“Afterwards He suffered innumerable reproaches, that we might never be confounded . . .”
“Afterwards He was innocently condemned to death, that we might be acquitted at the judgment seat of God . . .”
“Afterwards, yea, He suffered His blessed body to be nailed on the cross—that He might fix thereon the handwriting of our sins; and hath taken upon Himself the curse due to us, that He might fill us with His blessings . . .”
In considering further these points mentioned in our Communion Form, we are to remember Christ and be brought to a deep spiritual consciousness of the horrible suffering He endured in performing in our behalf the work of our salvation. All of this is absolutely essential for Him Who came “not to do His own will but the will of Him that sent Him.” (John 6:38) The mission which Christ came to fulfill consisted of the perfect realization of the counsel of redemption, and in the performance of this task He left no detail unfinished. Neither did He do anything in this work that was not necessary. He did not endure shame and reproach and suffer the excruciating pains of death to make a display of martyrdom or to demonstrate heroism before men, for if such were the case we could not speak of or consider the benefits of this work for us. He suffered according to the will of God, and thereby did all that was required to satisfy Divine justice and make atonement for sin. His passion is not a thing to be dramatized for our entertainment. It is not a mere example of nobility that is designed to elicit commendation and praise, for then His entire effort must be considered a sad failure. Consider that this is the work of God, for “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (II Cor. 5:19) The reading of the Communion Form in which these things are set forth is the proclamation of the glorious Gospel of reconciliation, directing our faith to the sufferings and death of our Savior. In that light consider these things.
The word, “afterward,” which we repeated three times above, directs our attention specifically to those things which Christ suffered after the terrible ordeal in the garden of Gethsemane where the bloody sweat was pressed out of Him, and He was bound that we might be freed from our sins. After all of this He went on to suffer innumerable reproaches, to be innocently condemned to death, and to suffer His blessed body to be nailed to the cross. Such is the concise but vivid description of events transpired in the early morning hours of Good Friday. We will not take time or space here to relate all the details, but it may be well that in our private preparation to come to the table of the Lord, we seriously give devoted and diligent attention to the Scriptural record and retrace step by step His paths from the garden to the cross.
Innumerable reproaches He suffered! That means that you cannot count the number of times He was reproached by men, wicked men. The physical eye that witnessed all that transpired is not quick enough nor discerning enough to catch it all. All of it is not even recorded for us. We know only in part. But “reproach” is “to upbraid, to bring into discredit, to chide, to blame, to disgrace.” Indeed, this is a true characterization of His experience before the Jewish Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod, the soldiers and all the people. They literally heaped upon Him shame which He innocently and voluntarily bore.
He was condemned to death! We intentionally left out one word here in order that we might give to it special emphasis. In all the legalistic proceedings He is the INNOCENT One. There is no sin in Him. Forever it must be established and maintained that there is no cause or reason that He should be put to death. No one can convict Him. False witnesses are raised up against Him in an attempt to gain a conviction, but their testimony does not agree. The lie, then as now, as may be demonstrated in many ways, is a contradiction unto itself. No fault can be found in Him, and therefore when He is condemned, the sentence is given because of what He IS rather than on account of what He has done. Innocently condemned is He because He is the Son of God. Thus does all the world answer the fundamental question: “What do you think of God?”
And so Jesus, our Savior, “suffered His blessed body to be nailed to the cross.” Oh, to be sure, no one took His life from Him. He was not overcome by powers which He could not resist. His enemies did not surprise Him in their attack, so that He succumbed in an unguarded moment. On the contrary, He is Lord alone, and everyone that has a part in this drama of passion is but a tool in His almighty hand which serves His purpose. He lays down His life as a voluntary sacrifice, which is offered unto God in profound and perfect love. And, therefore, they are also unable to dispose of Him in the way of their own choice, but He must suffer the death appointed to Him by the Father, which is that of the cross. Let it suffice to point out the significance of this death in the words of the Heidelberg Catechism in answer to the question: “Is there anything more in His being crucified, than if He had died some other death?” (Q. 39) To which answer is given: “Yes, for thereby I am assured, that He took on Him the curse which lay upon me; for the death of the cross was accursed of God.”
