Purposes for which Christ Came and Died
About three years ago I started to write an article on the things accomplished by the death of Christ. It turned out to be one of the most extended, rewarding, and profound studies of the Bible I have ever done in the 60 years I have been reading God's Word. As I have pondered this matter over the years, I have become convinced that it is the grandest and most profound theme on which the human mind can dwell. I believe that to understand it adequately would cause one to see clearly the very nature and purpose behind the universe itself. It is my judgment that the deepest and most mysterious and awesome attributes of God are interwoven and clarified by a proper understanding of this subject. In short, it appears that there are more significant results related to the death of Christ than to any other event that ever transpired in all history.
To try to deal in any adequate way with the subject in one article seems almost sacrilegious. Yet, if we do not intend to write a theological compendium, we must limit the scope of our inquiry, both vertically and horizontally. So, we shall proceed, trying to be both as comprehensive and succinct as possible.
Although we have read practically nothing in the writings of our brethren on this subject, we have a feeling that there may be some difference of opinion as to whether Christ died in OUR STEAD, as well as on OUR BEHALF. If our memory serves us correctly, the only time we actually heard it mentioned was in a short comment by the head of the Bible department of Abilene Christian College in 1946. I am not absolutely sure what position he took on it, but I think the discussion took place in a Greek class while we were discussing the meaning of the prepositions, "anti" and "huper." The statement was made that in the expression about Christ's death for us in Romans 5:6, the word "huper" is used, which means "on behalf of" rather than "anti" which means "instead of." The idea was also suggested by someone that if He died in our stead we would not have to die. So the conclusion to which some came was that he did not die IN OUR STEAD, but only ON OUR BEHALF. I think my professor made an argument along these lines: "There are only two kinds of death -- physical and spiritual. It would be almost blasphemous to say that Christ died spiritually. So we must conclude that He only died physically -- on our behalf, but he did not make a vicarious sacrifice -- in our stead. For as sinners, we are condemned to spiritual death, and He could not have suffered that for us." My teacher was a renowned Greek scholar, and possibly had forgotten more about both the Bible and Greek than I have learned, and raised questions that I could not answer, but my study of the Bible in the subsequent years has forced me to differ with what I think he was teaching.
It is true that a person may die on behalf of another, but not necessarily in his stead. The death of a soldier for his country or fellow citizens could be of that kind. It could also be in both categories. In the "War Between The States" I am told that some persons who were asked to go, found someone to go in their place. If that person died he would have died both in behalf of, and in the place of another.
It is true that in most cases when the subject of the death of Christ is discussed in the Bible, the word "huper" is used. It is also true that the most obvious and general meaning of "huper" with the genitive case is "on behalf of." But when we find in Matthew 20:28 that Christ gave his life as a ransom (anti pollon) instead of many, and in 1 Timothy 2:6, we find that He gave Himself (antilutron) a ransom, the conclusion seems to be inescapable that He gave Himself IN OUR STEAD, and ON OUR BEHALF.
The average reader may feel that this is splitting theological hairs, and ask, "What difference does it make?" Without trying to write a theological treatise on the ultimate implications of those two positions, let us simply say that to serious Bible students, what the Bible does or does not teach makes a difference, whether or not we may understand the practical ultimate consequences. For example, 1 Peter 3:21 says, "Baptism doth also now save us." Suppose we took the position that since that is what it says, it does not make any difference how or why, when or where it saves us. Then we could arrive at such diverse, contradictory and unscriptural conclusions as these: "Baptism saves us, but only in a figure (Whatever that means)!" Or we could conclude, "Baptism saves us, for it is a sacrament, which, when performed by an authorized administrator, is the means of conferring divine grace on the one baptized." Both positions are seriously wrong, but it would be difficult for one to deal with either if he were of the school which says, "It says what it means and means what it says, and that is all there is to it." We are sure it DOES mean what it says, and DOES say what it means, but that is SELDOM all there is to it.
Although we make no pretensions to scholarship, either Greek or otherwise, it seems to us that when we consider all the uses of both "anti" and "huper" in connection with His death, along with all other statements about it, we are forced to the conclusion that the reason "anti" is not used more often is that it would have expressed ONLY the idea that he died in our stead, whereas "huper" expresses the idea that FOR OUR SAKES, without excluding the idea that he died in our stead.
In this case, we conclude that although grammatical usage is a very vital fundamental way of conducting Biblical exegesis, it is not the ultimate and only way. We discover that the primary meaning of "huper" with the genitive seems to be "for our sakes." But in looking at the total revelation of God on the matter, we discover additional facts. It seems beyond dispute that justice demands judgment on and punishment for sin. We have heard those who claim to be preachers of the gospel say, "If God had wanted to, he could have provided salvation on some other basis, or could forgive sins on any condition He chooses." To me that makes about as much sense as saying, "If God wanted to He could lie, or be unjust or do any wrong." Just because a sentence can be diagrammed does not mean it makes any sense. God could not be God and want to do something contrary to His own nature, and any statement or question with or without an "if" that implies that God could arbitrarily do whatever we might choose to suggest does not make any sense. When I was a small boy, some smart- aleck agnostic could delight in raising a question, "Can God make a rock so big He could not move it?" Of course God cannot do anything inconsistent with Himself or contradictory to Himself. This is one reason the Bible says "God cannot lie."
So the holy character of God demands punishment for sin, and His love and mercy do not mitigate against that. They simply provide an infinitely loving and wise way to satisfy all the attributes of God.
But punishment for sin is not mere physical death. When Paul says, "The wages of sin is death," he surely means more than "A person who sins will physically die." Surely none who read this could doubt that the death of which Paul speaks is separation from God! It is my judgment that when Jesus said, in dying, "My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken me?" he was expressing the punishment he was undergoing in our stead.
There are two reasons for this conclusion: First, not every sin was accounted of God to be worthy of physical death. Second, if He died a physical death in our place, then we would not have to die a physical death. Although we never remember reading about this, or hearing it discussed, that should be self- evident. His death, agony, and suffering was far more than merely physical. He was forsaken, in death, that we might not be. Our death now, as Christians, will not be "death" in relation to God, for properly related to God, we shall never die (John 6:50, 11:26). We shall die only in relation to those from whom we shall be separated. Peter implies that we deserve to die, or be separated from God because of our sins, but Christ died IN OUR PLACE, as is taught in 1 Peter 2:24, "And he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree." For God to reconcile the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them demands that He impute their trespasses to Someone, for He cannot overlook or pass by sin. So, when we find "made him to be sin who knew no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21), we understand that Christ was made sin on our behalf. He is the One to whom our trespasses are imputed. He bore our sin in his body on the tree, and was forsaken IN OUR STEAD, so that we might never be.
I confess that my beloved and revered teacher heretofore mentioned raised some hard questions which I could not then answer, and still may not be able to answer properly. But I think I can come nearer now than I could then. Question: If the claims of justice against the sinner be temporal AND eternal death, and if Jesus suffered the penalty IN OUR PLACE, must he not be still suffering eternal death? Answer: Under the law, not every sin was punishable by temporal death. Even in Adam's case, I believe I could prove with a reasonable degree of certainty, that the death about which God spoke was separation from Him, and not merely physical cessation of life. In the light of Genesis 3:22, it appears that although sin had separated him from God, he would not have died physically had God allowed him to stay and eat of the tree of life. However, whether that conclusion be right or wrong, it is incontrovertible that not every sin was accounted of God to be worthy of physical death. In the second place, under the law, when the penalty for sin was death, they were PUT TO DEATH. They did not simply die. During the law period, each person suffered death, just as we do, whether guilty of sin or not. So, even if we were living under a law, the violation of which would bring death, it would mean that we would be put to death for violating that law, not merely that we would die a natural death. So the question, "If the penalty was only temporal death, why do we yet each suffer death if Christ died in our stead?" is not applicable, for it fails to distinguish between being PUT TO DEATH as a criminal or sinner, and simply dying as a result of some other person's sin. But in the third place, every sin (even what we may term "the smallest ones") separates one from God -- brings death. If unforgiven, it separates from God forever.
When we consider the death of Jesus on the cross, we should not define death in terms of temporal or eternal, but in terms of whether the death was in relationship to man or God, or both. Surely my readers do not need to be reminded that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are dead, as related to man, but alive as related to God (Luke 10:38). So the question should not be, "Did the claims of justice demand ETERNAL DEATH for sin?" but "Did the claims of justice demand a separation from (or being forsaken by) God?" The answer to that is, "Most certainly, yes" (Isaiah 59:2)! And unless we assume that the utterance of our Lord was merely the delirious utterance of a mistaken and tormented or demented mind, He was, in some sense, forsaken of God on the cross. In my judgment, part of the problem with my astute professor was that he was saying what most of us say, but improperly, that "The consequence of sin is ETERNAL DEATH." Strictly speaking, that is not so. The consequences of unforgiven sin is eternal death. But the consequence of SIN is separation from God. Christ died for sin and was separated from God in some sense, upon the cross.
