Christian Doctrine

Index
Lecture 1: The Person of Christ – The Chalcedonian Creed
Lecture 2: The Deity of Christ.
Lecture 3: The Humanity of Christ
Lecture 4: The problem of the Hypostatic Union
Lecture 5: Introduction to the Work of Christ
Lecture 6: Person and work of Christ: The Atonement
Lecture 7: The Atonement 2: The Essential elements of the Atonement
Lecture 8: The Work of Jesus Christ: Summary
Lecture 9:Work and Person of Christ: Elements of the Atonement
Lecture 10:Christ’s office as Mediator; Prophet, Priest and King
Lecture 11:Christ’s Early Ministry
Lecture 12:Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology) – An Introduction
Lecture 13:The Person and Work of God the Holy Spirit

Lecture 1

Lecture Outcomes:

1 – Introduction to the Person of Christ

2 – Introduction to Chalcedonian Creed

3 –Understand and discuss the main elements of the Chalcedonian Formula:

  • Examine the main arguments relating to the Humanity of Christ.
  • Comprehend the major features of the Deity of Christ
  • Explain the Unity of Christ as God and Man
  • Elucidate the major aspects of the Work of Christ

Key Verse:

John 1:14  – 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 8:58  – 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.

Visuals:

The Creed

2min

The council of Chalcedon
3mins

Hypostatic Union
3mins

How is it possible?
6min

Information:

Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/

Chalcedonian Creed

The Chalcedonian Creed was adopted at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 in Asia Minor as a response to certain heretical views concerning the nature of Christ. This Council of Chalcedon is the fourth of the seven ecumenical councils accepted by Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and many Protestant Christian churches.

The Chalcedonian Creed was written amid controversy between the western and eastern churches over the meaning of the incarnation (see Christology), the ecclesiastical influence of the Byzantine emperor, and the supremacy of the Roman Pope. The adopted Creed specifically maintained the two distinct natures of Christ (divine and human) over against teaching of Eutyches — that Christ had only one nature, a mixture of human and divine. Eutychianism is also known as monophysitism from monos (single) and physis (nature), which confuses both Christ’s true humanity and his true deity.

An English translation of the Creed

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with us according to the manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the virgin Mary, the mother of God, according to the manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

The Bible does not explicitly address the question of whether Jesus Christ has two natures or only one. As it will be explained below, however, understanding that Christ has two natures is the most biblically and theologically consistent position. The issue came to a head in church history as theologians in the church tried to grapple with and codify the information that the New Testament provides about Jesus.

According to the New Testament, Jesus really is a man, born into the human race, yet He is also fully God. John 1:1 states that the Word is God and then in verse 14 we see that the Word John is speaking of is Jesus who “tabernacled” among us. Matthew and Luke both tell of Jesus’ birth of the Virgin Mary and give His human lineage. It is difficult to understand and explain, but that is what the New Testament teaches. Jesus is God who entered the human race as a man.

Some groups early on tried to explain the nature of Christ by saying that the divine “Christ spirit” came upon the man Jesus. Early Gnostics said that the Christ spirit came upon Jesus at His baptism and left Him at the crucifixion. In this scenario, it might seem as though Jesus had two natures; however, on closer examination, this is not the case. The man that people identified as Jesus would actually be two persons sharing a body, and each person would only have one nature. He would be Jesus the human and Christ the divine. In this scenario, God only appears to enter the human race, but He does not actually do it.

Another way of trying to explain the data in the New Testament is to say that Jesus Christ was only one person AND that He only had one nature . The difficulty with this explanation is that His nature would be something of an amalgamation of divine and human. He would not be fully human because the divine nature has mixed with the human nature, making Him something more than human. He would not be fully God because the human nature has mixed with the divine nature, making Him something less than divine. We see parallels to this idea in Greek and Roman mythology where a god has a child with a human woman. The offspring is more than human and less than a god—a super human or a demi-god. Hercules was one such person, the son of Zeus and the woman Alcmene.

An illustration may be helpful. Like most illustrations, it is far from perfect and cannot be pressed on every point. Suppose a king wants to identify with the poorest in his country. One way he could do it would be to disguise himself as a beggar and move among them. However, in this situation he is only pretending to be a beggar; he can go back to the castle at night, and he still has all the resources of a king. On the other hand, the king could renounce his throne and give away everything and become a beggar. But in this case, he would cease to be a king. A third option is that he could, for a time, give up the use of all his resources for a set period of time—let’s say 3 years—knowing that at the end of that time he would once again resume the throne. In this last situation, he is both truly a beggar and truly a king. Jesus became man, but He remained God.

The only way to adequately explain the biblical data is to say that Jesus is one Person with two natures—a human nature and a divine nature. He is both God and Man. His two natures are inseparably united (not mixed) in what theologians term the “hypostatic union.” The New Testament affirms that Jesus Christ, who walked the earth, died on a cross, and rose again, was fully a member of the human race with a fully functioning human nature (without sin). At the same time, Jesus was fully God. He willingly humbled Himself and gave up His glory and the right to use His divine attributes apart from the direction of God the Father, but He never ceased to be God. Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God—He has the nature of both. He is a man, but He is more; He is also God. He is God, but He has forever joined Himself to a human nature. A shortened way to express this is to refer to Jesus as the God-Man. He is the Man who is also God, and He is God who became a Man.

The hypostatic union is the term used to describe how God the Son, Jesus Christ, took on a human nature, yet remained fully God at the same time. Jesus always had been God (John 8:58, 10:30), but at the incarnation Jesus became a human being (John 1:14). The addition of the human nature to the divine nature is Jesus, the God-man. This is the hypostatic union, Jesus Christ, one Person, fully God and fully man.

Jesus’ two natures, human and divine, are inseparable. Jesus will forever be the God-man, fully God and fully human, two distinct natures in one Person. Jesus’ humanity and divinity are not mixed, but are united without loss of separate identity. Jesus sometimes operated with the limitations of humanity (John 4:6, 19:28) and other times in the power of His deity (John 11:43; Matthew 14:18-21). In both, Jesus’ actions were from His one Person. Jesus had two natures, but only one personality.

The doctrine of the hypostatic union is an attempt to explain how Jesus could be both God and man at the same time. It is ultimately, though, a doctrine we are incapable of fully understanding. It is impossible for us to fully understand how God works. We, as human beings with finite minds, should not expect to totally comprehend an infinite God. Jesus is God’s Son in that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). But that does not mean Jesus did not exist before He was conceived. Jesus has always existed (John 8:58, 10:30). When Jesus was conceived, He became a human being in addition to being God (John 1:1, 14).

Jesus is both God and man. Jesus has always been God, but He did not become a human being until He was conceived in Mary. Jesus became a human being in order to identify with us in our struggles (Hebrews 2:17) and, more importantly, so that He could die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (Philippians 2:5-11). In summary, the hypostatic union teaches that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, that there is no mixture or dilution of either nature, and that He is one united Person, forever.

Lecture 2

Lecture Outcomes:

The Deity of Christ

  • Understand and discuss the main elements of the Chalcedonian Formula
  • Examine the main arguments relating to the Deity of Christ.
  • Comprehend the major features of the Deity of Christ
  • Explain the Unity of Christ as God and Man

Key Verse:

“Only in Him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.” Acts 4:12

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'” John 14:6

Visuals:

Is the Deity of Christ Biblical?
Gotquestions.org – 6mins

Did Jesus Really Claim to be God?
3mis

Did JESUS claim to be GOD?
3mins

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/ unless otherwise stated.

In this lecture you will be introduced to the Person and Work of Christ.  The issue of the Deity of Christ has been hotly debated over centuries. The Bible clearly shows Jesus to be fully God and fully Man and over the centuries theologians have struggled to understand this essential truth.   However, over the years many heresies arose, such as the Arian controversy and others which portrayed Jesus as merely a good man.  We will be examining how Jesus can be both God and Man.   The doctrine of Christ’s humanity is less divisive than His deity, yet there are many who seek to diminish this dogma by attacking the Virgin Birth which is evidence of His supernatural manhood.

While we hold to our belief as Jesus being fully God and fully Man, we have to further examine the factor of His Unity as being both human and divine in the one Person.  This is essential to our understanding as believers and to this end we will examine the main elements of the Chalcedonian Formula.

“Is the deity of Christ biblical?”

Answer:
In addition to Jesus’ specific claims about Himself, His disciples also acknowledged the deity of Christ. They claimed that Jesus had the right to forgive sins—something only God can do—as it is God who is offended by sin (Acts 5:31; Colossians 3:13; Psalm 130:4; Jeremiah 31:34). In close connection with this last claim, Jesus is also said to be the one who will “judge the living and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1). Thomas cried out to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Paul calls Jesus “great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13) and points out that prior to His incarnation Jesus existed in the “form of God” (Philippians 2:5-8). God the Father says regarding Jesus: “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8). John states that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word [Jesus] was God” (John 1:1). Examples of Scriptures that teach the deity of Christ are many (see Revelation 1:17, 2:8, 22:13; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 2:6-8; Psalm 18:2, 95:1; 1 Peter 5:4; Hebrews 13:20), but even one of these is enough to show that Christ was considered to be God by His followers.

Jesus is also given titles that are unique to YHWH (the formal name of God) in the Old Testament. The Old Testament title “redeemer” (Psalm 130:7; Hosea 13:14) is used of Jesus in the New Testament (Titus 2:13; Revelation 5:9). Jesus is called Immanuel—“God with us”—in Matthew 1. In Zechariah 12:10, it is YHWH who says, “They will look on me, the one they have pierced.” But the New Testament applies this to Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:37; Revelation 1:7). If it is YHWH who is pierced and looked upon, and Jesus was the one pierced and looked upon, then Jesus is YHWH. Paul interprets Isaiah 45:22-23 as applying to Jesus in Philippians 2:10-11. Further, Jesus’ name is used alongside God’s in prayer “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2). This would be blasphemy if Christ were not deity. The name of Jesus appears with God’s in Jesus’ commanded to baptize “in the name [singular] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19; see also 2 Corinthians 13:14).

Actions that can be accomplished only by God are credited to Jesus. Jesus not only raised the dead (John 5:21, 11:38-44) and forgave sins (Acts 5:31, 13:38), He created and sustains the universe (John 1:2; Colossians 1:16-17). This becomes even clearer when one considers YHWH said He was alone during creation (Isaiah 44:24). Further, Christ possesses attributes that only deity can have: eternality (John 8:58), omnipresence (Matthew 18:20, 28:20), omniscience (Matthew 16:21), and omnipotence (John 11:38-44).

Now, it is one thing to claim to be God or to fool someone into believing it is true, and something else entirely to prove it to be so. Christ offered many miracles as proof of His claim to deity. Just a few of Jesus’ miracles include turning water to wine (John 2:7), walking on water (Matthew 14:25), multiplying physical objects (John 6:11), healing the blind (John 9:7), the lame (Mark 2:3), and the sick (Matthew 9:35; Mark 1:40-42), and even raising people from the dead (John 11:43-44; Luke 7:11-15; Mark 5:35). Moreover, Christ Himself rose from the dead. Far from the so-called dying and rising gods of pagan mythology, nothing like the resurrection is seriously claimed by other religions, and no other claim has as much extra-scriptural confirmation.

There are at least twelve historical facts about Jesus that even non-Christian critical scholars will admit:

1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
2. He was buried.
3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
4. Jesus’ tomb was discovered (or was claimed to be discovered) to be empty a few days later.
5. The disciples believed they experienced appearances of the risen Jesus.
6. After this, the disciples were transformed from doubters into bold believers.
7. This message was the centre of preaching in the early Church.
8. This message was preached in Jerusalem.
9. As a result of this preaching, the Church was born and it grew.
10. Resurrection day, Sunday, replaced the Sabbath (Saturday) as the primary day of worship.
11. James, a sceptic, was converted when he also believed that he saw the resurrected Jesus.
12. Paul, an enemy of Christianity, was converted by an experience which he believed to be an appearance of the risen Jesus.

Even if someone were to object to this specific list, only a few are needed to prove the resurrection and establish the gospel: Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and appearances (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). While there may be some theories to explain one or two of the above facts, only the resurrection explains and accounts for them all. Critics admit that the disciples claimed they saw the risen Jesus. Neither lies nor hallucinations can transform people the way the resurrection did. First, what would they have had to gain? Christianity was not popular and it certainly did not make them any money. Second, liars do not make good martyrs. There is no better explanation than the resurrection for the disciples’ willingness to die horrible deaths for their faith. Yes, many people die for lies that they think are true, but people do not die for what they know is untrue.

In conclusion, Christ claimed He was YHWH, that He was deity (not just “a god” but the one true God); His followers (Jews who would have been terrified of idolatry) believed Him and referred to Him as God. Christ proved His claims to deity through miracles, including the world-altering resurrection. No other hypothesis can explain these facts. Yes, the deity of Christ is biblical.

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

The significance of The Council of Chalcedon?

Answer:
The Council of Chalcedon met in AD 451 in Chalcedon, a city in Asia Minor. The council’s ruling was an important step in further clarifying the nature of Christ and the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. The council also laid the groundwork for one of the most significant events in ecclesiastical history—the Great Schism.

In order to appreciate the significance of the Council of Chalcedon, we need a little background. Debate about the person of Christ arose prior to the first Council of Nicaea in AD 325. A man named Arius had taught the false doctrine that the Son of God was a created being and that He was of a different substance (heteroousios) than the Father. The Council of Nicaea sought to unambiguously define the relationship between the Father and the Son. The council said Jesus was truly God. Yet the opponents of the deity of Christ did not simply give up after the Nicene affirmation. But faithful Christians like Athanasius continued to defend Christ’s deity, and, in the end, truth triumphed over error.

After Nicaea came the Council of Constantinople in AD 381, which rejected the teachings of Apollinaris, who said that Jesus’ divine nature had displaced His human mind and will. According to Apollinaris Jesus was not fully human, a teaching that 2 John 1:7 warns against. Later, Nestorius said Jesus had two separate natures and two wills, essentially making Him two persons sharing one body. This teaching was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in AD 431. And ten years later Eutyches also denied that Jesus was truly human, saying Jesus’ human nature was “absorbed” or swallowed up by His divine nature. This led to the Council of Chalcedon, which only lasted from October 8 to November 1, 451.

The Council of Chalcedon anathematized (cursed) those who taught that Christ had only a single, divine nature and those who taught a “mixture” of His two natures. The Council produced the “Chalcedonian Definition,” which affirms that Christ is “the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man.” He is “consubstantial [homoousios] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood.” Jesus Christ is “to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably” (quoted from http://www.carm.org). The divine and human natures of Christ are distinct yet united in one Person. This co-existence of Christ’s two natures is called the hypostatic union.

By affirming that Jesus Christ is one Person who is both divine and human, the Council of Chalcedon made it easier to identify error. The Chalcedonian Definition affirms the truth that Jesus Christ is fully divine and, at the same time, fully human. He is both the Son of God (1 John 5:10) and the Son of Man (Mark 14:21). Jesus, the Word incarnate, assumed perfect humanity in order to save fallen humanity. He could not have saved us unless he was fully God and fully man.

The Council of Chalcedon was also significant because it ratified the creeds of Nicaea and Constantinople. And it condemned the false doctrines of Nestorius and Eutyches. The council affirmed the single personality of Christ and the authenticity and perfection of both His natures, human and divine.

Besides dealing with matters of theology, the Council of Chalcedon is famous for upholding an earlier ruling concerning church structure. The Council of Chalcedon assigned equal honor to the Church of Constantinople and the Church of Rome. The council gave the title “patriarch” to the most prominent bishops and concluded that the church of Constantinople (“New Rome”) held a position of authority similar to that of “Old Rome.” The pope, of course, rejected that particular article, while accepting the rest of the Chalcedonian Creed. Eventually, the rift between Rome and Constantinople led to the Great Schism between the Eastern Church and the Western Church in AD 1054.

Recommended Resource: Christianity Through the Centuries by Earle Cairns

( https://www.gotquestions.org/council-of-Chalcedon.html )

The Apollinarian Heresy

“Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
Luke 2:52

Proponents of Eutychianism managed to avoid full-on docetism, because unlike the docetists, the Eutychians did not say that the body of our Savior was merely an illusion. However, by teaching that the deity of Christ absorbed His humanity, they ended up effectively denying that Jesus possesses a true human nature and a true divine nature. They give us a Jesus who is a mixture of humanity and deity, not truly God or truly man.

Eutychianism was not the only Christological heresy in the early church to tend toward a kind of docetic denial of Christ’s true humanity. The heresy known as Apollinarianism also denied the true humanity of Jesus. Apollinarianism is named after Apollinaris, the fourth-century bishop of Laodicea. Early in his career, Apollinaris was highly esteemed by such orthodox Christian thinkers as Athanasius of Alexandria because of his staunch defense of the Council of Nicaea and its affirmation of the full deity of Christ. In his later ministry, the orthodox party opposed Apollinaris because of what he taught about the relationship between the human and divine natures of Christ.

Apollinaris believed human beings are made up of three constituent parts—a physical body, a “lower” soul that makes us living creatures, and a “higher” soul or spirit that is equivalent to the rational mind that humans possess. Immediately, we should see problems with Apollinaris’ thinking, as this three-part division of human beings has no scriptural support. Biblical Christianity has always taught that human beings have two constituent aspects—body and soul (dichotomy). This understanding is grounded in passages such as Matthew 10:28, which refers to human beings as possessing only a body and a soul.

Having adopted a erroneous view of human nature, Apollinaris said that in the person of Jesus Christ, the Logos or divine aspect of the Savior replaced His “higher” spirit. Jesus, then, had a human body, a “lower” human soul, and a divine spirit. Apollinaris effectively denied that the seat of rational thought in our Savior is truly human. He compromised Jesus’ true humanity by denying that He possesses a human mind or soul, since the human mind or soul is an essential component that makes human beings human. And, by compromising Jesus’ humanity, Apollinarianism gives us a Savior who cannot save us. Animal sacrifices could not truly atone for sin because they are not human (Heb. 10:4). If Jesus does not possess a human soul, then He is not truly human, and thus cannot atone for the sin of other humans.

Coram Deo

Jesus’ lack of a true human soul not only compromises the atonement but it also means He could not have been tempted in every way that we are (Heb. 4:15). That, in turn, would make Him unable to help us as we suffer temptation (2:18). Because Jesus is truly human, however, He can help us. Let us go to Him this day and every day when we are tempted to disobey the Lord.
https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/apollinarian-heresy/ )

The Docetic Heresy

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.” 2 John 7

Groups who denied the deity of Christ outright, such as the Arians, were not the most significant threats to Christian orthodoxy in the earliest years of church history. Arianism was not a major problem until the fourth century, and while the Ebionites denied the deity of Christ relatively early on, they were never as significant a threat as the Arians. Instead of denying that Christ is true deity or at least that He is in some sense a divine being, the very first heresies had a much greater issue with the humanity of our Savior. In fact, the New Testament demonstrates that the denial of the true human nature of Jesus began during the lifetime of the Apostles.

We are talking specifically about the heresy of docetism. The term docetism is derived from the Greek verb dokeō , which means “seem” or “appear”; thus, the name of the heresy points to its teaching that Jesus did not have a real physical body. Instead, He only seemed to possess physicality. His body was an illusion, something that looked real but in fact was not a part of the physical order at all.

Today’s passage indicates that the Apostles themselves had to confront docetism by the end of the first century. In 2 John 7, the Apostle John says it is false teaching to deny that Jesus Christ came “in the flesh.” He is referring to docetic teaching or at least to teaching that would later blossom into full-fledged docetism. Before John died, he had to remind the church that the Son of God came in the flesh, that He possesses a true human nature that includes a true human body.

Why was docetic teaching popular in the early years of the church? Remember that Christianity was born in a world heavily influenced by Greek thinking, and Greek philosophers tended to look down upon the physical world. For many Greek thinkers, embodied existence was not a good thing, and they looked forward to the time when the soul would be released from the “prison” of the body. The earliest gentile Christians were heavily influenced by such ideas, so there is little wonder that a body-denying heresy such as docetism would be a problem as the gospel went out to the gentile world.

The crass form of docetism that says the physical body of Jesus was merely an illusion no longer poses much of a direct threat to the church. However, an incipient form of docetism remains. Because of recent denials of the deity of Christ, it is easy for us to become so focused on defending His Godhood that we neglect His humanity.

Coram Deo

The docetists rejected the true humanity of Christ because of a notion that the physical world is inherently defective. Biblical Christianity affirms something different. Although the creation is presently fallen, God originally made it very good. Thus, there is no inherent obstacle to the Son of God’s uniting Himself to a human nature in the incarnation. We need not disdain the created order, for God will redeem it.( https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/docetic-heresy/ )

In early church history, one of the biggest theological debates centered on the deity of Jesus Christ. There are still groups that deny His deity today, from Muslims (who say Jesus was merely a prophet) to Jehovah’s Witnesses (who insist that He is not equal to the Father). By contrast, the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is God.

Here are eleven lines of evidence that affirm the doctrine of Christ’s deity, with corresponding biblical references:

1. The Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would be God (Isaiah 9:6; Matt. 1:23)

2. Jesus claimed a heavenly pre-existence (John 6:62; 8:23; 16:28; 17:5)

3. Jesus assumed divine authority:

  • Over the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5)
  • Over the forgiveness of sins (Mark 2:5–11)
  • Over people’s eternal destinies (John 8:24; cf. Luke 12:8–9; John 5:22, 27–29)

4. Jesus exercised divine authority

  • Over demons (Mark 1:2–27; 3:11; 5:1–20)
  • Over disease and death (Mark 1:29–31; 40–45; 5:25–43; 8:22–26; etc.)
  • Over the natural world (Luke 5:1–11; 8:22–25; 9:10–17; etc.)

5. Jesus claimed ownership over that which belongs only to God:

  • The kingdom of God (Matt. 13:41; 16:28; cf. Luke 1:33)
  • The elect of God (Matt. 24:30–31)
  • The angels of God (Matt. 13:41; 24:30–31)

6. Jesus claimed the right to receive worship and the ability to answer prayer (John 14:13–14; cf. Acts 7:59; 9:10–17; Rev. 1:17)

7. Jesus called Himself the Son of Man, a title with divine implications from the Old Testament (cf. Dan. 7:13–14)

8. Jesus also called Himself the Son of God, a title His opponents understood as a claim to deity (Matt. 27:43; John 5:18; 10:46; 19:7)

9. Jesus called Himself “I Am,” thereby applying the Old Testament name Yahweh to Himself (John 8:58; cf. cf. 6:51; 10:9, 11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1).

10. Jesus claimed absolute unity with the Father, such that He could tell His disciples, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9–10; cf. 10:30; 12:45).

11. The rest of the New Testament affirms that Jesus is God (John 1:1; Acts 20:28; Romans 9:5; 1 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15–16; 2:9; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:3, 8; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 5:20)

Nathan Busenitz is the Dean of Faculty and Associate Professor of Theology at The Master’s Seminary. He is also one of the pastors of Cornerstone, a fellowship group at Grace Community Church.

https://blog.tms.edu/11-reasons-affirm-deity-christ Accessed 25/01/2020 18h44

The Deity of Christ


Don Closson received the B.S. in education from Southern Illinois University, the M.S. in educational administration from Illinois State University, and the M.A. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. He served as a public school teacher and administrator before joining Probe Ministries as a research associate in the field of education. He is the general editor of Kids, Classrooms, and Contemporary Education.


Introduction

I recently received a letter from someone who argues that there is only one God, and that He is called many names and worshiped by many different people who hold to many different faiths. This kind of thinking about God is common today, but its popularity does not reduce the intellectual problems that may accompany it. For instance, does this notion of god include the god of the Aztecs who required child sacrifice? What about the warrior gods of Norse mythology: Odin, Thor, and Loki? How does the Mormon belief that we can all become Gods if we join their organization and conform to their system of good works fit into this theological framework? Even John Hick, an influential religious pluralist, believes that only some of the world’s great religions qualify as having a valid view of God. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism are valid, but Satanism and the religions of the Waco, Texas, variety are not. Belief that all religious systems worship one God raises difficult questions when we see how different groups portray God and seek to describe how we are to relate to Him.

The issue becomes even more acute when one religious tradition claims that God took on flesh becoming a man and walked on the earth. The Christian tradition has claimed for almost two thousand years that God did just that. The Gospel of John proclaims that, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John is, of course, talking about Jesus, and this claim presents an interesting challenge for a religious pluralist. If what John and the rest of the New Testament writers claim about Jesus is true, then we literally have God in the flesh walking with and teaching a small band of disciples. If Jesus was God incarnate as He walked the earth, we have a first hand account of what God is like in the biblical record. Truth claims about God that counter those given in the Bible must then be discounted. In other words, if Jesus was God in the flesh during His time on earth, other religious texts or traditions are wrong when they teach about God or about knowing God in ways that contradict the biblical record.

In this essay we will consider the evidence for the deity of Christ. Christianity’s truth claims are dependent on this central teaching, and once accepted, this claim reduces greatly the viability of religious pluralism, of treating all religious beliefs as equally true. For if God truly became flesh and spoke directly to His disciples about such things as sin, redemption, a final judgment, false religions and true worship, then we have the God of the universe expressing intolerance towards other religious claims- -specifically claims that discount the reality of sin and remove the need for redemption or the reality of a final judgment. Some might not agree with God’s religious intolerance, but then again, disagreeing with God is what the Bible calls sin.

Rather than begin with a response to attacks on Christ’s deity by modern critics like the Jesus Seminar or New Age gnostics, our discussion will begin with Jesus’ own self-consciousness, in other words, what did Jesus say and think about himself. From there we will consider the teachings of the Apostles and the early church. My goal is to establish that from its inception, Christianity has taught and believed that Jesus was God in the flesh, and that this belief was the result of the very words that Jesus spoke concerning His own essence.

Christ’s Self-Perception

As we begin to examine evidence that supports the claim that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh or God incarnate, a good starting point is Jesus’ own self concept. It must first be admitted that Jesus never defines His place in the Trinity in theological language. However, He made many statements about himself that would be not only inappropriate, but blasphemous if He was not God in the flesh. It is important to remember that Jesus’ life was not spent doing theology or thinking and writing about theological issues. Instead, His life was focused on relationships, first with His disciples, and then with the Jewish people. The purpose of these relationships was to engender in these people a belief in Jesus as their savior or Messiah, as their only source of salvation. Jesus told the Pharisees, the Jewish religious leaders of His day, that they would die in their sins if they did not believe that He was who He claimed to be (John 8:24). And to one Pharisee, Nicodemus, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Millard Erickson, in his book Christian Theology, does a nice job of laying out evidence that Jesus considered himself equal in essence with God.(1) Unless He was God, it would have been highly inappropriate for Jesus to say, as He does in Matthew 13:41, that both the angels and the kingdom are His. Elsewhere, angels are called “the angels of God” (Luke 12:8 9; 15:10) and the phrase Kingdom of God is found throughout the Scriptures. But Jesus says, “The Son of man will send His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and evildoers” (Matt. 13:41).

When the paralytic in Mark 2:5 was lowered through the roof by his friends, Jesus’ first response was to say that the man’s sins were forgiven. The scribes knew the implications of this statement, for only God could forgive sin. Their remarks clearly show that they understood Jesus to be exercising a divine privilege. Jesus had a wonderful opportunity to set the record straight here by denying that He had the authority to do what only God can do. Instead, His response only reinforces His claim to divinity. Jesus says, “Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, Rise, take up your pallet and walk’?” To confirm His authority to forgive sins, Jesus enabled the man to pick up his pallet and go home.

Two other areas that Jesus claimed authority over was the judging of sin and the observance of the Sabbath. Both were considered God’s prerogative by the Jews. In John 5:22-23 Jesus says, “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.” Jesus also claimed authority to change man’s relationship to the Sabbath. Honoring the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments, and the Jews had been given strict instructions on how to observe it. In the book of Numbers, Moses is told by God to stone to death a man who collects wood on the Sabbath. However, in Matthew 12:8 Jesus says that “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

These examples show that Jesus made claims and performed miracles that reveal a self awareness of His own divinity. In our next section, we will continue in this vein.

Christ’s Self-Perception, Part 2

At this point in our discussion we will offer even more examples of Jesus’ self knowledge of His essential equality with God.

A number of comments that Jesus made about His relationship with the Father would be unusual if Jesus did not consider himself equal in essence with God. In John 10:30 He says that to see Him is to see the Father. Later in John 14:7-9 He adds that to know Him is to know the Father. Jesus also claimed to have existed prior to His incarnation on earth. In John 8:58 He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Some believe that the words used here by Jesus constitute His strongest claim to deity. According to the Expositors Bible Commentary this passage might more literally be translated, “Before Abraham came into being, I continuously existed.” The Jews recognized the phrase “I am” as one referring to God because God used it (1) to describe himself when He commissioned Moses to demand the release of His people from Pharaoh (Exodus 3:14), and (2) to identifyhimself in the theistic proclamations in the second half of Isaiah. Jesus also declares that His work is coterminous with the Father. He proclaims that “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). The Jews hearing Jesus understood the nature of these claims. After His comment about pre-existing Abraham, they immediately picked up stones to kill Him for blasphemy because they understood that He had declared himself God.

In Jesus’ trial He makes a clear declaration of who He is. The Jews argued before Pilate in John 19:7, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” Matthew 26 records that at Jesus’ trial, the high priest tells Jesus, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”Jesus replies, “You have said it yourself, . . . But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” This would have been a wonderful opportunity for Jesus to save himself by clearing up any misconceptions concerning His relationship with the Father. Instead, He places himself in a position of equality and of unique power and authority. Again, the Jews understand what Jesus is saying. The high priest proclaims, “He has uttered blasphemy. Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy.” He calls for a vote of the council, and they demand His death (Matt. 26:65-66).

Another indicator of how Jesus perceived himself is in His use of Old Testament Scripture and the way He made His own proclamations of truth. In a number of cases, Jesus began a sentence with “You have heard that it was said, . . . but I say to you. . . .” (Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28). Jesus was giving His words the same authority as the Scriptures. Even the prophets, when speaking for God, would begin their statements with: “The word of the Lord came to me,” but Jesus begins with: “I say to you.”

There are other indications of how Jesus saw himself. For example, Christ’s claim to have authority over life itself in John 5:21 and 11:25, and His use of the self referential “Son of God” title point to unique power and authority and His essential equality with God.

The Apostles’ Teaching

We will turn now to look at what Jesus’ followers said of Him. The Gospel of John begins with a remarkable declaration of both Christ’s deity and full humanity. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Later in verse fourteen John remarks that this “Word” became flesh and walked among them and points to Jesus as this “Word” become flesh. What did John mean by this remarkable passage?

The first phrase might literally be translated: “When the beginning began, the Word was already there.” In other words, the “Word” co- existed with God and predates time and creation. The second phrase “The Word was with God” indicates both equality and distinction of identity. A more literal translation might be “face to face with God,” implying personality and relational coexistence. Some groups, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, make a great deal of the fact that the word “God” in the third phrase “The Word was God” lacks an article. This, they argue, allows the noun God to be translated as an indefinite noun, perhaps referring to “a God” but not “the” almighty God. Actually, the lack of an article for the noun makes the case for the deity of the “Word” more clearly. The Greek phrase, theos en ho logos describes the nature of the “Word,” not the nature of God. The article ho before the word logos shows that the sentence describes the nature of the Word; He is of the same nature and essence as the noun in the predicate; that is, the Word is divine. It is interesting to note that verses 6, 12, 13, and 18 of the same chapter refer unambiguously to God the Father and use an anarthrous noun, i.e., a noun without the article.(2) Yet strangely the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not dispute the meaning of these passages.

The author of Hebrews writes plainly of Christ’s deity. The first chapter states that, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” The passage also states that Jesus is not an angel nor is He just a priest. In Colossians 1:15 Paul adds that, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Although Paul clearly attributes godlike qualities to Jesus, the use of the word firstborn often causes confusion. The word can be a reference to priority in time or supremacy in rank. Since Jesus is described as the Creator of all things, the notion of supremacy seems more appropriate. Philippians 2:5-11 also talks of Jesus existing in the form of God. The Greek term used for form is morphe, denoting an outward manifestation of an inner essence.

Mention should also be made of the use by New Testament writers of the word Lord for Jesus. The same Greek word was used in the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, as the translated word for the Hebrew words Yahweh and Adonai, two special names given to God the Father. The Apostles meant to apply the highest sense of this term when referring to Jesus.

The Early Church

Thus far we have been examining the Christian claim of Christ’s divinity, first considering Jesus’ own self-concept and then the thoughts of those who wrote the New Testament. It is not within the scope of this essay to argue that the words attributed to Jesus by the writers of the New Testament are indeed His. Instead, we have argued that the words attributed to Jesus do claim an essential equality with God the Father. The traditional view of the Christian faith has been that God has revealed himself to us as three separate persons–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–who shared a common essence.

Belief in Jesus’ essential equality with God the Father was communicated by the Apostles to the church fathers to whom they handed the task of leading the church. Even though these early leaders often struggled with how to describe the notion of the Trinity with theological accuracy, they knew that their faith was in a person who was both man and God.

Clement of Rome is a good example of this faith. Writing to the church at Corinth Clement implies Jesus’ equality with God the Father when he says “Have we not one God, and one Christ and one Spirit of grace poured upon us.” Later, in his second letter, Clement tells his readers to “think of Jesus as of God , as the judge of the living and dead.” Clement also wrote of Jesus as the preexistent Son of God; in other words, Christ existed before He took on human flesh. Ignatius of Antioch spoke of Christ’s nature in his letter to the Ephesians, “There is only one physician, of flesh and of spirit, generate and ingenerate, God in man, life in death, Son of Mary and Son of God.” A little later, Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. A.D. 140-202.) had to stress the humanity of Christ because of Gnostic heresy that argued that Jesus was only a divine emanation. Irenaeus wrote, “There is therefore . . . one God the Father, and one Christ Jesus our Lord, who . . . gathered together all things in himself. But in every respect, too, he is man, the formation of God: and thus he took up man into himself, the invisible becoming visible, the incomprehensible being made comprehensible, the impassible becoming capable of suffering, and the Word being made man, thus summing up all things in himself” (Against Heresies III, 16). During the same time period, Tertullian of Carthage (ca. A.D. 155-240) wrote of Christ’s nature that “what is born in the flesh is flesh and what is born in the Spirit is spirit. Flesh does not become spirit nor spirit flesh. Evidently they can (both) be in one (person). Of these Jesus is composed, of flesh as man and of spirit as God” (Against Praxeas, 14). Later he added, “We see His double state, not intermixed but conjoined in one person, Jesus, God and man” (Against Praxeas, 27).

By A.D. 325 the church had begun to systematize Christianity’s response to various heretical views of Christ. The Nicene Creed stated, “We believe in God the Father All-sovereign, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all the ages, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not created, of one substance with the Father, through whom all things came into being.”(3)

The belief in Jesus Christ being of the same essence as God the Father began with Jesus himself, was taught to His Apostles, who in turn handed down this belief to the early church Fathers and apologists. Christ’s deity is the foundation upon which the Christian faith rests.

Notes

1. Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1985), pp. 684-90.

2. Merrill C. Tenney, The Expositors Bible Commentary, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pp. 28-29.

3. Henry Bettenson, ed., Documents of the Christian Church (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 26.

Historic Heresies Related to the Nature of Jesus

J. Warner November 27, 2017 Jesus, Theology / Doctrine, Writings

Over the centuries, believers have sometimes struggled to understand the nature of God and the great mystery of Jesus. The Bible describes Jesus as having the nature and power of God, and the Gospel of John tells us that He existed before the universe began (He was, in fact, the creator of the universe). At the same time, the Bible teaches Jesus was fully human and died on the cross. Efforts to reconcile the Divine and human nature of Jesus have resulted in a number of classic and historic misinterpretations:

Adoptionism (2nd Century)This heresy denies the pre-existence of Christ and therefore denies His Deity. It taught Jesus was simply a man who was tested by God and after passing the test was given supernatural powers and adopted as a son (this occurred at His baptism). Jesus was then rewarded for all He did (and for His perfect character) with His own resurrection and adoption into the Godhead.

Leader(s) in the Heresy: Theodotus of Byzantium

Corrector(s) of the Heresy: Pope Victor (190-198AD)

Docetism (2nd Century)
This heresy was coined from the Greek word, “dokesis” which means “to seem”. It taught Jesus only appeared to have a body and was not truly incarnate. Docetists viewed matter as inherently evil, and therefore rejected the idea God could actually appear in bodily form. By denying Jesus truly had a body, they also denied He suffered on the cross and rose from the dead.

Leader(s) in the Heresy: Attributed to Gnostics and promoted by the Gospel of Peter

Corrector(s) of the Heresy: Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus refuted it was condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451AD

Apollinarianism (4th Century)
This heresy denied the true and complete humanity of Jesus, because it taught He did not have a human mind, but instead had a mind that was completely Divine. The heresy lessened the human nature of Jesus in order to reconcile the manner in which Jesus could be both God and man at the same time.

Leader(s) in the Heresy: Appollinaris the Younger (bishop of Laodicea in Syria), 360AD

Corrector(s) of the Heresy: The Council of Constantinople in 381AD

Arianism (4th Century)
This heresy taught Jesus was a “creature” who was “begotten” of the Father. Only God the Father is “un-begotten”. In this view, only the Father is truly God; He was too pure and perfect to appear here on earth, so He created the Son as His first creation. The Son then created the universe. God then adopted Jesus as a son (because, after all Jesus and God are not supposed to have the same nature in this view). Jesus was worshipped only because of His preeminence as the first creation.

Leader(s) in the Heresy: Arius of Alexandria Egypt (250-336AD)

Corrector(s) of the Heresy: The Council of Nicaea in 325AD. The Nicene Creed was written to respond to this heresy.

Nestorianism (5th Century)
This heresy taught Mary only gave birth to Jesus’ human nature. The founder of the heresy, Nestorius, did not even want Mary to be called “Mother of God” but instead wanted her to be called “Mother of Christ”. In essence, the heresy maintained Jesus was really two separate persons, and only the human Jesus was in Mary’s womb. If that was true, then Jesus was not God incarnate while in the womb.

Leader(s) in the Heresy: Nestorius of Antioch (Bishop of Constantinople in 428AD)

Corrector(s) of the Heresy: The Council of Ephesus in 431AD

Eutychianism [Monophysitism] (5th Century)
This heresy taught Jesus’ humanity was absorbed by His divinity. The heresy is Monophysite in nature, derived from the Greek words “mono” (“one”) and “physis” (“nature”). In essence, the heresy claimed Jesus had only one nature (something new and different than the Divine or human nature that God and humans have, respectively). Instead, this heresy taught a third unique nature was possessed by Jesus; a blend or mixture of the human and the Divine.

Leader(s) in the Heresy: Eutyches of Constantinople (380 – 456AD)

Corrector(s) of the Heresy: The Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon in 451AD. The Chalcedonian Creed addresses this heresy.

Monothelitism (7th Century)
This heresy emerged in response to the Monophysite heresy (see above), but it also taught something denied by the Scripture. The name is derived from a Greek root that means “one will”. Monothelitism taught Jesus had two natures but only one will. Instead of having two cooperative wills (one Divine and one human), Jesus had one Divine-human “energia”.

Leader(s) in the Heresy: Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople (610 – 638AD)

Corrector(s) of the Heresy: The Third Council of Constantinople; the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680 – 681AD)

These ancient heresies have been revisited by believers over the centuries and even persist into the modern era. Unitarians, for example have embraced a view of Jesus very similar to the heretics of Arianism. The more we understand these classic heresies related to Jesus, the better prepared we will be to spot counterfeits when they re-emerge in our culture.

J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case ChristianityGod’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.

https://coldcasechristianity.com/writings/historic-heresies-related-to-the-nature-of-jesus/ Accessed 25/01/2020 19h00

HERESIES CONCERNING CHRIST
ANCIENT HERESIES RECYCLED IN THE MODERN AGE

“Only in Him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.” Acts 4:12

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'” John 14:6

The Catholic Church has always taught:

  • Jesus is both God and man,
  • He has both a divine and human nature but that He is one person,
  • He has always existed as God the Son, and He is equal to God the Father,
  • He is begotten of the Father; He is not a created being,
  • He was born as a human,
  • He died and rose again,
  • He ascended into heaven,
  • and He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

The problems for the Church came in trying to decide how to express this basic “Rule of Faith.”  Soon sincere men slipped into heresies when they tried to explain from their own understanding the nature of Jesus of Nazareth. Some of the errors in doctrine denounced in the early centuries of the Church continue today.

There are still those who deny that Jesus was truly God. Those who fall into this heresy believe that Jesus was a great man and a godly man but that he was not God.  In this heresy they deny Christianity since the doctrine of the Incarnation—that the Second Person of the Trinity came to earth as a human without ceasing to be divine – is the very basis of Christianity.  Generally, this is the belief of Deists and Adoptionists.

Other heresies stressed the oneness of God by denying the other two persons of the Trinity as persons in the Godhead. Monarchians, Patripassinists, & Modalists believed that God the Father and Christ is one person. They maintain that God the Father became Christ.

Others believe that He was the Son of God but not equal with God the Father. This is the heresy of the Arianists (the heresy that the Nicene Council addressed). Arianists believe that God the Father created God the Son, expressing the belief that God the Father existed before God the Son and made God the Son as he made the earth and everything else.  They assign the role of creator solely to God the Father while others believe in. God the Creator (Father), God the Redeemer (Jesus), and God the Sanctifier (Holy Spirit), as if there were three gods. This is the heresy of Polytheism.

There are also misguided Christians who believe Mary was the mother only of Jesus the man and should not be called ‘Mother of God.’  This is the heresy of Nestorianism which was spread by Nestorius, a monk of Antioch, who was the Patriarch of Constantinople in 428AD.  Nestorius preached that the Man Christ was not God; God only dwelt in Him as in a temple, and that He became God by degrees. In other words, he taught that there were two persons in Christ, the one human, the other divine.  Logically he had to deny that Mary is the Mother of God.  He said she should be called Christotokos (Christ-bearer), but not Theotokos (God-bearer). The Council of Ephesus in 431 AD addressed his heresy.  The Church pronounced that Christ is only one person, not two.  Therefore, Mary is the mother of that person and if that person is God then Mary is the Theotokos and deserves to be called theMother of God.  It was from the ruling of this council that “Holy Mary, Mother of God” was added to the “Hail Mary.”

Manichaeans taught that their founder, Manes (c. 215-276AD), received a higher form of truth than taught by Christ.  This is also basically the teaching of Mohammed (d. 639AD) the founder of Islam.  Both heresies deny the Trinity and the divinity of Christ.

To question Jesus’ humanity is also heresy.  It is the old heresy of Monophysitism.  Monophysites distort St. Paul’s statement that Jesus was “a man like us in all things but sin,” but they have trouble thinking, for example, that He was subject to illness or fatigue, or all the humbling bodily functions, or the desires or temptations that all men have.  They believe that instead of two natures, both human and divine, that He was human, but His nature was divine.  They denied that Christ had a true human nature.  The human nature, they maintained, was absorbed in the Divinity as a drop of wine in an ocean.  Therefore, they believed there was only one nature in Christ, and that was His divine nature, hence, mono = one and physite = nature.

Monophysites are very close to the heresy of Docetism and the Gnostic-Docets  These heresies basically believe that Jesus was somehow not subject to all the things that make one a human.  They taught that Christ merely assumed the appearance of a human body.  Docetism denies the reality of the humanity of Christ.  In answer to this heresy, St. Ignatius wrote: “For I know and believe that He was in the flesh after the Resurrection:  and when He came to Peter and his company, He said, ‘Lay hold and handle Me, and see that I am not a bloodless spirit’, and straightaway they touched Him and believed, being joined to His flesh and blood.  Therefore, also they despised death, nay, were found superior to it; and after His Resurrection He ate and drank with them, as one in the flesh, though spiritually He was united with the Father…. The Docetists abstain from the Eucharist, because they allow not that It is the flesh of our Savior, which flesh suffered for our sins, and which the Father of His goodness raised up.”St. Ignatius suffered martyrdom in c. AD 107.

 In 451, the Council of Chalcedon with nearly 600 Bishops assembled settled the issue by declaring the Catholic doctrine of the two natures in one Divine Person of Christ.  All present arose and exclaimed “That is the faith of the Fathers; that is the faith of the Apostles!  So we all believe!  Peter has spoken through Leo!”  However, parts of the Church did not accept the definition of this heresy by the Council of Chalcedon.  The Monophysite controversy went on for nearly a hundred years.  Finally, all those parts of the Eastern Empire where Greek was not the language of the people severed themselves from the Universal Church in Rome and some have remained in schism: some of the Copts in Egypt, the Jacobites in Syria, the Armenians, and the Abyssinians.

The Monophysite heresy led to the Monotheletism heresy (mono = one and thelema = will).  To conciliate the Monophysites, Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople in 610 AD, thought that by declaring that there was only one will in Christ, the Syrian and Egyptian Monophysites would be satisfied and give up their schism.  The Church opposed this teaching in the VI Council of Constantinople.  The Church maintained that Christ was one person, with two natures both human and divine and that both natures were in perfect accord.

These are heresies that relate directly to Christ.  There are many others.  Another heresy popular today is the heresy of Pelagianism, the belief that humans can obtain salvation solely through their own efforts.

Acts 4:12 “Only in Him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.

John 14:6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'”

Ancient heresies which have been recycled into the “New Age” movements and cults of today:

  1. Deists and Adoptionists: Deny that Jesus was fully divine.  Those who fall into this heresy believe Jesus was a great teacher and a godly man, but He was not God.
  2. Monarchians, Patripassinists, and Modalists: These heresies stress the oneness of God by denying the other two persons of the Trinity as “Persons” in the Godhead.  They maintain that God the Father became God the Son.
  3. Arianists: They believed Jesus was the Son of God but that He was a created being and therefore not equal with God.  Jesus is begotten not created.
  4. Polytheism: Regards the Holy Trinity as three separate gods.
  5. Nestorianism: Believed Mary was only the mother of Jesus the man and should not be addressed as the Mother of God as though Jesus was two separate persons instead of one person with two natures.
  6. Manichaeans: Denied the Holy Trinity and the divinity of Christ.
  7. Monophysitism: Denied Jesus had a true human nature and acknowledged only Jesus’ divine nature.
  8. Monotheletism: Believed that Jesus is two persons but with one divine will.  The Council of Constantinople VI opposed this teaching and maintained that Christ is one person, with two natures, human and divine, and two wills bit both His natures and His wills were in perfect accord.
  9. Pelagianism: The belief that humans can obtain salvation outside of Christ solely through their own efforts.
  10. Gnosticism: Belief that salvation can be achieved through a “secret knowledge”.  Matter is believed to be hostile to spirit, and the universe is held to be a depravation of the Deity.  The old Gnostic heresy has been re-presented as the New Age movement.  Although extinct as an organized religion, Gnosticism is the invariable element in every major Christian heresy today by its denial of an objective revelation that was completed in the Apostolic Age and its disclaimer that Christ established in the Church a teaching authority to interpret decisively the meaning of the revealed word of God.  The book The DaVinci Code is Gnostic heresy intermixed with the “sacred feminine: of paganism.”

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 1999, revised 2019 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Lecture 3

Lecture Outcomes:

The Humanity of Christ

  • Understand and discuss the main elements of the Chalcedonian Formula
  • Examine the main arguments relating to the Humanity of Christ.
  • Comprehend the major features of the Humanity of Christ
  • Explain the Unity of Christ as God and Man

Key Verse:

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15.

Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42.

“By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.” 1 John 4:2-3.

Visuals:

Bruce Ware, SBTS, describes why Jesus being fully God and yet fully human is vital to the Christian faith.

Why the Humanity of Christ is Important – 6mins

Did Jesus Have a Human Nature? – Jerome Van Kuiken
6mins

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/ unless otherwise stated.

The humanity of Jesus is as essential to the Christian faith as his deity. The New Testament teaching and the orthodox Christian position regarding the Person of Christ is that Jesus is truly God and truly man in the fullest sense of the terms. In His Person is a union of two distinct natures — human and divine. In this union the two natures did not combine or confuse so as to produce a unique, third kind of nature; nor was there a dual personality. Rather, the product was a single unique Person, a Person with two natures. Jesus is truly human in every essential aspect. Indeed, Jesus, being sinless, is the most authentic human being who ever lived.

Only as man can Jesus truly represent men to God, (Heb. 2:17). He understands our lives because He has lived it also, (Heb. 2:18). Because He understands, coming to Him we “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” (Heb. 4:15-16). As man He provided for us the pattern for living as men, (1 Pet. 2:21).

“What is the meaning of the Incarnation of Christ?”

Answer:
Incarnation is a term used by theologians to indicate that Jesus, the Son of God, took on human flesh. This is similar to the hypostatic union. The difference is that the hypostatic union explains how Jesus’ two natures are joined, and the Incarnation more specifically affirms His humanity.

The word incarnation means “the act of being made flesh.” It comes from the Latin version of John 1:14, which in English reads, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” Because of the near-exclusive use of the Latin Vulgate in the church through the Middle Ages, the Latin term became standard.

Biblical support for Jesus’ humanity is extensive. The Gospels report Jesus’ human needs including sleep (Luke 8:23), food (Matthew 4:2; 21:18), and physical protection (Matthew 2:13-15; John 10:39). Other indications of His humanity are that He perspired (Luke 22:43-44) and bled (John 19:34). Jesus also expressed emotions including joy (John 15:11), sorrow (Matthew 26:37), and anger (Mark 3:5). During His life, Jesus referred to Himself as a man (John 8:40), and after His resurrection His humanity was still recognized (Acts 2:22).

But the purpose of the Incarnation was not to taste food or to feel sorrow. The Son of God came in the flesh in order to be the Savior of mankind. First, it was necessary to be born “under the law” (Galatians 4:4). All of us have failed to fulfill God’s Law. Christ came in the flesh, under the Law, to fulfill the Law on our behalf (Matthew 5:17; Galatians 4:5).

Second, it was necessary for the Saviour to shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). A blood sacrifice, of course, requires a body of flesh and blood. And this was God’s plan for the Incarnation: “When Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering [under the Old Covenant] you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me’” (Hebrews 10:5). Without the Incarnation, Christ could not really die, and the cross is meaningless.

God did an incredible work in sending His only begotten Son into the world and providing us with a salvation we do not deserve. Praise the Lord for that moment in which “the Word became flesh.” We are now redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19).

Jesus was both human and divine. Please read about the divinity of Jesus here.

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns

Two natures of Jesus

The two natures of Jesus refers to the doctrine that the one person Jesus Christ had/has two natures, divine and human. In theology this is called the doctrine of the hypostatic union, from the Greek word hypostasis (which came to mean substantive reality). Early church figures such as Athanasius used the term “hypostatic union” to describe the teaching that these two distinct natures (divine and human) co-existed substantively and in reality in the single person of Jesus Christ. The aim was to defend the doctrine that Jesus was simultaneously truly God and truly man.

Historical development

The doctrine of the hypostatic union (the two natures of Jesus) was adopted as orthodox doctrine at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Three major schools of theology were involved at the council: Alexandria, Antioch, and the West. The consensus of these three schools in the Chalcedonian Creed illustrates the catholicity (i.e. universality) of the ancient church. ^[1]^ The creed asserted two distinct natures, human and divine, and affirmed the one person of Jesus Christ.

Biblical basis

One of the clearest passages in Scripture concerning the two natures of Jesus comes from John 1 (see on John 1). The Word (i.e. Jesus) “was with God, and the Word was God.” Moreover, the Word took on human flesh (John 1:14). Luke’s gospel also says that Jesus “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

Two minds and wills, or one?

“Some conclude that when Jesus took on his human nature he possessed two minds, a human mind and a Divine mind, with the human mind responsible for Jesus’ knowledge rather than the Divine mind. Others hold that Jesus had one mind but while in his mortal body he chose to have a subconscious mental part that was inaccessible to the conscious mind and then, after his resurrection, his humanity became dominated by the Divine so his subconscious became accessible.”^[2]^ For an example of the “two minds view”, see The Logic of God Incarnate, by Thomas Morris. For the “divided mind” view, which speaks of “two systems of belief [in one mind] to some extent independent of each other”, see Richard Swinburne’s Christian God, p. 201^[3]^. For a critique of these, see “The Inclusion model of the Incarnation: Problems and Prospects”, by Tim Bayne^[4]^.

The view that Jesus only has one will is called Monothelitism.

Leo’s “Tome”

Leo’s Tome refers to a letter in 449 from Pope Leo I to Flavian, Patriarch of Constantinople, expounding the orthodox Christology of the West. In this letter Leo maintains that Jesus Christ is one person of the divine Trinity with two distinct natures that are permanently united. These two natures share properties through the so-called communicatio idiomatum or sharing of attributes between the divine and human natures of Christ. Alexandrian theologians favoured this concept. It was used, but found less favour among Antiochene theologians. Leo’s statement was directed specifically against the heresy of Eutychianism. This letter was recognized by the Council of Chalcedon (451) as a statement of orthodox Christology.

The Communicatio Idiomatum

“A doctrine that is related to the Hypostatic Union is the communicatio idiomatum (Latin for ‘communication of properties’). It is the teaching that the attributes of both the divine and human natures are ascribed to the one person of Jesus. This means that the man Jesus could lay claim to the glory He had with the Father before the world was made (John 17:5), claim that He descended from heaven, (John 3:13), and also claim omnipresence, (Matt. 28:20). All of these are divine qualities that are laid claim to by Jesus; therefore, the attributes of the divine properties were claimed by the person of Jesus.”^[5]^

God and man forever

“Christ’s humanity was not a mere fleshly shell that God rented and used for a temporary amount of time. God did not just come to live in flesh as a man, but the ‘Word became flesh’ (John 1:14). God incorporated human nature into His eternal being. In the incarnation humanity has been permanently incorporated into the Godhead. God is now a man in addition to being God. At the virgin conception God acquired an identity He would retain for the rest of eternity. His human existence is both authentic and permanent. Jesus’ humanity is not something that can be discarded or dissolved back into the Godhead, but He will always and forever exist in heaven as a glorified man, albeit God at the same time.”^[6]^ Upon his ascension, Jesus was not deified, but rather was glorified.

Contrasting views

A variety of events led up to Chalcedon, but there were three opposing views that deserved the church’s attention. Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, and Eutychianism all challenged the view that the one person of Christ included a human and divine nature. While their goals may have been to unify the person or natures, each view was condemned as heresy.

Apollinarianism

Apollinarians argued that in the Incarnation the Son of God assumed a human nature but not a human soul. Instead, his divine nature took the place of the soul. This view diminished the full humanity of Jesus and was condemned at the Council of Constantinople in 381BCE. This view is similar to docetism.

See main page: Apollinarianism

Nestorianism

Nestorianism insisted that there were two natures but that there were also two persons: one divine and the other human. Rather than unifying Jesus, this view separated the person of Jesus along with his two natures.

See main page: Nestorianism

Eutychianism

This view essentially absorbed the human nature into the divine nature. In an attempt to unify the person of Jesus, Eutychianism denied the two natures of Jesus and affirmed a new, or third, nature. This issue is also similar to that of monophysitism (mono – one; physis – nature).

See main page: Eutychianism

Monophysitism, Miaphysitism, and Dyophysitism

Adherents of miaphysitism argue that it is different than monophyistism, “mia standing for a composite unity unlike mone standing for an elemental unity”.They argue:

“After the Union, Christ was no longer in two natures. The two natures became united into one nature without separation, without confusion and without change. Thus He was at the same tithe perfect God and perfect man. This is the union of the natures in the Incarnation. After the union Christ is not two persons or two natures. but one Person, one incarnate Nature of God the Son, with one will, but being at once divine and human.”^[7]^ The Council of Chalcedon resolutely affirmed dyophysitism over monophysitism and miaphysitism, saying that Christ had two inseparable natures in one person.

Notes

  1. John H. Leith, ed. Creeds of the Churches, 3rd edition (Louisville:John Knox Press, 1982), 34.
  2. http://www.biblicalanswers.net/subordination.html
  3. Sources found here.
  4. Available here
  5. http://www.carm.org/doctrine/2natures.htm
  6. “Can God be God if the Incarnation is Permanent?”, by Jason Dulle. http://www.apostolic.net/biblicalstudies/godbegod.htm
  7. “The Issue Between Monophysitism and Dyophsitism.” http://www.ninesaintsethiopianorthodoxmonastery.org/id21.html

Resources

  • Thomas F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008)
  • Alan Spence, Christology: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: T&T Clark, 2008)
  • Donald Bloesch, Jesus Christ: Savior & Lord (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1997)
  • Gerald O’Collins, Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus. 2nd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)

Sinlessness of Jesus

The Sinlessness of Jesus is clearly taught in the Bible. In Hebrews we read that Jesus “has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He is also described as “a high priest [who] meets our need – one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26) and is “unblemished” (Hebrews 9:14). Even Peter, who knew Jesus well, declared that he “committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). The apostle John tells us that “In him is no sin” (1 John 3:5) and Paul confirms for us that Jesus “had no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Even Jesus himself asked those around him, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46).

Sinless yet human

One problem arises from a study of the sinlessness of Jesus. Some have asked, “If Jesus never sinned, was he truly human?” Wayne Grudem writes:

“The key to understanding the duality of Christ’s human nature and His sinlessness is understanding that sin, as part of the human condition, is not the normal condition. God did not create us as sinners, but as a result of the fall, sin has marred our lives. Christ’s sinlessness is made clear in Scripture, from His 40 days in the desert, where Satan tempted Christ but failed to entice him in to sin, to the time of the beginning of His ministry where “the favor of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:40).” Systematic Theology, Chapter 26

Could Christ have Sinned?

peccabilty or impeccability

Heb.4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin.

The scriptures are very careful to present Jesus as sinless at all times (2 Cor.5:2; 1 Pt. 2:22; 1 Jn.3:5.)

The question that comes up and has been wrestled with through the centuries is if Jesus could not sin how could he be truly human? On the other side if Jesus could have sinned, how could he be truly God. This is why 1 Tim. 3:16 states, “Great is the mystery of Godliness, God was manifested in the flesh.” Since Jesus did not come through the normal means of conception He had no sin nature. Yet He was fully human, feeling the emotions we do, his body got tired, He became hungry and needed sleep just like anyone else. Jesus although fully human was not in the same category as man with a sin nature, although he looked like any other He alone was without sin. At his baptism he was anointed with the fullness of the Holy Spirit and was immediately led into the wilderness. The Temptation was God’s idea, not the devils. For it was the Holy Spirit that led him into the wilderness to fast. He was then tempted by the devil to keep him from the cross. His purpose in the temptation was to cause him to sin, where he was offered a short cut to his goal as the Messiah. God’s purpose was prove he was indeed the Son of God. The devil tempted him in three frontal attacks to disqualify him from being the saviour. Each time he questioned Jesus saying, “if you are the son of God.”

These three areas are the same areas we are all tempted in today (and we can have the same victory that Jesus did.)

1 Jn.2:16 The lust of the flesh- This temptation was focused on the human need for survival. The devil tempting him to use His ability to satisfy his hunger after 40 days of fasting by turning stones into bread (Mt. 4:3-4). Being at his weakest moment he came to have Him do something to feed his flesh. He certainly had the ability to accomplish this however He would have acted upon His immediate need in the flesh and would have broken His position of being in subjection to His Fathers will. While it is God’s will to provide for His needs it was not for Him to use his divine power independently. Jesus’ answer is that the word is the bread He is sustained on.

The pride of life- The devil next asked him to throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple. Here he could prove who he was without any suffering, he could have achieved a shortcut to glory without being trained and perfected in suffering. His dependence on God the father was tested. There are right and wrong ways to depend on God. If he had have jumped he would have tested God to keep His promises, as the devil himself quoted the scripture as assurance of God’s protection, wrongly applying it. Jesus would have tempted his Father to do something in the wrong time and way. He rebukes the devil by saying it is written “you shall not tempt the Lord your God.” Showing his dependence on the word of truth and his Father.

The lust of the eyes- The devil took him up to a high Mountain and then showed him all the kingdoms of the world, offering them to him in exchange for worship. This was an appeal to not worship God the creator but to worship the creature, called Satan. It was also to have him submit to the devils will of immediate rulership, again discounting the way of suffering to the cross.

All the world was the devils to give and he was trying to have Jesus violate the timing of having the kingdom under his rulership. Much like Esau he would have traded his birthright for the immediacy of what was being offered. Jesus chose God’s way of suffering in patience and not looking to an immediate result that was offered.

Jesus again refers to the truth of the word “you shall worship the Lord your God and him only will you serve.” Jesus successfully deterred Satan showing his sinlessness and that He is indeed the Son of God.

All these temptations instigate a response from the sin nature in man of which Jesus had none. The first Adam became a sinner by sinning, after him the whole human race had no choice, it was passed on as our nature, generation after generation. Jesus, as the 2nd Adam had the same choice to become a sinner by sinning. This was the purpose of Satan to have him sin and disqualify him from being the Messiah.

Could Jesus have sinned in his humanity while being God in the flesh? We need to understand that he was one person. If his humanity was separate it could have willed to do just as Adam did. While He had the choice to sin He did not have the ability. The humanity of Christ could never be separate from or unsupported from His deity. With Adam there was only one nature, with Christ He was supported by (and anointed) his deity as the Son of God.

In our fallen humanity we cannot act apart from our nature. Jesus however did not have the sin nature that we have. He was free to act perfectly in all situations. He acted upon his sinless nature obeying another’s will, that of his Father.  He was not able to go against God’s will because He did not have the nature of sin to have that possibility. He knew no sin (2 Cor.5:21) meaning He gained no knowledge of sin through experience. He came like a man (Rom.8:3) looking like anyone else yet without the sinful nature. As Jesus took upon himself another nature of humanity it did not have the indwelling of sin that marred man (Phil.2:5-8).

Jn. 8:46 He asks the people “which of you convicts me of sin.” Obviously they could not accuse him of anything.

Some argue that if there was no possibility for his sinning then the temptations were meaningless. The nature of the temptations were not that He could learn about faith as we do, the true purpose of the temptations was to demonstrate He could not sin and was in fact the Son of God. Jesus was born under the law but was kept free from any transgressions of the law. He came to do the Fathers will Jn.4:34 which is perfect. Since sin is falling short of God’s perfection Jesus was never less than perfect at any time.

He did not act independently on his own initiative even though He had all the power of God. He submitted Himself over to the Father obeying him in all things acting as a perfect man in obedience to God (as Adam was to before sin). He kept all of the law perfectly but this consisted more than just the outward obedience. Remember at the Sermon on the Mount he gave us the true definition of the law. There was an internal righteousness to the law that the Pharisees neglected to keep. They thought they had kept the law correctly by their outward obedience. However, Jesus pointed to what the law actually commanded, inner obedience. Christ gave us the true interpretation that they were to live up to. This was more than 10 commandments but 613. While the Pharisees argued of their not violating the law of “thou shalt not murder” because they physically did not commit murder. Jesus pointed out that if one has hatred in their heart toward another this was transgression of the law (Mt.5:21-26). So for one not to break the law they had to act perfectly from both the inside and out and not harbor any bitterness or animosity toward another.

Conformity to rules and regulations would only affect the outward, what we need is to be affected from the inside. That means a change of our inner nature, anything short of this does not change our Spirit which is to rule over our flesh. Anyone can practice Christian principles by tithing, doing good deeds, praying, and fasting. They can do these things and even be a Buddhist, not believing in Christ. What makes one a Christian is the new birth, a spiritual birth which gives one a new motivation and attitude from the heart, it is a change of man’s inner nature. This is why Jesus scolded the religious leaders of his day. They had the look from the outside down pat, but inside they were rotting from their sin. It is for this reason God came as a man to give us a perfect example of who He is so we can see how we all fall short. 

What of all the temptations were they genuine did he feel what we do? Each of us can relate to being tempted and have successfully resisted that temptation not giving in to the pull of sin. None of us would argue that the temptation was real and had a purpose in its end. The enemy has a different goal than God does.

In putting this in terms we can understand when one tries gold through a series of tests and finds no impurities in it, the test is no less valid then if some impurities showed up. Jesus was dead to sin, just as Paul says we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin. The temptation is there but he did not react to it. Let me give a human example: if I never had a problem of stealing any money in my life and I saw a dollar bill on a table as I sat down in a restaurant I would not be tempted to take that money, because I am dead to that sin. Jesus was like this to all sins. One cannot argue because he could not sin He was not a true human being because sin in its nature was originally foreign to our humanity. Adam was not sinful when he was created, although he did have the ability to choose. Sin became an intruder to the human condition. Temptability does mean one is susceptible to do that temptation. An army can attack another Army but that does not mean it can conquer it. For example, God has all power, He can create and destroy with the blink of an eye. Does this mean if he does not use his power he does not really possess it?

The temptations were every bit real as ours, maybe more intense since the enemy was working vigorously toward the goal of Jesus’ defeat. Since he did not give in, it does not discount how real they were.

Christ’s temptations were every bit like ours yet they could not bring out any desires. He was tempted from without but not from within, there was no internal reaction to the outward temptation. James 1: 14: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin and sin when it is full grown, brings forth death.” We can see where sin begins, we desire from within by an influence from without. We then act on it, first by entertaining the thought then by doing the deed. Jesus was dead to sin on the inside. Jesus was called the last Adam as a man, but had perfect humanity in even a greater way than Adam. While Adam had a choice Jesus could only do what His nature would allow. He was deity and cannot sin. God by his nature is infinite, Holy, righteous, perfect always, at all times. It is impossible for him to do evil.

If Jesus could have sinned on earth, what is to prevent him from sinning in heaven? This is the same environment that Satan fell in. This makes it clear it is not the environment we live in but what reacts on the inside. Jesus cannot be confronted with temptation even in heaven. Since He resurrected he is the first to be raised to eternal life bodily. He is eternally in this perfect state bodily so even though He can relate to our weaknesses from his temporary stay on earth as a human He can never be tempted again.

