The Saviour of the World

Sin and the Saviour

Sin is a tremendous fact. There is no excuse for sin. Sin is rebellion against the holiness of God, against a holy God. Sin involves a degradation of the whole being, a debasement of the inner life, a prostitution of the moral powers. Sin is the expression of a perverted nature, in whatever form it may reveal itself. A sinner is one who fails to manifest the character of Christ, for “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Romans 14:23. In other words, whatever in our lives is not the result of the active exercise of faith in Christ, a faith which accepts Him as the Lord of our lives, is sin. Self is sin personified. Self-seeking is the all-inclusive sin. Selfishness is the very essence of sin. Self-idolatry “lies at the foundation of all sin.” I must be delivered from myself, for “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” Romans 7:18. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt.” Jeremiah 17:9. “From within, out of the heart of man, evil thoughts proceed, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetings, wickednesses, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, railing, pride, foolishness: all these evil things proceed from within, and defile the man.” Mark 7:21-23. What a picture of the natural heart! How great is the need of a Saviour! SOTW 39.1

Sin cannot be charged to the account of God. He is not the author of sin. He did not create a sinner. On the contrary, “God made man upright.” Ecclesiastes 7:29. But sin did not take God by surprise and find Him unprepared to deal with it. To affirm this would be to deny the eternity of God and to impeach His character. “God did not ordain that sin should exist, but He foresaw its existence, and made provisions to meet the terrible emergency.” SOTW 40.1

God “saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal.” 2 Timothy 1:9. The mystery of God’s saving gospel, which was revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ, was in the eternal mind through “times eternal,” and was by no means an afterthought. “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and His own character was the guaranty that the image of God in which man was originally created, would be restored, in case that image should be marred by a rejection of that love which was His life. The roots of the gospel are implanted in the very nature of God, and the necessity of the gospel is found in the holiness of God. SOTW 40.2

But while I must recognize the fact of sin, and must not try to cloak its heinous character, since it is an inexcusable rebellion against a holy God, I wish to put the principal emphasis upon the provision made for the solution of the problem of sin. Sin is not an abstract term, a mere theological expression, which has been dealt with sufficiently when it has been defined and condemned as a hated intruder in God’s world. Sin is manifested in persons whose natures have been changed because of this accursed thing. You and I bear the marks of it, and feel its effects. Many a time we have been led to cry out, “Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? “Romans 7:24. What is the answer to this despairing cry? It is one word, “Jesus.” SOTW 40.3

The simplest, and at the same time the most complete, summary of the gospel is found in these words; “Jesus bore our sins.” “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:5, 6. SOTW 41.1

Note the simple facts here presented: Our transgressions were dealt with by wounding Him. Our iniquities were atoned for by bruising Him. The chastisement which brought peace to us was suffered by Him. The stripes which inflicted pain upon Him resulted in healing for us. The iniquity of us all was laid upon Jesus, and He was treated as we deserved to be treated in order that we might be treated as He deserved to be treated. This is the essence of the good news. He “loved me, and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20. SOTW 41.2

I know full well that the offense of the cross has not ceased. Modernism has no place for the atoning cross. The modern mind is unwilling to accept the death of Christ as a sacrificial death, and sees in it only an outstanding example of heroic devotion to a lost cause, an inspiration to us to do our best for the reform of society, even though it may cost us our lives. The simple gospel of salvation from sin through our faith in the efficacy of the work of Christ, who died and lived again, has been exchanged for an evolutionary philosophy in which our hope is made to rest upon the gradual uplift of the human family through the operation of resident forces. The definition of sin, as given in the Scriptures, is now regarded as a crude conception adapted to the limited vision of the childhood of the race, but now nullified by the discoveries of science and philosophy, and to be rejected as an exploded theory which does not appeal to the highly developed intelligence of the present day. The need of a new and more modern conception of God is now suggested. SOTW 41.3

All this is flattering to human pride, but there is one horrible difficulty about it: it is not true! Each one of us can demonstrate this for himself. I know that sin is a terrible reality, and that no optimistic philosophy has delivered me from its power. When the sun is shining brightly, no one can prove to me that it is dark by simply shutting his own eyes to the light. We cannot loosen the cords which bind us by asserting that there are no cords there. Our own experience cannot be so easily hoodwinked as that. There may be those who put darkness for light and light for darkness, but I cannot accept that kind of philosophy which seeks to satisfy our need by affirming that we have no need. The most convincing reply to all such teaching is found in the unanswerable affirmation of the man whom Jesus healed of blindness: “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” John 9:25. SOTW 42.1

