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(26 posts)

This Monday, my wife and I went to the big city (Bismarck ND, population 58,333, 2nd largest city in the state!) to take care of some business and do some shopping. Traveling, which I don’t often do, is one of the few times I listen to the radio. The ride home usually brings some interesting listening. On this occasion, we were assaulted by a “sermon” that did little more than describe, in graphic detail, the beating and crucifixion of Christ. It was the radio version of The Passion of the Christ (which I have intentionally never seen), I suppose. I would say it was a fairly accurate description, avoiding the exaggeration that often accompanies such things, and containing relatively little of the typical speculation about “what scholars think that might possibly conceivably maybe have meant.” It was pretty much just the gruesome facts of what a Roman crucifixion entailed. Unfortunately, that was all it was, and as such, it was pretty useless. The message of the cross is not primarily about the physical suffering of Christ. His physical suffering is not even the greatest part of what he suffered. The most horrific agony of the cross was not the brutal scourging or the crown of thorns. It was not the nails in his hands and feet. It was not the excruciating pain of hanging from those nails. It was not any of the consequential medical complications that preachers love to expertly describe to spice up the Good Friday sermon. Christ’s anguish, which began in Gethsemane, was not essentially physical. It was an anguish that can never be communicated through pictures or movies. It was, first and foremost, spiritual. It was the torture of being separated from the Father and bearing my sin that was the essence of his suffering. And this is the heart of the Gospel. I am not saved because Christ suffered the pain of crucifixion. I am saved because he died bearing my sins. Jesus took the guilt of my sins upon himself and bore the full force of the Father’s holy wrath poured out upon him. He, the only begotten son of God, became the most loathsome creature in the Father’s eyes when my sins were laid on him. The most eloquent preacher cannot adequately describe the horror, so I know I can’t even come close. As we approach Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, let us not become focused on the cross as an instrument of torture. Let us focus on Christ as the bearer of sin—my sin, and yours, if you believe in him. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. —2 Corinthian 5:21.

Christ Our Substitute

Wednesday··2008·07·09 · 1 Comments
It is not by incarnation but by blood-shedding that we are saved. . . . If Christ be not the Substitute, He is nothing to the sinner. If He did not die as a Sin-bearer, He has died in vain. Let us not be deceived on this point, nor misled by those who, when they announce Christ as the Deliverer, think they have preached the gospel. If I throw a rope to a drowning man, I am a deliverer. But is Christ no more than that? . . . The very essence of Christ’s deliverance is the substitution of Himself for us, His life for ours. . . . He did not redeem us by a little loss, a little sacrifice, a little labour, a little suffering, “He redeemed us to God by His blood;” “the precious blood of Christ.” —Horatius Bonar, Christ Is All, ed. Darrin R. Brooker & Michael Haykin (Reformation Heritage Books, 2007), 83–84.

Incarnation and Atonement

The incarnation was essential to but not adequate for the atonement. Sinclair Ferguson writes, Atonement was impossible without an incarnation. Hebrews explains why the Son of God “had to be made like his brothers in every way.” It is so “that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17, NIV). Our salvation requires not only the conquest of our enemy, Satan, but the removal of a yet more terrifying enmity: the wrath of the holy God of heaven. “Purification” and “atonement” must be made “for the sins of the people” (Heb. 1:3; 2:17, NIV). This was made clear to the people of God in the Old Testament by the constantly repeated ritual sacrifices they were required to make. They thus learned that they deserved death because of their sins; but they also were taught that in grace God Himself provided a sacrifice to take their place. However, even an Old Testament believer could see that the animal sacrifices could not in themselves make adequate atonement (Heb. 10:11). Otherwise there would have been no need for them to be repeated. The flesh and blood of bulls and goats could not atone for the sins of human flesh and blood (Heb. 10:4)! Only human flesh and blood could be an appropriate substitute-sacrifice. So the author of Hebrews says: When [Christ] came into the world, He said: “. . . a body you have prepared for me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come’ In the volume of the book it is written— To do your will, O God.’” —Hebrews 10:5–7 Jesus offered Himself as the substitutionary atonement! Sometimes theologians have spoken misleadingly, as though the incarnation is itself the atonement (the “at-one-ment” of God and man in Christ). It is not. But without it there could be no atonement. He took our nature in order to bear our punishment. Only thus can we be at peace with God. —Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Reformation Trust, 2007), 26–27.

