Our topic for this lecture is the purpose of Christ at his first advent. But there is one very important point that we should like to make right from the start and that is - Whose purpose is it?
The answer to this question may become confused if we listen to the teachings of men, rather than the teachings of God in our Bibles. For instance, a popular illustration, (frequently used by those involved in the Evangelical movement to explain the purpose of Christ, and what he accomplished) is to have us imagine a man who has sinned, and is condemned to death by a stern king. The man is supposed to represent us, and the king is God. Now, just before the sentence is executed, a great lover of the man, who is supposed to be Jesus, runs forth and says to the king, "No, kill me instead." The King accepts this offer and we go free, while Jesus is punished with all the pain and the penalty that was due to us.
Though this illustration is incorrect for a number of reasons, perhaps its greatest failing is that it completely ignores the work of God in the salvation of man. In this illustration, God appears anxious to destroy man, anxious to completely wipe out the work of His own hands. Practically, it represents Him as exceedingly harsh and unforgiving, but worst of all (as we will show) it represents God as unjust and unrighteous in His dealings with man.
But what does the Bible have to say about God, and the purpose of Christ? What role does the Bible portray God as playing in the work of Jesus? When we ask that question, we find a completely different answer. We find that the Bible represents God as the Source, the Origin, and the Operator in the whole matter of the appearance, life and sacrifice of Jesus.
From the very start of the life of Jesus, those closely associated with the purpose of God recognized that it was God who was providing for their salvation through Jesus.
From the teachings of the Scriptures then, we can see that the purpose of Christ at his first and second advents, is truly God's purpose. God provided Christ. The race of man truly was doomed to death because of sin. The great King, God our Father, was not interested in destroying the race, as the Evangelical illustration we referred to earlier suggests. God our Savior, as Mary and Paul refer to Him, developed a plan to SAVE the race, not destroy it. Jesus was that plan. He came with a purpose, and the purpose of Christ, begun by God and carried out by God through Jesus, was to bring about salvation for mankind.
Now there were many things that Christ accomplished during his lifetime, many purposes he fulfilled. The central core of every purpose, AND therefore the main purpose that Jesus was and is to accomplish, is to bring salvation; to save man from death. We say then, that the purpose of Christ at his first and second advent was to bring salvation to whomsoever would avail themselves of the healing Christ effected in his life and death. The title of Saviour that the apostles, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gave him as well as his Father, bears this out. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The title "Savior" indicates that those for which he came had something from which to be saved. By pinpointing precisely what that is (what we need to be saved from), we can see much more easily exactly what it was that Jesus accomplished in his first advent, and will accomplish more fully at his second advent.
The man became a "living soul." The Hebrew words translated "living soul" are "nephesh chayiah." Literally, nephesh means a breathing frame, therefore a body. Chayiah means "of life". The expression says man became a body of life.
This is how God created man. He was "very good." There was no curse on the man. He at that time, was not directly related to death. He did not offer sacrifice, because there was no sin. He was not a man of sorrows. All these things happened to the man because he sinned.
And there, in those first few chapters of Genesis, we have the reason why man required a Savior. Man sinned, and was condemned to death. Death came to the man by the decree of God. Death, which was not inherent in him in the day of his creation, now became a fact of life with which he and all his descendants would to have to deal. It became a physical law of his being.
What was the difference between Adam in his creation (being "very good" and "a body of life"), and Jesus and Paul who said "there is none good but one, and that is God, and lamented "this body of death"? The answer is, Adam sinned. Adam sinned and brought with his sin death for the entire race.
If Jesus was clean, or free from Adam's sin, then Mary must have been so as well. Speaking Scripturally now, what is this so-called Adam's sin, or original sin? It is that which we have been discussing. It is that which we have all inherited from Adam, through birth. It is that which Adam was sentenced to endure. It includes death, sorrow, pain, and suffering. Now when a baby comes out of the water , (or in most churches after it has been sprinkled) is there any change regarding the things to which Adam was sentenced? If the answer is no, (and of course it is,) why persist in a useless tradition?
