The Second Baptism of Our Lord.
SHORTLY after my conversion, there fell into my hands a little book, compiled by the late G. V. Wigram; the author had collected all the New Testament references to the sacrifice of the Saviour, arranging them under three headings; the first section included all the references to the death of Christ; the second gave the passages speaking of His blood, and the last, listed those which dealt with His cross. The author added no words or wisdom of his own, but his classification first drew my attention to the exact and careful distinction which the New Testament draws between the three terms, the death of Christ, His cross and His blood.
Briefly, we may say that, apart from the death of our Lord, even the Eternal Himself would not have been free to offer His saving grace to men at all; but for the shedding of His blood, not one of us could have enjoyed settled peace with God; apart from the cross, the revelation of man's malignant hatred of Righteousness Incarnate, true separation from this present evil age would have been impossible.
To test the accuracy or otherwise of these statements is easy. Let us turn first to the Roman letter, and we shall find that the writer looks at Calvary almost wholly from God's point of view, that is, the death of Christ fills his mind.
The theologians of former days, from Irenaeus to Calvin, when writing about this theme, split into three main schools of thought; some based their doctrine on an arbitrary decree of the Eternal; others taught that the sacrifice was accomplished to satisfy the claims of divine justice, while some scholars argued that the everlasting foundations of truth and of morals could only be firmly secured by this means and no other; all alike agreed that Calvary reveals God's hatred of sin as well as His saving purposes of grace.
O love of God, O sin of man,
In this dread act your strength is tried,
And victory remains with love,
And He our Lord is crucified!
Consistently with the foregoing, we find that there are no less than twelve references to the death of Christ in the Epistle to the Romans, but only one mention of the Cross and only two allusions to the blood of Christ.
Turning now to the treatise to the Hebrews, we find that the great unknown who gave us the book, is largely interested in stating the grounds on which peace with God may be enjoyed. His opponents, the Jews, pointed to the sacrificial system and to the stately ritual of the Mosaic religion, and their claims must be countered by showing that no offering which needed to be repeated could ever furnish valid spiritual security.
As against the uncertainties and fears of those who sheltered behind the Day of Atonement and its satellites (such as sacrifices for sins, trespass offerings and the rest), the writer sets the final and full assurance of those who rest upon the one sacrifice by which He has perfected forever them that are sanctified. In strict consistence with these thoughts, the author names the Cross only once, the death of Christ three times, but the blood of sacrifice, whether by comparison or by contrast, is referred to no less than twenty times between chapter 9 and the end of the Epistle.
Finally, we turn to the Epistle to the Galatians and we discover that there is not a single reference to the blood of Christ, and His death is mentioned once (chap 2: 21); on the other hand the Cross is spoken of in six passages, and in every case, the context has the Christian's separation from the world in view.
Let us take these passages in order: Chap. 2: 20. Paul declares that he has been co-crucified with Christ and as a result has broken forever with the religious world and its cult of a righteousness to be reached by law-keeping.
Chap. 3: 1 describes a public execution, and a placarding of Jesus Christ, crucified among the Galatians. Only men who had been bewitched could fail to see that, in a matter of such supreme gravity, every citizen must cast his vote, or if, like Edom, they sought to stand by on the other side in the day of their Lord's calamity, they would be convicted either of madness or of treachery.
Chap 5: 11. Here the apostle refers to the scandal of the Cross, for which he himself is suffering persecution. That stumbling-block can only be removed for those who go back behind Sinai and the Exodus and seek in circumcision "another Gospel which is not another."
Chap. 6: 12. Again, men who fear persecution because of the Cross of Christ will seek to force others to return to the covenant of law-keeping and to accept its seal.
Chap. 6: 14. The writer re-enacts the scene at Calvary and, once again, three crosses are erected. As of yore, the Lord Jesus hangs upon the central one and in this is found Paul's only boast and pride. On one side hangs the world, writhing in its shame and placed there by the hands of Paul; on the other side, in retaliation, the world has crucified Paul. As dead to the world, and this by its own act, he can now abide in peace; he bears in his body the branded marks of the Lord Jesus.
Thus, three broad searchlights start from Calvary and illuminate the universe. The first floods the steps of the throne of God with light; in other days, Jehovah had said that He would dwell in clouds and thick darkness, but since "Jesus died," the shadows are gone; the true light now shines from a reconciled Heaven.
Next, the streaming light falls from the face of Jesus Christ into the most private cells of my heart. Once I was afraid of God and like Adam, I hid myself, but Christ came and preached peace by the blood of His Cross and that peace is mine.
Lastly, there is a pillar of fire between me and the Egyptian world to which I once belonged. Its standards I reject, its pleasures I refuse and I neither can nor will cross the gulf which lies between me and the city of destruction from which I have fled.
I may add that our three terms, the death of God's Son, the blood of Jesus and the Cross of Christ are used with precisely the same consistent care in the other epistles which treat of these subjects at all.
Dead and crucified, Lord Jesus,
Passed beyond my doom.
Sin and law forever silenced,
In Thy tomb.
Passed beyond the curse, Lord Jesus,
Dead, from sin set free,
Not for Thee earth's joy and music
Not for me.
I the sinner passed and gone,
Not the sin alone,
Living where Thou art in glory,
On the Throne.