By Standford Murrell
SALVATION AND THE SOVEREIGN
Soteriology, (soteria, salvation, logos, discourse) refers to the study of the doctrine concerning salvation. In general, Soteriology embraces God’s purpose to save, the Person and work of the Redeemer, and the application of redemption by the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of men.
Six Presuppositions Of Soteriology
There are six foundational principles on which the doctrine of Soteriology rests.
· God’s rule is sovereign.
· God as Creator, Ruler, and Saviour underlies all the provisions of salvation.
· Man is responsibility to his Creator because he has the capacity for good and bad.
· The Covenant of Works expresses God’s will and man’s obligation.
· The Law of God requires perfect obedience.
· God as a perfect Being cannot require less than perfection in His Moral Law.
¨ Matthew 5:48 "Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect."
¨ 1 Peter 1:16 "It is written: Be ye holy for I am holy."
¨ John 5:17 "All unrighteousness is sin."
The Law of God cannot be lowered or eliminated to accommodate man's weakness for to diminish or abrogate God’s Law is to tarnish God’s essential nature. The Law must be met to the last letter. Furthermore, mercy cannot infringe on justice else there would be disharmony among the attributes of God’s being. So what is to be done? What can be done? How are souls to be saved? There is an urgent necessity for a cleansing Atonement that expresses justice and mercy alike while maintaining the harmony of the Divine nature.
The Fall Of Man
Like so many other things in life, it is a great mystery to know how temptation could find a point of contact and acceptance in a holy person made in the image of God. However, Scriptures reveal that man, when first tempted, yielded to temptation and fell from an exalted state of great grace and privilege into sin which brought condemnation and a sentence of death. On the basis of these basic facts Soteriology proceeds.
The Order Of The Decrees
Among theologians, there has always been a difference of opinions as to the order of events in the Divine economy. Of particular importance is whether or not the objects of the Divine decree were contemplated as fallen creatures, or merely as men whom God would create on an equal basis (Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination). Two views have emerged on this matter.
The Infralapsarian View
The infralapsarian view contemplates the salvation of men after the Fall. Those who are chosen to salvation were chosen on the basis of being members of a fallen race which means that all who shall come to faith were elected subsequent to the Fall. According to the Infralapsarian View, the order of events would be as follows.
· God decreed to create man in the image of God.
· God decreed to permit the Fall of mankind in Adam.
· After the Fall, God decreed to elect some of the fallen souls to salvation and to leave others in a natural state of condemnation.
· God decreed to provide a Redeemer for the elect whose work of redemption would be sufficient for all.
· God decreed to secure the application of this salvation to the elect by means of the Holy Spirit.
The Supralapsarian View
The term "supralapsarian" indicates that the decree of election to salvation took place before God created man and before He permitted the Fall. According to the Supralapsarian View, the objects of the Divine decree were contemplated merely as men whom God would create, all of whom were on an equal basis in His sight. According to the Supralapsarian View, the order of effects would be as follows.
· In eternity past God proposed to elect some of mankind to eternal life and to condemn others.
· God proposed to create man.
· God proposed to permit the Fall.
· God proposed to send Christ to redeem the elect.
· God proposed to send the Holy Spirit to apply salvation to the elect
Election Precedes Salvation
At whatever precise point God decreed to save souls, once made, the Divine choice necessitated all the preparations involved in the salvation process. Without Divine preparation of the heart, an individual could not exercise any choice at all in a positive direction towards the Lord just as "no man ever chose when and where he would be born, who would become his parents, how he would be taught and trained, whether the Gospel was to be sent to Europe or America, or whether they were to remain heathen, whether the Gospel should ever sound in his ears or he forever remain ignorant of its contents and call. All these things that enter so much into man’s salvation were chosen absolutely and alone by God." (David Clark)
The Covenant of Redemption
As the order of the Divine decree continues to be contemplated, the biblical revelation is clear that in matchless grace God did not leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery. Out of His mere good pleasure, and for all of eternity, God did elect some to everlasting life. God entered into a Covenant of Grace with the elect to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.
Evidence That Such A Covenant Was Made
There is Scriptural evidence that a Covenant of Redemption was made between the Father and the Son.
¨ John 6:37 "All that the Father giveth to me shall come to me."
¨ John 6:39 "Of all that He hat given men I should lose none."
¨ John 8:42 "Neither came I of myself, but He sent me."
¨ John 10:29 "My Father who gave them to me,"
The plan of the Covenant of Redemption was to save man by a Redeemer, who should become a Substitute, bear the penalty of sin, fulfill all the demands of God’s Law, justify or acquit the sinner on condition of faith, restore the soul to God’s favor, sanctify it wholly and glorify it forever. This Covenant of Redemption was made in eternity, but takes effect in time. It first appears in human history after the Fall of man in the Garden of Eden when a Redeemer was promised (Gen. 3:15).
The Covenant of Grace
Issuing from the Covenant of Redemption between the Father and the Son is the Covenant of Grace between man and God. "The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, and this He hath been pleased to express by way of a covenant (study Luke 17:10; Job 15:7,8).
Moreover, man having brought himself under the curse of the law by his fall, it pleased the Lord to make a Covenant of Grace wherein He freely offereth unto to sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in Him that they may be saved; and promising to give to all who are ordained to eternal life His Holy Spirit to make them willing and able to believe (study Gen. 2:17; Gal. 3:10; Rom. 3:20,21; Rom. 8:3; Mark 16:15,16; John 3:16; Ezek. 36:26,27; John 6:44,45; Psa. 110:3).
This covenant is revealed in the Gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterward by further steps until the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament; and it is founded in that eternal covenant transaction that was between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect; and it is alone by the grace of this covenant that all the posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtained life and blessed immortality, man Being now utterly incapable of acceptance with God upon those terms by which Adam stood in his state of innocency" (study Gen. 3:15; Heb. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:6,13; Rom. 4:1,2; Acts 4:12; John 8:56; The Baptist Confession Of Faith Of 1689, Chapter 7, Sections 1,2,3).
· The Plan of Salvation is always presented as a covenant, with parties, conditions, promises, and penalties.
· The Covenant of Grace takes the place of the Covenant of Works in which man failed through the Fall.
· The Covenant of Grace is the same in all dispensations [periods of time], patriarchal, Mosaic and Christian. To Adam was given the promise of a Redeemer. Rites and sacrifices were instituted to prefigure the Atonement. To Noah after the flood the covenant was renewed. With Abraham and his seed the covenant was re-established. Moses and Israel embraced that covenant as a national obligation. The gospel in the New Testament is still the proclamation of the covenant. The condition is the same in all dispensations and that is belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as He is revealed in every generation. In the Old Testament era, Jesus Christ was revealed as the Messiah that was to come (Isa. 53) In the New Testament era Jesus Christ was and is revealed as the One who has come. And there it is: faith in a Redeemer to come holds the same place as faith in a Redeemer already come. Christ is the Redeemer in all dispensations. The Old Testament saints were saved, not by the works of the Law (Rom. 3:20), but by faith in a Redeemer to come (Zech. 12:10-11). "For if the inheritance is of the Law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise." (Gal. 3:18)
The Doctrine Of Election
Fundamental to understanding the biblical doctrine of election is to define the term. What does the word "Election" mean? A.W. Pink explains. Election, "signifies to single out, to select, to choose, to take one and leave another. Election means that God has singled out certain ones to be the objects of His saving grace, while others are left to suffer the just punishment of their sins. It means that before the foundation of the world, God chose out of the mass of our fallen humanity a certain number and predestinated them to be conformed to the image of His Son." Scriptural evidence for election is abundant.
¨ Acts 15:14 'Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name."
¨ Ephesians 1:4 "According as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world."
¨ Ephesians 1:5 "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,"
¨ John 15:16 "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen"
¨ John 15:19 "I have chosen you out of the world,"
¨ Acts 22:14 "The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth."
¨ Romans 8:29 "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren."
¨ Romans 8:30 "Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified."
¨ 2 Thessalonians 2:13 "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation."
¨ 1 Peter 1:2 "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience."
¨ 1 Peter 2:9 "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:"
¨ Isaiah 41:9 "Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away." This passage shows God’s distinguishing love.
¨ John 6:37 "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me;"
¨ John 6:44 “ No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him:
¨ Acts 13:48 "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the LORD: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."
¨ Romans. 11:15 "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace."
¨ Romans 9:11 "(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)"
¨ Ephesians 2:10 "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
These passages and others show that God elects individuals to salvation. The election is a personal election (not general). No other interpretation can be put on the texts that embody the doctrine of election.
The Extent Of The Elective Decree
Though God elects some individuals to salvation, not all share in the election. There are many souls who shall never be saved (John 17:9,12; Acts 1:25). Salvation is rare and difficult (Matt. 7:13). The extent of the elective decree is better understood by reviewing once more a general view of the Plan of Salvation after the Fall.
· God purposed to save some, but not all, of the humanity which He would create and which He knew would Fall from a glorious estate into sin.
· God chose a Redeemer to secure the salvation of the elect.
· God sent the Redeemer, His own Son Jesus Christ, to earth in the Incarnation.
· Christ made an Atonement for the elect.
· The offer of salvation to is extended to all men without distinction.
· The gospel is sent into all the nations
· When the gospel is proclaimed in local assemblies, the external call is extended to
· Some who hear the external call to salvation are persuaded by the Holy Spirit to accept the call.
· Those who are persuaded by the Holy Spirit are regeneration by the same so that the gospel heard can be believed. Life precedes faith.
Various Views Of The Nature And Ground Of Election
The doctrine of election is a common doctrine within Christendom. Most evangelical Churches embrace the doctrine of election. However, there are divers views.
In Church history some, like the Socinians, regarded election as entirely conditional. It has been taught that election rests on the condition of faith and holy living. God’s decree determines to save the believer and condemn the unbeliever, to reward the righteous and punish the wicked. The decree does not extend farther than this. The condition is supplied by the undetermined will of man. Therefore, election is conditional.
v Special Note. The Socinians find their origin in the French theologian Faustus Socinus, (c.1604). Socinus professed a belief in God and adherence to the Christian Scriptures but he denied the divinity of Christ and consequently the Trinity.
The concept of a conditional election has evident weaknesses, not the least of which is that it takes away the Divine attributes of foreknowledge and omniscience. If anything is undetermined it cannot be truly foreknown by anyone including the Lord. A purely conditional election renders nothing certain and therefore the elect are outside the compass of God’s knowledge. The Socinians were honest enough to admit that God can not know the uncertain actions of men. The Arminian theological position is less consistent than the Socinians because it draws back from such a conclusion while teaching it. In contrast to the concept of a conditional election, the Bible teaches that the Divine decree, which includes election, is not conditional nor is it changeable.
¨ Isaiah 46:10 “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”
¨ Ephesians 2:8,9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” If faith is the gift of God, it is not wholly separable from the Divine decree.
Election Is Personal
The language of the Scriptures show that election is personal, and that men are elected to faith and holiness. Therefore, a conditional election does not correspond to the Scriptural representations in the matter.
¨ Philippians 4:3 “And I entreat thee also, true yoke-fellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow-laborers, whose names are in the book of life.”
¨ Hebrews 12:23 “To the general assembly and Church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.”
¨ 1 Thessalonians 1:4 “Knowing brethren beloved, your election of God.”
Election Is To Faith And Good Works
¨ Acts 13:48 “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
¨ John 15:16 “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you.”
¨ Ephesians 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Note. If election is “unto faith and good works,” then faith and good works cannot be the condition of election.
¨ 1 Peter 1:2 “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”
In an effort to avoid the implications of personal election concept of a limited objective has been proposed. This teaching restricts the Divine decree to the predestination of certain nations, communities, and generations to the knowledge of true religion, and the external privileges of the gospel. There is truth in this view in as far as it goes. It cannot be denied that the gospel has come to Europe and America while many other nations in the world remain in darkness and the curse of false religions. But is that all there is to election? Surely there must be more.
