Azazel - Scapegoat; Preaching and Teaching; Propitiation and Substitution; Imperfect Expressions as to Truth; Need of Watchfulness

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Very Dear Brother,—I was much pleased, I need not tell you, to receive your letter. I understand well that work prevents one from writing, and that those who labor much do not so much like writing either, but this only makes communications all the more pleasant when one does receive them. Blessed be God that you have been able to give good news; and always, when one can do so of one's work and of His grace, to say in fact that God is working recalls us to Him, and that is what always gives us joy.
Indeed the work has been remarkable at———, but God has been better than our thoughts; this is not surprising, but we ought at least to bless Him for it with all our hearts.
Now as to the questions of doctrine. If Christ is in our hearts and in our words, God uses, dear brother, very imperfect expressions to communicate blessing to souls; and He even uses erroneous expressions; nevertheless, they bring with them into the soul something imperfect or erroneous; also those who observe it are stumbled by it. I can say to an exercised soul that his salvation is finished, because I am only directing him, outside himself and the judgment which he exercises on an internal work of which he is incapable of judging, to Christ, whose perfect work is the simple object of faith. I could not say it to every one; this would be to interfere with the election of God, of which I know nothing: but I can say to all, that propitiation has been presented to God. They have but to look there, and going to God by that blood they will be received; they have nothing to wait for. They will not go unless the Father draw them, but this is a matter of sovereign grace, with which I have nothing to do in my preaching—in my teaching, yes, but not in my address to unconverted-souls.
In the blood which is put upon the mercy-seat, it is not a question of those who are saved or of election, but of the majesty of God, which demands this satisfaction for sin. I can address all, and declare to them that this satisfaction has been made, and that God the Father has perfectly accepted it. But I cannot say to all that Christ bore their sins, because the word does not say it anywhere. If He had borne their sins, they would certainly be justified, and consequently saved by the life of Christ, and glorified.
Thus in Rom. 5:1818Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. (Romans 5:18), the gift has come "towards"—not "upon"—literally it reads, "So then as by one offense, towards all men to condemnation" (it is the direction towards which a thing would go if left to itself, not its coming upon), " so by one righteousness towards all men for justification of life." This is why he says "all." But in v. 19, "For as indeed by the disobedience of the one man the many have been constituted sinners; so also by the obedience of the one the many will be constituted righteous;" here it is the effect, not the tendency, therefore he says "many." The thing is not limited to the one who accomplished it, but extends in its efficacy to those who are interested in it; the many are constituted sinners or righteous in virtue of these two works. So it is said, Rom. 3:2222Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: (Romans 3:22), "[The] righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ towards all, and upon all those who believe." It is one thing to put the blood on the mercy-seat, this was God's lot; another to confess the sins of the people on the head of the goat Azazel. On account of the one, God can act in the testimony of love towards all, His righteousness being satisfied; on account of the other, He owes it to Christ never to find those sins again: they have been borne into a land not inhabited. Now this is not true of the sins of the wicked: therefore it cannot be said that it is not on account of the fruits of Adam's sin that men are condemned, for it is said, "For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience." And "If ye believe not that I am he ye shall die in your sins." Thus I quite believe that Christ died for all, but I cannot say that He bore, as a substitute, the sins of all. The word, it seems to me, is very clear on this point in its doctrines, in the consequences that it draws from them, and in its types. So that I take ἀντίλυτρον ὑπὲρ πάντων in the simplest and widest sense. Satisfaction has been presented to God for men, but here (1 Tim. 2:66Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1 Timothy 2:6)) it is evident these words refer to the desire to make of Jesus, at least of the Messiah, a mediator of the Jewish nation. No, says the apostle, He is so for all. God θέλει, (not βοὐλεται) that all, not the Jews only, should be saved; He has given, therefore, one Mediator for all, who has made the propitiation which was necessary, and demanded by the majesty of God, so that the door is open to all through the satisfaction that He has made to the outraged majesty of God. But God has predestinated His own: He calls them; He quickens them. For if the matter rested there (that is to say, at an open door) no one, not even the elect, would come. But Christ has confessed the sins of those thus brought as if they were His own. He "shall justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities."
Farewell, beloved brother. May our good and faithful Lord and Savior sustain you and us, and guide us; we need it; and blessed be His name for it, He has it at heart to do it. Yes, we may pass through strait and difficult places, but He is not the less faithful; only let us look to Him, and He is there, even when He seems to forsake us, in order to put faith to the proof, and to make us known to ourselves. However, we have usually exposed ourselves to the enemy before things come to this pass, then He makes us feel within what we have failed in as to watchfulness without. If the enemy is outside, it is not a question of our strength, but of that of the door which keeps him out; if we have opened it, our own is in question. This makes us feel what we are, and also where we have failed in watchfulness and prayer, but He is faithful. Greet all the brethren warmly. I have been very happy during my illness: it has made me feel much more than ever that heaven and the bosom of God is my rest, my home, seeing that I shall be with Him forever.
Peace be with all the brethren, also yourself, your dear wife, and your little ones. I hope to visit the Continent this autumn. Greet warmly also for me our brother——-. May God keep him so that he may be content to be little.
Yours very affectionately,
In the fellowship of the Lord.
July 4th, 1846.