Savior a title applied in Scripture, in its highest sense, to Jesus Christ, but in a subordinate way to earthly deliverers. We present a comparatively brief abstract of this very extensive subject. SEE SOTERIOLOGY.
I. The Word itself. — The term "Savior," as applied to our Lord Jesus Christ, represents the Greek soter (σωτήρ), which in turn represents certain derivatives from the Hebrew root yasha (יָשִׁע ), particularly the participle of the Hiphil form moshia (מוֹשַׁיעִ), which is usually rendered "Savior" in the A.V. (e.g. Isa 46:13; Isa 49:26). In considering the true import of "Savior," it is essential for us to examine the original terms answering to it, including in our view the use of soter in the Sept., whence it was more immediately derived by the writers of the New Test., and further noticing the cognate terms "to save" and "salvation," which express respectively the action and the results of the Savior"s office. SEE JESUS.
1. The term soter is of more frequent occurrence in the Sept. than the term "Savior" in the A.V. of the Old Test. It represents not only the word moshia above mentioned, but also very frequently the nouns yesha (יֶשִׁע) and yeshuah (יַשׁוּעָה ), which, though properly expressive of the abstract notion "salvation," are yet sometimes used in a concrete sense for "Savior." We may cite as an example Isa 52:11, "Behold, thy salvation cometh, his reward is with him," where evidently "salvation" = Savior. So again in passages where these terms are connected immediately with the person of the Godhead, as in Ps 58:11, "the God our Savior" (A.V. "God of our salvation"). Not only in such cases as these, but in many others where the sense does not require it, the Sept. has soter where the A.V. has "salvation;" and thus the word "Savior" was more familiar to the ear of the reader of the Old Test. in our Lord"s age than it is to us.
2. The same observation holds good with regard to the verb σώζειν, and the substantive σωτηρία, as used in the Sept. An examination of the passages in which they occur shows that they stand as equivalents for words conveying the notions of well being, succor, peace, and the like. We have further to notice σωτηρία in the sense of recovery of the bodily
health (2 Macc. 3:32), together with the etymological connection supposed to exist between the terms σωτήρ and σῶμα, to which Paul evidently alludes in Eph 5:23; Php 3:20-21.
3. If we turn to the Hebrew terms, we cannot fail to be struck with their comprehensiveness. Our verb "to save" implies, in its ordinary sense, the rescue of a person from actual or impending danger. This is undoubtedly included in the Hebrew root yasha, and may be said to be its ordinary sense, as testified by the frequent accompaniment of the preposition min (מַן comp. the σώσει ἀπό which the angel gives in explanation of the name Jesus, Mt 1:21). But yasha, beyond this, expresses assistance and protection of every kind — assistance in aggressive measures, protection against attack; and, in a secondary sense, the results of such assistance victory, safety, prosperity, and happiness. We may, cite as an instance of the aggressive sense, De 20:4, "To fight for you against your enemies, to save you;" of protection against attack, Isa 26:1," Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks;" of victory, 2Sa 8:6, "The Lord preserved David," i.e. gave him victory; of prosperity and happiness, Isa 60:18, "Thou shalt call thy walls Salvation;" Isa 56:10, "He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation." No better instance of this last sense can be adduced than the exclamation "Hosanna," meaning,"( Save, I beseech thee," which was uttered as a prayer for God's blessing on any joyous occasion (Ps 118:25), as at our Lord's entry into Jerusalem, when the etymological connection of the terms Hosanna and Jesus could not have been lost on the ear of the Hebrew (Mt 21:9,15). It thus appears that the Hebrew and Greek terms had their positive as well as their negative side; in other words, that they expressed the presence of blessing as well as the absence of danger, actual security as well as the removal of insecurity. The Latin language possessed in the classical period no proper equivalent for the Greek σωτήρ. This appears from the introduction of the Greek word itself in a Latinized form, and from Cicero"s remark (in Verr. Acts 2:2, 63) that there was no one word which expressed the notion qui salutem dedit. Tacitus (Ann. 15, 71) uses conservator, and Pliny (22, 5) servator. The term salvator appears appended as a title of Jupiter in an inscription of the age of Trajan (Gruter, p. 19, No. 5). This was adopted by Christian writers as the most adequate equivalent for σωτήρ, though objections were evidently raised against it (Augustine, Serm. 299, § 6). Another term,
salutificator, was occasionally used by Tertullian (De Resurr. Carn. 47; De Carn. Chr. 14).
