Ever since Christ spoke the words `It is finished’ as He expired on the cross at Calvary, men have struggled with trying to understand the manner in which Christ saves us. The questions invariably raised have led to the formulation of answers; the doctrine of which reflects the manner in which His character is perceived.
As the character of God is synonymous with the love of God, then it follows that our perceptions of how He has atoned for our sins are going to radically affect the manner in which we respond to His love for us in our appreciation of what He has achieved for us at Calvary.
If we are to speak in theological terms, the popular view of the atonement which is accepted by the majority of Christian Churches is known as vicarious substitution. It teaches that on the cross, Christ stood between us and the Law (the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments) and substituted for our sins by placing Himself in our stead and taking upon Himself the penalty of death which the law declares is due to the sinner, by vicariously suffering on the cross for us, and then dying on it as our substitute.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, a view of the atonement was propagated by two Seventh Day Adventists which was so radically different to prevailing views which were circulating in the Protestant Churches at that time, that those who gladly received it felt their hearts strangely warmed by `the message’. As little is generally known by the Protestant Churches of this `message’, we shall first consider the three differing positions of vicarious substitution, and then see how their view differs radically from it and how, by comparison it provides us with an `everlasting gospel’ of `much more abounding grace’ (Rev. 14:6; Romans 5:21).
The three positions which fall within the framework of vicarious substitution, are known as the ransom theory of the atonement, the satisfaction view of the atonement, and penal substitution, which is a variation of the satisfaction view of the atonement.
The `Ransom Theory 'of the Atonement
The ransom theory of the atonement is believed to be the first major theory of the atonement and was held by the majority of the early Church Fathers until about the twelfth century. For this reason it is also known as `The Patristic Theory’. It can be principally found in the works of Origen (c 185 – 254); one of the early Church fathers and is primarily based upon two sets of Scripture, 1 Timothy 2: 5-6, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time", and Mark 10:45, which reads "For even the Son of Man did not come to be minstered to, but to minister, and to give his life as a ransom for many".
It teaches that as a result of sin, the death of Christ was a ransom paid to Satan in lieu of the human soul being claimed by him. According to Origen, Satan failed to see that grave was unable to hold Jesus, and was deceived into believing that the mastering of the soul of Jesus never `involved a trial of strength greater than he was equal to’:
"But to whom did He [Jesus] give His soul as a ransom for many? Surely not to God. Could it, then, be to the Evil One? For he had us in his power, until the ransom for us should be given to him, even the life (or soul) of Jesus, since he (the Evil One) had been deceived, and led to suppose that he was capable of mastering that soul, and he did not see that to hold Him involved a trial of strength greater than he was equal to. Therefore also death, though he thought he had prevailed against Him, no longer lords over Him, He (Christ) having become free among the dead and stronger than the power of death, and so much stronger than death that all who will amongst those who are mastered by death may also follow Him death no longer prevailing against them. For every one who is with Jesus is unassailable by death." (`Commentary on Matthew XVI, 8’; Aulen, op. cit., p. 49. In footnote 13, Aulen says, "Translation from Rashdall, p. 259. where the Greek is printed in full.")
According to this theory, although Satan was deceived by Christ, justice was still satisfied and we were freed from the clutches of the Devil. Although the ransom theory of the atonement still remains the official position of the Eastern Orthodox Church, it receives little support from Christian Churches in general.
St. Anselm and the `Satisfaction View' of the Atonement
Not all Church Fathers supported the Ransom Theory of the atonement. One of the most notable exceptions was Athanasius, who was the prime mover in formulating the Nicene and Chalcedonian Creeds. Although it is primarily from Athanasius extant documents on the incarnation of Christ that the Church eventually formulated the doctrine of `vicarious substitution’, the Ransom Theory of the Atonement was generally regarded as the orthodox view until the eleventh century, when St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury (1033 – 1109) questioned this view and asked:
`And as to what you say of His coming to fight the devil, with what sense dare you bring this forward? Does not God’s omnipotence reign everywhere? How then, for the conquest of the devil, must God needs come down from heaven?’ (`Cur Deus Homos’; or “Why God was made man”’, St. Anselm, this translation printed by John Henry and James Parker, London, 1865; p. 10.)
Anselm figured that as the Devil caused the fall in the first place by tempting Adam and Eve to sin, then why should a ransom be paid to the Devil at all, particularly when the Devil would not seek justice, but would instead to seek to torment the sinner?
`But the devil never merited any right to punish him [Adam], nay, he would do this with the greater degree of injustice in that he was not drawn to it by any love of justice, but was impelled by the spirit of malice. . . . In fact, as in a good angel there is no unrighteousness whatsoever, so in an evil angel there is no righteousness at all. There was therefore in the devil no righteous cause why God should not for the deliverance of man put forth His strength against him.’ (Anselm, pp. 12, 14.)
Anselm instead developed the idea that we are in debt to God because in sinning against God we have robbed Him of honour which is due to Him and He should therefore be recompensed:
`Nothing is less tolerable in the order of things, than that a creature should rob the Creator of the honour which is due to Him and not repay Him that which is due to Him.’ (`Anselm’, p. 32.)