Although it may be impossible for us to comprehend how one with the very nature of God, whose every thought and motive was to do His will, could be forsaken, it seems MORE impossible to conceive of one who could be "made to be sin on our behalf" and NOT be forsaken!
My conclusion, therefore, is: Jesus without question died ON OUR BEHALF, but also died IN OUR STEAD, for His death was not merely the suffering of a physical death (Paul and Stephen might have done that) but involved the spiritual anguish of separation from God so that we might never have to be separated from God. It is my contention that a Christian need NEVER die (John 11:26) for HE died in my place as well as on my behalf. Praise God!
There are at least 14 general purposes for which Christ is said to have come and died that I could not classify easily under some specific heading. Let us examine some of them. When Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, "I came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill" and when Paul said in Romans 10:4, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth," they were talking about the same thing. But what is involved in the fact that Christ is the end of the law -- or that the law was fulfilled in Him? We have heard preachers say that "Christ is the end of the law" means that the law ended with Christ. It does NOT mean that, even though it is true that the Law of Moses was no longer binding when the Lord made a New Covenant. The fact that Christ was "the end of the law" means that He fulfilled the purposes of the law (Romans 8:3).
The primary purpose of the law was two-fold. It was to point out to man what was right and wrong, so he could do what was right and live, or impose a penalty if he did not do what was right. Thus, the law would make a man righteous if he kept it, and show him to be a sinner and punish him if he did not.
There are at least two senses in which Christ was the end of the law -- or fulfilled it. First, he paid the penalty which the law imposed on man for the greatest sins that man could commit, and thus discharged any obligation which the sinner might have, provided the sinner accepts the payment Christ made on the terms which Christ offers.
Second, God wanted man to be righteous, so He gave the law so man could know what was right and wrong and do right. Paul says, "For by the law comes the knowledge of sin," and in Romans 7:7, "I had not known sin but by the law." When a man broke the law, there was no way he could be righteous by keeping the rest of it. Since God wanted man to be righteous, and he could not be so by keeping the law, God had to provide another way for him to do it. So Paul says in Romans 8:3, "For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." And in Romans 3:21-22 he says, "And now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God which is by the faith of Jesus Christ." So, in the second place, Christ fulfilled the law in the sense that He did what the law would have done if it had never been broken -- given man a righteous standing before God. This is probably a large part of what Jesus had in mind when He said in John 4:34, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me and finish the work he gave me to do."
Part of finishing the work God gave Him to do was the confirming of His promises and thus demonstrate the truthfulness of God. Romans 15:8-9 tells us, "Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers; and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy."
Luke 4:18 suggests another purpose of Christ's coming as he says, "He came to heal the brokenhearted." I do not know all that may be involved in that, but it is my opinion that he is primarily referring to the spiritual healing he gives to one who is contrite and brokenhearted because of his sins (Cf. Mt. 5:4). He is not limited to that, of course, as he blesses those who mourn in many kinds of circumstances. We have no doubt that more persons have found comfort in the words of our Lord in times of difficulty and sorrow than in words of all other men from Adam on down. In fact, in all the words of men that I have read from Aristotle to Zeno, I do not recall anything that would be a great deal of comfort to those who mourn, or bind up the brokenhearted. The nearest thing to it is probably in the philosophy of the Stoics, founded by Zeno. They were not able to give much comfort, but may have enabled one to better endure discomfort. They had no way to give man hope, but they might teach him to face death more calmly without hope.
In 2 Corinthians 8:9 we find that it was through His poverty that we may become rich. Although it does not mention His death, that was included in "his poverty." Whatever was included in the riches He had before He became poor, He wants us to have. I could hear a person preach all day on the joys and beauties of heaven, and it is not as meaningful to me as this one simple statement, "heirs of God and JOINT HEIRS with Christ." He died that I might be a joint heir with Him!
Hebrews 2:14-15 suggests two wonderful blessings. The writer says, "Forasmuch then as the children share in flesh and blood, he himself also partook of the same that through death he might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the Devil, and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." The AV says, "destroy the Devil"; the ASV says, "bring to naught"; the NAS has "render powerless." The Greek word is "katargeo," which means "make inoperative" or "render powerless." It does not suggest that the Devil ceased to exist, but that he ceases to have power to operate to keep men enslaved. Now we have the precious promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13, "God is faithful, who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear, but will with every temptation provide a way of escape that we may be able to endure it." The purpose of Satan was to enslave the entire human race and destroy us. His purpose was defeated and brought to nothing through the death of Christ. The second thing the verse says we get, is deliverance from slavery as we are freed from the fear of death. It may be a little thing compared to some others, but it is wonderful to be delivered from fear -- especially the fear of death.
