’s righteous judgment; so that He may say, “when I see the blood, I will pass over.”
Scripture does know the expression of the anger or “wrath of God.” What Dr. W. says of it is not true. “God’s wrath is revealed from heaven,” and, if we do not believe, abides upon us; John 3:31. And it is written, “Thou wast angry, but thine anger is turned away,” Isa. 12:1. And the passages are very numerous too which speak of it. I do not know Swedish; but Dr. W. will know that sühnen and versöhnen are different things, though like the Greek, the meanings run into one another as cause and effect; but they are essentially different: one does apply to God; the other does not. And “we have the propitiation “is an abuse of the word. Dr. W.’s statements on this are most unequivocally unscriptural.
Dr. W. reverts to the statement already often noticed to give it a particular application, saying, “The forgiveness of sins is nothing but an application to the individual sinner of the taking away the sins of the whole world, which took place in Christ.” Every part of this statement is unscriptural. It did not take place in Christ. There is no such thought in Scripture; indeed if there were, there could be nothing to judge them for. And further, no such application would be needed, for the sins would be already taken away. The forgiveness of sins and the imputation of righteousness is by faith; Rom. 4.
Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 10:18, cited by Dr. W., do not say one word of what Dr. W. says. But further, redemption from a state is the commonest use in Scripture and in modern speech of the word ‘redeem.’ We say “redeemed from captivity,” from destruction, from death; so that all the discussion about Anselm and the fathers is to no purpose. We are delivered from the wrath and the curse by Christ’s being made a curse for us. From whence did His suffering come? “He hath put him to grief.” Debt is used as a figure; but by the Lord. It was not restitution of money; of course it is a mere figure; but it was not to remove the sin of man, that is, from man (which indeed is in every sense an unscriptural way of putting it, and will not be found in Scripture), but by bearing our sins for us; and if Scripture speaks of putting away sin, it is putting it as a state and condition out of God’s sight, and that even of heaven and earth, not of forgiveness. He condemned sin in the flesh. But, as for faith we died, were crucified with Christ, we are freed from its law. When we are brought in, then it is Christ who knew no sin was made sin for us; that is, it was what was done for us, outside of us, not our state, though that state (righteousness of God, note, not of man, though the believer stands in it) be the purpose of it, yet not an actual righteous state in us, but we made the righteousness of God in Christ. (See Rom. 8:3; 2 Cor. 5:21.) Dr. W. has evidently not taken into consideration this part of the truth.
I turn to the conclusion: “No change was effected by the fall of Adam in God, or in his disposition, but what was effected was that we fell into sin, and by sin into eternal death. In the work of Christ there was no change in God or in His disposition, but we gained righteousness, and thereby eternal life. And behind this work of Christ Scripture only recognises one thing, God so loved the world.” Now though save the last phrases I recognise in general the truth of this,67 yet the statement is fundamentally false, because it suppresses a mass of scriptural truth of the most solemn character, and in the last phrase denies it. Is wrath not spoken of in Scripture? It was no change in God Himself, yet we are not merely fallen into something: God drove out the man, and not only so but shut up the way back to the tree of life, previously free to him; and man must get life some other way. It is the gift of God, and, save in the sense of man’s ultimate state in glory, righteousness is not the way of regaining it. Man must be born again when he is a sinner.
Dr. W. speaks of wrath against sin elsewhere; but why, in order to systematise, is so immensely an important thing left out here? It is no change in God; it is righteousness dealing justly with evil. Man fell under wrath by sinning, God’s wrath. It is the wrath of God which abides upon him if he does not believe; he is a child of wrath, Jew or Gentile alike; and it is part of the truth which came in by Christianity though not in itself of the grace, that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven. Something does remain “behind,” besides “God so loved,” that is, “the wrath of God.” Already God’s driving man out of paradise was an execution of judgment, and the flood was righteous judgment. But it was not fully “revealed from heaven,” nor judgment pronounced on man till he had rejected Christ, because another question was to be tried in God’s ways: could the first man be restored? He was tried without law, and the flood had to come in; he was tried under the law and broke it (the flesh was not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; so that they that are in the flesh cannot please God), tried by the patient goodness that sent the prophets till there was no remedy. Then God said, I have yet my Son, my well-beloved, it may be they will reverence my Son. And when they saw Him, they said, This is the heir; come, let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be ours. Man has both seen and hated both Him and His Father. Then the Lord pronounced the sentence: “Now is the judgment of this world.” Except death were gone through, and the curse borne by another, the “corn of wheat” remained alone.
