Tag Archives: holiness



Ephesians 4:17-32    A Christ-like walk.

The apostle now turns from the collective responsibility of members of the church as they relate to one another, to consider the individual walk of the believer in the world.  The passage looks at the subject in three ways, as follows:

Verses 17-19      Features of Adam in unbelievers.
Verses 20-21      Truth is in Jesus.
Verses 22-32     Features of Adam put off, features of Christ put on. Verses 17-19      Features of Adam in unbelievers.


4:17    This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord- the chapter began with an exhortation on the basis of the teaching in chapters 1-3, and now a new section begins in a similar way.  The practical exhortations of chapters 4-6 are solidly and logically based on the teaching of chapters 1-3.  Paul solemnly testifies in full recognition of the Lordship of Christ.  When He is gladly owned as Lord the exhortations of the passage will be willingly complied with. 
That ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk- he begins with a negative example, and one they will easily recognize from their pre-conversion days.  Henceforth means no longer, suggesting a clean break with the past.  That they have to be exhorted like this even though they are believers shows they had not fully realized the implications of faith in Christ. 
In the vanity of their mind- the apostle begins with the mind, because that is the seat of the thoughts, and as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he, Proverbs 23:7.  Vanity as used here means emptiness of results, and is in stark contrast to the reality that is found in Christ.  Whereas the natural man produces nothing that is pleasing to God, He was altogether pleasing to His Father.

4:18    Having the understanding darkened- understanding is literally a thinking through, so here the apostle reminds us that the thought processes of the unbeliever are darkened, or covered over, not allowing the light of God’s truth to penetrate.  
Being alienated from the life of God- when Adam sinned the threatened punishment fell upon him, and he died.  Despite continuing in the body for 930 years, he died the day he sinned.  The Lord Jesus taught this in John 5: 24 when He spoke of men passing from death unto life.  And since the life is spiritual life, then the death must be spiritual death.  Not that man’s spirit is dead, for spirits cannot die, and man is able to use his spirit to worship demons, but as far as communion with God is concerned, man is dead. 
Through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart- this ignorance exists because eternal life involves knowing God, and Jesus Christ, John 17:3, so those who have not this life are ignorant, however qualified they may be in the things of this world.  Because men have closed their minds to the revelation of God, they are blind in heart.  This situation is not without remedy, as John 9 illustrates.  Reading verses 17-19 should makes us truly thankful that the grace of God has reached us, and should also make us more concerned about the plight of those still in their sins all around us.  It is solemn to think that the population of the world increases by 270,000 people every day.  That is not the number of people who are born each day, but rather the number of people who are born over and above the number of those who die each day.  May the Lord give us wisdom in this situation.

4:19    Who being past feeling- as a result of this willing heart-blindness, men are not sensitive to the truth of God, and what is acceptable behaviour with Him. 
Have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness- lasciviousness is lack of restraint, the direct result of refusing the Divine laws which should govern life on earth.  See Psalm 2:3, and Romans 1:18-32.  This in its turn results in uncleanness of every and any sort, and that with an attitude of heart which longs for more and more.

Verses 20-32        TRUTH IS IN JESUS  

But ye have not so learned Christ- again the emphasis on the mind.  We learn how to sin from Adam and his race, we learn how to live worthily through Christ’s example when here on earth.  It is not simply that He taught how to live, but that He is the Life, John 14:6, for true life finds its fullest expression in Him; He is the subject of the lesson. 

4:21    If so be that ye have heard Him- through the personal testimony of apostles and prophets, and the preaching of evangelists, pastors and teachers, the Ephesian believers had heard Him, as much as if they had been on earth when Christ was. 
And have been taught by Him- literally, taught in Him.  That is, as those who by faith were in Christ, they were in a position to take advantage of the teaching.  Try as they might to imitate Christ, unbelievers have not the power to do so.  The statement “Ye must be born again” comes before Matthew chapters 5-7, so only those who are born again can fulfil Christ’s commands. 
As the truth is in Jesus- the true life is expressed in Jesus, the Man upon the earth who pleased God fully.  This phrase is often misquoted as “the truth as it is in Jesus”, but this implies that truth in someone else is different.  Christ alone is the full expression of the truth.  Paul longed that the life of Jesus might be manifest in his mortal body, 2 Corinthians 4:10.