He believed that if the honour were not `repaid’, then punishment should follow:
`It is necessary, then, either that the honour taken from Him should be repaid, or that punishment should follow; otherwise God would either not be just to Himself, or else would be impotent to exact either demand; which is too horrible to imagine.’ (Anselm, p. 33.)
But as we are unable to satisfy this debt, satisfaction was made by Christ in our stead. In substituting His death for our own, He repays the debt we have incurred with merit `which excels all the sins of men’.
`If, then, to give life is to accept death; as the giving of this life excels all the sins of men, so also does the accepting death [of Christ].’ (Anselm, p. 86.)
He also believed that although Christ’s death is more than sufficient to provide merit for all the sins of men; this does not fully recompense the offended honour of God, as it is we, not Christ, who have sinned. Therefore it is our duty to provide satisfaction to Him, by the means of making restitution to Him, by restoring to Him more than that of which we have robbed Him:
`Moreover, as long as he [the sinner] does not pay that of which he robbed Him, he continues in his fault; and it is not enough to only restore to God only what he has taken away, but he ought also, to make amends for the insult done to God, to restore more than he took away. . . . . .So, therefore is everyone who sins bound to pay back the honour of which he has robbed God; and this is the satisfaction which every sinner is bound to make to God.’ (Anselm, pp. 27, 28.)
Thus, when theologians speak of making satisfaction to God, they do not imply that Christ’s death on the cross in some way pleases or gratifies the Father; but instead declare that justice can only be provided by the process of making restitution for that which has been offended, or broken. So it is in this framework that Anselm believed that it is fitting that the Devil should be allowed to punish man for his sins if satisfaction is not made to God:
`Man, indeed, deserved to be punished, and by none more fitly than by him at whose persuasion he had consented to sin . . . . . For man either of his own free will exhibits that subjection to God which is due to Him, whether by not sinning, or making amends for his sin; or else God subjects him to himself by tormenting him against his will, and by this means shows Himself to be his Lord, which the same man refuses of his own will to acknowledge.’ (Anselm, pp. 12, 33, 34.)
Anselm believed that in order for honour be restored to God when we sin:
`it is necessary that every sin must be followed either by satisfaction or punishment.’ (Anselm, p. 36.)
This punishment would be an eternal punishment:
`For those who know nothing of the punishment of sin, and they who behold continually its eternal punishment, cannot be equally worthy of praise by standing in the truth . . . . Hold it therefore, as a most certain truth, that without satisfaction, i.e., without a willing payment of the debt, God cannot let the sinner go unpunished; nor can the sinner attain to blessedness, even such as he had before he sinned; for if it were so, man would be restored even such as he was before his sin.’ (Anselm, pp. 38, 42.)
St. Thomas Aquinas and the Satisfaction view of the Atonement
St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225 - 1274) refined Anselms theology in `Summa Theologica’, which formed the basis of the Catholic perception of the atonement and was affirmed during the Council of Trent in the 16th century. Aquinas differed from Anselm by believing that instead of a debt of honour that is owed to God when we sin, it is instead a debt of moral injustice; thus concluding that a moral response to sin is to punish the sinner. Instead of allowing the Devil to become the instrument of God’s wrath, `Satisfactory Punishment’ draws on Christ’s merit through the sacraments of the Church and pays the moral debt that is owed to God as `a remedy for the avoidance of sin’.
`Satisfactory punishment has a twofold purpose, viz. to pay the debt, and to serve as a remedy for the avoidance of sin.’ (Gal. 3:28).’ (The “Summa Theologica” of St. Thomas Aquinas. Art. 2. Supp. Q. 13 a. 1. Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Second and Revised Edition, 1920.)
Aquinas drew on such notables before him, such as Pope Leo the Great (440 - 461 A.D) and St. Augustine (354 - 430 A.D), by applying Aristotelian philosophy to balance the equation, and accordingly formulated the belief that the remedy for the avoidance of sin is through paying penance:
`But satisfaction is commanded (Luke 3:8) "Bring forth . . . fruits worthy of penance." Therefore it is possible to make satisfaction to God. Further, God is more merciful than any man. But it is possible to make satisfaction to a man. Therefore it is possible to make satisfaction to God. Further, there is due satisfaction when the punishment balances the fault, since "justice is the same as counterpassion," as the Pythagoreans said. [Aristotle, Ethic. v, 5; Cf. II-II, 61, 4].’ (Aquinas, Art. 1. Supp. Q. 13 a. 5.)
Ansell had developed the idea that Christ’s life and death excelled all the sins of men:
`If, then, to give life is to accept death; as the giving of this life excels all the sins of men, so also does the accepting death [of Christ].’ (Anselm, p. 86.)
Aquinas further refined this idea by postulating that this `superabundant merit’ of Christ’s is stored in a `Treasury of Merit’; from which the sinner might purchase `indulgences’; which are a form of pre-paid `insurance’ which is credited to our `account’ in case we commit `venial’, or non-mortal sins. Aquinas also believed that self-inflicted punishment, such as self-flagellation merited grace in this `Treasury of Merit’, as long as it equalled, or excelled the pleasure contained in the committed sin.
