Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1999
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 5: Confrontation with the King
Chapter 4: The Death of the King
Lesson 136 – Atonement: Redemption, Propitiation, Reconciliation
09 Dec 1999
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’ve been going through the death of Christ as an event. We’ve tried with the death of Christ what we tried with the life and the birth, to show that in fact, by their lives of Jesus you will know them, i.e., by men’s response to these great truths of Jesus Christ, they don’t reflect r on Christ, whatsoever they reflect on the people who are articulating these opinions. The thing we want to gather from what we’ve done is that anytime you have a distortion of the gospel, particularly any issue with regard to the cross, be on guard for the fact that somewhere lurking in the background is an assault on the justice of God. You can almost lay nine to one odds that when something is mushy around with the gospel, it’s a cover up, it’s a result of a satanic agenda that’s always at work, the god of this world wants to blind men to the gospel and he has various techniques for doing it.
Just as with the birth of Christ we’ve learned that the issue of accepting the virgin birth of Christ, or rejecting, it hinges on people’s view of God, man and nature. It goes back to creation. People who have a problem with the virgin birth, we know have a problem with something else, and the something else they have a problem with is the nature of God and man. People who have a problem accepting the gospel accounts of the Lord Jesus Christ’s life have a problem. It’s not with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The problem is that they can’t see their way clear to a God who publicly reveals Himself. That’s the bottom line, doctrine of revelation. So when we come to the cross, the issue at stake is the justice of God. What people want to do is to make the justice of God a variable. They want it to ebb and flow according to our needs, so that, for example, if God is gracious, what that really means is that He compromises His justice in order to be gracious.
So the assault is here and what we have to do in thinking through the doctrine of the atonement is that whatever we do with it, the bottom line of the whole discussion is have we maintained the integrity of the justice of God. The integrity of God is never compromised; He never compromises it, and this is why people are offended when we say that Jesus Christ is the only way, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by Me.” Acts 4:12, “There’s none other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” That sounds arrogant and narrow minded, if and only if, you have a God who has no integrity. But if God has integrity, then He’s not going to compromise His justice for you, for me, or anybody else. The justice has been there from eternity past, it’ll be there for eternity future, it’s never going to go away because He’s the same today, yesterday, and forever. The Lord has a characteristic, an attribute of justice and this attribute is the foundation of whatever saving procedure is followed.
What we want to do tonight is move into the issue of the nature of the atonement; next week we’ll deal with a slightly more complicated thing that’s come up in church history in the last 300-400 years, the issue of the extent of the atonement, what does the atonement cover, how far out does it cover. But tonight we want to get clear in our minds what happened on the cross in so far as we’re able to glimpse it through the verses of the New Testament.
By way of background we know, without even opening the New Testament, if we go to the Old Testament we automatically know that God’s justice has integrity because of the system of blood sacrifices. We know all through the Old Testament that God demanded blood sacrifices, and all of those blood sacrifices involved loss of life, a violent loss of life, a horrible loss of life. It was a very, on the surface a very cruel thing to have this animal sacrifice, constantly, by the tens of thousands, gallons of blood all over the place, what a mess. That’s Old Testament religion. And the religion that denies the necessity of the blood sacrifice is called in Scripture the “way of Cain,” because Cain was the first member of the human race that insisted he would be saved without the shedding of blood. So that became a name the prophets used, “the way of Cain.”
Nine religions out of ten on earth are the “way of Cain,” there’s no blood atonement. Where’s the blood atonement? You can go to a lot of the cults and they talk about the cross of Christ but they never really deal with the content of what’s going on. We want to look at three approaches to the cross of Christ that have come up in church history. As we look at these, all three of these approaches can cite Scripture. So what we want to be careful of is that we don’t fall into a trap of saying that this is the right one and there are no truths over here. There may be truths over here, particularly if there seem to be verses that fit it. We want to approach it from the standpoint of trying to avoid what we call the reductionist error. The church gets involved, everybody gets involved in it, and theology is not exempt.
What is the reductionist error? The reductionist error is that I narrow down, because of my focus…, it’s a very natural thing to get involved in the reductionist error, because in order to understand something, particularly something as difficult as the nature of the atonement, requires a great deal of concentration. You that are coming the last few years to this class have developed an attention span that goes out beyond the TV five minutes, you stay awake for a whole 60 minutes, good concentration. But there’s a lot of people in church, if the minister dares to have a sermon beyond ten and a half minutes, they’re basket cases, they need five hymns or something to wake them up, and then trot to do some other maneuver. That’s because they can’t concentrate. But when you do concentrate upon the depths of the Scripture, it’s very easy to concentrate so hard that you begin to cut off other truths of Scripture. Then what happens is you begin to concentrate and concentrate and concentrate so hard on this one area you almost dismiss all the other truths. Theologians have done this over the years. We’re going to watch it happen with these three views. The first view, page 86 in the notes, I give you some background in history. We’re going to spend some time in the history of this, then we’ll go to some verses after we get through that.
The first approach to the cross of Christ happened in the Middle Ages. I want to pause and draw a little line of church history. This is just a little point about church history that a famous church historian by the name of Edwin Orr at the turn of the century pointed this out. I don’t think anybody that I know of pointed this out until the 1900s, but if you take church history and plot it on a time line, and you plot all the theological conflicts and arguments that the church had, you discover and interesting thing. Right around the time of the apostles and shortly thereafter, the issue, the big issue in the church in that period of time was the Canon of Scripture. What constituted apostolic writings? That was settled.
