AN EXPOSITION OF THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST
In his lecture given in 1873 on "The Sacrifice of Christ," Edward Turney explained that "This is not a theory started yesterday, or the day before, but it is a theory which was set forth in a very lucid manner some two years ago and as clearly accepted by the editor (R. Roberts) after he had six months to consider the matter. I refer to a letter by Brother Handley in 1871 and is in 'The Christadelphian,' November number."
I believe this is a subject which is only partly understood by many and not understood at all by some so I shall try to use uncomplicated language that we all may understand this subject a little better. Also I feel it is really a matter about which we ought rather to pray than argue and condemn one another. In time I hope and pray that a few more will feel as I do upon this matter and I trust when they do that they will have the courage to face up to the dissenters and by the grace of God, give expression to their minds. First of all it may be helpful to read through Romans chapter 5. The first point I want to draw attention to is in the 6th verse: "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." "When we were yet without strength." What do we understand by this phrase? I believe we lost all our strength by the Adamic transgression - "In whom all sinned" and "By one man's disobedience sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men in whom (Adam) all sinned." I am sure the Greek means "in whom." This is our position in Adam - we are dead in trespasses and sins. Now, if Christ came into the world in this position, He could not help us. It may be said that it was the Father who provided the help which is true because He provided that help in Jesus as we can see from Psalm 89:- "Then Thou speakest in vision to Thy Holy One, and saidst, I have laid help on one that is mighty. I have exalted one chosen out of the people." Now to have brought Christ into the world under Adamic condemnation would have been to deprive Him of "all help" instead of to have 'laid help upon Him.' Our being brought into the world 'in Adam' deprived us of all help, and if Jesus had been brought into the world 'in Adam' He would likewise have been utterly helpless, or as Paul says:- "Without strength." The very fact that Jesus' death helps or saves us is proof that He did not come into the world like us, - "without strength." But there is something more. This help was laid on Jesus in two ways; firstly that Jesus was brought into the world free from Adamic condemnation - free as Adam was before transgression. Jesus, having a life as free as Adam's was when he was first formed a living soul, could lay down His life as the price or ransom that had to be paid for those who had lost theirs by Adam's transgression. Secondly, God raised Jesus from the grave and gave Him eternal life with the power to give eternal life to as many as God gave Him. Briefly then, that is what I mean by the two 'helps' laid upon the One mighty to save. Next I want to consider the physical body of Adam and of Jesus and of all mankind. Adam, we know, was made a living soul and we understand this to be "a natural body" a man of living flesh and blood (1 Corinthians 15:45.) Was Adam in any sense a sinner when he was made - was there any sin at all in him? No; at his creation Adam was not then a sinner, neither by nature nor by action, but who had desires, and to whom the Almighty gave a law. Having been given a law Adam was now on probation for immortality. Now desires are not sin, the desire to sin is one thing and sin is another. One is cause, the other effect. James says, that when lust, or desire hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin, and sin when it is finished brings forth death (James 1:14,15.) Now I maintain that there is nothing in man with which the Almighty has endowed him, that is sinful of itself; but when he oversteps the divine boundary line, makes a bad choice then, and only then, do we have transgression. If desires were sin then God would be the author of sin, for man can only be what his Creator made him. However, let me qualify that position. There is a sense in which desire or lust is sin when nothing actually is done. Christ said "whoso looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her in his heart". (Matthew 5:28.) He is guilty because lust is sin when a man purposes to commit a forbidden act, but by some circumstance beyond his control he cannot accomplish it. From the time Adam was made of the dust of the earth until the time he broke the law, he was not a sinner, but as soon as he broke the law, then "Sin entered into the world". Now, having transgressed the law, Adam was under sentence of death. Was there anything which Adam might have done in the way of righteousness, in the way of perfect godliness, after the passing of this sentence of death, to revoke the sentence pronounced? I do not believe there was. And as a proof of his utter helplessness and dependence upon the mercy of God, there was at once set forth a scheme of redemption or means of paying the debt incurred by sin. Adam's probation, then, consisted of two phases, first he was on probation for eternal life which he could have attained by perfect obedience and without the need for redemption; second, after transgression, he was on probation by grace and through faith under redemption. But the final outcome of this second probation is totally dependant upon Jesus Christ, the 'Second Adam'. The probation of Jesus Christ was like Adam's first probation but whereas