4:22    That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man- as we learn Christ through His example, and are taught of Him through His word, we are taught to put off the old man.  In principle we did this when we turned to Christ, but there is an ongoing need for readjustment to Christ.  The words “put off” mean to take off and lay aside, and are used of those who stoned Stephen, Acts 7:58.  They took off their garments and laid them aside as being unsuitable for the task in hand.  Clothing speaks of character in the Scriptures, and so we should take off and discard the characteristics of Adam, the old and out-of-date man, for those garments are not suitable for the task in hand of living like Christ.  Our old man has been crucified with Christ, for Christ undertook to deal with what we were in Adam, and by association with Him in His death and resurrection we are freed from the consequences of what Adam did when he fell.  See Romans 6. 
Which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts- because the human heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, it deceives the unbeliever into doing corrupting things, even things which will bring into ruin. 

4:23    And be renewed in the spirit of your mind- instead of being corrupted by a deceitful mind, we should be constantly adjusting to the new things that are found to perfection in Christ.  The spirit of our mind is our attitude of mind, which is so governed by the Spirit of God that it can be called the mind of the Spirit, Romans 8:5.  We must adopt the right attitude to the things mentioned here, if we are to be in the good of them.

4:24    And that ye put on the new man- this is the other side to the truth that we have been taught in Christ, for we have not only to put on, but put off as well.  No doubt the garments of the two malefactors as well as Christ’s became the property of the soldiers at the foot of the cross.  The question for us is which garments shall we put on, Christ’s, or the malefactors? 
Which after God is created- likeness to Christ has to be created in us, for it does not come naturally.  After God means with God as the model.  God’s original design for Adam was that he be in the image and likeness of God.  That likeness has been spoiled by sin, and Adam begat Seth after his likeness, not God’s, Genesis 5:1,3.  Only because of Christ’s intervention as the second man, the last Adam, can God create anew after His likeness as expressed in Christ. 
In righteousness and true holiness- this is the condition in which the new man is, ideally.  It is our responsibility to put off all those things which are incompatible with righteousness and holiness.  True holiness is holiness which is produced when we allow the truth to govern us.  The truth in question being the truth in Jesus.  The word for holiness here is not the usual one meaning separation.  It has been defined as “that quality of holiness which is manifested in those who have regard equally to grace and truth”, Vine. Notice the three ideas of righteousness, holiness and truth, which could be used as summaries of the next few verses.  They are in opposition to the corruption, lusts and deceit mentioned at the end of verse 22.

4:25    Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour- it is not suitable for those who claim to know Him who is the truth, to be found lying.  As verse 15 has already told us, we should not only be truthful, but live the truth.  In fact the word for lying used here suggests this, being the word for falsehood.  May we be like the psalmist and hate every false way, Psalm 119:104,128.  The apostle quotes here from Zechariah 8:16.  As an Old Testament statement, it is a requirement under the law.  How much more now that Christ has come, and grace reigns.  Zechariah has fellow-Israelites in view when he speaks of neighbours, those who hope to enter the kingdom of the Messiah. 
For we are members one of another- as fellow-members of the body of Christ we are members of His body, (for we are more than just neighbours), and what we do even with our bodies, 1 Corinthians 6:15, affects the Head in heaven.

4:26    Be ye angry, and sin not- sometimes the cause of truth demands that we be angry, with the sort of anger that Christ showed when He saw within the hardened hearts of men, Mark 3:5.  That it is permissible for a believer to be angry at times is shown in that a bishop must not be soon angry, Titus 1:7, thus showing that controlled anger is permitted at times.  One has said, “He that would be angry at sin, let him be angry at nothing but sin”. 
Let not the sun go down upon your wrath:- justified anger is not to degenerate into that which smoulders in our hearts, for the apostle is quoting from Psalm 4:4, and the psalmist goes on to say, “Commune in your own heart on your bed”.  We are to have quiet spirits, even in times when we have strong feelings about matters which affect the honour of Christ.  “Anger resteth in the bosom of fools”, Ecclesiastes 7:9, with the emphasis on resteth. 

