- It is quite a marvel that those who reject the gospel of Christ Jesus on the grounds of justice, seem to have missed one of its central tenets and hopes: the eventual destruction of all evil, on the grounds that God is perfectly just and will “balance the books” in every regard in the end. It also means that God’s people will, in the meantime, work and fight for justice and righteousness in every sphere of human life, anticipating that the labors of such love will produce undying fruit.
- Also, quite remarkably many atheists are motivated zealously and passionately by the most wonderful principles of justice, righteousness, integrity, love, compassion, mercy, sympathy, and a desire to see freedom and deliverance for those in bondage to evils and horrors. Yet, they have rejected God who is the source of all love, mercy, compassion, and integrity, and who promises real deliverance from evils and oppression. In trying to understand this, it has been my impression that many such people do not actually wrestle so much with the question of the “existence” of God, but rather they have never been able to see the absolute goodness of God. Since they so often perceive even their own limited virtues as somehow superior to God’s, or any supposed “god’s”, and they have seen so much evil, they are blinded to the possibility of any perfect good coming from God.
- Blinded by one reality, we so easily become blinded to another reality.
- I suppose that faith is the only way to open one’s blinded eyes to see the reality of God’s goodness and unsurpassed beauty. And with eyes opened wide by faith, we begin to see that evil is truly not the end of the story.
Faith Theological Seminary Christ & Culture Seminary, 2016
in preparation for the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017
Session 4 – Solus Christus – Through Christ Alone by Stephen Hague
- Ancient heresies are mostly Christological 2
- Prior to, and the catalyst for, the Protestant Reformation we find in Roman Catholicism views that diminished Christ: consider his centrality and sufficiency. 3
- Modern heresies are also mostly Christological 4
- The diverse Jesuses of our times. 4
- Modern views that do the same: see Ligonier survey “Our favorite heresies”. 5
- The Biblical Theology of Christ Alone in Scripture. 7
- Biblical Texts on Christ. 10
- Historic Confessions of Faith. 12
The historical problem of religious faith has always been the question, “Will you serve and worship the Baals or will your serve, love, and worship YHWH?” The problem Israel faced in the land of the promise was perpetually that of not just worshipping and trusting in the Canaanitish idols, but so often presuming to add them onto the worship of YHWH, the true and living God. It was a kind of Yahwism plus, or YHWH plus Baal (as trivializing as “Coke plus”). The belief that they could have it both ways reduced the Almighty Lord of all creation to the lowly place of one of the many hundreds of ANE deities. Israel’s consistent failure to accept the all-sufficiency of the one and only true God as their Lord was their well-chronicled, disastrous down-fall and what led to eventual exile from the land, and the loss of the Temple and the Ark of the covenant.
- This syncretism of faith and works, God plus the Baals, God and other false theological systems has been at the heart of the spiritual battle in all the ages. In the human condition of rebels, all people are prone to reject the purity of biblical faith that trusts in the all-sufficiency of God the Creator-Redeemer, as we see in each of the issues related to the Solas of the Reformation. Is this any less so with regard to Christ in the NT church age?
- If Christ is our promised salvation, our only righteousness, our only Savior, our only Deliver-Redeemer (Isa 59:20, 21; 27:9; Jer 31:33, 34; Rom 11:26), our friend, our brother, our only true King of all Kings (2 Sam 7:14; 1 Tim 6:15), the Alpha and the Omega (Rev 1:8), the firstborn over all creation (Col 1:15) the Firstborn from the dead (Rev 1:5; Col 1:18), our only true High Priest (Heb 8), our only perfect mediator and reconciler (Heb 9:24-28; Col 1:22), Lamb of God (Jn 1:29; Rev 15:3; 22:3), the true prophet (Mt 10:41), the truly wise man (Mtt 5-7; Rom 16:27), the true Shepherd (Jn 10:11), the divine warrior who conquers death and Satan, the promised branch (Isa 4:2; 11:1; Jer 23:5; 33:15; Zec 3:8; 6:12), the shoot (Is 11:1; 53:2), the Son of David (2 Sam 7), the Son of Man (Daniel 7, 70x in the Synoptics), the Son of God, the Word of God, the Last Adam, the Suffering Servant (Mk 8:31; Mt 16:21-22; Lu 23:40-43; 24:13-21), and the Anointed One (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25; Acts 4:26). If Christ is our only mediator between God and humankind, why then do we so frequently seek to add something to him and his works? The big question we need to be clear about is, why only Christ, why is he alone all-sufficient?
- We have heard from the Reformers how vital it is that we retain Scripture alone as our only rule of faith and practice, from which we plainly learn that grace and faith alone are at the core of the biblical gospel. We understand that we must never add to this: for our authorial revelation from God there is no scripture plus tradition, there is no grace and faith plus works in God’s economy of redemption. Most assuredly, there is no option for Christ plus someone or something else. Especially since the Scripture shows us Christ as the center of all, the all-sufficient Mediator for those redeemed by grace through faith alone (Rom 5:2; Eph 2:8).