Well, if we are not all individually guilty of Adam's transgression, what does the apostle mean when he says we have all sinned in Adam? The principle to which the apostle is referring is called in literature, the Federal Principle. We are all sinners before we individually commit a single transgression, in the sense, and only in the sense, that we are all born into a sinful race. For instance, those of us who have been born in the United States of America are called Americans, quite independently of any desire to be so called. Indeed, we do much to distance ourselves from the title of "Americans" preferring citizenship with spiritual Israel. This is called the Federal Principle. We are all termed Americans by birth. People born in the nation to the north of us are called Canadians. Those born in England, English etc.
Now, getting back to our topic. We see that after Adam's fall from the very good state to his state defiled by sin, that death became a bodily law in his being because of sin. And with death came all the rest of the permanent changes that the nature of Adam experienced upon falling from the very good state. Since this new condition man found himself in was the direct result of sin, and because the new condition was directly opposed to the things of the Spirit, (and therefore sinful) the condition itself is called in the Scriptures, Sin.
So we can see that "Adam's sin" is this law of sin in our members to which Paul alludes. It was a law that made the body a "body of death." It was a law, which was not in man from the beginning, but a law that came to mankind as a result of sin. Adam's personal sin, therefore, is not transmitted to all his posterity, the law of sin was. We are not individually "guilty" of Adam's sin. We are not responsible for Adam's sin in any way. We do however, suffer the consequences of Adam's sin, which is this body of death we all bear. It is from both this body of death, and from our own personal sins, that we all require a Savior according to the plan of God.
(Now when we say that we need a Savior, it must be understood that we need a Savior because it was God's plan that it should be so. These things are not chemical reactions. The reason that the purpose of Christ, and the workings that he did were done, was because God ordained them to be so. God developed a plan of salvation and worked it out through Jesus. Those who will learn that plan, and identify themselves with that plan, become eligible for the beneficial effects worked out by God which is life everlasting.)
We see then, that the human body is now a body of death, not a body of life as in the beginning; and this body of death requires redemption. God made it very obvious to Adam and Eve when they were in the Garden that they, after their sin, were not able to bring about their own salvation.
No doubt all of us are quite familiar with the events in the Garden of Eden, but to go over them again briefly we recall that after they had transgressed, they realized they were naked. As such, they sought out their own covering. They found for themselves fig leaves and they sewed them together. This was a covering of their own device. In effect what they were trying to do was cover their sins. This covering of their own device was not acceptable to God, and He provided them animal skins to cover their nakedness.
It is very significant that the Hebrew word for "atonement" is "kaphar" and it literally means "to cover". It was God's intention from the very beginning to provide for mankind His own covering, His own atonement for the sins of mankind. He did this, originally, by providing the animal skins (which we know from Revelations 13 were lambskins and represented Jesus). In that chapter, John refers to Jesus as the "lamb slain from the foundation of the world." And so he was. He was the covering that God provided, to atone for the sins of the world.
From the very beginning, man has tried to rebel against this notion that God would provide for man a covering for sin. We recall that the first murder in the Bible was committed by Cain, who refused to respect this basic principle. Cain desired to offer an atonement, a covering of his own device. God required an animal, and Cain offered of the fruit of the ground. His sacrifice was not accepted: he became angry and slew his brother, who had offered the righteous, God-accepted sacrifice.
We also recall that the Children of Israel did not keep the law, but always resorted to the idolatry of the nations around them. And what is idolatry, but man setting out to worship the creations of their own hands, rather than to obey the dictates of God? A man takes a stone or wood, and using his own tools and his own skills he creates an image after his own imagination. He worships this image, and in so doing, he is worshipping a plan of salvation of his own device.
This same parallel can be brought into the purpose of Christ. Man decides what he himself thinks should be the proper plan. He invents snappy phrases that cannot be found in the Scripture to give his idea the appearance of being profound. He invents imaginary Christs to hypothesize on a lot of "what ifs" and "maybes". The end result is a different plan, a different Christ than that which God has provided. We must always turn to the law and the testimony for understanding. To get away from this is to invite confusion, and run the risk of creating our own idols, and to worship a plan of salvation which is not to life, but unto death.
