Be of Sin the Double Cure1
Rock of Ages is one of those older hymns of the Christian faith that one rarely hears anymore, even in churches that are more traditional in their approach to worship. It was written by Augustus Toplady who died in 1776. Continue reading . . .
Rock of Ages is one of those older hymns of the Christian faith that one rarely hears anymore, even in churches that are more traditional in their approach to worship. It was written by Augustus Toplady who died in 1776. I’ve always been fascinated by the lyrics in the first verse.
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.”
It’s those last two lines that I have in mind: “Be of sin the double cure; save from wrath and make me pure.”
Toplady is obviously trying to tell us that in his view sin has caused us two massive problems, both of which are overcome by the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. We need, says Toplady, a double cure from the debilitating and destructive power of sin. First, we need to be saved from divine wrath: “Be of sin the double cure; save from wrath and make me pure.”
In other words, sin has exposed us to divine wrath. We have violated, in thought, word, and deed, the will of God. We are alienated from our Creator. We have incurred the penalty for breaking the law of God, namely, suffering the wrath of God. The appeal in the hymn is for the blood of Christ to save us from divine wrath and judgment.
But then Toplady makes a second appeal. “Be of sin the double cure; save from wrath and make me pure.” It isn’t enough to be delivered from the penalty of sin. We must also be set free from the power of sin. We need the redemptive work of Christ, through the Spirit, to be applied to us in such a way that we find strength and power to overcome the presence of sin and to resist temptation and to grow in likeness and conformity to the image of Jesus Christ.
Both of these dimensions of the work of Christ on the cross are in view in 1 Peter 2:24-25. There we read that “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25).
When Peter says that Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree,” he has in view the fact that Jesus was regarded by God the Father as guilty of every sin you’ve ever committed. Jesus was reckoned as the one who deserved the punishment that should have fallen on you and me. But by God’s grace it fell, instead, on him. By enduring the wrath of God in our place, as our substitute, we have been saved from divine wrath, just as Toplady described it in his hymn. Those who believe in Jesus Christ will never suffer the wrath of God for one reason and for one reason only: it is because Jesus has suffered and satisfied the wrath of God in our place.
But Peter doesn’t stop there. He goes on to speak of a second result of the death of Christ: it was to make it possible that we might “die to sin and live to righteousness.” In other words, Christ’s death and resurrection were designed to make available to us, through the Holy Spirit, the power to resist sin, to say No to temptation, to live free from its power and dominion, and to walk in righteousness and holiness of life.
Be of sin the double cure: Yes, by all means, save me from wrath. But also, by all means, please, make me pure.
Now here’s the problem. There are many who believe that if by Christ’s death we are forever set free from the wrath and judgment of God, we will take advantage of that fact and live however we please. We will immerse ourselves in every kind of evil and sinful self indulgence. After all, if I can never endure God’s wrath because Christ has endured it in my place, what difference does it make how I live? Why should I bother worrying about temptation? Who cares if I watch pornography or commit fornication or become addicted to alcohol or cheat on my wife or steal or gossip or lie or allow my life to be conformed to what the world says is the way to live?
Peter’s perspective is utterly opposite to this. He couldn’t be any more explicit than he is: Christ died for you and bore the punishment you deserved and endured God’s wrath for sin precisely so that you might find the strength and motivation and incentive for saying No to sin in your daily life and Yes to righteousness and purity and godliness.
In fact, Peter says it three times in this paragraph.
He first said back in v. 21 – “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” One of the primary goals in his death for us was to enable us to live like him. He walked a certain path. He has left behind for us, spiritual and moral footprints. “Walk in them,” says God. “Live like Jesus.” And of course, one of the ways in which we do that is by not retaliating against those who treat us unfairly or persecute us unjustly.
He says it a second time in v. 24 – “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” Another of the primary goals in his death for us was to make it possible for us to be as dead people when it comes to sin. Here’s the analogy he has in view. With regard to sin and temptation, think of yourself as a corpse. You are utterly dead and lifeless and incapable of responding and insensitive to every attempt by sin to get the consent of your will. Temptation walks up to you and says, “Hey, have I got a deal for you.” But there is no response. You can’t hear it speak. You can’t watch it as it approaches. You can’t smell it. You can’t touch it. You can’t think about it. You can’t taste it. Why? Because you’re dead to it. You have no capacity to respond to it.
Now, that’s the ideal. Unfortunately, we are all too much alive to sin and temptation. But the aim of our growth as Christian men and women is to become increasingly insensitive to sin and temptation; to become increasingly unresponsive to it. We’ll never be totally dead to sin until we are fully alive in heaven. But that’s the goal toward which we are striving.
Once again, Peter’s point here is that Christ died for you and bore the punishment you deserved and endured God’s wrath for sin precisely so that you might find the strength and motivation and incentive for saying No to sin in your daily life and Yes to righteousness and purity and godliness.
We’ve seen him say this twice already, and now in vv. 24b-25 he says it a third time: “By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
We’ll try to come to grips with the meaning of this in the next article.