- Why is it then that most all the major heresies ancient and modern (both in the church and beyond) so often are Christological, distorting the Christ of the Bible? Indeed, there have been countless (and blasphemous) efforts to syncretize Christ with many idols of the nations
- Christ plus Allah, or Buddah, or Confucious, or Christ plus the Dali Lama, or Christ plus Mary, the Mother of God, the “Mediatrix of all graces” between God and humanity (as in the Roman Catholic theology that the Reformers rejected).
- An example of syncretism between African animistic religion and Christianity is found in Haitian Voodoo. There are the extreme movements like the Raelian Movement, that believe that members of the Elohim civilization sent different prophets, including Moses, Jesus, Buddha and many others whose role was to guide humanity and to prepare humans for the future, all of whom were created as a result of a sexual union between a human woman and one of the Elohim. To Raëlians, this was possible because the Elohim had advanced DNA synthesis and genetic engineering. Some 100,000 people believe this nonsense. Other syncretisms include movements like Bahai’i that believes through a series of divine messengers, including Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Krishna, and Buddha religion was created to meet the needs of the time. We have also witnessed the revival of many ancient neopagan religions that draw from Judeo-Christian belief and syncretize it into various pagan belief systems, and this is particularly prevalent in the so-called alternative health movement and its many occultic beliefs and therapies often mixed up with Christian claims.
- Each of these examples is quite obviously not Biblical Christianity, yet, consider the many aberrations in the history of the Christian church (that are still with us today) that we call Christian heresies, and particularly those concerning Christ Jesus:
- Docetists who believe that Jesus was divine, only appearing human
- Modalists who reject an orthodox understanding of the Trinity
- Arians and Ebionites who believe that Jesus was human but not divine
- Gnostics who believe that Jesus becomes a spiritual person, not physical
- Nestorians who deny that Jesus is both God and Man in a theanthropic union in his incarnation
- Socinians who believe that Jesus was only a man until his exaltation at his ascensionAll of these Christological errors had, of course, serious soteriological consequences (that we cannot explore here), but logically result from wrong premises about the very nature and character of God in Christ.
1. Prior to, and the catalyst for, the Protestant Reformation we find in Roman Catholicism views that diminished Christ: consider his centrality and sufficiency
- There are numerous examples in RC theology that convey a mistaken view of Jesus and his works. Even though Christ is exalted to the highest place in the scheme of God’s purposes, we find a long-standing example of Christ plus something . . . That is, it is not enough to exalt the supremacy of Christ yet not his exclusivity and all-sufficiency.
- Relics and indulgences
- Christ + works (grace + works) + veneration of saints and icons, seemingly endless prayers on rosaries to Mary, and the salvific addition of suffering now and in Purgatory
Christ + Mary: Mariolatry — The church plays a mediatorial role as does Mary through the sacraments in which baptism removes original sin, penance deals with sins after baptism.
- Jesus plus in RC theology: as my Dictionary of Catholic Theology sates it,
“Our Lord is the one adequate Mediator and Redeemer, but He graciously allows others, and Mary in a special and unique way, to have a subordinate share in union with Him, in the work of redemption” (p. 550).
So God’s graces come via Christ through Mary to us, and so with such reasoning, there must be a corresponding new doctrine of her perpetual virginity and sinlessness (her “immaculate conception”). In any heresy, even though the supremacy of Christ may be extolled, his exclusivity is not, departing from the biblical portrayal of Christ and his gospel. As Stephen Charnock states:
Inconsideration of God, or misrepresentation of his nature, are as agreeable to corrupt nature, as the disowning the being of a God is contrary to common reason.
He that denies any essential attribute may be said to deny the being of God.
- Some of these RC ideas continue today among the billion RC’s in the world, but there is also a bewildering variety of different Jesus’ believed in today that go way beyond the Christ of the Bible. As in ancient times, modern heresies and misrepresentations of God and Christ are also mostly Christological.