The truth of the matter is that Someone is making many choices on behalf of others. No person has ever had a chance to choose when or where they would be born or even if they should be born. No person has ever had the chance to choose whether his parents should be heathen or Christian, moral or depraved. Divine Providence places some people into favorable situations, and some into unfavorable circumstances. There are those who have the benefit of the means of grace from infancy, and others who enjoy little or none of these advantages. All these things are due to God’s over ruling providence, and not to human choice. The contention that election is the choice of individuals to membership in the external Church and the means of grace does not go far enough. God’s decree determines the external circumstances of a person’s life, but the decree does not stop there. The ultimate objective of the decree is the salvation of personal individuals.
"Before Salvation came into this world, Election marched in the very forefront, and it had for its work the billeting of Salvation. Election went through the world and marked the houses to which Salvation should come and the hearts in which the treasure should be deposited. Election looked through all the race of man, from Adam down to the last, and marked with sacred stamp those for whom Salvation was designed. 'He must needs go through Samaria,' said Election; and Salvation must go there. Then came Predestination. Predestination did not merely mark the house, but mapped the road in which Salvation should travel to that house; Predestination did not merely mark the house, but it mapped the road in which Salvation should travel to that house; Predestination ordained every step of the great army of Salvation; it ordained the time when the sinner should be brought to Christ, the manner how he should be saved, the means that should be employed; it marked the exact hour and moment, when God the Spirit should quicken the dead in sin, and when peace and pardon should be spoken through the blood of Jesus. Predestination marked the way so completely, that Salvation doth never overstep the bounds, and it is never at a loss for the road. In the everlasting decree of the Sovereign God, the footsteps of Mercy were every one of them ordained." (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, "Things That Accompany Salvation")
The Doctrine Of Definite Redemption
Professor Louis Berkhof summarizes the doctrine of a definite redemption in his excellent work, Systematic Theology.
1. The intents, purposes, and designs of God are always efficacious and cannot be frustrated by the actions of men.
2. Scripture consistently qualifies those for whom Christ laid down His life in such a way as to point to a very definite redemption. Those for whom Christ died are called "His sheep" (John 10:11,15); "His Church" (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25-27; "His people" (Matt. 1:21) and "the elect" (Rom. 8:32-35).
3. The doctrine that Christ died for the purpose of saving all men, logically leads to absolute universalism, that is, to the doctrine that all men are actually saved. It is impossible that they for whom Christ paid the price, whose guilt He removed, should be lost on account of that guilt.
4. The Bible clearly teaches that the design and effect of the atoning work of Christ is not merely to make salvation possible, but to reconcile God and man, and to put men in actual possession of eternal salvation (Matt. 18:11; Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 1:4; 3:13; Eph. 1:7). The whole concept of a potential salvation limits the extent of the Atonement in a way that should be protested.
"We are often told that we limit the Atonement of Christ, because we say that Christ has not made a satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved. Now, our reply to this is, that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it, we do not. The Arminians say, Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, "No, certainly not." We ask them the next question--Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They answer, "No." They obliged to admit this, if they are consistent. They say, "No; Christ has died that any man may be saved if"---and then follow certain conditions of salvation. We say, then, we will just go back to the old statement---Christ did not die so as beyond a doubt to secure the salvation of anybody, did he? You must say "No"; you are obliged to say so, for you believe that even after a man has been pardoned, he may yet fall from grace, and perish. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as to infallibly secure the salvation of anybody. We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ's death; we say, "No, my dear sir, it is you that do it." We say Christ so died that He infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ's death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved, and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. You are welcome to your Atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it." (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Particular Redemption, Sermon 181 in the New Park Street Pulpit)
5. The Bible teaches that the design and effect of the atoning work of Christ was not to make salvation possible, but to reconcile God and man, and to put men in actual possession of eternal salvation, a salvation which many fail to obtain (Matt. 18:11; Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 1:4; 3:13; Eph. 1:7).
6. The design of God and Christ in securing the salvation of the elect was not conditional. It was not contingent on the faith and obedience of man. This truth is manifested in the fact that the death of Christ purchased faith, repentance, and all other effects of the work of the Holy Spirit, for His people. There are no conditions of which the fulfillment is simply dependent on the will of man. The Atonement alone fulfills the conditions that must be met in order to obtain salvation (Rom. 2 :4; Gal. 3:13,14; Eph. 1:3,4; 2:8; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim. 3:5,6).
Is Election Based Upon Foreseen Faith And Good Works?
It is not possible that election could be based upon foreseen faith and good works for how can God foreknow something unless He first determines its certainty? Foreknowledge rests on predestination. Nothing can be foreknown unless it is certainly determined. "Arminianism makes man elect himself, and there is therefore no real election by God. If election depends on man’s faith and works, then man is the agent of his own election; but all Scriptural representation refers election to God. And if be said: 'But God secures the faith and works as the ground of election,' then that is but to postulate God’s purpose prior to man’s." (David Clark) Repentance, faith, and good works are the result of election, not the cause.
¨ Ephesians 1:4 "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:"
¨ 1 Peter 1:2 "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied."
¨ Philippians 2:13 "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
¨ 2 Thessalonians 2:13 "But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the LORD, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:"
¨ Romans. 8:29 “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
¨ Ephesians 2:8 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:" If grace is the gift of God it is not the cause of the gift.
Election And The Weak
Despite any hesitation to embrace the doctrine of the election of individuals to salvation, it remains obvious that the salvation of infants, the intellectually challenged, unconscious dying sinners, and the heathen, if they are saved at all, must depend on the sovereign choice of God and not on foreseen faith and works for none exist.
But Who Will Come?
In opposition to the doctrine of a definite redemption, select passages are often quoted with the promises, “Whosoever will" or, “Whosoever believeth,” (John 12:46; Rev.. 22:17; Rom. 9:33; 10:11). The implication is made that that beliefs and decisions are wholly the acts of man apart from a sovereign election to salvation. True as these statements are they do not address the main point. The deeper and vital issue is this: “How does a man become willing? Who will come to Christ?” If any natural man is willing to come to Christ, he can certainly choose to believe and be saved; but the sinful nature is hostile to God. It must be made willing, by God’s word, by God’s grace, by God’s Spirit, or by sovereign intervention. Opposition to definite redemption minimizes the depths to which sin has taken the soul and left it hopeless and helpless in the sight of God.
Free Will Is Not Sufficient To Save
It is not sufficient to say that God has provided an Atonement and presents the alternatives of life and death and leaves it to man to choose between the two. As God did not create the world and leave it to natural laws neither did God make an Atonement and leave it to the capricious decision of man to accept or refuse. In such case the sinful nature of man would inevitably determine every man against God. Sinners need a Saviour for, as Christ said in John 6:44, "No man can come to me except the Father, which sent me, draw him."
Redemption: Accomplished And Applied
The biblical revelation is that God has not only made an Atonement, but secures its acceptance upon the heart of Divine affection by the positive operations of the Lord's grace and Spirit (Psa. 68:18; Acts 2:33; Psa. 2:8 cp. Heb. 2:6-9). The element of human decision, while it is an factor in the salvation process, is not exercised apart from the inciting or controlling power of God. Salvation is wholly the gift of God.
Human Responsibility For Sin
It is futile to say: “Because a man must be drawn to the Lord by the Spirit he is not to be blamed for not coming to Christ for salvation.” The very argument is an indictment for condemnation. The more a person needs to be drawn the more evil their nature. Such is the disinclination of the sinful nature toward God and good that unless God moves upon it in some way, by grace, or word, or providence, or Spirit, it would stand apart forever by nature and by choice. The sin of unbelief (John 3:18) is not the only sin of man that serves as a basis for just condemnation. There is imputed sin and sins of the flesh that also drag him into hell.
The Results Of Election
While the Doctrine of Election is found by some to be offensive, there are some distinct results as A. W. Pink notes. "First, the Doctrine of Election magnifies the character of God. It exemplifies His grace. Election makes known the fact that salvation is God's free gift, gratuitously bestowed upon whom He pleases. It [election] exhibits His Omnipotency.
Second, election makes known the fact that God is all powerful, ruling and reigning over the earth, and declares that none can successfully resist His will or thwart His secret purposes. Election reveals God breaking down the opposition of the human heart, subduing the enmity of the carnal mind, and with irresistible power, drawing His chosen ones to Christ. Election confesses--"We love him because He first loved us, and we believe, because He made us willing in the day of His power." (Psa. 110:3)
Third, election ascribes all glory to God. It disallows any credit to the creature. It denies that the unregenerate are capable of predicting a right thought, generating a right affection, or originating a right volition. It insists that God must work in us both to will and to do. It declares that repentance and faith are themselves God's gifts, and not something which the sinner contributes towards the price of His salvation. Its language is, "Not unto us, not unto us," but "unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood."
Finally, election guarantees eternal preservation of all God's saints. In the Holy Scriptures the question of our salvation is traced back, not to the moment when we believed, but to a point before time began. Before the foundation of the world, God chose us in Christ (Eph. 1:4). "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee." This lifts the matter of our salvation out of time into eternity. Were salvation merely a thing of time, it would perish. But because salvation is a thing of eternity, it must endure forever."
The Difficulties Of Election
Ø Argument. "Does not Scripture declare that God is no respecter of persons?"
Answer. Yes, it does, and Election proves it. The seven sons of Jesse, though older and physically superior to David, are passed by, while the young shepherd boy is exalted to Israel's throne. The scribes and lawyers are unnoticed, and ignorant fishermen are chose to be Apostles of the Lamb. Divine truth is hidden from "the wise and the prudent," but is revealed unto "babes." The majority of the mighty and noble are ignored, while the weak and despised are called and saved. Harlots and publicans are sweetly compelled to come to the marriage feast, while proud Pharisees are suffered to perish in their own self-righteousness.
Ø Argument. "Is not man a responsible being, endowed with a free will?"
Answer. Man is unquestionably a responsible being. He is no mere machine or automation. Scripture uniformly regards him as one who reaps according as he sows, and as one who shall yet have to render an account for the things done in the body. But nowhere does the Bible predicate the free will of the natural man. Man by nature is the subject of Satan and the slaves of sin, and does not come free until the Son of God makes him free (John 8:36). "No man can come to me [but he can if he is free] except the Father which hath sent Me draw him"--but there is no need to "draw" him if he is free. This is unequivocal
Ø Argument. "Does not Scripture say, "Whosoever will, may come?"
Answer. It does, and Christ never yet turned away any willing soul. If in the eleventh hour the dying thief who turned unto the Lord was assured a place in Paradise, and if Saul the persecutor of the Church--"the chief of sinners"--found mercy, verily, "Whosoever will, may come." But all are not willing. The vast majority of people have no desire to come to Christ. Had God left it entirely to man's will, none would ever have accepted Him. Consequently, God has to work in us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). God does not thus work in all, and that brings in Election.
Ø Argument. "Why preach the Gospel to every creature if only a "few" are chosen?"
Answer. Because the atoning sacrifice of Christ is sufficient for all, if all will accept it. Because God would have published far and wide the matchless grace and fathomless love of His dear Son. Because the sacrifice of Christ is eminently adapted to all: what suits one sinner, must meet the needs of another. Because it is by the preaching of the Gospel that the elect are called out from the world. Finally, because we are commanded to preach the Gospel to all nations, and,
It's not for us to reason why,
It's not for us to make reply,
It's for us to do--and die.
Ø Argument. "Will not this doctrine cut the nerve of evangelistic effort?"
Answer. In his sermon, Salvation of the Lord, Charles Spurgeon answers this question. "Well, then, says one, that will make people sit still and fold their arms. Sir, it will not. But if men did so I could not help it; my business, as I have often said in this place before, is not to prove to you the reasonableness of any truth, nor to defend any truth from its consequences; all I do here--and I mean to keep to it--is just to assert the truth, because it is in the Bible; then, if you do not like it, you must quarrel with my Master, and if you think it unreasonable you must quarrel with the Bible. Let others defend Scripture and prove it to be true; they can do their work better than I could; mine is just the mere work of proclaiming it. I am the messenger; I tell the Master's message; if you do not like the message quarrel with the Bible, not with me; so long as I have Scripture on my side I will dare and defy you to do anything against me. 'Salvation is of the Lord.' The Lord has to apply it, to make the unwilling willing, to make the ungodly godly, and bring the vile rebel to the feet of Jesus, or else salvation will never be accomplished. Leave that one thing undone, and you have broken the link of the chain, the very link which was necessary to its integrity. Take away the fact that God begins the good work, and that He sends us what the old Divines call preventing grace--take that away, and you have spoilt the whole of salvation; you have just taken the keystone out of the arch, and down it tumbles. (extracted from, The Doctrine of Election, by A. W. Pink)
Answers To Arguments Against Election
Ø Argument. “Election is inconsistent with free agency.”
Answer. First, the man that is convinced, convicted and persuaded by the word and Spirit of God to confess sins and embrace the offered salvation is as free as the man whom you persuade to take a walk or to invest in securities. There is no violation of free agency. And it must be remembered that God can bring to bear sufficient inducements to incline any man. The man who resists God’s call by word and Spirit and providence, and whom God allows to pursue his own chosen way to destruction and perdition, cannot complain that he is not a free agent. He has chosen his way and followed it. Finally, if God intervenes over all opposition and rebellion on the part of the man, and sovereignly regenerates him, as was seemingly the case with Saul of Tarsus, at the height of his rebellion, that man is still a free agent in every act of his life. He was a free agent in his opposition, he is a free agent in his obedience; and in his regeneration he was not an agent at all. In no case does God’s decree contravene free agency. And it is God’s sovereign right to regenerate whom He will. No extrinsic power can limit God nor deprive Him of His sovereignty.
Ø Argument. “Election represents God as partial in His dealings with men.”
Answer. As a matter of fact God does not treat all men alike. Some are born in heathen lands, some in Christian environments. Some are born with high endowments, some with inferior faculties. God chose Israel for His people while leaving others in ignorance of the true God. He provided salvation for man and left fallen angels to the doom of their sin. The parable of the vineyard laborers shows God to be sovereign in the dispensation of His gifts. “Shall I not do what I will with my own?”
Ø Argument. “Election is unjust to the non-elect.”
Answer. Strict justice would condemn all. God is not under obligation to save any. All salvation is mercy; all condemnation is justice. Dr. A. H. Strong illustrates this point. “It is not true that, because a governor pardons one convict from the penitentiary, he must therefore pardon all. When he pardons one no injury is done to the rest.”
Ø Argument. “Election represents God as acting arbitrarily and without reason.”
Answer. That is asserting more than any man knows. We do not know all God’s reasons for saving particular men; nor His reasons for passing some by, except that it is for their sins. “God’s mere good pleasure” does not mean that there are no reasons in God’s mind why He acts thus or so. Individuals err who think that of God’s will, there is no reason except His will. Sovereignty is just a name for what is unrevealed in God.
Ø Argument. “A particular election is inconsistent with an offer of salvation to all.”
Answer. A.A. Hodge says, “Nothing but a sinful unwillingness can prevent any one who hears the gospel from receiving and enjoying it. The gospel is for all, election is for a special grace in addition to that offer. The non-elect may come if they will. The elect will come. The decree of election puts no barrier before men preventing them from accepting the gospel offer. Any man, elect or non-elect, will be saved if he accepts. The non-elect are left to act as they are freely determined by their own hearts.” Rowland Hill was criticized for preaching election and yet exhorting sinners to repent, and was told that he should preach only to the elect. He replied that if his critic would put a chalk-mark on all the elect he would preach only to them. “God bids us preach the gospel to all; that some are not saved, is because of their willful, sinful rejection of the offered mercy.” (David Clark)
The Signs Of Election
The doctrine of election should cause no one who hears the gospel to despair or be uncertain as to their state and standing before the Lord. The signs of an elect person may be listed.
· The elect have given themselves completely to the Lord. "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me " (John 6:37).
· The elect are characterized by gospel obedience. Peter speaks of Christians as "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience" (1 Pet. 1:2).
· The elect continue to grow in grace and holiness. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14).
· The elect remain faithful to the doctrines of grace and persevere in the sphere of faith. They are able to say at the end of life, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:7).
Election Is Of God
The Scriptures speak of an election of God. If language has any meaning this must mean that God chooses the individual unto salvation. Any view that substitutes for God’s choice a scheme that makes men elect himself does not measure up to the teachings of the Scriptures on this subject.
Election Does Not Rest In Man
If the ultimate and determining element in man’s salvation rests in man and not in God, there would be the possibility that no man would ever be saved and Christ might have suffered and died in vain. God not only made certain an Atonement but made certain its application in the saving of men.
Election Demands A Sovereign Savior
If infants, imbeciles, the mentally afflicted and any heathen are saved it must be by the direct and sovereign election of God. If we were called upon to pray for a dying man in his last come we would do so in the full assurance that it was God’s undoubted prerogative to answer our prayers and save that man. And thankful would we be that it was God’s choice and not man’s that determined that man’s salvation.
The Hope That Is Found In Election
If the initiative of salvation is with God, and conviction, persuasion, and enabling are the work of God’s Spirit, then election is a forgone conclusion. It can be observed that God’s sovereign election affords a larger hope than any other view of election that can be considered. If God may sovereignly elect whom He will, then all ages, races, and conditions are open to His benevolent choice. We may therefore indulge a hope for many who have never heard the gospel, and for the man at whose bedside we pray though sunk into the unconsciousness that precedes death. If the determining choice rests with the perverted, rebellious, depraved human will, how few will be saved! But if on the will of the God who loved, and gave, and died to save, then a great multitude whom no man can number. Election is not therefore a horrible doctrine of narrow limitation; but the ground of world-wide expectation. It is a source of real comfort and a blessed matter of thankfulness as we look on a world ruined by sin and contemplate its chance of salvation.
The Great Mystery Of Election
While there are questions in the doctrine of election before which man must bow in humility, as to the fact of an elect, the Scriptures leave no-one in doubt. Election is a great mystery. "The motives and purposes that lie in the Divine mind are beyond apprehension, and above comprehension. For this reason it is wrong to sit in judgment of God’s actions. How the Divine mind acts on the human mind is, in its deeper reaches, inscrutable. How God affects man below the sphere of consciousness is not open to observation. No-one understands how the immanent God inter-penetrates the physical universe and upholds it by the word of His power; or how that immanence, in substance and power, relates itself to the human mind, and becomes effective in action or restraint." (David Clark)
The Transcending Thoughts Of God
In all discussions of the doctrine of election, it should be kept in mind that the heart of humanity is dealing with a Being who is infinitely kind and good, and who is equally sovereign and just. In addition, it is to be realized afresh that God is dealing with individuals who are not innocent and do not deserve any mercy. That mercy is show to man is because of God's great grace.
The Purpose Of Election
The doctrine of election is evidently designed to show, in its practical import, that the whole of man’s salvation is due to God’s mercy and grace and no part of it to man’s merit, wisdom, or virtue. Let this not be forgotten. The chief difficulty in the doctrine of election lies on the side of the unsaved, about whose apostasy, and about the philosophy of it, the Scriptures have not given extended explanation. We may, however, presume to say that God gives to all normal men some light, some knowledge, some operation of His Spirit. This is called common grace.
If Men Are Not Saved
If men are not saved it is because of their sinfulness and resistance of God’s grace. It is proper to say that if men did not resist, God’s grace would save every man. Many may so resist that God may give him up to his own way, and he reaps the doom he has chosen. After God has done all and more for the sinner than he deserves, he may leave him to his own sinful choice. But in all circumstances God is sovereign and almighty. He never surrenders his sovereignty. He may, if He chooses, step over all man’s resistance, and regenerate the man even at the height of his rebellion.
One man effectually resists the grace of God and another does not; but the effectual resistance is not due to any limit of God’s power. Judas and Saul both resisted; and Judas was allowed to “go to his own place,” while Saul was made a “chosen vessel.”
The ground of the elective decree means the reason that determines the decree to be what it is. Sometimes the word “ground” is used to express the consideration for which a thing is done; as in Justification. Sometimes it is used in the sense of determining cause or reason.
The Ground Of Election
It must be kept in mind in all this discussion that the elective decree is a positive decree; while so far as the reprobate is concerned it is only a permissive decree. A man is elected to be saved; he is not elected to be lost, except as God chooses to permit him to follow his chosen way. When, therefore, we ask for the ground of election, that is to say, "Why a man is saved?" or, "What determines God to save that man?" The Arminian answers: “Foreseen faith and works.” The Calvinist answers: “God’s love, mercy, grace and goodness exercised toward the man.”
In the case of the lost, the love, mercy, grace, goodness and Spirit of God would incline him to salvation, did he not resist and rebel. In the case of Saul, and probably of most of us, God overcame the resistance and rebellion by the persuasions of His word, or providence, or Spirit; or perhaps by immediate regeneration. In the case of Judas and Dives (Luke 16), if he were real, God did not overcome their resistance, but left them to their own determined choice. When pressed to explain why did God not overcome the resistance of Judas, Dives and others, as he did that of Saul; why God did not exert His omnipotence and sovereignty; why God permitted them to have their own way, there is no answer. There are secrets in the mind of God which He has not chosen to reveal.
Election And Reprobation
Though foreseen faith and works cannot constitute the ground of election, foreseen unbelief and disobedience does constitute the ground of reprobation. No person shall ever be saved on the ground of perceived virtues, but they will be condemned on the ground of sin. While some are saved from their unbelief and disobedience, in which all are involved, and others are not, it is still the sinner’s sinfulness that constitutes the ground of reprobation.
Election and reprobation proceed on different grounds; one the grace of God, the other the sin of man. It is not right to say, as some have, that because God elects to save a irrespective of character or deserts, that therefore He elects to damn irrespective of character or deserts. That is not true. No one shall ever be condemned in an unjust or unworthy manner.
Summary Of The Doctrine Of Election
1. Election is God's decision, from eternity past, to save souls of His own choosing.
2. The elective decree contemplates the race as already fallen.
3. Election is from a state of sin and misery unto salvation.
4. Election is personal, that is, terminates on the individual. It includes both means and end, is both general and particular. Election is consummated by the efficient grace of God.
5. Men are brought into a state of grace by the Spirit of God working when, and where, and how, and on whom he pleases; by means or without means; by appeal to the mind and heart, or by immediate sovereign regeneration; constraining by persuasion, or by conferring a new nature.
6. God’s grace and Spirit would incline all men to good if not resisted.
7. Men are lost because of their sinfulness and resistance of God’s grace; not because they have no chance, but because they reject the grace and help proffered.
8. God may permit men to follow the evil they have chosen, to their own destruction.
9. God, in His sovereignty, could regenerate the apostate.
10. Why God does not save all, why He permits some to follow their own way, is not know.
11. Permission is classified in theology as a decree.
12. The judge of all the earth will do right, and bestow mercy even where it is not deserved.
A Confession Of Faith: The Doctrine Of Predestination
The doctrine of predestination may be defined very simply for it sets forth the truth that from eternity God has foreordained all things which come to pass, including the final salvation or reprobation (judgment) of man.
"Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, He is pleased in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh: renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.” (The Baptist Confession Of Faith Of 1689, Chapter 10, Section 1; study Rom. 8:30; 11:7; Eph. 1:10,11; 2 Thess. 2:13,14; Eph. 2:1-6; Acts 26:18; Eph. 1:17,18; Ezek. 36:26; Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 36:27; Eph. 1:19; Psa. 110:3; Song of Sol. 1:4).