What of his agony in Gethsemane where He asked three times for the cup to be taken from him, He gave himself over to the fathers will, “nevertheless not as I will but thine be done.” Was he praying not to die a horrible death?  If He was praying that He would not have to experience physical death, He would be rejecting the very reason He came to earth. His obedience is expressed in Phil.2 says, “even to the death on the cross.” He would not be praying for the very purpose of his coming to be removed since He came to do the Fathers will. There are a number of passages that clear up this seeming contradiction of purposes. Jn. 12:2 7: ” \Now my soul is troubled and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour. But for this cause I came to this hour.” Here Jesus is reaffirming the reason of his coming. Throughout his ministry we can see who is in control of the events. He awaited the arrest of the Roman guards certainly knowing Judas would betray him. Jn. 18:11 during his arrest He tells Peter to put his sword away saying, “shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me.”

What was He experiencing in Gethsemane that tore his soul apart? In Mk.14:33 it tells us he was greatly amazed, meaning to be stunned with astonishment, He was feeling extreme pressure, sorrow, even unto death. This was so intense that there was an imminent danger of his of a total physical collapse as He had drops of blood coming from his brow. The anticipation of what was to transpire made His soul extremely sorrowful, and he was haemorrhaging. Lk.24:44 tells us he was in agony, in conflict with the forces of Satan who were trying to keep him away from the cross. If He would have died at any time before or in a different manner His sacrificed would not have been accepted.

As He asked about the cup His agony increased until he became prostrate on the ground. He asked if the cup would pass by, if there is another way, but He was willing to do the Fathers will.

In Jn.10:18: Jesus said “no one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of myself.” This cup that he asked to be removed from was the wrath of God by separation that he would experience on the cross. When we look at the symbolic usages of cups we find it representing God’s wrath poured out as punishment. While we are all born in a sinful state and have naturally the consequences of spiritual death by having separation from God. Jesus never knew of this, He was always in perfect fellowship with the Father and the Spirit from eternity. He knew something would take place but did not know what He would experience, that He would be in contact with the effect of sin. As soon as the sins of the world were placed on him as a substitute in our place, He was separated, suffering the wrath of God for us and cried out to the Father “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.” His fellowship was broken and He felt the punishment for sin. While no one knows what exactly transpired in this separation which lasted an agonizing 3 hours, we do know his relationship was fullyrestored before He died, as He cried out it is finished. The debt for sin was taken care of and He cried out Father once again saying “into your hands I commit my Spirit.” The agony of body and spirit was over, the debt that was incurred from the beginning in the garden was now paid and everyone here after can enjoy fellowship with God because He paid it in our place with his very life. As Zech. wrote, God speaking, “they will look upon me whom they have pierced and will mourn for him as an only son.” So a new covenant of grace based on the blood sacrifice was put in place to replace the old covenant that condemned us by the law.

He was made perfect through his suffering (Heb.2:10) because of this He can sympathize with us being our high priest (Heb.4:15, 2:18). “For in that he himself suffered being tempted, he is able to aid those who are tempted.” By becoming a man He can understand our human predicament. He lived it victoriously and can go before the Father representing humanity and pray for our weaknesses.

We are told he was marred more than any other man being unrecognizable. He went to endure 6 hours of torture, the last 3 of which He suffered our penalty for sin. He became the sin offering, the burnt offering. All of God’s wrath against sin was focused on Christ.  He broke no law and continued without sin as He hung there in our place. In excruciating pain He brought back you and I out of the enslavement of sin. Throughout the Scriptures we find the Old Testament types of the sin offering to be without spot or blemish.   John the Baptist introduced him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Lev.3: “offer it without blemish before the LORD.”

Lev.1:3 “If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD.” Jesus freely gave his live being the lamb without blemish.

Lev.6:25-29 tells us the sin offering is most holy before and after its death. He carried our sin away being perfect and Holy throughout his sacrifice. The great exchange our sins were given to him and anyone who believes on him his righteousness is given to them.

We now have Jesus as our mediator in heaven who has an eternal priesthood and position. All priests are taken from among men so it is the God/man Christ Jesus who is in heaven. 1 Tim.2:5: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man the man Christ Jesus.”

Jesus as both man and God, two natures in one person was able to be the perfect mediator for both parties. Christ became our mediator by His death (Heb. 12:24).

Christ represented man by dying as a man to fulfill the requirements of the law. If He was only a man it could only have finite value and He could not be able to save today. His death would only be applied to those living at his time and would hardly be superior to the animal sacrifices. The blood of animals were continual installments until the permanent sacrifice came. The Bible states He died for all our sins past, present and future. Because when He died all our sins were still in the future as we did not exist yet. As God the Son His death had infinite value because He is an eternal being and His priesthood is an eternal one. So unlike the Old Testament sacrifice’s which could never take away sins and only cover them, by Jesus it only had to be done once. Because he was perfect and sinless it was acceptable to God for all people of all time.

Heb. 7:25-27Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

Acts 20:28, we are purchased by blood that is sinless, this is reason for the virgin birth, that God would bypass the normal means to create a man without the nature of sin. It is this blood alone he would accept, the blood of Immanuel’s veins.

The mediatorial function is tied with the New Covenant which it is dependent on the God/man accomplishing salvation and distributing the benefits of it for those who enter into the Covenant.

In Heb.2:14, “we see Jesus was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death.” Was it his humanity made lower than angels?  No, all humanity is already in this position. It was the Son of God who willingly put aside his independent use of his authority and power and came in the flesh made lower in position.

Heb.2:17:  “In all things he had to be made like his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in all things pertaining to God. ” “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (1 Cor. 5:21.) 

The creator of the universe understood man’s predicament and came to be numbered among the people. While all the other religions have man reaching up to God hoping that they please him by their actions and religious activities. Christianity teaches God took the initiative entering time and space to become a man and bring us back in relationship with the Father. Only Christ offers the solution to the plague of sin.  No other religion deals with this common ailment of mankind for only the true God has the solution.

Heb. 10:9-12 then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, 0 God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. As the first covenant was growing obsolete he made a new covenant. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once forall. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.” His sacrificial act was finished he could now rest from that atoning work but continues in his intercession.

Heb:4:14: “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.”

We see that this clearly states that Jesus is still the Son. He was the Son before and he is the Son for all eternity.  He continues in his mediatorial role. Heb. 6:20 he is our high priest forever.  We find that Christ intercedes for us in prayer continually he lives to intercede what assurance we have that the one who came and gave his life for us is still personally involved in our lives with a hand of comfort. 1 Jn.2:1 “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Jesus is our advocate to the Father, certainly an advocate cannot be guilty of the same if he is to represent the people to God. An advocate means someone who is as a defense lawyer, and pleads our case to another authority. So although we may be guilty of sin, it is not counted against us because we stand in His righteousness.

While mankind has many solutions to our problems none of them clean up the source. In contrast the Bible speaks about a universal problem of mankind that is the source of all our afflictions, sin. Christ alone is able to give the new nature. Being both God and man He alone possessed a nature without the effect of the fall stamped on it. Jer.17:9: “the heart is deceitfully wicked, (incurably sick). God the creator is the only one capable of fixing what is broken in man. we need a touch from a divine agency the great physician himself. There is only one universal remedy to restore our alienation from God and cleanse us from guilt.

God has given mankind the blood of Christ, His life as the cure to remove the innate problem of sin. It had to come through the sinless Son of God, the perfect man to redeem all mankind back from their enslavement of the sin nature. “For the Joy set before him he endured the cross” What was that joy that he endured the cross for?  It was you and I, we were on his mind, and he would not waver, he was set on accomplishing the goal; He knew there was no other way. 

“Why is the humanity of Jesus important?”

Answer:
The humanity of Jesus is as equally important as the deity of Jesus. Jesus was born as a human being while still being totally divine. The concept of the humanity of Jesus co-existing with His deity is difficult for the finite mind of man to comprehend. Nevertheless, Jesus’ nature—wholly man and wholly God—is a biblical fact. There are those who reject these biblical truths and declare that Jesus was a man, but not God (Ebionism). Docetism is the view that Jesus was God, but not human. Both viewpoints are unbiblical and false.

Jesus had to be born as a human being for several reasons. One is outlined in Galatians 4:4–5: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” Only a man could be “born under the law.” No animal or angelic being is “under the law.” Only humans are born under the law, and only a human being could redeem other human beings born under the same law. Born under the law of God, all humans are guilty of transgressing that law. Only a perfect human—Jesus Christ—could perfectly keep the law and perfectly fulfill the law, thereby redeeming us from that guilt. Jesus accomplished our redemption on the cross, exchanging our sin for His perfect righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Another reason Jesus had to be fully human is that God established the necessity of the shedding of blood for the remission of sins (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). The blood of animals, although acceptable on a temporary basis as a foreshadowing of the blood of the perfect God-Man, was insufficient for the permanent remission of sin because “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, sacrificed His human life and shed His human blood to cover the sins of all who would ever believe in Him. If He were not human, this would have been impossible.

Furthermore, the humanity of Jesus enables Him to relate to us in a way the angels or animals never can. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Only a human could sympathize with our weaknesses and temptations. In His humanity, Jesus was subjected to all the same kinds of trials that we are, and He is, therefore, able to sympathize with us and to aid us. He was tempted; He was persecuted; He was poor; He was despised; He suffered physical pain; and He endured the sorrows of a lingering and most cruel death. Only a human being could experience these things, and only a human being could fully understand them through experience.

Finally, it was necessary for Jesus to come in the flesh because believing that truth is a prerequisite for salvation. Declaring that Jesus has come in the flesh is the mark of a spirit from God, while the Antichrist and all who follow him will deny it (1 John 4:2–3). Jesus has come in the flesh; He is able to sympathize with our human frailties; His human blood was shed for our sins; and He was fully God and fully Man. These are biblical truths that cannot be denied.

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns

Do you wrestle more with the God-ness of Jesus, or with his humanity?

That Jesus of Nazareth was truly and fully human was plain enough to those who saw and heard and touched and shared life with him (1 John 1:1). No one questioned his humanity during his ministry. What was not apparent at first, and revealed carefully and convincingly in his life and resurrection, was that he also was God.

But it wasn’t long after his ascension that questions came from the opposite direction. His closest disciples, who knew his humanity full well, worshiped him as God (Matthew 28:17), but the first generation of Christians started from a different place. They began with him as God, and tended to struggle with the fullness of his humanness. The first heresy the fledging church faced was that he wasn’t truly man (1 John 4:2; 2 John 7).

The seesaw oscillated back and forth in the early centuries of the church, and has for two thousand years. His opponents have rejected his deity, and too many of his worshipers have been slow to own the extent of his manhood. The ancient doubts about the God-man, full and perfect in his divinity and humanity, have come down to us today, even among those who call themselves his followers.

Human, All the Way Down

“Not only does the Son of God have a fully human body, but also a fully human mind, heart, and will.”

For those on the left, his humanity is plain enough in history, and in the perceived nonsense of a man actually being God. What’s in question, or “re-mythologized,” is in what sense he is really divine. Was he really God’s son? But we Bible-believers have our own tendencies and troubles as well. Even among those of us who are quick and unashamed to confess him as Lord and God, we often have not wrestled deeply with the unnerving extent of his “incarnation” — that the eternal divine “Word became flesh” (John 1:14).

Have evangelicals today lost our wonder at the true and full humanity of Christ? In fighting for his deity, as we should, have we overlooked how human — how shockingly human — God himself became in Jesus of Nazareth?

Advent is a ripe opportunity for rehearsing not just the easy parts of the incarnation, but also the uncomfortable and challenging aspects of what it means that our Lord is fully human. Not only did the Son of God have — and still has — a fully human body, but also a fully human mind, heart, and will.

His Human Body

The New Testament is clear enough that Jesus has a human body. John 1:14 means at least this, and more: “The Word became flesh.” His humanity became one of the first tests of orthodoxy (1 John 4:2; 2 John 7). He was born (Luke 2:7). He grew (Luke 2:40, 52). He grew tired (John 4:6) and got thirsty (John 19:28) and hungry (Matthew 4:2). He became physically weak (Matthew 4:11; Luke 23:26). He died (Luke 23:46). And he had a real human body after his resurrection (Luke 24:39; John 20:20, 27).

His Human Heart

“The Scriptures plainly affirm that Jesus both knows all things as God and doesn’t know all things as man.”

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus clearly displays human emotions. Here it begins to get a little more difficult for us. When Jesus heard the centurion’s words of faith, “he marveled” (Matthew 8:10). He says in Matthew 26:38 that his “soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” In John 11:33–35, Jesus is “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled,” and even weeps. John 12:27 says, “Now is my soul troubled,” and in John 13:21, he is “troubled in his spirit.” The author to the Hebrews writes that “Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7).

As John Calvin memorably summed it up, “Christ has put on our feelings along with our flesh.”

His Human Mind

But the waters get even deeper. Jesus also has a human mind. We have only experienced one mind, and simply cannot fathom what it would be like for one person to have both a human mind and a divine mind. Two key texts press us toward this mind-boggling truth:

Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52)

“Concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32)

The second verse, of course, is striking for those of us with a high view of Christ. And it is, of course, from the mouth of Christ himself. For Christians who affirm his deity, Mark 13:32 seems like trouble. But what looks difficult at first glance proves, with some thorough reflection, to be a glorious confirmation of Jesus’s full humanity. Perhaps put most provocatively, the question goes like this: If Jesus is truly God, and God knows everything, how can Jesus not know when his own second coming will be?

“Have we overlooked how human — how shockingly human — God himself became in Jesus of Nazareth?”

The mature and carefully formulated answer of church history is this: In addition to being fully divine, Jesus is fully human. His one person has both an infinite, divine mind and a finite, human mind. He can be said not to know things, as in Mark 13:32, because he is genuinely human and finite — and human minds are not omniscient. And Jesus can be said to know all things, as in John 21:17, because he is divine and infinite in his knowledge.

Paradoxical as it is, the Scriptures plainly affirm that Jesus both knows all things as God and doesn’t know all things as man. For the unique, two-natured, singular person of Christ, this is no contradiction, but a peculiar glory of the God-man.

His Human Will

But the reality of a human-divine Christ stretches our comprehension even further still. Perhaps trickiest of all, Jesus not only has a divine will, but also a human will. We affirm two wills in Christ — one divine and one human. Again, the tracks are laid by two key texts:

“I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38)

Jesus prays to the Father, “Not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Jesus has an infinite, divine will that is the will of his Father (one will in God). And as man, he has a finite, human will that, while being an authentic human will, is perfectly in sync with, and submissive to, the divine will.

It is a great mystery, beyond our experience and understanding, and beyond what we will ever know as mere humans. But where it leads for those who call him Lord is not ultimately to confusion, but to worship. Jesus is one truly spectacular person. He is fully God. And he is fully man. Would we want to fix our eternal honor and worship on one who was not utterly unique? There is only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).

True Human, True Healing

“Christ has put on our feelings along with our flesh.”

Jesus is like us in every respect — human body, heart, mind, and will — except for sin (Hebrews 2:17; 4:15). How amazing that the divine Son of God would not just take on part of our humanity on that first Christmas, but all of it — and then take that true humanity all the way to the cross for us, and now into heaven and the new creation.

Jesus took a human body to save our bodies. And he took a human mind to save our minds. Without becoming man in his emotions, he could not have rescued our hearts. And without taking a human will, he could not save our broken and wandering wills. In the words of Gregory of Nazianzus, “That which he has not assumed he has not healed.”

He became man in full, so that he might save us in full. He is a truly marvelous Savior.

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.

Lecture 4

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/

The problem of the Hypostatic Union of the Deity and the Humanity of Christ and the integrity and necessity of this union for salvation.

After reading this lecture you should grasp the meaning of the Hypostatic Union:

  • Hypostatic Union:Understand and discuss the main elements of the Chalcedonian Formula
  • Examine the main arguments relating to the Deity of Christ.
  • Comprehend the major features of the Deity of Christ
  • Explain the Unity of Christ as God and Man

10 Reasons why Jesus is God

9mins

Ravi Zacharias

The Truth

“Is Jesus God in the flesh? Why is it important that Jesus is God in the flesh?”

Answer:
Since Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38), the real identity of Jesus Christ has always been questioned by skeptics. It began with Mary’s fiancé, Joseph, who was afraid to marry her when she revealed that she was pregnant (Matthew 1:18-24). He took her as his wife only after the angel confirmed to him that the child she carried was the Son of God.

Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of God’s Son: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). When the angel spoke to Joseph and announced the impending birth of Jesus, he alluded to Isaiah’s prophecy: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:23). This did not mean they were to name the baby Immanuel; it meant that “God with us” was the baby’s identity. Jesus was God coming in the flesh to dwell with man.

Jesus Himself understood the speculation about His identity. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13; Mark 8:27). The answers varied, as they do today. Then Jesus asked a more pressing question: “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Peter gave the right answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus affirmed the truth of Peter’s answer and promised that, upon that truth, He would build His church (Matthew 16:18).

The true nature and identity of Jesus Christ has eternal significance. Every person must answer the question Jesus asked His disciples: “Who do you say that I am?”

He gave us the correct answer in many ways. In John 14:9-10, Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”

The Bible is clear about the divine nature of the Lord Jesus Christ (see John 1:1-14). Philippians 2:6-7 says that, although Jesus was “in very nature God, He did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Colossians 2:9 says, “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”

Jesus is fully God and fully man, and the fact of His incarnation is of utmost importance. He lived a human life but did not possess a sin nature as we do. He was tempted but never sinned (Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15). Sin entered the world through Adam, and Adam’s sinful nature has been transferred to every baby born into the world (Romans 5:12)—except for Jesus. Because Jesus did not have a human father, He did not inherit a sin nature. He possessed the divine nature from His Heavenly Father.

Jesus had to meet all the requirements of a holy God before He could be an acceptable sacrifice for our sin (John 8:29; Hebrews 9:14). He had to fulfill over three hundred prophecies about the Messiah that God, through the prophets, had foretold (Matthew 4:13-14; Luke 22:37; Isaiah 53; Micah 5:2).

Since the fall of man (Genesis 3:21-23), the only way to be made right with God has been the blood of an innocent sacrifice (Leviticus 9:2; Numbers 28:19; Deuteronomy 15:21; Hebrews 9:22). Jesus was the final, perfect sacrifice that satisfied forever God’s wrath against sin (Hebrews 10:14). His divine nature made Him fit for the work of Redeemer; His human body allowed Him to shed the blood necessary to redeem. No human being with a sin nature could pay such a debt. No one else could meet the requirements to become the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (Matthew 26:28; 1 John 2:2). If Jesus were merely a good man as some claim, then He had a sin nature and was not perfect. In that case, His death and resurrection would have no power to save anyone.

Because Jesus was God in the flesh, He alone could pay the debt we owed to God. His victory over death and the grave won the victory for everyone who puts their trust in Him (John 1:12; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 17).

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns

https://www.gotquestions.org/God-in-the-flesh.html

What is the meaning of the Incarnation of Christ?”

Answer:
Incarnation is a term used by theologians to indicate that Jesus, the Son of God, took on human flesh. This is similar to the hypostatic union. The difference is that the hypostatic union explains how Jesus’ two natures are joined, and the Incarnation more specifically affirms His humanity.

The word incarnation means “the act of being made flesh.” It comes from the Latin version of John 1:14, which in English reads, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” Because of the near-exclusive use of the Latin Vulgate in the church through the Middle Ages, the Latin term became standard.

Biblical support for Jesus’ humanity is extensive. The Gospels report Jesus’ human needs including sleep (Luke 8:23), food (Matthew 4:2; 21:18), and physical protection (Matthew 2:13-15; John 10:39). Other indications of His humanity are that He perspired (Luke 22:43-44) and bled (John 19:34). Jesus also expressed emotions including joy (John 15:11), sorrow (Matthew 26:37), and anger (Mark 3:5). During His life, Jesus referred to Himself as a man (John 8:40), and after His resurrection His humanity was still recognized (Acts 2:22).

But the purpose of the Incarnation was not to taste food or to feel sorrow. The Son of God came in the flesh in order to be the Savior of mankind. First, it was necessary to be born “under the law” (Galatians 4:4). All of us have failed to fulfill God’s Law. Christ came in the flesh, under the Law, to fulfill the Law on our behalf (Matthew 5:17; Galatians 4:5).

Second, it was necessary for the Savior to shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). A blood sacrifice, of course, requires a body of flesh and blood. And this was God’s plan for the Incarnation: “When Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering [under the Old Covenant] you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me’” (Hebrews 10:5). Without the Incarnation, Christ could not really die, and the cross is meaningless.

God did an incredible work in sending His only begotten Son into the world and providing us with a salvation we do not deserve. Praise the Lord for that moment in which “the Word became flesh.” We are now redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19).

Jesus was both human and divine. Please read about the divinity of Jesus here.

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns

What is Christology?”

Answer:
The word “Christology” comes from two Greek words meaning “Christ / Messiah” and “word” – which combine to mean “the study of Christ.” Christology is the study of the Person and work of Jesus Christ. There are numerous important questions that Christology answers:

Who is Jesus Christ? Almost every major religion teaches that Jesus was a prophet, or a good teacher, or a godly man. The problem is, the Bible tells us that Jesus was infinitely more than a prophet, a good teacher, or a godly man.

Is Jesus God? Did Jesus ever claim to be God? Although Jesus never uttered the words “I am God,” He made many other statements that can’t be properly interpreted to mean anything else.

What is the hypostatic union? How can Jesus be both God and man at the same time? The Bible teaches that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, that there is no mixture or dilution of either nature, and that He is one united Person, forever.

Why is the virgin birth so important? The virgin birth is a crucial biblical doctrine because it accounts for the circumvention of the transmission of the sin nature and allowed the eternal God to become a perfect man.
What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of God? Jesus is not God’s Son in the sense of how we think of a father/son relationship. God did not get married and have a son. Jesus is God’s Son in the sense that He is God made manifest in human form (John 1:1,14).

A Biblical understanding of Jesus Christ is crucial to our salvation. Many cults and world religions claim to believe in Jesus Christ. The problem is that they do not believe in the Jesus Christ presented in the Bible. That is why Christology is so important. It helps us to understand the significance of the deity of Christ. It demonstrates why Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Christology teaches us that Jesus had to be man so that He could die – and had to be God so that His death would pay for our sins. It is perhaps the most important area of theology. Without a proper understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished, all other areas of theology will be errant as well.

An in-depth study of Christology has incredible personal impact on the believer’s daily life. As we delve into the heart of Jesus, we begin to grasp the amazing concept that He, being fully Man and fully God, loves each of us with a never-ending love the extent of which is hard for us to imagine. The various titles and names of Christ in the Scriptures give insight into who He is and how He relates to us. He is our Good Shepherd, leading, protecting and caring for us as one of His own (John 10:11,14); He is the Light of the world, illuminating our pathway through a sometimes dark and uncertain world (John 8:12); He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), bringing tranquility into our tumultuous lives; and He is our Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4), the immovable and secure base who we can trust to keep us safe and secure in Him.

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

The Hypostatic Union: Its Construct and Importance for the Believer

Posted On December 22, 2015

Christology: Christ, the Church, and the Christian Life | Featured

Mike Boling ( Contributor )

Michael lives in Belleville, IL, a suburb of St. Louis, MO. Michael holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Religion (Biblical Studies) from Liberty University and is currently closing in on completing a Master of Arts in Religion (Biblical Studies) from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He is an avid reader and blogger.

The Hypostatic Union: Its Construct and Importance for the Believer

The hypostatic union, while arguably not at the forefront of most believers’ minds when it comes to matters of theology, is nevertheless a vitally important doctrine, especially regarding the study of the person and work of Christ known as Christology. While certainly on what can be considered the more “nerdy” side of the theological spectrum, the doctrine of Jesus being fully God and fully man, and how it relates to the message of salvation within Scripture, is a doctrine for which more believers should be familiar.

In this article, we will define the hypostatic union and take a brief look at the history of the doctrine, with the focus being why this doctrine is important for theology as a whole. Additionally, we will outline how the hypostatic union sheds light on the person and work of Jesus Christ, most notably his full divinity and full humanity and how both aspects reveal who Jesus is, what He has done on our behalf, and what He continues to do for us today.

Hypostatic Union Defined

Definition

The term hypostatic[i] is derived from the Greek word hypostasis meaning “personal”. Thus, the hypostatic union is the “personal union” or joining of the two natures of Jesus, namely His divine and human natures. Theologian Louis Berkhof helps shed some further light on the terms nature and person as they relate to the doctrine of the hypostatic union. He aptly comments the “term nature denotes the sum-total of all the essential qualities of a thing, that which makes it what it is…The term person denotes a complete substance endowed with reason, and, consequently, a responsible subject of its own actions.”[ii] To break that down a bit further, the nature of something includes the entirety of that something to include all its qualities or attributes. Since Jesus retained all of His divine attributes, His nature remained fully God. Moreover, the person of Jesus must include the reality that being fully human, He had the capability of reason and was responsible for His own actions.

While the specific phrase “hypostatic union” cannot directly be located in Scripture, the dual nature of Christ is nevertheless clearly evident. Furthermore, the hypostatic union is a doctrine widely accepted by the Church as accurately reflecting Jesus as both God (fully divine) and man (fully human). Douglas Kelly rightly notes the importance of this doctrine by stating, “In order to be the Mediator between God and mankind, so as to bring them back together, thereby saving lost humanity, Christ had to become man, while remaining at the same time God.”[iii]

History of the Doctrine

Council of Chalcedon

The Church had long affirmed the incarnation of Jesus, but the question remained as to how He could be fully God and fully man. Previous attempts by individuals such as Nestorius suggested Jesus existed as two different persons – Jesus as the man, and Jesus as God. This approach was rejected at the Council of Ephesus under the belief it created too much difficulty for Jesus to be treated as a human being. Another approach presented by Eutyches went the opposite direction with the emphasis placed on the union of the two natures of Jesus combining into one nature following the incarnation. Due to the obvious need to solidify a biblical stance on this important issue, over 500 bishops met at Chalcedon. Their goal was to develop a “coherent Christological position that walked the line between the Nestorian heresy (two persons in Christ) on the one hand and the Eutychean heresy (only one nature in Christ) on the other.”[iv]

What the Council of Chalcedon developed was founded upon earlier councils and creeds while further elaborating and identifying a needed distinction between the ideas of what comprises a person and the nature of something. It was determined Jesus had two natures in one person, both necessary for Him to be fully God and fully man. In relation to the Incarnation, the Council stated Jesus did not assume the human person; conversely, He assumed the human nature which was an important distinction. While the Council established was a helpful set of boundaries by which to better approach the reality of Jesus being both fully God and fully man without veering to the extremes of either Nestorianism or Eutychianism.

Chalcedonian Creed

The essence of the Council’s position is found in the Chalcedon Creed, which in part declares Jesus should be “recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence.”[v] The Council of Chalcedon helped center the focus back to the biblical truth of the divinity and humanity of Jesus, two issues we will now examine in relation to their biblical and practical importance for the believer.

Application and Importance of the Hypostatic Union

Fully God

John 1:1 declares, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word refers to Jesus as the Logos, a term affirming His divinity. We also find the declaration that Jesus is fully God in Revelation 1:8 which states, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Thus, Jesus is clearly God from all eternity past and into eternity future. Being fully God, Jesus has all of the divine attributes attributed to God throughout Scripture. Theologian John Frame rightly notes, “Jesus, like God the Father and the Holy Spirit, is perfect love, righteousness, holiness, omniscient, omnipotent, eternal, immense, self-contained.[vi] The Apostle Paul affirmed the deity of Jesus in Colossians 2:9 stating, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” There is no doubt within Scripture that Jesus is the Son of God and thus fully divine in His nature.

Fully Man

We also find in Scripture the full humanity of Jesus through the Incarnation. Passages such as Philippians 2:8 note, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” This concept of Jesus being found in appearance is far more than Him merely looking like a man at first glance with the possibility of Him in actuality being something different than a man. The Greek word translated as appearance is schema which means “…the habitus, as comprising everything in a person which strikes the senses, the figure, bearing, discourse, actions, manner of life.” As noted earlier, this refers to His human nature and person, the sum total of who He was to include the capability of reason and responsibility for actions. The Incarnation then is the act of Jesus as God becoming human, God in the flesh.

Necessity of the Hypostatic Union

Now that we have established the theological validity of the hypostatic union, let’s take a moment to answer the needed “so what” aspect of the doctrine by taking a look at some elements of why Jesus being fully God and fully man is of the utmost importance. First, Jesus became flesh to be our Savior. Hebrews 2:14-15 states, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Perhaps one of the most well known passages in Scripture, John 3:16, also notes why Jesus came to earth in the flesh: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Douglas Kelly rightly comments, “In taking on our flesh and giving himself to be our ransom, he shows us who God is, as the one who ‘spared not his own Son, but freely gave him up for us all’ (Rom. 8:32).”[vii]

Second, since Jesus is both fully God and fully man, he is uniquely qualified to be the mediator between God and Man. The Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:5 states, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” The role of a mediator is to guide both parties towards a resolution. When used in reference to Jesus as our Mediator, the resolution involves the restoration of relationship between God and man. Jesus came to mediate a New Covenant through His shed blood on the cross. Puritan theologian, William Ames, once noted, “It was necessary that Christ the Mediator should be God, and man: for unless he had been God, he could not be the spiritual King of our souls, dispensing life and death eternal: and unless he had been man he could not have been a head of the same kind with his body.”[viii] Without the hypostatic union of Jesus being fully God and fully man, He would not be able to execute His office of Mediator.

Third, Jesus serves as our great High Priest before God. Hebrews 2:17 outlines this priestly office stating, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” The Old Testament priests had to continually offer sacrifices to God with the high priest going once a year into the Holy of Holies to intercede before God on behalf of the people. Since the sacrifices were but a mere shadow of things to come, a perfect sacrifice was promised. As noted by John Frame, “Jesus as Priest offers the greatest sacrifice, his own body, and he now lives forever to make intercession for his redeemed people.”[ix] Being fully man, Jesus is able to sympathize with those He represents. Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” As the Son of God, Jesus was sent by His Father to be the perfect sacrificial atonement for our sins and as a result, also appointed by God for that office. Thus He is uniquely qualified to be our Great High Priest before the throne of God.

Finally, the hypostatic union is important in order for Jesus to fulfill the prophecy of a King that would come through the line of David, the long promised Messianic King. As God, Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords as noted in Revelation 19:16. Furthermore, as declared in Luke 1:33, His throne endures forever and His kingdom has no end. As King, all glory and honor are due His name. Moreover, Jesus being fully man fulfills the prophecies revealed in Scripture of Jesus as being from the “line of David”. Isaiah 9:7 promised “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” Theologian John Owen reminds us that His “being clothed with our nature derogates (detracts) nothing from the true reason of divine worship due unto him, but adds an effectual motive unto it. He is, therefore, the immediate object of all duties of religion, internal and external; and in the dispensation of God towards us, none of them can be performed in a due manner without a respect unto him.”[x] In the hypostatic union, we see Jesus as eternal King, and as the King who will sit on the throne of David forever.

A Final Note…

The doctrine of the hypostatic union is far more than some dry and dusty theological term to be studied by theologians surrounded by a giant pile of scholarly works (although such people are prone to use the term). In reality, this doctrine is of great importance to the subject of Christology as a whole, and for believers to better grasp what Christ did on our behalf. To properly understand the person and work of Christ, as believers, we must appreciate Him as being both fully God and fully man. As both God and man, He alone is our Savior, Mediator, Priest, and King. It was necessary for Jesus to voluntarily come in the flesh to fulfill the will of His Father—that being the redemption and reconciliation of humanity to God through the cross. Unless Jesus was fully God and fully man, this act of redemption would have been incomplete. As both God and man, He came to earth, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, rose again, intercedes for us before God, and will one day return as the conquering King.

As we ponder the wonder and magnificence of this doctrine, may we be reminded of the words of John Owen who stated, “It is true, it is the person of Christ as God and man that is the proper and ultimate object of our love towards him; but a clear distinct consideration of his natures and their excellencies is effectual to stir up and draw forth our love towards him.”[1]

This article first appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Theology for Life on the person and work of Christ.

[1] John Owen, The Holy Spirit (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2009), 187-188.

[i] David Mathis, “What is the Hypostatic Union?”, December 19, 2007, accessed October 26, 2014. http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/what-is-the-hypostatic-union.  Justin Taylor, “Thinking Through Christology”, November 5, 2011, accessed October 26, 2014. http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/11/05/christology-2/

[ii] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 321.

[iii] Douglas Kelly, Systematic Theology: Volume Two (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2014), 183.

[iv] Justin Holcomb, Know the Creeds and Councils (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 55.

[v] Ibid., 56.

[vi] John Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2013), 889.

[vii] Kelly, 186.

[viii] William Ames, The Marrow of Sacred Divinity (London: Edward Griffin, 1642), 77.

[ix] Frame, 896.

[x] John Owen, The Glory of Christ (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2013), 105.

Lecture 5

Introduction to the Work of Christ

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/

By the end of this unit you will be able to:

  • Understand and discuss the main elements of the Work of Christ.
  • Examine the main arguments relating to the Work of Christ.
  • Comprehend the major features of the Work of Christ
  • Explain the Unity of Christ as God and Man in relation to Work of Christ.
  • Elucidate the major themes of the Work of Christ.

Key Verse:
1 John 4:10

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. NIV


This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. NLT

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. ESV

From out latest series with Dr. Ravia Zacharias entitled “Ravi Zacharias Answers Questions From Europe, the Middle East and America” This series can be purchased at

Why did Jesus die on the cross?

R.C. Sproul: The Necessity of the Atonement

40min

Catechism – The Three Offices of Christ

Here we learn the three offices of Christ as we continue to see who Jesus is and what he did and continues to do for us.

18min

In this Study Unit you will be introduced to the Person and Work of Christ.  The issue of the Deity of Christ has been hotly debated over centuries. The Bible clearly shows Jesus to be fully God and fully Man and over the centuries theologians have struggled to understand this essential truth.   However, over the years many heresies arose, such as the Arian controversy and others which portrayed Jesus as merely a good man.  We will be examining how Jesus can be both God and Man.   The doctrine of Christ’s humanity is less divisive than His deity, yet there are many who seek to diminish this dogma by attacking the Virgin Birth which is evidence of His supernatural manhood.

While we hold to our belief as Jesus being fully God and fully Man, we have to further examine the factor of His Unity as being both human and divine in the one Person.  This is essential to our understanding as believers and to this end we will examine the main elements of the Chalcedonian Formula.

The Work of Christ. Arno Clemens Gaebelein
  Arno Clemens Gaebelein was a Methodist minister in the United States. He was a prominent teacher and conference speaker. He was also the father of educator and philosopher of Christian education Frank E. Gaebelein.   The great work which the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s well beloved Son, came to do was to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. This finished work of the cross is the basis of His present work and His future work. What mind can estimate the value and preciousness of that work in which the Holy One offered Himself through the eternal Spirit without spot unto God! He procured redemption by His death on the cross. In His present work and much more in the future work, He works out this great redemption into result. There is much confusion in the minds of Christians about the present and future work of Christ. Many speak of the Lord being now the King of kings and Lord of lords, reigning over the earth. They speak of Him as occupying the throne of His father David in heaven. The church, according to this teaching, is His Kingdom, and that kingdom is gradually being enlarged under His spiritual reign until the whole world has been brought into this kingdom. All this is wrong. The Lord Jesus Christ will reign over the earth; He will have a kingdom of glory, of righteousness and peace on this earth; the nations of the earth will have to submit to His government, but all this is still to come. It will be accomplished with His visible Return to the earth, when He will claim as the second Man the dominion of the earth. His kingly rule is future. His present work is of another nature. I. The Bodily Presence of Christ in Glory. Our blessed Lord gave on the cross the body, which He had taken in incarnation. That body died. It was the only part of Him, which could die. But that body so dishonored by man, scourged and nailed to the cross, could not see corruption. He arose from the dead. The mighty power of God opened that grave and raised Him from the dead. This mighty power of God, which brought Him forth is the power which is towards us who believe. It is on our side (Eph. i:19). And God not alone raised Him from the dead, but He gave Him glory (1 Peter i:21). If I were to teach on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, I would demonstrate two things. First, that He actually arose; the indisputable fact, that He who had really died, who was dead bodily, arose bodily, and, in the second place, the all important meaning of His resurrection. The Apostle Paul writes in that great chapter in First Corinthians, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished” (1 Cor. xv:18). In other words, if the Lord Jesus Christ came not forth from the tomb, where His blessed body had been laid and where it rested for three days, if He did not leave that grave in a bodily form, His death on the cross would have no more meaning than the death of any other human being. Then that blood which was shed could never take away our sins and give the guilty conscience rest. Furthermore, the countless beings, who passed out of this life trusting in Christ, would have all perished. But Christ rose from the dead. There can be no doubt about it. The witnesses for it are simply unanswerable. His Physical Resurrection. His resurrection from the dead was God’s answer to His prayers with strong crying and tears. “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered prayers and supplication with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared” (Heb. v:27). This took place in Gethsemane. The answer to His prayers and tears came from God on the morning of the first day. His resurrection from the dead was the “Amen” of God to His triumphant shout on the cross, “It is finished.” By raising Him from the dead, God set His seal to the work of Christ on the cross. God gave His witness by it that the work, which was demanded by His holiness and righteousness, had been fully accomplished. Guilty man can now be righteously acquitted from His guilt because God’s eternal righteousness was upheld and satisfied by His own Son in that He paid the penalty. before God rolled away the stone? He had shown that the work done was pleasing to Him. It seemed as if God could not wait for the third day. His hand took hold of the veil, which hid the Holy of Holies from the eyes of man. He rent that veil from top to bottom. He showed thereby that He, the Holy God, could now come forth in fullest blessing to man, and man bought by such a price, can approach into the presence of God and be at home with Him, a loving Father. Sinners saved by grace can enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way. And how did He come forth from the grave? It has already been stated. He arose with the body He had taken on in incarnation, the body which could not see corruption. He left the grave in a corporeal form. It was not a phantom, but a tangible body. The nailprints were still seen in His hands and in His feet. The side showed the place where the spear had entered. He appeared in that body in the midst of His disciples and showed unto them His hands and His side. And when at another time they cried out for fear, He said, “Behold, my hands and my feet, that it is myself; handle me and see, for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke xxiv:39-40). And while they believed not for joy, He proved His corporeality by eating a piece of broiled fish and of a honeycomb. But while it was the same body it was also a glorified body. Such a body, like unto His own glorious body, we shall receive some blessed day in exchange for the body of humiliation; for this redemption of the body we still wait as well as those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. Passing through the Heavens. In this body He left the earth and passed through the heavens into heaven itself. What a scene that must have been! What must have taken place after He had been lifted up and disappeared out of sight from the gazing disciples! They saw Him as He was lifted up, the same Lord Jesus, until the glory cloud, the Shekinah, took Him up and in that cloud He was taken into the heavens, where the physical eye could not follow. What a triumphant entrance into the heavens it must have been! Perhaps the mighty Archangel accompanied Him, the victor over Sin, Death, the Grave and Satan; for the Archangel will accompany Him some day in His descent out of heaven. The Lord went up with a shout (Psalm xlvii:5). He will return with the victor’s shout. When He comes back, He will be attended by the mighty angels. May not these heavenly hosts have been present as He ascended on high? And as the Man Christ Jesus passed upward through the territory, which is still the domain of Satan, the prince of the power in the air, the wicked tenants of the air fell back in fear and trembling. The glorified Man passed on, upward, higher and higher. Nothing could arrest His progress. The mighty power of God raised Him up. Through the second heaven He passed, where the wonderful stars, the creation of His own power, describe their great orbits around their fiery suns. He is still attended by angels, and the angelic hosts beheld Him, who were also the witnesses of His sufferings, His death and resurrection. At last a place was reached where every angel had to halt. Even the Archangel had to cover His face and cry, “Holy! Holy!” Yonder is the third heaven and there stands the glorious throne of God. The glorified Man advances alone; He ascended on high into the immediate presence of His God and our God, His Father and our Father. The welcoming voice of God Himself bade Him to take His seat on His own right hand until His enemies are made His footstool. What must it have been when the only begotten Son returned to His eternal dwelling place as the First begotten, and God as well as He himself beheld the host of redeemed sinners brought by Him into that Glory! The highest place was given to Him, who died on the cross, far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named. There He is now the Man in the Glory. Once more let me state it, the Lord Jesus Christ is corporeally present in the highest heaven. Everything depends on this. If His physical resurrection and corporeal presence in the highest heaven is denied, His present work and future work are an impossibility, and we rob ourselves of every comfort, joy and peace. Then, too, His atoning work on the cross has no meaning for us. A Fundamental Truth Denied. And too often this great truth of the bodily presence of Christ in heaven is denied in these days of departure from the faith. They teach, His resurrection was a spiritual one, that He lives only by His words. The denial of the literal resurrection of our blessed Lord and His presence in heaven has become very widespread. Three evil systems especially deny it. 1. Unitarianism. As a sect this denomination is small, but the leaven of Unitarianism is leavening Christendom. All this criticism of the Bible, the new theology, a more liberal religion, but all aiming at the essential Deity of our blessed Lord, His incarnation and resurrection from the dead, is the leaven of Unitarianism. At a recent annual service of the British and Foreign Unitarian Association the chairman observed that “earnest and thoughtful men, occupying pulpits once dedicated to the propagation of doctrines strictly orthodox, were now preaching a Gospel, which for liberality and broadmindedness even surpassed the Unitarianism of three or four generations ago.” 2. Christian Science. This new science is not new, but is the revival, through satanic powers, of ancient Gnosticism, a denial of every article of the faith once and for all delivered unto the saints. Prominent in this system is the denial of the physical resurrection, and the bodily presence of the Lord Jesus in Glory. It is the masterpiece of Satan. Its phenomenal growth attracts to its ranks such of the Christian profession, who were never saved or whose knowledge of the truth of God is insufficient. There will be no abatement of this great delusion. It will continue to grow and become more powerful as the Gospel is denied and God’s Word rejected. 3. Millennial Dawnism. This is another great and widespread system. In it Satan appears even more so than in Christian Science as an angel of light. It is offered throughout this land as “food for Christians” and goes by the name of “Bible Study.” One meets it everywhere. What is it? It is an amalgamation of several of the evil theories concerning the Person of Christ, denying, like Unitarianism and Christian Science, the absolute Deity of our Lord. “Pastor” Russell in his books also denies the physical resurrection of Christ. According to this system the body of our Lord was either dissolved in its natural gases or is preserved as a memorial somewhere. This, of course, means the denial of His bodily presence in heaven. But think of it! To say that the body of our Lord was dissolved in its natural gases, when the Word so clearly states “He could not see corruption.” II. The Present Work of Christ; What It Is. As Man in Glory, crowned with glory and honor, He is occupied in a present work. He is in the presence of God as the Heir of all things. He is the upholder of all and all things consist by Him. This great universe, with its innumerable stars and suns, is under His control; it belongs to Him. How man ever since the fall attempts to penetrate the mysterious depths of the universe! Scientists with their glasses scan the heavens and try to regain the knowledge of creation, which was lost by the fall of man, Their discoveries astonish us. How marvelous the heavens are! How they declare the glory of God and the firmament His handiwork! Often too has the search of fallen man into the depths of the universe demonstrated the truth of God given by revelation in His word. And yet the great questions we ask of astronomers concerning this great universe are answered with “we do not know.” Some day in the twinkling of an eye we shall know more about this great universe than all the knowledge gained by fallen man. But this universe rests in the hands of the Man in Glory. He is the great central sun around which all revolves. We do not know if there is any work to be done in connection with the great bodies which we see in the great space about us. We do not know what changes go on there. But we do know that all is in His hands. All is under His control. We must also think of the angels, the heavenly hosts. He has been made, after His passion, so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they (Heb. i:4). What may go on in this great world above, the world of unseen spirits, who can tell? But they are all under His control. How He sends them forth and uses them in His providential dealings with His people on earth, and how He restrains through these unseen agencies the wrath of the enemy and the evil work of demons, we do not know fully. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them, who shall be heirs of salvation” (Heb. i:14). This and much else, though not fully revealed, and hidden from us, belongs also to His present work. We mention this that we might have a higher estimate of our Lord and realize anew what a mighty and wonderful Lord we have. But there is a present work of our Lord in Glory, which is fully revealed in His Word. In the first place, He is the Mediator between God and Man, and being preached as such to the world, He exercises His office as the Mediator throughout this present age (1 Tim. ii:5-6). Besides this Mediatorship, He has a service which concerns those for whom He died and who, by personal faith, have accepted Him as their Saviour. The Lord Knoweth His Own. “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” What a blessed thought of comfort and cheer it is, which should forever banish fear and unbelief! The Lord, the One seated there in the Holiest, knows us personally. He knew us before we ever were in existence. He saw us before the foundation of the world. He knew all our vileness and the depths of degradation. He knew us as we wandered in our sins. His loving eyes followed us then. He sought us in His love and brought us to Himself. He gave us His life and dwells in us. Each believing sinner, saved by grace, is one Spirit with the Lord. “I know my sheep.” He calleth each by name, like a Shepherd calleth his own sheep. Again He said “I know them.” What a comfort it should be to our hearts, that He knows each of us by name. He knows our circumstances, trials, difficulties and temptations. He knows our conflicts and our tears. “He knoweth the way which I take.” It is very precious! In the xxxii Psalm we find the comforting word for one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered, “I will guide thee with mine eye,” or as it should read, “I will guide thee with mine eye upon thee.” That eye up yonder, that eye which measures the depths of the universe, which follows every planet, that eye which neither sleeps nor slumbers, that all-seeing eye rests upon us. He is occupied with each. The millions of His people who have lived and died, who passed through life and are now at home with Him, were each individually the objects of His care. His loving eye was upon the multitudes of martyrs. He knew and watched that poor tortured saint, who was cast with broken bones into a dungeon to starve to death. His power and love rested upon those who were burned or cast before the wild animals. For each He served and worked. And so He does still. Oh, the preciousness that each believer is under the loving care of the Man in Glory, the object of His love. Let us turn to a few Scriptures which reveal this fact. Living for Us. In Romans v:10 we read: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” What life is meant by which we are saved? Some have applied it to the life of the Lord Jesus Christ before His death on the cross, as if that righteous life, that perfect life, had any saving power in it for us. Hence the teaching that the righteousness of His life is imputed unto us. This is wrong. The life, of which this verse speaks, is the life which He lives now in the Presence of God. When we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son. And now being reconciled, much more are we saved by His life. By His life there, because He is there, we are saved and kept down here. Another passage in Romans may be linked with this. Romans viii:34: “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” The risen Christ is at the right hand of God and maketh intercession for us. However, not in the Epistle to the Romans is this present work of Christ as the intercessor of His redeemed people revealed, but in the Epistle to the Hebrews. There we read in the ninth chapter, “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true: but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” (Heb. ix:24). And again in chapter vii:24, 25: “But this man, because he continueth forever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” But notice all this is not spoken of those who are unsaved and live in sin. The unsaved who are not yet Christ’s have no share in all this. For the unsaved world the Lord is not the intercessor. He declared this truth first of all in His high-priestly prayer, when He said, “I pray for them, I pray not for the world” (John xvii:9). This was also foreshadowed in the Old Testament. The High Priest in His garments of Beauty and Glory had upon his shoulders two onyx stones, and upon his breast a breastplate with twelve stones. Upon both the onyx stones, upon the shoulder and the twelve stones on the breastplate there were names engraven. But these were not the names of the Egyptians, the Jebusites, the Amorites or the Hittites, but the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Our high priest in the highest heaven carries His own upon His shoulders, which typify His power, and upon His bosom He carrieth them; the bosom tells of His love. We are the objects of the power and the love of Him who appears in the presence of God for us. The fact that the names of the Israelites were engraven upon these precious stones also has a meaning. If they had been written there, they might be blotted out. They were engraven and could never be erased. It tells out the blessed truth of our security. His Priesthood. Two other passages in Hebrews reveal some of the blessed details of the present priestly work of the Lord in our behalf. “Wherefore in all things it behooved 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. For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews ii:17, 18). “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like we are, apart from sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews iv:14-16). The first passage tells of the propitiation He made for the sins of the people. He suffered, being tempted, and this is the basis of His intercessory service. The passage from the fourth chapter tells us how He was fitted while on earth for this great office work. While down here He was tempted in all points as we are, apart from sin. From sin within He could never be tempted, for no sin was in Him. He has gone through the trials, the difficulties and sufferings a man who depends on God is subject to while in this world, with the exception of sin. He has known while on earth every possible difficulty. Now He can be a merciful and faithful high priest and as such enter into all our sorrows and trials. He sympathizes with us in all our conflicts and difficulties down here. However, He does not intercede for the flesh — He has no sympathy with sin. By His gracious and unbroken intercession in the sanctuary, He upholds us individually in the path down here. He gives strength to endure. If it were not for that intercession, we all would fall by the way. How often God’s people fear troubles and difficulties, losses and bereavements, which might possibly come. What, if this favored child should be taken from me, how could I stand it? Or, if I should lose her whom I love? Or my health should fail? Perhaps my business and income stops, how could I ever stand it? Often that which we fear comes upon us. That loved one is taken and is put into a grave. Health fails and the income stops; instead of plenty there is want. But with the trial, with the loss, there comes such a strength to bear it all, and more than that, real joy and songs of praise. It is because the great High Priest lives and intercedes. He knows all about it and in the tenderness of His love and the might of His power, He takes us in His loving arms whenever trials and troubles come upon us. At all times under all circumstances He is our representative before God and thinks of us. And so it is with our temptations and our warfare with the wicked spirits. The enemy we have is most powerful and intelligent. He knows how to spread his nets. His wiles are most subtle. If Satan had his way he would overthrow and destroy completely the people of God on earth. If it depended on our strength, we would soon fall. But He knows. His eyes watch the enemy as they watch us. Peter’s case illustrates this perfectly. He saw the old serpent as he moved on his way towards Peter. He knew the cunning plan Satan had conceived to ensnare Peter. In Judas he had entered and taken complete possession of the disciple, who was never born again. He planned to fell Peter completely and rush him afterwards into despair. But Satan did not reckon with Peter’s Lord. Before the plan could ever be carried out, the Lord had prayed for Peter that His faith may not fail. And though Peter denied the Lord and fell, the Lord’s gracious intercession kept him through it all. And this is still the case with us. He prays for us before that foe can ever approach us and thus we can be victorious in the conflict and should we stumble and fall, as it is so often the case, then He is the great shepherd “who restoreth my soul.” How much we owe to this blessed, precious present work of our Lord in Glory no one knows. What blessed revelation there will come to us when we shall know as we are known, when we look back over our lives and behold what the intercession of the Lord Jesus accomplished for us and all the Saints of God! We have a great high priest who is passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. Another phase of His priestly present work is recorded in Heb. xiii:15. “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” He presents our spiritual sacrifices to God. Our worship, our praise and our prayers we address to God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, are all imperfect, but as they are presented to God by Him, they are acceptable unto God and delight the heart of God for that reason. His Advocacy. But there is a second aspect of His work in Glory in the presence of God for His people. He is our advocate with the Father. Some Christians think that the Priesthood and Advocacy of Christ are one and the same. They are not. His advocacy is that which restores us. In the first Epistle of John we read of this phase of His present work. “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (John ii:1). In the preceding chapter our wonderful privilege as the children of God is made known. We are to be in fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. What does that mean? Fellowship with the Father is when we delight ourselves in His basket Son, who is His delight, when we share the Father’s own thoughts about Him. The Son knoweth the Father and He has revealed Him and brought us into His own relationship with the Father. Fellowship with His Son is to enjoy this relationship with the Father. The condition for the enjoyment of this privilege in reality, fellowship with the Father and with His Son is, that we walk in the light as He is in the light. These blessed things were written that we sin not. Sin cannot rob us of our salvation, but it mars the enjoyment of that fellowship. The standard is that we sin not, and if we live in constant enjoyment of that blessed fellowship into which grace has brought us, we do not sin. But how often this is not the case. We fall into sin. Then the blessed revelation is given: “If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.” How grateful we ought to be that it does not say: If any man repent. The Lord’s intercession as advocate is independent of our repentance or of our asking Him to do this for us. It is the exercise of grace in His own loving heart toward us to restore our souls, to put us back into the place where we can enjoy His fellowship. The moment the believer sins on earth, He acts as the Advocate above. The Holy Spirit then likewise acts in that He applies the Word to convict and cleanse. The cleansing is by the water, the Word, and not a second time by the blood. Then follows confession from our side and the restoration is effected. Also notice that it does not say “we have an Advocate with God,” but “with the Father.” It is a family matter, and the Father is a Father who can do nothing but love those whom He has brought to himself through His Son. The conception that the Father is angry with His sinning child on earth, and that the Son of God by His pleadings inclines the heart of God to be merciful, is an unscriptural one. Another reason why He acts thus as Advocate is Satan, the accuser of the brethren. He still has access into the presence of God. The day will come when He is cast out of heaven, but that day will not come until the church has been caught up to meet the Lord in the air. “And the great dragon was cast out, that serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night” (Rev. xii:9-10). Because Satan accuses God’s people before God day and night, the Advocate is there to rebuke him. Every attack by accusation of the sinning children of God, the Lord Jesus Christ meets with the fact that He made propitiation; He died for their sins. He Shall not Fail nor be Discouraged. And this work of Himself as our Priest, the merciful and faithful High Priest and our Advocate goes on up yonder uninterruptedly. In Isaiah we find a word which speaks of Him, “He shall not fail nor be discouraged.” Well may we apply this to His present work as Priest and Advocate of His own. As Priest He will never fail. He will never fail in being about His own, in keeping them and sustaining them, in sending them help from the sanctuary in time of need. As Advocate He will not be discouraged. The same old failures in our lives, which humble us and break us down, but He continues in this service in behalf of His poor sinning people. Some Christians do not believe in the fundamental doctrine of the Gospel, that a child of God in possession of eternal life can never be lost. They think it depends on their walk and service. If one of His own could ever be lost again, if even the weakest, the most imperfect could be snatched out of His hands, His present work would be a failure as well as His finished work on the cross. But read the great high-priestly prayer He left for us in John xvii. There He prays the Father, who heareth Him always, that His own may be kept. His Work for the Church. Another aspect of His present work is what He does for His church. We can but briefly indicate what this means. He is in glory the Head of the church. The church is His body, the fullness of Him, that filleth all in all. Every believing sinner is a member in that body. The risen Lord Himself adds new members to that body. He puts each member into the body as it pleases Him. Each member is guided and directed by Himself. He supplies this body with gifts. “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. iv:11-13). Thus He builds up from the Glory His own body. Some day that body will be complete. Then we all come unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. That will be when we see Him as He is. Then His present work in behalf of His own, His coheirs, will be finished. Brought home from this wilderness to the Father’s house — safe home — there will be no need any longer for His power and love to sustain us. No more tears will then be shed, no more wounds of pain and sorrow to be soothed, no more help is needed for the time of need; all that is passed. Nor does He then need to exercise His office as Advocate, for we are delivered forever from the presence of sin and sanctified wholly body, soul and spirit. Sinning is then an impossibility. What a happy, glorious day that will be! III. The Practical Results of His Present Work in the Christian’s Life. The fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is in Glory occupied with us should lead us into a holy life which glorifies Him. That loving eye is never withdrawn from us. If we were to remember this constantly, what a power this would be in our lives! How many things would remain undone, how many words unspoken, and how many other things done, if we were constantly conscious of that eye which is upon us individually. He represents us before God, and we are to represent Him before men. A Christian is called to manifest Christ to be His representative. And such a life, which is unto His praise and Glory, is made possible through His blessed intercessory work and His presence in heaven. A true Christian life depends much on this heart occupation with the Person and work of Christ. As His presence up yonder and His service for us is a reality to our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit, we shall walk worthy of the Lord, and His blessed work for us will constantly be felt in our lives here on earth. What a joy it is then, as we reckon only with Him, who knows us, to serve Him, to depend on Him. And how we should shun anything which grieves Him. Encouragement for Prayer. These blessed facts of the Lord’s loving interest in us and our life in this present evil age, surrounded by dangers and evils of all kinds, will be a great encouragement to us in our prayer life. We can go and tell Him all about that which troubles us. If He is interested in everything which happens to us, down to the smallest matter, then we can go to him in prayer and tell Him about it. Some Christians teach that we should not do this, but leave it all in His hands without praying for it, satisfied that His will be done. But this is contrary to Scripture, for it says that in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving we are to make our requests known (Phil. iv:6). He delights to have us tell Him, and like John’s disciples we can go to Him and tell Him. His ear is always open. If in His service we become tired and weary, we can tell Him, for He was tired on account of the way. If hungry or without a resting place, He knows what that means, for He passed through this. If lonely and our best services are misunderstood, or the fiery darts of the enemy are aimed against us, we can speak to Him about it. All this can be so very real to us if we but go on led by His spirit. Deliverance from Worry. It should make an end of all worry and anxiety. We may possess a divine carelessness. Be careful for nothing. Have no anxiety. Why should we worry or be anxious? Worry is the child of unbelief. Anxiety can never stay if the eyes of the heart behold the man in Glory and faith realizes that all is in the hands of One “who doeth all things well.” Worry and anxiety accuse Him. Martha did that when she was encumbered with much service and then said to Him, “Dost Thou not care?” Each time we give way to anxiety, we act as if He did not care. But He does; and He would have us rest in faith and commit all to Himself.   Sharing His Work. In conclusion we must not forget that He permits us to have some share in this blessed work of His. While He prays for us, we can pray one for another, and for all the saints. He intercedes; we can intercede. He washes our feet, typical of the cleansing by the Word. We are to wash one another’s feet. He carries our burdens, but the exhortation also is that we carry one another’s burden. He forgives and restores. We are to forbear one another, and forgive one another, “even as Christ forgave us” (Col. iii:13).

The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Work Of Christ, by A. C. Gaebelein

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Title: The Work Of Christ

       Past, Present and Future

Author: A. C. Gaebelein

Release Date: September 17, 2008 [EBook #26643]

Language: English

“What is the concept of the vicarious atonement?”

Answer:
Vicarious atonement is the idea that Jesus Christ took the place of mankind, suffering the penalty for sin. Atonement is a term meaning “reconciliation” or “amends.” Vicarious means “done in place of or instead of someone else.” So, in literal terms, the Christian concept of “vicarious atonement” is that Jesus was substituted for humanity and punished for our faults in order to pay for the sins we had committed and reconcile us to God. Vicarious atonement is also referred to as “substitutionary atonement” or “penal substitution.

According to the Bible, vicarious atonement is an accurate description of Jesus Christ’s role in our salvation. First Peter 3:18 refers to Jesus’ death as “the righteous [suffering] for the unrighteous.” Mark 10:45 indicates that He came to “give His life as a ransom for many.” The fact that believers “were bought with a price” by Jesus, according to 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, should motivate us to give God glory in the things we say and do.

Second Corinthians 5:21 clearly says that God the Father “made him to be sin who knew no sin,” meaning there was an exchange that took place at the cross. Our sin was transferred to Jesus, and our suffering became Jesus’ suffering. His death was vicarious—Jesus was our Substitute. His death atoned for us—Jesus made amends between us and God. Jesus was condemned instead of us. Even in the Old Testament, prophets such as Isaiah spoke of the Messiah’s taking the penalty for sin on our behalf (Isaiah 53:5).

In broad terms, human beings are hopelessly lost and unable to be reconciled to God on their own. This is because of our sin, which no amount of good works can undo. Since God is perfect and holy, we can never hope to pay for our own sins in order to be with Him. So Jesus Christ was offered as our substitute. Instead of our trying—and failing—to cover the penalty for our own sins, Jesus became the vicarious object of God’s justice. With this exchange our sin was paid for, and we can be declared righteous in Christ (Romans 4:5; 8:1).

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

“What is the substitutionary atonement?”

Answer:
The substitutionary atonement refers to Jesus Christ dying as a substitute for sinners. The Scriptures teach that all men are sinners (Romans 3:9-18, 23). The penalty for our sinfulness is death. Romans 6:23 reads, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That verse teaches us several things. Without Christ, we are going to die and spend an eternity in hell as payment for our sins. Death in the Scriptures refers to a “separation.” Everyone will die, but some will live in heaven with the Lord for eternity, while others will live a life in hell for eternity. The death spoken of here refers to the life in hell. However, the second thing this verse teaches us is that eternal life is available through Jesus Christ. This is His substitutionary atonement.

Jesus Christ died in our place when He was crucified on the cross. We deserved to be the ones placed on that cross to die because we are the ones who live sinful lives. But Christ took the punishment on Himself in our place—He substituted Himself for us and took what we rightly deserved. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Here again we see that Christ took the sins we committed onto Himself to pay the price for us. A few verses later we read, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). Not only do these verses teach us about the substitute that Christ was for us, but they also teach that He was the atonement, meaning He satisfied the payment due for the sinfulness of man.

One more passage that talks about the substitutionary atonement is Isaiah 53:5. This verse talks about the coming Christ who was to die on the cross for our sins. The prophecy is very detailed, and the crucifixion happened just as it was foretold. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Notice the substitution. Here again we see that Christ paid the price for us!

We can only pay the price of sin on our own by being punished and placed in hell for all eternity. But God’s Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth to pay for the price of our sins. Because He did this for us, we now have the opportunity to not only have our sins forgiven, but to spend eternity with Him. In order to do this we must place our faith in what Christ did on the cross. We cannot save ourselves; we need a substitute to take our place. The death of Jesus Christ is the substitutionary atonement.

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

“What is the doctrine of substitution?”

Answer:
Substitution is one of the major themes of the Bible. God instituted the principle of substitution in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned. By killing an animal to cover their nakedness (Genesis 3:21), God began to paint a picture of what it would take to bring mankind back into proper relationship with Him. He continued that theme with His chosen people Israel. By giving them the Law, God showed them His holiness and demonstrated their inability to achieve that holiness. God then granted them a substitute to pay the price for their sin, in the form of blood sacrifices (Exodus 29:41-42; 34:19; Numbers 29:2). By sacrificing an innocent animal according to God’s specifications, man could have his sins forgiven and enter the presence of God. The animal died in the sinner’s place, thereby allowing the sinner to go free, vindicated. Leviticus 16 tells of the scapegoat, upon which the elders of Israel would place their hands, symbolically transferring the sins of the people onto the goat. The goat was then set free into the wilderness, bearing the sins of the people far away.

The theme of substitution is found throughout the Old Testament as a precursor to the coming of Jesus Christ. The Passover feast conspicuously featured a substitute. In Exodus 12, God gives instruction to His people to prepare for the coming Angel of the Lord who would strike down the firstborn male of every family as a judgment upon Egypt. The only way to escape this plague was to take a perfect male lamb, kill it, and put the blood on the lintels and doorposts of their houses. God told them, “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt” (Exodus 12:13). That Passover lamb was a substitute for every male firstborn who would accept it.

God carried that theme of substitution into the New Testament with the coming of Jesus. He had set the stage so that mankind would understand exactly what Jesus came to do. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” God’s perfect Lamb took the sins of the world upon Himself, laid down His life, and died in our place (John 1:29; 1 Peter 3:18). The only acceptable sacrifice for sin is a perfect offering. If we died for our own sins, it would not be sufficient payment. We are not perfect. Only Jesus, the perfect God-Man, fits the requirement, and He laid down His life for ours willingly (John 10:18). There was nothing we could do to save ourselves, so God did it for us. The Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53 makes the substitutionary death of Christ abundantly clear: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (verse 5).

Jesus’ substitution for us was perfect, unlike the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament. Hebrews 10:4 says, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Someone might say, “You mean, all those sacrifices the Jews made were for nothing?” The writer is clarifying that animal blood itself had no value. It was what that blood symbolized that made the difference. The value of the ancient sacrifices was that the animal was a substitute for a human being’s sin and that it pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9:22).

Some people make the mistake of thinking that, since Jesus died for the sins of the world, everyone will go to heaven one day. This is incorrect. The substitutionary death of Christ must be personally applied to each heart, in much the same way that the blood of the Passover had to be personally applied to the door (John 1:12; 3:16-18; Acts 2:38). Before we can become “the righteousness of God in Him,” we must exchange our old sin nature for His holy one. God offers the Substitute, but we must receive that Substitute personally by accepting Christ in faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

“What is the doctrine of penal substitution?”

Answer:
In the simplest possible terms, the biblical doctrine of penal substitution holds that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross takes the place of the punishment we ought to suffer for our sins. As a result, God’s justice is satisfied, and those who accept Christ can be forgiven and reconciled to God.

The word penal means “related to punishment for offenses,” and substitution means “the act of a person taking the place of another.” So, penal substitution is the act of a person taking the punishment for someone else’s offenses. In Christian theology, Jesus Christ is the Substitute, and the punishment He took (at the cross) was ours, based on our sin (1 Peter 2:24).

According to the doctrine of penal substitution, God’s perfect justice demands some form of atonement for sin. Humanity is depraved, to such an extent that we are spiritually dead and incapable of atoning for sin in any way (Ephesians 2:1). Penal substitution means Jesus’ death on the cross propitiated, or satisfied, God’s requirement for justice. God’s mercy allows Jesus to take the punishment we deserve for our sins. As a result, Jesus’ sacrifice serves as a substitute for anyone who accepts it. In a very direct sense, Jesus is exchanged for us as the recipient of sin’s penalty.

Penal substitution is clearly taught by the Bible. In fact, much of what God did prior to Jesus’ ministry was to foreshadow this concept and present it as the purpose of the Messiah. In Genesis 3:21, God uses animal skins to cover the naked Adam and Eve. This is the first reference to a death (in this case, an animal’s) being used to cover (atone for) sin. In Exodus 12:13, God’s Spirit “passes over” the homes that are covered (atoned) by the blood of the sacrifice. God requires blood for atonement in Exodus 29:41–42. The description of Messiah in Isaiah 53:4–6 says His suffering is meant to heal our wounds. The fact that the Messiah was to be “crushed for our iniquities” (verse 5) is a direct reference to penal substitution.

During and after Jesus’ ministry, penal substitution is further clarified. Jesus claims to be the “good shepherd” who lays down His life for the sheep in John 10:10. Paul, in Romans 3:25–26, explains that we have the righteousness of Christ because of the sacrifice of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, he says that the sinless Christ took on our sins. Hebrews 9:26 says that our sins were removed by the sacrifice of Christ. First Peter 3:18 plainly teaches that the righteous was substituted for the unrighteous.

There are quite a few different theories about how, exactly, Christ’s sacrifice frees us from the penalty of sin. Penal substitution is the most logically and biblically sound view.

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns

“What does it mean that Jesus took our place?”

