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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 1 - Galatians 1:4 - The Substitution and the Deliverance Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




The Substitution And The Deliverance.


"Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from the present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father."-Galatians 1:4.



     Paul writes with authority, as the bearer of a divine commission and the speaker of divine words; there is no hesitation, yet there is no boasting. In no sense is his apostleship a human one; it is neither of nor by man, neither its source nor its channel human. It is heavenly, and therefore authoritative. He comes in Christ's name and in the Father's. He is the representative of both; he derives his authority from both. He does not speak like an ancient sage, 'I think,' or 'I suppose,' or 'I guess;' but 'I know.' God has taught him, called him, lent him out; and he speaks accordingly. He does not compromise his position, nor apologize for what might be called his 'intolerance,' nor admit the possibility of his being wrong. 'I am God's messenger, Christ's apostle; I know it. He speaks with certainty, as one who is telling God's mind in God's words,-as one who claims to be believed, because delivering an authentic message from God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.

     Then, with apostolic authority, he gives his blessing, wishing for the Galatian brethren (backsliders though they were) that free love and peace which come from God the Father, and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In that blessing everything was wrapped up; for he who has the free love of the Father and the Son, has everything.

     In our text (verse 4) we note three things: the great propitiation; the great deliverance; the great purpose. We take the last first, as it is the source of all.

     I.  The great purpose.-'According to the will of Him who is our God and Father.' The coming of the Son, His giving Himself for our sins, our deliverance from the world, are all the fruits and developments of a divine will, an eternal purpose, 'the good pleasure of His will.' Respecting this purpose let us note,-

     (1.) It is a purpose of love.-'God so loved the world, that he gave His Son.' Christ did not come to procure or purchase this love, but to show it, and to carry it out. 'God is love,' and His purpose corresponds to this. That purpose is often viewed as stern and severe; as if its object were to limit the love; as if it took advantage of us at every point; as if it were anxious to repel us, or to find out reasons why we should not be saved, or to discover some flaw in our faith which would give God the opportunity of casting us away. How unlike the love of God!  How unlike the Shepherd seeking His lost sheep, or the Father seeking His lost son! But God's will is love, not hatred: 'Herein is love, not that we loved Him, but that He loved us.' How unutterably gracious, tender, pitiful, towards our world is Jehovah!

     (2.) It is a purpose of wisdom.-The wisdom of Godhead is here; a wisdom surpassing far that which is exhibited anywhere else. 'It is the wisdom of God.' The Father's purpose in sending Him, was the embodiment and the manifestation of infinite wisdom.

     (3.) It is a purpose of righteousness.-Righteousness is in it all; yet not a righteousness that is against the sinner, but for him. God's righteous will is the revelation of His grace, and His grace is the revelation of His righteous will. There is no conflict between the two; for this righteousness is not remorseless severity, but the righteousness of loving-kindness and tender mercy.

     (4.) It is purpose of power.-It is the will of Omnipotence; it embodies irresistible power. 'Who hath resisted His will?' It shall succeed, and be carried out in every part. This power is not that of a tyrant; for Jehovah is no Moloch nor Baal, but the loving Father, who has no pleasure in the death of the sinner. That power is not against the sinner, but for him. It does not frown on any; even to those who resist it, it stretches out the hand of grace, offering help. God's purpose does not hamper, nor narrow, nor modify His grace. It is not the purpose of an enemy, or a hater, or of one seeking to take advantage of our weakness.

     II.  The great propitiation.-This propitiation is here described-(1.) As Christ's gift; (2.) Christ's gift of Himself; (3.) Christ's gift for our sins.

     (1.) Christ's gift: He gave!-He gave freely; He gave lovingly; He gave gladly; His was a free-will offering in the highest sense. He is the great giver. Sometimes we read of the Father giving, and sometimes of the Son. In both cases it is a gift. The basis of propitiation is a free gift; the gift of divine love.

     (2.) Christ's gift of Himself.-Sometimes we read of the Father's gift of the Son,-'He spared not his Son, but delivered Him up;' sometimes we read of the Son's giving Himself. The Son's gift of Himself was like that of the Father, 'an unspeakable gift.'  The Father so loved the world as to give His Son, and the Son so loved the world as to give Himself. He gave Himself to 'become flesh,' to be born, to live, to die for us. His gift of Himself did not stop short of death. He was willing to die as well as live for us. His was love stronger than death.

