Archive for the ‘John 1:29’ Category


John Newton’s Sermon on John 1:29

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism




Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world I John i. 29.

Great and marvelous are the works of the Lord God Almighty! We live in the midst of them, and the little impression they make upon us sufficiently proves our depravity. He is great in the very smallest; and there is not a plant, flower, or insect, but bears the signature of infinite wisdom and power. How sensibly then should we be affected by the consideration of the whole, if sin had not blinded our understandings, and hardened our hearts ! In the beginning, when all was dark, unformed, and waste, his powerful word produced light, life, beauty, and order. He commanded the sun to shine, and the planets to roll. The immensity of creation is far beyond the reach of our conceptions. The innumerable stars, the worlds, which, however large in themselves, are, from their remoteness, but barely visible, to us are of little more immediate and known use, than to enlarge our idea of the greatness of their Author. Small, indeed, is the knowledge we have of our own system; but we know enough to render our indifference inexcusable. The glory of the sun must strike every eye; and in this enlightened age, there are two persons but have some idea of the magnitude of the planets, and the rapidity and regularity of their motions. Farther, the rich variety which adorns this lower creation, the dependence and relation of the several parts and their general subserviency to the accommodation of man, the principal inhabitant, together with the preservation of individuals, and the continuance of every species of animals, are subjects not above the reach of common capacities, and which afford almost endless and infinite scope for reflection and admiration. But the bulk of mankind regard them not. The vicissitudes of day and night, and of the revolving seasons, are to them matters of course, as if they followed each other without either cause or design. And though the philosophers, who professedly attach themselves to the study of the works of nature, are overwhelmed by the traces of a wisdom and arrangement which they are unable to comprehend; yet few of them are led to reverential thoughts of God, by their boasted knowledge of his creatures. Thus men live without God in the world, though they live, and move, and have their being in him, and are incessantly surrounded by the most striking proofs of his presence and energy. Perhaps an earthquake, or a hurricane, by awakening their fears, may force upon their minds a conviction of his power over them and excite an occasional momentary application to him; but when they think the danger over, they relapse into their former stupidity.

What can engage the attention, or soften the obduracy of such creatures? Behold one wonder more, greater than all the former; the last, the highest effect of divine goodness! God has so loved rebellious, ungrateful sinners, as to appoint them a Saviour in the person of his only Son. The prophets foresaw his manifestation in the flesh, and foretold the happy consequences—that his presence would change the wilderness into a fruitful field, that he was coming to give sight to the blind, and life to the dead; to set the captive at liberty; to unloose the heavy burden; and to bless the weary with rest. But this change was not to be wrought merely by a word of power, as when he said, “Let there be light” and there was light,” Gen. i. 3. It was great to speak the world from nothing; but far greater, to redeem sinners from misery. The salvation, of which he is the Author, though free to us, must cost him dear. Before the mercy of God can be actually dispensed to such offenders, the rights of his justice, the demands of his law, and the honour of his government must be provided for. The early institution and long continued use of sacrifices, had clearly pointed out the necessity of an atonement; but the real and proper atonement could only be made by Messiah. The blood of slaughtered animals could not take away sin, nor display the righteousness of God in pardoning it. This was the appointed covenanted work of Messiah, and he alone could perform it. With this view he had said, “Lo, I come,” Psal. xl. 7. And it was in this view, when John saw him, that he pointed him out to his disciples, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God”

Three points offer to our consideration :

I. The title here given to Messiah,—The Lamb of God.

II. The efficacy of his sacrifice,—He taketh away sin.

III. The extent of it,—The sin of the world.

I. He is the Lamb of God.—The paschal lamb, and the lambs which were daily offered, morning and evening, according to the law of Moses, were of God’s appointment; but this Lamb was likewise of his providing. The others were but types. Though many, they were all insufficient (Heb. x. 10) to cleanse the consciences of the offerers from guilt; and they were all superseded, when Messiah, by the one offering of himself, once for all, made an end of sin, and brought in an everlasting righteousness, in favour of all who believe in his name.

This title, therefore, the Lamb of God, refers to his voluntary substitution for sinners, that by his sufferings and death they who deserved to die might obtain eternal life through him, and for his sake. Mankind were universally chargeable with transgression of the law of God, and were in a state of alienation from him. A penalty in case of disobedience was annexed to the law they had broken; to which they, as offenders, were therefore obnoxious. Though it would be presumptuous in such worms as we are, to determine, upon principles of our own, whether the sovereign Judge of the universe could, consistently with his own glory, remit this penalty without satisfaction, or not; yet, since he has favoured us with a revelation of his will upon the point, we may speak more confidently, and affirm, that it was not consistent with his truth and holiness, and the honour of his moral government, to do it, because this is his own declaration. We may now be assured, that the forgiveness of one sinner, and, indeed, of one sin, by an act of mere mercy, and without any interposing consideration, was incompatible with the inflexibility of the law, and the truth and justice of the Lawgiver. But mercy designed the forgiveness of innumerable sinners, each of them chargeable with innumerable sins; and the declaration, that God is thus merciful, was to be recorded, and publicly known through a long succession of ages, and to extend to sins not yet committed. An act of grace so general and unreserved, might lead men (not to speak of superior intelligences) to disparaging thoughts of the holiness of God, and might even encourage them to sin with hope of impunity, if not connected with some provision, which might shew that the exercise of his mercy was in full harmony with the honour of all his perfections. How God could be just, and yet justify those (Rom. iii. 26) whom his own righteous constitution condemned, was a difficulty too great for finite understandings to solve. But, herein is God glorious. His wisdom propounded, and his love afforded, the adequate, the only possible expedient. He revealed to our first parents his purpose, which in the fulness of time he accomplished, of sending forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem sinners from the curse of the law (Gal. iv. 4), by sustaining it for them. Considering the dignity of his person and the perfection of his obedience, his sufferings and death for sins not his own, displayed the heinousness of sin, and the severe displeasure of God against it, in a much stronger light than the execution of the sentence upon the offenders could possibly do. It displays likewise the justice of this sentence, since neither the dignity nor the holiness of the surety could exempt him from suffering; and that, though he was the beloved of God, he was not spared. This is what I understand by atonement and satisfaction for sin.

