Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Owen's shorter catechism

Q. Where is all truth concerning God and ourselves to be learned?
A. From the holy Scripture, the Word of God.

Q. What do the Scriptures teach that God is?
A. An eternal, infinite, most holy Spirit, giving being to all things, and doing with them whatsoever he pleases.

Q. Is there but one God?
A. One only, in respect to his essence and being, but one in three distinct persons, of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Q. What else is held forth in the Word concerning God, that we ought to know?
A. His decrees, and his works.

Q. What are the decrees of God concerning us?
A. His eternal purposes, of saving some by Jesus Christ, for the praise of his glory, and of condemning others for their sins.

Q. What are the works of God?
A. Acts or doings of his power, whereby he makes, sustains, and governs all things.

Q. What is required from us towards Almighty God?
A. Holy and spiritual obedience, according to his law given unto us.

Q. Are we able to do this of ourselves?
A. No, in no wise, being by nature unto every good work corrupt.

Q. How did we come into this state, being at the first created in the image of God, in righteousness and innocence?
A. By the fall of our first parents (Adam and Eve), breaking the covenant of God, losing his grace, and deserving his curse.

Q. By what way may we be delivered from this miserable state?
A. Only by Jesus Christ.

Q. Who is Jesus Christ?
A. God and man united in one person, to be a mediator between God and man.

Q. What is he to us?
A. A King, a Priest, and a Prophet.

Q. In what does he exercise his kingly power towards us?
A. In converting us unto God by his Spirit, subduing us unto his obedience, and ruling in us by his grace.

Q. In what does the exercise of his priestly office for us chiefly consist?
A. In offering himself up as an acceptable sacrifice on the cross, so satisfying the justice of God for our sins, removing his curse from our persons, and bringing us unto him.

Q. Wherein does Christ exercise his prophetic office towards us?
A. In revealing to our hearts, from the bosom of his Father, the way and truth whereby we must come unto him.

Q. In what condition does Jesus Christ exercise these offices?
A. He did so in a lowly state of humiliation on earth, but now in a glorious state of exaltation in heaven.

Q. For whose sake does Christ perform all these?
A. Only for his elect.

Q. What is the church of Christ?
A. The universal company of God's elect, called to the adoption of children.

Q. How come we to be members of this church?
A. By a living faith.

Q. What is a living faith?
A. An assured resting of the soul upon God's promises of mercy in Jesus Christ, for pardon of sins here and glory hereafter.

Q. How do we come to have this faith?
A. By the effectual working of the Spirit of God in our hearts, freely calling us from the state of nature to the state of grace.

Q. Are we accounted righteous for our faith?
A. No, but only for the righteousness of Christ, freely reckoned to our account, and appropriated by faith.

Q. 1. Is there no more required of us but faith only?
A. Yes; repentance also, and holiness.

Q. 2. What is repentance?
A. A forsaking of all sin, with godly sorrow for what we have committed.

Q. 3. What is that holiness which is required of us?
A. Universal obedience to the will of God revealed unto us.

Q. What are the privileges of believers?
i) union with Christ;
ii) divine adoption;
iii) communion of saints;
iv) right to the seals of the
new covenant;
v) Christian liberty;
vi) resurrection of the body to life eternal.

Q. 1. What are the sacraments, or seals, of the new covenant?
A. Visible seals of God's spiritual promises, made unto us by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Q. 2. What are they?
A. Baptism and the Lord's supper.

Q. What is baptism?
A. A holy ordinance, whereby, being sprinkled with water according to Christ's institution, we are by his grace made children of God, and have the promises of the covenant sealed unto us.

Q. What is the Lord's supper?
A. A holy ordinance of Christ, appointed to convey unto believers his spiritual body and blood, being represented by bread and wine, blessed, broken, poured out, and received of them.

Q. Who has a right to this sacrament?
A. Only those who have a share in Jesus Christ by faith.

Q. What is the communion of saints?
A. A holy bond between all God's people, partakers of the same Spirit, and members of the same spiritual Body (of Christ).

Q. What is the goal of all this dispensation?
A. The glory of God in our salvation.


I've taken the liberty of updating Owen's language from time to time.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Vos on Eph 2:4-5 (Part 2)


If we have clearly understood all this, then it is also immediately evident that only a divine creation, a new birth is capable of changing the sinner, for he is dead. This is no metaphor, but a reality. A dead person is no more insensitive and motionless in the natural domain than a sinner is in the spiritual sense. Where death has entered, all human help and advice ceases. Go to a dead person and see whether in a natural way you can call him back to life; use all available means. In fact, if necessary, bring back warmth to the departed one, restore breathing, cause blood to flow through the veins—all that will do you no good; the attempts of all the doctors combined are not enough to restore life to one single dead person.

But suppose that Christ the Lord comes, and by a word of power recreates the departed principle of life in that dead person. Then you can use these same means and the outcome will be that the dead will live again, and before long he win show by signs of life that his soul has returned.

In the spiritual sphere it is just the same. Here the dead person is the sinner. Here at the same time is the means God has given us to use: the Word of God—a brightly shining light, a life-nourishing power. But it is impossible for the spiritually dead person to open his eyes to see that light and to open his mouth in order to ingest that nourishment, unless a higher power has caused him to awake from the slumber of unrighteousness.

But if in the inmost being of such a person God, the Holy Spirit causes his irresistible call to be heard: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ win shine on you," then the blind eyes are immediately opened, the deaf ears unstopped, and the hardened heart begins, with a lively interest, to seek after God and his fellowship. When the dry bones hear the word of the Lord, and the Spirit blows among them, look! There is noise and movement, they approach each other, bone to its bone; these receive sinews and flesh, and a skin to cover them and a spirit within them, and a human form appears.

Such a creative deed, therefore, is necessary. A question, however, arises: Is this possible? Can God justly bestow this benefit on a sinner, dead in transgressions, by creating a new life in him?

The answer to this must be a decisive "no." God cannot do such a thing. It is true that his love is great and his mercy rich, but his justice is inviolable. It requires that the sinner be punished and that only the one who fulfills the demand of the law be rewarded. Justice draws its rigorous line without making distinctions between persons; on the left it assigns eternal death to the transgressor of the law and on the right eternal life to the keeper of the law.

If a person dead in transgressions is to be raised up, two conditions must be met first. In the first place, he must be relieved of the burden of his guilt which rests on him because of his sins. He must bear the threatened punishment and empty to its dregs the cup of God's holy displeasure. As long as this does not happen, despite God's great love and rich mercy, there can be no talk of God showing favor to the sinner.

But suppose that the punishment has been borne, the cup emptied—even that by itself is not enough. The justice of the law must be fulfilled, that is to say, it must be perfectly obeyed and observed. Only to the one who does this can God restore life and impart his Holy Spirit.

To understand this clearly let us imagine a criminal who must bear the punishment of imprisonment designated by the law. When he is released after serving his sentence, the law has been satisfied. But is the criminal's honor restored, have his civil rights been regained, can he count on all the privileges granted to someone who keeps the law without punishment? Of course not. Although the law cannot further require penal satisfaction from him, for the most part and all too often he finds himself without civil rights and honor, disgraced and an outcast in the midst of society.

Exactly the same justice applies in the kingdom of God. Assume that the sinner is able himself to bear the punishment of his transgression, by bearing it completely so that nothing remains to be borne. This is not the case, but assume it for a moment. What then would follow? Would this be the end of the matter for the sinner? God's wrath would be removed, but his favor would not be regained. The person would still be without citizenship and rights in God's kingdom, he would still remain a beggar who has no claim to anything. The unyielding law, with its "Do this and you shall live," would still stand—with its accusation that it has not been fulfilled and its strict prohibition against giving life to the sinner.

