The Atonement: The Servant Song of Atonement.

“Friend, live near to the cross.” Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon wrote those words nearly a century and a half ago. He wanted Christians to never lose sight of the significance of the cross: not only as a historical fact but also as a  personal redemptive truth within their own lives. He encouraged believers to “take care that the theme of your conversation is the Lord Jesus.” In other words, to speak of the substitutionary atonement by Jesus Christ on the cross for sinners.

One way to always live near the cross is by singing songs about the cross of Christ. We addressed that subject yesterday and will offer other examples of wonderful music focused on the atonement in the days to come. 

One of the most important songs of the cross is contained in the Book of Isaiah, the prophet. It is found in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is the final of four Messianic Servant songs from Isaiah (42:1-9; 49:1-13; 50:4-11). As one commentator has written, “This section contains unarguable, incontrovertible proof that God is the author of Scripture and Jesus is the fulfillment of Messianic Prophecy. The details are so minute that no human could have predicted them by accident and no imposter fulfilled them by cunning.”

The song clearly refers to Jesus Christ as the Messiah, which is attested to in the New Testament (cf. Matthew 8:17Mark 15:28Luke 22:37John 12:38Acts 8:28–35Romans 10:161 Peter 2:21–25). This prophetical song is often alluded to in other biblical passages without being quoted (cf. Mark 9:12Romans 4:251 Corinthians 15:32 Corinthians 5:211 Peter 1:191 John 3:5).

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes that, “The book of Isaiah is one of the most frequently quoted books in the New Testament. Jesus was born of a virgin in fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 (Matthew 1:23), and He declared that Isaiah 61:1 was fulfilled in His coming (Luke 4:18-21). Jesus is the promised Son of David and the triumphant King who ushers in a new kingdom of peace and justice (9:6-7; 11:1-2). His body is the new temple whose exaltation brings the nations to glorify God (John 2:19-21). Jesus is the Servant who is a light to the Gentiles (49:6). Isaiah 52:13-53:12, or course, is well known for its detailed description of the work of the Suffering Servant, the One who offers a perfect atonement for the sins of His people and provides for them the righteousness by which they are declared righteous in the sight of God. Phillip preached the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch from this passage (Acts 8:28-35).”

The song, beginning in Isaiah 52:13 and concluding in Isaiah 53:12, contains five sections (52:13-15; 53:1-3; 53:4-6; 53:7-9; 53:10-12) with three verses in each section. Each section contains a specific theme pertaining to the Messianic and Suffering Servant of Yahweh. The third section, Isaiah 53:4-6, is arguably the most significant and climatic of the entire discourse for it clearly portrays the doctrine of substitutionary atonement by the One who is holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:1-7; John 12:41).

Beginning tomorrow, we will examine one section a day over the course of five days. We will not only examine the overall theme of each section, but also its particular content. As we do so, may each of us commit anew and afresh to live near to the cross.

Thank you for your faithful encouragement as we covenant together each day to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

  

 

The Atonement: Songs of Atonement.

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,” (Ephesians 5:18-19)

The Scriptures describe three distinct types of musical forms for which we can praise the Lord. They are referred, in Ephesians 5:19, as being psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

Psalms are those praises which are taken directly from the Hebrew Psalter, otherwise known as the Old Testament Book of Psalms. Hymns are songs which focus almost exclusively on the person, character and work of God. Philippians 2:5-11 and Colossians 1:15-18 are two New Testament examples of hymns which the early church used to praise the person and work of Jesus Christ. Spiritual songs express a believer’s personal testimony and love for the Lord. The personal pronoun “I” predominates.

There is a rich wealth of music which speaks of the substitutionary atonement, or blood, of Jesus Christ. I’m sure you are familiar with many of them. These songs include such classics as And Can It Be That I Should Gain, Are You Washed in the Blood, Before the Throne of God Above, Jesus Paid it All, Man of Sorrows What a Name, Nothing but the Blood, O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing, Redeemed: How I Love to Proclaim It, There is a Fountain Filled with Blood and Worthy is the Lamb (Thank You for the Cross Lord).

At the church where Diana and serve and are members, the minister of music has recently chosen a number of recent and excellent songs addressing the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ for the congregation to sing in the worship services. One such song is entitled Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery by Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker, and Matt Papa (2013).