4. The historical personages to whom the terms are applied further illustrate this view. The judges are styled "saviors," as having rescued their country from a state of bondage (Jg 3:9,15, A.V. "deliverer;" Ne 9:27); a "savior" was subsequently raised up in the person of Jeroboam II to deliver Israel from the Syrians (2Ki 13:5); and in the same sense Josephus styles the deliverance from Egypt a "salvation" (Ant. 3, 1, 1). Joshua, on the other hand, verified the promise contained in his name by his conquests over the Canaanites: the Lord was his helper in an aggressive sense. Similarly, the office of the "saviors" promised in Ob 1:21 was to execute vengeance on Edom. The names Isaiah, Jeshua, Ishi, Hosea, Hoshea, and, lastly, Jesus, are all expressive of the general idea of assistance from the Lord. The Greek soter was in a similar manner applied in the double sense of a deliverer from foreign foes, as in the case of Ptolemy Soter, and a general protector, as in the numerous instances where it was appended as the title of heathen deities.
5. There are many indications in the Old Test. that the idea of a spiritual salvation, to be effected by God alone, was by no means foreign to the mind of the pious Hebrew. In the Psalms there are numerous petitions to God to save from the effects of sin (e.g. Ps 39:8; Ps 79:9). Isaiah, in particular, appropriates the term "savior" to Jehovah (Isa 43:11), and connects it with the notions of justice and righteousness (Isa 45:21; Isa 55:13,13): he adduces it as the special manner in which Jehovah reveals himself to man (Isa 45:15): he hints at the means to be adopted for effecting salvation in passages where he connects the term "savior" with "redeemer" (goal), as in Isa 41:14; Isa 49:26; Isa 55:13, and again with "ransom," as in 43:3. Similar notices are scattered over the prophetical books (e.g. Zec 9:9; Ho 1:7), and though in many instances these notices admitted of a reference to proximate events of a temporal nature, they evidently looked to higher things, and thus fostered in the mind of the Hebrew the idea of a "Savior" who should far surpass in his achievements the "saviors" that had as yet appeared. The mere sound of the word would conjure up before his imagination visions of deliverance, security, peace, and prosperity.
II. The Work of the Savior. — This we propose to trace as developed in the several portions of the New Testament. .
1. The first three evangelists, as we know, agree in showing that Jesus unfolded his message to the disciples by degrees. He wrought the miracles that were to be the credentials of the Messiah; he laid down the great principles of the Gospel morality, until he had established in the minds of the Twelve the conviction that he was the Christ of God. Then, as the clouds of doom grew darker, and the malice of the Jews became more intense, he turned a new page in his teaching. Drawing from his disciples the confession of their faith in him as Christ, he then passed abruptly, so to speak, to the truth that remained to be learned in the last few months of his ministry, that his work included suffering as well as teaching (Mt 16:20-21). He was instant in pressing this unpalatable doctrine home to his disciples from this time to the end. Four occasions when he prophesied his bitter death are on record, and they are probably only examples out of many more (ver. 21). We grant that in none of these places does the word "sacrifice" occur; and that the mode of speaking is somewhat obscure, as addressed to minds unprepared, even then, to bear the full weight of a doctrine so repugnant to their hopes. But that he must (δεῖ) go and meet death; that the powers of sin and of this world are let loose against him for a time, so that he shall be betrayed to the Jews, rejected, delivered by them to the Gentiles, and by them be mocked and scourged, crucified, and slain; and that all this shall be done to achieve a foreseen work, and accomplish all things written of him by the prophets — these we do certainly find. They invest the death of Jesus with a peculiar significance; they set the mind inquiring what the meaning can be of this hard necessity that is laid on him. For the answer we look to other places; but at least there is here no contradiction to the doctrine of sacrifice, though the Lord does not yet say, "I bear the wrath of God against your sins in your stead; I become a curse for you." Of the two sides of this mysterious doctrine — that Jesus dies for us willingly, and that" he dies to bear a doom laid on him as of necessity, because some one must bear it — it is the latter side that is made prominent. In all the passages it pleases Jesus to speak, not of his desire to die, but of the burden laid on him, and the power given to others against him.