These various versions of Jesus all include a divergent addition that seriously departs from the Scriptural presentation of Jesus in the NT:
- The unknowable, Totally Other God in Jesus (of Karl Barth’s Neo-orthodoxy, the most influential in the twentieth century)
- Jesus of the Kerygma (of whatever is preached “word” and existential encounter)
- Jesus the Liberal (of the new religion of Liberal Historical-Critical reconstructions)
- The dialectical Jesus (of the Process theologians)
- Jesus the political revolutionary or social revolutionary (of Marxism and Communism)
- Jesus the hippie and homosexual (of the 1960’s sexual-political revolution)
- Jesus my buddy and fellow traveler and psychotherapist (of our self-esteemed, psychologized generation)
- Jesus the hypothesis (of the critical scholars)
- Jesus the schemer who faked his death (of the book the Passover Plot)
- Jesus the liberal Jew (of the secular Jews)
- Jesus the Process theologian (of the Process Theologians)
- Jesus the contemplative mystic (of the monks and ascetics)
- Jesus the ethicist (of the moralizers)
- Jesus, the Christ of Faith (of the History of Religionists)
- Jesus of “History” (“historical Jesus” of the historical revisionists)
- Jesus the existentialist (of Bultmann’s existential encounter)
- Jesus the failed eschatologist blunderer (death was failure)
- Jesus the Apocalyptist (of the doomsayers and dooms-dayers)
- Jesus the secular humanist (the exemplar of right living)
- Jesus of the mystery cults and religions (of the Gnostics)
- Jesus of the Gnostic myths (as in the DaVinci Code)
- Jesus of “myth” (the mythological Jesus)
- The demythologized Jesus (of the History of Religionists)
- Jesus the peasant and vegetarian-proletariat (of the Vegans)
- Jesus the nice (effeminate) middle-class teacher of brotherly love and humanitarian ethics, who wandered about in clean white robes spreading good cheer (of the liberal middle-class Protestants)
- Jesus of the “upper story” (the leap of faith in Jesus, a Nonrational and contentless encounter with Jesus which is a non-propositional, experience Jesus in your heart of many Evangelicals). As I heard recently, that a well-known pastor is teaching that we do not need the Bible, we just need a relationship with Jesus!
These alternative Jesuses all raise the same question we began with: will you serve God or the Baals? They all assume that the Jesus of the NT is inadequate or insufficient.
- There is quit a controversy, even among Evangelicals, that denies the necessity of a substitutionary atonement. We hear that a mainline denomination has removed the lines we just sang from the hymn, “In Christ Alone”: “Till on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied”).
- But the question is, can God simply forgive sin without any atonement for sin? If we trace out the entire story-line biblically, it becomes clear that the human condition of total moral depravity (guilt in Adam) and God’s holy and glorious character require of necessity a Savior who is uniquely qualified to bear God’s wrath out of his loving mercy. According to the recent Lifeway and Ligonier survey (“Heresies We Love,” CT, Oct, 2016), 48% of Evangelicals do not believe that all sin deserves God’s punishment, yet this heresy flies-in-the-face of the entire testimony of the story-line of Scripture. Even though 74% of Evangelicals also believe that individuals must contribute to their own salvation, this contradicts the entire story-line of Scripture, wherein we read in “Rom 3:10-11 (NASB95) as it is written,
“There is none righteous, not even one;
There is no one who understands; no one who seeks God.
- Since no guilty person can declare themselves righteous, nor make themselves righteous (indeed a serious logical contradiction), only one who is entirely innocent of all guilt is able to provide a satisfactory solution. This is why the only solution is in God Himself, and this is why there can be no other Savior, but One who alone is righteous, who is a human descendent of Eve to whom the promise was given; that Someone in their line of progeny would come and crush the serpent’s head and would reverse the curse of death and bring them to life again.
- Once again, this is why we must correctly identify the Promised One when he comes, and not misrepresent who he is once he does. The history of the world revolves around this anticipation and supreme question, the question that the Old and New Testaments answer: “Who is this man?” . . . “What kind of man is this? . . . that even the winds and the waves, the devils, and the dead obey his voice! (Mtt 8:27).
- For the many (majority today) who follow a merely human Jesus [as noted in the many Jesuses I listed], and oftentimes weak and sinful Jesuses (they are all ones made in our image), and for the 71% of Evangelicals who apparently believe that Jesus was the first being created by God, we propose that it would be impossible for the Savior of humankind and creation to be a mere created mortal! Indeed, one who is created could never bring redemption to the creation, since its Redeemer must be able to sovereignly reign over creation and have the omnipotent power to reverse his own curse and supernaturally restore every atom to his glorious and holy purposes; only one who is eternal and sovereign and without sin altogether is able and sufficient in himself alone to provide the solution in his most holy and glorious person. This is expressed in Col 2:
Colossians 2:9–10 (NASB95) For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;
Colossians 1:13–29 (NASB95) 13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
- If the central theme of Scripture is redemption, then the central Person of Scripture is Christ Jesus who is The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning of creation, who sustains it now and redeems it. He is the hermeneutical key to all of Scripture and reality; there can be none other, since he is the True Prophet/Priest/King/Wise man and fulfills all the promises and typologies in the OT as the Last Adam who completes both the Creation-covenant and Redemption-covenant as our Mediator.
- In order to get the bird’s eye view of Jesus in the scope of biblical revelation, and to further answer the question of “Why only Christ? Or, “why Christ alone is the only way”? Why do we believe that Christ alone is all-sufficient for salvation and to fulfill God’s purposes?
