The Meaning and Scope of Salvation
Even a casual look at the world quickly reveals man’s condition in sin and the awful plight in which this fallen condition has left him. Furthermore, it is a condition against which mankind is completely helpless when left to his own human resources. In spite of all man’s expectations of a new society in which he is able to bring about peace and prosperity, the world remains shattered and torn by the ravages of sin locally, nationally, and internationally. The Bible speaks, however, of God’s gracious plan to provide a solution to man’s problem. We call it salvation or soteriology. Ryrie writes:
Soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, must be the grandest theme in the Scriptures. It embraces all of time as well as eternity past and future. It relates in one way or another to all of mankind, without exception. It even has ramifications in the sphere of the angels. It is the theme of both the Old and New Testaments. It is personal, national, and cosmic. And it centers on the greatest Person, our Lord Jesus Christ.1
According to the broadest meaning as used in Scripture, the term salvation encompasses the total work of God by which He seeks to rescue man from the ruin, doom, and power of sin and bestows upon him the wealth of His grace encompassing eternal life, provision for abundant life now, and eternal glory (Eph. 1:3-8; 2:4-10; 1 Pet. 1:3-5; John 3:16, 36; 10:10).
The word “salvation” is the translation of the Greek word soteria which is derived from the word soter meaning “savior.” The word “salvation” communicates the thought of deliverance, safety, preservation, soundness, restoration, and healing. In theology, however, its major use is to denote a work of God on behalf of men, and as such it is a major doctrine of the Bible which includes redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, conviction, repentance, faith, regeneration, forgiveness, justification, sanctification, preservation, and glorification. On the one hand, salvation is described as the work of God rescuing man from his lost estate. On the other hand salvation describes the estate of a man who has been saved and who is vitally renewed and made a partaker of the inheritance of the saints.2
The Motivations for Salvation
When we look at the stubbornness and rebellion of man, we ask the question, why should God want to save sinners? And especially, why should He want to give His unique and beloved Son to die the agony of God’s holy judgment in bearing our sin on the cross?
Scripture’s answer is that salvation redounds to the glory of His grace. Salvation brings glory to God and it does so because it manifests the nature and character of His person (Eph. 1:6; Phil. 2:11). Salvation reveals a number of things about God that bring glory to the person of God and show us something of the reasons for salvation:
(1) It reveals His love. That God would reach out to sinful man by sending His only begotten Son is the greatest manifestation of His love. It declares God provided salvation because He is a loving God (John 3:16; 1 John 4:7-10, 16).
(2) Salvation through the person and work of Christ is also a manifestation of God’s grace, the non-meritorious favor of God (Eph. 2:7-9). Only Christianity offers a salvation based on grace rather than works. All the other religions of the world have man working to acquire salvation.
(3) The salvation of the Bible also manifests the holiness of God. God provided salvation through the person and work of His Son because He is a holy God. In His love and grace God desired fellowship with man, but man’s rebellion and sin created a barrier between God and man that hindered any fellowship with man whatsoever because of God’s infinite holiness. Both God’s holiness and His love are satisfied, however, by the person and work of God’s Son so that man can be reconciled to God and fellowship restored.
(4) Adam and Eve were created in the image of God that they might give a visible display of God’s character as they walked in fellowship with the invisible God. But when the human race fell through Adam’s sin, the image was not only marred, but man lost the capacity for fellowship with God. Through salvation, the capacity for fellowship is restored and also is man’s ability to manifest, though imperfectly, the goodness of God.
The Three Phases (Tenses) of Salvation
Salvation in Christ, which begins in eternity past according to the predetermined plan of God and extends into the eternal future, has three observable phases in the Bible. Understanding this truth can relieve a lot of tension from the standpoint of security and enable the believer to relax in the Lord and His grace while simultaneously moving forward in spiritual growth.
Phase I. This is the past tense of salvation—saved from sin’s penalty. Several passages of Scripture speak of salvation as wholly past, or as accomplished and completed for the one who has believed in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This aspect views the believer as delivered once and for all from sin’s penalty and spiritual death (Luke 7:50; 1 Cor. 1:18; 2 Cor. 2:15; Eph. 2:5, 8; Tit. 3:5; Heb. 7:25; 2 Tim. 1:9). So complete and perfect is this work of God in Christ that the believer is declared permanently saved and safe forever (John 5:24; 10:28, 29; Rom. 8:1, 37-39; 1 Pet. 1:3-5).
Phase II. This is the present tense of salvation and has to do with present deliverance over the reigning power of sin or the carnal nature’s power in the lives of believers (Rom. 6:1-23; 8:2; 2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 2:19-20; 5:1-26; Phil. 1:19; 2:12-13; 2 Thess. 2:13). This phase of salvation in Christ is accomplished through the ministry of the indwelling Spirit, but it is based on the work of Christ and the believer’s union and co-identification with Christ in that work.
Phase III. This is the future tense of salvation which refers to the future deliverance all believers in Christ will experience through a glorified resurrected body. It contemplates that, though once and for all saved from the penalty of sin and while now being delivered from the power of sin, the believer in Christ will yet be saved into full conformity to Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29; 13:11; 1 Pet. 1:5; 1 John 3:2). This recognizes and shows that the Christian in his experience never becomes perfect in this life (Phil. 3:12-14). Full conformity to the character of Christ, experientially speaking, awaits ultimate glorification. However, the fact that some aspects of salvation for the one who believes are yet to be accomplished in no way implies that there is ground for doubt as to the outcome of eternal salvation because all three phases are dependent upon the merit and the work of God in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.3
The Nature of Salvation As the Work of God
Salvation is the free gift of God to man by grace through faith, completely aside from human works. Works in the life of a believer are tremendously important, but they are to be the result of receiving and appropriating God’s grace in the salvation they receive. As the prophet declares, “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). “Therefore, in every aspect it is a work of God in behalf of man and is in no sense a work of man in behalf of God.”4
Salvation as the saving work of God so completely provides for the believer that believers are declared “complete in Christ” and “blessed with every spiritual blessing” (Col. 2:10; Eph. 1:3). A fathomless source of blessings become the possession of all believers when they trust in Christ as their Savior. The Apostle Paul refers to these blessings as “the unfathomable riches of Christ” in Ephesians 3:8. “Unfathomable” is the Greek anexichniastos which means “past finding out, unsearchable, not to be tracked out.” The idea is that our blessings in Christ are “too deep to be measured.”
See Appendix A for a list of the Believer’s Unfathomable Riches in Christ.
This saving work of God encompasses various aspects which together accomplish salvation: these include redemption, forgiveness, reconciliation, propitiation, justification, imputation, regeneration, propitiation, expiation, sanctification, and even glorification. It is all of this and much more which provide salvation, make believers qualified for heaven and become the children of God (John 1:12; Col. 1:12; Eph. 1:6).
As a Finished Work
The last words uttered by the Savior just before He died on the cross were, “It is finished.” He was not referring to the end of His life or ministry, but of His substitutionary sufferings on the cross which He would complete by His death which occurred immediately following His shout, “It is finished.” He was declaring He had finished the special work of salvation which the Father had given Him to accomplish. We speak of “the finished work of Christ” because there is nothing left to be done to provide man’s salvation. God has done it all in the person and work of His Son and He raised Him from the dead as the proof of that very fact. The work of God in Christ is a once-and-for-all work of God accomplished in total by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Christ’s death was distinctly a work accomplished for the entire world (John 3:16; Heb. 2:9) and, provisionally speaking, it provided redemption (1 Tim. 2:6), reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19), and propitiation (the appeasement or satisfaction of God’s holiness) (1 John 2:2) for every person in the world.
