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Understanding Theology - Lesson 6

Work of Christ

Dr. Ware discusses the past (Atoning Savior), present (Mediator and Lord) and future (Coming Judge and Reigning King) work of Christ.

Bruce Ware
Understanding Theology
Lesson 6
Watching Now
Work of Christ

I. Past Work: Christ, the Atoning Savior

A. Aspects of the Atonement

1. Sacrifice

a. The Necessity of Sacrifice

b. Animal Sacrifices

2. Substitution

a. Old Testament Testimony

b. New Testament Testimony

3. Redemption

a. The Centrality of Redemption

b. Key Passages

c. The “Ransom” Metaphor

4. Propitiation

a. Understanding Propitiation

b. God’s Wrath against Sin

5. Expiation

a. Understanding Expiation

b. Why did it have to be Jesus?

6. Reconciliation

a. Three aspects of reconciliation

b. Key New Testament Passages

B. The Atonement and the Resurrection

1. The Resurrection declares that the penalty has been paid in full.

2. The Resurrection defeats the power of sin.

II. Present work: Christ as Mediator and Lord

A. Mediator

B. Lord

III. Future Work: Christ as Coming Judge and Reigning King

A. Coming Judge

B. Reigning King


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  • Studying systematic theology in this 10-hour course will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the doctrines of the Christian faith, from God and Christ to sin, salvation, the church, and the last things. By exploring these doctrines, you will strengthen your faith, gain hope and courage, and deepen your knowledge of God's character, work, and purposes. This course is liberating and will provide you with the truth that sets you free to live in the light of God's promises.
  • This is the first of ten lectures on Systematic Theology, a survey of the whole corpus of theology, and each lecture will be one hour long and each covering a separate doctrine or series of doctrines together. In this lesson Dr. Ware introduces the what and why of theology and discusses the foundational doctrines of Revelation and Scripture.

  • In this lesson, Dr. Ware discusses the Doctrine of God proper: why we need to know God, his incommunicable attributes, and those attributes that in some sense are communicable to humans.

  • Dr. Ware discusses the biblical basis for monotheism and trinitarianism. He also gives a brief overview of the history of the doctrine and the heresies that arose concerning the Trinity.

  • This lesson is an overview of the doctrines of humanity and sin, including a discussion of the origin of humanity, what it means to be created in the image of God, the nature and effects of sin, and original sin.

  • In this lesson, Dr. Ware discusses the doctrine of the Person of Christ, which includes his pre-incarnate existence, his incarnation, his deity and his humanity. He also discusses the important Christological passage of Philippians 2:6-8 and what does it mean that Christ “emptied” himself. Dr. Ware concludes this lesson with a discussion of the Council of Chalcedon.

  • Dr. Ware discusses the past (Atoning Savior), present (Mediator and Lord) and future (Coming Judge and Reigning King) work of Christ.

  • In this lesson, Dr. Ware discusses the person of the Holy Spirit, both his personhood and his deity. He also covers the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, in the life of Jesus, and in the church.

  • This lesson is an overview of the doctrine and process of salvation, beginning with election and then discussing calling, regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, and, finally, the glorification of the believer.

  • Dr. Ware talks about the church universal and the local church. He discusses the offices of the local church, including the roles of elders and deacons. Dr. Ware also looks at how the church can be organized and what ordinances should be celebrated by a local body of believers.

  • In this final lesson, Dr. Ware gives a rationale for studying eschatology or last things. He discusses what happens to people just after they die and before the return of Christ. He also gives an overview of the various beliefs about the timing and events of the last days. He completes the lesson with a discussion of final judgment, heaven, and hell.

We all have a theology, a set of beliefs, but many are not able to articulate it or really understand it. This class will walk you through a basic evangelical understanding of God and his Word.

Recommended Books

Understanding Theology - Student Guide

Understanding Theology - Student Guide

We all have a theology, a set of beliefs, but many are not able to articulate them or really understand them. This class will walk you through a basic evangelical...

Understanding Theology - Student Guide

Dr. Bruce Ware
Understanding Theology
th103-06
Work of Christ
Lesson Transcript

We turn now to lecture 6, which is on the doctrine of the work of Christ, and we'll focus our attention here largely on the work of Christ in the atonement, the past work of Christ in which he gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins and develop some of the ways the Bible talks about that work that Christ accomplished on the cross. We will spend a little less time talking about the present work of Christ and the future work of Christ, but those will be included as well. But we start with the past work of Christ as Christ, our atoning savior.

When you think about the cross of Christ, you realize that at the very core of it is that this is a sacrifice for sins. And of course this was based upon the Old Testament system of sacrifice that God had instituted. Obviously he did this because of the sacrifice that would come through Christ. So when John announces in John 1:29, behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, you realize everything that was done in the Old Testament sacrificial system was a pointer forward to the once for all sacrifice of Christ who would come.

And notice that in John 1:29, how amazing it's that this is a different kind of sacrifice, behold the lamb of God. So previously it was always a lamb or a bull or a goat of particular individual sinners. They would bring their own animal to be sacrificed. But here God provides the sacrifice himself, the one who would be sacrificed in his own son, who is his lamb offered. And behold the lamb of God who takes away. I mean you realize that is an amazing statement because atonement in the Old Testament really was a covering over.

I mean, I think the analogy of sweeping things under the carpet is not terribly far off because you realize that those sins in the Old Testament, more on this in just a moment, were not actually paid for by those sacrifices. They required a payment that actually would pay for them, and here it is, the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world. 

And then the last phrase of that takes away the sin of the world. Before those sacrifices just handled individual sins, this sin or that sin by this person or that person. But here comes one sacrifice for all time, for all sin that takes place. So it's an astonishing thing when you realize the coming of Christ was really fundamentally for the purpose of him being a sacrifice for sinners. The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life a ransom for others, for sinners. 