VERSE 1                                                                                                                                           Come behold the wondrous mystery
In the dawning of the King
He the theme of heaven’s praises
Robed in frail humanity

In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us

VERSE 2
Come behold the wondrous mystery
He the perfect Son of Man
In His living, in His suffering
Never trace nor stain of sin

See the true and better Adam
Come to save the hell-bound man
Christ the great and sure fulfillment
Of the law; in Him we stand

VERSE 3
Come behold the wondrous mystery
Christ the Lord upon the tree
In the stead of ruined sinners
Hangs the Lamb in victory

See the price of our redemption
See the Father’s plan unfold
Bringing many sons to glory
Grace unmeasured, love untold

VERSE 4
Come behold the wondrous mystery
Slain by death the God of life
But no grave could e’er restrain Him
Praise the Lord; He is alive!

What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes

What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes

I may have unintentionally left out one of your favorite hymns concerning the shed blood of Jesus Christ on behalf of His people.  If you are so led, let me know what hymn of Jesus’ atonement you regard as a favorite.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

The Atonement: The Day of Atonement.

And this shall be a statute forever for you that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Aaron did as the LORD commanded Moses.” (Leviticus 16:34)

Without dispute, the most important festival and celebration throughout Israel’s calendar year is Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement. Observed on the tenth day of Israel’s seventh month, it involves atonement for the sins of the nation. In 2019, Yom Kippur will be observed on October 8-9. Although there is no directive for fasting, the Jews have continuously interpreted it as a time for fasting and prayer (cf. Psalm 35:13; Isaiah 58:3–5, 10). In the New Testament, the Day of Atonement was simply referred to as the “fast” (Acts 27:9). To the rabbis, it was known as the “Day” or the “Great Day.”

Leviticus 23:26-32 says, “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the LORD. And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people. And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.”

What exactly was observed and accomplished on Yom Kippur? The definitive chapter regarding the Day of Atonement is found in Leviticus 16?

Dr. R. C. Sproul states that, Besides the sacrifice of a bull on behalf of the priesthood, two goats were brought to the tabernacle/temple to deal with the sin of the entire nation (Lev. 16:6–10). One goat was killed and its blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat (vv. 15–19). This sacrifice on the Day of Atonement resulted in propitiation — the satisfaction of God’s wrath on a substitute in place of the people. The other goat, after hands were laid on it, was sent to Azazel in the wilderness and freed, probably meaning it was taken to a desolate mountain and killed (vv. 20–22). Here it is clear that expiation was accomplished. The sins of the people were taken away from Israel and away from the holy camp.

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “Leviticus 16;1-34 covers the Day of Atonement (cf. Ex. 30:10Lev. 23:26–32Num. 29:7–11Heb. 9:1–28), which was commanded to be observed annually (Lev. 16:34) to cover the sins of the nation, both corporately and individually (v. 17). Even with the most scrupulous observance of the required sacrifices, many sins and defilements still remained unacknowledged and, therefore, without specific expiation.  This special inclusive sacrifice was designed to cover all that (v. 33). The atonement was provided, but only those who were genuine in faith and repentance received its benefit, the forgiveness of God. That forgiveness was not based on any animal sacrifice, but on the One all sacrifices pictured—the Lord Jesus Christ and his perfect sacrifice on the cross (cf. Heb. 10:1–10). This holiest of all Israel’s festivals occurred in September/October on the tenth day of the seventh month (Lev.  16:29). It anticipated the ultimate high priest and the perfect sacrificial Lamb.

Hebrews 10:1-10 says, For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’ ” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

The Day of Atonement was not just the observance of sacrifices offered to the LORD, but it was also to include the repentant hearts and broken spirits of the people due to their sin (Psalm 51:15-17). Our Day of Atonement occurred when Jesus was crucified (John 19:16-30). May each of us who call Jesus our Savior and Lord live a life of faith and repentance because of His substitutionary atonement on our behalf.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

LORD’S DAY 14, 2019.

On each Lord’s Day this year, we will display the 52 devotionals taken from the Heidelberg Catechism which are structured in the form of questions posed and answers given.

