THE EFFECT OF CHRIST’S SACRIFICE
by Pugh Curtis
The popular view regarding Christ’s sacrifice is that He paid the price for the sins of all mankind. The sacrifice of Christ, they say, does not actually secure the salvation of anyone. The usual idea is that the salvation of a sinner is left up to him: he must actually decide for Christ or otherwise exercise what some call his free will in order to really be saved. In other words, according to the popular theory, Christ died equally for all men. In this way He made all men somehow saveable. They are not actually saved by the sacrifice of Christ. It is the sinner’s responsibility to take hold of his own bootstraps and lift himself up out of unbelief and place his feet upon the step of faith. In this way his faith is in his faith – not in Christ alone at all! He is assured by the average Baptist preacher that if he was sincere and really meant his little magical prayer, he is saved. After all, they say, it is up to the sinner to initiate his own salvation by doing this or that or the other thing. Sometimes it is said that if the sinner will take the first step toward God, God will then do for the sinner all he needs done: God will reciprocate by taking all the other necessary steps. We are reminded of Spurgeon’s story about the Catholic crusader. Having journeyed to the Holy Land and there in battle having been beheaded, the crusader picked his head up, tucked it under his arm and walked all the way back to Rome. Spurgeon declared that he would believe that legend on one condition: if that crusader could have taken the first step, he could have walked all the way back to Rome. That is, if he could have taken that first step.
We submit that if a spiritually dead sinner whose mind, emotions and will have all been ruined by the fall can initiate his own salvation, why indeed can he not complete what he initiated? We do not wish to engage here and now upon a consideration of the inabilities of fallen sinners. Our subject is rather, the sacrifice of Christ and its effects. We will see a grand and glorious salvation if we reject the theories of men and just let the Bible say what it says. That is always the best course: the course that leads to blessing and understanding. Our spirits are made in this way to feast upon the heavenly truths of God’s eternal purpose and its outworking. Just what is the effect of Christ’s sacrifice? What is or what are the results of His death on the tree? Did He merely make salvation within reach of all who will do this or that or the other? Or did Christ, by His bloody sacrifice, actually secure the salvation of sinners?
Observation forces us to conclude that Christ’s sacrifice did not secure the salvation of all men unless we somehow can believe that salvation does not bring about holiness in those who are saved. If murderers, thieves, and all sorts of wicked men are saved only to continue in their wicked works, we ask, just what is it from which they are saved? The Bible is clear that though men were once evil workers, after they experience God’s grace they are no longer such men as they were. Paul penned these words: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God,” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Again we notice in Paul’s letter to the congregations in Galatia: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts,” (Galatians 5:19-24). The absence of a changed life indicates the absence of salvation. The absence of the fruit of the Spirit indicates the absence of the Spirit.
As our text we want to consider this brief verse concerning the sacrifice of Christ and its effects: “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” (Hebrews 10:14). In just over a dozen English words in our King James Bibles we have stated for us in the finest of terms the accomplishment of Christ for His people. First of all we notice that His people are identified as “them that are sanctified.” Sanctified means set apart for a special purpose. People used to have sanctified clothing: our best garments were reserved for going to meeting on the Lord’s Day. In fact they were often referred to as our “Sunday best.” Those clothes were set apart for a special purpose. So it is that there are individuals who are “sanctified.” Of these people we read that they were“…chosen… in him before the foundation of the world,” (Ephesians 1:4). They did not set themselves apart: He set them apart when He chose them way yonder before this world’s foundations on nothingness were laid.
Next we notice that what Christ accomplished He did so by His sacrifice or “offering.” Hebrews 9:26 says in part, “…now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Christ saved no one by His birth. He saved no one by His miracles. He saved no one by His preaching and teaching. He saved no one by His perfect example of sinless living. We do not downplay these things: they are important. But salvation was obtained for “them that are sanctified” by Christ’s sacrifice. He was nailed to a tree to die. He shed forth His blood in fulfillment of God’s Old Testament requirement, “…almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission,” (Hebrews 9:22). “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many…,” (Hebrews 9:28).
So we have shown for whom it is that Christ accomplished what He accomplished: those that were set apart for this purpose. We have shown how He accomplished it: by His bloody sacrifice. Now we come to this matter: just what was it that Christ accomplished? Did He only make salvation possible as most professing Christians claim? Is there something lacking so that unbelievers must somehow change themselves into believers in order to have his sins put away? Is that the gospel? No! No! A thousand times no! Our text says that Christ has “perfected for ever” those who were set apart! Now there is no addition to perfection or completeness. There cannot be! Language and logic forbid such an idea! God’s statement demands that we understand that nothing can be added to Christ’s work. Nothing needs to be added. The lost sinner has no ability to add anything to Christ’s finished work. Jewish priests stood daily often performing the same sacrifices over and over. Their work was never done. Their sacrifices could not take away sin. “But this man [Christ], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:12, brackets added).
No wonder then that Jude would address his letter in its first verse “…to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.” Man-made religious teaching cannot stomach this verse just as they must twist our text. Jude’s order confounds them. Nevertheless, God says His people are first set apart for salvation by God the Father. They are preserved in Jesus Christ so that neither Satan nor his comrades can destroy them. And in due time they are called with a call which is effective: a call which makes them a child of God. And so we ask, just what did Christ accomplish by His sacrifice? What is the effect of Christ’s sacrifice? It is this: Christ by His bloody death accomplished a perfect salvation for God’s elect individuals. Men do not need to add, indeed, cannot add one particle to what Christ did perfectly. Will you believe that? Or must you put your faith in your faith, in your decision, in your praying, or will you believe what Christ did?