Then after that came the Christological issues. That was the Council of Chalcedon, 300-400 years trying to deal with Jesus Christ as God, Jesus Christ as man, how can He be God and how can be man at the same time in one person, “undiminished deity and true humanity united in one person without confusion forever.” How does that happen? We can say this very glibly now, but the church took 400 years trying to learn this thing, through a lot of debate. Then came the Middle Ages, the period that we want to look at tonight, and along in the Middle Ages they began to think very, very seriously, having accepted that Jesus is God-man in one person, what did this God-man do on the cross. The cross had been exalted through the centuries with serious thought.
There was a man by the name of Anselm who lived in this period. Anselm came up with the first really solid view of the Satisfaction Theory. I hate to use the word “theory” but I’ve used it; it’s a viewpoint, it’s a way of looking at the cross. Anselm said that God was propitiated, was satisfied, but he had some other things mixed in with it, and the church got involved in was the cross trying to satisfy the demands of Satan in the sense that he had a claim on people, etc. So it was a little fuzzy but at least it was coming up for discussion.
Anselm dates are from AD 1033–1109, and it comes from his book, Cur Deus Homo? Why the God-Man? The next time you hear somebody, some secular person use that title, “the Dark Ages,” just read Cur Deus Homo and find out whether that was “Dark Ages” or not. We come up in our educational system through the universities to this bias that there was the Dark Ages, and what was the age after the Dark Ages? The Enlightenment. Actually it’s reverse. The Dark Ages should be called the Middle Ages, it was the time of Christendom. Granted, it wasn’t fully developed; granted there was a lot of paganism in Europe, we’re not saying Europe was Christianized, but we are saying that the Christians had a witness all during the Middle Ages. Yes, it wasn’t the strongest but it was there. It’s just so prejudicial to say that this was the Dark Ages, and then after that, after we reject all that Christianity business and start really thinking for ourselves, that’s the age of enlightenment. That’s what everybody is taught in the school system. So right away the vocabulary is set up in the history course in a prejudicial fashion against the gospel, like we’re supposed to be ashamed, because gee, the Dark Ages is when the church dominated everything.
Anselm is one of these poor ignorant fools in the Dark Ages, and he didn’t know anything except he wrote this tremendous volume, Cur Deus Homo, which would probably challenge most people in college today since half of them can’t read anyway, so we see who was the Dark Ages. Anselm brought up this issue, and after that the Reformers began and the Reformer’s big issue was how does the cross’ benefits come to me? How are those blessings of grace bestowed upon the believer? In salvation by faith, justification, etc.
After that in the 19th century we began to have an interest in eschatology, and what was the first issue? The Bible. The Holy Spirit down through church history …, we want to realize this is a work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said He’d send the Holy Spirit to the church, and church history is a witness to the pattern of the Holy Spirit’s teaching. All these controversies were Spirit inspired. First He taught the church what is the basis of authority? Answer: the Word of God. Yes, the church forgot about it and yes the church drifted all over the place, but the issue, at least the Canon was clear. Next we have who is Jesus Christ? That’s resolved. The next question, what did Jesus Christ do? That’s resolved. Then how do I appropriate the work of the Lord Jesus Christ for me? That’s resolved and clarified. Finally, what is Jesus Christ yet to do? The issue of eschatology. It’s interesting that the Holy Spirit has taught the church to think of things in that order.
Anselm did this work and here’s a historian’s comment. This is a Lutheran historian. “Since the most trifling sin, as an improper glance, weights more than the whole world, a satisfaction must be rendered to God which is more than all things outside of God.” Think about that sentence a minute. Think about what Seeburg is saying. Seeburg is reflecting Anselm here. “A satisfaction must be rendered to God which is more than all things outside of God.” That’s a very important sentence … a VERY important sentence, because what it says is that to resolve the sin issue, we are not dealing with something just at the creature level any more. What Anselm perceived was that if God is holy, and the creation has fallen into sin, then we have had something offend God and His justice up here. The offense isn’t down here; the offense is up there, inside the Godhead. That’s where the offense is. So if the offense is within God, the satisfaction has to be addressed to Him, and to what He thinks, to the very heart of God it has to be addressed. That’s what he’s pointing out here. And it means that whatever Christ did on the cross has to be so large and so awesome in its scope that it influences the very heart of God, where the offense has taken place. It’s not just something mechanical that covers the sinner. It does that, but covering the sinner wouldn’t affect God. You could give the sinner cover … in the Garden of Eden fig leaves were used, but that problem was fig leaves didn’t please God, and didn’t solve the God issue.
Why this is so important is because beginning with Anselm we have the church officially taking the position that the issue of salvation is not psychological and man-centered. It is theological and God-centered. It is therefore objective; it doesn’t change from century to century, it doesn’t change going from one people group to another people group, it is an immutably solid stable issue. Therefore it is in this area that we now have the objective legal basis of the gospel, and of Christ’s work. It is not a psychological thing He does in people’s hearts. The psychological thing that happens as a result of conversion is a result of something; it’s not the “something.” Today we have drifted in our evangelical circles into a psychological gospel, accept Jesus because He’s going to make things better, that kind of thing; and I trusted in Christ and I experienced healing, I trusted in Christ and I experienced all of a sudden great psychological stability in my life, etc. All those things may be true, but that is not the gospel.
The gospel is what God has received from the work of Christ, that’s the gospel. All the rest of it is fruit of the gospel. The problem is whenever you get a generation in church history that concentrates on the fruit of the gospel down here, they always pick some fruit; they have “fruit fads,” everyone likes bananas one day and grapes the next day. So we might have 400 years where everybody is looking and this is the fruit that you’re supposed to see as a result of the gospel… well, not necessarily and you have to look at all the Scripture and see that the gospel has had changed lives, but it’s changed them in some ways and not in others because of the rebellious men in sin. So by concentrating on the fruit we necessarily fall into a reductionist error, and we think we know what the effects of the gospel ought to be. Maybe not, the issue is what is the gospel and let the effects take place as the Holy Spirit produces them.
That’s Anselm, and continuing the quote: “As, on the one hand, man is absolutely incapable of rendering it, for whatever good he may do he is already under obligation to render to God,” now isn’t that an incisive viewpoint. In other words, what Anselm is arguing is that if you offer your good works to God, He expected those anyway. So how do those, then, deal with the sin issue? “… and it cannot be therefore taken into consideration as satisfaction.” Good works can’t be … because good works are ordained anyway, they’re expected and the norm. There has to be something beyond them in order to negate the effects of sin. “Satisfaction of the character demanded only God can render. But a man must render it, one who is of the same race, in kindredship with humanity …. It is necessary that the God-man render it,” because you see, it’s got to come from the human side because the indictment is against the human race. So it has to be a member of the human race that responds back with this. Of course, Anselm is arguing here for what? He’s arguing for the deity and the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Going further, on page 87 I show you what the Reformers said to this issue. I go through all this because we want to understand, what we’re talking about in this Biblical Framework isn’t something that some fundie in a storefront church cranked out five years ago. That’s what the idiots that write in Time Magazine think happened, because they’re so theologically misinformed, probably never have heard of church history, they think because that’s the only place they hear it now, is these fundies, this right-wing group over here. That’s the only place you hear it so they must be the guys that originated it. No, they’re not the guys that originated it. It’s been around for a number of years, where’ve you been!
Here’s Luther, 1483–1546, think it’s been around long enough to catch on? I think so. “But if the wrath of God is to be taken from me and I am to obtain grace and forgiveness, then it must be merited from Him by someone; for God cannot be favorable nor gracious toward sins, nor remove penalty and wrath, unless payment be made and satisfaction rendered for them.” It’s not a fundamentalist dogma; Luther’s talking about it here.
Let’s look at what Calvin said, look at his dates, 1509-1564, “[Christ] procures for us the grace of God” notice the word “procures,” “procures for us the grace of God,” He opens the spigot, says Calvin. “… the grace of God by making atonement for us through His sacrifice and appeasing” notice that word, “appeasing the wrath of the Father.” It’s good that Calvin put “the Father” in there, “the wrath of the Father.” The Son also has wrath, in the Scripture where the gentle Jesus [can’t understand word] wrath? The book of Revelation, “the wrath of the Lamb,” so the Son has wrath too, it’s not the case that the Father has wrath and the Son has only love. The Father has love, He so loved the world He sent His only begotten Son, so the Father has love; He also has wrath. The Son loves, but the Son also has wrath. Why is that? Because they’re both God, they both have the attribute of holiness; they both have the attribute of love. So be careful that in our thinking about the Trinity and how it all works together that we don’t think Jesus is love and the Father is just this angry old guy. “… appeasing the wrath of the Father. He poured out His sacred blood as the price of redemption, by which was extinguished the wrath of God burning against us, and our iniquities also were purged.”
Do you know how old Calvin was when he wrote The Institutes of the Christian Religion, that was the basis and the textbook of the entire Reformation? Twenty-one. I know one thing; he didn’t go to American public schools. So we have the satisfaction theory that was propounded, or the satisfaction approach. There is vocabulary that you want to understand here because of the images of that vocabulary. You’ll see it in hymns. It’s too bad we sometimes rush through these hymns; the good ones use this vocabulary carefully. Next time you sing some hymns watch how the vocabulary flows.
The first word we want to study is redemption. Then we’re going to study propitiation. Then we’re going to study reconciliation. Throughout the Bible those three terms are used; you’ll see those over and over again, particularly in the New Testament when Paul is discussing the work of Christ. Each one of those has a picture with it. We want to think about what’s the picture behind this word; the word has a word picture. The word “redemption” is an economic picture. You say how come God stoops so low to use economics to picture the cross of Christ. The answer is bound up in what? Who created economics? It’s a feature in His creation, and all features in our Father’s creation, in our Father’s world reflect Him and His character. He’s perfectly at home reaching out and taking anything of His own handiwork to show us what He’s like. So, economics is a legitimate area of study, a legitimate truth of creation.
On page 87 you see those three words. “Redemption … speaks in economic terms about indebted slaves being freed due to payment of their debt. By analogy it speaks of our indebtedness to God and the payment of Christ’s death for our debt to Him.” The emphasis in redemption is the issue of indebtedness. Watch something here; this is why God wants us to get the big picture of life. If we don’t, and we allow sectors of our environment to fall apart, we ignore them, they degenerate, we lose the ability to use this [can’t understand word]. The whole issue of redemption is meaningless to someone who isn’t concerned with being in debt. It has no emotional power whatsoever if a person’s a debt slave and comfortable therein.
So where you have a society that is multiply indebted and thinks trivially of the price of indebtedness, the whole power of this word picture gets deluded. It’s not a “felt” word picture any more, there’s no emotional power to it because who cares, hey, I’m in debt, so what, big deal. Well, it was a big deal in the ancient world because indebtedness was expressed in terms of an overt form called slavery, there were debt slaves. We mask it over, but when you think about the pressures that indebtedness causes, young couples, older couples, anybody, of high indebtedness and the pressure, you are a slave to the payments, and there’s no way you can get out from it. You made a commitment. You see in this case in American society we’ve got this bankruptcy thing, which you can debate about the need for that, but the point is that there’s no bankruptcy option out of this. We think too lightly of it, and the result is now the whole issue of redemption gets kind of washy and foggy. So redemption is the economics, it’s thinking economically about debt.
