A Saviour Foretold
When Jesus was born, it was announced to shepherds in the fields at Bethlehem: "Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). As we have already seen this coming of the Saviour had been looked for by men of faith from the earliest days of human history. Prophets had foretold it, psalmists had sung of it, and now God, who had promised it through these inspired writers, had fulfilled His word. As Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, said: "God hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began" (Luke 1:68-70).
In temporal things men who are benefactors of their fellows achieve their work during their lives, and death puts an end to their labours on behalf of others. It is the unique distinction of Jesus that the salvation in and by him was not only established through his life, but also by his death and by his resurrection.
Nothing is more definitely stated in the Scripture than that Jesus had to die in order to fulfil his mission as the Saviour of mankind. This was foreshadowed in a variety of ways before he came; then it was declared by himself and finally taught by the apostles after his resurrection. All the ritual of the Old Testament -- focused in the fact that approach to God was through the blood of slain animals -- was a prophecy of his work. An animal for sacrifice had to be free from blemish; and before it was slain the offerer had to identify himself with it by placing his hands on its head. Discerning men, even apart from explanations of the prophets and teachers of Israel, would recognize that an animal's life could not, except in a figure, be a means of removing their sins and opening the way to God. At best, the killing of a ram or bullock could only be a ritual prophecy pointing forward to a more perfect sacrifice.
The work of Jesus as the sin-bearer of the world is foretold in many of the prophecies of the Old Testament. Perhaps the most direct of all these prophecies is to be found in Isaiah 53. There is portrayed a servant of God, the arm of the Lord to be revealed; nevertheless one whom the nation would despise and reject. His own generation would deem him to be "smitten of God" as a mark of disapproval; whereas in fact he would be accomplishing God's purpose, his sufferings and death being for the removal of the sins of men: "with his stripes we are healed".
In this remarkable chapter of Isaiah are statements concerning the external circumstances attending the death of God's servant, which were fulfilled in every detail. But the real significance of God's work through His servant lay in the fact "that it pleased the Lord to bruise him he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many: for he shall bear their iniquities" (Isa. 53:10,11).
An Offering for Sin
It is possible even for the regular reader of the Bible, through familiarity with its language to miss the startling character of the assertion that this man's death would be "an offering for sin". Isaiah's message makes the assertion, however, with the added explanation that it was God's arrangement on behalf of sinful men: for His servant was to "bear the sin of many, and make intercession for the transgressors" (verse 12). Consider the facts with which we are confronted. In this short chapter of twelve verses we have these extraordinary ideas: that the destiny of the whole human race is to depend upon one man, and that he is to go to that death by God's will and his own submission. Can we conceive any sane human mind putting forward such claims for a man, merely as the product of his own imagination? Then we have the fact that Jesus of Nazareth takes these prophecies to himself and declares that he is going forward knowingly to die just this sacrificial death. We have to recognize that he did in fact die by crucifixion in circumstances which exactly corresponded with these prophecies. As there is no parallel in literature to the prophecies, so there is no parallel in history to their fulfilment. And as a last fact, we find the New Testament epistles interpreting his death with this sacrificial meaning and resting upon it the message of salvation. To face these facts candidly must bring not only conviction of the truth of the message, but a sense of awe and wonder at the grace of God.
The gospels contain a number of references to the end that awaited Jesus, some of these also indicating that there was a relationship between his death and the removal of sins. Thus, at the beginning of Christ's ministry, John the Baptist, his forerunner, drew attention to him, saying: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). At the first passover of his ministry Jesus declared that the Jewish leaders would destroy the temple of his body, but that in three days it would be raised up (John 2:19-21). They refused to accept the meaning he intended by his words, but when he was dead they remembered the reference in those words to the resurrection on the third day (Matt. 27:63). When Nicodemus visited Jesus, he was told that "as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man he lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:14, 15). The well known words of verses 16 and 17 clearly owe their form to these words and are the explanation of them: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life". Later, when men followed Jesus and would have made him king because or the miracle of feeding five thousand with a few loaves and fishes, he turned them from him by his teaching that only by men "eating his flesh" and "drinking his blood" could they have life. The language was a "hard saying" to his hearers as it has been to many since; only by comparison with the sacrifices under the Law of Moses can it be understood. Then we can see beyond all doubt that Jesus was saying his death would be a sacrificial offering.