The wrath of God was “revealed from heaven,” but by the sin that work wrought which cleanses the believer for God according to God’s own perfectness in light, and man took his place in heaven, according to the righteousness of God, in Christ. He came to seek and to save that which was lost—now proved so. No doubt faith rested on promises and prophecies before the Lord came: but now all came out: the mind of the flesh was “enmity against God,” but the veil rent, and heaven opened. The answer to the spear, which made sure that the Son of God, come in love, was gotten rid of from the earth, was the blood and water which cleanses and saves every one that believes, that comes to God by Him. Love was revealed; for hereby know we love, that He laid down His life for us; but wrath was “revealed from heaven.” And if “God so loved the world that he gave his Son,” so was it equally true that “the Son of man must be lifted up,” or we should have perished under just wrath. And it is not true that Christ was only God’s representative to take away our sins; He was man’s representative and made sin for us, bearing our sins so that it pleased Jehovah to bruise Him, He put Him to grief when He made His soul an offering for sin, having offered Himself “through the eternal Spirit without spot to God.”
I have nothing to do with the traditions of theologians and do not notice them, but with what the word of God brings before us. I have spoken of this at the beginning as to principles; but Dr. W. brings it all again forward here, and it is the kernel of the question. I agree with him, reconciling God is not spoken of; but he is one-sided in hiding a mass of truth which Scripture puts clearly forward. All that is said as to God being what He is in His revelation of Himself is delusion. God is love, God is light. But God could not act in wrath to man innocent (for man was neither righteous nor holy, as theologians say)—He would not have been righteous—and wrath was not revealed nor judgment, but, solely, the consequence of disobedience that man would die. All that Dr. W. takes up, and all that was said when man was judged in paradise. But God did act in wrath when he had sinned, and turned him out of paradise, and shut the way of the tree of life; but it was not revealed before, and surely not executed, nor was love revealed as it was in redemption. Christ was God’s representative on earth, the image of the invisible God. But whose representative was He when made sin, and what was the consequence to Him? With the theories Dr. W. opposes I have nothing to do. He joins with his adversaries in holding that God reconciled the world to Himself; and from this common error one draws his theological consequences, which I refuse, as they are not in Scripture, and the other hides other plain scriptural statements and falls into denying them.
“Incidit in Scyllam, cupiens vitare Charybdim.”
Here, in this section X, Dr. W., as I have already said he did, speaks of wrath. But then how can he say, “Nothing remains besides and behind but God so loved the world”? Because the momentous fact of wrath remains. Perhaps he will tell us, Yes, but the world was reconciled, which is totally unscriptural, and how reconciled so that there is no wrath, if the wrath of God abides upon them, as Scripture says and Dr. W. admits, and Christ is our deliverer from the wrath to come? Yea, they are “heaping up unto themselves wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Dr. W. says this reconciliation is “not a change of disposition, but of relative position, placing in another relation to a person”; but how in another relative position when the wrath of God abides on him? That wrath is not executed now (save in chastisement for our good in love, called “wrath” in Scripture, Job 36), and that it is the accepted time, the day of salvation, is true: the wrath is “to come”; but “he that believeth not is condemned already,” the “wrath of God abideth upon him.” Dr. W. tells us God cannot be angry and love at the same time. If so, there is no wrath abiding on the unbeliever, as he admits it is, or he is not loved.
