Atoning Sufferings of Christ: Third Letter (Continued) on the

Psalm 102  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 7
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Now I freely admit, that men were the instruments in much that Christ suffered, and that as from God. For if God gave Him over to His enemies, this was a terrible thing as coming from God. But must we stop here? Did not Christ suffer because God forsook Him on the cross, and suffer not from men but from God? Was there any instrument here? Was it not God’s own act? God, instead of comforting Him, abandoned Him. Suppose there had been no men there, and that God had given Him up to darkness, withdrawing the light of His face, so that impenetrable darkness came in between the soul of Christ and God, would you say there were any instruments here, or that God only permitted it? God forsook Him. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” It is no question of instruments, but of what God Himself did when He had laid our iniquities on Him. To deny this is to deny atonement. I know you do not wish to deny the truth, but I do not believe your soul has grasped the real character of Christ’s atoning suffering, and so this scripture has not its proper weight with you.
You ask for scripture as to using the word “wrath”—Christ enduring “judicial wrath.” Read Psalm 102 There the Messiah pours out His soul to Jehovah, who has lifted Him up and cast Him clown, weakened his strength in the way, and shortened His days. In verse 10, He says, “because of thine indignation and thy wrath. He cries to Jehovah, “Ο my God, take me not away in the midst of my clays.” Jehovah answers: “Thy years are throughout all generations,” &c. (Vers. 23-28.) Compare Heb. 1. All this, no doubt, is connected with Christ as the Messiah of Israel, who came and was cut off instead of getting the kingdom; but it reaches up to the sufferings of the cross, and “indignation” and “wrath” were there. And this is quite in keeping with the general teaching of the word of God. “Wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness,” &c. (Rom. 1) When and where revealed? Was it not at the cross where God’s true attitude toward sin was fully revealed? The wrath of God abides on the unbeliever. (John 3:3636He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36).) Why? Is it not because his sins are on him, as having refused that which alone could remove them? God’s wrath is against sin. Sin must be dealt with in righteous judgment according to the majesty of God, cither in the person of the guilty one, or the Holy Victim on whom the sin is laid. And thus when the sins of God’s were laid on Christ, they brought down upon Him God’s wrath and curse. This was on the cross, and there only. It is very simple, but needs that our souls bow to God’s estimate of what sin is, and His way of putting it away, to understand it.
You object to the statement, that Christ “was made sin.” Well, I have no objection to saying He was made a “sin-offering1 but this only identifies the sin and the offering, and so really comes to the same thing. In the Greek there is one word used for both “sin” and “sin-offering,” and this is remarkable, for it shows the real character of the “sin-offering.” Christ offered Himself without spot to God, a spotless victim. But what then? When this spotless One offered Himself to God, God laid our sins on Him—made Him a sin-offering—and then meted out to Him what was clue to sin. It was a dreadful cup—unmingled wrath and judgment, I believe, without one element in it to alleviate the sorrow of that dark hour. This cup He drank for me—for all who believe—so that we can say our judgment is passed, we “shall not come into judgment” (John 5:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)), because that blessed One took our iniquities at the cross, and exhausted the judgment due to them; and this is the reason why God is righteous in justifying those who believe.
We get substantially the same truth in Gal. 3:1313Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: (Galatians 3:13). “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. This is a very strong word, as you know. He took the place of an accursed one, in order that those on whom the curse righteously rested might go free. God has attached a curse to the breaking of the law. And the transgressor feels and knows, that he has to do with God as One who has pronounced this curse. This is one side of the truth; thank God there is another: God has given Christ to be a curse, and thus to redeem us from the curse of the law. This quite agrees with the fact, that Christ was made a sin-offering. God made Him to be this, and for us, and laid our sins on Him, so as to put them away in the shedding of His blood, that we might be forever cleared from the curse and judgment of God.
You ask: “Did He carry our sins in His body as a person carries a burden, or as a person feels in his heart the pains of his relatives?” I do not think it was either, though the former, rather than the latter; He did feel all our sorrows in His heart. But this was during His whole life, as at the grave of Lazarus, and the like. He was tried (or tempted) in all points as we are, except from sin within, and this that He might sympathize with us, succor us in time of trial. But all this is different from bearing our sins. His bearing our sins was this: that He took upon Himself the responsibility of our guilt, or became identified with it in such a way as a victim, that the punishment of it fell on Him. God, so to speak, in grace to us, transferred the penalty of our guilt to Him, and He fully met it in the shedding of His blood. It was in this way that He came under the weight of our sins, and of God’s judgment. He had the sense of this in His soul, felt the awful weight of it, and cried out when abandoned of God. Forsaken of God, the pressure of wrath was upon His soul, as bearing our sins. It was the indescribable horror of this that led Him to cry out. His cry was not exactly an appeal for deliverance (although we get this in Psalm 22) but “why?” He had not offended God, had committed no sin; why should God forsake Him? But scripture tells us why. Our sins were there, and on Him, and the holy fire was consuming Him—the fire of judgment—as the sin-offering was burnt outside the camp.
From this awful pressure He was delivered while on the cross, so that He could commend His spirit in peace to His Father; and this is what you refer to in Luke 23:4646And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. (Luke 23:46). And He could then also say, “It is finished.” Atonement was finished on the cross. God was glorified, and rent the veil, in token that the shed blood had opened a way into His presence. But it was only in resurrection that He was delivered from His enemies. On the morning of the third day the soldiers were scattered, and God raised Him from the dead. But the fact that He could commend His spirit to His Father when He expired, only confirms what I have been trying to show from scripture was the real character of His atoning suffering.
You believe that He bore our sins in the same manner as He bore our “griefs,” &c. I would have you notice the difference. He bore our “griefs” during His life-time; that is, before the cross, and not only at the cross. See Matt. 8:16, 1716When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: 17That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses. (Matthew 8:16‑17). But Peter tells us He bore our sins “on the tree. One was all along the path He trod as the “man of sorrows;” the other was only on the tree, when He was made a sin-offering—made a curse—and was forsaken of God. The difference is immense.
I know not that I need to add more, unless it be to again express my full conviction, that the translation of Isa. 53:6-106All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 10Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. (Isaiah 53:6‑10), is perfectly correct, and expresses the exact thought which is in Hebrew. In the margin of the English Bible, verse 6 is “made the iniquities of us all to meet on him.” This comes much to the same thin 2. Our sins were on Him: and this was Jehovah’s doing. And Peter, referring to this very passage says He bore them in His own, body—not merely felt them in His heart. It was in His body, the body in which He was offered as a sacrifice, the blood being shed—the life given up which was substituted for the guilty—in order that the sins might be put away, and our eternal salvation secured by this priceless ransom.
Affectionately in the Lord, Your brother, Α. Η. E.
(Continued from page 28,)
1. While the word may be translated “ sin-offering,” I have no doubt that “ sin “ is the better translation in 2 Cor. 5:2121For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21), because it is in contrast with “ righteousness.” The sinless One was made sin (sacrificially of course), that we, the sinful ones, might become God’s righteousness—not in ourselves, but in Him!