The Law and The Gospel in The Word of God – Louis Berkhof

Berkhof_ST_coverC. THE TWO PARTS OF THE WORD OF GOD CONSIDERED AS A MEANS OF GRACE.

1. THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL IN THE WORD OF GOD. The Churches of the Reformation from the very beginning distinguished between the law and the gospel as the two parts of the Word of God as a means of grace. This distinction was not understood to be identical with that between the Old and the New Testament, but was regarded as a distinction that applies to both Testaments. There is law and gospel in the Old Testament, and there is law and gospel in the New. The law comprises everything in Scripture which is a revelation of God’s will in the form of command or prohibition, while the gospel embraces everything, whether it be in the Old Testament or in the New, that pertains to the work of reconciliation and that proclaims the seeking and redeeming love of God in Christ Jesus. And each one of these two parts has its own proper function in the economy of grace. The law seeks to awaken in the heart of man contrition on account of sin, while the gospel aims at the awakening of saving faith in Jesus Christ. The work of the law is in a sense preparatory to that of the gospel. It deepens the consciousness of sin and thus makes the sinner aware of the need of redemption. Both are subservient to the same end, and both are indispensable parts of the means of grace. This truth has not always been sufficiently recognized. The condemning aspect of the law has sometimes been stressed at the expense of its character as a part of the means of grace. Ever since the days of Marcion there have always been some who saw only contrast between the law and the gospel and proceeded on the assumption that the one excluded the other. They based their opinion in part on the rebuke which Paul administered to Peter (Gal. 2:11-14), and partly on the fact that Paul occasionally draws a sharp distinction between the law and the gospel and evidently regards them as contrasts, II Cor. 3:6-11; Gal. 3:2,3,10-14; cf. also John 1:17.  They lost sight of the fact that Paul also says that the law served as a tutor to lead men to Christ, Gal. 3:24, and that the Epistle to the Hebrews represents the law, not as standing in antithetical relation to the gospel, but rather as the gospel in its preliminary and imperfect state.

Some of the older Reformed theologians represented the law and the gospel as absolute opposites. They thought of the law as embodying all the demands and commandments of Scripture, and of the gospel, as containing no demands whatsoever, but only unconditional promises; and thus excluded from it all requirements. This was partly due to the way in which the two are sometimes contrasted in Scripture, but was also partly the result of a controversy in which they were engaged with the Arminians.  The Arminian view, making salvation dependent on faith and evangelical obedience as works of man, caused them to go to the extreme of saying that the covenant of grace does not require anything on the part of man, does not prescribe any duties, does not demand or command anything, not even faith, trust, and hope in the Lord, and so on,  but merely conveys to man the promises of what God will do for him. Others, however, correctly maintained that even the law of Moses is not devoid of promises, and that the gospel also contains certain demands. They clearly saw that man is not merely passive, when he is introduced into the covenant of grace, but is called upon to accept the covenant actively with all its privileges, though it is God who works in him the ability to meet the requirements. The promises which man appropriates certainly impose upon him certain duties, and among them the duty to obey the law of God as a rule of life, but also carry with them the assurance that God will work in him “both to will and to do.” The consistent Dispensationalists of our day again represent the law and the gospel as absolute opposites. Israel was under the law in the previous dispensation, but the Church of the present dispensation is under the gospel, and as such is free from the law.  This means that the gospel is now the only means of salvation, and that the law does not now serve as such. Members of the Church need not concern themselves about its demands, since Christ has met all its requirements. They seem to forget that, while Christ bore the curse of the law, and met its demands as a condition of the covenant of works, He did not fulfil the law for them as a rule of life, to which man is subject in virtue of his creation, apart from any covenant arrangement.

2. NECESSARY DISTINCTIONS RESPECTING THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL.
a. As was already said in the preceding, the distinction between the law and the gospel is not the same as that between the Old and the New Testament. Neither is it the same as that which present day Dispensationalists make between the dispensation of the law and the dispensation of the gospel. It is contrary to the plain facts of Scripture to say that there is no gospel in the Old Testament, or at least not in that part of the Old Testament that covers the dispensation of the law. There is gospel in the maternal promise, gospel in the ceremonial law, and gospel in many of the Prophets, as Isa. 53 and 54; 55:1-3,6.7; Jer. 31:33,34; Ezek. 36:25-28. In fact, there is a gospel current running through the whole of the Old Testament, which reaches its highest point in the Messianic prophecies. And it is equally contrary to Scripture to say that there is no law in the New Testament, or that the law does not apply in the New Testament dispensation. Jesus taught the permanent validity of the law, Matt. 5:17-19. Paul says that God provided for it that the requirements of the law should be fulfilled in our lives, Rom. 8:4, and holds his readers responsible for keeping the law, Rom. 13:9. James assures his readers that he who transgresses a single commandment of the law (and he mentions some of these), is a transgressor of the law, Jas. 2:8-11. And John defines sin as “lawlessness,” and says that this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, I John 3:4; 5:3.

b. It is possible to say that in some respects the Christian is free from the law of God.  The Bible does not always speak of the law in the same sense. Sometimes it contemplates this as the immutable expression of the nature and will of God, which applies at all times and under all conditions. But it also refers to it as it functions in the covenant of works, in which the gift of eternal life was conditioned on its fulfilment.  Man failed to meet the condition, thereby also losing the ability to meet it, and is now by nature under a sentence of condemnation. When Paul draws a contrast between the law and the gospel, he is thinking of this aspect of the law, the broken law of the covenant of works, which can no more justify, but can only condemn the sinner. From the law in this particular sense, both as a means for obtaining eternal life and as a condemning power, believers are set free in Christ, since He became a curse for them and also met the demands of the covenant of works in their behalf. The law in that particular sense and the gospel of free grace are mutually exclusive.

c. There is another sense, however, in which the Christian is not free from the law.
The situation is quite different when we think of the law as the expression of man’s natural obligations to his God, the law as it is applied to man even apart from the covenant of works. It is impossible to imagine any condition in which man might be able to claim freedom from the law in that sense. It is pure Antinomianism to maintain that Christ kept the law as a rule of life for His people, so that they need not worry about this any more. The law lays claim, and justly so, on the entire life of man in all its aspects, including his relation to the gospel of Jesus Christ. When God offers man the gospel, the law demands that the latter shall accept this. Some would speak of this as the law in the gospel, but this is hardly correct. The gospel itself consists of promises and is no law; yet there is a demand of the law in connection with the gospel. The law not only demands that we accept the gospel and believe in Jesus Christ, but also that we lead a life of gratitude in harmony with its requirements.

Source: Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof

The Nature of the Atonement from Berkhof’s Systematic Theology

 

Berkhof

Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof.pdf

IV. The Nature of the Atonement

The doctrine of the atonement here presented is the penal substitutionary or satisfaction doctrine, which is the doctrine clearly taught by the Word of God.

A. STATEMENT OF THE PENAL SUBSTITUTIONARY DOCTRINE OF THE ATONEMENT.

In the discussion of this view several particulars should be stressed.

1. THE ATONEMENT IS OBJECTIVE. This means that the atonement makes its primary impression on the person to whom it is made. If a man does wrong and renders satisfaction, this satisfaction is intended to influence the person wronged and not the offending party. In the case under consideration it means that the atonement was intended to propitiate God and to reconcile Him to the sinner. This is undoubtedly the primary idea, but does not imply that we can not also speak of the sinner ’s being reconciled to God. Scripture does this in more than one place, Rom. 5:10; II Cor. 5:19,20. But it should be borne in mind that this is not equivalent to saying that the sinner is atoned, which would mean that God made amends or reparation, that He rendered satisfaction to the sinner. And even when we speak of the sinner as being reconciled, this must be understood as something that is secondary. The reconciled God justifies the sinner who accepts the reconciliation, and so operates in his heart by the Holy Spirit, that the sinner also lays aside his wicked alienation from God, and thus enters into the fruits of the perfect atonement of Christ. In other words, the fact that Christ reconciles God to the sinner results in a reflex action on the sinner, in virtue of which the sinner may be said to be reconciled to God. Since the objective atonement by Christ is an accomplished fact, and it is now the duty of the ambassadors of Christ to induce sinners to accept the atonement and to terminate their hostility to God, it is no wonder that the secondary and subjective side of the reconciliation is somewhat prominent in Scripture. This statement of the objective character of the atonement is placed in the foreground, because it represents the main difference between those who accept the satisfaction doctrine of the atonement and all those who prefer some other theory.

Now the question arises, whether this conception of the atonement is supported by Scripture. It would seem to find ample support there. The following particulars should be noted:

a. The fundamental character of the priesthood clearly points in that direction. While the prophets represented God among men, the priests in their sacrificial and intercessory work represented men in the presence of God, and therefore looked in a Godward direction. The writer of Hebrews expresses it thus: “For every high priest, taken from among men, is ordained for men in things pertaining to God,” 5:1. This statement contains the following elements: (1) The priest is taken from among men, is one of the human race, so as to be able to represent men; (2) he is appointed for men, that is, to be active in the interests of men; and (3) he is appointed to represent men in things pertaining to God, that is, in things that have a Godward direction, that look to God, that terminate on God. This is a clear indication of the fact that the work of the priest looks primarily to God. It does not exclude the idea that the priestly work also has a reflex influence on men.

b. The same truth is conveyed by the general idea of the sacrifices. These clearly have an objective reference. Even among the Gentiles they are brought, not to men, but to God. They were supposed to produce an effect on God. The Scriptural idea of sacrifice does not differ from this in its objective reference. The sacrifices of the Old Testament were brought to God primarily to atone for sin, but also as expressions of devotion and gratitude. Hence the blood had to be brought into the very presence of God. The writer of Hebrews says that the “things pertaining to God” consist in offering “both gifts and sacrifices for sin.” The friends of Job were urged to bring sacrifices, “lest I,” says the Lord, “deal with you after your folly.” Job 42:8. The sacrifices were to be instrumental in stilling the anger of the Lord.

c. The Hebrew word kipper (piel) expresses the idea of atonement for sin by the covering of sin or of the sinner. The blood of the sacrifice is interposed between God and the sinner, and in view of it the wrath of God is turned aside. It has the effect, therefore, of warding off the wrath of God from the sinner. In the Septuagint and in the New Testament the terms hilaskomai and hilasmos are used in a related sense. The verb means “to render propitious,” and the noun, “an appeasing” or “the means of appeasing.” They are terms of an objective character. In classical Greek they are often construed with the accusative of theos (God), though there is no example of this in the Bible. In the New Testament they are construed with the accusative of the thing (hamartias), Heb. 2:17, or with peri and the genitive of the thing (hamartion), I John 2:2; 4:10. The first passage is best interpreted in the light of the use of the Hebrew kipper; the last can be interpreted similarly, or with theon as the object understood. There are so many passages of Scripture which speak of the wrath of God and of God as being angry with sinners, that we are perfectly justified in speaking of a propitiation of God, Rom. 1:18; Gal. 3:10; Eph. 2:3; Rom. 5:9. In Rom. 5:10 and 11:28 sinners are called “enemies of God” (echthroi) in a passive sense, indicating, not that they are hostile to God, but that they are the objects of God’s holy displeasure. In the former passage this sense is demanded by its connection with the previous verse; and in the latter by the fact that echtroi is contrasted with agapetoi, which does not mean “lovers of God,” but “beloved of God.”

d. The words katalasso and katalage signify “to reconcile” and “reconciliation.” They point to an action by which enmity is changed to friendship, and surely have, first of all, an objective signification. The offender reconciles, not himself, but the person whom he has offended. This is clearly brought out in Matt. 5:23,24: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift before the altar, and there remember that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave thy gift there before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother (which
in this connection can only mean, reconcile thy brother to thyself, which is objective), and then come and offer thy gift.” The brother who had done the supposed injury is called upon to remove the grievance. He must propitiate or reconcile his brother to himself by whatsoever compensation may be required. In connection with the work of Christ the words under consideration in some instances certainly denote the effecting of a change in the judicial relation between God and the sinner by removing the judicial claim. According to II Cor. 5:19 the fact that God reconciled the world to Himself is evident from this that He does not reckon unto them their sins. This does not point to any moral change in man, but to the fact that the demands of the law are met, and that God is satisfied. In Rom. 5:10,11 the term “reconciliation” can only be understood in an objective sense, for (1) it is said to have been effected by the death of Christ, while subjective reconciliation is the result of the work of the Spirit; (2) it was effected while we were yet enemies, that is, were still objects of God’s wrath; and (3) it is represented in verse 11 as something objective which we receive.

e. The terms lutron and antilutron are also objective terms. Christ is the Goel, the liberator, Acts 20:28; I Cor. 6:20; 7:23. He redeems sinners from the demands of God’s retributive justice. The price is paid to God by Christ as the representative of the sinner. Clearly, the Bible abundantly justifies us in ascribing an objective character to the atonement. Moreover, strictly speaking, atonement in the proper sense of the word is always objective. There is no such thing as subjective atonement. In atonement it is always the party that has done wrong that makes amends to the one who was wronged.

2. IT IS A VICARIOUS ATONEMENT.

a. The meaning of the term “vicarious atonement.” There is a difference between personal and vicarious atonement. We are interested particularly in the difference between the two in connection with the atonement of Christ. When man fell away from God, he as such owed God reparation. But he could atone for his sin only by suffering eternally the penalty affixed to transgression. This is what God might have required in strict justice, and would have required, if He had not been actuated by love and compassion for the sinner. As a matter of fact, however, God appointed a vicar in Jesus Christ to take man’s place, and this vicar atoned for sin and obtained an eternal redemption for man. Dr. Shedd calls attention to the following points of difference in this case: (1) Personal atonement is provided by the offending party; vicarious atonement by the offended party. (2) Personal atonement would have excluded the element of mercy; vicarious atonement represents the highest form of mercy. (3) Personal atonement would have been forever in the making and hence could not result in redemption; vicarious atonement leads to reconciliation and life everlasting.

b. The possibility of vicarious atonement. All those who advocate a subjective theory of the atonement raise a formidable objection to the idea of vicarious atonement. They consider it unthinkable that a just God should transfer His wrath against moral offenders to a perfectly innocent party, and should treat the innocent judicially as if he were guilty. There is undoubtedly a real difficulty here, especially in view of the fact that this seems to be contrary to all human analogy. We cannot conclude from the possibility of the transfer of a pecuniary debt to that of the transfer of a penal debt. If some beneficent person offers to pay the pecuniary debt of another, the payment must be accepted, and the debtor is ipso facto freed from all obligation. But this is not the case when someone offers to atone vicariously for the transgression of another. To be legal, this must be expressly permitted and authorized by the lawgiver. In reference to the law this is called relaxation, and in relation to the sinner it is known as remission. The judge need not, but can permit this; yet he can permit it only under certain conditions, as (1) that the guilty party himself is not in a position to bear the penalty through to the end, so that a righteous relation results; (2) that the transfer does not encroach upon the rights and privileges of innocent third parties, nor cause them to suffer hardships and privations; (3) that the person enduring the penalty is not himself already indebted to justice, and does not owe all his services to the government; and (4) that the guilty party retains the consciousness of his guilt and of the fact that the substitute is suffering for him. In view of all this it will be understood that the transfer of penal debt is well-nigh, if not entirely, impossible among men. But in the case of Christ, which is altogether unique, because in it a situation obtained which has no parallel, all the conditions named were met. There was no injustice of any kind.