Answer:
On the cross, Jesus took the punishment we deserved for our sin. He did not deserve to die, but He willingly took our place and experienced death for us. Jesus’ death was a substitution, “the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Peter 3:18), the innocent for the guilty, the perfect for the corrupt.

The doctrine of the substitutionary atonement teaches that Christ suffered vicariously, being substituted for the sinner, and that His sufferings were expiatory (that is, His sufferings made amends). On the cross, Jesus took our place in several ways:

Jesus took our place in that He was made sin for us. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB). As Jesus was hanging on the cross, suspended between earth and heaven, the sins of the world were placed on Him (1 Peter 2:24). The perfect Son of Man carried our guilt.

Jesus took our place in that He experienced physical death—not just any death, but the death of a lawbreaker. Everyone dies, but there is a difference between dying a “natural” death and being executed for one’s crimes. Sin is the violation of God’s law (1 John 3:4), and “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, ESV). Since we have all sinned, we all deserve death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Jesus releases us from that penalty. Although He had committed no crime (see Luke 23:15), Jesus was executed as a criminal; in fact, it is because He was sinless that His death avails to us. He had no personal sin to pay for, so His death pays for ours. Our legal debt has been paid in full—tetelestai (John 19:30). As the old gospel song says, “He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay.”

So, Jesus took our place judicially, bearing the penalty of sin and dying in our place. “When you were dead in your sins . . . , God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13–14). In other words, God nailed all the accusations against us to the cross. God will never see believers in Christ as deserving the death penalty because our crimes have already been punished in the physical body of Jesus (see Romans 8:1).

God’s Law says, “You are guilty of sin against a holy God. Justice demands your life.” Jesus answers, “Take My life instead.” The fact that Jesus took our place shows God’s great love: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

But the penalty for sin extends beyond physical death to include a spiritual separation from God. Again, in this matter, Jesus took our place. Part of Christ’s agony on the cross was a feeling of separation from the Father. After three hours of supernatural darkness in the land, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, we need never experience that sense of abandonment (Hebrews 13:5). We can never fathom, at least in this life, how much God the Son suffered in taking our place.

We know Jesus’ suffering was intense. In the days leading up to the crucifixion, Jesus expressed distress about what was coming (John 12:27). But those who tried to dissuade Him from going to the cross were sharply rebuked—the offer to avoid the ordeal was a temptation from Satan himself (Matthew 16:21–23), and Jesus had not come to take the easy way out. On the night of His arrest, Jesus was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). Even with having an angel to strengthen Him, Jesus actually sweated blood (Luke 22:43–44).

In order for us to be saved, Jesus had to take our place and die for sin. He had to lay down His life as a sacrifice, because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). His sacrifice was perfect in holiness, in worth, and in power to save. After His resurrection, Jesus showed His scars to the apostles (John 20:26–27). As long as our salvation lasts (forever), the marks of our Savior’s suffering will be visible (Revelation 5:6)—an eternal reminder that He took our place.

“Surely he took up our pain
  and bore our suffering. . . .
He was pierced for our transgressions,
  he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
  and by his wounds we are healed. . . .
The Lord has laid on him
  the iniquity of us all”
(Isaiah 53:4–6).

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

“What are the various theories on the atonement?”

Answer:
Throughout church history, several different views of the atonement, some true and some false, have been put forth by different individuals or denominations. One of the reasons for the various views is that both the Old and New Testaments reveal many truths about Christ’s atonement, making it hard, if not impossible, to find any single “theory” that fully encapsulates or explains the richness of the atonement. What we discover as we study the Scriptures is a rich and multifaceted picture of the atonement as the Bible puts forth many interrelated truths concerning the redemption that Christ has accomplished. Another contributing factor to the many different theories of the atonement is that much of what we can learn about the atonement needs to be understood from the experience and perspective of God’s people under the Old Covenant sacrificial system.

The atonement of Christ, its purpose and what it accomplished, is such a rich subject that volumes have been written about it. This article will simply provide a brief overview of many of the theories that have been put forward at one time or another. In looking at the different views of the atonement, we must remember that any view that does not recognize the sinfulness of man or the substitutionary nature of the atonement is deficient at best and heretical at worst.

Ransom to Satan: This view sees the atonement of Christ as a ransom paid to Satan to purchase man’s freedom and release him from being enslaved to Satan. It is based on a belief that man’s spiritual condition is bondage to Satan and that the meaning of Christ’s death was to secure God’s victory over Satan. This theory has little, if any, scriptural support and has had few supporters throughout church history. It is unbiblical in that it sees Satan, rather than God, as the one who required that a payment be made for sin. Thus, it completely ignores the demands of God’s justice as seen throughout Scripture. It also has a higher view of Satan than it should and views him as having more power than he really does. There is no scriptural support for the idea that sinners owe anything to Satan, but throughout Scripture we see that God is the One who requires a payment for sin.

Recapitulation Theory: This theory states that the atonement of Christ has reversed the course of mankind from disobedience to obedience. It believes that Christ’s life recapitulated all the stages of human life and in doing so reversed the course of disobedience initiated by Adam. This theory cannot be supported scripturally.

Dramatic Theory: This view sees the atonement of Christ as securing the victory in a divine conflict between good and evil and winning man’s release from bondage to Satan. The meaning of Christ’s death was to ensure God’s victory over Satan and to provide a way to redeem the world out of its bondage to evil.

Mystical Theory: The mystical theory sees the atonement of Christ as a triumph over His own sinful nature through the power of the Holy Spirit. Those who hold this view believe that knowledge of this will mystically influence man and awake his “god-consciousness.” They also believe that man’s spiritual condition is not the result of sin but simply a lack of “god-consciousness.” Clearly, this is unbiblical. To believe this, one must believe that Christ had a sin nature, while Scripture is clear that Jesus was the perfect God-man, sinless in every aspect of His nature (Hebrews 4:15).

Moral Influence Theory: This is the belief that the atonement of Christ is a demonstration of God’s love which causes man’s heart to soften and repent. Those who hold this view believe that man is spiritually sick and in need of help and that man is moved to accept God’s forgiveness by seeing God’s love for man. They believe that the purpose and meaning of Christ’s death was to demonstrate God’s love toward man. While it is true that Christ’s atonement is the ultimate example of the love of God, this view is unbiblical because it denies the true spiritual condition of man—dead in transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1)—and denies that God actually requires a payment for sin. This view of Christ’s atonement leaves mankind without a true sacrifice or payment for sin.

Example Theory: This view sees the atonement of Christ as simply providing an example of faith and obedience to inspire man to be obedient to God. Those who hold this view believe that man is spiritually alive and that Christ’s life and atonement were simply an example of true faith and obedience and should serve as inspiration to men to live a similar life of faith and obedience. This and the moral influence theory are similar in that they both deny that God’s justice actually requires payment for sin and that Christ’s death on the cross was that payment. The main difference between the moral influence theory and the example theory is that the moral influence theory says that Christ’s death teaches us how much God loves us and the example theory says that Christ’s death teaches how to live. Of course, it is true that Christ is an example for us to follow, even in His death, but the example theory fails to recognize man’s true spiritual condition and that God’s justice requires payment for sin which man is not capable of paying.

Commercial Theory: The commercial theory views the atonement of Christ as bringing infinite honor to God. This resulted in God giving Christ a reward which He did not need, and Christ passed that reward on to man. Those who hold this view believe that man’s spiritual condition is that of dishonoring God and so Christ’s death, which brought infinite honor to God, can be applied to sinners for salvation. This theory, like many of the others, denies the true spiritual state of unregenerate sinners and their need of a completely new nature, available only in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Governmental Theory: This view sees the atonement of Christ as demonstrating God’s high regard for His law and His attitude toward sin. It is through Christ’s death that God has a reason to forgive the sins of those who repent and accept Christ’s substitutionary death. Those who hold this view believe that man’s spiritual condition is as one who has violated God’s moral law and that the meaning of Christ’s death was to be a substitute for the penalty of sin. Because Christ paid the penalty for sin, it is possible for God to legally forgive those who accept Christ as their substitute. This view falls short in that it does not teach that Christ actually paid the penalty of the actual sins of any people, but instead His suffering simply showed mankind that God’s laws were broken and that some penalty was paid.

Penal Substitution Theory: This theory sees the atonement of Christ as being a vicarious, substitutionary sacrifice that satisfied the demands of God’s justice upon sin. With His sacrifice, Christ paid the penalty of man’s sin, bringing forgiveness, imputing righteousness, and reconciling man to God. Those who hold this view believe that every aspect of man—his mind, will, and emotions—have been corrupted by sin and that man is totally depraved and spiritually dead. This view holds that Christ’s death paid the penalty for sin and that through faith man can accept Christ’s substitution as payment for sin. This view of the atonement aligns most accurately with Scripture in its view of sin, the nature of man, and the results of the death of Christ on the cross.

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns

“What is propitiation?”

Answer:
The word propitiation carries the basic idea of appeasement or satisfaction, specifically toward God. Propitiation is a two-part act that involves appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to him.

The necessity of appeasing God is something many religions have in common. In ancient pagan religions, as well as in many religions today, the idea is taught that man appeases God by offering various gifts or sacrifices. However, the Bible teaches that God Himself has provided the only means through which His wrath can be appeased and sinful man can be reconciled to Him. In the New Testament, the act of propitiation always refers to the work of God and not the sacrifices or gifts offered by man. The reason for this is that man is totally incapable of satisfying God’s justice except by spending eternity in hell. There is no service, sacrifice, or gift that man can offer that will appease the holy wrath of God or satisfy His perfect justice. The only satisfaction, or propitiation, that could be acceptable to God and that could reconcile man to Him had to be made by God. For this reason God the Son, Jesus Christ, came into the world in human flesh to be the perfect sacrifice for sin and make atonement or “propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).

The word propitiation is used in several verses to explain what Jesus accomplished through His death on the cross. For example, in Romans 3:24-25 believers in Christ have been “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.” These verses are a key point in Paul’s argument in the book of Romans and are really at the heart of the gospel message.

In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul makes the argument that everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, is under the condemnation of God and deserving of His wrath (Romans 1:18). Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All of us deserve His wrath and punishment. God in His infinite grace and mercy has provided a way that His wrath can be appeased and we can be reconciled to Him. That way is through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ, as the payment for sins. It is through faith in Jesus Christ as God’s perfect sacrifice that we can be reconciled to God. It is only because of Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection on the third day that a lost sinner deserving of hell can be reconciled to a holy God. The wonderful truth of the gospel is that Christians are saved from God’s wrath and reconciled to God not because “we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The only way for God’s wrath against sinful man to be appeased and for us to be reconciled to God is through Jesus Christ. There is no other way. This truth is also communicated in 1 John 2:2, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” An important part of Christ’s saving work is deliverance from God’s wrath; Jesus’ propitiation on the cross is the only thing that can turn away God’s divine condemnation of sin. Those who reject Christ as their Savior and refuse to believe in Him have no hope of salvation. They can only look forward to facing the wrath of God that they have stored up for the coming day of judgment (Romans 2:5). There is no other propitiation or sacrifice that can be made for their sins.

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

Lecture 6

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/

Person and work of Christ: The Atonement

  • At this end of this Unit you will:
  • Understand the basic principles of the Atonement
  • Be able to discuss Christ as Mediator; prophet, priest and king
  • Deliberate on the biblical background and concept of Sacrifice
  • Consider Christ ‘emptying’ Himself in order to become man.  What did it actually mean for Him to become man.  How does that affect you, as a Christian believer?
  • What is the essential meaning of the atonement?
  • Consider the Lord’s Supper.  What does this sacrament really mean?

Our human condition as sinners requires atonement.  “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  (Rom 3.23)  The Law of God requires it.  The Old Testament shows a very complex system of sacrifice which influences our views.  Further, Jesus viewed Himself as a substitute and a sacrificial Lamb.  Paul describes Christ’s work on the Cross as propitiation of the wrath of God.  Therefore, we will focus on the concepts of the Atonement with its profound meaning.  The two major views of Atonement will be examined: Penal substitution vs Moral Influence.  Christ’s death causes reconciliation between God and man.  As forgiven sinners we celebrate this Sacrifice of Christ through the Lord’s Supper, and find in Him the effects of His work on the Cross, namely justification, adoption and eternal life.

Key Verse:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 2 Peter 2:24

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, Revelation 5:9

What is the Substitutionary Atonement? 3mins

We are so used to sinning; so accustomed to sin that we rarely ever even have the barest grasp of the gravity involved by defying God. 5mins

R.C. Sproul – Why is the Atonement Necessary? (Sermon Jam)

RC Sproul: Two types of people in hell. 7min

 

“What is the kenosis?”

Answer:
The term kenosis refers to the doctrine of Christ’s “self-emptying” in His incarnation. The word comes from the Greek of Philippians 2:7, which says that Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (ESV). The word translated “emptied” is a form of kenoó, from which we get the word kenosis.

Notice that Philippians 2:7 does not specify what the Son of God “emptied” Himself of. And here we must be careful not to go beyond what Scripture says. Jesus did not empty Himself of His divine attributes—no such attributes are mentioned in the verse, and it is obvious in the gospels that Jesus possessed the power and wisdom of God. Calming the storm is just one display of Jesus’ divine power (Mark 4:39). In coming to earth, the Son of God did not cease to be God, and He did not become a “lesser god.” Whatever the “emptying” entailed, Jesus remained fully God: “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).

It is better to think of Christ’s “emptying” of Himself as a laying aside of the privileges that were His in heaven. Rather than stay on His throne in heaven, Jesus “made himself nothing” (as the NIV translates Philippians 2:7). When He came to earth, “he gave up his divine privileges” (NLT). He veiled His glory, and He chose to occupy the position of a slave.

The kenosis was a self-renunciation, not an emptying Himself of deity. Nor was it an exchange of deity for humanity. Jesus never ceased to be God during any part of His earthly ministry. He did set aside His heavenly glory. He also voluntarily refrained from using His divinity to make His way easier. During His earthly ministry, Christ completely submitted Himself to the will of the Father (John 5:19).

As part of the kenosis, Jesus sometimes operated within the limitations of humanity. God does not get tired or thirsty, but Jesus did (John 4:6; 19:28). God knows all things, but it seems that, at least once, Jesus voluntarily surrendered the use of His omniscience (Matthew 24:36). Other times, Jesus’ omniscience was on full display (Luke 6:8; John 13:11; 18:4).

There are some false teachers who take the concept of kenosis too far, saying that Jesus gave up all or some of His divine nature when He came to earth. This heresy is sometimes referred to as the kenosis theory, but a better term is kenoticism or kenotic theology, to distinguish it from biblical understanding of the kenosis.

When it comes to the kenosis, we often focus too much on what Jesus gave up. The kenosis also deals with what Christ took on. Jesus added to His divine nature a human nature as He humbled Himself for us. Jesus went from being the glory of glories in heaven to being a human being who was put to death on the cross. Philippians 2:7–8 declares, “Taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” In the ultimate act of humility, the God of the universe became a human being and died for His creation.

The kenosis is the act of Christ taking on a human nature with all of its limitations, except with no sin. As one Bible scholar wrote, “At His incarnation He remained ‘in the form of God’ and as such He is Lord and Ruler over all, but He also accepted the nature of a servant as part of His humanity” (J. J. Müller, The Epistles of Paul to the Philippians and to Philemon, p. 82).

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“What is kenoticism / kenotic theology?”

Answer:
Kenoticism, also known as kenotic theology or kenotic Christology, is an unbiblical view of Christ’s nature. Kenoticism teaches that the divinity of the Son of God was somehow lost or lessened when the Lord took on human flesh and entered our world.

The word kenoticism comes from the Greek word kenoó, a form of which is translated “emptied” in some translations of Philippians 2:7. Writing about Christ, Paul says, “Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied [ekenōsen] Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6–7, NASB).

Kenotic theology or kenotic Christology, first introduced in the late 1800s by German theologian Gottfried Thomasius (1802—75), is based on the idea that Jesus actually laid aside some of His divinity in order to be more like human beings. Philippians 2:6–7 is used as the proof text for this idea. Jesus “emptied” Himself, according to kenoticism, of His divine attributes.

The biblical truth is that Jesus Christ fully possessed both a divine nature and a human nature, and the two natures co-existed in what is often called the hypostatic union. Kenoticism is an attempt to redefine the nature of Christ. Interestingly, it is only the divine nature of Christ that kenoticism calls into question, not His human nature. Most people can easily accept the reality of Jesus’ humanity. Few would argue with the fact that Jesus was born, lived, and died as a human being. What is harder to accept is that He was born, lived, and died—and rose again—as God incarnate.

If Jesus divested Himself of some of His divine attributes, as some teach, then we have some theological problems. First, emptying Himself of any part of His divinity would render Jesus less than fully divine. If He had temporarily laid aside His omniscience, omnipotence, etc., He would have ceased being the divine Son of God. But God cannot stop being God, even for a moment.

A second significant problem with kenotic Christology involves the eternal destiny of all who follow Christ. No mere human being can fulfill the role of Savior. If Jesus were not the infinite second Person of the triune God, His sacrifice would be insufficient. If Christ were not divine, if He had given up His divinity at any point in time, the efficacy of His sacrifice on the cross would be nullified. To be the Savior, Jesus was at every moment both fully God and fully man.

How, then, do we understand Philippians 2:6–7, which says that the Son of God “emptied” Himself as He took on the form of a servant? In what way did Jesus “empty” Himself? We begin with context. Verses 1—5 describe the attitude believers should adopt, one that “was also in Christ Jesus.” Believers are to exhibit humility and lowliness of mind, having the same self-sacrificial mindset that Jesus had. He didn’t use His equality with God to His own advantage; rather, He took on the form of a servant. Believers are to emulate Christ by becoming humble and obedient. Believers do not put off their human attributes and become something else, any more than Jesus put off His divine attributes. Rather, they look to Jesus as their example and subjugate their impulses and desires for the sake of others.

Christ’s “emptying” of Himself was the laying aside of the privileges of divinity, not divinity itself. In heaven, the Son of God possessed infinite honor and glory and adoration. But He chose to leave that position of honor, and He “made himself nothing” (Philippians 2:7). When He came to earth, He veiled His glory and chose to occupy the position of a slave. The kenosis spoken of in Philippians 2:7 was a self-renunciation but not an emptying of deity. Jesus never ceased to be God, and He did not exchange deity for humanity.

What Jesus did was set aside His heavenly glory. And He voluntarily refrained from using His divinity to make His way easier. His miracles were not done to benefit Himself but to help others. During His earthly ministry, Christ completely submitted Himself to the will of the Father (John 5:19). John Walvoord explains it this way: “The act of kenosis . . . may . . . be properly understood to mean that Christ surrendered no attribute of Deity, but that He did voluntarily restrict their independent use in keeping with His purpose of living among men and their limitations” (Jesus Christ Our Lord, p. 144).

At times, Jesus intentionally veiled His attributes that at other times were fully on display. When He healed the sick, walked on water, fed the 5,000, and raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus’ divine nature was fully evident. When He allowed Himself to be hungry, thirsty, beaten, abused, and crucified without retaliating, He was intentionally restricting His divine power. He did not give up His power; rather, He chose to subjugate it for a greater good. But at no time during His life was Christ ever without the fullness of divinity (see Colossians 2:9).

Discussions of kenoticism are complicated by the fact that sometimes the term kenosis is used as a synonym for kenoticism. The Bible teaches the kenosis of Christ, but it does not teach that Jesus gave up any divine attributes. Kenosis must be understood within the larger context of the whole of Scripture. And when teachers speak of kenosis, we must be sure to understand how they are using the term. Kenoticism is a heresy that takes the biblical concept of kenosis too far.

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns

“What are the doctrines of grace?”

Answer:
The phrase “doctrines of grace” is used as a replacement for the term “Calvinism,” in order to remove the attention from John Calvin and instead focus on how the specific points are biblically and theologically sound. The phrase “doctrines of grace” describes the soteriological doctrines that are unique to Reformed theology, which is Calvinistic. These doctrines are summarized with the acronym TULIP. The T in TULIP stands for Total Depravity, U for Unconditional Election, L for Limited Atonement, I for Irresistible Grace, and P for Perseverance of the Saints.

Reformed Christians believe that all five of the doctrines of grace are derived directly from the Scripture and that the acronym TULIP accurately describes the Bible’s teaching on soteriology—the doctrine of salvation. The following is a brief description of each of the letters in the acronym TULIP.

Total Depravity – As a result of Adam’s fall, the entire human race is affected; all of Adam’s descendants are spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1, 5). Calvinists are quick to point out that this does not mean that all people are as bad as they could be. Rather, this doctrine says that, as a result of man’s fall in Adam, all people are radically depraved from the inside and that their depravity affects every area of their lives.

Unconditional Election – Because man is dead in sin, he is unable (and stubbornly unwilling) to initiate a saving response to God. In light of this, God, from eternity past, mercifully elected a particular people unto salvation (Ephesians 1:4–6). These people are comprised of men and women from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation (Revelation 5:9). Election and predestination are unconditional; they are not contingent on man’s response to God’s grace (Romans 8:29–30; 9:11; Ephesians 1:11–12) because man, in his fallen state, is both unable and unwilling to respond favorably to Christ’s offer of salvation.

Limited Atonement – The purpose of Christ’s atoning death was not to merely make men savable and thus leaving the salvation of humanity contingent on man’s response to God’s grace. Rather, the purpose of the atonement was to secure the redemption of a particular people (Ephesians 1:4–6; John 17:9). All whom God has elected and Christ died for will be saved (John 6:37–40, 44). Many Reformed Christians prefer the term “particular redemption” as they feel that this phrase more accurately captures the essence of this doctrine. It is not so much that Christ’s atonement is limited as it is particular, intended for a specific people—God’s elect.

Irresistible Grace – God has elected a particular people to be the recipients of Christ’s atoning work. These people are drawn to Christ by a grace that is irresistible. When God calls, man responds (John 6:37, 44; 10:16). This teaching does not mean that God saves men against their will. Rather, God changes the heart of the rebellious unbeliever so that he now desires to repent and be saved. God’s elect will be drawn to Him, and that grace that draws them is, in fact, irresistible. God replaces the unbeliever’s heart of stone with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). In Reformed theology, regeneration precedes faith.

Perseverance of the Saints – The particular people God has elected and drawn to Himself through the Holy Spirit will persevere in faith. None of those whom God has elected will be lost; they are eternally secure in Him (John 10:27–29; Romans 8:29–30; Ephesians 1:3–14). Some Reformed theologians prefer to use the term “Preservation of the Saints” as they believe that this choice of words more accurately describes how God is directly responsible for the preservation of His elect. It is clear in Scripture that Christ continues to intercede for His people (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). This continues to provide believers with the assurance that those that belong to Christ are eternally His.

These five doctrines together form the doctrines of grace, so called because they summarize the salvation experience as the result of the grace of God, who acts independently of man’s will. No effort or act of man can add to the grace of God to bring about the redemption of the soul. For truly it is “by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

Recommended Resource: Chosen But Free, revised edition: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will by Norm Geisler and The Potter’s Freedom by James White

Please note – since this article is in our “What is Calvinism?” series, it presents a full or 5-point view of Calvinism. We believe 5-point or 4-point Calvinism is an issue on which Christians can “agree to disagree.” So, while this article may strongly argue for 5-point Calvinism, we are in no sense disparaging the faith or integrity of those who hold to 4-point Calvinism. In fact, many of our writers are 4-point Calvinists. Please also read our article on arguments against limited atonement. And, for a balanced perspective on the entire issue, please see our article on unlimited atonement.

Question: “Limited atonement—is it biblical?”

Answer:
“Limited atonement” is a term that is used to summarize what the Bible teaches about the purpose for Christ’s death on the cross and what His life, death and resurrection accomplished. It is the third letter of the acronym TULIP, which is commonly used to explain what are known as the five points of Calvinism, also known as the doctrines of grace. The doctrine of limited atonement is clearly the most controversial and maybe even the most misunderstood of all the doctrines of grace. Because the name can confuse people and cause them to have wrong ideas about what is meant, some people prefer to use terms like “particular redemption,” “definite redemption,” “actual atonement,” or “intentional atonement.” These terms correctly focus on the fact that the Bible reveals Jesus’ death on the cross was intentional and had a definite purpose that it succeeded in accomplishing. Yet, like all of the doctrines of grace, what is important is not the name that is assigned to the doctrine but how accurately the doctrine summarizes what the Bible teaches about the nature and purpose of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross.

The doctrine of limited atonement affirms that the Bible teaches Christ’s atoning work on the cross was done with a definite purpose in mind—to redeem for God people from every tribe, tongue and nation (Revelation 5:9). Jesus died, according to Matthew 1:21, to “save His people from their sins.” This truth is seen in many passages throughout Scripture. In John 10:15, we see that He lays “down His life for the sheep.” Who are the sheep? They are the people chosen by God from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). These are the same ones Jesus said were given to Him by the Father in order that He would fulfill the Father’s will by losing none of them and by raising all of them up in the last day (John 6:37-40). The truth that Jesus came for this specific reason is seen in both the Old and New Testaments. One of the greatest passages on the atonement in the Old Testament is Isaiah 53. In this passage alone, we see that He was “stricken for the transgression of God’s people” (Isaiah 53:8); that He would “justify many” because “He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11); and that He indeed “bore the sin of many” (Isaiah 53:12). These verses and many others talk about an atonement that was specific in whom it covered (God’s people), was substitutionary in nature (He actually bore their sins on the cross), and actually accomplished what God intended it to do (justify many). Clearly, here is a picture of an intentional, definite atonement. Christ died not simply to make justification a possibility but to actually justify those He died for. He died to save them, not to make them savable.

The doctrine of limited atonement also recognizes that the Bible teaches Jesus’ death on the cross was a substitutionary atonement for sins. Many theologians use the word “vicarious” to describe Christ’s atonement. This word means “acting on behalf of” or “representing another” and is used to describe “something performed or suffered by one person with the results accruing to the benefit or advantage of another.” The vicarious atonement of Christ means He was acting as a representative for a specific group of people (the elect) who would receive a direct benefit (salvation) as the result of His death. This concept is clearly seen in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He (God the Father) made Him (Christ) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” If Jesus actually stood in my place and bore my sin on the cross as the Bible teaches, then I can never be punished for that sin. In order for Christ’s atonement to truly be a substitutionary or vicarious atonement, then it must actually secure a real salvation for all for whom Christ died. If the atonement only makes salvation a possibility, then it cannot be a vicarious atonement. If Christ acted as a real and true substitute for those for whom He died, then all for whom He died will be saved. To say that Christ died a vicarious death in the place of all sinners but that not all sinners will be saved is a contradiction.

Four different words or aspects of the atonement are clearly seen in Scripture, and each one helps us understand the nature and extent of the atonement. These four words are ransom, reconciliation, propitiation and substitute. These four aspects of Christ’s atonement all speak of Christ as having actually accomplished something in His death. A study of these four terms in their biblical contexts leads to the obvious conclusion that one cannot hold to a true universal atonement without also requiring universal salvation. If one holds to an unlimited atonement while denying universal salvation, one ends up with a redemption that leaves men not totally free or actually redeemed, a reconciliation that leaves men still estranged from God, a propitiation that leaves men still under the wrath of God, and a substitutionary death that still makes the sinner himself help pay the debt of his sin. All of these aspects of the atoning work of Christ then become nothing more than a possibility that relies upon man to make them a reality.

But that is not what the Bible teaches. It teaches that those who are redeemed by Christ are truly free and their debt has been fully paid. It teaches that those who are reconciled to God are actually reconciled and the wall of separation that existed between them and God has been torn down (Colossians 2:14). It teaches that Christ’s death on the cross was a sacrifice that fully satisfied the wrath of God. It also teaches that Christ was indeed a substitute, a kinsmen redeemer, who acted in place of and on behalf of His people. When Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and the Greek word translated “finished” is teleō, which was used to indicate that a debt had been paid in full. And that is exactly what Jesus accomplished on the cross. “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).

One common misunderstanding about the doctrine of limited atonement is that this view somehow lessens or limits the value of the atonement of Christ. Yet exactly the opposite is true. Limited atonement correctly recognizes that Christ’s death was of infinite value and lacking in nothing. In fact, it is of such value that, had God so willed, Christ’s death could have saved every member of the human race. Christ would not have had to suffer any more or do anything different to save every human who ever lived than He did in securing the salvation of the elect. But that was not God’s purpose in sending Christ to the cross. God’s purpose in the atonement was that Jesus would secure forever the salvation of those the Father had given to Him (Hebrews 7:25). Therefore, while Christ’s atonement was limited in its intent or purpose, it was unlimited in its power.

Another common misunderstanding about the doctrine of limited atonement is that it somehow lessens or diminishes the love of God for humanity. Yet, again, exactly the opposite is true. Of all of the doctrines of grace, the doctrine of limited atonement, when correctly understood, magnifies the love of God; it does not diminish it. Limited atonement reinforces the intensive love of God that is revealed in the Bible. God loves His people with a love that saves them from their sin, as opposed to the love of the unlimited atonement view that sees God’s love as being more general in nature. In the unlimited atonement view, He loves everyone in general but saves no one in particular and, in fact, leaves the matter of their salvation up to them. Which is more loving, a love that actually saves people or a love that makes salvation “possible” to those who are dead in trespasses and sins and unable to choose God?

One of the main arguments used against limited atonement is that, if Christ did not atone for the sins of everybody in the world and if God only intended to save the elect, how do you explain the numerous biblical passages that indicate the free offer of the gospel to “whosoever will come?” How can God offer salvation to all, including those whom He has not elected or foreordained to be saved? How can we understand the paradox that occurs because the Bible teaches God intends that only the elect will be saved, yet, on the other hand, the Bible also unequivocally declares that God freely and sincerely offers salvation to everyone who will believe? (Ezekiel 33:11; Isaiah 45:22; 55:1; Matthew 11:28; 23:37; 2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 22:17) The solution to this paradox is simply an acknowledgment of all that the Bible teaches. 1) The call of the gospel is universal in the sense that anybody that hears it and believes in it will be saved. 2) Because everyone is dead in trespasses and sin, no one will believe the gospel and respond in faith unless God first makes those who are dead in their trespasses and sins alive (Ephesians 2:1-5). The Bible teaches that “whosoever believes” will have eternal life and then explains why some believe and some don’t.

Another argument against limited atonement points to the passages in the Bible that speak of Christ’s atonement in a more general or unlimited sense. For example, in 1 John 2:2 John says that Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the “whole world.” Likewise, in John 4:42 Jesus is called the “Savior of the world” and in John 1:29 is said to “take way the sin of the world.” Other verses that seem to indicate an unlimited view of the atonement include 2 Corinthians 5:14-15: “He died for all” and 1 Timothy 2:6: “He gave Himself a ransom for all” (although Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 say Christ came to “give His life a ransom for many”). Those who believe in unlimited atonement use such verses to make the point that, if Christ died for all and takes away the sins of the world, then His atonement cannot be limited to only the elect. However, these verses are easily reconciled with the many other verses that support the doctrine of limited atonement simply by recognizing that often the Bible uses the words “world” or “all” in a limited sense. They do not automatically mean “every individual in the entire world.” This is evident when just a few verses are considered. In Luke 2:1 it is recorded that a “decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered,” and Luke 2:3 says, “So all went to be registered everyone to his own city.” But, clearly, it is not talking about every individual in the whole world. Caesar’s decree did not apply to the Japanese, Chinese or countless other people throughout the world.

Similarly, the Pharisees, being dismayed at Jesus’ growing popularity said, “Look how the whole world has gone after Him!” Did every single person in the world follow Jesus? Or was the “world” limited to a small area of Israel in which Jesus preached?

So, it should be readily apparent that the phrase “all” or “all the world” does not necessarily mean every individual. Understanding that basic fact allows one to consider each of these seemingly universal passages in their contexts, and, when that is done, it becomes apparent that they do not present any conflict with the doctrine of limited atonement.

Yet another argument against limited atonement is that it is a hindrance to the preaching of the gospel and to evangelism. Those that use this argument will say that if an evangelist cannot say, “Christ died for you,” then his effectiveness in presenting the gospel will be limited. Or they will say that, if only the elect will be saved, why should the gospel be preached at all? Once again, these objections are easily dealt with. The gospel is to be preached to everyone because it is the power of God to salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16), and it is the means that God has ordained by which the elect will be saved (Romans 10:14-17). Also, the evangelist does not need to tell the unbeliever that “Christ died for your sins,” specifically. All he needs to proclaim is that Christ died to pay the penalty for sin and provide a way for sinners to be reconciled to a holy God. Believe in Him, and you will be saved.

The doctrines of grace, and specifically the doctrine of limited atonement, empower evangelism rather than hinder it. Embracing these wonderful biblical truths allows one to boldly and clearly declare the good news of the gospel, knowing that the power is not in our presentation of it or in the audience’s ability to understand it or desire to believe it, but, instead, rests solely upon an all-powerful God who has determined to save people from every tribe, tongue and nation. Belief in an unlimited atonement, on the other hand, presents many logical and biblical problems. First of all, if the atonement was truly unlimited, then every person would be saved as all of their sins, including the sin of unbelief, would have been paid for by Christ on the cross. However, such universalism is clearly unbiblical, as the Bible is very clear that not all people are saved or will be saved. Therefore, both the Arminian and Calvinist believe in some sort of limited atonement. The Arminian limits the effectiveness of the atonement in saying Christ died for all people but not all people will be saved. His view of the atonement limits its power as it only makes salvation a possibility and does not actually save anyone. On the other hand, the Calvinist limits the intent of the atonement by stating that Christ’s atonement was for specific people (the elect) and that it completely secured the salvation of those whom He died for. So, all Christians believe in some sort of limited atonement. The question, then, is not whether the Bible teaches a limited atonement but how or in what sense the atonement is limited. Is the power of the atonement limited in that it only makes salvation a possibility, or is its power to save unlimited and it actually results in the salvation of those whom God intended to save (the elect, His sheep)? Does God do the limiting, or does man? Does God’s sovereign grace and purpose dictate the ultimate success or failure of the redemptive work of Christ, or does the will of man decide whether God’s intentions and purposes will be realized?

A major problem with unlimited atonement is that it makes redemption merely a potential or hypothetical act. An unlimited atonement means that Christ’s sacrifice is not effectual until the sinner does his part in believing. In this view, the sinner’s faith is the determining factor as to whether Christ’s atonement actually accomplishes anything. If the doctrine of unlimited atonement is true, then it has Christ dying for people the Father knew would not be saved and has Christ paying the penalty for the sins of people who would also have to pay the penalty for the same sin. In effect, it makes God unjust. Either God punishes people for the sins that Christ atoned for, or Christ’s atonement was somehow lacking in that it does not sufficiently cover all the sins of those for whom He died. The problem with this view becomes even clearer when one considers that at the time Christ died on the cross there were already sinners that had died who will face the wrath of God in hell for their sin. Logically, it makes no sense for God the Father to have Christ atone for the sins of people who were already suffering the wrath of God for their sin. Where is the justice in punishing Christ for the sins of those that were already being punished for their sins? Again, this also shows that an unlimited atonement cannot be a vicarious, substitutionary atonement.

Still another problem with an unlimited view of the atonement is that it demeans the righteousness of God and destroys the grounds of a believer’s assurance. An important aspect of a believer’s assurance is that God is righteous and that He will not nor cannot punish sin twice. Therefore, the sin that is covered by Christ’s blood can never be charged to the sinner’s account. Yet that is what a universal atonement leads to. Christ is punished for the sins of those that are not saved, and then they are also punished in hell for the same sins.

Unlimited atonement says that, while Christ does a great deal to bring salvation to His people, His death on the cross did not actually secure that salvation for anyone. Christ’s death is not sufficient in and of itself to save lost people, and, in order for His atoning work to be effective, there is a requirement that sinners themselves must meet. That requirement is faith. For man to be saved, he must add his faith to Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Therefore, the effectiveness of the atonement is limited by man’s faith or lack thereof. On the other hand, limited atonement believes that Christ’s death and resurrection actually secures the salvation of His people. While God does require faith of His people, Christ’s death even paid for the sin of our unbelief, and, therefore, His death meets all requirements for our salvation and provides everything necessary to secure the salvation of God’s people including the faith to believe. That is true unconditional love, a salvation that is by grace alone in Christ alone. Christ plus nothing equals salvation—an atonement so sufficient that it secures everything necessary for salvation, including the faith that God gives us to believe (Ephesians 2:8).

Limited atonement, like all of the doctrines of grace, upholds and glorifies the unity of the triune Godhead as Father, Son and Holy Spirit all work in unison for the purpose of salvation. These doctrines build upon one another. The doctrine of total depravity establishes what the Bible teaches about the spiritual condition of unregenerate man and leaves one with the question “Who can be saved?” The doctrine of unconditional election then answers the question by declaring God’s sovereign choice in choosing to save people despite their depravity and based solely on God’s sovereign choice to redeem for Himself people from every tribe, tongue and nation. Next, the doctrine of limited atonement explains how God can be perfectly just and yet redeem those sinful people and reconcile them to Himself. The only solution to the depravity of man was for God to provide a Redeemer who would act as their substitute and suffer the wrath of God for their sins. He did this in the death of Christ, who, having been crucified, completely and totally “canceled out the certificate of debt…having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). That leads to another question: how can a spiritually dead sinner who is hostile to God have faith in the atoning work of Christ on the cross? That question is answered by the doctrine of grace that is known as irresistible grace, the “I” in the acronym TULIP.

Recommended Resource: Chosen But Free, revised edition: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will by Norm Geisler and The Potter’s Freedom by James White

“Whom did Jesus die for? Did Jesus die for everyone?”

Answer:
Exactly whom Jesus died for is a point of theological disagreement among evangelical Bible believers. Some Christians believe that Jesus died only for the elect; this is the doctrine of limited atonement, the L in Calvinism’s TULIP. Other Christians believe that Jesus died for everyone who has or ever will live; this is the doctrine of unlimited atonement, held by Arminians and most four-point Calvinists, or Amyraldians.

Limited atonement, sometimes called particular redemption, is based on the doctrine of election or predestination (Romans 8:30, 33; Titus 1:1). Since only the elect of God will be saved, the reasoning goes, Jesus must have died only for them. Otherwise, Jesus’ death “failed” those who are not elect. If Jesus died for everyone, then hell will be full of people for whom Jesus died—was His atonement insufficient? If Jesus died only for the elect, then His atonement perfectly accomplished its goal. Every person for whom Jesus died will be in heaven.

Unlimited atonement, on the other hand, says that Jesus died for everyone but that only those who respond in faith will reap the benefits of His sacrifice. In other words, Jesus’ death was sufficient for all, but only effectual for some (those who have faith). If Jesus did not die for everyone, the reasoning goes, then the offer of salvation is empty, because the non-elect cannot be saved. The teaching of unlimited atonement is based on verses such as 1 John 2:2, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Precise theological thinking is a good thing. We are called to be students of the Word (2 Timothy 2:15). But on this point, it seems that most people follow a theological system to get to their answer, rather than the clear Word of God. If it were not for theological systems (namely, Calvinism and Arminianism), the question of whom Jesus died for would probably never come up—but it has come up! One side says that, if Christ did not die for all, then there can be no genuine offer of salvation. The other side says that, if Christ died for some who will never be saved, then His death in some sense fails to accomplish its purpose. Either way, there seems to be an attack upon God’s character or Christ’s work—either God’s love is limited or Jesus’ power is limited. This presents an unnecessary dilemma and creates a tension where none need exist. We know that God’s love is infinite (Psalm 107:1) and that Christ’s power is infinite (Colossians 1:16–17). The dilemma is a false one of our own making.

In short, the offer of salvation is universal—to all who will believe (Romans 10:11, 13). We also know that, regardless of how broad Christ’s atonement is, it is limited in some respect—it is effective only for those who believe (John 3:18).

John 10 provides more insight into the issue of whom Jesus died for. In that passage we see that Christ died for His sheep (John 10:11, 15). Also, all who are His sheep will come to Him (verses 4 and 27), and they are kept secure in Christ (verses 28–30). However, when we share the gospel, we don’t try to “pre-screen” the hearers of the message. We don’t delve into who are the elect or for whom Jesus may or may not have died. Those discussions would distract from the goal of evangelism. When presenting the gospel, we simply say, “Jesus died for your sin, and He rose again from the dead. His death is sufficient to pay for your sins if you will put your faith in Him.” This is a biblically accurate statement, and it avoids trying to get too specific. The preaching of the apostles in the New Testament doesn’t try to cut it more finely than that.

Recommended Resource: Chosen But Free, revised edition: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will by Norm Geisler and The Potter’s Freedom by James White

“Is the atonement of Christ unlimited?”

Answer:
The Bible has much to say on the atonement of Christ. The question is whether His sacrifice provided limited or unlimited atonement. The word atonement means “satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury; amends.” The doctrine of unlimited atonement states that Christ died for all people, whether or not they would ever believe in Him. When applied to Jesus’ finished work on the cross, atonement concerns the reconciliation of God and humankind, as accomplished through the suffering and death of Christ. Paul highlights the atoning work of Jesus when he says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:8–10).

How this reparation of wrongs or reconciliation was accomplished and what was involved in the act, has been debated by theologians for centuries. There are at least nine different positions on the atonement of Christ, ranging anywhere from the atonement being merely a positive example for us (the Moral Example theory) to its being a judicial, substitutionary act (the Penal Substitution theory).

But perhaps the most controversial debate concerning the atonement of Jesus centres on what is referred to as “limited” or “definite” atonement. One theological camp (comprised primarily of those holding to Arminianism and Wesleyanism) believes that Christ died on the cross for everyone who will ever live. The other theological camp—made up of Reformed thinkers, who are often called “Calvinists” after the Reformer John Calvin—say that Jesus only died for those whom the Father chose from the foundation of the world to be saved. This group of redeemed individuals is often referred to as the “elect” or the “chosen” of God.

Which position is correct? Did Jesus die for everyone in the world or only a select group of individuals?

Is Everyone Going to be Saved?


In examining this issue, the first question to ask is this: is everyone going to be saved through the atoning work of Christ?

Those holding to a position called universalism say “yes.” The universalists argue that, because Christ died for everyone and all the sins of humanity were laid on/punished in Christ, everyone will spend eternity with God.

Scripture, however, stands in opposition to such teaching (which can be traced back to a teacher named Laelius Socinus in the 16th century). The Bible makes it abundantly clear that many people will be lost, with just a few verses highlighting this fact following:

• “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2)
• “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13–14)
• “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:22–23)
• “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46)
• “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
• “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15)

Since not everyone will be saved, there is one inescapable fact to understand: the atonement of Christ is limited. If it isn’t, then universalism must be true, and yet Scripture clearly teaches that not everyone is going to be saved. So, unless one is a universalist and can defeat the biblical evidence above, then one must hold to some form of limited atonement.

How, Then, Is the Atonement Limited?


The next important question to examine is this: if the atonement is limited (and it is), how is it limited? Jesus’ famous statement in John 3:16 provides the answer: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In this passage, the necessary condition that limits the atonement is found: “whosoever believes” (literally in the Greek: “all the believing ones”). In other words, the atonement is limited to those who believe and only those who believe.

Who Limits the Atonement?


Both theological camps previously mentioned will not argue this point – the atonement of Christ is limited to those who believe.

The disagreement occurs over the next question that arises: who limits the atonement—God or man?

Calvinists/Reformed thinkers maintain that God limits the atonement by choosing those whom He will save, and thus God only placed on Christ the sins of those He had chosen for salvation.

The Arminian/Wesleyan position states that God does not limit the reparation of Christ, but instead it is humanity that limits the atonement by freely choosing to accept or reject the offer that God makes to them for salvation.

A common way for the Arminian/Wesleyan theologians to state their position is that the atonement is unlimited in its invitation but limited in its application. God offers the invitation to all; however, only those who respond in faith to the gospel message have the work of the atonement applied to their spiritual condition.

To support the position that humanity, and not God, limits the atonement, the Arminian/Wesleyan lists a number of Scripture verses, including the following:

• “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2, emphasis added)
• “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”” (John 1:29, emphasis added)
• “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh” (John 6:51, emphasis added)
• “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32, emphasis added)
• “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5–6, emphasis added)
• “But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9, emphasis added)
• “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Peter 2:1, emphasis added)

In addition to the biblical references above, the Arminian/Wesleyan theologian also provides a number of logical arguments to support their case. The most common is that, if God is all-loving, how could Christ not die for everyone? Doesn’t God love each and every person (cf. John 3:16)? They see an atonement limited by God as a denial of the omnibenevolence of God.

Furthermore, the Arminian/Wesleyan believes that an atonement limited by God is devastating to the gospel message. How can an evangelist preach that “Christ died for you” if Christ did not indeed die for all? There is a complete lack of confidence, they say, in making the statement to any one person that Christ died for them because the evangelist has no real idea (given an atonement limited by God) if that is really the case.

Unlimited Atonement—the Conclusion
Unless one is a universalist and believes that everyone will ultimately be saved, a Christian must hold to some form of a limited atonement. The key area of disagreement is over who limits that atonement—God or man? Those wishing to hold to a God-limited atonement must answer the biblical arguments put forth by those holding to a human-limited atonement and also explain how God can be described in Scripture as being all-loving and yet not have His Son die for everyone.

Recommended Resource: Chosen But Free, revised edition: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will by Norm Geisler and The Potter’s Freedom by James White

“What are the main arguments against limited atonement?”

Answer:
Limited atonement is the teaching that Jesus died only for the elect. It is one of the five points of Calvinism, the L in the acronym “TULIP.” Many who hold to limited atonement prefer the term “particular redemption,” but to minimize confusion this article will use the term “limited atonement.” For a full explanation of what limited atonement is from a five-point Calvinistic perspective, please read our article on limited atonement, and for arguments supporting unlimited or universal atonement, please read our article on unlimited atonement.

Arminians and four-point Calvinists, or Amyraldians, believe that limited atonement is unbiblical. Got Questions Ministries takes an official four-point stance in support of unlimited atonement. Here, we present several arguments against limited atonement.

Argument 1: Limited Atonement Is Hermeneutically Insupportable

Arguing against limited atonement are verses which appear to teach universal atonement, the absence of verses that explicitly limit Christ’s atonement, verses that declare the necessity of faith for salvation, and several Old Testament types of Christ that do not fit the limited atonement paradigm.

Passages Supporting Universal Atonement

Universal (or unlimited) atonement is supported throughout the New Testament. John 3:16–17 says that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. . . . God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” The Greek word kosmos, translated “the world,” covers the inhabitants of the entire earth. Other verses supporting unlimited atonement include John 1:29, where Jesus is said to take away “the sin of the world”; Romans 11:32, in which God has mercy on “all” the disobedient; and 1 John 2:2, which says Jesus is “the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

None of these verses contain any kind of limitation, stated or implied, on Christ’s sacrifice. As if saying that Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world was not sufficient, the apostle John specifically included the Greek word holou, which means “whole, entire, all, complete.” Unless limited atonement is presumed, there is no solid basis for limiting the extent of the atonement mentioned in 1 John 2:2.

Passages Only Mentioning Atonement for Believers

On the other side of the coin, there are verses that say Jesus died for those who believe. Verses that seem to support limited atonement include John 10:15, where Jesus says, “I lay down my life for the sheep”; and Revelation 5:9, which indicates that Jesus’ blood “purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

These passages and others only mention a select group of people as being the focus of God’s redemptive work. However, none of the passages explicitly limit His offer of salvation. They simply say Jesus died for those who believe, not that He died only for those who believe. Jesus said He laid down His life for the sheep; He did not say that He laid down His life only for the sheep. There remains a larger group of which the sheep are but a part.

Faith Necessary for Salvation

“Universal atonement” is not the same as “universalism,” which says that everyone will be saved and go to heaven. Unlimited atonement acknowledges the reality that Jesus’ atonement must be accepted by faith, and that not everyone will believe. Four-point Calvinists believe that salvation comes only to those who have faith; it is faith that brings the saving effects of the atonement to the Christian. Unbelievers, though offered the gift of salvation through the atonement of Christ, have rejected God’s gift. Some passages proclaiming the necessity of faith for salvation are Luke 8:12; John 20:31; Acts 16:31; Romans 1:16; 10:9; and Ephesians 2:8.

Old Testament Types of Christ

An oft-repeated type of Christ presents Him as a lamb. The Old Testament sacrificial system and the Passover celebration clearly show the penalty of sin and the need for us to have an innocent substitute to cover our sin (see 1 Corinthians 5:7). At the time of the first Passover, all the Israelites had the opportunity to sacrifice a lamb and apply its blood to their doorposts. At the same time, each family had to exercise faith in God. The Passover’s atonement was universal in that it was offered to all, but the atonement still had to be applied individually, by faith.

Another type of Christ in the Old Testament is the bronze serpent on the pole (Numbers 21:5–9). Jesus related this object to Himself in John 3:14, explaining that He must be “lifted up” from the earth. During the plague of the “fiery serpents” in Moses’ day, every person who looked to the bronze serpent—believing that God would heal—was made whole. The healing power was universal in that it was available to every one of the Israelites, dependent only upon their willingness to obey. Jesus compared that incident to His own death on the cross and the spiritual healing He provides.

Argument 2: Christian Tradition Opposes Limited Atonement

Limited atonement has always been a controversial belief. The Synod of Dort in 1619 issued the points of doctrine now known as TULIP; however, several theologians at the synod rejected limited atonement while accepting the other four points of Calvinism.

Long before the Protestant confessions and synods, though, the early church father Athanasius was describing universal atonement. In his “On the Incarnation of the Word” (2.9), Athanasius writes that Jesus’ death was “a substitute for the life of all” and that, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, “the corruption which goes with death has lost its power over all.” Note the word all. Athanasius’ point is that Jesus’ death atoned for all of humanity.

Ironically, Calvin himself may not have placed much value on the idea of a limited atonement. After all, the five points of what is called “Calvinism” came from a synod in the Netherlands almost 60 years after his death. Calvin had this to say about John 3:16: “It is a remarkable commendation of faith, that it frees us from everlasting destruction. . . . And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World; . . . he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life” (Commentary on John, Vol. 1).

Argument 3: Limited Atonement Would Make It Impossible to Genuinely Offer Salvation to All

Limited atonement affects one’s beliefs regarding evangelism and the offer of salvation. Essentially, if only those who will be saved (the elect) are atoned for, there is no atonement to be offered to anyone else. You could only truly offer salvation to the elect. Even a cursory look at Jesus’ ministry shows that He extended invitations of salvation to people He knew would take part in crucifying Him (see Luke 13:34). In the book of Acts, Paul preached to large portions of entire towns, Peter to thousands at a time. Salvation was offered to all without caveat, proviso, or discrimination. Repentance and faith were the required responses (see Matthew 21:32). If Christ’s death did not provide atonement for everyone, then the apostles, and even Jesus Himself, were offering something that most of their audiences could never receive.

Conclusion:

Limited atonement is the point of traditional Calvinism that has caused the most confusion and consternation among Bible-believing theologians. Will only the elect be saved? Yes. However, Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient to pay for all sin, and the offer of salvation is universal. Our invitation for others to accept Christ should echo the Spirit’s call in Revelation 22:17: “‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”

Recommended Resource: Chosen But Free, revised edition: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will by Norm Geisler and The Potter’s Freedom by James White

“What is Amyraldism / Four-Point Calvinism?”

Answer:
Amyraldism (sometimes spelled Amyraldianism) is an off-shoot of Calvinism that holds to four of Calvinism’s five points—limited atonement being the only point to be rejected. For this reason, Amyraldism is sometimes called “four-point Calvinism” or “moderate Calvinism.” Amyraldism is named after Moses Amyraut (Moyses Amyraldus), a 16th-century French theologian who was influential in the development of the doctrine of “hypothetical redemption” or “hypothetical universalism.” Some Calvinists see Amyraldism as a “liberal” form of Calvinism; others see it as an unnecessary compromise with Arminianism; still others see it as inconsistent with itself and therefore illogical.

In order to better understand Amyraldism, it is beneficial to recap what Calvinism is. Classic Calvinism centers on the so-called five points of Calvinism, which are summarized below:

1. Total Depravity – Man, in his fallen state, is completely incapable of doing any good that is acceptable to God.

2. Unconditional Election – As a result of man’s total depravity, he is unable (and unwilling) to come to God for salvation. Therefore, God must sovereignly choose those who will be saved. His decision to elect individuals for salvation is unconditional. It is not based on anything that man is or does but solely on God’s grace.

3. Limited Atonement – In order to save those whom God has unconditionally elected, atonement for their sin had to be made. God the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for the sins of the elect and secure their pardon by His death on the cross.

4. Irresistible Grace – The Holy Spirit applies the finished work of salvation to the elect by irresistibly drawing them to faith and repentance. This saving call of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted and is referred to as an efficacious call.

5. Perseverance of the Saints – Those whom God has elected, atoned for, and efficaciously called are preserved in faith until the last day. They will never fall away because God has secured them with the seal of the Holy Spirit. The saints persevere because God preserves them.

As mentioned above, the particular point that Amyraldism denies is the third point, limited atonement. Amyraldism replaces it with unlimited atonement, or the concept of “hypothetical universalism,” which asserts that Christ died for the sins of all people, not just the elect. Amyraldism preserves the doctrine of unconditional election even while teaching unlimited atonement this way: because God knew that not all would respond in faith to Christ’s atonement (due to man’s total depravity), He elected some to whom He would impart saving faith.

Amyraldism is somewhere between Calvinism and Arminianism when it comes to the extent of the atonement. Calvinism teaches that the atonement is limited to the elect; Christ’s death on the cross makes salvation a reality for the elect. Arminianism teaches that the atonement is unlimited and available to all; Christ’s death on the cross makes salvation possible to all, and man must exercise faith to make salvation actual. Amyraldism teaches that Christ died for all men, but God only applies this salvation to those whom He has chosen. This is related to a view held in some Calvinistic circles called “unlimited/limited atonement.”

Amyraldism seems to resolve a problem that a belief in limited atonement presents—namely, the difficulty of reconciling Calvinism with passages that teach Christ died for everyone (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:2). But Amyraldism is not without its own difficulty: if Christ died for all men, then, logically, there are people in hell right now whose sins have been atoned for. Those in hell are not the elect, according to Amyraldism, so did God pass over people for whom Christ died? This is the main theological question facing Amyraldians, who respond by saying God’s salvation (through the unlimited sacrifice of Christ) is offered to everyone equally. But this salvation has a condition: faith. In one sense, God’s grace is universal—He desires all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9)—but, in another sense, His grace is narrowed down and applied (through election) only to those who do not reject salvation.

Amyraldism, or four-point Calvinism, is popular today among many evangelicals, including independent Bible churches, Baptists, and some Presbyterians. Four-point Calvinism is also the official position of Got Questions Ministries, as we hold the view that the extent of the atonement was unlimited.

“What is conditional election?”

Answer:
While the Bible clearly teaches that God elects people to salvation, there are disagreements as to the basis of that election. Conditional election is the belief that God elects people for salvation based on His foreknowledge of who will put their faith in Christ. Conditional election says that an all-knowing God looks to the future and decides to elect people based on a future decision they will make to come to faith in Christ. It is considered “conditional” election because it is based on the condition of man doing something of his own free will. According to conditional election, those who God knows will come to faith in Christ are elected by God, and those who God knows will not accept Christ are not elected.

Conditional election is one of the Articles of Remonstrance that define Arminian theology, and it is a core part of that worldview and theological system.

As such, it stands in direct contrast to the belief held by those who hold to Reformed theology, which believes that the Bible teaches unconditional election, the view that God elects people based on His sovereign will and not on any future action of the person being elected.

Those who believe in conditional election will often cite verses like 1 Peter 1:1–2, where Peter is writing “to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” The key phrase here is elect . . . according to the foreknowledge of God. Or another verse with similar implications is Romans 8:29–30: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined, he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Yet there really is no debate or disagreement in the fact that God, because He is all-knowing, knows beforehand who will be saved and who will not. The debate between conditional and unconditional election is about whether these verses teach that man’s “free will choice” is the cause of God’s election or an acknowledgement that God has the foreknowledge of who will be saved and who will not. If these were the only verses in Scripture that dealt with election, the issue as to whether the Bible teaches conditional election would be up for debate, but they are not. There are other very clear passages that tell us on what basis God elects people for salvation.

The first verse that helps us understand whether conditional election is what the Bible really teaches is Ephesians 1:4–5: “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.” Clearly, we see that God predestines or elects individuals “according to the purpose of His will.” When we consider the idea of adoption and the fact that it is God who chooses us for adoption and that it is done before the foundation of the world, it seems to be clear that the basis of God’s election and predestination is not a choice we would make in the future but solely His sovereign will, which He exercises “in love.”

Another verse that strongly supports unconditional election is Romans 9:11, where God describes “the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls.” While some want to dismiss Romans 9:11 as applying to corporate election and not individual election, we simply cannot dismiss this section of Scripture that clearly teaches that election is NOT conditioned on anything man has done or will do but is solely based on the divine will of a sovereign God.

Another verse that teaches unconditional election is John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.” Further, in John 10:26–27 Jesus says, “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow me.” Conditional election says that people who believe are chosen as His sheep because they believe, but the Bible actually says just the opposite. The reason they believe is that they are His sheep. Election is not conditional upon man’s acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior but is instead the cause of his acceptance.

Conditional election is the view that man’s “free will” decision to accept Christ as Savior is the basis for his/her election. Therefore, in a very real sense, man’s decision is the cause of salvation. This view of election is in large part necessary because of the Arminian worldview where man chooses God, instead of God choosing man. Boiled down to its simplest form, Arminian theology is that, ultimately, man’s salvation depends on his “free will decision” alone and not God’s will. Conditional election leads to the conclusion that God’s actions in election are dependent upon man’s free will choices. This view of election and salvation makes God subject to the whims of men and their decisions, and man’s will becomes essentially the cause and effect of salvation.

On the other hand, in unconditional election it is God’s sovereign will that determines who is elected and who is not. Therefore, it is God’s will and God’s grace that are completely responsible for man’s salvation. All those whom God elects to salvation will come to saving faith in Christ, and those whom He does not elect will not (John 6:37). In this scenario, it is God who gets the glory for His grace and mercy in offering salvation to those who do not love Him and who can’t come to Him on their own (Ephesians 2:1–5).

These two views on election are not compatible at all. One is true, and the other is false. One makes God’s election and ultimately man’s salvation dependent upon man, ultimately giving man the credit and glory, while the other recognizes that election and salvation depend on God’s sovereign will. One worldview has man being the master of his destiny and, in essence, in control of his salvation, while the other has God rescuing lost, hopeless sinners not because they deserve it but because He wills it. One view exalts man, and the other exalts God. One is a testimony to man’s goodness and ability, and the other is a testimony to God’s amazing grace.

Recommended Resource: Chosen But Free, revised edition: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will by Norm Geisler and The Potter’s Freedom by James White

“What is the concept of the vicarious atonement?”

Answer:
Vicarious atonement is the idea that Jesus Christ took the place of mankind, suffering the penalty for sin. Atonement is a term meaning “reconciliation” or “amends.” Vicarious means “done in place of or instead of someone else.” So, in literal terms, the Christian concept of “vicarious atonement” is that Jesus was substituted for humanity and punished for our faults in order to pay for the sins we had committed and reconcile us to God. Vicarious atonement is also referred to as “substitutionary atonement” or “penal substitution.

According to the Bible, vicarious atonement is an accurate description of Jesus Christ’s role in our salvation. First Peter 3:18 refers to Jesus’ death as “the righteous [suffering] for the unrighteous.” Mark 10:45 indicates that He came to “give His life as a ransom for many.” The fact that believers “were bought with a price” by Jesus, according to 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, should motivate us to give God glory in the things we say and do.

Second Corinthians 5:21 clearly says that God the Father “made him to be sin who knew no sin,” meaning there was an exchange that took place at the cross. Our sin was transferred to Jesus, and our suffering became Jesus’ suffering. His death was vicarious—Jesus was our Substitute. His death atoned for us—Jesus made amends between us and God. Jesus was condemned instead of us. Even in the Old Testament, prophets such as Isaiah spoke of the Messiah’s taking the penalty for sin on our behalf (Isaiah 53:5).

In broad terms, human beings are hopelessly lost and unable to be reconciled to God on their own. This is because of our sin, which no amount of good works can undo. Since God is perfect and holy, we can never hope to pay for our own sins in order to be with Him. So Jesus Christ was offered as our substitute. Instead of our trying—and failing—to cover the penalty for our own sins, Jesus became the vicarious object of God’s justice. With this exchange our sin was paid for, and we can be declared righteous in Christ (Romans 4:5; 8:1).

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

“What is the substitutionary atonement?”

Answer:
The substitutionary atonement refers to Jesus Christ dying as a substitute for sinners. The Scriptures teach that all men are sinners (Romans 3:9-18, 23). The penalty for our sinfulness is death. Romans 6:23 reads, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That verse teaches us several things. Without Christ, we are going to die and spend an eternity in hell as payment for our sins. Death in the Scriptures refers to a “separation.” Everyone will die, but some will live in heaven with the Lord for eternity, while others will live a life in hell for eternity. The death spoken of here refers to the life in hell. However, the second thing this verse teaches us is that eternal life is available through Jesus Christ. This is His substitutionary atonement.

Jesus Christ died in our place when He was crucified on the cross. We deserved to be the ones placed on that cross to die because we are the ones who live sinful lives. But Christ took the punishment on Himself in our place—He substituted Himself for us and took what we rightly deserved. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Here again we see that Christ took the sins we committed onto Himself to pay the price for us. A few verses later we read, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). Not only do these verses teach us about the substitute that Christ was for us, but they also teach that He was the atonement, meaning He satisfied the payment due for the sinfulness of man.

One more passage that talks about the substitutionary atonement is Isaiah 53:5. This verse talks about the coming Christ who was to die on the cross for our sins. The prophecy is very detailed, and the crucifixion happened just as it was foretold. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Notice the substitution. Here again we see that Christ paid the price for us!

We can only pay the price of sin on our own by being punished and placed in hell for all eternity. But God’s Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth to pay for the price of our sins. Because He did this for us, we now have the opportunity to not only have our sins forgiven, but to spend eternity with Him. In order to do this we must place our faith in what Christ did on the cross. We cannot save ourselves; we need a substitute to take our place. The death of Jesus Christ is the substitutionary atonement.

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

“What is the doctrine of penal substitution?”

Answer:
In the simplest possible terms, the biblical doctrine of penal substitution holds that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross takes the place of the punishment we ought to suffer for our sins. As a result, God’s justice is satisfied, and those who accept Christ can be forgiven and reconciled to God.

The word penal means “related to punishment for offenses,” and substitution means “the act of a person taking the place of another.” So, penal substitution is the act of a person taking the punishment for someone else’s offenses. In Christian theology, Jesus Christ is the Substitute, and the punishment He took (at the cross) was ours, based on our sin (1 Peter 2:24).

According to the doctrine of penal substitution, God’s perfect justice demands some form of atonement for sin. Humanity is depraved, to such an extent that we are spiritually dead and incapable of atoning for sin in any way (Ephesians 2:1). Penal substitution means Jesus’ death on the cross propitiated, or satisfied, God’s requirement for justice. God’s mercy allows Jesus to take the punishment we deserve for our sins. As a result, Jesus’ sacrifice serves as a substitute for anyone who accepts it. In a very direct sense, Jesus is exchanged for us as the recipient of sin’s penalty.

Penal substitution is clearly taught by the Bible. In fact, much of what God did prior to Jesus’ ministry was to foreshadow this concept and present it as the purpose of the Messiah. In Genesis 3:21, God uses animal skins to cover the naked Adam and Eve. This is the first reference to a death (in this case, an animal’s) being used to cover (atone for) sin. In Exodus 12:13, God’s Spirit “passes over” the homes that are covered (atoned) by the blood of the sacrifice. God requires blood for atonement in Exodus 29:41–42. The description of Messiah in Isaiah 53:4–6 says His suffering is meant to heal our wounds. The fact that the Messiah was to be “crushed for our iniquities” (verse 5) is a direct reference to penal substitution.

During and after Jesus’ ministry, penal substitution is further clarified. Jesus claims to be the “good shepherd” who lays down His life for the sheep in John 10:10. Paul, in Romans 3:25–26, explains that we have the righteousness of Christ because of the sacrifice of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, he says that the sinless Christ took on our sins. Hebrews 9:26 says that our sins were removed by the sacrifice of Christ. First Peter 3:18 plainly teaches that the righteous was substituted for the unrighteous.

There are quite a few different theories about how, exactly, Christ’s sacrifice frees us from the penalty of sin. Penal substitution is the most logically and biblically sound view.

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns

“What is the effectual calling/call?”

Answer:
The term effectual call, as related to salvation, comes from Chapter X of the 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith. The effectual call is understood as God’s sovereign drawing of a sinner to salvation. The effectual call to a sinner so overwhelms his natural inclination to rebel that he willingly places faith in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul refers to the effectual call when he writes, “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). The necessity of the effectual call is emphasized in Jesus’ words, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them” (John 6:44).

Paul further affirms that God must impress His will on the natural state of man when he writes that those who oppose God “must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25). The apostle Peter writes that God “called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). Peter’s use of the Greek word kaleo, which is translated “called,” expresses the action of God calling sinners. Whenever kaleo is used in the participial form, as it is in this passage, with God as the subject, it refers to the effectual call of God on sinners to salvation. Kaleo carries the idea that a sinner is being drawn to God rather than simply invited to come.

The effectual calling is more commonly known as “irresistible grace,” which is the I in the acronym TULIP. The doctrine of effectual calling is closely related to the doctrine of total depravity, the T in TULIP. Since the unregenerate man is “dead in transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), he is incapable of reaching out to God or responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ on his own. “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:10–11). This state of total depravity makes the effectual calling of God necessary to give anyone the opportunity for salvation.

Jesus said, “For many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). In this statement, Jesus distinguishes between the general call that everyone receives by hearing the gospel and the effectual call that leads to salvation. The effectual call is also taught in passages such as Romans 1:6, where Paul greets the believers as those “who are called to belong to Jesus Christ”; and Acts 16:14, where Luke says of Lydia that “the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” The effectual call, therefore, is God’s action toward the elect, those whom He chose in Christ “before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless. . . . He predestined [them] for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:4–5).

The general call, on the other hand, is for all of humanity, not just the elect. The famous passage, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), portrays God’s general revelation to everyone in the world. The gospel is available to everyone, but, because of humanity’s sinful nature and total depravity, no one will turn to God without God first impressing Himself on them.