Scriptural Evidence For Predestination
¨ Ephesians 1:5 "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,"
¨ Ephesians 1:11 "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:"
¨ 2 Timothy 1:9 "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, "
¨ Romans 9:11 “(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)”
¨ Romans 9:15 “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”
¨ Romans 11:5 “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”
¨ Romans 11:6 “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”
"Since God is the sovereign God, Whose counsel stands forever, Whose will can be frustrated, and Whose purpose is not disannulled; we must conclude that His will and determination is sovereign particularly in salvation. It can not be that man is the one who determines, by his own will, whether or not he will be saved. Certainly man must seek God, love Him, and serve Him out of a willing heart. But ultimately, since God is sovereign, salvation must depend solely upon His sovereign choice. For He is the infinite Creator Who has the right and the power to do with His finite creatures exactly what He pleases--even with respect to our eternal destiny." (Steven Houch)
The Historical Background Of Redemption
The Desire Of The Ages
Before the Covenant of Redemption was finally realized, there were long periods of preparation which came and passed. Hope arose and then subsided for another time. If our first parents expected the Redeemer in their immediate offspring, it was not to be (cp. Gen. 4:1). The centuries came and went. Finally, “when the fullness of time was come God sent forth His Son.” (Gal. 4:4) Part of the preparation for Christ coming to fulfill the Covenant of Redemption was the teaching that took place through the typology of rites and rituals of the Old Testament sacrifices, ceremonies, and symbols.
The Typology Of Rite And Rituals
A type is a pre-figuration of spiritual things in visible form. From Genesis to Malachai the Scriptures abounded in types. For example, in Romans 5:4 the First Adam is made the type of the Last Adam, Christ. In the Garden of Eden, the Lord made Adam and Eve coats of skins typifying the need for blood atonement for sin. Abel brought the firstlings of his flock and the type was set forth of the Lamb of God who would one day come to take away the sin of the world. (John 1:29) The trial of Abraham’s faith in Genesis 22 illustrates the surrender of a beloved son, the submission of that son, and the fact of vicarious deliverance. (cp. John 3:16) In John 8:56 Jesus said plainly that, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day, he saw it and was glad.” In John 3:14, Christ represents the brazen serpent as a type of the crucifixion (cp. Num. 21:9) In Matthew 12:40, Jonah is the type of Christ’s burial. (cp. Jon. 1:17) "Now all these things happened unto them as types, and they are written for our admonition" (1 Cor. 10:11).
The rites in regard to the sin-offering, the rites on the great Day of Atonement, and the Passover observances were also rich in typology. "Every smoking altar, every bleeding victim, every ascetic privation, every priestly intervention was a testimony to the guilt of sin and the need of remission. The whole mighty fabric of heathen religion, in all its variety, awfulness, and degradation was an age-long revelation of the need of a Saviour and salvation. And the hopelessness and ineffectiveness of it only enhanced the testimony. Man was learning the bitter lesson of apostasy from God. And the utter failure of all human plans and efforts to regenerate the human race showed clearly the helplessness of man without God and his revelation. The heathenism of the world was thus over-ruled by God to make preparation for the coming Redeemer. And when the fullness of time came, the Gentiles, from their experiences of failure and defeat, showed as much receptiveness for Christianity as the people of Israel, if not more." (David Clark)
Preparation Through Prophecy
Prophecy also served to prepare the world for the Covenant of Redemption being fulfilled. From the first promise found in Genesis 3:15, “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head,” till the announcement of John, “Behold the Lamb of God,” the whole scope of predictive prophecy was educational and preparatory. The world grew in knowledge and expectation through the centuries of a coming Messiah. Later, Roman historians would remember this spirit of anticipation and write of it. Suetonius noted that, "There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judaea to rule the world" (Suetonius: Life of Vespasian, 4:5). Tacitus tells of the same expectation declaring that "there was a firm persuasion ... that at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers coming from Judaea were to acquire universal empire." (Tacitus: Histories, 5:13) The Jew had the hope that "about that time one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth." (Josephus: Wars of the Jews, 6:5,4) And in the fullness of time, God brought forth His Son (Gal. 4:4).
Then Came The Redeemer
A Confession Of Faith
"It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, in accordance with the covenant made between them both, to be the Mediator between God and man; to be Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Saviour of His Church, the Heir of all things, and the Judge of all the world. To the Lord Jesus He gave, from all eternity, a people to be His seed. These, in time, would be redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified by the Lord Jesus (The Baptist Confession Of Faith Of 1689, Chapter 8, Section 1; study Isa. 42:1; 1 Pet. 1:19,20; Acts 3:22; Heb. 5:5,6; Psa. 2:6; Luke 1:33; Eph. 1:22,23; Heb. 1:2; Acts 17:31; Isa. 53:10; John 17:6; Rom. 8:30).
The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person forever. Christ the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin. Christ is the Messiah which was to come. The promised Seed of the woman (but not of the man) was fulfilled in the virgin birth (Gen. 3:15).
"The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father's glory, of one substance and equal with Him; Who made the world, and Who upholdeth and governeth all things He hath made, did, when the fullness of come, take upon Himself man's nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; Being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David, according to the scriptures; So that two whole, perfect and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man." (The Baptist Confession Of Faith Of 1689, Chapter 8, Section 2; study John 1:14; Gal. 4:4; Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14,16,17; 4:15; Matt. 1:22,23; Luke 1:27,31,35; Rom. 9:5; 1 Tim. 2:5).
There were many prophecies concerning Christ. The prophets had said:
· Messiah was to be born of Abraham’s seed Gen. 22:18
· Messiah was to be of the tribe of Judah Gen. 49:19
· Messiah was to be a Prophet like unto Moses Deut. 18:15
· Messiah was to be the son of David Isa. 11:1; Jer 23:5
· Messiah was to appear while the second temple stood Hag. 2:9; Mal. 3:1
· Messiah was to come at the end of the seventy weeks Dan. 9:25
· Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem Mic. 5:2
· Messiah was to be preceded by a forerunner Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1
· Messiah was to be declared to be God Isa. 9:6; Isa. 7:14
· Messiah’s ministry was to be a blessing Isa. 61:1-3; Lk. 4:18-21
· Messiah was to be crucified Psa. 22
· Messiah was to be offered as a vicarious sacrifice Isaiah. 53
All of these prophecies and more found fulfillment in the Person of Christ showing that Jesus is the Messiah foretold.
The Pre-existence Of Christ And His Incarnation Scripturally Set Forth
¨ John 8:38 “I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.”
¨ John 8:42 “Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.”
v Special Note. Many religious groups such as the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, and Christian Science practitioners, are willing to declare a belief in Christ’s pre-existence; but they do not believe in His deity.
The Days Of Humiliation
The days of His Incarnation involved great humiliation for the Lord. The abasement of Christ consisted of many things: being born in a stable; being brought up in an obscure village; being made under the law; having to endure the hardships of life; being the object of the outpouring of Divine wrath; having to suffer the cursed death of the cross; being buried; and continuing under the power of death for three days and nights (Phil. 2:6-9) But Christ endured all of the shame and suffering and humiliation in order to bring many sons into glory. The heart of the redeemed looks through eyes of faith and sees God's Son upon the tree.
Before the cross in awe I stood,
Beholding brow and pierced hand;
For me it was He bled and died,
No other price for sin beside
Could pay the price for me.
His precious blood, there flowing red,
Was love's best gift, most freely shed;
No one but He the price could pay,
Or save from death and point the way
For sinners, you and me.
And as I gaze, I seem to hear
Him gently say, "My son, draw near;
New life I give and power withal,
Free unto all who on Me call,
Now and eternally."
--Ernest O. Sellars
The Virgin Birth
The doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ has been part of the faith of the Church from the first. The earliest creed is the Apostle’s Creed (c. 100-150). It says in part that Jesus was, “conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.” For 1500 years this tradition was virtually undisputed within the Church. Suddenly, there came an attack on this precious doctrine by individuals from the Age of Enlightenment. The French infidel Voltaire (1694-1778), and the English pagan Thomas Paine (1737-1809), author of The Age of Reason), united with others to use wit and worldly wisdom to assault the teaching of the virgin birth. The German Rationalistic schools of the nineteenth century continued the relentless attack against the Lord through textual criticism. Then came the modern era and Unitarianism stressing the brotherhood of mankind and the Fatherhood of God. The unique person and work of Jesus Christ was dismissed along with the doctrines about Him such as the virgin birth. The age of miracles was declared to be over at the dawn of the twentieth century.
Rejection Of The Virgin Birth
Historically, anti-supernaturalism consistently repudiates all miracles. Meanwhile, subjective speculation is substituted for the authority of the Scriptures and arguments are set forth against the doctrine of the virgin birth.
Ø Argument. "The doctrine of the Virgin Birth was not part of the teaching of Christ or the Apostles."
Answer. Not everything that Christ or the Apostles preached and taught is known. But even if they did not preach anything about it, the doctrine still stands on the testimony of the written gospels.
Ø Argument. "Mark and John do not mention the Virgin Birth."
Answer. Mark did not write anything about the boyhood of Christ but began with the Lord's public ministry. In like manner, John immediately concerns himself with the Deity of Christ and not with the early days of His humanity.
Ø Argument. "Paul did not preach the doctrine of the virgin birth."
Answer. Paul does say that Christ was “made [born] of a woman” (Gal. 4:4), with emphasis on woman, and then goes on to write about the “mystery of godliness,” (1 Tim. 3:16) and that Christ was “in the form of God, took on him the form of a servant.” (Phil. 2:7)
Proof Of The Virgin Birth
The gospels of Matthew and Mark teach the glorious doctrine of the virgin birth. These books are the genuine writings of the men whose names they bear. All manuscript evidence testifies to this. The Incarnation involves Christ’s exaltation. The statement of this doctrine covers His resurrection, ascension, session at the right hand of God, and His coming judgment to the world at the last day.
The Person Of Christ
Christ the Son of God became man by taking to Himself a true body and a reasonable soul; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary and born of her yet without sin. According to The Baptist Confession Of Faith Of 1689 (Chapter 8, Section 2), "The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father's glory, of one substance and equal with the Him, who made the world, who upholdeth and governeth all things He hath made, did—when the fullness of time was come, take upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof; yet without sin; being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her, and the power of the Most High overshadowing her, and so was made of a woman, of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David, according to the Scriptures; so that two whole and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood were inseparably joined together, in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ the only Mediator between God and man." (Study John 1:14; Gal. 4:4; Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14,16,17; 4:15; Matt. 1:22,23; Luke 1:27,31,35; Rom. 9:5; 1 Tim. 2:5)
"The Lord Jesus, in His human nature thus united to the Divine, in the person of the Son, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure, having in Himself all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell in Him, to the end that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, He might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a Mediator and Surety; which office He took not upon Himself, but was thereunto call by His Father; Who also put all power and judgement in His hand, and gave Him commandment to exercise the same." (The Baptist Confession Of Faith Of 1689, Chapter 8, Section 3; study Psa. 14:7; Acts 10:38; John 3:34; Col. 2:3; Col. 1:19; Heb. 7:26; John 1:14; Heb. 7:22; Heb. 5:5; John 5:22,27; Matt. 8:18; Acts 2:36).