c. Scriptural proof for the vicarious atonement of Christ. The Bible certainly teaches that the sufferings and death of Christ were vicarious, and vicarious in the strict sense of the word that He took the place of sinners, and that their guilt was imputed, and their punishment transferred, to Him. This is not at all what Bushnell means, when he speaks of the “vicarious sacrifice” of Christ. For him it simply means that Christ bore our sins “on His feeling, became inserted into their bad lot by His sympathy as a friend, yielded up Himself and His life, even, to an effort of restoring mercy; in a word that He bore our sins in just the same sense as He bore our sicknesses.”43 The sufferings of Christ were
not just the sympathetic sufferings of a friend, but the substitutionary sufferings of the Lamb of God for the sin of the world. The Scriptural proofs for this may be classified as follows:

(1) The Old Testament teaches us to regard the sacrifices that were brought upon the altar as vicarious. When the Israelite brought a sacrifice to the Lord, he had to lay his hand on the head of the sacrifice and confess his sin. This action symbolized the transfer of sin to the offering, and rendered it fit to atone for the sin of the offerer, Lev. 1:4. Cave and others regard this action merely as a symbol of dedication.44 But this does not explain how the laying on of hands made the sacrifice fit to make atonement for sin. Neither is it in harmony with what we are taught respecting the significance of the laying on of hands in the case of the scape-goat in Lev. 16:20-22. After the laying on of hands death was vicariously inflicted on the sacrifice. The significance of this is clearly indicated in the classical passage that is found in Lev. 17:11: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life.” Says Dr. Vos, “The sacrificial animal in its death takes the place of the death due to the offerer. It is forfeit for forfeit.” The sacrifices so brought were pre-figurations of the one great sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

(2) There are several passages in Scripture which speak of our sins as being “laid upon” Christ, and of His “bearing” sin or iniquity, Isa. 53:6,12; John 1:29; II Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13; Heb. 9:28; I Pet. 2:24. On the basis of Scripture we can, therefore, say that our sins are imputed to Christ. This does not mean that our sinfulness was transferred to Him — something that is in itself utterly impossible — but that the guilt of our sin was imputed to Him. Says Dr. A. A. Hodge: “Sin may be considered (1) in its formal nature as transgression of the law, I John 3:4; or (2) as a moral quality inherent in the agent (macula), Rom. 6:11-13; or (3) in respect to its legal obligation to punishment (reatus). In this last sense alone is it ever said that the sin of one is laid upon or borne by another.”45  Strictly speaking, then, the guilt of sin as liability to punishment was imputed to Christ; and this could be transferred, because it did not inhere in the person of the sinner, but was something objective.

(3) Finally, there are several passages in which the prepositions peri, huper, and anti are used in connection with the work of Christ for sinners. The substitutionary idea is expressed least by the first, and most by the last preposition. But even in the interpretation of huper and anti we shall have to depend largely on the context, for while the former really means “in behalf of,” it may, and in some cases does, express the idea of substitution, and while the latter may mean “instead of,” it does not always have that meaning. It is rather interesting to notice that, according to Deissmann, several
instances have been found on the inscriptions of the use of huper with the meaning “as
representative of.”46 We find a similar use of it in Philemon 13. In such passages as Rom.
5:6-8; 8:32; Gal. 2:20; Heb. 2:9 it probably means “instead of,” though it can also be rendered “in behalf of”; but in Gal. 2:13; John 11:50, and II Cor. 5:15 it certainly means “instead of.” Robertson says that only violence to the text can get rid of that meaning here. The preposition anti clearly means “instead of” in Matt. 2:22; 5:38; 20:28; Mark
10:45. According to Robertson any other meaning of the term is out of the question here.  The same idea is expressed in I Tim. 2:6.

d. Objections to the idea of a vicarious atonement. Several objections are raised against the idea of vicarious atonement.

(1) Substitution in penal matters is illegal. It is generally admitted that in cases of a pecuniary debt payment by a substitute is not only permissible, but must be accepted and at once cancels all further obligation on the part of the original debtor. However, it is said that penal debt is so personal that it does not admit of any such transfer. But it is quite evident that there are other than pecuniary cases in which the law has made provision for substitution. Armour in his work on Atonement and Law mentions three kinds of such cases. The first is that of substitution in cases of work for the public benefit required by law, and the second, that of substitution in the case of military service required in behalf of one’s country. Respecting the third he says “Even in the case of crime, law, as understood and administered by men in all lands, provides that the penalty may be met by a substitute, in all cases in which the penalty prescribed is such that a substitute may meet it consistently with the obligations he is already under.”47 It is perfectly evident that the law does recognize the principle of substitution, though it may not be easy to cite instances in which innocent persons were permitted to act as substitutes for criminals and to bear the penalties imposed on these. This finds a sufficient explanation in the fact that it is usually impossible to find men who meet all the requirements stated under (b) above. But the fact that it is impossible to find men who meet these requirements, is no proof that Jesus Christ could not meet them. In fact, He could and did, and was therefore an acceptable substitute.

(2) The innocent is made to suffer for the wicked. It is perfectly true that, according to the penal substitutionary doctrine of the atonement Christ suffered as “the righteous for the unrighteous” (I Pet. 3:18), but this can hardly be urged as an objection to the doctrine of vicarious atonement. In the form in which it is often stated it certainly has very little force. To say that this doctrine makes the innocent suffer the consequences of the guilt of the wicked, and is therefore unacceptable, is tantamount to raising an objection against the moral government of God in general. In actual life the innocent often suffer as a result of the transgression of others. Moreover, in this form the objection would hold against all the so-called theories of the atonement, for they all represent the sufferings of Christ as being in some sense the result of the sins of mankind. Sometimes it is said that a moral agent cannot become reasonably responsible for any sin, except by doing it personally; but this is contradicted by the facts of life. One who hires another to commit a crime is held responsible; so are all accessories to a crime.

(3) God the Father is made guilty of injustice. It appears that all the objections are really variations on the same theme. The third is virtually the same as the second put in a more legal form. The doctrine of vicarious atonement, it is said, involves an injustice on the part of the Father in that He simply sacrifices the Son for the sins of mankind. This objection was already raised by Abelard, but loses sight of several pertinent facts. It was not the Father but the triune God that conceived the plan of redemption. There was a solemn agreement between the three persons in the Godhead. And in this plan the Son voluntarily undertook to bear the penalty for sin and to satisfy the demands of the divine law. And not only that, but the sacrificial work of Christ also brought immense gain and glory to Christ as Mediator. It meant for Him a numerous seed, loving worship, and a glorious kingdom. And, finally, this objection acts as a boomerang, for it returns with vengeance on the head of all those who, like Abelard, deny the necessity of an objective atonement, for they are all agreed that the Father sent the Son into the world for bitter suffering and a shameful death which, while beneficial, was yet unnecessary. This would have been cruel indeed!