Salvation is a done proposition. Man’s responsibility is to accept this by faith, faith alone in Christ alone. The finished work of Christ includes not only deliverance from the penalty of sin, but also from the power of sin. Faith in Christ for salvation means coming to Him as the source of salvation from every aspect of sin through trusting in the accomplished work of Christ. When Christ cried out, “It is finished” (Greek, telesthai, the perfect tense of teleo, “to complete, finish” expressing completed action with continuing results), He was affirming the fact of the finished nature of what He had accomplished on the cross for the world. Regarding Christ’s work as a finished work, Lewis Chafer wrote:
The fact that Christ died does not in itself save men, but it provides the one and only sufficient ground upon which God in full harmony with His perfect holiness is free to save even the chief of sinners. This is the good news which the Christian is appointed to proclaim to all the world.5
In all the other religions of the world, salvation is a work that man does for God. This is what makes biblical Christianity distinct from all the religions of the world because in the Bible, salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:0); it is the work of God for man and Christ’s final shout of victory affirmed this truth.
Since the Christ’s work is finished, it should be clear that salvation is not a work of man for God. When a person comes to Christ, he is acknowledging that he cannot save himself but has now recognized the work of salvation God has wrought for him and which he accepts as God’s gift. Salvation originates in God’s purposes, not in man’s and is forever delivered from any legalistic approach that would elevate human works as a ground for salvation.6
The Necessity of Salvation—The Barrier
In Ephesians 2:14-16 Paul speaks of the barrier of separation which exists between God and man. As long as this barrier exists, there is no possibility of fellowship between God and man. The barrier, or literally the dividing wall mentioned in Ephesians 2:14, referred historically to the dividing wall in the temple in Jerusalem. This wall separated the court of the Gentiles from the rest of the temple and excluded the Gentiles from the inner sanctuaries. But this wall was a picture of the spiritual barrier that stands between God and man which precludes man’s access into God’s presence. The Jews could go beyond the dividing wall, but this was only because they had access through their God-given sacrificial system which pointed to the person and work of Christ, the Messiah, the One who would make peace and remove the barrier.
The study of the Bible reveals there are several spiritual factors which go together to make up this barrier of separation between God and man. Though sin is the root problem, it is not the only issue. A combination of factors make up this wall of separation. So just what constitutes the barrier between God and man?
Barrier 1: The Holiness of God
We often think of God as a God of love—which He is—but more is said in the Bible of God’s holiness than of God’s love. In fact, Isaiah 57:15 even declares that His “name is holy.” In Isaiah 6:3, the holy cherubim continuously proclaimed the holiness of God. After seeing this in the vision of God’s absolute holiness given to the Prophet, Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” Habakkuk spoke of the holiness of God and said, “Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil, and thou canst not look on wickedness with favor …” (Hab. 1:13). John wrote, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Abraham confessed God as the Judge of all the earth who had to act in accordance with His holy justice (Gen. 18:25). In 2 Timothy 4:8, Paul called God the righteous Judge. In Deuteronomy 32:4, Moses spoke of God’s holy character:
Deuteronomy 32:4 The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.
These and many other passages point to the perfect holiness of God and stress the fact that God cannot and will not act contrary to His holy character. If He is without injustice and completely righteous in all that He is and does, how can He have fellowship with sinful man or anything less than His perfect holiness?
The holiness of God has two branches: perfect righteousness and perfect justice. God is absolute righteousness and perfection. It is impossible for God to do anything wrong or to have fellowship with anything less than His perfect righteousness. Since God is also perfect justice, which acts in accord with His perfect righteousness, He cannot be partial or unfair to any creature and He must deal with the creature in perfect justice. This means all that is unrighteous or sinful must be judged and separated from Him (cf. Ps. 119:137-138; 145:17 with Hab. 1:13; Rom. 2:5-6, 11; 1:18; 14:11-12; 1 Pet. 4:5).
Barrier 2: The Sin of Man
Galatians teaches us that man is shut up (locked out, shut out from God) because man is under the eight ball of sin. Romans 3:23 declares that all have sinned and fall short (miss the mark) of the glory of God (His holy character). In Isaiah 59:1-2 the prophet said, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; Neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.” Isaiah was reminding Israel that though God has the ability and desire to deliver men, He cannot act contrary to nor bypass His perfect holiness.
Sin creates a barrier between God and man which hinders access to God. This is true for the unbeliever who can only come to God through Christ who alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). It is also true for the believer in Christ. Even though they are saved and have access to God in Christ, fellowship with God as His children is broken by known sin which must first be confessed so that fellowship can be restored and God can answer prayer (Ps. 66:18).
The barrier of sin is one of the reasons why God, in His sovereign love, gave His Son to die on the cross for man’s sin. There are three aspects which go to make up the barrier of sin which will be mentioned just briefly in this study.
Imputed Sin: Romans 5:12 teaches us the fact of imputed sin. Adam is the representative head of the human race and because of our natural relationship to him, his sin is imputed, reckoned, to the entire human race. God views the human race as though we all sinned in Adam or with Adam. But in this we also see God’s grace as Paul explains in Romans 5:12-18, for just as Adam’s sin was imputed to every human being as a descendent of Adam because of Adam’s one act of sin, so Christ’s righteousness is imputed to all who become children of God by faith in Christ because of His one act of righteousness (Rom. 5:16-18). As such, Adam was a type of Christ (Rom. 5:14).
Inherited Sin: The Bible teaches the fact that, as the posterity of Adam, every child is born with a sinful nature inherited from his parents. Many passages of Scripture refer to this principle. According to Ephesians 2:1-3, all are dead in sin and are “by nature the children of wrath.” Other important verses are:
Genesis 5:3 When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth.
Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
Psalm 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth.
The vital principle is that men do not sin and become sinners, rather they sin because they are sinners.
Individual or Personal Sin: This refers to the products of the sinful nature of inherited sin, the actual deeds or acts of sin which all men do because they are sinful (Rom. 3:18, 23).
Barrier 3: The Penalty of Sin
Because God is holy and man is sinful, God’s perfect justice must act against man to charge him as guilty and under the penalty of sin with a debt to pay, and a sentence to serve. Thus, the Law of the Old Testament functions as a bill of indictment. It shows man guilty and under the penalty of sin. This is clear from the following passages:
Romans 3:19-20 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
Galatians 3:19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made.
Galatians 3:22 But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
Colossians 2:14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us (the Old Testament law) and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
The “certificate of debt consisting of decrees” refers to the Law and its indictment that man is under the penalty of sin which is death. Man has a debt to pay. But the thing which must be understood is that the debt is so great that man himself cannot pay it either by religion, or good deeds, or morality. The very best that a man can come up with falls far short of the glory of God. Man is dead, incapacitated in his sinful condition (Rom. 3:9-23; Eph. 2:1-3). Paul’s argument in Romans 1:18-3:23 is that all men are in the same boat whether immoral (Rom. 1:18-32), or moral (Rom. 2:1-16), or religious (Rom. 2:17-3:8). All miss the mark of God’s holiness and are under the penalty of sin which is death (Rom. 3:9-20, 23; 6:23). Man’s only hope is in the righteousness of God which He supplies through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:21-5:21). How the work of God in Christ removes the barrier will be discussed in the material below on the doctrine of reconciliation.
As a further by-product of these three parts of the barrier, other things automatically occur which compound the problem and add to the barrier and the impossibility of salvation apart from Christ.
Barrier 4: Spiritual Death
Paul teaches us that “in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22). Man’s position in Adam brings spiritual death, eventually physical death, and ultimately eternal death—eternal separation from God. Romans 6:23 tells us “the wages of sin is death,” and in Romans 5:12 we read “therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Death is the awesome consequence of sin (cf. Gen. 2:17; 1 Cor. 15:21, 56; Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13). The point of these verses is that death, whether physical or spiritual, is a product of man’s position in Adam and his own personal sin. This means that man in himself is without spiritual life and spiritual capacity. The result of this is spiritual failure. No matter how hard he tries he fails and falls short of God’s holy character. Men simply cannot save themselves no matter how hard they try or no matter how sincere they are. This is why the Savior told Nicodemus, a very religious man, “you must be born again” (John 3:3-7). This was Christ’s way of teaching this religious man that he needed spiritual capacity, a new spiritual birth, a spiritual birth from above accomplished by the Spirit of God in order to see, understand, and be a part of the kingdom of God.