The next word, propitiation speaks in terms of a personal, and almost psychological; it’s the personal, the psychological, it’s the sense of rejection. We’ve all experienced this. “Propitiation speaks in personal terms about rejection and acceptance due to an effort to measure up to standards of acceptance.” You’ve all heard and maybe you’ve experienced in your family, a parent or some authority figure in the family who just exudes a certain rigid standard without any encouragement. And you just hear you fail, you fail, you fail, you fail, you fail, and then after twenty years you turn out to fail, well, I guess I’m a failure, you’ve been programmed to think that way. Many families are afflicted with this. Propitiation is the issue of how can I satisfy my father, my mother, or whoever it is that’s constantly doing this to me without any uplifting thing, how do I “propitiate” them? How do I satisfy them? How am I acceptable to them? That’s the picture that’s behind this word in the New Testament. The issue here is how are we going to be acceptable to God? What pleases Him, how do we get on His good side?
We might phrase it this way, if you don’t think you need the cross of Christ, what are you going to do to propitiate God? Of course immediately a person who denies the necessity of the cross is going to argue that God doesn’t need to be propitiated. Now what are we back to? Denial of His justice. We make God after our image; that’s idolatry. Who is it that makes gods? Idolaters make gods. So propitiation harks back to God’s integrity again, does His justice have integrity? Yes it does. Do I have to propitiate Him? Yes, I’d better, because if He’s irritated and He’s angry at Me, I’ve got a problem here, I’m rejected. How do I get accepted with God? That’s the issue that surrounds this word, propitiation.
Next is the word “reconciliation,” and we all know that that’s a term usually applied to a social conflict, to social relationships. It can be more than social relationships, it can be political relationships, it can be war. How do we reconcile Arabs and Jews? How do we reconcile the Russians in south Russia with the Muslim peoples in that area? How do we reconcile, how do we peace make, and that’s the picture behind reconciliation. We’ll look at some verses about that and we’ll show you how knowing those word pictures illuminate these New Testament texts where these words keep on showing up. [Notes say: “Reconciliation speaks in social terms of hostile relationships being transformed into peaceful ones.”]
All three of these words are linked to the satisfaction view of the atonement. How do we say that? Because in redemption there is a debt that needs to be paid. To whom? God. So now it’s the issue of how do we meet the standards of the integrity of God’s justice? Propitiation—how am I acceptable to Him? He’s not going to go away; He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. So how do I make myself right with Him? Reconciliation suggests even something else. If I have to be reconciled with God doesn’t that imply that I’m an enemy of Him? It implies that we have a very bad relationship, that it’s not all sweetness and light, that not only do I offend Him but I am in active conflict against Him and out of that situation I have to be reconciled. So all three of these are really damning to the human situation this side of Eden, but all of them hinge on a God of integrity and that the cross somehow satisfied.
Now we want to come to the second issue, the second kind of theory, and that’s called the human influence approach. There’s something to this, there’s some Scripture that speaks to this issue. Follow on page 87: “In contrast to the Satisfaction theories there arose the Human Influence theories. These theories stress the subjective effect of Christ’s death as somehow influencing men, rather than satisfying God. The first of these theories appeared just after, and in reaction to, Anselm’s Satisfaction theory through the efforts of Peter Abelard (1079–1142).
Walvoord,” President of Dallas Seminary for many years, “comments: ‘This point of view, which has much support in modern liberal theology, was introduced first by Abelard in opposition to the…theory of Anselm. It proceeds on the same premise that God does not necessarily require the death of Christ as an expiation for sin, but rather has chosen this means” that is the cross “to manifest His love and to show His fellowship with them in their sufferings. The death of Christ therefore demonstrates the love of God in such a way as to win sinners to Himself …. Liberal and neo-orthodox theologians today adopt, in one form or another, the moral influence theory of Abelard.”
Human influence! Again, the issue is here’s the cross, here’s man. The point: the center of gravity of this view isn’t what’s going on up here with God, that’s the satisfaction view. That’s looking at what the cross is doing toward God. The human influence theory is looking the other way and saying does this impress men? What does it show to men? That’s the second kind of theory.
Then there came a third kind of theory, the third kind is the governmental idea. You say why are we going through all this, why don’t we just simply say what it is? Because you don’t live in a world where you’re going to get “simply.” These are ideas that you come into contact with all the time. What we have to do is we have to learn to see and recognize, oh yea, that’s that. What did God tell Adam to do? Name things. What does He want us to do? To be able to name things and sense what’s happening here, be able to analyze a little bit, we don’t have to be PhD theologians. This is just basic church history, that’s all. We want to be sensitive to this, and when you hear a gospel presentation, next time you listen to the radio or something, you listen to a gospel presentation or TV or something, just kind of sit there and listen and ask yourself, what am I hearing here, number one, two, or three?