4. There is no such union as would justify a vicarious atonement. It is said that, if a vicar
is to remove the guilt of an offender there must be some real union between them which would justify such a procedure. It may be admitted that there must be some antecedent union between a vicar and those whom he represents, but the idea that this must be an organic union, such as the objectors really have in mind, cannot be granted. As a matter of fact the required union should be legal rather than organic, and provision was made for such a union in the plan of redemption. In the depths of eternity the Mediator of the new covenant freely undertook to be the representative of His people, that is, of those whom the Father gave unto Him. A federal relationship was established in virtue of which He became their Surety. This is the basic and the most fundamental union between Christ and His own, and on the basis of this a mystical union was formed, ideally in the counsel of peace, to be realized in the course of history in the organic union of Christ and His Church. Therefore Christ could act as the legal representative of His own, and being mystically one with them, can also convey to them the blessings of salvation.

3. IT INCLUDES CHRISTS ACTIVE AND PASSIVE OBEDIENCE. It is customary to distinguish between the active and passive obedience of Christ. But in discriminating between the two, it should be distinctly understood that they cannot be separated. The two accompany each other at every point in the Saviour ’s life. There is a constant interpenetration of the two. It was part of Christ’s active obedience, that He subjected Himself voluntarily to sufferings and death. He Himself says: “No man taketh my life from me, I lay it down of myself,” John 10:18. On the other hand it was also part of Christ’s passive obedience, that He lived in subjection to the law. His moving about in the form of a servant constituted an important element of His sufferings. Christ’s active and passive obedience should be regarded as complementary parts of an organic whole. In discussing it, account should be taken of a threefold relation in which Christ stood to the law, namely, the natural, the federal, and the penal relation. Man proved a failure in each one of these. He did not keep the law in its natural and federal aspects, and is not now in a position to pay the penalty, in order to be restored in the favor of God. While Christ naturally entered the first relation by His incarnation, He vicariously entered only the second and third relations. And it is with these that we are particularly concerned in this connection.

a. The active obedience of Christ. Christ as Mediator entered the federal relation in which Adam stood in the state of integrity, in order to merit eternal life for the sinner. This constitutes the active obedience of Christ, consisting in all that Christ did to observe the law in its federal aspect, as the condition for obtaining eternal life. The active obedience of Christ was necessary to make His passive obedience acceptable with God, that is, to make it an object of God’s good pleasure. It is only on account of it that God’s estimate of the sufferings of Christ differs from His estimate of the sufferings of the lost. Moreover, if Christ had not rendered active obedience, the human nature of Christ itself would have fallen short of the just demands of God, and He would not have been able to atone for others. And, finally, if Christ had suffered only the penalty imposed on man, those who shared in the fruits of His work would have been left exactly where Adam was before he fell. Christ merits more for sinners than the forgiveness of sins. According to Gal. 4:4,5 they are through Christ set free from the law as the condition of life, are adopted to be sons of God, and as sons are also heirs of eternal life, Gal. 4:7. All this is conditioned primarily on the active obedience of Christ. Through Christ the righteousness of faith is substituted for the righteousness of the law, Rom. 10:3,4. Paul tells us that by the work of Christ “the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us,” Rom. 8:3,4; and that we are made “the righteousness of God in Him,” II Cor. 5:21.

According to Anselm Christ’s life of obedience had no redemptive significance, since He owed this to God for Himself. Only the sufferings of the Saviour constituted a claim on God and were basic to the sinner ’s redemption. Thinking along somewhat similar lines Piscator, the seventeenth century Arminians, Richard Watson, R. N. Davies, and other Arminian scholars deny that the active obedience of Christ has the redemptive significance which we ascribe to it. Their denial rests especially on two considerations: (1) Christ needed His active obedience for Himself as man. Being under the law, He was in duty bound to keep it for Himself. In answer to this it may be said that Christ, though possessing a human nature, was yet a divine person, and as such was not subject to the law in its federal aspect, the law as the condition of life in the covenant of works. As the last Adam, however, He took the place of the first. The first Adam was by nature under the law of God, and the keeping of it as such gave him no claim to a reward. It was only when God graciously entered into a covenant with him and promised him life in the way of obedience, that the keeping of the law was made the condition of obtaining eternal life for himself and for his descendants. And when Christ voluntarily entered the federal relationship as the last Adam, the keeping of the law naturally acquired the same significance for Him and for those whom the Father had given Him. (2) God demands, or can demand, only one of two things of the sinner: either obedience to the law, or subjection to the penalty, but not both. If the law is obeyed, the penalty cannot be inflicted; and if the penalty is borne, nothing further can be demanded. There is some confusion here, however, which results in misunderstanding. This “either . . . or” applied to the case of Adam before the fall, but ceased to apply the moment he sinned and thus entered the penal relationship of the law. God continued to demand obedience of man, but in addition to that required of him that he pay the penalty for past transgression. Meeting this double requirement was the only way of life after sin entered the world. If Christ had merely obeyed the law and had not also paid the penalty, He would not have won a title to eternal life for sinners; and if He had merely paid the penalty, without meeting the original demands of the law, He would have left man in the position of Adam before the fall, still confronted with the task of obtaining eternal life in the way of obedience. By His active obedience, however, He carried His people beyond that point and gave them a claim to everlasting life.

b. The passive obedience of Christ. Christ as Mediator also entered the penal relation to the law, in order to pay the penalty in our stead. His passive obedience consisted in His paying the penalty of sin by His sufferings and death, and thus discharging the debt of all His people. The sufferings of Christ, which have already been described, did not come upon Him accidentally, nor as the result of purely natural circumstances. They were judicially laid upon Him as our representative, and were therefore really penal sufferings. The redemptive value of these sufferings results from the following facts: They were borne by a divine person who, only in virtue of His deity, could bear the penalty through to the end and thus obtain freedom from it. In view of the infinite value of the person who undertook to pay the price and to bear the curse, they satisfied the justice of God essentially and intensively. They were strictly moral sufferings, because Christ took them upon Himself voluntarily, and was perfectly innocent and holy in bearing them. The passive obedience of Christ stands out prominently in such passages as the following: Isa. 53:6; Rom. 4:25; I Pet. 2:24; 3:18; I John 2:2, while His active obedience is taught in such passages at Matt. 3:15; 5:17,18; John 15:10; Gal. 4:4,5; Heb. 10:7-9, in connection with the passages which teach us that Christ is our righteousness, Rom. 10:4; II Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9; and that He secured for us eternal life, the adoption of sons, and an eternal inheritance, Gal. 3:13,14; 4:4,5; Eph. 1:3-12; 5:25-27. Arminians are willing to admit that Christ, by His passive obedience merited for us the forgiveness of sins, but refuse to grant that He also merited for us positive acceptance with God, the adoption of children, and everlasting life.

43 Vicarious Sacrifice, p. 46.

44 The Scriptural Doctrine of Sacrifice, pp. 129 f.

45 Outlines of Theology, p. 408.

46 Light From the Ancient East, p. 153.

47 p. 129.

Romans 5:10

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

2 Corinthians 5:19

19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling [1] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:20

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Hebrews 5:1

5:1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.

Job 42:8

Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”

Hebrews 2:17

17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

1 John 2:2

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10

10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Romans 1:18

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

Galatians 3:10

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”

Ephesians 2:3

among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body [2] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Romans 5:9

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Romans 5:10

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Romans 11:28

28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.

Matthew 5:23

23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,

Matthew 5:24

24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

2 Corinthians 5:19

19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling [3] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Acts 20:28

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, [4] which he obtained with his own blood. [5]

1 Corinthians 6:20

20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 7:23

23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.

Leviticus 1:4

He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.

Leviticus 16:20-22

20 “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. 21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. 22 The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.

Isaiah 53:6

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:12

12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, [6]
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, [7]
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

John 1:29

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

2 Corinthians 5:21

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Galatians 3:13

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Hebrews 9:28

28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

1 Peter 2:24

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 John 3:4

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.

