Incarnation, Propitiation, Resurrection, Intercession
"If Christ to His throne had not
The above lines were written by a poor unfortunate, a drug-addict, who
stumbled into a Salvation Army Hall years ago and came to Christ. It is
evident that the Spirit of God gave him a very vivid appreciation of
four aspects of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, upon which Scripture
bases four great truths. Upon these I desire to meditate, hoping that
both writer and readers may thus enter more fully into the completeness
of the divine scheme of redemption.
Sad indeed were the tolling of life's passing bell;
If Christ on the cross had not suffered and died,
Dark indeed were the passage of death's somber tide.
If Christ from the grave had in triumph not risen,
Bleak indeed were the dungeons of that dreadful prison;
If Christ were not living and pleading on high,
Death indeed were our doom, death that never may die."
[H. G. T. PARKE]
Think, first, of incarnation. The word itself implies a supernatural
Being linking Himself with humanity, and this of course is what
actually took place when the eternal Son of God became Man in the
fulness of time. Incarnation means more than the mere assumption of a
human body. In Scripture we are told, "the Word was made flesh, and
dwelt [tabernacled] among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of
the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth" (John
1:14)... It was a voluntary act on His part. He who subsisted from all
eternity in the form of God, who thought it not robbery to be equal
with God, emptied Himself of the outward semblance of Deity, and took
upon Him the form of a bondman; having come in the likeness of men, and
being thus habited as a Man, He humbled Himself still lower, becoming
obedient unto death, and such a deathâ€”that of the cross. In
He linked Deity with humanity in such a way that He did not cease in
any sense to be God, while He became, nevertheless, in the fullest
possible sense, Man. He had a true human spirit. "He groaned in the
spirit, and was troubled," (John 11:33) we are told, and on the cross
He exclaimed, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit" (Luke
23:46). We hear Him saying, "Now is My soul troubled," (John 12:27) and
we read that He "poured out His soul unto death" (Isa. 53:12). His body
was in no sense a phantom, as some have taught in early days, but a
true human body, the earthly vessel in which the heavenly One took up
His abode, in order that He might be slain for our sins. All this is
involved in the fact of incarnation.
But though a true Man, He was a sinless Man, and not only sinless in
thought and act, but impeccable; because being as truly God as Man, it
is unthinkable that He could in His humanity do that, under any
circumstances, which was repugnant to His Godhead, and God cannot sin.
Thus He fulfilled the types of old; He was the unblemished, spotless
Lamb; like the unyoked heifer, He never came under the yoke of sin. He
was as pure within as He was without, thus answering to the burnt
offering which had to be laid open and examined in every part, and
could only be presented to God if found inwardly perfect.
In order that this might be so, He could not come into the world
through the process of natural generation, for this would have made Him
heir to all the fearful entailment of sin and infirmity which
characterized the human race as proceeding from fallen Adam. He was
conceived of the Holy Spirit, a distinct creation in the womb of the
virgin, and thus He entered this world through the portals of birth,
but as the Second Man, the Lord from heaven. Herein lies the importance
of the doctrine of the virgin birth, which some today insist has no
real bearing upon the question of His Saviourhood. But His incarnation
must be sinless and impeccable, or He could not be the Saviour of
sinners. If there were within Him the least evil or tendency to evil,
He must needs have a Saviour for Himself, and He could not stand in the
breach for us.
We speak of His sinless incarnation. On the other hand, it is quite
inaccurate to apply the term "the immaculate conception" to this
wondrous mystery. This latter term is used very loosely by many
Protestants who fail to realize, or forget if they ever knew, that it
is the name given by the Roman Catholic Church to the Romish doctrine
of the sinless, yet natural conception of the blessed virgin Mary. No
such term is ever used in the Bible, nor does such a term belong in
Protestant theology in connection with the sinless incarnation of our
Lord Jesus Christ.
These truths need to be emphasized more than ever today, for if we lose
sight of them we become confused in our thinking, and we shall be
further confused as we go on to consider the work of His cross. He had
to be what He was in order to do what He did. If He had been in any
sense less than God manifest in flesh, He could not have offered up
Himself in the power of the Eternal Spirit for our redemption. If He
had been other than the One of whom it was written, "He knew no sin,"
He could not have been made sin for us.
While we are not saved through His incarnation, and our present union
with Him is not because He took our humanity upon Himself, but because
we have been linked to Him, the glorified Man in heaven, by the Holy
Spirit, yet it is of all importance that we hold fast to the truth that
"God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19).
Bethlehem must precede Calvary. He became Man that He might die for men.
In the second chapter of Hebrews, we are told in verse 17, "Wherefore
in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He
might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to
God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." The word here
translated "reconciliation" is more accurately rendered "propitiation"
as in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10: "He is the propitiation for our sins;" "God
... sent His Son to be the propitiation." This word is used in the
Greek translation of the Old Testament, made in the third century
before Christ, commonly called the Septuagint, and expressed generally
as the LXX, to translate the Hebrew term which occurs again and again
in the Old Testament, and is rendered in many different ways in the
English Version, a few of which are as follows:
1. "Pitch," in Genesis 6:14, as used for the
"covering" of the ark.