`Now punishment may equal the pleasure contained in a sin committed. Therefore satisfaction can be made to God.’ (`Summa Theologica’, Art. 1. Supp. Q. 13 a. 5.)
Of course, if the self-inflicted punishment excelled the pleasure contained in the sin committed, this merit could be accredited to ones `Treasury of Merit’ and thereby avoid future sins in the form of indulgences. The `Treasury of Merit' is called `The Vatican Bank' in more colloquial terms. The only finance of which it has anything to do with, is in financing the remission of sins.
This idea of justly punishing men for their sins led to Jean (John) Calvin (1509 – 1564), the French reformist theologian to rebel against the concept of salvation through the sacraments of the Church, by forming the doctrine of penal substitution. He believed that the individual may approach Christ by faith, Who substitutes for the punishment which is due to him; thus appeasing the wrath of God so that mercy and the grace of Jesus can then accredited to the sinner. But as Christ already knows who are His, then only the `elect’ are predestined to be saved and it is impossible for them to fall out of salvation. It typically presents God the Father as the wrathful God of the Old Testament, and Christ as the God of Peace and Love in the New Testament, and is prone to lending itself to antinomianism, which is the belief that it matters not what you do, for you will still be saved, and is largely responsible for the worldly behaviour which is prevalent in Protestant Churches today.
The Reformed theology of Calvin teaches that it is God who has initiated salvation in the form of the atonement; thus irresistibly drawing the sinner to Him; rather than the Son appeasing the Father through His `superabundant merit’, as Aquinas taught. However, where Reformed theology, or Calvinism did not depart from Aquinas' theology, is upon Aquinas' conception of the `nature' of man, which he termed `original sin', and is derived from Romans 5: 12, which states:
`Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all have sinned.' (Rom. 5:12.)
Calvinism teaches that as a result of the fall, the `nature' of man is totally depraved, thus meaning that doctrines which teach that man has free will deny the atonement of Christ and are therefore regarded as heresy. According to the doctrine of `original sin', no man has a measure of `preventing (or prevenient) grace' which has been conferred to him by the Holy Spirit and is thus sufficient for salvation; as Jacob Arminius (1560 - 1609) declared in his `Five articles of the Remonstrants' against Calvinism (1610) , for no man has some good in him which has been untouched by Adam's fall from grace and thus guides them in making a `good' decision to follow God. According to Aquinas' doctrine of `original sin', this is impossible, as the nature of man is totally depraved, thus resulting in man being unable of his own accord to choose right instead of wrong; which thus necessitates that it is only by the influence of the Holy Spirit that man can do right, for if one is to rely upon the `free will' of man to do right, he is completely incapable of doing anything but evil. Therefore if one is to say that man has free will in choosing Christ, then therefore his works are accounted as having merit in his salvation, for man has initiated the first move in his salvation, and thus denies the work of grace in his salvation; which is thus a denial of the saving power of Christ. Furthermore, if one is to say that the prevenient grace of God is given to all men, then this is universalism, which teaches that ultimately all men will be saved. Clearly, the Scriptures indicate that this is a fallacy.
While reformed theology eventually formed the basis of Protestant Churches which hold to the Westminster Confession as the basis of their belief - to say that all Protestant Churches believe that only the elect can be saved is a misnomer. Unfortunately, none of these positions adequately reflect the `agape' of Christ, for all of these positions are ultimately derived from St. Augustine's doctrine of `original sin', and this doctrine was heavily influenced by the Greek Platonic conception of God, which is that God is far away from us, that we must go in search of Him to find Him.
St. Augustine and `original sin'
St. Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430), first developed the doctrine of `original sin' in a logical and comprehensive format, and was eventually rewarded with the honorific `Doctor Gratiae' (Doctor of Grace) in 1298 A.D. Augustine was heavily influenced by Manicheanism and neo-Platonism, which declares that everything which is of this material plane of existence is so far removed from the One-in-all pantheistic god, that all things which are tethered to this plane of existence have lost all knowledge (gnosis) of their True, or Realistic (divine) Self. As the body is believed to be essentially evil, it therefore weighs down the soul, which yearns to break free from the confines of the body which corrupts it with its material essence.
Augustine's neo-Platonism compelled him to believe that the fall so hopelessly corrupted the souls of men, that man is incapable of making the `good' decision of choosing God. Therefore:
`Since Adam transmits death to his children by way of generation when he begets them mortal, it by generation that he transmits sin . . . (`Online Catholic Encyclopedia', art. `Original Sin in Scripture' & `The Nature of Original Sin' http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11312a.htm.)
In other words, Adam's sin is transmitted to us by genetic inheritance, thus making it impossible for us to ever overcome sin, for sin is the very essence of our mortal being. It eventually led to the idea of paying penance in the form of indulgences to the `Treasury of Merit', so that we can avoid sinning in the future, paying penance for the souls that are suffering in purgatory, so the agony the endure in the flames of hell might be lessened, the belief that the sacrifice of Christ, plus the doing of good works are meritorious in one's salvation, for Christ is too impotent to save us, and we must do good works to make up the difference. Augustine's doctrine of `original sin' is derived from a rather narrow interpretation of Romans 5: 12, which states that:
`Wherefore, as by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for all that all have sinned. . .
The following passage further explains this doctrine:
`(2) Adam by his fault transmitted to us not only death but also sin, "for as by the disobedience of one man (i.e., all men) were made sinners (Romans 5: 19) . . .'
(3) Moreover, the Apostle did not affirm that all men, in imitation of Adam, are mortal on account of their actual sins; since children who die before coming to the use of reason have never committed such sins; but he expressly affirms the contrary in the fourteenth verse: "But death reigned", not only over those who imitated Adam, but "even over them also have not sinned after the similitude of the transgression of Adam." Adam's sin, therefore, is the sole cause of death for the entire human race . . . We know that several of the Latin Fathers understood the words "in whom all have sinned", to mean, all have sinned in Adam . . . one man has transmitted to the whole human race not only the death of the body, which is the punishment of sin, but even sin itself, which is the death of the soul. Therefore . . . original sin is "the death of the soul", it is the privation of sanctifying grace.' (ibid.)
The studious reader will note that the `a priori' belief of the `natural immortality of the soul' necessitates that the `death' spoken of here refers solely to the death which we suffer when we reach the end of this mortal coil, for "the death of the soul" can only refer to the soul being cut off from any hope of salvation forever, while nevertheless burning in endless torment in the fires of hell, for reason that it is impossible for the soul to die.
Unfortunately, Augustine's bent toward Manicheanism and neo-Platonism compelled him to ignore the rest of the text, which is summarised in verses 18 and 19, and is in fact completely opposed to the doctrine of `original sin' which Augustine formulated, for this is how the text reads when the summary is included:
`Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned . . .Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one many shall be made righteous.' (Romans 5: 12, 18, 19.)
Notice carefully that the apostle Paul quite clearly tells us that by the `offence’ of one - that is Adam; judgment was passed upon all men and all men were condemned by the law. Now, if that were all that he were telling us, then this would be ample justification for the doctrine of `original sin', and instead of the Gospel being good news, it instead becomes bad news, for according to Augustine's doctrine of `original sin', we would be condemned with little hope of salvation, for in Augustine's view of salvation, if Christ were to take upon Himself `flesh' which is in fact regarded by Catholic theology as sin, then Christ would be a sinner by default, for Greek logic determines that the flesh of fallen man is hopelessly corrupt by genetic inheritance, which thus necessitates that therefore Christ must vicariously assume sinless flesh; which effectively quarantines His divinity from being tempted to sin - for temptation is in itself is accorded to be sin! Therefore Christ is declared to have assumed what is known in theological terms as the pre-lapsarian, or sinless flesh which Adam had before the fall. Thus Christ is made to be entirely unlike us, and is placed so far beyond our human experience, that we need the assistance of a Priest so that we may find Him.
Moreover, that most famous Scripture which was uttered by the `beloved disciple’ clearly teaches that `God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son’ to us! If Christ was truly given to us, then He has come all the way down from the lofty heights of heaven so that He might meet us where we need Him; that is in `flesh’ that was tempted to sin - for the doctrines of `original sin' and `vicarious atonement' go hand in hand - if one is to believe in one doctrine, one invariably believes in the other as well, simply because Augustine's Platonism determined that he must believe that Adam's sin is transmitted to us, and Christ must be quarantined from having this sin transmitted to Him by taking upon Himself the `sinless flesh' of Adam before the fall - which is flesh which cannot be corrupted by the material plane of existence in which we dwell; for the Greek philosophers viewed matter as inherently evil and therefore corrupt. This in turn led to a host of other doctrines, such as the doctrine of the `Immaculate Conception', which teaches that when Mary, the mother of Jesus was conceived, at the moment of her conception, `original sin' was not transmitted to her:
`The ancient writer of De Nativate Christi, found in St. Cyrprian's works, says: Because (Mary) being "very different from the rest of mankind human nature, but not sin, communicated itself to her.' (`The Glories of the Catholic Church: The Catholic Christian Vol. 1, Challoner, Brann & Shea, 1895, p. 172.)
Obviously, as this `human nature' of Mary was totally unlike ours, it must have been `like' the human nature of Adam before He fell - and that same `human' nature was then passed on genetically from Mary to Christ.
`We affirm that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Word of God . . . . by being born of the virgin, thus taking to himself from her maternal womb a human nature of the same substance as hers. As far as the sublime mystery of the incarnation can be reflected in the natural order, the blessed Virgin, under the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, by communicating to the Second Person of the adorable Trinity, as mothers do, a true human nature of the same substance with her own, is thereby really and truly his mother.' (`Faith of our Fathers', Cardinal Gibbons, 1917, p. 137.)