So man is not only separated from God by sin, by God’s holy character, and by the penalty of sin, but he is faced with the problem of spiritual death and the need of spiritual life. Being spiritually dead, man needs spiritual life and eternal life which can only come through the new birth and a new position in Christ as the source of life.
Barrier 5: Unrighteousness
The Prophet Isaiah wrote, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isa. 64:6). (Italics mine.) Quoting Psalm 14:1-3, the Apostle Paul exclaims, “As it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one.’” In order for people to have fellowship with God they must have a standing, a righteousness equal with God. Because of their condition, dead in sin, they can never establish a righteousness sufficient to pass the righteous judgment of God.
This is the error of the typical religious person who, by his morality and religious deeds, attempts to establish his own standing before God. The error is twofold: First, he does not recognize the absolute awesome holiness of God’s character. For many, if not most, God is simply an elevated man, the man upstairs. Second, such a person does not see the effect of sin on their own character and ability. The Apostle speaks to this very thing in Romans 10:1-4 when he writes of his religious brethren:
Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Therefore, all of man’s human good or religious works are just dead works and worthless from the standpoint of acceptance with God (Rom. 4:1-4; Heb. 6:1; 9:14).
What then is the solution to this dilemma of mankind, this five-fold barrier? The solution is God’s work of grace in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. This work of grace is called reconciliation.
2 Cor. 5:18-19 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
The Work of Salvation: The Removal of the Barrier
The Doctrine of Reconciliation Explained
Reconciliation is one of the key words of Scripture because it means the sinner, separated and alienated from God by the barrier, can be restored to fellowship with a holy God. How? Through that which God has done for man in His Son, Jesus Christ. This work of God in Christ results in the reconciliation of the believing sinner to God. Precisely and biblically just what does the doctrine of reconciliation include? What does reconciliation itself mean? Who is reconciled, how, when, and where? These are some of the questions that will be answered in this study.
Definition of Reconcile
(1) The English word “reconcile” means to cause to be friendly again; to bring back to harmony, make peace.
(2) The Greek words for reconciliation and their definition: (a) Katallasso, the verb, and katallage, the noun form. This word comes from kata which means “down,” and allaso which means “to change” or “exchange.” Thus, katallasso means “to change from enmity or disharmony to friendship and harmony,” or “to reconcile” (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18-19). (b) Apokatallaso. This is a triple compound word (adds the preposition apo, “from,”). It does not occur in earlier Greek and seems to be used by Paul to express the idea of the completeness of reconciliation (Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20-21). We can properly translate it “to reconcile completely.”7
Each of these Greek words primarily referred to a one-way kind of reconciliation, one accomplished by one person. This is important because the Greeks had a word, diallasso, that referred to a two-way or mutual reconciliation—one dependent upon the work of both parties. Diallasso “denotes a mutual concession after mutual hostility, an idea absent from katall-.”8 Though katallasso could be used of a reconciliation between people (1 Cor. 7:11), the exclusive choice of the katalasso family of words for the reconciliation of the sinner stresses that salvation is totally the work of God that man may either accept by faith or reject, but either way, salvation is a work not partly of man and partly of God as it might occur between people, but totally, 100%, a work accomplished by God through His Son, the Lord Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17-19; Rom. 5:11).
(3) The concept of reconciliation is, of course, not limited to the word “reconcile.” When Scripture speaks of “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1), of Christ as “our peace” (Eph. 2:14), and of His work of “establishing peace” (Eph. 2:15-17), this is reconciliation, the work of God in Christ to remove the enmity and alienation that separate God and man (Rom. 5:1-11).
(4) Doctrinal Definition: In short, reconciliation is the whole work of God in Christ by which man is brought from the place of enmity to harmony or peace with God (Rom. 5:1). There are other terms used in Scripture of God’s gracious work in Christ like redemption, justification, regeneration, and propitiation, but reconciliation seems to be the over-all term of Scripture which encompasses all the other terms as a part of what God has done through the Lord Jesus to completely remove the enmity or alienation, the whole of the barrier (sin, God’s holiness, death, unrighteousness, etc.). It is this work that sets God free to justify the believing sinner by faith in Christ so there is peace with God, the change of relationship from hostility to harmony.
The Source of Reconciliation
The source of reconciliation is God and not man as 2 Corinthians 5:18 and the Greek words mentioned above make perfectly clear. Reconciliation is a work which has its source in the love, holiness, goodness, and grace of God. It is all by His doing that we come to be in Christ Jesus, the place of peace with God (1 Cor. 1:30-31).
The Agent of Reconciliation—Who?
The agent of reconciliation is the Lord Jesus alone. It is He who personally died for all the world and bore our sin, the cause of alienation, in His body on the tree (Rom. 5:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:18; Col. 1:20-21; 1 Pet. 2:24).
The Object of Reconciliation—Who?
Three answers are often given to this question: God is reconciled to man, man is reconciled to God, or both are reconciled to each other. But clearly, Scripture teaches that the object of reconciliation is man and not God. God is not reconciled; He is propitiated and man is reconciled. Man is the one at enmity with God and who must be brought back into relationship with God. Ryrie writes:
Second Corinthians 5:19 seems clear: God in Christ reconciled the world to Himself. The world of mankind is clearly the object of reconciliation. Romans 5:10 agrees by stating that we were reconciled to God. “God is the one who is active in reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-19), and men are said to be reconciled (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:20); i.e., they are acted upon by God. Thus believers are said to receive reconciliation. They are recipients of a relationship of peace and harmony brought about by God.”9
The Instrument (Cause) of Reconciliation
The instrument and cause of reconciliation is the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. “God made Him to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). It is the death of Jesus Christ that changes man from enmity to harmony with God (Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:10; Col. 1:20).
The Results of Reconciliation
(1) Removal of the barrier, those things which separate man from God as sin, God’s holiness, penalty of sin, spiritual death, unrighteousness (Eph. 2:14-18).
(2) Positional sanctification and a perfect standing before God (Rom. 5:1; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 2:10).
(3) Justification (declared righteous before God) through Christ’s righteousness imputed to us (2 Cor. 5:18-21).
The Ministers of Reconciliation
The ministers of reconciliation are all believers in Christ. Every believer is an ambassador of Christ and a minister of reconciliation. Since Christ died for us, we are each obligated to live not for ourselves, but for the Lord and to be His representatives in a world that is alienated from God (2 Cor. 5:15-21).
The Goal of Reconciliation
The goal of reconciliation or the ultimate purpose is imputed righteousness or justification so each believing sinner may have fellowship with God (2 Cor. 5:21). Another goal of reconciliation is transformed character, Christlikeness here on earth. This is probably the emphasis in Colossians 1:21-23 according to the context of Colossians.
The Work Accomplished by Reconciliation
In that which follows, we will look at the specific aspects of the precious work of the Savior that accomplished our reconciliation. It is helpful for a better understanding of the work of Christ to see how each aspect of Christ’s work discussed below blots out the various aspects of the barrier as it was discussed above.
Propitiation is that part of the work of reconciliation which deals with the barrier of God’s holiness, the obstacle erected or caused by man’s sin. Thus, the holiness of God becomes a key part in removing the alienation or enmity against God.
Holiness is the most central and epitomizing character or attribute of God’s being. Not even love or grace surpass it. In defense of this statement we should note that God is called holy more than anything else in Scripture. As an epithet to God’s name “holy” is found the most. In fact, “holy” is one of the names of God. In Isaiah 57:15 we read, “For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy …” (cf. Ex. 15:11; Ps. 30:4; 47:8; 48:1; 89:35; Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; Isa. 5:16; Rev. 15:4; 1 Pet. 1:15-16).