Why the God-man? (2)

Friday··2008·09·26 · 6 Comments
R. C. Sproul draws three circles illustrating the separation between God and man that made a substitutionary atonement by a God-man necessary. The first circle represented the character of man. Sproul continues: Imagine a second circle, just like the one we had for man, to represent the character of God. How many blemishes would we see in this circle? Absolutely none. We are totally depraved, but God is absolutely holy. In fact, He is too holy to even look at iniquity. He is perfectly just. Here, then, is the crux of the problem: how can an unjust person stand in the presence of God? Or, to put the question another way, how can an unjust person be made just, or justified? Can he start all over again? No. Once a person commits one sin, it is impossible for him ever to be perfect, because he’s lost his perfection with his initial sin. Can he pay the penalty for his sin? No—unless he wishes to spend an eternity in hell. Can God simply overlook the sin? No. If God did that, He would sacrifice His justice. Therefore, if man is to be made just, God’s justice must be satisfied. Someone must be able to pay te penalty for man’s sin. It must be a member of the offending party, the human race, but it must be one who has never fallen into the inescapable imperfection of sin. Given these requirements, no man could qualify. However, God Himself could. For this reason, God the Son came into the world and took on humanity. As the author of Hebrews says, “He had to be made like His brethren . . .” (Heb. 2:17a, emphasis added). —R. C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross (Reformation Trust, 2007), 90–91.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:28–39 When Jesus Died on the cross, he did not merely make our salvation possible; he actually secured that salvation—and all that it entails—for each of his elect. J. I. Packer expounds this truth from Romans 8: The thought expressed by Paul’s [question in v. 32] is that no good thing will finally be withheld from us. He conveys this thought by pointing to the adequacy of God as our sovereign benefactor and to the decisiveness of his redeeming work for us. Three comments will bring out the force of Paul’s argument. Note, first, what Paul implies about the costliness of our redemption. “He did not spare his own Son.” In saving us, God went to the limit. . . . We cannot know what Calvary cost the Father, any more than we can know Jesus felt as he tasted the penalty due to our sins. . . . Yet we can say this: that if the measure of love is what it gives, then there never was such love as God showed to sinners at Calvary, nor will any subsequent love-gift to us cost God so much. So if God has already commended his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (5:8), it is believable, to say the least, that he will go on to give us “all things” besides. . . . But this is not all. Note, second, what Paul implies about the effectiveness of our redemption. “God,” he says, “gave him up for us all”—and this fact is itself the guarantee that “all things” will be given us, because they all come to us as the direct fruit of Christ’s death. We have just said that the greatness of God’s giving on the cross makes his further giving (if the words may be allowed) natural and likely, but what we must note now is that the unity of God’s saving purpose makes such further giving necessary, and therefore certain. At this point the New Testament view of the cross involves more than is sometimes realized. That the apostolic writers present the death of Christ as the ground and warrant of God’s offer of forgiveness, and that we enter into forgiveness through repentance and faith in Christ, will not be disputed. But does this mean that, as a loaded gun is only potentially explosive, and an act of pulling the trigger is needed to make it go off, so Christ’s death achieved only a possibility of salvation, needing an exercise of faith on our part to trigger it off and make it actual? If so, then it is not strictly Christ’s death that saves us at all, any more than it is loading the gun that makes it fire: strictly speaking, we save ourselves by our faith, and for all we know, Christ’s death might not have saved anyone, since it might have been the case that nobody believed the gospel. But that is not how the New Testament sees it. The New Testament view is that the death of Christ has actually saved “us all”—all, that is to say, whom God foreknew, and has called and justified, and will in due course glorify. For our faith, which from the human point of view is the means of salvation, is from God’s point of view part of salvation, and is as directly and completely God’s gift to us as is the pardon and peace of which faith lays hold. Psychologically, faith is our own act, but the theological truth about it is that it is God’s work in us: our faith, and our new relationship with God as believers, and all the divine gifts that are enjoyed within this relationship, were all alike secured for us by Jesus’ death on the cross. For the cross was not an isolated event; it was, rather, the focal point in God’s eternal plan to save his elect, and it ensured and guaranteed first the calling (the bringing to faith, through the gospel in the mind and the Holy Spirit in the heart), and then the justification, and finally the glorification, of all for whom, specifically and personally, Christ died. Now we see why the Greek of this verse says literally (and so the KJV renders it), how shall he not with him also give us all things? It is simply impossible for him not to do this, for Christ and “all things” go together as ingredients in the single gift of eternal life and glory, and the giving of Christ for us, to remove the “sin barrier” by substitutionary atonement, has effectively opened the door to our being given all the rest. . . . Note, third, what Paul implies about the consequences of redemption. God, he says, will with Christ give us “all things.” What does that cover? Calling, justification, glorification (which in v. 30 includes everything from the new birth to the resurrection of the body) have already been mentioned, and so throughout Romans 8 has the many sided ministry of the Holy Spirit. Here is wealth indeed, and from other Scriptures we could add to it. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 264–266

