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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
William Cathcart, D.D.
From The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881
The atonement is a transfer of our guilt to Jesus. This doctrine is strikingly foreshadowed by the Jewish scapegoat. Of it Moses says, "And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness; and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited; and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness." Lev. 16: 21, 22
The blood of the goat was not spilled, no blow was inflicted upon it; but the sins of the children of Israel were typically placed upon it to prefigure the transfer of our sins to the Son of God. In the case of the scapegoat the transfer was figurative, in the Saviour's, it was literal. "He was numbered with the transgressors, and he bare the sin of many." Isa. 53:12
"The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Isa. 53:6
"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might he made the righteousness of God in him." 2 Cor. 5:21
Paul shows that he means the actual transfer of our guilt to Christ by saying, "Who knew no sin,"—that is, of his own; he was made sin, he says, by reckoning our sins to him, not by any sins which he committed.
The word translated sin cannot mean a sin-offering in this text, for it is contrasted with righteousness. If the one is a sin-offering the other must be a righteousness-offering; but the word translated righteousness has no such meaning. And sin, not a sin-offering, must be the sense of the word in this connection. This is the common use of the word elsewhere. Men may put forth as many philosophical pleas as their ingenuity can furnish, but according to Paul the sins of the whole saved family were reckoned to—transferred to Jesus.
The atonement is a transfer of our pains to Jesus. The entire sufferings demanded by our sins were inflicted upon the Saviour. Isaiah 53:5, says, "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." Here he suffers the innocent for the guilty; he takes our wounds, our bruises, and the chastisement of our peace; and his stripes give perfect healing to the soul; "the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, shed by the transferred pains of the believing family, cleanses us from all sin."
Christ lived and died as the proper substitute of his people; so that his acts were theirs, and all his pains. This doctrine is foreshadowed by the death of the paschal lamb, and all the sacrifices of the Law of Moses; and it is presented in all its fullness by the dread scenes of Calvary.
As Peter says in his First Epistle, 3:18, "For Christ also bath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." The believer has lost his sins and pains eternally in the death of his loving Lord.
The design of the atonement was to satisfy the mercy of God. The heart of God is a fountain of love continually overflowing, and nothing can keep in its bursting streams. To gratify this irresistible affection of Jehovah Jesus became a man and endured our pains, and our death; and now "God is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself not imputing their trespasses unto them." He is busy by his Spirit removing the blind hatred to himself of human hearts, that his love in the crucified Lamb might bring multitudes to trust and love him.
The atonement was also intended to meet the demands of God's law. It complies with these perfectly. In the obedience and death of Christ the precepts of the law have been fulfilled and its penalties have been endured, and he is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth." Rom. 10:4. That is, he is its completion, its fulfillment; and when a soul trusts the Saviour the law justifies him and gives him the righteousness which Christ acquired when ho obeyed its precepts and suffered its penalties. "Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe." Rom. 3:22
Moreover, the law demanded for God supreme love from men, and a holy life. And when the Spirit changes a human heart, and gives the faith which secures the forgiveness of God in the soul, the happy recipient is melted in adoring gratitude before the Redeemer, and his heart looks up to God while it says, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee." And the spirit of grace leads him into the holy dispositions and practices enjoined by the pure law of Jehovah.
The atonement transfers our sins and pains to Christ our substitute, and by faith in Jesus it opens up to the soul a channel through which God's pardoning love may reach and rejoice it, and by which the Spirit's sanctifying grace may purify the heart, and fit it for the everlasting rest.