The Heidelberg Catechism was originally written in 1563. It originated in one of the few pockets of Calvinistic faith in the Lutheran and Catholic territories of Germany. Conceived originally as a teaching instrument to promote religious unity, the catechism soon became a guide for preaching as well.

Along with the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt, it forms what is collectively referred to as the Three Forms of Unity.

The devotional for LORD’S DAY 14 is as follows. Please take note of the biblical references given in each answer. The theme for the next several weeks concerns the subject of God the Son.

Q. What does it mean that he “was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary”?

A. That the eternal Son of God, who is and remains true and eternal God,1 took to himself, through the working of the Holy Spirit,2 from the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary,3 a truly human nature so that he might also become David’s true descendant,4 like his brothers and sisters in every way5 except for sin.6

1 John 1:110:30-36Acts 13:33 (Ps. 2:7); Col. 1:15-171 John 5:20.
2 Luke 1:35.
3 Matt. 1:18-23John 1:14Gal. 4:4Heb. 2:14.
4 2 Sam. 7:12-16Ps. 132:11Matt. 1:1Rom. 1:3.
5 Phil. 2:7Heb. 2:17.
6 Heb. 4:157:26-27.

Q. How does the holy conception and birth of Christ
benefit you?

A. He is our mediator1 and, in God’s sight, he covers with his innocence and perfect holiness my sinfulness in which I was conceived.2

1 1 Tim. 2:5-6Heb. 9:13-15.
2 Rom. 8:3-42 Cor. 5:21Gal. 4:4-51 Pet. 1:18-19.

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Atonement: Books on the Atonement.

Each Saturday, during this series on the atonement of Jesus Christ, I will submit some books for you to consider reading which concern the substitutionary atonement of and by Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners. Some of these books are by authors you may readily recognize. Others you may not. Some of the books are by contemporary authors and pastors. Others are by pastors and theologians from church history. All are beneficial.

Today’s book concerning the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ is by Anthony Carter and is entitled Bloodwork: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes our Salvation. Anthony J. Carter serves as the lead pastor of East Point Church in Atlanta, GA. He is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL.

Rev. Carter’s book is one of many that I have on my I-Pad. It is also one of many that I have concerning the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. Following a heartfelt introduction, Rev. Carter examines the significance of the atonement Jesus provides through His shed blood on the cross. In fact, the first chapter of the book is entitled Our Bloody Religion. Carter explains that, “It (Christianity) is a bloody religion not because of the blood shed by people in wars and inquisitions, but because of the blood shed by Jesus Christ.”

The book’s subsequent chapters contain various aspects which concern the atonement of Christ. These various chapter titles contain specific verbs with each followed by the phrase “by the Blood.” These titles respectively include the verbs purchased, justified redeemed, brought near, pace, cleansed, sanctified, elect, ransomed and freed. Carter also includes a chapter on the doctrine of propitiation.

There are two appendices. The second contains classic hymns containing the theme of the blood of Christ and His substitutionary atonement for His people. The first appendix contains a recent hymn entitled O Precious Blood (East Point Music 2009). The lyrics are as follows:

O precious blood, which makes us clean                                                                                        we trust in it only this hour,                                                                                                            And since our Savior’s sacrifice                                                                                                     now o’er me sin has lost its power.

It’s not on us our God does look                                                                                                        for nothing in us pleasing be,                                                                                                      Instead He sees my Savior’s blood                                                                                                 and sees it even covers me.  

So pleasing is my Savior’s blood                                                                                                       no longer need I to depend,                                                                                                              on who I am and what I do                                                                                                               For by His blood I am let in.

Unto the blood of sprinkling come                                                                                              where better things of Him are said,                                                                                              the Lamb of God was crucified                                                                                                        My sins are placed upon His head.

It’s by His blood, His sacrifice                                                                                                          His love and his mercy given,                                                                                                        That we have hope in paradise,                                                                                                     Ever with our Lord in heaven.

Chorus

His blood does make the world appear,                                                                                        less delightful to all my eye,                                                                                                              He sacrificed to draw us near,                                                                                                           to worship Him with all my life.