(1) The Derivation: The Hebrew word for holiness or holy is qadosh which contains the basic idea of separation or apartness, and then “sacred, holy.” The Greek word for holy is hagios which similarly, in its most fundamental meaning, means “separate, set apart.” Hagios was used of what was separated from the secular world to a sacred and set apart place.
(2) The Definition:Negatively, holiness is that perfection in the being of God which totally separates Him from all that is evil and defiling. As we call gold pure when it is free from any dross or other metals, so the nature and actions of God are 100% free from any impurity or evil of any kind. Light is a symbol of God’s holiness and so John wrote, “God is light and in Him is no (none whatsoever) darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Positively, holiness stands for the absolute integrity and purity of the being and nature of God. It means God must always think and act in a way that is consistent with His perfect righteousness and justice, what we might call the executive and judicial branches of God’s pure holiness.
(3) The Description and Application of God’s Holiness in Relation to Salvation: (1) Holiness is an essential and necessary perfection of God. This means God’s holiness is not maintained by an act of God’s will. God does not choose to be holy because He wants to. God always thinks and acts in a holy manner because He is inherently holy. God wills holiness because He is holy and not in order to be holy. He cannot be anything else. (2) God’s holiness means He can never approve of anything evil, but that He perfectly, necessarily, universally, and perpetually abhors evil. (3) God’s holiness in its outworking and manifestation in history has two branches or aspects. There is the legislative side, God’s perfect righteousness, and the judicial side, His perfect justice. (4) Because God is perfect righteousness, He cannot have fellowship with anything less than His own perfect righteousness (Hab. 1:13; Isa. 59:2). God is offended by man’s sin. Thus, because God is also perfect justice, He must by His own character condemn, pass judgment and the penalty of death and separation upon the sinner who falls short of God’s righteousness (Rom. 3:9-23). Therefore, propitiation is that part of God’s work of reconciliation in Christ which deals with satisfying the holiness of God. Propitiation is toward God.
(4) Definition of Propitiation: Propitiation is the doctrine or truth that the person and death of Jesus Christ appeased, turned away, God’s wrath, satisfied His holiness, and so met God’s righteous demands that the sinner can be reconciled into God’s holy presence.
(5)The Description of Propitiation and the Problem it Solves: The problem of antinomy—the contradiction of opposing laws or attributes—love and grace versus righteousness and justice. God is perfect love and grace and desires to forgive and bless the sinner. He desires to bestow His love and grace on man. But God is also perfect holiness and because of man’s condition in sin, He must judge the sinner. God’s own character or attributes, His holiness and love, stand in opposition to each other. God’s attributes are infinite, absolute, and immutable. This means neither God’s love nor His holiness can be bypassed at the expense of one over the other. All must be satisfied. In His love, God cannot accept the sinner to Himself and bypass His holiness, but neither can God in His holiness bypass His love and send the sinner to the Lake of Fire without providing a solution. All aspects of the character of God must be satisfied. Therefore, in His perfect wisdom, power, love, grace, and holiness, God provided the person and work of His own Son, the Lord Jesus, who by His life and death reconciled the conflict (antinomy) of God attributes.
God’s righteousness is satisfied by the person of Christ and His life. Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law. He was without sin and lived in perfect righteousness and harmony with the will of God. At His baptism, the Father said, “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Here God the Father verified the sinlessness of Jesus and showed that He was qualified by His person and life to begin His ministry. By the miraculous events surrounding the cross, the darkness, the shaking of the earth, the rending of the veil, and the resurrection of Christ, the Father further showed that Christ was not only qualified to be our sin bearer, but that He had successfully satisfied the holiness of God and had dealt with man’s sin (1 John 2:1-2; Heb. 2:17; 1 Pet. 1:18).
God’s justice, which requires judgment for sin, is likewise satisfied by the death of Christ as the substitutionary payment for our sin (Rom. 3:25-26). Christ’s death redeemed and expiated man from sin and its penalty by His judicial substitutionary death—the innocent for the guilty. As our substitute He bore our penalty. This satisfied the requirements of God’s justice.
God is now free to bestow His love and grace on the unworthy sinner and still act in harmony with His holiness because Jesus Christ satisfied the demands of God’s holy character (Rom. 3:25-26). The cross is much more than the display of God’s love; it is also the supreme display of God’s absolute holiness. It shows that God could by no means still be just and accept the sinner apart from the person, life, and death of Christ.
(6) The Greek words used for propitiation and their significance:
Hilasmos: This word occurs two times, once in 1 John 2:2 and once in 1 John 4:10. It means “an appeasement, a satisfaction, or a propitiation.” It may also refer to the means of propitiation or satisfaction.10 Jesus Christ is the means and only means of satisfying God’s holiness and appeasing His holy wrath.
Hilasterion: This noun occurs twice also, once in Romans 3:25 and once in Hebrews 9:5. The ending of this word, terion, often indicates a place of something, i.e., the place of propitiation or satisfaction. Hilasterion is used in Hebrews 9:5 of the mercy seat which covered the ark. The mercy seat was the lid to the ark of the covenant which stood in the Holy of Holies into which the High Priest of the Old Testament could go but once a year and then not without the blood of an animal that had been shed at the altar of sacrifice. This all foreshadowed and spoke of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
First, there was the location of the ark. The ark was located in the center of the Holy of Holies just as Jesus Christ is the center of life and the heart of our salvation. All things revolve around and depend on Him; He is the center of our life.
Second, there were the materials of the ark. It was a wooden box of acacia wood overlaid within and without with gold. Acacia wood was practically incorruptible and this naturally spoke of Jesus Christ in His humanity without sin, without corruption. It was a product of the earth, but it was not subject to any chemical action which could cause it to rot. Thus, the Lord had a real human body, but by the virgin birth He was not subject to the normal laws of genetics and the inheritance of a sinful nature. The gold, of course, spoke of His deity. So as the gold and the wood were united into one, yet separate and distinct, they spoke of Jesus Christ as the God-man. The gold within and without spoke of Christ’s perfection and glory.
Third, there was the function of the ark. The ark represented God’s throne. He did not sit upon it in a literal sense, but He dwelt between the cherubim which stood on top of the ark on the mercy seat. In Psalm 99:l we read, “The LORD reigns, let the peoples tremble; He is enthroned above the cherubim, let the earth shake!” This naturally represented the holy presence of God.
Fourth, there were the contents of the ark. Hebrews 9:4 tells us that it contained three items all of which spoke of Jesus Christ, of God’s provision, and of man’s sin and failure.
The Golden Jar holding manna: This spoke of Christ as the bread from heaven, the life-giver and prophet of God who came to earth to reveal the Father (John 6:32-35). But it also stood for and reminds us of man’s sin and failure. In view of Israel’s history in the desert, it spoke of the leanness of soul, or soul barrenness and spiritual revolt that occurs when men seek their happiness in this world and its things rather than in the Lord and His Word (Deut. 8:3, Numb. 11:1-6; Ps. 106:15 [KJV]).
Aaron’s rod that budded: Aaron was the High Priest and the budding of his staff spoke of Christ as our priest offering Himself and representing man before God as our great High Priest. The budding speaks of Christ’s resurrection, His authority, and the eternal nature and validity of His priesthood. The resurrection proves that the Father was satisfied with both the person and work of Jesus Christ and that He continually remains our means of access and acceptance with God. Let us not forget, however, that the occasion for the budding of the rod was the rebellion of Korah and the grumbling of Israel against God’s authority and appointment of His servants to positions of authority (Numb. 16:-17:10). Again, it stands for man’s sin and rebellion.
The Tablets of the Covenant: Literally “The stone tablets.” These tablets represented the Law and stood for the fact that Israel was a theocracy under the rule and authority of God. As such, they also spoke of Jesus Christ as King and of His right to rule over the earth as King of Kings. He was born a King, He lived as a King rejected, He died as a King, but He will return as King of Kings.
The Law also stood for the Holiness of God, but it also pointed to the sinfulness of man, hopelessly separated from God in himself.