2. Had the doctrine been explained no further, there would have been much to wait for. But the series of announcements in these passages leads up to one more definite and complete. It cannot he denied that the words of the institution of the Lord"s supper speak most distinctly of a sacrifice: "Drink ye all of this, for this is my blood of the new covenant;" or, to follow Luke, "the new covenant in my blood." We are carried back by these words to the first covenant, to the altar with twelve pillars, and the burned offerings and peace offerings of oxen, and the blood of the victims sprinkled on the altar and on the people, and the words of Moses as he sprinkled it: "Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words" (Exodus 24). No interpreter has ever failed to draw from these passages the true meaning: "When my sacrifice is accomplished, my blood shall be the sanction of the new covenant." The word "sacrifice" is wanting; but sacrifice, and nothing else, is described. And the words are no mere figure used for illustration, and laid aside when they have served that turn. "Do this in remembrance of me." They are the words in which the Church is to interpret the act of Jesus to the end of time. They are reproduced exactly by Paul (1Co 11:25). Then, as now, Christians met together, and by a solemn act declared that they counted the blood of Jesus as a sacrifice wherein a new covenant was sealed; and of the blood of that sacrifice they partook by faith, professing themselves thereby willing to enter the covenant and be sprinkled with the blood.
3. So far we have examined the three "synoptic" Gospels. They follow a historical order. In the early chapters of all three the doctrine of our Lord"s sacrifice is not found, because he will first answer the question about himself, "Who is this?" before he shows them "What is his work." But at length the announcement is made, enforced, repeated; until, when the feet of the betrayer are ready for their wicked errand, a command is given which secures that the death of Jesus shall be described forever as a sacrifice and nothing else, sealing a new covenant and carrying good to many. Lest the doctrine of atonement should seem to be an after thought, as, indeed, De Wette has tried to represent it, John preserves the conversation with Nicodemus, which took place early in the ministry; and there, under the figure of the brazen serpent lifted up, the atoning virtue of the Lord"s death is fully set forth. "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" (Joh 3:14-15). As in this intercessory act the image pf the deadly, hateful, and accursed (Ge 3:14-15) reptile became by God"s decree the means of health to all who looked on it earnestly, so does Jesus in the form of sinful man, of a deceiver of the people (Mt 27:63), of Antichrist (12:24; Joh 18:33), of one accursed (Ga 3:13), become the means of our salvation; so that whoever fastens the earnest gaze of faith on him shall not perish, but have eternal life. There is even a significance in the words "lifted up;" the Lord used, probably, the word דקŠ, which, in older Hebrew, meant to "lift up" in the widest sense, but began in the Aramaic to have the restricted meaning of "lifting up for punishment." With Christ the lifting up was a seeming disgrace, a true triumph and elevation. But the context in which these verses occur is as important as the verses themselves. Nicodemus comes as an inquirer; he is told that a man must be born again, and then he is directed to the death of Jesus as the means of that regeneration. The earnest gaze of the wounded soul is to be the condition of its cure; and that gaze is to be turned, not to Jesus on the mountain or in the temple, but on the cross. This, then, is no passing allusion, but it is the substance of the Christian teaching addressed to an earnest seeker after truth.
Another passage claims a reverent attention — "If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (Joh 6:51). He is the bread; and he will give the bread. If his presence on earth were the expected food, it was given already; but would he speak of "drinking his blood" (ver. 53), which can only refer to the dead? It is on the cross that he will afford this food to his disciples. We grant that this whole passage has occasioned as much disputing among Christian commentators as it did among the Jews who heard it; and for the same reason — for the hardness of the saying. But there stands the saying; and no candid person can refuse to see a reference in it to the death of him that speaks.
In that discourse, which has well been called the prayer of consecration offered by our High priest, there is another passage which cannot be alleged as evidence to one who thinks that any word applied by Jesus to his disciples and himself must bear in both cases precisely the same sense, but which is really pertinent to this inquiry — "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself that they also might be sanctified through the truth" (Joh 17:17-19). The word ἁγιάζειν, "sanctify," "consecrate," is used in the Sept. for the offering of sacrifice (Le 22:2) and for the dedication of a man to the divine service (Nu 3:15). Here the present tense, "I consecrate," used in a discourse in which our Lord says he is "no more in the world," is conclusive against the interpretation "I dedicate my life to thee;" for life is over. No self dedication, except that by death, can now be spoken of as present. "I dedicate myself to thee, in my death, that these may be a people consecrated to thee;" such is the great thought in this sublime passage, which suits well with his other declaration that the blood of his sacrifice sprinkles them for a new covenant with God. To the great majority of expositors from Chrysostom and Cyril the doctrine of reconciliation through the death of Jesus is asserted in these verses.
The Redeemer has already described himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (Joh 10:11,17-18), taking care to distinguish his death from that of one who dies against his will in striving to compass some other aim — "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again. 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." Other passages that relate to his death will occur to the memory of any Bible reader. The corn of wheat that dies in the ground to bear much fruit (Joh 10:24) is explained by his own words elsewhere, where he says that he came "to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mt 20:28).
4. Thus, then, speaks Jesus of himself. What say his witnesses of him? "Behold the Lamb of God," says the Baptist, "which taketh away the sin of the world" (Joh 1:29). Commentators differ about the allusion implied in that name. But take any one of their opinions, and a sacrifice is implied. Is it the paschal lamb that is referred to? Is it the lamb of the daily sacrifice? Either way the death of the victim is brought before us. But the allusion, in all probability, is to the well known prophecy of Isaiah (ch. 54), to the Lamb brought to the slaughter, who bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. See this passage discussed fully in the notes of Meyer, Lange (Bibelwerke), and Alford. — The reference to the paschal lamb finds favor with Grotius and others; the reference to Isaiah is approved by Chrysostom and many others. The taking away of sin (αἴρειν) of the Baptist, and the bearing it (φέρειν, Sept.) of Isaiah, have one meaning and answer to the Hebrew word נָשָׂא . To take the sins on himself is to remove them from the sinners; and how can this be through his death except in the way of expiation by that death itself?
5. The apostles, after the resurrection, preach no moral system, but a belief in and love of Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, through whom, if they repent, men shall obtain salvation. This was Peter"s preaching on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2); and he appealed boldly to the prophets on the ground of an expectation of a suffering Messiah (3:18). Philip traced out for the eunuch, in that picture of suffering holiness in the well known chapter of Isaiah, the lineaments of Jesus of Nazareth (Ac 8; Isa 53). The first sermon to a Gentile household proclaimed Christ slain and risen, and added "that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10). Paul at Antioch preaches "a Savior Jesus" (Ac 13:23); "through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins. and by him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (ver. 38, 39). At Thessalonica all that we learn of this apostle"s preaching is "that Christ must needs have suffered and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ" (Ac 17:3). Before Agrippa he declared that he had preached always "that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead" (Ac 26:23); and it was this declaration that convinced his royal hearer that he was a crazed fanatic. The account of the first founding of the Church in the Acts of the Apostles is concise and fragmentary; and sometimes we have hardly any means of judging what place the sufferings of Jesus held in the teaching of the apostles; but when we read that they "preached Jesus," or the like, it is only fair to infer from other passages that the cross of Christ was never concealed, whether Jews or Greeks or barbarians were the listeners. And this very pertinacity shows how much weight they attached to the facts of the life of our Lord. They did not merely repeat in each new place the pure morality of Jesus as he uttered it in the Sermon on the Mount: of such lessons we have no record. They took in their hands, as the strongest weapon, the fact that a certain Jew crucified afar off in Jerusalem was the Son of God, who had died to save men from their sins; and they offered to all alike an interest, through faith, in the resurrection from the dead of this outcast of his own people. No wonder that Jews and Greeks, judging in their worldly way, thought this strain of preaching came of folly or madness, and turned from what they thought unmeaning jargon.
6. We are able to complete from the epistles our account of the teaching of the apostles on the doctrine of atonement. "The Man Christ Jesus" is the mediator between God and man, for in him the human nature, in its sinless purity, is lifted up to the divine, so that he, exempt from guilt, can plead for the guilty (1Ti 2:5; 1Jo 2:1-2; Heb 7:25). Thus he is the second Adam that shall redeem the sin of the first; the interests of men are bound up in him, since he has power to take them all into himself (Eph 5:29-30; Ro 5:12,17; Ro 12:5; 1Co 15:22). This salvation was provided by the Father, to "reconcile us to himself" (2Co 5:18), to whom the name of "Savior" thus belongs (Lu 1:47); and our redemption is a signal proof of the love of God to us (1Jo 4:10). Not less is it a proof of the love of Jesus, since he freely lays down his life for us — offers it as a precious gift, capable of purchasing all the lost (1Ti 2:6; Tit 2:14; Eph 1:7; comp. Mt 20:28). But there is another side of the truth more painful to our natural reason. How came this exhibition of divine love to be needed? Because wrath had already gone out against man. The clouds of God's anger gathered thick over the whole human race; they discharged themselves on Jesus only. God has made him to be sin for us who knew no sin (2Co 5:21); he is made "a curse" (a thing accursed) for us that the curse that hangs over us may be removed (Ga 3:13); he bore our sins in his own body on the tree (1Pe 2:24). There are those who would see on the page of the Bible only the sunshine of the divine love; but the muttering thunders of divine wrath against sin are heard there also; and he who alone was no child of wrath meets the shock of the thunderstorm, becomes a curse for us and a vessel of wrath; and the rays of love break out of that thunder gloom and shine on the bowed head of him who hangs on the cross, dead for our sins.
7. We have spoken, and advisedly, as if the New Test. were, as to this doctrine, one book in harmony with itself. That there are in the New Test. different types of the one true doctrine may be admitted without peril to the doctrine. The principal types are four in number.
(1.) In the Epistle of James there is a remarkable absence of all explanations of the doctrine of the atonement; but this admission does not amount to so much as may at first appear. True, the keynote of the epistle is that the Gospel is the law made perfect, and that it is a practical moral system in which man finds himself free to keep the divine law. But with him Christ is no mere lawgiver appointed to impart the Jewish system. He knows that Elias is a man like himself, but of the person of Christ he speaks in a different spirit. He calls himself "a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ." who is "the Lord of glory." He speaks of the Word of Truth of which Jesus has been the utterer. He knows that faith in the Lord of glory is inconsistent with time serving and "respect of persons" (Jas 1:1,18; Jas 2:1). "There is one lawgiver," he says," who is able to save and to destroy" (4:12); and this refers, no doubt, to Jesus, whose second coming he holds up as a motive to obedience (5:7-9). These and like expressions remove this epistle far out of the sphere of Ebionitish teaching. The inspired writer sees the Savior, in the Father"s glory, preparing to return to judge the quick and dead. He puts forth Christ as prophet and king, for he makes him teacher and judge of the world; but the office of the priest he does not dwell on. Far be it from us to say that he knows it not. Something must have taken place before he could treat his hearers with confidence, as free creatures able to resist temptations, and even to meet temptations with joy. He treats "your faith" as something founded already, not to be prepared by this epistle (1:2, 3, 21). His purpose is a purely practical one. There is no intention to unfold a Christology such as that which makes the Epistle to the Romans so valuable. Assuming that Jesus has manifested himself and begotten anew the human race, he seeks to make them pray with undivided hearts, and be considerate to the poor, and strive with lusts, for which they, and not God, are responsible; and bridle their tongues, and show their fruits by their works (see Neander, Pflanzung, b. 6, c. 3; Schmid, Theologie des N.T. pt. 2; and Dorner, Christologie, 1, 95).
(2.) In the teaching of Peter the doctrine of the person of our Lord is connected strictly with that of his work as Savior and Messiah. The frequent mention of his sufferings shows the prominent place he would give them; and he puts forward as the ground of his own right to teach that he was "a witness of the sufferings of Christ" (1Pe 5:1). The atoning virtue of those sufferings he dwells on with peculiar emphasis, and not less so on the purifying influence of the atonement on the hearts of believers. He repeats again and again that Christ died for us (2:21; 3:18; 4:1); that he bare our sins in his own body on the tree (2:24). He bare them; and what does this phrase suggest but the goat that "shall bear" the iniquities of the people off into the land that was not inhabited? (Le 16:22), or else the feeling the consequences of sin, as the word is used elsewhere (20:17, 19)? We have to choose between the cognate ideas of sacrifice and substitution. Closely allied with these statements are those which connect moral reformation with the death of Jesus. He bare our sins that we might live unto righteousness. His death is our life. We are not to be content with a self-satisfied contemplation of our redeemed state, but to live a life worthy of it (1Pe 2:21-25; 1Pe 3:15-18). In these passages the whole Gospel is contained; we are justified by the death of Jesus, who bore our sins that we might be sanctified and renewed to a life of godliness. And from this apostle we hear again the name of "the lamb," as well as from John the Baptist; and the passage of Isaiah comes back upon us with unmistakable clearness. We are redeemed "with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1:18, 19, with Isa 53:7). Every word carries us back to the Old Test. and its sacrificial system: the spotless victim, the release from sin by its blood (elsewhere [1Pe 1:2] by the sprinkling of its blood), are here; not the type and shadow, but the truth of them; not a ceremonial purgation, but an effectual reconcilement of man and God.
(3.) In the inspired writings of John we are struck at once with the emphatic statements as to the divine and human natures of Christ. A right belief in the incarnation is the test of a Christian man (1Jo 4:2; Joh 1:14; 2Jo 1:7); we must believe that Jesus' Christ is come in the flesh, and that he is manifested to destroy the works of the devil (1Jo 3:8). And, on the other hand, he who has come in the flesh is the one who alone has been in the bosom of the Father, seen the things that human eyes have never seen, and has come to de dare them unto us (1:2; 4:14; Joh 1:14-18). This person, at once divine and human, is "the propitiation for our sins," our advocate with the Father," sent into the world "that we might live through him;" and the means was his laying down his life for us, which should make us ready to lay down our lives for the brethren (1Jo 1:7; 1Jo 2:1-2; 1Jo 3:16; 1Jo 4:9-10; 1Jo 5:6,11-13; Joh 11:51). And the moral effect of his redemption is that "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin" (1Jo 1:7). The intimate connection between his work and our holiness is the main subject of his first epistle, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin (1Jo 3:9). As with Peter, so with John; every point of the doctrine of the atonement comes out with abundant clearness. The substitution of another, who can bear our sins, for us who cannot; the sufferings and death as the means of our redemption, our justification thereby and our progress in holiness as the result of our justification.
(4.) To follow out as fully, in the more voluminous writings of Paul, the passages that speak of our salvation would far transgress the limits of our paper. Man, according to this apostle, is a transgressor of the law. His conscience tells him that he cannot act up to that law, which, the same conscience admits, is divine, and binding upon him. Through the old dispensations man remained in this condition. Even the law of Moses could not justify him it only by its strict behests held up a mirror to conscience that its frailness might be seen. Christ came, sent by the mercy of our Father who had never forgotten us; given to, not deserved by us. He came to reconcile men and God by dying on the cross for them, and bearing their punishment in their stead (2Co 5:14-21; Ro 5:6-8). He is "a propitiation through faith in his blood" (3:25, 26; comp. Le 16:15) (ἱλαστήρειον means "victim for expiation") — words which most people will find unintelligible, except in reference to the Old Test. and its sacrifices. He is the ransom, or price paid, for the redemption of man from all iniquity (Tit 2:14). Still stronger in 1Ti 2:6, "ransom instead of (ἀντίλυτρον); also Eph 1:7 (ἀπολύτρωσις); 1Co 6:20; 1Co 7:23. The wrath of God was against man, but it did not fall on man. God made his Son "to be sin for us," though he knew no sin; and Jesus suffered, though men had sinned. By this act God and man were reconciled (Ro 5:10; 2Co 5:18-20; Eph 2:16; Col 1:21). On the side of man, trust and love and hope take the place of fear and of an evil conscience; on the side of God, that terrible wrath of his, which is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, is turned away (Ro 1:18; Ro 5:9; 1Th 1:10). The question whether we are reconciled to God only, or God is also reconciled to us, might be discussed on deep metaphysical grounds; but we purposely leave that on one side, content to show that at all events the intention of God to punish man is averted by this "propitiation" and "reconcilement." SEE RECONCILIATION.
Different views are held about the authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews by modern critics, but its numerous points of contact with the other epistles of Paul must be recognized. In both the incompleteness of Judaism is dwelt on; redemption from sin and guilt is what religion has to do for men, and this the law failed to secure. In both, reconciliation and forgiveness and a new moral power in the believers are the fruits of the work of Jesus. In the Epistle to the Romans, Paul shows that the law failed to justify, and that faith in the blood of Jesus must be the ground of justification. In the Epistle to the Hebrews the same result follows from an argument rather different: all that the Jewish system aimed to do is accomplished in Christ in a far more perfect manner. The Gospel has a better priest, more effectual sacrifices, a more profound peace. In the one epistle the law seems set aside wholly for the system of faith; in the other the law is exalted and glorified in its Gospel shape; but the aim is precisely the same — to show the weakness of the law and the effectual fruit of the Gospel.
8. We are now in a position to see how far the teaching of the New Test. on the effects of the death of Jesus is continuous and uniform. Are the declarations of our Lord about himself the same as those of James and Peter, John and Paul? and are those of the apostles consistent with each other? The several points of this mysterious transaction may be thus roughly described:
(1.) God sent his Son into the world to redeem lost and ruined men from sin and death, and the Son willingly took upon him the form of a servant for this purpose; and thus the Father and the Son manifested their love for us.