When his ministry was nearing its close Jesus gave very definite teaching about his coming death. "From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day" (Matt. 16:21). While no reference is made there to the crucifixion it is implied in his next words, for he spoke of men taking up the cross and following him. The very figure of carrying the cross as a willing bearing of adversity and suffering appears to have been minted by Jesus out of his clear understanding that his death would be by crucifixion. The announcement was made a second time (17:22, 23), and a third time, with the plain indication that his life would end by crucifixion: "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem: and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again" (Matt. 20:18, 19). He did not face the future with any lightheartedness. He showed rare courage, fortitude and trust in God, yet there was in his work that which led him to say: "I have a baptism to be baptized with: and how am I straitened till it be accomplished" (Luke 12:50). Such a strain as is here indicated reached its point of greatest tension when, in Gethsemane, on the eve of his death, he prayed in an agony of sweat as of blood: "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matt. 26:39). It was not possible for the cup to pass; as he himself had said, "The Son of man must be killed". We must look for the reason why the Son of God had thus to suffer and to die; and in so doing we must gather together all the essential facts that bear upon the matter.
The Forgiveness of Sins
References in the Bible to the mission of Jesus show that it was related to man's need as a sinner in God's sight. He himself expressed in a variety of ways that his work was for men's sake. For example: "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). "This is my body which is given for you . . . This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you" (Luke 22:19, 20). "I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:15). "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
The Epistles strike the same note: "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly . . . we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement (Rom. 5:6 and 11). "Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for its an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour" (Eph. 5:2). "Our Saviour Jesus Christ who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people " (Titus 2:13, 14). "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit" (1 Peter 3:18).
The importance of this aspect of the work of Jesus Christ in the preaching of the gospel by the apostles is seen from Paul's statement to the Corinthians: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3). In another epistle he said Jesus "gave himself for our sins" (Gal. 1:4). We are also told that Jesus was "offered to bear the sins of many" (Heb. 9:28, cf. Isa. 53:12). "It behooved him (Jesus) to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:17). Through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43). "Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins " (Acts 13:38). God "hath made us accepted in the beloved in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (Eph. 1:6, 7). In another passage Paul says, "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him" (Rom. 5:8, 9). Perhaps the fact that the work performed by Jesus, both in its initiation and in its accomplishment, was of God, is nowhere more emphatically stated than in Paul's words: "All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation: to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). This list could be extended to considerable length, but sufficient has been quoted to show the Bible presentation of the facts concerning the death of Jesus and the very important results that follow.
Words used to describe Christ's Offering
It must be observed that the language used in the New Testament takes account of several factors in describing the death of Jesus. There is great emphasis on the blood of Jesus (Matt 26:28; Eph. 2:13; Heb. 9:12 and 10:19; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 1:5). But other terms are also used: "And you . . . hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death" (Col. 1:21, 22). "Who his own self bare our sins in his body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24). Again we find the word "death" employed as a description of his work. "That by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance" (Heb. 9:15). "We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour: that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man " (Heb. 2:9). "Through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb. 2:14). "We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Rom. 5:10). This form of expression is but the counterpart of those statements which speak of the giving of the life of Jesus, some of which have already been quoted. It is evident that a number of synonyms are employed in the allusions to and descriptions of the work of Christ. The recognition of this fact prevents too close a concentration on one term to the exclusion of others, and enables us to find the explanation for Christ's death in a broadly based knowledge of the language of the Bible.
The Reason Why
When we have grasped the declared facts concerning the results of Christ's death, we should seek for a reason why he should give his life, should die, should shed Iris blood, as the condition of forgiveness and reconciliation to God. It must be at once obvious that we shall not find the reason unless we rightly understand the need of man, and consider the relationship of Jesus himself to that need.
