George Fifield, Sermon 2, Feb. 10, 1897
You will find the text in the ninth chapter of Hebrews, and the twenty-second verse: “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. This text has in it the very soul and center and secret of all true Christian consecration. The idea has obtained that God was angry with men because of sin, that God’s wrath must be satisfied; and so an arrangement must be made by which he could pour out his wrath upon his Son, and thus satisfy his justice. And while this wrath was waiting for full satisfaction when it should be poured out on his Son, a system of sacrifice was instituted which would appease his wrath temporarily, and hold it in abeyance. But this idea of atonement, or reconciliation, separates entirely between the Father and the Son, making the Father so stern and hard that he demands his full “pound of flesh,” so to speak, and the Son so kind, so good, that he gives it out of his own heart that we may be set free. Thus, instead of Christ revealing the Father, the two are opposite – entirely separated. But no, “He that hath seen the Son hath seen the Father.” And if you want to know how God feels toward sin, notice how Christ hated sin. If you want to know how God feels toward the sinner, notice how Christ loved the sinner. God’s wrath burns eternally against sin, and never will be appeased; but it will consume the sinner in the end. His love is unending, unchanging, for the sinner. And just as we have learned that the moral law is not an arbitrary thing, but a statement of everlasting love and life, so, my brethren, may we learn that, although the ceremonies have passed away by limitation, yet the meaning of those ceremonies is just as true to-day as then. And it still is true that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission.”
What is the blood? Gen.9:4: “But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.” What is the blood? – The life. Another text. Lev.7:26: “Moreover ye shall eat no manner of blood, whether it be of fowl or of beast, in any of your dwellings.” Again in Deut.12:23: “Only be sure that thou eat not the blood; for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh.” This is the Lord interpreting the law. Lev.17:11: “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. Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood.”
The life is the blood. This is the Bible interpretation; and we will let it interpret itself. Then when we read that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin,” it does not mean that by some magic charm process or incantation, it enables him to count us as cleansed. The whole living gospel was brought forth there in the sanctuary as clearly as it is here in the New Testament, and it is just as clearly applied to human lives and human hearts; but the devil stole it away.
In this dispensation, the living gospel is revealed to us in the incarnate One, Jesus of Nazareth; and yet man loses the gospel out of Christ by making the sign of the cross; and they say, We are safe, we have made the sign of the cross. They say that by some magic process or charm word or name by which they believe on him very hard, it will save them. They are using it precisely the same as the ark was used back there; and the Lord has let them be taken captive from time to time, to show them that the Word in that way does not have power to save. It is not any charm process, it is a living fact. God gave us his life in his Son that we might have life, and that we might have that life to live on the earth.
I am told that it is a scientific fact that if someone will allow his blood to be taken and transfused into the veins of a poor anemic person, the first thing the blood does is to purge out the poison and sickness, and then to build him up with a new life. New blood has been transfused into that person, and new life is imparted. Do you get the figure? We are saved by transfusing blood. God has opened his mighty heart, and poured out his life in Christ, for our salvation. He has given his life that we might take it and be purified by it, and live on earth by faith. And the life of his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
Was it only on Calvary that God gave us his life? Was it only there that Christ was crucified? Was it only from Pilate’s judgment hall that he bore the cross? Was it only on that last day of trial that he wore the crown of thorns? – Ah, no; far from that. Perhaps the text that will enable us most clearly to get this point, is in Gal.2:20:-
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
And Paul gave his life day by day; he gave his life in all those whippings, and beatings, and persecutions that he received from the Jews, and finally to Nero’s executioners he completed the gift, and made the final delivery of the goods that had been the Lord’s ever since he met him on the Damascus road.
Now let us get a glimpse of Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus Christ was with God, equal with the Father in glory and honor; co-creator with him of countless worlds; all the ten thousand times ten thousand angels at his beck to do his bidding. One cannot take in the honor and the glory of that life that opened out into limitless distances before him. But down here on this world man had sinned, and Christ did not think of holding fast to that glory and honor as a robber holds fast to his prey; but he gave it up. That was when Christ was crucified. He let that life go, and he came down here and identified himself with human sorrow, with human trial, with human need, with human heart-ache; so that away back there, before he became incarnate at all, in all their afflictions he was afflicted, and he bore them and carried them all the days of old. He was with us much more than we think. Abraham saw him; Joshua saw him; Moses saw him; the Israelites drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. The divine One had given up that life there, been crucified, and identified himself with human need down here, away back there; and when you come to the incarnation, which was but the revelation of this larger sacrifice, this larger fact, the crucifixion was carried so far that he who was Almighty became so weak that he said, “I can do nothing of myself.” Is not that crucifixion?
