"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God." (1 Peter 3:18)
The atonement of Jesus Christ becomes, according to the revelation of the Holy Ghost, the power whereby one obeys the precepts and follows the injunctions that lie in this chapter. Not to dwell upon it largely, because that is not my object, but in passing, observe the injunctions here laid down by the Holy Ghost to godly wives relative to their "adorning," which is not to be outward but inward, not the captivation of the carnal mind, but that which is in the sight of God of great price, "a meek and quiet spirit"; and the injunctions for godly husbands, their manner of living with their wives; and those also pertaining to a whole cluster of precepts, such as "Love as brethren," "be pitiful, be courteous," and so on,— all is traced up by the Holy Ghost unto the words of our text. As though the Holy Ghost should say, and indeed He does say, that the only way by which a gracious precept can be obeyed from the heart, whether it be by a godly woman or by a godly man, must be by the experience of the Person and of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the atonement of Jesus Christ is no licentious doctrine, but it becomes the main cause of all true spiritual living fruits which adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour. It is my desire to speak to you once more upon this important theme—the atonement of Jesus Christ. "For Christ hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God."
Consider the atonement of Jesus Christ in relation to the Fall. This might not appear to a cursory observer to lie in the text at all, but if one looks a little closer it is observable that the Holy Ghost uses the word "sins" in our text: "For Christ hath also once suffered for sins," and there cannot be a true belief in the atonement apart from a true belief of the Fall. In these days, think it not a common platitude (I wish it were only that), but in these days so replete with terrible doctrines, doctrines of demons, the doctrine of the atonement is assailed from every quarter. It is invariably to be observed that those denying the atonement deny the Fall, and so far, perhaps, they are logical, though their reasoning is awful divinity. If one were left of God to his own natural leading in the matter, and wanted to endeavor to show that no such thing as the atonement of Jesus Christ was needed, he would have recourse to the statement that man never fell, and, if he could but succeed in expurgating from the mind of the individual ill belief in the Fall, he would not be long before he would expurgate from the mind of such individual a belief in the atonement of Jesus Christ. Hence, Satan's dupes, (great professors of religion, but destitute of the possession of the true grace of God who proudly boast their anti-Christian titles,) they, in setting about to overthrow the atonement made by Jesus Christ, are literally bound to attempt to overthrow the doctrine of the Fall, and this is where they generally begin. They inject into the minds of their hearers such thoughts as these, "The doctrine of the creation cannot be true, seeing that Darwin introduced that wondrous doctrine of evolution," where, to use the exact words of one of their leading lights, (query the word "lights"), "We came of the ape-like stock more than a million years ago, and here we are today." That he was there that day when he said it, none could dare to deny; that man came of ape-like stock we do deny, but these irreligious thoughts of theirs are all part of a preconceived plan. Removing from the mind belief in the original creation of man by God, they are on the high road to believe that man never fell. Instead of their advocating the right method which God has revealed, namely, that God made man on a high level, made him in His Own image, made him in the likeness of God, made him upright in every particular, and man fell from that high state into degradation, slavery, and death, they turn round and reverse that order, and say that man came from an apelike stock and has been evolving, rising, ascending in the scale until it is beyond the possibility of the human brain or tongue to think or say what man will ultimately become like unto. When they have succeeded in this they are a good way toward removing every vestige of trace of the need of the atonement.
Now let us turn for a moment to see what the Scriptures say relative to the Fall. The Scriptures declare, and all true experience confirms it, that "By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin"; that man became ruined in his body and in his soul; that he became estranged from God, corrupted by all manner of corruption; capable of all manner of concupiscence and wicked deeds; and that in this state man lived and continues to live, and in this state man would have lived, would have died, would have sunk too in his sin, and perished with the load of his guilt, but "God, Who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved His people even when they were dead in the Adam Fall and in their sinful practice," had a Son, and Him He gave to be their propitiation, their substitution, a vicarious offering for them; Who by His shed blood should reconcile them to God, or, in the words of our text, "Bring them to God" from the depths of the Fall. I hope none who fear God will consider this first thought out of place. We want to have, if His will to grant it, mind and heart well-rooted and established in and the doctrine of the Fall. It was thus that sin came into the world, the parent sin by which all "sins" covered by our text have also entered. No Fall — no Atonement can be necessary!