Thus we find that this `true human nature' which was transmitted from Mary to Christ is so unlike ours, that it has no real bearing on our humanity at all, for we are not sinless, like Adam was when he communed with God in the Garden of Eden. For Christ was no actor merely wailing his lines, as the doctrine of vicarious substitution teaches - for although law permits men to be pardoned from their crimes, no law on earth will allow an innocent man to substitute his life for another, for reason that his innocence of the crime merits no punishment - which is at odds with what is taught by the doctrine of `vicarius substitution', which would be regarded as unlawful in any court of Law. So it is with Christ. If Christ were to merely assume the flesh of Adam before he sinned, then this flesh would not be subject to condemnation and it would be unlawful for Christ to substitute His `sinless' flesh for our fallen flesh. But if in being tempted to sin, He yet remained sinless, while at the very same time defeating sin `in the flesh', for `in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren' (Hebrews 2: 17), then that `flesh' of which He is `made' of is our flesh, and as our flesh is subject to the condemnation of the law, then He was `made' to be that which the very law condemns - which is then lawful, for that kind of flesh is subject to the condemnation of the law - and it is that kind of flesh, which is my flesh and your flesh which He crucified on the cross.
`For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.' (Romans 8: 3.)
Thus, being made in the `likeness' of sinful flesh, Christ voluntarily brought Himself under the condemnation of the law, so that at Calvary, He did not make a mockery of the law by merely substituting His perfect life for our sinful lives, but on the cross literally became the sin of the entire world. But here we must exercise a word of caution:
`Now as to Christ's not having "like passions" with us: in the Scriptures all the way through He is like us and with us according to the flesh. He is the seed of David according to the flesh. He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. Don't go too far. He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh; not in the likeness of sinful mind. Do not drag His mind into it. His flesh was our flesh; but the mind was "the mind of Christ Jesus" If he had taken our mind, how, then, could we ever have been extorted to "let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus?" It would have been so already. But what kind of mind is ours? Oh, it is corrupted with sin also. Look at ourselves in the second chapter of Ephesians . . . the third verse has this particular point in it . . . This man [Adam] at the first had the mind of God; he forsook it and took the mind of Satan. In Jesus Christ the mind of God is brought back once more to the sons of men; and Satan is conquered.' (`1895 General Conference Sermon of Seventh-Day Adventist's', Sermon no. 17, A.T. Jones, speaker.)
Indeed, John the Revelator , the `beloved disciple of Christ' begins his Gospel with an emphasis that differs from the other three writers of the Gospel, for he specifically focuses upon Christ Himself tabernacling among us in a `tent' of human flesh:
`The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth' (John 1: 14.)
However, the translation which reads `and dwelt among us' is not really an accurate translation, as it should read:
`And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us in a tent . . . '
John wrote the Book of Revelation under divine inspiration, in which we find the rich symbology of the Sanctuary service of the Old Testament is relegated to the Sanctuary service in the New Testament, in which Christ is depicted as ministering to fallen humanity in the Heavenly Sanctuary, and intimately connects the `flesh' which Christ assumed, with this ministration to us - for Scripture teaches that us that Christ is near to us, even at the door of our hearts, instead of so far away that we must enlist the aid of a Priest so that we might find Him. Unfortunately though, most Christians believe that anything which pertains to the Old Testament solely pertains to the `Old Covenant of works' which was made between God and Moses and therefore no longer applies, because we are now in the `New Covenant of Grace' - which thus means that this intimate connection between the Sanctuary service depicted in the Old Testament, and the ministration of Christ which is depicted to us specifically in the Book of Hebrews and the Book of Revelation, is broken, and has also been lost to humanity. For if it is true that the `Old Covenant' of works relates specifically to the Old Testament and the Jewish people of today, then why does John refer directly to the Hebraical Sanctuary of the Old Testament when he speaks of beholding `the glory of Christ as the only begotten of the Father', in a `tent' of flesh? For John is suggesting that just as it was in the Tent of the Tabernacle in which the pre-incarnate Christ revealed His glory to the Israelites as the Shekinah Presence, or Spirit of God in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle, it was in a tent of human `flesh' that Christ revealed His glory to all humanity.
Other writers, such as Paul the apostle reveal that the way by which the glory of Christ is revealed to fallen man, is by saving fallen man in a `tent' of flesh which is very much like our own:
`Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to help them that are tempted.' (Hebrews 2: 14-18)
Paul is emphatic that this is the only way by which Christ could save fallen man, so that He is able to save to the uttermost all who call upon His Name, for reason that whatever is not assumed cannot be saved. According to Scripture, Christ did not take upon Himself the lofty `nature' of unfallen angels who have never experienced the temptation to sin, or the `nature' of the unfallen Adam, who stood in the Garden of Eden and communed daily with God, but was instead born into this world four thousand years later, at which time He took upon Himself a human body which had been subject to the cumulative effects of four thousand years of the degradation of sin weakening the resolve of fallen man to live in harmony with the will of God. For if Christ had taken upon Himself the `nature' of unfallen angels, or His temptation was limited to innocent infirmities such as hunger and thirst, it would have been impossible for Him to give fallen man help where we need it most - which is in `the likeness of sinful flesh'.
