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Archive for March, 2010

Hebrews 9:22 says something that every Christian should know. Charles Spurgeon articulated its vitality in his sermon, An Unalterable Statute. Here are some notes from Spurgeon’s sermon and also thoughts on the atonement by Louis Berkhof and Wayne Grudem.

Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (NIV).

The shedding of blood, referenced in Hebrews 9:22 by the unblemished Lamb of God, atoned for our sins. In Systematic Theology (1941) Berkhof put it plainly, “When man fell away from God, he as such owed God reparation. But he could atone for his sin only by suffering eternally the penalty affixed to transgression.” God determined that death be the penalty for disobedience; subsequently, we were debtors to Him and He required either a personal or vicarious atonement as the penalty. The shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross is the vicarious atonement that God required in order “that God might be just when justifying sinners” (Berkhof).

The root of Hebrews 9:22 goes back at one point to Leviticus chapter 4. In Leviticus chapter 4 the Lord gives great detail to the Israelites about the sacrificial system which needed to be carried out in order to be forgiven for their sins: “The elders of the community are to lay their hands on the bull’s head before the Lord and the bull shall be slaughtered before Lord.” Berkhof states the laying on of hands “symbolized the transfer of sin to the offering, and rendered it fit to atone for the sin of the offerer.” This death took the place of that due to the offerer.

In Leviticus 17:11 the Lord said to Moses, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life” (KJV).

In his sermon, Spurgeon wrote, “under the law, there was never any pardoning of sin except by blood. Under grace, there was never any pardoning of sin except by blood.” He went on to say, “in every instance where sin had to be removed, blood must flow- life must be given” (Spurgeon’s Sermons, 1883). Wayne Grudem said it this way, “the blood of Christ is the clear outward evidence that his life blood was poured out when he died a sacrificial death to pay for our redemption” (Systematic Theology, 1994).

Grudem says, “the atoning work of Christ is a complex event that has several effects on us.” He goes on to point out four needs of sinners that are met by the atonement:
1. Our deservedness of death as the penalty for sin was met by Christ’s sacrifice (bad news: Rom 6:23; good news: Heb 9:26).
2. Our deservedness to bear God’s wrath was met by Christ’s propitiation (bad news: Eph 2:3; good news: 1 Jn 4:10).
3. Our separation from God by our sins is met by Christ’s reconciliation (bad news: Isa 59:2, Rom 3:23, Eph 2:13; good news: Rom 5:10-11, 2 Cor 5:18-19, Col 1:20).
4. Our bondage to sin and to the kingdom of Satan is met by God’s redemption (bad news: Jn 8:34, Gal 4:3, Rom 6:6; good news: Mk 10:45, Heb 2:15 and Col 1:13).

In Spurgeon’s sermon he stresses the magnitude of the atonement compared to repentance alone, prayer alone, and mortification/sanctification alone.

Spurgeon on repentance: “All the repentance in the world can not blot out the smallest sin. If you had only one sinful thought cross your mind, and you should grieve over that all the days of your life, yet the stain of that sin could not be removed even by the anguish it cost you.” Spurgeon on prayer: “There is no efficacy in prayer to blot out sin. All the prayers of all the saints on earth, and, if the saints in heaven could all join, all their prayers could not blot out through their own natural efficacy the sin of a single evil word.” Spurgeon on mortification/sanctification and self-denial: “There are persons who have thought that self-denial and mortifications of an extraordinary kind might rid them of their guilt.” But, “All of our attempts at reformation cannot pay for one sin.”

Spurgeon wrote, “Jesus Christ himself cannot save us, apart from his blood. Not the holiness of Jesus, not the life of Jesus, not the death of Jesus, but the blood of Jesus only; for ‘Without the shedding of blood there is no remission’” (Hebrews 9:22). “Thy faith must not be placed merely in Christ glorified, but in Christ crucified” (Spurgeon, 1883). Paul wrote in Galatians 2:21, “…if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (NIV)

The last thing Satan would want us to fix our minds on is the atonement and the power of the cross. Certainly it has been the work of Satan to drum up opposition to the power of the cross. Today’s culture has a strong aversion to the atonement, calling it “cosmic child abuse” and “unnecessary.” However, Berkhof wrote, “the atonement was necessary, therefore, because God sovereignly determined to forgive sin on no other condition” (Systematic Theology, 1941).

For, the cross is the only way of God, through His love and mercy, to provide a way of escape for sinners. Christ is the only one who could pay our ransom to set us free from sin, because He is the “infinite deity necessary to atone for our sins and to pay the infinite price required for our purification,” as Craig Blomberg wrote in How Wide the Divide (1997).

We must accept the sacrifice Christ made of Himself in our stead, or “suffer eternally the penalty affixed to transgression” (Berkhof, 1941). Spurgeon concluded his sermon saying, “Look away from all other confidences, and rely upon the sufferings and death of the Incarnate God who has gone into the heavens, and who lives to-day to plead before his Father’s throne, the merit of the blood which on Calvary he poured forth for sinners.”

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Is heaven/perfect holiness/our glorified state “static?”

Meaning, are there never any “mistakes,” fumbling around, improving and learning that takes place in heaven? Or, do we know everything and execute everything perfectly always? Meaning, if we play baseball would we always hit a home run? If we bake, would we always bake a perfect pie? If we play golf, would we always hit a hole in one? Or if we are creating a song, would we write it flawlessly the first time?

Did Jesus, when He was learning carpentry, ever miss the nail and hit his hand? Did, Joseph ever have to teach Jesus how to square an angle? Did Jesus always win all the games He played and races He ran against other boys? Did He ever wet the bed? Did He ever trip and fall when He was learning to walk? Or, because He was always sinless does that mean Jesus never make a mistake, fumble around or learn?

Pondering these questions seems to be indicate that not all “mistakes” are derivative of a sinful fault. Making “mistakes,” learning and fumbling around did not mean Jesus was not perfect. But, it seems to indicate that being sinless and perfect includes learning, fumbling around, investigating, exploring and improving. There can be “mistakes” and subsequently learning processes without sin entering in. If heaven/perfect holiness/our glorified state is “static,” then it is not “dynamic,” or changing/improving as Jesus’ earthly life did (Luke 2:52). These are things worth time pondering.

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