the first Adam failed to yield perfect obedience to God, Jesus succeeded. There was no breach of law committed, therefore Jesus required no redemption. But suppose this Second Adam had come into the world in the condition the first Adam was in after transgression, that is to say, under the penalty of death, where would have been His life? If it be true that by one man's offence death hath passed upon all men, Jesus included as some would have it, then death would have passed upon Him also, and His life would have been lost. But I maintain that by God endowing Jesus with a life direct from Himself, free of condemnation, He began by that means to lay help upon Jesus, the one mighty to save, and further completed that help by the addition of eternal life and the power to bestow it upon others. So there were two things required of Jesus; one was that He should run His probation after a perfect manner; the other that He should lay down His life for us. I do not see how Jesus could lay down a life He did not possess. If His life was lost or forfeited as ours is at birth then He did not really possess it as His own, and therefore it could not be used to purchase His friends to Himself. But if His life was not sold to Sin, then when He comes to the end of His preaching He is in a position to lay it down of His own free choice, which is what His Father asked of Him. Jesus said: "Therefore doth My Father love me; because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No man taketh it from me, I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father". (John 10:17,18.) So why did Jesus lay down His life? He laid it down as "a ransom for all." (Matthew 20:28.) No man whose life is in pledge can redeem or buy back another. I therefore say that it was imperative that Jesus' life was not in pledge. It was His own possession and it was free. Having got to the end of His probation, Jesus is brought to the foot of the Cross. He was determined to do His Father's will because He loved righteousness and hated iniquity, Hebrews 1:9, so we find Him then nailed to the Cross and there He dies. After three days He rises again to eternal life. Now redemption as I understand it is the old debt incurred by Adam paid for by Jesus Christ. Redemption took place at Calvary. It is worth noting also that it is our present natural life (Greek - psuche) which is our redeemed life and this gives us the opportunity of seeking life eternal through Jesus. So we in turn, now enter upon our probation and we are required to give all diligence to make our calling and election sure. We are required to run so as to obtain. (2 Peter 1:10.) This I hope we shall all be able to do. It is now necessary to deal with parts of our subject in more detail.
In "Elpis Israel" Dr.Thomas said that sin-in-the-flesh is the fixation of sin in the flesh, and that Christ came in flesh full of sin; for what can sinful flesh mean, but flesh full of sin? I am convinced that there is no such thing as flesh full of sin, and never was, nor can be. I am perfectly aware of Romans 8:3 but that does not disprove the fact, as we shall see. The adjective "sinful" occurs only some seven or eight times in the whole of the Scriptures. We find it used in this way - "Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity". (Numbers 22:4; Isaiah 1:4; Amos 9:8.) Ask yourself, does this mean that every particle of flesh of these people is full of sin? Of course not. And what of "O righteous nation" as in Genesis 20:4; Isaiah 26:2. Are these people full of righteousness as an element in their flesh? Is the flesh of a righteous nation different from the flesh of a sinful nation? We see how ludicrous it is to say sinful applies to the flesh. Sinful applies to character not to flesh. Again, let us imagine we have two sheep and one of those sheep belongs to "Sin." I am now required to produce a likeness of that sheep which belongs to "Sin." Well, the other sheep doesn't belong to "Sin" so I point to the second sheep and say that it looks like the other. That is how I understand the matter of "likeness" in Romans 8:3. Paul says God sent His own Son in the likeness of flesh of sin, or "Sin's flesh." This flesh of Jesus was precisely the same as ours. Adam's children belonged to sin. Jesus did not. Adam's children are under sentence of death. Jesus was not.
No Changed Nature
Robert Roberts, writing in the "Ambassador" for March 1869, Page 58, said: "The phrase sin in the flesh is metonymical; it is not the expression of a literal element or principle pervading physical organization. Literally, sin is disobedience or an act of rebellion... There is no such thing as essential evil or sin." Again, regarding an applicant for baptism, he wrote: "Our friend imagines there was a change in the nature of Adam when he transgressed. There is no evidence of this whatever, and the presumption and evidence are entirely the contrary way. There was a change in Adam's relation to his Maker; but not in the nature of his organization. What are the facts? He was formed from the dust a living soul, or natural body. His mental constitution gave him moral relation to God. He was given a law to observe, that law he disobeyed, and sentence was passed that he, the disobedient living soul should return to mother earth. What was the difference between his position before disobedience and his position after? Simply this. In the one case he was a living soul or natural body on probation for immortality, and in the other case he was a living soul under sentence of death. He was a living soul or natural body in both cases." I agree.