Therefore if Christ were to identify with His brethren, it was essential that He be made`like unto His brethren', so that we might be sure our Elder Brother has been tempted by the same temptations which we are tempted with, yet victoriously overcame them by constantly being connected with His Father by the Holy Spirit of the Father. Therefore, while the `flesh' which He assumed was assailed by the `accuser of the brethren' (the Devil) and was tempted to sin, His Divine Mind which He shared with the Father by the Holy Spirit of the Father was a bulwark of righteousness which was more than able to overcome the temptations of the devil. For this reason, in Philippians 2: 5 we are exhorted to simply let this same mind that was in Christ Jesus be in us, for that same mind is our bulwark against the sins that so easily beset us. But we cannot force His mind into our mind; to try to do so is legalism, for our selfish mind must instead die to self and take upon itself the selflessness which is in Christ. We are to instead behold the cross and the life-changing event that transpired there, so that we might develop a heart-felt appreciation of the self-less `agape' love which the Father and Son have for us, so that our selfish mind (or `old man of sin' of sin, as Paul calls it) which is our `natural' inheritance as a result of the fall, will die to sin and is thus crucified with Christ on the cross. Thus, as we draw closer to Christ, we no longer want to do the sins that formerly entrapped us, as Christ imparts the same `agape' love into our hearts that impelled Him to die on the cross for our sins, for by some mysterious process of alchemy that changes the desire of our hearts, `by beholding, we are changed'(2 Corinthians 3: 18) .
In the original Greek, the word which John uses to describe the flesh is the Greek word `sarx'. He uses this word when He tells us that the `the word became flesh (sarx) and dwelt among us in a tent', and again when he says that:
`Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God' (1 John 4: 2).
It is also precisely the same word which the apostle Paul uses when he says:
`Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage' (Hebrews 2: 14).
Therefore the `flesh' which Paul speaks of is the same `flesh' which John speaks of, for if it were not so, he would have informed us by using an entirely different word! But he does not - he employs the word `sarx', and it was in the `sarx' that Christ was made like unto His brethren, and it was in the `sarx', that He crucified sin! John is emphatic when he stresses that anyone who teaches that Christ did not come in the `sarx' is not of God, and this is the spirit of antichrist:
`And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof all of you have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.' (1 John 4: 3.)
During the second and third centuries Apologists such as Justyn Martyr assiduously fought against a gnostic sect called the Docetists who believed that Christ was a mere phantom who seemed to manifest Himself in flesh (original Greek; `dokeo' - to seem ; but this was merely an illusion, for they believed that it was impossible for God to manifest Himself in `flesh', without corrupting His divine nature. Ironically, men such as Justin believed that the `flesh' which Christ manifested Himself could not be tempted to sin, and it is this belief which John regarded as antichrist. And why? Because if Christ had assumed `flesh' which had not been tempted to sin (which is the flesh of Adam before the fall), then this flesh of the sinless Adam which is mysteriously substituted for ours in the form of `vicarious substitution' cannot save us, for in order to provide a complete atonement for sin, that which is saved must first be assumed - and if Christ came in the `flesh' of Adam before the fall, then this is the only flesh which He can save, for our `flesh' is entirely different to that of a sinless Adam before he `fell' into sin!
The `Solidarity' view of the Atonement
The New Testament Scriptures – and in particular the book of Hebrews reflect the manner in which the Hebrew people thought – which was totally unlike how the western mind thinks. Whereas we tend to think in terms of individuality, they tended to think in terms of the individual comprising a part of an entire unit, which comprised the summary affection of God’s grace. For instance, the following text reveals that Christ viewed His people as a Father views a Son:
`When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.' (Hosea 11: 1.)
The apostle Paul affirms that each individual member is a part of the corporate body – the Church; and when the individual suffers, then the relationship of the entire corporate body of the Church suffers as well:
`That there should be no division in the body; but that the members should have the whereas same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now all of you are the body of Christ, and members in particular.' (1 Cor. 12: 25 - 27.)
This thought permeates the New Testament and supports the idea that Christ is the Husband, the Church His bride, and He and His Church are to be one, just as He and His Father are one:
`Holy Father, keep through thine own name those thou has given me, that they may be one, as we are one . . . . . Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they may be one: as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou has sent me.’ (John 17:11, 20 – 21.)
Just as Christ is in the Father, and desires that we be in Him, so also in the Old Testament the High Priest was a type of Christ, and the people were also reckoned to be in Him, for in His human incarnation Christ became the second representative man; the second Adam, and all men are reckoned as either being in Adam, the first representative man of the entire race who sinned, or Christ, who was the second representative Man of the entire race who didn't sin:
`Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him [Christ] that was to come” (Rom: 5:14).
Just as all men were reckoned as being `in’ the High Priest (and more specifically during the Day of Judgement, or `yom kippur’, the Day of Atonement); so also are we reckoned as being ‘in’ our High Priest :
`The representative character of the High Priest should be stressed. Adam was the representative man. When he sinned, the world sinned, and death passed upon all men. (Rom. 5: 12). “By one man’s offence death reigned; . . . . . by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (verses 17 – 19).' (`The Sanctuary Service’, M.L, Andreason, 1937, p. 54.)
The germinal seeds of the idea of the `in Christ' motif was first presented to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church by a young doctor of medicene by the name of E.J. Waggoner during the Minneapolis General Conference Sermons in 1888. A young preacher by the name of A.T. Jones had joined forces with Waggoner three years earlier, when he and Waggoner became co-editors of `Signs of the Times', which was an evangelistic periodical which focussed upon eschatology. The sermons which the two men gave were of a similar tenure and complimented each other. One of Waggoner’s presentations was the Book of Romans, and found below is an excerpt of his commentary of the parenthesis found in Romans 5: 12 – 21.