The necessity for the sacrifice of Jesus arose from man's sin. "Sin is transgression of law" (A.V.), or, more literally, as an accurate representation of John's words, "Sin is lawlessness" (R.V.) (1 John 3:4). The word used by the Apostle John describes the state in which a man does not recognize and acknowledge the law of God and which leads him to disobey God's law. God's law has been given to regulate human conduct, as was both necessary and appropriate. But Adam did not obey God's law. The suggestion that God did not mean all that He said was sown in the mind of Eve; and the attraction that by partaking of the forbidden thing she and her husband would become as gods, excited an unlawful desire. Man thus set up his own will against the will of God, and death followed. In the language of James: "Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust (desire), and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (James 1:14, 15). Desire, sin, death -- that is the sequence. "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23) -- not only does the statement make the sharpest contrast between the product of sin and the gift of God, but the figure used emphasizes that death is earned eternal life is a gift. As the result of the first surrender to a desire contrary to the will of God at the beginning of human history, sin has reigned unto death over all members of the race. In another Pauline antithesis: "As sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 5:21). It is not difficult to understand the use of personification which describes "Sin" as a power reigning over man. The fact is more literally expressed in the words: "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death has passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12). The effect of sin upon the first transgressor was to bring him under God's sentence of death -- to a state in which, deprived of life, he returned to dust. But an inheritance passed to his descendants -- they sin and they die, as Paul has said: "So death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned".
By the law of heredity Adam's descendants possess a nature in which are impulses which lead to sin. None has written more poignantly of this than the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans. It is undiscerning to suppose that Paul writes as he does because of some extreme carnal vice. The more effort a man makes towards righteousness the more aware he becomes of the contrariness of his nature, of its weakness and perversity. In Paul's phrase the flesh (to which this nature belongs) is "a body of sin" and "a body of death" being an inheritance from the first man, it is also called by Paul the "old man" (Rom. 6:6; 7:24). It is universal experience that when the commandment of God becomes known to man there also is revealed a resistance in his nature to that commandment. This Paul calls "Sin"; in so naming it he uses a common figure of speech, by which the cause is put for the effect, and at the same time he personifies it as an adversary that could kill him. "When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died" (Rom. 7:9). "Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me" (verses 11-13). "That which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Rom. 7:15-23).
If other people do not feel this conflict as Paul did, the only reason is that sin has blinded its victims and destroyed the sense of wrongdoing. Very searchingly the Bible says "sin deceives". The more familiar a man is with Sin, the less it is recognized as sin. The moral nature loses its sensitiveness, but when again quickened to life there is the appalling realization that self and sin are identified, and the sin is there continually because it has become oneself. Paul might well exclaim through his discernment of the operation of these laws of life "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (verse 24).
Man's impotence -- God's opportunity
In this state where sin is seen to be such a moral disorder, how could man deliver himself? He is quite powerless to achieve deliverance. The Psalmist put the question, "Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?" -- in other words, when the consequences of sin have to be faced (49:5). He saw that neither riches nor any other means man possessed would avail to ransom him so that he should not see corruption. "They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (for the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:) that he should still live for ever, and not see corruption" (verses 6-9). Yet while the Psalmist knows of the utter insufficiency of man to effect redemption from death, he is assured that a way would be found by God. In sublime confidence the Psalmist said: "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave" (verse 15). God would do it -- because He is God, and His purpose cannot fail. Part of the folly of idolatry exposed by Isaiah was that the men who worshipped an image were praying to "a god that cannot save". But the living God who spoke through Isaiah announced "There is no God beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else" (Isa. 45:20-22). A just God and a Saviour -- the nerve of the problem of atonement is to be found in the conflict between those two ideas. Yet God reconciles them. He is a God whose righteousness requires that men should die because of sin; yet, whilst retaining this righteousness and enforcing this law against sin, He becomes the Saviour of men, for "He saw there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him" (Isa. 59:16); and of that "arm of the Lord" Isaiah had already spoken in chapter 53 when he foretold the coming of God's righteous servant, whose soul would be made an offering for sin.