As a Mediator, Christ fulfilled all the legal responsibilities of the Law in order to be a perfect Sacrifice for sin. "This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which that He might discharge He was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfilled it, and underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have borne and suffered. being made sin and a curse for us; enduring most grievous sorrows in His Soul and most painful sufferings in His body; was crucified, and died, and remained in the state of the dead, yet saw no corruption: on the third day He arose from the dead with the same body in which He suffered, with which He also ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of His Father making intercession, and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world." (The Baptist Confession Of Faith Of 1689, Chapter 8, Section 4; study Psa. 40:7, 8; Heb. 10:5-10; John 10:18; Gal. 4:4; Matt. 3:15; Gal. 3:13; Isa. 53:6; 1 Pet. 3:18; 2 Cor. 5:21; Matt. 26:37,38; Luke 22:44; Matt. 27:46; Acts 13:37; 1 Cor. 15:3,4; John 20:25,27; Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9-11; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 9:24; Acts 10:42; Rom. 14:9,10; Acts 1:11; 2 Pet. 2:4)
The Deity Of Christ
Jesus is God, the second person of the Trinity. This is proven in several ways.
Jesus Claimed To Be Divine
¨ John 6:38 “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me.”
¨ John 8:58 “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”
¨ John 10:38 “But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.”
¨ John 8:42 “Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.”
¨ John 14:9 “Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?”
¨ John 14:10 “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.”
The Apostles Taught That Jesus Was Divine
¨ Matthew 1:23 “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
¨ Matthew 16:26 “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
¨ Mark 1:1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;”
¨ Luke 1:35 “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
¨ John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
¨ John 1:14 “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
¨ John 20:31 “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
¨ Philippians 2:6 “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:”
¨ Colossians 1:16 “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:”
¨ Colossians 2:9 “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”
The Confession Of Others Concerning Christ’s Deity
¨ Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
¨ Matthew 27:54 “Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.”
¨ Luke 4:41 “And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.”
The Sacred Title Of God Applied To Christ Prove His Divinity
· Jesus is called Emmanuel Matt. 1:23
· Jesus is called God John 20:28
· Jesus is called the Alpha and Omega Rev. 1:11
· Jesus is called the King of kings and Lord of lords 1 Tim. 6:15
The Works Of Christ Prove His Deity
· Miracles John 20:30
· Resurrection Acts 2:32-36
· Supernatural knowledge Matt. 9:4
· His unique teachings Luke 4:22; 2:47
The Personal Influence Of Christ In The World Asserts His Deity
More than 1900 years ago there was a Man born contrary to the laws of life.
This Man lived in poverty and was reared in obscurity...
Only once did He cross the boundary of the country in which He loved:
That was during His exile in childhood...
In infancy He startled a king: in childhood He puzzled the doctors:
In manhood He ruled the course of Nature, walked upon the billows
as if pavement, and hushed the sea to sleep.
He never wrote a book, and yet all of the libraries of the country
could not hold the books that have been written about Him.
He never wrote a song, and yet He has furnished the
theme for more songs than all the song writers combined.
He never founded a college, but all the schools put together cannot boast of having as many students...
The names of the past proved statesmen of Greece and Rome have come and gone
The names of past scientists, philosophers and theologians have come and gone; but the name of this Man abounds more and more.
Though time has spread 1,965 [1,998] years between the people
of this generation and the scene of His crucifixion, yet He still lives.
Herod could not destroy Him, and the grave could not hold Him.
He stands forth upon the highest pinnacle of Heavenly glory, proclaimed of God, acknowledged by angels, adored by saints, and feared by devils, as the living, personal Christ, our Lord, our Saviour and our God.
--The Man Who Changed The World, Herbert Lockyer
The Authority That Has Been Entrusted To Christ Proves His Deity
¨ John 5:22 “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:”
¨ Acts 10:42 “And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.”
¨ Acts 17:31 “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”
Personal Proof Of The Deity Of Christ
The best proof is the experience of Divine grace that regenerates the soul. Mel Trotter was a desperate alcoholic to the point that at the funeral of his young daughter he actually slipped into the funeral parlor and stole her shoes. He thought he could sell the child's shoes for another shot of whiskey. Then the day came when he met the Master. Mel Trotter became a preacher of the gospel. He often went back to the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago where the Lord found him to give his testimony. One evening while he was speaking, a half drunk fellow stood up and yelled, "How do you know you are converted?" And Mel Trotter immediately replied, "Why, bless your dear heart, old fellow, I was right there when it all happened!"
The Humanity Of Christ
As Christ was very God of very God, so He was true humanity. The Bible tells us that Christ had a human body which could be seen, felt, and handled (1 John 1:1). The Lord was born, grew, came to maturity, appeared in form as a man, ate, drank, thirsted, slept, was weary, died, was buried, rose and was recognized by His physical characteristics.
¨ Luke 24:39 “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”
¨ Romans 1:3 “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;”
¨ Hebrews 2:14 “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;”
The Personality Of Christ
In addition to being God incarnate, the Scriptures reveal that Jesus had a human soul with its powers of intellect, feeling, will and conscience. The Lord loved, sympathized, wept, exercised the feelings of a man, thought, talked, willed, made choices, groaned in spirit, and was troubled.
¨ Hebrews 2:16 “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.”
¨ Hebrews 2:17 “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”
¨ Luke 2:52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
¨ Matthew 26:38 “Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.”
¨ Mark 13:32 “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”
If Jesus did not have a human soul as well as a human body, He would not be truly man.
The Distinction Of Two Natures
The word “nature” refers to substance with its attributes. The two natures are the human soul with its faculties and a Divine substance with its attributes. These two natures stand together in the person of Christ. The Logos or the second person of the Godhead does not take the place of, and exclude the human soul of Jesus, as some of the ancients believed. In such case there would be no true humanity. There is a complete human nature and a complete Divine nature in Jesus Christ.
The two natures are not mixed or confused so as to make a third something neither human nor Divine; as an acid and alkali unite and form a neutral salt. If the two natures were mingled Christ would be neither truly God nor truly man; and He is declared to be both God and man. Each nature retains its attributes, just as the body and soul of man are one person and two natures, and each nature retains its peculiar attributes. The body does not partake of the attributes of the soul, nor the soul partake of the attributes of the body. So Christ’s humanity does not partake of the attributes of divinity, nor His divinity partake of the attributes of His humanity. Christ’s human mind increased in wisdom; but His Divine mind was always omniscient. His human will had only human power, but His Divine will was omnipotent.
The Hypo-static Union
The Doctrine of the Hypo-static Union has reference to the union of two natures in one. In the person of Christ there is a complete human nature, body and soul, and a complete Divine nature, with all its attributes. These are one person and not two. It might be thought that the human nature of Jesus constituted a person and the Logos or second person of the trinity constituted a person and therefore there were two persons. But the human nature of Jesus was never a separate person. It never had any existence apart from the Divine nature and it had no individual subsistence. The Logos united not with a human person, but with a human nature. The two natures never address each other nor send each other as is the case with the persons of the Trinity. The one person of Christ is spoken of in terms true of both natures, but always as one Person as He lived and worked. Concerning the person and work of Christ, the following points should be noted.
· Some of the Lord's acts were purely Divine such as creation, preservation, and resurrection.
· Some things which were said of Christ as a person were true of His Divine nature only: “Before Abraham was I am,” true of the Divine nature. “The glory which I had with thee before the world began.”
· Some of the acts of Christ are purely human such as eating drinking, and sleeping.
· Some things which were said of Christ as a person were true of His human nature only: “I thirst.” “My soul is sorrowful even unto death.”
· Of the acts of Christ, some were theanthropic, which are instances in which both natures are manifested. One illustration is that God spoke to us by His Son. Then there is the work of redemption at Calvary and after that when Jesus sat down on the right hand of God.
· This linguistic usage shows that the two natures are regarded as but one person. We are two natures in one person and sometimes designate ourselves by one of the natures. We say, “I walk,” or “I think.” The same I that walks is the same I that thinks.
· The union in Christ is not the transmutation of one substance into another. The Divine nature does not become human and the human nature does not become Divine. 1 John 1:14 which teaches that “the Word became flesh,” must not be pressed to mean a transmutation or transubstantiation of the Divine into the human. That would take away the divinity. If the Divine nature should take on the limitations of the human it would cease to be Divine. A spirit has not flesh and bones neither becomes flesh and bones. The attributes of matter are the opposite of those of spirit and vice versa. We must understand this text in the light of what we know from other sources and passages. The word “became” does not have the force of something being transmuted, but means, something that came to pass, occurred, or took place. What occurred or came to pass? A new visible human personality, the God-man, the human mode of existence in which Christ appeared. This came into existence. John further expresses the Incarnation by saying in 1 John 1:2 that the life was manifested. (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) And in 1 John 4:2 Jesus is the Christ come IN the flesh. He was in the flesh, but not identical with it.
¨ 1 John 4:2 "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:" “Flesh” here means the whole human nature and not merely “body.”
¨ 2 John 1:7 "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist."
¨ 1 Timothy 3:16 "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory."
v Special Note. When we are taught that “God became man,” it means that God united Himself with man, so that He appeared as man; and not that He changed Himself into a man.
In the God-man there is a union and communion of natures but not a communication, importation, or transfer of the attributes of one nature to the other. The humanity does not impart its limitations to the Divine nature, and the Divine nature does not make the humanity infinite, omnipresent, or omnipotent. The human does not become Divine or the Divine human. The attributes of matter cannot be transferred to spirit, nor the attributes of spirit to matter; but they may exist in a personal union as is the case with our bodies and souls.
But there is a union and communion of natures in the theanthropos which does impart knowledge and power without making the human Divine. One person can impart knowledge and inspiration to another but a person cannot impart the substance or faculties of their mind. The Jews asked, “How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” Christ’s knowledge was more than that gained in ordinary ways. The human Jesus had as much knowledge and power as the Divine nature contributed to Him; but that doubtless limited by a human capability.
If the Lord knew the thoughts of men and read their hearts, it was the Divine nature that conveyed such knowledge to the human mind of Christ, and the human was the medium of expression for the Divine mind.
If Jesus was ignorant of the day of judgment, it was because the Divine nature had not disclosed the thing to His human intelligence. When Christ was a babe in the manger His Divine nature was just as omnipotent and omniscient as ever (Hebrews 10:5-9). The relation of the human mind in Christ to the Divine mind was similar to the relation of a prophet’s mind to God. As the prophet Isaiah could know no more of the secrets of God than God disclosed to him, so the human mind of Christ could know no more than the Logos made known.
· There is in the Godhead three persons in one substance.
· There is in Jesus Christ three substances: human body, human soul, and the Divine nature.
· In man there is one person in two substances.
· In Jesus Christ there are two sets of faculties; a human mind, feeling and will; and a Divine mind, affection and will; and these two sets of faculties are so united as to constitute but one person.
Christ’s Sinlessness (Impeccability)
Sinlessness means without sin. Impeccability means not conquerable by sin. Christ is universally believed to be sinless, not all are agreed as to Him impeccability. Some say that temptation implies there may be a high degree of temptation where there is no possibility of its succeeding. But it is answered that there may be a high degree of temptation where there is no possibility of its succeeding. Impeccability means not that temptation could not appeal to Christ, but that it could not conquer Him. This was due to the support of His Divine nature, as the Divine nature would be involved in culpability if the person yielded to sin. No temptation to Christ arose out of a sinful nature as is true of man; but the solicitation addressed to his holy nature may have been quite as powerful. When Hebrews 4:15 teaches that Christ was, “tempted in all points like as we are yet without sin,” the meaning is that He was tempted as we are except by those desires that arise from inward evil.
Errors As To The Person of Christ
Denial Of His Humanity
The Gnostics denied Christ’s humanity on the ground of their Manichaean philosophy that taught that evil arises from matter. Man consists of a spirit combined with a material body and this union with the material defiles the spirit. Salvation therefore consists in emancipation from the body. To effect this redemption Christ came into the world. It was necessary He should appear as a man; but as He could not be connected with matter and retain His spirituality His body was only a phantasm, a mere appearance without substance or reality. He therefore was not born nor did He suffer and die. Some admitted he had a body not of matter but some ethereal or celestial substance. The Docetics were a Gnostic sect who made this position famous.
