By Tim Mize
Mirror in the Cross
As Christians, we look to the cross of Christ as our “sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour” (Eph. 5:2). Israel of old also offered sacrifices for “a sweet smelling savour to the Lord” (in other words, to honor and please him; see Lev. 1:9; 2:2; 3:5; 4:31; etc.). Our altar, though, is not of stone or earth. Our altar is the cross of Calvary, and our sacrifice is Christ.
Different kinds of sacrifices were offered of old as a “sweet smelling savour,” such as whole burnt offerings, peace offerings, and sin offerings. Which kind, then, is our sacrifice? It is right to say that Christ is all of them to us. He is the one, perfect “sweet smelling savour” from us to God.
But thus he is only if offered rightly. Just as Israel offered theirs only if seasoned with salt, cereal, and wine (Lev. 2:12-13; Num. 15:1-5), we must offer ours seasoned with the offering of our bodies, of our praises, and of good works (Rom 12:1; Heb. 13:14-15). Only then are we assured of God’s favor.
The cross, however, can be rightly viewed too as a particular kind of offering. For example, Christ is said to be our passover sacrifice (1 Cor. 5:7) and also the sacrifice that ratified our covenant with God (Matt. 26:28; cf. Exod. 24:8). Most of all, though, Christ is said to be our sin offering. He came “to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself ” (Heb. 9:26).
Here we see the goodness of God. What do we have from ourselves that can take away sin? We have nothing. Happily for us, though, the Lord has provided an offering (cf. Gen. 22:8). By his incomprehensible love, we have a sacrifice to bring to him that perfectly cleanses from sin (Matt. 26:28; 1 Jn. 1:7).
Someone might say, “But why would such a thing be necessary? Why couldn’t God just forgive us in his heart without all this violent sacrificing?” We have to under-stand that God is not a man, as if he could forgive like humans forgive. He is the sovereign, holy Lord of the universe. As such, he must maintain not only the natural order, but also the moral order in his creation. The holy God, therefore, cannot allow any sin to go unpunished, not even the sins of his own children.
This is why he gave us Christ. When Jesus died, he did so as the representative of God’s people, with all their sins upon him. In other words, he died in their place, taking their punishment. “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: . . . the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:5-6). In the cross, all of the sins of God’s children were sufficiently punished, and even more so. It is now as the prophet said: “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isa. 40:2).
The cross was enough to atone for, not only God’s people, but even the whole world (1 Jn. 2:2; Jn. 1:29). All humanity that has ever lived or ever shall could come and let this be their offering for sin. Now, consider this: If this sacrifice is sufficient to atone for all the sins of the world, surely it is more than so for us, the little flock of God.
As we eat the Lord’s supper, these are the things we affirm and believe. We acknowledge and trust in the cross as our offering for sin. We declare this faith, that “if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with the other, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7).
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 16, p. 5
August 18, 1994