THE LAW OF THE ATONEMENT
We have said that the greatest force in the universe is prayer. Almighty God gives His Word in a solemn pledge that He will work if man will only pray. But He does not make “exceeding great and precious promises” without stipulating in most concise fashion the conditions which must prevail on the human side if the results of prayer are to be commensurate with the promise.
James says we have not because we ask not. It is that simple. He then goes on to say that we ask and receive not because we ask amiss, whereby we are given to understand that the matter is not so simple after all. In other words, prayer as everything else, has its laws which must be taken into account. There is not in all the material universe a phenomena that is not governed by law. It is no less true in the world of the spirit as Drummond pointed out years ago in his epochal work, Natural Law in the Spiritual World. Though not spoken of as such, these laws are all found in the Bible. The Word is our infallible guide.
The most basic of these laws which govern prayer is the law of the Atonement; the foundation not only of the Christian life but of prayer which springs from that life. It is simple. It is not an intricate theological question grasped by only a few. Here you have it: No man can come into ground of his own merits. His own righteousness will not avail. We have the authority of Scripture sight man’s righteousness is but a filthy rag. Nothing that man can do will make him acceptable to God. The havoc wrought by sin is too tragic and too fatal for that. We must be emphatic about this for there is much glib and alluring talk about prayer abroad today which would have us think and believe otherwise. This, the most basic law of prayer, is by-passed. The Cross is spurned. The blood of the Atonement is counted an unholy thing. Satan has shown his hand here though to be sure he would fain hide it. Prayer on any other basis than Calvary is a satanic counterfeit for it is still a fact according to Christ’s own avowed affirmation that no man can come to the Father but by Him.
We enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh (Heb. 10:19,20). He is the door: He has been made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, and it is only as by faith we appropriate Him, that we are acceptable unto the Father. Nor does that mean that to give prayer its proper form we must close with the accustomed, “In Jesus’ name.” It goes deeper than that as we shall see. Still, if we would stand before the Father on unshakeable ground which can never be questioned – ground provided by God Himself, ground which not only satisfies Him but also man without the cleansing provided at Calvary could
never find the courage or the faith to face a Holy God whom he has so bitterly offended – it must be the rock-bottom foundation of the Cross.
There are many ways of stating the most amazing fact of the universe. Our Blessed Redeemer bore our sin in His body on the Tree. He who knew no sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. We draw near to God in full assurance of faith because of our great High Priest who, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. We must wash our garments, as it is written in the Apocalypse, and make them white in the Blood of the Lamb. So reads Holy Writ.
Now if on any other ground, as so much of the religious lore of the hour seems to indicate, we could draw near to God, the Father would betray the Son who at so great a cost of pain and shame and ignominy and torture and death poured out the last drop of His precious blood on Calvary’s awful Cross that man’s sin might be blotted out. He that blotted out. He that honoreth not the Father who sent Him. Come, let us be honest about this matter lest we be deceived by the enemy. There is nowhere that he practices with such subtlety his astute machinations as in the matter of prayer. We simply have no leg on which to stand, no firm ground of hope, no certain way of approach to a Holy God unless it be that provided by the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.
It is an awful thing to draw near to God. The Israelites trembled and could not endure the manifestations of the presence of God in the Holy Mount and even Moses did fear and quake. The truth of the matter is that the sinner flees from the presence of God and hides in terror. Fear grips his heart and as he looks upon his garments so besmirched by sin and recalls the times without number that he has violated God’s laws and spurned His love, he realizes that he could no more enter God’s presence than a thug could enter the presence of a banker whose vaults he had just looted.
Ah, but when one looks at Calvary and sees the Saviour bearing his sins, then it is that an illimitable confidence surges in one’s breast and it becomes easy to lay hold of God in prayer, believing that what is asked for shall be given. Prayer on the ground of Calvary where God and man meet, the law which demands the death of the sinner having exhausted itself in the execution of the Son of God (Son of Man), may become a cosmic affair illimitable in scope and power. Not long ago I had an experience which
brought all this home to my heart in irresistible fashion. I was called to the British-American hospital to see a lady I had known when she was a happy girl forever bubbling over with mirth. There she lay paralyzed from her head to the tip of her toes, She whispered to me saying it was not polio, and that the doctors did not know what it was. After a brief visit I offered prayer that the Lord might heal her. As I left the hospital I felt that the Lord chided me, saying I had gone too fast and had failed to grasp the meaning of the situation. I asked to be forgiven and hurried home.
Some days later I returned to see how this suffering soul was doing. There was no change in her condition. As I sat at her bedside I prayed for light to know how to proceed. It came in a flash. I observed that the patient was willing enough for me to talk about the love of God but that the moment any mention was made of the Cross of Christ as the ground of a sinner’s approach to God, a strange look, one of utter rebellion and unbelief, came into her eyes. Any reference to the blood of Christ, which cleanseth from
all sin, seemed to shake her paralyzed body with a satanic defiance. As I left the hospital I thanked God for showing me where and how the fight would have to be waged. As I walked down the street on my way home, I took a stand in my spirit against the enemy and in the Name of Jesus and on the basis of the victory won on Calvary, I claimed release from the powers of darkness for this dear one. Peace came to my heart for I knew that the Lord had given me the key to the situation and that all would soon be well.
Upon returning a few days later I found a great change in the patient; I do not mean physically, but spiritually. I could now talk about the Saviour who bore our sins on the tree, through the shedding of His precious blood on Calvary’s Cross. The heart’s door was open. I was able to enter and tell of a crucified, resurrected Saviour by whose strips we are healed. I left the hospital rejoicing, little doubting that this change would speedily reach the physical aspect of the matter, too.
A week later I returned to find the patient with the blood red glow of health in her face as she exercised her limbs under the bed covers with unutterable glee. There was nothing to do but praise God from whom all
blessings flow. When a week later I called again the nurse informed me that the patient was healed and had returned to her home. A year later I received a letter from this dear one telling me that a baby had come to the home and that she had the unspeakable joy of motherhood. Indeed, it is when we come to the Lord who bore our sins and whose precious blood cleanseth from all sin, that we may be bold in making known our requests and be confident that exceeding abundant above all that we could think of or ask for shall be given.
Perhaps the most classic expression in all Christian literature of this matter of our approach to God whose blood wrought redemption is found in Amy Carmichael’s book, Rose from Brier, where she breaks forth in poetic fashion saying:
Lord, is all well? Oh, tell me; is all well?
No voice of man can reassure the soul
When over it the waves and billows roll:
His words are like the tinkling of a bell
Do Thou speak: is all well?
Across the turmoil of the wind and sea,
But as it seemed from somewhere near to me,
A voice I know – “Child look at Calvary:
By the merits of my blood all is well.”
Whence came the voice? Lo, He is in the boat:
Lord, wert Thou resting in Thy love when I,
Faithless and fearful, broke into that cry?
O Lord forgive; a shell would keep afloat
Didst thou make it Thy boat.
And now I hear Thy mighty “Peace be still,”
And wind and wave are calm, their fury, froth,
And could wind or wave cause Thee to break Thy troth?
They are but servants to Thy sovereign will;
Within me all is still.
Oh, was there ever light on land or sea,
Or ever sweetness of the morning air,
Or ever clear blue gladness anywhere
Like this that flows from Love on Calvary
From Him who stilled the sea?
Father and Son and Spirit be adored;
Father who gave to death our Blessed Lord;
Spirit who speaks through the Eternal Word,
By the merits of the Blood all is well.
(The above material was taken from Prayer’s Deeper Secrets.)
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