4:27    Neither give place to the devil- the Devil delights to provoke us into emotional outbursts, and we should be aware of this, and not give him any opportunities to exploit situations, perhaps by exaggerated language or behaviour whilst under stress.

4:28    Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth- such is the transforming power of the gospel, that it not only enables a person to renounce that unlawful activity by which he gained a living, and begin to earn that living in an honest way, but to go further, and seek to make recompense as a believer for the sin of the past by meeting the needs of the poor.  This is in the spirit of the trespass offering, which required that one who had stolen should pay back what was stolen, and add the fifth part thereto.  See Hebrews 13:16, and also Zacchaeus’ attitude in Luke 19:8,9.  The apostle himself worked with his own hands to supply not only his needs, but also the needs of those with him, Acts 20:34,35. 

4:29  Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth- note the absolute terms the apostle uses.  A corrupt communication is a statement which is bad and unprofitable. 
But that which is good to the use of edifying- when we see gaps in the lives of fellow-saints, we should be concerned to fill them with words that build and encourage. 
That it may minister grace unto the hearers- So we may not only benefit our fellow-believers by giving them material things, as verse 28 indicates, but we also have the opportunity of ministering to their spiritual needs too, by those things that we say.  By this means those things which God is looking for from His people in response to His grace are fostered and encouraged.

4:30    And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God- every true believer is indwelt by the Spirit of God, who is a Divine person, and sensitive to the behaviour of God’s people. To grieve means to make sorry, to cause pain or grief. Note the connection with the foregoing references to corrupt communication.  The Spirit is grieved by such a thing, for He is the Spirit of grace, Hebrews 10:29.  The fact that the Spirit dwells within us should be a strong incentive to holiness, as the apostle makes clear in 1 Thessalonians 4:7,8, “for God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.  He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given us His Holy Spirit”.  The expression used of the Holy Spirit here is very strong, being literally, “His Spirit, the Holy One”.

The following things may be said about the indwelling of the Spirit of God:
1.    The Lord Jesus promised His own that the Holy Spirit would be given, John 14:16.  He is not earned or merited, but given by God in grace.  Also, He dwells within the believer, in his heart, and is not merely an external influence upon him.
2.    The Spirit of God indwells the believer the moment he believes, Galatians 3:2, where the question is rhetorical, i.e. the answer is so obvious that it needs not to be stated.  The Lord Jesus told His apostles to tarry at Jerusalem until the Spirit came, which they did.  He had said to them in the Upper Room, “If ye love Me, keep my commandments.  And I will pray the Father…John 14:15,16.  They did keep His commandments, and the Spirit came.  Now that the Spirit has come at Pentecost, when a person believes he becomes part of the one body, and is made personally to drink into one Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:13, John 4:10,13,14.
3.    The Lord Jesus promised that once given, the Spirit would never leave them, John 14:16.  The Spirit left King Saul, 1 Samuel 16:14, and David implored the Lord not to take His Holy Spirit from him, Psalm 51:11.  These references remind us that the Holy Spirit was given in Old Testament times to empower for special tasks, in these cases to be king in Israel.  If the Spirit had been taken, David would no longer have been king.  As for ourselves, the permanent indwelling of the Spirit should not be used as an excuse for unspiritual behaviour.
4.    The Spirit was to be personally in the believer.  See John 14:17, where the contrast is between the Spirit being alongside of them as He indwelt Christ who was with them, and the Spirit abiding in them, when Christ was no longer walking physically with them.
5.    The presence of the Spirit is known by the believer, John 14:17.  The worldling can only appreciate things by the physical senses because he is not born of God.  Because the Spirit cannot be physically seen, then the unbeliever cannot know Him.  The Spirit makes His presence felt in the believer’s heart by encouraging spiritual exercises, Romans 8:16.
6.     The Spirit acts as a comforter, strengthener and encourager, in the same way as the Lord Jesus acted towards His disciples when down here.  This is the force of the word “another” in John 14:16, meaning “another of the same sort”.
7.    The Spirit enables the believer to see Christ, John 14:19.  He does this by announcing the things of Christ to us, John 16:14, so that Christ is glorified.  Through this ministry of the Spirit, the Lord Jesus may be seen with spiritual insight just as really as the apostles saw Him with natural eyesight.  John writes in 1 John 1:3 so that we may share the things he saw and heard, but he gives to us no physical description of the Lord.  What really matter, therefore, are spiritual views of Him. 

Whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption- The Lord Jesus has purchased His people, and we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.  Redemption of the body we do not yet have, however, for that will happen at His coming, see Philippians 3:220,21; 1 Corinthians 15:48-53.  Note that it is unto the day of redemption, and not simply until, as if it is only a question of time.  What happened when we were saved and sealed was in view of the redemption in the future.  This is a strong reason to believe in the eternal security of the true believer, for God has done something in the past which guarantees the future.

4:31    Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice- these are features which the Spirit finds grieving, and which are contrary to Christ’s example.  The truth in Jesus is totally opposed to these things.  Clearly the anger is unrighteous anger, or else there is a contradiction with verse 26.  We should only be angry at things Christ would be angry about.

4:32    And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you- this is the positive side, as verse 31 is the negative side.  We should avoid being unkind, but also set out to be kind, for that is what God has done, taking the initiative in the matter.  God forgave in Christ, meaning He forgave in view of all Christ is to Him, and all He did for us.  Those who have been forgiven by God should be the special objects of our care, for this is Christ-like, and is the mark of a worthy walk before God. 
Notice how high the standard of forgiveness is, being nothing less that the attitude of God.  This reminds us of Peter’s question, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  Till seven times?”  Jesus saith unto him, “I say not unto thee, ‘Until seven times’: but, ‘Until seventy times seven’, Matthew 18:21,22.  Then He told the parable of the ten thousand talent debt and the one hundred pence debt.  Peter no doubt thought that to forgive seven times would be commendable; the Lord raised the standard not to 7 x 7 = 49, but to 70 to the power of 7, which is 8235430.  This is a lifetime of forgiveness.  There are 25550 days in 70 years.  There are 322 times that number in 8235430.  So if the same man came to Peter 322 times every day for 70 years, (that is every three minutes during his waking hours for the whole of his lifetime), and asked his forgiveness, then he was to forgive him.  And so are we.

It is worth remembering that genuine forgiveness on the part of the one sinned against can only follow genuine repentance on the part of the one sinning.  In the parallel passage this is emphasized- “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.  And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, ‘I repent;’  thou shalt forgive him”, Luke 17:3,4.  So both grace and truth are to be in exercise; truth which rebukes and requires repentance, grace which grants that forgiveness when these conditions are met.
So it has been with God.  His rich grace has forgiven us for the sake of Christ.  His truth demanded that we repent before we knew that forgiveness.


We should never underestimate the importance of that aspect of the work of the Lord Jesus at Calvary which is known as propitiation.  This is because the honour of God, the blessing of men, the introduction of Christ’s millenial kingdom, and the new heaven and the new earth, all depend upon it. When thinking of this vital matter, we need to be clear as to what propitiation actually is.  It may be defined as follows: “Propitiation is the covering of sins to God’s satisfaction”.
There are seven references to this subject in the New Testament, and they are as follows-  Luke 18:13, (“merciful”);  Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17, (translated “reconciliation”); Hebrews 8:12, (“merciful” means propitious); Hebrews 9:5, (“mercy-seat” means place of propitiation); 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10

As we consider this subject in the light of the Scriptures, we could ask ourselves three main questions-

1. Why was propitiation necessary?
2. How was propitiation achieved?
3. What are the results of propitiation?

Because sins offend God.  As God is the Absolute Standard of righteousness and holiness, all deviations from this standard are highly offensive to Him.  Such is the intensity of His holiness that the simple mention of it is enough to make the posts of the doors of the temple in heaven move, Isaiah 6:4.  His reaction to sin and iniquity is to turn from it, for He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and who cannot look upon sin, Habakkuk 1:13.  The very presence of sin in the universe is a grief to God. 