Romans 6:11-13

11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

Philemon 1:13

13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel,

Romans 5:6-8

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 8:32

32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Galatians 2:20

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Hebrews 2:9

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Galatians 2:13

13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

John 11:50

50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.”

2 Corinthians 5:15

15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Matthew 2:22

22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee.

Matthew 5:38

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’

Matthew 20:28

28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:45

45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

1 Timothy 2:6

who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

1 Peter 3:18

18 For Christ also suffered [8] once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

John 10:18

18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Galatians 4:4

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,

Galatians 4:5

to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Galatians 4:7

So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Romans 10:3

For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

Romans 10:4

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. [9]

Romans 8:3

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, [10] he condemned sin in the flesh,

Romans 8:4

in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:21

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Isaiah 53:6

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Romans 4:25

25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

1 Peter 2:24

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 3:18

18 For Christ also suffered [11] once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

1 John 2:2

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Matthew 3:15

15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

Matthew 5:17

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Matthew 5:18

18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

John 15:10

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

Galatians 4:4

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,

Galatians 4:5

to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Hebrews 10:7-9

Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second.

Romans 10:4

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. [12]

2 Corinthians 5:21

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Philippians 3:9

and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Galatians 3:13

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Galatians 3:14

14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit [13] through faith.

Galatians 4:4

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,

Galatians 4:5

to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Ephesians 1:3-12

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us [14] for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known [15] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 5:25-27

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. [16] (ESV)

Footnotes

[1] 5:19 Or God was in Christ, reconciling
[2] 2:3 Greek flesh
[3] 5:19 Or God was in Christ, reconciling
[4] 20:28 Some manuscripts of the Lord
[5] 20:28 Or with the blood of his Own
[6] 53:12 Or with the great
[7] 53:12 Or with the numerous
[8] 3:18 Some manuscripts died
[9] 10:4 Or end of the law, that everyone who believes may be justified
[10] 8:3 Or and as a sin offering
[11] 3:18 Some manuscripts died
[12] 10:4 Or end of the law, that everyone who believes may be justified
[13] 3:14 Greek receive the promise of the Spirit
[14] 1:5 Or before him in love, having predestined us
[15] 1:9 Or he lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight, making known . . .
[16] 5:27 Or holy and blameless

Definitions of Covenant

An excellent selection of how different theologians have defined the term ‘covenant’ is available here: https://www.gracecommunity-pca.org/podcasts/SundaySchool/Covenant/Definitions_of_Covenant.pdf

Theodore Beza on Law and Gospel

Theodore_Beza4.22 That which we call “The Word of God”: Its two parts- the Law and the Gospel

On this subject we call the “Word of God” (for we know well that the Eternal Son of God is also so named) the canonical books of the Old and New Testament; for they proceed from the mouth of God Himself.

We divided this Word into two principal parts or kinds: the one is called the “Law”, the other the “Gospel.” For, all the rest can be gathered under the one or the other of these two headings.

What we call Law (when it is distinguished from Gospel and is taken for one of the two parts of the Word) is a doctrine whose seed is written by nature in our hearts. However, so that we may have a more exact knowledge, it was written by God on two Tables and is briefly comprehended in ten commandments. In these He sets out for us the obedience and perfect righteousness which we owe to His majesty and our neighbours. This on contrasting terms: either perpetual life, if we perfectly keep the Law without omitting a single point, or eternal death, if we do not completely fulfill the contents of each commandment (Deut. 30:15-20; James 2:10).

What we call the Gospel (“Good News”) is a doctrine which is not at all in us by nature, but which is revealed from Heaven (Matt. 16:17; John 1:13), and totally surpasses natural knowledge. By it God testifies to us that it is His purpose to save us freely by His only Son (Rom. 3:20-22), provided that, by faith, we embrace Him as our only wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). By it, I say, the Lord testifies to us all these things, and even does it in such a manner that at the same time He renews our persons in a powerful way so that we may embrace the benefits which are offered to us (1 Cor. 2:4).

4.23 The similarities and the differences between the Law and the Gospel

We must pay great attention to these things. For, with good reason, we can say that ignorance of this distinction between Law and Gospel is one of the principle sources of the abuses which corrupted and still corrupt Christianity.

The majority of men, blinded by the just judgement of God, have indeed never seriously considered what curse the Law subjects us to, nor why it has been ordained by God. And, as for the Gospel, they have nearly always thought that it was nothing other than a second Law, more perfect than the first. From this has come the erroneous distinction between precept and advice; there has followed, little by little, the total ruin of the benefit of Jesus Christ.

Now, we must besides consider these things. The Law and the Gospel have in common that they are both from the one true God, always consistent with Himself (Heb 1:1,2). We must not therefore think that the Gospel abolishes the essence of the Law. On the contrary, the Law establishes the essence of the Gospel (Rom 10:2-4); this is what we shall explain a little further on. For both set before us the same God and the essence of the same righteousness (Rom 3:31), which resides in perfect love to God and our neighbour. But there is a great difference in these points which we shall touch on, and especially concerning the means of obtaining this righteousness.

“We must pay great attention to these things. For, with good reason, we can say that ignorance of this distinction between Law and Gospel is one of the principle sources of the abuses which corrupted and still corrupt Christianity.”

For, in the first place, as we alluded to before (Section 4.22-J.F.), the Law is natural to man. God has engraven it in his heart from creation (Rom 1:32; 2:14,15). When, a long time afterwards, God made and exhibited the two Tables of the Law, this was not to make a new law, but only to restore our first knowledge of the natural law which, because of the corruption of sin, was little by little becoming obliterated from the heart of man (Rom 7:8,9). But the gospel is a supernatural doctrine which our nature would never have been able to imagine nor able to approve without a special grace of God (1 Cor 1:23; 2:14). But, the Lord has revealed it, firstly to Adam shortly after his sin, as Moses declares (Gen 3:15), afterwards to the patriarchs and the prophets in increasing degrees as seemed good to Him (Rom 1:2; Luke 1:55,70), until the day in which He manifested Jesus Christ in Person. It is He who has clearly announced and accomplished all that is contained in the Gospel (John 15:15; 6:38). This Gospel God still reveals today and will reveal it until the end of the world by the preaching instituted in His Church (John 17: 18; Matt. 28:20; 2 Cor. 5:20).

In the second place, the Law lays bare to us the majesty and justice of God (Heb. 12:18-21). The Gospel sets forth this same justice to us, but there it is pacified and satisfied by the mercy manifested in Christ (Heb. 12:22-24).

In the third place, the Law sends us to ourselves in order to accomplish the righteousness which it commands us, that is to say, the perfect obedience to its commandments, which is necessary in order to escape guilt. That is why it shows us our curse and subjects us to it, as the Apostle declares (Rom 3:20; Gal 3:10-12). But the gospel teaches us where we shall find what we do not have and, having found it, how we shall be able to enjoy it. That is why it delivers us from the curse of the Law (Rom 3:21,22; Gal 3:13,14). In conclusion, the Law pronounces us blessed when we accomplish it without omitting anything; the Gospel promises us salvation when we believe, that is to say, when, by faith, we take hold of Jesus Christ who has everything which we lack, and still more that we need. Now, these two terms – to do what the Law commands, or to believe what God offers us in Jesus Christ – are two things which are not only very difficult but totally impossible to our corrupt nature. This latter, as St. Paul says, cannot even perceive what is of God (2 Cor 3:5; Phil 1:29). That is why it is necessary to add a fourth difference between the Law and the Gospel.

“…the gospel is a supernatural doctrine which our nature would never have been able to imagine nor able to approve without a special grace of God (1 Cor 1:23; 2:14).”

