1. In Romans 5:8 it is the greatness of God's own love towards us that is being accented. This love is demonstrated by two considerations (1) that Christ died for us and (2) that He died for us while we were yet sinners. Our attention is directed to what God did when we were still in our sinful state and, therefore, when we were estranged from Him. This verse, furthermore, enunciates the essence of what follows in the next three verses. For the clause "Christ died for us" (vs. 8) is expanded in verse 10 in the words "we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son." Hence it is reconciliation through the death of Christ that was accomplished while we were yet sinners. How nullifying this would be if the reconciliation were conceived of as consisting in the change of our hearts from sin and enmity to love and penitence! The whole point of verse 8 is that what God did in the death of Christ took place when we were still sinners and did not consist in nor was it premised upon any change in us. To introduce the thought of change in us is to contradict the pivot of the declaration.
2. Verses 9 and l0 are parallel to each other; they express the same substantial truth in two different ways. More specifically, "justified now in his blood" is parallel to "reconciled to God in the death of his Son." "Justified" and "reconciled" must, therefore, belong to the same orbit; they must express similar concepts. But the term "justify," particularly in this epistle, has forensic meaning. It does not mean to make righteous; it is declarative in force and is the opposite of "condemn." It is concerned with judicial relations. "Reconcile" must likewise have the same force and cannot refer to an inward change of heart and attitude. The same conclusion is derived from II Corinthians 5:19: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." Not imputing trespasses is either explanatory of the reconciliation or it is the consequence of the latter. In either case it shows the category to which reconciliation belongs and is far removed from that of a subjective change in us.
3. Both passages emphasize the historic once-for-allness of the action denoted by reconciliation. It was in the death of Christ reconciliation was accomplished, and this was once for all. The tenses indicate the same thought ? "we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son" (Rom. 5:10); "all things are of God who reconciled us to himself . . . God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" (II Cor. 5:18, 19). But a change of heart in men is not a once-for-all accomplished event; it is being continuously realized as reconciliation is applied.
4. In II Corinthians 5:21 we are pointed to the kind of action involved in the reconciliation spoken of in the preceding verses. It is that 'him who knew no sin he made to be sin for us." This unquestionably refers to the vicarious sin-bearing of Christ and belongs to the objective realm; it has no affinity with a subjective change registered in our hearts.
5. In Romans 5:10 it is all but certain that the expression "when we were enemies" reflects not on our active enmity against God but upon God's alienation from us. The same term enemies occurs in Romans 11:28: "concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes." "Enemies" here must mean alienated from God's favor for two reasons. (1) What Paul is referring to is the rejection of Israel, their being disinherited for the present from the covenant privileges. (2) In the same verse "enemies" is contrasted with "beloved." But "beloved" is certainly beloved of God. Hence "enemies" must reflect on God's relation to them, the casting away of them (cf. vs. 15). This sense is well suited to the thought of Romans 5:10. For what the reconciliation accomplishes is the removal of God's alienation, in that sense His holy enmity, and the argument is that, if when we were in a state of alienation from God, He brought us into His favor by the death of His Son, how much more shall we be saved from the wrath to come by the resurrection of Christ. If, however, the term "enemies" here means our active enmity against God, then the thought is similar to, and has the same force as, that of verse 8, noted above.
6. The statement in Romans 5:11, "through whom now we have received the reconciliation," ill comports with the viewpoint being controverted. Reconciliation here is represented as a gift bestowed and received, indeed as a status established. The language is not adapted to the notion of a change in us from hatred to love and penitence. This kind of change is one that must enlist our activity to the fullest extent. But here (Rom. 5:11) we are viewed as the recipients. It is that representation that is in accord with the whole emphasis of the preceding verses. God has come to sustain a new relationship, and we have received this new status. This, likewise, agrees with the declaration of II Corinthians 5:19: "and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." The message of the gospel is the proclamation of what God has done, particularly that which He has done once for all in Christ. In terms of reconciliation it is the proclamation of his reconciling action and cannot be construed as a change in our hearts. This latter is the fruit of the gospel proclamation. Love or penitence on our part is that to which the gospel constrains. Hence "the word of reconciliation" is antecedent and cannot consist in the proclamation of our change of heart. The import of the exhortation in II Corinthians 5:20 is also to be understood in this light. "Be ye reconciled to God" is often regarded as the appeal to us to lay aside our hostility. This is not of itself an improper appeal as the appropriate response to the gospel proclamation. But the evidence derived from the passages dealt with do not support this interpretation. It is rather an appeal to us to take advantage of that which the reconciliation is and has accomplished. It is to the effect: enter into the grace of the reconciliation; embrace the truth that "him who knew no sin he made to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (II Cor. 5:21).