Because as Moral Governor of the universe, He must be seen to deal with sins.  God has enemies, both devilish and human, and He must be clear of any charge which they may level against Him that  suggests He has ignored sins, or at least, ignored some sins.  Eternity must not be allowed to run its course without this matter being settled.  God deals with some sins instantly, but the majority seem to have gone unpunished.  Sentence against an evil work has not been executed speedily, Ecclesiastes 8:11, since God is longsuffering, and waits to be gracious.  This situation might give rise to the charge of indifference to sins, and so God must act to defend His honour.

Because God must have a just basis for continuing to have dealings with sinful men.  One of the main purposes of the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement in Israel was that God might continue to dwell amongst them despite their uncleanness, Leviticus 16:16.  So also when Christ was down here.  It was only because God was not imputing trespasses so as to instantly judge them, but rather was working to reconcile unto Himself, that He was prepared to have dealings with men in the person of His Son.  See 2 Corinthians 5:19.

Because if men are to be shown mercy, have their sins forgiven, and be reconciled to God, there must be a solid basis upon which these things can happen.  God declares Himself to be a Saviour God- He cannot be fully satisfied solely by judging men .  The fact that “God is light” demands that this be done, but “God is love” too, and delights to manifest Himself in grace.

Because the cycle of sin must be broken.  In other words, if there is not to be an eternal succession of creations, falls, remedies for fall, and new creations, then there must be that established which is once for all, giving the complete answer to the question of sin.  Unless this complete answer is given, the new heaven and earth will not be safe from disturbance.

We may now ask our second question:
The ceremonies of the Day of Atonement as described in Leviticus chapter 16 will help us here.  We need to be very careful in our interpretation of them, however.  We should remember two things. First, that the Old Testament teaches by way of comparison as well as by contrast.  Second, that Christ’s ministry is in connection with a sanctuary which is “not of this building”, Hebrews 9:11.  That means it is not part of the creation of Genesis chapter one. So even whilst acting on earth, He was operating in relation to a sphere that is not subject to the limitations of time, space, or matter.

For instance, the writer to the Hebrews indicates that the going forth of the Lord Jesus outside the camp, was the counterpart of the carrying of the carcase of the sin offering from the altar, where it had been slain, to a place of burning outside the camp.  But this particular ritual took place almost at the  end of the Day of Atonement proceedings, whereas the Lord Jesus went outside the camp before He died.  We may say then that in one sense time is irrelevant as far as the work of Christ was concerned.
Again, what took place at the altar in the court of the tabernacle; before the ark in the Holiest of All; outside the camp at the place of burning, and in the wilderness where the scapegoat was taken and let go, all typified some aspect of the work of Christ.  Place is irrelevant, too.
And so is matter irrelevant.  Christ needed no visible ark to enable Him to convince His Father that His blood had been shed.  When the repentant man of Luke 18 appealed to God to be merciful to him, (or, to be gracious towards him on the ground of propitiation made), he went down to his house justified, despite the fact that there was no ark in the temple. 
With these cautionary remarks in mind, we look now at Leviticus 16, and note those major parts of the ceremonies of that day which contribute towards making propitiation, the great end for which they were carried out.

We must remember that the word “offer” that is used in Leviticus 16:6 means to bring near.  A sacrifice must be offered before it can be laid on the altar.  The blood that purges the conscience of God’s people is the blood of One who “offered Himself without spot to God”, Hebrews 9:10.  That is, He presented Himself for sacrifice in all the spotlessness of His person, confident that He met the approval of His God.   We are reminded of the words of the psalmist when he said, “Search me O God, and try my heart”, Psalm 139:23.  The Lord Jesus is the only one who could utter such words in the confidence that nothing contrary to God would be found in Him.  In this He is so different to Aaron, or as the writer to the Hebrews puts it, He is “separate from sinners”, for Aaron could not present himself to God, he must present a substitute, Hebrews 7:27.  Nor could that substitute bring itself, having no consciousness of God’s demands.  Christ has no such limitations, however, for He offered Himself, as Aaron could not do, and as an animal would not do.

In Leviticus 16:9 a different word for offer is used, one which simply means to make.  So the animal, having had the sins of Aaron and his household figuratively transferred to it, is by that act made to represent those sins.  Whatever happens to the animal subsequently happens to the sin.  The apostle Paul takes up this thought in 2 Corinthians 5:21 when he declares that “God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”.  It is exceedingly solemn to think that whatever God’s reaction to our sin was, became His reaction to Christ as the sinner’s substitute.  So we may learn in the fullest sense what God’s reaction to sin is by looking to the cross where He forsook His Son and poured out His wrath upon Him.  Such is the intensity of God’s hatred of sin, and such is his determination to deal with it, that “He spared not His own Son”, not shielding Him at all from the fury of His anger; not lessening the penalty, nor relieving the pain.  Who can tell the agony of Christ’s soul when He was dealt with by God as if He were sin!  Of course, He remained personally what He always had been, pure and holy, just as the sin-offering is said to be most holy, Leviticus 6:17, but He was made sin as our representative.

THE OFFERING WAS SLAIN AND ITS BLOOD SHED                                                    “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul”, Leviticus 17:11.  Such are the words of God to His people, teaching us that the shedding of blood is vitally important, for “Without shedding of blood is no remission”, Hebrews 9:22.  Accordingly, that sins might be dealt with, Christ “poured out His soul unto death”, Isaiah 53:12.  He willingly laid down His life in accordance with His Father’s commandment, John 10:18.

Having been presented to God as a living animal at the altar, and having been slain and its blood retained, the animal’s corpse must be taken to the outside place, that it may be subjected to the fires of Divine holiness until nothing is left.  How significant the contrast to Christ.  For He was subjected to the Divine Fires whilst still alive, on the cross.  How He must have suffered!  Can we begin to take it in?  Will not all eternity be needed to set forth what He was prepared to endure in love for our souls?  But endure He did, and exhausted the fire of God’s wrath against our sins.

We come now to the central action on the Day of Atonement, the sprinkling of the blood both of the bullock for Aaron and his house, and the goat for the nation of Israel, on the mercy-seat, or “the place for the covering of sin”.  If God covers sins, then they are put completely out of His sight.  We ought not to think of this covering as a temporary thing, or else we shall have difficulty understanding why God declared that Israel was cleansed from all their sins that day, Leviticus 16:30.  It is true that the Scripture says that “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins”, Hebrews 10:, but what that blood symbolises, even the blood of Christ, can.  And that not only after Calvary, but before as well.

Now when the writer to the Hebrews referred to this mercy-seat, he used the Greek word which means propitiatory, the place where God is propitiated in regard to sins, and where those sins are atoned for. This makes clear that he did not see a distinction between covering and propitiating.  There was a two-fold significance to this, however, as indicated by the two-fold sprinkling of each kind of blood, that of the bullock and of the goat.  The blood sprinkled on the mercy-seat was to satisfy the demands of God, so that instead of anger because of sins, He could be merciful in dealing with them. This was because the blood was a reminder to God that a suitable sin-offering had been slain, and burnt in the fire.  The blood sprinkled before the mercy-seat was to meet the needs of the Israelites, for it established a footing for them in the presence of God based upon the shedding of blood.
So with the work of Christ.  He has fully met every demand that God could make about sins.  As one of the Persons of the Godhead, He has Divine insight into God’s requirements, and He has fully met those requirements.  We are assured of this because He has set Himself down with confidence at the right hand of the Majesty on high- He purged sins in harmony with the Majesty of God.  But He has also established a sure footing in the presence of God for those who believe, so that the apostle Paul; can speak of the grace wherein we stand, Romans 5:1.  So dominant is the idea of grace with regard to that position, that the apostle uses the word grace to describe it.  Only those who have “received the atonement”, Romans 5:11, are in that secure place before God.

