Search This Blog

Monday, October 03, 2011

Cross of Christ - Chapter 7 (Part Two)

In Chapter 7, Stott examines God's salvation of sinners by focusing upon four key terms which look at salvation from four different aspects, utilizing four different images: propitiation, redemption, justification and reconciliation. Much confusion arises when we don't have a clear understanding of how Scripture uses these terms. In Part One we looked at "propitiation" and "redemption". In this post we'll look at the other two terms. Keep Stott's warning in mind, that, "We must not deduce from this that to have understood the images is to have exhausted the meaning of the doctrine."

 [Mosaic from ancient Pompeii, featuring chance (Fortuna’s wheel), divine justice (right angle & plumb-bob) and mortality.]
"The Salvation of Sinners" (Part Two)

Justification   [Eph.2:8-9; Gal.2:16; Titus 3:5]
The third image...will take us into the law court. For justification is the opposite of condemnation (Rom.5:18; 8:34), and both are verdicts of a judge who pronounces the accused either guilty or not guilty. ...Justification bestows on us a righteous standing before God. ...Justification (God declaring us righteous through his Son's death) is instantaneous and complete, admitting no degrees, while sanctification (God making us [practically] righteous through his Spirit's indwelling), though begun the moment we are justified, is gradual and throughout this life incomplete, as we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ 'from one degree of glory to another.' (2Cor. 3:18)...

There is no cooperation here between God and us, only a choice between two mutually exclusive ways, his and ours. Moreover, the faith which justifies is emphatically not another work. To say 'justification by faith' is merely another way of saying 'justification by Christ'. Faith has absolutely no value in itself; its value lies solely in its object. Faith is the eye that looks to Christ, the hand that lays hold of him, the mouth that drinks the water of life...

Justification is an external, legal declaration that the sinner has been put right with God, forgiven and reinstated. As Leon Morris has pointed out, 'when we speak of justifying an opinion or an action, we do not mean that we change or improve it. Rather we mean that we secure a verdict for it, we vindicate it'. (Cross in the New Testament, 242) Similarly, when Luke says that everybody, on hearing Jesus' teaching, 'justified God', what he means is that they 'acknowledged that God's way was right'. (Lk.7:29)...

The vocabulary of justification and condemnation occurs regularly in the Old Testament. Moses gave instructions to the Israelite judges (Deut.25:1; Prov.17:15) ...The prophet Isaiah pronounced a fierce woe against magistrates who 'acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent'. (Isa.5:23) ...Paul must have shocked his Roman readers when he wrote that 'God...justifies the wicked' (Rom.4:5)... In order to summarize Paul's defense of the divine justification of sinners, I will select four of his key phrases...
The source of our justification: justified by his grace (Rom.3:24), that is, by his utterly undeserved favor. Since it is certain that 'there is no-one righteous, not even one' (Rom.3:10), it is equally certain that no-one can declare himself to be righteous in God's sight. (Ps.143:2) Self-justification is a sheer impossibility (Rom.3:20). Therefore, 'it is God who justifies' (Rom.8:33); only he can. And he does it 'freely' (Rom.3:24, dōrean, 'as a free gift, gratis'), not because of any works of ours, but because of his own grace.
The ground of our justification: justified by his blood (Rom.5:9). Justification is not a synonym for amnesty, which strictly is pardon without principle, a forgiveness which overlooks - even forgets (amnestia is 'forgetfulness') - wrongdoing and declines to bring it to justice. No, justificaiton is an act of justice, of gracious justice. Its synonym is 'the righteousness of God' (Rom.1:17; 3:21), which explained as his 'righteous way of righteoussing the unrighteous'. ...When God justifies sinners, he is not declaring bad people to be good, or saying that they are not sinners after all; he is pronouncing them legally righteous, free from any liability to the broken law, because he himself in his Son has borne the penalty of their law-breaking.
The means of our justification: justified by faith (Rom.3:28; 5:1; Gal.2:16; Phil.3:9) Grace and faith belong indissolubly to one another, since faith's only function is to receive what grace freely offers. ...God's grace is the source and Christ's blood the ground of our justification; faith is only the means by which we are united to Christ. ...If faith is only the means, it is also the only means. ...The point of his writing 'by faith apart from works of law' was to exclude law-works altogether, leaving faith as the sole means of justification.
The effects of our justification: justified "in Christ" (Gal.2:17; cf. Rom.8:1-2; 2Cor.5:21; Eph.1:6) To say that we are justified 'through Christ' points to his historical death; to say that we are justified 'in Christ' points to the personal relationship with him which by faith we now enjoy. This simple fact makes it impossible for us to think of justification as a purely external transaction; it cannot be isolated from our union with Christ and all the benefits which this brings. The first is membership of the Messianic community of Jesus. ...Secondly, this new community... is to be 'eager to do what is good', and its members are to devote themselves to good works. So there is no ultimate conflict between Paul and James.

Reconciliation  [Rom.5:9-11; 2Cor.5:18-21; Col.1:21-22]
The fourth image of salvation, which illustrates the achievement of the cross, is 'reconciliation'. ...We have left behind us the temple precincts, the slave-market and the law courts; we are  now in our own home with our family and friends. True, there is a quarrel, even 'enmity', but to reconcile means to restore a relationship, to renew a friendship. So an original relationship is presupposed which, having been broken, has been recovered by Christ. ...Reconciliation with God, then, is the beginning. This is the meaning of 'atonement'. It alludes to the event through which God and human beings, previously alienated from one another, are made 'at one' again. ...Reconciliation is our personal relationship with our Father in the home.

Two other NT terms confirm this emphasis that reconciliation means peace with God, namely 'adoption' and 'access'. ... Access to God ... denote(s) the active communion with God, especially in prayer, which his reconciled children enjoy. ...Thus reconciliation, peace with God, adoption into his family and access into his presence all bear witness to the same new relationship into which God has brought us.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  [2Cor.5:18-21]
The first truth this passage makes clear is that God is the author of the reconciliation. ...Eight verbs...have God as their subject. They describe God's gracious initiative - God reconciling, God giving, God appealing, God making Christ to be sin for us. ...Therefore, no explanation of the atonement is biblical which takes the initiative from God...The initiative is certainly not ours. "All is of God; the only thing of my very own which I contribute to my redemption is the sin from which I need to be redeemed." [William Temple]
"'God was in Christ reconciling' (2Cor.5:19), actually reconciling, finishing the work. It was not a tentative, preliminary affair ... Reconciliation was finished in Christ's death. Paul did not preach a gradual reconciliation. He preached what the old divines used to call the finished work ... He preached something done once for all - a reconciliation which is the base of every soul's reconcilement, not an invitation only." [P.T. Forsyth, Work of Christ, 86]

[Previous Post: Chapter 7, Part One; Chapter 8]
[Challies' Review of Chapter 7]

No comments: