Christ, the Lamb of God

“Lamb of God,” what an interesting description of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

I have raised lambs in the past and many farmers in our community raise lambs as well. Lambs, although cute, are not typically noted for their courage, their strength, or even for their intelligence. Why would Scripture describe our triumphant Savior as “the Lamb of God”?

In John 1, we hear John the Baptist proclaim, “Behold! The Lamb of God,” as he saw our Savior approach. Later, the apostle Peter used a similar picture to describe the vast benefits which we possess through the blood of the Lamb.

“And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:17–21).

I would like to take some time with you, as we consider a few of the benefits we receive, as those who are washed in the blood of this precious Lamb, Jesus Christ. As we consider the text above, I pray that we will see Jesus clearly, as:

Christ, the Lamb of Perfection

Christ, the Lamb of Redemption

Christ, the Lamb of Promise

Christ, the Lamb of Assurance

Christ, the Lamb of Perfection

Throughout the Old Testament, the people of God were given instruction concerning the type of sacrifice which was required of them. A sacrifice was necessary because they, as well as ourselves, had offended a perfect God who requires perfect obedience from His subjects. Because of the great offence of sin, God taught His people that a perfect sacrifice was required to cover the guilt of sin. Nearly fifty times in the Old Testament we read that the sacrifice must be “without blemish”; God demands perfection, as He is perfect.

I have spent a few years raising cattle and we would strive, year after year, for that perfect calf; sometimes the results would be very good, but no matter how nice the calf was, there would always be a blemish. The same can be said for the sacrificial lambs; the people would bring their very best, yet perfection could never be attained. The lambs were always blemished. Even if perchance a blemish-free lamb could be found, how could a mere animal satisfy for the offences of mankind?

Man offended a righteous God, and as our catechism reminds us, “the justice of God requires that same human nature which has sinned should make satisfaction for sin” (Heidelberg Catechism Q16). In short, our “lamb without blemish” must be wholly man; and man is fallen in his very nature, so it seems we have come to an impasse.

God, on the other hand, is the only perfect One. He is the very definition of perfection. Only God could bear the weight of the penalty for our debt. What a true “lamb without blemish” must look like is One who is completely God to bear the weight of our sin, and completely man so as to be a true representative for us. A “lamb without blemish” would by necessity be God/man. Jesus, the true God/man, is our perfect “lamb without blemish”!

Christ, the Lamb of Redemption

The very first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism reminds us that our only comfort in life and in death is that we are not our own; we belong to another, and that other is Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins. Peter reminds us of this great comfort as we read that it was not with even the most precious treasures of this earth that we have been redeemed, but rather it was with something that cannot be corrupted; we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, Christ, who has no corruption in Him.

The things of this world have very little tangible value. As I pen these words it has been announced that our federal officials have reached a budget compromise to raise the debt limit from $16,669,000,000,000 because that is just not enough debt for our nation. The dollar means little; silver and gold are nice and shiny, but really, what intrinsic value do they possess? Houses and properties are here today and are just as quickly lost. Family and friends are a comfort, but soon our time together will come to an end. We require redemption of lasting value.

Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, was sent by the Father for the very purpose of redeeming us, so that Jesus would be glorified: “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:13–20).

Our “Lamb of Redemption” is a Lamb of infinite worth. He is the only One who is able to pay the price for our sins. Jesus, our Lamb, has fully redeemed us for the purpose of fulfilling the will of the Father and perfectly making peace through His blood. Have no illusions; we were enemies of God in our natural state; because of the work of Christ we have been made friends, and indeed even made “joint heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17). Now that is a Redeeming Lamb!

Christ, the Lamb of Promise

Christ, as our perfect Lamb of redemption, was no afterthought. The twentieth verse reminds us that the perfect redeemer was “foreordained before the foundations of the world”! (1 Pet. 1:20). Consider for just a moment the implications of this remarkable verse. The triune God had already planned the work of Jesus: the virgin birth, sinless life, perfect sacrifice, resurrection from the dead, ascension to the right hand of the Father—for you as His child—from before the creation or sin of Adam and Eve. Now that is a perfect promise.

Not only was the plan of redemption planned from all eternity, but throughout the inspired words of the Old Testament, God has been incrementally making known this plan of redemption, to His covenant people.

You recall the fall in the garden? This was where we are given the first hint of the coming Lamb of Promise. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15). True, this initial hint of a redeemer is cloudy; we are given no real specifics, yet the hint is there, the offspring of Eve would one day vanquish the power of the serpent.

We have already mentioned the sacrificial, unblemished animals which the people of God were commanded to sacrifice for their sins. As we noted, these animals were insufficient to pay the debt owed, yet they are another hint. Even though the animals themselves were not sufficient to atone, the fact that God ordered them shows that He was preparing a true and complete redemption, a truly unblemished Lamb which would atone for our sins.

Handel, in his famous oratorio Messiah made famous those beautiful utterances of the prophet Isaiah, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). Here Isaiah, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, continued to unfold the mystery of the Lamb of Promise; but of course Isaiah’s work was not complete. Not only was he used to show us the coming Child, but to tell us something of what this Lamb would accomplish; it was a sacrificial lamb: “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isa. 53:7).

The prophet Micah, very near the end of the Old Testament period, puts even more flesh on the bones of this coming Lamb of Promise. Micah shows us not only where He would be born, but teaches us that this lamb would be a lamb which is also a shepherd: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. And He shall stand and feed His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God; and they shall abide, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth” (Mic. 5:2, 4).

Finally, only months before the promised Lamb of God came, we are given John the Baptist. He was sent to call God’s people to repentance and prepare them for the work of the promised One. John reminded the people of all the promises which God had given, and called the people to “make His paths straight” (Mark 1:3, quoting Isa. 40:3).

God left nothing to chance, nor was He surprised by circumstance. He promised to send His Son, the Son promised to fulfill the Father’s will, and the Holy Spirit promised to apply that finished work of the Lamb of God to His redeemed children. Promises made, promises kept.

Christ, the Lamb of Assurance

Peter concludes our passage with these words of assurance: “so that your faith and hope are in God.” The conclusion of the matter is this: if God would send His Son from before the foundations of the world to be our perfect redeemer, and faithfully fulfill every promise, then we can certainly have confidence in all His words.

Our hope is not in our value, our actions, our labors, our intellect, our desires. Our faith and our hope are in God. We are broken creatures, left to our own devices we are hopeless; but in the Lamb of God we have every confidence in His finished work on our behalf.

God is truth, His promises are sure, and He has shown His truth in the awesome work of an eternally ordained redemption for His people. Our God is the faithful One, he makes covenant and keeps covenant for us. His promises are Yea and Amen. When He promised a redeemer, that promise is sure. God has not changed, His promises are still sure; the very fact that God foreordained before the foundations of the world a Lamb of Promise, gives us confidence in all of His promises. He is sure to be our refuge and strength, our fortress, our bulwark, our shepherd, our rock, and all of His other beautiful promises to us.

The Lamb of God has indeed finished His work of redemption, yet our assurance is fulfilled in His consummation—when the Lamb takes His redeemed children to their eternal glory. A favorite hymn, based on the picture of glory as seen in Revelation 22, speaks beautifully of the Christians assurance in this Lamb of God:

By the Sea of Crystal, saints in glory stand,
Myriad in number, drawn from every land.
Robed in white apparel, washed in Jesus’ blood,
They now reign in heaven, with the Lamb of God.

(John Vanderhoven, 1933)

Rev. Travis Grassmid
Menno, SD
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