Page 88, “Lewis Chafer summarizes this position: ‘The Rectoral or Governmental theory contends that in His death Christ provided a vicarious suffering, but that it was in no way a bearing of punishment. The advocates of this theory object to the doctrine of imputation in all its forms, especially that human sin was ever imputed to Christ or that the righteousness of God is ever imputed to those who believe. They declare that a true substitution must be absolute and thus, of necessity, it must automatically remit the penalty of these for whom Christ died. Therefore, it is asserted that, since Christ died for all men and yet not all men are saved, the Satisfaction theory fails.’ ” Their idea was they wanted a demonstration of God’s moral rule in the universe, so this is again a testimony, the cross looks down, now not at the individual, the human influence, but looks down so that men can then look up at God and say He deals seriously with ethical issues. But it doesn’t really satisfy something inside of Him; it’s more of Him showing He’s a good ruler by saying that bad things are serious, sort of thing.
Now we want to look at some verses in the New Testament, where we’ll take these three ideas, the Satisfaction idea, the Human Influence idea, and the Governmental idea, let’s watch these appear in the New Testament. But they appear in the New Testament in such a way that they’re not in conflict, and they supplement one another, they’re not against each other.
Mark 10:45, this is a sample verse, there are parallels to it and you can look at the cross references because this occurs several times. I once had a professor who had gotten his PhD from Harvard and spent his entire doctrinal thesis on one preposition in one verse, Mark 10:45. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” The preposition translated in this translation by “For” is in place of, in place of others, for others. He went on and described and showed how that verse teaches the satisfaction theory, the satisfaction approach. It’s not just saying gee, He did it for you, nice guy. That’s not what the Greek text is saying. What it’s saying is He gave a ransom for our credit account; there was a transaction that is going on. The Son of Man comes to gives His life a ransom, and by the way, of the three words, what word picture is Jesus using here? Economic, personal, or social? Ransom—economic, money. It’s a money picture. So here, right in the Lord Jesus’ teaching He’s using economic pictures. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s the satisfaction view and it’s repeated repeatedly through the Bible.
Go to John 12:32, here’s another verse that talks about the cross of Christ. Is Jesus saying that His cross influences people? “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” Is that influencing people? Yes. So there is a human factor in the New Testament.
Romans 3:26, looking at the governmental view, is this found in Scripture? We turn to Romans, and we see what Paul says. See the word propitiation in verse 25, “whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;  “for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time,” now how is it a demonstration? That’s the governmental theory, God is demonstrating to men that He rules rightly, and “that He might be just” that’s His attribute of justice, “and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” How can He forgive people? In other words, how can He bring a sinner into fellowship with Him? Because of what He did on the cross.
All three of these approaches aren’t bad in themselves; they just have to be worked so that they don’t wind up as some sort of competing thing. The best way of doing that is to take advantage of the framework that we’ve learned. When we go back in the Old Testament, what are the two events that we have studied that talk about judgment/salvation? We’re going to move out of the New Testament for a moment, go back to the Old Testament and think through simple pictures, get our heads straight so that our theology is straight. One of them, the first one was the flood in Noah’s time. We studied all these events and when we got to the flood we said the flood is an example of judgment/salvation. What was the vehicle of salvation in the flood? The ark, and the water too; the water is interesting, the water was the instrumentality of destruction to those outside the ark, but the water was the instrumentality of salvation for the ones in the ark because the earth was undergoing volcanic eruptions and everything else, and the water acted as a wonderful insulator. And with magma being thrown all over the place it acted as a blanket, so the water preserved the people in the ark as well as drowned the people outside of the ark. God is very efficient that way.
Justice and salvation occurred together; you can’t have one without the other. Why can’t you have salvation without judgment? Because going back to the picture that we’ve gone through time and time again, the good evil issue, what has to happen to get the good away from the evil? They have to be split away. You have to have judgment along with salvation to get to this state. So wherever you have salvation you’re going to have judgment. That’s why the Christian life is so painful. God blesses us but then He disciplines us and makes us feel real pain … real pain, and sometimes we get discouraged about all the pain, but the pain is part of the healing process. The pain is His surgery, it’s His separation, it’s His dealing with our own sin. That’s why it hurts.
In this era of the flood, when we have judgment/salvation, let’s go through the three approaches. Did the ark call to men in Noah’s era before the flood started? Yeah, what did Noah do for 120 years? He preached, he witnessed, there was a call to men. They would see the ark. They made fun of it, they rejected it, but the ark, had they been responding, would have drawn men to the ark, if they hadn’t been blinded by Satan. I mean, if you know there is a flood coming and there’s the ark, you’d be drawn to it. But, and here’s the balance theologically, it doesn’t make sense to say that the ark is an influence upon people to run to it unless there’s going to be a real flood. There has to be a reality there in order for there to be a witness. So that’s why the human influence theory of the cross, if I be lifted up … [blank spot]
… pull people to it, that’s the kind of influence the Bible’s talking about. Now men can reconstruct other views of the influence of the cross, but the biblical view of the influence of the cross is yea, it influences me because I know what happened. The ark influences me if I believe in a real flood.
Look at the governmental view. Was God just in doing all this? Yes, but it wasn’t just a drama, it wasn’t something for the Discovery Channel to air on Wednesday night or something. It was a lot more than a story, it was the real thing. So again it was a demonstration but a demonstration only valid because there was a reality behind the demonstration.
What is the second event that we studied? Judgment/salvation again, with the Exodus. What was the vehicle of salvation in the Exodus? Blood on the door. Did the blood on the door influence people? Yeah, there were the Egyptians that came into the Jewish homes, blood on the door, hey, I believe in the angel of death and I want safety here, I’m coming in, hello. So did the blood on the door influence? Yes. But how did it influence? It influenced only if you believed there was a coming angel of death that was going to judge. So it’s not wrong to say the vehicle of salvation influences men as long as you understand that the influence it has is not some sort of cheap theater, it’s an influence of those whose hearts are going to be illuminated by the Spirit to see what is the gravity and the seriousness of what’s happening here. There’s a serious flood and there’s a serious angel of death that’s coming through the land of Egypt that’s going to kill people… yea, now I’m influenced.
