he ?live according to God in the Spirit,? so Christ, in order that we might be delivered from both guilt and penalty, was ?put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit? (3:18). In other words, as Christ was man, the penalty due to human guilt belonged to him to bear but, because he was God, he could exhaust that penalty and could be a proper substitute for others.
If it be asked whether he, who from the moment of the conception ?sanctified himself? ( <431719>John 17:19), did not from that moment also justify himself. We reply that although, through the retroactive efficacy of his atonement and upon the ground of it, human nature in him was purged of its depravity from the moment that he took that nature. Although, upon the ground of that atonement, believers before his advent were both sanctified and justified, yet his own justification could not have proceeded upon the ground of his atonement and also his atonement have proceeded upon the ground of his justification. This would be a vicious circle; somewhere we must have a beginning. That beginning was in the cross where guilt was first purged ( <580103>Hebrews 1:3 ? ?when he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high?; <402742> Matthew 27:42 ? ?He saved others; himself he cannot save?; cf. Revelations 13:8 ? ?the Iamb that hath been slain from the foundation of the world?).
If it be said that guilt and depravity are practically inseparable, and that, if Christ had guilt, he must have had depravity also, we reply that in civil law we distinguish between them, the conversion of a murderer would not remove his obligation to suffer upon the gallows. We reply further, that in justification we distinguish between them, depravity still remaining, though guilt is removed. So we may say that Christ takes guilt without depravity, in order that we may have depravity without guilt. See page 645; also Bohl, Incarnation des gottlichen Wortes; Pope, Higher Catechism, 118; A. H. Strong, on the Necessity of the Atonement, in Philosophy and Religion, 213-219. Per contra, see Shedd, Dogm. Theol, 2:59 note, 82.
Christ therefore, as incarnate, rather revealed the atonement than made it. The historical work of atonement was finished upon the Cross but, that historical work only revealed to men the atonement made both before and since by the extra-mundane Logos. The eternal Love of God suffering the necessary reaction of his own Holiness against the sin of his creatures and with a view to their salvation ? this is the essence of the Atonement.
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