- To address this, we must consider the whole narrative of the story-line of the Bible’s Theology (Biblical Theology). This story begins and ends in the Paradise of God’s glorious and holy presence. This presence is in the fullest sense a covenantal relationship between God and his creation. In Eden, that relationship was a creational one within the moral context of God’s glorious perfections; it involved many wondrous qualities, tasks, and conditions. The conditions were in part probationary – a testing – of sorts, in which our fist parents failed miserably. The consequences of that failure were necessary, since all creation and creational activity were within the context of God’s holiness, glory, and love.
- It is important to define these vitally important characteristics of God (since they are often collapsed into one another):
holiness: the [holy-separate]sinless perfections (purity) of the attributes of God’s glory (his essential being). This is about WHAT he is like.
glory: the [holy-separate]sinless perfections (magnificence) of God’s essential being. This is about WHO HE IS.
love: God is love, characterizing all of his perfect motives and the perfect expression and application of his holiness and glory in all circumstances for all people (in judgment and mercy).
- Tracing the following story, we find a story-line of redemption through the entire Old and New Testaments, and we understand the BT of covenant-realities in which God of necessity must hold his creation accountable for all immoral, unholy choices, SINCE HE IS HOLY. And, since God requires covenant-obedience from humanity as the only proper way to live in relationship to his glory (in his glorious presence), then a human must ultimately satisfy this demand, since it stems directly from God’s identity and the identity of humans created in his moral image. It also quickly becomes plain by logical necessity that only God could provide the remedy for this fall from compliance to God’s holy law and glorious presence: that is, a holy and sufficient reversal through redemption, purchasing back those cast into bondage. As Stephen Wellum states it:
o “Ultimately, the only hope for Adam’s helpless race is found in another Adam, the last Adam, who unlike the first Adam and the entire human race, obeys, and who accomplishes in his life, death, and resurrection our redemption and justification.”
- Thus, the consequences of the Edenic failure was both wrath and mercy; God demonstrated both his perfect holiness and glory, as well as his perfect compassion, by immediately bringing a judgment curse on them and the earth, while simultaneously promising mercy in redemption (the “first gospel” Proto Euangelion of Gen 3:15). This promise of death and life is the hermeneutical key to all of following revelation in Scripture. This is the Messianic key to everything, as expounded from this point in the story-line unto the end of the age as described in John’s Revelation.
- The response of God to Adam and Eve is both a promise of judgment and a new covenant of redemption. God’s glorious and holy character necessitates judgment on rebellion, and yet his holy love is free to show mercy. This is the origin of the only two “races” on earth: those who are under the curse “in Adam” and those who are under grace in “the promised seed.”
- This also explains why it must be a human to satisfy God’s covenant requirements, since he originally created that context for joyful human obedience and love before the Fall. Only a divine person, a holy and perfect human person can fulfil the holy requirements of God for obedience to his covenant of life. That is why only Christ is all-sufficient to reverse the curse of death, since as divine (God incarnate) he represents humanity as a human person who is God in all of his holiness/glory and divinity. His character and his work he shares with no-one. This is why there can be NO Christ plus something else; not even his wonderful mother can have as the Catholic Dictionary stated, “a subordinate share in union with Him, in the work of redemption.”
- This is the context for the line-promise of a new humanity of those who will be in grace and experience the mercy of God. This line of the promise would necessarily be a human, a man, a seed in the line of Eve who will be bruised, yet would be a victor over the deceiving Serpent, reversing the curse on the creation and their bodies, securing redemption for both the earth and the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. This profound beauty of love from God for his own is the gospel thread we find in every book of the Bible (Rom 5.14 — 12
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”)
- This line-promise can only be realized by One Person who is wholly perfect and sinless. By necessity his works must be holy and perfect to be sufficient to fulfill the original Adamic role of complete compliance to God’s holy and glorious character in the original Covenant of Creation. This logical necessity for a representative, One who is without blemish, is inescapable, since no imperfect, unholy, sinful substitute to stand in the place of sinners could ever satisfy God’s holy requirements. To be perfectly just, God must only allow the One who is without sin to pay the penalty for sin, in order to reverse the curse. That is, there can be no final balancing of the moral books in God’s universe unless One who is not under God’s wrath bears the full weight of that wrath in the place of those who cannot do so themselves. This is the marvel of the love of God demonstrated in Christ incarnate, fully human and divine, and what unites the entire story-line of Scripture.
- The simple hermeneutical key to all of redemption history is the immediate context of every text, in which everything points both back to the past new-covenant-promise of redemption (Gen 3:5) and forward to its future fulfillment. Every biblical text has its context in this story-line of the redemption-promises of God, as well as the necessary eventuality of judgment.