Denial Of His Divinity
Ø The Arians (followers of Arius, a presbyter in Alexander, Egypt, c. AD 320) held that God was one eternal person and that Christ was the first created being, by whom God created the world, super-angelic, became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. Nevertheless, He was a creature of different substance from God (Gk. heter-oousios). The Semi-Arians held that the absolute self-existent God was one person. The Son was a Divine Person, not equal with the Father, not identical in substance, but similar (Gk. homo-i-ousios). Unitarians now deny the Deity of Christ. They consider Him a mere man.
Ø The Apollinarians held that Jesus Christ had a human body and a human soul but no human mind or spirit. The Logos replaced these things. This position was embraced because of a belief that every man’s soul was part of the Divine substance. They therefore attacked the two complete natures in Christ.
v Special Note. The Apollinarians were followers of Apollinaris of Laodicea (d. AD 390) a Bishop of Laodicea in Syria. His system of belief was condemned by synods of the Church. After his death the movement terminated and rightly so for while man is made in the image of God, he is also distinct from the substance and essence of God. Man is not God.
Ø The Nestorians denied the union of the two natures in one person. They insisted on the distinction of the two natures till they practically made two persons. David Clark explains the problem. "If there are two natures in Christ as separate as two coins then there must be a human person that says 'I', and a Divine person that says 'I.'"
v Special Note. In AD 428 Nestorius was appointed Bishop of Constantinople. Wanted to purify his diocese of any hint of unorthodoxy, he attacked the popular veneration being given to the Virgin Mary while trying to reassure the followers of Mohammed that Christianity taught the worship of one God. His teachings led to the conclusion that the human Jesus could not be worshiped and that unity of Christ's person between the mortal and the immortal, the flesh and the Divine was merely a union of the will rather than a true hypo-static union. Opposed by Cyril of Alexandria, Nestorius was deposed at the Council of Ephesus in AD 431 and exiled in AD 436. Nestorianism continued to flourish in Persia and encouraged missionary activity in Arabia, India, Turkey, and China.
Ø The Eutychians (fifth century AD) went to the opposite extreme and said there was only one nature and that was Divine. Everything about Christ was Divine, even His body was Divine. According to Eutyches, living in a monastery outside Constantinople, it was the Logos that was born, and the Logos that suffered and died. Eutyches said that there were two natures before the union, but only one after the Incarnation. The two natures of Christ were so unified as to become one.
v Special Note. The controversy which Eutyches created led to the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) which reaffirmed the orthodox position of Christ having two natures. Not satisfied with that position, the Egyptian Church, along with the Ethiopian, adopted the doctrine of one nature in Christ, the Divine.
The Doctrine Of Kenosis
This important doctrine is based upon the Greek word for “emptying” in Philippians 2:7. This view teaches that the Logos became man by reducing Himself to the capacity of a babe and increased in wisdom and power till at length He assumed Divine nature much like the flame in a gas heater can be started by a small spark and then turned up. "This makes God to be less than deity and makes the Redeemer not truly man. If this were true, then Jesus would not be the seed of Abraham if He had no human soul." (David Clark) Nevertheless, the willingness to reject the deity of Christ has plagued the Church throughout the centuries and now in modern times.
Ø The Socinians held that Christ was a mere man in Himself, had no prior existence but had a miraculous birth, and was baptized with the Holy Ghost and became Divine and is to be worshipped. The Unitarians are really a branch of the Socinians, followers after Fausto Sozzini (or Socinus, 1539-1604). In the tradition of the radical skepticism of the Italian Renaissance, Socinus denied the deity of Christ, predestination, original sin, total depravity, a substitutionary Atonement, and justification by grace through faith alone. He preferred a salvation by works. The teachings of Socinus found fertile soil in Poland, where he died.
Ø The Jehovah Witnesses reflect more modern deniers of the deity of Christ. They believe that Christ was a man on earth but became God and yet Christ was called God while on earth and claimed to be God while on earth. He was called Son of God before He was born.
A Confession Of Faith: The Mediatorial Office Of Christ
Christ, in the work of mediation, acteth according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; Yet, by reason of the unity of His person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature. (The Baptist Confession Of Faith Of 1689, Chapter 8, Section 7; study John 3:13; Acts 20:28)
To all those for whom Christ hath obtained eternal redemption, He doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same, making intercession for them; uniting them to Himself by His Spirit, revealing to them in the Word and by the Word the mystery of salvation. persuading them to believe and obey, governing their hearts by His Word and Spirit, and overcome all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation; and all of free and absolute grace, without any condition foreseen in them to procure it. (The Baptist Confession O Faith Of 1689, Chapter 8, Section 8; study John 6:37; 10:15,16; 17:9; Rom. 5:10; John 17:6; Eph. 1:9; 1 John 5:20; Rom. 8:9,14; Psa. 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:25,26; John 3:8; Eph. 1:8)
This office of Mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, Who is the Prophet, Priest, and King of the Church of God, and may not be either in whole, or any part thereof, transferred from Him to any other. (The Baptist Confession O Faith Of 1689, Chapter 8, Section 9; study 1 Tim. 2:5)
This number and order of offices is essential; for in respect of our ignorance we stand in need of His prophetical office; and in respect of our alienation from God and imperfection of the best of our services, we need His priestly office to reconcile us and present us as acceptable unto God; and in respect of our averseness and utter inability to return to God, and for our rescue and security from our spiritual enemies, we need His kingly office to convince, subdue, draw, uphold, deliver, and preserve us to His heavenly kingdom. (The Baptist Confession Of Faith Of 1689, Chapter 8, Section 10; study John 1:18; Col. 1:21; Gal. 5:17; John 16:8; Psa. 110:3; Luke 1:74,75)
The Mediatorial Office Of Christ: Prophet
Christ is the revealer of God.
· Christ revealed God in the theophanies of the Old Testament.
· Christ revealed God by the inspiration of the prophets.
· Christ revealed God through the Incarnation, with its direct and personal teachings, “I speak that which I have seen.”
· Christ revealed God the inspiration of the Apostles and others who wrote the Scriptures.
· Christ sent the Spirit by whom inspiration was given, hence the Catechism says: “By word and spirit.”
· Christ is the completed revelation of God (Rev. 22:18).
The Mediatorial Office Of Christ: Priest
What is a priest? Hebrews 5:1. “Every high priest is ordained for men in things pertaining to God that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for men. Hebrews 8:3. As every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices therefore it is needful that this one also have something to offer. In the Old Testament the priest offered expiatory sacrifice on the ground of which men’s sins were remitted. He came to God for men, presented sacrifices and interceded for them. He was thus a mediator between God and man. The Old Testament priesthood was a type of Christ’s priesthood.
The priesthood was fulfilled in Christ. there is now no priest in the strict sense of that word. There is no expiatory sacrifice now to be offered. Christ did that once for all. "The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience and sacrifice of Himself which He, through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, fully satisfied the justice of God, procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of Heaven for all those whom the Father has given to Him. (The Baptist Confession O Faith Of 1689, Chapter 8, Section 5; study Heb. 9:14; 10:14; Rom. 3:25,26; John 17:2; Heb. 9:15)
Christ did not appoint priests to offer sacrifices but He did appoint teachers and preachers to minister to the Church. The Catholic Church teaches that salvation can be obtained only through the intervention of the priest; because the sacraments are the channels of grace and to be available must be administered by men canonically ordained. Hence they have priests, and call the Lord’s Supper an atoning sacrifice a real expiation of sin, in which Christ’s sacrifice is repeated. The important feature of the priestly office called the Atonement will be considered under a special head. Christ makes intercession at God’s throne for His people. He presents His plea on the ground of His Atonement. To make the Virgin Mary an intercessor between man and Christ is derogatory to Christ and attributes undue prerogatives to a human being.
The Mediatorial Office Of Christ: King
· God as Creator was and is sovereign over all His creatures.
· By the Fall man revolted to the kingdom of Satan.
· God re-established His kingdom on earth by a covenant requiring faith in a Redeemer.
· Entrance into this kingdom is by personal acceptance of the covenant.
· The kingdom of Christ has assumed more and more organization over the years under the early patriarchs Abraham, Moses and Christ.
· Christ came as King. The kingdom has been in the world since Eden but the King was not visibly present.
· Submission to the king, to his laws and rule is essential to citizenship in the kingdom.
· The kingdom is eternal, spiritual, both visible and invisible.
· It is a mistake to suppose that the word “kingdom” in the Bible refers only to a future millennial reign or that the kingdom was removed from the world when Christ ascended or that the Church age is to be distinguished from the kingdom age.
The Importance Of The Doctrine
The Atonement is the central fact of Christianity. Any system of Christian theology that leaves out the Atonement is not true Christianity. The Atonement was the subject of the first promise to man in Genesis 3:15. Christ said, “To this end was I born, and for this purpose came I into the world” (John 18:37). "The Atonement is that on which man’s salvation depends. Whoever makes light of the Atonement makes light of his own and the world’s salvation." (David Clark)
To understand the doctrine of the Atonement certain terms must be apprehended with discrimination.
· Atonement. The Atonement is not sufficiently defined by calling it at-one-ment. That expresses only one idea in the doctrine which is the feature of reconciliation. The Atonement means far more than that.
· Guilt. The word guilt expresses two things; first, blameworthiness, pollution, moral turpitude, criminality; second, liability to punishment or penalty.
· Expiation. Expiation means purging out, washing away, covering, making reparation or satisfaction; especially by suffering a penalty such as expiating a crime. Paying the penalty implies the securing of remission. Expiation is a very important word in the doctrine of the Atonement.
· Propitiation. Propitiation means to appease or render favorable one who has been offended. Guilt is expiated [covered or taken away] and God propitiated [satisfied].
· Vicarious. Vicarious means substitutionary; a vicar is a substitute or one who takes another’s place.
· Reconciliation. Reconciliation means bringing into harmony or agreement.
· Imputation. Imputation means to charge to one’s account.
¨ Romans 2:26. "Shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?"
¨ Romans 4:3. "Abraham believed God and it was counted to Him for righteousness."
v Special Note. The sins of the elect were imputed to Christ and His righteousness was imputed to them. Thus, in the Atonement a vicarious sacrifice expiates guilt, propitiates God, and reconciles God and man.
The Two-Fold Work Of The Atonement
· By obedience to the Law and by His suffering and death Christ accomplished the work of the Atonement that the Father had given Him to do.
· By His obedience Christ fulfilled the Law expressed in the Covenant of Works, which Adam failed to keep.
By His sufferings and death Christ paid the penalty due for sin. The Law offered life for obedience and threatened death for disobedience. The precept of the Law as well as the penalty of the Law must be fulfilled. Christ met all the demands of the Law both precept and penalty. Had he failed in either, no Atonement would have been made, and no redemption effected.
The reality of the expiatory work is not confined entirely to the physical sufferings and death, or what is called the objective side of the Atonement. The subjective side must have its weight. The physical suffering is not more important than the righteous disposition that led Him to submit to it. The spiritual attitude of Christ toward the work of Atonement has more qualitative value than the physical sufferings and death. We must feel that the Spirit of Christ worked the atoning work quite as much as by His bodily sacrifice or more. A distinction must be made between the usage of the terms subjective and objective in this connection. Christ’s physical experiences are called objective, and His spiritual experiences subjective. There was therefore a subjective and an objective side to Christ’s work.
The Atonement Expresses Both Divine Justice And Love
While there can be no discord between any of God’s attributes, some theologians have stressed God’s justice to the exclusion of His love, while others have stressed God’s love till justice was ruled out. For example, Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury (A.D. 1033-1109), taught that since all humans had sinned in and with Adam, God's honor had been offended. Man must do something to satisfy that honor. But what could fallen man ever do? "No one but one who is God-man can make the satisfaction by which man is saved." By His voluntary death at Calvary, Christ provided the only way and only acceptable satisfaction. The theologians of the Reformation modified this position to teach that the justice of God, or the requirements of God’s Law had to be satisfied. While both forms of the Satisfaction Theory expresses an essential fact, they must be duly coupled with the love of God as the moving cause.