Thus, the fourth difference between the Law and the Gospel is that the Law, by itself, can only show us, and make us see, our evil more exceedingly, and aggravate our condemnation; not through any fault of its own (for it is good and holy), but because our corrupt nature burns for sin the more it is reproved and threatened, as St. Paul has declared through his own example (Rom 7:7-14). But the Gospel not only shows us the remedy against the curse of the law, but it is at the same time accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit who regenerates us and changes us (as we have said above, [Section 4.3-J.F.]); for He creates in us the instrument and sole means of applying to us this remedy (Acts 26:17,18).

In order to speak even more clearly, let us expound these words “letter” and “spirit” which some have taken in the wrong sense. I say, therefore, that the Gospel is not “letter”, that is to say, only a dead doctrine which sets before us in their bareness and simplicity (I do not say those things which it is fitting for us to do – for that is the office of the Law) the things which it is necessary for us to believe: that salvation is promised freely in Jesus Christ to those who believe; but it is “spirit”, that is to say, a powerful means full of efficacy from the Holy Spirit, and He uses it to create in us the power to believe the things which He teaches us, that is to say, to embrace free salvation in Jesus Christ. It is thus that the Law itself, which kills us and damns us in ourselves, justifies us and saves us in Jesus Christ, taken hold of by faith (Rom 3:31).

“…the Gospel not only shows us the remedy against the curse of the law, but it is at the same time accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit who regenerates us and changes us…”

This is the reason why I have said that the Law and the Gospel are not contrary in that which concerns the essence of the righteousness with which we must be clothed in order to be accepted before God and to participate in eternal life; but they are contrary with regard to the means of having this righteousness. For the Law justly seeks in us this righteousness; it has no regard to what we can do but to what we ought to do (Gal 3:12).

Man, indeed, by his own fault alone, has made himself unable to pay; nevertheless, he does not cease to be a debtor even if he is unable to pay. And consequently, the Law does us no wrong in demanding from us that which we owe, although we cannot pay it. But the Gospel, softening this righteous rigour as with the honey of God’s mercy, teaches us to pay by Him who has made Himself our Surety, who has put Himself, I say, in our place and paid our debt, as principal debtor, and to the last farthing (Coloss 2:13,14). So that the rigour of the Law which made us tremble in ourselves and struck us down completely, now confirms us and accepts us in Jesus Christ.

“…the Gospel, softening this righteous rigour as with the honey of God’s mercy, teaches us to pay by Him who has made Himself our Surety…”

For, since eternal life is due to those who have obeyed the Law perfectly, and Jesus Christ has fulfilled all righteousness in the name of those who should believe in Him and take hold of Him by faith (1 Cor 1:30; Phil 3:9), it follows that, even according to the rigour of the Law, salvation cannot fail those who, by faith, have become united and incorporated with Jesus Christ.

4.24 For what ends the Holy Spirit uses the preaching of the Law

Having carefully understood this distinction of the two parts of the Word of God, the Law and the Gospel, it is easy to understand how and to what end the Holy Spirit uses the preaching of the one and the other in the Church. For there is no doubt that He employs them for the purpose for which they have been established.

We are then all so blind, whilst our corruption reigns in us, that we are ignorant even of our ignorance (John 9:41) and, not ceasing to smother the little light of knowledge which has been left to us so as to render ourselves inexcusable (Rom 1:20,21; 2:1), we are pleased about that which ought to displease us most.

It is necessary, before all things, that God, all good and full of pity, makes as know clearly the cursed pit in which we are. He could do it no better than by informing us, by the declaration of His Law, what we ought necessarily to be. Thus, blackness can never be better known than in being placed beside white (Rom 3:20; 7:13).

This is why God begins with the preaching of the Law. In it alone we can see what we ought to be; and yet we cannot fulfill a single point of it. In it alone, we can see how near we are to our damnation, unless there comes to us some very strong and sure remedy.

And indeed, the stupidity which has reigned in the world at all times and reigns now more than ever, shows clearly how necessary it is that God begin at this point in order to draw us to Himself: by making us know what great and certain danger those are in who think least of it. The fact is, the Law was never given to justify as (for if this were so, Jesus Christ would have died in vain, as St. Paul says; Gal 2:21; 3:18-21), but, on the contrary, to condemn us, and to show the hell which is opened wide to swallow us, to annihilate and totally abase our pride, in making the multitude of our sins pass before our eyes and showing us the wrath of God which is revealed from Heaven against us (Rom 1:18; 4:15; Gal 3:10,12).

“The fact is, the Law was never given to justify…”

However, for a long time men have been blind and senseless. Not only do they seek their salvation in that which condemns them wholly or in part that is to say, in their works, instead of running to Jesus Christ by faith, the only remedy against all that they can be justly accused of before God; but, what is more, they do not cease to add law upon law to their conscience, that is to say condemnation upon condemnation, as if the Law of God did not condemn them enough (Gal 4:9,10; 5:1; Coloss 2:8,16-23).

It is like a prisoner to whom the prison door would be opened, but who, turning away from a freedom which he does not understand, goes away and voluntarily locks himself in a prison which is even more secure.

There then is the first use of the preaching of the Law; to
make known our innumerable faults so that in ourselves we begin to be miserable and greatly humble ourselves; in short, to beget in as the first degree of repentance which is called ‘contrition of heart’; this produces a full and open confession toward the Lord.

For he who does not know that he is sick will never come to the physician. There are none more unfit to receive the light of salvation than those who think they see clearly by themselves, through lack of understanding how thick is the darkness in which they are born; so great that they must come out of it. On the contrary, they have always made it thicker from then on, and have not ceased to rush on willingly in it (John 9:41).

4.25 The other part of the Word of Cod called “Gospel”: Its authority, why, how and for what end it was written

After the Law comes the Gospel, the use and necessity of which cannot be better understood than by noting the following points:

Firstly, even as there is only one Saviour (Matt 1:21; Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5), there is also only one doctrine of salvation which is called Gospel, that is to say Good News, (Rom 1:16). It was fully announced and declared to the world by Jesus Christ (John 15:15) and the Apostles (John 17:8; 2Cor 5:19,20), and faithfully recorded by the Evangelists (Eph 2:20; 1 Pet 1:25) so as to prevent the wiles and craftiness of Satan who, without this, would have more easily put forward to men his dreams under the name of the gospel; however, he has not entirely failed to do so, by the just vengeance of God who has been provoked to anger against the men who, in their accustomed manner, have always preferred darkness to light.

And when we say that the Apostles and Evangelists have faithfully recorded all the doctrine of the Gospel, we understand three points:

1. They have truly added nothing of their own as far as the substance of the doctrine is concerned (Coloss l:28; 2 Tim 3:16,17), but they have obeyed with precision and simplicity what the Lord had said to them: “Go, preach all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:20); and St. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, confesses that he does so (1 Cor 11:23).

2. They have omitted nothing of that which is necessary to salvation. For, otherwise, they would have been disloyal to their commission which is not possible. And we see also St. Paul (Acts 20:27; Gal 1:9) and St. Peter (lPet 1:25) testify how conscientious they have been and how particular in this area (John 15:15; 16:13). That is why St. Jerome, writing on this subject, says, “Chatter and babbling must not be believed without the authority of Holy Scripture.” And St. Augustine says even more clearly, “It is true that the Lord Jesus did many things which have not all been written down; for the Evangelist himself testifies that Jesus Christ said and did much that has not been written down. But God has chosen to have written down those things which are sufficient for the salvation of those who believe. (John 20:30 31)

3. What they have written, is written in such a way that the most uncultured and most ignorant in the world, if it is only held out to them, can learn there what is necessary for their salvation (1 Cor 1:26,27). For otherwise, why would the Gospel have been put in written form in a language which everyone was then able to understand (1 Cor 14:6-40), and even in the most familiar and popular manner of speaking which it had been possible to choose (1 Cor 2:1). That is why St. Paul said that if the Gospel was hidden, it was hidden to those who were perishing and whose mind the god of this world had blinded, that is to say, the unbelievers (2 Cor 4:3). And, indeed, the experience of all times has shown that God has not called the most wise and most learned, but, on the contrary, mostly of the most ignorant of the world (Is. 29:14; Luke 10:21; 1 Cor. 1:26, 27; 3:18); so far from the truth is it. that He wished to hide or cover His doctrine so that it should be understood by no-one.

We draw, then, two conclusions from this discourse which are very useful to what we are discussing:

The first is, that it is not necessary to reckon as Gospel anything which men have added to the Word of God written, that is to say, the doctrine contained in the books of the Old and New Testament; but that all additions are merely superstitions and a corruption of the only true Gospel of our Lord (Matt 15:9); St. Paul, has also spoken of this (Gal 1:8,9; 2 Tim 3:16,17). And St. Jerome wrote on this subject, “What is said without the authority of Holy Scripture is also easily set aside, as has been said.”

The second conclusion is that those who say that it only belongs to certain persons to read Scripture, and who, for this reason, do not want it to be translated into the common language, for fear that simple women and other people may read it (Rom 1:14; Gal 3:28; Matt 11:28), are the true antichrists and instruments of satan (Matt 23:13); they are afraid that their abuses be discovered by the coming of the light.

Theodore Beza, The Christian Faith*

*From the cover: “This book was primarily written for Beza’s own father, to whom he earnestly desired to present the Gospel in its Scriptural simplicity, praying that the Holy Spirit would seal His Truth upon his dying heart.”

HT: Gospel-Driven blog

Christ for the Vilest of Sinners – Marrow of Modern Divinity

Marrow_of_Modern_DivinityEvangelista. Yes, indeed; for there is no limitation of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, except the sin against the Holy Ghost. 25 Christ “stands at the door and knocks,” (Rev 3:20). And if any murdering Manasseh, or any persecuting and blaspheming Saul, (1 Tim 1:13), or any adulterous Mary Magdalene, “will open unto him, he will come in,” and bring comfort with him, “and will sup with him.” “Seek from the one end of the heavens to the other,” says Hooker; “turn all the Bible over, and see if the words of Christ be not true, ‘Him that cometh unto me, I will in no ways cast out,'” (John 6:37).

Nomista. Why, then, sir, it seems you hold, that the vilest sinner in the world ought not to be discouraged from coming unto Christ, and believing in him, by reason of his sins.

Evangelista. Surely, if “Christ came into the world to seek, and call, and save sinners, and to justify the ungodly,” as you have heard; and if the more sinful, miserable, and distressed a man judge himself to be, the more willing Christ is to receive him and relieve him; then I see no reason why the vilest sinner should be discouraged from believing on the name of Jesus Christ by reason of his sins. Nay, let me say more; the greater any man’s sins are, either in number or nature, the more haste he should make to come unto Christ, and to say with David, “For thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great!” (Psa 25:11).

Antinomista. Surely, sir, if my friend Neophytus did rightly consider these  things, and were assuredly persuaded of the truth of them, methinks he  should not be so backward from coming to Christ, by believing on his  name, as he is; for if the greatness of his sin should be so far from  hindering his coming to Christ, that they should further his coming,  then I know not what should hinder him.

Evangelista. You speak very truly indeed. And therefore I beseech you,  neighbour Neophytus, consider seriously of it; and neither let your  own accusing conscience, nor Satan the accuser of the brethren, hinder  you any longer from Christ. For what though they should accuse you of  pride, infidelity, covetousness, lust, anger, envy, and hypocrisy?  yea, what though they should accuse you of whoredom, theft,  drunkenness, and such like? yea, do what they can, they can make no  worse a man of you than a sinner, or chief of sinners, or an ungodly  person; and so, consequently, such an one Christ came to justify and  save; so that in very deed, if you do rightly consider of it, they do  you more good than hurt by their accusations.

And therefore, I beseech you, in all such cases or conflicts, take the  counsel of Luther, who, on the Galatians, [p. 20,] says, “When thy  conscience is thoroughly afraid with the remembrance of thy sins past,  and the devil assaileth thee with great violence, going about to  overwhelm thee with heaps, floods, and whole seas of sins, to terrify  thee, and to draw thee from Christ; then arm thyself with such  sentences as these: Christ the Son of God was given, not for the holy,  righteous, worthy, and such as were his friends; but for the wicked  sinners, for the unworthy, and for his enemies. Wherefore, if the  devil say, Thou art a sinner, and therefore must be damned; then  answer thou, and say, Because thou sayest I am a sinner, therefore  will I be righteous and saved. And if he reply, Nay, sinners must be  damned; then answer thou, and say, No, for I flee to Christ, who hath  given himself for my sins; and, therefore, Satan, in that thou sayest  I am a sinner, thou givest me armour and weapons against thyself, that  with thine own sword I may cut thy throat, and tread thee under my  feet.”

And thus you see it is the counsel of Luther, that your sins should  rather drive you to Christ than keep you from him.

Nomista. But, sir, suppose he hath not as yet truly repented for his many  and great sins, hath he any warrant to come unto Christ, by believing,  till he has done so?

Evangelista. I tell you truly, that whatsoever a man is, or whatsoever he  hath done or not done, he hath warrant enough to come unto Christ by  believing, if he can; for Christ makes a general proclamation, saying, “Ho, every  one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money,  come, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and  without price.” This, you see, is the condition, “buy wine and milk,”  that is, grace and salvation, “without money,” that is, without any  sufficiency of your own;  only “incline your ear and hear, and your souls shall live”; yea, live   by hearing that “Christ will make an everlasting covenant with you,  even the sure mercies of David.”

This quote can be found on pages 150-51 of the Marrow of Modern Divinity edition as pictured above.

Source: http://www.chapellibrary.org/pdf-other/marrow/c2s33.html

Can We “Make Jesus Lord”?

Can Christians “make Jesus Lord”?  In The Way of the Master by Ray Comfort (with Foreward and Commentary by Kirk Cameron), they make the claim that to move from being a ‘lukewarm’ ‘false convert’, you must “make Jesus Lord” (see below).  Further, it seems they believe the high mark of “making Jesus Lord” is to proclaim Jesus to every living creature.  So much for the sweet elderly saints that help to serve in other ways in the Body of Christ, they must just be lukewarm.  And forget about Christ giving gifts to His Church according to his good pleasure (see Ephesians 4, I Corinthians 12).  Note that Ephesians 4 speaks of our Lord giving His gifts to His church while calling for unity in the Body of Christ and a diligence in fighting our sin.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+4&version=ESV

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+12&version=ESV

Certainly, in the body of Christ, there are false converts that place their hope in another object besides the person and work of Christ on their behalf.  This can exhibit itself in various ways including unrepentant moral impurity or self-righteousness that does not readily confess hope in Christ alone.  As Christians, we always stand in need of God’s grace in Christ both for our original sin and our continuing struggle with indwelling sin during our Christian life.