II. The efficacy of this atonement is complete. The Lamb of God, thus slain, taketh away sin, both with respect to its guilt and its defilement. The Israelites, by looking to the brazen serpent (Numb. xxi. 9), were saved from death, and healed of their wounds. The Lamb of God is an object, proposed, not to our bodily sight, but to the eye of the mind, which indeed in fallen man is naturally blind; but the gospel-message, enlivened by the powerful agency of the Holy Spirit, is appointed to open it. He who thus seeth the Son, and believed on him (John vi. 40), is delivered from guilt and condemnation, is justified from all sin. He is warranted to plead the sufferings of the Lamb of God in bar of his own; the whole of the Saviour’s obedience unto death, as the ground and title of his acceptance unto life. Guilt or obnoxiousness to punishment being removed, the soul has an open way of access to God, and is prepared to receive blessings from him. For as the sun, the fountain of light, fills the eye that was before blind, the instant it receives sight; so God, who is the fountain of goodness, enlightens all his intelligent creatures according to their capacity, unless they are by sin blinded, and rendered incapable of communion with him. The Saviour is now received and enthroned in the heart, and from his fulness the life of grace is- derived and maintained. Thus not only the guilt, but the love of sin, and its dominion, are taken away, subdued by grace, and cordially renounced by the believing pardoned sinner. The blood, which frees him from distress, preserves a remembrance of the great danger and misery from which he has been delivered warm upon his heart, inspires him with gratitude to his Deliverer, and furnishes him with an abiding and constraining motive for cheerful and universal obedience.

III. The designed extent of this gratuitous removal of sin, by the oblation of the Lamb of God, is expressed in a large and indefinite manner: He taketh away the sin of the world. Many of my hearers need not to be told, what fierce and voluminous disputes have been maintained concerning the extent of the death of Christ. I am afraid the advantages of such controversies have not been answerable to the zeal of the disputants. For myself, I wish to be known by no name but that of a Christian, and implicitly to adopt no system but the Bible. I usually endeavour to preach to the heart and the conscience, and to wave, as much as I can, all controversial points. But as the subject now lies directly before me, I shall embrace the occasion, and simply and honestly open to you the sentiments of my heart concerning it.

If because the death of Christ is here said to take away the sin of the world, or (as this evangelist expresses it in another place), the whole world (1 John ii. 2), it be inferred, that he actually designed and intended the salvation of all men, such an inference would be contradicted by fact. For it is certain that all men will not be saved, Matth. vii. 13, 14. It is to be feared, that the greater part of those to whom the word of his salvation is sent perish in their sins. If therefore he cannot be disappointed of his purpose, since many do perish, it could not be his fixed design that all men should be finally and absolutely saved.

The exceeding great number, once dead in trespasses and sins, who shall be found on his right hand at the great day of his appearance, are frequently spoken of in appropriate and peculiar language. They are stiled his sheep (John x. 11, 16), for whom he laid down his life; his elect (Mark xiii. 27), his own (John xiii. l); those to whom it is given to believe in his name (Phil. i. 29), and concerning whom it was the Father’s good pleasure to predestinate them to the adoption of children, Eph. v. 5. By nature they are children of wrath, even as others (Eph. ii. 3), and no more disposed in themselves to receive the truth than those who obstinately and finally reject it. Whenever they become willing, they are made so in a day of divine power (Psal. ex. 3), and wherein they differ, it is grace that makes them to differ, 1 Cor. iv. 7. Passages in the scripture to this purpose are innumerable; and though much ingenuity has been employed to soften them, and to make them speak the language of an hypothesis, they are so plain in themselves that he who runs may read. It is not the language of conjecture, but of inspiration, that they whom the Lord God did foreknow he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, Rom. viii. 29. And though some serious persons perplex themselves with needless and painful reasonings, with respect to the sovereignty of God in his conduct towards mankind, they all, if truly spiritual and enlightened, stand upon this very ground, in their own experience. Many, who seem to differ from us in the way of argumentation, perfectly accord with us, when they simply speak of what God has done for their souls. They know and acknowledge as readily as we, that they were first found of him when they sought him not; and that otherwise they neither should nor could have sought him at all; nor can they give any better reason than this why they are saved out of the world, That it pleased the Lord to make them his people, 1 Sam. xii. 22.