The Way Foreshadowed
The means of salvation had been foreshadowed from Eden. From Genesis 3:7-21 we learn that when the man experienced shame because of his sin, he made for himself a covering of fig leaves: but it only hid his shame from himself. God provided coats of skins which required the slaying of animals: the actions of both man and God showing that man's covering was necessitated not by climatic conditions, but by moral requirements. But God's provision embodied the principle that the covering of sin is only effected through death. The slain animals were types of One who would be "the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world" -- the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (John 1:29; Rev. 13:8). The principle underlying the offering of shed blood was stated in the Law of Moses " For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off" (Lev. 17:11, 14).
The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin (Heb. 10:4). Such offerings, involving the death of an animal, could only ritually and typically illustrate the truth that man, the offerer, was rightly subject to death as a sinner against God's law; and since sacrifice was enjoined by God for instruction, though not in itself able to effect reconciliation, they also show that the way would be opened to God by the one who was the antitype of the animal. The animal offered was an unwilling victim, unconscious of the moral factors existing between man and God.
The book of Job, probably the oldest book of the Bible, discusses the question: "How should man be just with God?" (9:2). This question is answered by Elihu who claimed to speak for God: "If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness: then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom. His flesh shall be fresher than a child's he shall return to the days of his youth: he shall pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto him: and he shall see his face with joy: for he will render unto man his righteousness. He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; he will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall seethe light" (Job 33:23-28).
Here are the essentials needed to reconcile man to God; there must be an interpreter of God's ways, who will show God's uprightness; God will find in him a ransom; and through him, when men confess their sins, God will reckon to man His own righteousness.
In the New Testament all these needs are shown to have been met in the death of Jesus. The most comprehensive statement is from the pen of the Apostle Paul in Rom. 3:21-26: "The righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus".
The vital condition which God requires in an atoning sacrifice is here shown by Paul to have been met: Jesus has declared God's righteousness in his voluntary death. We discern that his offering accomplished this when we examine the explanations concerning his life and work in the writings of the apostles. We must first notice that Jesus was a partaker of the same flesh and blood as all men (Heb. 2:14); he shared the nature over which sin reigns, but he broke the power of sin, never yielding to any impulse contrary to God's revealed will. Though tempted like us, he was sinless. "He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." "He was made perfect through suffering", and "he learned obedience by the things that he suffered." In the words of Paul (Phil. 2:6), evidently phrased with Adam's sin in mind, Jesus did not think equality with God something to be grasped, but as a bond-servant was obedient to God, even to the bondslave's death -- the death on the cross. Where Adam set up his own will in opposition to God, Jesus exalted the will of God: he came to do God's will (Heb. 10:7), and did it perfectly. He shared, however, the death-stricken state that exists through sin and it could therefore be said that, sinless in character though he was, he yet "died unto sin" (Rom 6:10) in coming under death's dominion, but was delivered from death on account of his perfect righteousness, whereupon "death hath no more dominion over him" (Rom. 6:9).
When Jesus submitted to crucifixion, the flesh in which the impulses to sin exist was publicly "set forth" as something unfitted for unending existence. Death reigns over mankind by the righteous decree of the Almighty, and God's own Son, the man Christ Jesus, showed that God was righteous in His decree by voluntarily laying down his life. His action proclaimed, in effect, that God was just in involving all the human race in death; he showed that to be so by himself submitting to death. Such a declaration could in measure have been achieved by the death of a sinner, but that would have failed to secure all the objects in view; the death of a sinner would not have provided a Redeemer. The death of the Son of God completed the obedience he had never failed to manifest throughout his life; therefore God raised him from the dead, because having done no sin it was not possible that he should be held by death which is the wages of sin. He is at once redeemed and redeemer; he himself experienced redemption, being saved out of death and entering into the Father's presence through his own sacrifice. These things are affirmed in Heb. 5:7; 9:12; 13:20.
Jesus is the Redeemer; but how does he become your Redeemer, or mine? He becomes so when we -- each for himself -- recognize in his death that upholding of God's supremacy by which God is exalted, and are united with him in the way God has appointed. We thus identify ourselves with him. We see "sin" in the flesh condemned (Rom. 8:3) -- we join with Christ in its repudiation. As Paul declares, "Our old man is crucified with him" (Rom. 6:6). With God honoured in His Son's death, for his sake God forgives us our sins.
Jesus is described as "the last Adam" (1 Cor. 15:45). Between the first Adam and Jesus there is a parallel and also a contrast, which Paul unfolds in Romans 5. Christ's redemptive work is there explained by reference to the universal need which has its origin in the events narrated in Genesis 2 and 3, previously examined. The sin of the first Adam brought death; the obedience of the last Adam brought forgiveness of sins, and justification, and life by the first man's disobedience many are "made sinners" -- by the obedience of Christ, many are "made righteous" (verses 12-21). The same contrast between Adam and Christ is succinctly expressed by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:21: "Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead".
But the effects of the sin of Adam come upon all by birth -- by natural generation; the righteousness of Jesus Christ comes by re-birth -- by re-generation. This re-birth requires a response on the part of man which all will not give. Recognizing that all do not respond to God's approach in Christ, in his statement of the results of the work of the two Adams, Paul, therefore, breaks away from what would be a literal parallel and states what is fact: "If by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ " (Rom. 5:17). God's mercy is freely available for men: man on his part must accept it. Receiving God's grace, and with it the gift of righteousness, a man admits his insufficiency of personal righteousness, and finds the grace and truth in Jesus Christ by which he will "reign in life". He also recognizes that "as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:21).
These acknowledgments of the connection between sin and death have moral implications. A man united with Christ dies to sin and no longer serves sin, but lives unto God (Rom. 6:10). A reorientation of life takes place -- the law of God becoming the aim and rule of conduct, The pattern of life in Christ Jesus is set before his mind for him to copy. Though the upward climb towards holiness will not be uniformly successful -- for the change of mind and heart has not yet brought deliverance from the "motions of sin" (Rom. 7: 5) -- there is now no willing service to sin. For failure through human weakness there is forgiveness, for God has provided an intercessor in His Son. The intercessor, we are told, is sympathetic and merciful, having himself been prepared for this work by his own trials. "In all things it behooved him (Jesus) to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted" (Heb. 2:17, 18). "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need " (Heb. 4:14-16). "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
All our needs are met in God's provision of Jesus Christ. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32). He raised up His Son, a member of the stricken race of Adam. No mere son of man could perfect holiness, but the Son of God did so: and God in His love gave the only begotten Sort to die for men as an acceptable offering.
At this point one mistaken idea must be cleared away. While it is very true that the sacrifice of Jesus was the death of "the just for the unjust", it is not at all true that he suffered a penalty instead of the men to whom it was due. He did not die as a substitute for sinners like an innocent man taking the place of a felon on the gallows, and letting the criminal go free. His sacrifice was the voluntary offering of a man born of a race dying because of sin, a race dying because of God's righteous assertion of His supremacy in imposing death upon sinners. It was an offering which voluntarily set forth God's righteousness in decreeing that man with the inhering tendencies to sin was unfitted to continue in life. Yet it was the offering of a man who was also Son of God, and whose character, holy and sinless, ensured the resurrection of that Son of God to life everlasting. Men can identify themselves with Christ -- unite themselves to Christ -- in the way God has appointed, and so acknowledge the true upholding of God's righteousness by Jesus. With this necessary recognition of God's holiness and supremacy which a man confesses in accepting Christ Jesus as Saviour, he is forgiven by God, and becomes heir of that eternal life which is available in Jesus Christ, who gained in himself the victory over death. The moral factors are paramount. Substitution is immoral; the idea arises as an attempt to explain the offering of Jesus when the two erroneous views are held that man is inherently immortal, and that Jesus is "God the Son". Recognize that man is mortal because of sin, and that Jesus the Son of God is also the Son of man, and these correct beliefs make possible a right understanding of what is otherwise inexplicable in the offering of Christ. God's righteousness is upheld, yet His mercy is exercised; man confesses his sin, is united with Christ, is forgiven, and becomes "heir" of the eternal life which is in Christ Jesus. God's love and justice unite in a perfect arrangement, for God provided the Son who was able to render perfect obedience and who could "fulfil all righteousness" in his voluntary death, and then be raised from the dead upon the very principles which had operated in bringing men to death. The arrangement is a triumph of divine wisdom.