So we see it is the testimony of the Scriptures that the body we bear is a body of death. And as a body of death it requires redemption from its corruption, from its vile condition. It needs a redemption that we cannot provide, but one which God has provided. It is our responsibility to discover His plan of salvation and then bring ourselves into harmony with it. There is no other hope for life.
Now among the many dangerous opinions which are voiced concerning the purpose of Christ comes this next idea with which we wish to deal. It is the highly flesh pleasing notion that this body of death is not necessarily an evil thing. We have shown so far that the body which we bear is a body of death. It is a body of pain and sorrow. A body prone to sin. As such, it is styled "sinful flesh" by the apostle Paul in Rom. 8:3. Sinful flesh, which of course means flesh full of sin.
And here we would interject a few words about the term "sinful flesh." Many have pointed out that "sin's flesh" would be a more literal translation. But word for word is not always a perfect translation from language to language. There must always be an attempt to translate expressions according to context.
"Sinful flesh" then, in English perfectly represents the Spirit's idea, which is of more consequence than any lexicographical word-for-word equivalent.
But man, in his foolishness, reasons that the flesh is not really sinful. "I'm not really such a bad guy. I haven't murdered anyone. I don't steal, I don't lie. I''m really not such a bad fellow. Why, I even have certain good instincts. The desire to feed and cloth my family is a good thing. The desire to go to Church on Sunday is a good thing. And certainly it would be wrong to classify Jesus as having this sinful flesh, for Paul says those in this flesh cannot please God, but Jesus himself testified of God: 'for I do always those things that please him.' (John 8:29)."
What a contrast is this thinking from the teachings of the Bible. The teachings of the Bible is that this flesh, of which we have been writing, this flesh that has resulted from the condemnation of human nature to death because of sin. This flesh all of us bear had "no good of itself." It is totally dependant upon illumination from outside of itself.
Let's think on this for a minute. People, you know, are apt to judge this matter by their own particular experience at the moment when they happen to be thinking about it. This is never a way to judge a divine matter. Our present mental state is the result of many external influences operating for a long time, and are not a clue as to what the flesh would produce if left to itself. When we find a situation where man has been left to himself, such as the Aborigines in Australia, (a situation where the true value of the flesh is exposed because the teachings of the spirit are nonexistent in their lives) we get a clearer picture.
When we look there, we do not see them flocking to the churches on Sunday morning. We do not see them concerned with feeding and clothing their families. In fact, in this peculiar example of the carnal mind, a man may with no notice at all, go on what is called a "walk about" were he leaves everything and goes off on his own into the wilderness for a period of time with no concern whatever for those he has left behind.
This is the true "thinking of the flesh." This is the thinking of the flesh operating apart from the teachings of God. Our current societies are not good examples on the surface, because on the surface they have been shaped by lip-service to divine principles. Looking beneath the lip-service, we find the true character of mankind: and there we learn of the corruption of man whether politician or preacher.
The point illustrated is this: there is nothing in the mind itself except certain blind cravings, desires, and impulses. These are inherent: they are native to the flesh. The knowledge of God is not native to the flesh. The knowledge of how we must proceed to be at one with God is not inherent. So what Paul says is absolutely true. The mind of the flesh is an evil and sinful thing, for its natural impulses resident in the flesh are all in directions opposed to God. As Paul says "the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." (Rom. 7:7) Paul is truly philosophical in going directly to the root of the matter--to the very source of the problem. He does not speak of mere surface appearances, but he speaks of the origin of the evil, the flesh itself, in which by nature dwells no good thing.
Truly then, according to the teachings of the Spirit in the Scriptures, the flesh is a sinful, evil thing.