But, on the other hand, I cannot think the sense of the expression is sufficiently explained, by saying, That the world, and the whole world is spoken of, to teach us that the sacrifice of the Lamb of God was not confined, like the Levitical offerings, to the nation of Israel only; but that it is available for the sins of a determinate number of persons, called the Elect, who are scattered among many nations, and found under a great variety of states and circumstances inhuman life. This is undoubtedly the truth, solar as it goes; but not, I apprehend, fully agreeable to the scriptural manner of representation. That there is an election of grace, we are plainly taught; yet it is not said, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save the elect, but that he came to save sinners, to seek and to save them that are lost, 1 Tim. i. 15; Luke xix. 10. Upon this ground, I conceive that ministers have a warrant to preaching the gospel to every human creature, and to address the conscience of every man in the sight of God; and that every person who hears this gospel has thereby a warrant, an encouragement, yea, a command, to apply to Jesus Christ for salvation. And that they who refuse, thereby exclude themselves, and perish, not because they never had, nor possibly could have any interest in his atonement, but simply because they will not come unto him that they may have life. I know something of the cavils and curious reasonings which obtain upon this subject, and I know I may be pressed with difficulties, which I cannot resolve to the full satisfaction of enquiring and speculative spirits. I am not disheartened by meeting with some things beyond the grasp of my scanty powers, in a book which I believe to be inspired by him, whose ways and thoughts are higher than ours, as the heavens are higher than the earth, Isa. Iv. 8. 9. But I believe, that vain reasonings, self-will, an attachment to names and parties, and a disposition to draw our sentiments from human systems, rather than to form them by a close and humble study of the Bible, with prayer for divine teaching, are the chief sources of our perplexities and disputes.

The extent of the atonement is frequently represented, as if a calculation had been made, how much suffering was necessary for the surety to endure, in order exactly to expiate the aggregate number of all the sins of all the elect; that so much he suffered precisely, and no more; and that when this requisition was completely answered, he said, It is finished, bowed his head, and gave up the ghost, John xix. 30. But this nicety of computation does not seem analogous to that unbounded magnificence and grandeur which overwhelm the attentive mind in the contemplation of the divine conduct in the natural world. When God waters the earth, he waters it abundantly, Psal. Ixv. 10. He does not restrain the rain to cultivated or improvable spots, but with a profusion of bounty worthy of himself his clouds pour down water with equal abundance upon the barren mountain, the lonely desert, and the pathless ocean. Why may we not say with the scriptures, that Christ died to declare the righteousness of God (Rom. iii. 25, 26), to manifest that he is just in justifying the ungodly who believe in Jesus? And for any thing we know to the contrary, the very same display of the evil and demerit of sin, by the Redeemer’s agonies and death, might have been equally necessary, though the number of the elect were much smaller than it will appear to be when they shall all meet before the throne of glory. If God had formed this earth for the residence of one man only; had it been his pleasure to afford him the same kind and degree of light which we enjoy, the same glorious sun, which is now sufficient to enlighten and comfort the millions of mankind, would have been necessary for the accommodation of that one person. So, perhaps, had it been his pleasure to save but one sinner, in a way that should give the highest possible discovery of his justice and of his mercy, this could have been done by no other method than that which he has chosen for the salvation of the innumerable multitudes who will in the great day unite in the song of praise to the Lamb who loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood. As the sun has a sufficiency of light for eyes (if there were so many capable of beholding it) equal in number to the leaves upon the trees, and the blades of grass that grow upon the earth; so in Jesus, the Sun of righteousness, there is plenteous redemption, he is rich in mercy to all that call upon him (Psal. cxxx. 7; Rom. x. 12); and he invites sinners, without exception, to whom the word of his salvation is sent, even to the ends of the earth, to look unto him, that they may be saved, Isa. xiv. 22.

Under the gospel-dispensation, and by it, God commands all men, everywhere, to repent, Acts xvii. 30. All men, therefore, everywhere, are encouraged to hope for forgiveness, according to the constitution prescribed by the gospel; otherwise repentance would be both impracticable and unavailing. And therefore the command to repent implies a warrant to believe in the name of Jesus as taking away the sin of the world. Let it not be said, that to call upon men to believe, which is an act beyond their natural power, is to mock them. There are prescribed means for the obtaining of faith, which it is not beyond their natural power to comply with, if they are not wilfully obstinate. We have the word of God for our authority. God cannot be mocked (Gal. vi. 7), neither doth he mock his creatures, Our Lord did not mock the young ruler, when he told him that if he would sell his possessions upon earth, and follow him, he should have treasure in heaven, Luke xviii. 22. Had this ruler no power to sell his possessions? I doubt not but that he himself thought he had power to sell them if he pleased. But while he loved his money better than he loved Christ, and preferred earthly treasures to heavenly, he had no will to part with them. And a want of will in a moral agent is a want of power in the strongest sense. Let none presume to offer such excuses to their Maker as they would not accept in their own concerns. If you say of a man, he is such a liar that he cannot speak a word of truth; so profane that he cannot speak without an oath; so dishonest that he cannot omit one opportunity of cheating or stealing; do you speak of this disability to good, as an extenuation, and because you think it renders him free from blame? Surely you think the more he is disinclined to good, and habituated to evil, the worse he is. A man that can speak lies and perjury, that can deceive and rob, but is such an enemy to truth and goodness that he can do nothing that is kind or upright, must be a shocking character indeed ! Judge not more favourably of yourself if you can love the world and sensual pleasure, but cannot love God; if you can fear a worm like yourself, but live without the fear of God; if you can boldly trample upon his laws, but will not, and therefore cannot humble yourself before him, and seek his mercy, in the way of his appointment.

We cannot ascribe too much to the grace of God; but we should be careful, that under a semblance of exalting his grace, we do not furnish the slothful and unfaithful (Matth. xxv. 16) with excuses for their wilfulness and wickedness. God is gracious; but let man be justly responsible for his own evil, and not presume to state his case so, as would, by just consequence, represent the holy God as being the cause of the sin, which he hates and forbids.