The sum of the doctrine is, therefore, that reconciliation as action refers to what God has done in Christ to provide for the alienation from God which is the necessary consequence of our sin, and reconciliation as a result is the restoration to the favor and fellowship of God. It is the disruption caused by sin that made the reconciliation necessary, it is this disruption that the reconciliation healed, and it is fellowship with God that the reconciliation secured. At no point do the provisions of the atonement register its grace and glory more than at the point where our separation from God is the exigency contemplated and communion with God the secured result.
E. Redemption. No category is inscribed more deeply upon the consciousness of the church of Christ than that of redemption. No song of the saints is more characteristic than the praise of redemption by Jesus' blood: "Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev. 5:9).
Redemption views the atonement from its own distinctive aspect. Sacrifice views the atonement from the perspective of guilt, propitiation from that of wrath, reconciliation from that of alienation. Redemption has in view the bondage to which sin has consigned us, and it views the work of Christ not simply as deliverance from bondage but in terms of ransom. The word of our Lord settles this signification. "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28; cf. Mark 10:45). There are three propositions that lie on the face of this declaration. (1) The work Jesus came to do was one of ransom. (2) The giving of His life was the ransom price. (3) This ransom price was substitutionary in character and design. It is this same idea, by the use of the same Greek root in different forms, that appears in most of the New Testament passages which deal with redemption (Luke 1:68; 2:38; 24:21; Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; I Tim. 2:6; Tit. 2:14; Heb. 9:12, 15; I Pet. 1:18). In some other passages a different term is used. But it likewise conveys the thought of purchase (I Cor. 6:20; 7:23; Gal. 3:13; 4:5; II Pet. 2:1; Rev. 5:9; 14:3, 4). Hence the language of redemption is that of securing release by the payment of a price, and it is this concept that is applied expressly to the laying down of Jesus' life and the shedding of His blood. Jesus shed his blood in order to pay the price of our ransom. Redemption cannot be reduced to lower terms.
Since the word of our Lord (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45) sets the points for the doctrine of redemption and since He represented the giving of His life as the ransom price, we are prepared for the emphasis which falls upon the blood of Christ as the medium of redemptive accomplishment. "We have redemption through his blood" (Eph. 1:7; cf. Col. 1:14). "Ye were redeemed," Peter says, "not with corruptible things such as silver and gold . . . but with the precious blood of Christ" (I Pet. 1:18, 19). It is through His own blood that Jesus entered once for all into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12). And Jesus as the mediator of the new covenant brought his death to bear upon the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant (Heb. 9:15). The new song of the redeemed is, "Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood" (Rev. 5:9). We cannot doubt then that, when Paul says, "We were bought with a price" (I Cor. 6:20; 7:23), the price is none other than the priceless blood of Christ. It is to the same truth that we are pointed in Galatians 3:13 where Christ's being made a curse for us is clearly to be understood as that which secured our redemption from the curse of the law. There can be no question then but the death of Christ in all its implications as the consequence of His vicarious identification with our sins is that which redeems and redeems in the way that is required by and appropriate to the redemptive concept, namely, by ransom price.
That from which we are represented as being released intimates the bondage that redemption has in view. As we might expect, there are several respects in which this bondage is to be construed. This diversity of aspect and the corresponding manifold of virtue belonging to the death of Christ are borne out by the witness of Scripture.
1. Redemption from Sin. That deliverance or salvation from sin is basic in the saving action of Christ needs no demonstration. It is sufficient to be reminded that this is the meaning of the name "Jesus" (Matt. 1:21). And the title "Saviour" is that by which He is frequently identified ? He is the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The saving action comprehends much more than is expressly specified in the term "redemption." All of the categories in which the atonement is defined sustain a direct relation to sin and its liabilities. And, apart from express statements to this effect, we should have to understand that, if redemption contemplates our bondage and secures release by ransom, the bondage must have in view that arising from sin. But the express intimations must also be appreciated. Christ Jesus, Paul states, "gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify for himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14). Though the relation to our sins is not as expressly stated, it is equally implied when redemption through Jesus' blood is defined as "the forgiveness of our trespasses" (Eph. 1:7; cf. Col. 1:14). And similarly apparent is the reference to transgression in Hebrews 9:15 ? Jesus' death was unto the redemption under the first covenant. Since the reference to sin is overt in these passages we are compelled to infer that in others where sin is not mentioned it is, nevertheless, the assumed liability making redemption necessary and giving character to it (cf. Rom. 3:24; I Tim. 2:6; Heb. 9:12). And this reference to sin finds its Old Testament counterpart in Psalm 130:7, 8, that with the Lord is "plenteous redemption" and that "he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities."