The Conclusion: It will be noticed that the twelfth verse begins a proposition that is not completed. Verses 13-17 are parenthetical; we must pass on to the eighteenth verse to find the conclusion. But as the mind would naturally lose the first part of the statement on account of the long parenthesis, the apostle repeats the substance of it, so that we may perceive the force of the conclusion. So the first part of verse 18 is parallel to verse 12. “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men to condemnation.” The conclusion is, “Even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”
The Reign of Death: “Death reigned from Adam to Moses.” That does not imply that death did not reign just as much afterwards. But the point is that Moses stands for the giving of the law; “for the law was given by Moses.” John 1:17. Now since death reigns through sin, and sin is not imputed when there is no law, it is evident from the statement that “death reigned from Adam to Moses,” that the law was in the world just as much before Sinai as it was afterwards. “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.” 1 Corinthians 15:56. There can be no sin imputed when there is no law; but wherever there is sin, there death reigns.
Adam a Figure: Death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of Him that was to come. How is Adam a figure of Him that was to come, namely, Christ? Just as the following verses indicate, that is, Adam was a figure of Christ in that his action involved many besides himself. It is evident that Adam could not give his descendants any higher nature than he had himself, so Adam's sin made it inevitable that all his descendants should be born with sinful natures. Sentence of death, however, does not pass on them for that, but because they have sinned.
A Figure by Contrast: Adam is a figure of Christ, but only by contrast. Not as the offense, so also is the free gift. Through the offense of one many are dead; but through the righteousness of One, many receive life. The judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification. For if by one man's offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by One, Jesus Christ. There is contrast all the way through. Everything that came through Adam's fall is undone in Christ; or, better still, all that was lost in Adam is restored in Christ.
Much More: This might be taken as the key-note of this chapter. Not only is everything that is lost in Adam restored in Christ, but much more. If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.’ (E.J. Waggoner, 1888 General Conference Sermons.)
As Waggoner ‘s understanding of this theology grew, so also did his presentations, in time, become more sharply defined. The following is an excerpt of the 1891 General Conference Sermons, in which he is again commenting on Romans 5: 12 – 21:
`So Adam died, and because of that, every man born into the world is a sinner, and the sentence of death is passed upon him. Judgment has passed upon all men to condemnation, and there is not a man in this world but has been under the condemnation of death. The only way that he can get free from that condemnation and that death is through Christ, who died for him and who, in His own body, bore our sins upon the cross. He bore the penalty of the law, and suffered the condemnation of the law for us, not for Himself, for He was sinless. `But of Him [the Father] are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made to us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption
"As by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin . . . even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." What is the free gift? It is the free gift by grace and it appertained unto many. The work of Adam plunged man into sin; the work of Christ brings men out of sin. One man's single offense plunged many into many offenses, but the one man's obedience gathers the many offenses of many men and brings them out from beneath the condemnation of those offenses.
Then the free gift is the righteousness of Christ. How do we get the righteousness of Christ? We cannot separate the righteousness of Christ from Christ Himself. Therefore in order for men to get the righteousness of Christ, they must have the life of Christ. So the free gift comes upon all men who are justified by the life of Christ. Justification is life. It is the life of Christ. "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, even so by the obedience of one many shall be made righteous." These are simple and positive statements. No good can come to man by questioning them. He only reaps barrenness to his soul. Let us accept them and believe them.
"The free gift came upon all men to justification of life." Are all men going to be justified? All men might if they would, but says Christ, "Ye will not come to me that ye might have life." All are dead in trespasses and sins. The grace of God that brings salvation hath appeared unto all men. It comes right within the reach of all men, and those who do not get it are those who do not want it.’ (E.J. Waggoner, 1891 Conference Sessions.)
The `good news' of Waggoner and Jones' presentations, was that it is easy to be saved and hard to be lost, for the Good Shepherd is actively in search of His lost sheep, for He has descended all the way down from the lofty heights of heaven to find us. As Jones put it:
'It has always been Satan's deception, and has always been the working of his power, to get men, to thing that Christ is as far away as it is possible to put Him. The farther away men put Christ, even those who profess to believe in Him, the better the Devil is satisfied . . . Is Christ away off still? No; He is "not far from every one of us." . . . And as certainly as you get a definition of "not far," you have the word "near." He is near to everybody, to us; and He always has been.' (`1895 General Conference Bulletin', p. 478.)
If we are to study Waggoner's slant on Romans 5: 12 - 21, we should also put it in the perspective of Christ experiencing the `second death' for the penitent.
Cursed is he who is hung on a tree . . .