You can immediately see where the great difficulty lies here. The law must be satisfied, because apart from keeping it there is no life. As far as we know, God does not grant eternal life to either angels or men on any other condition than perfect keeping of the law. But man cannot keep the law, he is dead in transgressions, spiritually impotent. If he is ever again to attain to keeping the law, it must be preceded by a creative act of God, by an infusion of life from God, whereby he is again put in a position to live according to the commandments of God.

Thus, two things are firmly established: (1) God cannot make man alive from his spiritual death in sin, unless he has first fulfilled the law. (2) As long as God has not made man alive, he cannot fulfill the law.

This crying contradiction demonstrates how hopeless the situation with man was. There was no solution in sight and it seemed there was nothing left for God to do but to abandon man to his miserable fate. And, indeed, if help would have had to come from man's side, it would not have appeared, not even in an eternity!

But through his great love God knew how to find a solution. He solved the riddle in a way that caused the angels to stare in wonder and the congregation on earth, in turn, to venture in joyful rapture before the heavenly authorities and powers. When the eye of God's love could find no resting place in all of sinful humanity, then it rested upon Christ Jesus, his only begotten Son, and saw in him the possibility of unraveling the sad riddle.

The Lord could not make us alive. We had forfeited the right to be made alive. There was no one who was worthy to be made alive—unless it be that the Son of God became man, and by becoming such, restored the possibility that man be made alive and be saved. To make us alive with Christ—that was the answer that God's great love gave to the question raised by his mercy, otherwise there was no means by which sinners could be rescued from eternal destruction.

The two conditions just discussed were present in Christ. He was able to wipe out the debt, and he did. At the same time, because he was not dead in transgressions, by his perfect keeping of the law he acquired the right to eternal life. Him God could raise up by his sublime power and bring back in immortality. And with that the great work was accomplished in principle. Certainly there was but one point of departure found for the spiritual resurrection, but that point lay in the Mediator Christ Jesus. With Christ it is therefore possible for God to raise us up also. He took upon himself the curse and the demands of the law, we reap the fruits together with Him. In his resurrection from the dead ours is given in fact and guaranteed by right. That new life, which he received as the reward for his obedience, passes over from him, by the working of his Spirit, to all that belong to him, so that they, awakened from the sleep of sin, let Christ shine on them, say "Amen" with a living faith to all God's words of life, hunger and thirst after the righteousness of life, and end by praising God's rich mercy, which, because of his great love, even when they were dead in their transgressions, made them alive with Christ, the Lord.


Finally, we must come to the recognition that nothing but God's love has accomplished this. In his final words the apostle draws the conclusion of our text and it is very simple: "By grace you have been saved."

The origin of this spiritual resurrection was an eternal mysterious love, welling up from God's being. The objects to which it was applied were the spiritually dead, in whom not even the slightest spark of life glowed in the ashes. Its point of departure could not even be found in man; God had to make us alive with Christ, since he could not make us alive in ourselves.

Where then is boasting? It is excluded! All who with Paul's eye survey the plan of redemption from its ultimate origins in God's eternal choice to its final unfolding in a glorified soul, and all who with Paul's faith hold fast to his Jesus, will not be able to do anything other than testify with Paul: "Free grace has saved me; for me Christ Jesus has become wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification, and complete redemption."

This spiritual resurrection compels such humble acknowledgment. God does not grant us his work of grace so that we should glory in it as our own. Therefore he so arranged it that it would manifestly be his work from beginning to end, a divine work, and he desires to be glorified in it.

Here lies the deepest purpose that God had in raising us with Christ. It was not merely impossible for it to be otherwise, but alto magnificent and worthy of God that it took place in this manner. Just because it happened this way every possibility is cut off for the believer to nurture in his heart the unholy thought that there was still something of his own work involved.

That your guilt is atoned for in Christ is easy to see. This fact is so clear that no one who is truly Christian dares or is able to deny it. The danger, then, of self-righteousness creeping in does not lie here. It is, however, to be sought on that other side. How easy, how natural, how seemingly innocent, how tempting it is for you to suppose that, after your guilt is atoned for in Christ, you then have life of your self, that, where your Surety has accomplished the first half by bearing your affliction, you can achieve the second half in your own power by earning eternal life for yourself.

This, in fact, is what Rome teaches us, and with such teaching it wrests the crown from God's work of grace. But God knew what sort of creatures we were, and that is why he has barred the way to this terrible error for every one who truly fears him, by not making us alive in ourselves but by making us alive in Christ. First Christ, then, by his Spirit, we out of and with him.

As long as a believer fastens his eyes of faith on Christ Jesus, as long as he holds fast to the Mediator, he can do nothing else but testify with Paul: "By grace I have been saved," and, "It was God's gift."

By that faith life flows from Christ to the believer. He not only knows that but feels it. "Outside of Jesus there is no life," his soul says to him. Or it repeats after Paul: "I live, yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

The unavoidable conclusion from this is that this life was in Christ before it came to us, that, consequently, it was not earned by us but acquired by him. He possessed it, long before we had performed any works; it was not manifested in us until we, by faith, came into contact with him, the living Christ.

Thus our faith becomes an unimpeachable witness, which, with every drink we take from the cup of God's redemption, cries out: "By grace you have been saved!" Thus it becomes an ever-flowing stream, whose incessantly rushing waters do not cease mentioning: "Not of yourselves, it is God's gift!"

Everyone who understands this language bows in humility in order to repeat it from the depths of his soul and thus respond to the glorious purpose of God, who created him as his creature in Christ Jesus, for good works, so that he might show in the ages to come the riches of his grace, through his kindness toward them in Christ Jesus.

And now, my hearers, what does this language say to you? Does it appear to you as the narrow-minded expression of a dead and deadening doctrine, or as the most intimate core of the precious truth, that man is saved by pure grace, without consideration of anything in him?

Seen in this light, does not the truth about which Paul boasted have another complexion than that to which we are interminably pointed, namely that it makes the door of salvation so narrow that only a few are able to enter, that it limits the free Gospel and robs his preaching of power?

Where, then, has the apostle ended with his teaching? In an anxious concern as to how far he dared to go with the Gospel of Christ? Oh no! The opposite was the case: He ended in glorious praise of the matchless, unsearchable love of God, whose kingdom is in all and over all, and with that glorious message he went from Antioch to Rome, and, wherever he came, his Gospel was not in words but in power.

And with that we shall have to end. God's purpose with us in presenting this teaching in his Word has never been that we should sit down and attempt, by brooding, to find out whether we, too, are numbered among those who from eternity are loved in Christ Jesus. That is a hopeless task, my hearers! It is like arithmetic without numbers. God has not put any data at our disposal by which we can determine the outcome as either "yes" or "no". Such an approach would be an atrocious abuse, a turning of what is meant for God's glory into our destruction.

It is only in Christ Jesus that you can obtain certainty about this matter. Here also you must begin with him and end in him. If you are loved, it has been in him, as a member of his body. Therefore look to him! Only when he turns you away will you have the right to say that God has not loved you with an everlasting love, but not until then.

The most absurd conclusion that can ever be drawn from this truth is that it gives you the right to sit still. The opposite is true. In its deepest grounding this truth comes down to the fact that you are completely powerless, that you are wholly dependent upon God, that in yourself you are irretrievably lost. To what must such an awesome thought now lead you? To continue sleeping calmly upon the dregs of idleness? Or, with holy trembling, to call upon that God from whom alone your help can come?

You will want to agree to the latter. If you rightly feel your own helplessness and impotence, you will cry out to the mighty One of Jacob for mercy and will not cease until it is granted. For a sinking and perishing sinner who feels that he is slipping away it is impossible to keep still. He will cry out until the waters of destruction close over him.

But that cannot happen. No one who cries out for mercy is turned away. "The one who comes to me I will in no wise cast out," the Savior says. Oh, try that and you will discover that his word is truth!