Now we have so far established that man has fallen out of harmony with God because of sin, (and not necessarily his own sins, though these too are a cause of separation) but Adam's sin from the very beginning. The result of this sin was to change man's nature from a "very good" nature, to the defiled nature we now all inherit and bear, which inevitably ends in death. To be restored to harmony with God, and consequently to be granted eternal life, a plan was needed which would allow God to be merciful and forgive man his sins, while at the same time maintaining that God is righteous and just in all His doings.
As we have seen from the pen of the Apostle Paul, "By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death hath passed upon all men in whom all have sinned." How was this state of things to be remedied? How was sin to be destroyed?
There were at least three ways of mending this problem. One way would have been to exterminate the whole human species. But this would have been a poor solution. It would have been to confess failure:- -that God has set going an arrangement on this planet for His glory and could not make it work. This was impossible. God has said that He has not made the earth in vain: that He formed it to be inhabited by the righteous; and that as truly as He lives, it will yet be filled with His glory!
The second way, would have been what might be called the toleration of sin method--the universal and indiscriminating pity method, by which the wickedness of disobedience of man should have been ignored and mankind allowed to occupy the earth immorally for their own pleasure. But this also was impossible. It would have meant God's abdication, and the handing over of men to eternal misery.
There was a third way--a middle way, and that is the way which has been adopted; namely, to enforce the law against sin, and at the same time leave the door open for mercy to repentant and obedient sinners.
We find that God's method for the return of sinful man to favor required and appointed the putting to death of man's condemned, evil, and sinful nature in a representative man of spotless character (whom God should provide) to declare and uphold His righteousness. This was to be the first condition of restoration. In so doing, God would be exhibited as Just in justifying the unjust, who should believingly approach Him in humility, confession, and through the all important reformation of one's own character to the teachings of the Spirit. And just how such a thing was to be accomplished has been exhibited to us in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In summary, it is the purpose of Christ at his first advent.
The work of Christ, therefore, was to declare the righteousness of God. The word "declare" is a word which means "to exhibit." Christ's life and death and resurrection was a exhibition of the righteousness of God. The things were accomplished in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, were not in violation of God's righteousness, but a perfect exhibition of God's righteousness.
But the question immediately comes, how can this be? How can Jesus, who lived a spotless, perfect life be commanded to die: and have it all demonstrate the righteousness of God? Wouldn't this rather demonstrate or exhibit unrighteousness? The wages of sin is death. If Jesus didn't sin, why did he have to die? Isn't this unfair? Isn't this wrong?
Well it would be wrong if the nature of Christ as explained by Trinitarians was correct. It would be wrong if the nature of Christ was immaculate, or without sin. It would be wrong if Christ suffered a real, actual death because of symbolical, shadowy sin. God would be demanding Christ to die a death he had no relationship to, and no need for. It would be a loving act on the part of Jesus to do this for us, but it would have been wrong for God to have required it of him. And since the purpose of the death of Christ was to exhibit the righteousness and justness of God, and that that should be the basis for the forgiveness of our sins that are past; it is impossible that what God required Jesus to do could in any way be considered wrong.
God sent Jesus in the likeness of sinful flesh. And that word "likeness" actually means "identicalness". Jesus was sent with the same flesh we all have. And for (or on account of sin) God condemned sin in the flesh.
Now it must be apparent to all that sin could not have been condemned in the flesh of Jesus, had it not existed there. Oh, it could have been symbolically condemned. It could have been another empty ritual like those under the Mosaic law. But the symbols of the Mosaic law had no power to take away sin for the very reason that they were only symbols and shadows. It would be the reality of what Jesus did which would finally take away sins. And what he really did was bear sin in the flesh, that sin might be condemned in his flesh; and taken away through the righteousness and justness of God. It could not actually have been taken away, if it did not actually exist there.
Consider what is wrong with making Christ's sacrifice another symbol in a long line of symbols, in the removing of sin. If sin wasn't actually in the flesh of Jesus, then Christ's sacrifice can be nothing more than another symbol, and in actuality, a travesty of justice.
