The Only Atoning Priest
Delivered on Lord's Day Morning, February 4th, 1872, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God: From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."Hebrews 10:11-14.
E SHALL HAVE this morning to repeat a truth which has sounded forth from this pulpit many hundreds of times; but we shall offer no apology for our repetitions, seeing that the truth to be preached is one which cannot too often be proclaimed. If you lift up your eyes at night to the stars what a wonderful variety of celestial scenery is there! The astronomer can turn his telescope first to one quarter of the heavens, and then to another, and find an endless change in the sublimities which meet his gaze. Such are the doctrines of the gospel; they are full of variety and beauty, and glory: but yet in the heavens one or two conspicuous constellations are more often regarded by the human eye than all the rest put together. The mariner looks for the Great Bear, the pointers, and the pole star; or, if he should cross the equator, he gazes on the southern cross. Though these stars have been often looked upon, it is never thought to be superfluous that practical men should still observe them. Night by night they have their watchers; for by them ten thousand sails are steered. I should suppose that in those days, now happily past, when slavery reigned in the Southern States of America, the Negro if he desired liberty for his boy would be sure, whatever else of the stars he did not teach him, to point out to him the star of liberty. "Know well, my child, those friendly stars which point to the lone star of liberty. Follow that light till it leads you to a land. There fetters no longer clank on human limbs." Even so it seems to me that certain doctrines, and especially the doctrines of atonement and justification by faith, are like these guiding stars; and we ought frequently to point them out, make sure that our children know them, and that all who listen to us, whatever else they may be mistaken about, are clear about these, the guides of men to the haven of freedom and eternal rest. I believe if I should preach to you the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ every Sabbath-day and that twice, and nothing else, my ministry would not be unprofitable, perhaps it might be more profitable than it is; so we are coming to the same truth which we handled last Sabbath evening. Many dishes are put upon the table at intervals, but bread and salt are always placed there; and so we will have the atonement again, and again, and again; for this is the bread and salt of the gospel feast.
There was no nobler position, or Jesus should have had it. Note the remark of this same apostle in the first chapter of this epistle: "Unto which of the angels said he at any time, sit thou at my right hand?" Angels do not sit at the right hand of God; they are constantly in the place of service, and therefore they stand ready to fly on their Master's commands; but Jesus sits in the highest seat as Lord over his own house, clothed with honor and dignity, enthroned in the place of favor at the right hand of God. Sitting there he is to be viewed as clothed with everlasting power, "able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him." "Exalted to be a Prince and a Savior to give repentance unto Israel, and remission of sins;" no more the "despised and rejected, the Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief," no more in weakness and dishonor taken out to die; he sits as a king upon his throne, distributing royal bounties, coequal with Jehovah himself. As King of kings, Jesus Christ is exalted at the right hand of the Father. So much with regard to the result of the Redeemer's passion in reference to himself.
Now, observe carefully the result of his offering with regard to his enemies. He sits there "expecting till they be made his footstool." They are crushed already; sin which is the sting of death has been removed, and the law which was the strength of sin has been satisfied. Sin being put away by Christ's death, he has effectually broken the jawteeth of all his enemies. When Jesus Christ offered himself unto God he fulfilled that ancient promise, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." Christ has set his foot upon the old dragon's head, and crushed out his power. Still, however, a feeble fight is kept up; feeble, I say, for so it is to Christ, though to us it seems vigorous. Sin and Satan within us, and all Christ's enemies without us, including death itself, are vainly raging against the Christ of God, for every day they are being put beneath his feet; every day as the battle rages the victory turns unto the enthroned Christ. In us I trust sin has been put beneath Christ's feet; in thousands of others it shall yet be so. Jesus upon the throne expects the growth of that victory till all his enemies shall be utterly and ignominiously beaten. "O long expected day, begin!" Father, fulfill thy Son's expectations, for thy saints expect it in him. Let the time come when every enemy shall be beneath his feet.
We will not tarry, however, on that, but close this exposition of the words of the text by noticing the effect of Christ's death upon his own people. We are informed that he hath "perfected" them. What a glorious word! Those for whom Christ has died were perfected by his death. It does not mean that he made them perfect in characters so that they are no longer sinners, but that he made those for whom he died perfectly free from the guilt of sin. When Christ took their sins upon himself, sin remained no longer upon them, for it could not be in two places at one and the same time; if it was on Christ it was not upon them; they were acquitted at the bar of God when Christ was, on their behalf, "numbered with the transgressors." When Jesus suffered the penalty due to his people's sins to the last jot and tittle, then their sins ceased to be, and the covenant was fulfilled: "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more for ever." There was a clean sweep made of sin: "He hath finished transgression, and made an end of sin;" and that for all his people. They want no other washing, no further purging, as far as pardon of sin and acceptance with God in the matter of justification are concerned, for they are all perfected by his sacrifice.