     (3.) Christ's gift for our sins.-It was as a sacrifice that He gave Himself; not merely to benefit the sinner in some general way, but to expiate sin by blood shedding. It was as a sacrificial gift, that He came into the world and went up to the cross. 'By Himself He purged our sins;' He 'put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.' It is as the great and divine sin-bearer that He presents Himself to us, having finished transgression, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness; so having borne our sins, that He has left nothing for us to bear, and nothing for us to do, in securing remission. What He has done, obtains the pardon for us; and God has given us such a testimony to this completed propitiation, that simply in crediting it, we enter into favor. Along with the testimony there is the promise, that 'whoever believes has life;' still it is the belief of God's testimony that secures the favor. These two ought to go together; but sometimes we find men saying, We believe, but we don't know whether we are justified. Well, it is the believing the testimony that brings the pardon; but it is the belief of the promise that brings the sense of pardon. Why should we take the former without the latter? Is it not better not only to be safe, but to know that we are so; not only to credit the testimony, but to grasp the promise annexed to it? The former saves, the latter makes us feel safe. By the former, God is satisfied; by the latter, we are satisfied.

     III. The great deliverance.-'That He might deliver us from this present evil world.' There are two worlds (or ages): this present age, which is evil, and the future or coming age, which is good. To this present age we all belong by nature. It is at once our birthplace, our home, and our prison. This present world is altogether evil: 'The whole world lieth in wickedness.' By birth we belong to it, and we walk 'according to the course of this world,' until the Spirit of God turns our feet into the narrow way. Christ's object in dying for our sins was, that He might draw us out of this Egypt, this Babylon, this present evil world; for they who belong to it are not only under wrath just now, and void of peace or hope, but they are heirs of eternal sorrow and despair. This deliverance is in all senses great,-great because it required the death of the Son of God; great because of the evil delivered from; great because of the glory bestowed. Nothing less than the sacrificial death of the Son of God could deliver us. That which He has done, makes it a righteous thing that the prey should be taken from the mighty, even the god of this world. Consider 'this present evil world' as a prison; the sacrificial death of Christ was needed for the opening of its gates, and bringing forth its prisoners. Consider it as a lazar-house or hospital; this same death was needed ere the medicine could be prepared and administered to the sick, or one cure effected. Consider it as a shipwrecked vessel; this same death was needed to provide the lifeboat for the rescue of the perishing mariners. Consider it as a great snare, or spell or palace of enchantment; this death was needed to break that spell, and to disenchant the palace, and to bring forth the victims of the snare. Nothing less than that sin-atoning death, that sin-bearing sacrifice, could accomplish such deliverances. All must be done in righteousness. The evil which had fallen on the world was righteous evil,-deserved punishment; and the undoing of that evil must be righteous too.

     But now that the great substitution has been accepted, the way is open, and the rescue all provided for. God's love is finding its way into the recesses of the dark world, and bringing out one trophy after another. The good Shepherd is going after His stray sheep, and the woman is, with lighted candle, seeking her lost silver. God's love is opening doors and hearts, curing diseases, loosing chains, breaking snares, setting captives free. It speaks, it knocks, it beckons, it beseeches, it constrains. 'Come forth,' 'Escape for thy life,' 'Forsake the foolish, and live,'-such are its words. O dwellers in an evil world, hearken and obey! Leave your lusts, your vanities, your sins, your sorrows, your snares, and betake yourselves to God. He has a world for you, far better than the present; a holy, peaceful, blessed, glorious world. Quit your present haunts of death and sorrow; become heirs of joy and life, through Him who gave Himself for our sins.

     It is an evil world, this present world of ours! The sun still shines on it; but the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not. It is a busy, lighthearted, laughing, pleasure seeking world. But sin is here, and pain is here, and broken hearts are here, and weeping eyes are here, and death is here, and the grave is here. Oh! in spite of all its laughter and vanity, it is an evil world. And the great proof of its evil is, that it cost the death of the Son of God to deliver you from it. Can that be a small evil which needed such a death, and such a Deliverer? Quit that world, then, this very hour. It will do you evil, and not good; it will bring death, and not life,-sorrow, and not joy, to you. Quit that world; come out and be separate. Give yourselves to Him who came to deliver you from it, and who stretches out His hands to you all day long, asking you to allow Him to deliver you. He yearns over you; and with sincere earnestness proffers to you His love, His friendship, His great salvation. Consent, O man, consent! His desire is to bless, and not to curse; to save, and not to destroy.