In 1 Peter 1:21 we find a very suggestive statement, "Who by him do believe in God, who raised him up from the dead and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God." I do not know how many hundreds of times I have read that passage without noticing two very important truths. First, it suggests that we "by him believe in God." It is only through Jesus that I can have the proper understanding of God, and thus have the proper faith in Him. When a person says, I worship the same God you do" while still refusing to surrender to His commandment to "Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sin "(or any other), he may be making a misstatement of fact. He MAY be worshipping a god of his own imagination rather than the One revealed by Christ, for the God revealed by Him demands loving submission and obedience.
So Jesus died that our faith and hope might be in God. If He had not died, our faith and hope MIGHT have been in our own righteousness. We might have said, as the rich young ruler, "all these have I kept from my youth up," and rested in the law as did Paul. But now that Christ has died, "my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness" and rests neither in a broken law nor in my partial obedience to it.
I feel sure that a great number attached to the church of our Lord (more or less loosely, in some cases) do not understand that our salvation is not on the basis of law keeping -- either of Moses OR of Christ. I recognize that when I make a statement like that some will immediately suspect that I am espousing the ungodly and false doctrine that salvation by grace eliminates the necessity of law. That is NOT so! I am in no sense implying that we can disregard the commands of Christ and just accept His grace. What I AM saying is that if the Jews were not justified by the principle of law keeping because NONE OF THEM KEPT THE LAW PERFECTLY, neither are we justified by the principle of law-keeping (though it be the law of Christ), for none of us have kept it perfectly either. When I pray for forgiveness, I do not pray, "Forgive me for I have kept your law." I pray, "Forgive me for NOT HAVING KEPT your law, for I am dimly aware that my salvation does not depend on my NOT HAVING BROKEN THE LAW, but upon my having accepted the blood of Christ on His terms." Of course His terms include obeying the gospel. But surely any thinking person can see the error in thinking that since the gospel is the law of Christ, and I must obey the gospel to be saved, my salvation is on the basis of LAW KEEPING. Get it: If salvation was on the basis of law keeping, I must have kept the whole law. The real truth is that accepting salvation (or anything else) by grace ALWAYS necessitates obeying some rules (law).
We are sadly aware that some may still try to wrest my statement into some antinomian concept and feel that it would give comfort to some denominational idea that a man can be saved by grace while refusing to accept that grace on God's terms. But when or if a person says, "We must obey ALL of God's commands to be saved," many of us would applaud, for we think we understand what he means. But if you should ask him and he is honest, he must reply, "But NONE of us have obeyed ALL of God's commandments." The only logical conclusions are: 1. None of us will be saved or 2. The BASIS of our salvation must be something other than obeying ALL that God said. So the truth is, the grace of God has provided the means for us to be saved in spite of the fact that we have NOT obeyed the law, as we demonstrate faith in the blood of Christ by repenting and being baptized for the remission of sins. This is the difference in salvation by grace through faith and salvation on the basis of law-keeping.
In 1 Peter 2:21 we find another significant thing that was accomplished by Christ's coming and dying. "He left us an example that we should follow in his steps." We need to understand that to follow the example of Jesus does not involve doing the exact things He did, such as wearing sandals, riding on a colt into Jerusalem, being baptized in Jordan, reclining at a table to eat, or dying on a cross. It involves acting on the principles which He taught and lived. He was kind, loving, and obedient to the will of God. He resisted the temptations of the Devil. He loved his enemies.
John 10:10 says that He came that we might have life and have it abundantly. The very fact that he was speaking to those who already had "life" physically shows he was not talking about this, but was talking about a joyous, full, abundant spiritual life. He emphasizes that point in Luke 12:15, when he says, "A man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." When he says in 2 Corinthians 8:9 that we through His poverty might become rich, he has no reference to material wealth. This in no sense denies that God may see fit to bless us materially as 2 Corinthians 9:8-11 indicates, that we may minister to the needs of the saints, help all men who are in need, and glorify God.
In Luke 1:79 we find two reasons for Christ's coming. They are, "To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death," and "to guide our feet in the way of peace." Men need light, for "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). There are literally hundreds of things we cannot see without Christ, or can see more clearly by the light that He sheds on the subject. He guides our feet in the way of peace, by providing a way for us to have peace with God, then to have the peace of God, then to have peace between Jew and Gentile and between all mankind.
In view of the fact that He thus is properly called "Prince of Peace" His statement in Matthew 10:24 might be startling, "Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." It is good that He explained how that happens in the next two verses. For it is still true that when one person accepts Christ on the terms of the Gospel, many who refuse to do it will be at variance with them, and a man's foes shall indeed be those even of his own household.
In Luke 12:49 we find a statement that we may not understand. He says, "I am come to send fire on the earth, and what will I, if it be already kindled?" As far as I know, there are only two basic ideas as to what He meant by this statement. One is that similar to the sending of a sword. That is fire of contention. That is something like "a burning of anger" against the truth. The other idea is that similar to the expression of Jeremiah 20:9 where he speaks of a burning fire shut up in his bones. It has to do with the purifying, cleansing, spreading of the gospel. We have an expression about a man who is zealous for the gospel of Christ, "He is on fire with the message of the Lord." Since there are truths in both approaches, I do not trouble myself unduly in trying to be sure which He means. I confess that the latter one appeals to me the most, for he uses in the other figure of the sword the idea of conflict. And I know that we should have a burning desire to give our lives in service for him, and He could have well have wished that it was kindled even while He spoke.
John 9:39 gives another reason for His coming, "For Judgment I am come into this world." I do not think He means the final judgment at the end of the world, for He goes on to explain something of the kind of judgment He had in mind as He says, "That they which see not may see, and they that see may be made blind." The judgment about which He speaks is the judgment that a man brings upon himself. The man who does not see, knows he does not see, and turns to Christ for light and sight, and will be judged as righteous and blessed. The man who says, "I see," but thinks his own human reasoning is superior to God's revealed wisdom will be blinded. Romans 1:21 touches the idea. The eternal power of God could be clearly seen, but "when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." Paul speaks of the same kind of thing in Ephesians 4:17-18 concerning those "who walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened." When a man closes his eyes to truth, he has judged himself, and will be blind. So one of the reasons Jesus came was to bring judgment into the world so that people could pass judgment on themselves by accepting his truth and seeing, or rejecting it and becoming blind.
Paul suggests in Romans 3:24-26 that one of the reasons for Jesus' coming and being a propitiation for our sins was to declare the righteousness of God. The righteousness could have been questioned in two areas, at least, and the death of Christ should have removed any doubt about both of them. First, how could God have given remission of sins under the Mosaic system? Is it right for a man to sin, then simply kill a lamb and get remission? Is a man's soul worth no more than a lamb? It would take a longer treatise than we wish to now write to discuss adequately how the death of Christ could give "redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament" (Hebrews 9:15), but it did. This was why God could "at the time of this ignorance, wink at" sin (Acts 17:30). So God can now show His righteousness also in justifying the ungodly (Romans 4:5), not in their ungodliness, but because of their faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26).
He came to preach this good news to the meek (Isaiah 61:1,2) and proclaim the gospel to the poor (Luke 4:18). There is little doubt that almost everyone who has any belief in or knowledge of Christ, if asked why Christ came into the world would first give what seems to them the most significant answer, "To save the lost" (Mt. 18:11, 1 Tim. 1:15). But in many, there is not a deep awareness of what is involved in saving the lost. There are some who do not seem to realize that He came to "save his people FROM their sins" not IN them. Let us examine some of the things that are involved in His saving us from sin.
First in John 1:29, we find John saying about Jesus, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. The word here is "airo" and suggests His bearing our sin away. He lifts the burden from us.
In 1 Peter 2:24 and Matthew 26:28 we find the idea expressed that we are delivered from the guilt of sin, for He "bare (anenegken) our sins in his own body on the tree" and His blood was shed for the remission of our sins.
There are at least three words that are used in the King James Version to describe our deliverance from the guilt of sin. In Romans 5:11, we find, "And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." In my judgment, the word should not be translated "atonement" but "reconciliation," for it is from the Greek "katallage." The word "atonement" does not adequately describe what Christ's blood does for us, for it has to do with "covering" the sin where God did not see it (so to speak) but it was not merely covered but taken away by the blood of Christ.
In 2 Cor. 5:19 Paul says "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself." Though this may not be important, it is reasonably certain to me that Paul is not here concerned in telling us where God was, but what God was doing, and where it happened. That is, he is not telling us that God was in Christ (though that is true) but that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ. This is one of the reasons why we have to keep telling the denominational world what their preachers never seem to tell them -- how to get into Christ, where salvation is (Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:3-4). It is in Christ that we do not have our trespasses reckoned to us. This word "katallasso" means "to change completely." It is true that when Jesus died, He then INSTANTANEOUSLY changed completely the relationship of the world to God in the sense that He left God free to be righteous and just in forgiving the sinner. That might be called "prospective reconciliation," for it is quite certain that "actual reconciliation" cannot come until the sinner is forgiven. When Paul says in Romans 5:10, "When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son," he is not implying that there is somehow an automatic reconciliation the moment Jesus died. There was no difference in the love and care of God for us one minute before Jesus died and one minute afterwards. The passage does not teach that we were reconciled AT His death, but by it. It was by means of His death that we, though enemies, were caused to change completely, both in attitude and state. So God made the Apostles ministers of reconciliation that they might tell us that the reconciliation which was already provided by the Lord in PURPOSE could be attained in FACT.
When we began this study of the things accomplished by the death of Christ, we felt that the term "reconciliation" meant no more than that our attitude and state were changed completely with reference to God. We who were enemies have become friends; we who were lost are saved; we who were sinners are saints. It may be true that for all practical purposes that is all it means. And certainly, if that is all, that is enough glorious truth to satisfy us. But we now feel more convinced from a few slight references such as Romans 8:19-23 and Colossians 1:19-20 that the whole meaning of reconciliation (to change completely) may reach even more deeply into time and eternity, earth and heaven, and involve more than sinful man. The curse of Genesis 3:17 may indicate the need of such reconciliation, and the new heavens and the new earth of 2 Peter 3:13 may indicate the realization of it.
But although we utterly reject the idea that God either has or will reconcile all things to himself (Col. 1:20) in the sense that He will save every human being or bring fallen angels back into fellowship with Him, we are still impressed by the statement that the reconciliation has to do with things both in earth and in heaven, and think that it probably has a wider scope than the world dreams of.
In Romans 5:9 we have another statement of what was accomplished by Christ as we find Paul saying, "Being justified by his blood -- ." The Greek word is "dikaioo" and means to make or declare right. Our justification simply means that we are declared to have a right standing before God. Those who want to find a "cute" way of talking about it and say "Justified means 'just as if I had never sinned'" are ALMOST right. The word does not actually mean that, but it is still true that when a MAN is justified he is treated just as if he had never sinned. The word, however, can also be used about God and does not MEAN that. It simply means "declared to have a righteous standing."
Here it is a judicial term, and is equivalent to a sentence of "not guilty" or acquittal. A man is released from the guilt and penalty of sin. We have no need to get involved in contrived semantics and theological hair- splitting which makes it appear that it involves God reckoning a man righteous who is NOT righteous. Righteousness has to do with a man's judicial standing before God. When God declares a man righteous -- says "Not guilty!" it does not mean "You WERE NOT guilty," but "You ARE not guilty." God is not play acting. It is not that God pretends you did not DO the sin. It simply means that He does not now require you to pay the penalty for it. Our righteousness is not a result of our own goodness, merit or effort. It is a result of our accepting on God's terms His gracious offer of forgiveness. So when God declares him righteous, he IS righteous. But he is righteous (justified) not because he has not BEEN guilty (in which case he might have cause to boast or glory), but he is righteous because when he accepted the blood of Christ on God's terms his guilt was removed. Even in our courts "not guilty" does not mean he did not do it. Nor is it "play like." It simply means that for some reason he is not held responsible for doing it. In our case, the reason we are not held responsible is because Jesus bore that responsibility for us. "Him who knew no sin was made to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21).
There are six interesting and fascinating words that indicate our deliverance from the bondage and power of sin. Note in this connection Galatians 1:4, "Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from the present evil world." The word "deliver" is from the same root word as in John 1:29, "Behold the lamb of God that taketh away." It suggests an interesting fact. John is talking about Jesus taking away our sins -- delivering us from the burden and guilt of sin. Paul is talking about taking us away from our sins -- releasing us from its power and bondage. If you have never thought about the difference in taking sin away from us and taking us away from sin, feel free to do so!
Let us now examine six other words that are used to describe our deliverance from the bondage and power of sin. Hebrews 9:26 says, "But now once in the end of the ages, hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." The words "put away" in English might mean the same as John 1:29, "take away," but the Greek word is different. It is "athetesin" -- the word used in Heb. 7:18 where the writer says, "There is verily a disannuling (athetesis) of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof." It simply means that Jesus died to disannul the effect of sin on us. As His death removed the Jew from the bondage and power of the Law of Moses (disannuled it) so His death removed all mankind from the bondage and power of sin. The riches of His grace as evidenced in the shades of meaning of these different words is thrilling to me, and I hope to you.
As we consider the things done in removing us from the power and bondage of sin, the word "redemption" looms large in our findings. There are four words translated "redeemed" and one translated "ransom" that are related to the idea.