Bloodwork: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes our Salvation is published by Reformation Trust, 2013. Purchasing information is accessible at Ligonier.org and ReformationTrust.com.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Atonement: Jesus Christ in the Levitical Offerings.

“…but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:15-16)

With the arrival of each New Year, many believers in Christ resolve to read the Bible, from Genesis through Revelation. There are many plans and procedures offered which seek to help people accomplish this noble task. For example, I read a portion from the Old Testament and the New Testament each day. My church suggests the reading of five chapters over a weekly five day period, beginning the plan with Genesis. Having two days off allows for the occasional lapse of scheduled reading because of busy calendars and unplanned interruptions such as illness.

However, what begins as an enthusiastic endeavor often tends to lose steam, so to speak, when one reaches the Book of Leviticus. Where Genesis and Exodus are filled with interesting stories and characters, Leviticus seems to bog down and become boring with the endless instructional litany of sacrifices and offerings. That type of response is most unfortunate.

The entire setting for the book is Israel’s encampment at Mount Sinai, where God gives His chosen people instructions on how to become a holy nation. Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “Much of Leviticus underlines the moral standards that God expects of His people in for them to be holy as He is holy. While the coming of Jesus Christ and the creation of the church as a new dwelling-place for god impacts some of God’s instructions in Leviticus, the underlying moral expectations do no change. God still demands that His people should be holy as He is holy.”

The Book of Leviticus contains many rich, biblical themes. These themes include God’s divine presence in the lives of His people (26:12), His holiness and the aim of God’s people to “therefore, be holy, for I am holy” (11:45), and atonement through sacrifice (chs.1-7).

In fact, the theme of atonement through sacrifice begins the Book of Leviticus. Dr. Sproul says, “Caught between divine holiness and human sinfulness, the people’s paramount need is for atonement and cleansing. It is here that Leviticus has the most to teach Christians, since its ideas help explain the New Testament description of the atoning work of Christ, which is based primarily on the Passover sacrifice.”

 The following chart helps explain the relationship between the five Old Testament sacrificial offerings. These five offerings include (1) the Burnt offering; (2) the Grain Offering; (3) the Peace Offering; (4) the Sin Offering; and (5) the Guilt Offering.

 

Christ in the Levitical Offerings

Leviticus 1-7. 
Offering Christ’s Provision Christ’s Character
1. Burnt Offering Atonement Christ’s sinless nature.  
(Lev. 1:3–17; 6:8–13) (John 8:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
2. Grain Offering Dedication/Consecration Christ was wholly devoted to the Father’s purposes.
(Lev. 2:1–16; 6:14–23) (John 4:34; 8:28-29)
3. Peace Offering Reconciliation/Fellowship Christ was at peace with God.
(Lev. 3:1–17; 7:11–36) (John 17:1-5; Romans 3:21-26; 5:1-5; 12-21; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
4. Sin Offering Propitiation Christ’s substitutionary death.
(Lev. 4:1–5:13; 6:24–30; 16:15) (Romans 3:21-26; I John 2:1-2; 4:7-11)
5. Guilt Offering Repentance Christ paid it all for redemption
(Lev. 5:14–6:7; 7:1–10) (Romans 3:21-26; I Corinthians 1:30-31; Galatians 3:13-14; 4:1-5; Ephesians 1:7-10; Colossians 1:13-14; Titus 2:11-14)
© 1997 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

 Let me encourage you to reread Leviticus with a renewed sense of appreciation for the pictures of Christ in every sacrifice and offering.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Atonement: The Passover Lamb.

“Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” (I Corinthians 5:7)

The Passover was one of three mandatory, historical annual festivals of the Jews (Exodus 23:14-19: Leviticus). It was kept in remembrance of the Lord’s passing over the houses of the Israelites (Exodus 12:1-51) when the first born of all the Egyptians were destroyed. It is also called the “feast of unleavened bread” (Exodus 13:3-10; 23:15; Mark 14:1; Acts 12:1-3), because during the seven day feast no leavened bread was to be eaten or even kept in the household (Exodus 12:15).

Passover is celebrated on the 14th day of the first Jewish Month known as Abib (later called Nisan). The observance is incorporated within the narrative of the Exodus story when the LORD (Yahweh) brought plagues of increasing severity against Egypt. This was to demonstrate Yahweh’s power and to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 1–12).