And for you who perceive that life-giving power of Christ in your own soul, this truth must be a new stimulus to humility and meekness. Your life came from Christ, it continues to be hid with Christ in God. You must draw all your lifeblood from him, so that the excellence of the power may be from God and not from you. Do not look for it anywhere else but from him. Let Christ dwell in your hearts by faith, so that you may be rooted and grounded in love. The more that happens the less you will become and will sink away deeper in your insignificance. God, on the other hand, will become greater and more glorious, and the more the language of your life will become that beautiful word of the apostle, in which prayer and thanksgiving fuse together: "Now to him who is powerful to do more than abundantly, above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to him, I say, be the glory in the church, through Christ Jesus, in all generations, forever and ever." AMEN.

Vos on Eph 2:4-5 (Part 1)

In the 37th chapter of his prophecy, Ezekiel describes for us how the hand of the Lord was upon him, and how he was led out in the Spirit and set down in the middle of a valley full of bones. There lay parts of human skeletons spread over the ground in such great numbers that the prophet had to walk around them in order to view them all. Then came the voice of the Lord with the question: "Son of man, shall these bones live?" Ezekiel answered: "Lord God, you know," as if to say, "For men this is impossible; if it is to come to pass, you, the Lord God, must do it." And in confirmation of this answer, he received the task of prophesying to those dry bones: "You dry bones! hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God: 'Behold, I shall cause breath to enter you, and you shall become alive.'"

The prophet did as commanded, and, as if the bones had understood his words, there was noise and commotion among them. At first it seemed impossible to detect any kind of order in the agitated mass, but before long they drew near to each other, bone to bone; what had just been scattered about in pieces now became articulated human skeletons. Look! The dry bones were clothed with flesh, and the prophet saw how delicate tendons intertwined among these bones and a pale skin was laid upon them so that the hideous skeletons changed into well-formed bodies.

Still, with that the prophecy was not yet fulfilled because there was no spirit in those bodies. Therefore, the command of the Lord again came to Ezekiel: "Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man! Say to the spirit, 'Oh spirit! come from the four winds, and breathe into these dead that they may become alive'." Hardly had this taken place than a mighty rustling was heard among those pale dead, the breath of life flowed over their lips, warm blood colored their cold cheeks red, dull eyes began to sparkle with the light of life, they stretched out their arms, and rose up on their feet—a well-prepared people that God had fashioned for himself out of dry bones through his mighty power.

All this, my hearers, was a symbolic prophecy of the national re-creation of God's covenant people, who mourned in exile. Those bones were the entire house of Israel. The Lord would open their graves, raise them up, and bring them back to their land. At the same time, however, it is a striking image of the resurrection of the spiritual Israel out of the graves of its sin and impurity, which we wish to speak to you about today, according to the word of the apostle in Ephesians 2:4,5: "But God who is rich in mercy, through his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through transgressions, has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)." It is, as was just observed, "the spiritual resurrection of believers," which demands our attention. We will endeavor to consider it under the following points: (a) What it flows from; (b) What it presupposes; (c) How it is accomplished; (d) What it obliges us to.


According to our text, it is God's mercy and love out of which salvation is born. These two are the springs out of which it wells up, and therefore its entire character must correspond to this source. What springs from the bowels of God's mercy and love must in its entire course overflow with love and mercy. What comes from God, without our being able to prepare for or take away from it in any way, cannot in its duration be dependent on us but is, like God himself, unchangeable and eternally faithful; "I the Lord do not change, therefore, O children of Jacob, you are not consumed."

It is to a rich mercy and a great love that Paul points the Ephesians, as the source of their resurrection. And that is so as the latter is the foundation for the former. God was rich in mercy through his great love. Not until we rightly understand this will there be opened to us something of the riches that brought these glorious words of thanksgiving to the lips of the apostle.

What then is the situation? Imagine for a moment that the text read: "God, who is rich in mercy, has made us alive together with Christ," and that the words, "through his great love with which he loved us," were omitted. What a different outlook on the matter would immediately result! It would then say: God saw us in the misery of our sins and was moved in mercy to save us in Christ. Thus the foundation of our salvation would be nothing but a natural feeling of pity in God because of the wretchedness of his creatures.

To be sure, that alone would already be inexpressibly much. When the holy God has dealings with sinful creatures such that he is moved to pity and mercy towards them, that is such a miracle of divine grace that it constrains us to kneel in adoration before him who accomplishes it.

But the great love leaves the rich mercy far behind and is at once distinguished from it. That can be easily grasped. Suppose yourself to be mortally ill without nursing care and someone comes who, out of pure mercy and moved by your pitiable state, cares for you. What do you think, would the hand of that person make your bed as gently as the hand that a loving father or mother or spouse would extend to you?

Well then, the situation in our text is no different. It makes a great difference whether a redeemed person must say: God saw me in my misery and therefore he said to me, live, or whether, along with that, he may voice the glorious thought: God has loved me with an everlasting love, therefore he has drawn me with cords of loving kindness.

This great difference, which we immediately sense, may be given a satisfactory explanation. In order to grasp the proper relationship in which mercy and love appear here, we will look briefly at the respects in which they are different.

First, love has a more noble origin, provided it is born of the one who loves. Mercy is different. There the reason why one shows mercy comes from outside, prompted by the wretched situation of the object. Where there is no misery, there is no place for mercy, and as soon as the distress has subsided your compassion for the sufferer ends. Dependent on external circumstances and temporary in origin and duration, mercy cannot be compared with love. What if we had to think that it were only our sins which had moved God to save us? Oh no! It was love, which was not aroused by us but was grounded from eternity in the depth of divine being, whose length, breadth, depth, and height cannot be measured by our finite comprehension but by the infinite comprehension of God. It never ends, even as it never had a beginning.

Moreover, a distinction has to be made between divine and human love. The latter loves because it beholds and admires something beautiful and loveable in its object. Not so with God. He loved his own before the mountains came to be, before the earth and the world were brought forth. It was not at all that he knew, by virtue of his eternal foreknowledge, that they would be loveable. Oh no! All that they would be in this respect, he himself had decided to make them. He saw them dead in their sins and crimes, without form or glory, covered with their own blood. This is the great mystery that no man can solve—how God could love sinners, without there being anything in them worthy of his love. Mysterious, eternal love of God, you are beyond comprehension!

Secondly, love has a nobler nature. It is the firstborn of all God's virtues. "He who does not love, does not know God, for God is love," testifies the apostle John. God's being consists of love, and therefore when it is said that he loved those who were his in Christ Jesus, that means that his whole being expressed itself in that love and carried over to its objects. It was not a part of his affection that he bestowed upon these who were loved from eternity, but the fullness of his own blessed being. He did not purpose for them a gift located outside of himself, but his love was so great and rich that it was satisfied with nothing less than giving itself: God gave himself in Christ Jesus, his only begotten Son, who is the reflection of his glory and the express image of his substance. Precisely because in this deed God gave himself for sinners, the Scriptures call this the greatest revelation of God's love, which includes all others. "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends," testifies the Savior. And the apostle asks: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him give us all things?"

Thirdly, the distinction is seen in the object to which both reach out. Mercy is a common emotion, inherent in our nature, but love is something personal, the affection of a person for a person. Precisely this constitutes the richness of the faith of God's children, that every one of them can say with Paul: "He loved me, and gave himself for me" It is a discriminating love, which, although it encompasses the whole church, still has a personal relation to each one and knows everyone of its own by name. The Scriptures compare it to the love of a man for his wife, a bridegroom for his bride. It follows its objects their whole life through with a care that protects, leads and blesses. It sets apart a Paul from the womb for his worldwide task, but the tears of even the least among God's children are numbered in its bottle, and none of them is forgotten by God. Its greatness condescends to the smallest, who through such exertions is made great. The blood of his own is precious in God's sight. So unique and personal is this relationship between him and those he loves that he himself declares: The one who touches them, touches the apple of my eye. In an their oppression he is oppressed, through his love and through his grace he delivers them; he takes them up and carries them, now as in days of old.