Hebrews 9:22 tells us that without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sins. So God, again, this is by God's design. It's not that God was following some pattern that was established for him. No, he established the pattern of the blood sacrifices in the Old Testament, as again pointing forward to the necessity of a blood sacrifice through his own son. So the shedding of blood was necessary. But we read in Hebrews 10 verse 4 that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin. This is just an amazing thing to realize that all of those sacrifices in the Old Testament in and of themselves were completely ineffectual. They did not do anything in and of themselves to take away sin. Isn't that incredible?

So what was the purpose of them? They pointed forward to the sacrifice that would take away sin. So it took the coming of Christ, Hebrews 9:26 to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. You hear it? To put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. In some ways you might think of those sacrifices in the Old Testament that were made to be sort of like when we go to a store, maybe Walmart or Target or something like that, and we buy something. Notice the scare quotes. We buy something with a credit card. When we use that credit card, we actually don't pay anything for the item that we take out of the store.

Maybe it's a shirt or a pair of pants. You take that out of the store, the security guard at the door doesn't stop you and arrest you for stealing, even though you haven't paid anything for that, right? What you have done is made a legal agreement with that credit card of a future payment, and if you don't make the future payment, then it is stolen because you didn't pay for it, right? So this is really how it worked in the Old Testament, was every single sacrifice offered in the Old Testament paid nothing for the sin of the people. But what it did was establish a legal requirement for a future payment. What payment would that be?

Well, of course the payment is as the Father gives his Son. So I mean back to the credit card analogy, at least years ago, you used to sign the credit card slip, and on that fine print of that paper you would take with you with your signature on it, would say you have to pay this at a point in the future, right? You made that legal obligation to do that. Well, in a sense, God is the one. God the Father is the one who signed every one of those credit card slips in the Old Testament. Every time a sacrifice was made, he obligated himself to provide the sacrifice that actually would pay for sin.

Take a look with me at Romans 3, I think you see here how amazing this is. It's one of the passages in the Bible that speaks profoundly about the death of Christ as a sacrifice for sins. But the emphasis here in Romans 3:21 and following is not the love of God that led him to provide Christ. That's true in many other passages, but that's not true here. The emphasis here is different. I want you to hear it. Romans 3:21. "Now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been manifested." You see that? Not the love of God, "The righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.For all those who believe or there's no distinction, for all of sin and fall short of the glory of God. Being justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in his blood through faith. This was to demonstrate," now listen carefully. "This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because in the forbearance of God he passed over sins previously committed. For the demonstration I say of his righteousness at the present time, so that he would be both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Christ.”

Do you see it? So what God does in the atoning death of Christ, the sacrifice of Christ is demonstrate his righteousness. Remember we talked about righteousness, the rightness of God in all that he thinks and does and says and so on. So here is the rightness of God in justifying sinners based on what? A real sacrifice, a real payment, a real redemption that has been made that satisfies God's wrath against our sin. Those sacrifices paid zero in and of themselves, they pointed forward, they were types of the greater sacrifice that would come, the sacrifice of Christ. So indeed his sacrifice paid the penalty that no other sacrifices ever could pay. The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin. Hebrews 10:4, as I mentioned before, but his blood does. 

So let me mention just one other pair of passages in 1 Peter to round out our discussion on the cross as sacrifice. In 1 Peter chapter 1. This is by the way a wonderful set of passages to meditate on during a communion service. It talks about the body of Christ and the blood of Christ in these two passages in 1 Peter. In 1 Peter chapter 1, we read about the blood of Christ that was shed for us, beginning at verse 17. 1 Peter 1:17. "If you address as father, the one who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth, knowing that you are not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your feudal way of life, inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood as of a lamb, unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For he was foreknown, that is this was the plan of God before the foundation of the world. But he's appeared now in these last times for our sake, who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory so that your faith and hope are in God."

So precious blood. Here is the blood of Christ, which alone can make the payment for our sin. And then in chapter 2, the emphasis is on the body of Christ. Beginning of verse 21, "You've been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in his steps, who committed no sin nor was any deceit found in his mouth. While being reviled he did not revile in return while suffering, he uttered no threats but kept entrusting himself to him who judges righteously.

And he himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. For by his wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and the guardian of your souls." The sacrifice of Christ, his bloodshed, his body broken, which of course is symbolized in the Lord's supper, as we take of the elements of the bread and the juice, and thereby celebrate the sacrifice Christ made that really does pay for our sin and for all who will believe in Christ their sins are paid for.

Well let's move on to another element of the work of Christ on the cross. These are different aspects of the same reality. It strikes me, it might be helpful to just use an analogy here. These might be considered to be like facets of a diamond. So the atoning work of Christ is one thing, and yet you see different glimmers of its beauty and different parts of what is accomplished by different ways the Bible talks about the atoning death of Christ. One of them is sacrifices we started with, and of course that's really central. The whole point of it is for Christ to give his life. The Father gives his son to be a sacrifice for sinners, but these others also are really central to what it is for Christ to have died for our sins. 

The second one that we'll look at now is substitution. And it is really arguable that substitution is at the core of really the whole of what takes place. Yes, it is a sacrifice, but a sacrifice that functions as a substitution, that is Christ giving his life instead of us giving our own lives, which if we were to do that, we would pay for our sin eternally, but Christ pays for it once for all at one time as a substitute sacrifice for us, and thereby pays the full penalty for our sin.

Sometimes this is referred to as penal substitution, penal, penalty. You think of the word penalty. So he pays the penalty for our sin in his death on the cross. As we just saw in Peter, he bore our sins in his body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He substitutes himself for us. Now this is a rich concept. I want to take just a few minutes and look with you through the Old Testament and New Testament, just a few passages that help us see the substitutionary nature of the death of Christ. 