Consider that the State of Texas condemns murder by sentencing murderers to death. Now suppose that the state took you, (who had never murdered anyone) and they published a statement that they were going to put you to death to exhibit what is right and just to murderers. Then, after you were dead, the state would demand that all citizens look on your death and say; yes, this is what is right and justly due to murderers. What would you say when you learned of the State's plan? Let us suggest that you wouldn't say that the state was right and just, because they wouldn't be. It would be wrong to put such an one to death, because you hadn't murdered anyone.
But if the State took a murderer, and put him to death as an exhibition of what is right and just for murderers, then we could agree that such a treatment of murder is right and just.
Such is the case with Jesus. If Jesus was completely without sin, but died to exhibit what was right and just for THE sinner, then it was a loving act on the part of Jesus, but an unjust requirement on the part of God. But as we have already seen, the nature of man is sinful, or full of sin. Jesus, being the seed of Adam, bore this same sinful nature which is common to all mankind. When he died on the cross, the great exhibition that he made is: "here is how sinful flesh deserves and needs to be treated. It is fit only for destruction." And since he had committed no sin, but always did those things which pleased the Father, there is no confusion in this statement. The focus is totally on the nature of man as needing to be destroyed. When we look on this great sacrifice and recognize the rightness and justness of God in destroying this flesh we all bear (when we acknowledge that it is only fit for destruction) then, on that basis and on that basis alone God is willing to forgive us our trespasses.
This, then, is the purpose of Christ at his first advent. It was to destroy sin in himself, to destroy sin in the flesh. And again, sin could not have been condemned in the flesh of Jesus, had it not existed there.
Going back to Rom. 8:3, we see that in the death of Christ, God was doing something that the law could not do. What was it that the Law could not do? Some have said that the Law could not condemn sin. But the Law condemned sins of weakness in the trespass offering, sins of ignorance in the sin offering, sinful flesh in the burnt offering, and sins of presumption through the death of the guilty one. The Law condemned sin in every way imaginable. It condemned sin so thoroughly that Paul called the Law, "the administration of condemnation" or the Law that condemns.
We notice that what the law could not do, was not due to its own imperfection, but because of the weakness of the flesh. What the law could not do, because of the weakness of the flesh, was to give life. The law could not give life because man, born of sinful flesh could not keep it perfectly. This, Paul says, God remedied by specially preparing and sending Jesus in sinful flesh.
We find among the various erroneous views on the sacrifice of Christ, a complete revulsion at the concept that there was sin in any form in Christ. They often will agree that sin was symbolized by the flesh of Jesus. But they cannot accept that there was actually any sin in Christ. But as we have shown, this idea is unquestionably a necessary condition for sin to have been condemned in his flesh. And beyond that, it is the uniform teaching of the New Testament, Psalms, the Law and the Prophets. We will glean from the vast testimony of Scriptures to show that this is in fact a Scriptural principle.
But again, what was the sin which Paul said God made him to be? What was the iniquity which Jesus lamented in the Psalms to be more than the hairs of his head? And what was his sin from which he needed to be purged or purified, that from which Jesus needed remission?
Sins born in a body prove that body to be unclean, and further it properly fit it for the purpose of God though Jesus, the condemnation of sin in the flesh.
Now let's go back to the illustration with which we began this lecture. In this illustration, Jesus runs forward as we are about to be killed for sin by God, and says, "wait, kill me instead." According to this illustration, Jesus himself is not related to death. Jesus, according to the churches and their Trinitarian creed, has no sin in him. He is not of our nature, but rather is consubstantial with the Father. In other words, he is of the same nature as the Father which is immortal spirit nature.
Now when Jesus in this illustration says "Kill me instead", God accepts his offer and takes out all the anger He has towards mankind on Jesus, the substitutionary offering. Jesus, who was not related to sin and/or death, dies for something he was not related to at all. And we asked the question, where is the righteousness of God exhibited in this example? How can killing one who was not related to death be considered in any way as exhibiting God as righteous and just? If anything, we should look at such an example as unrighteous.