From these observations the meaning of our text becomes clear. Before all else, the apostle intends to say that love precedes mercy in order. In the second place, because that love was so great, mercy became so rich. Through his great love, literally, for the sake of it, God was so rich, so wonderfully merciful. That love desired to express itself and did so in a wealth of mercies. In spite of their unsightly form and their impurity, this love still declares: "They are my people, children, whose lineage will not prove false. Thus he has become a Savior for them." For God, too, has a love that desires to work. Where he creates children for the glory of his great Name and pours out on those children his tender mercies, there is a love that is impelled, a love that must disclose more and more of itself. Therefore it is absurd to think that he could let them go and consider them sufficiently blessed, before he had communicated to them an the riches found in his divine fullness, before he had raised them as high as they could go and endowed their being with that perfection of which it was capable. For although he works all things according to his will, what is divine in that will is that the highest object of his glorious good pleasure is at the same time the greatest good of his children.


This mercy, enriched and made tender by God's love, had an ample area in which to display itself. It found its objects, according to our text, "dead in transgressions," that is to say, in the most wretched condition that one could imagine. And, what is most remarkable of all, this condition, however miserable in itself, was not such that, seen from a human point of view, it appeared capable of evoking mercy. Only when we clearly comprehend this will we in some measure have plumbed the deep meaning of Paul's words. To that end, in the second place, we must consider what this spiritual resurrection presupposes, in other words, what the expression "dead in transgressions" means.

On the surface it seems easy to say what "death" is. It is the opposite of "life," one will immediately answer. But just here lies the difficulty. The greatest wise men in this world have never been able to explain what life is and how it originates. And therefore the difficulty in clarifying the opposite, apart from God's Word.

Scripture, however, gives us an unambiguous answer to the question of what "death" is, and it does so by showing repeatedly in the clearest light what it would have us to understand by "life." In the first place, according to Scripture, life is an attribute of God. He alone has true life in and of himself In the second place, Scripture teaches that all creaturely life is derived from God and is nourished only in fellowship with him. So, at the beginning of all things, after the first creation, darkness covered the abyss and the earth was desolate and empty, a dead, formless mass. But as soon as the Spirit of God brooded, hovering over the waters, there was light and movement, the mass began to seethe and ferment, life originated in it by its contact with God. Again, when the Lord God had formed man out of the dust of the earth, he lay there like a dead man, lifeless and cold, until God blew into his nostrils the breath of life; thus man became a living being. From this it is plain enough that Scripture makes all life dependent on fellowship with God. Conversely, then, death can be defined as being cut off from the source of life. When we speak of temporal, spiritual and eternal death, repeatedly this thought lies at the foundation. In temporal death it is the body that is cut off from the source of its life, that is, the soul, and it slowly dissolves, there is no longer a living, animating principle that keeps it together; it returns to dust, from which it was taken. It is no different with the soul. In spiritual death it is cut off from the fountainhead of its life, the living God, and, accordingly, it dies, is completely torn from its context, looses its unity, perishes. Eternal death is the total separation of both body and soul, when these will one day be reunited, from the fellowship of God. In the outermost darkness, where no ray of divine light any longer penetrates, this alienation from God reaches its zenith and its most dreadful revelation.

From this it is immediately clear to us why Paul announces to the Ephesians that they were dead "in their transgressions." Sin is nothing other than renouncing, abandoning God's fellowship, turning away from him and choosing one's own way. If, then, there is life only in this fellowship, for those who abandon it death must enter immediately. "The mind of the flesh is death." And so it came to pass. As soon as Adam ate, that is to say, as soon as he severed the thread of conformity to God's law and the blessed fellowship with his creator, in that same moment he died the death.

We must, however, go a step further and examine not only the cause of death but also its manifestations. Here again what we see happening in every temporal death can provide us with a starting point. The first thing that strikes us in a dead person is that he lies there stiff and motionless. That same body that was formerly animated and suffused by the soul and in its most delicate fibers and nerves willingly lent itself as a tool to the soul, is now rigid and immobile, cold as a piece of marble. Not only has the activity of the soul upon the body ceased, but the body itself has lost the ability to obey that influence. It no longer receives impulses from the soul and shows no indication of being susceptible to them. A power is certainly still at work in such a body, but no other power than that which works in all matter, the natural power that leads to dissolution.

We also find all these characteristics in spiritual death. Here the same thing happens to the soul that we just saw taking place with the body. As soon as God takes away his Holy Spirit and withdraws his fellowship, the soul becomes insensible and hardened, spiritual numbness overpowers it. Where life is present, you will notice how it courses through all the parts of the body: it beats in the heart, throbs in the pulse, hovers in the breath, gleams in the eye, and makes itself known by numberless marks. All this is missing in a dead person. Likewise, in a spiritually dead person one searches in vain for the heart throb of faith, the pulse beat of prayer, the breath of love, the look of sympathy—for any expression of a hidden, inward life. The person dead in transgressions is a person, just as a dead body is a body, and yet, when you yourself possess spiritual life, you will feel the distance between yourself and that person, in the same way as living persons naturally recoil from the dead. You miss the image of God in their features, just as the image of the soul is missing in the face of the deceased. And just as death often leaves its stamp on the pallid countenance in misshapen and distorted lines, so the spiritual death of sin puts its horrible marks upon the destroyed soul.

But not only is the spiritually dead person incapable of moving and developing any power of himself, receptivity to impressions from the outside is also lacking. All life has these two sides: it makes impressions and receives impressions, and in so doing develops and grows. Both of these are lacking in the sinner in his natural state. He does not seek God, and when God comes to seek him, he does not answer, gives no signs of life, and remains insensible. When the Word of God, from which all spiritual life draws its sustenance, is brought into contact with him, his eye does not see it, his ear does not hear it, his heart does not give assent to it, it goes by him like an idle sound. "The natural man does not comprehend the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned."

But there is more than this. In a dead body the powers by nature inherent in all matter are at work, decompose and dissolve it. They were already present earlier, but were countered and made harmless by another, higher power. The life-power of the soul did not allow it to perish However, as soon as that life-power receded, those natural forces were given free play, immediately began their work, and did not rest until the body was turned to dust. It is no different with a sinful man. The love of the world and selfishness work within him. As long as love and God's fellowship lived in him, they controlled all lower forces and led them in the right direction so that they could not harm him. But look! As soon as the person was cut off from God, and the life-power from God no longer exercised control in his soul, in that same moment the love of the world and selfishness began their horrible work, ruined the soul, and brought it unavoidably into destruction. It is impossible that a man who is "dead in transgressions" should remain what he was. One would expect with just as much right that a dead body should remain as it was. So, if anything is clear, it is that sin makes man more and more abominable, and finally must be so displayed that all turn away with abhorrence and loathing. Although this may be less evident in some than in others, the principle of death is present in all and that principle, if it continues its work, can lead to nothing but open enmity against the Almighty.

Only when viewed in this light is full justice done to the expression of the apostle, "even when we were dead in transgressions." Even then still he has made us alive. That can only be explained by God's great love. Were our spiritual death nothing more than a pitiable illness, the situation would be easily understandable. Were it no more than cold indifference, even then it would be thinkable. But now that it has developed into direct, straightforward enmity towards God, there is no alternative to solving this mystery of God's divine mercy than to assume that an eternal, mysterious love was at work behind it, was its foundation, and was expressed in it.

Imagine for a moment that you seek the good of someone with whom you do not have a relationship, that you do everything in your power to advance his welfare; you sacrifice yourself for him. But look! Instead of thankfully acknowledging that, he remains indifferent, begins to hate you, and ends up by cursing you. What do you think? Would the miserable condition of such a person be likely to evoke your mercy?