1 Peter 2:24, - "who His own self bore our sins in His own body to the tree." It was in the purpose of God to condemn sin by one who, though tempted in all points as we are, committed no sin. Jesus condemned sin by remaining sinless. By this means He proved that we too could be sinless; any sin we commit is our own fault entirely and has nothing to do with the way we are made. We ought not to sin and we need not sin - ever. If there is anything in us that makes sin inevitable then God is unjust in condemning us when we fail. If God gave Jesus extra strength to overcome sin then not only was Jesus NOT tempted in all points as we are, but there would be little credit due to Him for overcoming. In type, in the Mosaic system the sinless victim, the animal for sacrifice, is regarded and treated as the sinner, in the sense of being the "sin bearer". First, the animal had to be legally acceptable for sacrifice; secondly, it had to be perfect of its type, an animal without spot or blemish. In the great Antitype, Jesus Christ, it was the same. Legally, Jesus was undefiled by Adamic condemnation, therefore legally acceptable; and personally, He was Holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners, therefore without spot or blemish. Under the Mosaic Law, the animals were slain to cover over sin, but, by contrast, Jesus Christ came, not to cover over sin, but to take away the sin of the world.
"Sinful" is not a proper adjective to qualify the noun "flesh," but it qualifies the noun "character". A sinful man is a man of bad character, not of bad flesh. Sin is an act, 1 John 3:4, not a fixed principle in the flesh. 1 Corinthians 6:18. Romans 8:3 - "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh." That is the only place in which "sinful flesh" occurs and it is not a true translation at all. The Greek words are "en homoiomati sarkos hamartias" which in English is "in the likeness of flesh of sin." But in good English we don't say "the hat of John" but "John's hat", and so for sarkos hamatias, we must say "Sins flesh". This is a scriptural phrase, and it sets forth a scriptural doctrine. It is a matter of possession or ownership. We all know what is meant by the possessive case, it means possession or ownership, as in John's book, that is the book that belongs to John. Change the name then, and put in the word "sin" - "sin's" book. The book that belongs to sin. Let us take another figure, a figure of flesh, the horse for instance, "sin's horse." The horse which belongs to sin, which is his property. Do you think now that sin's horse is necessarily a horse that is made of "sinful flesh"? I think you will all see the absurdity of this conclusion. Well, let us again change the figure, "sin's man," that is a man belonging to sin. Is the man's flesh necessarily full of sin because he belongs to sin? Certainly not. Again take the figure of the two sheep, they both belong to one shepherd, one strays away, the other remains in the care of the shepherd. The stray sheep wanders over a boundary line and becomes the property of a person whom we will call "sin"; for sin is personified in the Scriptures as a "king reigning", etc. Now here is the other sheep still where they both were at first. Do you think the wool, do you think the skin, do you think the flesh of the stray sheep are at all changed? Do you believe that its wool, skin and flesh have become in any way different from the sheep which remained with their Master? Jesus came in the likeness of 'Sin's' flesh but He was not 'Sin's' flesh. In other words, Jesus came in the likeness of those who belong to Sin as their master, but He did not have Sin as His master, God sending him in the likeness of sin's flesh. And while in that flesh Jesus condemned sin by perfect obedience. (Romans 8:3.)