Really the first one I want to look at with you is in Genesis 22. It's the first instance that I'm aware of substitutionary sacrifice. Now, there isn't penal substitution here, that is, I don't believe there's indication of any penalty that is being paid for, but it's definitely a substitutionary sacrifice. When God calls Abraham to take his son Isaac and go to this mountain that he would show him and sacrifice him, Abraham does that obediently. I mean this is an amazing thing. His son of promise, Isaac, the one through whom God had promised to bring the fulfillment of his covenant through Isaac. And so God says, "Take him and sacrifice him." And we know from the book of Hebrews that what Abraham anticipated is that he would sacrifice his son. He would kill him, but then God would raise Isaac from the dead. That's what Abraham thought, because God had promised that the covenant would be fulfilled through Isaac, not Ishmael, not anyone else. And so he knew Isaac had to live on, so he believed God would raise him from the dead. Well, it happened differently than Abraham anticipated. 

So they went to this mountain, Mount Moriah, which turns out to be the same location where Jerusalem would one day be built and where the sacrificial system would take place. I mean it's just really rich in terms of the connections to the sacrifice of Christ. And we read at verse 12, "Abraham had taken Isaac, bound him, put him on this altar. He took a knife and was about to plunge that knife into Isaac's own body. And we read it, verse 12, "The angel said to Abraham, do not stretch out your hand against the lad and do nothing to him, for now I know that you fear God since you have not withheld your son, your only son from me. Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked and behold behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering," now look at this, "In the place of his son." The Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, uses the preposition anti, A-N-T-I, which is the strongest preposition that indicates in the place of, that indicates substitution. So here is the first example we have of the ram that was caught in the thicket, was provided by God as a substitute sacrifice for Isaac. And so we have the beginning of substitutionary sacrifice there. 

But then we move on through the Bible and you realize the exodus from Egypt was an example of substitutionary sacrifice. I won't take time to read this to you, but in Exodus chapter 12, you can read those verses yourself. You'll remember that God had told the people of Israel in Egypt before he delivered them to take a lamb and cut its throat and put blood over the doorposts of your house so that when the angel of death comes, he will pass over. Hence, the Passover celebration that followed from that year after year was based upon this, so that the angel of death would pass over your homes and go to the homes of the Egyptians. They would have their own firstborn children and all of the animals, firstborn of the animals would be killed by the angel of death. But in the case of Israel, a substitute sacrifice was made. The lamb killed, took the place of their firstborn child being killed. So here's another example of substitutionary sacrifice. 

Now, is it penal substitution? That is, is the sacrifice paying a penalty? And I think the answer is yes, because we know from Ezekiel 20, again, you can look at this on your own later. But in Ezekiel 20, it's very clear that God looks back on the exodus and tells Ezekiel that back in those days he told the Israelites to stop their idolatry, to quit worshiping the idols of Egypt. And they would not do it. And he said, "I was going to kill them." That is Judge Israel. "But I didn't do it because I made a covenant with them that I would take them out of Egypt, bringing them back into the land. And so I kept my word, kept my covenant, my oath and didn't bring the judgment on them they deserved." So when God provides this lamb for Israel, it isn't merely a substitute sacrifice, it's clearly penal substitution, that lamb pays the penalty that his own people deserve to pay, as that lamb is sacrificed, instead of the angel taking the lives of their oldest children, their firstborn. 

And then of course we come to the book of Leviticus, and in Leviticus chapters four to seven, they talk there about peace offerings, whole burnt offerings, but also sin offerings and guilt offerings. In those latter two, the sin and guilt offerings are clear examples of penal substitution where God says to sacrifice this animal for the sin that you have committed in order to remove the guilt that you have before me.

And that leads us to Leviticus 16, which is the chapter that describes the Day of Atonement, where one day a year God established a time when the priest would offer a sacrifice for the sin of all of the people. Previously through the year, each individual sinner, each person would bring a sacrifice for their own sin. But here was one day of the year, the Day of Atonement, one sacrifice would be offered for all. And you might remember that there was both a goat that was sacrificed, killed, but also a scapegoat, one that would go out of the camp. And really when you look at the two of them, both are fulfilled in Christ.

Now that is the symbolism of both is put in place because Christ both died himself for sinners. So he's the sacrificed goat, animal, but he also was outside of the camp when this took place. So both of those animals, both of them die on the day of atonement, one by being killed by the priest, the other by being killed by animals as he's released and is helpless out there, and predators would come after him. So both animals die and both of them symbolized what Christ did as taking our sin, going outside of the gate and suffering the penalty for our sin, again, substitutionary atonement.

Then in the Old Testament, the capstone of substitutionary atonement is in Isaiah 53. If you'll turn there with me for a moment, particularly verses 4 to 6. Isaiah 53 verses 4 to 6, we read this. "Surely our griefs, he himself bore, and our sorrows he carried." You see the substitutionary nature of that language. It's not his own griefs that he's bearing, it's our griefs. It's not his own sorrows that he's carrying, it's our sorrows, right? Substitution. Our grief he bore, our sorrows he carried. Yet we ourselves esteemed him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. 

Here's the point of the second part of verse 4. If you were there on that day looking at Christ on the cross and thought, "What is going on here?" When you see this man whipped and beaten and bloodied and hanging there on that cross, here's what you would conclude. He is being smitten of God. He is getting what he deserves. But here's the truth, read on, verse 5. "But he was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities." So the truth is he's not getting what he deserves, he's getting what we deserve. Oh, my goodness, you feel the weight of that. Do you realize as Christ hung there on that cross, he was bearing your sin, my sin, my iniquities, my transgressions, your iniquities, your transgressions, he was bearing.

He was sinless in himself. He who knew no sin became sin for us as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 5:21. So there was no reason for him to be on that cross dying, because he didn't sin. He didn't deserve this, but he took upon himself what we deserved. Let me keep reading. "So he was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The chastening for our wellbeing fell upon him, through his scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall upon him."