But now, imagine for a moment that all the circumstances just mentioned are the same, except that this time the scoundrel is not a stranger but your own son. Could you stop loving him because he hates you? Could you cease praying for him because he curses you? Could you restrain the urgings of your fatherly mercy because he has seared his conscience? I think not! You will say: He is still my son, whom I have carried in my arms. The more such a rogue causes you shame and heartbreak, all the more will you watch, moved by deep pity for him, how he willfully throws himself into ruin.

Where now is the distinction? Why can't you show mercy to a stranger who behaves like this but can towards your own child, although he may be ten times more vile than the stranger? The answer is simple: in the first case, no love drove you to pity; in the second, a great love had to be expressed in rich mercy.

Our case is no different. In themselves sinners are not objects of mercy but vessels of wrath. Sin is enmity and enmity as such does not fall within the scope of pity. But from eternity God had loved those sinners, those enemies, those spiritually dead, with a fatherly love. This love was the foundation of everything and was before everything. It is useless to ask after its origin. It came from the inscrutable being of God and embraced the objects of its free choice even before they had existence. It determined to make them in such a way as to reflect that love. And look what happened! Those children fell, sank into sin and death. Instead of sons they became devils. Love was answered with hate. Nevertheless—and here lies the precious core of our text—all this was not able to extinguish that love, because it is impossible to tear the son from the heart of the father. On the contrary, it now first came to light clearly that it was love and not just kindness. Where the latter would have stopped it went further and emerged triumphant. It did not love the righteous and virtuous, but the godless. In this "God demonstrates his love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us." This is the deepest reason why Paul knows to ascribe to no other cause than a great, divine love the fact that those who lay in the midst of sin and death and were enemies of God were nevertheless endowed with the greatest benefits that could befall them, namely that God, according to his rich mercy, made them alive together with Christ, the Lord.

Vos on Heb 12:1-3

These verses stand at the beginning of one of the five hortatory sections which are so characteristic of the Epistle to the Hebrews. There is perhaps no other book in the New Testament in which the two elements of theological exposition and practical application are so clearly distinguishable and yet so organically united as in this epistle. The writer never makes exhortation a substitute for doctrine. His practical counsels are always based on a carefully managed presentation of the truth addressed to the intellect of his readers. It must have been in many respects an extremely critical situation in which he found them and from which he endeavored to rescue them; but nevertheless he attacks it in his thoroughly objective, calm, reasonable and confident manner. He relies upon the inherent power of the truth to commend itself and work its way as applied by the Spirit of God. He appreciates the mighty weapon which a full command of the truth puts into the hand of the preacher. He knows that the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing till it divides the soul and the spirit both in their joints and in their marrow (i.e., till it reaches the very skeleton and what is within the skeleton of the innermost consciousness of man and becomes the judge of the thoughts and intents of his heart). And you will observe that where he deplores the general backwardness of the Hebrew Christians, he has just as much in mind their failure to make progress in the doctrinal apprehension of Christianity as the lack of development in the more practical province of their religious life. His complaint is distinctively the teacher's complaint as you can best see from the fifth chapter. There he charges his readers with having become dull of hearing and declares them to be in need again that someone should teach them the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God and characterizes them as babes without experience in the word of righteousness (Heb. 5:12,13).

It is quite in keeping with all this that in the passage before us also he gives such a turn to his exhortation as to gather up in it the gist of the whole preceding chapter in which the nature and possibility of a life of faith had been exemplified from the sacred history of the Old Covenant. The personal appeal he makes to his readers is contained in the words: "Let us run with patience the race set before us." The figure is a familiar one quite common especially in the epistles of Paul and one which would easily suggest itself to a writer who came at all in contact with the pagan athletic life of the times. And the figure was strikingly apposite to the religious situation of that time. In these early days, Christianity bore a most strenuous character; internal and external causes combined to impose upon its adherents the straining of every nerve in order to maintain their faith. To be an active, aggressive believer was more than ever essential because not to be so exposed [one] more than ever to the danger of ceasing to be a Christian at all. Still there were probably special reasons why the representation of Christianity as a race to be run was extremely appropriate under the conditions of the readers to which the writer of the epistle addressed himself. The readers seem to have been lacking in the energy of faith. Instead of having their faces resolutely set forward towards the future, they were given to looking backward at the antiquated forms of a ceremonial religious system for the mistaken love of which they overlooked the far greater privileges and treasures to which Christianity had given them access. Repristination may sometimes be necessary, but even at its best, even when it is repristination of that which is good and of permanent value, it is little conducive towards a healthy spiritual growth and development, least of all so when it aims at the revival of something that has served its purpose and is nigh unto vanishing.

In the second place, these Hebrew Christians seem to have been abnormally restive under the certain trials and afflictions and persecutions that had befallen them. In the midst of these, they had failed to develop that Christian fortitude and heroism which on the whole were so characteristic of the early church in the subapostolic period. For these two reasons, it was peculiarly appropriate that the author clothe his exhortation to them in the athletic figure of the racecourse which contains the central thought of the passage. The way in which he introduces the figure and the motives which he advances for its enforcement enable us to trace to some extent the situation which it was intended to meet. Let us for a few moments look at the figure and what its implications are.

Old Testament Saints

In the first place, the writer exhorts his readers to the exercise of an energetic Christian faith by pointing them to the example of the Old Testament saints which he had depicted for them in the preceding chapter: "Having therefore so great a cloud of witnesses lying around us, let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race set before us." We shall get somewhat closer to the author's meaning by observing the intimate connection in which these words stand with the two last verses of the 11th chapter. The thought that the Old Testament saints are witnesses may have been suggested by what is said about them in the 39th verse: "And all these, having had witness borne to them." But the idea expressed is a different one since there they are the objects of the witness borne by God or men to the nobility of their character, while here they appear as witnesses themselves. The only point doubtful is whether they are called witnesses in the same sense that they speak to us through the historic testimony of their heroic faith recorded in Scripture; or whether we must bring the idea into closer connection with the figure of the race so as to conceive of them as actually witnessing, surveying us, spectators of the struggle in which we are engaged. Something may be said in favor of either view: the preceding chapter as a whole perhaps favors the former interpretation that they bear witness to us as figures in history. But over against this, we must place not merely the admirable manner in which the other interpretation fits into the figure, but also the fact that they are called "a cloud of witnesses," "encompassing" us (which expression naturally suggests the great crowd of spectators seated or standing around the arena). It does not necessarily follow, if we adopt this latter view, that the writer means to represent the saints in heaven as "conversant with our life here and fascinated by the interest of it." Evidently, the emphasis does not rest on what we are for the departed saints, but on what they ought to be for us. The writer intimates as much as this by saying that we have this cloud of witnesses. The whole conception is figurative and ideal and the only question that can be raised is whether the author wants us to imagine the Old Testament heroes of faith as speaking to us from out of their own historic situation or as gathered figuratively and ideally around us. Looked at closely, it will be seen that the latter interpretation to a certain extent includes the other as the more comprehensive of the two. For if the Old Testament saints appear as encompassing us, the effect which their ideal presence should produce upon us must be largely due to the fact that they themselves were at one time runners in the same race. They influence us not merely through the thought that they once passed through the experience we now have. All the memories of what they endured and accomplished crowd in upon us when we imagine them as holding us in survey.

There is certainly an important lesson embodied in this noble figure for us as well as for the first readers of the epistle. I do not know whether we always make enough of this retrospective communion of the saints–of this spiritual continuity with the church of the past. In natural relations, we are not slow to take pride in our descent from such as have left an honorable record behind them in the annals of history and we all feel more or less the obligations which such a connection imposes upon us. Why should it be different in the religious sphere? In the exercise of faith as well as in that of the natural virtues, we ought to feel the force of the principle noblesse oblige. Sometimes we are altogether too much concerned with what the present world will say about us–whether it will regard us as progressive and enlightened and liberal; while we but too seldom consider what would be the historic judgment passed upon us by the church of the former ages if its great figures could gather around us and review the part we take in the making of the history of the present–whether they would be shamed or gladdened by our doings. Let us then sometimes at least endeavor to view our condition and performance in this light. Let us ask ourselves whether we can without shame and self-reproach allow the soundness of our faith, the purity of our life, the consecration of our service to fall below the attainments of any earlier generation in the church of God. And on the other hand, though the world may look down upon us as reactionaries and antiquated people, if we can conscientiously say that we have remained faithful to the principles which God himself stamped with his historic approval in the past, let us derive comfort from the thought that we walk not alone, but are compassed about on every side by an innumerable host of friends who will honor us as God has honored them.

The Race as Prospective

The next important point of comparison when the author represents the Christian life as a race to be run lies in this: its whole character ought to be prospective; everything in it ought to be determined by the thought of the future. It is a race to which the inheritance of the final kingdom of God forms the goal. Just as one who is in the racecourse running for a prize makes the attainment of this end his supreme–his only concern–so the true believer obeys but the fundamental law of his Christian calling when he concentrates his mind and energy upon the future. This is the reason why the author in the 40th verse of the 11th chapter emphasizes that the fathers received not the promise. For although this on the one hand implies that we have an advantage over them inasmuch as we have at least a partial possession of the promise already in this life, whence it is added that God had provided something better concerning us; yet on the other hand it is obviously the writer's intention to remind the readers of the resemblance which their life ought to bear in this respect to that of the Old Testament saints. They were not to be made perfect without us. We had first to join them in their looking forward to, in their reaching out after the world to come before this world could actually appear. We and they form one great assembly of believers, animated by the same thought, inspired by the same vision of the ideal life–the ideal kingdom. From this point of view the survey of Old Testament history which the author had made was peculiarly adapted to put the Hebrew Christians in the frame of mind required in those who are to run a spiritual race. The Old Testament was preeminently a prospective period, a period of anticipation, a period in which the believer was reminded at every step of something higher and better yet to appear. Enoch and Moses and Abraham and all the prophets bore witness by their whole manner of life that they appreciated this, that the present was to them something provisional.

Now just as it would have been a grave defect in them if they had lost sight of this fact and had been reconciled to these Old Testament conditions as final and adequate (sufficient), just as truly it will have to be regarded as a serious spiritual fault in the New Testament believer if he ceases to give the future world that dominating influence over his entire life and thought which, as the goal of his Christian calling, it can properly claim. Whatever the difference in other respects, we are one with the whole church of God of every age from the beginning of the history of redemption until now in this fundamental trait–that we seek the absolute, the final, the perfect. Hence the race is represented as being in reality a race of faith in which the energetic exercise of faith corresponds to the running, and that not so much faith in its general sense, but specifically faith in its eschatological bearings–that faith which puts one in vital contact with and impels one irresistibly forward towards the unseen realities of the heavenly world. And in a negative form the same thought is expressed by what the author adds concerning the laying aside of every weight and the sin which does so easily beset the Christian. Of course in its former half this representation is again borrowed from the racecourse. As a runner would lay aside every encumbrance of dress as well as every other burden that might endanger his success in the race, so the believer who has his face set towards the future, heavenly life must divest himself of every such concern with the present world as would retard his steady progress towards the higher kingdom.

Perhaps the author had specifically in mind the entanglement of the Hebrew Christians in the ceremonial forms of the Old Testament religion and regarded these as a weight dragging them down, so that they could not rise to a truly spiritual apprehension and appreciation of the heavenly realities in which Christ ministers at the right hand of God. But whether this be so or not, at any rate the words admit of a more general application in which they have their significance for every believer. We may say that the things here called "weights" embrace everything that might in any sense turn away the heart from the pursuit of heaven even though these things might in the abstract be unobjectionable or even comely. It should be remarked, however, that properly speaking, not the innocent associations or engagements with the earthly life as such constitute the weight, for that would be equivalent to saying that we must adopt the principle of monasticism. Not that the believer should be indifferent to the natural environment in which the providence of God has placed him; but he should not have his portion in the present life in the same sense as the children of the world have it. He must gravitate towards the future life and must make every contact into which he comes with earthly concerns subordinated and subservient to this. Instead of weights these affairs must become wings speeding him onward and upward in his flight towards God. If he fails to do this, he becomes unfaithful to the claim which the spiritual world has upon him; a fornicator, as the author drastically expresses it, resembling Esau who for one mess of pottage sold his own birthright.

Laying Aside Sin

But while such weights must be laid aside because they hinder the believer in running well and involve a temptation to falling, even more resolute should the Christian's attitude be towards sin as such. You will observe how the author singles this out from the general category of weights, perhaps distinguishes it as a separate category from the latter: "Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us." Sin requires special, radical treatment; it must, as he says immediately afterwards, be resisted unto blood. Here again the author may have had in mind that specific sin which the Hebrew Christians were in eminent danger of committing, if some of them had not committed it already, i.e., the sin of open unbelief in the Gospel and the God of the Gospels as a consequent relapse into Judaism or into something worse than Judaism–a state of rebellion against God as such. In several passages of the epistle at least the word sin occurs with this specific connotation. Nevertheless here also the words admit of a more general exegesis. What the author says of sin is true generically of every form of sin, viz., that it must be laid aside, if the believer is to run his race with alacrity and success. Sin from the nature of the case interposes a barrier between us and the goal of our Christian striving. It not merely prevents further progress, but it throws him who commits it back to a position less advanced than he had reached before. It obscures the vision of the heavenly state; it weakens the desire from its enjoyment; it breaks the energy of the will in pursuing it. This is especially clear if we place ourselves upon the standpoint from which the author is accustomed to view sin, as an impediment in our approach to God, for God is the center of attraction in the kingdom of glory; so that to lose touch with God inevitably means to stop in the midst of the race towards heaven.

Moreover sin finds such ample opportunities for barring our way of access to God and the higher world. For this reason the author characterizes it as the sin "that doth easily beset us," a statement not intended to refer to any particular form of sin, as we might be led to think from the analogy of our phrase "a besetting sin," but applying to sin generically. It is for sin an easy thing to approach us; we always carry it with us; it runs, as it were, the race with us; it is at the same time the most dangerous and the most ubiquitous of our spiritual foes. Thus the characterization of sin as that which easily besets us is meant to suggest to the readers the most powerful motive for laying it aside, for breaking with it utterly, while they bend all their energies to the race of sanctification. This is an enemy with whom no compromise should be made. Every sin which we allow to stay with us may at any moment become an occasion of falling to us. What is demanded therefore is a positive and aggressive attitude towards sin. We must not merely resist it, but lay it aside–in dependence upon the grace of God, cut ourselves loose from it. Sanctification ought to be to every child of God not a desultory matter, but an intelligent systematic pursuit.

Running with Patience

The next point upon which the passage throws emphasis is that the Christian race must be run with patience. Patience in this connection means more than perseverance, persistence; it describes the endurance of what is hard and painful. As in the figure, the striving after the prize exposes to hardship; and as in order to success, this hardship must be met with such a spirit of fortitude that it shall not only not impede the runner but positively assist him in reaching the goal, so in the Christian pursuit of the kingdom of God, suffering and trials are the inevitable concomitants; and so far from hindering him in his progress must become the very means of helping him onward through the development in him of patience. We may say that the cultivation of this virtue forms an integral part of the running of the race itself. The examples given in the 11th chapter show that heroic endurance appeared to the writer as one of the aspects of faith; that therefore it must be in his view something which speeds the believer onward towards the goal. The conceptions of faith as spiritual vision of the eternal world, and of faith as the source of Christian fortitude and of faith as the principle of Christian obedience are closely associated in the epistle.

