zaterdag 17 augustus 2013

The Glory of the Cross 8

The Suffering and Dying of the Lord Jesus as the All-sufficient Ground of Salvation
The New Testament presents the Lord Jesus Christ, who vicariously made atonement for sin and was subjected to its punishment, as the representative of all His people. As Adam represented all of humanity in his covenant breach, and we have all sinned in Adam, so the Lord Jesus Christ represented all those whom the Father had given Him. Adam brought sin, death, and the curse into the world. The Lord Jesus Christ, on the contrary, brought life and peace (Rom. 5:12–21; 1 Cor. 15:45–49). Because of the vicarious work of Christ, the Father views us as if we had done what Christ did for us.
Substitution and representation are not mutually exclusive, but are complementary to each other. Representation shows the intimate nature of substitution. The idea of recapitulation, which surfaced in church history with Irenaeus, gives expression to the representative nature of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. In connection with the doctrine of atonement through satisfaction, as articulated by Anselm and fleshed out by the Reformers, it expresses the riches of the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The fact that the passion and death of the Lord Jesus Christ constitutes the perfect foundation of salvation is inseparably connected with the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ represented His own vicariously in His passion and death. To safeguard salvation and to guarantee its outcome fully, nothing needs to be added to what the Lord Jesus accomplished. This brings us to the relationship between reconciliation with God and justification by faith in Christ that is highlighted throughout the New Testament (cf. Rom. 3:21–31, 8:28–39; 2 Cor. 5:11–21). The obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only and complete foundation of our justification. Since God did not spare His own Son, all accusations that are leveled against us have been stripped of their legal claims, and nothing can separate us from His love. Christ has delivered us from the curse of the law, and there is therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus (cf. Rom. 8:1; Gal. 3:13).
It is impossible that one of those for whom the Lord Jesus Christ has shed His blood will go lost. The Lord Jesus stated this very clearly in John 10:28–29: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” Christ’s work on the cross not only made reconciliation possible, but also accomplished the reality of it.
The latter does not discount that we are only personally reconciled with God when the Holy Spirit bestows the gift of faith upon us; the New Testament never teaches that we are justified by the blood of Christ, but rather that we are justified by faith. Our faith does not complement the work of the Lord Jesus Christ; it is a fruit of it. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us” (1 John 4:10). “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Whoever teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ has died for every human being thereby denies the truths of the New Testament that Christ has sacrificially given Himself for us. It is the language of God’s church to confess that she may thus be completely certain of her eternal salvation. Whoever claims that the efficacy of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ is universal denies its efficacy. In times of need and distress, the only anchor of the Christian is the sacrifice of Christ as the foundation of salvation; nothing more is needed.
This testimony of Scripture regarding the efficacy of Christ’s death is confirmed in the experience of God’s children. August Montague Toplady (1740–1778) expressed it thus:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Since according to God’s purpose Christ atoned our guilt, it would be contradictory to God’s justice if one were to perish for whom Christ has made payment. Payment does not have to be made twice - first by Christ and then again by the one for whom He died. That is the inherent comfort in recon-cilia-tion by way of satisfaction, specifically in regard to the particular nature of the atonement.
That the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect warranty of eternal salvation for all whom the Father has given to Him does not diminish the all-sufficiency of the atonement. The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is abundantly sufficient to atone for the sins of the entire world. It is therefore not without significance that the Lord Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and the Bread that gives life to the world (cf. John 1:29; 6:33). Whoever hears the gospel does not need to wonder whether there is sufficient latitude in the invitation of the gospel for him to return to the Lord and be reconciled with Him. The Canons of Dort emphasize both the particular nature as well as the all-sufficiency of the atonement. We shortchange the witness of the Bible if we neglect one of these aspects.