(f) The historical work of the incarnate Christ is not itself the atonement, it is rather, the revelation of the atonement. The suffering of the incarnate Christ is the manifestation in space and time of the eternal suffering of God on account of human sin. Yet without the historical work which was finished on Calvary, the age-long suffering of God could never have been made comprehensible to men.
The life that Christ lived in Palestine and the death that he endured on Calvary were the revelation of a union with mankind, which antedated the Fall. Being thus joined to us from the beginning, he has suffered in all human sin; ?in all our affliction he has been afflicted? ( <236309>Isaiah 63:9); so that the Psalmist can say: ?Blessed be the Lord, who daily beareth our burden even the God who is our salvation? ( <196819>Psalm 68:19). The historical sacrifice was a burning glass, which focused the diffused rays of the Sun of righteousness and made them effective in the melting of human hearts. The sufferings of Christ take deepest hold upon us only when we see in them the two contrasted but complementary truths: that holiness must make penalty to follow sin and that love must share that penalty with the transgressor. The Cross was the concrete exhibition of the holiness that required and of the love that provided, man?s redemption. Those six hours of pain could never have procured our salvation if they had not been a revelation of eternal facts in the being of God. The heart of God and the meaning of all previous history were then unveiled. The whole evolution of humanity was there depicted in its essential elements, on the one hand the sin and condemnation of the race, on the other hand the grace and suffering of him who was its life and salvation. As he who hung upon the cross was God, manifest in the flesh, so the suffering of the cross was God?s suffering for sin, manifest in the flesh. The imputation of our sins to him is the result of his natural union with us. He has been our substitute from the beginning. We cannot quarrel with the doctrine of substitution when we see that this substitution is but the sharing of our grief and sorrows by him whose very life pulsates in our veins. See A. H. Strong, Christ in Creation, 78-80, 177-180.
(g) The historical sacrifice of our Lord is not only the final revelation of the heart of God but also the manifestation of the law of universal life, the law that sin brings suffering to all connected with it and that we can overcome sin in ourselves and in the world only by entering into the fellowship of Christ?s sufferings and Christ?s victory or, in other words, only by union with him through faith.
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