Sermon by Pastor George Fifield
Below is a portion of a sermon delivered by George Fifield, SDA pastor, at the 1897 General Conference session:
“YOU will find the basis of our study this evening in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah and the third verse: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
In connection with this I will read several other verses of the same chapter, and also a translation, which will enable us to obtain the thought more clearly:
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
The other translation reads: “Surely he bore our griefs, yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was pierced through by our sins; he was crushed by our misdeeds. The chastisement of our peace lay upon him, and in his wounds there became healing for us. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Another translation: “The Lord let all our misdeeds come upon him…”
Translation: “It pleased the Lord to let him be crushed; he hath made him sick; when his soul hath given a trespass offering, he shall see seed and live long.” The thought is clearly enough expressed in the Authorized Version, but since we are liable sometimes to receive the wrong thought, the translation helps us to see it more clearly.
The third verse states and vividly contrasts the true and the false idea of Christ’s mission, and of his work, and of the atonement. One is what was, and the other is what we thought was; one is truth, the other is falsehood; one is Christianity, the other is paganism. We would do well to study every thought in that text. “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; he was pierced through by our misdeeds, and God permitted it because in his stripes there was healing for us. But we esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
Whose griefs? Whose sorrows? – Ours.
The grief and the sorrow that crushed the heart of Christ, and took him from among the living, so that he died of a broken heart, was no strange, new grief or sorrow. It was not something unlike what we have to bear; it was not God arbitrarily putting upon him our sins, and thus punishing our sins in him to deliver us.
He took no position arbitrarily that we do not have to suffer. It was our griefs and our sorrows that pierced him through. He took our sinful natures, and our sinful flesh, at the point of weakness to which we had brought it, submitting himself to all the conditions of the race, and placing himself where we are to fight the conflict that we have to fight, the fight of faith. And he did this by the same power to which we have access. By the Spirit of God he cast out devils; through the eternal Spirit he offered himself without spot; and the Spirit of God rested upon him, and made him of quick understanding in the things of God. It was our sins that he took; our temptations.
He took our sorrows, our griefs, all the conflicts of our lives upon him, and was tempted in all points as we are. He took the injustices of our lives upon him too. It is a fact that you and I have to suffer for many things for which we are not at fault. All my suffering is not the result of my sin. Some of it is; but just as long as sin exists, injustice exists. As long as men sin, men will be sinned against. Just so you and I will have to suffer for the sins of others; and so God, to show that he knew and realized all that, let him that was perfectly innocent, take the injustice and sin of us all. O brethren and sisters, he did not bear some other grief or some other sorrow, but he bore our griefs and our sorrows. He was pierced through by them, and the Lord permitted it, because there was healing in it for us; not that he might appease God, or reconcile him unto us.
Every passage of Scripture that refers to the reconciliation or atonement, or to the propitiation, always represents God as the one who makes this atonement, reconciliation, or propitiation, in Christ; we are always the ones atoned for, the ones to be reconciled. For us it was done, in order that, as Peter says, he might bring us to God.
The only way to do this is by destroying sin in us. He took our sins upon him in order that he might bring us to God. It was that he might break down the high middle wall of partition between human hearts and God, between Jew and Gentile, between God and man; that he might make us one with him, and one with one another, thus making the at-one-ment, or the atonement.
In Christ Jesus we who were sometimes afar off were made nigh by the blood of Christ, so that we are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth into an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
This is as near to the Lord as we can get. This is the at-one-ment; this is why he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, that he might do that for us by breaking down all those things which separate hearts from hearts, both human and divine. Notwithstanding this, we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. That was what we thought about it. We said, God is doing all this; God is killing him, punishing him, to satisfy his wrath, in order to let us off. That is the pagan conception of sacrifice. The Christian idea of sacrifice is this. Let us note the contrast. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
That is the Christian idea. Yes, sir. Indifference keeps, hatred keeps, selfishness keeps, or gives, if at all, but grudgingly, counting the cost, and figuring on some larger return at some future time. But love, and love only, sacrifices, gives freely, gives itself, gives without counting the cost; gives because it is love. That is sacrifice, whether it is the sacrifice of bulls and goats, or of him who is the Lamb of God. It is the sacrifice that is revealed throughout the entire Bible. But the pagan idea of sacrifice is just the opposite. It is that some god is always offended, always angry, and his wrath must be propitiated in some way.