Things Which are Surely Believed Among Us --Part 7

Things Which are Surely Believed Among Us
Part 7

E. W. Rogers

The phrase, “Things which are most surely believed among us” is to be interpreted in no sectarian sense. “Food for the Flock” does not foster sectarianism. The phrase has been extracted from Luke 1:1, and, in using it as a caution for a series of articles touching our Faith, we wish to imply that those responsible for the production of the magazine unreservedly believe all that is contained in “the Scriptures of Truth,” and they write for that large body of Christians who share their like faith. All over the world, and at all times, God has those who like Paul say, “I believe God.”

Seeing that our beliefs are based on Holy Scripture, it follows that we should first consider the nature of those Scriptures, in order to satisfy ourselves that our faith is well-founded. Our Seventh paper, therefore, will relate to …

The Death Of Christ

It is, indeed, remarkable that we should have to write touching the death of the One concerning whom we have had to say so many marvellous things. It is to be feared that our long acquaintance with the fact that ‘Christ died’ has caused us to lose the wonder of it — that One who was both God and Man should even die at all. But so it is.

The Lord Jesus was the only One ever born into this world with the specific intention that He should die. It was ‘on account of the suffering of death’ that ‘He became lower than angels.’ He came into the world ‘to give His life a ransom for many’ and thereby ‘to save sinners.’ If they were to be saved He must die, for one or the other must suffer for sin. While Bethlehem was an essential step to Calvary, Calvary was an unavoidable necessity if man was to be redeemed. ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up.’

Why was this so? Could no other way have been adopted? We may be sure that, having regard to the Lord’s prayer in Gethsemane, had there been another way open it would have been taken. But there was no other way. Only by His death could the divine plan of the ages be brought into effect. Because of this the Lord Jesus was ‘the Lamb foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world,’ and in due time He died pursuant to ‘the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.’ Those things which God before had showed by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer’ were fulfilled by His death. He was the One whom God ‘purposed to be a mercyseat, through faith, in His blood.’ The death of the Lord Jesus was therefore, no surprise to God: it was not unexpected: it was the keystone of the arch of His eternal purpose.

There are four aspects of His death which we should consider:

First, it was an attack of Satan. Satan who headed the ‘powers of darkness’ entered into Judas for the purpose, and Judas was at the head of the band that came to arrest the Lord. It was an attempt to defeat the purpose of God and to overthrow truth. It was then that the ‘seed of the woman’ was assaulted by Satan, but at that same time Satan himself received the fatal blow from the Triumphant Saviour. He ‘destroyed (put out of action) him that hath the power of death, that is the devil.’

Secondly, it was a cruel murder by wicked men. Judas originated the plot and the Jewish religious leaders gladly carried it into effect. Because of their restricted powers they had to seek Gentile help and, therefore, it was ‘by lawless hands’ they took Him and crucified and slew Him. In the four Gospels there is interwoven the record of the growing hatred of these religious leaders of the Jewish people who were incited by envy. They, in turn, stirred up the people and, together, they all became His ‘betrayers and murderers.’

It is true they did not know Him, and, in putting Him to death, they acted in ignorance. But having had their eyes opened later, their hearts were still unchanged and their murderous intent was as relentless as ever, as is evident when they put Stephen to death. He told them that they had now become His murderers. The charge of manslaughter was amended to that of murder.

Because of this the Jewish people, concerning whom God has future designs of grace, have suffered so much ever since, and their greatest of all tribulations is yet to come upon them. They accepted the responsibility for the death of Jesus. “His blood be on us and on our children,” they cried. They also passed the effects on to their posterity and God is taking them at their word,.

Thirdly, it was an act of divine judgment. “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the Man that is My fellow: smite the shepherd.” Or, as rendered in the New Testament, “I will smite the Shepherd.” It was Jehovah Himself who caused to meet upon the head of the Holy Sufferer the iniquity and punishment of us all. As the fire from Heaven consumed the sin offering and reduced it to ashes, so the fire of divine judgment fell on Him at Calvary, not for His own sins, but because He then took the place of the guilty but believing sinner, and not only bore his sins but He took away the root evil of ‘sin’ itself. God made Him to be sin for us.

Fourthly, yet withal it was a willing self-sacrifice. Time and again we read “He gave Himself.” “I lay down My life for the sheep.” He said. “I lay it down of Myself.” It was His own act, not that He killed Himself, but that He complied with His undertaking to the Father given prior to His coming to earth.

These papers have necessarily to be brief, but the reader is well-advised to ponder these four facets of the death of Christ and, by perusing the Scriptures, to amplify what we have here written in so few words.

There is abundant evidence to support the fact that the Lord Jesus died voluntarily. He refused to be persuaded not to go to Jerusalem, but of His own choice He set His face as a flint and went thither, though He knew what awaited Him. The inability of the posse that entered the garden of Gethsemane to arrest Him caused them to fall backward. He gave His back to the smiters and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. He hid not His face from shame and spitting. He could have returned to Heaven and none could have forbidden Him but, prophetically, He says, “I turned not away backward.”