The whole may be summed up in two points, which I commend to your serious attention; which it must be the business of my life to enforce; and which, I trust, I shall not repent of having enforced, either at the hour of death, or in the day of judgment, when I must give an account of my preaching, and you of what you have heard in this place:

1. That salvation is, indeed, wholly of grace The gift of a Saviour, the first dawn of light into the heart, all the supports and supplies needful for carrying on the work from the foundation to the top-stone, all is of free grace.

2. That now the Lamb of God is preached to you, as taking away the sin of the world, if you reject him (which may the Lord forbid!), I say, if you reject him. your blood will be upon your own head. You are warned, you are invited. Dare not to say, Why doth he yet find fault, for who hath resisted his will? Rom. ix. 19. If he will save me, I shall be saved; if not, what can I do? God is merciful, but he is also holy and just; he is almighty, but his infinite power is combined with wisdom, and regulated by the great designs of his government. He can do innumerable things which he will not do. What he will do (so far as we are concerned) his word informs us, and not one jot or tittle thereof shall fail, Matth. v. 18.

Source: Works, 4:184-197.


Martin Luther on John 1:29

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


1) Behold, the Lamb of God.

This is an excellent and splendid testimony of John regarding the introduction of the new rule and kingdom of Christ. It is a powerful statement. The words are clear and lucid; they tell us what one should think of Christ. John’s earlier words (John 1:17), “The Law was given through Moses,” can hardly be called praise of Moses. But in this passage John virtually chides him, as if he were saying: “You Jews sacrifice a lamb every Passover, as Moses commanded you. In addition you butcher two lambs daily, which are sacrificed and burned each morning and evening. It is a lamb, to be sure. But you Jews make such a display of it, you praise these sacrifices and boast of them so much, that you eclipse the glory of God, push God into the background, and deprive Him of His honor. Compare the true Lamb with the lamb which the Law of Moses commands you to butcher and eat.” One is a lamb procured from shepherds. The other, however, is an entirely different Lamb; it is the Lamb of God. For It has been ordained to bear on Its back the sins of the world. Compared with this Lamb, all the lambs you butcher in the temple, roast, and eat count for nothing.

“The paschal lamb of the Law was, indeed, splendid child’s play, as well as a ceremony instituted to remind you of the true Lamb of God. But you exaggerate its significance and assume that such butchering and sacrificing were done to remove your sins. Don’t give way to that illusion! Your lambs will never accomplish that. Only the Son of God will. Those lambs in the Law were merely to be the people’s toys, to remind them of the true Paschal Lamb, which was to be sacrificed at some future time.” But they had nothing but contempt for all this and supposed that a lamb slaughtered at Passover sufficed. Therefore John, as it were, juxtaposes Moses’ lamb and Christ, the true Lamb. The Law was not to extend beyond Christ. John wishes to say: “Your lamb was taken from men, as Moses commanded in the Law of God (Ex. 12:3–5). But this is God’s Lamb. The Easter lamb is a Lamb from God, not a lamb selected from the wethers. The lamb of the Law was a shepherds lamb or a man’s lamb.” John wants to say: “This is the true Lamb, which takes away the sin of the people. With your other lambs, sacrificed on the Passover festival, you did try to remove your sin; but you never succeeded. In this Lamb, born of a virgin, you will. It is not a natural lamb or wether referred to in the Law, and yet It is a lamb.” For God prescribed that it was to be a Lamb that should be sacrificed and roasted on the cross for our sins. In other respects He was a man like all other human beings; but God made Him a Lamb which should bear the sins of all the world.

This is an extraordinarily free and comforting sermon on Christ, our Savior. Neither our thoughts nor our words can do the subject full justice, but in the life beyond it will redound to our eternal joy and bliss that the Son of God abased Himself so and burdened Himself with my sins. Yes, He assumes not only my sins but also those of the whole world, from Adam down to the very last mortal. These sins He takes upon Himself; for these He is willing to suffer and die that our sins may be expunged and we may attain eternal life and blessedness. But who can ever give adequate thought or expression to this theme? The entire world with all its holiness, rectitude, power, and glory is under the dominion of sin and completely discredited before God. Anyone who wishes to be saved must know that all his sins have been placed on the back of this Lamb! Therefore John points this Lamb out to his disciples, saying: “Do you want to know where the sins of the world are placed for forgiveness? Then don’t resort to the Law of Moses or betake yourselves to the devil; there, to be sure, you will find sins, but sins to terrify you and damn you. But if you really want to find a place where the sins of the world are exterminated and deleted, then cast your gaze upon the cross. The Lord placed all our sins on the back of this Lamb. As the prophet Isaiah declares (53:6): “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way,” the one hither, the other yon. One sought God in this manner, another in a different way; there were countless modes of looking for God.”

And as it happens when one loses the right way, and, for instance, turns in the wrong direction at a crossroad, one false decision leads to a hundred others. Thus the one chose the rule of St. Francis for help, the other the order of St. Benedict. And pope and Turk, each according to his own judgment, fabricated his own means of penance for sin. But it is written: “They have all gone astray.” But now, which is the right way, the way that guards against going astray? The farther one strays from the right road, the more confused one grows. Isaiah says that the right way is this: “God placed all our sins upon Him and smote Him for the sins of the people; when we all went astray, God put all our sins on the back of His Lamb, and upon no other. He ordained the Lamb to bear the sins of the entire world.”

