« AnteriorContinuar »
propitiation, is the exhibition of the Righteousness of God (ver. 25). At this point there is a parenthesis, and not till the end of it is reached have we the words, “ that He might be righteous, and the justifier of him that believes in Christ”—words which expand and explain the main thought, that the death of Christ is intended to exhibit the Righteousness of God. These words state the double aspect which the Righteousness of God has; in virtue of it, God is at once Righteous in Himself, the Maintainer of Right, true to His own nature as Holy, and, at the same time, the justifier of those who believe in the revelation of His Grace, in that He places them in a relation to Himself that is conformed to what is right, i.e. in that He forgives their sin, and restores them to His favour. There is, then, in the Righteousness of God as exhibited in Christ a gracious element. It is, indeed, a gracious attribute. It is love pursuing its end, which is the recovery of man to God, in a holy way, i.e. a way in keeping with His character as holy.
The parenthesis, beginning with “on account of the overlooking of sins that are past,” is intended to remind us that this exhibition of righteousness was necessary because of the fact that before Christ came sin had been overlooked or passed over. The reason why God had been so forbearing was hid till the death of Christ took place. Then this forbearance was seen to have its ground in the righteousness of God revealed in that event. It was seen, in other words, to have its ground in the gracious arrangement under which men came to have in Christ a Saviour who has expiated sin. This arrangement proved that the righteousness of God was something far grander than men had deemed it to be, or than it would have been seen to be, had God, instead of exercising forbearance, dealt with men in strict justice, and punished them for their sins. Righteousness was thus manifested as that attribute of the Divine nature that not only maintains a holy order in the universe, but that also provides for the forgiveness of sinners. In what way the Death of Christ exhibits the former aspect of the Divine righteousness is not stated
here, except generally that the latter is illustrated in the power of His Death to expiate sin. The intention of the author is simply to show that the gospel way of salvation by faith is the exhibition of the Righteousness of God, understood in this large sense, not as punitive or retributive justice, but as holy love, a will ever faithful and true to its own law, which is the salvation of men in a manner consistent with eternal truth and holiness. Recent theologians of all schools accept this as the idea of Righteousness taught in the passage before us. In their Commentary on Romans, iii. 25–26, Sanday and Headlam say: “The words (ver. 26) indicate no opposition between justice and mercy. Rather that which seems to us, and which really is, an act of mercy, is the direct outcome of the ‘righteousness,' which is a wider and more adequate name than justice. It is the essential righteousness of God which impels Him to set in motion that sequence of events in the sphere above, and in the sphere below, which leads to the free forgiveness of the believer, and starts him on his way with a clean page to his record” (p. 91). Gæbel, in his brief Commentary on N. T., says on this passage: «δικαιοσύνη αυτού ist hier Eigenschaftsbestimmung, aber nicht die Strafgerechtigkeit Gottes, sondern allgemeiner diejenige ethische Unwandelbarkeit Gottes, vermöge deren er das Böse niemals gut heisst, also die Sünde nicht vergiebt ohne Sühne.” This scarcely does justice to the gracious element in the conception. Ritschl's account of the matter is truer to the thought of Paul here: “God has manifested His righteousness in the death of Christ, inasmuch as it is in keeping with His nature both to justify him who believes and to require an expiation of sin in entering into fellowship with sinners ” (Altkath. Kirche, p. 86).
NOTE E, p. 89.-WHETHER CHRIST SUFFERED
SPIRITUAL DEATH. The theory referred to in the text has been held in another and more consistent form by those who have maintained that what Jesus suffered in the place of sinners was the torments of hell, the proper punishment of sin, or the sense of the Wrath of God, spiritual death. This logically is the position we are shut up to if we hold that the essence of the work lay in His having borne the punishment of sin in our room and stead. But surely to speak of Christ's having endured the wrath of God that is directed towards sinners is only to confuse the mind. It is inconceivable that He can have borne our sin in the sense that the guilt or proper punishment of it was transferred to Him, and that He had experience of the pains of remorse. There is a sense, of course, in which we may speak of Christ having borne the wrath of God, if we mean by that expression that He had experience of those evils in the world that indicate the displeasure of God at sin, and of which He would naturally participate as incorporated with the life of man, and liable to share in the evils of man's disordered life. And viewing death as the culmination of this penal element in the world, we may regard His Death as charged with the power to express to Him the wrath of God against sin. But if it be meant that He was Himself in any sense the object of God's displeasure, or that He exhausted, by Himself personally enduring it as it enters into the experience of the sinner, or that the wrath of God broke upon His head, we must repudiate such an idea as altogether unwarranted. It is time that such an expression, so liable to be misunderstood and to confuse our thoughts of God, should be discarded. I entirely sympathise with the remarks of Gess on this subject. “What tact,” he says, " is shown by the apostles in their never speaking of Jesus as bearing the Divine wrath ! Our sins He has borne on the tree. God has made Him to be sin. He became a curse. The punishment lay upon Him. He is set forth for a manifestation of the righteousness of God in His blood. That the apostles, using such strong expressions, yet never make mention of the Divine wrath towards the Atoner, has its root in the feeling that anger signifies a state of indignant feeling that we dare never attribute to the mind of the holy God towards the holy Jesus. One may say, indeed, that this silence of the apostles is a proof of apostolic inspiration, and that the language even of respectable theologians about Jesus bearing the Divine wrath is a proof how far below the apostles theologians stand. Punishment may fall upon the innocent along with the guilty, anger can be directed only against the guilty.
The innocent children of a murderer must, in accordance with the Divine order of the world, bear a portion of the punishment of their father; that God is angry with them no intelligent man would dream of saying. And the idea of the Father being angry with the Son, who drinks the bitter cup in obedience to the Father! Angry at His deed of self-sanctification, John xvii. 19! At the deed which the Father recompensed with the exaltation described in Philippians ii. 9! Not only the language of science but also that of edification ought once for all to free itself from such ineptitudes of expression, which have an effect the opposite of edification in the case of thinking persons, especially of those who think in accordance with Scripture” (Christi Person und Werk, iii. 442).
An instructive note will be found in Dr. Bruce's Humiliation of Christ on the doctrine that Christ suffered spiritual death in the place of sinners, as held by the Lutheran and by the Reformed Dogmatists—Note C to his sixth lecture.
is authority in Christ's offering
NOTE F, p. 90.–OWEN ON THE ATONING ELEMENT
IN THE DEATH OF CHRIST It was a pleasant surprise to me to find such emphasis laid on the spiritual elements in Christ's offering by the great Puritan, as his authority is often adduced for a narrow view of the atonement that ignores these elements. In his work on The Holy Spirit he devotes a chapter (iv.) to "the work of the Holy Spirit in and on the Human nature of Christ.” And here he insists on the presence in His death of those actings of the grace of the Holy Spirit by which He was distinguished all through His life. “And these,” he says, “are diligently to be considered, because on them depends the efficacy of the Death of Christ as to atonement and merit; for it is not the death
of Christ, merely as it was penal and undergone by the way of suffering, that is the means of our deliverance, but the obedience of Christ therein, which consisted in His offering of Himself through the Eternal Spirit unto God, that gave efficacy and success to it.” He then proceeds to inquire into those “principal graces of the Spirit which He acted in this offering of Himself unto God.” They are (I leave out his exposition under each head): (1) Love to mankind and compassion towards sinners. (2) His unspeakable zeal for, and ardency of affection unto, the glory of God. And with respect to the latter, two things were aimed at by Him : (1) The manifestation of God's righteousness, holiness, and severity against sin. (2) The exercise of His grace and love. “His zeal and affection unto the glory of God's righteousness, faithfulness, and grace, which was wrought in the heart of Christ by the Eternal Spirit, was that wherein principally He offered up Himself unto God.” (3) His holy submission and obedience unto the Will of God. “His death was the highest act of obedience unto God which ever was or ever will be to all eternity, and therefore doth God so express His satisfaction therein, and acceptance of it.” (4) His faith and trust in God, which, with fervent prayers, cries, and supplications, He now rested on God and His promises. He concludes thus, “Now, concerning those instances, we may observe three things to our present purpose:
“1. These and the like gracious actings of the Holy Christ were the ways and means whereby, in His death and blood-shedding, — which was violent and by force inflicted upon Him as to the outward instruments, and was penal as to the sentence of the law,—He voluntarily and freely offered up Himself a sacrifice unto God to make atonement; and these were the things which, from the dignity of His Person, became efficacious and victorious. Without those His death and blood-shedding had been no oblation.
“ 2. These were the things that rendered His offering of Himself “a sacrifice to God of a sweet-smelling savour' (Eph. V. 2). God was so absolutely delighted and pleased