The manner of His death was altogether unusual. He cried with a loud voice TETELESTAI — ‘it is finished’ and then bowed His head and dismissed His spirit. He was throughout all the willing fulfiller of the Father’s counsels. Well might Pilate marvel that He was dead already when it was reported to him that Joseph of Arimathea petitioned the body. His legs were not broken for that was unnecessary. Though, naturally speaking, He could have resisted the sufferings the longest, yet He died the quickest of all three. How is this to be accounted for? In none other way than that He laid down His own life.

This does not in the slightest reduce the wickedness of the crime of man in causing Him to die violently. Peter thrust home the charge again and again: “Ye took Him, and slew Him and hanged Him on a tree.” It is not for us to pry into the question of how these two things can be reconciled: it is sufficient to know they are both true. He laid down His life for no man had, up to that time, taken it from Him. But man put Him to death when His hour was come.

Yet there was another side of the matter. He died sacrificially and His blood was shed to atone for sin. “Without the shedding of blood” there could be “no remission,” yet it “is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin.” No marvel then that the New Testament lays great stress upon the value of the “precious blood” of Christ, for by that means, What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, condemned sin in the flesh and so put an end to it.

The whole theology of the New Testament is based upon this fact. All God’s ways in olden times had the cross in view, and He passed over the sins of people who lived then because He knew Christ was to die. As it were, He forgave them on credit. All His ways in these present times since the cross are because of it. Every spiritual blessing that the believer has is founded on His blood. The Lord’s Supper is to him a reminder of the shedding of His blood for the remission of sins.

A bloodless Gospel is no Gospel at all. The true Gospel declares that “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” We praise Him that “He has washed us from our sins in His own blood.”

The death of Christ is the indisputable proof of the love of God. “God commendeth His love toward us,” says Paul, and he emphasizes that it was when we were without strength, when we were yet sinners, indeed when we were enemies, in due time Christ died for us. What greater proof of love could we have? Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. But He laid down His life for His enemies. And what enemies! “Father forgive them,” He pleaded, “for they know not what they are doing.” This He said when they were actually crucifying Him. Had He a worse enemy than Saul of Tarsus? But it is he who is glad to own, “He loved me, and gave Himself up for me.”

It was not by chance that He was crucified. The curse of a broken law was on the entirety of the human race. Everyone deserved to finish his days on a gallow, for, “Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree,” and “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things that are written in the law to do them.” Yet “He became a curse for us” and He hanged on a tree. He did not die for His own sins: He had none. But He died “for the ungodly.” He died “for us”. He died, says Paul. “for me.” We can, as did the American who wrote his name on the little cross in the Gettysberg cemetery where his Civil War substitute lay buried, write our name by faith on the Cross, underneath the name of our Substitute, and add as did that American the words, “He died for me.”

Intrinsically there was efficacy in the death of Christ to meet the needs of all. He gave Himself a ransom “for all.” “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the whole world.” We dare not consider the efficacy of the death of Christ quantitatively, we must always think of it qualitatively: it was not so much punishment for so many sins, for the Person who died was of infinite worth, and His death was, therefore, of infinite merit. There is no such thing recognized in Scripture as a limited atonement.

This may seem to be contradicted by the fact that two prepositions are used — the one huper which has to do with essential efficacy — and the other anti which has to do with applied benefits. But the former relates to propitiation, the providing God with a righteous basis on which to deal with the sinner in mercy, while the latter has to do with substitution and relates to those who, by faith, have drawn upon the limitless provision that has been made: a provision which is still open to all who will.

What has the death of Christ achieved? Space forbids but the merest indication. The reader should pursue the hints given by diligent study.

It has opened the way into the holiest of all, for the veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom by an invisible hand when He died. The old order of earthly ritualistic religion was abolished and a spiritual order was brought in. By His death and resurrection the power of Satan and sin and death were all broken. Many bodies of the saints arose after His resurrection. He spoiled principalities and powers by His death, His resurrection making it manifest. He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. In Him we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.

His death brought to an end sin and self, and the law. He fulfilled all the enactments of the law of God without the slightest breach, and then died under its curse in substitution for the actual infringers. Both the enactments and the penalties having been paid, the whole document can be taken out of the way as indeed it was, it was nailed to His cross. He paid the price — not indeed to the devil, but to Justice — and we have been redeemed from the curse of the law for ‘He became a curse for us.’

In ordinary affairs it would be utterly immoral to allow an innocent person to suffer the capital penalty for the guilty, though it has been known that for a good man someone has dared to die. But there was no immorality in the cross. He who died was One of whom it is said, “The Word was God.” God’s Son was not ‘given up for us all’ contrary to His own wish. We are here in the sphere of unfathomable mystery and our words should be few. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” by the cross. The offended Law-giver took the place of the guilty law-breaker and bore his punishment. All the Godhead was involved in this: “By the eternal Spirit He offered Himself without spot to God.”

And what more shall we say? The theme is inexhaustible for it finds its place in the whole volume of Scripture. As someone has written: “The death of Christ is as a scarlet thread in the whole canon of Scripture. The historical books of the Old Testament prove its necessity: the Levitical foreshadow its meaning: the Psalms give its experiences: the prophets foretell its sufferings: the Gospels record its fulfilment: the Acts proclaim its blessings: the Epistles explain its doctrine: the Revelation exhibits its fruits.”

“For Christ hath once suffered, for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.” His death was final— “once for all:” it was penal, “for sins”: it was vicarious “ the just for the unjust”: it was purposive — “To bring us to God.”