Comments regarding Christ’s qualifications for being the sin-bearer.
(1 Peter 2:24)
It will be appreciated that Christ must have had the right qualifications for the work of atonement, else He would not have been acceptable as a sacrifice, He would not have been raised from the dead and we would still have been in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17).
Putting Man’s problem succinctly we have the following:
1. Man has sinned against God (Romans 5:12-14).
2. Man needs a mediator between him and God (Job 9:33).
3. Christ is the mediator that God has supplied (1 Timothy 2:5).
The mediator has the following qualifications:
1. He was a man of blood and flesh like ourselves, yet without sin (Hebrews 2:14; 4:15). It was necessary that He should have been a man of blood and flesh as had He not been such there could have been no shedding of blood and therefore no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22). As to his physical and mental faculties He was essentially the same as ourselves. He advanced in wisdom (mentally) and stature (physically). However, He also advanced in favour with God and men (Luke 2:52). The latter was due to the fact that He did not have our sinful nature. He was capable of dying, but not under death as a penalty, an important difference.
2. Christ was a different order of Man. He was “the second man, out of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:45-48). Apart from this passage we know that the apostle John tells us in a number of places that Christ came down from heaven (e.g. John 3:13).
3. All that Christ was as a human being, if we may so speak, came from his Mother, as our own physical substance comes from our Mother. All that went into the grave came from her - that is all that He was after the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:16). He came of woman, not of man (Galatians 4:4). However what He was as a moral being came from his Father. He had his Father’s nature absolutely, so that He could say: “He that has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
4. The importance of this is that had He had a sinful nature He would have sinned and been under the penalty of death himself. Being under death as a penalty himself He could not have been a substitute for others. However, because He was not subject to death himself He could suffer it for others: “[the] just for [the] unjust” (1 Peter 3:18).
5. The foregoing deals with Christ’s qualifications for taking “away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). However, there is another side to our problem for a mediator is not of one (Galatians 3:20). Christ had to offer himself to God. This He did. To do so he had to be personally distinct from God. This He was, being his Son (Romans 1:4), just as we are personally distinct from our natural fathers. Further, before He came into this world, John says “the Word was with God” (John 1:1). To be with a person implies that we are not the person we are with. Had Christ not been distinct from God He could not have: “offered himself spotless to God” (Hebrews 9:14). See also Ephesians 5:2. Had He been God himself there would not have been any atonement, because God giving to himself what was due to himself from Man would have achieved nothing. A ransom had to be given to God (Psalm 49:7). Consider Exodus 30:12; Matthew 22:21 and Hebrews 5:1.
6. However Christ had to be great enough to take away the sin of the world. The blood of bulls and goats was not adequate (Hebrews 10:4) He had to have a value far greater than that of men or angels. Man valued him at 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12/13; Matthew 27:9/10) - a very low valuation. It was said of David: “Thou art worth ten thousand of us” (2 Samuel 18:3) and he was only a type of Christ. However, Christ was the Son of God - the Son God loved and, we may say was worth more to him than any other (Matthew 3:11-17). Christ’s enemies said that Christ made himself equal with God by saying that God was his own Father (John 5:18). Christ did not repudiate their statement. (‘Equal with’ can be read ‘the same as’ - Young’s concordance). Before Christ came into this world He had the nature of God absolutely: “The Word was God” (John 1:1). He was with The God, but He was God, like as we would speak of The Wood, but also of Wood. I am not aware of any other reasonable explanation of this passage, because taken as it stands in English the statements neutralise one another, for we can’t be with a person and at the same time be that person. In the original there was an article (the) before God in the one case but not in the other.
7. Christ’s nature as a man was divine so that though in the likeness of men He was in nature God. Because of this his blood could cleanse from sin: “The blood of Jesus Christ his (God’s) Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). It was not that there was anything special about Christ’s physical blood, but its value depended on the fact that it was the blood of such an one as God’s beloved Son.
The first part of the above concerning Christ’s humanity has caused controversy from time to time, but it is generally accepted that Christ did not have a sinful nature. However, there were, and probably are still, those that do hold He had a sinful nature. Edward Irving taught that he did and Benjamin Newton held a somewhat modified view. To quote:
“Irvingism taught that there was no personal sin in Christ, but that there was in the nature He took; so that he was exposed and liable to death.
Mr B. W. Newton, in combatting Irvingism, himself fell into error. He taught that there was no personal sin in Christ: that there was none in his nature; but that He was liable, ... to the consequences of it from his position in relation to God from the time He was born into the world.
Both alike set aside the atonement.”
(The History of the Brethren Vol. 1 by N. Noel page 152)
As to the second part of the above one cannot trace that anything significant has been said about it. A search engine applied to the ministry of Brethren indicates in many passages that Christ met what was due to God but nothing stating that He had to be a person distinct from God to do so. The reason for this one suspects is that to have done so would have raised an outcry that his deity was being denied. However it is God that has been sinned against and it is God to whom we have to be reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:20).
However, as to John 1:1 it may be noted that Mr. Darby (a scholar and Bible translator) said: “The Word was personally distinct, ‘the Word was with God’; but He was not distinct in nature, ‘the Word was God’” (Collected Writings Vol. 33 page 130). It will be noted that Mr. Darby, and I could quote others, avoids stating that the Word was distinct from God. The matter bears thinking about.