We ask now what it means to the world? But if the church of Jesus Christ is to remember Him in His finished work of Prophet, Priest, and King, for her, she must do so before the eyes of the whole world. She must do so as the invitation to the world to partake of the supper of the Lord as a symbol of the blood of the New Covenant. The church must follow Him who said, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” It must, in so doing, call all men to repentance.
Christ is the bread of life. Without this bread you will starve. Christ is the water of life. Without this water you will die of thirst. Christ is the light of the world. Without this light you will live in everlasting darkness and despair. The age of the New Testament church is the age of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of Truth. This Comforter, this Spirit, through His church, will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.
“The great sin in the New Testament era,” says Jesus, “will be that they do not believe in me.” As in the Old Testament era, all true prophecy, all true priesthood, all true kingship pointed forward to His finished work on the cross, so now in the New Testament era, all true prophecy, priesthood, and kingship looks back and is based upon that finished work.
But it is precisely this that Satan is again and anew, with desperation, because he knows that his time is short, trying to keep men from believing. Satan would remove Jesus Christ and His finished work from the memory of men. For this purpose he seems to expend his chief energy on the church itself. In Jesus’ day, it was primarily the Pharisees who sought to remove Jesus by nailing Him to the cross. It was Satan who inspired them in the form of opposition to Jesus. But Satan and the Pharisees were foiled in their attempt. Through that very crucifixion which they so fiendishly maneuvered, the Christ destroyed the works of the Devil.
There remains nothing else now for Satan then but to seek to erase from the memory of men, this, his own defeat and this great victory over him of Christ. How will he operate now? His policy is still what it always has been: men must believe in themselves as not needing this blood of Christ to atone for their sins. They will devise all manner of theories about the nature of sin and evil but all to the effect that man is not responsible for it. They must advise all manner of theories to prove to themselves that even if, to an extent, they are wicked, their own suffering suffices to atone for the sins.
In the Middle Ages, this spirit of opposition to the once-for-all finished work of Christ had taken hold of the leaders of the church. When Luther and Calvin called men back to the belief in the finished work of Christ, the official church pronounced its curse upon their teaching. But now in our day, that very church, the Protestant church, which called men back to the blood of the New Covenant, is about to call men away from it.
The confession of 1967 of the United Presbyterian Church confesses a new Christ. It is based on a theology that no longer believes in the blood of the New Covenant. This new confession is based upon a theology that ridicules the blood of the New Covenant as being absurd in its very notion and blasphemous in its very conception.
As the Pharisees said that Jesus blasphemed when He claimed that through His broken body and his shed blood would ransom many from their sins, so this new theology thinks of the idea of the finished work of Christ as being blasphemous. The most influential theologian of our time, Karl Barth, says that the facts of Christ’s humiliation, His birth, His death and His burial; and the facts of His exaltation, His resurrection, His ascension to Heaven; and His session at the right hand of the Father are not facts that follow one another on the calendar, but constitute one great event that envelops all that happens.
When on the cross, when Christ said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”, and when He said that, “it is finished,” this did not mean that the wrath of God was then lifted from the shoulders of men. But there never was or ever could be, argues Barth, any such thing as the wrath of God. There was no historical fall, and there was no transition from wrath to grace in history at any time, not even through the death and resurrection of Christ. If we are to use the idea of Christ and His atonement then we must think of it as indicating that all men are inherently men. All men are men because they participate in God, and God is God because He is Christ, and Christ is His work and His work is that of saving all men, and the salvation of all men everywhere is Christ.
This is blasphemy. This modern theology seeks its support in modern science and modern philosophy. Modern science and modern philosophy are, as a matter of fact, based upon the self sufficiency of man. So then the modern theologians supported by the modern science and philosophy have now produced a creed in which the Christ is crucified afresh and the New Covenant in His blood is put to an open shame. The old confession, centering as it did upon the finished work of Christ, is now to be placed in the museum of historic curiosities. “Look,” the new theologians say, “what ethical monstrosities our forefathers, even our immediate forefathers believed. They excluded each other from the supper of the Lord, mind you, as they charged one another with not believing that only those who would be saved, who profess to believe in Christ as really on a certain date in history, forsaken of the Father for their sins.”
“Now,” they say, “we invite all men into the church and into the fellowship of the supper in order to point to that which all of us always have had: unity through Him as expressing best the idea of universal love that lives in all our hearts.”
If we think of all this, our hearts are heavy. We may be tempted at a time like this, on Good Friday, to think that controversy about the technical meaning of the supper is at least, for the moment, out of place. But the opposite is true. We must be aware, lest Satan erase from the minds of the church the memory, even the very memory of His finished work. When the passover was instituted, the Israelites were enjoined to do it with an eye on Pharaoh and his hosts. They must do it with an eye to the day when they will enter into the promised land.
So, for us, as we partake of the blood of the New Covenant, we look forward to the coming of our Lord. We know that the powers of hell cannot prevail against the Kingdom of Christ. But then we shall see to our salvation and to His praise what we now believe. Come Lord Jesus, come quickly. Thy suffering saints yearn to see Thee, arrayed in splendor themselves, redeemed through the blood of the everlasting covenant, the New Covenant in Thy blood.
And now, congregation, receive the benediction: The Lord bless thee and keep thee, the Lord cause His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace. Amen.
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