His Past Work
His past work was accomplished by Him when He became incarnate. It was finished when He died on Calvary's cross. We have therefore to consider first of all these fundamentals of our faith.
I. The Work of the Son of God is foreshadowed and predicted in the Old Testament Scriptures.
II. The Incarnation of the Son of God.
III. His Work on the cross and what has been accomplished by it.
I. The Work of the Son of God Foreshadowed and Predicted in the Old Testament Scriptures.
Throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, God announced beforehand the work of His Son. This is a great theme and one which needs to be emphasized. These foreshadowings and predictions were made in different ways. First we might mention the appearance from time to time on earth of a supernatural Being. This Being was the Son of God. As soon as sin had entered, He appeared on the scene seeking those who were lost. He Himself announced the promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. He indicated in Genesis 3:15, His incarnation, His redemptive work on the cross and His final victory over the enemy of God. Then He covered the nakedness of His creatures by making them coats of skin. For the first time in the Word of God, it was made known by this act what the blessed fruit of His atoning work would be.
Manifestations of Jehovah
And the same Jehovah appeared in visible form unto Abraham. He came as traveler accompanied by two angels. He ate in the presence of Abraham, who worshipped and addressed Him as Lord. This Being was none other than the Son of God, the same who after His resurrection appeared to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus as a traveler, and who, at another occasion, ate of a honeycomb and a piece of fish. In His presence Abraham interceded. This Lord, who visited Abraham later, made fire and brimstone fall from heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah; He executed judgment. He appeared unto Jacob and was the mysterious man who wrestled with him at Peniel; later Jacob called Him "The Angel, the Redeemer." Repeatedly we hear of Him as "The Angel of the Lord," not a created angel, but an uncreated Being. Moses saw Him in the burning bush, and heard His voice. And while He is spoken of as the angel of the Lord, He revealed Himself as Jehovah and made this Name known to Moses. He was with Israel in the wilderness and dwelled with them in the Glory cloud. He guided them, supplied their need, protected them, judged them and overthrew their enemies. To Joshua He appeared and manifested Himself as "The captain over the Lord's hosts." Manoah and his wife saw Him, and witnessed His ascension into heaven, in the smoke and fire of the sacrifice. Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel gazed upon His Glory. All these were but foreshadowings and glimpses of the two great manifestations of the Son of God on earth, as they are necessitated by His work, His manifestation in humiliation and His manifestation in power and glory.
Other Foreshadowings of His Work.
But there are other foreshadowings of His work. All the divinely given institutions and many of the historical events recorded in the Old Testament foreshadow His work. History, as recorded in the Old Testament, is the preliminary history of the incarnation. The whole sacrificial system of the levitical priesthood told out beforehand, in many ways, what the great redemptive work of the Lamb of God was to be. Each offering and sacrifice revealed the different phases of His work on the cross, as well as His holy and spotless humanity. The sufferings of Christ and their meaning for lost sinners were thus made known. From Abel's lamb to the last lamb, which died before the true Lamb of God uttered the never to be forgotten words on the cross, "It is finished," the thousands of lambs and bulls and goats, the innumerable herds of animals slain, were all types of the one great sacrifice, brought on Calvary's cross. The tabernacle in all its appointments, down to the minutest details, had some meaning in connection with the Person of Him who is "Wonderful" and His wonderful work. And what else could we say of the historical events, such as the Passover, the passage through the Red Sea, the brazen serpent hung up in the wilderness. And to this we might add how men in their experiences, like Isaac, Joseph, David and others foreshadowed the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.
