‘In which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.’
There are three points in connection with the Scriptural representation of the doctrine of the Atonement which must be kept constantly in mind.
I. The Atonement is the work of the whole Trinity, and the sacrifice of the Cross is offered to the whole Trinity. ‘God,’ writes St. Paul to his Greek converts, ‘was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses.’ There can surely be no place in Christian theology for what really postulates division of sentiment in the mind of the Divine Unity. We dare not think of the Son as more compassionate than the Father, or of the Father as more moved by indignation than the Son.
II. He Who is ‘perfect God’ was manifested as ‘perfect Man.’—In Him all humanity was gathered together—a consummation possible through His birth of the Virgin Mary. Accordingly it may be said that in a sense humanity suffered in His sufferings and was crucified upon His Cross. Though we cannot exclude the vicarious element, yet the view which gives exclusive force to that element falls short even of that measure of the truth to which our intellectual and spiritual faculties may attain. It fails to take into sufficient account the dominant significance of the Incarnation. ‘Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; He Who was manifested in the flesh.’ The Divine Word took upon Himself our nature in its totality. His life was the summing up of all creation in one fitly prepared Body. He did not therefore merely occupy our position. The solidarity of life which had for a while been man’s curse was by the infinite love transfigured into an eternal blessing.
III. There is the power of Christ’s perfect obedience.—‘Lo! I am come to do Thy will.’ He offers a ministry of absolute righteousness. Throughout His life He was untainted with sin. Neither the ordinary temptations of weak and erring men, nor those special spiritual trials which His supreme calling brought with it—those trials which came to Him first of all during the forty days in the wilderness, but which we are told were suspended, not abandoned—were able to impair the infinite value of that oblation. ‘Which if you convicteth Me of sin?’ is His own challenge. ‘One that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,’ is the witness of this Epistle. There is no denial implied of growth and development; neither does reverence require that we should weaken the power and meaning of those experiences which He endured.
Rev. the Hon. W. E. Bowen.
‘Some may remember the splendid lines of John Newton, one of the religious poets of the eighteenth century, who after being employed in the African slave trade and given over to profligacy, was in time brought to a sense of the depth of his sinfulness. In them he describes—the simplicity and sincerity of the lines bear witness to their autobiographical character—how the conception of the self-sacrifice of Christ as offered for him personally had sobered and changed him.’