Therefore a Christian must cling simply to this verse and let no one rob him of it. For there is no other comfort either in heaven or on earth to fortify us against all attacks and temptations, especially in the agony of death. And whoever believes that this Lamb bears the sins of all the world must regard pope and Turk as the Antichrist. For the pope has taught that the Christian must be concerned with bearing his own sin, atoning for it with alms and the like. This is his shameless lie even to the present day. But if what he teaches is true, then I, not Christ, am yoked and burdened with my sin. And then I would necessarily be lost and damned. But Christ does bear the sin–not only mine and yours or that of any other individual, or only of one kingdom or country, but the sin of the entire world. And you, too, are a part of the world.

John’s memory has been cherished, to be sure. In the papacy many murals depict St. John. Pictures of him and of the Lamb were carved in wood and stone or fashioned in gold and silver. Once annually his day was celebrated. His fingers were painted pointing to the Lamb. But all of this was external and never took possession of the heart. No one understood the true significance of the painting and the figure. The papists are still blind, foolish, and absurd. They have paintings and carvings and sculptures of St. John, and they prize portrait and statue; but their doctrine and their life run counter to all this. For they call upon St. Francis or Benedict, St. Catherine or Barbara, and other saints for aid. Is this not blindness? Were we not foolish and mad? Not only did we have the doctrine informing us that this is the Lamb which bears the sin of the world, but we also viewed the picture of St. John pointing his finger at Christ and carrying Christ on his left arm. We celebrated great festivals commemorating all this. And yet our vision was faulty; we did not understand its meaning, nor did we know why John was showing us the Lamb.

This is the basis of all Christian doctrine. Whoever believes it, is a Christian; whoever does not, is no Christian, and will get what he has coming to him. The statement is clear enough: “This is the Lamb of God, who bears the sin of the world.” Moreover, this text is the Word of God, not our word. Nor is it our invention that the Lamb was sacrificed by God and that, in obedience to the Father, this Lamb took upon Himself the sin of the whole world. But the world refuses to believe this; it does not want to concede the honor to this dear Lamb that our salvation depends entirely on His bearing our sin. The world insists on playing a role in this too. But the more it aspires to do in atonement for sin, the worse it fares. For there is no atoner but this Lamb; God recognizes no other. Would it not be reasonable and right to take these words into our hearts that we might become aware of our sin?

Now note here that the Law of Moses, indeed, apprises you of your sin and tells you how you should obey God and man. It also informs me that I am hostile to God, that I blaspheme Him, and that I do not regulate my life properly according to the precepts of the Ten Commandments. In brief, the Law shows me what I am; it reveals sin and burdens me with it. This is its proper function. Then I become frightened and would like to be rid of it. But the Law says: “I cannot aid you in this.” Then we run to the saints, and we invoke the assistance of the Virgin Mary, saying: “Intercede for me before your Son; show Him your breasts!” Another calls on St. Christopher, although he never existed on this earth. Another hies himself to St. Barbara for her intercession. Others enter monastic orders, thereby aspiring to becoming holy themselves and their own saviors. Indeed, each one of us beholds his sins and promises to mend his sinful life from day to day, saying: “O Christ, grant me a respite and stay the time of my death, and I shall become pious and atone for my sin!” But is this not a hideous and terrible blindness? Sin is at your throat; it drives you and lies heavy on you. Reason knows of no other counsel and advice. As soon as reason sees that it has sinned, it declares: “I will reform and become pious!” But now St. John intervenes and declares that the entire world is polluted with sin. He shows us through the Law that we are saddled with this sin, and that we must not let it rest where the Law has deposited it, namely, in our bosom. For if sin remains there, you are damned and doomed. At the same time you are too feeble to remove it; you cannot overcome sin.

In view of this, St. John, by his testimony or sermon, shows us Another upon whom God the Father has laid our sins, namely, Christ the Lord. The Law lays them upon me, but God takes them from me and lays them upon this Lamb. There they fit very well, far better than on me. God wishes to say to us: “I see how the sin oppresses you. You would have to collapse under its heavy burden. But I shall relieve and rid you of the load–when the Law convicts you of, and condemns you for, your sin–and from sheer mercy I shall place the weight of your sin on this Lamb, which will bear them.”

May you ever cherish and treasure this thought. Christ is made a servant of sin, yea, a bearer of sin, and the lowliest and most despised person. He destroys all sin by Himself and says: “I came not to be served but to serve” (Matt. 20:28). There is no greater bondage than that of sin; and there is no greater service than that displayed by the Son of God, who becomes the servant of all, no matter how poor, wretched, or despised they may be, and bears their sins. It would be spectacular and amazing, prompting all the world to open ears and eyes, mouth and nose in uncomprehending wonderment, if some king’s son were to appear in a beggar’s home to nurse him in his illness, wash off his filth, and do everything else the beggar would have to do. Would this not be profound humility? Any spectator or any beneficiary of this honor would feel impelled to admit that he had seen or experienced something unusual and extraordinary, something magnificent. But what is a king or an emperor compared with the Son of God? Furthermore, what is a beggar’s filth or stench compared with the filth of sin which is ours by nature, stinking a hundred thousand times worse and looking infinitely more repulsive to God than any foul matter found in a hospital? And yet the love of the Son of God for us is of such magnitude that the greater the filth and stench of our sins, the more He befriends us, the more He cleanses us, relieving us of all our misery and of the burden of all our sins and placing them upon His own back. All the holiness of the monks stinks in comparison with this service of Christ, the fact that the beloved Lamb, the great Man, yes, the Son of the Exalted Majesty, descends from heaven to serve me.