- From creation to new creation, God has a purpose and a plan for all creation, and his own way to complete his task. As Creator, he alone can be the Redeemer. This is the context of Jesus coming – as God incarnate, to assume in himself the full weight of his own glory, the penalty for guilt. The logic is irrepressible that God alone is sufficient for this task of redemption, and once Scripture establishes that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah promised to Adam and Eve, we know that there can be no other.
- If that be the case, then here can be no Christ plus something . . . There can be no grace plus works (or penance, or baptism, or Masses, or indulgences, or relics, or anything) for those he vicariously assumes of their guilt and God’s wrath. Shedd writes, “God is the offended party, and he is the one who reconciles the offended party.” There can be no forgiveness or remission of any penalty without proper propitiation (of the wrath of his holiness). There is no remission or release from penalty without full payment of the penalty. That is, there is no arbitrary remission of the penalty in God’s universe, in Scripture or in life. God would not be just, nor would a human judge be just, if crimes were simply pardoned without reason and just cause!
- In the death of Christ, holiness and love are equally meted out, when “righteousness and peace, justice and mercy kiss each other” (Ps 85:10). No other humans, no saints, not Mary, no priests, nor sinners can fulfill this vicarious, propitiatory atonement which is efficacious and substitutionary, appeasing God’s wrath through penal, forensic purchase and ransom (or expiation for redemption), making restitution that sufficiently satisfies God’s holy standards and glory. This is why and how only Christ’s perfect righteousness is then imputed to the unrighteous by grace through faith and they are pardoned.
- Lastly, this is why the atonement is of no value without faith; in itself it has no intrinsic power to save, and also why can be no other person involved in the dispensing of the grace of God in turning away his wrath and freeing us from guilt and the power of sin.
- In conclusion, justice is necessary because of God’s glory, while mercy is God’s free gift of adoption into his covenant of redemption which flows out of his exceedingly great hesed love. That is why the answer to all our questions is SOLUS CHRISTUS! And, it is why we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block and the Gentiles foolishness” ( 1 Cor 1:23). “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’” (Acts 17:3).
Acts 4:12 (NASB95) “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 20:28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
1 Jn 2:2 (NASB95) and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
1 Jn 4:10 (NASB95) In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
1 Cor 6:20 (NASB95) For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
Gal 3:13 (NASB95) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—
Eph 5:2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Heb 1:1–3 (NASB95) God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways,2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
Heb 9:12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
Col 1:16–17 (NASB95) For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
Col 1:16–17 (NASB95) For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
Col 2:13-14 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made youd alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.e
Eph 1:9–10 (NASB95) He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him. 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him
Eph 5:2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Rom 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
1 Jn 2:2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world
1 Jn 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
1 Pet 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and set apart by the Spirit for obedience and for sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ. May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
1 Pet 1:18-19 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
Rom 8:1–4 (NASB95) Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Rom 8:28–39 (NASB95) And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Pet 2:24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
1 Thess 5:10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.
Heb 9:26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Heb 10:12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,
Heb 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Defining the terms of redemption is essential to Biblical and Systematic Theology:
- Vicarious at atonement
- Ransom (Mtt 20:28)
If time allowed, we should consider also the many confessions of faith over the centuries of the church that beautifully summarize these concerns regarding the absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ.
Westminster Confession of Faith:
- 9. How many persons are there in the Godhead? A. There be three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost;n and these three are one true, eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; although distinguished by their personal properties.o
- 11. How doth it appear that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father? A. The Scriptures manifest that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father, ascribing unto them such names,s attributes,t works,u and worship,w as are proper to God only.
- 36. Who is the Mediator of the covenant of grace? A. The only Mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ,x who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father,y in the fullness of time became man,z and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct nature, and one person, forever.a.
- 1 Tim. 2:5. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. John 14:6. Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. Acts 4:12. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Christ alone is Mediator
Westminster Confession of Faith (A.D. 1647),
WCF ch 21.2 Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to Him alone;1 not to angels, saints, or any other creature:2 and, since the fall, not without a Mediator; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone.3
1Mt 4:10; Jn 5:23; 2 Cor 13:14; 2Col 2:18; Rev 19:10; Rom 1:25; 3Jn 14:6; 1 Tim 2:5; Eph 2:18; Col 3:17.
WCF Ch 8I
- The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance, and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin: being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.