We can see, therefore, how each item first spoke of Jesus Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King, but also we must see how it spoke of man’s failure and need of Christ as that One who reveals God, represents us before God, and who alone can reign over us in perfect righteousness.
Fifth, there was the lid to the Ark, the mercy seat and the cherubim of glory. There were actually two articles of furniture in the Holy of Holies. They appeared as one, but on closer examination they were two, the Ark and the mercy seat which furnished a top for the Ark. Its material was solid gold, including the cherubim which were seen coming out of the mercy seat on either end. The Hebrew word for mercy seat is kapporeth which meant a propitiatory place or a covering. It formed a covering for the Ark and was the place where the blood was to be sprinkled. This pictured the covering of sin by the blood which propitiated God’s holiness and thereby represented God as passing over sin. This was done, however, with a view to Christ’s death which would remove the sin problem once and for all and satisfy the holy demands of God (Rom. 3:25-26). The emphasis of the word “mercy seat” is not that of a covering or lid, but a place of propitiation.
The mercy seat typified the divine throne and the place where God communed with Israel. God did not sit on the mercy seat but hovered above it between the two cherubim in the form of the shekinah cloud or glory, the manifestation of the divine presence of God.
The two cherubim stood with wings outstretched and forward over the mercy seat. This portrayed the holiness of God. Undoubtedly one cherubim represented the perfect righteousness of God, signifying that God, as perfect righteousness, could not have fellowship with sinful man. The other represented His perfect justice and signified that He must condemn and judge man in sin as represented in the contents of the Ark.
The lid or seat was transformed from a throne of judgment to one of propitiation and mercy by the action of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. On this day, blood that had come from the offering of a bullock and a goat on the altar of sacrifice was brought within the Holy of Holies and sprinkled on the mercy seat and before the Ark. This was done first for the High Priest himself and then for the people. The blood satisfied the holiness of God because it represented the merit of the person and work of Christ symbolized by the bullock and the goat which had been offered on the altar of sacrifice. Christ as our substitute satisfied the holiness of God, therefore, God would pass over the sin of the Old Testament saints with a view to who Christ would be and what He would do as the means of propitiation (Rom. 3:24-26).
Hilaskomai. This is the verb form and the final word used for the concept of propitiation. It means “to make propitiation” or “be propitiated.” It is used in Hebrews 2:17 and in Luke 18:13. The Luke passage is especially significant. This is the passage of the Pharisee and the Publican (tax collector). The Pharisee thought in his own self-righteousness that he had something by which he could be received before God, something which could change God’s attitude toward him and make him acceptable to God. By contrast, the Publican literally said, “Oh God, be propitiated to me, a sinner.” This man realized because of his sin and God’s perfect righteousness that he had nothing that could satisfy and meet the just and righteous demands of God. By his prayer he was confessing his sin and, by faith, he was trusting in the Levitical offerings which, portraying the death of Christ, could alone propitiate or meet the holy demands of God. Christ said that this man, the Publican, went down to his house justified.
Propitiation is the Godward aspect of the value of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Redemption, as we will see, is sinward, reconciliation is manward, and propitiation is Godward. Therefore, because God is propitiated by the work of Christ, He is free to justify the sinner and accept him into His presence (Rom. 3:25-26).
Redemption is another part of the overall work of God by which God has brought about our reconciliation and the removal of the barrier. It deals specifically with the problem of man’s sin and with the fact that man is viewed in Scripture as imprisoned or enslaved because of sin (Gal. 4:3-8; 3:22).
Sometimes the term redemption is used rather loosely by theologians and Christians meaning nothing more than simply deliverance. It does mean deliverance, but it means a particular kind of deliverance, a deliverance that results from the payment of a great price. This concept is always in view even when the word redemption is used in passages such as Exodus 6:6; 15:13; Psalm 74:2; and 78:35. Redemption is based on some great expenditure of God. The price God paid is always in view.
Redemption means liberation because of a payment made. In the New Testament, that payment is the death of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The key Greek words used for the concept of Redemption:
Agorazo: This word comes from agora which means “market place.” It literally means “to purchase, buy from the market place.” In ancient times slaves were brought to the market place, put on the slave block, and then traded or sold to the highest bidder. Scriptures that use this word are 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; 2 Peter 2:1; Revelation 3:9-10. Agorazo stresses Christ’s sovereign worth, value, and thus His ability to redeem us from the slave block of sin by paying the price of our redemption.
Exagurazo: This is a compound verb derived from the preposition ek meaning “out of” plus agorazo. It means to “purchase out, buy out” or “ransom out.” The word is intensive and adds the idea of “deliverance and freedom through the price paid” (Gal. 3:13; 4:5). This word places more emphasis on the deliverance and freedom. Believers have been set free from the slave master, the law and its indictment and condemnation of man as a sinner.
Lutrao: This word comes from lutron which means a “ransom price.” Lutron comes from luo, a verb meaning “to release, set free.” So lutrao carries the meaning of “to release by paying a price” (1 Pet. 1:18-19; Heb. 9:14). This word emphasizes the price paid and the resultant freedom. The price paid was the death and shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Apolutrosis: Apolutrosis comes from the preposition apo meaning “from” plus lutrosis, the noun form of lutrao mentioned earlier. This word with the preposition is somewhat intensive and means “to permanently set free” (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14).
An Explanation of the Doctrine of Redemption
The Agent of Redemption: The agent is, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ who, in His sinless person and by His death on the cross, purchased our redemption (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Rom. 3:24). As part of the work of reconciliation, God the Father removed the sin problem through the person and work of His Son.
The Instrument and Point of Redemption: This is the blood and the cross of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). The blood stands for the fact Christ died as the lamb of God sacrificially and as the substitute for sinners.
The Object of Redemption: This is man’s sin and slavery to sin. The object of redemption is not simply man, but man’s sin problem and his bondage to sin (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Gal. 3:13).
The Results of Redemption: (a) forgiveness of sin (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14), (b) deliverance from bondage to sin and the Law (Gal. 3:13), (c) provides the basis for imputation and justification (Rom. 3:24; 2 Cor. 5:9), (d) provides the basis for our adoption as adult sons of God (Gal. 4:5-6), (e) provides the basis for an eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15), and (f) provides the basis for capacity to glorify God (1 Cor. 6:20).
For Whom Did Christ Die?
In connection with the doctrine of redemption and the our consideration of the doctrine of reconciliation, there is the question, “For whom did Christ die?” Did He die for the entire world, or for only the elect? The strict Calvinist who believes in the five points of Calvinism believes Christ died only for the elect. This is what theologians call the doctrine of Limited Atonement.
But the Bible plainly teaches that Christ’s death and His work of redemption was not only sufficient for the entire world, but that He actually died for the sins of all the world. This belief, known as Unlimited Atonement, does not mean universal salvation, but only that Christ’s death paid the penalty for the sin of all the world and for all time. For the Savior’s death to be effective for any individual that person must personally believe or trust in Jesus Christ as his/her personal Savior.
1 Timothy 4:10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. (Emphasis mine.)
The one sin for which Christ did not die is rejection of His person and work (John 3:18, 36).
John 3:18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
As redemption was that part of God’s work of reconciliation that dealt with the problem of man’s sin, so expiation is that part that deals with the penalty of sin that the Law exacts on man the sinner.
Expiation means to undo the wrong done by paying or suffering the penalty for that wrong as demanded by law. In essence, expiation means to remove the penalty officially imposed by law which indicts and proves the sinner guilty. While there are no Greek words used in the New Testament that mean “to expiate” as used here, there is a key passage that deals with this specific truth. It’s Colossians 2:14.
Explanation of Colossians 2:14:
having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
In verse 13 Paul speaks of the regeneration and redemption of the believing sinner when he says “… He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions …” Then in verse 14, he shows how this was accomplished through the death of Christ by the expiation of the sinner’s penalty.
