Secret Service Theologian


"Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." John 15:3

IN the preceding chapters there are passages which may lead someone to ask despairingly whether a sinner’s pardon depends on his mastering the theology of the Gospel as there unfolded. And the question claims an answer. "The Word was with God, and the Word was God,…and without Him was not anything made that was made." We cannot think too highly of the glorious Majesty of Him who was "the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." And yet, during His ministry on earth, He was within reach of the poorest and the worst of men, and "as many as touched Him were made perfectly whole." So in the type, "two sparrows," to be had for a farthing, were the leper’s appointed offering. (Leviticus 14:4 (marg.) Our salvation depends on the Lord Jesus Christ; not on the measure of our appreciation of Him. The slenderest wire, may suffice to convey the current which floods our room with light. Not that there is any light in the wire itself. There is no merit in faith; yet the faith which, as it were, but touches the hem of His garment "makes the connection" which brings Divine light into the soul.

The farthing offering availed to introduce the outcast leper into the citizenship of the camp of Israel; but much more than this was expected of him as a citizen. He was then to bring all the great offerings of the law, every one of which typified some special aspect of the work of Christ. While "a farthing Gospel" will bring forgiveness, and make the sinner nigh, grace has failed of its due effect on him, if, as forgiven and made nigh, he is content with this. His new blessedness will create new desires and needs which Christ in all His fullness alone can satisfy.

In the seventh verse of Leviticus 14 the leper is pronounced clean, and yet in the next and following verses he is spoken of as "he that is to be cleansed." But there is no inconsistency in this. It is analogous to the completion of the Passover redemption by the burnt-offering of the covenant analogous to the double cleansing of 1 John 1:7 and 9.

Indeed there is a third cleansing here (verse 8); and it claims prominent notice. The offering gave ceremonial cleansing, but practical cleanness also was required. The leper was to wash himself. Washing by blood was one of the rites of pagan cults which had such a sinister influence upon the Church of the Fathers; but in Scripture - Old Testament and New, alike - washing is only and always by water, and its significance is only and always practical clearing ourselves from evil. Revelation 1:5, and 7:14 may seem to clash with this; but in the one passage the right reading is "loosed us from our sins." And in the other, right reading is popularly misread. It is "they washed their robes, and they made them white in the blood of the Lamb." The "righteous acts" of the saints are the fine linen of their robes. (Revelation 19:8, R. V.) But apart from Christ "all our righteousnesses (or righteous acts) are filthy rags." It is the blood that sanctifies which alone can make them "clean and white."

So in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul, after enumerating the sins and vices of their former life, adds words which our English versions, misunderstanding their symbolic meaning, have misread. "But," he writes, "you washed yourselves, but you were sanctified, but you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God."

And mark where the washing came in the ritual of the leper’s cleansing. It was before his admission to the camp, but after the offering of the birds, after the sprinkling of the blood, and after the priest had pronounced him clean. Here is a great truth which men will not have, though God enforces it in ways unnumbered. There can be no recognition of good works or of amendment of life, and no citizenship with the saints, until after the sinner has, as a sinner, accepted Christ.

At this point the teaching of the type is of the highest practical importance. The Gospel is sometimes presented in such a way as to convey the impression that a cleansed life is of no account, and that Christ will receive sinners on their own terms. Others, again, in ignorance of grace, plainly assert that sinners must turn from the practice of their sins before they come to Him. But indulgence in sinful practices so degrades a man that after a time all power of recovery is gone. The drunkard, for example, will turn to the bottle, and the impure to his immoralities, no matter what the consequences. And is there no salvation for such. Most assuredly there is. If a man says, "I will not give up my sins," then indeed we must act as Moses did in the case of the sinner who "blasphemed the Name" - we must turn away and wait upon God. But to the poor wretch who says, "I cannot," it is our high privilege and duty to tell of a Saviour who is "mighty to save"

Just as there was cleansing for a leper as a leper, so there is salvation for a drunkard as a drunkard, for the sensualist as a sensualist. To make it a condition of pardon that men shall first extricate themselves from the horrible pit and the miry clay, is to deny grace altogether. It is utterly false. We cannot exaggerate the grace of God. But while the true minister of Christ, will preach a Gospel that will reach the lost sinner, no matter how far he is gone in sin, he will enjoin upon the believing sinner to "wash himself," nor will he forget about the sin-offering, and the burnt-offering, and the meat-offering.

