God Speaks! 

A Chapter Summary of Robert Reymond’s A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith
Chapter Two – The Inspired Nature of Holy Scripture

 Were it not for divine revelation of the scriptures man would have no such knowledge of God. This chapter discusses biblical evidences for such revelation in the Old and New Testaments, specific attestations to such by the prophets, apostles and Christ himself, what it means that scripture was inspired and the implications of these truths on biblical hermeneutics.

It is of course the Old Testament that first introduces us to the prophets, the “mouthpieces” of God. These individuals, according to Ex 3:11, knew that they were called of God. Those holding this office spoke for God (Num 12:6-8, Moses in Ex 4), or for one as God (Aaron in Ex 7), were not to speak in this capacity for themselves and at times did not even grasp the meaning or import of what it was they were speaking (see Dan 12:8).

 The divine origin of scripture is attested to in Deuteronomy chapter 18. In verse 18 God pronounces that “I will put my words in his mouth”. Evidence that their were propositional truths to be received in God’s revelation is the litmus test provided in which he stated that if his prophecy did not come to pass it was not his words (18:22). Indeed, a capital sentence awaited those who spoke falsely in God’s name (18:20).

 These prophets who were chosen, equipped and commissioned by God (Jer 4:1-10) were, according to Hab 2:2, being given revelation that was to be written. This verse along with the example of Jer 36 prove to us that God indeed speaks to men verbally, that these words can be inscripturated via a confluent relationship between God and his prophet and that doing so in no way mars the purity of his revelation. Hab 2:3 goes on to indicate that such revelation can be of future event that are certain to come to fruition and that through inscripturation they will be preserved..

 The New Testament also provides evidence of the divine origin of scripture. Consistent with Deut 18 discussed above, Paul states that he was set apart by the grace of Christ before he was born (Gal 1:15) and by him received his revelation (1:12). Further, he specifically endorses the Old Testament (2Ti 3:16), the New Testament (1Ti 5:18) and even his own writings (1Co 7:40, 14:37) as being God-breathed. That it was “breathed-out” by God’s creative breath, as spoken of at the creation of Adam (Gen 2:7) and also by Job (33:4) attest to its wholly divine operation. In particular Paul lauded the gospel as the “secret wisdom” of God (1Co 2:13), that it was spoken by the apostles having received the Spirit of God (2:12), and is apprehensible to man through this same Spirit (2:10-11) – in agreement with Christ (John 14:26, 16:12-14) – as such truths are “spiritually discerned” (1Co 2:14). Peter, under inspiration, also attests to prophecy originating with God (1Pe 1:10-12) and believed that Paul’s writings constituted scripture (2Pe 3:15-16), even when they had rebuked him (Gal 2:13-14). Finally, in Mathew, Christ himself lends his authority to the divine authenticity of scripture (19:4, John 5:39). He goes on to affirm that these words of God are unchanging (5:17-18), enduring (Luke 16:17), infallible (Mat 5:17; Luke 24:44), will not be annulled (John 10:35) and are fulfilled in him (5:46-47).

 Divine inspiration – “theopneustos”, God-breathed – which may better be expressed as “expiration”, is the divine mode of transmission by which God’s word is relayed to those commissioned to inscripturate it. Prophecy, according to Peter’s second epistle, cannot originate in man’s understanding (1:20) or man’s will (1:21). He attests that the prophets spoke from God as they were “driven” along by the spirit (1:21). Though the words were given them by God they were not utterly passive, robotic, amanuenses but rather they were instruments of God that he had prepared beforehand (Gal 1:15-16). Contrary to the opinion of some scholars, God’s word self-testifies that it is not confusing or contradictory. Indeed, it is said to be pure (Ps 119:160) and unified (Eph 3:13). Given that untruth promotes discord (Mark 14:56) it follows that, being concordant (Ps 19:9), revelation is true. Being true and being of God, man is expected to submit to the authority of scripture (1Co 14:37-38, 11:2, 2Th 2:5). God and his word in fact are so “co-identified” that there are scriptures that speak of scripture as being God (Gal 3:8, Rom 9:17) and those that speak of God as being scripture (Mat 19:4-5, Heb 3:7, Acts 4:24-25). We are assured by these evidences that propositional truths are given us by God through divine inspiration.

 A foundational understanding of the divine origin of revelation permits us to deduce some hermeneutic implications. First, God having spoken revelation to his prophets in their own peculiar contexts binds us to a grammatical/historical exegesis. Because revelation is not contradictory to itself we are to approach interpretation with a presupposition of scriptural harmonization. This not only gives us license but a duty to interpret scripture by scripture (analogy of faith) in contrast to the analogy of scripture (rejection of using later revelation to interpret earlier) proposed by some. Finally, we find that revelation, being wholly from God, containing his “secret wisdom” and being apprehensible to the human mind, is intended and necessary for faith and life (2Ti 3:16-17, Rom 4:23-24, 15:4, 1Co 10:6, 11).

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Blessed Assurance

A Chapter Summary of Robert Reymond’s – A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith

Chapter Eighteen – The Divine Design Behind the Cross Work of Christ

[DISCLAIMER – No doubt some of my godly friends, many of whom have a degree of godliness to which I aspire, will read some of this chapter summary, if they read it at all, with a bit of a flavor of bile on their palate. While I do agree with the majority of the content of this chapter and I believe the doctrine derived from it to be not a superficial but a very important doctrine, I also believe this debate between the “Calvinist” and the “Arminian” (polarizing and often unnecessarily inflammatory terms; perhaps better called termed “exclusivists” and “inclusivists”) to have caused more harm to the cause of Christ than perhaps has any Christian – Non-Christian debate. While I firmly believe that coming to more correctly understand this doctrine years ago renewed my mind, revolutionized my understanding of who God is and who I am in light of who God is, and reignited in me a much stronger desire than ever before to know him better, I also firmly believe it to ultimately be of secondary importance – a “disputable matter”, if you will, and should not be used or permitted to divide warm and hearty Christian fellowship. To the extent this “infighting” is permitted I believe we grieve the Holy Spirit. Further, if you are a “Calvinist” it is very important to remember that in witnessing, the unbeliever is not being converted to Calvinism but to faith in Christ. To paraphrase John Owen from his book “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ”, “He is no enemy who stops the man from repairing a hole in the wall (his shortcomings and sins) to tell him that his house is on fire (he’s eternally condemned)”. So, my request of you at this point: If you are one who already knows that to dig into this discussion will cause you unnecessary anger and risk the division of fellowship, please STOP now and read no further. However, if you are one who truly wants a clearer understanding of why you believe what you already believe or you would appreciate more than the sound-bites and proof-texting you may have heard from others on this topic in the past and really wish to understand what makes “the other side” tic, please, I invite you to read on!]

What was the divine, logical intention behind the cross work of Christ? The Amyraldian, Lutheran and Arminian Christians espouse that the intent was the salvation of all men. Said another way, the scope of the atonement was universal. Distancing themselves from “universalists” they argue that this universality is limited to the atonement. Salvation is applied only to “many”. Therefore, while the atonement is sufficient and intended for all it is only applied unto salvation for those who by their free will choose to be saved. This view has been labeled Arminianism but can be thought of also as “Inclusivism”. Reformed faith holds that the power of Christ’s atonement is indeed limitless and sufficient for the saving to whatever extent is divinely intended. Given that we know from the Scriptures and Christian experience that, contrary to the Universalist, not all are saved. We confess that however sufficiently powerful the atonement it is indeed only efficiently applied to “the many”; a position that has been labeled “Exclusivism” or Particular Redemption. The Reformed faith holds that “the many” are comprised of the elect. This elect of God is a concept littered throughout the pages of the New Testament. While as a doctrine its scope and definition may be debated, it cannot be consistently ignored by the honest student of Scripture. According to Reymond there are no less than ten points of biblical evidence that support a particular redemption view.

Particularistic vocabulary related to the cross work of Christ occurs frequently in the Scriptures. “The house of Israel”, “The house of Judah” and the “true Israel” are found in Jeremiah’s prophecy of the Messiah (31:31) as well as Luke 22:20 and Heb 9:15. The gospels speak of Jesus’ “people” (Mat. 1:21), his “friends” (John 15:13), his “sheep” (John 10:11,15), his “body” which is his “church” (Eph. 5:23; Acts 20:28), the “elect” (Rom. 8:32-34), the “many” (Isa 53:12; Matt. 20:28; 26:28; Mark 10:45), and others. While basic logic does not permit one to use a statement of particularity in itself to exclude the possibility of universality it is clear that the term “elect” implicitly and in some cases explicitly connotes exclusion of some from the scope of salvific intent. Jesus himself uses exclusive language, “You do not believe because you are not my sheep (notice, he doesn’t say this the other way around). My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:26-27). If Christ’s sheep are the ones who “hear his voice” (believe) and it is because they are his sheep that they believe (as the verse clearly states) and there was a time they did not believe, in order to then become a believer would they not have to be one of his sheep prior to believing in order that it would be possible for them to hear his voice? Is this not exclusive language? For if one is not “his sheep” how could they ever hear his voice without first becoming his sheep? But, if they cannot become his sheep because they do not hear his voice we are back to asking how then could they come to hear? Quite the conundrum for the inclusivist. Scurrying from this conclusion, if we then argue that their must be some other means by which one becomes a “sheep” prior to coming to faith, rather than simply always having been a sheep (elect from all eternity), we have still not dealt with (what some would call) the problem of exclusivity. For, no matter the means, one would have to admit at this point that those being the object of this means are of a different fold or category relative to the distribution of God’s saving grace than all of mankind that are not the object of this means; yet another corner in which the inclusivist is painted. Further, according to Ephesians 5:25, Paul tells us that Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. Christ held this very particular love prior to the giving of himself specifically for it. Paul goes on in this verse then to draw a parallel between this love that Christ had (and has) for the church and the love a man is commanded to have for his wife. Surely Paul could have drawn on other illustrations to make his point had he felt the need to do so. If the kind of love for the church that Christ held was for the possibility of some generalized, universal and indefinite mass of humanity why would Paul use it to illustrate the very specific, particular and exclusive kind of love a man is to have for “the wife of (his) youth”?

If we assume the inclusivist view what then do we do with the “fallen angels” (Heb. 2:16) for whom there is no plan of redemption (2 Pet. 2:4)? Paul also tells us that there are “elect angels” (1 Tim. 5:21). Does this not indicate that if there exists the idea of exclusivity in the angelic realm that it is not outside of all credibility to consider that such exclusivity could also apply to humanity?

Further placing the inclusive view on the defensive, is it not “appointed unto men once to die and after this comes the judgement” (Heb. 9:27)? What then do we say for all of those unregenerate men who preceded Christ in death? Is there eternal damnation, having died outside of Christ, irreversible or are they given a second chance after Christ’s death? Jesus’ teaching in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus that the “great chasm has been fixed…none may cross over from there to us” (Luke 16:26) plainly refutes the misguided attempts to interpret such a second chance being taught by Paul (Eph. 4:8-10) and Peter (1 Pet. 3:9).

It would be foolish also to suppose that the gospel has been heard by every person in human history. This being admitted, are we then to suppose that God sent his “only Son” to save people that he, in his sovereign providence, never intended to hear the gospel call or even know of the need for a Savior? Consider Paul’s obstruction by the Spirit to entering Asia (Acts 16:6-8). We are taught that God placed his covenantal love upon a specific people, adopting Israel as sons (Rom. 9:4) to whom he entrusted the oracles of God (Rom. 3:1-2), to the exclusion of all others who he let “go their own way (Acts 14:16) and were “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12) having hidden the gospel mysteries from the wise, revealing them to “little children” (Matt. 11:25).

The high-priestly role of Christ includes not only his sacrifice but also the intercession before the Father which he explicitly announces as being specifically on behalf of the elect (John 17:9, 20; Luke 22:31-32). This being the case, it would be a strange thought indeed to think that his functions in this role are at cross-purposes. Surely it cannot be imagined that Christ would die to expiate the sin of all but then not intercede on behalf of the majority of those for whom he died. It would be equally unthinkable to believe that there could be a lack of unity between the will of the Father and the Son in their intended objects of salvation. For before the foundation of the world God chose the elect unto salvation in Christ (Rom 8:28-30; 9:11-23; 11:6-7, 28; Eph. 1:4-5, 11; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9) and Christ’s cross work perfectly accomplished the will of the Father (John 17:2, 6, 9, 24; 6:44-45; 6:65). Furthermore, all of those for whom Christ died have experienced “death to sin” and have been made “alive” with Christ to “walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:5-11; 2 Cor 5:14-15). It is through this that the elect necessarily experience a progressive sanctification (Rom 6:14, 17-22). Had Christ died for all mankind then all mankind would by necessity undergo this process of death to sin, newness of life and sanctification. Clearly this cannot be said of all (or even most) of mankind.

Christ’s death, it is taught, purchased “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” for all for whom he died (Eph. 1:3; see also Rom 8:32; 1 Cor. 4:7; Gal. 3:13-14). Included in these spiritual blessings is the supernatural, free gift of faith in Christ for the human heart that, in it’s natural, fallen state, is non-existent, a heart that is hostile toward God (Rom. 8:7; 1 Cor. 2:14). If Christ’s death was a death for all mankind universally then it would have necessarily purchased this gift of faith, as well as the gift of repentance (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25), for the hearts of all mankind universally and all mankind universally would have repentant hearts of faith in Christ and by their faith be “saved to the uttermost” (Heb 7:25). Unless universal atonement equals universal salvation the only alternative is to believe that God would actively withhold the gifts of faith, repentance (and the others) to the vast majority of humankind for whom Christ died to purchase these spiritual blessings and ultimately salvation. This too is unthinkable, is it not?!

Equally unthinkable is that God would be guilty of double jeopardy. That Christ died an actually sacrificial death (1 Cor. 5:7; Heb 9:23, 26) as a substitute for (Rom 8:3), in behalf of (Rom 5:6-8; Gal 2:13, 20; 1 Cor. 15:3) and in the place of (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45) others, and by his death literally destroyed the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), propitiated God’s wrath (Rom 3:25), reconciled God to (Rom 5:10) and redeemed (Gal. 3:13) all those for whom Christ died, it must be, unless God demands a second payment for debt already paid, that all are indeed saved. This idea is most eloquently affirmed by Charles H. Spurgeon who wrote, “Christ so died that he infallibly secured [their] salvation…, who through Christ’s death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved, and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved.” Consistent with a universal atonement, what Christ’s cross work accomplished was the same for all mankind whether lost or saved (though man’s response to his cross work may differ). However, if his cross work accomplished something different for any one person that it did not also accomplish for every other person universally (all of mankind in all of history) then his death was not an effective substitute for the salvation of anyone since the one thing it did not accomplish for the lost was salvation. Therefore, Christ’s death, by this scenario, guarantees the salvation of no one but simply gave to all men the ability to be saved. What about those already in hell before Christ’s death? [Aside: Further, if it only provided the possibility of the salvation of men does this not necessarily leave open the possibility, however improbable, of the end result being that Christ ultimately died for the salvation of no one?]. So, again, the real debate is not between particular and universal atonement. Rather it is between a resulting particular versus universal redemption, which not really a useful debate at all.

Though God is often seen in Scripture to act through general means it is always for the purpose of a particular end. He in many ways provides general abundance for the purpose of man’s particular enjoyment (1 Tim. 6:17). He shook the entire sea, and all the ships on it, for the particular end of the salvation of Ninevah (Jonah 1:4-17). He moved Caesar Augustus to decree a census of the Roman world that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7). Christ was granted general authority that he might save those God has given him (John 17:2). For the particular end of the salvation of the elect, God has commanded that the Gospel call be spread universally and that all men repent (Acts 17:30). This universal offer of the Gospel is no fool’s errand. It is a genuine and sincere call that promises that any, elect or non-elect, who observe the terms of the offer, namely, all who respond in true faith and repentance in Jesus Christ, will be saved. [Aside: Of course, this does not speak to who it is that has the ability and desire to respond in such a way, just that if they do so they will be saved.]

Other counterpoints made by the inclusivist regard those verses that use seemingly universal terms such as “all” and the “world” and others that suggest that it is possible that those for whom Christ died may perish. The “all” passages (Matt. 10:22; Acts 26:4; 1 Cor. 15:27; Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17; 1 Tim. 6:10; John 12:32; Rom. 3:22-24; 5:18b; 8:32; 11:32; 2 Cor 5:14-15; 1 Tim. 2:5-6, Titus 2:11; Heb 2:9 and 2 Pet. 3:9) must be carefully interpreted in context as the term “all” itself is not self-defining and is rarely used in any discourse to indicate a literal universality. In Matt 10:22 Jesus said that his disciples “would be hated by all men because of my name”. Clearly there have been many who did not hate them, including most reading this. In Acts 26:4 Paul states that “all the Jews know the way I have lived ever since I was a child.” Are we to gather from this that every living Jew during Paul’s lifetime not only knew of Paul but knew the details of his life? Should we also conclude that God, through Joel’s prophecy that the Spirit would be poured out on “all flesh” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17), intended this to include all without exception rather than all for whom Christ died (Acts 2:22-23)? From the context it seems clear that Joel was making the point, the rather radical point in his contemporary context, that all kinds of people, not just the ethnic Jews, were to be included. Suffice it to say, without detailing each of the occurrences listed, more than just a cursory exposition of the texts similarly defy a universalistic interpretation.

The “world” passages used to support a universal view of the atonement are found in John 3:16 and 2 Cor. 5:19. B.B. Warfield explains regarding John 3:16 that “world” in this verse is not used to indicate extension but rather intensity. It is not that it took an infinite love to encompass the geographical extent of sin. Rather, it is the extent of the sin in this fallen world that required so great a love in order that it might be loved at all. Said another way, this verse is not teaching that the quantity of God’s love is extensive enough to be equally distributed among all mankind or for that matter even the elect. Rather, it is intended to impress upon our hearts the awe-inspiring quality of a love that God is intent on manifesting to any sinner in a fallen world at all. The infinite intensity of love God has for the “world” in the Gospel is however ethnically and temporally universal. That is, it is not exclusive of any particular tribe, tongue, nation or time period. The other “universalist” verse, 2 Cor. 5:19, states that “God was, in Christ, reconciling a world unto himself, not imputing to them their sins”. This proof-text is easily dispatched by considering the context of the preceding verses (5:17-18) where it is the “us” that have received the “ministry of reconciliation” to which “world” in 5:19 refers. Even those “world” passages that are generally accepted as universal demonstrate exceptions to their universality. For example, “world” in Rom. 3:19 excludes Christ. Romans 1:8 and Col. 1:6 exclude the “world” outside of the Roman Empire. Romans 11:12 refers to the Gentile “world”. John 17:9 excludes the disciples of Christ and “world” in 1 John 2:15 connotes the evil system that is hostile to God.

Finally, further denying a definite, particular and intrinsically salvific atonement, there are those who hold that Scripture is clear that there are those for whom Christ died who can still perish. The texts appealed to are Rom. 14:15b; 1 Cor. 8:11 and 2 Pet. 2:1. Reymond deals more thoroughly with the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints in a later chapter but does make the point here that there numerous texts that clearly teach this doctrine (Ps. 73:2, 23-24; Rom. 5:9-10; Heb. 7:25, just to name a few) making, by the analogy of Scripture, any contradictory interpretation of the previously noted texts erroneous. Rom. 14:15b and 1 Cor. 8:11 both speak of Paul’s admonition that the more mature believer take care in their interactions related to eating with the “weaker brother”. Even though Christ “declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:19; Rom 14:14), Paul warns the stronger in faith, in love, not to “grieve” the weaker brother whose conscience may be excessively sensitive to dietary restrictions. In 14:15b he gives his reasoning, that the stronger would not “ruin (or destroy) the one for whom Christ died”. While the word used [apollue] is appropriately rendered to mean perdition in other contexts, that cannot be the intent in this context. For in Rom. 14:4 Paul explicitly states that whether the servant of the Lord is weak, strong or otherwise “he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Rom. 14:8 makes no distinction between the weak and strong stating that “whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” In 14:15a, immediately preceding the verse under consideration, Paul warns against hurting [lypeitai] one’s brother because of food. Further, if Paul’s intent in these passages were to impress upon us the loss of salvation of the weaker brother, what of the perdition of the stronger brother whose sin as the stronger against the weaker, is ostensibly far greater? In this context the “ruinous” effect of the weaker brother’s lack of gracious and loving interaction with the weaker brother not only does not condemn himself to perdition but neither does he somehow condemn the weaker brother to this fate either. Rather, the deleterious effect on the weaker is that of a further weakening of his walk with Christ and damage to his witness of Christ before the world. Paul is intent on pointing out the seriousness of this issue. Previously in the same context he does use the term “stumbling” [proskomma] but in order to emphasize the seriousness of his admonition, engages in apostolic hyperbole in using apollymi (ruin or destroy). As stated, there are many other explicit and implicit arguments from Scripture that refute any possibility of Paul using this term to indicate ultimate perdition which will be discussed in the next chapter. As for Peter’s statement (2 Pet. 2:1) regarding the false teachers who deny “the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction”, we easily see from the context that this is not a soteriological statement at all. The term “bought” [agorazo] when being used soteriologically in the New Testament is always accompanied by a term indicating the price paid (blood of Christ etc). In all other instances where “price” terminology is not used the translation is rendered “acquire” or “obtain”. So, “Master” here is referring to the Lord as the Sovereign Creator who owns all of creation, including the false teachers.

In the final analysis, once the evidence of Scripture is weighed, we are in reality left with only two options relative to the intent and extent of the redemption wrought by the cross work of Christ. Either there was unity of purpose within the Trinity for a particular and definite atonement of infinite, intrinsic value that effectually saves precisely all of those for whom it was intended or there was a disunity of purpose with God the Father intent on the redemption of some and the Son intent on providing an atonement for all that failed to be inherently effective for the salvation any. Like it or not, the Arminian (inclusivist) falls into the latter camp with the Universalist and must come to the conclusion that the salvation of any man is not made certain by the, apparently, insufficient remission of payment made by Christ and ultimately the purchase price is completed by what then becomes the essentially sovereign act of the will on the part of the sinner! [Aside: Such a conclusion indeed carves the “good” out of the “Good News”. Praise be to God that all of those whom Christ purchased are his and that while the sinner indeed makes a choice, it is a choice not utterly left to the sinner in his fallen state but a desire sovereignly planted in his heart by his Sovereign Creator without which such a faithful desire is absolutely impossible to muster.]

