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Reading between the Lines


The terms commonly used in the doctrinal discussion of the atonement, and drawn from Bible phraseology, such as Surety, Mediator, High Priest, Advocate—all representing Him as our substitute, who appears in the presence of God for us, and conducts our cause,—are not indeed found in the Lord’s own words descriptive of Himself. But, beyond question, the thing is there; and He acts as fully conscious that, except through Himself, as Mediator, God could have no intercourse with man, nor man with God. He understands and consults the best interests of His people in every respect: He took flesh, and knows the infirmities of human nature by personal experience, that He may sympathize with their condition, and compassionately conduct their concerns: He was lawfully called and appointed to this function. And not only so: the sacrificial language, which we find Him so frequently using, implies a Priest, though he does not expressly appropriate the term.

These titles, both numerous and various, imply that He had a relation to mankind which is unique; that He stood between God and man; that He was not an individual unit of the race, as all the negative theology represents Him; but acting in a representative capacity for it. He assumes a position that no one but Himself could dare to occupy. Thus, when He calls Himself the way, in the saying, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John xiv. 6), He means that He is the exclusive Way; not only paving the way for others, but constituting, in His own person and work, the only way by which any could have access to God. That this is the meaning is evident from the subjoined words, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” Could Christ affirm this of Himself, if He were nothing more than a teacher, an example, or a merely human founder of a new religion? Certainly not. It could not be maintained that there never was any other teacher, or that Moses, David, and the prophets were in no wise either commissioned or fitted to point out the way of acceptable worship. Neither could the words hold, if they were interpreted of Jesus as an example or as the founder of a new religion. There are other examples, though by no means so perfect as He; and were He only, like Moses, the instrument or founder of a new religion, men might accept the religion, and without much injury forget the founder. But the Lord says that He cannot be omitted, forgotten, or superseded, and that from first to last no man approaches God but by Him. This shows Him to be a Mediator, a High Priest, or introducer on the ground of His person and work, and cannot be affirmed of any prophet or apostle that ever trod the earth.

—George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 52–53.

Posted 2018·05·01 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Atonement · Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement · Christology · George Smeaton

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