That’s basically the answer to the question of which view should we follow. All three have parts of the truth, but the primary core of what Jesus did is expressed in the satisfaction theory, for if that isn’t true, then the human influence and the governmental theory fall apart. So they are all dependent on the satisfaction theory.
We want to go to one more thing before we get to the extent of the atonement. We want to recall a blessing from all this. Go to Romans 3:26, because the cross, besides being a satisfaction and being a witness also reveals to us the fantastic finesse of how our God works. It’s missed by a lot of people who don’t spend time just observing, thinking and praying about how God works, a fascinating worker, how He pulls off what He pulls off in history. You look at it and you can’t help but sit there and worship. I’ve met unbelievers in the sciences who will sit there and look at the structures in the atom or structure in the biochemistry of a cell, and they don’t know how to worship but what they’re looking at so impacts them that they’re just in awe of it, absolutely in awe of this. Because of their sin and the lack of the illuminating spirit they often express this in weird ways.
I have a friend who teaches biology at Liberty University and he was telling me he was on a committee years ago with Dr. Sagan, and we always kind of make fun of him for his work, but Sagan actually was actually a fantastic and very wonderful teacher, very inspiring teacher. My friend says I sat right next to him many hours on these committees and he said I’ve been praying for this guy because he said you get close to this man and you begin to see that in his soul he is so impressed with God’s handiwork, he doesn’t call it the handiwork, and he’s in rebellion against the hands who made it, but there’s enough of the image of God left in him, and all of his unbelief, there’s enough of the image of God in him to sit there and look at the nature and structure of the universe and marvel at it, absolutely marvel at it.
What we want to look at about the cross is one of the marvels of it. In Romans 3:26, the last clause says “that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” That He might be just, and that He might be the justifier. Think a minute. Paul grew up in Jewish rabbinical thought. In the Old Testament what was the undetected frustrating feature about good and evil, to a sensitive Old Testament believer? What did they see about what we call the problem of evil? They probably would have replied we know we can never be righteousness with God; we know the high holiness of our God. We understand what Isaiah did when he looked at God and he said “Holy, holy, holy” and he caved over and he had to be revived when he saw the holiness of God.
The struggle in the Old Testament was that here our God is just, He has integrity, uncompromising holiness on a scale beyond anything that we can attain, we always feel dirty and grubby in the face of His holiness. How then can we ever enter into fellowship? Without the cross of Christ, how do we reconcile a holy God with a God who has fellowship with us? How do we do that? That was the dilemma of the problem of evil in the Old Testament. They had various ideas of how it was done, but they really could never get this together, these two things. This was their problem of evil. What Paul says in Romans 3:26 is that God surprised us. When the cross was finished, and man began to realize that’s what happened, WOW! God resolved the problem of evil that I was struggling with, now I see. These two sentences aren’t contradictory, they seem to be; there seems to be a contradiction here.
Let’s look at it from an Old Testament sense. Here God equals, we’ll say justice, Theos, God. God is just; man, fallen man is minus just. God, in Abraham and through the covenants says man is just. That equation doesn’t compute. How can God arbitrarily call the fallen man who is not just, just like He is? How does that happen? In the Old Testament there’s no final resolution to that issue. We can look back and say well, gee, the sacrifices were going to do that. Sure, we’ve got the benefit; everybody knows how to play the football game on Monday morning. But all during the Old Testament they didn’t. So what did the Old Testament do?
What did the Old Testament saint have to do that we have to do in another area. In this area, he had a dilemma that looked like a logical contradiction for all the world, but he knew enough about his God to know that his God wasn’t irrational. It’s not some existential thing from Kierkegaard, here that’s going on, he knew enough of the God that he knew; that this God was a reasonable God, that this God thought things through, that it might appear contradictory to Him but it wasn’t contradictory to God somehow…somehow. But the “somehow” was never told. Then finally centuries after centuries the cross happened, and then oh, that’s how He did it. And all of a sudden these equations make sense, that God is just, and what happened was how did the minus justice go away? Because it was put on the cross. How did the positive justice get put to man? Because it came from the Lord Jesus Christ. There was an exchange program that happened there, called imputation. This worked out in a non-contradictory fashion, in such a way that God never once compromised His justice. God never once compromised His righteousness.
Notice Paul’s emphasis here in the context. Look at verse 25 again, he says “whom God displayed publicly,” notice it’s not private, this is not some psychological mystical thing, this is a public thing that happened on a piece of real estate on the north side of the city of Jerusalem at a certain point in time. “God publicly displayed as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness,” demonstrate what? See what passionately concerned Paul, it’s “to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God,” here’s what God was doing in the Old Testament, “because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.” So all during the Old Testament He was passing over, passing over, passing over, passing over. How did God pass over? Because He could look down the corridors of time at His own plan and say I can pass over this person, I can pass over David, I can pass over Abraham, I can pass over King Hezekiah, I can pass over all these guys because My eyes are fixed on the point of salvation. People living down here couldn’t see that far down. God could because it was His plan.