“Having canceled out.” “Canceled” is the Greek exaleipho which means “to wipe out or off.” It was used (1) of smearing out letters written on wax, (2) of an erasure of an indebtedness, and (3) of wiping out an item on an account. The question is, just what has been wiped out or canceled?
“The Certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us” answers this question. Literally we can translate this “the handwritten document in decrees (or commands) which was hostile to us.” This refers to the Old Testament Law that, in revealing God’s holy character, also reveals man’s sinfulness.
“Certificate of debt” is the Greek cheirographon which means “a hand writing” or “a handwritten document.” “Decrees” is the plural of dogma, “a decree, command, or ordinance.” It is interesting to note that the word cheirographon was actually used of a certificate of indebtedness like an IOU or a bond. In this regard, the Law was indeed, at least in part, a handwritten document consisting of laws or commands written by the finger of God (2 Cor. 3:7; Deut. 9:10). But these commands became indictments which charge all of mankind to be under sin and guilty before God. The Apostle strongly emphasizes this point. Though the Law is good, was designed for man’s blessing, and reveals God’s holy character, it also stands against man because it shows man to be a sinner and under the penalty of sin which is death (Rom. 3:19-20; 6:23; 7:7; Gal. 3:10). So because of man’s condition in sin, the Law is viewed as against us (Col. 2:14), as bringing a curse (Gal. 3:10-12), as bringing death or as an administration of death (2 Cor. 7:7-13), and as holding man in bondage to sin and death (Gal. 4:3-5, 9; Rom. 7:10-14). No wonder the Apostles stressed it is against us and hostile to us.
“And He has taken it out of the way.” How blessed and glorious this is. It strongly shows how reconciliation is a work accomplished by God in Jesus Christ alone. The verb “taken it out of the way” is the perfect tense of airo, “to lift up, take up or away, to remove or carry off.” The perfect tense presents this as a completed act with continuing results. The barrier has been taken out of the way, out of the picture.
“Having nailed it to the cross.” “Having nailed” is an adverbial participle in the Greek text which points us to the means of removal. The penalty of sin demanded by the decrees against us was taken out of the way by the death of Christ for believers. The culture and procedures of that day shed some interesting and illuminating light here.
Under the Roman procedure of trial and conviction, no one could be legitimately brought to trial until he had been officially indicted or charged with a prepared certificate of debt or a written indictment. On the certificate the criminal’s unlawful deeds or crimes were written. Then after trial, if convicted of the charges, his indictment with its offenses and the penalty was nailed to his prison cell door. There it remained, standing in the way of his freedom until the sentence was served or otherwise paid or removed. When once paid or served, the constituted authority would write “canceled” or “paid in full” on the indictment. The freed person would than take his indictment and nail it to his door showing his penalty had been paid and removed.
The Apostle’s point is Jesus Christ has paid our certificate of debt with its charges and nailed it to His cross, showing forever that it has been paid in full.
Therefore, in the doctrine of expiation, Jesus Christ is the agent, the cross is the point and place, and the penalty of sin is its object.
Isaiah 53:4-11 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living, For the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due? 9 His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. 10 But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. 11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.
The doctrine of the substitutionary death of Christ is closely related to expiation. As redemption was that part of reconciliation aimed at the problem of man’s sin, and expiation was that part which dealt with the concept of the penalty that man must pay, so substitution is directed toward the specific penalty required, the penalty of death.
By the substitutionary death of Christ we mean that Christ, as the innocent Lamb of God, died and suffered the penalty of death in the place of the sinner, the actual guilty party. This means He took our place and bore the penalty of God’s judgment which we rightly deserve.
Greek Words Which Imply Substitution
There are two Greek prepositions that are important to this doctrine because they are used in the New Testament for the concept of the substitutionary death of Christ.
Anti. The basic and most common meaning of anti is “in the place of, in the stead of” and naturally teaches the concept of substitution, one thing in the place of another. The following passages illustrate this common usage. (1) “… Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of (anti) his Father Herod” (Matt. 2:22). (2) “… he will not give him a snake instead (anti) of a fish, will he?” (Luke 11:11) With this in view, compare the following two parallel accounts in the Gospels which clearly point to the substitutionary work of Christ: (1) “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but serve, and to give his life a ransom for (anti—in the place of) many” (Matt. 20:28). (2) “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for (anti) many” (Mark 10:45).
Huper. The most common meaning of huper is “for the sake of,” but it may also be used like anti to mean “in place of.” That huper may mean “in the place of” is clear from the following passages:
(1) Philemon 13 provides a good illustration that huper can be used in the sense of “in the place of.” Paul writes of Onesimus, the servant of Philemon and says: “whom I wished to keep with me, so that on your behalf (huper) he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel.” Had the Apostle kept Onesimus with him, Onesimus would have served as a substitute for Philemon.
(2) Then in 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul says: “therefore we are ambassadors for (huper) Christ (in the place of Christ), as though God were entreating through us.” Since Christ is no longer on earth preaching the gospel, believers are left here in His place as His ambassadors and representatives to entreat men to believe in the person and work of Christ.
The following are verses where huper is used of the substitutionary death of Christ:
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for (huper) us.
1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for (huper) our sins according to the Scriptures.
2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf (huper), that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Hebrews 2:9 But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for (huper) everyone.
Hebrews 2:9 teaches us that Christ tasted death for every man and since man’s penalty for being a sinner is both spiritual and physical death, Christ tasted, partook of both in our place. When Jesus shouted out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” He was speaking judicially of God as the holy and righteous Judge who had placed the iniquities of all mankind on Him and who had thereby turned His face from the Son while He was bearing our iniquity in our place. At this time Christ died spiritually and was in some mysterious way cut off from the fellowship He had always known with the Father because He was bearing our sin (Isa. 53:4-11; 2 Cor. 5:21). After these dark hours on the cross Christ called out “it is finished,” meaning His redemptive work was done, He had borne our sin. He then bowed His head, gave up His spirit and physically died. By His death on the cross, He paid the penalty for all humanity and He became our substitute.
In Scripture the death of Christ is revealed to be a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Accordingly, John the Baptist introduced Jesus with the words, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus in His death was actually the substitute dying in the place of all men. Although “substitute” is not specifically a biblical word, the idea that Christ is the sinner’s substitute is constantly affirmed in Scripture. By His substitutionary death the unmeasured, righteous judgments of God against a sinner were borne by Christ. The result of this substitution is itself as simple and definite as the transaction. The Savior has already born the divine judgments against the sinner to the full satisfaction of God.11
Though the word “regeneration” is only found twice (Matt. 19:28; Tit. 3:5), it is nevertheless an important doctrine and a concept that is found in many New Testament passages. Regeneration is specifically revealed as the direct work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-6; Tit. 3:5), but the Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son as a result of the work of Christ on the cross. It thus becomes a part of the reconciling work of Christ whereby man who is spiritually dead can have life and fellowship with God (John 7:37-39).
In relation to the barrier, the regeneration is that part of the reconciling work of Christ which deals with man’s spiritual death. It deals with man’s need of spiritual life or the new birth (John 3:3-6; Eph. 2:1-4). Though it is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit, all three persons of the trinity seem to be involved in this blessed work of imparting new life. James 1:17-18 relates the Father to regeneration under the figure of being “brought forth” (apokueo, “to give birth to”). The Son, the Lord Jesus, seems also to be involved in regeneration, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes” (John 5:21).
Regeneration is the supernatural act of God whereby the spiritual and eternal life of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is imparted to the individual through faith in Jesus Christ.
(1) The Greek Word for “Regeneration” is palingenesia (from palin, “again, once more,” and genesis, “birth”) and means “a new birth, a renewal, rebirth, or regeneration.”
(2) Usage: It is used in Matthew 19:28 to describe the refurbished conditions that will exist during the millennial reign of Christ. But in Titus 3:5 the word is used of the bestowal of spiritual and eternal life to the believer on the basis of God’s mercy.