The leper, as we have seen, experienced a twofold cleansing by blood. The blood of the dead bird was sprinkled upon him, and afterwards the blood of the trespass offering was placed upon his head and hand and foot, sanctifying every part of his person. And then, upon the blood, was put the anointing oil. (Leviticus 14:18.) This foreshadows the theology of the New Testament. Christ is made to the sinner both justification and sanctification - the sinner is justified by blood and sanctified by blood - and this full redemption is inseparable from the Spirit’s work. But Christ is first. The oil was put upon the blood, not the blood upon the oil. It is idle for the sinner to claim the Spirit’s presence or influence until, as a sinner, he comes to Christ. The witness of the Spirit to sonship is only for the believer. His witness to the person and work of Christ is for every sinner who, as a sinner, hears "the word of the truth of the Gospel." What a costly and elaborate ritual it was! "Two he-lambs without blemish, and one ewe-lamb of the first year without blemish, and three tenths deals of flour, and one log of oil." (Leviticus 14:10.) I have already sought to quiet the fears of some poor outsider coming to the Cross and here, perchance, some earnest, true-hearted believer may shrink back dismayed, exclaiming, "All this is above me! I can’t rise to it, I am too poor." For such I would emphasize the words that follow -"And if he be poor, and cannot get so much," the chapter goes on to say, then let him bring one lamb and a pair of pigeons. And even this is qualified by the added words "Such as he, can get - even such as he is able to get." (Leviticus 14:21, 30, 31.) How infinite the kindness and love-toward-man of our Savior God"! (Titus 3:4.)

I heard a story long ago of a poor, half-witted creature, known to everybody in a certain town as "Silly Billy," a harmless wight and devout, withal in his own simple way. One day he was found in a conclave where "the wise and prudent" were discussing the doctrine of the Trinity, and to the amusement of some, he appeared to be taking notes. In a bantering way they asked to see his "notes"; and on the scrap of paper he produced, they found these words: -
"This can Silly Billy see,
Three in One and One in Three,
And One of them has died for me."

Here was the poor fellow’s creed - his "such as he was able to get." And his "two mites that make a farthing" were possibly more acceptable to God than the seeming abundance of some of the wise and prudent. For with God the test is,
"According to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not." (2 Corinthians 8:12.)
But there must be "first the willing mind." For "God is not mocked." His grace is infinite to the humble and contrite, and to such as tremble at His Word. But ignorance begotten of indolence and willful neglect of His Word, grace will not condone. And ignorance due to sheer contempt of His Word, calls only for judgment. If these Books of Moses, God-given as a picture alphabet of the language in which the full revelation of Christianity is written, are despised as a farrago of old-word legends and priestly frauds, what room can there be for grace "Fools and blind" were epithets which the Lord reserved for men who, while boasting of superior enlightenment, were leading others into the ditch. For the poor and needy, the erring and the weak, he had infinite compassion.

In closing, I would notice that while the ritual for the leper’s cleansing was an eight days’ business, the Gospel brings fullness of blessing to the sinner on believing. This is one of the characteristic differences between law and grace. And, further, that the value of these ordinances as key-pictures of Christian truth, is greatly enhanced just because the several steps are so definitely marked. We are thus taught to seek, in the great reality of the redemption that is ours in Christ, for the fulfillment of every part. And though there is no chronological sequence in the believer’s reception of these benefits, for all that Christ is to the sinner becomes his when he receives Him, there is none the less a moral order, as the teaching of the types so plainly indicates. And the ignoring of this has led not only to error but to strife. As we have already seen, the sin-offering does not precede, but follows the redemption sacrifices; and so in the law of the leper’s cleansing, it comes after his restoration to the camp.
Go To Chapter Seven

Literature | Photos | Links | Home