The bondage which sin entails for us is threefold, guilt, defilement, and power. All three aspects come within the scope of the redemption wrought by Christ. It would not be feasible to dissociate any of these aspects from the passages which reflect on Jesus' redemptive accomplishment. But it may well be that thought is more particulary focused on one aspect in some passages and on another in other passages. In Romans 3:24, by reason of the context, it is no doubt provision of sin as guilt that is in view. The same is true of Ephesians 1:7. In Titus 2:14 it is probably sin as guilt and defilement that is contemplated. Because the aspect of sin as power is so frequently neglected it is necessary to devote more attention to this feature of the biblical teaching.
This aspect was, no doubt, uppermost in the mind of Zacharias when he said: 'he hath visited and wrought redemption for his people" (Luke 1:68). In the succeeding verses the references to the "horn of salvation" and to "salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us" (vss. 69, 71) indicate that the earliest New Testament expression of the redemptive hope is construed in terms of deliverance was understood in terms of redemption (cf., also, Luke 2:38). Acquaintance with the Old Testament will show that the faith of Jesus which these earliest witnesses reflect was framed in terms of that same category which occupies so prominent a place in the religion of the Old Testament. The Old Testament is steeped in the language of redemption. It is particularly the deliverance from the bondage of Egypt that shapes the meaning of redemption under the old covenant. Though redemption applied to Abraham (Isa. 29:22) and though Jacob likewise could use the language of redemption (Gen. 48:16), yet it is the exodus from Egypt that constitutes par excellence the Old Testament redemption. The assurance given to Moses was, "I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments" (Exod. 6:6), and the song of deliverance was, "Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed" (Exod. 15:13). Later books abound with allusions in similar terms (cf. Deut. 7:8; 9:26; 13:5; 21:8; 24:18; I Chron. 17:21; Ps. 77:15; 106:10; Isa. 43:1; 63:9; Micah 6:4). And God Himself has no name more replete with significance for the consolation of His people that that of Redeemer (cf. Ps. 19:14; Isa. 41:14; 43:14; 47:4; 63:16; Jer. 50:34). It is eloquent of the richness of the messianic promise that the Redeemer will come to Zion (Isa. 59:20). It is this Old Testament witness that provides the background for the New Testament faith expressed in Luke 1:68; 2:38. It should not surprise us, therefore, that in the New Testament the death of Christ should be represented as having direct bearing upon the archenemy of the people of God and upon the power of sin itself. Sin, as power, brings us into captivity, and Satan as the prince of darkness and god of this world wields his suzerainty and brings us into bondage.
With reference to Satan's power we have explicit reference to the victory accomplished by Jesus' death in John 12:31; Hebrews 2:14; I John 3:8. And Colossians 2:15 refers to the triumph secured over the principalities of wickedness (cf. Eph. 6:12). It is significant that the first promise should have been in terms of the destruction of the serpent (Gen. 3:15) and that the consummation should carry with it the casting of the old serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10). Although redemptive terms are not expressly used in connection with the destruction executed upon Satan, yet since they are used for deliverance from the bondage of alien powers and since Satan is the epitome of alien power, we are required to apply to the language of release (Heb. 2:15) redemptive import. The redemption from Egypt is the type of Christ's redemptive work. The former was an act of judgment against all the gods of Egypt (Exod. 12:12), the latter an act of judgment upon Satan (John 12:31). If the former is construed as redemption, so must the latter be. Furthermore, we cannot dissociate the deception of Satan as the god of this world who blinds the minds of them that believe not (II Cor. 4:4) from the vain manner of life from which the precious blood of Christ redeems (I Pet. 1:18). At the center of Christ's redemptive accomplishment, therefore, is emancipation from the thraldom of Satan's deception and power.
We cannot dissociate the power of sin from the embrace of the redemption spoken of expressly in several of the passages already cited (cf. Titus 2:14; I Pet. 1:18). But when the power of sin is particularly reflected on, the consideration most relevant to deliverance is the truth that those for whom Christ died are also represented as having died in Him and with Him (Rom. 6:1-10; 7:1-6; II Cor. 5:14, 15; Eph. 2:1-7; Col. 2:20; 3:3; I Pet. 4:1, 2). Of basic importance in this connection is the fact that Christ in His vicarious undertakings may never be conceived of apart from those on whose behalf He fulfilled these commitments and, therefore, when He died they were united to Him in the virtue and efficacy of His death. But when He died He died to sin once for all (Rom. 6:10). Those in Him also died to sin (Col. 2:20; Rom. 6:24; II Cor. 5:14), and, if they died to sin, they died to the power of sin. This is the guarantee that those united to Christ will not be ruled by the power of sin (Rom. 6:11, 14; I Pet. 4:1, 2). It would be artificial to construe this precise aspect of our relation to the death of Christ and of our deliverance from the power of sin in the terms of redemption. Yet at no other point may it more appropriately be introduced. Our death to sin is bound up with Christ's death on our behalf (cf. II Cor. 5:14), and to the latter the redemptive concept is clearly applied.