His people are described in the text as "them that are sanctified," and you must beware of misunderstanding that word as though it meant those who are made perfectly holy in character. The word implies an inward work of grace, but it means a great deal more. The passage should be read "He hath perfected for ever them that are being sanctified," for it is in the present in the Greek. The text is not to be made to say that those who are perfectly sanctified are perfected, that would be a common-place, self-evident truth; but the great high priest perfected for ever those who are being sanctified. Now, sanctification means, primarily, the setting apart of a people by God to be holy to himself. Election is sanctification virtually; all God's people were sanctifiedset apart and made holy to the Lordin the eternal purpose and sovereign decree or ever the earth was. Christ has by his death perfected all who were sanctified or set apart in election. This purpose of sanctification is carried out further when those set apart are called out by grace. When effectual grace separates men from the world by conversion and regeneration, then they become, in another sense, the sanctified; they are set apart even as Christ set apart himself, dedicated to God's service, and separated from sinners. As the work which began at regeneration is continued and carried on in them, they are in another aspect sanctified; they are realising in themselves that sanctification or dedication to God, which was theirs from before the foundation of the world. The text relates not only to those in heaven who are perfectly sanctified, but it relates to all who were set apart in the purposes of grace, that as far as their pardon and justification are concerned, Christ perfected them for ever when he offered up himself without spot unto God.
II. We have thus studied the interpretation of the words, reading, marking, and learning them. Now, I ask your earnest attention while we try to DIGEST THESE TRUTHS. It is in the digestion that the real nutriment shall come to our hearts.
All ye who desire eternal life lend me your ears, for this matter concerns youobserve that the whole business of this passage concerns sinners. The verse speaks about the Jewish priests who offered sacrifices for sins, and then it further speaks concerning Christ Jesus who has put away sin. O ye guilty, the gospel is meant for you. If there be any of you who are innocent and pure, and without spot, for you I have no words of consolation; but oh, ye sinners, the gospel is for you, for you the priesthood and the substitution of Jesus, for you his death on earth, for you his reign and power in heaven. This fact ought to encourage every trembling conscience. Are any of you saying, "Ah, I shall never be saved, I am so guilty?" Believe not that lie of Satan. "The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." The gospel has for its special aim and intent the putting away of sin, and therefore it is suitable to your case.
Hearken then further to me. See in the text the position out of which you should labor to escape. It is the position of those who stand daily ministering and daily offering sacrifices which can never put away sin. You are seeking mercy and I know what you are doing; you are going about to establish a righteousness of your own. You thought, "I will pray very regularly,"you have done so for months, but prayers can never put away sin. What is there in prayer itself that can have merit in it to make atonement for sin? You have read the Scriptures regularly, for which I am most glad, but this you always ought to have done, and if you now do it most commendably, in what way will that put away sin? "Ah, but I have been a regular attendant at a place of worship." It is well you should, for "faith cometh by hearing;" but I see no connection between the mere fact of your sitting in a place of worship and the putting away of sin; you know it has not eased your conscience yet, but has even increased your sense of sin. Perhaps some of you have for years been trying to save yourselves, and you have got no further; you feel as if you were further off than ever you were. "Wherefore do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which profiteth not?" Why stand you daily at the altar offering that which can never put away sin? It would be infinitely wiser to flee to the sacrifice which can atone.
Now, follow on the text, and, oh, may it come into your very soul, for its practical teaching is that the one sole object of faith for the pardon of sin, is the man, the priest, Christ Jesus. "This man," says the Apostle, "offered one sacrifice for sins for ever." If thou wouldst have peace of heart, thou must get it only from this one glorious person, the Christ of God. I tell thee solemnly, thou wilt damn thyself by thy prayers, and thy tears, and thy repentings, and thy church goings, and thy chapel goings, as easily as by blasphemy and fornication, if thou trustest in them; for if thou makest a Savior and an idol of thy best works, they are accursed. Though thine idol be of purest gold, it is as much an abomination unto the living God as if thou hadst made it of filth. There must be no looking anywhere but to Jesus, not in any measure or degree. He who looks partly to Jesus, and partly to himself, looks not to Christ at all. If a man shall put one foot upon the land and the other on the seathe foot that is on the land will not avail him, he must certainly fall, because his other standing place is weak. If a chain be made strong enough to bear huge weights in every portion except one link, yet as we all know its strength is not to be measured by the stronger portions, but by the weak link; and if you have one weak link in your hope, if you are resting in anything you are or hope to be, or can do or feel, that one weak link will snap and ruin you for ever.