Belgic Confession of Faith:
We believe that Jesus Christ, according to his divine nature, is the only Son of God— eternally begotten, not made or created,for then he would be a creature.He is one in essence with the Father; coeternal; the exact image of the person of the Father and the “reflection of God’s glory,”13 being like the Father in all things. Jesus Christ is the Son of God not only from the time he assumed our nature but from all eternity, as the following testimonies teach us when they are taken together. Moses says that God created the world;14 and John says that all things were created through the Word,15 which he calls God. The apostle says that God created the world through the Son.16 He also says that God created all things through Jesus Christ.17 And so it must follow that the one who is called God, the Word, the Son, and Jesus Christ already existed before creating all things. Therefore the prophet Micah says that Christ’s origin is “from ancient days.”18 And the apostle says that the Son has “neither beginning of days nor end of life.”19 So then, he is the true eternal God, the Almighty, whom we invoke, worship, and serve.
London Baptist Confession:
“Christ, and Christ alone, is fitted to be mediator between God and man. He is the prophet, priest and king of the church of God” (8.9). .
 Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, two volumes in one, vol. 1, p. 90.
 Charnock, Existence, p. 89.
 Stephen Wellum, “Solus Christus: What the Reformers Taught and Why It Still Matters,” SBJT 19.4 (2015): 98.
 Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Vol 1, p. 399
“Without memory we don’t know who we are or where home is or what home looks like.” (Steven Bouma-Prediger & Brian Walsh in Beyond Homelessness, p. 297-298)
Paradigms for Pilgrims:
- The Plowman-farmer is a deeply rooted and settled dweller who clings to his place as eternal home.
- The Pilgrim-dweller is a wayfaring dweller who dreams always of a homeland, yet while dwelling in a place they are not yet home.
- The Passing (wayfaring) stranger is a traveler who is an eternal nomad never at home and seeks no place as home, since indifferent to all places.
- The Sojourner is a provisional dweller whose home is incomplete, though rooted in a place, a home that is loved, it is not final since sojourning is toward a final eternal homecoming.
To build a home as a sojourner, there must be memory, community, and love. As Christian sojourners, “we are not immigrants or refugees, exiles or migrants, tourists or postmodern nomads. If we understand ourselves properly, then in contrast to all of them we are, in a real sense, at home. But this being at home is a posture, a way of being in the world. It is a journeying homemaking characterized by all the things revealed by that phenomenology: permanence, dwelling, memory, rest, hospitality, inhabitation, orientation, and belonging.”
Poem for sojourners and exiles
Home is permanence,
dwelling, memory, homemaking, boundaries,
rest, habitation, orientation, hospitable,
belonging, a space, sojourn, community,
homecoming, a place of return, an axis,
Homeless is deprivation,
alienation, estrangement, transience, borderless,
displacement, uprooted wandering, unknown, dislocation,
nomadic migrancy, disorientation, restless,
inhospitable, vagabond mobility, no place,
exile and impermanence.
 Based on Steven Bouma-Prediger & Brian Walsh in Beyond Homelessness, p. 294-297.
 Bouma-Prediger & Brian Walsh, Beyond Homelessness, p. 297.
Jesus’ triumphal entry: JERUSALEM, Sunday, Mt 21:1-11; Mk 11:1-10; Lk 19:29-44; Jn 12:12-19 (OT prophecy: Isa 62:11; Zech 9:9)
(left) Albrecht Durer, Christ returns to Jerusalem
Mt 21:1–11 (NASB95) When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 “If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold your King is coming to you,
Gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. 8 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 9 The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,
Hosanna to the Son of David;
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest!”
10 When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Matthew quotes from this significantly Messianic OT passage:
Zech 9:9-11 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth
Luke adds that Jesus “wept over” Jerusalem on account of its coming destruction and desolation he prophesied (Luke 19:41-45), and which occurred in A.D. 70 by the Romans (cf. 2 Sam 15:30 – when David went up to Jerusalem, weeping on his way). The King of kings does not come to conquer and celebrate his victory in reclaiming his city, rather he weeps at its coming destruction!
Lk 19:41-44 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
Also see Lk 13:34-35 (Mtt 23:37-38) — “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! 35 “Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”
This theme of judgment and desolation of Jerusalem is a frequent one in the OT, especially in the pre-exilic period, but also some prophets point towards a future post-exilic desolation (Jer 12:7), though sometimes it may be figurative of the judgment on those who reject the Messiah. In this case, when many (the Zealots and other worldly-minded) were anticipating Jesus re-claiming the kingdom from the Romans at this time by force, Jesus instead prophetically describes the terrible destruction of the city coming from the Romans (A.D. 70).