So the plan makes perfect sense. What is the application for us today? The application is we don’t have this form of evil problem, but we have other forms that plague us. Why does God let this poor little baby die? Why does God allow deformed children? Why does God allow this horrible accident to happen to such an innocent person? Why does the good guy get murdered and the bad guys go to jail and get out? What’s going on here? What do we do? We have to operate with the same modus operandi that the Old Testament saint did. The Old Testament saint knew he had an apparent contradiction, but he knew enough about his God to know that God is not contradictory. God has a reason for this, and you can laugh at me because I say He’s got a reason, ho-ho, well if He had a reason He’d show it. Not necessarily.
Why is He obligated to show it? He’ll show it in His due time. And when He does show it we have the assurance from these earlier versions of the resolution of the problem of evil that it’ll all work out. When He shows us His hand and what was really going on in those situations, we’ll say wow, I never thought of that. Just like the Old Testament saints, if they could see the cross they’d say well we never thought of that, that’s what happened? The Messiah did that? I wouldn’t have predicted that. Because it’s a surprise. God has an eternity future full of surprises, and one by one the surprises clear up this, clear up this, clear up this, but the “clear up’s” don’t happen until He chooses to surprise us with His answers. But answer He has and He is not an irrational God.
So the nature of the atonement that we’ve looked at, it’s the nature of Christ on the cross, that he satisfied the just demands of God. He was a man and represented the human race before God because we’re the cause of the problem. He identified with the human race, but the work that He did was aimed primarily at God, not at man. Because it was aimed at God, it is a witness to man, but it’s not aimed at man, it’s aimed at God.
Question asked; Clough answers: The question is the time line of church history, are there any gaps or areas of theology that we’re still wallowing around with. If you look in a systematic theology, it’s very interesting, because Dr. Orr himself made this point. Usually systematic theologies are organized in a certain way, sort of like an encyclopedia, an encyclopedia is usually organized alphabetically, same with a dictionary and systematic theologies are organized too. If you look at them you’ll see, interestingly, the first part is always the authority of Scripture, and the last part is always eschatology. There’s two parts to eschatology that are kind of …, it’s all part of the eschatological thing, we have only had real discussion and debate on eschatology for about two centuries, serious debate. Previous to that the church went along…
Someone asked me, he said they said he’d seen this book by Augustine, The City of God, and he said I got a deal on that book, is that a good book. And I said yea, it’s one of the classics of the Christian faith, but I was telling him a little bit about Augustine and one of the things about Augustine was that he, unintentionally, brought into the church a lot of bad Greek philosophy. He was enamored with the idea; the Greek idea held that matter was evil. And so The City of God to Augustine had to be conceived in purely spiritual terms, not really material. And the result was that he started amillennialism. He didn’t start it but he propelled it along, and when the Reformers reformed the area of doctrine and the area of how I get saved, they were struggling so much with Rome over the issue of salvation that they never had time to discuss, debate, or even think through their eschatology. So that’s why a lot of Reform churches have frozen, so to speak, theology at 16th century levels, why they’re still amillennial, because they haven’t progressed, they’ve just frozen. They locked up with what came out of Augustine and Luther; that was the highest theology and there’s nothing more to learn. Well, sorry, I think there’s a lot more to learn.
So areas that the church is struggling with right now are eschatology and in particular the issue of how the church relates to the invisible realm. That’s a question that comes out of eschatology. In other words, what’s going on in the Church Age? We know Israel functions down through history; Israel had purposes under God. The question is, this body called the church, it seems to be really fundamentally not connected with Israel at all. What is the church doing? After twenty centuries what have we accomplished? We obviously haven’t transformed the world. Now there are the postmillennialists who believe that’s the job of the church and the Church Age may go on for forty more centuries, but slowly and assuredly the church will take over the world. That’s the position of postmillennialism.
The premillennialist holds that no, the church is completed and Christ will take over the world. In the premillennialism the issue is, well then what is it that the church is doing? Augustine actually had this idea but it was never developed. He held, speculatively, speculation, that every time somebody becomes a believer the church grows, so the church is growing in history, and the church by growing in history is going to replace the fallen angels, the one-third of the angelic kingdom that fell. The church is the replacement body that one day will [can’t understand word] and therefore the church ends. Augustine didn’t develop all of this, the church ends, the rapture happens at God’s sovereign call, but could end when the last person to complete the body is won to Christ, and that body is now complete with n number of believers in it, and that’s it. Boom, that’s the end of the Church Age.
So what does the Church Age accomplish? The Church Age has called out from the world system a set of human beings who have chosen, called by God, and have chosen to throw their allegiance back to the King of kings over against the kingdom of this world, and therefore each person who has trusted in Christ is ultimately a traitor to the world system. He’s been called out of it prior to the judgment. So God is calling out the church and when He gets it done, finished, it’s like in Noah’s time, and then the flood can come, because the people who have to be pulled out have been pulled out.
That’s a speculation to illustrate the questions that are going on. Associated with this are the questions of what is the church’s relationship to the State? There are several, depending on your eschatology, one can think for example of what happened to the German believers, our people in Germany in the 1930s. When Hitler and the Nazis took over the Lutheran Church, so dominant in Germany, as well as the Roman Catholic Church dominant in Germany, both of those bodies are amillennial, and it’s significant that it was those bodies that kind of looked the other way when Hitler was making all these promises about the Third Reich going to control history, and that the German race was the chosen race, etc. He used a lot of biblical terminologies that he borrowed from Hegel, and other people.
