11. Though no sin be imputed to those that believe in Christ, nor any sin do totally or fully reign over them, or in them; yet in them the flesh lusteth against the spirit; Gal. 5:17; and in many things they all offend; James 3:2; where the Apostle speaks of offences that one believe may take notice of in another. Thus there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not, Eccles. 7:20; and if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us, I John. 1:8.
Benjamin Cox- An Appendix To A Confession Of Faith
Here’s some good news, God is holy, perfect and righteous! Here’s some bad news, in and of ourselves we are not! Here’s even worse news, if ever we are to get to heaven and avoid God’s judgment we must be like Him, perfectly holy (1 Peter 1:16). But this is impossible! Not one of us is as righteous, perfect and holy as God. As Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “– there is not a just man upon earth, that does good, and sins not.”
So, how then can any of us get to Heaven? Are you ready for this? With man it is impossible but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). The best news is that God Himself, knowing the helpless and hopeless mess we were in, came to earth and lived and died in our stead. He was perfect in our place. He lived as if he were us. Now His perfect righteousness is imputed (reckoned) to the believer. We are now perfectly holy in the eyes of God. That’s the power of the Gospel.
Also, Christ Jesus went to the cross and took responsibility for our sins by offering Himself as a sacrificial substitute for us. There, at the cross, Christ poured out His blood and absorbed the wrath which our sins justly deserved. He was buried, rose again on the third day and after 40 days, He visibly and bodily ascended into Heaven there to appear in the presence of God for us. He now guarantees that we who believe on Him will be completely and entirely saved. Is this enough for you?
Now before you say, “Yeah I know that,” let me ask, have you any other scheme of getting to Heaven other than resting entirely on the doing and dying of Jesus? Is He alone enough? Or, are you trying to supplement the work Christ did in His life and death? Are you attempting to add something to the gospel? Maybe it’s something like your performance as a Christian? Can you and do you rest in Christ alone? Is your hope built on Christ alone? Is Jesus enough?
If you are trying to impress God with anything other than the shed blood of Jesus, give it up. Jesus must be enough! He does not need our worthless contributions to bring us to Heaven! He is our only qualification for heaven; He is enough. There’s nothing you can do to save yourself.
I love the following illustration. I often use it when ministering….. Ebenezer Wooten an earnest but eccentric English evangelist of another generation once held meetings in a tent on the village green at Lidford Brook. The last service had been conducted, the crowd was leaving, and the evangelist was busy taking down the tent. A young fellow approached the preacher and rather casually asked, “Mr. Wooten, what must I do to be saved?”
“Too late!” said the evangelist, in a matter of fact way, as he glanced up at the inquirer. “You’re too late, my friend, way too late!”
This startled the young man causing him to quickly lose his apparent indifference. “Oh, don’t say that, Mr. Wooten! Surely it isn’t too late just because the meetings are over?”
“Yes, my friend,” answered the evangelist, looking the young man straight in the eye, “it’s too late! You want to know what you must DO to be saved, and I tell you that you’re hundreds of years too late! The work of salvation is done, completed, finished! It was finished on the cross; Jesus said so with the last breath that He drew! What more do you want?”
Then and there the truth dawned upon the young man. There was nothing for him to do! The Lord Jesus had perfected and finished the work of Salvation at the cross. That is, there was nothing for him to do but to accept the Saviour and His redemptive work as a free gift. The person and work of Jesus was enough! Nothing needed to be added.
And that’s the Gospel Truth!
(An Overview of Romans 5:12-21)
Paul’s great theme in Romans is righteousness, in particular the righteousness of God. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…for in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed,” (Romans 1:16, 17). The Christian gospel is about righteousness.
I. An Indictment Against Humanity
Paul began explaining the gospel by telling us that “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” (Romans 1:18). His point was not that if the people of the Roman Empire did not repent, that God’s wrath would fall on them. His message was that the wrath of God was already active and evidently upon them. At a time still future when he wrote, God’s wrath would be seen as the Vandals battered down their gates and plundered their cities. But long before this terrifying, destructive blow, God’s wrath was to be seen in His allowing the empire to wallow in moral filth and debauchery. He permitted Romans to corrupt themselves and to follow every lustful desire of their hearts without restraint. This was the wrath of God in its early stages, already fallen as Paul’s letter was written.
CHAPTER 2-THE GOSPEL-WHAT IT IS AND WHAT IT DOES
Paul was called by the Lord to be a foreign missionary, and is known as the Apostle to the Gentiles. As he lay on the ground on the Damascus road, Christ said to him, Get up, for I am sending thee to the Gentiles: “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (#Ac 26:18). After his conversion, commission, and baptism, Paul preached Christ in the synagogues of Damascus, proving Jesus to be the very Christ to the discomfiting of the Jews. Because of a plot to kill him, the Apostle goes to Arabia for a season, returning to Damascus, and three years later going to Jerusalem. For the second time, Paul is told that he is to go far hence to the Gentiles; that the people of Jerusalem will not receive his testimony. In obedience to this call, Paul blazes a trail deeper and deeper into heathen territory. He wants to preach the gospel where Christ was not named, so that he might not build upon another man’s foundation. In this spirit of a pioneer he wants to go to Rome and then to Spain. He wants converts at Rome as well as among the Gentiles. He is not ashamed to preach the Gospel anywhere, although he knew it would be met with scorn and contempt. However, he did not expect to preach in vain, and so he says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth ; …”(#Ro 1:16).
To understand the audacity of these words we must listen to them with the ears of a Roman. Here was a little insignificant Jew with his head full of notions about another Jew whom the Roman governor had delivered to be crucified in order to satisfy other Jews and keep order in the province. This was what the natural Roman would think about Paul and his message. But Paul knew that he had good news which would bring salvation to every one who would believe it.
WHAT IS THE GOSPEL
We are fortunate to have a direct Scriptural statement of what the gospel is, but for the sake of clarity, and by way of amplification, we shall treat the question both negatively and positively.
1. The Bible is not the gospel. This is entirely too vague and general as a definition of the gospel. The Bible does indeed contain the gospel, but it contains other truths also. All Bible truth is not gospel truth. In the Bible there is truth about law and sin and death and judgment and numerous other things that are not the gospel. One may preach the gospel. Many think the Old Testament is the law and the New Testament is the gospel. But the truth is that both law and gospel are found in both Testaments. Some of the finest gospel texts are in the Old Testament, while some of the strongest law texts are in the New Testament. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is full of the gospel; from this chapter Philip preached Jesus to the eunuch and he was saved. Paul and others had only the Old Testament from which to preach the gospel.
The law should be preached, just as all the Bible should be preached. The law, properly preached, will reveal to men that they are sinners and slay their self-righteousness. For this purpose Christ preached the law to the rich young man: “And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (#Mt 19:16), and to a certain lawyer “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (#Lu 10:25). By the law is the knowledge of sin. Paul did not know that he was a lost sinner until he saw what the law required: “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (#Ro 7:9). The law tells man what he ought to do; the gospel tells the sinner what Christ has done. The law condemns the best man; the gospel justifies the worst man. The law makes demands; the gospel bestows blessings. The law deals in justice: the gospel deals in mercy. The law belongs to the covenant of works; the gospel belongs to the covenant of grace.