Let me illustrate. Here are two people each in possession of a dog. The bye-laws of this town say that whoever lets his dog run loose will be fined £5000. Now suppose A lets his dog run loose, he thereby breaks the law and the just penalty comes upon him. B keeps his dog under control at all times and thereby keeps the law. Now just suppose B says to A, "I am sorry for you my friend, you have broken the law, and I know you are a very poor man". "Yes" replies A, "and I have not the wherewithal to pay the fine". "Never mind", says the other, "I will pay it for you. I will place myself under the penalty and you shall go free". Now in this case is B a breaker of the law? No, he is a fulfiller of the law; he takes the penalty upon himself. It was precisely so with Jesus; He bore the penalty of the law for those who had broken it. He fulfilled it and made it honourable. (Isaiah 42:21.) It has been said that when we read that Jesus died for us it does not mean that he died instead of us, and as an example it has been put in this way: "I have bought this cake for your tea" does not mean that the cake was bought instead of your tea. We agree that in this case it does not, but this doesn't in any way contradict the fact that the three Greek words translated 'for' (which are gar, huper and anti) can mean otherwise. If you like we will suppose that you, like Adam, have lost everything - your creditor demands the sale of all your possessions. Well, along comes a wealthy friend with the answer to your problem and says to you "Cheer up, my friend, I have plenty and to spare, more than I shall ever require. I will square the bill for (gar) you, on behalf of (huper) you, in place of (anti) you". Would any law force you to pay the bill again? This is exactly what Jesus did for (gar), on behalf of (huper), in place of (anti) Adam. If you blot out this meaning you blot out ransom. But Jesus "restored that which he took not away". (Psalm 69:4.) In His death Jesus bore the sins of those who were justly under the penalty of death and they went free. 1 Peter 2:24 - "who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree". Paul taught 'substitution' when writing to the Corinthians: - "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not live unto themselves, but unto him that died for them and rose again". (2 Corinthians 5:14,15.) And in Romans 5:7 we read "Scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us". How can one die for another unless he takes his place? It has been said that if indeed Jesus died in our stead then He ought to have stayed dead and we ought never to die. But Jesus lost His psuche or natural life when He died on the Cross and this life was never given back to Him, so in this sense His psuche stayed dead. "Therefore doth my Father love me because I lay down my life (psuche) for the sheep". (John 10:17.) And Jesus died on the Cross so that we could have our natural life, our psuche, which was never meant to last for ever. At the resurrection the faithful will be given zoe life and their psuche life is no longer required so I see no reason why their present life shouldn't end. When Jesus rose from the dead He rose with zoe life. "These things saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive/zao". (Revelation 2:8.) Also Revelation 1:18, "I am he that liveth (zao), and was dead; and behold, I am alive (zao) for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death". I am sorry to have to say this but it really is perverse nonsense to say that if a debt is paid for us then it is not forgiven. The opposite is true. Jesus forgives us because He has paid the debt we owed so that we no longer owe it. If Jesus had not paid our debt then He could not forgive us. Jesus had His natural life (psuche) free from God because God was His Father; He received this life direct from the source of all life and not via the condemned line of Adam. And Jesus also had zoe life - "The last Adam was made a quickening spirit" 1 Corinthians 15:45 and having died for us He then held eternal life (Greek - zoe), earned by obedience, and holds it now having the keys of Hades and of death; Revelation 1:13. At His coming He will share this zoe with those who are accounted worthy. Such a Christ is a Redeemer indeed, and such a Christ I can understand. The logical part of our minds must surely revolt from the picture of God giving Jesus sinful flesh and then commanding that He, Jesus must lay down His life by crucifixion in order to destroy that flesh. It is no comfort to common sense trying to pacify oneself by saying "It is in the hands of God; it is alright". It is not alright. Such a view would turn God into a monster of injustice.
"Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies" for if we do then "Sin" reigns as "King". Desire leads to sin, but desire is not sin. We have plenty of wrong desires in our thoughts, but these desires are things we can put away if we will, for we have many exhortations to this end in the Scriptures. (Romans 6:12, 1 Corinthians 9:27.) We are expected not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies. If one King is stronger in war than another, he deposes his enemy. That is what we have to do in this case. We can depose sin, put him out of "office" and bring in another King, Jesus, who must dwell in our hearts by faith. (Ephesians 3:16 amp;17.)
The Meaning of Mortal
The nature or flesh in Eden had no sin in it. It was corruptible and relatively 'imperfect' as compared with Angelic nature and there was no sin in the "nature/flesh" after it had transgressed. So what was there then? There was mortality, which is an abstract concept. The animals have all the same breath and all were created corruptible. Some may call them "mortal" in a general or loose sense; but it is more strictly correct to style them "corruptible" because "mortal" means destined to die through breach of law. "Corruptible" does not.