And when that happened in the 30s there was a group of believers who had a real problem with Hitler, right from the start. They never got along with them, He persecuted them, many of them fled, and they were loyal Germans. But they were German premillennial believers, and Hitler had a wail of a time with a small group within Germany, Germen Brethren and other smaller denominations, and he never could get these people to agree to his platform, they were always on the periphery, being a nuisance to the Nazis. Not overthrowing them, just that resistance, just the idea that we don’t believe you. If there’s anything a politician can’t stand it’s to have somebody saying we don’t believe you. You’re just an airhead; why do you believe that? Well, because we always listen to someone else. Oh, who is it that you’re listening to? Christ. So it’s the Christ/Caesar thing. There’s a modern illustration from history where eschatology controls your view of the churches relationship to the state.
In America, one of the problems has been, and that’s why we debate it, is that this issue of America was it a Christian nation, well it was a nation established with a lot of Christians in it, and they dominated philosophically the society, which is drawing to a rapid end, obviously. So then what is the role of the church in America? Is it to restore the state of government that we had in the Colonial era, how far should we devote assets, resources, time and effort to that versus evangelism, or can we combine the two, and however you answer these questions you are confessing a certain eschatology. So all those questions are still in debate right now, and the Christian camp is sort of split between the premillennial and basically amillennial and postmillennial, those are the three positions that we studied. Each group is doing its thing, but no one group has ever said this is the view; this is the ultimate confession for all Christians. They’ve tried it.
I think the Lutheran Church, I’m not sure, but I think the Lutheran Church and some Reform churches, in their creeds, say that amillennialism is the way. Other churches, independent churches, generally are premillennial. But I don’t think any large denomination has made a big issue out of this like they did … say, the work of Christ on the cross, that sort of thing. So in the time line, to get back to the question, I would say that there’s eschatology still that’s got be worked.
Question asked: Clough replies: I didn’t get into expiation, that’s more a sin issue kind of thing. Expiation is kind of … we can get into those words and do big Greek word studies, etc., but I just think that if you look at the survey, all the literature, the three big words are the ones I gave. Expiation is a legitimate study by itself, and if this was a course in soteriology we’d do that and fifteen other words.
Question asked or statement made: Clough says: Restoration to fellowship, the positive side.
Same guy says something: Clough says: Using an economic analogue the issue of salvation, we did this in the call of Abraham when we were dealing with the doctrine of justification, that in salvation in the New Testament, if you think of accounting and a set of books, it’s we’re coming with minus numbers on the ledger. What you’re talking about with expiation, propitiation, etc., is after all is said and done do we go from minus number to zero, or do we go from a minus number to a plus number? The answer is we go from a minus number to a plus number, we don’t stop at zero. Adam and Eve, at the beginning of history were at zero, because they hadn’t acted one way or the other. And theoretically, we can always think hypothetical options to history, if Adam and Eve had obeyed, like the Lord Jesus Christ obeyed, they would have had positive numbers on their books. Good works. Jesus did, and that’s how He was sanctified. Every act of obedience Jesus had to trust the Lord here, He had to do this, He had not to do that, He had to obey, obey, obey, obey, trust, trust, trust, trust, so He built up His sanctification, and He generated good works. He is the only one that’s ever done it. That’s why it’s His good works that are imputed to us because where else are you going to get them from? But the Lord Jesus Christ had positive accounting. Everybody else is negative, and God, when He restores doesn’t restore us to zero because He doesn’t recapitulate what went on in Eden, that’s over. There are no zeros around any more; it goes from minus to plus, and that’s the forgiveness and the propitiation, it’s the imputation. All this is so wrapped up.
You know, you think about how God makes an atom and a molecule and all the forces in it, in a cell and all the pieces now, pieces within pieces of a cell. Think of that, if it’s that complex in the molecular cell and in the molecular structure and the atomic structure, then can you imagine what glories there are yet to be talked about in the cross of Christ. We have all eternity to marvel at what’s going on, and I would presume that two billion years from now we’re going to look back to what we know now, tonight, and say gee, that was kind of elementary stuff, I wonder how we survived with just that. How could we have looked at the cross and not seen this, and not see that. So there’s a lot more there, and it’s all involved with these words, and pieces and parts. All you can do is at least point to the fact that you can’t diminish the cross and come out with any kind of virulent authentic gospel. The gospel has got to hinge … so we can only cover basics and the big idea to keep in mind always is that however God designed salvation, it cannot diminish His righteousness and His justice.
If we can get that across, then what does that do? It means that all the blessings that follow in the Christian life, every logistical grace that He gives you by way of health, money, family life, whatever the blessings are that He has given you, you can’t get a fat head and say that He owed those to you. The only reason that you’re getting any of those blessings and I’m getting any of them is because of what happened on the cross. That opened the conduit of blessing. And it’s grounded on that objective fact, not on the fact that tomorrow morning you’re going to wake up and feel bad or feel good or have some hot flash or something, and this becomes a sign of spirituality. It has nothing to do with it. The issue is, what has the grace pipeline got for its anchor? It’s not my faith, it’s not your faith, it’s not your feeling, it’s not my feelings, it’s the finished work of Christ. Get that settled, make that the basis, and then it stabilizes the rest of it.
There’s more to it than that, yes, but that’s where the anchor is right there. So as we get on, next week we’re going to move on to the extent of the atonement, and we’re going to be right back to where we were when we talked about the impeccability of Christ, and we were going all around about that. Here we go again because now the issue is going to be how far do the benefits of the cross extend? What do we do with the fact that people wind up in hell forever and ever, utterly devoid of the blessings of the cross. Now what do we do? Did He die for the sins of all men? Did He die for the sins of those who will believe only? Or, what did He die for? How far out does that go? That’s a debate that started about the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church never got too far into this, because they never clarified the cross as clearly as the Protestants so they never raised this issue. I think we’re out of time, but next week we’ll deal with the extent.