2. Baptism is not the gospel. Paul clearly differentiated between baptism and the gospel when he said, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (#1Co 11:17). He reminded the Corinthians of the few he had baptized, and then to the church as a whole he said, “I have begotten you through the gospel” (#1Co 4:15).
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not saving sacraments, but preaching symbols. They do not procure salvation, but proclaim salvation through Christ. They are not saving acts, but contain a saving message in symbol or picture. Baptism does indeed wash away sin symbolically or figuratively, but the blood of Christ washes it away actually. Baptism has its place in the Christian life, but it must not become a substitute for the blood of Christ as an object of faith or trust.
3. The Church is not the gospel. Joining the church is not the same as believing the gospel. One should believe the gospel before joining the church.
4. The new birth is not the gospel. The new birth is an experience- -a work wrought in us; the gospel is the good news of something done for us. The gospel is objective light (#2Co 4:4); the new birth gives subjective light so that the gospel can be savingly understood: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (#2Co 4:6); “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (#Joh 3:3). The gospel is the story of what Christ did on the cross; the new birth is what the Holy Spirit does in us when He imparts life to us. Justification is the result of Christ’s death for us “But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;” (#Ro 4:24); regeneration is the effect of the Holy Spirits work in us. Justification is life imputed; regeneration is life imparted.
5. Repentance is not the gospel. Repentance is what the sinner must do to be saved; the gospel is what Christ has already done for our salvation. “Repent ye and believe the gospel.” Here repentance and the gospel are differentiated. No man is saved by faith in his repentance; he is saved by faith in the gospel.
6. Faith is not the gospel. The gospel is the object of faith. Saving faith is in the gospel. Faith does not save; it is faith in the gospel that saves. We do not have a perfect faith to be saved, but there must be a perfect gospel.
1. The gospel is good news. The acid test of a gospel message: is it good news to bad men? The gospel is for sinners; it is the revelation of the righteousness God has provided through Christ for the unrighteous: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (#Ro 1:17).
2. The gospel is good news about a person, the Lord Jesus Christ. “For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (#Ac 4:12). Men are not saved by doing this and that, or going here and there; they are saved by coming to the Lord Jesus Christ, who has so graciously said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (#Joh 6:37). Salvation is not a matter of geography. There is not a safe spot from the wrath of God anywhere. Salvation is not in bodily flight; it is in heart trust in Him Who is our passover, sacrificed for us.
3. The gospel consists of certain historical facts with a certain and particular theory or explanation of those facts. The facts are given us in #1Co 15:3,4: “…Christ died for our sins…; was buried, and…rose again …” Or as Paul puts it in #Ro 4:25: “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”
The least part of a fact is the visible part of it, and has no meaning without an explanation, and so Paul not only gives the facts but also explains them. The mere fact that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified is no more the gospel than that the two criminals were crucified beside Him. It is the explanation of the facts that makes His death the gospel rather than their deaths. His death was the death of Christ, the Son of God, and it was for our sins.
Christ, the Son of God, died for our sins. What does that mean? Some claim that it merely means that Christ died on our behalf, but not our Substitute. They insist that we should have no theory of the atonement, but with a little investigation we find that such people have a theory of the atonement. Let them tell us how Christ could die on our behalf—-how His death could save us-unless He died as our Substitute to render satisfaction to Divine justice for our sins. For His death to save us, it must cancel our guilt before the law of God, and how could it cancel our guilt unless He suffered for the guilt that was ours? He suffered, the Just for the Unjust, and how could this be unless He suffered in our room and stead? Christ dying as a martyr for a good cause, or as a mere example of faithfulness unto death, or as a gesture of love to conquer the human heart, would in no sense redeem sinners from the curse of the law. Divine justice calls for Divine punishment, and the only way the sinner can escape judgment is for Christ to bear the punishment due the sinner. Those who deny blood atonement worship a god different to that of the Bible, and practice a religion different to that of the Bible.
WHAT THE GOSPEL DOES
In a word, it saves all who trust it. And the gospel to be trusted is what Christ, the Son of God, did in laying down His life for our sins and taking it up again for our justification. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (#Ro 1:16) is usually made to mean that the preaching of the gospel has power to convert sinners, that is, to make believers. But this is not what the verse says. It is the power of God to or for believers. It presupposes a believer. The gospel saves believers, but it has no power to make believers. The preaching of the gospel is the means of making believers, for faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. We repeat, that the preaching of the gospel is the necessary means to faith, for “how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” If sinners are saved, the gospel must be preached to them as the means to faith and resultant salvation. However, there is a difference between means to faith and the power for faith. The power to make believers is in the effectual call of the Holy Spirit. Paul preached Christ crucified indiscriminately to the Jew and Greek. To the natural Jew such a gospel was a stumbling block, and to the natural Greek it was foolishness; but the called, both Jews and Greeks, saw the wisdom and power of God in the plan of salvation through a crucified Christ.
The apostle is not writing about the power of his preaching, but of the power of what he preached. What he preached, Christ crucified, had power to cancel the sin-debt. We sing “There is power in the blood,” by which we mean that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin. That which is shameful and foolish to the masses is the very thing God uses to save sinners. What Christ did in death and resurrection has power to cancel the sin-debt. The gospel was provided by God; it was not a human expedient. God put His Son to death; He laid on Christ our iniquity. We are not saved because men killed Jesus: that was murder. We are saved because He was striken, smitten of God, and afflicted. God sacrificed His own Son for our safety. Amazing and sensational?— yes! But we must remember that sin is terrible in its nature and effects, and nothing but a sensational remedy will avail.
Here is a man who has committed murder for which the penalty is death by hanging. The murderer was acting as the tool of another man who, himself, was under sentence of death, with no provision for pardon. But the law allows a substitute for the murderer. The substitute is found and is hanged in the murderer’s place out of love for the doomed man. Now the death of the substitute cancels the guilt of the murderer and sets him free. It is the power of the court and also power with the court. The court is satisfied with the death of the substitute and the guilty man goes free. It is the power of the court and also power with the court that is satisfied with the death of the substitute and the guilty man goes free. To interpret this parable: man became a sinner against God as a dupe of the devil, who was already a sinner under sentence with no provision for pardon. The Divine law allowed a substitute for the human sinner. The Son of God gladly gave Himself as the sinner’s substitute, suffering, the Just for the unjust, that the sinner might not perish in his sins.
BENEFICIARIES OF THE GOSPEL
Paul says, “To every one that believeth.” The death of Christ does nobody any good who scorns it and refuses to trust it. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (#Joh 3:36).