Still more numerous are the direct prophecies announcing the different phases of the work of Christ. That He should appear as man, how and where He should be born, His life, His service, His miracles, all was repeatedly foretold by the Prophets. But the great mass of predictions concern His sufferings as the sin-bearer and His glories as the King. None of the details of His sufferings were omitted. Think, for instance, of the predictions contained in the 22 Psalm. Death by crucifixion was unknown among the Jewish people. No nation in touch with Israel, living at that time, put human beings to death in that way. It was reserved for cruel Rome to invent death by crucifixion. Yet in this Psalm there is given by divine inspiration a complete picture of that unknown mode of death by crucifixion. We read of His hands and feet pierced, the bones out of joint, the excessive thirst, the tongue cleaving to the jaws. And so we find His resurrection, His presence with God, His coming again and His Kingdom of Righteousness and Glory foretold in the Prophets.
The Inspiration of the Old Testament.
We emphasize these facts of divine foreshadowing and prediction, because in these last days thousands of men have arisen throughout Christendom who boldly deny the inspiration of the Old Testament. They would have us believe that all these wonderful predictions are of human origin. They brand nearly everything as legend, and declare that there are no Messianic predictions in the Bible, that God did not speak to the Prophets concerning His Son and His work. Such a denial of the revelation of God in the Old Testament Scriptures is but the vanguard of the denial of the Son of God and His work. "Denying the Lord that bought them" (2 Peter 2:1), is the leading phase of apostate Christendom in the last days. It is Anti-christianity. This denial is preceded by a denial of the written Word of God. The higher criticism, so called, is Satan's leaven which leavens the theological institutions of Christendom and is fully preparing an empty Christian profession for the reception of the Man of Sin. To believe that these marvelous, harmonious predictions and foreshadowings contained in the Old Testament are the productions of clever men, legends put together by evil men, who claimed to have received them from God, is far more difficult than to believe that they are given by divine revelation.
II. The Incarnation of the Son of God.
And now let us turn to the great truth and fact of the Incarnation of the Son of God. When the fullness of time had come, that is the appointed time, the Son of God appeared on earth in the form of man. The Word which was in the beginning, the Word that was with the Father, the Word that was God, the Word by whom all things were made, that Word was made flesh and dwelt on earth. He who subsisted in the form of God, emptied Himself and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.
The incarnation is a deep mystery, the depths of which human reason can never fathom. We must approach it in the spirit of deep reverence. Take off thy shoes from thy feet for the ground whereon thou standest is holy ground! In the first chapter in the Gospel of Luke, we have the record of the divine announcement of the incarnation as it was made to the virgin, who had found favor in the sight of God. As she sat in the house, perhaps engaged in holy meditation, the angel Gabriel appeared unto her with the message from the throne of God. Was there ever such a message given to Gabriel before? Great as the revelation was which he was commissioned to carry to praying Daniel, the communication to the Virgin Mary here is far greater.
The Incarnation Announced.
We read in Luke 1:35: "And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." Let us notice the two great statements given about His incarnation. "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee." From the Gospel of Matthew we learn the full meaning of this statement. "That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." Therefore His human nature was produced in the virgin by the creative action of the Holy Spirit. Because His human nature was thus produced, it was a nature without sin; not only did He not sin, but He could not sin. He was sinless, absolutely holy, because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
The second statement is: "And the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee." This is not a repetition of the same truth as contained in the first statement. If this too would mean the Holy Spirit, we would have to conclude that the Holy Spirit is the Father of Him who became incarnate. We read at once after this second statement, "Therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." The power of the Highest does not mean the power of the Holy Spirit. It is none other than the Son of God Himself. The eternal Son of God, He who is God, overshadowed her and this overshadowing meant the union of Himself with the human nature created by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary.
He is called "that Holy Thing." He is something entirely new, a Being which cannot be classified. And then we read again, "That Holy Thing shall be called the Son of God." It does not say "shall be the Son of God;" such He ever was. Incarnation did not make Him Son of God. He shall be called Son of God; God manifested in the flesh.