“Tetelestai” (τετελεσται) 

A Chapter Summary of Robert Reymond’s A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith

Chapter Seventeen – The Character of the Cross Work of Christ

 At the center of all of Christianity, indeed the centerpiece of all of human history, stands the cross of Christ. This work of the salvation of God’s elect through the mediator of the covenant of grace, the Lord Jesus Christ, was subsumed under his offices as our prophet, priest and king. As our prophet he addresses man’s ignorance by proclaiming the message of God’s salvation to the people (John 8:26; Matt. 4:17), foretold events to come (Matt. 25-25; Luke 19:41-44) and continues to speak by his word (John 16:12-15) and his Spirit (1Pet 1:10-11). As our high priest he provides the solution to man’s guilt through the “foolishness” of the cross (1 Cor. 1:23) by offering himself as the divine substitutionary atonement for their salvation (Rom 3:26) and continues to intercede to the Father on behalf of those the Father has given him (John 17:6-24; Heb. 7:25; 9:24). As our king he is the perfect servant leader who provides power to weak men as he calls the elect to his kingdom (Isa 55:5; John 10:16, 27), has establish his holy government over them (1 Cor. 5:4-5; Eph. 4:11-12; Matt. 18:17-18), provides protection for them (Rom 8:35-39), restrains their enemies (Acts 12:17; 18:9-10), optimally rules for his glory and their good (Matt. 28:19-20; Col 1:18), and visits vengeance upon his (and their) enemies (Ps. 2:9; 2 Thess. 1:8). It is of great importance to understand that Christ’s exercise of these duties did not spring into effect at the time and as result of his exaltation, as if earned by his cross work. Rather, they are operative throughout his state of humiliation (Isa 9;6-7; Ps. 2:6; Rev. 19:16) culminating in his sacrifice treated at length in Scripture through the concepts of his body, blood, cross and death.

 The phrase “body” of Christ is used metonymously throughout the New Testament to refer to the sacrifice, the bodily sacrifice, of the Son of God for the propitiation of the elect (Rom 7:4; Col 1:22; Heb 10:10; 1 Pet 2:24). The “blood” of Christ, having ultimately the same end, refers specifically to the sacrificial aspect of his death, harkening back to and fulfilling its Old Testament typological partner, the sacrificial system (1Pet 1:2, 18-19). It is through the sacrificial spilling of this “blood” that the elect have been justified (Rom 5:9), redeemed (Eph 1:7, Heb 9:12), brought near to God (Eph 2:12-13), reconciled (Col 1:20), cleansed (Heb 9:14; 1Jo 1:7), freed (Rev 1:5), and purchased (Rev 5:9-10). Similarly, the “cross” of Christ speaks metaphorically of his sacrificial death by which we have been reconciled with God (Eph 2:16), we have been made at peace with God (Col 1:20) and the law fulfilled (Col 2:14-15). Finally, the “death” of Christ in addition to being employed for the purpose of delineating the accomplishments it wrought on behalf of men (Rom 5:6, 8; 1Cor 15:3; 2Cor 5:15; 1Thes 5:10), also points to that which his payment had purchased for him – crowning “with glory and honor” (Heb 2:9-10), that “he might destroy the one who has the power of death” (Heb 2:14), that he would be “a ransom to set them free” (Heb 9:15) and that he would produce “many seeds” (John 12:24).

 How is it though that Christ was able to accomplish these things? How was he fit, or qualified, to accomplish these things? In a word: Obedience! (Rom 5:18). Though there are only three explicit New Testament statements regarding the obedience of Christ (Rom 5:19; Phil 2:8; Heb 5:8), the Scriptures are filled with conceptual references to this truth – his purpose to do his Father’s will (Ps. 40:7; John 5:30; 10:18; Heb 10:7 and others), his sinless life (Matt 27:4; Mark 12:14; 2Cor 5:21 and others) and his submission to the divine law (Matt 3:15; Gal 4:4 and others). There has been some quibbling over the terms used to described the purpose of his obedience. Traditionally his various acts of obedience have been categorized as active and passive where Reymond prefers to substitute preceptive and penal, respectively. He argues that nothing Christ did was passive. [Aside: I think this to be a potentially helpful distinction but a rather unnecessary point of contention if the former terms are considered by their more classical connotation. In linguistic evolution the term “passive” has become used to indicate “inactivity” or even “apathy”. However, as intended, and also derived from the Greek grammatical construction of the active and passive tense of verbs, passive means neither of these in its intended context. It rather simply indicates that the action of the sentence is being enacted upon verses the subject being the causative agent of the action, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him” (Isa 53:10)]

 Christ’s obedience has been well summarized by John Murray as having four primary characteristics. His obedience was inward in that it came from a joyous, ever-willing heart to yield himself to the Father’s will. It was progressive. Scripture states that Christ “grew…in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52) and that he was “perfected” (Heb 2:10; 5:9) and that “he learned obedience” (Heb 5:8). These must not be construed as a transition from less perfect to more perfect or less obedient to more obedient. Rather, as Christ obediently navigated the vicissitudes of his life and ministry his will to obey became ever more resolute in preparation for his ultimate act of obedience. His obedience indeed had its climax in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross itself. Finally, Murray contends that Christ’s obedience is dynamic. It was through the myriad means of trials, temptations and sufferings that his obedience was honed and fitted perfectly for the full accomplishment of his Messianic task.

 The Messiah’s perfect obedience, being necessitated by human sin and guilt, culminated in his sacrificial offering (1 Cor 5:7; Eph 5:2; Heb 7:27; 10:14) of himself as our Great High Priest (Heb 7:26-27; 9:11-14) and the Holy Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1Pet 1:19; Rev 5:8-9; Rev 7:14). This, of course, refers again to the typological relationship between Christ’s cross work and the Old Testament sacrificial system of which his contemporaries would have been well aware. This Christ was perfect and without blemish (Exo. 15:5; 1Pet 1:19), to whom the sins of the people were transferred (Lev 1:4; 3:2; Isa 53:4-12) as he became their substitute (Mat 20:28; Mark 14:24 and others) for the expiation (cancellation) of their sin and guilt. Taking aim at the liberal theology that would, perhaps with the misguided intention of vindicating God’s actions for him, dispute this sacrificial “blood theology”, we must understand that the Old Testament sacrificial system only has, and has only ever had, value in as much as it pointed forward to its ultimate antitype in the Son of God who was perfectly “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8), that had power that the “blood of bulls and goats” could never have had (Heb 9:13; 10:4). Tender sensibilities of those opposing the idea of the necessity of human sacrifice would do violence to this doctrine and would at the same time tenderly destroy any and all power and purpose in the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Reymond well states, “God is not opposed in principle to all human sacrifice but only to sinful human sacrifice because such sacrifice will not prevail before him.”

 So, once we move past the purpose and reality of Christ’s sacrificial, atoning death for sinners we stumble over another snag in the fabric of our understanding of the doctrine of redemption, namely, the issue of expiation versus propitiation as the ultimate means of the deliverance of the elect. To clarify, expiation is generally used theologically to indicate the removal or cancellation of sin where propitiation indicates the reconciliation of God and man through the removal of God’s wrath placed upon man. This argument turns on the Greek word-group hilasmos, “turning away”. Is the subject of this verb sin itself or the wrath of God? Is it primarily a turning away of sin or a turning away of the wrath of God? C. H. Dodd argues for the former on the basis of LXX (Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament) grammar related to the sacrificial system. In this he posits that the sacrifices, and consequently Christ’s sacrifice, were never ultimately aimed at assuaging the wrath of God. Rather, to the contrary he argues, men have erroneously portrayed God as angry instead of loving; the sacrifices are for the sole, loving purpose of delivering man from sin. In opposition to Dodd’s position, it has been shown that his extra-biblical information is incomplete as the LXX as well as writings of Philo and Josephus do indeed include “wrath of God” language, specifically that associated with the hilasmos word-group. Further, and more significantly, the Old Testament refers to the wrath of God 585 times and the LXX translation specifically refers to the propitiation of this wrath (ex, Zech 7:2, 8:22, Mal 1:9). The New Testament passages of Heb 2:17 and 1 John 4:10 could be construed as simply the taking away of sins, but Rom 3:25 (preceded by 1:18-2:34 which has God’s wrath as its theme) and 1 John 2:1-2 (where hilasmos is directed Godward by our “advocate” before the Father) will simply not abide such an interpretation. Under the expiation scheme, if a man were to die in his sin, without expiation, would he not incur divine displeasure at the Judgement? In reality, do not those for whom Christ died, even if the removal of sin were the primary target, receive propitiation, the deflection of God’s wrath, as a result of the work of their Mediator? If this is understood, whether one subscribes to the primacy of expiation or propitiation, propitiation by default becomes ultimate.

The willing cross work of Christ has God as its primary referent and not man, therefore we should look on the cross not primarily as our salvation (a work aimed at man), though it does indeed procure this efficaciously, but rather first as our damnation by the wrath of God that was absorbed and turned away by Christ (a work aimed at God). At this point one may be tempted to think of God as our antagonist in this story and Christ our protagonist. [Aside: If this is your view, “get thee behind me Satan”!] God’s wrath has never been motivated by capricious or irrational malice but rather by the necessity of his divine revulsion to evil. Love and wrath are not contradictory. It is precisely the love of God that necessitated the great lengths he has employed to smite his Son to satisfy his holy wrath. P. T. Forsyth captures this, “The atonement did not procure grace, it flowed from grace”(italics added). J. R. W. Stott also affirms this sentiment, “God does not love us because Christ died for us; Christ died for us because God loved us.” Stott goes on to provide the understanding that it is God’s wrath that required propitiation, and it was his love that provided it and ultimately changed his dealings with sinners (Rom 3:25; 1 John 4:9-10).

Scripture then indicates that having had God’s wrath “turned away” there has been established a reconciliation between God and man (Rom 5:10-11; 2 Cor 5:17-21; Eph 2:14-17; Col 1:19-22). Reconciliation being an effect presupposes their having been an alienation (cause) from which to reconcile. The debate on this point attempts to decide the Scripture’s teaching regarding whose alienation is being referred to; God’s or man’s. Did Christ’s cross work remove man’s alienation from God or vice versa? Does reconciliation ultimately have a Godward or man-ward referent? Some have argued that while Christ’s death propitiated God, it served to reconcile man. In other words, the substitutionary atonement satisfied God’s wrath but it addressed the enmity between God and man by soothing man’s hostility toward God. This understanding however does not hold up to the scrutiny of scripture or human experience. Regarding the latter, we have never seen evidence that humanity’s disdain for God has been expunged. To the contrary, most men are born, live and die hating him.

 Exegetically we find in the verses noted above that the hatred of God is indeed removed from God’s elect and in this sense man is apparently the referent. However, it is the covering of their sin by the cross work of Christ that permits the removal of God’s wrath and as a result allows God to be simultaneously just and the justifier (Rom 3:25-26), removing God’s holy hatred of these men (Rom 5:10) and allowing them to have “peace with God” (Rom 5:1). Those remaining unjustified also remain in their state of alienation from God; his disposition toward them and theirs toward him unchanged. Also, the fact that this change in attitude, reconciliation, occurred punctiliarly in history concurrent with the death of his Son (see aorist tense of the stem for “reconciled”, κατηλλαγ-, in Rom 5:10, 2 Cor 5:17-21, Eph 2:14-17 and Col 1:19-22) it can only have in view an objective change in God’s disposition at a point in time rather than a subjective change in man over time (that most men, indeed, never experience).

In addition to reconciliation, another aspect of that which was wrought by the obedient cross work of Christ commonly spoken of in the Holy Writ is that of the redemption of men who are in a state of slavery/bondage. The debate in view here has not been man’s bondage, which is clearly and repeatedly attested to in the New Testament, nor is it man’s need for redemption, Rather, it surrounds the understanding as to the proximate means of that redemption. Is deliverance accomplished through the sheer power of the Deliverer apart from a price to be paid or was there a payment due that our Lord remitted by his work? Using the Exodus account in its typical juxtaposition to the deliverance provided by Christ, R. W. Lyon argues that there was no price in view but only the deliverance by power for the Israelites (Deut 7:8) and those delivered by the cross (1 Cor. 1:18). This interpretation erroneously overlooks the value and purpose of the slain passover lamb. This was indeed the price paid to earn the deliverance that, to be sure, was made effectual through great power. The antitype, the blood of the ultimate Paschal Lamb, paid the ransom making salvation then through the power of the cross possible. This idea is prominently displayed in the New Testament in the Greek word-groups lytroo (ransom), agorazo (marketplace, a place of prices being paid), and perpoieo (purchased). Christ himself describes his bodily sacrifice as “a ransom for many” (Mat 20:28; Mark 10:45) “for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Peter explicitly equates the blood of Christ with units of monetary exchange, even as superior to “silver and gold” (1 Pet. 1:18:19). In his Revelation, John labels those given to the Lamb as “the bought ones” (14:3) who “were bought from among men” (14:4). Paul, more than anyone else, teaches this idea of a ransoming. Christ “gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6) and “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness” (Tit. 2:14). In Romans 3:24-27 he stresses our redemption by the blood of Christ as having purchased our justification through faith (see also Eph. 1:7 and Col. 1:14). Paul further goes on the proclaim that this punctiliar act, vis, Christ’s death on the cross, not only purchased this gift of grace (Rom 3:24) initially but also our future redemption (Rom 8:23) and our final redemption (Eph. 1:14; 4:30). We “are not (our) own; for (we) were bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:19-20; 7:23).

As to the law, God “sent his Son…to purchase those under the law” (Gal 4:4-5) and so “Christ purchased us from the curse of the law” (Gal 3:13; Acts 20:28). He delivered God’s people from any further necessity of preparatory pedagogy of the ceremonial institution (Gal 3:23; 4:2-5; 5:1). He relieved the necessity that the Christian should have to obtain on his own a right standing before God (Rom 10:4). As to sin, Christ redeemed us from its guilt (Matt. 26:28; Eph. 1:7), its power over us and its fruitlessness (Rom 6:21-22; Titus 2:14; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). While when speaking of any of the divine activities one cannot simply marginalize the idea of divine power. Specifically, in the redemption of man however it is the price paid that justifies the unleashing of God’s power on behalf of those who “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

In addition to the direct benefits of Christ’s obedient cross work for the child of God, it also takes aim at the destruction of a kingdom of evil. This kingdom of evil is the domain of Satan who goes by many names in scripture: Apollyon (Rev 9:11), Beelzebub (Matt. 12:24), our enemy (1 Pet. 5:8), the tempter (1 Thess. 3:5) and others. Though he rages against men (Rev 12:12) – as he did in the temptation of Adam (Gen. 3:1-5), the affliction of Job (Job 2:7), the sin of David (1 Chron. 21:1), the temptation of Jesus (Matt. 4:11) and others – he does so within the confines of divinely appointed limitations. (Job 1:12; Matt. 12:29; Rev. 20:2-3). Of all that Christ’s work accomplishes its ultimate end is the destruction of the power and work of Satan. That the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent was the promise made by God in the garden (Gen. 3:15). This protoevangelium, the ultimate victorious confrontation of the Son of God over the dominion of Satan, is repeatedly testified to throughout the New Testament: 1 John 3:8c; Matt. 12:29; Luke 11:21-22; 1 Cor. 15:24-26; Heb. 2:14-15, to name a few. In sum the obedient sacrifice of Christ provided expiation of the sins of man, satisfaction of divine justice allowing for propitiation of the wrath of God and reconciling him to his elect, redemption from the curse of the law and the power of sin, and the final destruction of the kingdom of evil.

The next very logical consideration then is to seek to understand why (or why not?) Christ’s obedience and all of its results were actually necessary for the salvation of the elect. Asked another way: Is it possible that there was another means by which God might have accomplished the same end? Or, was this particular course absolutely necessary? There are two prominent positions in this debate. One, the “hypothetical necessity” view of the atonement, argued by Augustine, Aquinas and some early Reformers, holds that while the atonement was not absolutely necessary, it was by the atonement that the greatest good and most glory to God are achieved. The opposing view, held by Turretin, Hodge, Berkhof, Murray and others, is that of “consequent absolute necessity”. That God should choose to save at all was, in the logical sense, absolutely unnecessary. God chose to save by his own free, sovereign grace. At this point it must be understood that this choosing is being considered in a logical rather than chronological sense as all of God’s decrees are eternal and immutable. Only as a direct consequence of that divine choosing, because of the perfections of his nature, the means by which this salvation of the elect was to be wrought could by necessity only be achieved through the atonement of Christ. The latter view seems to be favored by Heb. 9:23 which teaches that while animal sacrifices were necessary for a wilderness tabernacle, “heavenly things” must be purified “with better sacrifices”. If we understand sin against the Almighty to be infinitely damning, must not that demand a payment of infinite value? In the most well-known of verses, John 3:16, the alternative to God giving his Son is eternal death. If one were to attempt to argue for a possible alternate to be found in the law, this is easily ruled out by Paul in his letter to the Galatians (3:21). Finally, is it fathomable that had there been a price any less valuable than that of God’s most beloved Son that could have satisfied the debt that it would not have been paid instead?