All this error flows from one-sided reasoning and the utterly unscriptural notion that the world is reconciled, because it is the time of the exercise of grace founded on Christ’s death, as the apostle states. I do not comment on the fallacious arguments of Dr. W.’s opponents. He and they have both started from a false tradition.
I have only to remark, again, that Dr. W. avoids the question; namely, that saying the object of the atonement was to justify the sinner (which all will admit was one object) does not touch the real question: What was done there in order to justify him? What were the stripes with which we are healed? Herein we find again the utterly anti-scriptural doctrine: “The race of Adam was herein justified.” We are justified by faith, not without it, though it be through the atonement. The saved are righteous in Christ, but “salvation only for the righteous” is as unscriptural as possibly can be. Christ came to save sinners— “not to call the righteous, but sinners.” God justifies “the ungodly.” Christ came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” This is another fundamental fallacy of Dr. W., that we are justified by being made personally righteous.
Dr. W.’s argument as to demons is sadly sophistical. The necessity of appeasing God as alleged was, if people were to be saved. If the devil and evil spirits were to be saved, according to God’s justice an atonement would be needed; but Christ did not die for them, nor undertake their cause. This is poor sophistry.
“Community of love” is not sovereign love to sinners. All this too is sad confusion of mind. God commends His love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The power of tradition is curious enough here, where Dr. W. says such a passage as “God reconciled the world unto Himself,” when there is absolutely no such passage in Scripture, just where he is insisting, quite rightly, on seeing how Scripture does speak. The conflict of theologians I leave with Dr. W., thoroughly decided with him to know only what Scripture says.
It is quite true that justice is not wrath or judgment. But as far as men go, we may justly say we turned God into a judge by sin, not assuredly into a righteous Being. When he had created Adam innocent, there was nothing to judge. It would have been judging His own workmanship. But righteousness becomes wrath (not hatred) when evil is in the presence of judicial authority exercised in righteousness. The righteous Lord loveth righteousness; but God is a righteous judge, and God is angry every day. And now wrath is revealed from heaven as surely as infinite love is. In sovereign grace He rises above the sin, and loves without a motive, save what is in His own nature and part of His glory. Man must have a motive for loving. God has none but in Himself, and “commendeth his love to us” (and the “His” is emphatic as to this very point), in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us: the best thing in heaven that could be given for the vilest, defiled, and guilty sinners. Dr. W. seems to me to lower and depreciate the love of God quite as much as His justice and His righteous wrath.
There is one other point to which, though I have noticed it, I return, as of vital importance. Dr. W. holds that Christ represented God before men, not men before God. The first part is most blessedly true, but even that not to the extent of the inferences Dr. W. would draw from it, that there must be identity of operation. The Son did not send the Father, nor not spare Him but deliver Him up for us. The thought would be utterly anti-Christian. He accepted His part of the work of grace. “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God”; and, a body being prepared for Him, He took upon Him the form of a servant, and was found in the likeness of men. I may return to this point elsewhere; I merely take note of it now, and turn to the question of representing God to men and man to God. Now, in His life down here, he that had seen Him had seen the Father, a most precious and sanctifying truth. John 14 is express in stating it, as the whole life of Jesus is the verification and illustration of it. He is, moreover, in His Person the image of the invisible God, the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His being, His hypostasis. As to this Scripture is plain; and I have no controversy with Dr. W. Further, that He was true God and true man, united in one Person, is not in question either; it is believed by both of us. The question is, Did He stand for men before God as well as for God before men? That He does in heaven is quite clear. He is gone into heaven now to appear in the presence of God for us; Heb. 9:24. But was all His life down here only a manifestation of God to men? When He took His place with the godly remnant in Israel, being baptised with John’s baptism, assuredly not confessing sins as they did, but fulfilling righteousness, having emptied Himself and taken the form of a servant and entered upon the path of obedience, en schemati euretheis os anthropos, saying to John, “thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” When He was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, did He represent God to men? Was it not, as the first man was tempted and fell, the Second man held fast and overcame? Did He not overcome saying, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, and overcome by refusing to go out of the place of a servant which He had taken, though challenged by Satan to do so as being Son of God? Did He not hold the place of man when He said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God? Did He not, when He dismissed Satan, saying, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve? He was always the obedient man before God, as Adam was the disobedient one; and though He abode alone till redemption was accomplished, the corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying, yet He stood in this world as man before God, as well as God before man. Who was the obedient man, did always such things as pleased His Father, pleaded in Gethsemane when His hour was come in the days of His flesh, with strong crying and tears made His supplication unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared apo tes eulabeias. Was this representing man or God?