Lord’s Day 44, 2010

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” The Beloved Son.Horatius Bonar (1808–1889) “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” —Matt. iii. 17. It is the Father's voice that cries ’Mid the deep silence of the skies, “This, this is my beloved Son, In Him I joy, in Him alone.” In Him my equal see revealed, In Him all righteousness fulfilled; In Him, the Lamb, the victim see, Bound, bleeding, dying on the tree. And can you fail to love again? Far fairer he than sons of men! His very name is fragrance poured, Inmianuel, Jesus, Saviour, Lord! He died, and in his dying, proved How much, how faithfully he loved; At my right hand, his glories shine: Is my beloved, sinner, thine? O full of glory, full of grace, Redeemer of a ruined race, Beloved of the Father, come, Make in these sinful hearts a home! Beloved of the Father, Thou, To whom the saints and angels bow; Lnmanuel, Jesus, Saviour, come, Make in these sinful hearts thy home! —Horatius Bonar, Hymns of Faith and Hope, First Series (James Nisbet & Co., 1878). John 14:27–31 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. 28 You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe. 30 I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; 31 but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here.” We ought not to leave the closing portion of this wonderful chapter without noticing one striking feature in it. That feature is the singular frequency with which our Lord uses the expression, “My Father,” and “the Father.” In the last five verses we find it four times. In the whole chapter it occurs no less than twenty-two times. In this respect the chapter stands alone in the Bible. The reason of this frequent use of the expression, is a deep subject. Perhaps the less we speculate and dogmatize about it the better. Our Lord was one who never spoke a word without a meaning, and we need not doubt there was a meaning here. Yet may we not reverently suppose that He desired to leave on the minds of His disciples a strong impression of his entire unity with the Father? Seldom does our Lord lay claim to such high dignity, and such power of giving and supplying comfort to His Church, as in this discourse. Was there not, then, a fitness in His continually reminding His disciples that in all His giving He was one with the Father, and did nothing without the Father? This, at any rate, seems a fair conjecture. Let it be taken for what it is worth. We should observe, for one thing, in this passage, Christ’s last legacy to His people. We find Him saying, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” Peace is Christ’s distinctive gift: not money, not worldly ease, not temporal prosperity. These are at best very questionable possessions. They often do more harm than good to the soul. They act as clogs and weights to our spiritual life. Inward peace of conscience, arising from a sense of pardoned sin and reconciliation with God, is a far greater blessing. This peace is the property of all believers, whether high or low, rich or poor. The peace which Christ gives He calls “my peace.” It is specially His own to give, because He bought it by His own blood, purchased it by His own substitution, and is appointed by the Father to dispense it to a perishing world. Just as Joseph was sealed and commissioned to give corn to the starving Egyptians, so is Christ specially commissioned, in the counsels of the Eternal Trinity, to give peace to mankind. The peace that Christ gives is not given as the world gives. What He gives the world cannot give at all, and what He gives is given neither unwillingly, nor sparingly, nor for a little time. Christ is far more willing to give than the world is to receive. What He gives He gives to all eternity, and never takes away. He is ready to give abundantly above all that we can ask or think. “Open thy mouth wide,” He says, “and I will fill it.” (Psalm lxxxi. 10.) Who can wonder that a legacy like this should be backed by the renewed emphatic charge, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid?” There is nothing lacking on Christ’s part for our comfort, if we will only come to Him, believe, and receive. The chief of sinners has no cause to be afraid. If we will only look to the one true Saviour, there is medicine for every trouble of heart. Half our doubts and fears arise from dim perceptions of the real nature of Christ’s Gospel. We should observe, for another thing, in this passage, Christ’s perfect holiness. We find Him saying, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.” The meaning of these remarkable words admits of only one interpretation. Our Lord would have his disciples know that Satan, “the prince of this world,” was about to make his last and most violent attack on Him. He was mustering all his strength for one more tremendous onset. He was coming up with his utmost malice to try the second Adam in the garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross of Calvary. But our blessed Master declares, “He hath nothing in Me.”—“There is nothing he can lay hold on. There is no weak and defective point in Me. I have kept my Father’s commandment, and finished the work He gave me to do. Satan, therefore, cannot overthrow Me. He can lay nothing to my charge. He cannot condemn Me. I shall come forth from the trial more than conqueror.” Let us mark the difference between Christ and all others who have been born of woman. He is the only one in whom Satan has found “nothing.” He came to Adam and Eve, and found weakness. He came to Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and all the saints, and found imperfection. He came to Christ, and found “nothing” at all. He was a Lamb “without blemish and without spot,” a suitable Sacrifice for a world of sinners, a suitable Head for a redeemed race. Let us thank God that we have such a perfect, sinless Saviour; that His righteousness is a perfect righteousness, and His life a blameless life. In ourselves and our doings we shall find everything imperfect; and if we had no other hope than our own goodness, we might well despair. But in Christ we have a perfect, sinless, Representative and Substitute. Well may we say, with the triumphant Apostle, “Who shall lay anything to our charge?” (Rom. vii. 33.) Christ hath died for us, and suffered in our stead. In Him Satan can find nothing. We are hidden in Him. The Father sees us in Him, unworthy as we are, and for His sake is well pleased. —J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Baker Books, 2007) [Westminster (PB) | Amazon (HC)]. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Hymns of My Youth III: Beneath the Cross of Jesus

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. —Galatians 6:14 426 Beneath the Cross of Jesus Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand, The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land; A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day. Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me; And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess, The wonders of redeeming love and my own worthlessness. I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place; I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face; Content to let the world go by, to know no gain or loss, My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross. —Favorite Hymns of Praise (Tabernacle Publishing Company, 1967).

