The other Apostolic Writings.
THERE are but three other books which require now some
attention before we close our consideration of Scripture texts. They are the
first epistles of Peter and John, and the book of Revelation.
We must not expect to find here the full development or application of atonement which Paul had especially in his commission to make known. The truth of it is everywhere insisted on, however, in due connection with the peculiar theme of each book.
The theme of Peters epistle is the path through the world of those who, as partakers of the heavenly calling, are strangers and pilgrims in it. Addressed to the believers among the Jews of the dispersion, he brings out the contrast between their Jewish hopes and those to which they had been now begotten by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Already they had received the salvation of their souls, being redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, and born again of the incorruptible Word, and were a spiritual house, a holy priesthood. As children of God, they were the subjects of His holy government, under the discipline of a sorrow which He made fruitful, passing through a world through which Christ had passed, adverse to His as to Him. To do well, suffer for it, and take it patiently was their lot, having Him for their example, and the glory into which He had already entered their eternal rest.
It is not strange, therefore, that it is the "sufferings of Christ" upon which the apostle insists; that He suffered for sins, and that we must suffer, not for these, but for righteousness or for His names sake (ii. 19-21); that He "suffered in the flesh" - His only connection with sin being in suffering on account of it; we must arm ourselves therefore with the same mind (iv. 1).
But the sacrificial character and efficacy of His work are fully maintained, for "Christ also once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God," and "Himself bare our sins in His own body on the tree," - the practical end of this being enforced, "that ye being dead unto sins, should live unto righteousness - by whose stripes ye were healed" (ii. 24). And thus we are "redeemed, not with corruptible things, as silver and gold," (alluding to Israels atonement money,) "but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot" (i. 18, 19). Salvation, and begetting to a living hope, are therefore connected with the resurrection of Christ from the dead (iii. 21; 1. 3).
This is so similar to the first part of Romans that it is scarcely necessary to enter into it more here. It gives us only a part of it however, the application being plainly to the practical walk, as that in Romans is mainly to the setting free the conscience before God.
The second epistle of Peter has but one word, which we may notice as we pass on: the false teachers, who privily bring in damnable heresies among Christians, deny the "Lord that bought them." Thus the plain difference between redemption and purchase is made clear. The Lord has title to the world and all in it (comp. Matt. xiii. 44) by the cross, but we may buy what we have no personal interest in. Redemption speaks of heart-interest in the object, and of release, deliverance.
The first epistle of John gives us the characters of eternal life in the believer as now manifested in the power of the Spirit which is in us as Christians. He dwells, therefore, more upon the Godward side of the work of Christ - propitiation for our sins (ii. 2; iv. 10), from which, therefore, we are cleansed by the propitiating blood (i. 7). It is thus that divine love is declared toward us; and this love is perfected with us, giving us boldness in the day of judgment, in the assurance that even now, in this world, we are as Christ is (iv. 17). This falls short of Pauls doctrine, not as to the perfection in which we stand, but only in not bringing us into the heavenly places, or that of being risen with Christ. Its application is to the entire freedom of the conscience by propitiation through a substitute, whose acceptance is therefore ours.
In the last chapter we have another beautiful testimony to the necessity and perfection of the work of Christ. He came, not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit also bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. This, without any question, refers to the blood and water that followed the soldiers spear, and of which John by the Spirit bare record (Jno. xix. 34, 35). What, then, is the purport of the record? That out of a dead Christ - His work accomplished - expiation and purification flow together for us. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." Thus, as soon as He has died - as soon as the judgment due has been borne, purification and expiation are found for men, in Him who has borne the judgment.
But, says the apostle, "this is the record, that God has given unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." In "eternal life" he sums up, as it were, these two things. For "life" is the opposite of judgment, and implies that it is passed. (Comp. Jno. v. 24, 29, where "condemnation" and "damnation" are the same word - "judgment.") While the full extent of mans need as to purification is declared. Life in a new source alone meets it. But Gods grace abounds over all mans .need. This life is eternal life, and in His Son, - a divine spring which guarantees the perfection of what flows from it.
In the book of Revelation, finally, the name the Lord bears every where through it shows how central as to all Gods ways is the work of atonement. The book of His counsels finds none with title to open it save One who, coming forward in the character of Judahs Lion, is seen, in that which gives Him title, as the Lamb slain. He is therefore at once the object of worship by the elders as the Author of redemption: "For Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation" (v. 6, .9).
The book of life is accordingly "the book of life of the Lamb slain" (xiii. 8; xxi. 27); and the being written in this book is the only possible escape from the judgment of the second death (xx. 15).
Thus the saints overcome the accuser by the blood of the Lamb (xii. 11); their robes are washed and made white in His blood (8: 14); and this it is that gives "right to the tree of life" and to enter in by the gates into the heavenly city (22:14 R V)
The throne, moreover, is the "throne of God and of the Lamb" (xxii. 1, 3); and "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of" the new Jerusalem (xxi. 22); and the glory of God doth lighten it, while the Lamb is the lamp thereof (v. 23).
Fittingly, thus, does Scripture close its testimony to the atonement and Him who made it. We will not try to define the meaning of these glorious sayings. They shine by their own light. May our attitude be that than which a creature can know no higher: that of the elders in the presence of their Redeemer - of worshippers.
Go To Chapter 22
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