The sin-offering for the people consisted of two goats, one for the Lord’s interests, and one for theirs.  One, as we have seen, was slain so that blood could be sprinkled on the mercy-seat.  The other was called the scape-goat, or goat that was dismissed and went away.  There was no double sin-offering for Aaron and his house, for he had seen the blood on the mercy-seat, and since he had not died, he knew it had been accepted, and his sins were gone.  The rest of Israel did not have that experience, however, and so to reassure them, they were able to see Aaron lay his hands on their goat, confess over it their sins, and then watch the goat, which carried its dreadful load of their sins, disappear into the wilderness, guided by a man whose fitness lay in his ability to take the animal to a place from which it could not return.  The writer to the Hebrews takes up these things in Hebrews 9:25-28, where he speaks of Christ appearing to “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”- this is the counterpart of the blood on the mercy-seat.  Then he speaks of Christ “bearing the sins of many”, and now he is thinking of the scapegoat.  When the Lord Jesus was forsaken of His God upon the Cross, He was in a moral position equal to that of the scapegoat, which was accepted as an offering, but rejected because of the load it bore.

Just as there are two goats for the people, so there are two men acting on their behalf.  There was Aaron, who went into the sanctuary with the blood of the slain goat, and there was the fit man, going into the wilderness with the live goat.  The return of Aaron from the presence of God signified that sins were dealt with satisfactorily Godward, for he had not died.  The return of the fit man, without the goat, signified that the burden of sin was removed from the people.  An alternative rendering of the expression “fit man” is “a man standing ready”. So before John the Baptist announced the Lord Jesus to be the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, he described Him as “one standing among you”- He was standing ready to do the work of Calvary at the time of His Father’s appointment. 


To satisfy God as the Moral Governor of the universe, an adequate and final answer must be found to the question of sin.  The demands of His holiness and righteousness are such that every sin must be responded to.  Only Christ is adequate for this situation.  He it is who has “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”, Hebrews 9:26.  To put away in that verse means to abolish.  As far as God is concerned, and in this context, sin is not.  No charge can henceforth be made against God that He has ignored the presence of sin.  On the contrary, He has taken account of each and every sin through his Son’s work at Calvary.  John wrote, “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world”, 1 John 2:2.  Of course “the sins of” is in italics in that verse.  But the words must be supplied because they are implied in the “ours” of the previous statement.  If John had written “not for us only”, then he could have continued “but also for the whole world”.  Since, however, he uses the possessive pronoun “ours”, then “the sins of” must be inserted.  Now the apostle will write later that “we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness”, 1 John 5:19.  He sees mankind divided into two clearly defined sections, believers, and the whole world.  The same whole world whose sins God took account of at Calvary. 

In Old Testament times God blessed men by reckoning them righteous when they believed in Him.  Romans 3:24,25 indicates that the propitiatory work of Christ vindicates God for so acting.  In can be seen now that God was blessing anticipatively, crediting believers with the results of Christ’s work before they had been achieved.  He also remitted, or passed over, their sins in forbearance, holding back from judging those sins in virtue of what His Son would do at Calvary. 

There is no attribute of God which has not been fully expressed at Calvary.  This is why the apostle Paul speaks of rejoicing in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement, Romans 5:11.  Atonement in this verse means reconciliation, one of the effects of propitiation.  By His sacrificial work at Calvary Christ has brought the character of God out into full and glorious display.  Those who are brought by faith into the good of that work are enabled to behold that display, and rejoice in it.  Would we know Divine holiness, or righteousness, or love, or wrath, or any other aspect of the Person of God?  Then we must look to the cross for the sight of it.  We shall not be disappointed.

The repentant sinner who called upon God to be merciful to him, is the first person in the New Testament to use the word propitious- “God be merciful to me on the basis of propitiation”.  He went down to his house justified, Luke 18:13,14. Under the terms of the New Covenant, God promises that “I will be merciful (propitious) to their unrighteousness, Hebrews 8:12. The mercy-seat was the same width and breadth as the ark, telling us that the ark (the person of Christ) and the mercy-seat, (the work of Christ), were perfectly matched. But we are not told the thickness or depth of the gold of the mercy-seat, for there is an infinite supply of mercy for those who believe, enough to keep them secure for all eternity.

In Hebrews 10:5-8 we have the Spirit of Christ in the psalmist telling of His work of sacrifice. Then we have the Spirit’s testimony telling us of the results of that work, Hebrews 10:15-17.  God promises emphatically that He will not remember the sins and iniquities of His people any more, since He brought those sins into remembrance at Calvary, and Christ dealt with them effectively there. “No more” means in no way, nor at any time.  Note that God pledges to positively not remember, not negatively to forget. We may forget, and then remember again, whereas God promises never to remember for ever.