If this view of the matter was correct and Jesus died instead of us that we may go free, then we should not die at all, which we do. Further, if Jesus is not related to sin, and wages of sin is death, then it was unjust that he should die. And when we consider that Jesus's death was by God's own appointment, as Jesus himself says it was, then we have God unright in appointing and requiring it.
So there can be no question that the death of Jesus was by God's own appointment and commandment. And being such, it had to be both right and just. But who can explain the righteousness in putting to death one not subject to death because of sin, one whose nature was not the flesh full of sin nature described by the apostles? We say without fear of contradiction, that no one can.
If Christ's death was just another symbol, just a substitute standing in for sin to demonstrate in a symbolical ritual what was due to sin, then there could be nothing exhibited as right and just as related to God. But we are told that the exhibition of the rightness and justness of God is the only basis in the Scriptures upon which we can have forgiveness of our sins which are past. This leads us to the only logical conclusion that any theory which cannot explain how God is exhibited as right and just in the death of Christ, that theory cannot provide the basis for the forgiveness of sins that are past. And if we have no forgiveness of sins, then we are all still dead in our sins, and of all men most miserable.
This is a perfect example as to why it is so very important that this subject is understood correctly. There is no doubt but that this subject is the single most important subject in Scriptures as affecting salvation. We are all sinners, not only in the sense that we were born the seed of Adam, but also, we are sinners because everyone of us has sinned. We require a savior. We need to approach God in harmony with this prescribed plan. We are not free to dream up a plan of salvation which satisfies ourselves. We must conform our ways to God's ways, to have any hope for salvation. We must identify ourselves with the declaration of God's righteousness which Jesus made in his death and through his blood, if we hope to have forgiveness of our sins which are past.
In seeing God's righteousness in requiring Jesus to die the death which he died, we therefore must see that his death was not a mere martyrdom, but it itself was an essential element in the salvation of mankind. We who are sinners have been reconciled to God as a result of Jesus' death, and by your association with what Jesus accomplished.
In Jesus' death, he made a declaration of God's righteousness which was to be the basis of the forgiveness of sins. This declaration was an element in the purpose he came to perform. The declaration of God's righteousness that Jesus made when he was hanging upon the cross was this: "This is how sinful flesh, the source of all evil in the world, needs to be treated in harmony with the righteousness of God, the source of all that is good in the world. Sinful flesh is fit only for destruction." This is the statement with which we must all identify. We must constantly crucify the old man, OUR SINFUL FLESH, to identify ourselves with Christ's great sacrifice.
Now, along with it being right for Jesus to be condemned to death because of sin, we also must recognize a justness in God requiring him to submit to the type of death which he died, which was a sacrificial death.
A sacrificial death is a death which exhibits certain principles. Under the Law of Moses, a man brought an animal to the altar and placed his hands upon the head of the animal, confessing his sins; and in symbol, he placed the sins upon the animal. Then the animal was slain to represent the destruction of sin.
This point is often missed in our society because of the meaning sacrifice has taken on. Most would now-a-days understand sacrifice to mean to forfeit, or give away. This is the meaning which has been derived from 1700 years of false understandings concerning the sacrifice of Christ, held by the general Christian world. But it is not at all related to the Scripturally intended meaning of the word. Actually, sacrifice comes from a word meaning "to slaughter". The sacrifice of Christ was a slaughtering of sin in his flesh, just as the animal under the law represented in symbol the slaughtering of sin.
Note in the above verse it is all the iniquities and all their transgressions in all their sins which are symbolically placed upon the head of the animal. And this shows what is done through the confession of the individual in sacrifice. The sins are placed on the sacrificial animal.
When the Churches read this, they try to place the individual as the animal. They argue that the animal is from his flock, something in which he had invested much time and money. In killing it he is, therefore, forfeiting something of value, giving up something dear to him: in this way the churches try to blend their idea of sacrifice with the law.