¨ John 3:16 “God so loved the world that He gave His Son.”
¨ Romans 5:8 “God commendeth His love to us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly.”
v Special Note. The Atonement is the supreme expression of God’s love. "It is the characteristic of love that it longs to impart itself and possess its object. To leave out God’s love is to leave out the heart of the Atonement." (David Clark)
If Anselm neglected the love of God, the advocates of the Moral Influence Theory of the Atonement, such as Abelard, have neglected to emphasize His justice. The temptation comes to repudiate substitution, satisfaction, and expiation as being unnecessary and even undesirable. It has been taught that man is moved by God’s love, turns to God in view of His love, and the Atonement is nothing but repentance.
The antidote to extremism in any direction is to remember that any view of the Atonement that leaves out of accounts any attribute of God's total nature is partial and to that extent misleading. Holiness is so essential to His nature that God cannot look upon sin with approval; and justice is so essential that sin cannot go unpunished. Love is so essential that holiness could not be perfect without it, and holiness in turn is so necessary to love that love would be capricious and erratic unless guided and controlled by holiness. The Atonement, therefore, is not the expression of one attribute of God’s nature, but of all.
The Atonement And The Trinity
The Atonement is equally the expression of all persons of the Godhead. All views that place Father and Son in any degree of opposition, as if the Father had to be placated at the expense of the Son, are misleading and mischievous in their tendency. The Son is equally involved with the Father in the expression of His justice; and the Father is equally involved with the Son in the expression of His love and sacrifice. The Atonement expresses the entire Godhead with all the Divine attributes.
The Main Features Of The Atonement
The Atonement Was Sacrificial
Some say, “We are not saved by Christ’s death, but by His life.” Unitarians who set up Christ as an example, but deny the efficiency of His death usually say this. Thus salvation comes as the reward of character and works as we pattern our lives after Christ. In contrast the Scriptures stress Christ’s death. Christ’s sacrifice was more than the sacrifice of a martyr. A man might be a martyr to a good cause, and His example very praiseworthy; but that sacrifice would make no Atonement for sin. The meaning of Christ’s death is miles deeper than mere martyrdom. The sacrifices of the Old Testament were types of Christ’s sacrifice, and whatever they meant, Christ’s death must also mean. As they were sacrifices for sin, so Christ’s death was a sacrifice for sin.
¨ John 1:29 "The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."
¨ 1 Corinthians. 5:7 "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us:"
¨ Ephesians 5:3 “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;”
¨ Hebrews 7:27 “Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.”
¨ Hebrews 9:14 “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
¨ Hebrews 9:23 “It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.”
¨ Hebrews 9:26 “For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
¨ Hebrews 10:12 “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;”
v Special Note. Many of these texts being specifically addressed to Jewish Christians, could bear no other meaning than this, that Christ was a sacrifice in the same sense as the sacrificial offerings of the Old Testament dispensation.
The Atonement Was Expiatory
In the Atonement, Christ paid the penalty of sin, fulfilled the Law, satisfied justice, and secured remission for sins. Proof is derived from the Old Testament. The sacrificial rites of the Old Testament show how penalty was exacted, and remission and forgiveness declared. Leviticus 4 and 6 describe the sacrificial Atonement for sin.
¨ Leviticus 1:4 "And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make Atonement for him. This placing of the hand on the head showed the transfer of the guilt by the one offering the sacrifice."
¨ Leviticus 4:3-4 "If the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people; then let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the LORD for a sin offering. And he shall bring the bullock unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD; and shall lay his hand upon the bullock’s head, and kill the bullock before the LORD."
¨ Leviticus 4:13-20 "And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty; When the sin, which they have sinned against it, is known, then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the sin, and bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation. And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the LORD: and the bullock shall be killed before the LORD. And the priest that is anointed shall bring of the bullock’s blood to the tabernacle of the congregation: And the priest shall dip his finger in some of the blood, and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD, even before the veil. And he shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar which is before the LORD, that is in the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall pour out all the blood at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he shall take all his fat from him, and burn it upon the altar. And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering, so shall he do with this: and the priest shall make an Atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them."
¨ Leviticus 4:22 "When a ruler hath sinned, and done somewhat through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD his God concerning things which should not be done, and is guilty;"
¨ Leviticus 4:26 "And he shall burn all his fat upon the altar, as the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall make an Atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him."
¨ Leviticus 4:27 "And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty;"
¨ Leviticus 4:29 "And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering."
¨ Leviticus 4:31 "And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat is taken away from off the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall burn it upon the altar for a sweet savor unto the LORD; and the priest shall make an Atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him."
All of these passages show that sin is expiated by sacrifice and forgiven. Other passages concerning the Passover shows how all were delivered who were behind the blood. Leviticus 16 gives the rites of the Day of the Atonement. All to point to expiation and removal of sin. The rites on the great Day of Atonement included the sprinkling of blood on the mercy seat, showing how the blood stood between the Law and the sinner. The Law cursed the transgressor, but the blood removed the curse.
¨ Leviticus 16:8-10 "And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an Atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.
¨ Leviticus 16:21-22 "And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness."
¨ Leviticus 17:11 "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an Atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an Atonement for the soul."
¨ 2 Chronicles 29:23 "And they brought forth the he goats for the sin offering before the king and the congregation; and they laid their hands upon them:"
¨ 2 Chronicles 29:24 "And the priests killed them, and they made reconciliation with their blood upon the altar, to make an Atonement for all Israel: for the king commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all Israel."
The Atonement Was Efficacious
Like the Old Testament sacrifices, the death of Christ was effective. It covered sin.
¨ John 1:29 "The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."
¨ Matthew 26:28 "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."
¨ Romans 5:9 "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him."
¨ Hebrews 1:3 "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;"
¨ Hebrews 9:13 "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:"
¨ Hebrews 9:14 "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"
¨ Hebrews 9:22 "And almost all things are by the Law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission."
¨ Hebrews 9:26 "For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."
¨ Hebrews 9:28 "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
¨ Hebrews 10:4 "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins."
¨ Hebrews 10:9 "Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second."
¨ Hebrews 10:10 "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
¨ Hebrews 10:12 "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;"
¨ Hebrews 10:14 "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."
¨ 1 John 1:7 "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."
¨ Revelation 1:5 "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,"
¨ Revelation 7:14 "And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
¨ Revelation 7:15 "Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them."
The Atonement Was Vicarious
The vicarious feature of the Atonement is so essential that no bloodless, non substitutionary Atonement theory adequately represents the facts or the meaning of the Atonement.
Old Testament Scriptures
There are many passages which describe the laying of hands on the head of the victim thereby teaching the transfer of guilt to the victim and the vicarious nature of the offering.
¨ Leviticus 1:4 "And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make Atonement for him."
¨ Leviticus 16:21 "And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness:"
v Special Note. The vicarious nature of the Atonement is indicated when the priest confessed over the head of the scapegoat all the iniquities and transgressions of Israel.
¨ Leviticus 16:22 "And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness." This passage shows the imputation of the guilt of the person presenting the offering. The name by which the victim was called—sin offering or guilt offering—indicated the transfer of the sin or guilt to the offering.
¨ Isaiah 53:4 "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted."
¨ Isaiah 53:5 "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."
¨ Isaiah 53:11 "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
New Testament Scriptures
¨ John 1:29 "The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."
¨ Matthew 20:28 "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
¨ Mark 10:45 "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
¨ 2 Corinthians 5:15 "And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."
¨ 2 Corinthians 5:21 "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
¨ Galatians 3:13 "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:"
¨ 1 Peter 3:18 "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:"
¨ Hebrews. 9:28 "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
¨ 1 Peter 2:24 "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."
The Atonement And The Law
The Atonement satisfied the demands of justice of the Law. The Law of God cannot be annulled neither can its demand be lowered. “How should man be just with God?” is the cry of the awakened conscience. "But how shall God be just and justify the ungodly?" was the question that Divine love set itself to answer. Love says, “Save the sinner!” Justice says, “Exact the penalty!” Both are attributes of God. How then shall God be just and justify the ungodly? The Atonement of Christ is the answer. "The Atonement of Jesus Christ satisfies the demands of justice and awakens the cry of Divine love, and as well gives the awakened conscience a sufficient ground of hope." (David Clark)
¨ Romans 5:9 "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him."
¨ Romans 3:25-26 "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
v Special Note. Romans Chapters 2-4 argues that all men are sinners, all are condemned by the Law for sin, and yet God effects redemption by Christ. Redemption is received by faith.
¨ Romans 7:4 "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the Law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God."
¨ Romans 8:1 "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. "
¨ Romans 8:2 "For the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the Law of sin and death."
¨ Galatians 2:16 "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the Law: for by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified."
¨ Galatians 3:13 "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:"
¨ Galatians 4:4-5 "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, To redeem them that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone that believeth."
¨ 2 Corinthians 5:21 "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
¨ Philippians 3:9 "And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:"
The ceremony that took place in the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament Tabernacle showed that the blood of the sacrifice met the demands of the Law. Much modern theology demands the remission of sin without Atonement. It makes light of sin and abrogates the Law. The whole teaching of the Bible in the rituals of the Old Testament, and in the teachings of the New Testament shows that a substitute was always present to bear the penalty when sin is forgiven.
¨ Hebrews 9:22 "And almost all things are by the Law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission." “If penalty were remitted by sovereignty merely, without any judicial ground or reason whatever; if it were inflicted neither upon the sinner nor upon his substitute, this would be the abolition of penalty, not the remission of it” (Dr. William T. Shedd).
Arminianism And The Atonement
In 1603, a professor of divinity in the University of Leyden charged the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination with making God the author of sin. His name was Jacobus Arminius. After his death (1560-1609), the followers of Arminius living in Holland published a document called "Remonstrance" (1610) opposing the doctrine of sovereign grace.
I. That God, by an eternal and unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ his Son, before the foundation of the world was laid, determined to save, out of the human race which had fallen into sin, in Christ, for Christ's sake and through Christ, those who through the grace of the Holy Spirit shall believe on the same his Son and shall through the same grace persevere in this same faith and obedience of faith even to the end; and on the other hand to leave under sin and wrath the contumacious and unbelieving and to condemn them as aliens from Christ according to the word of the Gospel in John 3:36, and other passages of Scripture.
II. That, accordingly, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for all, by his death on the cross, reconciliation and remission of sins; yet so that no one is partaker of this remission except the believers [John 3:16; 1 John 2:2].
III. That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the working of his own free-will, inasmuch as in his state of apostasy and sin he can for himself and by himself think nothing that is good--nothing, that is, truly good, such as saving faith is, above all else. But that it is necessary that by God, in Christ and through his Holy Spirit he be born again and renewed in understanding, affections and will and in all his faculties, that he may be able to understand, think, will and perform what is truly good, according to the Word of God [John 15:5].
IV. That this grace of God is the beginning, the progress and the end of all good; so that even the regenerate man can neither think, will nor effect any good, nor withstand any temptation to evil, without grace precedent (or prevenient), awakening, following and co-operating. So that all good deeds and all movements towards good that can be conveyed in thought must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ.
But with respect to the mode of operation, grace is not irresistible;
for it is written of many that they resisted the Holy Spirit [Acts 7 and elsewhere passim].