Much time could be spent in adding to these remarks, or in reviewing the different attempts which have been made to explain the great mystery. We might also enumerate all the evil teachings and theories which are the results of attempted explanations. But all this would be but waste of time. No human mind can fathom the depths of the incarnation, nor fully grasp the wonderful personality of the God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. Far better it is to abide by these simple declarations of the Word of God, than to enter into speculations, which can never solve this great mystery.
A certain American statesman was once asked, "Can you comprehend how Jesus Christ could be both God and Man?" The great thinker replied, "No, sir; I cannot. And I would be ashamed to acknowledge Him as my Saviour if I could, for then He would not be greater than myself."
This is very true indeed. With joyful and grateful hearts we believe the great revelation given to us in God's holy Word, that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son and that the Son of God left Heaven's Glory and came to this earth. He emptied Himself and appeared in the form of the creature. This, however, does not mean what an evil theory, by the name of "Kenosis," teaches, that He emptied Himself of His Godhead. He emptied Himself of His outward Glory. The child which rested on the bosom of Mary is the One, who ever was in the bosom of the Father. Listen once more to the language of the 22 Psalm. "I was cast upon thee from the womb: Thou art my God from my mother's belly. Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts." What mere human child could have ever said this truthfully? Nor is this the language of a poet. The child born in Bethlehem alone could speak thus.
The Foundation of the Gospel.
The incarnation is the great foundation of the whole Gospel. No incarnation means no Gospel, no Hope and no God. The person who denies this truth has no right whatever to the name of Christian. At no time has the denial of this great foundation truth been so pronounced and wide-spread as in our times. Men believing themselves wise, in possession of greater knowledge than former generations, turn their backs upon revelation. The miracle, including the incarnation, is denied. And this denial is not from the side of outspoken infidels alone, but those who profess to be teachers of Christianity are the foremost leaders in it. We mention Reginald Campbell and his followers in the so-called "New Theology." And the hundreds of evangelical preachers, who wished this man Godspeed during his recent visit to America, who passed resolutions of thanks, after listening to his subtle infidelity, are, in the light of 2 John 10, partakers of his sin. And then there is that Anti-christian system, known by the name of Christian Science. In its so-called philosophical, in reality, satanic utterances, it opposes the revelation of God and denies that Jesus Christ is come into the flesh. That evil book, "Science and Health," to which we readily accord inspiration, not from above, but from below, teaches "The Virgin Mary conceived the idea of God and gave to her ideal the name of Jesus;" and again "Jesus was the offspring of Mary's self-communion with God."
It is a comfort to believers in these evil days to remember, that such a rejection of the doctrine of Christ, His Person and His work, is predicted in the Bible to take place immediately before the Lord comes. The end of the age is upon us. These denials will not decrease, but become more numerous.
The Purpose of the Incarnation.
And what was the purpose of the incarnation? By incarnation the invisible God was made known to man. The Lord Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God. No man hath seen God at any time, the only Begotten, who is in the bosom of the Father, hath declared Him. As One with the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ could say, "he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father."
The attributes of God were made known by Him in incarnation. We behold the holiness of God in that holy life, which was lived on earth to glorify the Father. He manifested omniscience. He knew what was in men and knew their thoughts. He manifested the power of God in controlling the forces of nature, commanding the wind and the waves, turning water into wine. He had power over disease, over the demons and over death. He revealed the love and the compassion of God.
By incarnation the Son of God brought likewise the Word of God to man. "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the Prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son" (Hebrews 1:1,2). He confirmed the Law and the Prophets, therefore all criticism of the Old Testament attacks the authority and infallibility of the Son of God. He also revealed the will of God, made known the Father and the fact of eternal life, and the eternal and conscious punishment of the wicked. He predicted the great future events concerning Himself and His Kingdom, the end of the age and His visible Return.
The incarnation was necessary in anticipation of His work as the Priest of His people. He was to be after His death on the cross and after resurrection, the merciful and faithful High Priest. Such He is now. He took part of flesh and blood, we read in the second chapter of Hebrews, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest. He was tempted in all things as we are, with the exception of sin. He suffered in being tempted so that He might be touched with the feeling of our infirmities and succour them that are tempted. And all He was to be and is now, the Second Man, the last Adam, the head of the church, the head of the new creation, all and much else necessitated His incarnation.
