The Baptist Pillar © Brandon Bible Baptist Church 1992-Present www.baptistpillar.com
"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
From The Baptist Pulpit, 1850. Joseph Belcher, Editor
It was necessary that Christ should die, because the maladies of men could not be cured by less effective means. The object of God in the plan of Redemption was doubtless the salvation of sinners. In devising the means by which the object could be attained, he would no doubt adopt such as would meet the case. The difficulties, as well as the nature of the means, would be considered.
When disorders are deeply-seated and violent in their nature, they require powerful remedies, but when they are slight and easily cured, less solicitude is felt. If man had been only partially disordered, some slight remedies might have answered the purpose; but such is his disorder, that no such remedies would reach the seat of the evil. The disorder of sin is seated in the heart. By the apostasy of our first parents, all their posterity was tainted with sin, for they communicated to them a love for the evil.
In consequence of this, all the generations of men before Christ were disposed to pursue sin, and did pursue it. The world was full of violence. Guilt, as is always the case, was the concomitant, so that every individual became hardened with the guilt of his own sins. The law of sin, which was natural to man, discovered itself in innumerable ways; it produced all the crimes which were committed against God and man. The world in general and all the individuals composing it were deeply involved. The evil inflicted by the fiery serpents on the Israelites was but a faint emblem of the evil of sin.
In order to the restoration of man to holiness and the favor of God, powerful means were necessary; those of a different description could never accomplish the end. This is evident from experience. Innumerable laws have been framed to stop the current of human depravity, but it bursts over all barriers, and carries everything before it.
Human inducements have been held up to men to keep them from committing crimes, but they also prove ineffectual. Innumerable ways have been devised to remove human guilt, but alas, how unavailing have they been! All the superstitious rites which men have observed, in different ages and countries, are designed to propitiate the favor of the Deity. But these are all without effect.
The all-important question still returns, "How can man be just with God?" Now the exhibition of Christ is the only remedy which has been found of sufficient efficacy to remove the love and guilt of sin. In order, therefore, to make men holy, and deliver them from death, Christ must be crucified. As this was an important object with God, his death became necessary. The death of Christ removes the love of sin, by procuring the Holy Spirit, by whose influences men are made new creatures.
Without such influence, men would forever remain at variance with God and holiness, and of course under the dominion of sin. But by these influences an immense multitude of the human family have been effectually cured of the evil of sin, made completely holy, and so prepared in this respect for the enjoyment and business of heaven. By the agency of the Holy Spirit, men are made to believe in Christ, and so to become heirs of eternal life.
Nor is the death of Christ less effectual in removing the guilt of sin than its dominion. Indeed, in this respect it has a more direct influence. In the Scriptures, all other means are represented as being unable to wash away sin; but this is represented as effectual. The blood of Christ cleanseth from it, is the repeated doctrine of revelation. This effect is produced by believing on Christ; the moment faith is exercised in his atonement, sin is taken away. There may not be at the time an exact view or feeling of it, but the effect is nevertheless produced.
No sinner is ever savingly benefited by the sacrifice of Christ without faith in him, but everyone who does believe will be saved. This is the only way in which the sinner can be delivered from death, and received to heaven.
This last reason why it was necessary that Christ should be crucified will be rendered more clear by adverting again to the brazen serpent. When an Israelite had received a wound from one of the fiery serpents, he could not expect healing without a view of the brazen serpent, and his looking at that implied an acquiescence in the appointed method of cure, and faith in it; so the sinner's looking to Christ implies the same. When the wounded Israelite looked at the serpent on the pole, he immediately lived, that is, he felt his disorder abate, and assurance of a cure.
So when a sinner looks to Christ, however deep his stains of sin may be, he will find relief. If the serpent had not been erected for the people to look at, all bitten must have died; so had not Christ been slain for the sins of men, all the human race must have perished.
We see, therefore, the propriety of the text: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life."