A fuller discussion of saving faith must be reserved for a later article the Lord enabling. However, there is space for a few words here and now. There is so much that passes for faith, that we must be on our guard lest we mistake what saving faith is. Saving faith is something more than the mere assent of the mind to a proposition, however true; it is heart trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Saving faith is not being satisfied with self; it is being satisfied with what Christ did on the cross for our salvation. One who is once satisfied with Christ will never be satisfied with anything else.
The value of faith depends upon the worth of its object. If I trust an object or a person that cannot or is not willing to save me, then my faith has no value—-it is vain faith, however strong. Faith itself may be dangerous, as well as saving. It is safe to trust the Lord Jesus Christ, because He is both willing and able to save. He is able to save because He is alive. No dead person can be a real Saviour, and must not be an object of faith. It is the office of a priest to make sinners right with God. Old Testament Priests could not make sinners right with God because of two things; they could not continue as priests, and they did not have saving sacrifices to offer—-the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin. But Christ continues forever, and hath an unchangeable priesthood: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (#Heb 7:25). Here is ground for saving faith, and a challenge to strong faith. Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
“HALLELUJAH! Jesus saves me;
Oh, the sweet and precious story!
I will give Him all the Glory,
And adore His love to me.
“HALLELUJAH! Jesus hears me;
When in prayer His throne addressing,
While in faith I seek His blessing,
Then His smile revealed I see.
“HALLELUJAH! Jesus leads me;
I will doubt His promise never,
But believing, followed ever
Him who gave His life for me.
“HALLELUJAH! Jesus keeps me;
In the Rock He safely hides me,
Every comfort He provides me,
Never friend so dear as He.”
C. D. Cole-Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 2-Part 2
Let’s get this straight, God, because He is righteous, holy and just, hates sins! He does not forgive them! He does not cancel their penalty. Sin is a direct assault on Him and, as such, has earned His wrath, fury and severe displeasure.
Sin is the real obstacle between God and man. We, by nature, have an inbuilt hardness and hatred towards God. We are sinners. We deserve damnation. Yet God, in grace, forgave us but not our sins.
“But, how is this possible?” you ask, “If He didn’t forgive our sins what did He do with them?” Here’s the answer. He punished them! He purged them and He put them away. In grace, love and mercy, He gave us the Sin-Bearer, Jesus the Christ, who laid down His life in our place, becoming a curse instead of us. Our sins were laid on Him instead of us. He became our substitute and died instead of us. Christ was punished instead of us!
The gospel truth is this, God does not forgive our sins, He forgives us. God is much too holy to arbitrarily forgive sins. He was righteously insulted by our sins. His holiness was offended by our sins. Because of this, in grace, the Father voluntarily gave Christ up unto death. And what the Father did, that also did the Son (John 5:19). During His life, Christ voluntarily made His way to the cross where He died instead of us. There at the cross, He became obedient unto death and by Himself, purged our sins (Hebrews 1:3). By Himself, He put away our sins (Hebrews 9:26).
Today, we stand forgiven because our sins were neither forgiven nor swept under the carpet. Our sins were dealt with as the crimes they were. The believer now, by faith, receives personal forgiveness because his sins have already been punished in Christ.
So why did God not merely turn a blind eye to our sins? The answer is discovered in His Holiness and justice. God could not be just, and at the same time lay aside His law. He could not ignore the condemnation we had earned. On the contrary, in His grace and justice He did something about our sins. In the fullness of time, He, in Christ, condemned sin in the flesh (Romans 8:3). By becoming our sin offering, as one of us, Christ condemned the sin of His people and passed judgement on it.
Keep telling yourself this amazing gospel truth. Keep telling yourself that your sins have already been condemned and you have been set free.
The Lord Jesus has implemented and executed judgment upon all our sins and we have been forgiven. He has put our sins away and forgotten them (Isaiah43:25). But again, let us be very clear on this, God did not forgive our sins. Instead, He ruthlessly punished them and their bearer at Calvary. In that way, He can righteously forgive us.
What an amazing truth this is to tell yourself. There is now no damnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). The penalty of our sins has been paid for by blood, the precious blood of the precious Lamb. As Adolph Saphir said;
“All our sins were lain upon Jesus, everyone (of them) was punished… He executed judgment upon all our sins … for all the Children of God”
Adolph Saphir: The Epistle to the Hebrews: Chapter 5
And that’s the Gospel Truth!
The New Year is upon us!
Our 2015 outreach plans can be realized, under God, only by the generous support of friends like you. In this next calendar year we are concentrating on preaching the gospel in Ireland (both North and South).
In addition to our gospel work in Ireland, we are holding a leaders conference in Malawi in April and also holding three leaders conferences in India in November. It is a really exciting time for the gospel and we are so privileged to be the ones to do this. Time is flying past and we don’t have nearly enough time to reach the lost.
We are grateful for every gift that enables us to play our part in the Great Commission. Your gift of any amount will help us start the New Year in strength as we provide people around the world with Christ-centred Bible teaching.
Happy New Year!
Miles and Gillian
No doctrine of Scripture is more important than that of justification. It involves the whole method of the salvation of sinners. It is vitally connected with all other fundamental doctrines. A correct conception of it cannot exist when other truths are ignored, or only partially received. The opinions held upon this point control in great part the theological views in general of all Christian individuals and parties. The importance of a correct knowledge of what God has taught on this subject cannot therefore be exaggerated.
The discussion of this doctrine will be best presented by a definition of the word Justification, accompanied by proof of the several statements involved in that definition.
Justification is a judicial act of God, by which, on account of the meritorious work of Christ, imputed to a sinner and received by him through that faith which vitally unites him to his substitute and Saviour, God declares that sinner to be free from the demands of the law, and entitled to the rewards due to the obedience of that substitute.
I. It is a Judicial Act of God.
That God is its author is emphatically declared by Paul in Rom. 8:33; “It is God that justifieth.” As he is the lawgiver and judge so must he also be the justifier.
The act is not one of sovereignty, as is election, because he does not justify merely of good pleasure, but because the demands of the law have been met. Yet his act is free, and of grace, because it is of his own choice that he accepts a substitute, and because Christ and his meritorious work have been graciously secured and given by God himself. See Rom. 3:24.
The virtue of the act consists in its being his judicial act. Any one might perceive or declare the demands of the law to be satisfied upon knowledge of that fact. Any one might proclaim that the rewards of Christ’s merit have been secured. But, whether declared of the value and efficacy of Christ’s work in itself or of its application to an individual, such a declaration would not be justification. It only becomes so when uttered by God in his capacity as Judge. All others could only recognize or declare the fact. The declaration of the judge sets the sinner free from all demands of the law, and confers upon him all the blessings appertaining to this new condition.
This judicial act of justification is made necessary because the law has been broken. One who has completely fulfilled the law needs not to be justified. His position before the law is that of one personally just or righteous; not of one that is justified, or declared righteous, or treated as such, though not personally so. He may be said to be justified, because recognized or treated as such, though the ground of such action is that he is personally just. Thus the term “justified” is properly applied to the doers of the law, and that of “just” denied to the mere hearers of the law in Rom. 2:13. But while the terms may thus be used of one personally just, he, nevertheless, needs no such justification, because his righteousness is not questionable. His position, like that of those who fully obey human laws, is recognized without any special act affirming it.