Consider next the atonement in relation to the justice of God. Our text says, "Christ also hath suffered for sins." Now the idea obtaining in the Established church, and also in the Nonconformist church, is that God is not a God of justice. Any thought or suspicion of Jehovah being anything other than pitiful, compassionate, merciful, long-suffering, is altogether and totally denied a place in their theology. Many in the Establishment, and many in the ranks of Nonconformity, are taking a huge step in this direction. Their respective colleges are simply hotbeds of this heresy, that God is not a just God, and the mind of the student in particular, and the mind of the public in general, is becoming choked (if not already quite so) with this blasphemous declaration, that God is not One Who executes righteous judgments. They are endeavoring to teach something like this—that when you look in the face of Jesus Christ you look into the face of God. So far, true. That when you see Jesus Christ pitying the fallen, raising the fallen, doing His varied deeds of love and mercy, there you see just what God is—all of which is true. But then they keep back, and not only keep back, but deny such statements as these—God raining down fire and brimstone upon the cities of the plain. God destroying the old world by a flood. God turning Lot's wife into a pillar of salt, the threatened judgment following death of all mankind who die not in union with Jesus. Hell, as a place where God's retribution and justice is demonstrated to all who fall a prey to sin and the devil, is absolutely denied as well as kept back. And all this is necessary for these gentlemen of the cloth, because, if God be just, an atonement for sins is absolutely essential, or the justice of God will come down upon the sinner, and as they have taken upon themselves the responsibility of expurgating from the Scriptures and from their theology the doctrine of the Fall and of the atonement, they must also expurgate from their theology and from their pulpits and religious press all idea of a God of justice. But God is a God of justice, and it is seen in the sufferings of Jesus. God's justice, as far as one can see into the matter from the Scriptures of truth, must deal either with the sinner or with a sinner's substitute. To put it in plainer language, seeing that I am a transgressor of the law, the law brings me in guilty, and either God must deal with me or else, if it please Him to possess and to provide a Surety in my place. He must deal with Him. The two points are pregnant with solemn and deep significance. His justice demands this. I am a sinner according to His own law; that law holds me accountable and responsible, and while God remains a just God, He must hold me responsible for my sins. That is to say, then. His wrath must come upon me sooner or later, and if I live for threescore years and ten, or even that multiplied ten thousand times over, it will not alter, nor will it abate the awful fact that, when I pass hence, I shall pass into the presence of the Judge of the whole earth. Who will then deal with me according to my sins. It is a solemn truth to reflect upon, sinner; God grant none of you hearing this solemn truth may experience it!
But now look at the other side, the second thought. If God possessed and provided a Surety, I can see where He can be just to me in forgiving me. That is just what has happened. God allows His justice to work freely. There is no lessening of the attribute of His justice any more than there is in the attributes of His love, mercy, compassion, and pity. But how, how can it be that God, who is just, can deal with me pitifully, compassionately, mercifully, kindly and tenderly? Because of this—God has provided Himself a Lamb for a burnt offering in the Person of His dear Son, and His dear Son came to this world in the likeness of sinful flesh to be absolutely and positively the Substitute, the Surety, in Whom and upon Whom justice, with its impossibility to forego one of its demands, should be fully and honorably satisfied in His flesh and blood. Glory to the Name of our covenant Christ for this great truth pertaining to Himself! "He suffered." It was not love merely that made Him suffer, but justice also. "Awake, O sword, against My Fellow, against the Man that is Mine Equal, smite the Shepherd,"—that is what happened when Christ suffered. And as Christ suffered, so justice, inflexible as it was and must for ever be, said "I am satisfied." Justice is giving to everyone his due, doing that which is right to everyone, and God did that which was right respecting every one of His children in the death of His dear Son. What was that? "By His stripes we are healed," "the chastisement of our peace was upon Him," that which was necessary in order that we might have peace. "It pleased the Father to bruise Him,"—it was an act of justice,—God did it to Him since He agreed to stand for us. Here, then, is justice to perfection in the sufferings of Jesus Christ.