And then every step of the way, having given up his power, having given up his infinite knowledge, he lived a life of faith, – the faith of Jesus, – amening every one of God’s promises, until they became living facts in his life; and lived upon the written word day by day. When the tempter came to him, he put him to flight by the written word; and he said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” He was living his spiritual life by faith in that word; and every step of the way it was not my will, not my word, not my doctrine; but thy will, thy word, thy doctrine in me. Is not that crucifixion of self?
And finally on Calvary’s cross, so far as his earthly life was concerned, he made the final delivery of the goods, and completed the crucifixion, just as Paul did to Nero’s executioners. But do not think that is the end of the crucifixion in the larger sense. Just as the crucifixion of Christ did not begin with the incarnation, it did not end between the thieves. Brethren and sisters, he is still the infinitely often crucified One.
I will have to bring out the thought by way of illustration; but no illustration will convey it to you. We have heard about some great famine or trial or trouble that came upon some people a hundred or a thousand miles away. Now, while we had something to eat and wear, it did not trouble us so very much, did it? We felt a little sorry for those people; may be we sent them five dollars; but somehow we got along comfortably well, although we knew there was a famine in India. But did you ever have this experience? Did you ever go to a family, and live in that family until you felt yourself to be one of them, and perhaps called them father and mother, and brothers and sisters, and they took you right into their hearts? When you got that near that family, did you not take their sorrows and joys upon you? Anything that happened to that family happened to you, too. Any grief that came to them was your grief. Any joy that came to them was your joy.
Jesus Christ came that near to humanity, not merely in the incarnation, but he did it before the incarnation. But in the incarnation he showed to our sin-blinded eyes what he was before. He is not any further away since he bore human flesh; he is just that near humanity now. He is so near that he suffers with all who suffer; so near that he loves in all who love, and lives in all who live. That is how near he is; for he has taken our nature upon himself, and identified himself with us. That is what Christ has done.
This is how near he is to us all the time; for the more you think of it, the more you see that he suffers in all who suffer; and he is not ashamed to call the poorest and meanest of us brethren. And therefore – notice, that is the sacrifice that he has taken upon himself to save the world – all our little sacrifices for him are only little parts of his great sacrifice. Since his great sacrifice is that he suffers in all who suffer, and has identified himself with the human sorrow and need and trial, he suffers in all my sufferings, and he sacrifices in all my true sacrifices; and my little sacrifices for him are only parts of his great sacrifice manifested in me. And when I live any sacrifice truly, and others are thereby turned to God, who has turned those people back to God? Did I do it? – Christ did it. O, the sacrifice of Christ is an eternal sacrifice!
This is knowing Christ after the Spirit. You know what Paul says: Henceforth I know no man after the flesh; even if I have known Christ after the flesh, I will know him so no more. When a man simply believes that Jesus Christ eighteen hundred years ago was the divine Son of God; that he lived, died, rose again, and ascended up to heaven, – that is simply knowing Christ after the flesh. What you and I want to know is this divine fact of the eternal sacrifice, and that God to-day, in Christ, is giving his life to save humanity. It is a present, personal, everlasting gospel all the way. Away back in Eden, when it was said that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head, and he should bruise its heel, that did not mean simply that four thousand years from now somebody is going to come and give you power to triumph over sin; it did not mean that simply. It was a present promise right there, that the seed of the woman Eve, should have the power come right into his flesh, then and there, to triumph over Satan in his life, and that is what the everlasting and the ever-present gospel is all the way along. And that is what God was revealing back there. They were considered merely types. They were types, but not primarily types. They were present revelations of the present eternal fact that God was giving his life in Christ to save mankind. Now we can understand something of the old sacrifices back there. When a man brought a sacrifice, what did it represent? Christ, you say. That is true. But there is something more; that sacrifice represented the man who brought it; and if he brought a sin-offering, he was considered as a sinner coming to repentance.