There it is, penal substitution, our sin, our transgression, our iniquity that is put upon Christ. Sometimes this is referred to by theologians as an act of imputation that is charging Christ with our sin. And I think that's an appropriate way to think of it. The imputed sin that we committed is imputed to Christ, and then in faith his righteousness is imputed to us. So the imputation of Christ's righteousness in justification is the gift we receive. What Christ receives from us is our sin. I mean this is sometimes called the great exchange. Well great for us, but very, very costly for Christ. So Isaiah 53, the high point of Old Testament teaching on the atoning work of Christ, particularly in terms of substitution, penal substitution. 

Now when you come to the New Testament, just a few comments here in terms of penal substitution. I mentioned before John 1:29, "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." So he's the one who substitutes himself for us. He's guilty of nothing, but he takes our sin upon himself in order to take that sin away. Mark 10:45 and Matthew 20:28, they say the same thing, the same basic statement in those two gospels.

Mark 10:45 and Matthew 20:28 is significant, because this is the only verse speaking of the atoning death of Christ in the New Testament that uses the preposition, anti. "The son of man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life a ransom for many." Now the word, for, in English is the translation of the term, anti, which always means in the place of. So this is a very straightforward, clear statement of substitution, "He gave himself in the place of us." He wasn't served but he served and gave his life a ransom, a payment on behalf of or in the place of many. In the place of many. That's a very important passage.

Now it's interesting, the rest of the passages in the New Testament that speak of the atoning death of Christ that he paid for us or he gave his life for us. That preposition, for, in English, is the translation of a different Greek preposition. It's the preposition, huper, H-U-P-E-R is the way you would spell it in English, instead of anti, A-N-T-I. It's huper. Now huper is sort of like, it's very close to the preposition for in English, which can have a weaker and a stronger meaning, the weaker meaning of the word, for, or huper, because it's true really for both of them. The weaker meaning is simply, you do something to benefit another person.

"I do this for you." So suppose you get a check in the mail from your rich uncle and he sends you a hundred dollars and he says, "This is for you." Well that's just for your benefit, right? That's the simple meaning of that. It's not, there's no substitution involved in, it's just for your benefit. But there's a stronger meaning of the word, for, and that is that it's something for your benefit by being in your place, right? Something for your benefit by being in your place, by doing it instead of you doing it. Okay? So here's my favorite example. Back in 2005, many years ago, I foolishly was trying to do some work on the second floor of our house outside on an extension ladder and fell. Fell from the top of that ladder all the way down, landed on my back and was by God's grace I didn't have surgery or anything, I healed up, broke my pelvis and ribs in my back. But I was laid up for a few weeks. And I had some students at Southern Seminary where I teach who kindly wrote to me and said, "Dr. Ware, so sorry about your accident, could I come and mow your lawn for you?" Okay, now think of the word, for, there, "Could I mow your lawn for you?" Well, clearly that is for my benefit, but how is it for my benefit? By doing it instead of me doing it, right? That's how it is beneficial to me, is by doing it instead of me doing it.

That stronger meaning of huper, I think is the case with the way in which the cross of Christ is described in the New Testament for us. So let me give you some examples here, John 10, the good shepherd passage verses 11 and 15. He says, "I am the good shepherd and the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." Now what does that mean to lay down your life for the sheep? Well, clearly it means, I'm willing as the shepherd to have my life taken so that the sheep's lives are not taken. Right? You see it? So yes, it's for their benefit. I lay down my life for the sheep, it's for their benefit, but how is it for their benefit? I die instead of them dying. So it is that stronger sense of substitutionary offering of sin, not merely for their benefit, but substituting himself for them. 

Or here's another passage in Romans 5: 6, 8, we read, "For while we were still helpless at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly." Verse 8, "While we were sinners, Christ died for us." Well, the fact that he dies for the ungodly and he dies for sinners, I think it implies the stronger meaning of huper, because we know from the Bible that ungodly sinners deserve to die. And so for Christ to die for us means he dies instead of us dying. So indeed he takes that upon himself.

Here's another one, Galatians 3:13, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law having become a curse for us." You hear it? So here again, this is huper, it could be the weaker meaning, it's just a curse for our benefit. He became a curse for our benefit. But in what way is it beneficial to us? Only that he became a curse so that we are not cursed, right? He became cursed in our place so that we don't receive the curse that we deserve. 

One more. 1 Peter 3:18. "For Christ also died for sins, once for all, the just for the unjust in order that he might bring us to God." So again, I take it, yes it is for our benefit, the just for the unjust, but the fact that he says unjust indicates we're the ones who deserved it, not him. So he does what we deserve to do. He takes it on himself, and so is the substitute for us. 

Now, one of the reasons I'm stressing this is because there are people today, even people within evangelicalism who really don't like the notion of penal substitution. They try to avoid it, even though the Bible is filled with it. The heart of the cross is that Christ paid the penalty we deserve to pay. Why don't they like this? Because it implies some things they really don't want to accept, that God's wrath stands against us, right? His judgment requires that we pay for our sin, that God is wrathful and that we deserve to be condemned. They don't like those notions, and so they want rather for the atoning work of Christ to be something that exhibits his love but doesn't exhibit his justice against our sin. But the Bible is so clear on this that the act of the atoning work of Christ is both an act of the love of God to save us, but to save us from the sin by which we deserve to be condemned, by which we deserve to be judged. And Christ took that judgment in our place. He died the death we deserved to die, and did that in the place of us sinners.

Let me give you just a couple of other passages that speak of substitutionary atonement, although the preposition huper it is not involved in these, but they're just rich texts. You can jot down the references. Romans 3:23 to 25. Hebrews 7:26 and 27. 1 Peter 2:24, and 1 John 2:2. So these are all passages which speak of penal substitution that Christ's death has accomplished on our behalf in our place. 

Okay, we move on to another aspect of the atonement and that is redemption. Redemption, again facets of the diamond, beautiful elements, aspects of the same atoning work of Christ just spoken of with different terms, different glimpses of that same reality from different perspectives. So redemption is a term that refers to the payment of a price that is necessary to secure our release from the bondage and guilt of sin, the payment of a price necessary to secure our release from the bondage and guilt of sin. 

Redemption is a term that was used in regular language in Greek for purchasing something at the marketplace. The Agora in Greek was the marketplace. Agorazo, is the term most often used to redeem something, to buy something from the marketplace. So it is a term that refers to Christ is the one who paid the price to secure our release from sins' grasp and sins' guilt. Some of the main passages for redemption are these. Christ is the one who died and paid the penalty, paid the price.

For example, in 1 Corinthians 6:20. "You have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body." Paul says. So it is purchase with a price. The price of course is the price of Christ himself, the eternal Son of the Father taking on human nature. This was the only thing that would satisfy God's just wrath against us, his judgment of us. It required this price. Have you ever wondered why Christ had to be both fully God and fully man?

And I think we talked about this briefly earlier, but he had to be fully man in order to live the life we were supposed to live of obedience that we failed to live, to take our place and die on the cross, to take upon himself our sin, and to be raised from the dead in all those ways, it required his full humanity. But his deity was necessary because the payment made had to suffice for all of our sin, which, if we paid for it, how do we pay for our own sin if we pay for it ourselves? An answer is, we pay for it forever.

One of the ways we can comprehend how serious it is that we have sinned against a holy God, is that the just judgment that comes to us is a payment that we could never finish paying, and hence it goes on forever. Everlasting condemnation is the penalty for our sin. So one has to make a payment that can satisfy that big of a debt, that great of a payment. Well, who can do that? Well, only Christ can, who is both fully man to die on the cross in our place, but fully God, so that the payment he makes is of infinite value. So Christ can pay in a moment what we could never pay for forever and ever, in all of time, future, we could never pay for it.

By the way, one of the reasons that the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory is such a misleading doctrine, besides the fact that it's not taught in the Bible, it's not a valid doctrine biblically. But one of the problems with it in terms of accepting this notion of purgatory is that it gives the impression of people that given enough time you can pay off your sin, right? You can be purged, purgatory, you can be purged of your sin, given enough time of suffering and torment and whatever the case might be, experiencing the agonies of purgatory, the time will come when it's finished, you're done.

But it's not true, it's false to say that given enough time we can pay it off. No, given all time we will never pay it off in ourselves. The only one who can pay it fully and say it is finished is Christ. So indeed his payment is the one that does this for us. It is his price paid. He bought us with a price, the price of his own shed blood of the God man, the one who is fully God and fully man. 1 Corinthians 7:23 speaks of us being bought with a price. Galatians 3:13 speaks of us being redeemed from the curse of the law. Redeemed from the curse of the law. So we talked about this passage previously, but here is that term redeemed again.

He became the curse for us, becoming the one who was cursed himself. So we're not cursed, but he did this by paying the price necessary. 2 Peter 2:1, speaks of people who these are obviously unbelievers in the context, this is clear, they deny the master who bought them. There it is, the same idea of a purchase price paid. They deny the master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And then one of the most amazing statements in all of the Bible of our redemption is in Revelation 5. Let me read these to you. Revelation 5 verses 9 and 10. "And they sang a new song saying, worthy are you to take the book and to break its seals for you were slain and purchased for God." There it is, the price of our redemption was Christ's own life given, purchased for God with your blood. Men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign upon the earth." 

Now just real briefly, there's a view that was held by some of the early church theologians sometimes called the ransom theory of the atonement, that this price paid by the father sending his son to pay this price was a price paid to Satan in order to ransom us. So Satan holds us in sin and God makes a wager, an agreement with Satan whereby he says to Satan, "I'll give you my son if you give me those whom you are holding," that's us in our sin. So you give me sinners and in exchange I'll give you my son. And so that's what happens in the death of Christ. But then God pulls a fast one. It's kind of a bait and switch, because God, after he gives his son to Satan, then he takes him back in the resurrection. And so Satan ends up losing completely on this. It's just a very troubling doctrine because it does imply that God goes back on his word, and this is a horrible thing. I mean, wow, what else does God not do that he's promised he would do? It just raises huge moral questions about the integrity and faithfulness of God and so on, truthfulness. The other problem is it's not what the Bible says.

So let me show you in Hebrews chapter 9. Just turn there if you would please. I want you to see two ways in which it stated that the payment is not made to Satan, but it's the payment that God makes to himself of the payment that Christ makes. So Hebrews chapter 9, verse 14. I know I'm picking up in the middle of the flow of thought here, but just follow with me. Verse 14, "How much more will the blood of Christ who through the eternal spirit offer himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God." So verse 14 states just straightforward that the offering that Christ made was made to God, right? Not to Satan, to God.

But verse 15 is so helpful because it provides the theological basis for why this is the case. Why did God send his son to pay God? Right? So here's the answer is in verse 15. It's a little bit difficult to discern, but follow with me. I think you'll see it. Hebrews 9:15. "For this reason, he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance." Now here's the idea. He says that the death of Christ was a death that took place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant.

Okay, so first covenant meaning the covenant made with Moses for the people of Israel, the so-called mosaic covenant or the law that was given, which stated in that law that, "If you obey me, I will bless you, but if you disobey me, I will curse you." Well, of course we know what Israel did. They disobeyed horribly, and through the whole of their history they were a disobedient people with glimmers of obedience, but really largely a disobedient people. So the requirement of the law would then to bring those transgressions to judgment. And so Christ did that. He paid the penalty for their sin. Now, in that covenant, there's an innocent covenant partner, however, right?

So the guilty covenant partner is Israel, but the innocent covenant partner is God, right? So who does that payment need to be made to in that Old Testament covenant context? Well, obviously it needs to be made to the innocent covenant partner, which is God. So those transgressions are paid for by the Son to satisfy God's just judgment against their sin. So God sends his son in his love for the son to pay the penalty of the transgressions to satisfy God's holiness, right? God's love pays the penalty to God to satisfy his own holiness. And by doing that, he can then bring in the new covenant because the old covenant has been satisfied and it is done away with. The atoning work of Christ is not a payment then to Satan. By no means is it that, it rather is God paying himself, his love divines a way to satisfy the demands of his holiness in the death of Christ. 

Okay, let's move on then. This is a natural movement then from redemption to propitiation, the next item that we'll look at here. This is a term that is very specific in the Bible, and is found four different times. The term is he hilasmos, or he hiloskomai. They're variations of it. And you find it in four places. The first is Romans 3:25. We read this earlier. It says that Christ whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation through his blood in faith. So Christ propitiates God.

We find it in Hebrews 2:17. He had to be made like his brethren in all things to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 1 John 2:2, "He, himself is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world." And 1 John 4:10, "He loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins." So Romans 3:25, Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10. 

Now what does propitiation refer to? Well, a substitute word in English for propitiation is the word satisfaction, that God is satisfied with the death of Christ that paid the penalty for our sin. When you think of how great the penalty was, how severe the judgment would be for the sin that we had committed, it is glorious good news to know that God is satisfied with this payment for our sin. If the worst news in the world that we could possibly ever hear is, God who created us, the holy God who stands as rightful judge of us, holds us accountable for our sin by which we deserve everlasting condemnation. If that's the worst news we could ever hear, which it is, there's no worse... A phone call from a doctor telling you about some problem you've got, or whatever the case might be. Nothing compares to the bad news of knowing we stand under the wrath of God because of the sin we have committed.

Well then the greatest good news there is, is to know that there is a sacrifice that's satisfied. God's just judgment against our sin. And this is what happens in the death of Christ, is that our sin is paid for fully and God requires no further payment, no further work, nothing else needed to establish a renewed relationship with him, and to eliminate from us all the judgment and wrath that we had incurred by our own sin. I think of a few statements in a song that has given expression to this. One is, I believe it's the third verse of, It Is Well With My Soul, "My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part, but the whole, was nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, oh my soul."

And then the second verse before the throne, "When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see him there who made an end to all my sin, because the sinless savior died, my sinful soul is counted free, for God the just is propitiated, is satisfied to look at him and pardon me.” Propitiation is this glorious teaching that God is satisfied with the work that Christ has done and no further work needs to be done. No further payment can be offered. He paid it all. And so indeed all to him we owe. 

Now the flip side of the coin of propitiation is expiation, the next thing we'll look at here. They really are two sides of the same coin. Because God is satisfied with the death of Christ for our sin, that's propitiation. Therefore, we no longer are liable to pay for sin’s penalty. That's expiation, because God is satisfied with the death of Christ for our sin. That's propitiation. We are no longer liable to pay the penalty for our own sin. Expiation then is the elimination of the necessity or the liability to pay the penalty for our sin and suffer its consequences. It's the removal of the necessity or the liability of paying the penalty for our own sin and suffering its consequences. 

Let me show you two passages that highlight expiation. There's no particular word, but the concept is clearly there in these passages. The first one is in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, where we read at verse 17, "If anyone is in Christ, he's a new creature, old things have passed away, behold new things have come. Now all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation, namely that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself." Here it comes, "Not counting their trespasses against them. And he has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” So that statement in verse 19, "Not counting their trespasses against them," means because what Christ has done, we don't have to pay.

You see it? That huge debt that you owed, I mean there's nothing in human life that could be analogous to this. No car payment, no house payment, no medical bills, nothing can ever come close to the debt we owe to God for the transgressions we committed, but here not counting their trespasses against them. Why? Because they've been counted against Christ. Look at verse 21. "God made Christ to knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him." So there's expiation there in verse 19. 

Also, Colossians chapter 2, if you turn there, Colossians 2 verse 14. Let me read verse 13 also. Colossians 2:13, "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive together with him having forgiven us our transgressions." Here it comes, "Having canceled out the certificate of debt, consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us, and he has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Our sins are nailed to the cross of Christ when he dies, so that the certificate of debt that held us accountable, that was hostile to us is paid for in Christ.

Years ago I had the role at a local church of being worship leader, and we came to a Good Friday service one time, and had some carpenters in the church put a huge cross up in front of the sanctuary, had to lay it on its side a bit because it was a big timber cross. And we had put a bunch of finishing nails. Those are nails without heads on them. In the middle of that, giving people little slips of paper, and at some point in the service had them write down sins that came to mind that they had committed. No one else would see, but they knew about these sins, would just make a note about that. And at the appropriate time then take that piece of paper, fold it in half so no one could see anything and put it on the cross. Push it on one of those finishing nails.

So we had five or 600 people at this service. All of them go up. And so that cross is just filled with these little slips of paper, symbolizing our own sins were nailed to the cross when Christ died there, because he took our sin and paid for it there. So because he did that, the certificate of debt is paid for, it was hostile to us. It's taken out of the way. It was nailed to the cross. So it's canceled. He canceled that certificate of debt so we don't have to pay it anymore. That's expiation. 

Then one more last element here is reconciliation. There really are three aspects of reconciliation in order to understand reconciliation. The first is that you begin with a relationship of hostility between two parties. There's some kind of enmity, some kind of anger, some kind of enmity that exists between two parties. Secondly, is something takes place to remove the basis of that enmity, of that anger and frustration between those two parties. And then third, the relationship is now marked by peace and acceptance. So you move from hostility and enmity to something that removes the basis of that hostility and enmity, and then to peace and acceptance. So this is what happens in our relationship with God. We stand before him as enemies of God, as those under the wrath of God.

So his wrath is against us, we're haters of him. Our fists are clenched against him. That's where we start as sinners. But then God removes the basis of the enmity. What basis is that? Our sin. So in Christ he removes our sin so that having removed that, now our relationship with him can be restored to one of peace and acceptance. God himself bringing us into his own family. Talk about acceptance, you don't get accepted more than by being adopted into the very family of God, and us by now honoring God as God, loving and adoring him rather than shaking our fist at him.

A few passages that speak of reconciliation that would be helpful to make note of, Romans 5 verses 10 and 11, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, Colossians 1:20-23, and Ephesians 2:11-16. And all of these, if you look at these, I would encourage you to do so. All of them speak of the fact that reconciliation is done by God. He's the one who does it. So get the point. He's the offended party. I mean, why do we have this estrangement? It's because we're the ones who brought it about. We're the ones who caused the problem that exists between us and God, not God. We did.

But God, the innocent party again, is the one who establishes the way by which we would be brought back to him. The offended party acts on our behalf, and brings us back to himself. And indeed that reconciliation, Ephesians makes this point, that reconciliation with God vertically also results in a reconciliation horizontally. So Jew and Gentile that used to be at odds with each other are brought together in one body in Christ. So you see that reconciliation is fundamentally in the Bible, a vertical reality, us and God, but it's also a horizontal reality of all of us in the body of Christ. So there should be no enmity, no hostility, no anger between believers in Christ regardless of their ethnicity or race or culture or any other aspect. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Capital letter B, 

Just a quick note that the ratification of the efficacy of the atonement. How do we know that the atonement actually worked? That his death for Christ actually did pay the penalty for sin, actually conquered sin? And the answer is the resurrection. Because you remember Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 verse 17 that if Christ hasn't been raised, we're still in our sins, right?

What is accomplished in the resurrection of Christ that demonstrates sin is dealt with? Well, it's simply this, that because the penalty of sin is death and the greatest power that sin has over us is death. That if Christ actually paid the penalty and actually conquered the power of sin, he had to have been raised from the dead, right? If he's still in the grave, he's still paying the penalty. If he's still in the grave, sin has power over him. So the only way to demonstrate the penalty has been paid fully, and the power of sin has been conquered completely, is for Christ to be raised from the dead. So indeed, the resurrection is not a nice extra, it is a necessary expression that the atoning death of Christ actually worked. And apart from that, we would have no hope. 

Okay, let's move on then, just in the last moments here to the present and future work of Christ. The present work of Christ can be summarized with these two categories of mediator and Lord, mediator and Lord. So Christ is functioning now at the right hand of the Father mediating for us. We read in 1 Timothy 2:5, that “we have one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” So he represents us to the Father and represents the Father to us. 

And in that role of mediator, he is the interceder. He intercedes for us. As we read in Romans 8:34, he's at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. We see that also in Hebrews 7:25. "He lives always to make intercession for his people." So you think how wonderful it is that your mom or your dad or your friends pray for you. That is a great thing, and what a wonderful thing to pray for one another. But remember this, you always have Christ himself interceding for you. He is pulling for you. He is wanting with all of his heart to see your progress in sanctification, your usefulness in ministry and so on. So Christ is mediating and interceding for you.

And then he's also Lord, he's functioning right now in his present work as Lord of heaven and earth. Let me read one passage in particular that just highlights this. At the end of Ephesians 1, Paul speaks of the father raising Christ from the dead, and then working through him to reign over all things in the earth. Let me pick up at verse 19. He's talking about what is the surpassing greatness of his power? That is the father's power toward us. "These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His, the father's might, which He, the Father brought about in Christ, when He, the Father raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He, the Father put all things in subjection under His, the Son's feet and gave him his head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." So indeed Christ is reigning over everything now. We have to remember though, there is a statement in Hebrews chapter 2, "We do not yet see all things subject to him." So we realize this world is still in tremendous rebellion against God, even though Christ reigns over all. So the day is coming when he will execute his reign fully. That day is sure and certain. We aren't there yet, but that day is coming. But the fact is he's been put in the place where he has rightful reign over everything.

And then the future work of Christ can be captured in these terms of coming judge and reigning king. So Christ talked about himself being the judge of all things. In John chapter 5, verses 22 and 27, he informed the Jews who were questioning him that the Son of man has authority over all people to bring judgment upon them. The day will come when they will be raised and he will judge them. And indeed we see believers are judged. 2 Corinthians 5:10, "We will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account for what we have done in the body, whether good or bad." 2 Corinthians 5:10, "And unbelievers will be judged in the end."

Revelation 20 verses 11 to 15. "The books of works are opened and all the dead who are outside of Christ will be judged on that day before Christ. So everyone will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, believer and unbeliever. You might wonder why believers? Because we won't be judged for our sin that's already been taken by Christ. And I think the answer is two things. 

One, it will be the first time, the only time in our lives when we become aware of all of our sin that was paid for by Christ. And it will be a sobering moment to see put on display everything we have said and thought and done and realize standing before us is the one who paid the penalty for all of that, how much worship that will inspire from us when we understand better the sin that has been paid for by Christ. And also rewards will be given, depending upon our obedience and faithfulness in this life. 

So coming judge, but also reigning king, he will fulfill what was promised to David, that David would have a son who would reign upon his throne forever. And indeed he will come as king of kings and Lord of lords, and reign over all. Revelation 19 makes this crystal clear. In the second coming of Christ, we read this, verse 15, "From his mouth comes a sharp sword so that with it he may strike down the nations and he will rule him with a rod of iron. And he treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God the Almighty. And on his robe and on his thigh, he has a name written king of kings and Lord of lords. He will reign his king forever and we will reign with him as one of the great privileges we have as being brothers and sisters in Christ, and brothers and sisters of Christ as we reign with him forever and ever."