Such benefactions of God might well provoke us to love and to laud God and to celebrate this service in song and sermon and speech. It should also induce us to die willingly and to remain cheerful in all suffering. For how amazing it is that the Son of God becomes my servant, that He humbles Himself so, that He cumbers Himself with my misery and sin, yes, with the sin and the death of the entire world! He says to me: “You are no longer a sinner, but I am. I am your substitute. You have not sinned, but I have. The entire world is in sin. However, you are not in sin; but I am. All your sins are to rest on Me and not on you.” No one can comprehend this. In yonder life our eyes will feast forever on this love of God. And who would not gladly die for Christ’s sake? The Son of Man performs the basest and filthiest work. He does not don some beggars torn garment or old trousers, nor does He wash us as a mother washes a child; but He bears our sin, death, and hell, our misery of body and soul. Whenever the devil declares: “You are a sinner!” Christ interposes: “I will reverse the order; I will be a sinner, and you are to go scotfree.” Who can thank our God enough for this mercy?

Whoever can confidently believe that the sins of the world, also his own, were laid on Christ’s shoulders will not easily be deceived and deluded by the schismatic spirits, who are in the habit of quoting us verses that deal with good works and alms and give the impression that good work wipe out sins and acquire salvation. A Christian can refute any passages which the factious spirits may adduce about good works. This cardinal text still remains intact. It reads that I cannot bear my sin or render satisfaction for it, but that God has chosen a sacrifice which was slaughtered, roasted on the cross, and eaten. Upon this Lamb all sins were laid. A Christian will not permit himself to be cut adrift from this, nor will he be led away from a proper understanding of the Gospel. Let them teach or preach what they choose in the world. He will adhere to the plain and true faith and clear words, namely: “If I had been able to earn anything for myself, then it would not have been necessary for God’s Son to die for me.” John declares that it is solely the Lamb that bears the sin of the whole world; otherwise it would surely not be done at all. I, too, will find refuge in Him. You may do whatever you please!

The Law, to be sure, can command to do this and that; it can also prescribe rules of conduct for life. It says: “Do not covet your neighbors wife, his goods, his honor; do not kill; do not commit adultery, etc.; give alms.” And it is laudable and good to comply with these Commandments. By doing so we abstain from outward sin in the world. But it is futile to try to expunge sin before God through the Law. The one thing that is effective in this respect is spoken of here: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” And in Is. 53:6 we read: “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” And again (Is. 53:8): “The Lord will strike Him for the transgression of my people.” Everything centers in Christ. Therefore a Christian must adhere to this verse with simplicity of heart and not let anyone rob him of it. Then he will be aware of the blindness of all heathen, of the papists, and of the godless, who themselves want to render satisfaction with pilgrimages and with good works. They make much of these and console themselves with purgatory. But they are blind. For Holy Scripture declares that the sin of the world does not lie on the world, or St. John’s sin on St. John, or St. Peter’s on Peter; for they are unable to bear it. The sin of the world lies on Christ, the Lamb of God. He steps forth and becomes a vile sinner, yea, sin itself (2 Cor. 5:21), just as if He Himself had committed all the sin of the world from its beginning to its end. This is to be the Lamb’s office, mission, and function.

And now if Holy Scripture contains verses which seem to intimate that one should atone for sin through good works, you should apply these to the inferior realm of domestic affairs or of temporal government; enjoin them upon fathers and mothers, and do not use them in an attempt to prove that good works could present satisfaction for your sins before God. Good works leave sins unborne and unpaid; the Lamb bears them all. Therefore ask yourself if it was not just of God to be angry with us and to punish us because we had strayed into the ranks of the pope’s and the Turk’s schismatic spirits. For the Lamb Itself preaches to us: “Behold, how I bear your sins!” However, no one will accept it. If we believed and accepted it, no one would be damned. What more is the Lamb to do? He says: “You are all condemned, but I will take your sins upon Myself. I have become the whole world. I have incorporated all people since Adam into My person.” Thus He wants to give us righteousness in exchange for the sins we have received from Adam. And I should reply: “I will believe that my dear, dear Lord, the Lamb of God, has taken all sins upon Himself.” Still the world will not believe and accept this. If it did, no one would be lost.

We learn that we have all been hurled into sin by the devil and that the Lamb alone extricates us. Refusal to believe this is not Christ’s fault; it is mine. If I do not believe this, I am doomed. It is for me to say simply that the Lamb of God has borne the sin of the world. I have been earnestly commanded to believe and to confess this, and then also to die in this faith.

You may say: “Who knows whether Christ also bore my sin? I have no doubt that He bore the sin of St. Peter, St. Paul, and other saints; these were pious people. Oh, that I were like St. Peter or St. Paul!” Don’t you hear what St. John says in our text: “This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”? And you cannot deny that you are also part of this world, for you were born of man and woman. You are not a cow or a pig. It follows that your sins must be included, as well as the sins of St. Peter or St. Paul. And just as you are unable to expiate your sins, so they have been unable to expiate theirs. There are no exceptions here. Therefore do not yield to your own thoughts, but cling to the words which guarantee you and all believers forgiveness of sin through the Lamb. Don’t you hear? There is nothing missing from the Lamb. He bears all the sins of the world from its inception; this implies that He also bears yours, and offers you grace.

If someone does not partake of and enjoy such grace and mercy, he has none to blame but himself and his refusal to believe and accept it. He says to himself: “This does not pertain to you, but only to St. Peter and St. Paul. I must become a monk, invoke the saints, and go on pilgrimages.” Go to the devil if you refuse to believe these words! For if you are in the world and your sins form a part of the sins of the world, then the text applies to you. All that the words “sin,” “world,” and “the sin of the world from its beginning until its end” denote–all this rests solely on the Lamb of God. And since you are an integral part of this world and remain in this world, the benefits mentioned in the text will, of course, also accrue to you.