Lord’s Day 10, 2014

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. —Ephesians 5:1–2 Hymn LIV. Christ crucified. . John Newton (1725–1806) When on the cross, my Lord I see Bleeding to death, for wretched me; Satan and sin no more can move, For I am all transform’d to love. His thorns, and nails, pierce thro’ my heart, In ev’ry groan I bear a part; I view his wounds with streaming eyes, But see! he bows his head and dies! Come, sinners, view the Lamb of God, Wounded and dead, and bath’d in blood! Behold his side, and venture near, The well of endless life is here. Here I forget my cares and pains; I drink, yet still my thirst remains; Only the fountain–head above, Can satisfy the thirst of love. O, that I thus could always feel! Lord, more and more thy love reveal! Then my glad tongue shall loud proclaim The grace and glory of thy name. Thy name dispels my guilt and fear, Revives my heart, and charms my ear; Affords a balm for ev’ry wound, And Satan trembles at the sound. —Olney Hymns. Book II: On Occasional Subjects. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Lord’s Day 17, 2014

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. —Galatians 2:20 Hymn LVI. It is good to be here. John Newton (1725–1806) Let me dwell on Golgotha, Weep and love my life away! While I see him on the tree Weep and bleed, and die for me! That dear blood, for sinners spilt, Shows my sin in all its guilt: Ah, my soul, he bore thy load, Thou hast slain the Lamb of God. Hark! his dying words: “Forgive, Father, let the sinner live; Sinner, wipe thy tears away, I thy ransom freely pay.” While I hear this grace reveal’d, And obtain a pardon seal’d; All my lost affections move, Waken’d by the force of love. Farewel world, thy gold is dross, Now I see the bleeding cross; Jesus dy’d to set me free From the law, and sin, and thee! He has dearly bought my soul Lord, accept, and claim the whole! To thy will I all resign, Now, no more my own, but thine. —Olney Hymns. Book II: On Occasional Subjects. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: What a Savior

Hallelujah! What a Savior! He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; Isaiah 53:3 “Man of Sorrows!” what a name For the Son of God, who came Ruined sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah! What a Savior! Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned He stood— Sealed my pardon with His blood: Hallelujah! What a Savior! Guilty, vile, and helpless we, Spotless Lamb of God was He; Full atonement! can it be? Hallelujah! What a Savior! Lifted up was He to die, “It is finished!” was His cry; Now in Heav’n exalted high: Hallelujah! What a Savior! When He comes, our glorious King, All His ransomed home to bring, Then anew this song we’ll sing: Hallelujah! What a Savior! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: What Wondrous Love

What Wondrous Love Is This . . . he who is hanged is accursed of God . . . Deuteronomy 21:23 What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul! What wondrous love is this, O my soul! What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul, To bear the dreadful curse for my soul? When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down, When I was sinking down, sinking down, When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown, Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul, Christ laid aside his crown for my soul. To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing, To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, To God and to the Lamb who is the great “I am,” While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing, While millions join the theme, I will sing. And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on, And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be, And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on, And through eternity I’ll sing on. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: O Sacred Head

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded They dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; Mark 15:17 O sacred Head, now wounded, With grief and shame weighed down, Now scornfully surrounded With thorns, Thine only crown, How Pale Thou art with anguish, With sore abuse and scorn, How doth Thy visage languish Which once was bright as morn! What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, Was all for sinners’ gain; Mine, mine was the transgression, But Thine the deadly pain. Lo, here I fall, my Savior; ’Tis I deserve Thy place; Look on me with Thy favor, Assist me with Thy grace. What language shall I borrow To thank Thee, dearest Friend, For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end? O make me Thine forever, And should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never Outlive my love to Thee. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music). O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden Joy Tuggy, 91 years old

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Beneath the Cross

Beneath the Cross of Jesus But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother . . . John 19:25 Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand— The shadow of a mighty Rock Within a weary land; A home within the wilderness, A rest upon the way, From the burning of the noontide heat, And the burden of the day. Upon that cross of Jesus Mine eye at times can see The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me; And from my stricken heart with tears Two wonders I confess— The wonders of redeeming love And my own worthlessness. I take, O cross, thy shadow For my abiding place; I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face; Content to let the world go by, To know no gain nor loss, My sinful self my only shame, My glory all the cross. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

God Will Punish Sin

Having seen why God must punish sin, and knowing that we are all sinners, we are left in an apparently hopeless position. Since there is such necessity that sin be punished, and the Lord so highly concerned to inflict the penalty due to sin, either the sinners themselves must bear the penalty, or some other for them; if the sinners themselves must bear the punishment, no flesh could be saved, all mankind must be eternally miserable, for it is the penalty expressed by death and curse. If some other bear the penalty for them, it must be such a person, and in such a way, that will be as satisfactory to justice, and as full a salvo to the divine perfections concerned in his law and government, as if the sinners themselves suffered it. The design of the law must be secured, and the ends of divine government attained, and the justice, holiness, truth, and wisdom of God vindicated and manifested, as much as if the penalty was inflicted upon the transgressors themselves. —David Clarkson, Justification by the Righteousness of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:284. But there is good news: We have a substitute. It was Christ that undertook this, and the way wherein he effected it was by suffering in our stead. This is it which we are concerned to maintain; Christ suffered in our stead; for if he did not, the punishment due to sin is not inflicted (since his bearing the punishment due to our sin, and his suffering in our stead is all one), neither we nor any for us undergo it. Thus sin, as to all that are saved, will go unpunished every way, and so the ends of government are neglected by the infinite wise and righteous Governor of the world, and the glory of his wisdom, truth, justice, and holiness are by himself exposed and left to suffer without any salvo. If we be saved in a way that will not secure the honour of the divine perfections, salvation will be effected in a way not consistent with the honour of God. But no salvation can be expected on these terms, and therefore either none will be saved by Christ, or else it is upon the account of his bearing the penalty of the law in their stead. But by Christ’s suffering in our stead all is secured, justice is satisfied for them, sin hath its deserts, that which is due to it, and which justice requires should be inflicted for it; his holiness is demonstrated, for what clearer evidence, that he is of purer eyes than to behold it, that he perfectly hates it, than by punishing it in his own Son, when he appeared but in the room of sinners. His truth is manifested, when the Lord of life must die, rather than what the law denounced shall not be executed; his wisdom is no way impeached, the ends of government fully attained, the law vindicated from contempt, the authority of the great lawgiver upheld, and the children of men deterred from sin, when the Son of God must suffer for it. I need not here give an account of that abundant evidence we have in Scripture that Christ should suffer in our stead, only this in short: the several notions whereby his death is represented to us in Scripture, make it plain that he suffered and died not only for our good, but in our stead. His death is held forth as a punishment, as a ransom, and as a sacrifice. His death was a punishment: He was ‘wounded for our transgressions;’ he died for our sins; that is, he suffered what our sins deserved, that we might not suffer; and this is the very thing that we mean by his suffering in our stead. His death was our ransom, Mat. xx. 28. He paid that in our behalf which justice required of him, and this is to pay it in our stead. His death was a sacrifice: he died that we might escape that death which was the penalty of the law transgressed by us. As the life of the sacrifice went for the life of the sinner for whom it was offered; this is to die in our stead, as the sacrifice died instead of the offender. —Ibid. (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:284–285.

God Is Satisfied

God must punish sin, and Christ has taken that punishment. With that, God is satisfied. Christ’s sufferings were accepted for us, and accepted as suffered in our stead. None who believe he suffered will question but his sufferings were accepted; nor will any deny that they were accepted as suffered in our stead, but those who against all evidence of Scripture deny that he suffered in our stead. (1.) The ground of his death and suffering; (2.) The end and design of them; (3.) Their full sufficiency for their end; (4.) The dignity and quality of the person suffering; everything, in a manner, which occurs therein tends to make this unquestionable among all Christians. It was the will of the Father, expressed in the form of a covenant between Father and Son, that the Son taking our nature should thus suffer, Ps. xl. 6–8, Heb. x. 5. The Father promises that these sufferings should be accepted, Isa. liii. 10, 11. The Son, upon assurance of the Father’s acceptance, submits to the sufferings. He suffered all that in justice was required, that way might be made for our acquitment. His sufferings were a full demonstration of his truth, wisdom, holiness, justice, yea, of his mercy too; the Lord was hereby every way transcendently glorified, and that which thus glorifies him must needs be highly acceptable. He that suffered was not only man, but God, of the same essence, power, and will with the Father. His sufferings and blood was the sufferings and blood of him who is God, and therefore of infinite value, and so most worthy of all acceptance, such as could not in justice but be accepted. The Lord was herewith fully satisfied, and that which fully satisfied him was unquestionably accepted. —David Clarkson, Justification by the Righteousness of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:285.

Lord’s Day 46, 2017

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived. —Numbers 21:6–9 Ecce Homo! Horatius Bonar (1808–1889) Jesu, Saviour, Son of God, Bearer of the sinner’s load; Breaker of the captive’s chain, Cleanser of the guilty’s stain; Thou the sinner’s death hast died, Thou for us wast crucified; For our sin thy flesh was torn, Thou the penalty hast borne, Of our guilt, upon the tree, Which the Father laid on thee! Saviour, Surety, Lamb of God, Thou hast bought us with thy blood; Thou hast wiped the debt away, Nothing left for us to pay; Nothing left for us to bear, Nothing left for us to share, But the pardon and the bliss, But the love, the light, the peace. I to thee will look and live, And, in looking, praises give. Looking lightens, looking heals, Looking all the gladness seals; Looking breaks the binding chain, Looking sets us free again; Looking scatters all our night, Makes our faces shine with light; Looking quickens, strengthens, brings Heavenly gladness on its wings! Jesu, Saviour, Son of God, Bearer of the sinner’s load, I would rise to thee above, I would look, and praise, and love; Ever looking let me be At the blood-besprinkled tree, Blessing thee with lip and soul, While the endless ages roll. —Hymns of Faith and Hope, Second Series (James Nisbet & Co., 1878). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Lord’s Day 2, 2018

