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THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST AND THE CHURCH AND CHRIST’S ATONEMENT SUFFERINGS

The sorrows of the Man of Sorrows were so many; he was acquainted with grief, he suffered being tempted, and the temptations he endured from the devil were but a small part of his sorrows. Though he was tempted in all points as his people are, and though in all their afflictions he was afflicted, I know their sorrows (Exod. 3:7), nevertheless there were afflictions and sorrows and sufferings that Christ endured that none of the church ever experienced, They are not eligible or capable of sustaining such sufferings; I mean the atonement sufferings of Christ. In all these unutterable sufferings he trod the wine press alone, and of the people there was none with him, there was none to help (Isaiah 63:3-5). All the afflictions, temptations, chastenings and griefs that the Lord may lay upon his chosen ones are apart from, distinct from, those sufferings that our Emmanuel endured to atone for, and put away their sins.

“Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin, could not atone,
Thou must save, and Thou alone.”

All the temptations, sufferings and griefs of all the elect could never atone for one sin of one of the chosen. Only the Blood of Christ, the blood of the everlasting covenant, can make an atonement for sin. Through him we receive the atonement (Romans 5-11), not an atom of it is delivered from any other source. The saints of God in no measure whatever, by all they do or suffer, contribute to the atonement with God. To our Lord Jesus Christ therefore all the praise and glory, and everlasting gratitude belong. Under the types and shadows it was written, “It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11). Without the shedding of blood there is no remission, no atonement for sin (Heb. 9-22; Matt. 25:28). Ah, beloved ones of God,

“Much we talk of Jesus’ blood,
But how little’s understood!
Of His sufferings, so intense,
Angels have no perfect sense.

Who can rightly comprehend
Their beginning and their end.
‘Tis to God, and God alone,
That their weight is fully known.”

There are temptations, trials, sufferings common to all the human family, and then there are trials and sorrows peculiar to Christ and his church.

Those who are without God, dead in trespasses and sins, are so hardened, so lacking that divine sensibility, that they are not capable of tasting those peculiar sorrows that those who are born of God experience in fellowship with Christ.

We must have the Spirit of Christ to suffer with Christ, for only thus are we vitally joined to him (1 Cor. 6-17), and capable of experiencing the afflictions of Christ (Col. 1:24). It was Christ’s pure human heart that was so grieved and wounded by Satan’s temptations, and by what he beheld and endured from the wickedness of the human race, and it is because those who are Christ’s have his Spirit, have a new covenant heart (Ezek. 11:9); a pure heart (Matt. 5-8; 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Peter 1-22), that they are partakers of Jesus’ sufferings. “Ye are they which have continued with me in My temptations” (Luke 22-28).

One thing we ever hold fast with all affection, that is, the immutable spotlessness of Jesus Christ, the Man bf sorrows. Though found in fashion as a man, he was ever without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:19).