If we are united with Christ -- that is, if in Biblical language we are "in Christ Jesus" -- then nothing can separate us from the love of God. Increasing knowledge of God's ways brings all who are taught of God by the revelation of His word to say with Paul, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out " (Rom. 11:33). For the gospel has been found to be "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:16, 17).
The Destroyer of the Devil
The explanation in the Bible of the work of Jesus is closely connected with the Bible doctrine of the devil, and some reference to this subject is necessary. In the Letter to the Hebrews, the writer shows the necessity for the redeemer of men himself to be perfected through suffering, for him to have the same nature as those who share in his redemption. With pronounced emphasis Paul expresses the identity of Jesus with the redeemed, saying: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb. 2:14). Mark the words "also", "likewise" and "himself", and it is evident that the writer is stressing the fact that Jesus possessed the flesh and blood common to all men. The reason given is: "that he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil". As Jesus had to share our nature in order to destroy the devil through his death, it is evident that there is some connection between human nature and the Bible devil. What is this connection? The answer appears when we ask another question: what has the power of death? The Bible answer, as we have before found in many testimonies, is that sin has the power of death, in that sin by divine decree is punished by death. A few of the statements in support of this may be briefly repeated. "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). "Sin hath reigned unto death" (Rom. 5:21). "The sting of death is sin" (1Cor. 15:56). "By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin" (Rom. 5:12). This connection of sin and death is also asserted by Jesus when he said that certain of his listeners should "die in their sins" (John 8:24).
The view was once earnestly held by many religious people that man's great instigator to sin was a superhuman being who had rebelled against God, and who continued his opposition to God by beguiling men also to disobey God's law. The Bible gives a different explanation of the source of sin. Temptation arises from inward desire, evoked from without it may be, but requiring no superhuman power to incite it. James says "Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust (desire), and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (1:14, 15). Throughout its pages the Bible, more clearly and with greater definiteness than any other book, declares man's natural waywardness and proneness to sin. Jesus himself said: "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matt. 15:19). Paul gives a similar list of evil things as "the works of the flesh" (Gal. 5:19-21), affirming as a general principle that "the carnal mind is enmity against God; it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:8). John declares "All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 John 2:16).
That sin should be punished by death we have already seen to be reasonable and just. A comparison of the passages cited shows that by "the devil" Paul means the sin-tendency which dwells in every member of the human race and which, when God's commandment becomes known, is revealed in its opposition to righteousness. In the language of personification Paul speaks of this evil propensity of the flesh as "Sin", as when in Rom. 7:9-25 he refers to "Sin that dwelleth in me", which frustrated his efforts to achieve holiness. "With the mind I serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin". In the 8th chapter of Romans the same personification of Sin is used concerning the work of Jesus in a statement which provides a strict parallel in meaning to the language in Heb. 2:14. "What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin (R.V., as an offering for sin), condemned sin in the flesh " (Rom. 8:3). "Sin" which was condemned in the flesh of Jesus was "the devil" which it was his mission to overcome and destroy. It becomes further evident from such statements as Heb. 9:26, and Rom. 6:10: "In that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God". He came under the dominion of death, but was raised from the dead, and now "Death hath no more dominion over him".
As the result of Christ's victory over sin, he has been raised from death: and he will yet remove all the effects of sin -- disease and evil in every form -- from the earth. This is comprehensively expressed by the apostle John "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8).