Recommended Resource: Faith Alone, The Doctrine of Justification: What the Reformers Taught…and Why It Still Matters by Thomas Schreiner

“What is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)?”

Answer:
The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27-28), also known as Yom Kippur, was the most solemn holy day of all the Israelite feasts and festivals, occurring once a year on the tenth day of Tishri, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. On that day, the high priest was to perform elaborate rituals to atone for the sins of the people. Described in Leviticus 16:1-34, the atonement ritual began with Aaron, or subsequent high priests of Israel, coming into the holy of holies. The solemnity of the day was underscored by God telling Moses to warn Aaron not to come into the Most Holy Place whenever he felt like it; he could only come on this special day once a year, lest he die (v.2). This was not a ceremony to be taken lightly, and the people were to understand that atonement for sin was to be done God’s way.

Before entering the tabernacle, Aaron was to bathe and put on special garments (v. 4), then sacrifice a bull for a sin offering for himself and his family (v. 6, 11). The blood of the bull was to be sprinkled on the ark of the covenant. Then Aaron was to bring two goats, one to be sacrificed “because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been” (v. 16), and its blood was sprinkled on the ark of the covenant. The other goat was used as a scapegoat. Aaron placed his hands on its head, confessed over it the rebellion and wickedness of the Israelites, and sent the goat out with an appointed man who released it into the wilderness (v. 21). The goat carried on itself all the sins of the people, which were forgiven for another year (v. 30).

The symbolic significance of the ritual, particularly to Christians, is seen first in the washing and cleansing of the high priest, the man who released the goat, and the man who took the sacrificed animals outside the camp to burn the carcasses (v. 4, 24, 26, 28). Israelite washing ceremonies were required often throughout the Old Testament and symbolized the need for mankind to be cleansed of sin. But it wasn’t until Jesus came to make the “once for all” sacrifice that the need for cleansing ceremonies ceased (Hebrews 7:27). The blood of bulls and goats could only atone for sins if the ritual was continually done year after year, while Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for all the sins of all who would ever believe in Him. When His sacrifice was made, He declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30). He then sat down at the right hand of God, and no further sacrifice was ever needed (Hebrews 10:1-12).

The sufficiency and completeness of the sacrifice of Christ is also seen in the two goats. The blood of the first goat was sprinkled on the ark, ritually appeasing the wrath of God for another year. The second goat removed the sins of the people into the wilderness where they were forgotten and no longer clung to the people. Sin is both propitiated and expiated God’s way—only by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Propitiation is the act of appeasing the wrath of God, while expiation is the act of atoning for sin and removing it from the sinner. Both together are achieved eternally by Christ. When He sacrificed Himself on the cross, He appeased God’s wrath against sin, taking that wrath upon Himself: “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Romans 5:9). The removal of sin by the second goat was a living parable of the promise that God would remove our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and that He would remember them no more (Hebrews 8:12; 10:17). Jews today still celebrate the annual Day of Atonement, which falls on different days each year in September-October, traditionally observing this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer. Jews also often spend most of the day in synagogue services.

Recommended Resource: Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith by Marvin Wilson

Article by John Piper Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

This article is available in book form as Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of the Grace of God.

  1. Preface
  2. Historical Roots
  3. Total Depravity
  4. Irresistible Grace
  5. Limited Atonement
  6. Unconditional Election
  7. Perseverance of the Saints
  8. What the Five Points Have Meant for Me: A Personal Testimony
  9. Concluding Testimonies
  10. A Final Appeal

1. Preface

Christians love God. He is our great Treasure, and nothing can compare with him. One of the great old catechisms says, “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question Four). This is the One we love. We love the whole panorama of his perfections. To know him, and be loved by him, and become like him is the end of our soul’s quest. He is our “exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4).

He is infinite — and that answers our longing for completeness. He is eternal — and that answers our longing for permanence. He is unchangeable — and that answers our longing for stability and security. There is none like God. Nothing can compare with him. Wealth, sex, power, popularity, conquest, productivity, great achievement — nothing can compare with God.

When the Fog Clears

The more you know him, the more you want to know him. The more you feast on his fellowship, the hungrier you are for deeper, richer communion. Satisfaction at the deepest levels breeds a holy longing for the time when we will have the very power of God to love God.

That’s the way Jesus prays for us to his Father: “That the love with which you have loved me may be in them” (John 17:26). That is what we long for: the very love the Father has for the Son filling us, enabling us to love the Son with the magnitude and purity of the love of the Father. Then the frustrations of inadequate love will be over.

Yes, the more you know him and love him and trust him, the more you long to know him. That’s why I have written this article. I long to know God and enjoy God. And I want the same for you. The great old catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” and answers, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Enjoying God is the way to glorify God, because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

But to enjoy him we must know him. Seeing is savoring. If he remains a blurry, vague fog, we may be intrigued for a season. But we will not be stunned with joy, as when the fog clears and you find yourself on the brink of some vast precipice.

Worthwhile Wrestling

My experience is that clear knowledge of God from the Bible is the kindling that sustains the fires of affection for God. And probably the most crucial kind of knowledge is the knowledge of what God is like in salvation. That is what the five points of Calvinism are about. Not the power and sovereignty of God in general, but his power and sovereignty in the way he saves people. That is why these points are sometimes called the doctrines of grace. To experience God fully, we need to know not just how he acts in general, but specifically how he saves us — how did he save me?

I do not begin as a Calvinist and defend a system. I begin as a Bible-believing Christian who wants to put the Bible above all systems of thought. But over the years — many years of struggle — I have deepened in my conviction that Calvinistic teachings on the five points are biblical and therefore true, and therefore a precious pathway into deeper experiences of God’s grace.

My own struggle makes me more patient with others who are on the way. And in one sense, we are all on the way. Even when we know things biblically and truly — things clear enough and precious enough to die for — we still see through a glass dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12). There can be many tears as we seek to put our ideas through the testing fires of God’s word.

But all the wrestling to understand what the Bible teaches about God is worth it. God is a rock of strength in a world of quicksand. To know him in his sovereignty is to become like an oak tree in the wind of adversity and confusion. And along with strength is sweetness and tenderness beyond imagination. The sovereign Lion of Judah is the sweet Lamb of God.

My Prayer for You

I pray you will be helped. Please don’t feel that you have to read these short sections in any particular order. Many of you will want to skip the historical introduction because it is not as immediately relevant to the biblical questions. There is an intentional order to the article, but feel free to start wherever it looks most urgent for you. If you get help, then you will be drawn back to the rest of it. If you don’t, well, then just return to the Bible and read it with all your might. That is where I hope you will end up anyway: reading and understanding and loving and enjoying and obeying God’s word, not my word. I pray that because of our meeting here you will move “Toward a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace.”

2. Historical Roots

John Calvin, the famous theologian and pastor of Geneva, died in 1564. Along with Martin Luther in Germany, he was the most influential force of the Protestant Reformation. His commentaries and Institutes of the Christian Religion are still exerting tremendous influence on the Christian church worldwide.

The churches which have inherited the teachings of Calvin are usually called Reformed as opposed to the Lutheran or Anglican/Episcopalian branches of the Reformation. While not all Baptist churches hold to a Reformed theology, there is a significant Baptist tradition which flowed out of that stream and still cherishes the central doctrines inherited from the Reformed branch of the Reformation.

Arminius and the Remonstrants

The controversy between Arminianism and Calvinism arose in Holland in the early 1600s. The founder of the Arminian party was Jacob Arminius (1560–1609). He studied in Geneva under Calvin’s successor, Theodore Beza, and became a professor of theology at the University of Leyden in 1603.

Gradually Arminius came to reject certain Calvinist teachings. The controversy spread all over Holland, where the Reformed Church was the overwhelming majority. The Arminians drew up their creed in Five Articles, and laid them before the state authorities of Holland in 1610 under the name Remonstrance, signed by forty-six ministers.

The official Calvinistic response came from the Synod of Dort which was held November 13, 1618, to May 9, 1619, to consider the Five Articles. There were eighty-four members and eighteen secular commissioners. The Synod wrote what has come to be known as the Canons of Dort. These are still part of the church confession of the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church. They state the Five Points of Calvinism in response to the Five Articles of the Arminian Remonstrants.

So the so-called Five Points were not chosen by the Calvinists as a summary of their teaching. They emerged as a response to the Arminians who chose these five points to disagree with.

At the Heart of Biblical Theology

It is more important to give a positive biblical position on the five points than to know the exact form of the original controversy. These five points are still at the heart of biblical theology. They are not unimportant. Where we stand on these things deeply affects our view of God, man, salvation, the atonement, regeneration, assurance, worship, and missions.

Somewhere along the way (nobody knows for sure when or how), the five points came to be summarized in English under the acronym TULIP.

T – Total depravity
U – Unconditional election
L – Limited atonement
I – Irresistible grace
P – Perseverance of the saint

I make no claim that these five points exhaust the riches of Reformed theology. Numerous writers, especially those with a more Presbyterian orientation, make that point today because so many people (like me, a Baptist) are called Calvinists while not embracing all aspects of the Reformed tradition. For example, Richard Muller in his book, Calvin and the Reformed Tradition (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2012, pp. 51–69), and Kenneth J. Stewart in Ten Myths About Calvinism (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2011, pp. 75–96) make clear that Calvin and the system of rivers that flowed from his labors is wider and deeper and more multi-faceted than the five streams I am focusing on here. These five points are focused on the central act of God’s saving sinners. Nor do I make the claim that these titles for the five doctrines of grace are the best titles. Like any shorthand version of a doctrine, they are all liable to misunderstanding. Justin Taylor gives a helpful summary of various attempts to restate these truths.

For example, Timothy George prefers R O S E S over T U L I P: Radical depravity ,
Overcoming grace, Sovereign election,
 Eternal life,
 Singular redemption. Roger Nicole prefers the acronym G O S P E L (which makes six points): Grace, 
Obligatory grace, 
Sovereign grace,
 Provision-making grace,
 Effectual grace,
 Lasting grace.

Others abandon the effort to make an acronym altogether. For example, James Montgomery Boice suggests: Radical depravity, Unconditional election, Particular redemption, Efficacious grace, Persevering Grace. Greg Forster proposes:

  • State of man before salvation: wholly defiled

  • Work of the Father in salvation: unconditional choice

  • Work of the Son in salvation: personal salvation

  • Work of the Spirit in salvation: supernatural transformation

  • State of man after salvation: in faith, perseverance

Nor do I claim that this ordering of the doctrines (T U L I P) is necessarily the most helpful when teaching what they mean. To be sure, there is a good rationale for this traditional order. It starts with man in need of salvation (Total depravity) and then gives, in the order of their occurrence, the steps God takes to save his people. He elects (Unconditional election), then he sends Jesus to atone for the sins of the elect (Limited atonement), then he irresistibly draws his people to faith (Irresistible grace), and finally works to cause them to persevere to the end (Perseverance of the saints).

I have found, however, that people grasp these points more easily if we go in the order in which we ourselves often experience them when we become Christians.

  1. We experience first our depravity and need of salvation.
  2. Then we experience the irresistible grace of God leading us toward faith.
  3. Then we trust the sufficiency of the atoning death of Christ for our sins.
  4. Then we discover that behind the work of God to atone for our sins and bring us to faith was the unconditional election of God.
  5. And finally we rest in his electing grace to give us the strength and will to persevere to the end in faith.

This is the order we follow in the pages ahead. I will try to lay out what I believe the Scriptures teach on these five points. My great desire is to deepen your experience of God’s grace and to honor him by understanding and believing his truth revealed in Scripture. I pray that I am open to changing any of my ideas which can be shown to contradict the truth of Scripture. I do not have any vested interest in John Calvin himself, and find some of what he taught to be wrong. But in general I am willing to be called a Calvinist on the five points because this name has been attached to these points for centuries and because I find this Calvinist position to be faithful to Scripture. The Bible is our final authority.

I share the sentiments of Jonathan Edwards who said in the preface to his great book The Freedom of the Will (ed. Paul Ramsey [New Haven, Conn. Yale University Press, 1957], 131), “I should not take it at all amiss, to be called a Calvinist, for distinction’s sake: though I utterly disclaim a dependence on Calvin, or believing the doctrines which I hold, because he believed and taught them; and cannot justly be charged with believing in every thing just as he taught.”

It might be helpful for some readers to summarize the meaning of each of the five points briefly before we go into more biblical detail. Perhaps this foretaste will awaken some sense of why I believe these truths magnify God’s precious grace and give unspeakable joy to sinners who have despaired of saving themselves.

Total Depravity

Our sinful corruption is so deep and so strong as to make us slaves of sin and morally unable to overcome our own rebellion and blindness. This inability to save ourselves from ourselves is total. We are utterly dependent on God’s grace to overcome our rebellion, give us eyes to see, and effectively draw us to the Savior.

Unconditional Election

God’s election is an unconditional act of free grace that was given through his Son Jesus before the world began. By this act, God chose, before the foundation of the world, those who would be delivered from bondage to sin and brought to repentance and saving faith in Jesus.

Irresistible Grace

This means that the resistance that all human beings exert against God every day (Romans 3:10–12; Acts 7:51) is wonderfully overcome at the proper time by God’s saving grace for undeserving rebels whom he chooses freely to save.

Limited Atonement

The atonement of Christ is sufficient for all humans and effective for those who trust him. It is not limited in its worth or sufficiency to save all who believe. But the full, saving effectiveness of the atonement that Jesus accomplished is limited to those for whom that saving effect was prepared. The availability of the total sufficiency of the atonement is for all people. Whosoever will — whoever believes — will be covered by the blood of Christ. And there is a divine design in the death of Christ to accomplish the promises of the new covenant for the chosen bride of Christ. Thus Christ died for all people, but not for all in the same way.

Perseverance of the Saints

We believe that all who are justified will win the fight of faith. They will persevere in faith and will not surrender finally to the enemy of their souls. This perseverance is the promise of the new covenant, obtained by the blood of Christ, and worked in us by God himself, yet not so as to diminish, but only to empower and encourage, our vigilance; so that we may say in the end, I have fought the good fight, but it was not I, but the grace of God which was with me (2 Timothy 4:7; 1 Corinthians 15:10).

We turn now to give a biblical explanation and justification for each of the five points. I pray not that I will be proved right, but that the word of God will be truly explained and our minds would be softened to receive what is really there.

3. Total Depravity

When we speak of man’s depravity, we mean man’s natural condition apart from any grace exerted by God to restrain or transform man.

The totality of that depravity is clearly not that man does as much evil as he could do. There is no doubt that man could perform more evil acts toward his fellow man than he does. But if he is restrained from performing more evil acts by motives that are not owing to his glad submission to God, then even his “virtue” is evil in the sight of God. Romans 14:23 says, “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (see note in the next paragraph). This is a radical indictment of all natural “virtue” that does not flow from a heart humbly relying on God’s grace.

NOTE: I agree with Thomas Schreiner that Romans 14:23 is introduced precisely because it stands as a sweeping maxim with profound biblical warrant: Acting without faith is sinning. “Thus Augustine (On the Proceedings of Pelagius 34; On the Grace of Christ 1.27; On Marriage and Concupiscence 1.4; Against Two Letters of the Pelagians 1.7; 3.14; On the Predestination of the Saints 20) was right in claiming that any act done apart from faith is sin” [Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Vol. 6, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), p. 739].

Schreiner points out that Paul could very easily have made a more limited point by stopping with the first part of verse 23 (“But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith”), but when he adds the unqualified maxim, “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin,” he broadens the foundation to a general statement. Schreiner also points to the fact that in Romans 4:18–21, we see why this is so — namely, that acting in faith glorifies God, and we are to do that in every detail of life (1 Corinthians 10:31). Not relying on God in any action or thought takes power and glory to ourselves (1 Peter 4:11; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 2:20). That is sin, even if the external deed itself accords with God’s will.

An example might make this radical indictment of much human “goodness” clearer. Suppose you’re the father of a teenage son. You remind him to wash the car before he uses it to take his friends to the basketball game tonight. He had earlier agreed to do that. He gets angry and says he doesn’t want to. You gently but firmly remind him of his promise and say that’s what you expect. He resists. You say, “Well, if you are going to use the car tonight, that’s what you agreed to do.” He storms out of the room angry. Later you see him washing the car. But he is not doing it out of love for you or out of a Christ-honoring desire to honor you as his father. He wants to go to the game with his friends. That is what constrains his “obedience.” I put “obedience” in quotes because it is only external. His heart is wrong. This is what I mean when I say that all human “virtue” is depraved if it is not from a heart of love to the heavenly Father — even if the behavior conforms to biblical norms.

The terrible condition of man’s heart will never be recognized by people who assess it only in relation to other men. Your son will drive his friends to the ballgame. That is “kindness,” and they will experience it as a benefit. So the evil of our actions can never be measured merely by the harm they do to other humans. Romans 14:23 makes plain that depravity is our condition in relation to God primarily, and only secondarily in relation to man. Unless we start here, we will never grasp the totality of our natural depravity.

Man’s depravity is total in at least four senses.

1) Our rebellion against God is total.

Apart from the grace of God, there is no delight in the holiness of God, and there is no glad submission to the sovereign authority of God.

Of course, totally depraved men can be very religious and very philanthropic. They can pray and give alms and fast, as Jesus said (Matthew 6:1–18). But their very religion is rebellion against the rights of their Creator, if it does not come from a childlike heart of trust in the free grace of God. Religion is one of the chief ways that man conceals his unwillingness to forsake self-reliance and bank all his hopes on the unmerited mercy of God (Luke 18:9–14; Colossians 2:20–23).

The totality of our rebellion is seen in Romans 3:9–11 and 18. “We have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.’ . . . ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’” Any seeking of God that honors God is a gift of God. It is not owing to our native goodness. It is an illustration of God mercifully overcoming our native resistance to God.

Natural Man Not Seeking God

It is a myth that man in his natural state is genuinely seeking God. Men do seek God. But they do not seek him for who he is. They seek him in a pinch as one who might preserve them from death or enhance their worldly enjoyments. Apart from conversion, no one comes to the light of God.

Some do come to the light. But listen to what John 3:20–21 says about them. “Everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” Yes, there are those who come to the light — namely, those whose deeds are the work of God. “Carried out in (or by) God” means worked by God. Apart from this gracious work of God all men hate the light of God and will not come to him lest their evil be exposed — this is total rebellion. “No one seeks for God. . . . There is no fear of God before their eyes!”

2) In his total rebellion everything man does is sin.

In Romans 14:23 Paul says, “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Therefore, if all men are in total rebellion, everything they do is the product of rebellion and cannot be an honor to God, but only part of their sinful rebellion. Of course many of these acts which flow from inward unbelief conform outwardly to the revealed will of God (for example, obeying parents or telling the truth). But they do not conform to God’s perfect will because of that mere outward conformity. Let all things be done in love, the apostle says (1 Corinthians 16:14); but love is the fruit of faith (Galatians 5:6; 1 Timothy 1:5). Therefore many outwardly good acts come from hearts without Christ-exalting faith, and therefore, without love, and therefore without conformity to God’s command, and therefore as sinful.

If a king teaches his subjects how to fight well and then those subjects rebel against their king and use the very skill he taught them to resist him, then even those skills, as excellent and amazing and “good” as they are, become evil.

Thus man does many things which he can do only because he is created in the image of God and which in the service of God would be praised. But in the service of man’s self-justifying rebellion, these very things are sinful. We may praise them as echoes of God’s excellence, but we will weep that they are prostituted for God-ignoring purposes.

In Romans 7:18 Paul says, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” This is a radical confession of the truth that in our rebellion nothing we think or feel is good. It is all part of our rebellion. The fact that Paul qualifies his depravity with the words, “that is, in my flesh,” shows that he is willing to affirm the good of anything that the Spirit of God produces in him (Romans 15:18). “Flesh” refers to man in his natural state apart from the work of God’s Spirit. So, what Paul is saying in Romans 7:18 is that apart from the work of God’s Spirit all we think and feel and do is not good.

The Good That Really Counts

We recognize that the word “good” has a broad range of meanings. We will have to use it in a restricted sense to refer to many actions of fallen people which in relation are in fact not good.

For example, we will have to say that it is good that most unbelievers do not kill and that many unbelievers perform acts of benevolence. What we mean when we call such actions good is that they more or less conform to the external pattern of life that God has commanded in Scripture.

However, such outward conformity to the revealed will of God is not righteousness in relation to God. It is not done out of reliance on him or for his glory. He is not trusted for the resources, though he gives them all. Nor is his honor exalted, even though that’s his will in all things (1 Corinthians 10:31). Therefore even these “good” acts are part of our rebellion and are not “good” in the sense that really counts in the end — in relation to God.

3) Man’s inability to submit to God and do good is total.

Picking up on the term “flesh” above (man apart from the grace of God), we find Paul declaring it to be totally enslaved to rebellion. Romans 8:7–8 says, “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

The “mind that is set on the flesh” (literally, “mind of the flesh”) is the mind of man apart from the indwelling Spirit of God (“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you,” Romans 8:9). So natural man has a mindset that does not and cannot submit to God. Man cannot reform himself.

Ephesians 2:1 says that we Christians were all once “dead in trespasses and sins.” The point of deadness is that we were incapable of any spiritual life with God. We had physical life, but our hearts were like a stone toward God (Ephesians 4:18; Ezekiel 36:26). Our hearts were blind and incapable of seeing the glory of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4–6). We were totally unable to reform ourselves.

4) Our rebellion is totally deserving of eternal punishment.

Ephesians 2:3 goes on to say that in our deadness we were “children of wrath.” That is, we were under God’s wrath because of the corruption of our hearts that made us as good as dead before God.

The reality of hell is God’s clear indictment of the infiniteness of our guilt. If our corruption were not deserving of an eternal punishment, God would be unjust to threaten us with a punishment so severe as eternal torment. But the Scriptures teach that God is just in condemning unbelievers to eternal hell (2 Thessalonians 1:6–9; Matthew 5:29–30; 10:28; 13:49–50; 18:8–9; 25:46; Revelation 14:9–11; 20:10). Therefore, to the extent that hell is a sentence of total condemnation, to that extent must we think of ourselves as totally blameworthy apart from the saving grace of God.

This Terrible Truth of Total Depravity

In summary, total depravity means that our rebellion against God is total, everything we do in this rebellion is sinful, our inability to submit to God or reform ourselves is total, and we are therefore totally deserving of eternal punishment.

It is hard to exaggerate the importance of admitting our condition to be this bad. If we think of ourselves as basically good or even less than totally at odds with God, our grasp of the work of God in redemption will be defective. But if we humble ourselves under this terrible truth of our total depravity, we will be in a position to see and appreciate the glory and wonder of the work of God discussed in the next four points.

The aim of this article is to deepen our experience of God’s grace. The aim is not to depress or to discourage or to paralyze. Knowing the seriousness of our disease will make us all the more amazed at the greatness of our Physician. Knowing the extent of our deep-seated rebellion will stun us at the long-suffering grace and patience of God toward us. The way we worship God and the way we treat other people, especially our enemies, are profoundly and wonderfully affected by knowing our depravity to the full.

4. Irresistible Grace

You will notice that I am changing the traditional order of T U L I P. The I stands for irresistible grace and usually comes fourth. I am putting it second after the T which stands for total depravity. The reason is that over the years my experience has been that most Christians have a conscious, personal experience of irresistible grace, even if they have never called it that. This personal experience of the reality of irresistible grace helps people grasp more quickly what these five points are all about. This in turn opens them to the biblical truthfulness of the other points.

More specifically, I rarely meet Christians who want to take credit for their conversion. There is something about true grace in the believer’s heart that makes us want to give all the glory to God. So, for example, if I ask a believer how he will answer Jesus’s question at the last judgment, “Why did you believe on me, when you heard the gospel, but your friends didn’t, when they heard it?” very few believers answer that question by saying: “Because I was wiser or smarter or more spiritual or better trained or more humble.” Most of us feel instinctively that we should glorify God’s grace by saying: “There but for the grace of God go I.” In other words, we know intuitively that God’s grace was decisive in our conversion. That is what we mean by irresistible grace.

But We Do Resist Grace

The doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. It means that the Holy Spirit, whenever he chooses, can overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible.

In Acts 7:51 Stephen says to the Jewish leaders, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.” And Paul speaks of grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). God gives many entreaties and promptings which are resisted. In fact, the whole history of Israel in the Old Testament is one protracted story of human resistance to God’s commands and promises, as the parable of the wicked tenants shows (Matthew 21:33–43; cf. Romans 10:21). This resistance does not contradict God’s sovereignty. God allows it, and overcomes it whenever he chooses.

The doctrine of irresistible grace means that God is sovereign and can conquer all resistance when he wills. “He does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand!” (Daniel 4:35). “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). When God undertakes to fulfill his sovereign purpose, no one can successfully resist him. “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

God’s Work of Bringing Us to Faith

This is what Paul taught in Romans 9:14–18, which caused his opponent to say, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” To which Paul answers: “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” (Romans 9:20–21).

More specifically, irresistible grace refers to the sovereign work of God to overcome the rebellion of our heart and bring us to faith in Christ so that we can be saved. If the doctrine of total depravity, as we have unfolded it in the previous section, is true, there can be no salvation without the reality of irresistible grace. If we are dead in our sins, and unable to submit to God because of our rebellious nature, then we will never believe in Christ unless God overcomes our rebellion.

Someone may say, “Yes, the Holy Spirit must draw us to God, but we can use our freedom to resist or accept that drawing.” But that is not what the Bible teaches. Except for the continual exertion of saving grace, we will always use our freedom to resist God. That is what it means to be “unable to submit to God.” “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7–8).

If a person becomes humble enough to submit to God, it is because God has given that person a new, humble nature. If a person remains too hard-hearted and proud to submit to God, it is because that person has not been given such a willing spirit. But to see this most persuasively, we should look at the Scriptures.

Unless the Father Draws

In John 6:44, Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” This drawing is the sovereign work of grace without which none of us will be saved from our rebellion against God. Again some may object, “He draws all men, not just some.” Then they may cite John 12:32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

But there are several serious problems with this objection. One is that the word translated “all people” is simply “all” (Greek pantas). There is no word for “people.” Jesus simply says: “When I am lifted up, I will draw all to myself.” When we see that we have to ask from similar contexts in John what this “all” probably refers to.

One similar context is in the previous chapter — John 11:50–52. Caiaphas the high priest is speaking more truly than he knows, John says.

“ . . . Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

These last words describe the scope of Jesus’s death as John presents it in this Gospel. Jesus died not just for one ethnic group, but “to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” — all of them. This is a reference to Gentiles whom God will effectively draw to himself when they hear the gospel. They are called “children of God” because God has chosen them to be adopted, as Paul says in Ephesians 1:4–5.

So if this is a good parallel, then the all in John 12:32 is not all human beings, but “all the children of God.” “When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all the children of God to myself.” From every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Revelation 5:9).

Or you could say, “I will draw all of my sheep,” because Jesus says in John 10:15, “I lay down my life for the sheep” — all of them. And in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” — all of them. Or you could say, “I will draw all who are of the truth,” because Jesus says in John 18:37, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Or you could say, “I will draw all who are of God,” because Jesus says in John 8:47, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God.” Or you could say, “I will draw all that the Father gives to me,” because John 6:37 says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me.”

In other words, running straight through the Gospel of John is the truth that God the Father and God the Son decisively draw people out of darkness into light. And Christ died for this. He was lifted up for this — that all of them might be drawn to him — all the children, all the sheep, all who are of the truth, all those whom the Father gives to the Son. What John 12:32 adds is that this happens today in history by pointing the whole world to the crucified Christ and preaching the good news that whoever believes on him will be saved. In that preaching of the lifted up Christ, God opens the ears of the deaf. The sheep hear his voice and follow Jesus (John 10:16, 27).

But the main objection to using John 12:32 (draw all) to deny that the drawing of John 6:44 (“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”) actually produces the coming, is the way John describes the relationship between God’s drawing and the failure of Judas to follow Jesus to the end. In John 6:64–65 Jesus says,

“There are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

Notice that Jesus says the reason he said (back in John 6:44) that “no one can come to me unless it is granted him (=is drawn) by the Father,” is to explain why “there are some of you who do not believe.” We could paraphrase it like this: Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas would not believe on him in spite of all the teaching and invitations he received. And because he knew this, he explains it with the words, “No one comes to me unless it is given to him by my Father.”

There were many influences in the life of Judas for good — in that sense Judas was wooed, and entreated, and drawn for three years. But the point of Jesus in John 6:44 and 6:65 is that Judas’s resistance to grace was not the ultimately decisive factor. What was ultimately decisive was that it was not “granted him” to come. He was not “drawn” by the Father. The decisive, irresistible gift of grace was not given. This is why we speak of “irresistible grace.” In ourselves we are all just as resistant to grace as Judas. And the reason any of us come to Jesus is not that we are smarter, or wiser, or more virtuous than Judas, but that the Father overcame our resistance and drew us to Christ. All of us are saved by irresistible grace — amazing grace!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray —

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

This is what happens when the Father “draws us” irresistibly and infallibly to Jesus.

The Requirements for Salvation As Gifts of God

Now consider the way Paul describes repentance as a gift of God. In 2 Timothy 2:24–25 he says, “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.”

Just as Jesus in John 6:65 said that coming to Jesus was “granted” by the Father, so here Paul says that repentance is “granted” by God. “God may perhaps grant them repentance.” Notice, he is not saying merely that salvation is a gift of God. He is saying that the requirements for salvation are also a gift. When a person hears a preacher say, “Repent, and come to Christ,” he can choose to resist that call. He can disobey. He can say, “No, I will not repent.”

But if God gives him repentance, he cannot resist because the very meaning of the gift of repentance is that God has changed our heart and made it willing to repent. In other words the gift of repentance is the overcoming of resistance to repentance. This is why we call this work of God “irresistible grace.” Resistance to repentance is replaced by the gift of repentance. That is how all of us came to repent.

Thousands of truly repentant people do not know this. They have been taught erroneous things about how they were converted, and therefore they are stunted in their worship and love. Perhaps you have been one of them. If that is true, don’t be angry at your teachers, rejoice with great joy that you have seen 2 Timothy 2:25, and let your heart overflow with thankfulness and brokenhearted joy at the new awareness at how amazing your repentance is. It is an absolutely free gift of God’s grace. Which means he loves you more particularly than you have ever thought.

Never Against Our Will

It should be obvious from this that irresistible grace never implies that God forces us to repent or believe or follow Jesus against our will. That would even be a contradiction in terms because believing and repenting and following are always willing, or they are hypocrisy. Irresistible grace does not drag the unwilling into the kingdom, it makes the unwilling willing. It does not work with constraint from the outside, like hooks and chains; it works with power from the inside, like new thirst and hunger and compelling desire.

Therefore irresistible grace is compatible with preaching and witnessing that tries to persuade people to do what is reasonable and what will accord with their best interests. God uses the ministry of the word to accomplish his supernatural changes in the heart. These changes bring about repentance and faith. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:23–24, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Notice the two kinds of “calls” implied in this text.

First, the preaching of Paul goes out to all, both Jews and Greeks. This is a general call of the gospel. It offers salvation impartially and indiscriminately to all. Whoever will believe on the crucified Christ will have him as Savior and Lord. But often this general call to everyone falls on unreceptive ears and is called foolishness.

But notice, secondly, that Paul refers to another kind of call. He says that among those who hear, both Jews and Greeks, there are some who, in addition to hearing the general call, are “called” in another way. “But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (v. 24). In other words they are called in such a way that they no longer regard the cross as foolishness but as the wisdom and power of God.

Something happened in their hearts that changed the way they saw Christ. Let’s call this not the general call but the effectual call of God. This is like the call of Lazarus out of the grave. Jesus called with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out” (John 11:43). And the dead man came out. This kind of call creates what it calls for. If it says, “Live!” it creates life. If it says, “Repent!” it creates repentance. If it says “Believe!” it creates faith. If it says “Follow me!” it creates obedience. Paul says that everyone who is called in this sense no longer regards the cross as foolishness, but regards the cross as the power of God. They are not coming to Christ under coercion. They are acting freely from what they truly value as infinitely precious. That is what has happened to them. Their resistance to the cross has been overcome because the call of God broke through their spiritual blindness and granted them to see it as wisdom and power. This is what we mean by irresistible grace.

At Work Beneath Our Will

How God works to change our will without coercion against our will is further explained in 2 Corinthians 4:4–6:

The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Since men are blind to the worth of Christ, a miracle is needed in order for them to come to see and believe. Paul compares this miracle with the first day of creation when God said, “Let there be light.” One of the most wonderful statements about how all of us were brought from blindness to sight — from bondage to freedom, from death to life — is: “God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” A real light — a spiritual light — shone in our hearts. It was the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (v. 6). Or as verse 4 puts it, “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” In other words, God causes the glory — the self-authenticating truth and beauty — of Christ to be seen and savored in our hearts.

From that moment on our will toward Christ is fundamentally altered. This is in fact a new creation — a new birth. This is essentially the same divine act as the effectual call that we saw in 1 Corinthians 1:24, “To those who are called . . . Christ [has now been seen as] the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Those who are called have their eyes opened by the sovereign, creative power of God so that they no longer see the cross as foolishness but as the power and the wisdom of God. The effectual call is the miracle of having our blindness removed. God causes the glory of Christ to shine with irresistible beauty. This is irresistible grace.

“The Lord Opened Her Heart”

Another example of it is in Acts 16:14, where Lydia is listening to the preaching of Paul. Luke says, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” Unless God opens our hearts, we will not hear the truth and beauty of Christ in the message of the gospel. This heart-opening is what we mean by irresistible grace. It overcomes the willful resistance of blindness to beauty and deafness to the goodness of the good news.

Another way to describe it is “new birth” or being born again. New birth is a miraculous creation of God that enables a formerly “dead” person to receive Christ and so be saved. We do not bring about the new birth by our faith. God brings about our faith by the new birth. Notice the way John expresses this relationship in 1 John 5:1: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” This means that being born of God comes first and believing follows. Believing in Jesus is not the cause of being born again; it is the evidence that we “have been born of God.”

New Birth: An Act of Sovereign Creation

To confirm this, notice from John’s Gospel how our receiving Christ relates to being born of God. “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12–13). So John says that God gives the right to become the children of God to all who receive Christ (v. 12). Then he goes on to say that those who do receive Christ “were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” In other words, it is necessary to receive Christ in order to become a child of God, but the birth that brings one into the family of God is not possible by the will of man. Only God can do it.

Man is dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). He cannot make himself new, or create new life in himself. He must be born of God. Then, with the new nature of God, he sees Christ for who he really is, and freely receives Christ for all that he is. The two acts (new birth and faith) are so closely connected that in experience we cannot distinguish them. God begets us anew and the first glimmer of life in the newborn child is faith. Thus new birth is the effect of irresistible grace, because it is an act of sovereign creation — “not of the will of man but of God.” This glorious truth of the new birth and how it happens is so wonderful that I wrote a whole book about it called, Finally Alive: What Happens When We Are Born Again. If you want to go deeper into the wonders of irresistible grace, that might be a good place to turn.

We began this section by saying that most Christians know intuitively that God’s grace has been decisive in bringing about our conversion. We look at those who resist the gospel and say with trembling, “But for the grace of God, there go I.” Now at the end of this section I hope it is clearer why that is. God really did overcome out resistance. He really did draw us to himself. He really did grant us repentance. He really did cause us to be born again so that we received Christ. He really did shine in our hearts to give the light of the glory of Christ. He really did call us — like Lazarus — from death to life. It is not surprising then, that all true Christians, even before we have been taught these things, know intuitively that grace was decisive in bringing us to Christ.

Often the heart precedes the head into the truth. That is surely the case for many Christians in regard to irresistible grace. But now we have seen this truth for ourselves in God’s word. My prayer is that because of this you will go even deeper in your experience of the grace of God. May you worship God and love people as never before. That is what a profound experience of sovereign grace does.

5. Limited Atonement

The atonement is the work of God in Christ on the cross in which he completed the work of his perfectly righteous life, canceled the debt of our sin, appeased his holy wrath against us, and won for us all the benefits of salvation. The death of Christ was necessary because God would not show a just regard for his glory if he swept sins under the rug with no recompense. That’s the point of Romans 3:25–26:

God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

You can see from the emphasized words that the death of Christ was necessary to vindicate the righteousness of God in justifying the ungodly by faith. Why is that? Because it would be unrighteous to acquit sinners as though their sin was insignificant, when in fact sin is an insult against the value of God’s glory. And since the value of God’s glory is infinite, the offense is infinitely outrageous. Therefore Jesus bears the curse, which was due to our sin, so that we can be justified and the righteousness of God can be vindicated.

What Did Christ Actually Achieve?

The term “limited atonement” addresses the question, “For whom did Christ do all this?” “For whom did he die?” “Whose sin did he atone for?” “For whom did he purchase all the benefits of salvation?” But behind these questions of the extent of the atonement lies the equally important question about the nature of the atonement. What did Christ actually achieve on the cross for those for whom he died? That question will lead to a more accurate answer to the others.

If you say that he died for every human being in the same way, then you have to define the nature of the atonement very differently than you would if you believed that Christ, in some particular way, died for those who actually do believe. In the first case, you would believe that the death of Christ did not decisively secure the salvation of anyone; it only made all men savable so that something else would be decisive in saving them, namely their choice. In that case, the death of Christ did not actually remove the sentence of death and did not actually guarantee new life for anyone. Rather it only created possibilities of salvation which could be actualized by people who provide the decisive cause, namely, their faith. In this understanding of the atonement, faith and repentance are not blood-bought gifts of God for particular sinners, but are rather the acts of some sinners that make the blood work for them.

You begin to see how closely this doctrine of the atonement is connected with the previous one, irresistible grace. What I think the Bible teaches is that this very irresistible grace is purchased by the blood of Jesus. The new birth is blood-bought. The effectual call is blood-bought. The gift of repentance is blood-bought. None of these acts of irresistible grace is deserved. They came to us because Christ secured them by his blood and righteousness. But that means, he did not secure them for all in the same way. Otherwise all would be born again, and all would be effectually called, and all would receive the gift of repentance.

So the personal and experiential question we face here at the beginning of this section is: Do we believe that Christ decisively secured for me the call and life and faith and repentance I now have? Or do I contribute these things from myself so that what he died to achieve counts for me? For if Christ died for all people in the same way, then his death did not infallibly obtain regenerating grace or faith or repentance for those who are saved. We must have regenerated ourselves without the blood-bought miracle of Christ, and we must have come to faith and repentance ourselves without the blood-bought gifts of faith and repentance.

In other words, if we believe that Christ died for all men in the same way, then the benefits of the cross cannot include the mercy by which we are brought to faith, because then all men would be brought to faith, but they aren’t. But if the mercy by which we are brought to faith (irresistible grace) is not part of what Christ purchased on the cross, then we are left to obtain our deliverance from deadness and blindness and rebellion another way. We are left to make our way into the safety of Christ another way, since he did not obtain this entrance (new birth, faith, repentance) for us when he died.

Who Really Limits the Atonement

Therefore, it becomes evident that it is not the Calvinist who limits the atonement. It is those who deny that the atoning death of Christ accomplishes what we most desperately need — namely, salvation from the condition of deadness and hardness and blindness under the wrath of God. They limit the power and effectiveness of the atonement so that they can say that it was accomplished even for those who die in unbelief and are condemned. In order to say that Christ died for all men in the same way, they must limit the atonement to a possibility or an opportunity for salvation if fallen humans can escape from their deadness and rebellion and obtain faith by an effectual means not provided by the cross.

On the other hand, we do not limit the power and effectiveness of the atonement. Rather we say that in the cross, God had in view the actual, effective redemption of his children from all that would destroy them, including their own unbelief. And we affirm that when Christ died particularly for his bride, he did not simply create a possibility or an opportunity for salvation, but really purchased and infallibly secured for them all that is necessary to get them saved, including the grace of regeneration and the gift of faith.

We do not deny that Christ died to save all in some sense. Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:10 that in Christ God is “the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” What we deny is that the death of Christ is for all men in the same sense. God sent Christ to save all in some sense. And he sent Christ to save those who believe in a more particular sense. God’s intention is different for each. That is a natural way to read 1 Timothy 4:10.

For “all men” the death of Christ is the foundation of the free offer of the gospel. This is the meaning of John 3:16, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The sending of the Son is for the whole world in the sense that Jesus makes plain: so that whoever believes in him should not perish. In that sense God sent Jesus for everyone. Or, to use the words of 1 Timothy 4:10, God is the “Savior of all people” in that Christ died to provide an absolutely reliable and valid offer of forgiveness to all, such that everyone, without exception, who trusts Christ would be saved.

When the gospel is preached, Christ is offered to all without discrimination. And the offer is absolutely authentic for all. What is offered is Christ, and anyone — absolutely anyone — who receives Christ receives all that he bought for his sheep, his bride. The gospel does not offer a possibility of salvation. It is the possibility of salvation. But what is offered is Christ, and in him the infinite achievement that he accomplished for his people by his death and resurrection.

The Crucial Role of the New Covenant

NOTE: The argument that follows is developed more fully in John Piper, “‘My Glory I Will Not Give to Another’: Preaching the Fullness of Definite Atonement for the Glory of God,” in David and Jonathan Gibson, eds, From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2013).

The biblical foundation for saying that Christ died not just to make salvation available for all who believe, but to actually purchase the faith of the elect is the fact that the blood of Jesus secured the blessings of the new covenant for his people. The faith of God’s chosen and called was purchased by “the blood of the covenant” (Matthew 26:28).

The Arminian view portrays sinners as needing divine assistance in order to believe. That’s true. We do need assistance. But more assistance than Arminianism assumes. In that view the sinner, after being assisted by God, provides the decisive impulse. God only assists; the sinner decides. Thus, “the blood of the covenant” does not decisively secure our faith. The decisive cause of faith is human self-determination. The atoning work of Christ, they say, sets up this possibility. But it does not secure the outcome. But the new covenant, bought by the blood of Christ, teaches something very different. Let’s put the teaching of the new covenant before us.

God spoke the terms of the new covenant through Jeremiah:

The days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers . . . my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And . . . I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31–34)

One fundamental difference between the promised new covenant and the old one “made with their fathers” is that they broke the old one, but in the new covenant, God will “put the law within them” and will “write it on their hearts” so that the conditions of the covenant are secured by God’s sovereign initiative. The new covenant will not be broken. That is part of its design. It lays claim on its participants, secures them, and keeps them.

God makes this point even more clearly in the next chapter of Jeremiah:

I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good. (Jeremiah 32:39–41)

God makes at least six promises in this text: 1) I will make with them an everlasting covenant; 2) I will give them the kind of heart that secures their fearing me forever; 3) I will never turn away from doing good to them; 4) I will put the fear of me in their hearts; 5) I will not let them turn away from me; and 6) I will rejoice in doing good to them.

Here in Jeremiah 32 it becomes even clearer than in Jeremiah 31 that God is taking the sovereign initiative to make sure that the covenant succeeds. God will not leave it finally in the power of the fallen human will to attain or sustain membership in the new covenant. He will give a new heart — a heart that fears the Lord. It will be decisively God’s doing, not man’s. And he will act in this covenant so that “they may not turn from me” (Jeremiah 32:40). Thus John Owen comments, “This then is one main difference of these two covenants — that the Lord did in the old only require the condition; now, in the new, he will also effect it in all the federates, to whom this covenant is extended” [John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, in The Works of John Owen, ed. W. H. Goold, 16 vols. (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1967 [1850–1853]), 10:237].

Similarly, Ezekiel prophesies in the same way: God will take the initiative and give a new heart and a new spirit.

I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 11:19)

I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26–27)

An unregenerate heart of stone is the deep reason why Israel did not trust God’s promises, or love him with all their heart and soul and mind and strength. If the new covenant is to be more successful than the old covenant, God will have to take out the heart of stone and give his people a heart that loves him. In other words, he will have to take a miraculous initiative to secure the faith and love of his people. This is exactly what Moses says God will do:

The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deuteronomy 30:6)

In other words, in the new covenant God promises that he will take the initiative and will create a new heart, so that people are made members of the new covenant by his initiative, not their own. If someone enjoys participation in the new covenant with all its blessings, it is because God forgave his iniquity, removed his heart of stone, gave him a tender heart of flesh that fears and loves God, and caused him to walk in his statutes. In other words, the new covenant promises regeneration. It promises to create faith and love and obedience where before there was only hardness.

The Blood of Jesus Obtains the Promises of the New Covenant

What we find when we come to the New Testament is that Jesus is the Mediator of this new covenant and that he secured it by his own blood. This is the connection between the atonement and the new covenant: Jesus’s blood is the blood of the covenant. The design of his death was to establish this covenant with all the terms we have just seen.

According to Luke 22:20, at the Last Supper, Jesus took the cup after they had eaten and said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Paul recounts this in 1 Corinthians 11:25: “He took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.’” I take this to mean that the promises of the new covenant are purchased by the blood of Christ. Or to use the language of Hebrews, “This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22). “He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).

Therefore all the promises of the new covenant are blood bought promises. When they come true for us they come true because Jesus died to make them come true. This means that the particular promises of the new covenant to create a people of God and keep a people of God are what Jesus died for.

The point I am making is that not all the promises of the new covenant depend on the condition of faith. Rather, one of the promises made in the new covenant is that the condition of faith itself will be given by God. That’s why I say that the new covenant people are created and preserved by God. “I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me” (Jeremiah 32:40). God puts the fear of God in us in the first place. And God keeps us from turning away. He creates his new people and keeps his new people. And he does this by the blood of the covenant, which Jesus said was his own blood (Luke 22:20).

The upshot of this understanding of the new covenant is that there is a definite atonement for the new covenant people. In the death of Christ, God secures a definite group of unworthy sinners as his own people by purchasing and guaranteeing the conditions they must meet to be part of his people. The blood of the covenant — Christ’s blood — purchases and guarantees the new heart of faith and repentance. God did not do this for everyone. He did it for a “definite” or a “particular” group, owing to nothing in themselves. And since he did it through Jesus Christ, the Great Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep, we say, “to [him] be glory forever and ever” (Hebrews 13:21). This achievement is a great part of the glory of the cross of Christ.

Jesus Lays Down His Life for the Sheep

There are many Scriptures which support what we have just seen, and teach that God’s purpose in the death of Christ included the ingathering of a new-covenant people by means of his irresistible grace.

For example, in John 10:15 Jesus says, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” This is not the same as saying I lay down my life for all people. In John’s Gospel “the sheep” are not everyone. Nor does the term “sheep” refer to those who have used their power of self-determination to produce faith. Rather they are those who God has chosen and given to the Son (John 6:37, 44). Their faith is possible because they are sheep.

We see this in John 10:26 where Jesus says, “You do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.” In other words, being a sheep enables you to believe, not vice versa. So the sheep do not first make themselves sheep by believing; they are able to believe because they are sheep. So when Jesus says, “I lay down my life for the sheep,” he means, by my blood I purchase those my Father has given to me, and I secure their faith and all the blessings that come to those who are united with me.

John 17 points in the same direction. Jesus limits his prayer in John 17 to his sheep — those whom the Father has given him.

I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me. . . . I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. . . . And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. (John 17:6, 9, 19)

The consecration in view here is the death of Jesus which he is about to undergo. Therefore he is saying that his death is designed especially for those for whom he is praying. “I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me” (John 17:9). And for these he is consecrating himself. For these he is laying down his life.

Jesus Died to Gather the Children of God

John tells us of a prophecy coming from the high priest which makes a similar point.

“Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (John 11:50–52)

There are “children of God” scattered throughout the world. These are the “sheep” — the ones the Father has given to the Son and will irresistibly draw to Jesus. Jesus died to gather these people into one flock. The point is the same as John 10:15–16: “I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” The “gathering” in John 11:52 and the “bringing” in John 10:16 are the same work of God. And both are the divine design of the cross of Christ. Christ did not die just to make this possible, but to make this happen.

It is described again by John in Revelation 5:9 where heaven sings to Christ: “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” In accordance with John 10:16, John does not say that the death of Christ ransomed all people but that it ransomed people from all the tribes of the world.

This is the way we may understand texts like 1 John 2:2, that some have used to argue against the doctrine of limited or definite atonement. In words very reminiscent of John 11:52 John says, “[Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” The question is: Does this mean that Christ died with the intention to appease the wrath of God for every person in the world? From all that we have seen so far from John’s writing, it is not likely that it has that meaning. Rather the verbal parallel between John 11:51–52 and 1 John 2:2 is so close it is difficult to escape the conviction that the same thing is intended by John in both verses.

John 11:51–52, “He prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”

1 John 2:2, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

The “whole world” is parallel with “children of God scattered abroad.” So it is natural to think that John’s point in 1 John 2:2 is to stress that God’s propitiating work in Christ is not parochial, as if he is only interested in Jews, or in one class or race. No grouping of humans should ever say, “He is the propitiation for our sins only.” No. His propitiating work is meant to gather people from the “whole world.” “I have other sheep that are not of this fold!” (John 10:16) — all over the world. These are the “sheep” for whom he died, the redeemed “children of God” scattered abroad, the ransomed people “from every tongue and tribe and people and nation.”

A Ransom for Many

In harmony with what we have seen, for example, in Revelation 5:9 (“by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe”), Jesus said in Mark 10:45, “The Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” He does not say “ransom for all” but “ransom for many,” just as Revelation 5:9 says “ransomed from every tribe.” I know that the word “many” does not prove my case. “Many” could logically mean “all.” My point is simply to show that “many” (rather than “all”) fits with the limits we have seen already in this section.

Similarly in Matthew 26:28, Jesus says, at the last supper, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” And Hebrews 9:28 says, “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” And Isaiah 53:12 says that the suffering servant “bore the sin of many.”

Christ Gave Himself for the Church

One of the clearest passages on God’s particular intention in the death of Christ is Ephesians 5:25–27.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Here Paul says that the intended beneficiary of the death of Christ is the church, the bride of Christ. One of the reasons I am jealous for this doctrine of limited atonement or particular redemption is that I want the bride of Christ to be properly moved by the particular love that Christ had for her when he died. This was not only a world-embracing love; it was a bride-purchasing love. God knew those who were his. And he sent his Son to obtain this bride for this Son.

From heaven he came and sought her
To be his holy bride;
With his own blood he bought her,
And for her life he died. (Samuel J. Stone, “The Church’s One Foundation”)

There is a particular love for the bride in this sacrifice that the church misses when she only thinks that God did not have any particular people in mind when he bought the church with his Son’s blood. I used to say to the church I served, “I love all the women of this church, but I love my wife in a very special way.” I would not want Noël to think that she is loved just because I love all women and she happens to be a woman. So it is with God and all the people of the world. There is a universal love for all, but there is a particular love that he has for the bride. And when Christ died, there was a particular aim in that death for her. He knew her from the foundation of the world, and he died to obtain her.

The Precious Logic of Romans 8:32

Another important text on this issue of the design and extent of the atonement is Romans 8:32. It is one of the most precious promises for God’s people in all the Bible. Paul says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” The unanswered question anticipates our ability to answer it and turn it into a rock solid promise: “Since God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, he will most certainly give us all things with him.” Who are the “us” in this verse? They are the people of verses 29–31:

Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

The reason Paul can make such a staggering promise to “us” as he does in verse 32 — that God will infallibly give us all things with him — is that the ones being addressed are the foreknown, the predestined, the called, the justified. These are the “sheep,” the “children of God scattered abroad.” And for these people, Paul says, the death of Christ is the unshakable, absolutely certain guarantee that they will receive all things with him. This is the wonderful logic of Romans 8:32.

But what becomes of this logic if God gave his Son in this way for thousands who do not receive all things, but in fact perish? The logic is destroyed. It becomes: “If God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for all people in the world, then, since many of them are lost, it is not true that they will most certainly receive all things with him.” That is not the point of the verse.

It says, Because of God’s giving the Son for his people, those people — foreknown and predestined from the foundation of the world — will receive everything God has to give. Therefore, the design of God in giving the Son is not only a general offer to the whole world, but a rock solid securing of infinite riches for his people. My great desire is that God’s people see this and go deeper into the grace of this particular redemption. We are loved specifically in the atonement, not just generally. Our future is secured particularly by the blood of Christ.

In summary, the biblical point of limited atonement is that in the death of Christ God had a particular design for his elect. He was purchasing not just a possibility for them to believe and be saved, but he was purchasing the belief itself. The conversion of God’s elect is blood-bought. The overcoming of our deadness and rebellion against God is not performed decisively by us so that we then qualify for the atonement. God’s sovereign grace overcomes our deadness and rebellion. And that grace is purchased for us in the death of Christ.

If we want to go deeper in our experience of God’s grace this is an ocean of love for us to enjoy. God does not mean for the bride of his Son to only feel loved with general, world-embracing love. He means for her to feel ravished with the specificity of his affection that he set on her before the world existed. He means for us to feel a focused: “I chose you. And I send my Son to die to have you.”

This is what we offer the world. We don’t horde it for ourselves. And we don’t abandon it by saying, all we have to offer the world is God’s general love for all people. No, we offer this. We offer a full and complete and definite atonement. We offer Christ. We don’t say, Come to a possibility. We say, Come to Christ. Receive Christ. And what we promise them if they come is that they will be united to him and his bride. And all that he bought for his bride will be theirs. All that he secured with absolute certainty will be their portion forever.

Their faith will prove them to be among the elect. And their coming to Christ will prove that they are already the particular beneficiaries of his particular redemption, his definite atonement.

To solidify this deepening of our experience of God’s grace we turn now to the doctrine of election. For it is the elect for whom he died with this immeasurable design of everlasting love.

6. Unconditional Election

If all of us are so depraved that we cannot come to God without being born again by the irresistible grace of God, and if this particular grace is purchased by Christ on the cross, then it is clear that the salvation of any of us is owing to God’s election. He chose those to whom he would show such irresistible grace, and for whom he would purchase it.

Election refers to God’s choosing whom to save. It is unconditional in that there is no condition man must meet before God chooses to save him. Man is dead in trespasses and sins. So there is no condition he can meet before God chooses to save him from his deadness.

We are not saying that final salvation is unconditional. It is not. We must meet the condition of faith, for example, in Christ in order to inherit eternal life. But faith is not a condition for election. Just the reverse. Election is a condition for faith. It is because God chose us before the foundation of the world that he purchases our redemption at the cross, and then gives us spiritual life through irresistible grace, and brings us to faith.

Election Prior to Faith

Acts 13:48 reports how the Gentiles responded to the preaching of the gospel in Antioch of Pisidia. “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” Notice, it does not say that as many believed were chosen to be ordained to eternal life. It says that those who were ordained to eternal life (that is, those whom God had elected) believed. God’s election preceded faith and made it possible. This is the decisive reason some believed while others did not.

Similarly Jesus says to the Jews in John 10:26, “You do not believe because you are not among my sheep.” Notice again, he does not say, “You are not among my sheep because you do not believe.” Who the sheep are is something God decides before we believe. It is the basis and enablement of our belief. “You do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.” We believe because we are God’s chosen sheep, not vice versa. (See also John 8:47; 18:37.)

Unconditionality in Romans 9

Romans 9 is so foundational for the doctrine of unconditional election that I devoted an entire book to verses 1–23 in The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1–23. In Romans 9, Paul stresses the unconditionality of election. In verses 11–12, he describes the principle God used in the choice of Jacob over Esau: “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, [Rebecca] was told, ‘The elder will serve the younger.’” God’s election is preserved in its unconditionality because it is transacted before we are born or have done any good or evil.

I know that some interpreters say that Romans 9 has nothing to do with the election of individuals to their eternal destinies, but only deals with corporate peoples in their historical roles. I think this is a mistake mainly because it simply does not come to terms with the problem Paul is addressing in the chapter. You can see this for yourself by reading the first five verses of Romans 9. When Paul says in Romans 9:6, “But it is not as though the word of God has failed,” what is clear is that something has made it look as though God’s promises have fallen. What is that?

The answer is given in verses 2 and 3. Paul says, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” The deepest issue Paul is addressing is not why Israel as a nation has this or that historical role, but that individuals within Israel are accursed and cut off from Christ. In other words, individual eternal destinies are indeed at stake. And the nature of Paul’s argument confirms this, because the first thing he says to confirm that the word of God has not failed is: “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (Rom. 9:6). In other words, the individuals in Israel who perish were never part of the true Israel. Then he moves on to show how God’s unconditional election was at work within Israel (more arguments for this understanding of Romans 9 are given in The Justification of God, pp. 38–54).

The unconditionality of God’s electing grace is stressed again in Romans 9:15–16: “‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” The very nature of the mercy we need is will-awakening, will-transforming mercy. We saw in the sections on irresistible grace and total depravity that we are unable to love God or trust God or follow Christ. Our only hope is sovereign mercy, irresistible mercy. If that is true, what Paul says here makes sense. We are in no position to merit mercy or elicit mercy. If we are to receive mercy, it will be at God’s free choice. That is what Paul says: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

In Romans 11:7 Paul underlines again the individual nature of election within Israel: “Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened.” So throughout Romans 9–11 Paul assumes that election deals with individuals and with eternal destinies, and that it is unconditional. There is, I believe, a divine covenantal commitment to corporate Israel, but that does not contradict or annul the individual, eternal thrust of Romans 9. The principle of unconditionality is seen most clearly in Romans 9:11. God elects this way so that “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue.”

Another Powerful Statement of Unconditionality

Ephesians 1:3–6 is another powerful statement of the unconditionality of our election and predestination to sonship.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.

Some interpreters argue that this election before the foundation of the world was only an election of Christ, but not an election of which individuals would actually be in Christ. This simply amounts to saying that there is no unconditional election of individuals to salvation. Christ is put forward as the chosen one of God, and the salvation of individuals is dependent on their own initiative to overcome their depravity and be united to Christ by faith. God does not choose them, and therefore God cannot effectually convert them. He can only initiate conviction, but finally must wait to see who will provide the decisive impulse to quicken themselves from the dead and choose him.

This interpretation does not square well with verse 11 where it says that “we were predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” Nor does it fit with the wording of verse 4. The ordinary meaning of the word for “choose” in verse 4 is to select or pick out of a group (see, for instance, Luke 6:13; 14:7; John 13:18; 15:16, 19). So the natural meaning of verse 4 is that God chooses his people from all humanity, before the foundation of the world by viewing them in relationship to Christ their redeemer. This is the natural way to read the verse.

It is true that all election is in relation to Christ. Christ was in the mind of God crucified before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). There would be no election of sinners unto salvation if Christ were not appointed to die for their sins. So in that sense they are elect in Christ. But it is they who are chosen out of the world to be in Christ.

Also the wording of verse 5 suggests the election of people to be in Christ, and not just the election of Christ. Literally, it says, “Having predestined us unto sonship through Jesus Christ.” We are the ones predestined, not Christ. He is the one that makes the election and predestination and adoption of sinners possible, and so our election is “through him,” but there is no talk here about God having a view only to Christ in election. Christians come to faith and are united to Christ and covered by his blood because we were chosen before the foundation of the world for this destiny of holiness.

Perhaps the Most Important Text

Perhaps the most important text of all in relation to the teaching of unconditional election is Romans 8:28–33.

We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Often this text is used to argue against unconditional election on the basis of verse 29 which says that “those whom he foreknew he also predestined . . .” So some say that people are not chosen unconditionally. They are chosen on the basis of their foreknown faith, which they produce without the help of irresistible grace and which God sees beforehand.

But this does not work with the way Paul develops his argument. Notice that Romans 8:30 says, “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Focus for a moment on the fact that all whom God calls he also justifies.

This calling in verse 30 is not given to all people. The reason we know it’s not is that all those who are called are also justified. There is an infallible connection between called and justified. “Those whom he called he also justified.” But all people are not justified. Therefore all are not called. So this calling in verse 30 is not the general call to repentance that preachers give or that God gives through the glory of nature. Everybody receives that call. The call of verse 30 is given only to those whom God predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son (verse 29). And it is a call that leads necessarily to justification: “Those whom he called he also justified.”

We know that justification only happens through faith. “We hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28; cf. 5:1). What then is this call that is given to all those who are predestined and which infallibly leads to justification? We saw this above in section 4 when discussing irresistible grace. It is the call of 1 Corinthians 1:23–24, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” In other words, the calling is not the preaching, since that is done to all the Jews and Gentiles. Rather, the calling happens through the preaching in the hearts of some of the listeners. It wakens them from the dead and changes their perceptions of the cross so that they embrace it as God’s wisdom and power. In other words, the calling of Romans 8:30 is irresistible, faith-creating grace.

Now consider the flow of Paul’s thought again in Romans 8:30. “Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Between the act of predestination and justification, there is the act of calling. Since justification is only by faith, the calling in view must be the act of God whereby he calls faith into being. And since it always results in justification (all the called are justified), it must be sovereign. That is, it overcomes any resistance that gets in the way. So the calling of verse 30 is the sovereign work of God which brings a person to faith by which he is justified.

Now notice the implication this has for the meaning of foreknowledge in verse 29. When Paul says in verse 29, “Those whom he foreknew he also predestined,” he can’t mean (as so many try to make him mean) that God knows in advance who will use their free will to come to faith, so that he can predestine them to sonship because they made that free choice on their own. It can’t mean that because we have just seen from verse 30 the decisive cause of faith in the justified is not the fallen human will but the sovereign call of God.

God does not foreknow those who come to faith apart from his creating the faith, because there are no such people. Whoever believes has been “called” into faith by the sovereign grace of God. When God looks from eternity into the future and sees the faith of the elect he sees his own work. And he chose to do that work for dead and blind and rebellious sinners unconditionally. For we were not capable of meeting the condition of faith. We were spiritually dead and blind.

So the foreknowledge of Romans 8:29 is not the mere awareness of something that will happen in the future apart from God’s predetermination. Rather, it is the kind of knowledge referred to in Old Testament texts like Genesis 18:19 (“I have chosen [literally, known] him [Abraham] that he may command his children . . . to keep the way of the Lord”), and Jeremiah 1:5 (“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations”), and Amos 3:2 (“You [Israel] only have I known of all the families of the earth”). God “knows” all the families of the earth in one sense. But the meaning here is, You only, Israel, have I chosen for my own.

As C. E. B. Cranfield says, the foreknowledge of Romans 8:29 is “that special taking knowledge of a person which is God’s electing grace.” Such foreknowledge is virtually the same as election: “Those whom he foreknew (i.e., chose) he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

Therefore, what this magnificent text (Romans 8:28–33) teaches is that God really accomplishes the complete redemption of his people from start to finish. He foreknows (that is, elects) a people for himself before the foundation of the world, he predestines this people to be conformed to the image of his Son, he calls them to himself in faith, he justifies them through that faith alone, and he finally glorifies them. And nothing can separate them from the love of God in Christ forever and ever (Romans 8:39). To him be all praise and glory!

If you are a believer in Christ, you have been loved by God from all eternity. He set his favor on you before the creation of the world. He chose you when he considered you in your helpless condition. He chose you for himself unconditionally. We may not boast in our election. That would be a profound misunderstanding of the meaning of unconditionality. When we had done nothing to commend ourselves to God in any way, he set his favor on us freely.

It was with us the way it was with the election of Israel: “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you . . . but it is because the LORD loves you” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8). Read that carefully: He loves you because he loves you. He chose to do that in eternity. And because his love for you never had a beginning, it can have no end. What we are studying in this article is simply the way God works out that eternal love in history to save his own and bring us to the everlasting enjoyment of himself. May God take you deeper and deeper into the experience of this amazing sovereign grace.

7. Perseverance of the Saints

It follows from what we saw in the last section that the people of God will persevere to the end and not be lost. The foreknown are predestined, the predestined are called, the called are justified, and the justified are glorified (Romans 8:30). No one is lost from this group. To belong to this people is to be eternally secure.

But we mean more than this by the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. We mean that the saints will and must persevere in faith and the obedience which comes from faith. Election is unconditional, but glorification is not. There are many warnings in Scripture that those who do not hold fast to Christ can be lost in the end.

The following eight theses are my summary of this crucial doctrine.

1) Our faith must endure to the end if we are to be saved.

This means that the gospel is God’s instrument in the preservation of faith as well as the begetting of faith. We do not act with a kind of cavalier indifference to the call for perseverance just because a person has professed faith in Christ, as though we can be assured from our perspective that they are now beyond the reach of the evil one. There is a fight of faith to be fought. The elect will fight that fight. And by God’s sovereign grace they will win it. We must endure to the end in faith if we are to be saved.

In 1 Corinthians 15:1–2 Paul shows the necessity of perseverance: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you — unless you believed in vain.” This “if you hold fast” shows that there is a false start in the Christian life. Jesus told the parable of the soils to warn against these kinds of false beginnings:

“As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:20–22)

In other words, there is, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:2 a “believing in vain” — which means a false believing, a coming to Christ for reasons that don’t include a love for his glory and hatred for our sin. The evidence, Paul says, that our faith is genuine is that we “hold fast to the word” — that we persevere.

Similarly Paul says in Colossians 1:21–23, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel.” And again in 2 Timothy 2:11–12: “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.”

Paul is following the teaching of Jesus in these words. Jesus said in Mark 13:13, “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” And after his resurrection Jesus said to the churches in Revelation, “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life” (Revelation 2:7). “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10; cf. 2:17, 25–26; 3:5, 11–12, 21). This is what we mean by the necessity of perseverance — the statement that we must persevere.

But a clarification is in order. Persevering in faith does not mean that the saints do not go through seasons of doubt and spiritual darkness and measures of unbelief in the promises and the goodness of God. “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) is not a contradictory prayer. Measures of unbelief can coexist with a true faith.

Therefore what we mean when we say that faith must persevere to the end is that we must never come to a point of renouncing Christ with such hardness of heart that we can never return, but instead only prove ourselves to have been hypocrites in our professed faith. An example of such hardness is Esau.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; . . . that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it [repentance] with tears. (Hebrews 12:15–17)

Esau became so spiritually hard and calloused in his love for this world that when he tried to repent he couldn’t. All he could do is weep over the consequences of his folly, not the true ugliness of his sin or the dishonor he had heaped upon God in preferring a single meal to his entire God-given, God-accompanying birthright.