Hence it is that the Scriptures so commonly use the word “just,” dikaios, of one who is, in some one or in all respects, perfectly conformed to the law by his own acts, and who is, to that extent, therefore, personally holy, applying the term not to men only or even to Christ, who was made under the law, but also to God himself. See Matt. 1:19; 5:45; 9:13; Luke 23:50; Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; Rom. 3:26. This usage has given rise to the opinion of some that justification is not simply a judicial act, but that it involves holiness in the one justified, and in the case of justified sinners an infusion of holiness in the act of justification.
But that this is an error is obvious,–
1. From the fact that justification is presented as the opposite of condemnation (Rom. 8:33, 34), and not of sinfulness. Condemnation is never spoken of as the infusion of a corrupted nature, and consequently justification would not involve that of a holy nature.
2. That the justified are not declared in Scripture to be free from sin or possessed of holy natures, but are represented as still struggling against sin, and not only sin which arises from outward temptations, but that proceeding from the motions of sin within.
3. The change of nature which causes that of character is called in the Scriptures “regeneration,” and differs essentially from justification. The former is the special work of the Holy Spirit. The latter is the act of God the Father. That is an effect wrought inwardly, which develops itself in a continuous and progressive process which the Scriptures call sanctification. If justification includes an infused righteousness as the opposite of sinfulness, then it includes sanctification, and there is no ground for the scriptural distinction between them.
4. The usage of other words in connection with justification shows it to be a forensic act. The term “righteousness,” dikaiosune, which, like “righteous,” dikaios, is used in connection with personal righteousness, as of God in Acts 17:31, and of Christ “the Faithful and True,” Rev. 19:11, and of the martyrs in Heb. 11:33, and of human obedience to the law in Rom. 10:3, 5; Phil. 3:6, 9, is, in connection with God’s justification of sinners, applied, though chiefly by the Apostle Paul, to “the righteousness which God bestows or accepts,” and which is imputed to the sinner or reckoned to his account.
Another term, dikaiosis, signifies “the act or process of declaring righteous,” viz., justification.
The word dikaioma, which means “that which is declared righteous,” and hence a statute or command, as something which the law of God declares to be a righteous requirement, is used in connection with justification for “the deed by which one declares another righteous, and is partially equivalent to dikaiosis.”
The principal word which is used for expressing the nature of God’s action in justification is dikaioo, “to justify,” which means everywhere “to declare righteous,” “to regard and represent as righteous,” and not “to make righteous” in the sense of conferring personal righteousness.
This usage of terms shows plainly that justification is a judicial act of God, in which he does not confer holiness, but only declares the relation occupied to the law by the one who is in Christ.
II. The Ground of this Justification
It is manifest from what has already been said that the justification of the sinner must depend on something not personally his own. The Scriptures teach that it is due not to his own good works but to the meritorious work of Christ which is imputed to him, or put to his account.
1. They teach us negatively that it is not due to his own good works.
(1.) They expressly deny that justification can be by the works of the law. Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:11; Eph. 2:9.
(2.) They assert that, could it thus have been attained, Christ’s death has been useless. Gal. 2:21; 5:4.
(3.) Sinfulness is declared to be the condition of every man, which excludes the possibility of works untainted by sin. Rom. 3:10.
(4.) The law is said to demand such complete obedience that “whosoever shall keep the whole law and stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all.” James 2:10.
(5.) We are told that “if there had been a law given which could make alive, verily, righteousness would have been of the law.” Gal. 3:21.
(6.) It is likewise stated as necessary to the certainty of attaining salvation that “it is of faith that it may be according to grace.” Rom. 4:16.
These statements show that, not only are men not saved by works alone, but not even by works combined with grace. Justification cannot arise, therefore, from the good works of men. Not even has its condition been so modified that a partial obedience can be accepted, whether this stands alone or is supplemented by, or is supplementary to the merits of Christ. Something entirely outside of man must constitute the basis of justification.
2. The word of God declares this outside something to be the meritorious work of Christ.
(1.) In general
(a) By declaring that the righteousness of God is connected with our relations to, or belief in Christ. Rom. 3:22, 26; 5:1; 10:4; 1 Cor. 1:30.
(b) By stating that redemption is in Christ Jesus. Rom. 3:24.
(c) By setting him forth as the only foundation of salvation.
(d) By asserting salvation to be found only in Christ. Acts 4:12.
(e) By asserting a definite relation between our sin and Christ, and his righteousness and ourselves. 2 Cor. 5:21.
2. More specifically by connecting the salvation and justification of man with Christ’s merits.
This may be shown.
(a) In connection with his sufferings, or what is usually called his passive obedience.
1. Christ is presented as “the Lamb of God,” John 1:29, in evident allusion to the sacrificial offerings of the olden days, and Paul speaks of him as one “whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, by his blood.” Rom. 3:25.
2. He is presented as one who has died for us. Rom. 5:6, 8; 8:34; 14:15; 1 Cor. 8:11; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15; 1 Thess. 5:10; and specifically as having died for our sins. 1 Cor. 15:3.
3. We are said to be justified by his blood (Rom. 5:9), and reconciled by his death (Rom. 5:10), and by his cross (Eph. 2:16).
(b) Our justification is due also to the active obedience of Christ, and not to passive obedience only.
1. Righteousness involves character, conduct and action, even more than suffering endured as penalty. The sinlessness of Christ is therefore plainly taught, and especially in connection with imputation. 2 Cor. 5:21.
2. The gracious salvation he brings is said to establish the law.
3. He assures us, that he came to fulfil the law. Matt. 5:17.
4. The obedience of Christ is not only contrasted with the disobedience of Adam, but is declared to be the means by which many shall be made righteous. Rom. 5:19.
It thus appears, that the ground of justification is the whole meritorious work of Christ. Not his sufferings and death only, but his obedience to, and conformity with the divine law are involved in the justification, which is attained by the believer. The question is here sometimes asked, how the active obedience of Christ can avail to us, when he was himself a man and under the law, and owed obedience personally on his own behalf. The answer to this is twofold, in each case depending upon the doctrine of the incarnation of the Son of God. On the one hand, the position was one voluntarily assumed by the Son of God. He was under no obligation to become man. He was not, and could not be made man without his own consent. In thus voluntarily coming under the law, his obedience would have merit to secure all the blessings connected with the covenant, under which he assumed such relations. But besides this, the fulfillment of the law would not simply be that fulfillment due by a mere man, which is all the law could demand of him on his own behalf, so that the merit secured is that due to the Son of God, thus as man rendering obedience to the law. That merit is immeasurable and is available for all for whom he was the substitute.
III. The Imputation
This meritorious work of Christ, called in the Scriptures “the righteousness of God,” is imputed by God to those whom he justifies, as the ground or cause of their justification. It is reckoned to their account. They are treated as though they had themselves done that which Christ has done for them.