It is extremely important that we know where our sins have been disposed of. The Law deposits them on our conscience and shoves them into our bosom. But God takes them from us and places them on the shoulders of the Lamb. If sin rested on me and on the world, we would be lost; for it is too strong and burdensome. God says: “I know that your sin is unbearable for you; therefore behold, I will lay it upon My Lamb and relieve you of it. Believe this! If you do, you are delivered of sin.” There are only two abodes for sin: it either resides with you, weighing you down; or it lies on Christ, the Lamb of God. If it is loaded on your back, you are lost; but if it rests on Christ, you are free and saved. Now make your choice! According to the Law, to be sure, sin should remain on you; but by grace sin was cast on Christ, the Lamb. Lacking this grace, we should be doomed in an accounting with God.

These are clear, plain, and powerful words, strengthened by that splendid and beautiful portrait of St. John pointing to the Lamb with his finger. I was always fond of such pictures; for instance, the one on which the Paschal Lamb is depicted carrying a little banner, or the picture of the crucifixion. But in the papacy we never understood their true significance. This is the message they really wanted to convey: “Behold, man! According to Law and justice, your sins should rest on you. But the Lamb which I exhibit here bears your sins by grace. This sin has been placed on the Lamb. Now you are holy, righteous, and free of sin; you have been saved for the sake of the Lamb. Therefore you have to know that you are not bearing your own sin. For then you would be lost; the Law would condemn and execute you. But behold, God has delivered you from your sins and has placed them on the Lamb. And thus you are saved, not for your own sake but for His.” Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4,” in Luther’s Works, John 1:29, 22:161-170.

2) So by means of this doctrine concerning the governing part of man, man will come to be exalted above Christ and the devil, or in other words, he will become Lord of lords and God of gods. What has now happened to that “probable opinion” which said that free choice could will nothing good? Yet here she contends that it is the principal part, and a sound and virtuous part, which does not even need Christ, but can do more than God himself and the devil can. I say this to let you see again how very perilous it is to venture into divine and sacred subjects without the Spirit of God and in the temerity of human reason. If Christ is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world [John 1:29], then it follows that the whole world is subject to sin, damnation, and the devil, and the distinction between principal and nonprincipal parts is of no use at all. For “world” means men, who savor of worldly things in all their parts. Martin Luther, “Bondage of the Will,” in Luther’s Works, 33:228.


Stephen Charnock on John 1:29

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


The extent of it. Both to original and actual sin: John 1:29, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world;’ sin of the world, the sin of human nature, that first sin of Adam. Of this mind is Austin, and others, that original sin is not imputed to any to condemnation since the death of Christ. But howsoever this be, it is certain it is taken away from believers as to its imputation. Christ was ‘made sin for us,’ 2 Cor. 5:21, to bear all sin.

Stephen Charnock, “The Pardon of Sin,” in Works [1865], 5:443.


Bullinger on John 1:29

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


1] Moreover, that all sorts of sacrifices contained in the law are utterly abrogated, no man, I suppose, will once deny, which doth consider, that both the temple and the two altars, which all the holy instruments, are utterly overthrown and come to nothing. I told you that those sacrifices were remembrances of sins, and types or figures of the cleansing and atonement[*] that was to be made by Christ Jesus. Therefore when Christ was come and offered up for the sins of all the world, then verily did all the sacrifices of the ancient Jews come to their ending…

For Christ is only and alone instead of all sacrifices. For he was once offered up, and after that is offered no more: who by the once offering up of himself hath found eternal redemption; so that all, which he sanctified, are sanctified by none other oblation but that of Christ upon the cross for the sins of all the world, is the burnt offering of the catholic church: he is also the meat-offering, which feedeth us with his flesh offered upon the cross unto eternal life, if we receive and feed on him by faith. Moreover he is the drink offering of the church, which with his blood doth quench the thirst of the faithful unto life everlasting. He is the purging and daily sacrifice of the church’ because he is “the lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world” [John 1:29]. His death and passion cleanseth all men from their sins, their errors, and iniquities.” Decades, 3rd Decade, Sermon 8, vol 1, p., 269 and 270. [*Footnote: Lat., expiation]

2] For it is evident that the Israelites free departure out of Egypt was a type or figure of the delivery of the whole compass of the earth, and of all kingdoms of the world, which should be wrought by Christ our Lord, who hath now already set all the world free from the bondage of sin and hell. But if the meaning of the ceremony and sacrament of that bodily deliverance, I mean, the very passover. For what is he that knoweth not that the paschal lamb did in a figure represent Christ our Redeemer? Are Paul’s words unknown, who saith, “Christ our passover is offered up?” Have not all the apostles and John Baptist called our Lord “the lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world [John 1:29; Acts 8:32; 1 Pet 1:19; Rev 5:6.]? The words of the prophet Esay also, in his fifty-second chapter, are apparently known; where he compareth the delivery of Israel out of Egypt with the redemption of all the world wrought by Christ from the slavery of sin. Decades, 2nd Decade, Sermon 2, vol 1, p., 219.

 3] Simon: Take heed, that you do not rashly and without advisement blame the Anabaptists. For there has always been some, which did say, that Christ has suffered only, for them, that were afore him, that is to say, for the fathers, which did live under the Old Testament, & that he has only purged in us, Original sin, and that we ought to expiate, or to make amends & satisfaction, with our own deeds and works, for the sins, that we commit, after that we be ones purified.