Waggoner and Jones believed that Christ became the Second Representative Man of the entire race. Essentially, what Adam did in the garden of Eden, which was bring the sentence of condemnation upon the entire race, Christ has undone at the Cross at Calvary. Unfortunately, so-called `Historic Adventism' sees this as universalism, when in fact this is a misunderstanding of what Scripture teaches in a quite literal sense. For although verse 18 states that ` Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation'; thus meaning that all men were subject to condemnation because of Adam's sin, the last half of this same verse then informs us that ` even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life'. Note that the verse says `all men', and not `some men', or those who are lucky enough or clever enough to find an elusive God Who is forever playing hide and seek with us. No. The verse says all men, at which the charge of `universalism' is then cried from the rooftops! Clearly, not all will be saved, for just as justification is a free gift, in order to benefit from it, we must first receive it, and there are many who refuse the righteousness of Christ and the salvation which He lovingly wishes to give to those who will not refuse Him.
Thus, at Calvary, He who knew no sin became sin for us, for on the cross Christ became a `curse' for us, for `cursed is he who is hung on a tree':
`For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, "Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" . . . . Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, "Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree": that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles [non-Jews] through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.' (Galatians 3: 10, 13, 14.)
In the Hebraical economy, if you were `hung on a tree' outside the camp, your were accursed of God, for He would not hear your prayers for forgiveness, and you were consigned to die; which is to say you were consigned to die the `second death', which is the eternal death which all who are subject to condemnation will suffer:
`He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches; He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death . . . . And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death . . . . Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.' (Revelation 2: 11, 20: 14, 20: 6.)
This is the death which Christ died on behalf of you and me. As He bore the sins of the world, the unity which Christ had with the Father became broken, for the Father cannot behold sin and the sins of the world literally crushed the life out of Him. During His entire ministry as the divine Son of God, He had laid aside His divinity and was tempted as we are, yet without sin. So it was on the cross. He could have come down from the cross and have left us dead in our sins, but this would have been sin for Him, and He suffered as a man, thus providing a divine atonement for sin.
`So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.' (John 19: 30 NKJV.)
Did Christ truly die the `seond death' for us on the cross? In order for Christ to provide a complete atonement for sin, the answer must be yes, for although divinity cannot die, it can be laid aside, just as Christ laid aside His divinity during His entire ministry, except for the instances where He used it so that others might benefit, such as when He raised Lazarus from the dead, and when He forgave sin. All the gospel writers testify that He `gave up His Spirit', which thus indicates that His Holy Spirit returned to the Father from whence it first came, at which on the third day, the Father resurrected His lifeless body, at which this same spirit resurrected Him from the pit, for being sinless, the bonds of the grave could not hold Him.
On the cross, Christ became the sin of the entire world and crucified it `in the sarx' at Calvary, so that the condemnation of the `second death' which was pronounced upon the entire race `in Adam’ has been reversed, so that the entire race has been pardoned and put on probation `in Christ'. It is then up to each individual to choose whether they receive Christ into their heart, as prompted by His Holy Spirit, or not - and thus choose to remain in the condemnation that is `in Adam'. This is surely good news, for this testifies that we do not need to go in search of our Saviour, for He is the `good shepherd' who constantly pursues the lost sheep of His flock and has already found us! The fact that you are reading this right now testifies to this! The apostle Paul then concludes that:
`Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin has reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.' (Romans 5: 20, 21.)
Thus the `good news' of the Gospel, is better than we think, for our Lord has given us a gospel of much more abounding grace! How much? Much more! But unfortunately the doctrine of `original sin' is regarded as orthodox theology in the majority of Christian Churches, and is but one reason why the gospel of Christ has stultified, for according to this doctrine, as sin is transmitted to me as a genetic defect, it is therefore impossible for me to ever attain victory over the sins which so easily beset me, and the `good news' of the gospel becomes a hollow farce, and implodes into a self-centred search for salvation, in which God is depicted as an arbitrary tyrant, Who is so far away from us, that the road to salvation is hard, and few are clever enough, or wise enough to ever find it. For this reason, Paul explains verse 12 of Romans chapter 5 in verses 13 to 17, which are a parenthesis of verse 12. For directly after verse 12 He suddenly checks himself and pauses, as he decides that, `This phrase requires an explanation', so he then explains this in the parenthesis, in which he says:
(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the embodiment of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, has abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) (Romans 5: 13 - 17.)
It is as if Paul suddenly steps back, and declares:
"Well, that fact that all `have sinned' in Adam is not quite true, for sin is not accorded to me as sin when there is no law which condemns me to death. Nevertheless, death still reigned from when Adam first sinned, to when Moses was given the Ten Commandments. Even though men may not have been aware of the Law until it was first given to Moses, it still worked against them, thus resulting in them dying. Nevertheless, just as one sinned, that is Adam (who prefigured Christ), so also is the free gift given to all, for if by one man one sin led to the condemnation of all men, so also by another Man many offences against the Law have been abrogated by the abundance of grace, for the gift of eternal life shall reign in the giving to the sinner the perfect life of this one Man, Jesus Christ."
This is not to say that in being covered by the perfect life of Christ, we receive `Holy Flesh' which cannot sin - which is a problem which the famous evangelist of the 19th century, John Wesley encountered in his evangelistic efforts, as some of his newly found adherents to the faith mistakenly believed that they had received an infused righteousness, and thus received the `flesh' of Christ Himself, which not only leads to antinomian