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p10 MY DEAR BROTHER, Propitiation is properly for sins, as Hebrews 2, and 1 John 2; and Romans 3:25-26 is to the same effect: only, Christ having taken the condemnation for sin, persons who do not search out words exactly may speak of the effect as for sin. Sin, as calling for it, was not properly known in the Old Testament. Leviticus 1 does not, as far as I see, apply to this, except in a very general way. It was as a περὶ ἁμαρτίας that God "condemned sin in the flesh" in Christ for us, so that there was no condemnation for us. In Leviticus 1, though blood was shed and atonement made, all is sweet savour. Man's state is no doubt assumed, that is, sin; but the condemnation side is not what is in view, but acceptance. In the περὶ ἁμαρτίας sin is properly in view: in propitiation sins are in view. Substitution is a human word, though a right one; but properly it is sins; that is, the scape-goat in contrast with the Lord's lot. Sin, as such, is never forgiven: God condemned sin in the flesh, but Christ took this place, was given περὶ ἁμαρτίας, and knowing no sin, the condemnation of sin in the flesh took place, and that in death, and we are dead with Him for faith: it has ceased to exist - the condemnation of it gone. Death in Christ involves both. Guilt is from sins. We are dead to sin with Christ, but He has died for our sins. This last is what is properly atonement, and meets judgment. Death to sin is a question of state, not of guilt, though of exclusion from God. A question of defilement, not guilt, refers (and rightly) to what was done in the sanctuary, which was defiled (not guilty), which in full apprehension of the work has its importance. The scape-goat had to do with personal guilt; the blood on the mercy-seat with approach to God, but the sanctuary was cleansed.

The word "atonement" is very vague, and never used in the English New Testament but once, where it ought not to be. In the Old, kaphar, "to make atonement" refers to the removal of positive guilt out of God's sight. And, as I have said, sin properly does not come into question in the Old Testament, though birth in it is recognised in one place only. (Ps. 51:5) Even where the sweet savour of Christ's acceptance is figured, man's sinful condition is recognised, and the work that is infinitely acceptable is in view of this. But this, though it assumes it, does not deal with sin in itself. Lost and guilt are different: one my state; the other, my responsibility and guilty failure. I believe I have said all I can at this moment.

I doubt whether you have got all the bearing of scripture as to sin. "Now once in the consummation of the ages has he appeared εἰς ἀθὲτησιν ἁμαρτίας by the sacrifice of himself." It is not a question of guilt and imputation that is here. Judgment is according to works, but Christ was περὶ ἁμαρτίας when God condemned sin in the flesh; further, as to sin of the world, we have αἴρων τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου. (John 1:29). We have had an innocent garden, then a sinful world, then a world wherein dwells righteousness. Of course there can be no sin in mere creation, but the status is one of sin, "the bondage of corruption": defilement can be, if not guilt; hence the tabernacle and all the vessels were sprinkled with blood. True, because of Israel's sins, but defilement attached to them: "the heavens are not clean in his sight," and He who went into the lower parts of the earth, is gone "above all heavens that he might fill all things."

Sin in the flesh is not guilt; but it would defile, and not allow us to be with God, were it not condemned in the cross through His death who was made sin for us. The full effect will only be in the new heavens and new earth. Sin is not put away in the lost, I fully admit; but I could not say there was no suffering for sin in the abstract. It is never said sin is put away: I know the work is done, and am at rest. But the fact will not be accomplished as an effect till the new heavens and the new earth. If taking away be not a sacrificial expression, περὶ ἁμαρτίας is, and the sacrifice of Himself is. I could not say there is no sin of the world except as regards guilt and responsibility: it does not recognise defilement by sin. Further, kaphar applied to the holy place (Lev. 16:16-20); so it is to the burnt-offering (Lev. 1), where there was no actual sin committed. The main effect of the burnt-offering is to shew the perfect sweet savour of the sacrifice of Christ to God, but it was made in respect of sin, but not on account of actual sins committed. Man must come by blood because he is a sinner, and though we get Christ Himself here (not "of his own voluntary will," for that is a mistake, though it was so but "for his acceptance" — Lev. 1:3), yet, as it is for us, the element of sin must be brought in.

As to speaking of atonement, which, although acknowledged he did not bring adequately into prominence, the reason for it is very simple, as you may see in reading Leviticus 1:4, where it is especially said to be so in the usual (we may say, technical) word.

Matthew 22:14 seems clearly profession, or outward calling the chosen, those owned in the wedding. As to Matthew 20 you must connect it with 19. There devotedness and self sacrifice are made the ground of reward. Only the principles of law and grace are so different, that those great in one would be very little in the other. But lest there should be self and self-righteousness wrought by what preceded, the sovereign grace of chapter 20 is introduced, and the converse stated - many last first, and first last. Here it is grace as to service, only so much work for so much pay is utterly blown upon. The rest trusted the master for what they might get, and free grace acts consequently. God alone can judge what He should do in rewarding. Thus last are first, and first last. Many are called to serve, some chosen vessels, but all in grace.

In a general way we have God's book as a registry. But then you have specifically in the New Testament, "book of life." In one case it is said, "whose names are not written in the book of life of the slain Lamb, from the foundation of the world." These God had written, and it was sure. But they are supposed true, unless shown to be otherwise - as one on the list of voters, unless proved to have no right.

Your affectionate brother in Christ.