The sacrificial atonement of Christ, being absolutely necessary for the good of man to the glory of God is also said to be perfect. Perfect in that it was an actual event that fully and completely accomplished its intended purpose of providing once-for-all an infinitely valuable payment for infinitely costly transgressions by a vicarious sacrifice that did not merely make salvation of the believer possible but absolutely guaranteed that their can never remain any penal liability for sin for any of those for whom Christ died. [Aside: If reading that through and letting it wash over does not cause one to break into spontaneous doxology scarcely anything imaginable will.] Unpacking this idea into four components, Murray describes Christ’s accomplishments as historically objective, final, unique and intrinsically efficacious. Christ’s cross work actually occurred in real, historical time and space completely independent of any “participation or contribution” on the part of any for whom the work was accomplished. It is final. In contradistinction to Roman Catholic theology and consistent with the perspicuous teaching of Scripture, Christ’s atonement is a completed work (John 19:30; tetelestai) whose repetition is not only utterly unnecessary but utterly impossible. In addition to its finality, the atonement remains also absolutely unique. It is Christ alone in all of history who has the credentials necessary to expiate sin (1 Tim. 1:15) and save sinners (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:4). Finally, the atonement can also be defined by its intrinsic efficacy. That is its ability within itself alone to not simply make salvation possible for all men, and thereby contain the logical possibility (however improbable) of saving no men, but to fully and completely satisfy all of the divine requirements and procure the actual salvation of all of those elect in Christ.

God Has Made Himself Known!

A Summary of Robert Reymond’s A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith
Part One – A Word from Another World  Chapter One – The Fact of Divine Revelation

 In this first chapter Reymond takes up the task of defending the claim that the history of redemption being marked by the revelation of propositional truth from God to man is not only possible but actual. He does this by stating contrary positions and refuting them in turn. First, however, his claim states that God can and does effectively and inerrantly communicate with humans through human mediators that were “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2Pe 1:21). These human authors in reality were not co-authors and were not, on the other hand, simply passive instruments, rather they communicated the word of God accurately as they were inspired by the Spirit, without whom they would not have written at all.

 As noted in Heb 1:1-2, God revealed himself to man in “various ways” at different times in history. In fact, even within the Old Testament writings the revelation of his divine attributes were presented differently at different time periods. These modes of revelation took on such forms as direct verbal communication, literal and symbolic visions and dreams, theophanies, indirect verbal communication through angels and the written word in holy scripture. Regardless the mode of inscripturation, the influence of the Spirit of God so enveloped the human instrument as to make the two, one, even at times to the contradiction of the recipient’s natural inclination (see Jer 20:9).

 New Testament revelation begins with indirect verbal communication by an angel, Gabriel, and then through John the Baptist. This gave way to direct verbal communication by the incarnation of the Word of God himself in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1). By his authority indirect verbal transmission of the revelation of God was again employed and multiplied among his chosen, taught and “sent out ones”, the apostles. Finally, this oral tradition was written to later form the New Testament canon; the 27 books of which were first affirmed in A.D. 397 at the Third Counsel of Carthage.

 The neoorthodox objection to this claim posits that since religious truth is based all and only upon subjective experience than what we call “truth” as it relates to religion can only be existential and, therefore, non-verbal. Based on this one must conclude that it was not language revealing the attributes of God that was being inspired but rather merely the faith of the individual. This being the case, just as God exists outside of time, his revelation must exist outside of human history. Revelation as it really was in the “noumenal” world simply created a flawed perception of it in the “phenomenal” world that is derived from man’s experience in history. Modifying the neoorthodox position, in response to its historical untenability, Bultmann championed the concept of “the new quest for the historical Jesus” which identified the historical Jesus but only in the “primal, outside or out perceptible world” sense that continued to bar the incarnate God-man from tangible human experience. Consistent with the “self-authenticating” view of scripture, even the neoorthodox scholars should admit, and in some cases have admitted, that scripture itself testifies to the evangelical view of revelation. While this does not in itself prove the evangelical position it does prevent the error of claiming that scripture can be used in support of the neoorthodox objection. In addition, neoorthodoxy is also saddled with the burden of explaining how, given the supposed utter subjectivity of revelation, one can know whether their faith is placed upon a true or false religion.

 The other view considered is the language philosophy objection. This position poses the argument that human language is inherently inadequate for the purpose of communicating literal truths about God. This theory however has a few significant failings. One is what Poythress calls the problem of value. In stating that language is “inadequate” is to arbitrarily assign a value, and possibly a falsely low value, to it. Rightly, Poythress asks, “In what way is it inadequate?” It would seem a futile exercise to attempt to ascertain the requisite knowledge necessary to endorse such a transcendent truth claim from within the confines of language that is “inadequate” to permit such. The other glaring weakness is the claim that because human language evolved from the primal grunts of animals induced by sensory impressions we can never ultimately divide language from its sensory origins and thus cannot express literal truths but only symbolic truths. This places the proponent in a similar conundrum as we have already seen. If language can only convey symbolic truth then this objection, which also uses language, cannot itself be proven literally true. If argued as symbolically true, of what is it symbolically true? – as symbols must, by definition, be symbolic of something else. Further, this objection is inconsistent with human experience. It does not follow that communication through language, though often imprecise and not comprehensive, is tantamount to fallibility. If language among people could not be assumed generally to convey literal truth and if it were ever fraught with the necessity of interpreting subjective symbolism, communication would be incomprehensible.

 These truths should be considered. God is omnipotent. Language is the only means by which we can transmit propositional truths from one mind to another. God created man in his image for the purpose of a relationship. God deigns to convey propositional truth to and among man. Human language is a gift from God (Ex 4:11). If these particular propositions are true then we can conclude none other than that God has made it possible for man to use language to communicate literal truths. Indeed, scripture testifies that God has revealed such truths to us and has commanded us to convey these truths to others (Mat 28:19-20, Mark 16:15 and others).