This imputation is in accordance with the action of God throughout the economy of human affairs. Adam as the representative of man sinned, and his sin has been imputed to all of his descendants, and they are treated as though personally sinners. Christ stood also as the representative of his people and their sins were imputed to him and he was treated as though personally a sinner. Likewise his righteousness is imputed to them, and they are treated as though personally righteous.
In each of these cases there is, however, no such transfer as makes one personally what he is representatively. It is not the imputed sin of Adam which makes men personally sinners. The corrupted nature is one of the natural consequences of that sin, and is a punishment of it. So the imputation of our sin to Christ did not make him personally a sinner. He was still of himself “the holy and righteous one.” In like manner, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness does not make man holy and righteous personally. In each of these cases it is only relation to the law which is expressed.
IV. The Relation of Faith to Justification
It is not every sinner that is justified. It is the believer in Jesus. An important inquiry, therefore, is as to the relation of faith to justification. The Scriptures teach that faith is reckoned for righteousness. Rom. 4:5, 9.
By this is not meant, that faith is accepted in the place of righteousness as the cause of justification, for, as we have seen, that place is occupied by the meritorious work of Christ. Nor is it meant, that the righteousness of God has so lowered the law, that something less than obedience can be accepted by him as a full satisfaction of that law; because the demands of the law have not been lowered but have been completely fulfilled by Christ. Besides this would be to make of faith a work, by which salvation is secured, and the Scriptures deny that it has this character. Rom. 4:16. “We are never said to be justified, dia pistin, on account of faith, but only dia pisteos, through faith, or ek pisteos, of faith, eis pistin, unto faith, and epi te pistei, by faith. The fact that faith is counted for righteousness shows, that in itself it is not righteousness and has no merit, but it only so “reckoned on the ground of something outside of itself, viz.: the saving work of Christ.”
It is evidently so reckoned, because by faith the sinner appropriates to himself the work of Christ, and becomes vitally united with him. Faith may, therefore, be regarded as the condition upon which justification is bestowed upon those to whom Christ is presented as a Saviour, to be received and rested upon for salvation. “Faith,” says Dr. Charles Hodge, “is the condition of justification. That is, so far as adults are concerned, God does not impute the righteousness of Christ to the sinner, until and unless he (through grace) receives and rests on Christ alone for salvation.” Sys. Theol. Vol. 3, p. 118. It is a condition which has in it no merit in itself, but which only seizes upon merit in another. It is also an act of the sinner, to which he is graciously disposed and led by God himself through the power of the Holy Spirit.
V. The Relation of Works to Justification
We have already seen that works cannot enter meritoriously into justification as its procuring cause. But the Scriptures evidently associate works in some manner with justification. Paul himself says that “love is the fulfillment of the law,” Rom. 13:10, and declares that that which avails in Christ Jesus is “faith working through love,” and that “the whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Gal. 5:6, 14. There is here an evident correspondence with, if not allusion to, the frequent teachings of our Lord, and especially to his answer to the Pharisee about the great commandment of the law. Matt. 22:34-40.
The teaching of the apostle James, is not, therefore, to be held to be opposed to the other Scriptures when he speaks of a justification by works. His language is very strong. He says that “faith apart from works is dead.” He asks, “was not Abraham, our father, justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac, his son, upon the altar?” He inquires, “thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect,” and especially declares, “ye see how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only.” James 2:20, 21, 22, 24.
What then is the relation of works to justification?
1. Certainly not as a procuring cause, or a meritorious ground. The faith with which James associates works, and upon a level with which he seems to place them, does not itself occupy this position.
2. The works are not such as precede justification or are contemporaneous with it, and hence cannot be a cause, nor even a condition such as we have seen faith to be. Even in the case of Abraham the justifying work referred to occurred long after the justification which he attained by faith. Compare Rom. 4:9-11; Heb. 11:8; Gen. 15:6; 17:1-27; 22:1-19.
3. The works are referred to as means of manifesting as well the faith as the justification claimed to be by faith. James 2:18.
4. The apostle’s object is to deny the living character of any faith which has not wrought with works and has not been perfected through works.
It is thus evident that works occupy the position of subsequent, not antecedent, accompaniments of justification. They manifest that justification has taken place, because they are invariable consequence. They do this, however, not before man only, but God also, and consequently he, as well as man, perceives them, and because of them the believer performing these good works is justified before God. But such justification is not that actual justification which takes place in connection with faith, which is the judicial act of God declaring the relation of the believer to the law, but that declarative or manifesting justification, which cannot exist except as the result of the actual justification, but which is so inseparably connected with the latter that by its presence, or absence, the existence or non-existence of justification is distinctly established.
VI. The Benefits Included in Justification
The benefits conferred by justification are many.
1. Freedom from the condemnation of the law. This includes:
(1) Forgiveness of all sin. Not for the past only, but throughout the Christian’s life.
(2) Discharge from his relation to the law as a rule of bondage, for which is now exchanged his service to it in the newness of the spirit. Rom. 7:6.
(3) Peace with God,–assured peace,–because dependent on the merits of Christ and not those of himself.
These and all other blessings which may be included under the general idea of pardon are necessary results of justification.
2. But justification confers righteousness as well as pardon. Not only are sins remitted but men are made partakers of the righteousness procured by Christ which is imputed to them. They are thus recognized before the law as righteous persons, not simply as persons pardoned for breaking the law, but as those who are rewarded for having fulfilled all its demands.
3. But there are other blessings which arise from the relation to Christ of those whom God justifies. That relation was shown in the chapter on Faith. It is a vital and spiritual as well as a legal and federal union between Christ and his people. By virtue of this they are identified with him in his relation to God as their Representative and Covenant Head, and are made partakers of all the blessings which he has obtained as an inheritance. It is thus that they are adopted into the family of God and become his sons and daughters; thus are they sanctified by the Holy Spirit partly in this life, and progressively advance until complete holiness shall be theirs in Heaven. Thus also do they persevere in the divine life, being preserved or kept by God through faith unto complete salvation. By the same act of faith which is the condition of justification is secured by those united to Christ, the privilege of complete participation in the rewards of their federal head. They shall be heirs with him, shall reign with him, shall be partakers of his glory. No imagination can compass the reward which shall be theirs together with Christ. The Scriptures seem to teach that whatever Christ shall be or possess in his human nature they also shall be and possess.
VII. The Time of Justification
We may finally inquire into the time at which justification occurs.
1. It does not occur periodically but is a single act, and not one repeated with reference to new sins. This arises from its nature as an act of God declaring the relation of the believer to the law and from the ground of that act, the never failing merits of Christ. The pardon which the Christian seeks of God is that of a child for offences against a father’s love, and not of a culprit before an avenging judge. The sufferings which Christians endure are not avenging punishments for sin, but chastisements from a Father who chastises those whom he loves and scourges those whom he receives.
