Dear Church Family,
In the sermon on Sunday from Exodus 12:1-30, we saw how the Lord killed the first born sons of Egypt in the tenth and final plague; however, He gave provision for the people of God to avert the wrath and judgment that was coming upon Egypt. The blood of a lamb was to be put on the doorposts and lintel of each house. In this way, the Israelites would be redeemed and the Lord would pass over their homes. The Israelites were instructed to commemorate this event every year in the Passover Meal.
Additionally, that annual celebration was to be followed by the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread. During this week-long celebration, the Israelites were to clean out all of the leaven from their homes. This was a reminder to examine themselves to see where sin and worldliness had come into their lives, to repent of it, and endeavor to live righteously. It was a reminder that not only did the Lord redeem them in the Passover, but He called them to a new life of holiness.
Rock of Ages
The final hymn that we sang on Sunday was Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me by Augustus Toplady. As a contemporary of John and Charles Wesley, Toplady wrote this hymn to counter their views on sanctification. You see, John Wesley (the preacher) and Charles Wesley (the hymn writer) believed and taught a form of Christian perfectionism (or entire sanctification). Christian perfectionism holds that a Christian may obtain such a perfect love of God and man in heart, mind, and soul that one could become perfectly holy and free of sin in this life.
This view of entire sanctification was set forth in some of Charles Wesley’s hymns. For example, the second verse of Love Divine, All Loves Excelling is a prayer of petition, asking God to give His people a “second rest” and to “take away our bent of sinning.” [Don’t look for these words in our Trinity hymnal; many hymnals have subsequently changed Wesley’s hymn to ask God to give His people the “promised rest” and “take away the love of sinning.”] The original text of the hymn by Charles Wesley, however, conveyed the idea that Christians should hope and work for a second work of the Holy Spirit (a “second rest”) by which the ‘love of sinning’ would be entirely removed from the believer.
Augustus Toplady believed in sanctification. He believed that those who had been justified would be progressively renewed in the image of Christ, increasingly able to die to sin and live to righteousness. But, contrary to the Wesleys and in keeping with the Westminster Standards, he believed that the believer would be made perfect in holiness, only in glory.
The Double Cure
As a staunch Calvinist, Toplady was so distraught and angered by the Wesleys’ teaching on Christian perfectionism, that he wrote many works countering their Arminianism (and views on entire sanctification). In one of these articles about God’s forgiveness, Toplady penned a poem that eventually became Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me. The first verse of this hymn conveys the biblical teaching of how the sacrifice of Christ deals with the sin of His people:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood, From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure, Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
Here, Toplady shows how God’s dealing with sin is rooted in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. This is in keeping with the Apostle Paul’s teaching in Romans 6:4-6; it is through union with Christ in His death and resurrection that we are forgiven and freed from our slavery to sin. So, Toplady writes that Jesus’ atoning death is the “double cure” of our sin problem. Here is where the rubber meets the road in expressing the difference between the biblical view of justification and sanctification and that of Christian perfectionism.
Jesus’ atoning death accomplishes two things in the person of the believer: (1) It deals with the punishment that we deserve: Christ redeems us from the curse of the Law, rescuing us from the wrath to come (Galatians 3:13; Titus 2:14; 1 Thessalonians 1:10); and (2) It deals with the power of sin in our lives: Christ removes the dominion or rule of sin in our lives such that we are no longer “slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6); “sin shall not be master over you” (Romans 6:14).
Christ our Passover
In the type and shadow of the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, we get a picture of the “double cure” of the sacrifice of Christ our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7). The Passover speaks of the redeeming power of the blood of the lamb in the old covenant. Ultimately, it points to the blood of Christ in the new covenant, the unblemished and spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1 Peter 1:17-19; John 1:29).
The Feast of Unleavened Bread speaks of the sanctifying work of God in the old covenant. Ultimately, it points to the blood of Christ in the new covenant – the One who offered Himself without blemish through the eternal Spirit in order to cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:13-14).
God’s saving work in the tenth plague through the provision of the lamb is an illustration of Christ’s death as the “double cure” of sin. As the Rock of Ages, Christ’s shed blood cleanses us of sin’s guilt and power. Let us bow low and worship (Exodus 12:27)!
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch