April 28, 2007 § Leave a comment
John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Hebrews 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
In this article I want to discuss some implication that must be necessarily inferred from these two related text of scripture. This is the first installment of what I hope will be a much more comprehensive treatment of Christ’s substitutionary penal sacrifice/satisfaction.
The first thing that should be noticed is that both of these texts appear in a passage of scripture dealing with the incarnation of God the Son. The Word became flesh (John 1:14). Jesus partook of the same nature of flesh and blood as those he came to save (Hebrews 2:14). This must certainly be the beginning point of our understanding of Christ’s work on behalf of fallen men. So, first and foremost we must acknowledge, as do the early Christian Creeds, the full and common humanity of Christ. So right here at the very beginning we have a Christ who is representative of and relating to all men, i.e. the whole human race. In this way, sin excepted, Christ shares that nature which is common to every individual member of the entire human race that has ever or ever will exist. By this I am simply stating the undeniable biblical and historic Christian doctrine of the incarnation and nature of the God-man.
Now, this being established, lets take another step in our examination of Christ’s penal substitutionary sacrifice/satisfaction. Why did the Son come to this world and take to himself the nature that is common to all men? The answer to this question is, all men are condemned by the law of God and therefore judged deserving of God’s wrath, being condemned in/by the disobedience of Adam (Romans 5:17-19). So therefore in order to save even one man Christ had to come in the likeness of sinful flesh to condemn sin in the flesh (Romans 8:3). Hebrews 2:14, teaches us this same truth, i.e. in order to save even one man given to Him, He had to partake of the same nature as that man, and to suffer the death that man deserved. Therefore, it must follow that is so far as Christ is a man, as Hebrews 2:9 states, He tasted death for everyone. Or we could state it like this, to substitute for even one man, Christ necessarily, objectively, substituted for every man. This necessarily follows from the fact that He shares that nature which is common to every man, and suffered the death that each and every man deserves. So when we read the declaration of John the Baptist, in John 1:29, we must take it at face value and and infer necessarily, that the penal substitution was indeed, inherently, in the place of the WORLD.
Now, let me pause for a second and remind you, dear reader, least you think I have “forgotten” my own “calvinism”, I am discussing the inherent/objective nature of the work of Christ’s penal substitutionary sacrifice/satisfaction. I am not, in this particular article, discussing the application of this penal satisfaction to particular individuals. So, let us now resume our examination of the inherent nature of the work of Christ.
I believe what I have stated thus far is undeniable in regards to the inherent nature of the God-man and his substitutionary work. Next, I want to do a couple of things. First I want to ask a few rhetorical questions in light of what I have already stated, and then draw what I believe is the necessary conclusion from the answers to these questions. Then second I want to illustrate the conclusion from what we know for certain about two men found in the scriptures.
First the questions:
Question 1. Was Jesus Christ fully human? Answer: Yes.
Question 2. Is every man that has ever existed and will ever exist fully human? Answer: Yes.
Question 3. Is every man judged by the law as sinful and therefore deserving of the wrath of God and death which is the penalty of the law? Answer: Yes.
Question 4. Did Christ suffer the wrath of God and die the death which is the penalty of the law? Answer: Yes.
Question 5. Did Christ suffer as a man, being partaker of the common human nature with all men? Answer: Yes.
Question 6. Did Christ by his life and sacrificial death (suffering the full wrath of God) fully satisfy the justice of God? Answer: Yes.
Conclusion: Therefore we have provided by Christ, the God-man, suffering as a representative of the human race, in the place of the whole human race, an inherently sufficient, substitutionary, full penal satisfaction.
Now, the obvious question that I am sure is right now in your mind, dear reader, is this, “If this conclusion is true, then why are not all men therefore saved?” Well, you will have to come back to read the next installments in which I will discuss th subject of this question and others. But, just to alleviate some of your fears, I am in no way advocating the salvation of all men. This penal satisfaction must certainly be applied by the Spirit before anyone can benefit thereof. The illustration that I now want to use to reinforce the necessary conclusion of the previous questions I posited will lay some of the ground work for understanding the application of the penal satisfaction wrought by Christ.
Let’s consider Peter and Judas. Here with Peter and Judas we have examples of two biblical categories: 1. The Elect = Peter, 2. The “reprobate” or non-elect = Judas. I hope that you will agree with me that we can, with biblical certainty, classify Peter and Judas thus. So, what I want to do now is compare Peter with Judas in relation to the inherent nature of Christ’s substitutionary work. First we know that both Peter and Judas are certainly members of the human race, therefore Christ as man partook of the same human nature that is common to both men. Second, both Peter and Judas are certainly descendants of Adam, therefore they both are condemned and made sinners in Adam and judged by the law of God as deserving of death because of their sins. Therefore, when Christ suffered the wrath of God and died, he certainly suffered that which both Peter and Judas deserved. So we must conclude that the inherent nature of Christ’s substitution must encompass, objectively, both Peter and Judas, and by extension, all the Elect and Non-elect together, or i.e. the whole human race. There is nothing lacking in the sufficiency of the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ that is needed and therefore offerable/applicable to both Peter and Judas alike.
The undeniable reality, from the nature of the case, is that it is biblically and logically impossible to limit, inherently/objectively the substitutionary penal satisfaction of Christ, to Peter/the elect alone. The only place of limitation is in it’s application to Peter (and all the elect), by grace through faith. This being the work of the Holy Spirit, in drawing effectually all those given to Christ. But, as for Judas, though it was offered to and certainly sufficient for him, he because of the wickedness of his own heart and as fulfillment of God’s purposes, despised this very provision he needed and was lost eternally.
As I intimated early in this article my intension is to explore this subject in more depth, and in so doing, also cover the limited application of the benefit of Christ’s satisfaction as well. But for now let me leave you with a wonderful quote from John Calvin:
“We must now see in what way we become possessed of the blessings which God has bestowed on his only-begotten Son, not for private use, but to enrich the poor and needy. And the first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us. To communicate to us the blessings which he received from the Father, he must become ours and dwell in us. Accordingly, he is called our Head, and the first-born among many brethren, while, on the other hand, we are said to be ingrafted into him and clothed with him, all which he possesses being, as I have said, nothing to us until we become one with him. And although it is true that we obtain this by faith, yet since we see that all do not indiscriminately embrace the offer of Christ which is made by the gospel, the very nature of the case teaches us to ascend higher, and inquire into the secret efficacy of the Spirit, to which it is owing that we enjoy Christ and all his blessings.” (Institutes Book 3, Chapter 1, Section 1)
Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West