V. That those who are grafted into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby been made partakers of his life-giving Spirit, are abundantly endowed with power to strive against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh, and to win the victory; always, be it understood, with the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit, with Jesus Christ assisting them in all temptations, through his Spirit; stretching out his hand to them and (provided only that they are themselves prepared for the fight, that they entreat his aid and do not fail to help themselves) propping and upholding them so that by no guile or violence of Satan can they be led astray or plucked from Christ's hands [John 10:28]. But for the question whether they are not able through sloth or negligence to forsake the beginning of their life in Christ, to embrace again this present world, to depart from the holy doctrine once delivered to them, to lose their good conscience and to neglect grace--this must be the subject of more exact inquiry in the Holy Scriptures, before we can teach it with full confidence of our mind.
These Articles thus set out and delivered the Remonstrants deem agreeable to the word of God, suitable for edification and, on this subject, sufficient for salvation. So that it is not needful, and tends not to edification, to rise higher or to descend lower. (Philipp Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, Vol. III)
Summary Of The Remonstrance
1. God elects or rejects individuals on the basis of foreseen faith or unbelief.
2. Christ died for all men and for every man even though only believers are saved.
3. Man is in need of divine grace or he shall never be saved by good deeds.
4. The grace of God can be resisted.
5. Whether or not those who are saved can fall away again unto everlasting judgment is a subject that needs more study.
Answer. The historical Reformed answer to the Remonstrants took place in 1618 by a synod at Dort. The followers of Jacobus Arminius were compelled to leave the national Reformed Church. The initial biblical response to the Remonstrants is that Christ’s Atonement had an inherent worth that rendered it a complete satisfaction. Christ being a person of infinite worth and dignity made an Atonement of infinite value and therefore sufficient for all time and all men of those who will be the heirs of salvation. "Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost who come unto God by him." (Heb. 7:25)
The Atonement Is Propitiatory And Conciliatory
The Atonement of Christ propitiates or satisfies God. It renders Him favorable or gracious so reconciliation is effected between God and man. Individuals can come to God by Christ because He has fully satisfied the justice of the Father (Heb. 9:14; 10:14; Rom. 3:25,26; John 17:2; Heb. 9:15).
The question arises whether God is reconciled to man or whether man is the one who is being reconciled to God. "Does the Atonement effects a change in God toward man?" Or, "Does the Atonement effect a change in man toward God?" The Scriptural teaching bearing on this dramatic distinction is expressed.
¨ Romans 5:1 "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our LORD Jesus Christ:"
¨ Romans 5:9 "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him."
¨ 2 Corinthians 5:18 "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;"
¨ 2 Corinthians 5:19 "To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation."
¨ 2 Corinthians 5:20 "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God."
¨ Colossians 1:21 "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled."
Scripturally, the Atonement primarily affects God’s relation to the sinner by satisfying His justice, removing His just displeasure against a sinner, and affording the basis of grace and pardon. Christ’s sacrifice was “to save from wrath” (Rom. 5:9) and open the way for reconciliation. Ultimately the change affects man; and by the grace of God leads to a subjective change in him by which he by which he is reconciled to God reconciles him to God. This is directly ascribed to the Atonement. In brief, the Atonement expiates sin, propitiates God, and reconciles first God to man, and second man to God.
· The Atonement was sacrificial
· The Atonement was expiatory
· The Atonement was vicarious
· The Atonement was sufficient
· The Atonement was propitiatory
· The Atonement brought reconciliation
If it is possible for one person to pay the debt of another, or become a substitute for another, it was possible for Christ to pay our debt and to be our Substitute which is why the Christian sings about The Old Rugged Cross.
In the old rugged cross,
stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see;
For 'twas on that old cross
Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.
"Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after His incarnation yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein He was revealed, and signified to be the seed which would bruise the serpent's head, and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, being the same yesterday, and today, and forever. (The Baptist Confession Of Faith Of 1689, Chapter 8, Section 6; study 1 Cor. 4:10; Heb. 4:2; 1 Pet. 1:10,11; Rev. 13:8; Heb. 13:8)
Objections To The Atonement
Ø Argument. “The Atonement represents God as unmerciful, cruel, vindictive, and blood-thirsty if He requires a sacrifice of a life to appease His wrath.”
Answer. It was an act of mercy to mankind to permit a substitute. It was a greater act of mercy that God not only permitted a substitute but that He Himself provided one, and He became that substitute. Since the Law of God could not be annulled nor lowered and sin could not go unpunished, God Himself in the person of His Son submitted to the penalty in order to set man free. That was mercy in superlative. God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son. No man can deny God’s mercy after reading John 3:16.
Ø Argument. “There is no need of an Atonement.”
Answer. This is a very prevalent objection at the present day. It is said that all that is necessary is for the sinner to repent and for God to forgive Him on the ground of His repentance. This is not God’s view of this matter. God has taught us something very different in His Word. From end to end the Bible teaches that salvation is only by a vicarious sacrifice. Christ must go to Calvary.
¨ Matthew 26:39 "And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."
¨ Mark 8:31 "And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again."
¨ Luke 9:22 "Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day."
¨ Luke 24:7 "Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again."
¨ Luke 17:25 "But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation."
¨ John 3:14 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:"
¨ John 12:34 "The people answered him, We have heard out of the Law that Christ abideth forever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?"
¨ John 20:9 "For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead."
¨ Acts 4:12 "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
¨ Acts 17:3 "Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ."
¨ Hebrews 3:16 "For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses."
¨ Hebrews 9:22 "And almost all things are by the Law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission."
¨ Hebrews 9:23 "It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these."
Atonement And The Sovereignty Of God
It is God’s prerogative to state the conditions on which individuals may be saved. It is the responsibility of those who hear the gospel to accept the conditions as God has laid them down. No one yet wiser than God. Since God has provided a vicarious sacrifice, it is not for anyone to say there is no need of it. That is inexcusable presumption. It is teaching for doctrines the commandments of men and it is wrong. If a person should repent and obey perfectly the Law of the Lord after hearing what it commandments are, that would be but duty. However, even such obedience could not atone for previous acts of transgression before repentance occurred and obedience began. The Law that has been broken and the wrong that has been done still require Atonement for ethical improvement is not sufficient to save the soul.
Moral Reformation Is Not Enough
God cannot remit sin without Atonement because He has threatened to punish it, and His veracity is at stake. He has declared that the wages of sin is death (Romans. 6:23). “The day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). In light of this, “How shall God be just and justify the ungodly?”
Athanasius (AD 293?-373) answered the concept that the Atonement was not needed in his day. “Suppose,” he said, “that God should merely require repentance in order to salvation. This would not be improper in itself did not conflict with the veracity of God. God cannot be untruthful even for our benefit. Repentance does not satisfy the demands of truth and justice. If the question pertained solely to the corruption of sin, and not to the guilt and ill desert of it, repentance might be sufficient.”
Athanasius realized that reformation does not satisfy the whole requirement of God’s holiness. The guilt and punishment of sin must be dealt with as well as sin’s perversion. God’s perfect Law and God as a perfect governor cannot ignore either the corruption of sin or its guilt and penalty. In His provision for man’s salvation God has had due regard for every aspect of sin and guilt. To ignore the guilt and deal only with the pollution of sin would compromise the essential attributes of God. Moreover if repentance alone is necessary, the whole incarnation was useless and Christ has come and died without sufficient reason.
Sin cannot be pardoned without Atonement because God is the moral ruler of the universe and cannot sacrifice the interests of moral government. Sin is not merely a private matter. It concerns the government of the world. Private rights may be relinquished but not public welfare nor universal laws. The objection, if true, would lower God’s attribute of righteousness and destroy regard for all Law.
The Majesty And Mercy Of God
The Atonement best displays God’s glory and conserves man’s highest good. If God adamantly demanded the punishment of sin and refused any substitute He could not display His mercy. If He excused sin without Atonement He could not display His holiness and justice. If either of these attributes of mercy and justice were obscured in man’s sight, then man would not feel constrained to be better than His God. The Atonement vindicates every attribute of God and reveals His nature to man for His admiration and emulation.
Ø Argument. “It is unjust to punish the innocent for the guilty.”
Answer. This objection makes an absolute distinction between the offering and the one making the offering. If God had laid the penalty on some innocent being without his consent, that would have been injustice; but if God Himself assumed the penalty it was no injustice to man, and no injustice to him who voluntarily assumed it; but rather the expression of Divine and infinite love.
Ø Argument. “If sin is punished it cannot be forgiven, and if forgiven it cannot be punished.” This objection is illustrated in this manner: “If a murderer is pardoned he cannot be hanged, and if hanged he cannot be pardoned. "
Answer. If a murderer is pardoned the Law is simply set aside and true justice is not exacted. But God’s Law is not set aside. Rather, His justice and mercy are exhibited in the Substitute who bore the penalty at Calvary to secured the remission of sins. Justice and mercy met in a Divine Atonement for sins.
Ø Argument. “Christ could not suffer the penalty of sin without enduring remorse and eternal death.”
Answer. Christ’s infinite dignity and worth gave to His sufferings an infinite value which was full legal equivalent for the sins of a race; and more than sufficient for all the penalty due to the whole race, for all the sufferings of the race would be only finite at most.
Theories Of The Atonement
Ø The Moral Influence Theory. This theory, a most unworthy one, denies the expiatory and vicarious nature of Christ’s work and assigns its value to the moral effect produced by Christ’s teaching, example, and manifestation of self-sacrificing love. According to this theory Christ is not an expiatory sacrifice, not a substitute for man, paid no penalty, and made no satisfaction to justice. But Jesus is a teacher. He is an example, and a manifestation of Divine love. Christ saves not by His death, but by His life. He produces a moral effect thereby on the hearts and minds of men which may be designated the “Moral Influence Theory.”
Ø The Ransom Theory. According to this theory Jesus paid a ransom to free us from the bondage of sin. Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 tells us that Christ came "to give his life a ransom for many." 1 Timothy 2:6 speaks of Jesus "who gave himself a ransom for all."
Ø The Legal Theory. The atonement is described as an act of obedience to the law which had been violated by sinners. A penalty had to be borne in order to rescue the guilty. Jesus paid that penalty. The righteousness of God was vindicated. In specific passages the death of Christ is represented as demanded by God's law and government. (A.H. Strong) Galatians 4:4,5 speaks of Christ being "born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law." Jesus said in Matthew 3:15 that certain things had to happen for "thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." Jesus fulfilled the righteousness of the law because He did not come "to destroy the law or the prophets." (Matt. 5:17) So Jesus "became obedient even unto death" (Rom. 5:19) He "gave himself for our sins". (Gal. 1:4) "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a true." (Gal. 3:13 cp. Deut. 21:23) By Christ's legal death, He exhibited God's righteousness in the pardon and restoration of sinners. Romans 3:25,26 speaks of Him "whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God." The death of deaths in the death of Christ was "a death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant." (cf. Heb. 9:15)
From Theory To Truth: Scriptural Satisfaction
"The complete answer to all theories is the exhibition of the true nature of the Atonement as taught in the Scriptures. All theories of the Atonement are efforts in the right direction, to understand and express its meaning; but quite likely any or all of them fall short of a perfect expression. It takes the whole Bible to explain the Atonement. Our widest conceptions may touch only the fringe of its meaning. The Atonement in its height and depth and length and breadth is beyond our mental and spiritual limitations. Before the cross of Calvary the world has paused, and gazed, and wept, and worshipped, in adoring wonder; and well it may." (David Clark) Expiation and substitution are the biblical facts of the Atonement, not a theory. The Bible explains:
· for whom the Atonement was made to expiated sin;
· how it made satisfaction to God;
· to what was the satisfaction made;
· and how it affects those who are to be the heirs of salvation.
In summary, the Atonement satisfies the just demands of God the Father. In recognizing this we discern once more the attributes of God: love and justice. And there is a wonderful harmony. "There is love in His justice and justice in His love. The whole Divine being expresses Himself in the exercise of any attribute as the whole man does in thinking, feeling and volition. The Atonement is a satisfaction to God’s love as well as to His justice. " (David Clark)
"Jesus loves me, this I know.For the Bible tells me so."