Now I am ready to consider the splendid truth for you and me in some of these expressions back there. “Thou shalt not eat the blood.” We have seen how God has given his blood in Christ, his life in Christ. What is that pouring out of the blood, and covering it with the dust? O, do you see that picture of Christ, how that he let his life go out, – let it go out to be hated, to be despised, to be spit upon, to be crucified, to be misunderstood and mistreated, to be just covered with the dust of forgetfulness, apparently, – just as the pouring out of the blood, and it being covered with the dust?
And why was the sacrifice always slain? If it had been beaten and bruised, and then let go, it might have said, I will follow Christ a little way, or to Pilate’s judgment hall it may be; but it could not have said, I will follow him to the cross. It is only when the sacrifice actually gives its life that it could speak of a complete consecration.
The blood of Christ represents the life of Christ, and also the life of the man who brings the sacrifice. The eating a thing is a symbol of self appropriation. The blood is the life. The blood of that victim represents the blood of him who is bringing the victim. Now what shall I do with that blood? “Thou shalt not eat the blood.” Thou shalt not appropriate thy life unto thyself. The blood of that victim represents my life, or, the Christ-life manifested in me. “Thou shalt not eat the blood.” Thou shalt not appropriate thy life unto thyself. That is a statement away back there of the great central truth of the gospel. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” And that means more than we thought it did. We have thought on it like this: If a man would rather sin than give up this life, he will lose eternal life. But if a man will give up this life rather than sin, he will find eternal life. All that is there, but a good deal more than that is there. Whosoever shall save his life for himself, either here or hereafter, loseth both the here and the hereafter. There are some men who are trying to use their lives to have a good time in this world. They are losing this world and the next one, too. There are other men who are trying to use their lives solely for themselves; not for this world, but they are trying to be good, so that they can be saved and happy by and by. They are using their lives simply for themselves. Whosoever saveth his life, or useth it for himself only, either here or hereafter, loseth both the here and the hereafter.
What was the life given for? Lev.17:11: To make an atonement. It is the giving of his life in and through us that makes us one with God. You know a man may believe just as strongly as he can that Jesus Christ was divine, and that God gave his life on Calvary, and not be made one with God at all. It is when that life of God, given in Christ, comes into us and makes us one with him, Christ-like, that we become one with God.
Jesus Christ, the Truth, gave himself that we might have the truth. Jesus Christ, the Way, gave himself that we might find the way back to the Father’s house. Jesus Christ, the Life, gave himself that we might have the life. What is it to be a Christian? Is it to be good so that we can be saved? At best, that is but monkery. O, I wish we had more of the spirit of Moses when he said, “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin . . . .; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written;” – more of that spirit of Paul when he said, “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren,” if they could by this be saved? And the world that did not know unselfish love back there, but crucified it, will do the same thing here; and the church that had men in it that did not know unselfish love back there, will have men in it that do not know it here. Can you imagine any life going out in more apparent abject failure than did the life of Jesus? Was it defeat? – He triumphed over principalities and powers, although the devils thought they had gotten the victory. The Bible says he triumphed over them on that very cross, and God got the victory that was going to redeem the world. And that is God’s business – to give victory. It may not look like victory to us. Some of the sweetest words that have ever come to us, it seems to me, from that servant of God, from the Spirit of Prophecy, are these words: “The life of the trusting Christian is a series of uninterrupted victories, – often not seen and understood to be such here, but to be seen and understood to be such hereafter.” Our lives influence other lives, and they influence other lives, until, as Tennyson puts it, –
Our echoes roll from soul to soul, And grow forever and forever.
We cannot tell. Leave that with God. Just partake of his life until he can make us channels through which to pour his life to others, – until he can live his life in us, and give himself through us; and then God will take care of all the rest. And only that will enable us to do the work that he wants us to do in this world. How can we love men enough to give our lives for them? – See them as Christ sees them. O, may God reveal to every one of us to-night, to me and to you, the depths of meaning in Christianity, that we may know and understand what it is to be a Christian. May God put this into our hearts and souls, so that the sacred fire of the divine love may consume the sacrifice upon the altar, to come up as a sweet savor unto God, that our lives may flow out in blessing and benediction, and until the true motive is there to do the work which God has for us as a people to do to-day, is my prayer.