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Lectures in Biblical Theology
of The New Testament
by C. D. Cole


Lecture 8 of 23

What Christ Taught Concerning Salvation

The Lord Jesus Christ as the eternal Word knew of the tragedy of the fall of man in the garden of Eden before He ever came into the world. He was foreordained to be the Saviour of sinners, and stood as a lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He came into this world on a mission of mercy to men in the misery of sin. He did not come to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “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,” (Rom. 5:12). Christ did not come to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many. “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins,” (Matt. 1:21).

As a teacher Jesus had much to say on the subjects of sin and salvation. He came not only to preach the gospel, but to provide the gospel. He Himself is the gospel, and so we speak of the gospel of Christ; not merely as coming from Him, but as being about Him. “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead,” (Rom. 1:3­4). Paul gives a clear- cut definition of the gospel when he says, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures,” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Christ’s death, burial and resurrection make up the content of the gospel, while the words “for our sins” give us the design of His death. His death was not that of a helpless martyr to a good cause; death with Jesus Christ was an accomplishment. While on the mount of transfiguration, “And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem,” (Luke 9:30-31). His life was not taken from Him. “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father,” (John 10:18). Christ did not die for the moral influence the story might have on sinners in softening their hearts and making them want to live better. There is only a small element of truth in the moral influence theory of the atonement. Neither was His death for mere governmental purposes in which God was showing His hatred of sin, and as a deterrent against sinning. The death of Christ for our sins means that He was suffering in our room and stead; that He was bearing the guilt and penalty of our sins in His own body; that He was putting away the damning power of our sins by the sacrifice of Himself. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” (2 Cor. 5:21); “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit,” (1 Pet. 3:18). “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed,” (1 Pet. 2:24). “For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” (Heb. 9:26). In His death Christ was acting as the sinner’s substitute under law to redeem us from its curse. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,” (Gal. 3:13).

I.WHAT SALVATION IS ACCORDING TO CHRIST

Jesus spoke of salvation as forgiveness and remission of sins. He thought of salvation in relation to God as a person. He spoke of salvation as restoration to fellowship with God. Only one time does He use Paul’s favorite term “justify.” “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other,” (Luke 18:14). Paul emphasized salvation in relation to God as Lawgiver, viewing the sinner as a condemned transgressor of God’s holy law. Jesus emphasized the need of fellowship with God as the heavenly Father. And so His favorite terms are forgiveness and remission. These terms mean to send away, to discharge, to remit as a debt. In the Old Testament God is said to put sins behind His back, and to cast them into the depths of the sea, and as removing them as far as the east is from the west. “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back,” (Isa. 38:17); “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea,” (Micah 7:19); “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us,” (Ps. 103:12).

Forgiveness is not like justification which is done once for all. The sinner needs initial forgiveness before he can come into the presence of God as Father. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” (John 14:6). And the saint, the child of God, needs forgiveness also. Jesus taught His disciples to pray for forgiveness. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” (Matt. 6:12). This shows that saints sin and need to be brought back into fellowship with the Father. We are justified once for all through faith in Christ Jesus. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” (Rom. 5:1­2). In justification we are delivered from the curse of the law, and never put back under the law as the way of life and salvation. Sin cannot damn us because we are not under law for justification. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace,” (Rom. 6:14).

But we shall need forgiveness again and again until the end of our earthly sojourn. We are never told to pray for justification, but we are told to pray for forgiveness as we pray for our daily bread. Justification keeps us from being condemned by God as Lawgiver; forgiveness keeps us in fellowship with God as our heavenly Father.

The two parables on forgiveness are those of the two debtors and the prodigal son. When the debtors had nothing to pay, the creditor was gracious and canceled the debt. The prodigal son returned to the father’s house and to a place of fellowship.

The teaching of Christ on forgiveness is used by some to oppose the satisfaction theory of the atonement. It is pointed out that in forgiveness no satisfaction is demanded, and that where satisfaction is demanded there can be no forgiveness. But let us remember that revelation is progressive. Christ did not give all the truth in a single statement. Forgiveness does mean that nothing is demanded from the one who is forgiven, but it is false to say that there is no just basis for forgiveness. Paul connects forgiveness with redemption. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace,” (Eph. 1:7). Jesus told His disciples that He had many things to say unto them, but that they could not at that time bear them. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come,” (John 16:13).

There is a book entitled The Gospel of the Incarnation, published by the Westminster Press, and written by Prof. George S. Hendry. This book is a criticism of blood atonement. The author makes bold to say that there is no support from the words of Jesus for the view that He took upon Himself responsibility for the sins of men. To quote him verbatim he says, “There is no word of His (Jesus) to suggest that He deliberately submitted Himself to the judgment of God on sin.” In refutation of the contention of this book, it is sufficient to say, that Christ states emphatically and plainly, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins,” (Matt. 26:28). And Paul quotes Christ as saying at the institution of the memorial supper, “And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me,” (1 Cor. 11:24). Prof. Hendry rehashes the old Socinian argument that forgiveness based upon satisfaction is not really forgiveness, and that there is no genuine mercy if Christ died for guilty sinners. This argument denies the justice of God, and overlooks the fact that it is the mercy of God in Christ that provides atonement, and a just basis for forgiveness. Saving faith is faith in Christ Who was lifted up on the cross. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3:14-15).