On the other hand the New Testament is at pains to make sure we do not despair thinking that backsliding and waywardness in sin is a one-way street. It is possible to repent and return. That process of wandering and returning is included in “the perseverance of the saints.” For example, James says, “Whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). And John says, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life. . . . All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death” (1 John 5:16–17). John’s aim here is clearly to give hope to those who might be tempted to despair, and to those who love them and pray for them. John began his letter the same way he is ending it: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8–9).

So when we speak of the necessity (and certainty, see below) of perseverance we do not mean perfection. And we do not mean that there are no struggles or serious measures of unbelief. We must keep in mind all that we have seen so far in this article. Belonging to Christ is a supernatural reality brought about by God and preserved by God (Jeremiah 32:40). The saints are not marked most deeply by what they do but by who they are. They are born again. They are a new creation. They do not go in and out of this newness. It is God’s work. And it is irrevocable. But the fruit of it in faith and obedience is a fight to the end. And perseverance says: The fight will be fought and will not be finally lost.

2) Obedience, evidencing inner renewal from God, is necessary for final salvation.

This is not to say that God demands perfection. It is clear from Philippians 3:12 that the New Testament does not hold out the demand that those who are justified in Christ Jesus by faith be sinlessly perfect in order to be finally saved. “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (see also 1 John 1:8–10 and Matthew 6:12). But the New Testament does demand that we be morally changed and walk in newness of life. For example:

Hebrews 12:14: “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”

Romans 8:13: “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Galatians 5:19–21: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (See also Ephesians 5:5 and 1 Corinthians 6:10.)

1 John 2:3–6: “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (See also 1 John 3:4–10, 14; 4:20.)

John 8:31: “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.’” (See also Luke 10:28; Matthew 6:14–15; 18:35; Genesis 18:19; 22:16–17; 26:4–5; 2 Timothy 2:19.)

Again let there be a caution lest anyone take these texts in a perfectionistic direction. John’s first epistle is written to help us maintain our biblical equilibrium here. On the one hand it says, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). But on the other hand it says, “If we say we have (not “had” but present tense, “have”) no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). And: “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

The perseverance of the saints is not the guarantee of perfection, but rather that God will keep us fighting the fight of faith so that we hate our sin and never make any lasting peace with it.

3) God’s elect cannot be lost.

This is why we believe in eternal security — namely, the eternal security of the elect. The implication is that God will so work in us that those whom he has chosen for eternal salvation will be enabled by him to persevere in faith to the end and fulfill, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the requirements for a new kind of life.

We have seen before the ironclad chain of divine work in Romans 8:30: “Those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.” What is evident from this verse is that those who are effectually called into the hope of salvation will indeed persevere to the end and be glorified. There are no dropouts in this sequence. These are promises of God rooted in unconditional election in the first place and in the sovereign, converting, preserving grace that we have seen before. The links in this chain are unbreakable, because God’s saving work is infallible and his new covenant commitments are irrevocable.

Again, Paul is following the teachings of his Lord Jesus:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27–30; see also Ephesians 1:4–5)

We saw before that being a sheep of Jesus means being chosen by God and given to the Son. In other words, the promise of Jesus never to lose any of his sheep is the sovereign commitment of the Son of God to preserve the faith of the elect for whom he laid down his life.

4) There is a falling away of some believers, but if it persists, it shows that their faith was not genuine and they were not born of God.

First John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” Similarly, the parable of the four soils as interpreted in Luke 8:9–14 pictures people who “hear the word, receive it with joy; but these have no root, they believe for a while and in time of testing fall away.”

The fact that such a thing is possible is precisely why the ministry of the gospel in every local church must contain many admonitions to the church members to persevere in faith and not be entangled in those things which could possibly strangle them and result in their condemnation. Pastors do not know infallibly who of his listeners are the good soil and who are the bad. His warnings and exhortations to persevere are the way he helps the saints endure. They hear the warnings and take heed and thus authenticate their humble and good hearts of faith.

5) God justifies us completely through the first genuine act of saving faith, but this is the sort of faith that perseveres and bears fruit in the “obedience of faith.”

The point here is the emphasis above on the necessity of persevering faith and obedience does not mean God is waiting to observe our perseverance and obedience before he declares us completely righteous in union with Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1 says that we “have been justified by faith.” It is a past act. The first time we believe in Jesus we are united to Christ. In union with him, his righteousness is counted as ours, at that moment. Paul says that he aims to “be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9).

The ground of our acceptance with God is Christ alone — his blood and righteousness. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). “By the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). The role of our faith is not to be a performance of something virtuous that God rewards with salvation. The point is that faith is a receiving of Christ who performed what we could not, a punishment for our sin and provision of our perfection. Faith is not the ground of our acceptance but the means or the instrument of union with Christ who alone is the ground of our acceptance with God.

The role of the obedience in our justification is to give evidence that our faith is authentic. Deeds of love are not the ground of our first or final acceptance with God. Their function is to validate, and make public, the sovereign work of God giving us new birth and creating the new heart of faith. Paul puts it this way: “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). What counts with God in justification is the kind of faith that works through love. It is not our love that causes God to be 100% for us. It is God being 100% for us through faith in Christ that enables us to love. Love is a fruit of the Spirit. And we have received the Spirit by our first act of faith (Galatians 3:2).

Therefore, the necessity of perseverance in faith and obedience for final salvation does not mean he waits till the end before he accepts us, adopts us, and justifies us. We do not fight the fight of faith in order to make God be 100% for us. That happened in our union with Christ on our first act of faith. Rather, fight because he is 100% for us. Paul put it like this: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12). Christ has made us his own. That is how we fight on. In the final judgment according to works (not on the basis of works), the point of those works in the divine courtroom in relation to justification will be as public evidence of unseen faith and union with Christ. Christ will be the sole ground of our acceptance then as now.

6) God works to cause his elect to persevere.

We are not left to ourselves in the fight of faith, and our assurance is rooted in the sovereign love of God to perform what he has called us to do. The texts that follow here are all expressions of the new covenant that we discussed in section 5. Jesus purchased for us all the promises of God when he shed his blood (Luke 22:20; 2 Corinthians 1:20).

One of the most precious of all those promises relates the new covenant to God’s absolute commitment to cause us to persevere: “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me” (Jeremiah 32:40). This promise recurs in many wonderful expressions in the New Testament:

1 Peter 1:5: “By God’s power [we] are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Jude 24–25: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23–24: “May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

Philippians 1:6: “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 1:8–9: “[Jesus Christ] will sustain you to the end; guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Hebrews 13:20–21: “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

I sometimes ask people: Why do you believe you will wake up a Christian tomorrow morning? Why do you think you will have saving faith tomorrow when you wake up? I ask this to test what sort of view of perseverance someone has. The biblical answer is not, “I know I will choose to believe tomorrow morning. I am committed to Jesus.” That is very fragile confidence.

The answer is found in all these texts. God is faithful. God will work in me. God will keep me. God will finish his work to the end. The answer is God’s ongoing work, not my ongoing commitment. When I ask this question I am fishing to see if anyone has the view that eternal security is like a vaccination. We got our vaccination when we were converted and can’t catch the disease of unbelief. That is a misleading analogy because it implies that the process of preservation is automatic without the ongoing work of the great physician. Perseverance is not like a vaccination, but like a life-long therapy program in which the great physician stays with you all the way. He will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5). That is the way we persevere. That is the way we have assurance.

7) Therefore we should be zealous to confirm our calling and election.

Second Peter 1:10–11 says, “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Peter’s point is not that our calling and election are fragile and need to be propped up. We have seen plainly, for example, from Romans 8:29–30 that calling and election are the most solid realities under God. They are links in a chain of salvation that cannot be broken.

What Peter means is: Be zealous to maintain your assurance of them and to confirm them continually by walking in the joy of them. He explains in the preceding verses that God, by “his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). He has not left us to ourselves to confirm our calling and election.

By his divine power we then grow in faith and virtue and knowledge and self-control and steadfastness and godliness and brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1:5–7). In other words we make eager efforts to trust the promises and power of God so deeply that sin is put to death in our lives by the Spirit and the goal of love is joyfully pursued. Faith working through love (Galatians 5:6) is the way we make our calling and election sure.

8) Perseverance is a community project.

God never meant us to fight the fight of faith alone. We are to fight for each other. One of Paul’s most remarkable statements about the perseverance of the elect is 2 Timothy 2:10, “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” To many this is astonishing. Isn’t it already sure that the elect will obtain salvation in final glory? Yes it is. Those whom he justified he glorified.

But the question betrays an assumption that this last point is meant to remove — the assumption that certain outcomes imply that there’s no need to press on toward them. That is a mistake. Salvation is certain for God’s elect. It cannot fail. But the way God has ordained to make it certain is by means of empowering human partnership in the fight of faith. Paul sees his ministry of the word as essential to the perseverance of the elect.

Take a simple example. Suppose God has predestined that a nail be in a two-by-four with its head flush with the surface of the board. It is certain that this will happen. God is God and he has planned it. Does that mean he is indifferent to hammers? No. In fact God has also ordained that the way the nail get in the board is by being struck with a hammer.

Similarly, the elect will certainly be saved in the end with eternal glory. Does that mean God is indifferent to the ministry of the world in getting them there? No. God has made it essential. And the reason that does not undermine the certainty of salvation is that God is just as sovereign over the means as he is over the ends.

We see this truth applied to all of us in Hebrews 3:12–13, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” God will not let any of his elect “fall away” into destruction. But the way he will keep us from falling (Jude 24) is by mutual exhortation of other believers in our lives. This is one of the highest tributes that could possibly be paid to the church. God ordains the body of Christ as the means of his infallible keeping of the elect.

We close this section with the hope and prayer that you will go deeper into the grace of God’s persevering grace. If you linger over this truth and let it sink in, you will find that the certainty of God’s covenant-keeping grace to you is a far greater and stronger and sweeter ground of your assurance than any view of eternal security that makes it more impersonal and automatic like a vaccination. To know that God chose you, and God called you, and God gave you faith, and will never leave you, and will preserve you, and present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy — that assurance brings an invincible joy and strength and courage into your life. May God take you down ever deeper into the divine grace of perseverance.

8. What the Five Points Have Meant for Me: A Personal Testimony

These ten points are my personal testimony to the effects of believing in the five points of Calvinism — the doctrines of grace.

1) These truths make me stand in awe of God and lead me into the depth of true God-centered worship.

I recall the time I first saw, while teaching Ephesians at Bethel College in the late 1970s, the threefold statement of the goal of all God’s work, namely, “to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).

It has led me to see that we cannot enrich God and that therefore his glory shines most brightly not when we try to meet his needs but when we are satisfied in him as the essence of our deeds. “From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Romans 11:36). Worship becomes an end in itself.

It has made me feel how low and inadequate are my affections, so that the psalms of longing come alive and make worship intense.

2) These truths help protect me from trifling with divine things.

One of the curses of our culture is banality, cuteness, cleverness. Television is one of the main sustainers of our addiction to superficiality and triviality. God is swept into this. Hence we tend to trifle with divine things.

Earnestness is not excessive in our day. It might have been once. And, yes, there are imbalances in certain people today who don’t seem to be able to relax and talk about the weather. But it seems to me that the far greater sadness in our day is people who are simply unable to be reverent. They seem to have never been awed by the greatness of God. They only know one mode of relationship: casual. This is a tragic and impoverishing incapacity.

Robertson Nicole said of Spurgeon,

Evangelism of the humorous type [we might say, church growth of the hip, cool, clever, funny, market-savvy type] may attract multitudes, but it lays the soul in ashes and destroys the very germs of religion. Mr. Spurgeon is often thought by those who do not know his sermons to have been a humorous preacher. As a matter of fact there was no preacher whose tone was more uniformly earnest, reverent and solemn. [Quoted in Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1966), p. 38.]

The greatness of God that stands forth from the doctrines of grace has been a weighty ballast in my boat. It gives me great joy, and guards my heart from the plague of silliness.

3) These truths make me marvel at my own salvation.

After laying out the great, God-wrought salvation in Ephesians 1, Paul prays, in the last part of that chapter, that the effect of that theology will be the enlightenment of our hearts so that we marvel at “the hope to which he has called you . . . the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and . . . the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18–19). In other words, he prayed that we would experience what he had just taught. That our hearts would be able to grasp what had really happened to us.

Every ground of boasting is removed. Brokenhearted joy and gratitude abound. The piety of Jonathan Edwards begins to grow. When God has given us a taste of his own majesty and our own wickedness, then the Christian life becomes a thing very different than conventional piety. Edwards describes it beautifully when he says,

The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires: their hope is a humble hope, and their joy, even when it is unspeakable, and full of glory, is humble, brokenhearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit, and more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of behavior. [Religious Affections, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959, pp. 339–340.]

4) These truths make me alert to man-centered substitutes that pose as good news.

In my book The Pleasures of God (p. 129), I show that in the 18th century in New England the slide from the sovereignty of God led to Arminianism and thence to universalism and thence to Unitarianism. The same thing happened in England in the 19th century after Spurgeon.

Iain Murray’s Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography documents the same thing: “Calvinistic convictions waned in North America. In the progress of the decline which Edwards had rightly anticipated, those Congregational churches of New England which had embraced Arminianism after the Great Awakening gradually moved into Unitarianism and universalism, led by Charles Chauncy” [(Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1987), p. 454].

You can also read in J. I. Packer’s Quest for Godliness how Richard Baxter forsook these teachings and how the following generations reaped a grim harvest in the Baxter church in Kidderminster [(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), p. 160].

These doctrines are a bulwark against man-centered teachings in many forms that gradually corrupt the church and make her weak from the inside, all the while looking strong or popular. The church of the living God, rightly taught, is to be “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). That is what these truths have proved to be for me.

5) These truths make me groan over the indescribable disease of our secular, God-belittling culture.

I can hardly read the newspaper or a Google news article or look at a TV ad or a billboard without feeling the burden that God is missing. When God is the main reality in the universe and is treated as a non-reality, I tremble at the wrath that is being stored up. I am still able to be shocked. Are you? Many Christians are sedated with the same God-ignoring drug as the world. Some think it is a virtue that God be neglected, and invent cynical names for people who speak of God in relation to everything. These teachings are a great antidote against that neglect and that cynicism.

Christians exist to reassert the reality of God and the supremacy of God in all of life. We are therefore in need of a great awakening. These truths keep me aware of that and impel me to pray toward it. For only a sovereign work of God can make it happen.

6) These truths make me confident that the work which God planned and began, he will finish — both globally and personally.

The truth that God will use all his sovereign power to keep me for himself is supremely precious. I know my heart. Left to itself my heart is proud and self-centered and an idol factory. Few prayers are more needful for me than this:

O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,


Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,


Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above.


Yes, I need — and I want — him to chain me to himself everyday. To seal me. Capture me. Keep me. Hold on to me. And the doctrines of grace are the perfect satisfaction for these desires. This is exactly what God has promised to do for me. “I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me” (Jeremiah 32:40). “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). I go to bed at night quietly confident that I will be a secure believer in the morning not because of my free will, but because of God’s free grace. This is worth more than millions of dollars.

7) These truths make me see everything in the light of God’s sovereign purposes — that from him and through him and to him are all things, to him be glory forever and ever.

Through the lens of these doctrines I see that all of life relates to God and that he is the beginning, the middle, and the end of it all. There’s no compartment where he is not all-important. He is the one who gives meaning to everything (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Seeing God’s sovereign purpose worked out in Scripture, and hearing Paul say that “[he] works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11) makes me see the world this way. Reality becomes supercharged with God. He is the all-pervading glory in all that is. Everything is from him and for him. The words of Jonathan Edwards thrill me because they represent so beautifully the implication of the doctrines of grace:

In the creature’s knowing, esteeming, loving, rejoicing in, and praising God, the glory of God is both exhibited and acknowledged; his fullness is received and returned. Here is both an emanation and remanation. The refulgence shines upon and into the creature, and is reflected back to the luminary. The beams of glory come from God, are something of God, and are refunded back again to their original. So that the whole is of God, and in God, and to God; and he is the beginning, and the middle, and the end. [The End for Which God Created the World, ¶ 275, in John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1998), p. 248]

8) These truths make me hopeful that God has the will, the right, and the power to answer prayer that people be changed.

The warrant for prayer is that God may break in and change things — including the human heart. He can turn the will around. “Hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9) means: Cause people who are not hallowing your name to hallow your name. “May your word run and be glorified” (2 Thessalonians 3:1) means: Cause hearts to be opened to the gospel. This is what God did for me in answer to my parents’ prayers. It is what I now gladly do for others.

I take the new covenant promises and plead with God to bring them to pass in people’s lives and among all the mission frontiers of the world. And the reason I pray this way is that God has the right and the power to do these things. No human autonomy stands in the way.

“God, take out of their flesh their heart of stone and give them a new heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19)

“Lord, circumcise their hearts so that they love you.” (Deuteronomy 30:6)

“Father, put your spirit within them and cause them to walk in Your statutes.” (Ezekiel 36:27)

“Lord, grant them repentance and the knowledge of the truth that they may escape from the snare of the devil.” (2 Timothy 2:25–26)

“Father, open their hearts so that they believe the gospel.” (Acts 16:14)

Prayer is where most Christians sound like Calvinists. Most sincere Christians pray with the assumption that he has the right and power not only to heal human bodies and alter natural circumstances, but also to sovereignly transform human hearts. In other words prayer is based on God’s ability to overcome human resistance. That is what we ask him to do. Which means that the doctrine of irresistible grace is the great hope of answered prayer in the lives of people for whose salvation I plead.

9) These truths remind me that evangelism is absolutely essential for people to come to Christ and be saved, and that there is great hope for success in leading people to faith, but that conversion is not finally dependent on me or limited by the hardness of the unbeliever.

The doctrines of grace make evangelism among spiritually dead sinners possible. Without the sovereign grace of God we may as well be preaching in a cemetery. Because we are preaching in a cemetery. That is what this world is. The truth of total depravity means that the preaching of the cross is foolishness to the natural man, and “he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). So evangelism only makes sense in the light of the doctrines of grace. We really believe God can raise the dead.

And we know he uses the human means to do it. “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). The sovereign work of God in giving new life to the dead human heart is “through the word of God.” And Peter adds, “This word is the good news that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:25). It’s the gospel. This is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).

Therefore the doctrines of grace give hope for evangelism in the hardest places. Dead is dead. Muslims or Hindus or hardened European post-Christian secularists are not more dead than any other “natural man.” And God does the impossible. He raises the dead (Ephesians 2:1–6). When faced with the hardheartedness of the rich young ruler Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

As I look out on the remaining task of world missions I do not despair. Rather I hear Jesus say, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also and they will listen to my voice” (John 10:16). Not: They may. But: They will. So I say: This cannot fail. The doctrines of grace enflamed world missions in the lives of William Carey and David Livingston and Adoniram Judson and Henry Martyn and John Paton and thousands of others. And that is the effect it has had on me, as I have tried to do my part in promoting the great work of frontier missions.

10) These truths make me sure that God will triumph in the end.

“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isaiah 46:9–10).

The sum of the matter is that God is God. He is absolutely sovereign. And he is gracious beyond all human analogy. He has not left the world to perish in its sin. He has planned, is performing, and will complete a great salvation for his people and his creation. He has done this with infinite wisdom and love. Which means he has done it so that he gets the glory in us and we get the joy in him. And it cannot fail. “The counsel of the LORD stands forever” (Psalm 33:11).

9. Concluding Testimonies

The aim of this article has been to persuade the mind concerning biblical truth and thus awaken a deeper experience of God’s sovereign grace. I am ever aware of the terrible sentence, “Even the demons believe — and shudder!” (James 2:19). In other words, it is possible to be persuaded of a reality at one level and have no sweet experience of that reality at another level. Jonathan Edwards said there are two ways to know whether the sticky brown material in the bowl is sweet. You can deduce from color and smell and particles of honeycomb that this is honey and then know by inference that it is sweet because honey is sweet. Or you can taste it. My prayer is that the sweetness of God’s sovereign grace will not merely be inferred, but also tasted.

I hope you will have the sweet experience of resting in the massive comfort of these truths. I want you to feel the tremendous incentive for love and righteousness and for risk-taking missions flowing from these truths. And I pray that your experience knowing and trusting the sovereign grace of God will be such that God gets great glory in your life.

To this end, I have gathered here some testimonies of what these truths have meant to some great Christians of the past. For those who have known the doctrines of grace truly, they have never been mere speculation for the head, but have always been power for the heart and life.

Augustine of Hippo (354–430)

A thousand years before the Reformation, Augustine savored the sovereignty of grace in his own life. He was resoundingly converted by the irresistible grace of God after leading a dissolute life. He wrote in his Confessions (X, 40):

I have no hope at all but in thy great mercy. Grant what thou commandest and command what thou wilt. Thou dost enjoin on us continence. . . . Truly by continence are we bound together and brought back into that unity from which we were dissipated into a plurality. For he loves thee too little who loves anything together with thee, which he loves not for thy sake. O love that ever burnest and art never quenched! O Charity, my God, enkindle me! Thou commandest continence. Grant what thou commandest and command what thou wilt. [Quoted in Documents of the Christian Church, ed. by Henry Bettenson (London: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 54.]

These are the words of a man who loves the truth of irresistible grace, because he knows he is utterly undone without it. But also in his doctrinal letters, he drives this beloved truth home (Epistle ccxvii, to Vitalis):

If, as I prefer to think in your case, you agree with us in supposing that we are doing our duty in praying to God, as our custom is, for them that refuse to believe, that they may be willing to believe and for those who resist and oppose his law and doctrine, that they may believe and follow it. If you agree with us in thinking that we are doing our duty in giving thanks to God, as is our custom, for such people when they have been converted . . . then you are surely bound to admit that the wills of men are preveniently moved by the grace of God, and that it is God who makes them to will the good which they refused; for it is God whom we ask so to do, and we know that it is meet and right to give thanks to him for so doing.

For Augustine, the truth of irresistible grace was the foundation of his prayers for the conversion of the lost and of his thanks to God when they were converted.

Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758)

Jonathan Edwards, the great New England preacher and theologian, had an equally deep love for these truths. He wrote when he was 26 about the day he fell in love with the sovereignty of God:

There has been a wonderful alteration in my mind, in respect to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, from that day to this. . . . God’s absolute sovereignty . . . is what my mind seems to rest assured of, as much as of any thing that I see with my eyes. . . . The doctrine has very often appeared exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God. . . . God’s sovereignty has ever appeared to me, a great part of his glory. It has often been my delight to approach God, and adore him as a sovereign God. [“Personal Narrative,” quoted in Jonathan Edwards, Selections (New York: Hill & Wang, 1935), p. 59]

George Whitefield (1714–1770)

Edwards wept openly when George Whitefield preached in his church, because of how much he loved the message he preached. Whitefield was a great evangelist and said, “I embrace the Calvinistic scheme, not because Calvin, but Jesus Christ has taught it to me” [Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1970), p. 406].

He pleaded with John Wesley not to oppose the doctrines of Calvinism:

I cannot bear the thoughts of opposing you: but how can I avoid it, if you go about (as your brother Charles once said) to drive John Calvin out of Bristol. Alas, I never read anything that Calvin wrote; my doctrines I had from Christ and His apostles; I was taught them of God. (George Whitefield, Vol. 1, p. 574)

It was these beliefs that filled him with holy zeal for evangelism:

The doctrines of our election, and free justification in Christ Jesus are daily more and more pressed upon my heart. They fill my soul with a holy fire and afford me great confidence in God my Saviour.

I hope we shall catch fire from each other, and that there will be a holy emulation amongst us, who shall most debase man and exalt the Lord Jesus. Nothing but the doctrines of the Reformation can do this. All others leave free will in man and make him, in part at least, a saviour to himself. My soul, come not thou near the secret of those who teach such things. . . . I know Christ is all in all. Man is nothing: he hath a free will to go to hell, but none to go to heaven, till God worketh in him to will and to do his good pleasure.

Oh, the excellency of the doctrine of election and of the saints’ final perseverance! I am persuaded, til a man comes to believe and feel these important truths, he cannot come out of himself, but when convinced of these and assured of their application to his own heart, he then walks by faith indeed! (George Whitefield, Vol. 1, p. 407)

George Mueller (1805–1898)

George Mueller is famous for the orphanages he founded and the amazing faith he had to pray for God’s provision. Not many people know the theology that undergirded that great ministry. In his mid-twenties (1829), he had an experience which he records later as follows:

Before this period [when I came to prize the Bible alone as my standard of judgment] I had been much opposed to the doctrines of election, particular redemption (limited atonement), and final persevering grace. But now I was brought to examine these precious truths by the Word of God. Being made willing to have no glory of my own in the conversion of sinners, but to consider myself merely an instrument; and being made willing to receive what the Scriptures said, I went to the Word, reading the New Testament from the beginning, with a particular reference to these truths.

To my great astonishment I found that the passages which speak decidedly for election and persevering grace, were about four times as many as those which speak apparently against these truths; and even those few, shortly after, when I had examined and understood them, served to confirm me in the above doctrines.

As to the effect which my belief in these doctrines had on me, I am constrained to state for God’s glory, that though I am still exceedingly weak, and by no means so dead to the lusts of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, as I might be, and as I ought to be, yet, by the grace of God, I have walked more closely with Him since that period. My life has not been so variable, and I may say that I have lived much more for God than before. [Autobiography (London: J. Nisbet & Co., 1906), pp. 33–34]

Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892)

Charles Spurgeon was a contemporary of George Mueller. He was the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London and the most famous pastor of his day — and a Baptist at that. His preaching was powerful to the winning of souls to Christ. But what was his gospel that held thousands spellbound each week and brought many to the Savior?

I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless we preach what is nowadays called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel . . . unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption (limited atonement) of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called. [Autobiography, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1962, orig. 1897), p. 168]

He had not always believed these things. Spurgeon recounts his discovery of these truths at the age of 16:

Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian, I still believed the old things I had heard continually from the pulpit, and did not see the grace of God. When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. . . . I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those truths in my own soul — when they were, as John Bunyan says, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron. . . .

One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher’s sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me, “How did you come to be a Christian?” I sought the Lord. “But how did you come to seek the Lord?” The truth flashed across my mind in a moment — I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, “How came I to pray?” I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. “How came I to read the Scriptures?” I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, “I ascribe my change wholly to God.” [Autobiography, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1962, orig. 1897), pp. 164–165]

Spurgeon started a college for pastors and was intent that the key to being a worthy teacher in the church was to grasp these doctrines of grace.

Arminianism is thus guilty of confusing doctrines and of acting as an obstruction to a clear and lucid grasp of the Scripture; because it misstates or ignores the eternal purpose of God, it dislocates the meaning of the whole plan of redemption. Indeed confusion is inevitable apart from this foundational truth [of election].

Without it there is a lack of unity of thought, and generally speaking they have no idea whatever of a system of divinity. It is almost impossible to make a man a theologian unless you begin with this [doctrine of election].

You may if you please put a young believer to college for years, but unless you shew him this ground-plan of the everlasting covenant, he will make little progress, because his studies do not cohere, he does not see how one truth fits with another, and how all truths must harmonize together. . . .

Take any county throughout England, you will find poor men hedging and ditching that have a better knowledge of divinity than one half of those who come from our academies and colleges, for the reason simply and entirely that these men have first learned in their youth the system of which election is a center, and have afterwards found their own experience exactly square with it. (“Effects Of Sound Doctrine,” sermon delivered on Sunday evening, April 22, 1860, at New Park Street Chapel)

10. A Final Appeal

It is fitting that we close this article on the doctrines of grace by appealing to you, the reader, to receive the magnificent Christ who is the eternal Author of these doctrines. Give heed to the beautiful entreaty extended by J. I. Packer, a great contemporary advocate of these truths:

To the question: what must I do to be saved? the old gospel [Calvinism] replies: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. To the further question: what does it mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? its reply is: it means knowing oneself to be a sinner, and Christ to have died for sinners; abandoning all self-righteousness and self-confidence, and casting oneself wholly upon Him for pardon and peace; and exchanging one’s natural enmity and rebellion against God for a spirit of grateful submission to the will of Christ through the renewing of one’s heart by the Holy Ghost.

And to the further question still: how am I to go about believing on Christ and repenting, if I have no natural ability to do these things? it answers: look to Christ, speak to Christ, cry to Christ, just as you are; confess your sin, your impenitence, your unbelief, and cast yourself on His mercy; ask Him to give you a new heart, working in you true repentance and firm faith; ask Him to take away your evil heart of unbelief and to write His law within you, that you may never henceforth stray from Him. Turn to Him and trust Him as best you can, and pray for grace to turn and trust more thoroughly; use the means of grace expectantly, looking to Christ to draw near to you as you seek to draw near to Him; watch, pray, read, and hear God’s Word, worship and commune with God’s people, and so continue till you know in yourself beyond doubt that you are indeed a changed being, a penitent believer, and the new heart which you desired has been put within you. [The Quest for Godliness (Wheaton: Crossway, 1994), p. 144]

Let Charles Spurgeon lead you in prayer:

Join with me in prayer at this moment, I entreat you. Join with me while I put words into your mouths, and speak them on your behalf — “Lord, I am guilty, I deserve thy wrath. Lord, I cannot save myself. Lord, I would have a new heart and a right spirit, but what can I do? Lord, I can do nothing, come and work in me to will and to do thy good pleasure.

Thou alone hast power, I know,
To save a wretch like me;
To whom, or whither should I go
If I should run from thee?

But I now do from my very soul call upon thy name. Trembling, yet believing, I cast myself wholly upon thee, O Lord. I trust the blood and righteousness of thy dear Son. . . . Lord, save me tonight, for Jesus’ sake.” [Quoted in Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), pp. 101–102.]John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons

Lecture 7

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/

Chapter 28: Of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
1._ Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver, to be continued in his church to the end of the world. ( Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:26 ) 2.__ These holy appointments are to be administered by those only who are qualified and thereunto called, according to the commission of Christ. ( Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 4:1 ) Chapter 29 “Of Baptism” Return to Table of Contents. Webservant, mrbill@vor.org. Original page July, A.D. 1995. Revised June, A.D. 1996. Scripture hypertext script by sdp@i2k.com. Mirror page loaded to vor.org December, A.D. 1996. Chapter 29: Of Baptism 1.___ Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life. ( Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2;12; Galatians 3:27; Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:4 ) 2. Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ,
are the only proper subjects of this ordinance.
( Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36, 37; Acts 2:41; Acts 8:12; Acts 18:8 )
3._____The outward element to be used in this ordinance is water, wherein the party is to be baptized, in the name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
( Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 8:38 )
4._____Immersion, or dipping of the person in water, is necessary to the due administration of this ordinance. (
Matthew 3:16; John 3:23 )

The Atonement 2: the essential elements of the Atonement

Key Verses:

Titus 3:5-8 is a tremendous summary of Soteriology, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:8–10).

The Word Made Flesh: The Ligonier Statement on Christology

A clear understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ is absolutely vital for the church. Ligonier Ministries humbly offers this statement as a tool for clarity and as a catalyst for confession. The Ligonier Statement on Christology is a concise and accessible summary of Christian teaching

What Does it Mean When John Says the Word Became Flesh?

A Survey of the Old Testament Instructor’s Manual

The Word Made Flesh

The Ligonier Statement on Christology

We confess the mystery and wonder of God made flesh and rejoice in our great salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord.

With the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Son created all things, sustains all things, and makes all things new. Truly God, He became truly man, two natures in one person.

He was born of the Virgin Mary and lived among us. Crucified, dead, and buried, He rose on the third day, ascended to heaven, and will come again in glory and judgment.

For us, He kept the Law, atoned for sin, and satisfied God’s wrath. He took our filthy rags and gave us His righteous robe.

He is our Prophet, Priest, and King, building His church, interceding for us, and reigning over all things.

Jesus Christ is Lord; we praise His holy Name forever.

Amen.

“What is Christology?”

Answer:
The word “Christology” comes from two Greek words meaning “Christ / Messiah” and “word” – which combine to mean “the study of Christ.” Christology is the study of the Person and work of Jesus Christ. There are numerous important questions that Christology answers:

Who is Jesus Christ? Almost every major religion teaches that Jesus was a prophet, or a good teacher, or a godly man. The problem is, the Bible tells us that Jesus was infinitely more than a prophet, a good teacher, or a godly man.

Is Jesus God? Did Jesus ever claim to be God? Although Jesus never uttered the words “I am God,” He made many other statements that can’t be properly interpreted to mean anything else.

What is the hypostatic union? How can Jesus be both God and man at the same time? The Bible teaches that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, that there is no mixture or dilution of either nature, and that He is one united Person, forever.

Why is the virgin birth so important? The virgin birth is a crucial biblical doctrine because it accounts for the circumvention of the transmission of the sin nature and allowed the eternal God to become a perfect man.
What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of God? Jesus is not God’s Son in the sense of how we think of a father/son relationship. God did not get married and have a son. Jesus is God’s Son in the sense that He is God made manifest in human form (John 1:1,14).

A Biblical understanding of Jesus Christ is crucial to our salvation. Many cults and world religions claim to believe in Jesus Christ. The problem is that they do not believe in the Jesus Christ presented in the Bible. That is why Christology is so important. It helps us to understand the significance of the deity of Christ. It demonstrates why Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Christology teaches us that Jesus had to be man so that He could die – and had to be God so that His death would pay for our sins. It is perhaps the most important area of theology. Without a proper understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished, all other areas of theology will be errant as well.

An in-depth study of Christology has incredible personal impact on the believer’s daily life. As we delve into the heart of Jesus, we begin to grasp the amazing concept that He, being fully Man and fully God, loves each of us with a never-ending love the extent of which is hard for us to imagine. The various titles and names of Christ in the Scriptures give insight into who He is and how He relates to us. He is our Good Shepherd, leading, protecting and caring for us as one of His own (John 10:11,14); He is the Light of the world, illuminating our pathway through a sometimes dark and uncertain world (John 8:12); He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), bringing tranquility into our tumultuous lives; and He is our Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4), the immovable and secure base who we can trust to keep us safe and secure in Him.

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“What is Soteriology?”

Answer:
Soteriology is the study of the doctrine of salvation. Soteriology discusses how Christ’s death secures the salvation of those who believe. It helps us to understand the doctrines of redemption, justification, sanctification, propitiation, and the substitutionary atonement. Some common questions in studying Soteriology are:

Once saved always saved? Perhaps the most heart-wrenching fear some believers live with is that we can do something to lose our salvation. But the Bible speaks clearly about the eternality of our salvation and how we are preserved by the One who bought us with His blood.

Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works? Am I saved just by believing in Jesus, or do I have to believe in Jesus and do certain things?

Is baptism required for salvation? What is baptismal regeneration? Baptismal regeneration is the belief that a person must be baptized in order to be saved. While baptism is an important step of obedience for a Christian, the Bible is clear that baptism is not a requirement for salvation.

What is repentance and is it necessary for salvation? Biblical repentance is changing your mind about Jesus Christ and turning to God in faith for salvation (Acts 3:19). Turning from sin is not the definition of repentance, but it is one of the results of genuine, faith-based repentance towards the Lord Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to be a born again Christian? The phrase “born again” literally means “born from above.” It is an act of God whereby eternal life is imparted to the person who believes—a spiritual transformation.

Other than Christology, Soteriology is the area where Christianity is the most different from the cults and other world religions. Understanding Biblical Soteriology will help us to know why salvation is by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. No other religion bases salvation on faith alone. Soteriology helps us to see why. A clear understanding of our salvation will provide a “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) because we come to know that He who can never fail is the means by which we were saved and the means by which we remain secure in our salvation. If we were responsible to save ourselves and keep ourselves saved, we would fail. Thank God that is not the case!

Titus 3:5-8 is a tremendous summary of Soteriology, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

Recommended Resource: So Great Salvation by Charles Ryrie

“What is Christian Theology?”

Answer: 
The word “theology” comes from two Greek words meaning “God” and “word.” Combined, the word “theology” means “study of God.” Christian theology is the study of what the Bible teaches and what Christians believe. Many believers treat Christian theology as something that is dividing, something that should be avoided. In actuality, Christian theology should be uniting! The Word of God teaches truth and we are to be united behind that truth. Yes, there are disagreements and disputes in Christian theology. Yes, there is freedom to disagree on the non-essentials of Christian theology. At the same time, there is much that Christians should be united over. A biblically-based Christian theology will enable us to better understand God, salvation, and our mission in this world.

For some, the word “theologian” conjures up images of crusty old men poring over dusty volumes of ancient texts in dimly-lit rooms, studying things completely removed from real life. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Second Timothy 3:16 tells us that all Scripture is inspired by God, literally God-breathed, and is indispensable to us because it makes us complete, lacking nothing. To be a theologian is to be one who seeks the face of God in order to encounter the creator of the universe and His Son, Jesus Christ, and embrace Him as Lord of our lives, so that He becomes the center of our desires, affections and knowledge. This intimacy spreads into all aspects of our lives—thrilling us with its blessings, comforting us in times of loss, strengthening us in our weaknesses and upholding us to the end of our lives when we will see Him face to face. Scripture is God’s story and the more we study His Word, the better we know Him.

Below are the various categories of Christian theology. Understanding what the Bible says about the various areas of Christian theology is key to spiritual growth and effectiveness in the Christian life.

Theology Proper / Paterology – the study of God the Father.

Christology – the study of the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

Pneumatology – the study of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit.

Bibliology – the study of the Word of God.

Soteriology – the study of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Christian Anthropology – the study of the nature of humanity.

Hamartiology – the study of the nature and effects of sin.

Angelology – the study of angels.

Christian Demonology – the study of demons.

Ecclesiology – the study of the nature and mission of the church.

Eschatology – the study of the end times / last days.

Recommended Resource: Christian Theology by Millard Erickson

“Is the atonement of Christ unlimited?”

Answer:
The Bible has much to say on the atonement of Christ. The question is whether His sacrifice provided limited or unlimited atonement. The word atonement means “satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury; amends.” The doctrine of unlimited atonement states that Christ died for all people, whether or not they would ever believe in Him. When applied to Jesus’ finished work on the cross, atonement concerns the reconciliation of God and humankind, as accomplished through the suffering and death of Christ. Paul highlights the atoning work of Jesus when he says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:8–10).

How this reparation of wrongs or reconciliation was accomplished and what was involved in the act, has been debated by theologians for centuries. There are at least nine different positions on the atonement of Christ, ranging anywhere from the atonement being merely a positive example for us (the Moral Example theory) to its being a judicial, substitutionary act (the Penal Substitution theory).

But perhaps the most controversial debate concerning the atonement of Jesus centers on what is referred to as “limited” or “definite” atonement. One theological camp (comprised primarily of those holding to Arminianism and Wesleyanism) believes that Christ died on the cross for everyone who will ever live. The other theological camp—made up of Reformed thinkers, who are often called “Calvinists” after the Reformer John Calvin—say that Jesus only died for those whom the Father chose from the foundation of the world to be saved. This group of redeemed individuals is often referred to as the “elect” or the “chosen” of God. Which position is correct? Did Jesus die for everyone in the world or only a select group of individuals?

Is Everyone Going to be Saved?
In examining this issue, the first question to ask is this: is everyone going to be saved through the atoning work of Christ? Those holding to a position called universalism say “yes.” The universalists argue that, because Christ died for everyone and all the sins of humanity were laid on/punished in Christ, everyone will spend eternity with God.

Scripture, however, stands in opposition to such teaching (which can be traced back to a teacher named Laelius Socinus in the 16th century). The Bible makes it abundantly clear that many people will be lost, with just a few verses highlighting this fact following:

• “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2)
• “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13–14)
• “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:22–23)
• “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46)
• “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
• “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15)

Since not everyone will be saved, there is one inescapable fact to understand: the atonement of Christ is limited. If it isn’t, then universalism must be true, and yet Scripture clearly teaches that not everyone is going to be saved. So, unless one is a universalist and can defeat the biblical evidence above, then one must hold to some form of limited atonement.

How, Then, Is the Atonement Limited?
The next important question to examine is this: if the atonement is limited (and it is), how is it limited? Jesus’ famous statement in John 3:16 provides the answer: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In this passage, the necessary condition that limits the atonement is found: “whosoever believes” (literally in the Greek: “all the believing ones”). In other words, the atonement is limited to those who believe and only those who believe.

Who Limits the Atonement?
Both theological camps previously mentioned will not argue this point – the atonement of Christ is limited to those who believe. The disagreement occurs over the next question that arises: who limits the atonement—God or man? Calvinists/Reformed thinkers maintain that God limits the atonement by choosing those whom He will save, and thus God only placed on Christ the sins of those He had chosen for salvation. The Arminian/Wesleyan position states that God does not limit the reparation of Christ, but instead it is humanity that limits the atonement by freely choosing to accept or reject the offer that God makes to them for salvation.

A common way for the Arminian/Wesleyan theologians to state their position is that the atonement is unlimited in its invitation but limited in its application. God offers the invitation to all; however, only those who respond in faith to the gospel message have the work of the atonement applied to their spiritual condition.

To support the position that humanity, and not God, limits the atonement, the Arminian/Wesleyan lists a number of Scripture verses, including the following:

• “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2, emphasis added)
• “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”” (John 1:29, emphasis added)
• “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh” (John 6:51, emphasis added)
• “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32, emphasis added)
• “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5–6, emphasis added)
• “But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9, emphasis added)
• “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Peter 2:1, emphasis added)

In addition to the biblical references above, the Arminian/Wesleyan theologian also provides a number of logical arguments to support their case. The most common is that, if God is all-loving, how could Christ not die for everyone? Doesn’t God love each and every person (cf. John 3:16)? They see an atonement limited by God as a denial of the omnibenevolence of God.

Furthermore, the Arminian/Wesleyan believes that an atonement limited by God is devastating to the gospel message. How can an evangelist preach that “Christ died for you” if Christ did not indeed die for all? There is a complete lack of confidence, they say, in making the statement to any one person that Christ died for them because the evangelist has no real idea (given an atonement limited by God) if that is really the case.

Unlimited Atonement—the Conclusion
Unless one is a universalist and believes that everyone will ultimately be saved, a Christian must hold to some form of a limited atonement. The key area of disagreement is over who limits that atonement—God or man? Those wishing to hold to a God-limited atonement must answer the biblical arguments put forth by those holding to a human-limited atonement and also explain how God can be described in Scripture as being all-loving and yet not have His Son die for everyone.

Recommended Resource: Chosen But Free, revised edition: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will by Norm Geisler and The Potter’s Freedom by James White

“Whom did Jesus die for? Did Jesus die for everyone?”

Answer:
Exactly whom Jesus died for is a point of theological disagreement among evangelical Bible believers. Some Christians believe that Jesus died only for the elect; this is the doctrine of limited atonement, the L in Calvinism’s TULIP. Other Christians believe that Jesus died for everyone who has or ever will live; this is the doctrine of unlimited atonement, held by Arminians and most four-point Calvinists, or Amyraldians.

Limited atonement, sometimes called particular redemption, is based on the doctrine of election or predestination (Romans 8:30, 33; Titus 1:1). Since only the elect of God will be saved, the reasoning goes, Jesus must have died only for them. Otherwise, Jesus’ death “failed” those who are not elect. If Jesus died for everyone, then hell will be full of people for whom Jesus died—was His atonement insufficient? If Jesus died only for the elect, then His atonement perfectly accomplished its goal. Every person for whom Jesus died will be in heaven.

Unlimited atonement, on the other hand, says that Jesus died for everyone but that only those who respond in faith will reap the benefits of His sacrifice. In other words, Jesus’ death was sufficient for all, but only effectual for some (those who have faith). If Jesus did not die for everyone, the reasoning goes, then the offer of salvation is empty, because the non-elect cannot be saved. The teaching of unlimited atonement is based on verses such as 1 John 2:2, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Precise theological thinking is a good thing. We are called to be students of the Word (2 Timothy 2:15). But on this point, it seems that most people follow a theological system to get to their answer, rather than the clear Word of God. If it were not for theological systems (namely, Calvinism and Arminianism), the question of whom Jesus died for would probably never come up—but it has come up! One side says that, if Christ did not die for all, then there can be no genuine offer of salvation. The other side says that, if Christ died for some who will never be saved, then His death in some sense fails to accomplish its purpose. Either way, there seems to be an attack upon God’s character or Christ’s work—either God’s love is limited or Jesus’ power is limited. This presents an unnecessary dilemma and creates a tension where none need exist. We know that God’s love is infinite (Psalm 107:1) and that Christ’s power is infinite (Colossians 1:16–17). The dilemma is a false one of our own making.

In short, the offer of salvation is universal—to all who will believe (Romans 10:11, 13). We also know that, regardless of how broad Christ’s atonement is, it is limited in some respect—it is effective only for those who believe (John 3:18).

John 10 provides more insight into the issue of whom Jesus died for. In that passage we see that Christ died for His sheep (John 10:11, 15). Also, all who are His sheep will come to Him (verses 4 and 27), and they are kept secure in Christ (verses 28–30). However, when we share the gospel, we don’t try to “pre-screen” the hearers of the message. We don’t delve into who are the elect or for whom Jesus may or may not have died. Those discussions would distract from the goal of evangelism. When presenting the gospel, we simply say, “Jesus died for your sin, and He rose again from the dead. His death is sufficient to pay for your sins if you will put your faith in Him.” This is a biblically accurate statement, and it avoids trying to get too specific. The preaching of the apostles in the New Testament doesn’t try to cut it more finely than that.

Recommended Resource: Chosen But Free, revised edition: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will by Norm Geisler and The Potter’s Freedom by James White

Lecture 5: The Person and Work of Christ

Course: Systematic Theology II

Lecture: The Person and Work of Christ


1. The Doctrine of the Person and Work of Christ

     A. Pre-Incarnate Existence

     B. The Incarnation of Christ

     C. The Deity of Christ

     D. The Humanity of Christ

     E. The Kenosis

     F. The Impeccability of Christ

Class Question:

What about forgiving sin that Christ did like in Mark 2. The paralytic is dropped down and before He heals him, He says to him you sins are forgiven. Clearly this is an act that only God can do, so if I said that everything Christ did in His life was done out His human nature that was incorrect. All of His life lived in terms of His obedience to the Father, His seeking to resist temptation and all of that is done out of His human nature empowered by the Spirit but there are cases, and forgiveness of sin is a clear cut case, where it is clearly because He is God as well as man that He can do this. I do think that those instances in the life and ministry of Jesus though are few and far between as opposed to just living the life He was called to live and carrying out the mission He was called to do was done as a man in the power of the Spirit doing what He did.

G. The Hypostatic Union

The Hypostatic union was settled at the council of Chalcedon, one of the pivotal points in the life of the church where clarity was given and orthodox decision came forth. What lead up to this council were a couple of erroneous views that were being proposed. At this time the question of the deity of Christ had already been settled; His one nature with the Father was settled at the Council of Nicea in 325. The question of the Holy Spirit and His deity was settled in 381 at the Council of Constantinople. The question is not the deity of Christ. In fact, because the church held to the deity of Christ, now the question is, what do we say about His humanity? How does this work? Was He really human or not? Could it be both? A couple of views were proposed that the church rejected.

The first one was the view of Apolinarius who was a bishop of Laodicea in the fourth century. He died, so far as we can tell, in 392. Apolinarius held that Christ had one nature and that one nature was divine. He wanted to affirm the deity of Christ, he wanted to be orthodox. He believed that if you affirmed anything more than the divine nature of Christ then you would be compromising that nature; divinity can not be part of something else, it stands alone he argued. But Jesus lived and walked among them, how do make sense of that? Apolinarius said that the divine logos in habited a human body. So Jesus was fully divine but He was not fully human. Another name had been given to this view of Apolinarius; Docetism. It comes from a Greek word δοκέω (dokeō) which means to seem or to appear. Docetism is the view that Christ appeared to be human, He looked human but He was not fully human. This view was rejected by the church. The Council at Chalcedon struggled with this and rejected it. In part it was rejected because it did not match the full scale of the humanity of Christ as it is reflected in the Gospels. He seemed to have been more than a body in His human experience; yes He hungered, yes He got tired, there were physical things about Him. For example the struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane, Father if you be willing let this cup pass from Me, was much more than a physical struggle. It looks there that He is expressing the agony of His soul and yet the agony of His soul is in contrast with the will of God, yet not My will but Thine be done. So this doesn’t look like it can be accounted for with simply a reference to the divine logos within inhabiting a body. Another reason it was rejected was the atonement; this was not as clear until many years later. But the nature of the atonement even at this point, it would seem to require both the deity and humanity of Jesus. That is, He is going to pay the penalty for our sin, He has to be a substitute for us, He has to be the second Adam; so He has to be a man, He has to be one of us, not just a body but He has to be one of us in order to do this. This view was rejected by the church.

Secondly Nestorius who was bishop at Constantinople in the early fifth century. Nestorius believed that Christ was fully God and fully man. But he felt that the only way that this could be, for Christ to be fully God and fully man, is if He is not only both natures, divine nature and human nature but two person brought together. Two persons; one divine person and one human person. He likened it to the marriage relationship where the husband and wife become one flesh but the husband is a separate person from the wife. You have two persons who make up the one flesh in marriage. That was his fundamental analogy that he used for Christ. This was rejected by the church also. In one sense the Apollinarian view said too little about the humanity of Christ and the Nestorian view says too much about the humanity of Christ. What would this view imply? This view would imply that one is not sufficient. So one question would be can you have one person having the two natures? That is the direction the church came to. What would be the main problem with two persons? Who is thinking, who is obeying, who is willing? If you have two persons you really have two centers of consciousness, you have two wills, you have two sets of desires, you have two sets of emotions; two persons. Think of the marriage relationship of a husband and wife. If you are going to use that as the analogy of what this is, it is kind of scary when you think of your typical husband and wife and how they disagree with each other at various points and how very different their perspectives can be. Imagine that in one being, Jesus Christ of Nazareth with two persons; who is thinking, willing, deciding, directing? It is utterly impossible for there to be a coherent understanding of the internal life of Christ if this is the case. The Garden of Gethsemane example again, not only does it cut against Apolinarius it cuts against Nestorius; not My will but Thine be done. That indicates a uniform, unitary will of Jesus Christ of Nazareth that stands different from the will of the Father. It indicates secondly that that will is not the will of His divine nature per se because if it were just His divine nature, how would it be different from the will of the Father? So there is some kind of coming together of the two natures of Christ in providing the environment for His thinking, willing, emotions, all that He experiences in His inner life as a unitary person. In other words, you wouldn’t have the expression of the Garden of Gethsemane within the Godhead; not My will but Thine be done. That is the expression of human Jesus who is in the incarnation and I cannot imagine that being a reflection of His inter Trinitarian life of God, not My will but Thine be done, as if there were two different wills, even thought was submission to it; Christ submitted to the will of the Father but none the less there would be the thoughts that would go in opposite directions.

How it must work then, even though both natures are present then the question is, what does it contribute to the unified, coherent experience that Jesus Christ of Nazareth has in His life? Won’t this mean for the most part that His divine knowledge, for example, though within the divine nature He continues to possess that that in the unified coherent experience of Christ that knowledge is not allowed expression within what He consciously knows in those moments of His earthly existence or else how could He learn? How could He live life as we do? That is why I use the language of “in His human nature” because for all intents and purposes He is experiencing life as a human being though He is a the very same time God. Is He aware that He is divine? Yes, does Jesus know that He is divine as well as human? Absolutely. Might He not knowing that make use of the fact that He is divine in forgiving sins? Yes, for example in Matthew 12 He cast out the demons and the Pharisees observed this then they said,

Matthew 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”

Matthew 12:28 “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

This is both an eschatological statement that when the Messiah comes He will be the Spirit anointed Messiah so now you know that is Me. It is also an indication of ho He lived His life by the power of the Spirit.

The decision at the Council of Chalcedon at 451 was to affirm of Christ that He possessed two natures in one person; two natures a divine nature and a human nature fully divine and fully human in one person. That seemed to the best way to account for all the data of Scripture; putting everything together you didn’t want to say one nature and not the other but you didn’t want to say two persons that it would imply things that did not fit the data. It looked as those the best way to put was two natures joined together in one person. The Hypostatic Union comes from the Greek word ὑπόστασις (hypostasis) which the Greek word for person. The union of two natures in one hypostasis, Hypostatic Union of two φύσει (physei) in one ὑπόστασις (hypostasis); two natures in one person. What they wanted to affirm, if you read the Chalcedon statement, of Christ at one and the same time a genuine union without violating the integrity of the two natures that are so united. So they said the two natures are conjoined (joined together) they really are united in one person but they are not confused; the two natures are conjoined but not confused. Here is my analogy of it. It is like taking a pitcher of grape juice and a pitcher of apple juice and you pour them into a common pitcher; that is confused. You have neither grape juice nor apple juice when you do that. I don’t know what have; grapple juice or something like that. But you have neither grape juice nor apple juice. So you should not think of the incarnation, the two natures in one person, as that. No, you have a divine nature with its integrity as divine you have a human nature with its integrity as human but none the less joined together. If what I argued earlier, the permanence of the humanity of Christ, inseparable. None the less still distinct in terms of their nature but joined together in terms of their contribution as it where to who Christ is. So to speak of Christ is to speak of the God-man. We have to think in both those ways of Him.

II The Work of Christ

A. The Past Work of Christ, The Atoning Savior

1. Theological basis for the cross

a. Three necessary theological factors

When you think about the cross, what are the facts that have to be true in order to account for the cross.

(1) Humanity’s sin

We stand before God as guilty, deserving condemnation. That sin that we have is universal; Romans 3:23

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

None of us escapes this. This sin brings us death, (second death like in Revelation 20) separation from God eternally and ultimately condemnation. Sin brings guilt which brings just condemnation which result in eternal separation from God.

Genesis 2:17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.

Romans 5:18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.

Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:3 combined with Romans 2:5

Ephesians 2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

Romans 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,

This means apart from Christ in our sin (this is true for everyone of us) we are everyday with every word, every thought, every attitude of heart, every action putting away into a wrath savings account with accumulating interest with increased basis for God’s just condemnation of us; every word, every thought. Unsaved people can choose the way in which they sin but they cannot choose not to sin. A unsaved person can sin by helping an old lady across the street or unsaved person can sin by hitting the old lady across the head and taking her purse; either one is a sin. Some of you are looking at me and saying didn’t say helping an old lady across the street? Why are doing this? Romans 3:23 say, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” which cannot mean we fail to have the same degree of glory that God has therefore we are sinners. No, the holy angels don’t have the same degree of the glory that God has and that doesn’t mean that they are sinners. We will not in heaven have the same degree of glory that God has and yet we will not be sinners. So Romans 3:23 cannot mean that all have sinned by virtue of not attain to the same degree of glory God has. What must it mean? All have sinned by not ascribing to God, not honoring God, not glorifying God as He ought to be. The unsaved person who is helping the old lady across the street is doing it for some other reason than giving glory to God; look at how nice I am, the brownie points for me. It is something but it is not to the glory of God.

So all of us are sinners, deserving condemnation, storing up wrath and we can do nothing about it; absolutely nothing.

Romans 3:20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

Galatians 2:16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.

By works of the Law shall no flesh will be justified. That is you and I cannot do a cotton picking thing, we cannot do a zillion cotton picking things, we can’t do an eternity’s worth of work to get out of our problem of deserving condemnation for God. Galatians 2:21 says (and this is a sobering text), “… for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” So obviously if salvation is going to take place it cannot be by anything we do.

(2) God’s Holiness

What I have in mind in particular is the fact that God’s holy nature is such that He cannot (not that He is stubborn and He won’t) by nature compromise (or set aside) the standards of His justice or just judgment against our sin. He cannot overlook it. He cannot sweep it under the carpet. He cannot say let bygones be bygones. He cannot say, you know what I will just forget that one. Why is that the case that God cannot by nature overlook, disregard our violation of His standard of righteousness? Why is it He cannot be like grandpa or grandma? It would defy His very essence of who He were if were to do that. Why is that? He is just, He is holy. If God were to say, I will disregard that violation of My standard, what does that say about God Himself as the Law upholder? It means that He does not uphold after all. Where else does He not uphold it? All it would take is one overlooking, one disregard, one failure to hold accountable and the whole structure of morality is gone plus the fact God’s nature is immutable, eternal. He is holy, He cannot be anything other than be holy.

The bottom line is number (1) and (2) here are not happy thoughts for sinners. Number (1) is that we are sinful deserving condemnation and we can do nothing about that and number (2) is God must judge our sins; it is morally incumbent upon Him, not that anybody is pressing this upon Him, it is morally incumbent by His nature, by who He is as God that He judge our sin. The nature of our sinfulness and the demands of God’s justice require that our sin be judged by death.

If we just had number (1) and number (2) we would have no atonement. They are necessary but they are not sufficient. If this is the only two that we had, this doesn’t call for atonement, this just calls for universal Hell, universal judgment, and condemnation of every single sinner.

(3) God’s Mercy

This is to say that God in His kindness, His compassion (Mercy is the kindness or the favor or the compassion that God directed toward those who are helpless and hopeless and ruined. You could say grace here on this point but it really is mercy. Salvation is such an action of mercy. It is kindness given to those who are absolutely and utterly helpless. Yes they are guilty, yes they don’t deserve it but we can’t do anything to help ourselves in this.) devises a way by which His holy demands against our sin may be met in such a way that we are ourselves are saved from our sin while our sin is dealt with fully. Every aspect of the penalty of our sin paid but paid by another rather than paid by ourselves. Why not say you did it you pay for it and when you are done I will welcome you in, because the done would never happen. When you are done would never occur. The reason Hell is eternal is because it is an infinite offense against and infinite God that requires and infinite payment. God says you pay for it and when you are done, then I’ll take you; that is kind of the purgatory notion that is in the Roman Catholic Church. The problem with that is that it would never be paid.

Here is another interesting thought. This thought came for my daughter Rachel about eight months ago when I was talking with her at bedtime. Rachel said to me, “I understand the Christ had to substitute for me, for us when He died on the cross, He had to bear my sin and He paid it for me but what I don’t understand is why it had to be God’s Son to do it? Couldn’t God have just raised up another Adam, another human being who was sinless? And couldn’t God have worked in his life so that he never did sin? She is a compatibilist; she believes in the notion that God can do that. He is going to do that for us in heaven for eternity, do I take it that He can do it. We never will sin when we are in heaven, isn’t that a wonderful thought? So can God work in a finite human being so that he or she never sins? Yes. So couldn’t God have done thins, raised a human being, worked in his life so that he never sins, he pays the penalty for our sins and He could have saved His own Son in the process? What if he was a complete human being as Adam was, as we are, but he never sinned? Could he pay for our sin because he didn’t have to pay for his own sins? Is this going to work? God imputes to him my sin, how long does he, a human being have to pay for my sin? Answer: the same length of time I would; forever. So when will the payment be made? Never. So how am I of the hook? I am not. It won’t work but not only that how could he have imputed to him the sin of the world? No, but none the less there never is a reconciliation, there never is salvation, there never is justification because the sin is never paid in full. It is just mind boggling; you can either go from the glory of Christ and think how bad our sin is or from everyone of our sins, all it takes to be Law breaker is break one (you’ve broken one sin you have broken the Law). So every one of our sins brings to us rightly deserved eternal condemnation. Add them up, multiply them by the numbers of people for whom Christ died, we are not going to worry about limited atonement at this point it really doesn’t matter whether we are talking about a 14,000 peak or a 16,000 peak, all of their sins laid on Him and He paid the penalty in full by His death on the cross.

Mercy is the strategy God comes up with by which the holy demand of His character that demands that our sins be paid for, He can’t sweep them under the rug, He can’t disregard them, He can’t pretend that they didn’t happen they have to be paid for and He pays for our sins as He charges to the account of His Son all of our sin so that in His Son Christ pays the penalty for what we have done. God made Christ who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

b. The necessity of maintaining both God’s holiness and mercy.

(1) The absolute necessity of God’s holiness

God’s mercy cannot be expressed in a manner that compromises His holiness. God cannot come up with a merciful plan, a kind and generous plan that somehow saves us that compromises His holiness; it cannot be. There is an absolute requirement of justice that must be met. God must meet His own standards of righteousness. This why in Romans 3 for example when the atonement of Christ is described the lead thought that in is in the middle of those verses (Romans 3:21-26) is declaring His righteousness.

Romans 3:21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, Romans 3:22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; Romans 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

How did Abraham’s sin get paid for? How did Moses’ sin get paid for? How did all the children of Israel’s sin get paid for? How is it that you are God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when their sin has not been paid for: In other words, are You sweeping the sin under the carpet? No, the cross of Christ is the declaration of God’s righteousness.

Romans 3:26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

just – Law upheld

justifier – merciful

The one who able to declare not guilty because justice had been upheld.

At he heart of it, this holiness standard of God is absolute and inviolable; it must be satisfied.

(2) The contingent necessity of God’s mercy.

Mercy is necessary but it is contingent. Did God have to save us? No He did not. Did God have to condemn our sin? Yes, that is the difference between the holiness of God has an absolute necessity attached to it; He must uphold the standards of holiness. Must He save? No, the doctrine of election indicates God will have mercy on whom He has mercy, He will have compassion on whom He has compassion. The doctrine of fallen angels indicates that God chooses not to save the entire class of fallen angels but creates Hell for Satan and his angels. So must God save? The answer is no. Mercy is necessary is salvation is going to occur; it is contingent in so far as God did not have to do it. He did have to satisfy His holiness. That could have happen with eternal Hell for all of us. He didn’t have to be merciful but He is. Therefore His mercy is shown in providing for us a substitute.

In order for God to be holy, must He uphold the standard of His holiness? Yes. In order for God to be merciful, must He uphold the standards of His holiness? Yes. Why in order for God to be merciful, must He uphold the standards or His holiness? What does mercy seeks to accomplish in terms of us, what does it do to us? Forgives our sin, restores us in relationship with God, it accomplishes for us the wholeness of what we call salvation. What is that salvation for us if it not making us in the likeness of Christ which is holy people. Holiness is not only the standard that is upheld in judging our sin it is in mercy the standard in conforming us to our saved state. We have been chosen from the foundation of the world that we be holy and blameless before Him.

So holiness is absolute not only in terms of God’s holy judgment against our sin, holiness is absolute in terms of the expression of mercy by which, by that mercy we are remade to be holy people; what God intended for us all along

c. The cross as a full expression God’s holiness and mercy

(1) Holiness is vindicated

As I read in Romans 3, God demonstrated His righteousness at the present time in the death of Christ. He is just as well as the justifier.

(2) Holiness and mercy come together at the cross

The full demands of God’s holiness and the deepest longings of His mercy come together at the cross.

(3) God’s Self satisfaction through self substitution

I borrowed this from John Stott in the way that he put it. In conclusion this is God self satisfaction. Self satisfaction meaning what? God satisfies the demands of His holiness, satisfies what His holiness requires must be done. He satisfies the demands of His holiness through offering His Son Himself in His Son as a substitute sacrifice. So, Self satisfaction through self substitution. This is the heart of atonement. God says I will pay for your sins through My Son, I will be satisfied; you will be set free.

https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/person-work-christ/systematic-theology-ii/bruce-ware

Dr. Bill Mounce blogs on spiritual formation and on Greek at BillMounce.com.

Lecture 6: Aspects of the Atonement – Part 1

Course: Systematic Theology II

Lecture: Aspects of the Atonement – Part 1


1. The Doctrine of the Person and Work of Christ

    II. The Work of Christ 

       A. The Past Work of Christ, The Atoning Savior

         1. Theological Basis for the Cross

         2. Aspects of the Atonement

If you think about the atonement, think about it by the analogy of a diamond or a beautiful gem in which you see refracted out of it various colors and yet that light that is refracted out of it is one thing; and yet it can be looked at this way, you can see this hue and that hue, that shade in it. As you look at light reflected in the diamond this is what the atonement is. It is one glorious beautiful work of God but involves these elements, these various aspects. This is part of the problem some of the major views, theories on the atonement, are not always necessarily wrong in and of themselves but they are partial in many cases. They are partial views. So you have to take into account the full of Scriptures teaching on these things.

a. The atonement understood as sacrifice

It is clear that at the very basic level the atonement is nothing if it is not the offering by God of a sacrifice for human sin. Notice what I said, It is God’s offering. John 1:29 where John the Baptist says

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

All until that time how were sacrifices done? You bring a bull or you bring an unspotted lamb, you bring the animal as the sacrifice. Here God provides the sacrifice “Behold, the Lamb of God” and it is a sacrifice which effects full atonement for human sin. It actually does do it; who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 is incredibly profound, incredibly packed with truth about this atonement of Christ.

Hebrews chapters 8-10 says a lot about the death of Christ’s as sacrifice.

Hebrews 9:22 And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Why blood? Blood represent life; the life is in the blood. So this requires the shedding of blood; the giving of Christ’s life as a payment for sin.

Hebrews 10:4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

You have to have a blood sacrifice, but the blood sacrifice that we offer is ineffectual; it cannot take away sin.

How would you answer the following question? I thought the people of Israel who offered sacrifices on the Day of Atonement their sins were forgiven. Weren’t they? Weren’t these people saved by bringing these sacrifices and offering them? Didn’t God say that if you do this I will forgive your sin? What does Hebrews mean when it says, the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin? Whether or not they fully understood this, how much they could comprehend, but from God’s perspective He attaches, as it were, the significance of the future sacrifice of Christ with these sacrifices of animals. Bull and goats being sacrificed are connected with the future sacrifice of Christ which in God’s mind is how certain that it is going to happen? Is Christ crucified before the foundation of the world? We were elect in Christ before the foundation of the world. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world (I Peter 1:20). In God’s mind this is as good as done and on the basis of that He can make the type and anti-type connection a legitimate one. In and of themselves, the blood of bulls and goats is absolutely ineffectual. They don’t do a think for making the payment; only because they are connected to the actual payment that is made. It is sort of like I stopped at the store this morning on my way to my office to buy a valentine present for my wife. I bought it with a credit card. I walked out of that store with something that is mine that I have not paid a penny for and it was legal; I didn’t steal it. If they had stopped me at the door and opened my bag they would have pulled receipt out and they would have seen charged there, oh fine, then it is yours. But I haven’t paid for it. How does this work? The analogy breaks down because it might not work in my case, it possible that I actually won’t pay for it, that could happen. In God’s case it doesn’t break down. But the analogy works this way; there is something legally binding that happened today, namely signing that receipt, and a future action which is making the payment. This the way the sacrificial system works then. It is sort like forgiveness by credit. It is charged ultimately to Christ’s account in so far as where that sin is actually paid for is up there in the future as He makes the payment.