The manner in which patience becomes subservient to the attainment of the prize can be variously conceived of. In the case of Jesus, of whom the author speaks in the immediately following statement, there was a direct meritorious connection. What he endured in the race of his earthly life became the legal ground on which God based the bestowal upon him of all the glory and blessedness of his exalted state. The joy he received was the natural reward for the cross endured and the shame despised. It is not possible, of course, and the author does not mean to transfer this connection in the same sense to the case of the believer. No amount of patience displayed by us in our earthly trials and afflictions can give us the least semblance of a claim upon the glory that awaits us at the end. And yet the author clearly so represents it that there is if not a meritorious, yet a reasonable, logical nexus between the one and the other. As a broad supposition this view underlies everything said in the preceding chapter about the heroic conduct in suffering of the Old Testament saints. The principle on which these were crowned was a principle of free grace, but on that account it was not arbitrarily applied.

The reason will appear if we remember that in the first place these trials are endured for the sake of and in obedience to God; and in the second place that the patience with which they are endured is the direct result of the believer's vital connection with the heavenly world in which the prize awaits him. To express the first thought, the author says that the race we run is a race set before us, viz., by God. Everything that meets us in it is an object of God's appointment. In obedience to him we ought to endure it without murmuring, especially if, as is frequently the case (as was probably the case with the Hebrews) it is the outcome of our identification with the cause of God; if we suffer, as Moses did, the reproach of Christ. What is more natural than that God should in his grace reward those who thus suffer for him with the heavenly life; so that patience and glory appear in the relation to one another of the race to the crown? God cannot but honor this loyalty to himself evinced in suffering; of such patient runners he is not ashamed to be called their God and he has prepared for them a city.

And in the second place the Christian virtue of patience is something that can spring only from true vital connection with the spiritual heavenly world. It is something entirely different from stoical apathy or resignation. If the Christian patiently endures, it is because he sees the invisible; because there is a counter-power, a counter-principle at work in his life which more than offsets by the joy it creates, the pain of tribulation. This is naught else but the power of the spiritual, heavenly world itself to which through faith he has access. Although in one sense the inheritance of this world lies yet in the future, yet in another sense it has already begun to be in principle realized and become ours in actual possession. The two spheres of the earthly and the heavenly life do not lie one above the other without touching at any point; heaven with its gifts and powers and joys descends into our earthly experience like the headlands of a great and marvelous continent projecting into the ocean.

Now it is the secret enjoyment of a real communion with this celestial sphere that is the source from which all Christian patience is fed, without which it could not exist itself for a moment. In point of fact, brethren, patience–negative as the conception may superficially appear to us–is in its Christian sense a most positive thing; at least it is the manifestation of a most positive thing, the manifestation of the supernatural energy that works in faith itself. The heavenly world is to the believer what the earth was to the giant in ancient mythology; so long as he remains in contact with it, an unintermittent stream of new spiritual power flows into his frame. Is it strange that patience thus engendered should become, under God's appointment, the great prerequisite and in a certain sense the measure of reward at the end of the race? In the example of Christ which the author holds up before his readers, we can most clearly observe the manner of working of the principle in question because he was the Leader and Perfector of faith, the ideal believer, and therefore the ideal pattern of patience. What else enabled him to endure the cross and despise the shame, but that in faith undimmed he had his eye constantly fixed upon the joy that was set before him and in uninterrupted intercourse with the world of heaven received daily strength sufficient for the running of his race? The thought is the same as that expressed in the beautiful catena of Paul in Romans 5 with which I will conclude my remarks: "We rejoice in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh patience and patience probation, and probation hope, and hope maketh not ashamed, because (even in this present life already) the love of God (as the principle and earnest of eternal blessedness) is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit given unto us" (Rom. 5:3-5).

Murray on the atonement-3

2. Redemption from the Curse of the Law. The curse of the law does not mean that the law is a curse. The law is holy and just and good (Rom. 7:13), but, because so, it exacts penalty for every infraction of its demands. The curse of the law is the curse it pronounces upon transgressors (Gal. 3:10). The law's penal sanction is as inviolable as its demands. To this sanction as it bears upon us redemption is directed. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13). Nowhere in Scripture is the price of redemption more forcefully portrayed than in this text. It reminds us that the cost was not merely the death of Christ and the shedding of His blood but these in the circumstance of Golgotha's shame — He was "made a curse for us." We cannot measure the intensity of the reproach nor fathom the humiliation. To be unmoved before the spectacle is to be insensitive to the sanctions of holiness, the marvels of love, and the wonder of angels.
It is because we are ransomed from the curse of the law that we are represented as having died to the law (Rom. 7:6; Gal. 2:19), as put to death to the law (Rom. 7:4), and as discharged from the law (Rom. 7:6). We are released from the bondage of condemnation and are free to be justified apart from the law. The relation between redemption from sin in its guilt, defilement, and power and redemption from the curse of the law is intimate. For the strength of sin is the law (I Cor. 15:56).
In Galatians 4:5 it is redemption from the bondage of the ceremonial law that is specifically in view (cf. Gal. 3:23-4:3). It was by being made under this law that Christ redeemed those who were under it. He secured this release because He Himself fulfilled all the truth that was symbolically and typically set forth in the provisions of the levitical economy. These provisions were but shadows of the good things to come and, when that which they foreshadowed appeared, there was no need or place for the shadows themselves. This redemption has the fullest significance for all. By the faith of Jesus all without distinction enter into the full privilege of sons without the necessity of the disciplinary tutelage ministered by the Mosaic rites and ceremonies. This is the apex of privilege and blessing secured by Christ's redemption — we receive the adoption.
On several occasions in the New Testament the term "redemption" denotes the consummation of bliss realized at the advent of Christ in glory (Luke 21:28; Rom. 8:23; I Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:14; 4:30). This shows how closely related to the redemption accomplished by Jesus' blood is the final fruition of the saving process and how the glory awaiting the people of God is conditioned by the thought of redemption.
IV. The Perfection. This characterization is concerned with the uniqueness, efficacy, and finality of the atonement. There is no repetition on the part of Christ Himself. "By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14). He "was once offered to bear the sins of many" (Heb. 9:28). And there is no participation on the part of men or angels. It was He Himself "who bore our sins in his own body upon the tree" (I Pet. 2:24). The offering of Himself was a high priestly function to which only He, by reason of His unique person and dignity, was equal (cf. Heb. 7: 2-28). Christ is indeed our supreme example and it is also true that His unique accomplishments are adduced to illustrate and enforce the sum-total of devotion required of us. Nothing less than the whole-hearted commitment to the Father's will exemplified in His obedience unto death is demanded of us (cf. Matt. 20:27, 28; Phil. 2:5-8; I Pet. 2:21-24). But nowhere are we represented as following Him in the discharge of that which constitutes atonement, and we are not asked to do so. We are to be obedient to the utmost of divine demands as they bear upon us. But by our obedience no one is constituted righteous (cf. Rom. 5:19). We may have to die in loyalty to Christ and His example. But we do not thereby expiate guilt, propitiate wrath, reconcile the world to God, and secure redemption. All these categories belong exclusively to Christ. The atonement was likewise efficacious It was intrinsically adequate to the end designed. He purged our sins (Heb. 1:3). He reconciled us to God (Rom. 5:10). He accomplished redemption (Heb. 9:12; Rev. 5:9). He is the propitiation for our sins (I John 2:2). It was not a token obedience He rendered to God; He fulfilled all righteousness, and being made perfect He became the author of eternal salvation (Matt. 3:15; Heb. 5:9). It was not token sin-bearing that He endured; the Lord laid on Him the iniquities of us all and He bore our sins (Isa. 53:6, 11; I Pet. 2:24). The reconciliation He wrought was of such a character that it guarantees the consummating salvation (Rom. 5:9, 10; 8:32). He purchased the church by His blood and obtained eternal redemption (Acts 20:28; Heb. 9:12). The sum is that Christ by His own atoning work secured and insured the consummation that will be registered in the resurrection of life (cf. John 6:39).