The tenth and final plague was the death of all the firstborn—human and animal—in Egypt (Exodus 11:4–6). God punished all of Egypt, but spared the firstborn of Israel, only because the Hebrews properly followed Moses’ instructions which God gave him. On the night of the tenth plague, the Israelites were instructed to stay in their homes after slaughtering a lamb and placing its blood on the lintel and doorposts of their houses (Exodus 12:7, 21–22). The blood would be a sign that distinguished the Israelites and separated them from the victims of the plague (Exodus 12:13, 23). Since the people were to be ready to depart Egypt at a moment’s notice. They were to quickly eat the lamb while being dressed to travel and with their staffs in hand (Exodus 12:11).

The Israelites followed Moses’ instructions. At midnight, Yahweh struck down the firstborn of Egypt. “At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock.” (Exodus 12:29).

Pharaoh then summoned Moses, and his older brother Aaron in the middle of the night and ordered them to take all the Israelites and depart Egypt (Exodus 12:31–32). The Israelites left quickly, taking their bread dough before it was leavened (Exodus 12:34). The LORD instructed the Jews to annually observe the Passover on the 14th of the first month to commemorate that night when God delivered them from Egypt (Exodus 12:14, 24–27).

However, the formal ritual observance of the Passover is mentioned only a few times in the Old Testament (Numbers 9; Joshua 5:10–12; 2 Kings 23:21–23; 2 Chronicles 30:1–27; 35:1–19; Ezra 6:19–22). In spite of the significance to observe the Passover “as a lasting statute” for all future generations (Exodus 12:14; Leviticus 23:5; Numbers 9:1–5; 28:16), the Scriptures emphasize how unusual the observance of the Passover actually was in Israel’s history.

By the time of the New Testament, the Passover became a time of commerce, rather than a solemn opportunity to remember God and His deliverance of His people. As one commentator explains, “The city itself and the neighborhood became more and more crowded as the feast approached, the narrow streets and dark arched bazaars showing the same throng of men of all nations as when Jesus had first visited Jerusalem as a boy. Even the temple offered a strange sight at this season, for in parts of the outer courts a wide space was covered with pens for sheep, goats, and cattle to be used for offerings. Sellers shouted the merits of their beasts, sheep bleated, and oxen lowed. Sellers of doves also had a place set apart for them. Potters offered a choice from huge stacks of clay dishes and ovens for roasting and eating the Passover lamb. Booths for wine, oil, salt, and all else needed for sacrifices invited customers. Persons going to and from the city shortened their journey by crossing the temple grounds, often carrying burdens … Stalls to change foreign money into the shekel of the temple, which alone could be paid to the priests, were numerous, the whole confusion making the sanctuary like a noisy market”

 The slain lamb of the Passover came to be so closely associated with the feast that at various times in the Scriptures, the mention of the Passover refers to the lamb.

  • Exodus 12:21 – “Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb.”
  • 2 Chronicles 30:17 – “For there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves. Therefore the Levites had to slaughter the Passover lamb for everyone who was not clean, to consecrate it to the LORD.”
  • Matthew 26:17 – “Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?”
  • Mark 14:12 – “And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”
  • Mark 14:13-14 – “And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’
  • Luke 22:1 – “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover.”
  • Luke 22:8 – “So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.”
  • Luke 22:15 – “And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”

As today’s text from I Corinthians 5:7 illustrates, the Passover served as a type, or prefiguring, of the deliverance Jesus Christ provides for all His people. The deliverance is not from political enslavement, but rather from the penalty, power and presence of sin. Bondage to sin is far greater than Israel’s bondage to Egypt. It is therefore appropriate for students of Scripture to think of the Passover Lamb when they consider the following Scriptures.

John 1:29 – “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

John 19:32-36 – “So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.”

Galatians 4:4-5 – “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

I Peter 1:19 – “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

May each of us who God has justified by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone take the opportunity to remember the sacrifice of our Passover Lamb. You may consider reading about the Passover as you prepare your heart and mind for this year’s Easter celebration.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Atonement: Agnus Dei.

“Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (I Peter 1:18-19)

I am certain you have heard the Latin title Agnus Dei. It may refer to one of Michael W. Smith’s most familiar and beloved worship songs. It is also the title of Francisco De Zurbaran’s animal oil painting (1635-1640) depicting a bound lamb ready to be sacrificed.

Agnus Dei is also a symbolic reference to Jesus Christ. It means Lamb of God. It is referenced in the Scriptures from John the Baptist’s declaration in John 1:29 when he saw Jesus approaching him in order to be baptized. The text says, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Revelation 5:6 says, “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”

The Scriptures make numerous references to the word lamb. It is illustrative of patience (Isaiah 53:7) and playfulness (Psalm 114:4-6). It also depicts vulnerability to danger (I Samuel 17:34) in which the care by a shepherd is required (Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:11).

A lamb was a source of food (Deuteronomy 32:14; 2 Samuel 12:4; Amos 6:4), clothing (Proverbs 27:26) and worship (I Chronicles 29:21; 2 Chronicles 29:32). When offered in sacrifice to God, the lambs could either be a year old male (Exodus 12:5) or female (Numbers 6:14). God’s people sacrificed lambs to Him from the earliest times (Genesis 4:4; 22:1-8). Sacrificial lambs were offered every morning and evening (Exodus 29:38-39; Numbers 28:1-4) and also at special feasts during the year (Exodus 12:1-7).

Lambs were also not only offered on the Sabbath day (Num. 28:9), at the feast of the New Moon (28:11), of Trumpets (29:2), of Tabernacles (13–40), of Pentecost (Lev. 23:18–20), but also on many other occasions (1 Chr. 29:21; 2 Chr. 29:21; Lev. 9:3; 14:10–25).

Lambs provided an extensive commerce (Ezra 7:17; Ezekiel 27:21), and were often used in paying tribute (2 Kings 3:1-4; Isaiah 16:1). Additionally, covenants were confirmed by the gift of a lamb (Genesis 21:28-30) and the image of a lamb was the first impression on money (Genesis 33:19; Josiah 24:32).

Spiritually speaking, lambs depict the purity of Christ (I Peter 1:19), a cherished item (2 Samuel 12:1-9) and the Lord’s people (Isaiah 5:17; 1:6). Lambs also illustrate the weakness of believers (Isaiah 40:11; John 21:15), the patience of Christ (Isaiah 53:7; Acts 8:32), and those who minister among the ungodly (Luke 10:1-3). They also represent Israel when deprived of God’s protection (Hosea 4:16), the wicked under judgment (Jeremiah 51:40), and the complete destruction of the wicked (Psalm 37:20).

Most importantly, the lamb was a symbol of Christ (Genesis 4:4; Exodus 12:3; 29:38; Isaiah 16:1; 53:7; John 1:36; Rev. 13:8). Christ is called the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36), as the great sacrifice of which the former sacrifices were only types (Numbers 6:12; Leviticus. 14:12–17; Isaiah 53:7; 1 Corinthians 5:7). Next time, we will examine the Levitical sacrifices and see how they symbolize and represent the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 5:11-14 says, “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.”

 Take time today to praise the Agnus Dei who took your sin away by His sacrifice on the cross.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

The Atonement: The Definition of Sin.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23).

What is sin? It is wrongdoing. It is acting against the will and the law of God. Sin, as todays text explains, is failing to fulfill one’s duty to God. The Hebrew word hata’ and the Greek word hamartia meant originally to missing the mark of God’s glory and holiness. Other words for sin include pesha’ (Hebrew), meaning “rebellion,” or “transgression”; ’asham (Hebrew) means “trespassing God’s kingly prerogative,” and thereby “incurring guilt”; paraptoma (Greek) meaning “a false step out of the appointed way,” and to “trespass on forbidden ground.”

In light of these extensive definitions for sin, there are also three distinct ways in which sin is biblically categorized. In other words, there are three immediate results of sin which affect our relationship with God.

First, when we sin we incur debt. Sin is described as a debt. Probably, the most familiar biblical text which renders sin as a debt is found in Matthew 6:12 which says, “…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The word “debt” and “debtors” comes from the Greek word ὀφειλήματα (opheilemata). It means to commit an offense, a transgression which results in a moral debt or guilt.

