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Christ The Redeemer And Founder Of The
The subject of my last lecture was the Pauline Interpretation of the Person of Christ, the key to which is to be found in the apostle's consciousness of the influence of the Exalted Christ on his inner life. From this point of view He is presented to us by Paul as the Second Adam or Archetypal Man, qualified by the very constitution of His manhood and by His being the personal embodiment of the Divine idea of human nature, to be the Firstborn of many brethren, the prototype of a race after His own likeness and destined to attain to His perfection. We now proceed to the apostle's interpretation of the Death of Christ, the event in which the earthly history of Jesus is summed up by him, the one event in that history which is represented as possessing supreme worth for the religious life of man. Here, too, we shall find that the conception of the Second Adam is the regulating thought of the apostle; not so much because He is the realisation in His own Person of the true idea of man, as because of the Representative character that attaches to His personal act in dying for men, by which He determined human life and destiny toward God and Righteousness, even as the act of the first Adam had determined it towards sin and death. In the Epistles of Paul Christ is not presented simply as the typical instance of the New Humanity. Were He no more than this, no more than the Pattern Man, His personal life would have no power to redeem us from sin; contact with Him. would have no power to take us out of ourselves, would, indeed, only make us more deeply conscious of our distance from Him and from God. To the faith of the apostle, however, Christ had proved Himself to be a mighty redeeming power, the Divine instrument by whom he had been restored to fellowship with God,—the Author, in short, of a new relation to God and of a new disposition of love to His will.
Now, Christ had this significance of Redeemer to the apostle in virtue chiefly of His Death, or rather in virtue of the issues that had been wrought out by God through His Death. In order, therefore, that we may understand the supreme place he assigned to Christ as the Author of our fellowship with God, we must consider the interpretation put by him on the Death of Christ, the Divine thought he found expressed in it, and the effects on the spiritual life of mankind that he ascribed to it.
Now, in the first place, the death of Christ had for Paul absolute worth in relation to our salvation as the REVELATION of God's gracious love to man; and to this aspect of it is consistently referred its power to produce penitence and to awaken trust in God. Nothing could be farther from Paul's thought than the idea that the death of Christ was needed to win the love of God for us, or to overcome any reluctance in Him to show mercy to sinners. On every page of his writings we are taught that the event on Calvary, so far from begetting love in God's heart, simply revealed and put into exercise the love that was there from eternity. God is habitually set forth as the originating cause of the redemption that has come to us through the Cross, and as manifesting His love in the blessings that Christ has brought to us. "God hath set Him forth to be the propitiation."1 "When the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law."2 "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself."3 "God sent forth His Son to condemn sin in the flesh." 4 Words could not more emphatically proclaim that the death of Jesus was an event ordained by God for the accomplishment of His own gracious purpose towards the race. It was the deed of men, and revealed the enormity of their sin, but God was present in it as well, revealing His grace to sinners; and what followed from it in the way of blessing expressed God's love and God's purpose to bless and save us.
Paul's conception of the Divine character is sometimes contrasted unfavourably with that of his Master. Christ, it is said, taught that God is the Father of all; Paul, that God is the Judge of all and the Loving Father only of some. But this is not just to the apostle. He also teaches that God is in His very nature a gracious Being, who is impelled by His own love and pity for men to seek their recovery to Himself, and welcomes them to His Fellowship on a basis not of works but of trust in His free forgiving love. There is, however, a difference between the teaching of Jesus and Paul here. With Jesus, God's love is a truth of intuition. He sees into the heart of the Father, and beholding it written there, He proclaims it abroad that men may believe it; He makes it visible in His own gracious intercourse with sinners, that He may thus commend it to their faith. With Paul, on the other hand, the truth of God's love is partly an inference from the death of Christ, and partly an experience of the happy issues to himself of that event. He makes no reference to the teaching of Jesus on this subject, or to the instruction to
1 Rom. iii. 25. 2 Gal. iv. 4.
3 2 Cor. v. 19. 4 Rom. viii. 3.