(2.) God the Father laid upon his Son the weight of the sins of the whole world, so that he bare in his own body the wrath which men must else have borne, because there was no other way of escape for them; and thus the atonement was a manifestation of divine justice.
(3.) The effect of the atonement thus wrought is that man is placed in a new position, freed from the dominion of sin, and able to follow holiness; and thus the doctrine of the atonement ought to work in all the hearers a sense of love, of obedience, and of self sacrifice.
In shorter words, the sacrifice of the death of Christ is a proof of divine love and of divine justice, and is for us a document of obedience.
Of the four great writers of the New Test., Peter, Paul, and John set forth every one of these points. Peter, the "witness of the sufferings of Christ," tells us that we are redeemed with the blood of Jesus, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot; says that Christ bare our sins in his own body on the tree. If we "have tasted that the Lord is gracious" (1Pe 2:3), we must not rest satisfied with a contemplation of our redeemed state, but must live a life worthy of it. No one can well doubt, who reads the two epistles, that the love of God and Christ, and the justice of God, and the duties thereby laid on us, all have their value in them; but the love is less dwelt on than the justice, while the most prominent idea of all is the moral and practical working of the cross of Christ upon the lives of men.
With John, again, all three points find place. That Jesus willingly laid down his life for us, and is an advocate with the Father; that he is also the propitiation, the suffering sacrifice, for our sins; and that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin, for that whoever is born of God doth not commit sin — all are put forward. The death of Christ is both justice and love, both a propitiation and an act of loving self surrender; but the moral effect upon us is more prominent even than these.
In the epistles of Paul the three elements are all present. In such expressions as a ransom, a propitiation, who was "made sin for us," the wrath of God against sin, and the mode in which it was turned away, are presented to us. Yet not wrath alone. "The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again" (2Co 5:14-15). Love in him begets love in us, and in our reconciled state the holiness which we could not practice before becomes easy.
The reasons for not finding in James similar evidence we have spoken of already.
Now, in which of these points is there the semblance of contradiction between the apostles and their Master? In none of them. In the gospels, as in the epistles, Jesus is held up as the sacrifice and victim, draining a cup from which his human nature shrank, feeling in himself a sense of desolation such as we fail utterly to comprehend on a theory of human motives. Yet no one takes from him his precious redeeming life; he lays it down of himself, out of his great love for men. But men are to deny themselves, and take up their cross and tread in his steps. They are his friends only if they keep his commands and follow his footsteps.
We must consider it proved that these three points or elements are the doctrine of the whole New Test. What is there about this teaching that has provoked in times past and present so much disputation? Not the hardness of the doctrine — for none of the theories put in its place are any easier — but its want of logical completeness. Sketched out for us in a few broad lines, it tempts the fancy to fill it in and lend it color; and we do not always remember that the hands that attempt this are trying to make a mystery into a theory, an infinite truth into a finite one, and to reduce the great things of God into the narrower limits of our little field of view. To whom was the ransom paid? What was Satan's share of the transaction? How can one suffer for another? How could the Redeemer be miserable when he was conscious that his work was one which could bring happiness to the whole human race? Yet this condition of indefiniteness is one which is imposed on us in the reception of every mystery. Prayer, the incarnation, the immortality of the soul, are all subjects that pass far beyond our range of thought. Here we see the wisdom of God in connecting so closely our redemption with our reformation. If the object were to give us a complete theory of salvation, no doubt there would be in the Bible much to seek. The theory is gathered by fragments out of many an exhortation and warning; nowhere does it stand out entire, and without logical flaw. But if we assume that the New Test. is written for the guidance of sinful hearts, we find a wonderful aptness for that particular end. Jesus is proclaimed as the solace of our fears, as the founder of our moral life, as the restorer of our lost relation with our Father. If he had a cross, there is a cross for us; if he pleased not himself, let us deny ourselves; if he suffered for sin, let us hate sin. And the question ought not to be. What do all these mysteries mean? but Are these thoughts really such as will serve to guide our life and to assuage our terrors in the hour of death? The answer is twofold one from history and one from experience. The preaching of the cross of the Lord even in this simple fashion converted the world. The same doctrine is now the ground of any definite hope that we find in ourselves of forgiveness of sins and of everlasting life. See Thomson, essay on the "Death of Christ," in Aids to Faith.