2. It is an instantaneous and not a continuing work as is sanctification. It is God’s act declaring the sinner’s relation to the law. That sinner is under condemnation until justified. As soon as justified his condemnation ceases. He cannot be partly condemned and partly justified. He is under condemnation until brought into that condition which secures his justification. When that moment comes God must justify.
3. But when is that moment? The Scriptures teach that it is when man believes. It is in the moment of trust in a personal Saviour.
It was not at the time that Christ finished his work and laid the foundation of justification in his merits and satisfaction. By these justification was secured but not bestowed. It was not in Eternity as is Election by which the subjects of the future justification were chosen. It is at the moment of belief when faith, which is its condition, is experienced. Then is consummated that which was purposed in eternity and which was made possible and certain by the work of Christ. The hour of faith was even the period of justification before the incarnation of Christ because of the faith which rested personally upon him through the promises of God, and the acceptance by God of the meritorious work of Christ as though already existing because of the absolute certainty that it would be performed.
Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887
The Headship of Adam
THE Scriptures teach that the fall of Adam involved also that of his posterity. In the covenant, under which he sinned, he acted not merely as an individual man, the sole one of his kind, or one isolated from all others of his kind, but, as the head of the race, for his posterity as well as himself. The condition of mankind shows that they have all participated with him in the evils which resulted. The Scriptures teach that this is due, not merely to his natural headship, but to a representative or federal headship, because of which his act of sin may justly be considered as theirs, and they may be treated as though they had themselves done that act, each man for himself.
In order that a proper comparison may he made between the innocent and afterwards the sinful condition of Adam, and that which universally is found in his descendants, it will be well to recall the facts as to Adam in these respects, and those also which are seen to be true of mankind in general. The consideration of these will prepare the way for that of the relation between the parties to which the present condition of man is due.
I. THE FACTS AS TO ADAM.
These may be briefly stated since they have already been set forth, and the present statement is only an epitome of that already given.
1. Adam was created perfect, because of which perfection he was not only without sin, but had a strong and controlling though not invincible inclination to holiness and obedience to God. Such must be the nature of every being that is innocent and uncorrupted.
2. This nature did not make him incapable of committing sin, but only made it very improbable that he would choose to do so. Such improbability naturally belongs to a nature whose whole inclinations are towards that which is good. But improbability is far from being impossibility.
3. The possibility of sinning necessarily inheres in every creature endowed with a moral nature and permitted freedom of choice between good and evil. This is no more than saying that a creature is fallible because he is not God, who alone is through his own nature infallible.
4. Adam, in the trial to which he was subjected, did fall, not accidentally nor ignorantly, but deliberately, knowingly, and of his own free will.
5. Prior to this fall there were exhibited in him the nature and condition which belong to an innocent and holy man, and which must be found in any of mankind who have not been affected by his sin. Subsequent to it he possessed the nature and condition of a corrupt and guilty man, which likewise must appear in all of those who have been affected by that sin.
6. The result of that sin was inability to continue in the state in which Adam was originally created, or to return to it.
7. This inability was not merely natural, but also penal. It was to the corruption of his nature through the defiling taint of sin, which was a part of that threatened death, which, not confined to nor chiefly consisting in the death of the body, included this corruption and consequent inability of the whole man, together with the loss of the complacent love of God, and of communion or fellowship with him.
II. FACTS AS TO ADAM’S DESCENDANTS.
The facts as to the descendants of Adam show that they have universally partaken of his corrupted nature, and that, not even in their earliest years, have any had the innocent nature, with its strong proclivities to holiness, which constituted his original condition.
1. They are born with the corrupted nature which he acquired, together with all the other evils set forth as the penalties of his sin. This was true even of his first children, Cain and Abel, as it has been also equally true of all others even to the present time.
2. No one of these descendants has been able to recover the nature possessed by Adam before the fall. In each of them the same inability has existed which fell upon him.
3. No one has been able to escape the complete fulfilment of the penalty of death, in all its meanings, except through the work of Christ.
4. No other reason for this universal condition has been assigned than the one sin by which Adam fell, and it has, consequently, been generally recognized as, in some way, the result of that one transgression.
5. The conscience of mankind has universally taught that this condition of their natures is sinful, and is as fully worthy of punishment as the personal transgressions which proceed from it.
6. The Scriptures plainly assume and declare that God righteously punishes all men, not only for what they do, but for what they are. Men are indeed represented as more guilty and sinful than they know themselves to be, because, through the restraints with which God surrounds them, their natures have not been fully developed into all the sin towards which they tend. This is the argument of the first part of the Epistle to the Romans, the turning point of which is Rom. 2:1. It is also illustrated in the case of Hazael. 2 Kings 8:12, 13.
7. It follows from the facts in these last two statements, that a corrupt nature makes a condition as truly sinful, and guilty, and liable to punishment, as actual transgressions. Consequently, at the very moment of birth, the presence and possession of such a nature shows that even the infant sons of Adam are born under all the penalties which befell their ancestor in the day of his sin. Actual transgression subsequently adds new guilt to guilt already existing, but does not substitute a state of guilt for one of innocence.
8. Not the judgement of God only, but that of man also, regards a sinful nature as deserving punishment equally with a sinful act. The law of man is necessarily confined to the punishment of the acts, because these alone give such testimony to the condition of the heart as man can correctly apprehend; but the character of any act is regarded as alleviated, or aggravated, by the character of the actor; and men are shunned or courted as they are deemed to be good or bad, without any other reference to their acts than as they testify to character.
From the above points it will be seen that men, as descendants of Adam, are invariably born, not with his original, but with his fallen nature, and, more than this, not only receive that corrupted nature which was a part of the penalty of his sin, but with it all the other penalties inflicted because of that sin. It is also plain that a condition of sinfulness is regarded worthy of punishment not only by the Scriptures, and by personal conviction of conscience, but by the universal sense of mankind; and consequently that men may be punished for the corrupt nature thus inherited, although they may not have been personally guilty of a single transgression. This naturally leads to the inquiry into the nature of the connection between Adam and his posterity through which such sad and serious results have occurred.
III. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN ADAM AND HIS POSTERITY.
1. Manifestly the universal sinfulness of mankind is due to some kind of connection with Adam. Being thus universal, it cannot be accidental, nor without some controlling cause. Unless some change was made in human nature at large, or it became liable to new conditions, or there was a connection of the life and state of all with that of the one, no reason can be assigned for the fact that invariably the fallen condition, and not the original one is found in every man. Yet it is manifest that while Adam’s was the first sin, and while that was not committed according to the tendencies of his nature, all of his posterity have been born with the corrupt nature which thence ensued, with all its tendencies and its actual development in due time into personal transgressions.
2. This has not resulted from the mere imitation of an example; but is a deep rooted evil inherent in their natures. It is found there before they can perceive the example, much less imitate it.