Comments: Jesus’ “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem is the long anticipated arrival of the Messiah into his holy city, as very specific prophecies are here depicted as fulfilled. The term “triumphal” is peculiar when considered from a human perspective, since it would seem quite contrary to a triumph when he comes in apparent weakness and will be killed in the process. Nevertheless, considering the various details of the Gospel testimonies (which each supply unique details), it is a marvel to see Christ’s full control of all that leads up to the Passover of his death. Nothing is able to pre-empt his plan to reveal to the world God’s purposes and plan, that the coming of salvation and the kingdom of God would be according to God’s way and not mankind’s. When Jesus comes into Jerusalem riding on a colt he was obviously not coming as the typical ancient king or military conqueror in a gold chariot seeking destruction of enemies, but rather he was coming to procure and offer salvation to those who were his enemies. Jesus’ true glory is most evident here in his humble submission to the will of God to achieve real victory. That is, he will crush the Evil one, and bring a reversal of the curse, not through a powerful military action, nor even by supernatural conquest with angelic hosts, but through fulfilling the law of God and paying the ransom required by God’s character to bring redemption. Zechariah’s prophecy indicated that the Messiah would be gentle and humble and would bring salvation. He would eventually even remove the war machinery through his actions, precisely because he would bring true peace (shalom) not through military conquest but through spiritual conquest. Despite Jesus’ radical departure from the ways of the ancient kings and their kingdoms, his actions still declared him to be the true King of Israel and the world, yet a king of an entirely different order than what had preceded in all of human history. His kingdom will be an eternal one, fulfilling the ancient promises of a human Deliverer from the line of Adam and Eve and Abraham who would sit on the throne of David forever. The gospel narrator is therefore especially concerned to address the question the Gospels seek to answer: “Who is this man?” He is affirmed/proved in the narrative to be:
- The Lord (worthy of praise, “hosanna!,” “from the lips of infants you have ordained praise,” Mtt 21:126; Ps 8:2)
- The King (fulfills the Gen 3:15 promise of a human Victor over the enemy and the curse)
- Gentle (riding on a donkey colt, Zech 9:9, and Zechariah also stresses that this King would bring salvation as well as peace[shalom])
- The Son of David (the covenant promise of an eternal King)
- The Prophet (predicts the future and also interprets and applies the Scripture rightly)
- The “blessed” one who comes in the name of the Lord (the One who represents the Lord YHWH bears his Name, and thus his glory). Luke 19:38 adds, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And also at the rebuke of the Pharisees, who did not approve of the crowds singing praise to Jesus, he said, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Lk 19:40; cf. Hab 2:11). The creation must praise the One who created it.
- The One who saves (“hosanna!,” also see Zech 9:9 above).
- Mt 21:4 – “spoken through the prophet” about riding on a donkey – Is 62:11; Zech 9:9-11.
- Mt 21:5 – “King” of peace and shalom – he comes to his city and people, but not in victor attire and regalia on a war-horse. See David and donkey in 2 Sam 16:1-12.
- Mt 21:10 – “the prophet” – Deut 18:18.
- Mt 21:9 – “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” – Ps 118:36.
- Lk 19:41 – “he wept” – ἔκλαυσεν (κλαίω; κλαυθμός, οῦ m; κραυγήb, ῆς f: to weep or wail, with emphasis upon the noise accompanying the weeping—‘to weep, to wail, to lament, weeping, crying.’). Recall “Jesus wept” (shortest verse in NT) at the tomb of Lazarus (a different GR word: dakru/w, ἐδάκρυσεν) in Jn 11:35. Some have noted that the kind of grief Jesus feels here is an angry one at death itself, his primary enemy and objective: he must die to overcome death forever. Jesus also seems to have grieved to the point of weeping in the Garden of Gethsemane right before his death (Mt 26:36-46; Lk 22:4-46).
- Lk 13:35 – “You will not see me again until . . .”— see Isa 45:23; 22:5; Zech 12:10; Rom 14:11; Php 2:10-11; Rev 1:7.
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Lk 13:34–35). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
 Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 303). New York: United Bible Societies.
Setting: the DESERT OF JUDEA, autumn, A.D. 27 (Mt 4:1-11; Mk l:12-13: Lk 4:1-13)
(below) The Temptation of Christ (Bartsch 41, New Hollstein 41, National Gallery Lucas van Leyden 67, Lavalleye 107).
Mt 4:1-11 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ a ” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ”‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ b ” 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ d ” 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Satan’s three-fold temptation of Jesus (to turn stones to bread, to throw himself off the temple, to worship Satan) to disobey God’s commands, twisting scripture, misquoting Ps 91:11, 12, was to deceive/trick/tempt Jesus into failing his mission (to suffer, die, and be raised). Yet as Jesus quotes scripture back to him, he successfully resisted all three temptations.
The tempter begins with a question, “If you are the Son of God.” Ironically, that is the question all of the Gospels seek to answer (“Who is this man?”), yet it immediately follows here Jesus’ baptism when the Father clearly proclaimed “This is my Son . . .” It is also paralleled at Jesus’ crucifixion when he was taunted and mocked by those who said, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Mtt 27:40). In each case, these temptations are a tempting/testing of God incarnate, as Jesus notes in v. 7 (see Deut 6:16), but they increase in severity of evil with the final offer of the world’s kingdoms if Jesus would just bow to him in worship. On both accounts, this would have been impossible, since the kingdoms of the world already belonged to Jesus (since he made them; see Mt 9:35-11:1), and they would all probably have ceased to exist if Jesus, the holy incarnate and good Creator, the King of all kings, had bowed and worshiped the Evil One.