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. —John 19:28–30 It Is Finished. Horatius Bonar (1808–1889) Christ has done the mighty work; Nothing left for us to do, But to enter on his toil, Enter on his triumph too. He has sowed the precious seed, Nothing left for us unsown; Ours it is to reap the fields, Make the harvest-joy our own. His the pardon, ours the sin,— Great the sin, the pardon great; His the good and ours the ill, His the love and ours the hate. Ours the darkness and the gloom, His the shade-dispelling light; Ours the cloud and his the sun, His the dayspring, ours the night. His the labour, ours the rest, His the death and ours the life; Ours the fruits of victory, His the agony and strife. —Hymns of Faith and Hope, Second Series (James Nisbet & Co., 1878). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about #LordsDay from:thethirstytheo !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Lord’s Day 7, 2018

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” —Matthew 16:24; Cf. Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23 VII. Augustus Toplady (1740–1778) Dying Redeemer, slaughter’d Lamb, Thou poured’st out thy blood for me! O may I, kindled by thy flame, As freely give myself to thee! My heart to thee I now resign, For, Lord, it cost the blood of thine! To save my falling soul from death, Th’ immaculate Redeemer died; Lord, my offences drove the nails, The soldier I, that pierc’d thy side: For this my restless eye runs o’er, Because I can lament no more. How gladly should my head have worn The crown of thorns to hinder thine! Have suffer’d in my master’s stead, And made thy dying sorrows mine! Have stretch’d my arms upon the tree, And died myself to rescue thee. But O! no other sacrifice, The Father’s justice could appease; Ten thousand worlds had died in vain, Thy blood alone could buy our peace: The God offended must be slain, To expiate the offence of man. And shall I not his cross take up Who died upon a cross for me? Jesus, through good and ill report, I, in thy strength, will follow thee. My master liv’d despis’d, abhorr’d. And I am not above my Lord. —The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady: An Appendix, Not Properly Reducible, etc. (Sprinkle Publications, 1987). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about #LordsDay from:thethirstytheo !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");
Smeaton on the meaning of “to bear sin”: But the phrase, “to bear sin,” demands more particular consideration. Wherever the language occurs, it carries with it the notion of an oppressive burden, or of penal endurance. But let us consider the phrase in examples. It occurs, first, in the sense of living under the frown or punitive hand of God: thus the Israelites “bore their iniquity” according to the number of the days in which they had searched out the land, each day a year (Numb. xiv. 34): it is used as synonymous with being guilty (Lev. v. 17; Num. v. 31): it is found as equivalent to being cut off (Lev. xx. 17; Num. ix. 13): it occurs in the sense of being punished with death (Num. xviii. 22, 32. Compare also Ex. xxviii. 43; Lev. xxiv. 15). In all these instances it refers to a person bearing his own sin. Where the reference, again, is to the sins of others, it means to undergo punishment for them, or to feel the penal effects and the unpleasant consequences due to the sins of others (Lam. v. 7; Ezek. xviii. 19). Hence, if we abide by the usage of language, the phrase can only mean, in this passage, to endure the penal consequences inseparable from the sins of mankind. And as to the origin of the figure, it is taken from lifting a burden in order to carry it, or to lay it on one’s shoulders. But as the language is sacrificial, it points to the victim bearing the sin which the offerer laid upon it, by the laying on of the hand. The language, rightly understood, can only mean that Jesus was put in connection with sin; that He took Sin as such, and not the mere consequences of it, or the element of punishment alone; that He bore sin considered as guilt in its relation to the moral Governor; that He was made the world’s sin, and bore it,—thus becoming, not personally but officially, the proper object of punitive justice, and enduring the penalty due to the sins of mankind. The words prove that the work of Christ was a provision for sin as such,—that is, for sin considered as demerit and guilt; and only as the atoning work of Christ is adapted to this end, and divinely accepted, does it reverse the consequences of sin. A canon of easy application is, that the interposition of Christ implies that the burden of sin which was transferred to Him pressed heavily on the world, that mankind could not rid themselves of it, and could do nothing to remove it; and the language implies that the Lamb of God made it His—His heritage or property,—bearing in His own person what we had committed. It must be noticed, further, that the verb beareth, which is in the present tense, is not used as a prophecy, neither as an allusion to the constant efficacy of the sacrifice, but as indicating that Jesus was even then the sin-bearer. He never in fact appeared “without sin” during His humiliation (Heb. ix. 28); and His coming in the likeness of sinful flesh was at once a proof that sin was borne by Him, and that this was already a part of His satisfaction. He was, even then, bearing sin, and many of the penal effects of it. It is a mistake to say, then, that the thought of the passage is an allusion to the abolition of sin; for the first idea of a sin-offering was not so much the consuming of moral evil—though that undoubtedly follows, and is a necessary consequence at the next remove—as the bearing of guilt. And an Israelite dreading divine wrath ever thought of the sin-offering in this light, as liberating him from its burden or pressure. —George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 100–102.

According to the Order of Nature

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. —2 Corinthians 5:21 On the cross, Christ said, “It is finished”; but the cross is not where he began to bear our sin. He did not first take sin upon Him, or was first made sin, upon the cross. He was not first a man, and at a subsequent period the sin-bearer or the curse-bearer. What has been truly and correctly said as to the assumption of humanity may be equally applied to this. He was not first a man, and then incarnate, or assumed into the personality of the Son; for the humanity never existed but in that personal union. In like manner we may say that the humanity never was without this imputation of sin; for that assumption of sin by which He became the sin-bearer, was in, with, by, and under the assumption of our nature, though the sin is separable and distinguishable from the humanity. Nay, we should rather say that, according to the order of nature, the sin was imputed and assumed simultaneously with His mission, and therefore, in a certain sense, prior to the actual incarnation; though it became His, in point of fact, only with the possession of a common nature. They who limit the sin-bearing to the three hours on the cross—a too widely diffused notion—have far diverged from biblical language and ideas. —George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 122–123.

The Baptism of the Sin-Bearer

Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. —Matthew 3:13–15 This testimony is replete with meaning, whether we consider the occasion of it or the import of the terms. It may be called a key to that large class of passages which speak of Christ’s obedience as the righteousness of His people, or represent Him as made of God unto us righteousness, because He was first of all made sin for us (2 Cor. v. 21). As to the occasion which called forth this saying, we find it uttered on the memorable day of Christ’s baptism, when he came to the Baptist, the new Elias*, the culminating point of the Old Testament prophecy, and its voice. John may be regarded here as the living expression of the law and of the prophets, which had during many ages witnessed to the coming Messiah, and which now, by their greatest representative, were to introduce the Christ into His office. As the Lord Jesus recognised them, so they were to inaugurate Him as the truth of the prophecies, and as the substance of the types or shadows. So close in every point of view is the connection, rightly apprehended, of the old and new economy, that the one is incomplete without the other. But though Jesus was fully conscious of His mission from the day when the boy of twelve first trod the courts of the temple, and declared that He must be about His Father’s business, He would take no steps towards the public discharge of His office till He was formally inaugurated into it by an authorized prophet on the one hand, and by divine testimony on the other . . . The Baptist, as a sinner, feeling that it rather became him to exchange places with Jesus, and to be not the giver but the receiver in the interview, refused, for a time, to confer his baptism on the Redeemer. He could not conceive what the Christ had to do with a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins,—what it was to Him, or He to it. But that reluctance was overcome by the explanation which our Lord subjoined:—”suffer it to be so now”—that is (for the now is emphatic), in my present state of humiliation, and as an action suited only to my state of substitution in the room of sinners. . . . But the Lord subjoins an explanation as to the principle and end for which He sought John’s baptism: “For thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” It is not the special act of baptism to which alone allusion is here made. The language is more general, though the occasion was particular. There is nothing to warrant the limitation of the words, which must be accepted in the full force of the phraseology. The Lord had a public confession to make; and the words here used furnish a key to the whole action. We must then, first of all, notice the import of these His words of confession: it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. The Lord virtually says, “It is not unworthy of the Son of God to go down so far; for it is not a question of dignity or pre-eminence, but of fulfilling all righteousness.” The reception of baptism was only a voluntary act, and not a service personally necessary or required on His own account; for He acted of free choice when He became incarnate. But it became Him to fulfil His undertaking, and in doing so He was not free to omit this or any part of His work; for though he was under no obligation to take the flesh, yet there arose a certain duty from His engagement to the Father, from His mediatorial office, and from the old prophecies. There was a certain hypothetical necessity or propriety which required His acting as He now did, if the end was to be gained. It may be thus put: “It becometh me to appear in the likeness of a sinner, and to fulfil all righteousness.” —George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 128–130. * Elijah

No Abstract Atonement

In our theology of the atonement, we use the language of substitution, and this is appropriate—Christ truly fulfilled the law and bore the penalty of sin in the place of sinners, providing a righteousness that we did not possess, and satisfying the wrath of God against sin. But substitution does not tell the whole story. It was not only for sin in a vague, abstract, indeterminate sense that He was delivered up, but in the room of the sinners given to Him, and whose place He representatively occupied. It was only in their room and stead that Jesus was placed at the bar as a criminal. And this was a real transaction before the tribunal of God, not a semblance of a trial. The sinner was there, but Jesus took his place. And only in this way can we explain either the prophetical sayings which describe Him as wounded for our transgressions (Isa. liii. 5), or those apostolic sayings which represent believers as co-crucified (Gal. ii. 20), as co-dying (Rom. vi. 8), and as suffering in the flesh (1 Peter iv. 1), when in point of fact the Lord appears to human view single and alone in the historic narrative of the evangelists. —George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 171. Therefore, believers can know not only that Jesus died specifically for us, but that we died in him, so that “I am crucified with Christ” is not a hypothetical proposition that became reality when we believed, but an historical event that actually took place on the cross. “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Yes, I was.