V. The Extent. For whom did Christ die? Sober evaluation of the nature of the atonement and of its perfection leads to one conclusion. If it accomplished all that is implied in the categories by which it is defined and if it secures and insures the consummating redemption, the design must be coextensive with the ultimate result. If some fail of eternal salvation, as the Scripture plainly teaches, if they will not enjoy the final redemption, they cannot be embraced in that which procured and secured it. The atonement is so defined in terms of efficacious accomplishment that it must have the same extent as salvation bestowed and consummated. Unless we believe in the final restoration of all mankind, we cannot have an unlimited atonement. On the premise that some perish eternally we are shut up to one of two alternatives ? a limited efficacy or a limited extent; there is no such thing as an unlimited atonement.
It is true that many benefits accrue from the redemptive work of Christ to the non-elect in this life. It is in virtue of what Christ did that there is a gospel of salvation and this gospel is proclaimed freely to all without distinction. Untold blessings are dispensed to the world for the simple reason that God has his people in the world and is fulfilling in it His redemptive purpose. Christ is head over all things and it is in the exercise of His mediatorial lordship that He dispenses these blessings. But His lordship is the reward of His atoning work. Hence all the favors which even the reprobate receive in this life are related in one way or another to the atonement and may be said to flow from it. If so, they were designed to flow from it, and this means that the atonement embraced in its design the bestowment of these benefits upon the reprobate. But this is not to say that the atonement, in its specific character as atonement, is designed for the reprobate. It is one thing to say that certain benefits accrue to the reprobate from the atonement; it is entirely different to say that the atonement itself is designed for the reprobate. And the fallacy of the latter supposition becomes apparent when we remember that it is of the nature of the atonement to secure benefits which the reprobate never enjoy. In a word, the atonement is bound up with its efficacy in respect of obedience, expiation, propitiation, reconciliation, and redemption. When the Scripture speaks of Christ as dying for men, it is His vicarious death on their behalf that is in view and all the content which belongs to the atonement defines the significance of the formula "died for." Thus we may not say that He died for all men any more than that He made atonement for all men.
The restriction which applies to the extent of the atonement is borne out not only by the evidence pertaining to the nature of the atonement but also by passages which define its design. Nothing should be more obvious than that Jesus came into the world to save. He did not come to make salvation merely possible nor to make men salvable. Such a notion would contradict the express declarations of Jesus Himself and of other inspired witnesses (cf. Luke 19:10; John 6:39; Luke 2:11; John 3:17). The word of the angel to Joseph, "Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21) implies the certitude of salvation and not mere possibility. And this certitude must, therefore, inhere in that by which He wrought salvation, namely, the atonement. Even John 3:16, so often appealed to in support of universal atonement, points to this same certitude and security. The purpose of giving the only-begotten Son is stated to be "that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The import is that He makes infallibly secure the salvation of all who believe, and there is no suggestion that the design extended beyond the securing of that end. When Paul says that "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Eph. 5:25), he is alluding to Christ's sacrificial offering. But he also states the design: "that he might sanctify and cleanse it . . . that he might present it to himself a glorious church" (vss. 26, 27). The love spoken of here, the reference of the sacrificial offering, and the design are all restricted to the church. The design will certainly be fulfilled, and so the love and the giving of Himself achieve their object in the glorifying of that to which they were directed. It is impossible to universalize the reference of the sacrifice of Christ alluded to here; it is severly limited to those who will finally be holy and without blemish. Differentiation belongs to this text and therefore limitation, in a word, limited designed. In Romans 8:32, 34 we have references to the death of Christ and to its implications. The atonement is in view in the delivering Him up for us all (vs. 32) and in the clause, "Christ Jesus is the one who died" (vs. 34). But it is impossible to place these references to the intent and effect of the death of Christ outside the ambit so clearly established by the context and defined in terms of those predestinated to be conformed to the image of God's Son (vs. 29), the elect (vs. 33), and those embraced in the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (vs. 39). Besides, the delivering up (vs. 32) is that which insures the free bestowal of all things, the "all things" specified in the context as the blessings of salvation culminating in glorification. And the scope of the atonement cannot be more embracive than those other actions with which it is coordinated, namely, justification (vs. 33), the intercession of Christ (vs. 34), and indissoluble participation of the love of Christ (vs. 35). Much more evidence could be adduced directly from Scripture passages. These, however, suffice to show that the extent of the atonement cannot be made universal.
Universal terms are frequently used in connection with the death of Christ, as also in connection with the categories which define its import (cf. II Cor. 5:14, 15, 19; I Tim. 2:6; Heb. 2:9; I John 2:2). It is surprising that students of Scripture should with such ease appeal to these texts as if they determined the question in favor of universal atonement. The Scripture frequently uses universal terms when, obviously, they are not to be understood of all men inclusively and distributively or of all things inclusively. When we read in Genesis 6:13. "The end of all flesh is come before me," it is plain that this is not to be understood absolutely or inclusively. Not all flesh was destroyed. Or when Paul says that the trespass of Israel was the riches of the world (Rom. 11:12), he cannot be using the word "world" of all men distributively. Israel is not included, and not all Gentiles were partakers of the riches intended. When Paul says, "all things are lawful for me" (I Cor. 6:12; cf. 10:23), he did not mean that he was at liberty to do anything and everything. Examples could be multiplied and every person should readily perceive the implied restriction. An expression must always be interpreted in terms of the universe of discourse. Thus in Hebrew 2:9 the expression "every one on whose behalf Christ tasted death must be understood as referring to every one of whom the writer is speaking, namely, every one of the sons to be brought to glory, of the sanctified, of the children whom God has given to Christ and of whom He is not ashamed (vss. 10, 11, 12, 13). And it must not be overlooked that in II Corinthians 5:14, 15 the "all" for whom Christ died do not embrace any more than those who died in Him "one" died for all: therefore all died." In Paul's teaching to die with Christ is to die to sin (cf. Rom. 6:2-10).
The atonement is efficacious — it accomplishes redemption, it makes purification for sin, it reconciles to God, it secures the salvation of those for whom it was intended. Only on this premise is He the Saviour. Only on this basis is He freely offered as Saviour to all without distinction. It is not as Saviour He would be offered to all men if He did not actually save (cf. Matt. 1:21).

Conclusion. The atonement springs from the fountain of the Father's love; He commends His own love towards us. We must not think, however, that the action of the Father ended with the appointment and commission of the Son. He was not a mere spectator of Gethsemane and Calvary. The Father laid upon His own Son the iniquities of us all. He spared not His own Son but delivered Him up. He made Him to be sin for us. It was the Father who gave Him the cup of damnation to drink. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Here is love supremely demonstrated.
No stronger expression appears in Scripture than this that God made Christ to be sin for us. We fall far short of a proper assessment of Christ's humiliation if we fail to appreciate this fact. It was not simply the penalty of sin that Jesus bore. He bore our sins. He was not made sinful, but He was made sin and, therefore, brought into the closest identification with our sins that it was possible for Him to come without thereby becoming Himself sinful. Any exposition of ours can only touch the fringe of this mystery. The liability with which the Lord of glory had to deal was not merely the penalty of sin but sin itself. And sin is the contradiction of God. What Jesus bore was the contradiction of what He was as both God and man. The recoil of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:39) was the inevitable recoil of His holy soul from the abyss of woe which sin-bearing involved. And His "nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt, bespeaks the intensity of His commitment to the extremities of Calvary, the bitter dregs of the cup given Him to drink. Here is love unspeakable; He poured out His soul unto death. Psalms 22 and 69 are the prophetic delineature of His agony, the gospel story is the inspired record of fulfilment, the apostolic witness the interpretation of its meaning. We cannot but seek to apprehend more and more of the mystery. The saints will be eternally occupied with it. But eternity will not fathom its depths nor exhaust its praise.

Murray on the atonement-2

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.