He mingled with mankind, he ate with publicans and sinners, yet he was separate from sinners. Though Satan tempted him, and he suffered being tempted, yet not a thought, no unholy emotions could be excited and drawn forth by “the gates of hell”. Jehovah laid on him our iniquities, for our atonement he was made sin, but he was not made sinful, and all the while he bore our iniquities, he still was holy; yes, beneath this unutterable woes, when he was made a curse for us, though he bore the pangs of hell, and the sorrows of death compassed him, he came through it all contracting no stain, with no taint of sin and mortality, and when Jesus’ sacred body lay in the tomb it could not be said, “By this time he stinketh” (John 11-39). He saw no corruption (Acts 2:31). At the decreed moment he arose from the dead, and thus he was declared to be the Son of God with power by the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4). From the moment of his conception by the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, until the day that he ascended to glory, Jesus was immutably holy; he was pure, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. As by faith we see Jesus crowned with glory and honor, yet he was once, in the days of his flesh upon the earth, the man of sorrows. The scriptures very fully set forth the afflictions of Christ, in which his people are one with him. He endured the contradiction of sinners against himself (Heb. 12:3). Many times he was tempted by men (Matt. 16:1-4; Mark 10:2; Luke 10:25; John 8:6). They lay in wait for him, seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him (Luke 11:54). They falsely accused him; they laid to his charge things that he knew not; they called him Beelzebub’s servant, they said he had a devil and was mad, they declared him to be a glutton and a wine bibber; they mocked him, spit in his face, plucked the hair from his face; they crowned him with thorns; they did shoot out the lip at him and wagged their heads at him in scornful derision. O beloved of God how dark is the picture! He was reviled, but he reviled not again. For my love, saith he, they are my adversaries, but I give myself unto prayer,” and thus he prayed, “Father; forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 22:34). Lot was vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked (2 Peter 2:7-8). How much more was the holy Jesus grieved at the sight and knowledge of the degradation and impiety of the human race. “He knew what was in man” (John 2:25). He did not misname some of them when he said, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8-44), he called them hypocrites, a generation of vipers. There they were before him unmasked, naked, their secret sins all bare to his gaze: their envy, their malice, their murderous hatred, the filth, the dense, deep depravities of the hearts of men all naked and opened unto his eyes. O dreadful, shocking, appalling! Had his holy human nature not been sustained by his eternal God-head Jesus could never have endured the horrors of that knowledge. O my brother, my sister, to think that our Christ, the Holy One, should have seen the lust, the hatred, the meannesses, the hypocrisies, the deep foul villianies in the hearts of the multitude!

Was it for such he gave himself a ransom. He was “grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (Mark 3:5). But Jesus never had a hard heart, a heart of stone. O no; he never was hardened through the deceitfulness of sin as we are labile to be (Heb. 3:13). “The reproachs of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me” (Psalm 69:9). “Reproach hath broken my heart” (Psalm 69:20).

A few times I have thought that I have had just a little glimpse of Jesus’ tender, broken heart. “He sighed deeply in his spirit” (Mark 8:12). “He groaned in spirit and was troubled.” Jesus wept (John 11:33-35). He beheld the city and wept over it (Luke 19-41). How these scriptures reveal to us the loving suffering heart of the man of sorrows. He enters into the sorrows of his loved ones. Christ’s human heart took their troubles and sorrows unto himself. Though Jesus was never personally sick it was impossible that disease would prey upon his incorruptible flesh, yet it is written: Himself took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses (Matt. 8:17), He was touched with the feeling of our infirmities, my bowels are troubled for him (Jer. 31:20). Yet these sufferings of the holy, undefiled Savior were not final sufferings, but in them all it was that it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren and that the incarnate Son of God in his human nature that he should come into all nearness to¬† the elect, that he shoal know how to succor them that are tempted. In all their afflictions he was afflicted (Isaiah 63:9). Our High Priest was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. His trials, sufferings, agony, reproach, the temptations of Satan, the temptations from men, all brought sorrow to his holy soul. “He suffered being tempted.” He was indeed the tried Stone (Isaiah 28:16), subjected to every test, but no flaw was found in him.

I feel at my heart all thy sighs and thy groans, for thou are most near me, my flesh and my bones; in all thy distresses thy Head feels the pain, yet are most needful, no one in vain. “Touched: For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye” (Zech. 2:8). “Why persecutest thou me” (Acts 9:4). Shall I call this fellow feeling we are called “his fellows” (Psalm 45:7), and he is “the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 13:7). The temptations of the people of God are “divers” (James 1:2), and manifold (1 Peter 1:6), in all these things (Rom. 8:37), his compassions flow out unto us, his all-sufficient succor is at hand. O, they never shall separate us from the love of Christ, but rather they are the decreed opportunities to pour forth his soothing, supporting endearment, and by his words and deeds of love in all these things we are more than conquerors.