There is a certainty about the experience of the gospel of Christ which cannot be so easily confused by the mere assertions of a pretentious philosophy. The fact of Christ and the history of which He is Himself the condensation and the inspiration, cannot be brushed aside by the mere waving of the hand of a modern theologian. The sin of the world and the saving grace of Christ have been graven in the rock of a universal consciousness with an iron pen, and vain are the attempts to erase the indelible record. Sin is here, and God has dealt with it. Sin is here, and we must recognize it as a terrible reality with which God has dealt; and we must learn to accept, each for himself, the work of God in Christ as the only solution of the problem which drew heavily upon divine wisdom and divine love. And to this solution I shall now give attention. SOTW 42.2

When John the Baptist pointed out Jesus with the words, “Behold, the Lamb of God, that beareth [margin] the sin of the world” (John 1:29), he sounded the keynote of the gospel. From the time that Abel “brought of the firstlings of his flock,” and “Jehovah had respect unto Abel and his offering” (Genesis 4:4), attention had been directed through all the centuries to the shedding of the blood of another for the remission of sins. Atonement was to be made by the shedding of the lifeblood of a substitute, according to the instruction of Jehovah: “The life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life.” Leviticus 17:11. By the multiplied sacrifices of animals in the services of the sanctuary and of the temple, the truth was being emphasized that “apart from shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22), and yet by the very repetition of those sacrifices it was proclaimed that “it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins.” Hebrews 10:4. And so they offered and waited, and waited and offered the same sacrifices continually, while an intelligent faith looked to the true sacrifice, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Revelation 13:8, A. V. With a mind illuminated by the Holy Spirit, John the Baptist beheld in Jesus of Nazareth the one who had been foreshadowed by all the typical sacrifices, the true sin-bearer, concerning whom the prophet had declared; “Jehovah hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6. He it was “who His own Blank Page self bare our sins in His body upon the tree.” 1 Peter 2:24. The fullness of the time had come, all that was shadowy in the gospel of redemption through blood was to be replaced by the reality, and prophecy was to be realized in fact. “Behold, the Lamb of God, that beareth the sin of the world.” John 1:29. SOTW 43.1

Every one who reads the New Testament thoughtfully must observe that the death and resurrection of Christ occupy the leading place. These are indeed the central and the essential facts of the gospel. This is clearly indicated by the importance attached to these facts as interpreted to us by the writings of the apostle Paul, who met the crucified and risen Jesus on the Damascus road: “I delivered unto you first of all [“among the chief things”] that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried; and that He hath been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4. What is true of the apostle Paul is also true of the other New Testament writers. The death of Christ, with which is necessarily connected the resurrection, is the vitally significant theme. SOTW 45.1

“It is treated by them as a subject of central and permanent importance to the Christian faith, and it is incredible that it should have filled the place it does fill in the New Testament had it ever been regarded as of trifling consequence for the understanding, the acceptance, or the preaching of the gospel.” SOTW 45.2

Furthermore, it is plain from the record that His death was not to Jesus an unfortunate ending to His career, an unforeseen and tragically fatal incident in His program of reform; but, on the contrary, that it was from the first recognized by Him as a morally necessary part of His experience in the work which He came from heaven to do. The path marked out for Him in the divine councils and portrayed by the prophets, led directly to Calvary. At twelve years of age He attended His first Passover. SOTW 45.3

“He beheld the bleeding victim upon the altar of sacrifice. With the worshipers He bowed in prayer, while the cloud of incense ascended before God. He witnessed the impressive rites of the paschal service. Day by day He saw their meaning more clearly. Every act seemed to be bound up with His own life. New impulses were awakening within Him. Silent and absorbed, He seemed to be studying out a great problem. The mystery of His mission was opening to the Saviour.” SOTW 45.4

A vision of the cross was vouchsafed to Him, and He beheld Himself as the Lamb of God. In the light of these scenes His life became a living sacrifice and His death a foregone conclusion. SOTW 46.1

At a later Passover, but early in His ministry, when the Jews demanded of Him a sign, Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:19. The Jews thought He referred to their beautiful temple, which required forty-six years for its construction, “but He spake of the temple of His body.” John 2:21. It is plain that from the first Jesus knew that He was the Anointed One, the Messiah, who was to “be cut off.” Daniel 9:26. In fact, His own words at a later time interpret to us His view that His death was the essential feature of His vocation, for He declared; “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28. Toward the close of His ministry, after His own disciples had confessed His Messiah ship, He repeatedly told them in plain terms that He was to be put to death by the religious leaders at Jerusalem, and that He would rise the third day. And so it was. SOTW 46.2

But why was His death necessary? Why was it required that such an infinite price should be paid for our salvation? Why must the Great Physician die in order that the sick might be healed? It was because sin was such a horrible fact. It was because it was the only solution of the problem of sin which would justify both God and man before the universe. The cross is the great center of universal history, in the light of which the eternal purpose of God and the destiny of man are to be interpreted. We do well to linger at the foot of the cross. SOTW 46.3