What Incarnation Could Not Accomplish.
However, the great purpose of the incarnation of the Son of God was His work of redemption. For this great purpose He came into the world. He came that, after a life, which completely glorified the Father and upheld His holy law and vindicated God's rights as the lawgiver, He might accomplish the great work of atonement. John stated this great work the Son of God came to do in a brief sentence. "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." Sin, that accursed thing, had to be taken out of the way. Propitiation for sins had to be made. A sacrifice had to be brought which would glorify a holy God and satisfy, as well as exalt, His righteousness. Peace had to be made. The sins of many had to be paid and the full penalty of them to be borne.
Incarnation in itself, the marvelous and ever blessed humiliation of the Son of God by taking on the human form, His holy blessed life, His loving words, words of life and peace, yea, all He did in deeds of love and compassion could never accomplish this. Incarnation brought God to Man, but could never bring man back to a holy God. Incarnation could not make an end of sin, nor make it possible for a righteous God to show mercy to the fallen and the lost, in a righteous way. This great work of redemption could only be accomplished by His death on the cross. For this He had come. He came to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. The Author and Prince of Life came that He might give His Life a ransom for many. The good Shepherd appeared to give His life for the sheep. By His death alone, the great work of redemption could be accomplished.
III. His Work on the Cross and What Has Been Accomplished by It.
And now let us consider His work on the cross and what has been accomplished by it. But who is able to speak worthily of this theme of all themes? Who can fathom the solemn yet blessed fact, the death of the Son of God on the cross? What tongue or pen can describe the sad, yet glorious truth, that the Just One died for the unjust, that Christ died for the ungodly! He who knew no sin was made sin for us! And what human mind can estimate the wonderful results of His work on the cross!
Some Christians speak as if the death on the cross, the work accomplished there, is so fully known to them, that they do not need any more instruction on it. They tell us that they search for deeper things. There can be nothing deeper than the death of God's Son on the cross. Depths are here which are unfathomable. We must ever turn back to the cross. Always we shall learn something new. With unspeakable Glory upon us and greater glory before us in eternal ages to come, the cross of Christ and the Lamb of God which has taken away the sin of the world can never be forgotten. But we shall never know what that death on the cross meant for Him and what it meant to God.
Made Sin for Us.
In Hebrews 10 we read of the sacrifices which were offered by the Jews year after year. These sacrifices could not take away sin. Then He, the Son of God, stepped forward and made His great declaration. Coming into the world He saith, "Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure" (verses 5-6). The body prepared puts before us again the fact of incarnation. That body was a prepared body, a holy body, an undefiled body, a body in which sin could not dwell and on which death had no claim. But when He took on that body, He likewise said: "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God." In the tenth verse we read, "By the which will [the will of God, which dates back before the foundation of the world], we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Through the eternal Spirit He offered Himself without spot to God. The holy Lamb of God, with no spot or blemish upon Him, shed His precious blood on the cross, to procure redemption. But what it all meant for Him who was as truly Man as He is God! Here was a Being perfectly holy, One who had always pleased God and did His will, yea, His meat and drink was to do the will of Him that sent Him. Sin was the horrible defiling thing to Him. He, too, like the holy God, hated and hates sin. And yet such a One was made sin for us. He had to stand in the place of guilty sinners and all the waves and billows of divine judgment and wrath had to pass over Him. He drank the cup of wrath to the last drop.