The recognition that the devil of the Bible is sin in some form or other makes clear its usage in all passages. The Greek word which is translated "devil" means "slanderer" or "false accuser", and is in fact so translated in 1 Tim. 3:11, 2 Tim. 3:3 and Titus 2:3; in all three passages the reference is to human beings. This word occurs about thirty-seven times in the New Testament. In the three passages referred to Paul applies it to the "wives of the deacons", "aged women", and to men of "the last days". The translators rightly represented the word in English by "false accuser" and "slanderer" in these passages, and a similar translation in other places where it occurs should be given. On one occasion Jesus said, "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?" (John 6:70). Judas was "the devil" in that he was a false accuser of his Lord; for John explains "for he (Judas) it was who should betray him". At the last supper the evil intentions of Judas reached a definite decision to go at once to the rulers and offer to put Jesus in their power. This determination of Judas, reached by him after long reflection, is described as " the devil now having put into the heart of Judas . . . to betray". But it was not the influence of an outside superhuman being, but the inclination of his own desires, which led Judas to do his evil work.
When Jesus sent a message to a church in Asia Minor at the close of the first century when persecution was imminent, saying, "The devil shall cast some of you into prison" (Rev. 2:10), he was referring to the Roman authorities. Those authorities were responsible for the imprisonment of the Christians, and they are called the devil because they were actuated by evil intentions against them. When Peter said that "the devil as a roaring lion goeth about seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8), he also was referring to the same pagan authorities, who had begun to persecute those who professed the name of Christ. To the persecuted Peter said, "If a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf" (1 Peter 4:16). He counseled them "to resist (the devil) steadfast in the faith", a counsel perfectly intelligible and altogether good when the circumstances are understood.
The temptation of Jesus by the devil in the wilderness was not a seduction by a fallen angel. It arose out of the events immediately preceding. At his baptism God had declared him to be His Son in whom He was well pleased, and the power of God (the Holy Spirit) had been without measure bestowed upon him. Thus equipped Jesus faced the difficulties of his ministry. Led into the wilderness, he resisted a subtle appeal to use the power given to him for personal gratification in ways contrary to God's objects in placing such power at his disposal.
Having perceived that the human governments of the first century, animated by the evil inclinations of human nature, are in Scripture called the "devil", we can understand how appropriately the same style of language is used to describe the suppression of the world's rulers by Jesus at his return. His conquest of the nations is represented as the binding of the "dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan" (Rev. 20:2) for a thousand years. This fourfold expression had been used earlier in the book of Revelation (chap. 12) to represent the pagan world subdued by the progressive conquests of Christian teaching. But the conquerors were conquered in that Christianity borrowed pagan teaching, incorporating it point by point, until primitive Christianity was overlaid by a veneer of paganism, and the modem world thus becomes the successor of the ancient pagan world. The world-rulers at Christ's coming will be the same human nature enthroned; but man's rule will be superseded by divine rule exercised by Jesus.
A postscript: (a) on the word Satan
All the passages where the word Satan occurs will be found on examination to be clearly intelligible when the primary meaning of the word as illustrated in the texts to be cited, is kept in mind.
The word Satan in popular thought was once closely associated with the word devil, and was regarded as having reference to the same supposed superhuman being. The word, however, means "adversary " without reference to character. The one so described may be good or bad. Thus the word occurs in Num. 22:22 to describe the angel of God that was an adversary to Balaam. Peter was an adversary to Jesus when he would have persuaded him to avoid death at Jerusalem, and Jesus bade him, "Get thee behind me, Satan" (Matt. 16:23). Peter's action did not arise from evil disposition towards his Master, but nevertheless he was mistaken, and his advice would have deflected Jesus from the path of duty. He was therefore an adversary of Jesus. In no passage where the word Satan occurs is the idea of an immortal adversary necessary to its interpretation; but, on the contrary, the introduction of the idea disturbs, if it does not destroy, the meaning.
(b) on the word "devils"
To complete this brief survey reference should be made to another word which is translated "devils" in the New Testament, but which is quite unconnected with the one we have considered. It should be translated "demons". This word originally was used by the Greeks to describe the supposed souls of men which were thought to continue in a disembodied state after death. Men attributed various maladies and mental disorders to "possession" by these "demons". The language which expressed the idea was in common use, and in fact it would have been difficult to have described the sickness and lunacy which Christ cured in any other way than in language commonly employed at the time. But the use of the words does not involve the acceptance of the original idea any more than the use of the word lunatic today commits the user to the idea that the action of the moon is the cause of the sufferer's malady.