Let me remind you of this amazing statement in Romans 3:25

Romans 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

Isn’t that an amazing statement in light of the whole Old Testament history of God forgiving their sins. From Paul’s perspective here, what is actually happening was God passed over them. God knew they were not paid for by those animal sacrifices. No payment had been made. Yet they did them because they were types of the anti-type, because they were commanded by God to demonstrate symbolically the future Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. So it was that connection with them that rendered them efficacious, of which they could not be efficacious of and in themselves. Like what I did today at the store was not efficacious to make a payment; I didn’t pay anything. So what has to happen is an efficacious payment.

One other element in this that is implied in what I said but I want to make it clear is then that this sacrifice of Christ pays for all sin once for all. The writer of Hebrews emphasizes several kinds of difference between the sacrifices that took place before and the sacrifice of Christ. What is a contrast between the way sacrifices happened before and now in Christ? Repeatedly; you had to this again today, the Day of Atonement every year the priest would have to offer a sacrifice. In Christ here is one sacrifice for all time. Hebrews stresses that the priest had to sacrifice for himself, he had to cleanse his own life first but this one who came did not have to do that; did not have to cleansed first but was able to enter into the holies of holies without that cleansing. Christ is the eternal high priest as opposed to ones that dies. The extent of the sins covered not only temporarily does it not need to be done again but it covers the full extent of sin.

b. The atonement understood as substitution

The death of Christ is substitutionary. John Stott aptly writes that this is at the heart, self satisfaction through self substitution. God substitutes Himself for us by the Father sending the Son to take on our flesh to substitute for the penalty we should pay.

Romans 6:23 confirms what God had told the man in garden in Genesis 2.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Isaiah 53:6 indicates that this sin we committed, this inequity went to Christ so He paid for our inequity.

Isaiah 53:6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.

The whole notion of substitution has to do with the fact that an offense has been committed, a penalty has been incurred, namely death and another has paid the penalty on our behalf.; hence substitution. There is a lot to this tradition of substitutionary atonement.

1) Old Testament Testimony

Genesis 22 The first place in Scripture that used the Hebrew term for substitute and has a close similarity in picture to the substitutionary atonement of Christ with command of God for Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Here you find that the actual term that is used :instead of” or “in place of” is used in this text. In Genesis 22 Abraham was about to kill his son as God commanded. The Angel of The Lord called to him and stopped him.

Genesis 22:12 He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Genesis 22:13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.

The Septuagint renders this with the preposition “anti” (ἀντί) which is the strongest term for “substitute,” “in place of,” “instead of,” “as substitute for” His Son. You have that notion there of a type of what God will provide in His Son Christ.

There is a growing view with evangelicalism that we need to drop the notion of substitutionary atonement. Why? Because it is terribly offensive and it is morally repulsive. Why is this? Because it necessitates a notion of a father, in this case God as Father, who offers his son to bear the penalty of another. Not only does he bear the penalty of another he inflicts upon own son the judgment of that penalty by pouring out his wrath on his own son and lets the guilty go free. There is dominant stream of feminist literature that has totally rejected this as orthodoxy’s justification for child abuse and the indication of oppression of a superior to a subordinate. It justifies it because the Father and Son, in that order. If the end justifies the means then what this does, according to this view, it justifies any kind of superior’s oppression of a subordinate in order to accomplish what he wants. That is what the atonement teaches us so; says this new tradition that is out there. There are evangelicals who have bought this. The other element that is so offensive is the notion of wrath. God is not wrathful; so says this view. God is love, He is not mad at anybody He is disappointed. He wishes that we would follow Him and He is grieved at heart that we have strayed from the path that will bring us joy and life and blessing but He is not angry. This view is prominent and it is right now in the main stream of evangelical theology. Joel Green is a prominent New Testament scholar who is the dean of Asbury Seminary in Lexington. He has written a book called Rediscovering the Scandal of the Cross. He bows before the shrine of these feminists who critique the atonement. He has basically nothing but derision to say concerning what he calls the penal substitutionary atonement. If you ask me the question, what view does he put in the place of the substitutionary atonement? I don’t have a clue. I think it is some version of the example theory. Look at how much Christ loved us that He went that far. Look at His obedience that He would go that far. But honestly, there is no wrath, there is no penalty, and there is no substitution. Why the cross? There is no good answer. It just happened to be that ended up that way out of love. Is the cross necessary? It is not at all clear from this book. The reason I am taking time with you on this to help you see substitution is absolutely essential to a biblical understanding of the atonement. We can’t discard it or you discard the atonement.

Leviticus 4-7 If you read that over, you will see that four offerings are required of the people: peace offerings, whole burnt offerings, guilt offerings, and sin offerings. It is very clear that in regard to the sin and guilt offerings that the nature of them is to bring a substitute for sin and the guilt that you have incurred. The sin and guilt offerings require a slaughtered animal to receive pardon by God. Nothing could be clearer that is the case in those chapters; Leviticus 4-7.

Leviticus 16. The chapter on the regulations for the Day of Atonement. This one day a year when one animal would be slaughtered. Two lambs were brought and the other one was sent out into the wilderness. Both were pictures that represent Christ because they represent two aspects of what He did. On one the hand, He went out side the gate for us; so the scapegoat going outside the city of Jerusalem bearing the sins of the people is the scapegoat. On the other hand, when the priest lays his hands on the goat who is slaughtered is a picture of the one who is killed, the blood shed for sin. The two together picture the work of Christ. For our purposes here, they picture substitution because the reason that you do that is that you the community are guilty before God, you sin needs to be paid for. These animals are provided in your place so that your sin and guilt can be paid; they bear the sins of the people.

Isaiah 53:4-6 I will read it in such a way that the substitutionary nature of what is described is unmistakable.

Isaiah 53:4a Surely our griefs He Himself bore,

“Our griefs,” if they are ours, why don’t we bear them? We should that is the point, but He bears them for us. He substitutes for what we ought to be doing. He dies the death we deserve to die, He pays for the sin we committed.

Isaiah 53:4b And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.

Just imagine if you were a spectator looking at these three men lined up there being crucified on the cross what would you think? Criminal, getting what He deserved, smitten of God, getting His just punishment. That is what it looks like

Isaiah 53:5a But He was pierced through for our transgressions,

What does it look like? He is getting what He deserved. What is it? He is getting what we deserved. Huge difference.

Isaiah 53:5b He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.

Can you see how the substitution is spoken of in terms of both what is given to Christ that is ours and what of Christ’s comes to us? What is that you have heard that is going to Christ? Our inequities, our transgressions, our punishment. What is it of Christ’s that is coming to us? Our healing, our well being, peace.

Isaiah 53:6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.

2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Isaiah 53:10 This is in my judgment the most unbelievable, incredible, shocking statement in all of the Bible.

Isaiah 53:10a But the Lord was pleased To crush Him,

The language is not God was pleased with a plan of bringing salvation. It isn’t even that God was pleased that His Son would bring about salvation. There is no other way that it going to happen than that the Father who is the Judge, the One who is pouring out wrath on sin, that the Father be the One who crushed His Son.

Isaiah 53:10b putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.

The outcome of this is the exaltation of Christ that comes as He accomplishes this mighty work.

It is very clear that the Old Testament affirms the substitutionary nature of sacrifice and foretells the substitutionary nature of the sacrifice of Christ. You ask, what do they do with these passages? Look at the Scripture index in the back of this book by Joel Green Recovering the Scandal of the Cross. He devoted two thirds of one page to the book of Hebrews, I don’t think Isaiah 53 made the book, I am not sure, I would have to take a look again. But this is how you do it and it makes me angry. It is sold by Intervarsity Press and is supposedly some great scholarly accomplishment and it is honestly not worth the paper it is written on in terms of careful scholarly, faithful biblical writing.

There are other analogies; it is not as if those are wrong it is just that they are partial. What they pick up on rather than sin and guilt which requires wrath and condemnation so they scrape that, what we need is someone to pave the way, chart the course for our reconciliation with God. Because it is still by trusting in Christ that we see the path to go. Trusting in Christ for what exactly? For a payment made on my behalf that otherwise I would have to pay that is bringing on me eternal condemnation, no. It is not that, so what is it? This is why I said that I read that book with such frustration in part because how horribly it portrays the church’s view of the atonement. Also because of what do put in its place? It is just not clear at all what is there. There is a little bit of Christus Victor in this book where He triumphs over Satan. That is big in Greg Boyd and his writings. There is a little bit of that in this model. But what there is nothing is personal sin, guilt, wrath, condemnation, judgment in Christ bearing our sins; it is gone.

2) New Testament Testimony

There is a lot of New Testament testimony to the substitutionary nature of the death of Christ.

John 1:29

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Obviously there is an intended continuity between the previous lambs offered for sin that were substitutes and now this Lamb, namely God’s Lamb who substitutes for sin. Substitution is implicit in that statement and is clear from it connection to the sacrificial system that has taken place.

Mark 10:45 and Matthew 20:28 they are the same statement by Jesus.

Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

The “for” there is the word “anti” (ἀντί).

The preposition “anti” (ἀντί) in Greek is the clearest one that indicates substitution, “in place of,” “instead of.” He gave His life a ransom “instead of” us, “in place of us.” Most of the references to substitutionary atonement use instead of “anti” (ἀντί) they use “hyper” (ὑπέρ). Hyper (ὑπέρ) as a preposition can mean one of two things. It can mean simply doing something “for the benefit” of another or it can mean doing something “instead of,” or “in the place of” another. The word “for” is also translated the same way. In John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. A number of people have tried to argue is that word used is “hyper” (ὑπέρ) it is not “anti” (ἀντί). He is not saying that He gives His life “instead of” the sheep or “in the place of” the sheep He is just giving His life “for the benefit.” So all it means is “for the benefit” it doesn’t require substitution to be true. Here is my response. What is true of “hyper” (ὑπέρ) is also true of the English word “for” namely that it can mean merely “for the benefit of” or it can mean “in the place of” it depends on the context. An example for this. If you had a rich uncle and he sent you a check for $500 with a little note attached to it and he said This is for you, hope you enjoy it. This is “hyper” (ὑπέρ) in the weaker sense of it. This for you, it is “for your benefit” it doesn’t mean that it is “in the place of” anything, it just “for your benefit.” What if though he knew you had an outstanding loan that you had to pay off for $500? Now you get a check in the mail and he said a little birdie told me about the debt that you have and here is a check for you. The “for you” now means that this payment is to take the place of one you would have to pay. This check is for you in this context means that it substitutes. My check substitutes for you check. I submit to you that if you look at the context of these verses where “hyper” (ὑπέρ) is used, Christ gave Himself for us, that in many of them it is clear that the way in which Christ gives Himself for us is “in our place” and in a number of them the context require that understanding. So even though “anti” (ἀντί) is not used (“anti” (ἀντί is use rarely, “hyper” (ὑπέρ) is used commonly) the context argue for the stronger meaning of “hyper” (ὑπέρ).

John 10:11

John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

What does this mean when you are talking about wolves coming and endangering the flock and the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep? Yes it is for their benefit, that is agreed but it means more than that. He gives His life in exchange for or in order to save the lives of the sheep. So He gives His life in the place of, He gives His life in exchange for the sheep.

Galatians 3:13 here we have “hyper” (ὑπέρ) also.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—

Who had the curse? We did, we were the Law breaker and we deserved to suffer the curse of the Law; that was ours. So if He becomes a curse for us then He suffers that curse instead of us suffering it. Clearly substitution is implied in that.

Ephesians 5:2

Ephesians 5:2a and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us,

Here you might know if whether is it “for” as “in your benefit” merely or “for” as in “in the place of” or “instead of” but keep reading the rest of the verse.

Ephesians 5:2b an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

It is connecting to the sacrificial act by which something is sacrificed and we are set free.

Hebrews 2:9

Hebrews 2:9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

He would die, taste death, so that we would not die, “in the place of.” He would taste death for us by Him dying “in our place.”

I submit to you, this is the clear teaching in the New Testament of the substitutionary nature of the death of Christ.

John 11:50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” John 11:51 Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,

Romans 5:6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

1 Timothy 2:6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.

Titus 2:14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;

My proposal to you, on the basis of a number of usages of “hyper” (ὑπέρ) where it clear that it means “in the place of.” This in all likelihood is the predominate meaning in all of those passages. At the basic level everyone knows that it is “for our benefit.” The question becomes, in what way is it for our benefit? The answer to that is, by taking to Himself the payment, the curse, the sin or whatever the text is referring to that is rightly ours and He pays it on our behalf.

Texts which don’t relate to “hyper” (ὑπέρ) but are other texts on the substitutionary atonement.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; Romans 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

This is a crucial passage

Hebrews 7:26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; Hebrews 7:27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

Hebrews 9:28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

1 Peter 2:24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

1 John 2:2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

c. The atonement understood as Redemption

This in some ways can be argued as the central aspect of the atonement in so far as it describes the actual payment of the price. Substitution is the fact that He took our place in doing this. Doing what? Making the payment. Sacrifice indicates the way in which it is done by giving His life. Propitiation is what it means to God that now He is satisfied in it. Expiation means that we are no longer guilty. We should view redemption as the center of all of it. Sacrifice, substitution are almost adjectival; sacrificial redemption, substitutionary redemption. Redemption is the biblical category describes most clearly what actually transpires on the cross as He substitutes for us, as He makes His sacrifice for us.

What is this redemption? The term “agorazō” (ἀγοράζω) is a term that refers to buying something out of the marketplace. It is a very common term that is used in Koine Greek for making a purchase at the “agora” (ἀγορά) the marketplace. So “agorazō” (ἀγοράζω) is purchase something at the marketplace. Just picture yourself going to Kroger and you are redeeming something. I grew up long enough ago that I can remember my mother (I was really little and I can hardly remember this) collecting green stamps and putting them in these books. As soon as she would get these books filled she would take them to a redemption center and for so many pages of these green stamps you could get a coffee pot or a lamp, dishes or something like that. This is the idea that it is an actual purchase that takes place. Theologically this means that Christ gives His life as the payment price necessary to secure our release from the bondage and guilt of sin.

Some key terms:

agorazō (ἀγοράζω)

1 Corinthians 6:20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 7:23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.

2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

This speaks clearly of unbelievers.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—

He redeemed us from “exagorazō” (ἐξαγοράζω)

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

lytron (λύτρον) This word is often translated as release or ransom.

Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Titus 2:14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,

This one has raised the question, to whom is the ransom payment made? In what sense are we bought? Who has us? If you go to Kroger and buy a gallon of milk, that means Kroger had the gallon of milk, you pay Kroger for it and so then you take the milk home with you. Doesn’t a ransom payment indicate that Christ makes a payment to someone? It has been an attractive view over the centuries that because we are held captive to sin and Satan then the payment would be made to Satan for him to release his hold upon us. If we are in his clutches, isn’t this what happened. In the ransom theory, Satan gets Christ as payment for these people; so God gets the people. What happens to the Son? According to the agreement that they made Satan is suppose to keep Him but here according to the ransom theory is where the little trick comes; God pulls a fast one. By raising Christ from the dead because Satan had Him (death is his major weapon, we have no power over death so Satan can hold us in death) and gets us and gets His Son back so Satan is foiled in this. For two reasons people have thought that this is not the case that we ought to think instead that the purchase is made to God not Satan. One is that there is absolutely no indication scripturally that a payment is made to Satan and along with that the notion that God would make an agreement with Satan and then pull a fast one on him, break the agreement is on ethical grounds unacceptable. God does not break His promises. He does not go back on agreements He has made.

What should we hold? We should that the payment is made (get the significance of this) by whom? By the Father offering His Son. It is made to whom? To the Father. God’s love pays God’s holiness. God’s graciousness devices a way by which the demands of His justice against us can be paid. God pays God. God’s love pays His holiness. Don’t push that in terms of dividing God up. What is motivated by it is mercy. If all we had was holiness and sin we would have hell, we would not have salvation.

Passages which indicate that the payment is made to God.

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

Hebrews 9:12 and following. There are two ways in which this passage argues for God being the one who is paid by the death of Christ.

Hebrews 9:13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, Hebrews 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

He offered Himself without blemish to God

Hebrews 9:15 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

He instituted a new covenant because the old covenant was broken and He had to provide a death in order to satisfy the demands of the old covenant. What was the old covenant that He is referring to? The Mosaic Covenant, the Law. Who are the parties of the old covenant? God and His people, Israel. Who broke the old covenant? Israel. In a covenant arrangement who is responsible for mending the breach when the covenant is broken? The party responsible. But in this case, who does it? God. So God satisfies the demands of the first covenant. He can’t set aside the old covenant and bring in a new one until the demands of the old covenant are met. What are the demands of the old covenant? Death for sin: Deuteronomy 28. If you obey Me, I will bless you. If you don’t obey Me you are cursed and you will die. Who is it then that has to be repaid for this covenant breach? It is the innocent party. So God pays God. The innocent party, not the guilty party pays for covenant agreement being met in order for God to institute the new covenant which will never be broken; as we are told in Jeremiah 31. So the payment is made by God to God. In this is unspeakable grace and glory.

Lecture 7: Aspects of the Atonement – Part 2

Course: Systematic Theology II

Lecture: Aspects of the Atonement – Part 2


1. The Doctrine of the Person and Work of Christ

    II. The Work of Christ 

      A. The Past Work of Christ, The Atoning Savior

         1. Theological basis for the cross

         2. Aspects of the Atonement

            a. The atonement understood as sacrifice

            b. The atonement understood as substitution

            c. The atonement understood as Redemption

(Lecture begins here)

         d. The atonement understood as Propitiation

Propitiation is used in four passages in the Bible and it is a very important term. It is used in Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; I John 2:2; I John 4:10

Romans 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

1 John 2:2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

In each of these cases it has the same meaning. To propitiate is to satisfy or appease the wrath of God against our sin. So, propitiation is the satisfaction or appeasement of God’s wrath against our sin by virtue of Christ’s payment in full for our sin.

Romans 3 is beautiful expression of that.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

Romans 3:25a whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.

“as a propitiation” Your translations may say something different maybe satisfaction or atoning sacrifice or something like that. I wish they would keep the word propitiation in our translations because it is just used four times and it would be nice to know as an English reader when you come across it. The NASB uses that term exclusively for this Greek term.

Romans 3:25a whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.

Romans 3:25b This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

The whole point that Paul is making here is that God’s righteousness is called into question. How can God be righteous when He has passed over sins previously committed? They haven’t been paid for. The blood of bulls and goats cannot pay for sin and yet He has passed over them. He has accepted people as though they are forgiven and yet their sin is not forgiven. So God must demonstrate His righteousness; that He is righteous in forgiving at the present time so that He could be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. The context indicates clearly that propitiation is this satisfaction of God’s righteous demands against our sin. Only because of Christ’s payment is that true. Up and until that point the blood of bulls and goats did not satisfy His wrath. He always looked at those sacrifices in light of what they pointed to, in light of what they connected to. In and of themselves they were totally ineffective. But seen in light of, connecting to the sacrifice of Christ then He could forgive based upon the real sacrifice, the real payment that would be made at some point future. So here it is, He demonstrates His righteousness.

We normally think of salvation as dealing with our problem sin. It is true that salvation does deal with our problem of sin and guilt and death but salvation also more fundamentally has to deal with God’s problem. God’s problem is how do I forgive, justify, and accept sinners? How can this be? In Romans 4 there is this remarkable phrase that some translations have messed up badly so that you really can’t see it.

Romans 4:5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,

How can God justify the ungodly? If they are ungodly, they shouldn’t be declared righteous. God’s just demands require that if they are ungodly they be declared ungodly. How can He declare those who are ungodly righteous? The answer is the only way He can be just and the justifier, justify the ungodly is if He provides a way by which the just standards of His righteousness against our sin are met. So propitiation is that meeting of, that fulfilling of the requirement established by His righteousness against sin. Sin has to be paid for. If we pay for it, it is eternal condemnation. Christ pays for it in one act, once and for all so God can by our faith in Him justify us, declare us just and He can be just in so doing.

This is an extremely important area in theology. Sacrifice is the form in which the payment is made; namely a blood sacrifice it has to be the shedding of blood, it has to involve another for me. They are all facets of one thing. None of these aspects of the atonement should be viewed exclusively apart from the others. They all work together.

The main term that is used is hilasmos (ἱλασμός). It is this hilasmos (ἱλασμός) word group that is found in the New Testament. Studies have been done for example Leon Morris in his boo, the book that made him famous, the book that put him on the charts, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross has a wonderful discussion of this term and it usage. Clearly it implies our guilt and God’s wrath. That is implied in this term hilasmos (ἱλασμός). We are guilty before God, He is wrathful against us and the only way His wrath can be satisfied is if the payment is made; our guilt is paid for; hence the notion. This is why this term has been so despised in liberalism because they don’t like the notion of being wrathful; God is disappointed, God really wishes that we would follow Him and it breaks His heart that we don’t but He is not wrathful against us, in liberalism. He loves us, He is not mad at anybody. We may be mad at Him but He is not mad at us so says the liberal. This word and biblical theology teaches the wrath of God, but this word indicates that God has something against us that has to be satisfied and can only be satisfied when a payment is made in full. Of course, that can only happen through the death of Christ.

All four of the references that I gave earlier are usages of hilasmos (ἱλασμός). Now that you know what this term means listen to it in I John 4:10.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Do you see how that connects with love? What love God has for us that His just demands against us, His own wrath toward us would be satisfied by giving us His Son. We have the guilt, we could not get rid of it. God is the only One who could provide a way by which our guilt could be paid and done with and us acceptable to Him. That could only happen through the death of His Son. What love, marvel.

e. The atonement understood as Expiation

It is kind of the other side of the coin from propitiation is expiation. Expiation is the removal of our liability to suffer sin’s penalty. The necessity that we had apart from Christ, to pay for our sin is removed, or eliminated because the payment has been made on our behalf in full. It is like taking a bill that you get from a creditor and writing across it “paid in full.” You don’t owe this anymore. So our debt that we had before God, the payment that we owed to Him because of our sin is paid by another and hence we are expiated. By the redemption of Christ God is propitiated, we are expiated. We are rendered not liable to suffer sin’s penalty by virtue of His death on our behalf.

Passages that make this clear.

2 Corinthians 5:19

2 Corinthians 5:19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

not counting their trespasses against them – expiation. He doesn’t against them any longer their trespasses because Christ has come and paid the penalty to reconcile them, to bring them back. So, obviously, propitiation and expiation are necessary for reconciliation. What he is stressing here is that until expiation takes place our transgression, our trespasses are counted against us. We owe it to God and hence we are not acceptable to Him, we cannot be in right relationship with Him, we are objects of His judgment and wrath. When the payment of Christ is made on our behalf then He does not count our trespasses against us.

Colossians 2:14

Colossians 2:13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,

The notion of forgiveness implies expiation. If a penalty is forgiven, you don’t have to pay it any longer

Colossians 2:14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

This is a beautiful picture. It is like taking all the debts that we owed, imagine them being place on a sheet of paper maybe on reams of paper and God takes all of these debts and He nails them to the cross. When Christ dies, He pays those debts on our behalf.

We took this passage one time as the basis of a Good Friday service at a church that I served in Illinois. It was a wonderful experience. We had a large rough hewn beam cross in the front of the church. So as to avoid the problem of people hitting their thumbs with a hammer we put into the cross a bunch of nails toward the middle. At a certain point in the service we had total silence, no music, no noting for about 15 minutes and asked people to meditate and for God to bring to mind sins that they could think of; perhaps once that had already been confessed. But we wanted to picture Christ paying for our sin. Write them down on little slips of paper and bring them to the front and put them on the cross. We had about 600 people there for that service and when everyone had done this that cross was just filled with little notes of paper indicating the sins of the people.

He took our certificate of debt which was against us, which was hostile to us and He took it out of the way having nailed it to the cross.

That is expiation. Because He has paid for it we don’t have to pay for it. Because He has paid for it, how insulting to Christ and the sufficiency of His cross to think we could do something to contribute to its payment. Here is why justification is by faith apart from works period. Why is justification by faith alone such a hallmark of the Reformation? Because any single instance of human works contributing in any way to our right standing before God is to say of Christ that His payment was not sufficient. It is an offense to Christ to say that somehow our works of any kind could contribute hence it is by faith alone. It is also exalting to us. Scripture will not let on either ground either the sufficiency of the death of Christ or our total inability to do anything about, on either of those grounds will not permit us to think in terms of our contributing to our right standing before God, our salvation.

f. The atonement understood as Reconciliation 

Reconciliation is change in relationship between God and human beings.

It involves 3 aspects

1) It presupposes and estrangement or alienation between God and sinners which characterized both by human rebellion and divine judgment (impending judgment) against us.

Whose fault is the estrangement and alienation? Whose fault is this breach in relationship between God and sinners? It is ours; we bear the responsibility for the estrangement.

2) It involves intervention to remove the basis for the alienation or estrangement.

Who does this? God does. It is just remarkable. We are the guilty ones, we ought to be the ones who go to Him and say, listen we really blew it, we are sorry and want to make things right but we don’t do that. He has to come to us; we who have treated Him as enemies, we who are opposed to Him, hostile to Him. Think of Romans 8, who do not seek God, who do not want Him, who do not want to obey Him. He comes to us to remove the basis for alienation which our sin.

3) A positive change in relationship now to one of peace, acceptance and mutual fellowship.

It isn’t just a relationship like a treaty is signed and two warring factions just agree not to fight any more; a truce. This is a relationship which is marked by mutual acceptance, peace fellowship which takes place between God and sinner. We caused the problem; God solves the problem and brings us to Himself.

1) Key terms for reconciliation.

katallassō (καταλλάσσω) is one of the main terms. This term refers to a change of relationship; to exchange from one kind of relationship to another or to reconcile.

Romans 5:10,11

Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

You can hear in that reconciliation which is our union with God, our being reunited with Him comes as a gift from God. He pursues it, He makes it happen.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ff.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,

God does it through His Son but then He gives to us this privilege of announcing to the world, God has worked through Christ to reconcile you through Him, which is the Gospel message.

2 Corinthians 5:19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Reconciliation is being used in two different ways here. A work has been done by Christ and that is finished. But a response is needed from us to experience the reality of it. There is a sense in which objectively reconciliation has been accomplished but subjectively, experientially, we need to enter into it by coming to God through faith in Christ.

apokatallassō (ἀποκαταλλάσσω) This has the preposition apo (ἀπο) in front of it. Now you have two prepositions that are involved here. This intensifies it.

Ephesians 2:16 which speaks of the circumcision and the uncircumcision made into one new man.

Ephesians 2:16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.

Here is the enmity, the estrangement, the alienation that was separating them now God removes it and brings them to Him.

This text has the seed of a theology of horizontal reconciliation that is huge. When he says that the circumcision and the uncircumcision, which are at odds with one another and are hostile to each other, that He reconciles them in one body to God, do you know what that means? That means that reality of vertical reconciliation with God is necessarily pictured through horizontal reconciliation with those of other cultures, traditions who now with you one in Christ. The point of the text is that there really cannot be genuine vertical reconciliation with God without horizontal reconciliation. The text is just powerful on this. You can’t find two groups more at odds with each other than Jews and Gentiles, circumcision and uncircumcision. They both had terrible things to say about the other; there was animosity. They were angry with each other and didn’t want to have anything to do with each other but they are reconciled together in one body to God. Just as with so many social programs, while social restoration is not the goal in and of itself, it is not the end, social expressions are often times the necessary outcome of a spiritual reality being true. So if it is true that we are reconciled on the same terms by faith in Christ not because of my circumcision or your circumcision or uncircumcision but by faith in Christ, then we realize that commonality in Christ is greater than any differences we had and therefore we are united in Him. That pictures our union with Christ.

Colossians 1:20-22 This is tough text and one that I will come back to when we talk about the extent of the atonement issue.

Colossians 1:19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, Colossians 1:20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. Colossians 1:21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, Colossians 1:22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.

This is fascinating because on the one hand you have the statement in Colossians 1:20 this statement, through Christ He reconciled all things to Himself through the blood of His cross whether things in heaven or things in earth. In case you are wonder if it really means all things, the heaven and earth ought to tip it off that it does. The second thing is that this comes right after Colossians 1:16 where Christ created all things

Colossians 1:16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

Not only did He create all things but He reconciled all things. Isn’t it clear that it means absolutely everything? And it says having made peach through the blood of His cross. Some have used this text and others to argue for universalism; there is ultimately no hell. Karl Barth would say that God’s yes is stronger than man’s no, when God will in fact bring everything into subjection to Him. Clearly universalism runs contrary to so much of biblical teaching it is impossible to hold it with integrity as viable biblical view, even in this text. Look at how he goes on then from there. After he talks about this universal reconciliation he says,

Colossians 1:21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, Colossians 1:22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith

Here is an appeal to persevering in faith, the necessity of persevering faith as evidence of true saving faith, but at it relates to reconciliation, do you see the implication. If you don’t persevere you won’t be reconciled. I thought Col. 1:20 said He reconciled everything in heaven and earth?

So there must different senses in which the saved and the unsaved, those of persevering faith and those not of faith are reconciled to God. It appears from Scripture, several indications, that there is a sense in which all of creation comes to the point where it acknowledges, particularly moral creation, moral angels, demons, human beings, sinners and saints, regenerate and not all of God’s creation comes to the recognition that God is God, that Christ is Lord and through that the rebellion is over. C. S. Lewis in the Problem of Pain has a chapter on hell. He has very vivid picture in there, in one of them he says, the rebels flag is planted in hell and the gates of hell are locked on the inside. The point is, nobody is keeping us here want to be here. The gates of hell are locked on the inside, we don’t want anybody in, we want to stay. Why? Because in his view is that only reasons sinner are in hell is because they continue in their rebellion against God. But I look at Colossians 1:20 and ask myself how it can be that everything on heaven and earth is reconciled to God and there being the rebel’s flag and fist continuing to be expressed? It seems to me that it is impossible for both to be true.

Here is another text.

Philippians 2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

Whether that is a reference to demons or the dead or both, I don’t know, but the point is he is including everybody.

Philippians 2:11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Is that universalism? No, it isn’t, there is hell. The question is, how do you relate that to hell? How do you relate that to unbelievers? It seems to me that the way you do it is by acknowledging that the time will come. What does sin do to people in terms of their understanding of truth? It twists and distorts, blinds them from seeing it. The time will come when the deception will be over. The truth will be known. That does not mean sinners who have not been save, who have not put faith in Christ during their lifetimes will be saved, but it does that when they stand before the Great White Throne Judgment they know God is God, they know Christ is Lord, they know their sin is justly judged, they know the horror of their punishment, the glory of the heaven that they will never know or experience in any measure at all; they know all of that and they are no longer rebels against God. So I take it that there must be in Colossians 1 two senses of reconciliation; one for the entire cosmos including all sinners who never have believed and in the verses that follow for those of faith which is what he talks about there.

What a day that will be when Satan along with all of us confesses Jesus Christ it Lord.

Another thing that you have to ask about Philippians 2 is, could this possibly mean that they are being made to say it but they really don’t mean it? My answer to that is, no way. That would trivialize it. God doesn’t like hypocrites so what this is saying then is that for all these sinful people out there this enormous hypocrisy being made to say something they do not believe. No way. This is not like the little boy standing in the corner for running around the room getting in trouble saying I may be standing in the corner on the outside but I am running around this room in the inside. It cannot be like that. These are people who recognize the truth Jesus Christ is Lord and they acknowledge it. Some get to go into His presence for ever and enjoy His Lordship over their lives for ever and ever with all the blessing attending to that. Others go to hell and realize forever the Lord of the universe, the one from whom every good blessing comes will never ever be mine, I will never be His for all of eternity.

2) Object of reconciliation

Some have wanted to say that the only object of reconciliation is us, that is, we are the ones who are rebellious against God we are the ones who are opposed to Him. So the only reconciliation needed is for us to come back to God. It is very clear that God needs to be reconciled to us as well. Why? Because His disposition toward us is one of wrath. We are rebels, He is wrathful. Both of those things have to change for reconciliation to take place. Sin is behind both of those things. Sin is what produces our rebellion; sin is what elicits His wrath. When the sin is paid for, then there can be peace and acceptance once again. Remember the enmity that God has toward us, the holy wrath, hostility that He has toward us. Remember Ephesians 2:3 where Paul said

Ephesians 2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

In Romans 2:5 he says of the unrepentant that

Romans 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,

So there needs to be two way reconciliation; us reconciled to God and God reconciled to us and He provides the basis entirely for that to happen.

3. Ratification of the Efficacy of the Atonement through Christ’s Resurrection

Paul said something very interesting in 1 Corinthians 15. He begins the chapter by saying this is the Gospel that I gave to you, Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He has been raised according to the Scriptures. He died for our sins. A few verses later he says if Christ has not been raised you are still in your sins and we of all people are most to be pitied if Christ has not been raised. My question to you is, is it the death of Christ or the resurrection of Christ that takes away our sin? 1 Corinthians 15 begins with Christ dies for our sins. If He died for sins and that does it, what is the point of the resurrection? Why does he say if He has not been raised we are still in out sins? What is the connection between the death of Christ and His resurrection as it relates to sin? He was vindicating that His death paid for sin. How’s so? What is sin’s greatest power? It has lots of powers, it can deceive, twist, it can mar, it can lead to all kinds of horrible things but its greatest power and its culminating power is death. The wages of sin is death. If Christ who died for sin remains dead, then He didn’t actually pay for sin because death still is holding Him. The payment, wages, which is death, are still being paid. You can think of it in two terms. You can think of it in terms of the completion of the payment requires that He be raised for the dead indicating that the payment has been made in full. The wages of death have been satisfied and so He doesn’t have to pay for it anymore through death so He necessarily raises from the dead. And you can think of it this way. Sin and death is also a power over us. If Christ conquers the power of sin, the only way He can conquer the power of sin is by conquering its greatest manifestation, which is death. How do you conquer death? Only be being raised from the dead. For Christ to have supposedly died for sin and be in the grave would indicate sin has not been paid for, sin has not been conquered. If sin has been paid for, if sin has been conquered then the one who did that and died for our sin must of necessity rise from the dead indicating His victory, His complete payment and hence vindicating the efficacy, ratifying the efficacy that it really did work, that it really did have this effect; that is the meaning of efficacy. It really did have this effect, namely of paying for sin, of defeating sin. So Christ’s resurrection is absolutely essential, as Paul puts it, if He has not been raised we are still our sins and we are of all men most to be pitied. But Christ has been raised and hence we have all the reason to hope that we to in Him will be raised and be freed from sin forever. Hasten the day, Lord Jesus come!

Lecture 8: The Work of Jesus Christ: Summary

Course: Systematic Theology II

Lecture: The Work of Jesus Christ: Summary


1. The Doctrine of the Person and Work of Christ

    II. The Work of Christ

       A. The Past Work of Christ, The Atoning Savior

           1. Theological basis for the cross

           2. Aspects of the Atonement

           3. Ratification of the Efficacy of the Atonement through Christ’s Resurrection

(Lecture begins here)

4. Extent of the Atonement

(note: Much of this topic is covered in handout given by Dr. Ware to the Class, we do not have that available)

a. The issue

The issue regarding the extent of the atonement is not over the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning death. People of both sides of the issue of the extent of the atonement agree that were it God’s purpose to save everyone in the world the death of Christ is sufficient to pay for all sin. They differ over whether or not God actually did that but not over whether He could have; that is in principle if the death of Christ, His payment is sufficient. Those who hold limited atonement do not hold it for the same reason that you are careful about how much you put in your shopping cart; I don’t know if I have enough money for this. Limited atonement is not a function of I bought all I could, namely the elect and that was it, I would of liked more but that is all I could fit in the cart. That is all that Christ’s death was worthy of. That is absolutely rejected. Both sides agree that his death was sufficient for all.

The dispute is not over the efficacy of the atoning death of Christ in the sense that all agree that only those who believe in Christ will be saved and only those who do not believe in Christ will not be saved.

The offer of salvation is not an issue. All agree that everyone should be extended the offer of salvation. When I say “everyone” I am aware of the fact that there is a hyper-Calvinist position that would say God is going to save them, He elected them, we don’t have anything to do with it. There is that hyper Calvinist position but it is a minority view. It does not represent Calvin or the majority of his successors. I think that it fair to say that in the Reformed tradition as indicated by William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, John Piper (one of the most mission minded pastors I know and he is a very committed Calvinist). In the Reformed tradition there is a very strong conviction that the Gospel needs to be proclaimed to all people.

The issue is what is the intention of God in offering His son as an atoning sacrifice?. How you answer that question, what is God’s intention as He offers Christ, you get the two main views; limited and unlimited atonement.

One answer to that question is that it was God’s intention to save people by His Son’s death. Don’t phrase this one as it is His intention to save the elect. Don’t phrase it that way or you will cloud the issue. The issue is His intention is to save, not just make that salvation possible, but His intention is save people. Then the next question is how many? The elect. Why is not all are not saved? Because God did chose to save all. The atonement actually succeeded in saving people as opposed to the second the second answer to the question, what is God’s intention in this? His intention is to provide a payment for any and all people. At this point it does not specify whether there is an elect or not, there could be, there might not be. It doesn’t specify that. The point is that the death of Christ provided a payment for all people which payment is only effective as a savingly belief. In answer to the question, for whom did Christ die? The limited atonement position will say for the elect. Why do they say that? Because His death saves. So why must His death be only for the elect? Because only them are saved and all of them are saved. If His death saves and there is no election or it is universal in its scope then you have universalism. This was part of the fear in the early Calvinist Arminian debate on this issue was Calvinist in the way they were thinking, the atonement saves. If you say the atonement is for all people therefore all are saved. How do avoid universalism? The answer to that from the unlimited atonement view is to say the atonement does not save, it provides a payment by which any who believe will be saved when they believe. But apart from belief they won’t be. For whom did Christ die? The elect. For whom did Christ die? The world would be the two different views.

b. Positions

(1) Limited Atonement View

(a) Statement of the position

Christ died for the purpose of actually and certainly saving people. Since all are not saved, it requires that He died for and hence saved certain people; the elect.

(c) Key texts

These are passages which indicate the Church, or His elect or something like that. Christ laid down His life for His sheep

John 10:11“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

There is a specificity in those texts to a limited number of people.

(c) Key Theological arguments

The efficacy Argument

This is a strong one in the Reformed tradition. It would say that Scripture clearly teaches that Christ came to save His people not just provide something potentially but to save them. Therefore we ought not think of the atonement in potential terms but we ought to think of the atonement in actual terms (actual salvation) because that is what Scripture says.

The Ethical Argument

John Owens makes this point in the Death of Death in the Death of Christ. How could it be just of God to hold people accountable, namely the non-elect, the non-believer, for paying for eternal condemnation if that payment had been made for them? If Christ died for the sins of the world then the payment has been made. Then how could God justly require what appears to a second payment?

(2) The unlimited Atonement View

(a) Statement of the position

I am presenting the classic Arminian position which is not my own although mine looks something like it in certain respects. It also looks something like the Limited Atonement view in certain respects. The Classic Arminian view states that Christ died with the purpose of paying the penalty for sin of all people making it possible for any to be saved.

(b) Key Texts

These are one that emphasize a broadening of the atonement beyond the elect. These are texts that indicate a generality in the atoning work of Christ.

1 Timothy 4:10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

Doesn’t that indicate that believers are a sub category that of the first statement that He is Savior of all men.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

(c) Key Theological arguments

Universal Divine Love.

This argument is huge in Classic Arminianism. How could it be any other way given the love of God for the world that He would not provide a payment for everyone.

Universal Saving Desire Argument.

This matches the Universal Divine Love Argument. He wants everyone to come, He is not willing for anyone to perish but all to come to repentance and go into the world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. So God wants all to be saved, He wants the Gospel to go to all people, He loves all people (God so loved the world). How could He not provide and atonement that would make it possible for anyone and everyone to come. This Arminian argument is bases on texts. I pick up around here sometime a “cocky Calvinism” and think that “cocky Calvinism” is naive. You have to look long an hard at arguments of other positions. You ought to feel the weight of what is there. There is a reason why Arminianism has a staying power. I don’t hold the view, but there is a lot about it that does commend it to people from Scripture. There are also parts of it that are commended in ways that people aren’t aware of; our culture values contribute to that.

(3) The Un/Limited Atonement View

(a) Statement of the position

I don’t know quite what to call it because it means to be a hybrid of the two. Here is why. I am not trying to just to be novel for novel sake or anything like that. I am trying to account for all of Scripture; that is my goal is to be faithful to everything Scripture teaches about the atonement. The judgment I came to a number of years ago in studying this through was that the whole debate was skewed from the very beginning by the very the question was framed. The question was framed in terms of: What was God’s intention (notice the singular word) in providing His Son as a payment for sin? Was it to save the world; provide a payment for the whole world? Was it to save the elect? What was His intention? It strikes me that this issue can be resolved and all the texts accounted for by asking the question instead; what were God’s intentions (plural) in providing Christ? Doesn’t it make sense that a least on the surface that there might have been more than one thing He had in mind? We do that all the time with just simple little things that we do. We talk about killing two birds with one stone, that sort of thing. Wouldn’t it possible that God had in mind more than one thing in this? It is possible. Now go to texts and see. Does the text provide you with different reasons for the atonement or different intentions that were accomplished by the atonement? My argument is yes, it really does help.

(b) I give five intentions.

1. Christ died for died for the purpose of securing the sure and certain salvation of His own; that is the elect.

I put it in that language “securing the sure and certain salvation of the elect.” I think that there are significant problems (theological as well as biblical) with making this point the way five point Calvinists do. Namely, it was God’s intention to save the elect. How can this be? Given the fact that every elect person who ever lives is born into this world not saved. I thought Christ saved them, but that means they are saved when they put their faith in Christ. Paul in Ephesians 2

Ephesians 2:2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Ephesians 2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

So tell me Paul how is it Christ died for your sins, right? Yes that is right. And that was done before you were ever born? True (Paul was probably a little tike). Christ died for your sins, yes. It is an accomplished fact, yes. But here you are in this world under God’s wrath, yes. But what about that death of Christ? Didn’t He pay for your sins? Yes. If He paid for it, then how is God is holding it against you which I take it must be case if he is under wrath? What solves this problem? Justification by faith. One of the ironies in my view, of the Calvinist’s five point position is that in principle its articulation of the atonement undermines the necessity of one of the hallmarks of the Reformation; namely justification by faith. Why? Because we have been saved by the death of Christ. So I put it in this language that Christ died for the purpose of securing the sure and certain salvation. In my judgment that accounts for the texts that Christ laid down His life for His sheep and He died for the church etc. There is no question in my mind that when Christ was dying on that cross He knew that this was for in a very specific sense but not the only one. It was not the only one that was being accomplished here but in a very specific sense He was dying for and through this would save His own whom the Father had given to Him. None of them would perish and He would raise them on the last day. His death was doing that. So can you say that He died for the church? Yes, the church are only one of whom He know and He does know this that they will be saved by His death as they come to believe. So that is a sure and certain thing and He knows that.

2. He died for the purpose of paying the penalty for the sin of all people making it possible for all who believe to be saved

I see that as a summary statement of other texts of Scripture that indicate the broader general statements. He is the propitiation for our sins and for those of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

1 John 2:2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

We can quarrel over interpreting, which is totally legitimate, but I have never be convinced that “world” in First John means world of the elect. Look in John at how “kosmos” (κόσμος) is used in it is used one of two ways. It is used as I do not love the world or things of the world, it is used like that; the evil of this world. Or it is used in the comprehensive sense of everybody in the world. It is used on one of those two ways. If it is used of the world of the elect it happens in I John 2:2 there only. That strikes me as weak evidence for the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world (the world of the elect). It is weak evidence for that, it looks like special pleading to me. So I am not convinced of that argument. I think it really does mean the whole world. He really does mean in these other passages that were used earlier under the unlimited view.

2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

The word “bought” is the word for redemption; agorazō (ἀγοράζω). It clear that they are not saved from the context. There is no question he is talking about unsaved people who are going to be judged and says of them they are denying the Master who agorazō (ἀγοράζω) redeemed them.

This second point argues that there is a broader sense in which He paid the penalty for all.

3. Christ died for the purpose of securing the bona fide offer of salvation to all people everywhere

So when you go out, in my view, you can say to people that Christ died for your sins. If you hold the five point Calvinist view you cannot rightly utter those words. You have to say something like Christ died for sinners like you and me. The question is: Are we really offering people the Gospel or not? What is this? Biblically what is the offer? Even J. I. Packer who wrote the forward to Owens Death of Death where he argues for a limited atonement or particular redemption view (I heard a tape of him at a Bethlehem Pastor’s Conference) concede that there was no way to understand the Gospel offer of salvation without it being (1) a true bona fide offer to all people and (2) grounded in the atonement itself. He acknowledges that the text is clear on this and that we have got to qualify our understanding in a way that will accommodate the Gospel being offered to people. Did Christ do anything for them or not?

4. Christ died for the purpose of providing an additional basis for condemnation

Some of the texts talk about this, that His death on the cross actually provides greater basis for condemning as people see, harden their hearts and reject.

5. Christ died for the purpose of reconciling all things to the Father

So passages like Colossians 1:20

Colossians 1:20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

The language, He reconciled all things through the blood of His cross, unmistakably atonement. “things I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven” how do you account for this with an answer to question; for whom did Christ Die? The elect. How do account for He reconciled all things through the blood of His cross.

I think that this issue can solved by taking the best from both views and perhaps adding a thing or two more and seeing the intentions of God as being accomplished in the atonement.

(4) The Cosmic Triumph Purpose

This view was not discussed in class but the students were encouraged to read about it.

(5) Necessity of Saving Faith Argument

This view was not discussed in class but the students were encouraged to read about it.

Think of the word propitiation. He is our propitiation. What does that mean? It means that He satisfied God’s wrath. Or think of redemption. It means that He bought us. What He died for He bought. How can what He bought not be His own? If He is propitiated, how can He not be satisfied? How could there be ongoing demands upon those for who He has been propitiated. Here is the answer to all of those. If it is true as you say (to the five point person) that when Christ died for the sins of the elect He propitiated the wrath of God, there is no wrath against them; He redeemed them, He owns them they are His; He reconciled them, there is no longer any alienation. How do you account for an unsaved elect person? Because an unsaved elect person is still one upon whom the wrath of God is directed. They must believe or face the wrath of God. An unsaved elect person is someone who taking the analogy of Paul in Colossians 1:13, still needs to be transferred from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son.

Colossians 1:13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,

This hasn’t happened yet. So where are they now? In the dominion of darkness.

Think of Romans 7, they are dominated by the flesh. They are slaves to sin. But I thought you said all the elect are redeemed. Reconciliation, the same idea. If it cuts this way against the unlimited atonement view that Christ died for the sin of the world, that must mean that they are all propitiated. So the answer to both if these is; Whatever happens in the atonement it also requires faith for a person to be saved. So salvation of people is not sufficiently accounted for by the objective death of Christ apart from subjective appropriation. Both are necessary, which means the death of Christ by itself is not going to save apart from faith. How do people get faith? Here is where my Calvinism shines through. Because God elects some to the objects of His efficacious call upon their lives; Opening blind eyes, enlightening hearts to see the truth of the Gospel of the glory of Christ and believe, saving. So I ground the salvation of the elect, the certainty of the salvation of the elect in election as worked through the cross, efficacious calling and I don’t see the atonement in the way limited atonement people see it who see the atonement as being the ground of their full salvation. No it is bigger than that. It is the atonement plus election, plus the Spirit, It is Father, Son, Spirit, the Father elects, Son dies, the Spirit regenerates. It is a bigger thing than that. Altogether the elect are saved, absolutely and only the elect are saved, absolutely.

I know that it is a huge subject and that I am out of step with a lot of my colleagues whom I love but disagree with on this point. Not all of them though. There are a lot of sort of four pointers around here with different views on how exactly this works. We all agree that it is an issue that we ought to agreeably disagree on. I have been in places where major churches have split over the question of limited atonement and I think that this is tragedy. I know of a mission field, this is Madagascar (I spent a summer in Madagascar when I was young). This whole Christian movement within Madagascar was split over the issue of limited atonement because some Dutch Reformed missionaries who came down and had an ax to grind and they ground it into the ground. It really wrecked havoc. Don’t use truth with a sludge hammer attached to it. Jesus was full of grace and truth. We need to be very careful. It one thing to pronounce judgment like the prophets; it is another thing in dealing with Christian people how we deal with them. We need to be careful.

B. The Present Work of Christ: Christ as Mediator and Lord

1. Christ As Mediator

Paul tells us in Romans 8:34

Romans 8:34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

In Hebrew 7:25 it affirms that Christ always lives to make intercession for His people.

Hebrews 7:25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

So amazingly this Lord Jesus Christ of ours is seated at the right hand of the Father. What is the significance of that? Position of favor and honor. The Father is one who governs everything and He is at His right hand so He has, as it were, direct contact with the Father who is the sovereign over all. The same Father who has given to the Son the right to rule over the nations of the world. So we have this picture of authority and here is Christ as mediator, intercessor, the one who is praying for His people. As wonderful as it is to have a grandmother who prays for you as I have until she passed away or a mother (my mother prays for me so much, I will only know in heaven, my dad does to, I shouldn’t leave him out he is a great Christian man, wonderful man he does to, but my mother in particular has a real burden to pray for her son) the Lord Jesus Christ is interceding for you constantly. It is an incredible thing and He longs for your growth and holiness, prays fervently. The wonderful thing about His prayers is that they are according to His will. He knows what to pray and is interceding for us. It is really remarkable.

2. Christ As Lord

The other thing that we learn is that not only is mediator but at that right hand of the Father He is also Lord over this world.

Ephesians 1:19-22 is probably the strongest statement of this. It is so glorious.

Ephesians 1:19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might Ephesians 1:20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, Ephesians 1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

He is covering all the bases in terms of other authority or power out there now or in the future, Heaven or in earth, anywhere.

Ephesians 1:22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,

Read the newspaper in the morning with biblical glasses on. Don’t fear terrorist who (1) at the most can kill the body. They can’t touch your soul. (2) Those terrorist out there (Saddam Hussein), even George Bush are under the authority of Christ. They can’t do a cotton picking thing that doesn’t pass through the screen of His all wise universal plan for this world. So take hope. Don’t become distraught and discouraged and depressed and anxious. He is on the throne.

Ephesians 1:22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,

Another way to read the newspaper with Christian eyes is to realize the number one agenda of Christ is not politics. It is not This Week in Review, or the McLaughlin Report; it is not politics. The number one interest that God has in Christ is building His church. Somehow everything that is happening with Saudi Arabia and everywhere else, Russia, China, Indonesia has to do with purposes God has which He is accomplishing through the work of His Son in building the church. Sometime we can see and sometimes we can’t in terms of how that gets done but take great comfort, He is Lord, absolute Lord.

C. The Future Work of Christ: Christ as Coming Judge and Reigning King

1. Christ as Coming Judge

In John 5:22,27 Christ informed the Jews who were questioning Him that the Father had given all judgment to the Son, put it into His hands.

John 5:22 “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son,

John 5:27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.

This is a remarkable thing in John. Why is it remarkable that He says that the Father has given all judgment to the Son? John 3:16 everyone knows.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

So His first coming is not for judgment, but His second coming will be. People have distorted views of Christ for many reasons but one is a failure to see that the same Lord Jesus Christ of Revelation 19 who comes with a sword extending from His mouth on a great white horse with armies accompanying and wipes out the nations of the world is the same Jesus who touched the leapers, healed them, walked on the water; the same Jesus and He will come as judge over all.

In apostolic preaching the future judgment of Christ is mentioned regularly.

In Acts 10:42 Peter in his sermon to Cornelius includes among the things he said,

Acts 10:42 “And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Acts 10:43 “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”

We do better in preaching the Gospel that you believe in Christ and be saved. But be saved from what? In other words meet Christ in one of two ways. Meet Christ as Savior by bowing to Him or meet Christ as judge. It will be one or the other. People need to know this.

Acts 17:31 Paul’s sermon at Areopagus

Acts 17:30 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, Acts 17:31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

Will believers be judged? Yes, 2 Corinthians 5:10

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

recompensed –rewarded or punished is includes both of those concepts. The punishment will come in the form of no rewards, lacked opportunity, wood hay and stubble that is burned and there is nothing to show for it. I wonder how many people’s ministries, building their own kingdoms, assuming the best that they truly are saved people will have so little to show for so much glitz? The punishment to believers will not be in the form of torment, actual punishment but it will be in the form of lack of reward that would have been given for faithfulness. At the end of the semester we will talk about this discriminate judgment in regard to punishment and discriminate judgment in regard to reward or relative degrees of depending upon the person. People in Hell are judged according to their works, it is not just class action judgment. There is a sense in which that is true but it is each individual person giving an account of what they have done.

The Judgment of Unbelievers

2 Thessalonians 1:7-10

2 Thessalonians 1:7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 2 Thessalonians 1:8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 2 Thessalonians 1:10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.

This passage indicates that the very same moment of Christ’s return which will be for some necessarily unimaginable torment and for others unspeakable joy. Those who are experiencing the unspeakable joy can witness the torment and give God praise. If this is not true, when we see things as they really are, as God sees them, both judgment and salvation are praiseworthy then what God has done cannot be justified. Our eyes will be opened. I often think my good friend Tom Schreiner who teaches here whom I love dearly (We have been friends for 26 or 27 years and went to seminary together and have tracked a fair bit through our lives. He grew up in a Roman Catholic home and most of his brothers and sisters are not saved and his father died recently and there was no confidence that he was saved. Unlike me I grew up in Christian home and all of my family are saved). For Tom it is more of an extensional question in terms of the salvation of loved ones. He has them, unsaved, catholic family lots of kids. Tom has shared with me his confidence that he will one day understand what is not very difficult and that is it was good and right. And the only right thing God could do or should do is to save some and not others. That not others is going to be some of his family, some of his kin.

This text indicates there is one day when Christ comes dealing out retribution. He does this when He comes to be glorified.

Revelation 20:11:15

Revelation 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. Revelation 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Revelation 20:14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

2. Christ as Reigning King

He not only comes to be judge of all but to reign as king, the supreme and uncontested rulership of Christ over all is one of the main themes of both Old and New Testaments. When you think of David and kings and how Israel looked for a son of David to come who would be king over them and one who would reign over his kingdom forever and even promised to David in 2 Samuel 7:13

2 Samuel 7:13 “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

You think of the promise in Isaiah 9:7 where this child born, this Son given would have a government that would never end. His rulership would be over all the earth forever.

Isaiah 9:7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.

Jeremiah 23:5 which speaks of this righteous Branch who will reign as king

Jeremiah 23:5 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land.

Daniel 2:44 and Daniel 7:14 speak of a coming kingdom of all nations and every language will serve the king.

Daniel 2:44 “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.

Daniel 7:14 “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

Zechariah 14:9 the whole earth will belong to the king who is over all.

Zechariah 14:9 And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one.

The whole Bible points up to this coming of Christ. When we read in Revelation 19-22 that He comes as King of Kings and Lord of Lords we realize the promise is now fulfilled. Even now. Christ who is Lord of all is working in a world by His choice. Could He wipe Satan out? Yes. All of this spiritual warfare stuff that elevates Satan and demotes God make me noxious, to be honest with you because God holds Satan’ life in His hands the way you and I can hold a Cheerio and decide to keep it whole or crunch it up into little tiny pieces. This is God and Satan. Let’s get off this thing about this great cosmic war. This is not dualism. God is omnipotent.

When Christ reigns, and His reign is over by His choice of one who is currently the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2), the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). So even now we have not seen the display of the kingdom of Christ in the way that it will be. What a wonderful glorious future this will be when Christ reigns as king.

Dr. Bill Mounce blogs on spiritual formation and on Greek at BillMounce.com.

Lecture 8

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/

The Lord’s Supper and Baptism

Key Verses:
52At this, the Jews began to argue among themselves, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.…John 6:52-54

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).

Dr. Michael Brown, World’s Foremost Messianic Jewish Apologist:

“Theological Objections: Atonement Part 1 – Blood Sacrifice… “

28mins

Why Did God Require Animal Sacrifices in the Old Testament?

2mins

What is the importance of the Lord’s supper / Christian Communion? Is Christian Communion a memorial to Jesus’ death and shed blood?

5mins

Seven Aspects of The Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 10 and 11)

30mins

Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 29: The Lord’s Supper

6mins

Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Presbyterian Standards

by
Francis R. Beattie


CHAPTER XXVII.

THE MEANS OF GRACE; THE LORD’S SUPPER.

SHORTER CATECHISM, 96-97; LARGER CATECHISM, 168-175; CONFESSION OF FAITH, XXIX.

This chapter carries the discussion forward to the great subject of the Lord’s supper. And although it is a large topic, its explanation must be compassed in a single chapter. The doctrine of the supper, or, as it is often called, the eucharist, is very carefully stated in the Standards, and has its face set firmly against the doctrines and practices of Rome.

The three chief titles applied to this ordinance are significant, and deserve a passing remark. It is called “the Lord’s supper” by a term which denotes the chief meal of the day, and thereby it is presented as the means of rich spiritual nourishment. It is sometimes named simply “the sacrament,” implying thereby that it is a means of grace, and a solemn pledge on our part to be the Lord’s. And it is known as “the communion,” a term which indicates at once our participating in the benefits of grace, Christ’s work, and our fellowship one with another as his children. In the New Testament it is sometimes spoken of as the breaking of bread, and in church history it is frequently known as the eucharist.

In the exposition of the doctrine of the Standards now to be made, a summary of their teaching without argument or expansion will be given under four or five heads. At almost every point it will be noticed that the doctrine and practice of Rome is formally rejected by the views of the Standards.

I. The Nature of the Lord’s Supper.
There are several important particulars here which call for careful remark, in order to present clearly the well-defined doctrine of the Standards, which was forged in the fierce fires of prolonged controversy.

1. The Lord’s supper is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth. The Confession describes this point in a slightly different way from that just quoted from the Catechisms. It says that our Lord, in the night wherein he was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of his body and blood, and called it the Lord’s supper, to be observed in his church unto the end of the world, for a perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of him self in his death. It was thus instituted by Christ to take the place in the New Testament of the passover in the Old. It is a sacramental ordinance to be observed in the church till the end. It stands related in some important way to Christ’s penal sufferings and sacrificial death, as the mediator of the covenant of grace. It thus exhibits the sacrifice of Christ.

2. The elements to be used, according to divine appointment, are bread and wine. These are the outward elements in this sacrament, to be duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ. They are evidently most suitable for this purpose, and have such relation to Christ crucified, as that truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the names of the things they represent, to-wit, the body and blood of Christ. In both substance and nature the bread and wine remain only bread and wine, as they were before the prayer of consecration was offered. Thus, the Romish doctrine of transubstantiation is formally rejected in this connection. This doctrine maintains that by the prayer of consecration which the priest offers a change is effected in the bread and wine, by means of which it is transmuted into the substance of Christ’s body and blood. The Standards allege that this doctrine is repugnant to Scripture, reason, and common sense; that it overthrows the true nature of the sacrament; and that it becomes the cause of many superstitions and even gross idolatries. But this point comes up again, so that nothing more need be added at this stage.

It is worth while noting here that the Standards do not define in any way what kind of bread and wine is to be used in the supper. Here the flexibility and common sense of their teaching are illustrated. The common bread of the time, and the wine of ordinary use may be properly used. It is not necessary to have unleavened bread or unfermented wine. The controversy about these details is not countenanced by the Standards. This controversy is not only useless, but may be harmful, since it tends to unduly exalt the externals of the ordinance, and thus leads to ritualism. The suitableness of these elements is evident at a glance. Bread as the staff of life nourishes, and wine is a means of refreshment. In both cases the benefits which come to us through our interest in Christ’s sufferings and death are fittingly symbolized by the emblems of this ordinance.

3. The words of institution are also worthy of some notice. The officiating minister is to bless or consecrate the bread and wine, thereby setting it apart from a common to a sacred use. Then he is to take these elements and break the bread, and take the wine and give it to those who are present at the table. In doing so he is to say: “Take, eat; this is my body broken for you, this do in remembrance of me;” and of the wine he is to say: “This cup is the New Testament in my blood which is shed for you.” Here, also, the Standards enjoin, against the Romish practice, that the minister is to communicate along with the people, and also to give both the bread and the wine to the communicants. Rome gives to the people the bread only, and that in the form of a thin wafer, which is put upon the tongue of the communicant by the officiating priest, who himself only takes the wine of the sacrament. Against Rome the true doctrine is set forth in the Standards.

4. The Confession distinctly asserts that the sacrament of the Lord’s supper is not a repetition of the sacrifice which Christ made to the justice of the Father. In no sense is it a sacrifice made for the remission of the sins of the quick or the dead. From the present point of view, this sacrament is only a commemoration of that one offering of Christ as a sacrifice of himself by himself upon the cross. This offering is the only true sacrifice, offered once for all, and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise to God. Hence, the only true sacrifice and oblation which takes away sin is that which Christ made upon the cross, and which needs no repetition nor addition. From this it plainly follows that what is called the Romish sacrifice of the mass is most abominable and injurious to Christ’s one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for the sins of all the elect. In this bold language the ordinance of the mass, so dishonoring to Christ, is rejected utterly. In like manner, the Confession says that private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest or any other alone, and also the denial of the wine to the people, are contrary to the nature of the ordinance. And, further, the worshipping of the elements, the lifting of them up in what is called the elevation of the host, and the retaining of any portions of the bread and wine for any pretended religious use, are all inconsistent with the true nature of the sacrament as instituted by Christ. Here, once more, Romish doctrine and superstitious practice are decidedly rejected. Careful attention to these four points will give a clear view of the nature of the Lord’s supper.

II. The End or Design of the Lord’s Supper.
In some respects this is the most difficult point to explain in connection with the doctrine of the supper. In a general way, the Lord’s supper is said, in the Standards, to be an ordinance showing forth the death of Christ, a remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ till he comes. But this is a general statement, and by no means the whole doctrine of the Standards upon this point. It is to be kept in mind, too, that the relation between the sign and the grace signified, and the nature of the sacrificial bond between them, again appears. Several particulars are noted in order.

1. The Lord’s supper shows forth and commemorates the sufferings and death of Christ in the church and to the world until he comes again. It is thus a memorial service, looking back to his sufferings and death as a sacrifice upon the cross for our sins. It is also a prophetic ordinance, looking for ward to, and reminding us of, his coming a second time without sin unto salvation.

2. The Lord’s supper is designed to signify and seal the benefits of Christ and the covenant of grace to believers. Previous explanation of the sacraments in general have shown what is meant by this. All the blessings which flow from the death of Christ for us are set forth in the supper; and by the blessing of Christ through the Spirit to the worthy recipient he obtains, by means of this sacrament, and has sealed to him thereby, the blessings exhibited to him in the ordinance to his spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.

At this point it may be well to explain the teaching of the Standards in regard to the way in which Christ is present in the elements of the supper. The body and blood of Christ are not corporally present in, with, or under the bread and. wine in the supper. This is really the Lutheran view, which is rejected by the Standards here, just as the Romish doctrine was stated and rejected in the preceding section. Yet the body and blood of Christ, that is, his sufferings and death, are spiritually present to the faith of the worthy receiver, no less truly and really than the outward elements are present to the senses. This seems an admirable statement. It rejects the real presence which Rome asserts, it sets aside the mystical view which Lutheranism favors, it is not content with a mere symbolic view, such as Zwingle maintained but it ascribes a spiritual presence of Christ crucified in the ordinance, and that presence has reality, not because of the ordinance itself considered, but only where faith is present. It is to this faith only that the spiritual presence of Christ in the supper has reality, and that only as Christ grants blessing by his Spirit. It is a spiritual presence, therefore, and not a real, or a mystical, or a symbolical presence which is the true doctrine of the Standards upon this important topic of great controversy.

3. The sacrament of the supper is designed to express the believer’s thankfulness, and to be a constant and repeated pledge of his engagement to be the Lord’s. By this sacrament believers testify and renew their gratitude to God for all his wonderful mercy and grace towards them, in the gift of the salvation which is in Christ. In this respect there will be spiritual nourishment. Then, too, every time believers partake of this ordinance they renew their vows of loyalty to Christ, and repeat their promise to discharge faithfully all the duties which they owe to him. It is their oath of allegience to the Captain of their salvation.

4. The sacrament of the Lord’s supper is a means of communion with Christ, and of fellowship between believers. These two points may be grouped together. In regard to the first, believers are made partakers of the flesh and blood of Christ, with all his benefits, in the Lord’s supper. It thus is a pledge of their communion with Christ, and by means thereof they have their union and communion with him confirmed. The great underlying fact here is the union of believers with Christ. Upon this their communion with him rests securely. From this fact the second follows. Because believers are in union with Christ, and one in him, they have fellowship with each other. They are members of Christ’s mystical body, so that their mutual love and fellow ship are thereby assured. Thus, the Lord’s supper is atonce a pledge of the spiritual kinship of believers, and a means of fostering brotherly love and spiritual communion among them. This leads to the question of the efficacy of the Lord’s supper, and the discussion may now pass to that topic.

III. The Efficacy of the Lord’s Supper.
Like the question of the design of the supper, that of its efficacy is equally important, and just about as difficult rightly to understand. To a certain extent, these questions imply each other. They also raise again the much-debated question of the mode in which Christ is present in the sacrament so as to render it a means of spiritual nourishment and growth in grace. As this latter point has been already discussed, little more need be said upon it. It will suffice to say, that the mode in which Christ is taken to be present in the elements will largely determine the view held as to the efficacy of the supper. If the Romish view of the real presence be held, then the efficacy of the sacrament will be entirely mechanical. If the Lutheran idea of the mystical presence be taken, then the efficacy of the supper will be magical in its nature. If the purely symbolic view of Zwingle be adopted, then its efficacy will be precisely the same as that of any other saving truth. But, when the true spiritual conception of the presence of Christ in the supper is held, we are in a position rightly to understand the efficacy of this sacrament. Christ and his spiritual benefits are spiritually present to the faith of him who rightly receives the ordinance. From this position the efficacy of the sacrament of the supper can be intelligently understood.

1. Negatively, the efficacy is not exercised or experienced in a carnal or corporal way. This follows, of course, from the fact that the presence of Christ in the elements is not carnal or corporal. Hence, the worthy partaker of the supper does not feed upon the body and blood of Christ after a corporal or carnal manner; that is, not literally. This negative position needs nothing more than this brief statement.