That He was alone till redemption was accomplished I fully recognise, but alone, as the sinless man amongst men, to accomplish what was called for from man for God. If He tasted death for every man, was that as representing God to men or standing for men before God? When God laid our iniquity on Him, was it representing God before men? When it became Him, for whom are all things, to make the Captain, archegon, of our salvation perfect through suffering, whom did He represent? When He cried in deep agony, My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me, did He represent God to man? That He must have been God to be fit and able to do it is most true. Yet He was not representing God before men, but drinking the cup given to Him. When He was made sin, for whom was He made sin? Did He represent God to man then, or stand for men before God when He took up the cause of man (Heb. 2)? He did not represent God to men, but it is written in a certain place, “What is man that Thou art mindful of him, or the Son of man that Thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels, Thou crownedst him with glory and honour.” He was the Second man, the last Adam. He was the archegos of our salvation, the obedient, sinless, suffering Man who overcame Satan as man for men, was made sin for us, died for our sins, that is, represented us before God, our iniquity being laid upon Him, and drank that dreadful cup, taking it from His Father’s hand, “the curse of wrath.” Was suffering the curse of wrath representing God to men, or man as made sin under the righteous judgment of God?
I add that, though the priesthood of Christ be now in heaven where He appears in the presence of God for us, yet all His life was in every sense a preparation for it. He had so taken up man that it became God to make Him perfect in that heavenly place through suffering. He was tempted, suffering being tempted, that He might succour them that are tempted. Not only so, but He was made like to His brethren in all things, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. And so in chapter 5 of the same epistle, comparing Him with the Jewish high priest, though shewing the difference. And it is clear that the priest represented the people before God, confessed their sins on the scapegoat, and went into the sanctuary for them, as Christ has done into the true sanctuary for us. The priesthood of Christ is no doubt for believers; but to deny that He represented men, stood there as man for them before God, and that on the cross (as in Heb. 2:17) as man, alone indeed but for men, is ruinous error.
60 Om försoningens betydelse af P. Waldenström, Stockholm.
61 The Swedish translation in 2 Corinthians 5:19 says, God has reconciled the world, not God was in Christ reconciling. So far. Dr. W. is excusable; but he knows Greek. The translator is inexcusable. I suppose he followed Luther, who also so translates it. But there is no possible pretence for so translating it in the Greek; the Vulgate does not. And so far from being reconciled, the world rejected Him when He came. Hence the ministry of the apostle was beseeching them to be reconciled. I shall always treat the passage as it really is.
62 I am told the exact translation is the curse and wrath. But this makes no difference.
63 But then the love that gave Him was love to sinners in their sins and under wrath.
64 See Note to page 253.
65 It is never said that justification is accomplished for the whole world. That “Christ died for all” is written. It is never said in Scripture that He bore the sins of all, but carefully avoided, changing the language to “many,” or “our,” where needed. But propitiation and substitution are all confounded by Dr. W., and the first part of Romans 1 to chapter 5:11 is left out, and the second part, which speaks of our being all sinners through Adam’s sin, taken up; where believers reckoning themselves dead, not propitiation for sins, is discussed. But all these points are jumbled together in Dr. W.’s statements. Here I only draw his attention to statements made without any warrant from Scripture.
66 I take the English translation of Dr. W., not understanding Swedish; though having his article in that language. But the force of the Hebrew is plain.
67 But Scripture speaks, as we have seen, of God’s repenting that He had man on the earth, and its grieving Him at His heart.