Reformed Christians freely confess that we sin daily in word, thought and deed.  Why?  Because we take the nature of original sin and the ongoing struggle with indwelling sin in the Christian life seriously.  We know enough theologically of its effects and ongoing remains.  It is not pretty.  And yet, exactly due to the awfulness of our sin, we do not find the answer of our hope in being more diligent in what we do let alone our “evangelistic zeal”, but rather in Christ.  Certainly, we are to fight and hate our own personal sin, yet the foundation of our hope is not in how much we fight our sin nor our zeal for evangelism.  We do not place our hope in moving beyond being ‘lukewarm’ to now having a ‘zeal’ for sharing Jesus.

Before moving forward in this discussion, it is important to understand the doctrine of justification and set forth the ground of our comfort and hope.  In the Westminster Standards, the Larger Catechism states the following:

Q. 70. What is justification?

A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in his sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

Q. 71. How is justification an act of God’s free grace?

A. Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in the behalf of them that are justified; yet inasmuch as God accepts the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them, and did provide this surety, his own only Son, imputing his righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith, which also is his gift, their justification is to them of free grace.

Q. 72. What is justifying faith?

A. Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

Q. 73. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?

A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receives and applies Christ and his righteousness.

The Heidelberg asks –

91. What are good works?

Those only which proceed from true faith, and are done according to the Law of God, unto His glory, and not such as rest on our own opinion or the commandments of men.

The Way of the Master by Ray Comfort (Foreward and Commentary by Kirk Cameron is available online here: http://assets.livingwaters.com/pdf/way_of_the_master.pdf  To provide the fullest context of ‘making Jesus Lord’, I quote at length the section titled ‘Sinning Converts’ from pp. 271-272.

Sinning Converts

The direct result of the Church being confronted with biblical teaching on God’s immutable Law would be that “sinning converts” would no longer be consoled in their sins. Instead of dealing with the symptoms of sinners’ non-accountability lifestyles—their fornication, pornography, lack of discipline, lack of holiness, theft, wife beating, adultery, drunkenness, lying, hatred, rebellion, greed, etc.—pastors would deal with the cause. They would say, as Scripture does, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit” (Matthew 7:18, emphasis added), and “No spring yields both salt water and fresh” (James 3:12). They would gently inform their hearers, “It sounds as if you have had a false conversion and you need to repent of your lawless deeds and make Jesus Christ your Lord.” Then, using the Law of God, pastors should show the “exceeding sinfulness” of sin and the unspeakable gift of the Cross. This should awaken the false converts, put most Christian psychologists out of business, and cut counseling to a minimum.

A clear understanding of the reality of true and false conversion would give light to church leaders who are horrified at the state of what they see as “the Church.” One respected leader said: In survey after survey, researchers find that the lifestyles of born-again Christians are virtually indistinguishable from those of nonbelievers. The divorce rate among Christians is identical to that of nonbelievers. Christian teens are almost as sexually active as non-Christian teens. Pornography, materialism, gluttony, lust, covetousness, and even disbelief are commonplace in many of our churches.

Such teaching would also stop the insanity of modern evangelism’s zeal without knowledge by showing that the category of lukewarm “converts” doesn’t exist. There is no division in the kingdom of God for those who are tepid. We should be either hot and stimulating or cold and refreshing.1   Lukewarm “converts” are not part of the body of Christ—they merely weigh heavy within the stomach of His body until He vomits them out of His mouth on the Day of Judgment (see Revelation 3:16). Because they didn’t pass through the jagged-edged teeth of the Law of God, they remain hard and impenitent. They were never broken by the Law that they might be absorbed into the bloodstream of the Body of Christ, to become His hands, His feet, and His mouth. They never felt the heartbeat of God, so their hands didn’t reach out in compassion to the lost, their feet were not shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and their mouths didn’t preach the gospel to every creature. This mass of converts is like the “backslider in heart” who is “filled with his own ways” rather than the ways of God (Proverbs 14:14). Their “Here I am Lord, send him,” doesn’t come from a fear of man but from rebellion to the revealed will of the God they call Lord and Master.

Kirk’s Commentary

I was guilty of being lukewarm. My desire for the lost was sincere, but I resigned myself to tasks other than evangelism because I didn’t feel comfortable or effective in sharing my faith. God has since turned up the heat, bringing me to an understanding of the Law, and now I’m on fire. —KC [end Comfort and Cameron quote]

In The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World by Michael Horton, pp. 93-94

Commenting on “Making Jesus your personal Lord and Savior”, Michael Horton writes “This is another expression that is not found in Scripture.  In fact, the Good News is so good precisely because it is simply an announcement ofwhat is already in fact the case: “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.  Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he poured out that which you now see and hear…. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:32–33, 36, emphasis added).

We all want to be and to do something rather than to be made and to receive our identity from above.  It is a blow to our spiritual ego to be told that everything has already been done.  Yet that is the glory of the gospel!  That is why it is Good News.  Imagine what would have happened if God had waited until Israel made God Lord and Savior before he liberated them from Egypt!  It was because he had elected Israel, set his love on her, and had mercy on her as he heard her cries under severe oppression — in other words, because he was already Lord and Savior—that he fulfilled his promise.  “Lord and Savior” is simply who God is, not something that we make him to be for us.  In fact, he was reigning and saving us while we were “ungodly,” “while we were still sinners,” even “while we were enemies” (Rom. 5:6-10).

Faith receives; it does not make.  Only God’s declarative word creates.  When God created the world, he did not say, “Let it be possible!”  He said, “Let there be light! And it was so.”  It is certainly true that we must receive Christ.  Yet it is because he has first received us.  “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

To be sure, there is more to the Gospel than salvation from hell.  The cross is not simply God’s way of forgiving sinners, but of conquering the demonic forces and structures that yield oppression and violence.  And it’s certainly true that the gospel has often been reduced to a simplistic and individualistic message that misses the sweeping grandeur of Christ’s redemptive historical achievement.  It is not just “fire insurance,” but the way in which the Triune God fulfills his promise of a new creation in spite of human rebellion.  However, this broadening of the Gospel extends today, to include not only the fuller aspects of Christ’s work, but the work of believers as somehow redemptive.  We hear a lot these days about our being “coredeemers,” completing Christ’s work of redeeming love in the world.  As the meaning of “gospel” expands to anything and everything that flows from the gospel (and perhaps many things that do not), the meaning of “the ministry” expands to include virtually any activity of Christians conducted under the auspices of the church or in the name of Christ.

In this case, Christ becomes primarily a moral example rather than a Savior.  Whereas the gospel makes us receivers who then become actors, this emphasis on making Christ master and extending his redeeming work in the world renders us agents of rather than witnesses to God’s reconciling act in Jesus Christ. [end Horton quote]

So the question remains for Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron and those they have influenced.  What righteousness is good enough before God?  God commands a perfect righteousness and what he commands, he freely gives in His Son Jesus Christ.  Jesus fulfilled all righteousness and if we accept such benefit with a believing heart, all His righteousness is ours, through the instrument of faith.

Several questions and answers from the Heidelberg Catechism are helpful again here to remind us of Christ in the Gospel for us.

21. What is true faith?

True faith is not only a sure knowledge whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also a hearty trust, which the Holy Spirit works in me by the Gospel, that not only to others, but to me also, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

60. How are you righteous before God?

Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.

61. Why do you say that you are righteous by faith only?

Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, but because only the satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God; and I can receive the same and make it my own in no other way than by faith only.

62. But why cannot our good works be the whole or part of our righteousness before God?

Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment seat of God, must be perfect throughout and entirely conformable to the divine law, but even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.

63. Do our good works merit nothing, even though it is God’s will to reward them in this life and in that which is to come?

The reward comes not of merit, but of grace.

If the expectations of others are burning you out, remember Christ in the Gospel for you and for me.  Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV), “28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”