|Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world| (John i.29)
The New Testament presents a many-sided view of Christ. From each point of view he appears in a new relation, and we study him in a different character. We can see but one side of a mountain by approaching it from only one direction. We must view it from every point from which it presents a different aspect, before we have seen it as it is. So we should study Christ in the many characters in which He is introduced upon the sacred page, that we may understand more of the many dear relations He sustains to us. The more we know of Him in His various relations, the more we will love Him and the better we will serve Him.
We therefore purpose a number of articles under the general title of |New Testament Views of Christ.| They will appear, we trust, with as much regularity as the press of other matters will permit.
After the temptation, Jesus returned to where John was baptizing, and began the work of gathering about Him His apostles. On different occasions, as Jesus moved among the multitudes during this visit, John pointed Him out as the Lamb of God. And John said, |I knew him not; but he that sent me to baptize in water, he said unto me, Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending and abiding upon him, the same is he that baptizeth with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and borne witness that this is the Son of God| (John i.33, 34). Both before and after this statement, John calls Him the Lamb of God. John knew that He was to make the Messiah manifest to Israel by His baptism, for God had told him so. He did not know Jesus to be the Christ till after His baptism, yet he shrank back from the idea of baptizing him, and pleaded his unworthiness. He was worthy, and specially appointed of God, to make manifest the Messiah, but gave way under a sense of unworthiness at the thought of baptizing his cousin, Jesus of Nazareth! What a flood of light does this pour upon the private life of the Son of Mary! John knew Jesus as a man; and while he doubtless had hopes that He was the long-promised One, he did not know it, and could not base his refusal of baptism on that ground. John was baptizing for the remission of sins, and required those whom he baptized to confess their sins, and his knowledge of the spotless life of Jesus caused him to shrink at the thought of administering to Him such a baptism. Thus impressed with the purity and innocence of Jesus, it is not strange that he should call Him the Lamb of God.
But innocence is not the only prominent feature in contemplating Jesus as a lamb. The idea of sacrifice to which innocence and purity are essential has pre-eminence. The first accepted offering on the earth, of which we have an account, was a lamb. It was offered in faith; hence by divine direction. That Abel saw anything in it beyond an act of simple obedience to God in an arbitrary appointment, we have no reason to believe. He did what God directed, and because it was directed. This is the essential element of obedience in all ages, regardless of the thing required. Nothing else can be the |obedience of faith.|
What different conceptions had God and Abel of that sacrifice! Abel saw in it only a |firstling of his flock.| God saw in it His own Son -- |the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.| Not only so, but on this account was it directed. The fact that this was not revealed to Abel, shows that God intends us to obey Him in what He directs, without being concerned about the reasons He has for the requirement. He who sees the end from the beginning makes the first in execution conform to that which is to be last. Hence, the first act of worship, and every subsequent act, from the divine point of view, harmonizes with the perfection which in the fullness of times, was given us in Christ Jesus. The lamb of Abel borrowed all its value and significance from the Lamb of God. While we are enabled to see this through the development of the scheme of redemption, he was not; and the fact that his act of simple obedience in ignorance of God's far-seeing purposes is recorded as an example for us, is of unspeakable value to the child of faith.
During the four thousand years in which God was preparing the world for Christ, both in patriarchal and Jewish worship, a lamb without spot or blemish was the most prominent offering for sin. In every case the offering was made as directed, and when made, the worshiper was assured that his sin was forgiven. Christ is our sin-offering -- the Lamb of God that takes away our sins -- and we must present Him before God as divinely directed. We may build no strange fire on God's altars. We may substitute nothing for Christ as an offering for sin, and no ways of our own for God's way, in His presentation.
In viewing Christ as the Lamb of God -- the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world -- the prominent feature of His saving relationship to us is His blood. Hence we are redeemed, not with silver and gold and perishable things, |but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.| As a Lamb, Christ is sin-atoning. His power to save is not in the innocence of His life, but the merits of His death. The sacrifice of an innocent life is God's wisdom and power to save the world. Let us remember it was for us He was led as a lamb to the slaughter; that our sins were laid upon Him; that He was bruised for our iniquities; that He bore our sins in His bosom on the tree; that by His stripes we are healed; that in His innocent life and sacrificial death, we behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.