Written by Elder Arnold H. Bellows
The Lexington-Roxbury Association, now in session with the First and Second Churches of Roxbury, at Roxbury, N.Y., September 13th and 14th, 1939, to the several churches and associations in fellowship with us with which we correspond, sends love and fellowship.
DEAR BRETHREN: - With a realizing sense of our inability to write a Corresponding Circular Letter, we attempt the task, desiring to present some thoughts from the twenty-first verse of the first chapter of Matthew, which reads, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” These are words spoken to Joseph by an angel before his espoused wife Mary gave birth to Jesus. The salvation referred to is prefixed by the word “shall,” which denotes certain fulfillment of the promise. The salvation of a lost, ruined, helpless and justly condemned sinner from all the penalty of a holy and irrevocable law is the most solemn matter that can receive consideration by men or angels, for it involves the person and work of the eternal Son of God. This salvation also embraces in its scope the electing decrees of God the Father and also the work of God the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who comprise the election of grace, the offices of these two Persons of the Trinity being related to that of the dear Redeemer, in whom dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily. The word “Jesus” means savior, and is a New Testament word for Joshua, of whom we have two types in the Old Testament, that of king and that of priest, both offices being combined in Jesus, who as Priest put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and who as King reigns in the kingdom of heaven, having put all things under his feet, and who will reign in glory while the eternal ages roll their endless courses on.
The promise was that Jesus should save his people from their sins. The word “people” means persons, and therefore a complete work is promised or expressed. Sin is a transgression of the law, and the penalty of sin is death. The people of God had their fleshly origin in Adam, their federal head or representative, and through sin in him became the children of wrath even as others, incapable of thinking a holy thought, or doing that which could save them. Because of sin man died bodily and also to that sinless state of perfection which was his before the Adam-fall. In bodily death there is a separation of soul and body; in the sin of man there is separation from God. Before the transgression of our first parents, there was agreement between God and man, converse but not communion. In the sinner's separation from God there is the penalty of everlasting condemnation and woe. The transgressor is born with the nature of sin in his being and will ever be inclined to tact out his nature in continued sin. The very thought of foolishness is sin, and one offense under the law makes the violator guilty of offending in all points. God is infinitely holy, of purer eyes than to behold evil, and none but the righteous can stand in his presence or have communion with him. In the blood is the life of the soul, and the soul that sins dies. So the penalty for sin must be death, and there can be no remission of sin without the shedding of blood. God's inflexible justice demanded as the ground for salvation a holy life, a holy offerer or priest, and a holy sacrifice or offering. As man was made of the earth, the curse that came upon him because of sin made it impossible for any holy offering to be obtained from the fruits of the ground or by the sacrifice of any animal. Because of the weakness of the flesh man cannot keep the law of God, and sin reigns unto death in his flesh, is ever present with him, and he is under its power and sentence. Therefore to be saved eternally man must be saved from the penalty of sin, the power of sin and the very presence of sin. Though chosen by the Father in eternity and redeemed by the Son in time, man must be born again of the Spirit of God in order to taste and handle experimentally of the word of life, abound in the fruits of the Spirit and present his body a living sacrifice unto God. The divine nature of Christ must be made manifest in the sinner saved by grace as he is conformed to the image of God, lives by the faith of the Son of God, and is crucified with Christ.