He suffered in a fourfold way:
1. In Himself. Before He ever approached the garden of Gethsemane, He was troubled in His spirit. We hear Him say, "Now is my soul troubled ... Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour" (John 12:27). He looked on towards the cross. And why that agony in the garden? Why was His sweat as it were great drops of blood? Why the repeated prayer, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me?" How many dishonoring explanations have been written of the Gethsemane suffering, as if He was afraid to die or that the devil tried to kill Him there to prevent His death on the cross, and that He feared the devil. But what was it? He suffered in Himself. His holy soul shrank back from that which a holy God must hate, that which He hated -- SIN. He was about to be made sin and He knew no sin. What suffering this produced in the Holy One of God to take all upon Himself and to stand in the sinner's place before a holy sin-hating God, our poor finite minds cannot realize.
2. He suffered from men. This he had foretold. When man, guilty man, cast himself upon the willing victim, all the wickedness and vileness and cruelty man is capable of committing was brought out and spent upon the blessed Son of God. The scourging, the buffeting, the mocking, the spitting and the shame connected with it, the shame of the cross, He despised. How that sensitive body must have quivered under it all!
3. He suffered from the devil. He had tempted Him. Nothing was left undone, what this being could do. All his cunning and powers were brought into use, with the one purpose to keep Him from going to the cross and dying in the sinner's place. And when at last he could not keep Him from going to the cross, then he cast himself upon the victim and heaped all his hatred and malice upon Him. He used man in all this awful work and no doubt the legions of demons. And in all this the Son of God was as a lamb, which is dumb before the shearers. He opened not His mouth.
4. But the greatest of all, He suffered from God. With hushed breath, we must speak of this. It is the Holy of Holies of the great work on the cross; the impenetrable mystery of the atoning work of the Son of God. From the darkness which enshrouded the cross and the blessed sufferer on the accursed tree, there came the mournful cry: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" It made known the awful suffering, which the Lamb of God, the substitute of sinners, endured from the hand of a holy God. He was smitten and afflicted of God. Have you noticed that in the 22 Psalm this cry of the sufferer on the cross stands first? Man would have written the sufferings of Christ in a far different way. The descriptions of the sufferings not written by inspiration would have been in this wise: The physical sufferings, how they scourged Him, all the sickening details of that which even cruel Rome called the intermediate death, would have been pictured. Then would have followed a description of how the nails were driven into the blessed hands who had lovingly touched so many weary, sin-laden and disease-stricken bodies. All the agony of the cross and its shame would have been described first by man. Then how the multitude mocked and darkness came over the entire scene, then last of all, it would have been stated, He cried, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me? But the Holy Spirit in this great Prophecy puts the cry of deepest agony first. Why? Because in that hour the great work of atonement, propitiation, sin-bearing, judgment and wrath enduring, was once and for all accomplished. In this same Psalm we read what men energized by Satan's power, did unto Him. But man could not put Him to death. It is written, "Thou [that is God] hast brought me into the dust of death." God's own hand rested upon Him. "The LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). "It pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief" (Isaiah 53:10). And elsewhere we read, what refers to the same atoning work of our Lord when He stood in the sinner's place.
"All Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over me" (Ps. 42:7).
"Thine arrows stick fast in me" (Ps. 38:2).
"Thy hand presseth me sore" (Ps. 38:2).
"Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit" (Ps. 88:6).
"Thy wrath lieth hard upon me" (Ps. 88:7).
"Thy fierce wrath goeth over me" (Ps. 88:16).
"I suffer Thy terrors" (Ps. 88:15).
But what it all meant for the Son of God! Who can tell out His sorrow and deep affliction? Never shall we fully discover the greatness of the price which was paid. The death of the cross, it has been truly said, stands perfectly alone. It can never be repeated and because of its eternal efficacy, will never need to be repeated.
It Is Finished.