Made Sin for Us
It is testified that Jesus was made sin for us. How does Mr. Roberts explain this verse? "As Jesus was not of sinful character, this could only apply to His physical nature, which drawn from the veins of Mary, was made sin". Now Robert Roberts has told us elsewhere there is no such thing as sin pervading our physical organization; that there is no such thing as essential evil or sin; that sin is an act of disobedience; and that the physical nature of Adam was not changed by transgression. Now he tells us that sin ran in the blood of Mary, and from her, in this way was Jesus made sin. There could not be a more palpable contradiction than this. So how was Jesus, who knew no sin made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him?
Sin and Sin-Offering
Let me explain. The Greek word hamartia means both 'sin' and 'sin-offering'. We need to know which meaning should be used in 2 Corinthians 5:21 where we read "he who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him". If hamartia here means 'sin' then we should be able to produce proof from other parts of Scripture that Jesus was indeed "made sin". But there is no proof. Paul teaches that Jesus was undefiled and separate from sinners and John says "in him is no sin". It certainly seems to make better sense if this verse should read that Jesus was made a "sin-offering for us" that something might follow for our eternal benefit, viz: that we might be made the righteousness of God "in Him". And ask yourselves whether we could have been "in Him" unless He had been made a sin-offering for us? Ask yourselves whether we could have been made the righteousness of God "in Him" unless we had been baptized into "His death"? And how could we have been baptized into His death unless He first had been made a sin-offering for us? Let us next look at Genesis 4:7 - "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door". This verse is usually understood to mean that when Cain sinned, sin lay at his door as a kind of debt, a kind of witness or evidence of his iniquity, and this Scripture is often cited in this sense. But when we look below the surface we find that is not at all the sense of the original. The word is "chattath" and that means sin-offering. The phrase is "lappethach chattath rabets" meaning a sin-offering lieth at the door, i.e. "There is an animal suitable for a sin-offering crouching at the door of the fold. If thou doest not well, take and offer it". That is the explanation and shows that God has provided a means for covering sin. As A. Clarke says, "It is not that the Almighty has not provided a lamb; that the Almighty is not reconciled; it is not that there is no sin offering lying at the door". No, there was one outside the gate. That was the proper place. In Hebrew, instead of saying "the bullock for the sin-offering" we read "the bullock the sin, or the ram the sin, or the lamb the sin," and so forth. The word 'offering' has been put in to make sense of the statement. Now, this "chattath" or sin-offering was translated into the Greek some 200 years B.C. in the Septuagint by the word "hamartia", which is the word we find in 2 Corinthians 5:21. The Emphatic Diaglott reads: - "For him who knew no sin, he made a sin-offering on our behalf, that we might become God's righteousness in him".
Some have said that to see forgiveness as a commercial transaction is unacceptable; that forgiveness is not purchased with a price; that would be finance; the full payment of our debt seems to some to have something about it not to be tolerated. But Jesus used commercial terms and expressions. "Buying" and "selling" are scriptural language used by Christ Himself to teach better things:- "The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field which, when a man hath found he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field." (Matthew 13:44.) "Again the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a merchant seeking goodly pearls; who, when he hath found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it." (Matthew 13:45,46.) Then see how Christ teaches the forgiveness of sins: "Therefore is the Kingdom of Heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants, and when he had begun to reckon one was brought unto him which owed him ten thousand talents; but inasmuch as he had not wherewith to pay his Lord commanded him to be sold and payment to be made. The servant, therefore, fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me and I will pay thee all. Then the Lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants that owed him an hundred pence, and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying. Pay me what thou owest; and his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, have patience with me and I will pay thee all. But he would not and went and cast him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told their Lord all that was done. Then his Lord, after he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt because thou desirest me. Should not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his Lord was wrath, and delivered him to the tormentors till he should pay all that was due to him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." (Matthew 18:23-35.) The sublimest of all the doctrines of the Bible, namely, "Forgiveness of sins" is taught by Christ as a "business figure". And we can see how fit and proper this figure is. We are "sold" under sin: Romans 7:14, we are now "bought" with a "price". (1 Corinthians 6:20.) "Redemption" and "Pardon" are of the highest concern. To scorn this phraseology is to scorn Christ and His Apostles. To say that these are merely metaphors is to say that Jesus was crucified for a metaphor. Surely not! The reason why the death of God's saints is precious in His sight (Psalm 116:15) is because they have been redeemed with the precious blood of His Son who died in their stead.
Original lecture given by Edward Turney. Condensed by Russell Gregory.