2. "Appease," used in Genesis 32:20, where it means
literally "to cover the face."
3. "Atonement," used in many places in Leviticus 16,
and particularly in Leviticus 17:11.
4. "Satisfaction," used in Numbers 35:31.
5. "Ransom," used in Job 33:24.
6. "Put it off," in Isaiah 47:11.
7. "Reconciliation," used in Daniel 9:24.
8. "Pacified," used in Ezekiel 16:63.
If we put all of these English translations together, they do not by
any means exhaust the real meaning of this word, but they do throw
wonderful light upon the Scripture doctrine of propitiation. They tell
us that in the death of Christ God has found a ransom for sinful men,
and that a covering has been provided to shield us from the storm of
judgment. Atonement has been made for our sins, full satisfaction has
been rendered to the divine justice for our iniquities. God's judgment
is appeased; sin is expiated, and God is pacified toward us for all
that we have done, because of the perfection of the work of our Lord
Jesus Christ. Now He Himself is our propitiation and we come to God
alone by Him.
But although the death of our Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished the
putting away of sin so that every believer is justified by His blood,
it is through His resurrection that we know God is satisfied with the
work that His Son accomplished when He took our place in judgment and
bore our sins in His own body upon the tree. He "was delivered for our
offenses, and was raised again for our justification" (Romans 4:25). It
is not that we are justified by His resurrection, but it is that His
resurrection proves that the work which justifies has been
accomplished, and we come into the benefit of it all when we put our
trust in the Risen One. Everywhere the apostles went they preached
Jesus Christ and the resurrection. Just as incarnation without
propitiation is in itself unable to save us, so propitiation without
resurrection would be incomplete. None could know certainly that God
was satisfied with the work of His Son if Christ had not burst the
bands of death asunder and risen in triumph from the tomb.
More than this, had He remained enthralled in the arms of death, it
would have given the lie to His entire testimony and redemptive
program. It was imperative that He rise again the third day. It was
this that proved Him to be in very truth the Son of God and the
all-sufficient Sacrifice for sin. And so today the message that goes
out to all mankind is as of old, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth
the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised
Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man
believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made
unto salvation" (Romans 10:9,10). It is the Risen One whom God has
exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour. He has been made both Lord and
Christ to give repentance and remission of sins to all who turn to Him
As the risen Christ, our Lord is carrying on a special service now on
behalf of all believers here on earth as the minister of the heavenly
sanctuary. Therefore we are told, "He is able also to save them to the
uttermost [that is, forevermore], that come unto God by Him, seeing He
ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25). He ministers
in the holiest of all as our great High Priest with God, giving every
believer a perfect representation before the eternal throne. He is
there also as our Advocate with the Father, keeping the feet of His
saints, and insuring the restoration of every failing Christian.
We often speak, and rightly, of the finished work of Christ. This
refers, of course, to the work of propitiation, as we have already
seen. To this nothing can be added, nor can anything be taken from it.
It is complete. To attempt to add to it would be only to try to spoil
His finished work. But on the other hand, it is just as correct to
speak of the unfinished work of Christ, for He began a service in
behalf of His people when He ascended to heaven which has been going on
ever since, and will not be finished so long as there is one saint left
on earth in the place of testing and possible failure. We have a sample
of His intercession in John 17, where we find His great high-priestly
prayer. In that wonderful chapter He anticipates the cross, and we are
permitted to listen reverently to the tender words He speaks on behalf
of His own to the end of time. In John 13 we see Him acting as
Advocate, washing the defiled feet of His disciples, thus picturing the
work He has been carrying on ever since He returned to the glory. He is
the girded Servant still, and will be so as long as we need Him. "If
any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the
Righteous," (1 John 2:1) and "He is the propitiation for our sins: and
not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John
2:2). His advocacy is based upon His propitiation.
Were it not for this present service of our Lord Jesus Christ, the
first sin committed by a believer after his conversion would destroy
communion with God, and there would be no way to restore that communion
again. It needs to be remembered that there are two links that bind
every saint to the Saviour, and these are union and communion. The link
of union is indissoluble. Once formed, it can never be broken. The link
of communion is delicate indeed. The least sin will break it, and it
would never be formed anew were it not for the intercession of our Lord
Jesus. He meets every accusation of the enemy. He presents our case
before the Father. He, through the Holy Spirit, brings the Word to bear
upon our consciences, and thus He brings us to contrition, confession,
How full is our salvation! How wonderfully has God provided! The
Incarnate Son became Himself our propitiation. Resurrection attests our
justification, and His intercession carries us on to the end of the
If it be asked, "Why do we need an advocate?" the answer is, "Because
we have an accuser, Satan, 'the accuser of our brethren ... which
accused them before our God day and night'" (Rev. 12:10). But "who
shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that
justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea
rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who
also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:33,34). Jesus Christ meets
every charge of the adversary. His propitiatory work is the answer to
every accusation. And He will minister all needed grace to meet present
need and restore the souls of His failing saints, until the glad hour
when He will call us all to meet Him above and to share the joys of the
Copied from Care for God's
Fruit-trees and Other Messages by H.A.
Ironside. Rev. ed. New York: Loizeaux Brothers, .