But the animal does not represent the individual, or something owned by the individual that he is giving up. The animal, plain and simply, represents Christ. He is taken from the flock to represent that the Christ would be found among the children of Israel. He was the best of the flock, without spot or blemish to represent his moral perfection. Our sins were laid upon him, representing that our sins would be laid upon Christ in his being born of sinful flesh: and that in his great sacrifice, he would destroy that flesh, and sin with it as pertaining to himself first, and in others who would recognize the rightness and justness of what he had done.
And though the animal does not represent the offerer, the offerer does identify with the sacrificial animal in that he must recognize that what is happening to the animal (and ultimately to Christ) is what is due to him because of his transgressions to which he has just confessed. To have our sins forgiven, we must fully understand we are sinners, and that sin needs to be destroyed. Upon this declaration of God's righteousness and justness, God is willing to forgive us our sins.
The death that God required Jesus to submit to was a blood shedding, sacrificial death. In order for God to be just in requiring this of Jesus, there must have been a sense in which Jesus needed to be purged from sin through this atonement.
It is upon this universal principle that all that is not of faith is sin, that the flesh we bear is called "sin"; for sinful flesh is as antagonistic to faith, as opposed to faith, as anything can be. But this sin is not moral. We had nothing to do to be guilty of it. We are born with it. This is our misfortune, but not our crime.
It is for the purification from this physical sinful flesh that Jesus himself was required by God to submit to a sacrificial death. He had the law of sin in himself from which he needed and required purification; for all sin was to be purified through blood shedding.
We have shown already that Paul, in Rom. 7 speaks of "the law of sin in my members." We have shown that in the next chapter, Paul calls this "sin in the flesh" and "sinful flesh." Some who argue for a pure Christ, one without the flesh full of sin, say that Paul could speak of the law of sin in his members because he was a sinner, but that it would be wrong to apply that to one who did not sin, such as the Christ.
Well, let's go back and examine Paul's statements again. Did Paul say that this law existed in him because he was a sinner? Or did he give some other proof about this law in his members? In the 18th verse Paul says "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not." Now note that carefully. Paul says the reason he knows he has this law of sin in his flesh, is that he has a will. He had a "will" which inspired him to do things contrary to the desires of God. This is what made the flesh so sinful. Did Jesus have such a "will"?
This will that Jesus had to fight, just as we have to fight, proves that Jesus bore the same sinful flesh as we, and that he fought the same law in his members that we all do. This will, as he himself testifies, had desires contrary to the will of the Father, which proves that it was in fact a physical, sinful characteristic, as Paul says it was. Jesus never yielded to it. He was morally perfect in all things. But as it was there with all its desires contrary to the will of the Father, it needed to be removed; and the method ordained by God for its removal was his own blood shedding sacrifice.
This will was not anything moral. It did not make Jesus guilty of sin. Possessing sinful flesh was not sin, that is, it was not morally defiling to him in that he always resisted it and kept it under perfect control his whole life. Still it was there, and, according to the purpose of God, had to be removed through sacrifice.
Our Great High Priest Jesus can have compassion on us as we fail, because he himself understood our feelings being compassed with the same infirmity. Observe what it says about this infirmity. "By reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins."
Paul says that the reason the great High Priest had to offer for himself was these "infirmities." By reason, not of sin, but of the infirmity the High Priest Jesus had to offer for sins. Why, if sinful flesh is not sinful? Verse 15 of chapter four had just told us that Jesus had never sinned, but that he did have our infirmity. And now verse three of chapter five tells us that by reason of this infirmity, Jesus had to offer for himself for sins.
But of course, sinful flesh was sinful. That is why these infirmities, this sinful flesh, created such a situation that our Great High Priest had to offer first for his own sins, and then for the people's. And oh, the confusion which has been created in trying to avoid this foundation principle for the forgiveness of sins.
This verse, as it stands, is perfectly clear. The verse says that what the High Priest did daily, (literally day by day meaning on the day of atonement,) in offering first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people, Christ did once. There is no way to get around the fact this verse clearly says that Christ, once, offered first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people.