Poor, sinful, unworthy his people are, but “he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted (Psalm 22:24). Our miseries can never exceed his pitifulness and tender mercy. I love to think upon this, for I am so often vexed with trials, without and within that I am sometimes weary and faint in my mind (Heb. 12:3), ready to hand (Psalm 38:17), and sorrows from sin, the world and the fiery temptations of Satan are continually before me. But, O, it becomes me to acknowledge that Christ is able to succor them that are in sore trials, and if any one has reason to know this I feel I have, and with Jeremiah I will say, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning, great is thy faithfulness. I am persuaded that the trials, buffeting, sorrows, afflictions chastenings, from whatever source they may come upon believes in Christ Jesus, are never too heavy, or too many, all will ultimately work for their good.

I have sketched some of the sufferings that are common to Christ and his called ones, but O, dear children of God, how shall any one portray those sufferings of Christ Jesus the Head for the redemption, the atonement of the members of his body, the church? Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.

The sword of eternal justice awoke against the Shepherd (Zech. 13:7). O, for a heart to ponder the fifty third chapter of Isaiah. Let me quote a few verses:

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for or iniquities; and the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we, like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.

It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” Upon our Ransomer was poured fourth the wrath of God in his law, “for the transgressions of my people was he stricken”. In his travail for our salvation “he poured out his soul unto death”. Look in Gethsemane:

“‘Twas there the Lord of life appeared,
And sighed and groaned, and prayed and feared,
Bore all incarnate God could bear
With strength enough but none to spare.”

He entered that garden “and began to be sore amazed, and very heavy; and saith unto them, My soul is exceedingly sorrowful unto death” (Mark 14:33-34). “And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly: and his “sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22-44). O that anguish of the incarnate Word no heart can conceive, no tongue of mortals tell. He “delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1-10).

“That wrath would have kindled a hell
Of never-abating despair,
In millions of creatures, which fell
On Jesus, and spent itself there.
‘Twas justice that burst in a blaze
Of vengeance on Jesus, our Head;
Divinity’s indwelling rays
Sustained Him ‘till nature was dead.”

The spotless, unblemished Lamb of God gave himself a Sacrifice for our sins, pouring fourth his precious blood. His sufferings for his people, whom he came to redeem from under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. The atonement was his life obedience unto death, even the death or the cross (Phil. 2:8), “and you, that were sometime alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present your holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight” (Col. 1:21-22).

Only because Christ was the Lord from heaven (1 Cor. 15-47). Only because he was the holy child Jesus (Acts 94:27), was eligible, and capable of accomplishing our salvation, no other sufferings, no other blood than Jesus’ blood, could make atonement for sin. And it is this that the precious Jesus’ blood has power to cleanse from all sin. Jesus our Savior is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11), and, therefore, in an incomprehensible glorious mystery his blood and righteousness are the blood and righteousness of God (Acts 20:28; 2 Cor. 5-21).

“So guilty, so helpless am I,
I darst not confide in his blood,
Nor on his protection rely,
Unless I were sure he is a God.”

He is “man that is my Fellow, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 13-7), and this only fitted him, sustained him and gave efficacy to his sufferings, obedience and blood to reconcile us unto God, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. O what a destiny! O the blessedness of reconciliation, of eternal friendship with God, to be before him in justification of life!

All the angels in heaven could never have made atonement for sin, and the sufferings of the condemned in hell will never atone for their transgressions.

The atonement is the work of the Lord God omnipotent, who reigneth, and was wrought by “the exceeding greatness of his power” (Ephes. 1:19-20). He who is the Word made flesh, the Son of God, being the brightness of the Father’s glory, the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power for the atonement of the sins of the chosen.

“Bore all incarnate God could bear
With strength enough and none to spare.”

He by himself poured out sins and sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).

By Him we have received the atonement ( Rom. 5:11). Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Rev. 1:5-6).

FREDERICK W. KEENE,
Raleigh, NC

THE LONE PILGRIM,
November 1924, pages 24 thru 32.