The Lord Jesus spoke in the Upper Room of His brethren, then indicated that He was about to “ascend to My Father, and your Father, to My God, and your God”, John 20:17.  Thus He would still be the link between his people and God, maintaining them in His dual role of Advocate with the Father, and High Priest in things pertaining to God.

The basis of His advocacy is two-fold.  His person, for He is Jesus Christ the righteous, and His work, for He is the propitiation for our sins, 1 John 2:1,2.  The apostle John was concerned about believers sinning.  The sins of believers are just as obnoxious to God, and just as deserving of wrath, as those of unbelievers.  But we are “saved from wrath through Him”, Romans 5:9, as He pleads the merits of His work.  He is, says John, the propitiatory offering for our sins.  Not was, but is.  In other words, the one who acts for us in heaven as our advocate, is the very same one who hung upon the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.

He is also our High priest.  The language of Hebrews 2:17,18- “Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted”.  These verses form a bridge between chapter two, with its emphasis on the reasons why the Lord Jesus took manhood, and the way in which Israel were tempted in the wilderness.  Note in particular the word “for” which begins verse 18-too little attention has been paid to this word, and hence the connection between verses 17 and 18 is often lost.  The reason why we have a high priest who is merciful and faithful is that He has been here in manhood and suffered being tempted.  When His people pass through temptation, then He undertakes to deal with their cause.  Because He has been here, and has been tempted in all points like as we are, He is able to help us when we cry to Him for help.  The word for succour is used by the woman of Canaan in Matthew 15:25 when she cried out, “Lord, help me”.  He is able to point us to the ways in which He overcame in the wilderness temptation, and thus we are strengthened to resist temptation.

But what if we fall, and sin?  In that case He comes to our aid in another way.  We see it typified negatively in Leviticus 10:16-20.  The priests were commanded to eat the sin-offerings, if the blood thereof had not been brought into the sanctuary.  But at the end of the consecration of the priesthood, Moses was angry on God’s behalf, for the priests had failed in this.  Moses said, “God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord”, Leviticus 10:17.  One of the functions of priesthood, then, was to personally identify with the sin-offering by eating it, and by so doing bear the iniquity of the congregation, taking responsibility for their failure, but doing so safeguarded by the fact that a sin-offering had been accepted by God.  As they did this the scripture explicitly says they made atonement for the people, Leviticus 10:17.  We see then what the writer to the Hebrews means when he talks of Christ making reconciliation or propitiation for the sins of the people.  He is indicating that Christ personally identifies Himself with His sin-offering work at Calvary, and thus takes responsibility for the failures of His people under temptation.  This is acceptable to God, and His people are preserved, despite their failure.

When Adam the head of the first creation fell, all creation had to be subjected to vanity, or else a fallen man would have been head over an unfallen creation.  Now that He has obtained rights over the earth by His death, the Lord Jesus is able to bring in new conditions for God.  He can now righteously deliver the present creation from the bondage of corruption that the fall of man brought it into, Romans 8:19-23.  Colossians 1:20 assures us that on the basis of the blood of His cross, all things, whether in earth or in heaven, can be reconciled to God, for that alienation between God and His creation which took place at the Fall, can be remedied.

GOD’S INTENTION TO CREATE A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH CAN BE REALISED                                                                                            Unless the sin which has marred the first creation is dealt with, God cannot righteously introduce an eternal earth and heavens, for it would not have been evident that He was able to deal with the fall of the first creation.  Having dealt with it through Christ, He is able to bring in new things that will never be spoiled.  Daniel was told that Messiah the Prince would bring in “everlasting righteousness”, Daniel 9:24, and this He will do, on the basis of His death.  It only remains for God to announce “Behold, I make all things new”, Revelation 21:5, and a “New heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness”, will be established, 2 Peter 3:13.  At last there will be a settled and congenial place for righteous to dwell in, after all the turmoil brought in by Adam’s sin.  At last those profound words spoken by John the Baptist will be fully brought to pass- “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, John 1:29.