Joida: If you have been so taught hitherto, and have believed so, why was Peter Abelard counted an heretic, & made to recant again, by Saint Bernard, in the counsel of Sens? He did teach very like things.

Simon: This does move me but little.

Ioida: In this thing, are you blameworthy, that you Anabaptists, do know neither new nor old histories, & yet you will be teachers. What audacity is this? Bit how vain your opinion is, and how much be, it does attenuate[?] and enfeeble[?], the virtual of the passion of Christ, we will show, by Holy Scriptures. John Baptist, showing with his finger, that pure & immaculate lamb Jesus Christ, did say: “This is the lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.” By these & other words of the Scripture, it is manifest proved, that Christ is the full satisfaction, for the sins of all the world. Or can you say, that the fathers of the Old Testament are only the world?

Simon: No, but he says sin, & not sins.

Ioida: John does, this diction ‘world’. By the ‘world,’ he understands, whosoever is worldly: so by this word sin, he understands, all that can be named sin, the gender being here put, for the species. For he says, which takes away, and not, which has taken away, or shall be taken away, that this word Tollit, takes away, may signify action or doing & not time. For what sins soever are taken away, they are taken away, by the sacrifice of Christ, done in the cross.

Simon: You must bring clear & more strong testimonies, for these, can easily be confuted.

Ioida: This authority is both plain & strong enough. Nor it can not be subverted, by any contradiction. But that you may see, that we are not without authorities. Read the v to the Romans, and you shall understand, and perceive, that the virtue of the death of Christ, is abolished by you. And not as by one man (says Saint Paul) which had sinned, death did come: So is the gift of GOD. For judgement, did come, by one sin to condemnation, and the gift did come, to justify from many sins. Do not these words, O Simon prove, that Christ with his death, did not cleanse or purge only one sin, but all manner of sins? But read all the whole chapter, and then, you shall understand it better.

Paul speaks of Christ in the ii. chap. to the Colossians after this manner: And you (says he) when you were dead through your sins or in the prepucy or uncircumcision of your flesh, he has quickened also with him forgiving unto us all our sins. Because that in him does inhabit all plenitude or perfection of God-head corporeally and you are made perfect in him. Which thing, truly, could not be, if he had not washed us clean form all our sins. But th econtrary is evidently known, by the x. chapter to the Hebrews. He (says Saint Paul) one oblation being offered for sins, sits everlastingly on the right hand of God the Father. For with one oblation, he has made perfected forever, therein, that are sanctified. i. John I “The blood of Christ, does cleanse us from all our sins. i. John ii. “If any man does sin, we have an advocate, before the Father, that righteous word Jesus Christ. And he is the satisfaction for our sins, and not only for our sins, but for the sins of all the world. [Henry Bullinger],  An Holsome Antidotus or counter-poyson agaynst the pestylent heresye and secte of the Anabaptistes newly translated out of the Latin into Englysh by John Veron, Senonoys, 1570, 144-149. [The pagination is hand-written on every second page and is not original to the text. I have used this pagination for my referencing. I have modernized the spelling. Each instance of thee and thou has been transcibed as “you.” ]


Zwingli on John 1:29

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


1] Therefore the birth had to be absolutely pure of every stain, because He that was born was also God. Second, on account of the nature of the sacrificial victim. For that had to be free from all blemish, as the law of Moses required, though that only applied to the purity of the flesh, Heb 9:9. How much more had the victim to be absolutely spotless which made atonement for the sins not only of all who had been, but of all who were yet to come… Of this figure I shall say nothing more, since it is perfectly clear in itself and through the notices of all who have spoken of it. Furthermore, the John who baptized the Son of God, as soon as he saw Christ coming towards him, pointed out to his disciples with the words: “Behold the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!” John 1:29. Zwingli, Commentary on True and False Religion, (Labyrinth Press), pp., 112 and 113.

2] A little while after he says [Jn 1:29-31]: “John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world… The divine Baptist shows by these words that Christ is the lamb that atones for the universal disease of sin, and that he himself is preaching a baptism of repentance before Him that He may be made manifest to Israel. For when man through repentance has come to the knowledge of himself, he is forced to take refuge in the mercy of God. But when he has begun to do that, justice makes him afraid. Then Christ appears, who has satisfied the divine justice for our trespasses. When once there is faith in Him, then salvation is found; for He is the infallible pledge of God’s mercy. For “he that gave up a Son for us, how will he not with him also give us all things?” Roms 8:32. Zwingli, Commentary on True and False Religion, (Durham, N.C: Labyrinth Press, 1981), 122-123.

3] Now as to those imposters who, not to keep silence when they cannot endure that all sins should be washed away through the grace of Christ (for they would rather, though they cannot make atonement, yet for pay received seen to do so)–who, I say, not to keep silence assert that Christ made atonement for original sin only, or for the sins of merely those who were before Him. Their error might be at once over-thrown by that single proclamation of the Baptist [John 1:29]: “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world”; for original sin is not the only sin in the world, and Christ takes away all the sins in the world. Yet I would by no means pass over the very clear testimony of 1 John 2:1-2, that they may not be able to plead any excuse. “Little children,” he says, “these things write I to you, that ye may not sin. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for our only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

With this testimony, then, I shall here be content, since it has been abundantly proved above that Christ is the means of salvation to all. Zwingli, Commentary on True and False Religion, (Durham, N.C: Labyrinth Press, 1981), pp., 155-156.

4] And again John the baptizer in Jn. 1:29, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the entire world. Zwingli, Exposition and Basis of the Conclusions or Articles Published by Huldrych Zwingli, 29 January 1523, Pickwick Publications, vol 1, p, 16.