A Most Significant Type

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. —John 3:14 15 [M]en are saved by a method similar to that by which they were undone; that by man came death, and that by man came the redemption from death. Till the mind is enlightened by the wisdom of God, this seems a remedy running counter to all natural congruity and fitness; for who would expect deliverance from a piece of brass fashioned after the shape of the Destroyer? and, in like manner, who would look for salvation from one carried out to a public execution? But when we apprehend substitution aright, it is a most significant and suggestive type. —George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 266.

The Full Weight of Divine Fury

What made Christ’s miseries on the cross so difficult for Him to bear was not the taunting and torture and abuse of evil men. It was that He bore the full weight of divine fury against sin. Jesus’ most painful sufferings were not merely those inflicted by the whips and nails and thorns. But by far the most excruciating agony Christ bore was the full penalty of sin on our behalf—God’s wrath poured out on Him in infinite measure. Remember that when He finally cried out in distress, it was because of the afflictions He received from God’s own hand: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34). “We esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isa. 53:4). We cannot even begin to know what Christ suffered. It is a horrible reality to ponder. But we dare not follow open theism in rejecting the notion that He bore His Father’s punishment for our sins, for in this truth lies the very nerve of genuine Christianity. It is the major reason the cross is such an offense (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18). Scripture says, “[God] made [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Our sins were imputed to Christ, and He bore the awful price as our substitute. Conversely, His righteousness is imputed to all who believe, and they stand before God fully justified, clothed in the pure white garment of His perfect righteousness. . . . this is the distilled meaning of what happened at the cross for every believer: God treated Christ as if He had lived our wretched, sinful life, so that He could treat us as if we had lived Christ’s spotless, perfect life. Deny the vicarious nature of the atonement—deny that our guilt was transferred to Christ and He bore its penalty—and you in effect have denied the ground of our justification. If our guilt wasn’t transferred to Christ and paid for on the cross, how can His righteousness be imputed to us for our justification? Every deficient view of the atonement must deal with this same dilemma. And unfortunately, those who misconstrue the meaning of the atonement invariably end up proclaiming a different gospel, devoid of the principle of justification by faith. —John MacArthur, The Gospel according to Paul (Thomas Nelson, 2017), 145–146.

The Crux of Isaiah

Now here’s another important thing to notice about the literary structure of Isaiah: the good-news portion of Isaiah (chapters 40–66) is an extended triptych. That part of Isaiah’s prophecy divides naturally into three sections of nine chapters each. Each subsection promises a different kind of salvation for God’s people. The first nine chapters (40–48) foretell Judah’s deliverance from the Babylonian captivity. The second nine chapters (49–57) focus on redemption from sin. The final section (chapters 58–66), looking forward to Christ’s millennial and eternal reign, speaks of full emancipation from the curse of Adam’s fall. . . . If we take the entire fifteen-verse pericope—Isaiah 52:13 through 53:12—verse 5 is literally the central verse of the whole passage: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” In other words, the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement is the crux of the core verse in the middle chapter of the center panel in Isaiah’s triptych on deliverance. It is the heart and the focal point of everything the book of Isaiah has to say about the forgiveness of sin. That is fitting, because there is no more vital gospel truth. The literary symmetry is perfect and the focus is sharp. You can see it from every possible vantage point. Whether we look at Isaiah 53 in isolation, consider the nine-chapter section where forgiveness is the main topic, or expand our perspective to include the entire good-news section of Isaiah, the cross is always literally at the center. And there it remains, with a bright spotlight on the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. —John MacArthur, The Gospel According to God (Crossway, 2018), 40–42.

Smitten by God

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. Isaiah 53:4–6 Most shockingly, the sufferings described in this passage include the outpouring of God’s wrath in righteous retribution for the sins of those who rebel against him. He was indeed “stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (v. 4). In other words, the servant’s wounding and crushing were not merely unintended side effects of our sin. He was no martyr. He was not an accidental victim. His sufferings are not collateral damage somehow caused by a chain of events set in motion by mistake. Isaiah is describing a purposeful act of penal substitution carried out by the sovereign will of his Father, God. “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities.” Both expressions mean his suffering made an atonement for our sins. The language is categorically punitive. “Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace.” That clearly means he bore the punishment sinners deserve—the full measure of God’s wrath “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18). The griefs and sorrows he bore for his people are not merely sin’s temporal consequences or side effects. The servant of Yahweh dies as a substitute and sin bearer for his people, shouldering their guilt and taking the punishment that was due them. This passage cannot be made to mean anything else. —John MacArthur, The Gospel According to God (Crossway, 2018), 93–94.


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