3. Such is the natural relation borne by all men to Adam, as their common father, that nothing but his death before the birth of posterity, or some such miraculous influence as goes against nature, or at least acts apart from it, and is believed to have existed in the birth of Jesus, could have prevented all the evils which befell Adam from coming in like manner upon his posterity. By natural generation they must be born with sinful natures such as his, and must, therefore, be corrupt and guilty, eternally destitute of God’s complacent love, and liable to natural death.
4. While the above would follow from mere natural law, the Scriptures teach us that Adam was not merely the natural, but also the federal head of the race. This is done not only in express language, but especially by teaching that the relation borne to Christ, our federal head in salvation, is similar to that borne to Adam in our sin.
5. This shows that the mass of mankind proceeding from Adam by natural generation sinned in him, not consciously, but representatively, and therefore are justly treated as though they had consciously sinned, because they are responsible for the act of their representative.
6. This adds nothing to the penalty which must have been suffered nor to the guilt which would have accrued from natural headship; for guilt is simply just liability to punishment.
7. In each case, whether of federal, or of natural headship, the same difficulties appear.
(1.) In each we are dealt with for an act with which we had no conscious connection.
(2.) In each we are made sinful, and therefore sinners, by that act; for the inherent corruption is spoken of and treated by God as sin in the highest degree to be reprobated and punished.
(3.) In each the consequences of sin are equally beyond escape.
If it he contended that under natural headship we could not be punished until we had actually sinned, it may be replied:
(1.) That this does not appear to be the fact, for at least some of the penalties, namely, corruption and natural death, and we believe all, are inflicted before actual sin.
(2.) That it would show no more equity or justice in God, nor any advantage to us, but rather disadvantage, that our probation, upon which the infliction of these penalties depends, should have taken place in the weakness of infancy, and under the disadvantages of an already corrupted nature, rather than in the personal and intelligent act of the one perfect man connected with us by natural generation.
8. But while, under the natural headship, every evil would befall which could arise under the representative, or federal headship; under the latter would come blessing, in the event that Adam should maintain his integrity, because, as represented in him, we should have been confirmed with him according to the gracious promises and power of God.
9. It would also appear that only through the representative headship could blessing come in the event of the fall. Had our fall been through merely natural headship we can see no way for recovery. But to the fall under the federal headship of Adam corresponds our salvation under the federal headship of Christ.
10. In support of the Scriptural theory, therefore, we can not only adduce the fact that the federal headship of Adam was just and right, because duly constituted by God, and that too in the fittest person of the whole race, but that it was an act of special mercy and grace, not only in itself, as involving the blessing of participation in the good as well as the evil, but as making a way for restoration in Christ the second Adam.
IV. THE SCRIPTURES TEACH A FEDERAL HEADSHIP.
The Scriptures recognize both a natural and federal headship of Adam. The natural headship would have sufficed to account for all the effects of Adam’s sin. The federal relationship becomes necessary, however, in connection with salvation through Christ. It is on this account that it is more prominently set forth in the New Testament as the common relationship of both the first and second Adam. The establishment of it as to the first Adam is, therefore, to be regarded as a special act of the grace of God, conferring the privileges of success where the evils of failure would not be increased, and preparing the way for future grace in the representation in Christ. The principle, however, upon which it is based, is a general one of nature, and one constantly recognized in the Scriptures.
1. It is natural and common for men to deal with each other on this principle of representation. Blessings are bestowed and injuries inflicted in accordance with it. Men become heirs to the noble or base characters of their ancestors as really as to their property. The friendship and affection entertained for a father, and no less the dislike and aversion, are renewed as to the son. A similarity is presumed to exist between them, which is deemed a proper basis for such action, until the conduct of the child shows a difference of nature, and, by destroying this presumption, causes him to be differently treated. Nor is this confined to those who are connected, like father and son, in direct succession. The taint of a committed crime soils and stains a whole family, even in its collateral branches. A remote relationship with the guilty one is deemed a disgrace, and the one thus connected realizes himself to be shunned, even if pitied, by those free from such misfortune. On the other hand, the most distant connection with one distinguished for wisdom or virtue, for great deeds or for high position, is thought to be a matter of congratulation, not alone for any supposed substantial benefits that may accrue, but for the simple connection itself.
The same principle extends itself throughout all the circumstances and ramifications of the life of each man. Each takes pride or shame in the place of his birth, in his early or late companions, in the community, or state, or country in which he lives, in its progress or backwardness, in its good or bad character, in its power or weakness, in its knowledge or ignorance,–in short, in any qualities of excellence or of inferiority which are attached to anything to which he belongs. Every man is in some measure represented, though not of his own choice, perhaps by bare accident, perhaps even against his own will, in all the circumstances and persons which surround him.
This principle only gains strength when connected with a duly appointed representative. The President or the King appoints an ambassador to a foreign court, and each citizen, though he had no hand in the appointment, is affected by the action of this, his representative. A representative to Congress is elected, against whom one has voted, and of the whole discharge of whose duties one approves, and yet such a one is bound by these very acts of the one whom he wished not as his representative.
2. The representative relation thus seen in mankind in general is recognized in the same forms in the Scriptures as existing in life with God.
(1.) It is distinctly declared in the aspect of love and hate towards the children of those who love and hate him in Ex. 20:5, and is even more prominently brought to view in Ex. 34:7. See also Deut. 4:40; 7:7-9; Lev. 20:5; 26:39; Num. 14:18 33; Job 21:19; Ps. 89:29, 36; 109:12-16; Isa. 14:19-22; 65:6, 7; Jer. 32:18; Rom. 11:28.
(2) For the fact that different conduct on the part of the children shall counteract the blessing or curse which comes because of the parent, see Lev. 26:40-42; Neh. 9:2, 3; Ezek. 18:10-23; Dan 9:4-27; 2 Cor. 3:16.
(3.) That all of a nation suffer and are punished for the sins of their rulers and representatives is taught throughout the whole history of God’s dealings with Israel. A signal instance of this was the punishment of all Israel because of the sins of Eli and his sons. Compare 1 Sam. 3:11-14 with 1 Sam. 4:10-22. Another was in the pestilence sent because David numbered the people. 2 Sam. 24:2-17. The punishment of all who had killed the prophets is announced by Christ as concentrated on that one generation. Matt. 23:34-39. The death of Christ, which had been brought about by the rulers of the Jews, is charged upon the people themselves. Acts 2:23; 3:13-15. It is also charged elsewhere upon the rulers. Acts 5:30.
(4.) On the other hand, how often was the anger of God turned away or modified by the intercessory prayers of Moses, and for the sake of Moses, as in the battle with the Amalekites, Ex. 17:9-12; and when the golden calf had been made, Ex. 32:9-14; and in his covenant with Moses after the renewal of the tables of the law, Ex. 34:9-28; also after the report of the spies, Num. 14:15-21; and numerous other instances. The case of Elijah and the woman of Zarephath is another illustration. Favour is shown to her because of the prophet’s sojourn with her. 1 Kings 17:20-22. It was because of the grace that Noah found with God that he and his family were saved in the ark. Gen. 7:1. Abraham’s prayer secured from God the promise to save Sodom, if it contained ten righteous ones, Gen. 18:32. God promised to save Jerusalem, if one just man could be found, Jer. 5:1. These are but a few of the instances which show this to be a prevalent principle in the divine government.