Consider, in the third place, the atonement of Jesus Christ in relation to substitution. "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust." The day is noted in theological circles for denying a blood theology; they do not want it, and they do not intend to have it. Every book, hymnbook or otherwise, that contains any reference to the blood of Jesus Christ will be cast out from the realms of theology before we are many years older; they are getting on with it now. They sneeringly call it "the consecrated formula," referring to such a verse as this—
"There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains."
Some even blasphemously say. "I wonder what they will look like when they have been washed in blood!" This is not the world speaking: these are reverend gentlemen speaking and teaching; these are members of the Establishment and Nonconformists also who are thus talking. They are in the majority too. All idea of a blood theology they are firmly set against, and where are we? Through grace this is where we stand. "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." "Ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Jesus Christ." We stand through grace and gracious experience in anticipation of the day when we shall join that glorious throng who say, "Unto Him that loved us and washed us in His Own blood." They are not ashamed of it up in heaven, and God forbid we should be ashamed of it down here! They are not ashamed of a blood theology up there, and sinners taught of the Spirit are anything but ashamed of a blood theology down here—and why? In the blood of Christ they read substitution, "the Just for the unjust." This cannot be made too simple, so far as the declaration of it is concerned. It simply means this, and yet there is heaven in the meaning. God give us the meaning of it! It is myself the sinner; Christ took my place, with no "ifs" of question and no "as" of similitude. Christ literally stood in the place of the sinner, inasmuch so that exactly what would have been the sinner's due fell upon Him and He took it. Bless His sacred Name! He bore it. He the "Just," not for Just people,—that would not have been needed,— but for the unjust, which means the unrighteous man, the man who has never rendered to God His due, who has never acted honorably Godward; it means a wicked, ungodly, unbelieving man, and such we all are by nature, yet for such Christ died. Jesus became literally and absolutely the Substitute, so that when He stood at Calvary their sins and inquiries were literally, and really, and actually dealt with by God the Judge in the Person of His Own dear Son. And when His sufferings were over, as they were when He died upon the tree, then we can add, there cannot be the slightest room for a grain of penal suffering to come upon any member of His mystic Body. A blood theology indeed is this, "Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin." Faith loves the blood, hope loves the blood, spiritual desire loves the blood, spiritual aspirations love the blood—everything born of the Spirit loves the blood, hungers after the blood, thirsts after the blood, cleaves to the blood, turns away from everything but the blood, lives upon the blood, dies upon the blood, enters heaven by the blood, and blesses the Lamb for the blood, through a never-ending eternity.
Now, once more, consider the atonement in relation to the effects that it produces. "Christ suffered the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God." The atonement will do all God intended in it, that it will; I have no doubt upon that point at all. There is in it His holy truth, and I hope it is in your hearts too; I know it is in some of our hearts. Jesus intended to die Himself. "I am come," He says, "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." "I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again." Why, in many Scriptures this great truth of the Divine intention is put forth, and the Divine intention was, to bring His people home. They are brought to God in grace through the atonement. The atonement, having put away their sins as before God, the Spirit, Who Himself is a Divine Person and is God, arrests these people for whom Christ died, puts light and life into their minds and hearts, convinces them of sin, works repentance into their souls, brings them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, to hope in Him and to build upon Him. Thus He brings them to God in grace. They are brought to God in a second way—in all the exercises of grace. They are brought to God through the blood, as, for instance, when they have been called by grace and their soul is seeking fellowship with God (you who are called know a little what that word "fellowship" means), what is necessary? Grace in gracious exercise, faith in gracious movement, repentance in gracious movement, supplication in gracious movement, and these gracious exercises of the soul bring you Godward in an experimental sense. So much so that in these seasons your heart is enlarged, your spirit is warmed, your mind becomes more enlightened, your soul begins to abound in hope, and your own love to God begins to burn into a more vehement flame. This is the fruit and effect of the atonement in you, and if you have that experience at all, my friend, you are a living proof of a blood theology having laid hold of the inmost tables of your soul, for it is through Christ, by the Spirit, that you have access unto the Father. That is a real bringing to God. There is a third way I would like to mention, and that is. He brings them to God in glory. That is what blood theology will do. What a suggestive phrase that is—a blood theology! "Blood Theology!" Truly, there is no real theology without it. What they ignorantly or otherwise thus despise, God declares to be the hidden wisdom of Himself in a mystery. Blood theology!—why, it was this that became God—it honors God, it glorifies God, just as every so-called theology which either denies, keeps back, or minimizes the blood of atonement dishonors God, makes Him indeed a liar, and after that what can be said? Be it ours to receive, live in, die with Hebrews 2:10 in our souls: "For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." The Divine intention is to bring the many sons to glory, and only by blood! Will their infidelity (wrongly called theology) do as much for them? Theology—a discourse about God—why, theirs is nothing but discoursing about evolution, science, assured results of science (what was assured results yesterday will not be assured tomorrow!); if it were not so intimately connected with such eternally important matters, one could laugh at them as children laugh at a wandering clown. They boast of their intelligence as if Solomon were destitute of even one grain of knowledge, and as if He, Who had all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Him, Who indeed was God,—one shudders to say it,—knew nothing at all! Hell will tell the sad tale that all therein never did believe in blood theology. Cain never did, and the infidels might as well have their father pointed out. If they were only worldly infidels, who never dabbled in religion, one would say little, only to pity their stupidity, when they dress up as ministers of God and try to palm off their infidel lies as the truth of God, we feel fully justified in saying, "Your father is Cain!" Cain hated blood theology—Abel loved it—say, who was right? Hebrews 11:4 will tell you. This blood theology runs all the way through the Scriptures; it lies in great glory all along the ceremonial dispensation; in fact, without this blood theology that dispensation has no meaning. The prophets wrote in high strains of it, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me," —this He said signifying what death He would die. Blood theology—the hope of a babe in Christ, the strength of a spiritual warrior, the lonely saint's comfort and the dying saint's Joy—and yet men (are they men?), naming the Name of Christ, can dare to say to the saints of God, who cling to the blood as their one hope, "Your hope is false!"
Living experience within one drives and draws one to the blood. Every ray of light from God through the Scriptures to the mind is connected with the blood. It simply cannot be left out, even if we wanted it so to be. It is indeed made the life of everything a believer in Jesus seeks, loves, and admires. He is persuaded that, if he has but true faith in that blood, into condemnation he can never be brought. More than that too; not only into no condemnation, but into the closest conformity with Christ shall both his body and soul be in glory. It may well be said, as a touchstone to our religion, what think we in our hearts of the blood of Christ? As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. The thoughts of a believer in Christ on this subject are deep and unspeakable, that is to say, no believer can possibly find suitable language to set forth what he does think of the blood. It is indispensable, essential to him; it outweighs the world with him (at times this is specially so). His God has called it "precious," and that is a word from heaven's vocabulary, and will need the glorified state to be entered by the sinner before he can comprehend that spiritual word. What the Holy Ghost said of the Offerer, "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift," may well be used of the blood the Offerer shed. It was, is, and forever shall be unspeakable. A warm heart, to the blood of Christ cannot be a cold one to the Offerer. The sinner who values the Priest of God's appointing (Jesus) cannot lightly esteem the sacrifice. Blood is valued by sinners—none can say but they how precious is the Saviour. If your clothes were tonight well covered by slime and filth, you would be glad to get rid of them and put on some clean apparel; and if your souls are truly sickened of sins, you will be only too willing to run to the Fountain—Jesus Christ.
We may be termed ignorant—true we are and for ever wish to be—of their rubbish. If by ignorant they mean we need being taught their bloodless theology, we might tell them that, from the moment we were born, we had a bloodless theology deeply ingrained in our fallen nature. Thank God if He has given us another nature which never did, and never can, turn traitor against a blood theology, but which ever fights, and succeeds too, against all schemes put forth by Cain and his father—the devil. They term you illogical—that is very serious! Balaam's ass was far more logical than its learned rider. The blood of Jesus as the way of salvation is the only plan which secures the glory of God in the free forgiveness of sinners, and if God is well pleased with this for His righteousness' sake—it is logical as God sees it, and what else matters? So we accept their loving terms and most heartily and sincerely wish ere they die they might be made to see sin rightly, then they, too, would renounce their bloodless creed and crave God's forgiveness through the riches of His atoning blood. In the assured confidence that—
"What if we trace the globe around
From Britain to Japan,
There shall be no religion found
So just to God—so safe to man"—
as the Gospel of atoning blood, we would say when at death's door "The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth us from all sin; He loved me and gave Himself for me." If we can say that in death, we shall do well.