Atoning Sufferings of Christ: Third Letter on the

John 1:29  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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My dear Brother, I will begin my answer to your letter by referring to your question about John 1:2929The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29). You quote it, “take away the sins of the world.” I do not know if it was just a slip of the pen, or whether you have never noticed it, but this is not correct. It is “sin,” not “sins.” And this makes an immense difference. It is often quoted, “sins of the world;” but this is wrong. “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” It is not a question of the sinful deeds of men, but of sin which came into the world by the first man. Sin has blighted and ruined everything connected with the first creation. The very ground is cursed for man’s sake, and brings forth thorns and briars. Now sin which has done this is to be removed; and the Lamb of God is the One who is to do this. On the ground of His sacrifice on the cross every vestige of sin will be removed. This has not been done yet, though the sacrificial work, which is the ground of it, has been accomplished. The removal of it will be completed when the new heavens and new earth are brought in. The present heavens and earth are defiled, and will be dissolved, and when that takes place, sin will be removed. There will be no sin in the new heavens and new earth. The wicked will not be there, and no evil will be there. All will be purified according to the value of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, and righteousness will dwell there instead of sin. (2 Pet. 3) So we see in ¤ Col. 1:2020And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:20), that all things in heaven and earth—all things, not all men—are to be reconciled to the Godhead by the blood of Jesus’ cross. In verse 21 we see that men who believe are now reconciled; but the reconciliation of all things will be when the new heavens and new earth are established. Wicked men, who refuse Christ, and wicked angels, are never reconciled, but will be banished from the presence of the Lord, and from the heavens and earth, the scene of the display of His glory, never to defile them again through sin.
Now a word about Isa. 53:66All 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. (Isaiah 53:6). You desire to know who is meant by “us all.” I believe there the prophet, speaking by the Spirit, gives utterance to the sentiments that will be wrought by the same Spirit in the hearts of the remnant of the Jews who will be brought into blessing at the coming of the Lord; that is, when God’s dealings with Israel will have led this remnant to repentance. They will look on Him whom they pierced, and confess their sin and iniquity in having despised and rejected Him. But this will be in faith, and therefore in blessing to their souls. Through grace they will see that the One whom they despised and slew was wounded for their transgressions, and that Jehovah had laid their iniquity on Him, and that He had atoned for it, His soul having been made an offering for sin. It is the language of faith, confessing sins, but at the same time seeing how Jehovah had dealt with their sins in the death of their Messiah.
In Lev. 16, the type answers to this. There are two goats, one for Jehovah, and one for Israel; one whose blood is carried into the holiest and put on the mercy-seat, and the other for a scapegoat to bear away the sins of the people. When the high priest carried in the blood of the slain goat, and sprinkled it on and before the mercy-seat, &c, he came out to the waiting congregation outside, and confessed their sins on the head of the scapegoat, and they were then borne away into a land not inhabited. Now you will see in that chapter there were two classes of people—Aaron and his house, and the congregation of Israel. Aaron offered a bullock for himself and his house, but there is nothing about his coming out and confessing the sin of his house on another bullock. Why this difference? It shows the perfectness of the type. Aaron’s house is a type of God’s house now, as seen in Hebrews. Aaron’s sons were priests, and served in the holy place. So we see in Hebrews, those who are of God’s house now are priests and have access by the blood of Jesus into the sanctuary, even the holiest, because the veil is rent And there they have Christ over them as their High Priest.
Now this High Priest has gone into the presence of God for us by His own blood, but has not yet come out again. Only the Holy Ghost has come and testified that He has obtained eternal redemption, and that our sins shall be remembered no more, so that we have now access to the holiest as a priestly house while the High Priest is still within. We do not need to wait till He comes again to know our acceptance, since the Holy Ghost has borne witness, and we have believed. Through grace we are associated with the High Priest as His house, and with Him over us we draw near to God without a veil, and without a cloud, because we are there according to the infinite, unchanging, eternal value of the sacrifice of Christ.
Not so Israel. They are still outside, waiting till the High Priest comes out and shows Himself to them. Just as the congregation waited outside until the high priest came out and confessed their sins on the head of the scapegoat, so Israel now waits (in unbelief, as we know) until Christ comes out and reveals Himself to them as the true High Priest who has presented a propitiatory sacrifice for them, and who has confessed their sins as His own, and borne them away. This they will learn and acknowledge, as in Isa. 53 They will look on Him whom they pierced, and they will say, “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 the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” It is most blessed to see the grace that leads them to acknowledge their sins, and leads them to see how when they were killing their own King, the Prince of life, God was providing a Sacrifice to put away their sins.
The direct application, then, of Isa. 53 is to Israel. Yet the principle applies now wherever there is faith. Peter so applied it with Jews who accepted Christianity, as we see in 1 Pet. 2:2525For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. (1 Peter 2:25). As sheep gone astray they had returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls, who had borne their sins in His own body on the tree. We have the same principle also in the end of Rom. 4 where Paul says, “Who was delivered for OUR offenses.” It is the language of faith. Those who submit to God’s righteousness by faith in Jesus have the title to say, “Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.” And when they can say this, they have peace with God. They see that their sins were judicially transferred to Christ, and borne by Him, as the One who offered Himself to God for this purpose; so that now, through faith in Him, they are justified by His blood, that blood which cleanseth from all sin.
I know not whether I make it clear to you or not. It is clear to my own soul. And I may say, it was this truth that set my soul in God’s presence without a cloud, according to God’s righteousness by which He justifies on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ.
I will now refer to some points in your letter connected with the sufferings of Christ.
You say, you “see that Christ suffered from God, or rather that He suffered because in time of need He was forsaken of God.” You also say these were “the most terrible sufferings;” and again, this “was the inward suffering, and the outward sufferings were from men.” I think there is a partial admission of the truth here, though not clear; and it is afterward spoiled by your calling in question His suffering “under the judgment of God.” Now what I affirm is, that He did suffer under that judgment, and that is the uniform teaching of scripture;—under God’s judgment, not for His own sins (for He was without sin), but for the sins of His people. He “was delivered for our offenses,” “bare our sins,” “was offered to bear the sins of many,” and when they were laid on Him, He was bruised and smitten of Jehovah.
You may say, men were the “instruments,” and God “permitted” them, and that what God permits is often spoken of as if He does it Himself. To a certain extent this is true, and has an important bearing on the sufferings of Christ, especially in their application to the nation of Israel, or the remnant that will form the nation by-and-by. But this must not be used to neutralize the truth as to the really atoning suffering of Christ. The Jewish remnant in the latter day will be given up to their enemies as Christ was, and will be down-trodden and oppressed when the wicked are set up, and flourish as the green bay tree. They will feel too that they are under the hand of God, in affliction and sore chastisement because of their sins, and, while upright in heart, without the sense of God’s favor. The blessed Lord has entered into all this at the cross, as delivered up to His enemies, and as Messiah cut off, and not receiving the kingdom. And thus He will be able to sympathize with the remnant in the latter day, and sustain them in all their sorrows and anguish of heart. But this is not our subject just now, important as it is for the understanding of many scriptures in connection with Israel. Our subject now is the atoning suffering of Christ, not what He suffered in order to sympathize with others.
(To be continued,)