(3) Synonyms Used for Regeneration: While the word regeneration itself is used of spiritual regeneration only once (Tit. 3:5), the concept is clearly taught in a number of passages by a combination of other terms.
- John 1:13. “Who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” The Greek word for “born” is gennao, “to bring forth, give birth, be born.” The context is clearly speaking of new spiritual birth by which men become the children of God (vs. 12).
- John 3:3. “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” The words “born again” mean either “born again” or “born from above.” Actually, both ideas apply here. Because men are born spiritual dead, they need a new birth, one from above accomplished by God the Holy Spirit.
- For other passages and synonymous words compare John 5:21; Ephesians 2:5; Romans 6:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17 and James 1:13.
(4) Three Figures of Regeneration:
- The New Birth: As a man is born physically by physical birth to human parents so also he must be born by spiritual birth to a spiritual parent whereby he or she becomes a child of God (Gal. 3:26; John 1:12; 3:3-6).
- Spiritual Resurrection: Man is born spiritually dead in sin, but by regeneration the believer is made alive, spiritually resurrected so to speak. This means he has spiritual life and can now have fellowship with God and can function for God in newness of life (Rom. 6:5, 13; Eph. 2:5-10; John 5:21-23). The emphasis here is on a new kind and quality of life.
- A New Creation: Regeneration also views the born again believer as a creation, a new spiritual creation of God created for Good works. This calls attention to our need to operate out of our new life in Christ through the power of God (Rom. 6:4-14; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10).
(5) What Regeneration is not:
- It is not conversion. Conversion is what man does in turning to God. Regeneration is what God does for man to give him life.
- It is not sanctification or justification.
- It is not an experience though it is the basis for personal experience with God since it bestows new life and new spiritual capacity.
(6) The Mechanics of Regeneration:
- Faith is the human requirement. Compare John 1:12-13 and note the order.
- Scripture: The Bible provides the content one must believe so regeneration may occur (1 Pet. 1:23).
- God is the cause of regeneration. He regenerates men according to His will (John 1:13; Jam. 1:13).
- The Holy Spirit is the agent of regeneration (Tit. 3:5; John 3:6).
- The Time of Regeneration: Does it occur before or after faith? In Reformed theology, regeneration precedes faith, for it is argued, a sinner must be given new life in order to be able to believe, but the emphasis of the Bible is that one becomes a child of God through faith. If there is new life through regeneration, why does one need to believe? Undoubtedly, faith and regeneration occur simultaneously. Regeneration is instantaneous and occurs at the moment of faith in Christ. It is an instantaneous act of God which bestows new and eternal life.
(7) The Results of Regeneration:
- Provides the believer with spiritual and eternal life (cf. Eph. 2:1 with vss. 5f; 1 John 5:11).
- Provides a new nature and capacity for fellowship with God (John 3:6; 2 Pet. 1:3-4).
(8) Some Lesson from Regeneration:
- Stresses man’s spiritual and eternal death apart from faith in Christ and the new life He gives.
- Stresses man’s total helplessness to be a part of God’s kingdom or to change his life without God’s supernatural intervention through Christ and the work of the Spirit of God.
Justification and Imputation
In the parable of the religious and self-righteous Pharisee and the tax-gatherer, Christ declared that the tax-gatherer, in contrast to the Pharisee, was justified through his faith in the Levitical offerings which alone could propitiate the holy character of God (Luke 18:10-14). In Romans 3:25-26 Paul speaks of Jesus Christ as the means of propitiation and then shows the death of Christ demonstrated God’s righteousness so that He might remain just and at the same time be free to justify the one who has faith in Jesus Christ. But what is meant by justification and what is involved?
Justification and imputation are those aspects of reconciliation that deal with the barrier of man’s lack of righteousness. Sometimes, in order to keep the definition of justification nice and simple, one often hears it defined as meaning, “Just as if I’d never sinned.” This definition is simple, but it misses the heart of the truth of justification. Being acceptable before God involves more than just the removal of our sins.
The barrier, remember, consists not only of man’s sin, but of man’s negative righteousness, his lack of perfect righteousness. Isaiah declares that all of our righteous deeds are as filthy rags in the sight of the perfect holiness of God (Isa. 64:6). Man not only needs the subtraction of his sin, but also the addition of perfect righteousness, the righteousness of Christ. God’s solution to this problem is found in the doctrines of “imputation” and “justification” as set forth in the Bible.
Justification is a judicial or a forensic concept and is therefore related to God as the righteous Judge of all the earth (Gen. 18:25; Deut. 32:4; 2 Tim. 4:8). Ryrie writes:
If God, the Judge, is without injustice and completely righteous in all His decisions, then how can He announce a sinner righteous? And sinners we all are. There are only three options open to God as sinners stand in His courtroom. He must condemn them, compromise His own righteousness to receive them as they are, or He can change them into righteous people. If He can exercise the third option, then He can announce them righteous, which is justification. But any righteousness the sinner has must be actual, not fictitious; real, not imagined; acceptable by God’s standards, and not a whit short. If this can be accomplished, then, and only then, can He justify.
Job stated the problem accurately when he asked, “how can a man be in the right before God?”12
Justification answers this question posed by Job. Doctrinally, justification is the judicial act of God, based on the work of Jesus Christ, which justly declares and treats as righteous the one who believes in Jesus Christ and who stands by imputation in the righteousness of Christ.
Scripture reveals a number of important aspects to the process of justification defined below:
(1) The Plan and Manifestation of Justification Righteousness—Romans 3:21
Through the Gospel of the New Testament, this righteousness from God has now, since the coming of Christ, been clearly made known. This was the fullness of time when God brought the Suffering Savior into a sin-ridden world to deal with man’s sin. However, though revealed more clearly than before, this gospel message is not new.
God revealed His righteousness in many ways before the full revelation of the Gospel. He did so in His Law, His judgments against sin, by the preaching of the prophets, and by His blessings on the obedient. These were all ways by which God revealed His righteousness. But that was not all. Even this gospel message in which righteousness is received by faith was witnessed to and anticipated throughout the Old Testament in the many prophecies of the Messiah who must not only reign on the throne of His father, David, but must first suffer and die for our sin.
Beginning at Genesis 3:15, and continuing through the entire Old Testament, witness is given to salvation by faith in Messiah. God bore witness to the righteousness from God in the Old Testament sacrifices, the tabernacle, the priesthood, the prophecies, the types, and passages like Isaiah 53. But though the Law could witness to God’s righteousness, it could never provide it for sinful man, “weak as it was in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3).
What, then, were some of the other characteristics of this righteousness from God? Most importantly, as a righteousness from God (Rom. 3:21), it is independent of the Law. Note that the words “apart from the Law” are literally, “apart from law.” Law is anarthrous, that is, without the article. It is broader than just the Law of the Old Testament. It refers to any kind of law whether it is the Law of the Old Testament, or the law of one’s conscience (2:14-15), or even the righteous principles of the sermon on the mount. So then, what’s the source of this righteousness from God? Note verse 22.
(2) The Prerequisite and Channel for Justification Righteousness—Romans 3:22a
Righteousness comes through the channel of faith in the person and work of Christ. “Even” of the NASB represents the Greek conjunction de. It is transitional and introduces this verse as an explanation which points us to the channel by which man may receive this righteousness from God.
“The righteousness of God.” “Of God” is a genitive of source. It means either “the righteousness derived from, sourced in,” or “dependent on God.”
“Through faith in Jesus Christ” points us to the means or the channel. Righteousness from God is received “by means of” faith in Jesus Christ.
In the final analysis, all men end up trusting in something, if only in their own works or record; but the Apostle’s point is that the only means of having God’s righteousness is through trusting in Jesus Christ.
(3) The Problem or Reason for Justification Righteousness—Romans 3:22b-23
God can show no favoritism with people since He is perfect holiness and since all have sinned and fallen short of His holiness. As the Judge, He must deal with their actual righteousness.