Because of the clarity of this verse as written, many different efforts to get around what is clearly stated have been derived. Commas are moved, parenthesis added, nearly any change imaginable has been construed to make this verse say something other than what it clearly says. In 1889, an Anglican preacher named Westcott, himself a Trinitarian, wrote an exposition on the Hebrews. In it, he explains all the reasons why the changes to the text which are so desired are not accurate. Some, he points out, are grammatically impossible for reasonable translations. Others ignore the order of the text. Still others are paraphrases and not translations at all. His conclusion is this: "It is of course true that for Himself Christ had no need to offer a sacrifice in any sense. But perhaps it is better to supply the ideal sense of the High-priest's offerings, and so to leave the statement in a general form. Whatever the Aaronic high-priest did in symbol as a sinful man, that Christ did perfectly as a sinless in His humanity for men." ("Epistle to the Hebrews" by Westcott: page 197.)
Westcott could reach this conclusion because he did not believe in the fully inspired Scriptures. He could agree that the only possible translation is the one in the King James. He agreed that the translation which says that Christ had to offer first for his own sins is the correct one. He simply spiritualized it, and went on. So while he could not deny that the text says that Christ offered for himself, he just presumed that since Christ was sinless, the verse had to have a highly spiritual meaning, and ignored the ramifications of such a verse to those who believe in the complete infallibility of the Scriptures.
The ramifications are quite clear. The verse clearly states that Christ offered first for his own sins. What are his own sins? The previous verse had said he was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." For what then did he offer? As we have pointed out, he did have something for which to offer: His sinful nature.
In a discussion, once, a man said to us that this verse is "nebulous," and it's wrong to put a meaning on such a verse which contradicts what is otherwise plainly taught in Scriptures. First off, the verse is not nebulous, it is plain. And secondly, this verse does not contradict what is plainly taught in Scriptures. The Scriptures do not teach, plainly or otherwise, that Christ did not offer first for his own sins.
You will notice in the King James Version, the words "for us" are italicized. Words italicized means that they are not in the original, but have been added by the translators to help our reading. As we have already pointed out, word for word is never a good translation from one language to the next. The question is whether or not the translators have done the correct thing in making the addition. In this case, we find that they have actually translated the matter unfaithfully.
Had it been translated this way, there would have been no need for italics at all, because there would have been nothing added to (or taken away from) the original translation. All we would have had is a contradiction to modern Christian thought. We would have a consistent translation with Heb. 5:3 and 7:27: that Christ himself was purified by the blood of his own sacrifice from the sin he bore in his flesh.
Here the patterns, (the vessels of the ministry) are clearly shown to be in need of atonement. Why? How could these inanimate objects sin? Of course they couldn't, but they were reckoned by God as being defiled by sin because of their physical relationship to the children of Israel and all their sins. So the immediate question comes, would not the anti-type of these vessels of the ministry, the heavenly things themselves, that is Christ himself, be also reckoned as physically defiled for his contact with the children of Israel through bearing their same nature? And if physically defiled, does this not explain Paul's statement that he needed to be cleansed through the better sacrifice, his own sacrifice, than the blood of bulls and goats used to cleanse the tabernacle and mercy seat etc. under the law?
Here is very clear testimony that as a memorial of what the Prince of the Temple, that is Christ, did will be to offer a bullock for a sin offering for himself. This testimony in the Kingdom law is so clear that it has caused some to suggest that Ezekiel's temple is not the temple of the Kingdom Age, but rather the temple built by Nehemiah. To more reasonable people, this by itself, is a testimony to the lengths some will go to avoid the clear teaching of Scriptures. The land included in this temple would be the very land inhabited by Israel's enemies Sanballat and Tobiah. That Nehemiah's Temple could have encompassed the lands of these vicious and vindictive men is absurd.
In conclusion, we pray that it will be apparent to all that the Bible teaches that the purpose of Christ's first advent was to destroy sin in himself, and in those who should believe in what he, through the grace of God, accomplished.