2. Positively, the efficacy of the Lord’s supper is spiritual in its nature. The Confession and the Catechisms agree upon this point, and two facls are emphasized therein. First, That the benefit of this sacrament comes in a purely spiritual way, and is itself spiritual in its nature. Secondly, That the faith of the recipient has a very important place in the efficiency which the sacrament exerts for spiritual ends in the soul. The Shorter Catechism emphasizes the second point when it says that by faith we are made partakers of the body and blood of Christ, with all his benefits, to our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace. The Larger Catechism combines the two points above named when it says that the partakers of the Lord’s supper do inwardly, by faith really, yet not carnally, but rather spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, with all his benefits. The benefit is gracious and spiritual, and it comes in a spiritual way, since the Holy Spirit in the ordinance alone gives it its efficacy. And just as the outward elements, bread and wine, are present to the senses, so Christ and his benefits are present to the inward faith of the receiver of the supper. Hence, there are really three things which unite to give efficacy to the ordinance. These are the blessing of Christ, the agency of the Spirit, and the faith of the believer. It is only when these three things are present that the true spiritual efficacy of the supper is exercised, and when this simple ordinance is thus observed it becomes a precious and an efficacious means of grace to the believer. Christ, with all he is, and gives, is participated in, in a spiritual way, with blessed spiritual results to the believer.

IV. The Conditions of Blessing on Our Part in the Supper. To a certain extent, this subject has been considered in what has been said about the place of faith in the efficacy of the supper. But the Standards have some additional things of value to say upon this point, and these are now gathered up under a brief paragraph. This raises the question of what is necessary on our part in order to the worthy receiving of the Lord’s supper. A warning is also uttered against coming to the Lord’s supper unworthily, and bringing condemnation upon ourselves. There must, therefore, be suitable preparation and self-examination in reference to this matter. Perhaps the very best outline of preparation is that indicated in the Shorter Catechism. This is now followed, adding what the Confession and the Larger Catechism also teach.

1. There must be knowledge to discern the Lord’s body. This implies that they who come to the supper must be in Christ themselves by grace and faith, and that they have a conviction of their sin and need. But, specially, they must have a spiritual understanding of the ordinance which enables them to perceive the body and blood of Christ in their true meaning, as signifying and sealing Christ and his benefits to them. Ignorant men, therefore, are not to be admitted to the ordinance. If such do come they can receive no spiritual good, and may bring judgment upon themselves by doing so.

2. There must be faith to feed upon Christ. It is this faith which on our part conditions the blessing. This point needs no expansion after what has been said in other parts of this chapter.

3. Repentance, sincere and true, is another necessary condition of blessing. This is closely connected with faith, and is very important. As we look to Christ’s body, broken for our sins, we should have the broken heart for these sins; and as we behold his blood poured forth we should be bowed down with penitence for our sins, which caused his blood to be shed. Wicked men, therefore, who are impenitent have no place, and can get no blessing at the supper of the Lord.

4. There must be love to Christ and for one another in our hearts. Specially should we have ardent love to him who so loved us as to die for us. This, also, implies a positive hatred of all that is sinful and wrong in his sight.

5. There must be a gracious and holy resolve for a new and a better obedience in life. The supper being a pledge of our loyalty to Christ, calls for a sincere purpose to render that obedience which he requires.

6. The Larger Catechism adds an important condition, to the effect that we should cherish a charitable and forgiving spirit towards all men, and especially towards those who may have done us any wrong. It is evident that this has valuable practical applications.

He who regards these conditions and fulfils them with earnest desires after Christ, and reviving these graces in his heart, and with serious meditation comes to the Lord’s supper, will render acceptable service, and receive abundant blessing in turn.

The Larger Catechism raises two additional questions here. First, May any one who doubts his interest in Christ come to the Lord’s supper? Secondly, Should any one who desires to come be kept back? The answer to the first is given in harmony with the teaching of the Standards in regard to the matter of assurance. It has already been seen that, while the assurance of faith and salvation is the privilege of the believer, yet such assurance is not of the essence of faith. Hence, any one who doubts his interest in Christ, and his preparation for the supper of the Lord, if he truly feels his need of Christ, and desires to be found in him, and to depart from all iniquity, and who is also anxious to have his doubts removed, such an one ought to be found at the Lord’s supper, so that thereby he may have his faith strengthened, and his doubts removed. The answer to the second question is to the effect that the ignorant and the scandalous, even if they do make profession of faith, and desire to come to the supper, ought to be kept from that ordinance by the proper discipline which Christ has given to his church, till they receive instruction and manifest reformation. The well-balanced wisdom of the Standards is evident here.

V. The Proper Duties At and After the Lord’s Supper.
Here the Larger Catechism alone must be our guide. What it says is exceedingly practical and searching.

1. The duties to be observed at the time of the supper are noted first. We are to have a spirit of holy reverence and attention, as we wait upon God in the ordinance. We are to diligently observe the sacramental elements, the bread and the wine, and the actions of breaking, pouring, giving, and receiving these elements. We are also to seek to discern the Lord’s body, and with affection to meditate upon his sufferings and death. We should further seek to stir into lively exercise all the Christian graces, having deep sorrow for sin, and earnest hungering after Christ. We are also to feed upon him by faith, trust in his merits, receive his fulness, rejoice in his love, give thanks for his grace, renew our covenant with God, and stir up our love to our brethren. Such are the duties to be observed at the time of the observance of the supper.

2. The duties to be observed after we have received the supper are next mentioned. Here there is a most admirable outline of exhortation, and careful attention to it on our part will give the ordinance blessed significance in relation to the practical conduct of life. We are to consider, first of all, how we behaved at the supper, and how much blessing we obtained at the time. Then, if we have found quickening and comfort, we are to bless God for it, and pray for its continuance. Then, we are to watch against any relapse, and be faithful in keeping our vows, and at the same time be diligent in looking forward to the return of the ordinance. On the other hand, if no present benefit is experienced, we should carefully review our preparation for, and behavior at, the supper. Then, if on doing this, we can find no fault, but realize that our consciences are approved before God, we are to patiently wait for the fruit to appear in due time. But if there has been failure in preparation for, or in the observance of, the ordinance, then we are to be humbled before God, and attend upon the Lord’s supper with more diligence afterwards.

This completes the discussion of the Lord’s supper, and concludes the exposition of the sacraments as the second branch of the means of grace. It is evident, from what has been said at several points, that the sacraments are a very important section of Christian doctrine, and that they, rightly improved, must constitute a very important means of grace to build up the spiritual life of the believer. In some respects, the supper brings Christ nearer to us, and draws us into closer fellowship with him and with one another than any other ordinance or means of grace. Believers should always cherish a high and a reverent esteem for the Lord’s supper.

Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Presbyterian Standards

by
Francis R. Beattie


CHAPTER XXVI.

THE MEANS OF GRACE; THE SACRAMENTS; BAPTISM.

SHORTER CATECHISM, 94-95; LARGER CATECHISM, 163-167; CONFESSION OF FAITH, XXVII.

The two sacraments are now to be severally explained, and in this chapter the ordinance of baptism is to be considered. This leads to a subject about which, since the Reformation, there has been more controversy than even during that great period. The controversy has in recent times been chiefly in regard to the proper mode of baptism, and in reference to the subjects who should be baptized. The two questions, therefore, are: Is immersion of the person under water necessary to valid baptism? and should the children of professed believers be baptized ? It is interesting to note the fact that at no point in the Standards is there any controversy upon the subject, or any discussion of a controversial nature upon the questions above stated. In giving a strict creed statement, the Standards very properly avoid all controversy in their positive statements of the doctrines. The results are given in a clear doctrinal form, as that which is to be accepted and believed in each case.

There is one point in the controversy that has arisen about baptism which it may be well to notice at the outset of this chapter. This point relates to the actual fact in regard to the discussion and vote upon the mode of baptism in the Westminster Assembly. The statement is often made, that affusion or sprinkling, as against immersion, was made the doctrine of the Confession by a vote of only one. This is not the fact, as Mitchell’s excellent account of the actual debate, based upon the Minutes of the Assembly, clearly shows. The question debated by the Assembly was not affusion, as against immersion, but it was as to whether immersion should be acknowledged to be a valid mode of baptism at all. At the close of the debate the result of the vote was that by a majority of one it was decided that immersion may be regarded as valid baptism, but that baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling, that is, by affusion. This is a very important fact to remember.

In setting forth in an orderly manner the doctrine of the Standards upon this important subject there are two distinct, though closely-related, questions to be considered. The one is as to the proper mode, the other is as to the rightful subjects, of baptism. A single chapter must include the discussion of both.

I. The Mode of Baptism.
In dealing with this question there are also two aspects of it to be considered. The one relates to the real nature of baptism, and the other to the proper mode for its observance. What is baptism, and how should it be administered ? Here, too, a very important distinction noted in the last chapter again appears. This is the difference between the application of the sign, and the experience of the grace. Baptism with water is one thing, and baptism with the Spirit is another thing, though there is, as was seen, a close and intimate bond between them. The former is the sign applied, while the latter is the grace experienced. The question as to the nature of baptism relates to the latter, and to the relation between the two aspects of baptism just noted. The question as to the mode of baptism pertains to the former, and to the way in which the sign should be applied. It is evident that the former of these questions is far more important than the latter; and it is rightly so regarded in the Standards. Moreover, the clear understanding of the nature of baptism will go far to decide the question of the proper mode. First, then, some things must be said in regard to the nature of baptism.

1. The nature and design of baptism now claims attention. Under this twofold heading several factors made prominent in the Standards will be gathered up.

First, Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained or instituted in his church by Jesus Christ, to be continued to the end of time. As a sacrament, it has all the qualities described in the preceding chapter. As pertaining to the New Testament, it takes the place of circumcision in the Old. It pertains to the church, and it can only be observed by, or in relation to, the visible church. It is instituted therein by Jesus Christ, who is the mediator of the covenant of grace, the redeemer of his people, and the head of his church. It is to be administered only by a regularly ordained ministry, and is to be observed on to the end of the world and the consummation of all things.

Secondly, Baptism is the badge of the solemn admission of the baptized person into the visible church, so that those who are baptized are thereby admitted into membership therein. This aspect of the subject may be viewed in a twofold way. The Spirit’s baptism first unites the person to Christ, and thereby makes him a member of the invisible church, while water baptism is the outward initiatory rite of admission into the visible church. The latter is what is chiefly under notice in this paragraph.

It is to be observed, also, that according to this view of baptism, it sustains a somewhat different relation to adults than it does to infants. In the first case, water baptism is simply their solemn admission into the visible church, upon their profession of faith in Chirst. But in the second case the ground upon which the infant seed of believers are baptized is the covenant relation of their parents. On this ground the birthright privileges of the infant seed of believers, through the covenant relation of their parents, is recognized by their baptism, and it supplies the faith-ground for the administration of baptism to them. In both cases, therefore, water baptism may be regarded as the formal initiation into the visible church, just as the Spirit’s baptism is the condition of admission into the invisible church.

Thirdly, Baptism is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, and particularly of our engrafting into Christ, of our regeneration by his Spirit, and of the remission of sins by his blood. This phase of the nature of baptism really raises the question of its design or meaning, and water baptism in its relation to the Spirit’s baptism is the particular point in view. In regard to what is meant by baptism being a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, reference need only be made to what was said in the last chapter upon this point. Water baptism is the outward and sensible sign of certain spiritual benefits provided for in the covenant; and it is also the seal of the covenant, supplying its divine warrant, and constituting it the divine channel by which the grace signified by the sign is actually conveyed by the Spirit under the proper conditions. The particular thing signified and sealed is union with Christ, and all that this union implies. This union is described in a twofold way here, as elsewhere, in the Standards, and it is really the same thing as that denoted by effectual calling, and fully explained in an earlier chapter. The two things alluded to are spiritual union with Christ, and the renewal of the nature. The phrase “engrafting into Christ,” used in the Shorter Catechism, very properly denotes the first of these things, but it scarcely does justice to the second. The Confession and the Larger Catechism are much more complete upon this point than the Shorter. They speak of regeneration, of the remission of sins, and of resurrection unto everlasting life, as all signified by baptism. Hence, the Standards, taken in all their parts, teach that water baptism signifies and seals our union with Christ, our regeneration by the Spirit, the remission of our sins, and our being raised to newness of life in Christ. All of these things are the result of the Spirit’s work in us. Perhaps the briefest form in which the truth could be stated here would be to say that water baptism signifies and seals the work of the Holy Spirit in us, thereby applying the benefits of Christ to us. This is the all-important inward spiritual fact which baptism by water signifies and seals. The Spirit is the agent who unites the soul to Christ, and at the same time regenerates the soul, takes away its sin and gives it a new life, and then the application of water signifies and seals these things. This may be regarded as one of the most important features of this whole subject, and one, moreover, where the statement of the Shorter Catechism can scarcely be regarded as complete. But the teaching of the Confession and the Larger Catechism fully supplements this defect, and gives very adequate instruction upon the subject.

Fourthly, There are several other facts mentioned in the Standards in regard to the nature of baptism which may be set down together, under the general heading of baptism being our engagement to be the Lord’s. Baptism, as it denotes the inward cleansing of our nature by the washing of regeneration, also signifies the outward remission of our sins by his blood. In connection with this, our giving up of ourselves unto God, through Christ, to walk in newness of life, is properly implied. The Larger Catechism, further, makes baptism signify our adoption and our resurrection unto life everlasting by Jesus Christ. These facts all follow from the deeper fact of our union with Christ, and the renewal of our nature in connection therewith. Those who are united with Christ, regenerated, and justified, are adopted into the household of faith, and they also experience a true spiritual resurrection from a death in sin to a life of holiness or newness of life. These passages do not mean merely death, burial, and resurrection with Christ, but they express facts which are involved in our union with Christ, which is effected by the agency of the Holy Spirit. Hence, when we are united with Christ we are identified with him in all the experiences through which he passed. Thus we die with him, we are crucified with him, we are buried with him, we are raised up together with him, we live with him, and we are finally raised with him to the heavenly places. All these are great and glorious facts, but they have meaning to us only because of our union with Christ, which union is effected for us by our engrafting into Christ, which is brought about by the great husbandman, the Holy Spirit. The outward formal sign or expression of this union and all that it implies is baptism with water, and on our part we thereby enter into a solemn engagement to be the Lord’s only and wholly. In this way an outward badge of distinction is placed upon all those who are baptized. They take the oath of allegiance to Christ.

2. The mode or manner of baptism next engages careful attention. In general, baptism is a washing with water in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In this very brief statement several things are to be observed.

First, The formula or divine authority for the ordinance is here announced. It is to be administered in the name, and by the authority, of the triune Jehovah. This statement also indicates the element to be used in baptism. It is to be water only, without any of the unscriptural additions which Home introduces, such as the use of salt, and the anointing with oil. Water is an exceedingly appropriate element for the purpose to be served. For, as water is the element used in cleansing, so it is a fit sign for spiritual cleansing, and as water is an important condition of life, so it suitably denotes that newness of life to which we are raised by our union with Christ. At this stage baptism is said to be a washing with water, without reference to the quantity of water to be used, or to the precise manner of its application. It is not at this point said that any particular mode is absolutely necessary to the validity of the washing here described. It is not positively asserted that the water must be applied in any definite way, though it does say that the water is to be applied to the person, and not the person to the water. Later on in the exposition clearer teaching as to the proper mode will emerge.

Secondly, While the Catechisms content themselves with this simple statement that baptism is a washing with water, the Confession speaks more definitely, and yet in a very cautious way, regarding the mode of baptism. It says that the dipping of the person under water is not necessary, but that baptism is properly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person baptized. This passage does not teach absolutely that dipping or immersion is in no circumstances to be regarded as valid baptism, but the statement is simply to the effect that it is not necessary, and that baptism is properly administered without it. It is very important to note this with care in the controversy about the mode of baptism. The debate is not so much whether sprinkling or immersion is the valid mode of baptism, but whether immersion is needed to constitute valid baptism. From the position of the Standards it can be argued that it is not necessary, and those who attack this position undertake to argue that immersion of the whole person in water is necessary to valid baptism, and this means that immersion only is baptism. Such being the case, those making this attack are bound to show under all the proofs adduced, such as those from the terms used, from the early church practice, from the history of the church, and from the great creeds, that immersion only is the mode, or was alone practised, before they have made out their case. Hence, they do not succeed in their attack even if they do find immersion under any of their heads of proof, for they must show that immersion only existed, or is commanded. On the other hand, the position of the Standards may be maintained, even though immersion as well as affusion was practised, or is the meaning at times of the terms used in regard to baptism. As a matter of fact, more than this can be done from the position of the Standards, but it is important to understand clearly the logical status of the controversy.

Thirdly, As already noticed, the Standards do not enter upon any controversy, and consequently none of the arguments by which their position is supported are presented. It may, however, be of some value to have the mere heads of the proofs of the doctrine of the Standards in regard to the mode of baptism set down at this point. Only the leading proofs are noted in bare outline.

First, The words baptize and baptism used in the Scriptures are not modal words. This means that they are not words which in themselves denote the mode in which anything is done. They simply denote the end, result, or state reached, but they do not indicate the means by which this is attained. Just as the word bury does not denote whether the dead body is put under the ground, or in a vault, or beneath the waters of the sea; so the word baptize, so far as the mere word is concerned, does not indicate whether baptism is to be by affusion or by immersion. All that it signifies is that the result attained by baptism is secured. The fact that the translators of our English Bible did not really translate the word baptize, but simply Anglicized it, fully confirms this view, and means much in this connection. The words by their own clear meaning do not prove that immersion only is valid baptism.

Secondly, The element is always, according to the Scriptures, applied to the subject, and never the subject to the element. This is the uniform usage of the Scriptures, and the Greek prepositions are of the utmost importance in relation to this proof. Baptism is always said to be by, or with, water, and this very usage confirms the position of the Standards. The immersionist reasonings turn things upside down at this point, and play havoc with the Greek language.

Thirdly, The practice of the early church and the testimony of church history support the view of the Standards. In the New Testament age, the household baptism, and the large number of baptisms, can be better explained from the position of the Standards than from any other, and there are serious practical difficulties in the immersionist theory in every case. In regard to the baptism of the eunuch, it is enough to say that it was not the going into the water, nor the coming up out of it, that constituted baptism, but what was done when they were both in the water, otherwise both were baptized, for the language thus applied is precisely the same concerning both.

Fourthly, The fact that the Holy Spirit is always in Scripture represented as poured out upon those who receive his benefits has great force in determining the proper mode of baptism. The uniform usage of both the Old and the New Testaments is to the effect that the Spirit comes upon those who are the subjects of his operations. Never once is there language to be found which can be construed to mean that the subject of the Spirit’s influences is immersed in the Spirit. The very idea is absurd, if not almost profane. This must ever stand as a fatal objection to the immersionist doctrine and practice, and it can only be made to appear even plausible by denying that baptism signifies the Spirit’s work in us. Such are some of the great lines of reasoning by which the doctrine of the Standards can be most abundantly established.

II. The Subjects of Baptism.
The question as to those who ought to be baptized yet remains. The teaching of the Standards is very plain upon this subject. It is stated in both a negative and a positive way. Negatively, it is not to be administered to any who are out of the visible church till they profess their faith in Christ and their obedience to him. This relates to unbap-tized adults, and to the infants of those who do not profess faith in Christ. Positively, all those who do profess faith in, and obedience to, Christ are to be baptized. This includes not only adults making this profession, but also the infants of such as are members of the visible church, and so have professed faith in Christ. This is true when either one or both of the parents are in professed covenant with the Lord in the visible church. But some details may now be given.

1. In regard to adult baptism, the Standards teach the propriety of this in cases where it was not administered in infancy. Hence, adult baptism is taught as clearly in the Standards as anywhere else. Of course, in an ideal state of the church visible, such baptisms could not be numerous, for the majority of the people would be baptized in their infant years. Such adult baptisms would be in the case of those who come into the church from the world without, whose baptism is based upon their own profession of faith in Christ.

2. But the infants of families where one or both of the parents are professed members of the visible church are to be baptized. The ground for this is the promise of the covenant, which includes the seed of those who are in covenant with the Lord. This is the plain statement of the Standards. This teaching of the Standards also forbids the baptism of the children of those who do not profess to be in covenant with the Lord, and it enjoins the baptism of those whose parents are in confessed covenant with God in Christ. The duty and privilege of parents in this connection are very important. The Confession has some very careful words in regard to the efficacy of this sacrament. Its teaching runs in two directions. The first statement is that grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed to baptism as that no person can be regenerated without it, or all who are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated and saved. The reference is to water baptism, and the teaching of the Standards simply is that such baptism is not absolutely essential to salvation. What is necessary to salvation is the true baptism of the Spirit, which unites us to Christ and renews our nature. But important as baptism with water is, and close as is the sacramental union between the sign and the grace, yet it is not so important that those who are not baptized may not be saved in some instances.

The other statement bears specially upon infant baptism, and it is to the effect that the efficacy of baptism is not tied to the moment of time at which it is administered. It may be delayed for a long time in some cases; still, by the right use of this ordinance the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conveyed by the Holy Ghost, to those, whether of adult years or in infancy, to whom this grace belongs, according to his appointed time. This implies that the benefit is not in the ordinance itself, but in the agency of the Holy Ghost, and it depends upon the sovereign will and grace of God, who sends the Spirit how and when he pleases. Hence, in some cases baptism and union with Christ may come almost together, and in other cases, perhaps the majority, it may be after baptism, a longer or a shorter time, that union with Christ and the new birth are experienced in the case of those baptized in infancy. Still, in the end, on the basis of the covenant, both parents and children have good reason to expect the grace which the sign signifies.

4. The proofs for infant baptism, though not given in the Standards, may very properly be set down at this point in the briefest possible outline.

First, Infants were in the Old Testament connected with the visible church, and they received circumcision as the sign and seal of their covenant relationship, through their parents. As a matter of fact, this is admitted on all hands.

Secondly, There is no command in the New Testament to exclude them from the church under the Christian dispensation. If any such direction had been given by divine authority, it would surely have been found in the Scriptures. And if any attempt had been made to enforce such a prohibition upon the Jewish converts, they would have been sure to have raised opposition. Of these things there is no hint in the Scriptures, nor does the history of the early church contain any allusions which imply the exclusion of infants of professed Christians from the visible church. Hence, there is good ground to conclude that they are still within its pale, and have a right to its privileges.

Thirdly, Infants are capable of salvation, and hence they are entitled to baptism. They are capable of salvation, otherwise there is no basis for the belief in infant salvation. This simply means that the infant seed of believers may be united to Christ, and regenerated by the Spirit. If this be so, then, surely, they are entitled to receive the sign of this saving relation and experience. Hence, to deny infant baptism is to compel the denial of infant salvation.

Fourthly, The New Testament instances of household baptisms in all probability included infants and children. The language implies this, and the circumstances are largely in favor of this view. The New Testament church, as to its outward form, seems to have largely grown out of the synagogue; and the Jews, who were familiar with its laws and customs, would naturally bring their children to the threshold of the Christian church, as they had done to the Jewish synagogue.

Fifthly, The testimony of church history is decidedly in favor of infant baptism. In the early ages of the church, as in missionary regions at the present day, it is to be expected, in the nature of the case, that there would be many adult baptisms, as large numbers of new converts were brought into the church. But the prevalence of adult baptism in such cases does not prove that infant baptism was not also practiced. Then, all through the history of the church, the baptism of infants was in vogue. Moreover, it does not seem to have been regarded as an innovation, but was observed as the proper scriptural usage in the case. The denial of such baptism is the innovation and the heresy.

5. The improvement of baptism is the closing topic for this chapter. Upon this matter the Larger Catechism alone speaks directly. The needful and much-neglected duty of improving our baptism is to be attended to by us all our life long. Baptism is to be administered but once, but it is to be improved constantly, even unto the end. Especially in time of temptation, and when present at the administration of it to others, we are to make serious and thankful consideration of what baptism really is, of the design for which Christ instituted it, of the privileges and benefits sealed and conferred thereby, and of our solemn vow made by our baptism. The result of this will surely be to greatly cheer us on in the Christian pathway, and to comfort our hearts continually in the service of Christ.

Then, too, baptism is suited to humble us, as we consider our sinful defilement not yet wholly removed, our falling short of, or walking contrary to, the grace signified in baptism, and our solemn engagements made thereby. This will result, under the blessing of God, in our spiritual good, by causing us to grow up to the assurance of the pardon of our sins, and of the possession of all the other blessings sealed to us in our baptism, for we thereby draw strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized by the operation of the Spirit uniting us to him. Further, sin will be mortified and grace will be quickened if we thus improve our baptism. “We shall endeavor to live by faith, and to have onr conversation as becomes the gospel. We will also seek to walk in brotherly love with all those who are Christ’s followers, since we are all baptized into one body by the same Spirit. Such are some of the important fruits of the improvement of our baptism.

This whole subject of baptism, especially the matter of infant baptism, deserves very careful study by all Presbyterians. There is a tendency on the part of many who bear the Presbyterian name to regard it as a matter of but little importance whether their children are baptized or not. This is a very dangerous tendency, and it should be most carefully avoided by both ministers and people alike, if they would be loyal to the scriptural doctrine upon this subject, as it is set forth in the Standards, and at the same time be true to the best interests of their children whom they love so well.

At this point emphasis should be laid upon the importance of the family and family worship as well as upon the value of religious training in the home. The breaking down of family life is one of the dangers to which we are exposed at the present day, and earnest attention should be directed to these dangers. To guard against them is a service every Christian should seek to render alike to the church and the nation. Neither the church nor the Sabbath-school can take the place of the religious training of children at the home circle. Each has its place, and they should all unite in seeking the same good end.

THE BAPTIST CONFESSION OF FAITH

With Scripture Proofs

Adopted by the Ministers and Messengers of the general assembly which met in London in 1689

Chapter 28: Of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

1._____ Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord

Jesus, the only lawgiver, to be continued in his church to the end of the world.

( Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:26 )

2._____ These holy appointments are to be administered by those only who are qualified and thereunto called,

according to the commission of Christ.

( Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 4:1 )

Chapter 29 “Of Baptism”

Return to Table of Contents.

Webservant, mrbill@vor.org. Original page July, A.D. 1995. Revised June, A.D. 1996. Scripture hypertext script by

sdp@i2k.com. Mirror page loaded to vor.org December, A.D. 1996.

Chapter 29: Of Baptism

1._____ Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a

sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins;

and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.

( Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2;12; Galatians 3:27; Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:4 )

2._____ Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ,

are the only proper subjects of this ordinance.

( Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36, 37; Acts 2:41; Acts 8:12; Acts 18:8 )

3._____The outward element to be used in this ordinance is water, wherein the party is to be baptized, in the name of

the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

( Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 8:38 )

4._____Immersion, or dipping of the person in water, is necessary to the due administration of this ordinance. (

Matthew 3:16; John 3:23 )

“Are baptism and communion means of grace?”

Answer:
Quite simply, baptism and communion are separate from grace and are not a means to it. The rituals of the church do not confer grace, and they cannot merit salvation. It would be more proper to say the ordinances are the signs of grace, not the means of grace.

Water baptism is not a means of grace; it is the outward expression of an inner change. It is an act of obedience after salvation has occurred. The examples of water baptism in Scripture all show that baptism happened after the person was born again (e.g., Acts 8:26–39). Being immersed in water (or being sprinkled with water) cannot change a person’s heart; that is the Spirit’s work. “The Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). Crucial to our salvation is faith in the heart, not water on the skin.

Communion or the Lord’s Supper is not a means of grace; it is a memorial of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice and a picture of our fellowship with Him. At the Last Supper, when our Lord shared the Passover with the disciples, He said, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Jesus was telling them (and us) not to forget His sacrifice on the cross. It was Christ’s death that provided the remission of mankind’s sin. There is never a word in Scripture about forgiveness or saving grace being applied through taking communion.

Paul also bears out the fact that communion is a memorial and not a means of grace: “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). Eating the bread and drinking the cup are acts of obedience to the Lord, but they not a means of grace.

Grace, by definition, is free. It cannot be earned (Romans 6:23). The danger in saying that God’s grace comes to us through a “means” or a “channel” of human activity is that it subtly mixes works with grace, something Paul warned against in Romans 11:6. The teaching that grace comes through baptism or communion is a sacramental view of the ordinances, and it undermines the meaning of grace. Grace is a free gift bestowed on the underserving. Sacramentalism says, “Unless you do these things, you don’t get the grace.” And that’s tantamount to saying you must earn salvation.

The Roman Catholic Church claims to teach salvation by grace; however, Catholicism tempers that doctrine by also teaching that God’s grace is channeled through the sacraments. In other words, baptism and the Eucharist are two of the means of grace—through those rituals God gives the grace to eventually save a person. Receiving the sacraments will merit God’s grace; no sacraments, no grace.

To teach that we are saved by grace is biblical. But to then qualify that teaching by requiring a ceremonial “means of grace” is double-talk. The biblical definition of grace specifically excludes human effort: “If by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace” (Romans 11:6). If grace only comes via religious deeds we perform, then it cannot truly be called “grace.” Any time we add human effort to Christ’s work on the cross, we imply that Jesus’ death was somehow, in some degree, insufficient to save.

Thus, grace and works are mutually exclusive. Baptism is a work. Receiving communion is a work. We are not saved by works (Ephesians 2:8). Those who have been saved by grace will obey the Lord—saved people will be baptized, and saved people will take communion. In this way, the ordinances are “signs of grace”—evidences of a new life. They are not means of grace.

Religion always seeks a work to do. But Jesus is our rest (Matthew 11:28; Hebrews 4:10). His finished work on the cross and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit in the heart are what saves. Some men came to Jesus once and asked, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (John 6:28). Jesus did not tell them to be baptized or to take communion. Rather, Jesus pointed to faith as the only “means of grace”: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29).

Recommended Resource: Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics by Ron Rhodes

“What is the definition of grace?”

Answer:
The gospel message is the good news of God’s grace, so it is important to know what grace is and to constantly seek to get a better view of what grace does in our lives.

Grace is an essential part of God’s character. Grace is closely related to God’s benevolence, love, and mercy. Grace can be variously defined as “God’s favor toward the unworthy” or “God’s benevolence on the undeserving.” In His grace, God is willing to forgive us and bless us abundantly, in spite of the fact that we don’t deserve to be treated so well or dealt with so generously.

To fully understand grace, we need to consider who we were without Christ and who we become with Christ. We were born in sin (Psalm 51:5), and we were guilty of breaking God’s holy laws (Romans 3:9–20, 23; 1 John 1:8–10). We were enemies of God (Romans 5:6, 10; 8:7; Colossians 1:21), deserving of death (Romans 6:23a). We were unrighteous (Romans 3:10) and without means of justifying ourselves (Romans 3:20). Spiritually, we were destitute, blind, unclean, and dead. Our souls were in peril of everlasting punishment.

But then came grace. God extended His favor to us. Grace is what saves us (Ephesians 2:8). Grace is the essence of the gospel (Acts 20:24). Grace gives us victory over sin (James 4:6). Grace gives us “eternal encouragement and good hope” (2 Thessalonians 2:16). Paul repeatedly identified grace as the basis of his calling as an apostle (Romans 15:15; 1 Corinthians 3:10; Ephesians 3:2, 7). Jesus Christ is the embodiment of grace, coupled with truth (John 1:14).

The Bible repeatedly calls grace a “gift” (e.g., Ephesians 4:7). This is an important analogy because it teaches us some key things about grace:

First, anyone who has ever received a gift understands that a gift is much different from a loan, which requires repayment or return by the recipient. The fact that grace is a gift means that nothing is owed in return.

Second, there is no cost to the person who receives a gift. A gift is free to the recipient, although it is not free to the giver, who bears the expense. The gift of salvation costs us sinners nothing. But the price of such an extravagant gift came at a great cost for our Lord Jesus, who died in our place.

Third, once a gift has been given, ownership of the gift has transferred and it is now ours to keep. There is a permanence in a gift that does not exist with loans or advances. When a gift changes hands, the giver permanently relinquishes all rights to renege or take back the gift in future. God’s grace is ours forever.

Fourth, in the giving of a gift, the giver voluntarily forfeits something he owns, willingly losing what belongs to him so that the recipient will profit from it. The giver becomes poorer so the recipient can become richer. This generous and voluntary exchange from the giver to the recipient is visible in 2 Corinthians 8:9: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

Finally, the Bible teaches that grace is completely unmerited. The gift and the act of giving have nothing at all to do with our merit or innate quality (Romans 4:4; 11:5–6; 2 Timothy 1:9–10). In fact, the Bible says quite clearly that we don’t deserve God’s salvation. Romans 5:8–10 says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . . While we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.”

Grace does not stop once we are saved; God is gracious to us for the rest of our lives, working within and upon us. The Bible encourages us with many additional benefits that grace secures for every believer:

• Grace justifies us before a holy God (Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:6; Titus 3:7).

• Grace provides us access to God to communicate and fellowship with Him (Ephesians 1:6; Hebrews 4:16).

• Grace wins for us a new relationship of intimacy with God (Exodus 33:17).

• Grace disciplines and trains us to live in a way that honors God (Titus 2:11–14; 2 Corinthians 8:7).

• Grace grants us immeasurable spiritual riches (Proverbs 10:22; Ephesians 2:7).

• Grace helps us in our every need (Hebrews 4:16).

• Grace is the reason behind our every deliverance (Psalm 44:3–8; Hebrews 4:16).

• Grace preserves us and comforts, encourages, and strengthens us (2 Corinthians 13:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:16–17; 2 Timothy 2:1).

Grace is actively and continually working in the lives of God’s people. Paul credited the success of his ministry not to his own substantial labors but to “the grace of God that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Grace is the ongoing, benevolent act of God working in us, without which we can do nothing (John 15:5). Grace is greater than our sin (Romans 5:20), more abundant than we expect (1 Timothy 1:14), and too wonderful for words (2 Corinthians 9:15).

As the recipients of God’s grace, Christians are to be gracious to others. Grace is given to us to serve others and to exercise our spiritual gifts for the building up of the church (Romans 12:6; Ephesians 3:2, 7; 4:7; 1 Peter 4:10).

Recommended Resource: Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine by Max Lucado

“How often should the Lord’s Supper / Communion be observed?”

Answer:
The Bible nowhere instructs us how often we should take communion. First Corinthians 11:23–26 records the following instructions for communion: “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” This passage gives all the instructions we need to perform the rite of communion and to understand the significance of what we are doing.

The bread that Jesus broke represents His body that was broken on the cross for us. The cup represents the blood He shed on our behalf, sealing a covenant between Him and us. Each time we observe the ordinance of communion, we are not only remembering what He did for us, but we are “showing” it as well to all who watch and all who participate. Communion is a beautiful picture of what happened at the cross, what it means, and how it impacts our lives as believers.

It would seem that, since we take the Lord’s Supper to remember Christ’s death, we should take it fairly often. Some churches have a monthly Lord’s Supper service; others do it bi-monthly; others weekly. Since the Bible does not give us specific instruction as to frequency, there is some latitude in how often a church should observe the Lord’s Supper. It should be often enough to renew focus on Christ, without being so often that it becomes routine. In any case, it’s not the frequency that matters but the heart attitude of those who participate. We should partake with reverence, love, and a deep sense of gratitude for the Lord Jesus, who was willing to die on the cross to take upon Himself our sins.

Recommended Resource: Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper edited by John H. Armstrong

“Who is authorized to oversee the Lord’s Supper?”

Answer:
Christians universally agree that the Lord’s Supper was instituted by Christ and should be observed as an ordinance in the church by His followers. It was to the Corinthian church that Paul wrote instructions concerning the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Paul later wrote to Timothy about the qualifications for church leaders, bishops/elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13). In the original language, the word “deacon” comes from a verb that means “to serve,” probably in the sense of waiting on tables, but it also came to be used to signify a broad range of service in the church. Because of the connotation of table service in the word “deacon” and the centrality of the Lord’s Supper in the worship of the early church, there is strong indication that serving the communion elements was an important function of deacons.

From this we can conclude that designated church leadership conducted the Lord’s Supper in the early church; however, there is no Scripture specifically given with “how to” instructions. Therefore, it would seem reasonable for the leadership, if there were an insufficient number of deacons present, to appoint laymen to serve.

More important than who serves communion is the attitude with which it is both served and received. First Corinthians 11:27 says that those who take the elements in an “unworthy manner” are guilty of sin against the body and blood of Christ. An “unworthy manner” can mean the taking of the elements by those who do not belong to Christ or taking them in a flippant or irreverent manner. It can also mean using the ceremony as a means to be seen before men to be exalted by them. Verse 28 gives the criteria for both serving and participating in the Lord’s Supper. We are to examine ourselves before we partake and be sure our hearts are right before the Lord. Then both the servers and the receivers can be sure of pleasing God when they participate in His communion.

Recommended Resource: Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper edited by John H. Armstrong

“What is the meaning and importance of the Last Supper?”

Answer:
The Last Supper is what we call the last meal Jesus ate with His disciples before His betrayal and arrest. The Last Supper is recorded in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 26:17–30; Mark 14:12–26; Luke 22:7–30). It was more than Jesus’ last meal; it was a Passover meal, as well. One of the important moments of the Last Supper is Jesus’ command to remember what He was about to do on behalf of all mankind: shed His blood on the cross thereby paying the debt of our sins (Luke 22:19).

In addition to predicting His suffering and death for our salvation (Luke 22:15–16), Jesus also used the Last Supper to imbue the Passover with new meaning, institute the New Covenant, establish an ordinance for the church, and foretell Peter’s denial of Him (Luke 22:34) and Judas Iscariot’s betrayal (Matthew 26:21–24).

The Last Supper brought the Old Testament observance of the Passover feast to its fulfillment. Passover was an especially holy event for the Jewish people in that it commemorated the time when God spared them from the plague of physical death and brought them out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 11:1—13:16). During the Last Supper with His apostles, Jesus took two symbols associated with Passover and imbued them with fresh meaning as a way to remember His sacrifice, which saves us from spiritual death and delivers us from spiritual bondage: “After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, ‘Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:17–20).

Jesus’ words during the Last Supper about the unleavened bread and the cup echo what He had said after He fed the 5,000: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. . . . I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. . . . Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink” (John 6:35, 51, 54–55). Salvation comes through Christ and the sacrifice of His physical body on the cross.

Also during the Last Supper, Jesus taught the principles of servanthood and forgiveness as He washed His disciples’ feet: “The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:26–27; John 13:1–20).

The Last Supper today is remembered during the Lord’s Supper, or communion (1 Corinthians 11:23–33). The Bible teaches that Jesus’ death was typified in the offering of the Passover sacrifice (John 1:29). John notes that Jesus’ death resembles the Passover sacrifice in that His bones were not broken (John 19:36; cf. Exodus 12:46). And Paul said, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law, including the feasts of the Lord (Matthew 5:17).

Typically, the Passover meal was a family celebration. However, at the Last Supper, the apostles were alone with Jesus (Luke 22:14), which suggests that this particular meal has specific meaning for the church, of which the apostles became the foundation (Ephesians 2:20). While the Last Supper had implications for the Jews, it was designed for the church as well. Today the Lord’s Table is one of two ordinances observed by the church.

The Last Supper was rooted in the Old Covenant even as it heralded the New. Jeremiah 31:31 promised a New Covenant between God and Israel, in which God said, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33). Jesus made a direct reference to this New Covenant during the Last Supper: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). A new dispensation was on the horizon. In God’s grace, the New Covenant applies to more than Israel; everyone who has faith in Christ will be saved (see Ephesians 2:12–14).

The Last Supper was a significant event and proclaimed a turning point in God’s plan for the world. In comparing the crucifixion of Jesus to the feast of Passover, we can readily see the redemptive nature of Christ’s death. As symbolized by the original Passover sacrifice in the Old Testament, Christ’s death atones for the sins of His people; His blood rescues us from death and saves us from slavery. Today, the Lord’s Supper is when believers reflect upon Christ’s perfect sacrifice and know that, through our faith in receiving Him, we will be with Him forever (Luke 22:18; Revelation 3:20).

Recommended Resource: Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper edited by John H. Armstrong

“What is the importance of the Lord’s supper / Christian Communion?”

Answer:
A study of the Lord’s Supper is a soul-stirring experience because of the depth of meaning it contains. It was during the age-old celebration of the Passover on the eve of His death that Jesus instituted a significant new fellowship meal that we observe to this day. It is an integral part of Christian worship. It causes us to remember our Lord’s death and resurrection and to look for His glorious return in the future.

The Passover was the most sacred feast of the Jewish religious year. It commemorated the final plague on Egypt when the firstborn of the Egyptians died and the Israelites were spared because of the blood of a lamb that was sprinkled on their doorposts. The lamb was then roasted and eaten with unleavened bread. God’s command was that throughout the generations to come the feast would be celebrated. The story is recorded in Exodus 12.

During the Last Supper—a Passover celebration—Jesus took a loaf of bread and gave thanks to God. As He broke it and gave it to His disciples, He said, “‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:19-21). He concluded the feast by singing a hymn (Matthew 26:30), and they went out into the night to the Mount of Olives. It was there that, as predicted, Jesus was betrayed by Judas. The following day Jesus was crucified.

The accounts of the Lord’s Supper are found in the Gospels (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:17-25; Luke 22:7-22; and John 13:21-30). The apostle Paul wrote concerning the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29. Paul includes a statement not found in the Gospels: “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). We may ask what it means to partake of the bread and the cup “in an unworthy manner.” It may mean to disregard the true meaning of the bread and cup and to forget the tremendous price our Savior paid for our salvation. Or it may mean to allow the ceremony to become a dead and formal ritual or to come to the Lord’s Supper with unconfessed sin. In keeping with Paul’s instruction, we should examine ourselves before eating the bread and drinking the cup.

Another statement Paul made that is not included in the gospel accounts is “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). This places a time limit on the ceremony—until our Lord’s return. From these brief accounts we learn how Jesus used two of the frailest of elements as symbols of His body and blood and established them as a monument to His death. It was not a monument of carved marble or molded brass, but of bread and wine.

He declared that the bread spoke of His body which would be broken. There was not a broken bone, but His body was so badly tortured that it was hardly recognizable (Psalm 22:12-17; Isaiah 53:4-7). The wine spoke of His blood, indicating the terrible death He would soon experience. He, the perfect Son of God, became the fulfillment of the countless Old Testament prophecies concerning a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53). When He said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” He indicated this was a ceremony that must be continued in the future. It indicated also that the Passover, which required the death of a lamb and looked forward to the coming of the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world, was fulfilled in the Lord’s Supper. The New Covenant replaced the Old Covenant when Christ, the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7), was sacrificed (Hebrews 8:8-13). The sacrificial system was no longer needed (Hebrews 9:25-28). The Lord’s Supper/Christian Communion is a remembrance of what Christ did for us and a celebration of what we receive as a result of His sacrifice.

Recommended Resource: Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper edited by John H. Armstrong

“What did Jesus mean when He said we must eat His flesh and drink His blood?”

Answer:
In John 6:53–57, Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Upon hearing these words, many of Jesus’ followers said, “This is a hard teaching” (verse 60), and many of them actually stopped following Him that day (verse 66).

Jesus’ graphic imagery about eating His flesh and drinking His blood is indeed puzzling at first. Context will help us understand what He is saying. As we consider everything that Jesus said and did in John 6, the meaning of His words becomes clearer.

Earlier in the chapter, Jesus fed the 5,000 (John 6:1–13). The next day, the same multitudes continued to follow Him, seeking another meal. Jesus pointed out their short-sightedness: they were only seeking physical bread, but there was something more important: “Food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (verse 27). At this point, Jesus attempts to turn their perspective away from physical sustenance to their true need, which was spiritual.

This contrast between physical food and spiritual food sets the stage for Jesus’ statement that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. Jesus explains that it is not physical bread that the world needs, but spiritual bread. Jesus three times identifies Himself as that spiritual bread (John 6:35, 48, 51). And twice He emphasizes faith (a spiritual action) as the key to salvation: “My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life” (verse 40); and “Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life” (verse 47).

Jesus then compares and contrasts Himself to the manna that Israel had eaten in the time of Moses: “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die” (John 6:49–50). Like manna, Jesus came down from heaven; and, like manna, Jesus gives life. Unlike manna, the life Jesus gives lasts for eternity (verse 58). In this way, Jesus is greater than Moses (see Hebrews 3:3).

Having established His metaphor (and the fact that He is speaking of faith in Him), Jesus presses the symbolism even further: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh. . . . I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. . . . My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. . . . Anyone who feeds on me will live because of me” (John 6:51–56, NLT).

To prevent being misconstrued, Jesus specifies that He has been speaking metaphorically: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life” (John 6:63). Those who misunderstood Jesus and were offended by His talk about eating His flesh and drinking His blood were stuck in a physical mindset, ignoring the things of the Spirit. They were concerned with getting another physical meal, so Jesus uses the realm of the physical to teach a vital spiritual truth. Those who couldn’t make the jump from the physical to the spiritual turned their backs on Jesus and walked away (verse 66).

At the Last Supper, Jesus gives a similar message and one that complements His words in John 6—when the disciples gather to break bread and drink the cup, they “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). In fact, Jesus said that the bread broken at the table is His body, and the cup they drink is the new covenant in His blood, shed for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:26–28). Their act of eating and drinking was to be a symbol of their faith in Christ. Just as physical food gives earthly life, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross gives heavenly life.

Some people believe that the bread and wine of communion are somehow transformed into Jesus’ actual flesh and blood, or that Jesus somehow imbues these substances with His real presence. These ideas, called transubstantiation (professed by the Catholic and Orthodox churches) and consubstantiation (held by Lutherans), ignore Jesus’ statement that “the flesh counts for nothing” (John 6:63). The majority of Protestants understand that Jesus was speaking metaphorically about His flesh and blood and hold that the bread and wine are symbolic of the spiritual bond created with Christ through faith.

In the wilderness testing, the devil tempts Jesus with bread, and Jesus answers, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3). The implication is that the bread is God’s Word and that is what sustains us. Jesus is called the Word of God who came to earth and was made flesh (John 1:14). The Word of God is also the Bread of Life (John 6:48).

The book of Hebrews references the way that God uses the physical things of this earth as a way to help us understand and apply spiritual truth. Hebrews 8:5 says that some tangible things are “a copy and shadow of what is in heaven,” and that chapter explains how the Old Covenant, so concerned with physical rites and ceremonies, was replaced by the New Covenant in which God’s laws are written on our hearts (verse 10; cf. Jeremiah 31:33).

Hebrews 9:1–2 says, “The first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place.” According to Hebrews 8:5, the consecrated bread, or the “bread of the Presence,” was a physical representation of a spiritual concept, namely, the actual presence of God being continually with us today. The physical tent of meeting has been replaced by a spiritual temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16), and the physical bread of the Presence has become the spiritual bread that abides within us through the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus said we must “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood” (John 6:53), He spoke, as He often did, in parabolic terms. We must receive Him by faith (John 1:12). “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). We understand that we need physical food and drink; Jesus wants us to understand that we also need spiritual food and drink—and that is what His sacrifice provides.

Recommended Resource: Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics by Ron Rhodes

“What is the importance of Christian baptism?”

Answer:
Christian baptism is one of two ordinances that Jesus instituted for the church. Just before His ascension, Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20). These instructions specify that the church is responsible to teach Jesus’ word, make disciples, and baptize those disciples. These things are to be done everywhere (“all nations”) until “the very end of the age.” So, if for no other reason, baptism has importance because Jesus commanded it.

Baptism was practiced before the founding of the church. The Jews of ancient times would baptize proselytes to signify the converts’ “cleansed” nature. John the Baptist used baptism to prepare the way of the Lord, requiring everyone, not just Gentiles, to be baptized because everyone needs repentance. However, John’s baptism, signifying repentance, is not the same as Christian baptism, as seen in Acts 18:24–26 and 19:1–7. Christian baptism has a deeper significance.

Baptism is to be done in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit—this is what makes it “Christian” baptism. It is through this ordinance that a person is admitted into the fellowship of the church. When we are saved, we are “baptized” by the Spirit into the Body of Christ, which is the church. First Corinthians 12:13 says, “We were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” Baptism by water is a “reenactment” of the baptism by the Spirit.

Christian baptism is the means by which a person makes a public profession of faith and discipleship. In the waters of baptism, a person says, wordlessly, “I confess faith in Christ; Jesus has cleansed my soul from sin, and I now have a new life of sanctification.”

Christian baptism illustrates, in dramatic style, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. At the same time, it also illustrates our death to sin and new life in Christ. As the sinner confesses the Lord Jesus, he dies to sin (Romans 6:11) and is raised to a brand-new life (Colossians 2:12). Being submerged in the water represents death to sin, and emerging from the water represents the cleansed, holy life that follows salvation. Romans 6:4 puts it this way: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Very simply, baptism is an outward testimony of the inward change in a believer’s life. Christian baptism is an act of obedience to the Lord after salvation; although baptism is closely associated with salvation, it is not a requirement to be saved. The Bible shows in many places that the order of events is 1) a person believes in the Lord Jesus and 2) he is baptized. This sequence is seen in Acts 2:41, “Those who accepted [Peter’s] message were baptized” (see also Acts 16:14–15).

A new believer in Jesus Christ should desire to be baptized as soon as possible. In Acts 8 Philip speaks “the good news about Jesus” to the Ethiopian eunuch, and, “as they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?’” (verses 35–36). Right away, they stopped the chariot, and Philip baptized the man.

Baptism illustrates a believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Everywhere the gospel is preached and people are drawn to faith in Christ, they are to be baptized.

Recommended Resource: Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ by Schriener and Wright

“What is the symbolism of water baptism?”

Answer:
Water baptism symbolizes the believer’s total trust in and total reliance on the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as a commitment to live obediently to Him. It also expresses unity with all the saints (Ephesians 2:19), that is, with every person in every nation on earth who is a member of the Body of Christ (Galatians 3:27–28). Water baptism conveys this and more, but it is not what saves us. Instead, we are saved by grace through faith, apart from works (Ephesians 2:8–9). We are baptized because our Lord commanded it: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

Water baptism is for believers. Before we are baptized, we must come to believe that we are sinners in need of salvation (Romans 3:23). We must also believe that Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins, that He was buried, and that He was resurrected to assure our place in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1–4). When we turn to Jesus, asking Him to forgive our sins and be our Lord and Savior, we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our eternal salvation is guaranteed, and we begin to die to ourselves and live for Christ (1 Peter 1:3–5). At that time we are scripturally qualified to be baptized.

Water baptism is a beautiful picture of what our Lord has done for us. As we are completely immersed in the water, we symbolize burial with our Lord; we are baptized into His death on the cross and are no longer slaves to self or sin (Romans 6:3–7). When we are raised out of the water, we are symbolically resurrected—raised to new life in Christ to be with Him forever, born into the family of our loving God (Romans 8:16). Water baptism also illustrates the spiritual cleansing we experience when we are saved; just as water cleanses the flesh, so the Holy Spirit cleanses our hearts when we trust Christ.

The fact that water baptism is not a prerequisite for salvation is best seen in the example of a saved man who was not baptized in water—the criminal on the cross (Luke 23:39–43). This self-confessed sinner acknowledged Jesus as his Lord while dying on a cross next to Him. The thief asked for salvation and was forgiven of his sins. Although he never experienced water baptism, at that moment he was spiritually baptized into Christ’s death, and he then was raised to eternal life by the power of Christ’s word (Hebrews 1:3).

Christians should be baptized out of obedience to and love for our Lord Jesus (John 14:15). Water baptism by immersion is the biblical method of baptism because of its symbolic representation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Recommended Resource: Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ by Schriener and Wright

“What does the Bible say about infant baptism / paedobaptism?”

Answer:
There is much confusion about baptism in the various Christian denominations. However, this is not a result of the Bible presenting a confusing message on baptism. The Bible is abundantly clear of what baptism is, who it is for, and what it accomplishes. In the Bible, only believers who had placed their faith in Christ were baptized – as a public testimony of their faith and identification with Him (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-4). Water baptism by immersion is a step of obedience after faith in Christ. It is a proclamation of faith in Christ, a statement of submission to Him, and an identification with His death, burial, and resurrection.

With this in view, infant baptism is not a Biblical practice. An infant cannot place his or her faith in Christ. An infant cannot make a conscious decision to obey Christ. An infant cannot understand what water baptism symbolizes. The Bible does not record any infants being baptized. Infant baptism is the origin of the sprinkling and pouring methods of baptism – as it is unwise and unsafe to immerse an infant under water. Even the method of infant baptism fails to agree with the Bible. How does pouring or sprinkling illustrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Many Christians who practice infant baptism do so because they understand infant baptism as the new covenant equivalent of circumcision. In this view, just as circumcision joined a Hebrew to the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, so baptism joined a person to the New Covenant of salvation through Jesus Christ. This view is unbiblical. The New Testament nowhere describes baptism as the New Covenant replacement for Old Covenant circumcision. The New Testament nowhere describes baptism as a sign of the New Covenant. It is faith in Jesus Christ that enables a person to enjoy the blessings of the New Covenant (1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 9:15).

Baptism does not save a person. It does not matter if you were baptized by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling – if you have not first trusted in Christ for salvation, baptism (no matter the method) is meaningless and useless. Water baptism by immersion is a step of obedience to be done after salvation as a public profession of faith in Christ and identification with Him. Infant baptism does not fit the Biblical definition of baptism or the Biblical method of baptism. If Christian parents wish to dedicate their child to Christ, then a baby dedication service is entirely appropriate. However, even if infants are dedicated to the Lord, when they grow up they will still have to make a personal decision to believe in Jesus Christ in order to be saved.

Recommended Resource: Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ by Schriener and Wright

“Does the Bible teach believer’s baptism/credobaptism?”

Answer:
Baptism has been a topic of debate within Christian circles for many years. In fact, it was already an issue in the early church. Paul addressed it in 1 Corinthians 1:13–16. The Corinthians were boasting about which apostle had baptized them, arguing about whose baptism was better. Paul rebuked them for their sectarianism and concluded with, “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” From this statement it is clear that there is a marked difference between receiving the gospel and the act of baptism. They are linked but are not the same in importance.

According to the bulk of Scripture, water baptism is an important first step in following Jesus as Lord. Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:16; Luke 3:21) and told those who professed His name to follow His example as evidence that their hearts had changed (Acts 8:16; 19:5). Believer’s baptism is the act by which a believer in Jesus Christ chooses to be baptized in order to give testimony of his faith. Believer’s baptism is also called “credobaptism,” a term that comes from the Latin word for “creed,” indicating that baptism is a symbol of a person’s adopting a certain doctrine or creed.

Believer’s baptism is clearly taught in Acts 2. In this chapter, Peter is preaching the gospel message on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. In the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter boldly proclaims Jesus’ death and resurrection and commands the crowd to repent and believe in Christ (Acts 2:36, 38). The response to Peter’s gospel presentation is recorded in verse 41: “Those who accepted his message were baptized.” Note the order of events—they accepted the message (the gospel of Christ), and then they were baptized. Only those who believed were baptized. We see the same order in Acts 16, when the Philippian jailer and his family are saved. They believe, and then they are baptized (Acts 16:29–34). The practice of the apostles was to baptize believers, not unbelievers.

Believer’s baptism is distinguished from infant baptism in that an infant, who has no understanding of the gospel, cannot be a “believer” in Christ. Believer’s baptism involves a person hearing the gospel, accepting Christ as Savior, and choosing to be baptized. It is his or her choice. In infant baptism, the choice is made by someone else, not the child being baptized. Those who baptize infants often teach that water baptism is the means by which the Holy Spirit is imparted to an individual. They base this idea primarily upon Peter’s words in Acts 2:38: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Those who hold this doctrine believe that the act of baptizing an infant sets the child apart and secures salvation. Nowhere in Scripture is the practice of infant baptism even implied. Some point to the few references of the apostles baptizing “households” (Acts 11:14; 16:15, 33), with the assumption that the households included infants, but this is going beyond what the text says.

In the New Testament, baptism by water was the natural result of saving faith and commitment to Jesus as Savior and Lord (Acts 2:42; 8:35–37). Since infants and small children cannot make an informed decision to profess Jesus as Lord, their baptism has no spiritual significance. If infant baptism made a baby right with God, then only children whose parents desired it would be “saved.” Those who did not have believing parents would be condemned as infants, an idea with no biblical foundation. Scripture is clear that God judges the heart of every person and judges or rewards each based on the decisions made by that individual, not by his or her parents (Romans 2:5–6, Jeremiah 17:10; Matthew 16:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Others teach that water baptism is a requirement for salvation, equal to repentance and confession of Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:8–9). While biblical examples show that baptism usually immediately followed conversion, nowhere did Jesus teach that baptism would save anyone. At the Last Supper, He said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Faith in the power of His shed blood is all that is required to make guilty sinners right with God. Romans 5:8–9 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”

If baptism were required for entrance into eternal life, then Jesus was wrong to say to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The thief had no opportunity to be baptized before facing God. He was declared righteous because he placed his faith in what the Son of God was doing on his behalf (John 3:16; Romans 5:1; Galatians 5:4). Galatians 2:16 clarifies the fact that nothing we do can add or take away from the finished work of Christ on our behalf, including baptism: “A man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”

Water baptism is an important first step of obedience in following Christ. Believers should be baptized. But, baptism is the result of salvation not a contributor to it.

Recommended Resource: Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ by Schriener and Wright

“Is baptism necessary for salvation?”

Answer:
The belief that baptism is necessary for salvation is also known as “baptismal regeneration.” It is our contention that baptism is an important step of obedience for a Christian, but we adamantly reject baptism as being required for salvation. We strongly believe that each and every Christian should be water baptized by immersion. Baptism illustrates a believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Romans 6:3-4 declares, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” The action of being immersed in the water illustrates dying and being buried with Christ. The action of coming out of the water pictures Christ’s resurrection.

Requiring anything in addition to faith in Jesus Christ for salvation is a works-based salvation. To add anything to the gospel is to say that Jesus’ death on the cross was not sufficient to purchase our salvation. To say that baptism is necessary for salvation is to say we must add our own good works and obedience to Christ’s death in order to make it sufficient for salvation. Jesus’ death alone paid for our sins (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus’ payment for our sins is appropriated to our “account” by faith alone (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, baptism is an important step of obedience after salvation but cannot be a requirement for salvation.

Yes, there are some verses that seem to indicate baptism as a requirement for salvation. However, since the Bible so clearly tells us that salvation is received by faith alone (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5), there must be a different interpretation of those verses. Scripture does not contradict Scripture. In Bible times, a person who converted from one religion to another was often baptized to identify conversion. Baptism was the means of making a decision public. Those who refused to be baptized were saying they did not truly believe. So, in the minds of the apostles and early disciples, the idea of an un-baptized believer was unheard of. When a person claimed to believe in Christ, yet was ashamed to proclaim his faith in public, it indicated that he did not have true faith.

If baptism is necessary for salvation, why would Paul have said, “I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius” (1 Corinthians 1:14)? Why would he have said, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:17)? Granted, in this passage Paul is arguing against the divisions that plagued the Corinthian church. However, how could Paul possibly say, “I am thankful that I did not baptize…” or “For Christ did not send me to baptize…” if baptism were necessary for salvation? If baptism is necessary for salvation, Paul would literally be saying, “I am thankful that you were not saved…” and “For Christ did not send me to save…” That would be an unbelievably ridiculous statement for Paul to make. Further, when Paul gives a detailed outline of what he considers the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), why does he neglect to mention baptism? If baptism is a requirement for salvation, how could any presentation of the gospel lack a mention of baptism?

Baptism is not necessary for salvation. Baptism does not save from sin but from a bad conscience. In 1 Peter 3:21, Peter clearly taught that baptism was not a ceremonial act of physical purification, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. Baptism is the symbol of what has already occurred in the heart and life of one who has trusted Christ as Savior (Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12). Baptism is an important step of obedience that every Christian should take. Baptism cannot be a requirement for salvation. To make it such is an attack on the sufficiency of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Recommended Resource: Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ by Schriener and Wright

“Does 1 Peter 3:21 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?”

Answer:
As with any single verse or passage, we discern what it teaches by first filtering it through what we know the Bible teaches on the subject at hand. In the case of baptism and salvation, the Bible is clear that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works of any kind, including baptism (Ephesians 2:8-9). So, any interpretation which comes to the conclusion that baptism, or any other act, is necessary for salvation, is a faulty interpretation. For more information, please visit our webpage on “Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works?

Those who believe that baptism is required for salvation are quick to use 1 Peter 3:21 as a “proof text,” because it states “baptism now saves you.” Was Peter really saying that the act of being baptized is what saves us? If he were, he would be contradicting many other passages of Scripture that clearly show people being saved (as evidenced by their receiving the Holy Spirit) prior to being baptized or without being baptized at all. A good example of someone who was saved before being baptized is Cornelius and his household in Acts 10. We know that they were saved before being baptized because they had received the Holy Spirit, which is the evidence of salvation (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13; 1 John 3:24). The evidence of their salvation was the reason Peter allowed them to be baptized. Countless passages of Scripture clearly teach that salvation comes when one believes in the gospel, at which time he or she is sealed “in Christ with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13).

Thankfully, though, we don’t have to guess at what Peter means in this verse because he clarifies that for us with the phrase “not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience.” While Peter is connecting baptism with salvation, it is not the act of being baptized that he is referring to (not the removal of dirt from the flesh). Being immersed in water does nothing but wash away dirt. What Peter is referring to is what baptism represents, which is what saves us (an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ). In other words, Peter is simply connecting baptism with belief. It is not the getting-wet part that saves but is the “appeal to God for a clean conscience” which is signified by baptism, that saves us. The appeal to God always comes first. First belief and repentance, then we are baptized to publicly identify ourselves with Christ.

An excellent explanation of this passage is given by Dr. Kenneth Wuest, author of Word Studies in the Greek New Testament. “Water baptism is clearly in the apostle’s mind, not the baptism by the Holy Spirit, for he speaks of the waters of the flood as saving the inmates of the ark, and in this verse, of baptism saving believers. But he says that it saves them only as a counterpart. That is, water baptism is the counterpart of the reality, salvation. It can only save as a counterpart, not actually. The Old Testament sacrifices were counterparts of the reality, the Lord Jesus. They did not actually save the believer, only in type. It is not argued here that these sacrifices are analogous to Christian water baptism. The author is merely using them as an illustration of the use of the word ‘counterpart.’

“So water baptism only saves the believer in type. The Old Testament Jew was saved before he brought the offering. That offering was only his outward testimony that he was placing faith in the Lamb of God of whom these sacrifices were a type….Water baptism is the outward testimony of the believer’s inward faith. The person is saved the moment he places his faith in the Lord Jesus. Water baptism is the visible testimony to his faith and the salvation he was given in answer to that faith. Peter is careful to inform his readers that he is not teaching baptismal regeneration, namely, that a person who submits to baptism is thereby regenerated, for he says, ‘not the putting away of the filth of the flesh.’ Baptism, Peter explains, does not wash away the filth of the flesh, either in a literal sense as a bath for the body, nor in a metaphorical sense as a cleansing for the soul. No ceremonies really affect the conscience. But he defines what he means by salvation, in the words ‘the answer of a good conscience toward God,” and he explains how this is accomplished, namely, ‘by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,’ in that the believing sinner is identified with Him in that resurrection.”

Part of the confusion on this passage comes from the fact that in many ways the purpose of baptism as a public declaration of one’s faith in Christ and identification with Him has been replaced by “making a decision for Christ” or “praying a sinner’s prayer.” Baptism has been relegated to something that is done later. Yet to Peter or any of the first-century Christians, the idea that a person would confess Christ as his Savior and not be baptized as soon as possible would have been unheard of. Therefore, it is not surprising that Peter would see baptism as almost synonymous with salvation. Yet Peter makes it clear in this verse that it is not the ritual itself that saves, but the fact that we are united with Christ in His resurrection through faith, “the pledge of a good conscience toward God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).

Therefore, the baptism that Peter says saves us is the one that is preceded by faith in the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ that justifies the unrighteous sinner (Romans 3:25-26; 4:5). Baptism is the outward sign of what God has done “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

Recommended Resource: Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ by Schriener and Wright

“Does Acts 2:38 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?”

Answer:
Acts 2:38, “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” As with any single verse or passage, we discern what it teaches by first filtering it through what we know the Bible teaches on the subject at hand. In the case of baptism and salvation, the Bible is clear that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works of any kind, including baptism (Ephesians 2:8-9). So, any interpretation which comes to the conclusion that baptism, or any other act, is necessary for salvation, is a faulty interpretation. For more information, please visit our webpage on “Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works?

Why, then, do some come to the conclusion that we must be baptized in order to be saved? Often, the discussion of whether or not this passage teaches baptism is required for salvation centers around the Greek word eis that is translated “for” in this passage. Those who hold to the belief that baptism is required for salvation are quick to point to this verse and the fact that it says “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins,” assuming that the word translated “for” in this verse means “in order to get.” However, in both Greek and English, there are many possible usages of the word “for.”

As an example, when one says “Take two aspirin for your headache,” it is obvious to everybody that it does not mean “take two aspirin in order to get your headache,” but instead to “take two aspirin because you already have a headache.” There are three possible meanings of the word “for” that might fit the context of Acts 2:38: 1–“in order to be, become, get, have, keep, etc.,” 2—“because of, as the result of,” or 3—“with regard to.” Since any one of the three meanings could fit the context of this passage, additional study is required in order to determine which one is correct.

We need to start by looking back to the original language and the meaning of the Greek word eis. This is a common Greek word (it is used 1774 times in the New Testament) that is translated many different ways. Like the English word “for” it can have several different meanings. So, again, we see at least two or three possible meanings of the passage, one that would seem to support that baptism is required for salvation and others that would not. While both the meanings of the Greek word eis are seen in different passages of Scripture, such noted Greek scholars as A.T. Robertson and J.R. Mantey have maintained that the Greek preposition eis in Acts 2:38 should be translated “because of” or “in view of,” and not “in order to,” or “for the purpose of.”