Now in the light of all this we are to “consider to what end the Lord has instituted His Supper.” And that end (purpose) is that we may remember Him in all His suffering and death by means of this Supper. Here then is room for endless meditation, study and prayer. “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Rom. 11:33)
There is more yet in this section of our Communion Form, but before we consider that, our attention must be directed to the benefits which are ours as the result or fruit of Christ’s suffering innumerable reproaches, being innocently condemned and suffering His body to be nailed to the cross. These fruits must also be seriously considered, for only in this way can we experientially enjoy the blessings of our salvation in Christ. That consideration therefore consists of much more than an intellectual contemplation of undeniable facts recorded in Scripture. Our doctrinal orthodoxy is not, in question here, and neither is the objective merit of Christ’s redemptive work the subject of our consideration here. To consider the suffering of Christ in the true sense of the word means that this is an activity of conscious, living faith which brings us to a real awareness of the personal benefits gained by that suffering. Thus the believer does not simply acknowledge the veracity of the confession, but he expresses as a matter of personal experience and conviction that Christ suffered and died “that I may never be confounded, that I may be acquitted at the judgment seat of God, and that the handwriting of my sin was affixed to the cross.” Knowing this, we need not state further why it is important that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper brings us “in remembrance of Him!”
What a glorious comfort there is in that thought! What a peace-affording assurance this knowledge gives to the soul in the midst of the present world! To be “confounded” the dictionary tells us is: “to bring ruin or naught, to destroy.” It means: “to put to shame, abash, discomfit, to throw into confusion, perplexity, dismay.” A few synonyms are: “bewilder, baffle, astonish, dumbfound.” This term in the positive sense certainly is descriptive of the world in which we live today. All about us we see confusion, turmoil and discomfort. Men are perplexed, dismayed and troubled. And it cannot be any different, because man is in the darkness of sin and is unable to comprehend the light of life. He will continue to grope in the darkness until he ultimately brings himself to utter ruin. Without the suffering Christ Who atones for sin there is nothing in this whole world but hopelessness and despair. This is the simple truth that all the vain promises and idle boasts of sinful man cannot change. The world hovers on the brink of self-destruction and is so deeply entrenched in the mire of confusion that there remains for it no hope. Upon it rests the wrath of God from which there is no escape except in Jesus. In Him there is no confusion or disorder. Being brought to the light through His cross we do not dismay and are not perplexed. We shall never be confounded, but we shall be led through the darkness of this world into the light of His everlasting glory. Wonderful contemplation!
This rests upon our second consideration, namely, “that we may be acquitted at the judgment seat of God.” Here is not the place to treat extensively the interesting and important subject of the judgment of God, but it may suffice to point out that the living God will judge all men and nations in the day He has appointed. This judgment shall be perfectly just and all sin shall receive its due reward. In that judgment all of humanity, as it is represented in Adam, is worthy of condemnation. That condemnation it shall also receive except for those whom the Father has given to Christ out of the world, and concerning them the sentence is: ACQUITTED! We are justified in Christ, and then justice is not laid aside, but it is exactly realized, because He was condemned to death for us. He bore the sentence of our condemnation for us. He suffered the just payment of our sins in His own body. The debt is paid and consequently God justifies us freely for Christ’s sake. The value of this treasure is inestimable! “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.” (II Cor. 9:15)
Our acquittal at the judgment seat of God stems from the fact that the handwriting of our sins was affixed to the cross of Christ. The curse that was due to us, He bore. That curse is the embodiment of the terrible wrath of God against sin. This Jesus voluntarily bore in order that “He might fill us with His blessings.” We notice here that “blessings” is plural and not singular. In a sense the blessing of Christ upon His people can be viewed in the singular, and then this blessing consists in Christ imparting Himself to us, giving us His own heavenly and eternal life. The singular blessing of the redemptive work of Christ is that the child of God is incorporated into Him and made one with Him, so that with Him he will live in covenant fellowship forever. This same blessing, however, may also properly be viewed in the plural, because of the countless aspects from which it may be viewed, as well as from the fact that in depth and richness it is multifarious. Then, too, we may distinguish many singular blessings within this one unspeakable blessing of Christ. The steps which we commonly speak of in connection with the order of our salvation—regeneration, calling, faith, conversion, justification, sanctification, and glorification—are individual parts of the one blessing which He bestows upon us. Salvation is indeed of God alone. We are the empty vessels which He fills with His own fulness. Consider this, lest we be minded to boast or pride ourselves in our own goodness when we come to His table. Remember that we have no place there of personal merit; but every blessing received is on our part unmerited and undeserved. Christ did it all for us and in His grace He imparts His own saving benefits upon His children, for whom He shed His life-blood on the accursed tree.