It is noteworthy that Satan’s temptation to pre-empt Jesus’ mission (to suffer death) absolutely contradicted the mission of Jesus to suffer in God’s ordained way, and to be raised up in God’s ordained way. Substitutes and short-cuts to redeem the world would end in resolute failure. This is the “testing” (הסנ) of God (prohibited in Deut 6:16; Ex 17:7) that is meant here, alluding to the Mosaic context where Israel was warned to remember to keep God’s commands, take possession of the land, and to worship God alone (not idols as at Massah).
Other OT motifs include the correlation of Adam, the son of God with Christ the only begotten Son of God; the seed promise to Adam and Eve of a Victor over the serpent Satan, as the suffering Servant-Son, he fulfills this covenant promise of redemption. Mosaic typology includes the forty days and forty nights (Moses on Mount Sinai and forty years of wilderness wanderings), stones into bread (miraculous provision of manna), and striking of stone (water). As the Bread of Life, Jesus represents the spiritual significance of the bread of manna in the wilderness, the only bread of salvation that will save the world, and yet he is tempted to make bread out of stones to feed himself. The OT temple imagery is also profoundly significant here, since the highest point of the temple represents the entire history of the redemption theme of the restored Presence of God, the sanctuary sacrifices, and all that the temple represented, which would have been lost if Jesus had tested God by leaping from its highest point (see Heb 2:17-18). The True High Priest would have totally profaned his task and failed to complete his mission to enter the Most Holy Place in God’s appointed way, through the Cross. Jesus is the OT Lamb that would be led to the slaughter at his first coming, and only at his second at the end of the age would he come in full glorious splendor. The temptations also highlight the OT motif of the truly wise man, able to discern truth from lies, as the Logos of the universe, the most intelligent human to have ever lived, he vanquishes the Evil one through successfully fulfilling Adam’s prophetic, priestly, and kingly roles perfectly. In each temptation, Jesus responds to the lying Tempter by quoting appropriate Scriptures. He then had authority to cast away Satan, and fulfills the promise to Adam and Eve that their descendant would crush the Serpent’s head, even though his heal would be struck (Gen 3:15).
Credible harmonization of the Gospel narratives is possible, even if not perfect in every single incidence, since each author had particular purposes and audiences that influenced their organization of the material. Because we cannot always be perfectly satisfied that the accounts are completely harmonized, it does not mean we cannot get a sufficient grasp of their harmony and consistency. This question especially corresponds to the issues of the chronology and historicity of the Gospels themselves, but it can be affirmed that the similarities and the overall harmony of the Gospels indicate fully authentic historical accounts for them all.
In seeking to harmonize the life of Jesus, it is done for purposes of understanding the unified witness of all four inspired authors to the whole story, yet we must be careful not to diminish the unique integrity of each individual witness, assuming that each is inspired for particular purposes. While acknowledging the individual Gospels as each inspired witnesses with important perspectives and emphases, we also affirm the validity of seeing each of these together in the context of the whole presentation of the life of Jesus. Indeed, we read harmonistically so as to more adequately compare the accounts in terms of their similarities and differences. Differences between the accounts can usually be understood as complementary perspectives/emphases, and not in any case are they contradictions. Comparatively, the Gospel of John is the most difficult to harmonize chronologically with the Synoptic Gospels. John’s purpose may have been largely to supplement the Synoptic Gospels, otherwise he may have written independently of them. Silence about an incident by one author that is mentioned in another(s) does not impugn in any way the historical credibility of the author who is silent on the incidence; it only shows that one author gave more information, or unique information, that simply complements the entirely of the four Gospel accounts of Christ’s life. Inspiration and infallibility do not demand that any particular author know all incidences nor record all that was known (see Jn 21:25). As Tenney stated it:
“The Gospels are much more concerned with presenting a persona than with writing a story. Not the completeness or the order of the account, but its significance is important. The differences between the varying reports indicate that they are supplementary, and probably undesignedly so as far as the human authors are concerned.”
 The earliest example of an attempt to harmonize all four gospels is from Tatian in A.D. 170. He was a disciple of Justin.
 Tenney, NT Survey, p. 210.
Beale’s Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation
- Identify the OT reference
- Analyze the broad NT context
- Survey the OT context, broadly and immediately
- Survey the use of the OT text in early Judaism
- Compare the texts (LXX, MT, etc)
- Analyze the author’s use of the OT
- Analyze the hermeneutical use of the OT Text
- Analyze the theological use of the OT Text
- Analyze the rhetorical use of the OT text.