I said the other day that our battle is over the Book, over the Bible as the Word of God. The Bible is vitally important because it emphasizes blood atonement. The devil hates the blood, and if he can get the blood out of the gospel he has accomplished what he failed to do in the wilderness temptations, when he made repeated attempts to swerve Jesus from His determination to go to the cross and redeem sinners with His precious blood. That blood was precious to Peter as the price of redemption, and woe to him who lightly esteems it. “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:29). The devil knows that the death of Jesus Christ spells his doom, and he wants to keep the blood out of the story of His life. The devil well knows that the only way the sinner can meet his accusations and overcome him is by pleading the blood of the Lamb, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29).

How are the mighty fallen! Prof. Hendry occupies the Charles Hodge Chair of Systematic Theology at Princeton University, but his teaching is far removed from the teaching of Hodge who said, “It is the language and spirit of the whole Bible and of every believing heart in relation to Christ, that His blood alone has power sufficient to atone.” Jesus Christ was more than a herald of salvation; He was also the provider of salvation. His mission to earth was not primarily to preach salvation, but to provide a salvation to be preached. Paul says, “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,” (1 Tim. 2:5-6).

II.CONDITIONS OF SALVATION

The author of our textbook acknowledges that this expression is somewhat misleading. We have already seen that Christ met the conditions of salvation in giving His life as a ransom for sinners. And so what we mean by “conditions of salvation” is the terms upon which the salvation provided by Christ is offered and received. What we are thinking about now is salvation as a conversion experience. Dr. Conner warns against thinking of a checker game in which God makes a move and then waits for the sinner to move. Salvation is of the Lord, both in its provision and in its application. Christ provided salvation and the Holy Spirit applies it. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,” (Eph. 2:10).

In speaking of the terms of forgiveness, Jesus used two words: repentance and faith. He did not develop these two doctrines as they are later developed by the apostle Paul. If all the truth on salvation is to be found in the gospels, the rest of the New Testament would be nothing more than repetition.

Repentance

Repentance was called for by Jesus. “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” (Luke 13:3). After His death and resurrection, He commanded His disciples to preach repentance and remission of sins in His name among all nations. The word for repentance means a change of mind, such a change of mind that leads to a change of action. It involves a reflection on the past and the realization that one is a sinner facing the wrath of God. It involves also hatred and repudiation of sin. When Job repented he abhorred himself. Repentance is viewing sin as God views it. Repentance is taking sides with God against self. In speaking of the ministry of John the Baptist, “And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him,” (Luke 7:29, 30). John baptized those who confessed their sins, thereby justifying God in His charge against them. But the Pharisees refused to take the place of sinners, thereby rejecting God’s charge against them.

We get a good definition of repentance in the parable of the two sons. A man had two sons. He said to the first, “Son, go work today in my vineyard,” (Matt. 21:28). This son, at first, refuses and says, “I will not.” But he got to thinking this matter over and repented; that is, he changed his mind and went. He had a change of mind that led to a change of action. And when we preach repentance and remission of sins in the name of Christ, we are urging men to reflect on their past, and change their mind toward sin and Christ.

We have a good illustration of repentance in the parable of the prodigal. He got to thinking over the past, had a change of mind about what he had done, and said, “I will arise and go to my father.” There was an inner change of attitude leading to a change of conduct.

Faith

Faith is another word often on the lips of Jesus; however, it does not have the place in the Synoptics that it has in Paul and John. In the Synoptics, faith is seen primarily in connection with physical healing. When Christ saw the faith of the men who brought the man of palsy and let him down through the roof of the house. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee,” (Mark 2:5). To the woman with the issue of blood, “And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague,” (Mark 5:34). Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, sought Jesus on behalf of his daughter. And as Jesus journeyed to his house, word came that the child had died. “As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe,” (Mark 5:36). The father of the boy with a dumb spirit came to Jesus with report that His disciples had failed in their efforts to cast out the evil spirit and frantically appealed to Jesus saying, “And oft times it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth,” (Mark 9:22­23). To blind Bartimaeus, the Lord Jesus said, “Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way,” (Mark 10:52). To the sinful women who washed and kissed his feet, “And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace,” (Luke 7:50). And so it seems that physical healing and forgiveness of sins went together on the condition of faith. To His critics our Lord said, “For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?” (Matt. 9:5). Jesus often rebuked His disciples for lack of faith. When Peter was to sink as he walked on the water, “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matt. 14:31). Let us remember that the blessings of God are by means that honor Him, and this is by faith in His power and promises.


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