(4) The Price or Cost of Justification Righteousness—Romans 3:24-25a
While justification is free to the believer, without cost, it was not without cost. The price paid to redeem us from the slave block of sin was nothing short of the death of Christ who alone could satisfy (propitiate) the holy character of God.
(5) The Place or Position of Justification Righteousness—2 Corinthians 5:21
When the individual receives Christ he is placed into Christ. This is what makes him righteous. We are made the righteousness of God in Him. This righteousness alone overcomes our desperate, sinful condition, and measures up to all the demands of God’s holiness.13
(6) The Pronouncement of Justification Righteousness—Romans 3:25b-25
God must be perfectly consistent with Himself. He cannot break His own Law nor violate His own nature. “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and “God is light” (1 John 1:5). A God of love wants to forgive sinners, but a God of holiness must judge sin and uphold His righteous character as witnessed in the Law.
How can God be both “just and the justifier” of those who are sinners? The answer is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. When Jesus took upon Himself the wrath of God on the Cross for the sins of the world, He fully met the demands of God’s holiness as demonstrated in the Law. At the same time, He fully expressed the love of God’s heart. As the book of Hebrews makes so clear, the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament never took away sin, but when Jesus died, His death was retroactive all the way back to Adam and took care of all the sins of the past, especially of those who were believers. No one (including Satan) could accuse God of being unjust or unfair because He appeared to pass over the sins of Old Testament saints.
(7) The Proof of Justification Righteousness—Romans 4:24
The words, “and was raised because of our justification” points to the resurrection of Jesus Christ as that momentous event following the cross which gave proof of God’s acceptance of the death of Christ for our sin.
Justification and Sanctification Compared
(1) Sanctify means to “set apart.” Sanctification has three aspects: positional (unchangeable), experiential (progressive), and ultimate (complete: being in God’s presence).
(2) Positional sanctification (Rom. 6:1-11) is the basis for experiential or progressive sanctification (Rom. 6:12-14).
(3) Experiential sanctification is the process whereby God makes the believer more and more like Jesus Christ through our union with Christ and the indwelling Spirit. Note: Just as in justification, sanctification is the work of God that must also be appropriated by faith.
(4) Sanctification (experiential) may change from day to day. Justification never changes. When the sinner trusts in Christ as his or her Savior, God declares him or her to be righteous, and that declaration will never be repealed nor need to be repeated.
(5) Justification looks at our eternal position in Christ (positional sanctification) whereas sanctification, depending on the context, may look at our experiential condition from day to day.
(6) Justification exempts us from the Great White Throne judgment, whereas experiential sanctification prepares us for the Bema, the Judgment Seat of Christ, and the blessings of rewards.
(7) Justification removes the guilt and penalty of sin for us. Experiential sanctification removes the growth and power of sin in and over us.
(8) In justification Christ died for sin’s penalty, where as in sanctification He died unto sin’s power.
Imputation is the reckoning or “charging to the account” of one what properly belongs to the account of another. Because of the person and work of Christ, God imputes or credits our sin to the person of Jesus Christ and imputes His righteousness to our account through faith in Him. The key word used of this is the verb logizomai which means “to count, reckon, credit, charge to the account of another.” In Romans 4, the Apostle writes:
Romans 4:3-8 For what does the Scripture say? “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned (logizomai) to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned (logizomai) as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned (logizomai) as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons (logizomai) righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered. 8 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account (logizomai).”
2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
In these verses, we clearly see both the negative, our sin imputed to Christ who was made sin for us along with the non-imputation of our sin to us, and the positive, His righteousness reckoned or imputed to the account of those who trust in Christ.
The key word in the doctrine of justification and imputation is the verb dikaioo (dikaiovw). This verb ends in oo (ow), and verbs which end in oo (ow), are usually causative and mean “to make the object of the verb into the idea of the word.” For instance ikanoo (ikanovw) means “to make sufficient, empower someone for something.” But when a verb is formed from an adjective of a moral or spiritual connotation it means “to regard as, treat as, pronounce or declare as.” Thus dikaioo does not mean to make righteous, but to “declare, treat as righteous” when in essence the object may be just the opposite. Thus, the justified sinner is still a sinner and not without personal sins, but he is still viewed and treated as righteous by God and justly so because of the gift of Christ’s righteousness by imputation. The believer stands in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and his sins are not imputed to him. Not only are his sins subtracted, but Christ’s perfect righteousness has been added to the account of the believer.
Justification, then, does not mean “to make righteous.” If it did, the believing sinner would never again sin because he would have been made constitutionally righteous so he could not and would not sin. That condition will occur in our ultimate condition of sanctification at the resurrection, but not now. Justification means that God accepts us and views us as perfectly righteous in Christ even though in our experience we will commit acts of sin or unrighteousness.
The failure to make this distinction has throughout history led people into various works systems by which they tried to become righteous and acceptable before God. Our acceptance before God comes through the gift of Christ’s righteousness to the believing sinner. Justification is by faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:19-25; 4:1-12).
It is important to understand that there are two kinds of righteousness. There is the perfect and absolute righteousness of Christ which God gives to anyone who will believe and trust in Jesus Christ as his or her Savior (Rom. 3:22-24). Then there is the relative, less-than-perfect righteousness of men, which on a scale of 1 to 100 can never even come close to 100% in comparison to the standard of God’s righteousness. No matter how good or religious, all fall short of the righteousness which God requires (Rom. 3:23). Only the righteousness of Christ (which man can receive freely by faith) can give him acceptance with God.
The Apostle Paul who had been one of the most religious men who ever lived said in relation to these two types of righteousness:
Philippians 3:7-9 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.
In other words when Paul saw the glory of Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road he came to realize that all his works of righteousness or human good were no better than refuse as far as providing a standing before God. Or as Isaiah put it, “… And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment …” (Isa. 64:6).
A Personal Application
In the preceding sections we have seen the marvelous provision of God whereby men might be saved. In His grace and mercy, God has removed those things that separated man from God. Yet, while God has done this, there still remains another barrier. This is the barrier of Christ Himself and His work on the cross. For unless one personally trusts in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross as the sole solution for his sin, he remains cut off and separated from God.
There is only one sin today which can keep a person separated from God and lost, the sin of rejection of Christ or unbelief in Him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Note carefully, therefore, the following verses of Scripture which illustrate this fact.
John 3:17-18 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
John 12:48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.
John 14:12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father.
Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast.
Essay on Christianity: Salvation by Grace
1797 Words8 Pages
Christianity is a faith based on the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Fisher, 1991) Christianity is a one God religion as presented in the New Testament. Today, Christianity and the church are culturally diverse, even in the aspects of race. It is even said that Sunday mornings is the most segregated time in the world. There is one central belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, all Christians can come to this conclusion. Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and that we are all under the judgment of God because we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Other religions may often depict that it is only necessary to do some good when it comes to God in order to…show more content…
God expects us to live in likeness of him; however we are still accountable and will be held responsible for our actions and decisions. We must hear God’s word, believe, repent (turn from which that is wrong), confess and be baptized in order to be saved. "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come," (2 Cor. 5:17). This means that God actually lives in the person and the Christian then experiences a true and living relationship with God. In being a Christian you belong to Christ; you are saved through Jesus Christ. Unfortunately many people call themselves a Christian and do not have a personal relationship with Christ. The bible makes reference to this in (Revelation 3:1-6). Jesus is of great significance in both Islam and Christianity. When it comes to the views of Jesus according to Muslims and Christians there are quite a few differences in terms of beliefs about the nature and life occurrences of Jesus. In Islam Jesus is found in the Quran, also known as “Koran”, the Muslim bible. It was revealed by God to the Prophet called Muhammad. Today, those that call themselves Muslims believe in the complete authenticity of the Quran as the original revealed guidance from God. With Christians, information and guidance in relation to Jesus comes directly