One example of how this preposition is used in other Scriptures is seen in Matthew 12:41 where the word eis communicates the “result” of an action. In this case it is said that the people of Nineveh “repented at the preaching of Jonah” (the word translated “at” is the same Greek word eis). Clearly, the meaning of this passage is that they repented “because of’” or “as the result of” Jonah’s preaching. In the same way, it would be possible that Acts 2:38 is indeed communicating the fact that they were to be baptized “as the result of” or “because” they already had believed and in doing so had already received forgiveness of their sins (John 1:12; John 3:14-18; John 5:24; John 11:25-26; Acts 10:43; Acts 13:39; Acts 16:31; Acts 26:18; Romans 10:9; Ephesians 1:12-14). This interpretation of the passage is also consistent with the message recorded in Peter’s next two sermons to unbelievers where he associates the forgiveness of sins with the act of repentance and faith in Christ without even mentioning baptism (Acts 3:17-26; Acts 4:8-12).

In addition to Acts 2:38, there are three other verses where the Greek word eis is used in conjunction with the word “baptize” or “baptism.” The first of these is Matthew 3:11, “baptize you with water for repentance.” Clearly the Greek word eis cannot mean “in order to get” in this passage. They were not baptized “in order to get repentance,” but were “baptized because they had repented.” The second passage is Romans 6:3 where we have the phrase “baptized into (eis) His death.” This again fits with the meaning “because of” or in “regard to.” The third and final passage is 1 Corinthians 10:2 and the phrase “baptized into (eis) Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Again, eis cannot mean “in order to get” in this passage because the Israelites were not baptized in order to get Moses to be their leader, but because he was their leader and had led them out of Egypt. If one is consistent with the way the preposition eis is used in conjunction with baptism, we must conclude that Acts 2:38 is indeed referring to their being baptized “because” they had received forgiveness of their sins. Some other verses where the Greek preposition eis does not mean “in order to obtain” are Matthew 28:19; 1 Peter 3:21; Acts 19:3; 1 Corinthians 1:15; and 12:13.

The grammatical evidence surrounding this verse and the preposition eis are clear that while both views on this verse are well within the context and the range of possible meanings of the passage, the majority of the evidence is in favor that the best possible definition of the word “for” in this context is either “because of” or “in regard to” and not “in order to get.” Therefore, Acts 2:38, when interpreted correctly, does not teach that baptism is required for salvation.

Besides the precise meaning of the preposition translated “for” in this passage, there is another grammatical aspect of this verse to carefully consider—the change between the second person and third person between the verbs and pronouns in the passage. For example, in Peter’s commands to repent and be baptized the Greek verb translated “repent” is in the second person plural while the verb “be baptized,” is in the third person singular. When we couple this with the fact that the pronoun “your” in the phrase “forgiveness of your sins” is also second person plural, we see an important distinction being made that helps us understand this passage. The result of this change from second person plural to third person singular and back would seem to connect the phrase “forgiveness of your sins” directly with the command to “repent.” Therefore, when you take into account the change in person and plurality, essentially what you have is “You (plural) repent for the forgiveness of your (plural) sins, and let each one (singular) of you be baptized (singular).” Or, to put it in a more distinct way: “You all repent for the forgiveness of all of your sins, and let each one of you be baptized.”

Another error that is made by those who believe Acts 2:38 teaches baptism is required for salvation is what is sometimes called the Negative Inference Fallacy. Simply put, this is the idea that just because a statement is true, we cannot assume all negations (or opposites) of that statement are true. In other words, just because Acts 2:38 says “repent and be baptized….for the forgiveness of sins…and the gift of the Holy Spirit,” it does not mean that if one repents and is not baptized, he will not receive forgiveness of sins or the gift of the Holy Spirit.

There is an important difference between a condition of salvation and a requirement for salvation. The Bible is clear that belief is both a condition and a requirement, but the same cannot be said for baptism. The Bible does not say that if a man is not baptized then he will not be saved. One can add any number of conditions to faith (which is required for salvation), and the person can still be saved. For example if a person believes, is baptized, goes to church, and gives to the poor he will be saved. Where the error in thinking occurs is if one assumes all these other conditions, “baptism, going to church, giving to the poor,” are required for one to be saved. While they might be the evidence of salvation, they are not a requirement for salvation. (For a more thorough explanation of this logical fallacy, please see the Question: Does Mark 16:16 teach that baptism is required for salvation?).

The fact that baptism is not required to receive forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit should also be evident by simply reading a little farther in the book of Acts. In Acts 10:43, Peter tells Cornelius that “through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (please note that nothing at this point has been mentioned about being baptized, yet Peter connects believing in Christ with the act of receiving forgiveness for sins). The next thing that happens is, having believed Peter’s message about Christ, the “Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message” (Acts 10:44). It is only after they had believed, and therefore received forgiveness of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, that Cornelius and his household were baptized (Acts 10:47-48). The context and the passage are very clear; Cornelius and his household received both forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit before they were ever baptized. In fact, the reason Peter allowed them to be baptized was that they showed evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit “just as Peter and the Jewish believers” had.

In conclusion, Acts 2:38 does not teach that baptism is required for salvation. While baptism is important as the sign that one has been justified by faith and as the public declaration of one’s faith in Christ and membership in a local body of believers, it is not the means of remission or forgiveness of sins. The Bible is very clear that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (John 1:12; John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 3:21-30; Romans 4:5; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 3:9; Galatians 2:16).

Recommended Resource: Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ by Schriener and Wright

Lecture 9

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/ unless otherwise stated.

Work and Person of Christ: Elements of the Atonement

After the completion of this lesson you should be able to explain each term and the theological meaning associated with each term – Effects of the Atonement, namely propitiation, expiation, forgiveness, reconciliation, adoption

Whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. Romans 3:25

Propitiation: Christ’s work on the cross for God the Father | Why Did Jesus Have to Die

Luther Discovers Propitiation

Martin Luther discovers that Christ is the propitiation for the sins of His people. Watch as Stephen Nichols leads us through Luther’s story. https://Reformation500.com

Propitiation: (n) \prō-pi-shē-ˈā-shən\ ἱλαστήριον (Paul Washer)

John MacArthur: Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

Many skeptics have argued that the Christian doctrine of the atonement is inherently unjust. How is it just, they say, for an innocent man like Jesus to be punished for the sins of another? Even professing evangelicals have questioned the doctrine of substitutionary atonement,

“What is propitiation?”

Answer:
The word propitiation carries the basic idea of appeasement or satisfaction, specifically toward God. Propitiation is a two-part act that involves appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to him.

The necessity of appeasing God is something many religions have in common. In ancient pagan religions, as well as in many religions today, the idea is taught that man appeases God by offering various gifts or sacrifices. However, the Bible teaches that God Himself has provided the only means through which His wrath can be appeased and sinful man can be reconciled to Him. In the New Testament, the act of propitiation always refers to the work of God and not the sacrifices or gifts offered by man. The reason for this is that man is totally incapable of satisfying God’s justice except by spending eternity in hell. There is no service, sacrifice, or gift that man can offer that will appease the holy wrath of God or satisfy His perfect justice. The only satisfaction, or propitiation, that could be acceptable to God and that could reconcile man to Him had to be made by God. For this reason God the Son, Jesus Christ, came into the world in human flesh to be the perfect sacrifice for sin and make atonement or “propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).

The word propitiation is used in several verses to explain what Jesus accomplished through His death on the cross. For example, in Romans 3:24-25 believers in Christ have been “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.” These verses are a key point in Paul’s argument in the book of Romans and are really at the heart of the gospel message.

In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul makes the argument that everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, is under the condemnation of God and deserving of His wrath (Romans 1:18). Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All of us deserve His wrath and punishment. God in His infinite grace and mercy has provided a way that His wrath can be appeased and we can be reconciled to Him. That way is through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ, as the payment for sins. It is through faith in Jesus Christ as God’s perfect sacrifice that we can be reconciled to God. It is only because of Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection on the third day that a lost sinner deserving of hell can be reconciled to a holy God. The wonderful truth of the gospel is that Christians are saved from God’s wrath and reconciled to God not because “we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The only way for God’s wrath against sinful man to be appeased and for us to be reconciled to God is through Jesus Christ. There is no other way. This truth is also communicated in 1 John 2:2, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” An important part of Christ’s saving work is deliverance from God’s wrath; Jesus’ propitiation on the cross is the only thing that can turn away God’s divine condemnation of sin. Those who reject Christ as their Savior and refuse to believe in Him have no hope of salvation. They can only look forward to facing the wrath of God that they have stored up for the coming day of judgment (Romans 2:5). There is no other propitiation or sacrifice that can be made for their sins.

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

“What is expiation?”

Answer:
The word “expiation” does not appear in the New Testament, but it does accurately describe an aspect of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. Expiation means “to cover sin” and/or “to cleanse sin.” Expiation reflects the idea that the negative and degrading effects of our sin are removed through the grace of God. Another word for expiation is atonement, and truly this is one of the results of Jesus’ atoning death for us.

Through expiation—the work of Christ on the cross for us—the sin of all those who would ever believe in Christ was cancelled. That cancellation is eternal in its consequence, even though sin is still present in the temporal sense. In other words, believers are delivered from the penalty and power of sin, but not the presence of it. Justification is the term for being delivered from the penalty of sin. This is a one-time act wherein the sinner is justified and made holy and righteous in the eyes of God who exchanged our sinful natures for the righteousness of Christ at the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). Sanctification is the ongoing process whereby believers are delivered from the power of sin in their lives and are enabled by the new nature to resist and turn away from it. Glorification is when we are removed from the very presence of sin, which will only occur once we leave this world and are in heaven. All these processes—justification, sanctification and glorification—are made possible through the expiation or cancellation of sin.

It is good to know also that there are other benefits of Jesus’ death for us. One of them, not included in the concept of expiation, but just as true and biblical, is propitiation, which is “to appease wrath.” Truly the atoning death of God the Son satisfies the wrath of God the Father against rebellious, sinful humanity (John 3:36; Romans 5:9). Expiation, justification, sanctification, glorification, propitiation, and many more – we have countless reasons to praise God and to run to Him in faith and trust.

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“What does it mean that Jesus died for our sins?”

Answer:
Simply put, without Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, no one would have eternal life. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). In this statement, Jesus declares the reason for His birth, death, and resurrection—to provide the way to heaven for sinful mankind, who could never get there on their own.

When God created Adam and Eve, they were perfect in every way and lived in a virtual paradise, the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). God created man in His image, meaning they also had the freedom to make decisions and choices of their own free will. Genesis 3 goes on to describe how Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan’s temptations and lies. In doing so, they disobeyed the will of God by eating of the tree of knowledge from which they were forbidden: “And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die’” (Genesis 2:16-17). This was the first sin committed by man, and, as a result, all mankind is subject to both physical and eternal death by virtue of our sinful nature inherited from Adam.

God declared that all who sin will die, both physically and spiritually. This is the fate of all mankind. But God, in His grace and mercy, provided a way out of this dilemma, the shed blood of His perfect Son on the cross. God declared that “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22), but through the shedding of blood, redemption is provided. The Law of Moses provided a way for the people to be considered “sinless” or “right” in God’s eyes—the offering of animals sacrificed for every sin they committed. These sacrifices were only temporary, though, and were really a foreshadowing of the perfect, once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross (Hebrews 10:10).

This is why Jesus came and why He died, to become the ultimate and final sacrifice, the perfect (without blemish) sacrifice for our sins (Colossians 1:22; 1 Peter 1:19). Through Him, the promise of life eternal with God becomes effective through faith to those who believe in Jesus. “So that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe” (Galatians 3:22). These two words, faith and believing, are critical to our salvation. It is through our believing in the shed blood of Christ for our sins that we receive eternal life. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“What is the doctrine of substitution?”

Answer:
Substitution is one of the major themes of the Bible. God instituted the principle of substitution in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned. By killing an animal to cover their nakedness (Genesis 3:21), God began to paint a picture of what it would take to bring mankind back into proper relationship with Him. He continued that theme with His chosen people Israel. By giving them the Law, God showed them His holiness and demonstrated their inability to achieve that holiness. God then granted them a substitute to pay the price for their sin, in the form of blood sacrifices (Exodus 29:41-42; 34:19; Numbers 29:2). By sacrificing an innocent animal according to God’s specifications, man could have his sins forgiven and enter the presence of God. The animal died in the sinner’s place, thereby allowing the sinner to go free, vindicated. Leviticus 16 tells of the scapegoat, upon which the elders of Israel would place their hands, symbolically transferring the sins of the people onto the goat. The goat was then set free into the wilderness, bearing the sins of the people far away.

The theme of substitution is found throughout the Old Testament as a precursor to the coming of Jesus Christ. The Passover feast conspicuously featured a substitute. In Exodus 12, God gives instruction to His people to prepare for the coming Angel of the Lord who would strike down the firstborn male of every family as a judgment upon Egypt. The only way to escape this plague was to take a perfect male lamb, kill it, and put the blood on the lintels and doorposts of their houses. God told them, “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt” (Exodus 12:13). That Passover lamb was a substitute for every male firstborn who would accept it.

God carried that theme of substitution into the New Testament with the coming of Jesus. He had set the stage so that mankind would understand exactly what Jesus came to do. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” God’s perfect Lamb took the sins of the world upon Himself, laid down His life, and died in our place (John 1:29; 1 Peter 3:18). The only acceptable sacrifice for sin is a perfect offering. If we died for our own sins, it would not be sufficient payment. We are not perfect. Only Jesus, the perfect God-Man, fits the requirement, and He laid down His life for ours willingly (John 10:18). There was nothing we could do to save ourselves, so God did it for us. The Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53 makes the substitutionary death of Christ abundantly clear: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (verse 5).

Jesus’ substitution for us was perfect, unlike the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament. Hebrews 10:4 says, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Someone might say, “You mean, all those sacrifices the Jews made were for nothing?” The writer is clarifying that animal blood itself had no value. It was what that blood symbolized that made the difference. The value of the ancient sacrifices was that the animal was a substitute for a human being’s sin and that it pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9:22).

Some people make the mistake of thinking that, since Jesus died for the sins of the world, everyone will go to heaven one day. This is incorrect. The substitutionary death of Christ must be personally applied to each heart, in much the same way that the blood of the Passover had to be personally applied to the door (John 1:12; 3:16-18; Acts 2:38). Before we can become “the righteousness of God in Him,” we must exchange our old sin nature for His holy one. God offers the Substitute, but we must receive that Substitute personally by accepting Christ in faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

“What is the substitutionary atonement?”

Answer:
The substitutionary atonement refers to Jesus Christ dying as a substitute for sinners. The Scriptures teach that all men are sinners (Romans 3:9-18, 23). The penalty for our sinfulness is death. Romans 6:23 reads, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That verse teaches us several things. Without Christ, we are going to die and spend an eternity in hell as payment for our sins. Death in the Scriptures refers to a “separation.” Everyone will die, but some will live in heaven with the Lord for eternity, while others will live a life in hell for eternity. The death spoken of here refers to the life in hell. However, the second thing this verse teaches us is that eternal life is available through Jesus Christ. This is His substitutionary atonement.

Jesus Christ died in our place when He was crucified on the cross. We deserved to be the ones placed on that cross to die because we are the ones who live sinful lives. But Christ took the punishment on Himself in our place—He substituted Himself for us and took what we rightly deserved. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Here again we see that Christ took the sins we committed onto Himself to pay the price for us. A few verses later we read, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). Not only do these verses teach us about the substitute that Christ was for us, but they also teach that He was the atonement, meaning He satisfied the payment due for the sinfulness of man.

One more passage that talks about the substitutionary atonement is Isaiah 53:5. This verse talks about the coming Christ who was to die on the cross for our sins. The prophecy is very detailed, and the crucifixion happened just as it was foretold. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Notice the substitution. Here again we see that Christ paid the price for us!

We can only pay the price of sin on our own by being punished and placed in hell for all eternity. But God’s Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth to pay for the price of our sins. Because He did this for us, we now have the opportunity to not only have our sins forgiven, but to spend eternity with Him. In order to do this we must place our faith in what Christ did on the cross. We cannot save ourselves; we need a substitute to take our place. The death of Jesus Christ is the substitutionary atonement.

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

“What is impartation? What does it mean that righteousness is imparted to all who receive Christ as Savior?”

Answer:
The word impart means “to give, convey, or grant.” Impartation, then, is the act of giving or granting something. In the Bible spiritual gifts are imparted (Romans 1:11); wisdom is imparted (Proverbs 29:15); the message of the gospel is imparted (1 Thessalonians 2:8); and material goods are imparted (Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 6:18). Some translations use the word share as a replacement for impart. The Bible never speaks of the impartation of righteousness.

Most evangelicals speak of righteousness as being imputed, rather than imparted. To impute is to credit something to the account of another. Imputation of righteousness is clearly taught in passages such as Romans 4:3, which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (cf. Galatians 3:6; Romans 4:22). The “credit” or “reckoning” that Abraham received was an imputation. Imputation is thus linked to the act of justification. The moment a person is born again, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to that sinner’s account. The doctrine of double imputation says that, at the same time, the sinner’s sin is imputed to Christ’s account.

Roman Catholics speak of infused righteousness, which should not be confused with impartation or imputation. Infused righteousness, in Catholic theology, is that which comes gradually to the believer through obedience, confession, penance, and the other sacraments. There is no biblical basis for the idea of infused righteousness, which contradicts the scriptural teaching that justification comes through faith alone and not through the channel of works (Romans 3:28).

Imparted righteousness is a term used mostly in Wesleyan and Methodist circles to explain sanctification. Impartation is seen as separate from imputation, although the two work in conjunction. According to Wesley’s theology, we are justified when Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us; after that, we begin to be sanctified when God’s righteousness is imparted to us through the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, empowering us to live in a holy manner. According to some in the Wesleyan tradition, this imparted righteousness can lead to sinless perfection.

Possible biblical support for the idea of imparted righteousness comes from 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit,” and 2 Peter 1:4, which speaks of how we “participate in the divine nature.” The idea is that imputed righteousness changes our standing before God, and imparted righteousness changes our nature even as we live in the flesh. The new nature that wars against the flesh (Roman 7:14–25) is the result of imparted righteousness, granted to us by God.

In the final analysis, the Bible clearly teaches imputed righteousness, but the doctrine of imparted righteousness is not so clear. At salvation, believers in Jesus Christ receive a new nature—which loves righteousness and produces good works—but to say they receive righteousness itself is stretching the point.

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

“What is salvation? What is the Christian doctrine of salvation?”

Answer:
Salvation is deliverance from danger or suffering. To save is to deliver or protect. The word carries the idea of victory, health, or preservation. Sometimes, the Bible uses the words saved or salvation to refer to temporal, physical deliverance, such as Paul’s deliverance from prison (Philippians 1:19).

More often, the word “salvation” concerns an eternal, spiritual deliverance. When Paul told the Philippian jailer what he must do to be saved, he was referring to the jailer’s eternal destiny (Acts 16:30-31). Jesus equated being saved with entering the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24-25).

What are we saved from? In the Christian doctrine of salvation, we are saved from “wrath,” that is, from God’s judgment of sin (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:9). Our sin has separated us from God, and the consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Biblical salvation refers to our deliverance from the consequence of sin and therefore involves the removal of sin.

Who does the saving? Only God can remove sin and deliver us from sin’s penalty (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5).

How does God save? In the Christian doctrine of salvation, God has rescued us through Christ (John 3:17). Specifically, it was Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent resurrection that achieved our salvation (Romans 5:10; Ephesians 1:7). Scripture is clear that salvation is the gracious, undeserved gift of God (Ephesians 2:5, 8) and is only available through faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).

How do we receive salvation? We are saved by faith. First, we must hear the gospel—the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Ephesians 1:13). Then, we must believe—fully trust the Lord Jesus (Romans 1:16). This involves repentance, a changing of mind about sin and Christ (Acts 3:19), and calling on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:9-10, 13).

A definition of the Christian doctrine of salvation would be “The deliverance, by the grace of God, from eternal punishment for sin which is granted to those who accept by faith God’s conditions of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus.” Salvation is available in Jesus alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and is dependent on God alone for provision, assurance, and security.

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

“What does it mean for salvation to be a gift from God?”

Answer:
The word gift is an important one in the Bible, and it is good that we understand its definition and implications.

In the New Testament, there are several Greek words translated “gift.” Some of these words are used in contexts other than God’s gift of salvation, such as the reciprocal gift-giving of celebrants (Revelation 11:10), the things received from fathers (Matthew 7:11), offerings to a ministry (Philippians 4:17), and the gifts of the magi (Matthew 2:11).

However, when it comes to the matter of our salvation, the New Testament writers use different Greek words—words that emphasize the gracious and absolutely free quality of the gift. Here are the two words most commonly used for the gift of salvation:

1) Dorea, meaning “a free gift.” This word lays particular stress on the gratuitous nature of the gift—it is something given above and beyond what is expected or deserved. Every New Testament occurrence of this word is related to a spiritual gift from God. It is what Jesus offers to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:10). It is called the “free gift” in Romans 5:15. It is the “unspeakable [or indescribable] gift” in 2 Corinthians 9:15. This gracious gift is identified as the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38; 8:30; and 11:17.

The adverb form of this word is dorean, translated “freely” in Matthew 10:8; 2 Corinthians 11:7; Revelation 21:6; 22:17. In Romans 3:24, immediately following God’s pronouncement of our guilt, we have this use of dorean: “Being justified FREELY by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” The gift of salvation is free, and the motive for the gift is nothing more than the grace of the Giver.

2) Charisma, meaning “a gift of grace.” This word is used to define salvation in Romans 5:15-16. Also, in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT [charisma] of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This same word is used in conjunction with the gifts of the Spirit received after salvation (Romans 12:6; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; 1 Peter 4:10).

Obviously, if something is a “gift of grace,” it cannot be earned. To work for something is to deserve it, and that would produce an obligation—a gift of debt, as it were. That is why works destroy grace (Romans 4:1-5; 11:5-6).

When presenting salvation, the New Testament writers carefully chose words that emphasize grace and freedom. As a result, the Bible could not be more clear—salvation is absolutely free, the true gift of God in Christ, and our only responsibility is to receive the gift by faith (John 1:12; 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Recommended Resource: Faith Alone, The Doctrine of Justification: What the Reformers Taught…and Why It Still Matters by Thomas Schreiner

“What is the meaning of Christian redemption?”

Answer:
Everyone is in need of redemption. Our natural condition was characterized by guilt: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Christ’s redemption has freed us from guilt, being “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

The benefits of redemption include eternal life (Revelation 5:9-10), forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7), righteousness (Romans 5:17), freedom from the law’s curse (Galatians 3:13), adoption into God’s family (Galatians 4:5), deliverance from sin’s bondage (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:14-18), peace with God (Colossians 1:18-20), and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). To be redeemed, then, is to be forgiven, holy, justified, free, adopted, and reconciled. See also Psalm 130:7-8; Luke 2:38; and Acts 20:28.

The word redeem means “to buy out.” The term was used specifically in reference to the purchase of a slave’s freedom. The application of this term to Christ’s death on the cross is quite telling. If we are “redeemed,” then our prior condition was one of slavery. God has purchased our freedom, and we are no longer in bondage to sin or to the Old Testament law. This metaphorical use of “redemption” is the teaching of Galatians 3:13 and 4:5.

Related to the Christian concept of redemption is the word ransom. Jesus paid the price for our release from sin and its punishment (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6). His death was in exchange for our life. In fact, Scripture is quite clear that redemption is only possible “through His blood,” that is, by His death (Colossians 1:14).

The streets of heaven will be filled with former captives who, through no merit of their own, find themselves redeemed, forgiven, and free. Slaves to sin have become saints. No wonder we will sing a new song—a song of praise to the Redeemer who was slain (Revelation 5:9). We were slaves to sin, condemned to eternal separation from God. Jesus paid the price to redeem us, resulting in our freedom from slavery to sin and our rescue from the eternal consequences of that sin.

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

“How and to whom did Jesus pay our ransom?”

Answer:
A ransom is something that is paid to provide for the release of someone who is held captive. Jesus paid our ransom to free us from sin, death, and hell. Throughout the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are found God’s requirements for sacrifices. In Old Testament times, God commanded the Israelites to make animal sacrifices for substitutionary atonement; that is, an animal’s death took the place of a person’s death, death being the penalty for sin (Romans 6:23). Exodus 29:36a states, “Each day you must sacrifice a young bull as an offering for the atonement of sin.”

God demands holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16). God’s Law demands holiness. We cannot give God full holiness because of the sins we commit (Romans 3:23); therefore, God demands satisfaction of His Law. Sacrifices to Him satisfied the requirements. This is where Jesus comes in. Hebrews 9:12-15 tells us: “Once for all time he took blood into that Most Holy Place, but not the blood of goats and calves. He took his own blood, and with it he secured our salvation forever. Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ritual defilement. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our hearts from deeds that lead to death so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why he is the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, so that all who are invited can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant.”

Also, read Romans 8:3-4, “The law of Moses could not save us, because of our sinful nature. But God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent his own Son in a human body like ours, except that ours are sinful. God destroyed sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the requirement of the law would be fully accomplished for us who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.”

Clearly, Jesus paid the ransom for our lives to God. That ransom was His own life, the shedding of His own blood, a sacrifice. Due to His sacrificial death, each person on earth has the opportunity to accept that gift of atonement and be forgiven by God. For without His death, God’s Law would still need to be satisfied—by our own death.

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“What is Christian reconciliation? Why do we need to be reconciled with God?”

Answer:
Imagine two friends who have a fight or argument. The good relationship they once enjoyed is strained to the point of breaking. They cease speaking to each other; communication is deemed too awkward. The friends gradually become strangers. Such estrangement can only be reversed by reconciliation. To be reconciled is to be restored to friendship or harmony. When old friends resolve their differences and restore their relationship, reconciliation has occurred. Second Corinthians 5:18-19 declares, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

The Bible says that Christ reconciled us to God (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18; Colossians 1:20-21). The fact that we needed reconciliation means that our relationship with God was broken. Since God is holy, we were the ones to blame. Our sin alienated us from Him. Romans 5:10 says that we were enemies of God: “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

When Christ died on the cross, He satisfied God’s judgment and made it possible for God’s enemies, us, to find peace with Him. Our “reconciliation” to God, then, involves the exercise of His grace and the forgiveness of our sin. The result of Jesus’ sacrifice is that our relationship has changed from enmity to friendship. “I no longer call you servants … Instead, I have called you friends” (John 15:15). Christian reconciliation is a glorious truth! We were God’s enemies, but are now His friends. We were in a state of condemnation because of our sins, but we are now forgiven. We were at war with God, but now have the peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

“What is justification? What does it mean to be justified?”

Answer:
Simply put, to justify is to declare righteous, to make one right with God. Justification is God’s declaring those who receive Christ to be righteous, based on Christ’s righteousness being imputed to the accounts of those who receive Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Though justification as a principle is found throughout Scripture, the main passage describing justification in relation to believers is Romans 3:21-26: “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

We are justified, declared righteous, at the moment of our salvation. Justification does not make us righteous, but rather pronounces us righteous. Our righteousness comes from placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice covers our sin, allowing God to see us as perfect and unblemished. Because as believers we are in Christ, God sees Christ’s own righteousness when He looks at us. This meets God’s demands for perfection; thus, He declares us righteous—He justifies us.

Romans 5:18-19 sums it up well: “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” It is because of justification that the peace of God can rule in our lives. It is because of justification that believers can have assurance of salvation. It is the fact of justification that enables God to begin the process of sanctification—the process by which God makes us in reality what we already are positionally. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

“Why is justification by faith such an important doctrine?”

Answer:
The teaching of justification by faith is what separates biblical Christianity from all other belief systems. In every religion, and in some branches of what is called “Christianity,” man is working his way to God. Only in true, biblical Christianity is man saved as a result of grace through faith. Only when we get back to the Bible do we see that justification is by faith, apart from works.

The word justified means “pronounced or treated as righteous.” For a Christian, justification is the act of God not only forgiving the believer’s sins but imputing to him the righteousness of Christ. The Bible states in several places that justification only comes through faith (e.g., Romans 5:1; Galatians 3:24). Justification is not earned through our own works; rather, we are covered by the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5). The Christian, being declared righteous, is thus freed from the guilt of sin.

Justification is a completed work of God, and it is instantaneous, as opposed to sanctification, which is an ongoing process of growth by which we become more Christlike (the act of “being saved,” cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). Sanctification occurs after justification.

Understanding the doctrine of justification is important for a Christian. First, it is the very knowledge of justification and of grace that motivates good works and spiritual growth; thus, justification leads to sanctification. Also, the fact that justification is a finished work of God means that Christians have assurance of their salvation. In God’s eyes, believers have the righteousness necessary to gain eternal life.

Once a person is justified, there is nothing else he needs in order to gain entrance into heaven. Since justification comes by faith in Christ, based on His work on our behalf, our own works are disqualified as a means of salvation (Romans 3:28). There exist vast religious systems with complex theologies that teach the false doctrine of justification by works. But they are teaching “a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all” (Galatians 1:6–7).

Without an understanding of justification by faith alone, we cannot truly perceive the glorious gift of grace—God’s “unmerited favor” becomes “merited” in our minds, and we begin to think we deserve salvation. The doctrine of justification by faith helps us maintain “pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). Holding to justification by faith keeps us from falling for the lie that we can earn heaven. There is no ritual, no sacrament, no deed that can make us worthy of the righteousness of Christ. It is only by His grace, in response to our faith, that God has credited to us the holiness of His Son. Both Old and New Testaments say, “The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

“Justification vs sanctification—what are the differences?”

Answer:
Justification, a term used in the Bible forensically/legally, is defined as “an act of God by which those who are unrighteous in themselves are nevertheless declared righteous before God while still in the sinning state.” Justification is a deliverance from the penalty of sin and is a past action for all believers, accomplished by Christ at the cross.

Paul summarizes the concept of justification: “So then as through one transgression [Adam’s sin] there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness [Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross] there resulted justification of life to all men” (Romans 5:18, NASB).

By contrast, sanctification is not the act of God declaring a person righteous; rather, it is the continual process by which God is actually making a person righteous. Sanctification is the deliverance from the power of sin and is a present and continuous process of believers becoming Christlike, accomplished by the Holy Spirit’s power and presence. Sanctification represents a believer’s victory over the flesh (Romans 7:24–25), the world (1 John 5:4), and the devil (James 4:7).

The ultimate end result of our sanctification is that we will be found in Christ’s image, as Paul describes in Romans 8:29–30: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (NASB).

In summary, justification happens when God declares a guilty sinner to be righteous; sanctification happens when God makes the believing sinner righteous. Justification is a one-time act; sanctification is a continual process. Justification releases us from the penalty of sin; sanctification releases us from the power of sin. Both justification and sanctification are aspects of our “eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9).

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

“What does it mean that Christians are adopted by God?”

Answer:
To adopt someone is to make that person a legal son or daughter. Adoption is one of the metaphors used in the Bible to explain how Christians are brought into the family of God. Jesus came “that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Galatians 4:5), and He was successful: “You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children” (Romans 8:15, NLT).

The Bible also uses the metaphor of being “born again” into God’s family (John 3:3), which seems to be at odds with the concept of adoption because, normally, either a person is born into a family or adopted, not both. We shouldn’t make too much of the difference, however, because both of these concepts are metaphors and should not be played against each other.

Adoption was not common in the Jewish world. A person’s standing was based on his birth. This is the reason that, if a man died, his brother was supposed to marry the widow. The first son to be born of the new marriage would be legally considered the son of the dead brother so that his family line would continue. There was never any thought of the widow adopting a son to carry on the family name. In John 3, Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus, a Jewish leader, and He uses the Jewish concept of being born again (or born from above) to explain how one is brought into God’s family.

In the Roman world, adoption was a significant and common practice. Today, we can write a will and leave our wealth and property to anyone we want, male or female. In the Roman world, with few exceptions, a man had to pass his wealth on to his son(s). If a man had no sons or if he felt that his sons were incapable of managing his wealth or were unworthy of it, he would have to adopt someone who would make a worthy son. These adoptions were not infant adoptions as is common today. Older boys and adult men were normally adopted. In some cases, the adoptee might even be older than the man who was adopting him. When the adoption was legally approved, the adoptee would have all his debts cancelled and he would receive a new name. He would be the legal son of his adoptive father and entitled to all the rights and benefits of a son. A father could disown his natural-born son, but an adoption was irreversible.

In the book Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ and the movie starring Charleton Heston, we see a vivid portrayal of Roman adoption. In the movie, Judah Ben-Hur (a Jew) has been imprisoned on a Roman galley ship as a rower. When the ship sinks in battle, Judah escapes and saves the life of a Roman commander, Arrius. Arrius’s only son has been killed, and he ultimately adopts Judah, who is pardoned for his supposed crimes. He is also given a new name, “young Arrius,” and has all the rights of inheritance. In the scene where the adoption is announced, Arrius takes off his ancestral signet ring and gives it to young Arrius. Young Arrius says that he has received “a new life, a new home, a new father.”

Paul, writing to Roman audiences, uses the metaphor of adoption, which a Roman audience would have understood. Galatians 4:3–7 says, “So also, when we were children, we were enslaved under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those under the Law, that we might receive our adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, you are also an heir through God.” In this passage, Christians are born enslaved, but Jesus buys them out of slavery and they are adopted by the Father and given the Spirit, so now they are heirs.

Some have objected to the language that refers to our adoption as “sons.” What about the daughters? In the Roman world, daughters could not normally receive an inheritance. Paul, writing to male and female believers, says that both genders have been adopted so as to receive full legal rights that sons receive. Rather than diminishing the status of women, this wording elevates it. A woman may not be able to be an heir of a Roman father, but a believing woman is an heir of God.

When we come to faith in Christ, our debts are cancelled, we are given a new name, and we are given all the rights that heirs of God possess. One difference from Roman adoption is that Christians are not adopted because God thinks they will make worthy heirs. God adopts people who are completely unworthy, because He adopts on the basis of His grace.

So, Christians have been born into God’s family (using a Jewish metaphor) and adopted into God’s family (using a Roman metaphor). The end result is the same; Christians are forever part of God’s family.

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

Lecture 6: Aspects of the Atonement – Part 1

Course: Systematic Theology II

Lecture: Aspects of the Atonement – Part 1


1. The Doctrine of the Person and Work of Christ

    II. The Work of Christ 

       A. The Past Work of Christ, The Atoning Savior

         1. Theological Basis for the Cross

         2. Aspects of the Atonement

If you think about the atonement, think about it by the analogy of a diamond or a beautiful gem in which you see refracted out of it various colors and yet that light that is refracted out of it is one thing; and yet it can be looked at this way, you can see this hue and that hue, that shade in it. As you look at light reflected in the diamond this is what the atonement is. It is one glorious beautiful work of God but involves these elements, these various aspects. This is part of the problem some of the major views, theories on the atonement, are not always necessarily wrong in and of themselves but they are partial in many cases. They are partial views. So you have to take into account the full of Scriptures teaching on these things.

a. The atonement understood as sacrifice

It is clear that at the very basic level the atonement is nothing if it is not the offering by God of a sacrifice for human sin. Notice what I said, It is God’s offering. John 1:29 where John the Baptist says

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

All until that time how were sacrifices done? You bring a bull or you bring an unspotted lamb, you bring the animal as the sacrifice. Here God provides the sacrifice “Behold, the Lamb of God” and it is a sacrifice which effects full atonement for human sin. It actually does do it; who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 is incredibly profound, incredibly packed with truth about this atonement of Christ.

Hebrews chapters 8-10 says a lot about the death of Christ’s as sacrifice.

Hebrews 9:22 And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Why blood? Blood represent life; the life is in the blood. So this requires the shedding of blood; the giving of Christ’s life as a payment for sin.

Hebrews 10:4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

You have to have a blood sacrifice, but the blood sacrifice that we offer is ineffectual; it cannot take away sin.

How would you answer the following question? I thought the people of Israel who offered sacrifices on the Day of Atonement their sins were forgiven. Weren’t they? Weren’t these people saved by bringing these sacrifices and offering them? Didn’t God say that if you do this I will forgive your sin? What does Hebrews mean when it says, the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin? Whether or not they fully understood this, how much they could comprehend, but from God’s perspective He attaches, as it were, the significance of the future sacrifice of Christ with these sacrifices of animals. Bull and goats being sacrificed are connected with the future sacrifice of Christ which in God’s mind is how certain that it is going to happen? Is Christ crucified before the foundation of the world? We were elect in Christ before the foundation of the world. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world (I Peter 1:20). In God’s mind this is as good as done and on the basis of that He can make the type and anti-type connection a legitimate one. In and of themselves, the blood of bulls and goats is absolutely ineffectual. They don’t do a think for making the payment; only because they are connected to the actual payment that is made. It is sort of like I stopped at the store this morning on my way to my office to buy a valentine present for my wife. I bought it with a credit card. I walked out of that store with something that is mine that I have not paid a penny for and it was legal; I didn’t steal it. If they had stopped me at the door and opened my bag they would have pulled receipt out and they would have seen charged there, oh fine, then it is yours. But I haven’t paid for it. How does this work? The analogy breaks down because it might not work in my case, it possible that I actually won’t pay for it, that could happen. In God’s case it doesn’t break down. But the analogy works this way; there is something legally binding that happened today, namely signing that receipt, and a future action which is making the payment. This the way the sacrificial system works then. It is sort like forgiveness by credit. It is charged ultimately to Christ’s account in so far as where that sin is actually paid for is up there in the future as He makes the payment.

Let me remind you of this amazing statement in Romans 3:25

Romans 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

Isn’t that an amazing statement in light of the whole Old Testament history of God forgiving their sins. From Paul’s perspective here, what is actually happening was God passed over them. God knew they were not paid for by those animal sacrifices. No payment had been made. Yet they did them because they were types of the anti-type, because they were commanded by God to demonstrate symbolically the future Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. So it was that connection with them that rendered them efficacious, of which they could not be efficacious of and in themselves. Like what I did today at the store was not efficacious to make a payment; I didn’t pay anything. So what has to happen is an efficacious payment.

One other element in this that is implied in what I said but I want to make it clear is then that this sacrifice of Christ pays for all sin once for all. The writer of Hebrews emphasizes several kinds of difference between the sacrifices that took place before and the sacrifice of Christ. What is a contrast between the way sacrifices happened before and now in Christ? Repeatedly; you had to this again today, the Day of Atonement every year the priest would have to offer a sacrifice. In Christ here is one sacrifice for all time. Hebrews stresses that the priest had to sacrifice for himself, he had to cleanse his own life first but this one who came did not have to do that; did not have to cleansed first but was able to enter into the holies of holies without that cleansing. Christ is the eternal high priest as opposed to ones that dies. The extent of the sins covered not only temporarily does it not need to be done again but it covers the full extent of sin.

b. The atonement understood as substitution

The death of Christ is substitutionary. John Stott aptly writes that this is at the heart, self satisfaction through self substitution. God substitutes Himself for us by the Father sending the Son to take on our flesh to substitute for the penalty we should pay.

Romans 6:23 confirms what God had told the man in garden in Genesis 2.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Isaiah 53:6 indicates that this sin we committed, this inequity went to Christ so He paid for our inequity.

Isaiah 53:6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.

The whole notion of substitution has to do with the fact that an offense has been committed, a penalty has been incurred, namely death and another has paid the penalty on our behalf.; hence substitution. There is a lot to this tradition of substitutionary atonement.

1) Old Testament Testimony

Genesis 22 The first place in Scripture that used the Hebrew term for substitute and has a close similarity in picture to the substitutionary atonement of Christ with command of God for Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Here you find that the actual term that is used :instead of” or “in place of” is used in this text. In Genesis 22 Abraham was about to kill his son as God commanded. The Angel of The Lord called to him and stopped him.

Genesis 22:12 He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Genesis 22:13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.

The Septuagint renders this with the preposition “anti” (ἀντί) which is the strongest term for “substitute,” “in place of,” “instead of,” “as substitute for” His Son. You have that notion there of a type of what God will provide in His Son Christ.

There is a growing view with evangelicalism that we need to drop the notion of substitutionary atonement. Why? Because it is terribly offensive and it is morally repulsive. Why is this? Because it necessitates a notion of a father, in this case God as Father, who offers his son to bear the penalty of another. Not only does he bear the penalty of another he inflicts upon own son the judgment of that penalty by pouring out his wrath on his own son and lets the guilty go free. There is dominant stream of feminist literature that has totally rejected this as orthodoxy’s justification for child abuse and the indication of oppression of a superior to a subordinate. It justifies it because the Father and Son, in that order. If the end justifies the means then what this does, according to this view, it justifies any kind of superior’s oppression of a subordinate in order to accomplish what he wants. That is what the atonement teaches us so; says this new tradition that is out there. There are evangelicals who have bought this. The other element that is so offensive is the notion of wrath. God is not wrathful; so says this view. God is love, He is not mad at anybody He is disappointed. He wishes that we would follow Him and He is grieved at heart that we have strayed from the path that will bring us joy and life and blessing but He is not angry. This view is prominent and it is right now in the main stream of evangelical theology. Joel Green is a prominent New Testament scholar who is the dean of Asbury Seminary in Lexington. He has written a book called Rediscovering the Scandal of the Cross. He bows before the shrine of these feminists who critique the atonement. He has basically nothing but derision to say concerning what he calls the penal substitutionary atonement. If you ask me the question, what view does he put in the place of the substitutionary atonement? I don’t have a clue. I think it is some version of the example theory. Look at how much Christ loved us that He went that far. Look at His obedience that He would go that far. But honestly, there is no wrath, there is no penalty, and there is no substitution. Why the cross? There is no good answer. It just happened to be that ended up that way out of love. Is the cross necessary? It is not at all clear from this book. The reason I am taking time with you on this to help you see substitution is absolutely essential to a biblical understanding of the atonement. We can’t discard it or you discard the atonement.

Leviticus 4-7 If you read that over, you will see that four offerings are required of the people: peace offerings, whole burnt offerings, guilt offerings, and sin offerings. It is very clear that in regard to the sin and guilt offerings that the nature of them is to bring a substitute for sin and the guilt that you have incurred. The sin and guilt offerings require a slaughtered animal to receive pardon by God. Nothing could be clearer that is the case in those chapters; Leviticus 4-7.

Leviticus 16. The chapter on the regulations for the Day of Atonement. This one day a year when one animal would be slaughtered. Two lambs were brought and the other one was sent out into the wilderness. Both were pictures that represent Christ because they represent two aspects of what He did. On one the hand, He went out side the gate for us; so the scapegoat going outside the city of Jerusalem bearing the sins of the people is the scapegoat. On the other hand, when the priest lays his hands on the goat who is slaughtered is a picture of the one who is killed, the blood shed for sin. The two together picture the work of Christ. For our purposes here, they picture substitution because the reason that you do that is that you the community are guilty before God, you sin needs to be paid for. These animals are provided in your place so that your sin and guilt can be paid; they bear the sins of the people.

Isaiah 53:4-6 I will read it in such a way that the substitutionary nature of what is described is unmistakable.

Isaiah 53:4a Surely our griefs He Himself bore,

“Our griefs,” if they are ours, why don’t we bear them? We should that is the point, but He bears them for us. He substitutes for what we ought to be doing. He dies the death we deserve to die, He pays for the sin we committed.

Isaiah 53:4b And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.

Just imagine if you were a spectator looking at these three men lined up there being crucified on the cross what would you think? Criminal, getting what He deserved, smitten of God, getting His just punishment. That is what it looks like

Isaiah 53:5a But He was pierced through for our transgressions,

What does it look like? He is getting what He deserved. What is it? He is getting what we deserved. Huge difference.

Isaiah 53:5b He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.

Can you see how the substitution is spoken of in terms of both what is given to Christ that is ours and what of Christ’s comes to us? What is that you have heard that is going to Christ? Our inequities, our transgressions, our punishment. What is it of Christ’s that is coming to us? Our healing, our well being, peace.

Isaiah 53:6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.

2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Isaiah 53:10 This is in my judgment the most unbelievable, incredible, shocking statement in all of the Bible.

Isaiah 53:10a But the Lord was pleased To crush Him,

The language is not God was pleased with a plan of bringing salvation. It isn’t even that God was pleased that His Son would bring about salvation. There is no other way that it going to happen than that the Father who is the Judge, the One who is pouring out wrath on sin, that the Father be the One who crushed His Son.

Isaiah 53:10b putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.

The outcome of this is the exaltation of Christ that comes as He accomplishes this mighty work.

It is very clear that the Old Testament affirms the substitutionary nature of sacrifice and foretells the substitutionary nature of the sacrifice of Christ. You ask, what do they do with these passages? Look at the Scripture index in the back of this book by Joel Green Recovering the Scandal of the Cross. He devoted two thirds of one page to the book of Hebrews, I don’t think Isaiah 53 made the book, I am not sure, I would have to take a look again. But this is how you do it and it makes me angry. It is sold by Intervarsity Press and is supposedly some great scholarly accomplishment and it is honestly not worth the paper it is written on in terms of careful scholarly, faithful biblical writing.

There are other analogies; it is not as if those are wrong it is just that they are partial. What they pick up on rather than sin and guilt which requires wrath and condemnation so they scrape that, what we need is someone to pave the way, chart the course for our reconciliation with God. Because it is still by trusting in Christ that we see the path to go. Trusting in Christ for what exactly? For a payment made on my behalf that otherwise I would have to pay that is bringing on me eternal condemnation, no. It is not that, so what is it? This is why I said that I read that book with such frustration in part because how horribly it portrays the church’s view of the atonement. Also because of what do put in its place? It is just not clear at all what is there. There is a little bit of Christus Victor in this book where He triumphs over Satan. That is big in Greg Boyd and his writings. There is a little bit of that in this model. But what there is nothing is personal sin, guilt, wrath, condemnation, judgment in Christ bearing our sins; it is gone.

2) New Testament Testimony

There is a lot of New Testament testimony to the substitutionary nature of the death of Christ.

John 1:29

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Obviously there is an intended continuity between the previous lambs offered for sin that were substitutes and now this Lamb, namely God’s Lamb who substitutes for sin. Substitution is implicit in that statement and is clear from it connection to the sacrificial system that has taken place.

Mark 10:45 and Matthew 20:28 they are the same statement by Jesus.

Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

The “for” there is the word “anti” (ἀντί).

The preposition “anti” (ἀντί) in Greek is the clearest one that indicates substitution, “in place of,” “instead of.” He gave His life a ransom “instead of” us, “in place of us.” Most of the references to substitutionary atonement use instead of “anti” (ἀντί) they use “hyper” (ὑπέρ). Hyper (ὑπέρ) as a preposition can mean one of two things. It can mean simply doing something “for the benefit” of another or it can mean doing something “instead of,” or “in the place of” another. The word “for” is also translated the same way. In John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. A number of people have tried to argue is that word used is “hyper” (ὑπέρ) it is not “anti” (ἀντί). He is not saying that He gives His life “instead of” the sheep or “in the place of” the sheep He is just giving His life “for the benefit.” So all it means is “for the benefit” it doesn’t require substitution to be true. Here is my response. What is true of “hyper” (ὑπέρ) is also true of the English word “for” namely that it can mean merely “for the benefit of” or it can mean “in the place of” it depends on the context. An example for this. If you had a rich uncle and he sent you a check for $500 with a little note attached to it and he said This is for you, hope you enjoy it. This is “hyper” (ὑπέρ) in the weaker sense of it. This for you, it is “for your benefit” it doesn’t mean that it is “in the place of” anything, it just “for your benefit.” What if though he knew you had an outstanding loan that you had to pay off for $500? Now you get a check in the mail and he said a little birdie told me about the debt that you have and here is a check for you. The “for you” now means that this payment is to take the place of one you would have to pay. This check is for you in this context means that it substitutes. My check substitutes for you check. I submit to you that if you look at the context of these verses where “hyper” (ὑπέρ) is used, Christ gave Himself for us, that in many of them it is clear that the way in which Christ gives Himself for us is “in our place” and in a number of them the context require that understanding. So even though “anti” (ἀντί) is not used (“anti” (ἀντί is use rarely, “hyper” (ὑπέρ) is used commonly) the context argue for the stronger meaning of “hyper” (ὑπέρ).

John 10:11

John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

What does this mean when you are talking about wolves coming and endangering the flock and the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep? Yes it is for their benefit, that is agreed but it means more than that. He gives His life in exchange for or in order to save the lives of the sheep. So He gives His life in the place of, He gives His life in exchange for the sheep.

Galatians 3:13 here we have “hyper” (ὑπέρ) also.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—

Who had the curse? We did, we were the Law breaker and we deserved to suffer the curse of the Law; that was ours. So if He becomes a curse for us then He suffers that curse instead of us suffering it. Clearly substitution is implied in that.

Ephesians 5:2

Ephesians 5:2a and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us,

Here you might know if whether is it “for” as “in your benefit” merely or “for” as in “in the place of” or “instead of” but keep reading the rest of the verse.

Ephesians 5:2b an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

It is connecting to the sacrificial act by which something is sacrificed and we are set free.

Hebrews 2:9

Hebrews 2:9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

He would die, taste death, so that we would not die, “in the place of.” He would taste death for us by Him dying “in our place.”

I submit to you, this is the clear teaching in the New Testament of the substitutionary nature of the death of Christ.

John 11:50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” John 11:51 Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,

Romans 5:6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

1 Timothy 2:6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.

Titus 2:14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;

My proposal to you, on the basis of a number of usages of “hyper” (ὑπέρ) where it clear that it means “in the place of.” This in all likelihood is the predominate meaning in all of those passages. At the basic level everyone knows that it is “for our benefit.” The question becomes, in what way is it for our benefit? The answer to that is, by taking to Himself the payment, the curse, the sin or whatever the text is referring to that is rightly ours and He pays it on our behalf.

Texts which don’t relate to “hyper” (ὑπέρ) but are other texts on the substitutionary atonement.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; Romans 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

This is a crucial passage

Hebrews 7:26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; Hebrews 7:27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

Hebrews 9:28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

1 Peter 2:24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

1 John 2:2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

c. The atonement understood as Redemption

This in some ways can be argued as the central aspect of the atonement in so far as it describes the actual payment of the price. Substitution is the fact that He took our place in doing this. Doing what? Making the payment. Sacrifice indicates the way in which it is done by giving His life. Propitiation is what it means to God that now He is satisfied in it. Expiation means that we are no longer guilty. We should view redemption as the center of all of it. Sacrifice, substitution are almost adjectival; sacrificial redemption, substitutionary redemption. Redemption is the biblical category describes most clearly what actually transpires on the cross as He substitutes for us, as He makes His sacrifice for us.

What is this redemption? The term “agorazō” (ἀγοράζω) is a term that refers to buying something out of the marketplace. It is a very common term that is used in Koine Greek for making a purchase at the “agora” (ἀγορά) the marketplace. So “agorazō” (ἀγοράζω) is purchase something at the marketplace. Just picture yourself going to Kroger and you are redeeming something. I grew up long enough ago that I can remember my mother (I was really little and I can hardly remember this) collecting green stamps and putting them in these books. As soon as she would get these books filled she would take them to a redemption center and for so many pages of these green stamps you could get a coffee pot or a lamp, dishes or something like that. This is the idea that it is an actual purchase that takes place. Theologically this means that Christ gives His life as the payment price necessary to secure our release from the bondage and guilt of sin.

Some key terms:

agorazō (ἀγοράζω)

1 Corinthians 6:20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 7:23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.

2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

This speaks clearly of unbelievers.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—

He redeemed us from “exagorazō” (ἐξαγοράζω)

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

lytron (λύτρον) This word is often translated as release or ransom.

Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Titus 2:14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,

This one has raised the question, to whom is the ransom payment made? In what sense are we bought? Who has us? If you go to Kroger and buy a gallon of milk, that means Kroger had the gallon of milk, you pay Kroger for it and so then you take the milk home with you. Doesn’t a ransom payment indicate that Christ makes a payment to someone? It has been an attractive view over the centuries that because we are held captive to sin and Satan then the payment would be made to Satan for him to release his hold upon us. If we are in his clutches, isn’t this what happened. In the ransom theory, Satan gets Christ as payment for these people; so God gets the people. What happens to the Son? According to the agreement that they made Satan is suppose to keep Him but here according to the ransom theory is where the little trick comes; God pulls a fast one. By raising Christ from the dead because Satan had Him (death is his major weapon, we have no power over death so Satan can hold us in death) and gets us and gets His Son back so Satan is foiled in this. For two reasons people have thought that this is not the case that we ought to think instead that the purchase is made to God not Satan. One is that there is absolutely no indication scripturally that a payment is made to Satan and along with that the notion that God would make an agreement with Satan and then pull a fast one on him, break the agreement is on ethical grounds unacceptable. God does not break His promises. He does not go back on agreements He has made.

What should we hold? We should that the payment is made (get the significance of this) by whom? By the Father offering His Son. It is made to whom? To the Father. God’s love pays God’s holiness. God’s graciousness devices a way by which the demands of His justice against us can be paid. God pays God. God’s love pays His holiness. Don’t push that in terms of dividing God up. What is motivated by it is mercy. If all we had was holiness and sin we would have hell, we would not have salvation.

Passages which indicate that the payment is made to God.

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

Hebrews 9:12 and following. There are two ways in which this passage argues for God being the one who is paid by the death of Christ.

Hebrews 9:13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, Hebrews 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

He offered Himself without blemish to God

Hebrews 9:15 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

He instituted a new covenant because the old covenant was broken and He had to provide a death in order to satisfy the demands of the old covenant. What was the old covenant that He is referring to? The Mosaic Covenant, the Law. Who are the parties of the old covenant? God and His people, Israel. Who broke the old covenant? Israel. In a covenant arrangement who is responsible for mending the breach when the covenant is broken? The party responsible. But in this case, who does it? God. So God satisfies the demands of the first covenant. He can’t set aside the old covenant and bring in a new one until the demands of the old covenant are met. What are the demands of the old covenant? Death for sin: Deuteronomy 28. If you obey Me, I will bless you. If you don’t obey Me you are cursed and you will die. Who is it then that has to be repaid for this covenant breach? It is the innocent party. So God pays God. The innocent party, not the guilty party pays for covenant agreement being met in order for God to institute the new covenant which will never be broken; as we are told in Jeremiah 31. So the payment is made by God to God. In this is unspeakable grace and glory.

https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/aspects-atonement-i/systematic-theology-ii/bruce-ware

Lecture 10

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/ unless otherwise stated.

Christ’s office as Mediator; Prophet, Priest and King

A New Prophet
15The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. 16This is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God or see this great fire anymore, so that we will not die!”…Berean Study Bible

Jesus: Prophet, Priest, King

R.C. Sproul: The Father as Prophet, Priest, and King

“What does it mean that Jesus is prophet, priest, and king?”

Answer: There are three main “offices” spoken of in the Old Testament—prophet, priest, and king. Jesus fulfills all three of these roles.

Jesus as Prophet

Prophets were tasked with speaking God’s Word to people. In the Old Testament, this included both proclaiming God’s truth to others and revealing God’s plans for the future. Some of the prophets also performed miracles and healings.

The people of Jesus’ day referred to Him as a prophet many times, and He took the title upon Himself as well (Matthew 21:11; Luke 7:16; John 4:19; Mark 6:4). Both Peter and Stephen spoke of Jesus as being the ultimate fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:15—Jesus is the prophet like Moses who must be listened to (Acts 3:17–23; 7:37–38, 51–53).

Jesus taught the Word of God, often speaking in parables. “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law” (Mark 1:22).

Much like the Old Testament prophets, Jesus also foretold the future. For example, He told His disciples of His pending death and resurrection (Matthew 17:22–23; 20:17–19), Judas’ betrayal (Matthew 26:20–25; John 13:18–30), and Peter’s denial (Matthew 26:31–35; Mark 14:27–30; Luke 22:61; John 13:31–38). He predicted the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7–15; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4–5), the persecution of His followers (John 16:1–4, 33), and the destruction of the temple (Matthew 24:1–2). Perhaps most encouraging for believers today, Jesus prophesied of His coming return (Matthew 24:30–31; John 14:3).

Like many of the Old Testament prophets, Jesus performed multiple healings and miracles (Matthew 8:1–17; 9:18–33; Mark 1:32–34; 2:1–12; Luke 17:11–19; 18:35–43; John 2:1–11; 6:1–24). He even compared Himself to Elijah and Elisha (Luke 4:24–27). The people of Nazareth rejected Jesus, just as the people of Israel did not believe Elijah and Elisha.

Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1). He does not simply speak the Word of God as a mere human prophet, but is Himself the Word made flesh (John 1:14). He is the final word, the ultimate revelation of God: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1–2).

Jesus as Priest

Old Testament priests served as mediators between humans and God. It was the priests who offered sacrifices on behalf of the people. Jesus is our Mediator and our High Priest: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

Hebrews 4–10 details how Jesus is our ultimate High Priest and how His priesthood is far superior to the Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament. The writer of Hebrews also explains how the Old Testament system of priests served to foreshadow the ministry of Jesus. The Levitical priesthood of Aaron’s line was not intended to continue forever. Jesus’ priesthood is eternal.

Hebrews 4:14–16 says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” With Jesus as our High Priest, we can go before God boldly, knowing that Jesus has true compassion on us and that, through Him, we will experience the grace and mercy of God (see also Hebrews 10:19–23).

Hebrews 7 shows how Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek was both a priest and the “king of Salem” who blessed Abraham (Hebrews 7:2; Genesis 14:18). Likewise, Jesus is not just a “priest forever,” but also a king.

Jesus as King

The office of king in the Old Testament is illustrated well by David. God called David a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). He promised to David, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). This promise was fulfilled in the Messiah, who was also given the title “Son of David.” Jesus is this Son of David and the rightful King (Matthew 1:1; Revelation 22:16).

The angel Gabriel told Mary that Jesus “will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32–33).

The Son of David would be a ruler of God’s people, and also their deliverer. The Jews of Jesus’ time expected a political king (Matthew 21:1–11). Instead, Jesus conquered sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:54–57). He promised He will also return to the earth to rule as a king, first in the Millennial Kingdom and then forever (1 Corinthians 15:24–28).

Jesus has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). He has “the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9–11). Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16), and one day He will be king in the earthly, political sense of the word, as the weight of governance is borne on His shoulders, He reigns on Mt. Zion, and the nations bring Him homage (Psalm 2:6; 48:1–2; Isaiah 9:6; 11:10). Even before then, He truly is the ultimate authority. Even though His enemies are not yet made His footstool (Psalm 110:1), Jesus should be reigning fully in our hearts.

Normally, the three offices of prophet, priest, and king were distinct from each other, with no overlap. That is, a king was not a priest or a prophet. A priest did not function as a prophet or a king. And a prophet simply did a prophet’s job without trying to be a either king or a priest. But Jesus Christ perfectly fills all three roles simultaneously: He is the Prophet, Priest, and King, to the great blessing of the world.

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

Jesus’ Threefold Office as Prophet, Priest, and King

from Joel Beeke Apr 08, 2016 Category: Articles

https://www.ligonier.org/blog/jesus-threefold-office-prophet-priest-and-king/ Accessed 20 March2020

Reformed theology affirms that Scripture and its teaching on grace and faith emphasize that salvation is solus Christus, “by Christ alone”—that is, Christ is the only Savior (Acts 4:12). B.B. Warfield wrote, “The saving power of faith resides thus not in itself, but in the Almighty Savior on whom it rests.”

The centrality of Christ is the foundation of the Protestant faith. Martin Luther said that Jesus Christ is the “center and circumference of the Bible”—meaning that who He is and what He did in His death and resurrection is the fundamental content of Scripture. Ulrich Zwingli said, “Christ is the Head of all believers who are His body and without Him the body is dead.”

Without Christ, we can do nothing; in Him, we can do all things (John 15:5; Phil. 4:13). Christ alone can bring salvation. Paul makes plain in Romans 1–2 that though there is a self-manifestation of God outside of His saving work in Christ, no amount of natural theology can unite God and man. Union with Christ is the only way of salvation.

We urgently need to hear solus Christus in our day of pluralistic theology. Many people today question the belief that salvation is only by faith in Christ. As Carl Braaten says, they “are returning to a form of the old bankrupt nineteenth-century Christological approach of Protestant liberalism and calling it ‘new,’ when it is actually scarcely more than a shallow Jesusology.” The end result is that today, many people—as H. R. Niebuhr famously said of liberalism—proclaim and worship “a God without wrath who brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

Our Reformed forebears, drawing on a perspective traceable all the way back to the fourth-century writer Eusebius of Caesarea, found it helpful to think about Christ as a Prophet, Priest, and King. The 1689 London Baptist Confession, for instance, puts it this way: “Christ, and Christ alone, is fitted to be mediator between God and man. He is the prophet, priest and king of the church of God” (8.9). Let us look more closely at these three offices.

Christ the Prophet

Christ is the Prophet whom we need to instruct us in the things of God so as to heal our blindness and ignorance. The Heidelberg Catechism calls Him “our chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption” (A. 31). “The Lord thy God,” Moses declared in Deuteronomy 18:15, “will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (KJV). He is God’s Son, and God demands that we listen to Him (Matt. 17:5).

As the Prophet, Jesus is the only One who can reveal what God has been purposing in history “since the world began” and who can teach and make manifest the real meaning of the “scriptures of the prophets” (the Old Testament; see Rom. 16:25–26). We can expect to make progress in the Christian life only as we heed His instruction and teaching.

Christ the Priest

Christ is also Priest—our sorely needed High Priest, who, as the Heidelberg Catechism says, “by the sacrifice of His body, has redeemed us, and makes continual intercession with the Father for us” (A. 31). In the words of the 1689 London Baptist Confession, “because of our estrangement from God and the imperfection of our services at best, we need his priestly office to reconcile us to God and render us acceptable to him” (8.10).

Salvation is only in Jesus Christ because there are two conditions that, no matter how hard we try, we can never meet. Yet, they must be done if we are to be saved. The first is to satisfy the justice of God through obedience to the law. The second is to pay the price of our sins. We cannot do either, but Christ did both perfectly. Romans 5:19 says, “By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Romans 5:10 says, “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” There is no other way to come into the presence of God than through Christ alone.

Jesus’ sacrifice took place once only, but He still continues as our great High Priest, the One through whom all acceptable prayer and praise are made to God. In heavenly places, He remains our constant Intercessor and Advocate (Rom. 8:34; 1 John 2:1). Little wonder, then, that Paul calls for glory to be given to God “through Jesus Christ for ever” (Rom. 16:27). We can grow in our enjoyment of access to God only by a deepening reliance on Him as our Sacrifice and Intercessor.

Christ the King

Finally, Christ is the King, ruling over all things. Over His church He reigns by means of His Holy Spirit (Acts 2:30–33). He sovereignly gives repentance to the impenitent and bestows forgiveness on the guilty (Acts 5:31). Christ is “our eternal King who governs us by His word and Spirit, and who defends and preserves us in the enjoyment of that salvation, He has purchased for us” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A. 31). As the royal Heir of the new creation, He will lead us into a kingdom of eternal light and love.

As such, we can agree with John Calvin when he says, “We may patiently pass through this life with its misery, cold, contempt, reproaches, and other troubles—content with this one thing: that our King will never leave us destitute, but will provide for our needs until, our warfare ended, we are called to triumph.” We can grow in the Christian life only as we live obediently under Christ’s rule and by His power.

If you are a child of God, Christ in His threefold office as Prophet, Priest, and King will mean everything to you. Do you love solus Christus? Do you love Him in His person, offices, natures, and benefits? Is He your Prophet to teach you; your Priest to sacrifice for, intercede for, and bless you; and your King to rule and guide you?

After a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the famous Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini is said to have told the orchestra: “I am nothing. You are nothing. Beethoven is everything.” If Toscanini could say that about a brilliant but dead composer, how much more should Christians say that about the living Savior, who, with respect to our salvation, is the composer, musician, and even the beautiful music itself.

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.

Offices of Christ

OFFICES OF CHRIST. Christology has been traditionally divided in three parts: (1) The Person of Christ (His deity and humanity united in one person); (2) The states of Christ (the humiliation and exaltation of the Mediator); (3) The work of Christ.

The last topic has been frequently and conveniently dealt with under the title of “The Offices of Christ.” The principle which underlies this terminology is simply that the work that Christ accomplished is the perfect fulfillment of certain basic functions or offices in which the essential relationship of God and man is expressed.

These offices often are classified as prophetic, priestly and kingly. While these categories are not fully exhaustive of all that Christ accomplished and while some overlapping may be occasionally observed between them, there are good reasons why these may continue to be used.


2. The terms prophet, priest and king are in fact used by the NT with reference to Jesus Christ, and while other titles could also be pressed into service here, there is no good reason to question the appropriateness of these designations.

3. This division is consecrated by great antiquity. It appears notably in the beginning of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History (I, iii, 8, 9) and frequently since that time. It has been favored esp. since the Reformation, perhaps because of its effective use by John Calvin (Institutes II, xv).

The prophetic office

A prophet is a person used by God to transmit messages that God desires to communicate to men (Exod 7:1; Deut 18:18). The element of prediction, which is prominent in the popular idea of a prophet, is not an essential of the Biblical concept.


There are two major ways in which Christ exercised His prophetic office: instruction and example, to which may be added a word about miracles.

Instruction.


The true disciples therefore were always eager to receive Christ’s teaching. They accepted it even when others viewed His utterances as a “hard saying” (John 6:60). They addressed Jesus by the title “Rabbi” (or, Rabboni), which is an acknowledgment of His authority. Mary who sat at His feet and listened to His teaching received commendation (Luke 10:39, 41). Those who wish to be closest to Christ must hear the Word of God coming from His lips (Luke 8:21; 11:28).


Perhaps the best summary of this aspect of Christ’s ministry came from the lips of soldiers who were sent to arrest Him: “No man ever spoke like this man” (John 7:46).

Example.

The prophets were occasionally called to present the truth not merely in verbal expression, but in certain dramatic portrayals in which they were to be the center of an “object lesson” given by divine mandate (cf. Ezek 4:5; Hos 1; etc.). In fact, the whole character of the prophetic life was ordinarily to be in such conformity to the divine commandments that the prophet could be called “the man of God.” The case of some rebellious prophets like Balaam (Num 22-24), is really an exception to the rule that God chose to speak of old through holy men (cf. possibly 2 Pet 1:21). Yet even the most notable and dedicated prophets were under the curse of sin, and failed to portray with complete faithfulness the image of God. For its full implementation, the prophetic office demanded one whose life would follow a pattern of perfect conformity to the divine will.

This is precisely what Christ accomplished. His food was “to do the will of him who sent” Him (John 4:34). He who sees Him sees the Father who sent Him (John 12:44; 14:9). In the high-priestly prayer of Jesus, He sums up His earthly ministry in these words: “I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me” (