Can do helpless sinners good."
From top to bottom, from foundation to pinnacle, our hopes must be in the work of Jesus, and we must trust in him alone, or else we shall build in vain. "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid." Other hope beneath the skies there is none. O soul, learn the uselessness of looking to anything but Christ; but, be thou assured of this, if thou wilt look to him, and to him alone, he will put away thy sin, nay, he has done it by the sacrifice of himself.
Furthermore, here is another thoughtI would that you would drink it in as Gideon's fleece drank in the dewit is this: the efficacy of the atonement of Christ for sin is as great to-day as ever it was. He "offered one sacrifice for sins," for what? for a thousand years? No! But the text says "for ever!"for ever!
That fountain in his day,
Anal there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away.
Dear dying Lamb, thy precious blood,
"One sacrifice for sins for ever." The devil tells you it is of no use for you to believe in Christ, there is not efficacy for you, you have sinned away your day of grace; tell him he is a liar, Christ has offered one sacrifice for sins for ever; and while a man lives beneath the covenant of mercy, where the gospel is sounded in his ears, there is efficacy in the atonement for ever. The atoning sacrifice has no limit in its merit, the salvation of some has not drained it of even the smallest degree of its power. As the sunlight, though it be seen by millions of eyes, is as bright as ever it was, so is it with Jesus. Perhaps the Sun's fires may grow dull, and become dimmed in the course of ages, but it is certain that the eternal fount of mercy, the Sun of Righteousness, will never fail. He will continue to flood his people with the golden sunlight of his forgiving grace. He has made one sacrifice for sins for ever. I will come to him then. He is able to save mehe is able to save me even though I were a sinner of seventy years of age. I will come to him, I will rest in himin him alone. Oh, believe me, if you do this you have eternal life abiding in you.
A further thought. The text leads me to say to you that it is utterly hopeless, if you desire salvation, for you to expect Jesus Christ to do anything more than he has already done. Many are waiting for a something, and they scarce know what. Now Jesus, when he died and went to heaven, perfected for ever all his work; and if you do not believe to-day in what he has done, there will be no surer grounds for belief to-morrow. If faith be difficult to me to-day, I must not expect that I shall have any more evidence, or that there will be any more truth for me to rely upon, if I live another twenty years. God has set forth Christ for you as guilty sinners to rest on; and if that is not enough for you, what more would you have? Christ has offered himself, and died and suffered in our stead, and gone into his glory; and, if you cannot depend upon him, what more would you have him do? Shall he come and die again? You have rejected him once; you would reject him though he died twice. But that cannot be done; there is enough in his sacrifice to answer all the purposes of mercy, and if you sin wilfully by rejecting him, "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation." This is the point; all the atonement that could save me in ten years time is here now; all that I can ever rely upon if I postpone all thoughts of faith, all is here already. There will be no improvement in Christ. He has perfected his work. Oh, poor troubled soul, rest thou on him now. While I put these words, as it were, into your mouths, how I wish I could put them into your hearts! How foolish you are who are looking for signs and wonders or else you will not believe. May the Spirit of God show you that Jesus is now able and willing to save you, and that all you have to do is to take what he has done, and simply trust him, and you shall be saved this morning, completely saved, perfected through his one sacrifice. There remaineth no more to be done by the Redeemer. He sits down, and he will not rise for any further sacrifice. He has finished his atonement and perfected those he means to save; and if you believe not in him, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.
Yet, again, I want you, dearly beloved brethren, to gather from the text before us the true posture of every believer in Christ. "This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down." If I am a believer that is my posture, if you are a believer that is yours,you are to sit down. Under the law there was no sitting down. Even at the Passover the Israelites stood with their loins girt and their staves in their hands. There was no sitting down. It is only at the gospel supper that our proper posture is that of recumbency, reclining, or sitting down, because our warfare is accomplished. They that have believed have entered into rest. Jesus hath given us rest, we are not traversing the wilderness, we are come unto mount Zion, unto the glorious assembly of the church of the first born whose names are written in heaven. Our justifying work is finished, finished by Christ. Sit down Christian, sit down and rest in thy Lord. There is much to be done as to fighting your sins, much to be done for Christ in the world, but so far as justification and forgiveness are concerned, rest is your proper place, peace in Christ Jesus your lawful portion.