Jesus taught, in Matthew 18:21-35, that we are to forgive other’s their sin, or moral debts, to us as God has forgiven our sin and moral debts to Him. God, in His mercy and grace, has forgiven believers of their sin because of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ paid my debt on the cross. It was a debt paid only by One who demonstrated perfect obedience and sinless perfection to God the Father and the Word of God.

Second, when we sin we incur broken relationships. Sin has created an enmity between us and God. We become God’s enemies. Romans 5:8-10 says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

Third, when we sin we commit a crime. Sometimes, our sin may be a crime against another human being. If the crime is serious enough, we may have to pay a fine or even go to jail or prison. Those convicted of the most severe crime, pre-meditated murder, may even be executed. At all times, our sin is a crime against God. We are lawbreakers. I John 3:4-5 says, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.”

When our sin is called a debt, Jesus Christ is called our surety. Hebrews 7:22 says, “This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.” A guarantor (ἔγγυος; engyos) is a person who guarantees the reality of something. Jesus Christ is the One who guarantees our salvation because He is our guarantor.

When our sin is called enmity, Jesus Christ is called our mediator. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 says, “that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

The word, “reconciling,” “reconciliation,” and “reconciled” comes from the root word καταλλάσσω (katallasso) meaning to make things right. This is what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. He restored a right relationship between us and God the Father.

When our sin is called a crime, Jesus Christ is called our substitute. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus satisfied the justice of God the Father.

Before God, I am a debtor, an enemy and a criminal. Jesus Christ was the One who assumed my debt, became God the Father’s enemy, and was tried and convicted as a criminal of crimes I had committed. Therefore, by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone, I am no longer a debtor, no longer an enemy and no longer a criminal.

What about you?

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Atonement: Penal-Substitutionary Atonement.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 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. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)

Before we go any further in our study of the atonement of and by Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners, we must articulate and define what type of atonement the Bible teaches. There are many different views as to what Jesus accomplished on the cross, but only one is the biblical view. That biblical is often referred to as the penal-substitutionary atonement.

The meaning of penal-substitutionary atonement is found by taking each word separately. We have already defined the word atonement. What do penal and substitutionary mean?

Penal is shortened form for penalty. It means punitive, punishing, disciplinary and correction. Penal is often used in reference to a penal colony. A penal colony is a settlement used to exile prisoners and separate them from the general population by placing them in a remote location, often an island or a distant colonial territory. The reason for this is to punish prisoners for breaking the law. They receive a severe punishment for having done so.

Substitutionary is from the root word substitute. It means to take the place of someone or something. We all experienced in school what was known as a “substitute teacher.” They took our permanent teacher’s place, usually for just a day.

When applied to the atonement of Jesus Christ the phrase “penal-substitutionary atonement refers to Jesus taking the sinner’s place by becoming a substitute and receiving the rightful punishment from God for the sinner’s sin and disobedience. This is what the Prophet Isaiah meant in Isaiah 53:4-6. The Servant of the LORD, Jesus Christ, would bear the sinner’s griefs and carry their sorrows. God the Father would strike, smite, and afflict Him. He would be pierced because of the sinner’s transgressions. He would be crushed for the sinner’s iniquities. He would be chastised and wounded on the sinner’s behalf. The LORD laid upon Him the iniquity of sinners.

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “When we look at the biblical depiction of sin as a crime, we see that Jesus acts as the Substitute, taking our place at the bar of God’s justice. For this reason, we sometimes speak of Jesus’ work on the cross as the substitutionary atonement of Christ, which means that when He offered an atonement, it was not to satisfy God’s justice for His own sins, but for the sins of others. He stepped into the role of the Substitute, representing His people. He didn’t lay down His life for Himself; He laid it down for His sheep. He is our ultimate Substitute. Jesus’ mission was to be the Substitute, the vicarious sacrifice offered to God. Jesus understood this and embraced it. From the start of His ministry, He knew He had come to act as a Substitute on behalf of His sheep. At the center of His teaching was the assertion that He was doing this not for Himself but for us—to redeem us, to ransom us, to save us.”

Penal-substitutionary atonement is a magnificent, biblical truth.  The hymn writer Phillip Bliss expressed its truth as follows.

“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 His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!