And this great work He came to do, is finished. "It is finished!" thus He spoke on the cross and the words assure us that all is done. The rent veil and the open tomb tell us "It is finished." But what has been accomplished in this blessed work? We cannot fully grasp it now as long as we look into a glass darkly. When at last we are brought into His Presence, transformed into His own image, when we shall have share with Him in His glorious inheritance, when at last sin and death are no more and a new heaven and new earth are called into existence, then shall we more fully know what that work has accomplished. All, ALL we have and are, all we shall have and shall be as His own, has its blessed source in the cross of Christ. He died for all. He gave Himself a ransom for all. He tasted death for every man. He is the propitiation for the whole world (not for the sins of the whole world, else the whole world would be saved). It means His work is available to all sinners. Upon that fact that He died for all, the Gospel is preached to lost and guilty sinners. Christ died for the ungodly. "Whosoever will" -- "Whosoever believeth," these are the precious conditions of the Gospel of Grace which sound forth from the finished work of Christ on the cross. And all who believe on Him and accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour, for them He bore their sins on the cross. Each believing sinner can look back to the cross and can say, He "loved me, and gave Himself for me." He paid my debt. He bore my sins in His own body on the tree. He stood in my place. He was my substitute. He tasted death for me.
Much of the evil teachings of the present day, such as universal salvation, larger hope, millennial dawnism, etc., emanate from the fact that propitiation and substitution are not correctly understood. Propitiation is the Godward side of the sacrifice of Christ, with this God is satisfied. The propitiation is for the whole world. This does not mean that the whole world is therefore to be saved. He bore the sins of many -- not the sins of all. He was the substitute on the cross only for such who believe on Him.
And what do we possess who have believed on Him, own Him as our Saviour and our Substitute? Many Scriptures might be read in answer to this question. We cannot do so, but shall mention briefly a few things which all believing sinners share on account of the finished work of Christ on the cross.
We have a perfect justification. All our sins are forever put away, because they were borne and paid for by His death on the cross. The Blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin. All has been righteously and forever settled. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God who justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died" (Rom. 8:33-34). "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1).
We have perfect Peace with God. Peace has been made in the blood of the cross. It can never be unmade. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Peace. So many Christians think their peace with God depends on their walk and service. If they sin, they think they have lost their peace and their standing before God and unless they are restored, they will be lost forever. Not our walk and service, not anything we have done, we do or shall do, is the ground of peace with God, but what God has done for us in Christ's atoning work on the cross.
Then we have a perfect acceptance and standing before God; perfect nearness and access to God. We are made nigh by the blood. With no more conscience of sins, we can stand in God's own presence, purged and cleansed, complete in Him, as near to God as He is.
His blessed work on the cross has made an end of the old man. We are dead to the world, to self, to sin, to the law. The old man was crucified with Christ. "sin shall not have dominion over you" (Rom. 6:14). This is the blessed message from the cross. We have deliverance from the power of darkness and a perfect title to an eternal inheritance. No uncertainty is attached to all this. We have salvation, are saved, forever secure, Sons of God, Heirs of God indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and much else, on account of the finished work of Christ on the cross.
And to all this we add that on the cross He loved the church and gave Himself for it. There He died for Israel and as a result the remnant of that people will some day be delivered from iniquity and perverseness, as Balaam beheld them, no iniquity in Jacob and no perverseness in Israel (Numbers 23:21). Groaning creation will ultimately be freed from the bondage of corruption and brought into the liberty of the sons of God, because He shed His blood on the cross. All things in heaven and on the earth (not things under the earth) will be reconciled in virtue of the death of Christ on the cross.
Ye Are Not Your Own.
Let us remember as such who have been reconciled and have redemption through His blood that we are bought with a price. Ye are not your own. "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:20). Through His death we are positionally dead; all who believe on Him have died. We are dead to the law, to the world, to sin. But are we truly living, walking and acting as such who have died, dead to sin and alive unto God? A child of God who walks after the flesh practically denies the power and value of the blessed finished work of Christ on the cross.
Let us exalt in our lives, by our words and deeds, the cross of Christ. "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14).
The Work of Christ: Past, Present and Future by A. C. Gaebelein. New York: Publication Office "Our Hope", ©1913.