3. The doctrine of representation was especially set forth in a religious aspect under the Old Testament economy in the sacrifices under the ceremonial law.
These sacrifices were anticipated under some more general law of sacrifice which was given to mankind in general. This was exemplified from the earliest times. This is supposed by some to have been the source of the coats of skins with which the Lord God clothed Adam and his wife immediately after the fall. Gen. 3:21. It is more plainly seen in the superiority of the sacrifice offered by Abel over that of Cain. Gen. 4:1-8. Noah also offered burnt offerings. Gen. 8:20, 21. Abraham also built altars to the Lord, calling upon his name. Gen. 12:7, 8; 13:3, 4, 18; 21:33. The idea of the burnt offering was familiar to Isaac, as appears from his question to his father, and the ram was actually there offered as a burnt offering in the place of Isaac. Gen. 22:7-9, 13. Isaac also built an altar at Beersheba and called upon the Lord. Gen. 26:23-25. Jacob did the same at Shechem, Gen. 33:18-20, and at El-bethel, Gen. 35:7, and at Beersheba, Gen. 46:1. Moses also offered sacrifices before the ceremonial law was given. Ex. 17:15, 16. We are told that this was even done by Jethro. Ex. 18:12. In Ex. 20:24-26 God prescribes to Moses that an altar to him must be of earth, or of unhewn stone, and without steps for its ascent.
It is almost certain that these more ancient sacrifices taught at least partially the same truths as those of the ceremonial law. But the ceremonies attached to the latter explicitly set forth the fact of representation, including the ideas of substitution, imputation and sacrifice. These are the constituent elements of any doctrine of representation which releases from sin. They are fully exhibited in the representation of men in Christ. In that in Adam the sacrifice does not appear, because his was a representation which involved guilt, and not atonement. While these sacrifices, therefore, illustrate all that is involved in the representation in Adam, they are properly types of that in Christ, by which guilt was removed and atonement made to God for sin.
(1.) In them we have the sinner and the victim substituted for that sinner. The offered animal becomes his representative. What is due to the man is inflicted upon that substitution. The act of the latter thus becomes that of the former, and, upon the supposition that the victim is authorized and adequate, there is a full discharge of further penalty or obligation.
(2.) There is not only a substitution of one for another, but an actual transfer to this one from that other of his sins, trespasses, uncleanness, or whatever else unfits him for acceptance with God. After this transfer the man is treated as though he had never been thus defiled, and the victim dealt with as though alone the offender. This transfer is what is commonly known as imputation. By it the sin of Adam is transferred to us, or in other words so reckoned to us or put to our account that we are treated as though it were ours. In like manner the sin of man was transferred to Christ, who bore it, though he knew no sin personally, and he was made sin (or a sin offering) for man, and was treated as though he were a sinner. On the same principle the righteousness of Christ is also imputed to man, who, though personally sinful, is treated as though he were righteous.
(3.) The third element is the sacrifice, by which satisfaction is rendered to the broken law, and God can be just and yet justify the ungodly. This was shown by the death of the victim whose life was thus given through its blood in behalf of those whom it represented, as was that of Christ upon the cross.
The whole attainment of salvation through Christ was thus symbolized through these Mosaic sacrifices. The antitype as well as the type depends upon the principle of representation. This forms the connecting link. The Mosaic sacrifices were not offered in general, but for specified persons. It was not sin in the abstract that was confessed, but the sins of special individuals. The fact of representation has thus been distinctly involved in the whole religious life set forth in the Scriptures. It was only through the act of a duly appointed representative that guilt could be removed and salvation obtained.
4. The Scriptures represent this as the method by which guilt was incurred through Adam. This is chiefly done in the well-known passage in the fifth chapter of Romans. The apostle is here arguing for the possibility of justification through the act of Christ. He does this by drawing a parallel between Christ and Adam, and the effects of Adam’s sin and Christ’s meritorious work. This parallel could be drawn only on the ground of federal representation. Only thus could it be in connection with Christ as it had been in connection with Adam. Christ could in no sense be a natural head of man. He could only be a constituted or appointed representative head. He is thus everywhere set forth. So the parallel made between him and Adam shows that the headship of the latter was representative and not natural only. The same truth is also taught in 1 Cor. 15:45-49, not only in the names given of the first and second Adam, but by the contrast between their natures and the effects produced by each. In these two chapters from Romans and Corinthians we find ascribed to men, because of the connection with Adam and as punishment of his sin, almost all the penalties which were inflicted upon Adam in the threatened penalty of death. There is the all-comprising word “death,” declared to have come by sin, and that, the sin of one man, Rom. 5:12; death, which came upon all, even over those who had not sinned like Adam. In what respect “not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression” (v. 14) if reference be not made to the fact that there was no personal sin, as there is none in infants? This seems clearly suggested by the interjected expression “who is a figure of him that was to come;” (v. 14) for Adam was only a figure of Christ by virtue of this representative headship. “Judgement unto condemnation,” another penalty of Adam’s sin, is also declared to have come through one, V. 16, 18. The death of the soul, as the opposite of its spiritual life, is also asserted to have resulted from one man’s offence, V. 17. The controlling power of this sin, which causes tile inability to return to God and serve him, is shown by the declaration that “sin reigned in death,” (v. 21), which is a result of the one man’s disobedience mentioned in v. 19. If natural death is not included in the word “death” in this chapter, and the denial that it is so included is hardly possible, it is yet certainly connected with representation in Adam in 1 Cor. 15:22. These two chapters, therefore, show this representative relation of Adam; and that because of it all men have sinned in him and are justly treated as sinners
The discussion of this representative relation of Adam has rendered necessary a reference to that of Christ. It will be appropriate, therefore, to present in a tabular form the parallel between the consequences of these relations as a further proof of the representative character of each of these persons:
THOSE REPRESENTED IN ADAM.
Sin is imputed.
Treated as though sinners.
Not thus personally sinners.
Not regarded as actually guilty of Adam’s sin.
But only sinners representatively.
Though not personally sinners in Adam, yet born sinful, and naturally becoming actual sinners.
Condemned to all the penalties of death because of Adam’s sin.
Voluntarily accepting the relation to Adam, and persevering in the life of sin inaugurated by him.
THOSE REPRESENTED IN CHRIST.
Righteousness is imputed.
Treated as though righteous.
Not thus personally righteous.
Not regarded as actually meritoriously possessed of Christ’s righteousness.
But only righteous representatively.
Though not personally holy in Christ, yet born again unto holiness, and graciously becoming more and more holy until finally sanctified.
Released from penalty, and attaining to spiritual life and immortality, because of Christ’s active and passive obedience.
Voluntarily, though by God’s help and grace, accepting the relation to Christ, and persevering in the holy life into which he has brought them.
Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887