If Christ's death is a satisfaction of God's wrath, it would seem that the wrath is removed only for those who trust Christ.

Right.

What happens to the wrath that still exists for unbelievers, is there still wrath?

Oh, yes. Yes. Right. Now even-

Isn't there a scripture that says wrath is satisfied for all?

I don't know if there's a passage that says exactly that. There are passages that speak of his atonement for all. So you could make that connection, but not-

One of the things in Matthew 28 that you cited, it actually says, "Has made a ransom for many."

Yes. Right.

It doesn't say, which was kind of striking, it doesn't say ransom for all, it says ransom for many. So that might-

But the ransom is the exchange or the payment. The wrath is still out there, that's been built up since the beginning of time, I guess.

Yes.

So God's still got wrath for unbelievers, right?

Yes, yes.

Okay.

Well, in fact, Robbie, it's even the case that God's wrath stands against believers until they come to faith in Christ, that is born into this world under the wrath of God. Ephesians 2:3 makes that clear, "We were children of wrath even as the rest." So we were children under the wrath of God, deserving the wrath of God even as the rest. But God who is rich in mercy. So he has brought us to faith in Christ where there's no longer any condemnation. Romans 8:1, "There's no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

So the wrath of God against Christ in our sin applies to us when we put our faith in Christ. So if you don't put your faith in Christ, then you still stand under that wrath yourself. This is why unbelievers then remain children of wrath. They remain those under condemnation and receive the judgment of God because they have not personally appropriated, believed to receive the forgiveness of sins and the payment that Christ made on their behalf. Does that make sense?

Yes. And I do have another question. Did you have one?. It's related to this, it has to do with the nature of sin and the balance of the payment for sin.

Yes.

And you were noting that if we tried to pay for our own sin, us as finite people trying to satisfy infinite offense, could never be accomplished.

Right.

So since Christ's payment for sin is adequate and satisfying, this is because he is eternal. I take it that sin against God must be eternal. It must be some sort of, have an eternal nature that only Christ being eternal can balance that eternal nature of sin. And we could never do that. Am I on the right track there?

Well, I'm not sure if the word eternal is the best one to use. I think infinite is the appropriate correspondence, because our sin results in an infinite offense, that the just judgment that God has ruled to be the case against our sin is everlasting condemnation. So an infinite payment, never ending payment, no limit to it. Therefore, the payment that would satisfy him has to be of infinite value. So I think eternal runs into the problem of saying, so is sin itself an eternal reality? No, it's not. Sin comes about at a point in time.

But since sin is an infinite offense-

Yes.

And Christ is able to satisfy that infinite offense.

Yes.

I take it that it is the fact of Christ's deity that allows that satisfaction to take place.

That's right.

It's not necessarily his humanity.

Right, right. The humanity and deity then function for different purposes, humanity to take our place, to live the life we were called to live and fail to live, to die the death we deserve to die, to take our sin upon himself. All of that requires humanity, to die and be raised, humanity. Because when Christ offers himself, remember our discussion on the person of Christ, he is one person with two natures. So when Christ dies on the cross, he is one person who dies. Now that death technically, it's sort of like who thirsted on, I thirst, who thirsted on the cross?

Well, that's Christ. But it's tied to his human nature, not his divine nature. His divine nature doesn't get thirsty, but his human nature does. Who is it who experiences that pain on the cross? Well, it's the human nature. The divine nature does not. So we have to recognize both natures are involved, but only one nature experiences certain parts of it. So it's human nature, takes our sin dies on the cross. But the divine nature, also the nature of the person, the divine nature with the human nature dies. And hence the payment is made of one who is of infinite value, only because he's the God, man.

Thank you. That clears up a question I've had in my head for a long time.

Oh, good. Good. That's always nice. Great.

So it's like the magnitude versus time, right? The magnitude.

Yeah, something like that. Right. Yep.

So a simple question. We talk about the sacrificial system, and it always struck me, you go back to when Solomon created the temple, and he went to dedicate the temple.

Yes.

I mean, tens of thousands of animals got slaughtered, oxen and sheep, the Bible maybe says 122,000 sheep. I mean, just stunning to me.

Yes.

Is that of God or is that of man?

No, that is of God. That is of God.

The magnitude of that kind of sacrifice.

Yes. So what it indicates is, again, the value that this only approximates, right? It's not as though, "Oh, yeah, we got just the exact number of sheep and we don't need another one, that's equivalent to the value that we see in God." No, it's an approximation, but it does help us see better how great God is, how worthy he is. And we have to remember everything in this world is God's, right? He's owner of everything, and he can dispose of all of it as he chooses. And he's just always in the things that he does.

There are things we can do that God cannot do, like we can murder. God cannot murder, because murder is the illicit taking of human life. But God, goodness, being God can never be illicit in taking human life because he owns it all. It's all his, he can do with it as he chooses. So this would be true with the animals as well, that they are rightly in God's sight offered as sacrifices in light of the magnitude of his glory and greatness.

Can you clarify your comment about infinite sin? Does the Bible actually say that, or is it a theological construct?

Yeah, thank you. A good question. No, the Bible does not say infinite sin, but the Bible does say that the punishment for our sin will never end. It's everlasting condemnation. And so I take it that means then infinite in that there's no limit that you can reach that says, I've paid for this long enough. The term of my sentence is over. That will never be the case. I mean it's one of the most sobering realities of the doctrine of hell is that it goes on forever and ever and never ends.

So in that sense it's infinite, meaning there is a limitless payment that must be made for that sin. And hence, there has to be a limitless offering that is made. The payment has to be itself limitless for it to pay for the offense that was committed, hence the need then for Christ to be both fully man to bear our sin, but fully God, so that that payment is limitless in its value to pay for that sin.

 

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