Your position is also to be one of expectancy. Christ, when he sits down, expects his enemies to be made his footstool. Expect, O believer, the time when you shall be rid of all sin. Fight manfully against your inbred corruptions, struggle against sin as you see it in the outside world, and expect every day with holy faith that you shall get the victory. As Christ sits there expecting, he hath raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in himself; and we will sit there and look down upon this erring world, and expect the time when all evil shall be beneath our feet as it is beneath his.
Meanwhile, our posture is, once again, that of those who are perfected in Christ Jesus. How I wish that we could all realize this, and live in the power of it. If I am, indeed, a believer, I have nothing whatever to do in order to put away the guilt of my sins. I have much to do by faith to overcome the power of sin in me, and to seek after holiness; but so far as the guilt of transgression is concerned, Jesus Christ's one offering hath perfected all his people, there is not a sin remaining upon them, nor a trace of sin; they are "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing;" before God's sight they are perfectly lovely; they are not somewhat beautiful, but they are altogether lovely in Christ; they are accepted not in part but altogether, "accepted in the Beloved." When I get upon this strain, words are quite inadequate to express the emotions of my soul. This truth might well make David dance before the ark of the Lordto think that though black in ourselves, we are comely in Christ; though like the smokedried tents of Kedar we are foul, yet clothed in our Savior's beauties we are like the curtains of Solomon for glory. The glory of the text is that we are perfected for ever; not for to-morrow, and then suffered to fall from grace; not for the next twenty years, and then turned out of the covenant; but he hath perfected "for ever" those that are set apart. It is a work which abides like the worker himself, and while Christ sits on the throne his people cannot die; while his work remains for ever perfect, they are also for ever perfect in him.
Now, brethren, another practical point is this, that it becomes us to make the evidence of our interest in this gracious work more and more clear to others. The text says, "Hath perfected them that are sanctified," or set apart as holy unto God. We must be more and more set apart every day, we must labor after holiness; this must be our object, not in order that we may be saved, for we are saved already, but in order that by others it may be clearly seen that we are saved, and they seeing our good works may glorify our Father which is in heaven. If I have in myself no measure of holiness, how shall I be recognized as belonging to Christ? Is it not foolish presumption to say "I am perfect in Christ," if still my soul lives in sin, and loves it? May the Lord, by his Spirit, lead us in the ways of holiness, and then, walking in the light as he is in the light, we shall have fellowship one with another; and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son shall cleanse us from all sin.
Finally, brethren, it remains for us to recollect that Christ will be one of two things to every one of us here present: either we shall see him at the right hand of God and rejoice that he is lifted so high, or else we shall behold him there with horror as we writhe beneath his feet. For his people, perfected for ever, it is their heaven to think that Christ is highly exalted. Oh, would we not exalt him if we could! Is there anything in this world that we would keep back from him? Is there any suffering from which we would shrink if we could lift him high? I hope I can speak for all of God's people and say, the dearest object of our life is to honor him. Oh for high thrones for Jesus and bright crowns for Jesus!
Who bowed his head to death!
And be his honors sounded high
By all things that have breath!"
Let him have the highest place that heaven can yield him.
But, if we will not believe his Godhead, if we will not trust him as the Mediator, if we have no part in his sacrifice, if we oppose his gospel, if we reject his claims to our obedience, there is another position we shall have to take up, and that is, beneath his feet. Those feet will be heavy indeed! They were pierced once; but if ever those pierced feet come upon you, they will crush you to powder. Nothing is so terrible as love when once it is turned to anger. Oil is soft, but how it burns. Inflame love into jealousy and it is cruel as the grave. Beware, ye that reject the Savior, for in the day when he cometh he will smite you with a rod of iron, and even his face, which is full of tenderness to-day, shall then be full of terror, and this shall be your cry, "Hide us ye mountains, ye rocks conceal us, from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb." What a wonderful mixture of words, "The wrath of the Lamb." It is one of the most dreadful expressions in Scripture. The Lord grant we may never feel its terrible meaning. May his blood cleanse us. Amen.