First, there is the Greek word "agorazo" found three times in the New Testament, as in Rev. 5:9, "for thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood." The literal meaning is "to purchase at the market place." The figure is that of a slave, sold under sin. Our Lord left the glorious portals of heaven and came to the market place of sin and bought us with His blood. We therefore belong to Him.
The next word is "exagorazo," found four times in such expressions as Galatians 3:13, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law." The word means "To buy out of the market place." The first word is primarily involved with the payment of the price for a slave. The second word is involved with the idea of removing the slave from the market place. As Jesus put it in John 17:11-16, we are IN the world, but not OF the world. He redeemed us IN our sins in the sense that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6-8), but saved us FROM our sins (Mt. 1:21) and took us FROM the market place of sin. These words do not actually signify redemption itself, but merely the price paid for the redemption.
The third word, "lutroo" used three times, signifies setting free as a result of the price paid. Titus 2:14, "Who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity." Whereas the other two words relate to the payment, this one relates to the result of the payment. In its fullest meaning, it represents the assurance that "if the Son of Man makes you free, then you are free indeed" (John 8:36). A Christian has been bought in the market place, taken out of the market place and set free, and now has the privilege of being a voluntary bondservant of a new Master!
It is our judgment that these three words are used to suggest three great significant thoughts related to our redemption. First, there is a sense in which the price was paid (agorazo) but the slave to sin was not necessarily set free. This is what Paul meant when he said in Titus 2:11, "The grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation unto all men." Salvation has been brought, but not all men accepted it. Millions are still lost, though Jesus paid the price. Second, the more intensive form of the verb which is always formed by combining the verb with a proposition (exagorazo), suggests that the price was paid with a view to removing us from the world -- its power and influence. Third, not only was the price paid, not only were we released, but now we have the privilege of presenting ourselves as bondservants to a righteous Redeemer (Romans 6:22).
Another word in the noun form related to this one, "apolutrosis" is used nine times and is translated "redemption" as in Hebrews 9:15, "For this cause he is the mediator of a new covenant, that by means of death for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant." Not only were we redeemed -- removed from the power and bondage of sin -- by the blood of Christ, but all those under the Old Testament who accepted God's way were also redeemed by the blood of Christ. They had to be, if redeemed at all, for "It is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin" (Hebrews 10:4). When one understands that, he can see how the Bible could speak of God forgiving persons in the Old Testament although "without the shedding of blood (of Christ) there could be no remission." In the purpose of God, Christ's blood was shed from the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-7).
In 1 Timothy 2:6, we find "He gave himself a ransom for all." I conclude that the primary difference in the meaning of this word "ransom" which comes from "antilutron" and the "lutron" of Titus 2:14 is that the verb "lutroo" signifies the PAYMENT of a ransom, and "antilutron" signifies that the ransom paid was of a corresponding kind and value. In Matthew 20;28, "He gave his life a ransom (lutron) for many." He paid the price. But in 1 Timothy 2:6, "He gave himself a ransom (antilutron) for all." He paid the full and corresponding price. Let me illustrate. If I were kidnapped and held for $1000 ransom and my beloved wife should see fit to pay that, it would be "lutron." If they said, "We will not set him free unless you deliver yourself into our hands," and she did that, it would be "antilutron" -- and more.
So, in the second place, there is this series of expressions that show in variegated colors and multifaceted splendor the things Christ did while saving us from the bondage and power of sin. Keep in mind that we have but touched the hem of the garment in mentioning them, for an exegesis of all the passages that touch even THAT aspect of the subject would take a small book.
Now let us note briefly the third thing accomplished by the death of Christ. Not only did He save us from the guilt and burden of sin, from the bondage and power of sin, but from the love and practice of sin. In 1 Peter 2:24, Peter says, "Who himself bare our sins in his body on the tree, that we having died to sin, might live unto righteousness." The word "apogenomenoi" (having died) is not the usual word for died, but literally means "be away from." Note the thrilling fullness of these verses. Christ died that we might be free from guilt and punishment of sin, because He bore our sin in his body. Our sin was taken away. But He also died that we might be away from sin -- that is free from its love and practice. There is a third thing in this verse which is wonderful. We are supposed not only to be dead to sin, but alive unto righteousness. Sometimes we act as if we have been saved FROM something without being saved FOR OR UNTO anything. Ephesians 2:10 says, " -- created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." And Titus 2:14 specifically says "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
The fact that we are said to be sanctified by the offering of the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:10) is another aspect of being saved from the love and practice of sin. The word "sanctified" is from "hagiazo" and literally means "set apart." It does not, OF ITSELF, mean free from the love and practice of sin, but it demands that, as a result of being set apart.