Then let us consider some of the aspect of this great salvation. The fallen creature mas was without fellowship with God, with no manifest union with him any more or as much as could exist between a cultured human being and the lowest beast of earth. Man was made of the dust of the earth, was an earthly being, had sinned in the flesh and received the sentence of death in the flesh; and so salvation must come in the flesh by obedience in the flesh, suffering and death in the flesh, and life from the dead in the flesh. Man could not meet the just requirements of God's holy law in his helpless state. But through the matchless grace, the eternal wisdom, the almighty power and the immutable decrees of the thrice holy God salvation was provided by this blessed Jesus whose coming birth was announced to Joseph. As man born according to the operation of nature in a human being comes into the world a sinner with death having power over him, the child Jesus came into the world contrary to nature, having God for his Father, being conceived of the Holy Ghost, and therefore holy, harmless, undefiled, having power over death. Having a woman for his mother, Jesus was enabled to take human nature into union with his own divine person, thus establishing a basis whereby there could be union and communion between God and man. He became one with his people in taking their flesh that they might be one with him in spirit. The recipients of eternal salvation must be participants in both the flesh and Spirit of Christ, therefore the Word became flesh and dwelt among men that true believers might behold his glory. The expression “save his people from their sins” signifies that the church of God belonged to Christ before the foundation of the world, therefore Jesus came into the world to redeem that which belonged to him from eternity. In one Mediator, Jesus Christ, God, and man are brought together. For a sinner to be saved there must be a holy life in the flesh, and Jesus rendered it. The law required a holy sacrifice, and Jesus through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God. As bodily death was imposed upon the sinner, Jesus took the sins of his people upon himself and died for sinners. God's inexorable justice separates sinners from God, and Jesus on the cross was not only forsaken by God, but endured the infinite consequences of his people's sins that they might be brought nigh to God and divine justice forever satisfied. By his resurrection from the dead he brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. Death lost its sting and the grave its power. He therefore saved his people from the penalty of their sins. Through the work of Jesus as our High Priest in heaven continues in time. The testimony of Jesus in our hearts is the spirit of prophecy and we are taught of the things of salvation by the Holy Spirit. By the intercession of Jesus in heaven penitent sinners are washed in the laver of the water of the word and presented faultless before the throne of God, as they mortify the deeds of the body through the Spirit and live and are crucified with Christ. In Old Testament times the priests washed in the laver after the offering of the sacrifice upon the altar. The church of God is a holy priesthood of believers, and as the blood of the sacrifice was first shed, and then the cleansing water applied from the laver before entering the holy place, the work of the cleansing water depends upon a previous application of blood, so the work of the washing of regeneration and of renewing of the Holy Ghost follows the work of the death of Jesus on the cross and is dependent upon it. The blood of Christ on the cross was applied Godwards to satisfy justice, and the water of spiritual washing and renewing is applied manwards. God's people are sanctified by the word and set apart as a holy nation. Therefore the saved sinner is delivered from the power of sin. He must fellowship our sufferings in the flesh and we must fellowship his sufferings to experience the power of his resurrection. The meat or meal offering of the Old Testament is a beautiful example of the sufferings in the life of Christ. This meal was ground to the same degree of fineness to show the equality of the perfections of Christ. Then oil was mixed with it to show that grace was mixed with all that Christ did. He was perfect man and God. Also oil was poured upon this meal to show the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in his anointing at his baptism. No leaven was mixed with that meal that it might signify the spotless humanity of Christ, free from all evil. There was salt mixed with the meal to typify the preserving power of holiness. Then the meal was baked in a pan, showing the action of fire, typifying the sufferings of Christ; and as the priests ate of this burnt offering, we see that the church does fellowship the life of Christ in some measure, for we were with him in his life, in his death, in the tomb, in the resurrection, and are in him in a mystical sense before the throne of the great and glorious God. Jesus was the great antitype of all the offerings of the old Levitical priesthood, thus forgiving us our trespasses, making peace for us with God, and making the cross upon which he suffered the death of our sins. The water and the blood that came from the side of Jesus at his death, bore testimony to this as the spirit, the water and the blood agree in one, bearing record in earth. But to effectually save his people from their sins, they must be saved from the presence of sin. Where here in the body during our earthly pilgrimage, sin is present in the flesh but when death has sealed the lips of man, the penalty of corporeal death has been exacted; and when that which was sown a natural body is raised a spiritual body in the mystery and glory of the resurrection, the creature is free from the presence of sin, never again to be marred by it. It is Jesus who hath delivered us, who doth deliver us, and who will yet deliver us, the family of God therefore being freed from the penalty, power and presence of sin. What a price the Son of God paid to redeem his bride! The value of a thing is what one is willing to pay for it. Of what inestimable value to Jesus is the church that it required heaven's costliest treasure to redeem it! How it behooves us to consider what we are saved from, by whom saved, and what we are saved to! In view of these facts, how much the children of God should desire to live uprightly, to be careful and prayerful each day, to examine self, to be at one another's feet, to show each other the spirit of charity and forgiveness, to be careful not to dishonor the cause of Christ by unbecoming conduct or conversation, and to set their affections on things above, knowing that the precepts of the gospel are as biding as its doctrinal points, and so honor Him who is made unto them wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.
We have been comforted by the coming among us of your ministers and messengers, bringing us your correspondence and your love and fellowship. We feel that this meeting is another mile-stone along our pilgrimage here, and we hope to meet you all again next year at our Association, which is appointed to be held with the Olive and Hurley Church, at Shokan, New York, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday between the second and third Sundays of September, 1940. Until then, dear brethren, farewell.
Arnold H. Bellows, Moderator
Orville Winchell, Clerk
Signs of the Times
Volume 108, No. 3