Not only was the death of Jesus designed to save us from the burden and guilt of sin, from the power and bondage of sin, from the love and practice of sin, but there is another word that suggests we are saved from the contamination and impurity of sin. 1 John 1:7 says, "the blood of Jesus cleanseth us from all sin." The word cleanseth is "katharizo." Not only are we released from bondage, but cleansed from contamination. It is possible for us to imagine a person being released from a filthy dungeon and still being dirty. But in OUR release, we are also clean.
Next, we may notice that we are saved from the punishment for sin. There are many passages which suggest that, but time and space limitations force us to consider only some of them. Let us examine the word "propitiate" as used in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10 where we find, "He is the propitiation for our sins." The English word does not really do justice to the idea in "hilasmos." It suggests a gift or act that was offered to secure the good will or leniency of another. We have no such gift or act to offer. God offered the gift and performed the act BECAUSE of His good will and love. It seems to me that the word "hilasmos," translated here "propitiation," rather than suggesting an offering that was to "appease" the wrath of God and make Him more kindly disposed to us, rather suggests an offering of mercy which God provided for us. This is why "hilasterion" is used in Romans 2:25 and in the Septuagint as a technical term for "mercy seat." But it is still true that Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice to deliver us from the wrath of God against SIN, and if this is what propitiation means to you, then the term will seem satisfactory to you. The point is that He bore the punishment that should have fallen on us. "By his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). Some liberal and scoffing theologians have tried to make it appear as if the Bible taught that God was angry at MAN and demanded a blood sacrifice to appease Himself, somewhat like a man who might get angry at his secretary and come home and slap his wife. The Bible picture is that of a holy God, angry against sin, whose nature is such that divine justice demands payment for sin. But at the same time His infinite love causes Him to make the payment Himself while His infinite wisdom allows Him to do it in the body of Immanuel who was God in the flesh. 1 John 2:2 which reads, "And he is the propitiation for our sins -- " is meaningful when one realizes that God Himself is propitious and provided the means by which His righteous wrath against sin could be satisfied. It was not that either Jesus or mankind had to intervene and try to keep God from taking His spite out on all of mankind.
Not only does the Holy Spirit use these 18 different words to try to disclose the unsearchable riches of God's grace, power, wisdom and love in saving us from the guilt, burden, power, bondage, love, practice and punishment of sin, but His death changed us in all our relationships. "If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature, old things are passed away, behold all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17).
Notice some scriptures that suggest some of the changes in our relationships to each other. First in John 11:52, " -- that he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." This involves the idea Paul expressed in Ephesians 2:14-16, "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us --." Probably the verse that in the shortest space emphasizes it is Galatians 3:28, "For there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Without going into detail regarding how and how much, we can see that the relationships between Jew and Gentile, between men and women, between servant and master were changed by Christ.
Of course we have emphasized many times that He changed our relationship to the world. The word "ekklesia" suggests to most of us that we are called out of the world. Then various passages such as Titus 2:12, "Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world" show that we are in the world but now are not of the world as Jesus said in John 17:15-16, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
Of course our relationship to God was changed as suggested by many of the previous words, but Galatians 4:4-5 puts it even more beautifully. "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." I have written another article on "Born or Adopted" in which I set forth the fact that these are not simply two words that show how we get into the family of God. Romans 8:19-23 shows that "adoption" is there speaking of "the redemption of the body." Actually, the word "adoption" in the New Testament does not refer to coming into the family, but coming into a position of a full grown heir in the family. The "adoption of sons" in the above reference is, in my judgment, what we will receive at the redemption of our bodies because we are sons. "Uiothesia," translated "adoption," refers to "standing as sons," and not "becoming a son."
There are many other references suggesting various aspects of what He wanted to accomplish in changing our relationship with Him, such as Romans 14:9 "For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living." He wanted to have a glorious church (Ephesians 5:25), with all the things which that would involve, including fellowship with Him and a whole life related to Him in a way not possible without the death of Christ. Perhaps it is climaxed by 2 Corinthians 5:15 which says, "He died that we who live should no longer live unto ourselves, but unto him who died and rose again."
This is in no sense an exhaustive treatise on the more than 60 separate things that were accomplished (though they overlap in many instances) by the coming and death of our Lord. But if you can read and digest this with care and concern, it will help you to be willing to cease to live for yourself, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus. In doing that, all of the things for which Christ died will automatically become yours to enjoy for time and for eternity.
T. Pierce Brown
Published in The Old Paths Archive