“The cause of our whole redemption” by Herman Bavinck

“The Scriptures continually view the suffering and death of Christ from a different perspective and in each case illumine another aspect of it. Like the person, the work of Christ is so multifaceted that it cannot be captured in a single word nor summarized in a single formula.

In the different books of the New Testament, therefore, different meanings of the death of Christ are highlighted, and all of them together help to give us a deep impression and a clear sense of the riches and many-sidedness of the mediator’s work.

In the Synoptics, Christ appears on the scene as a preacher and founder of the kingdom of God. That kingdom includes within itself the love of the Father, the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and eternal life; and Jesus, in His capacity as Messiah, ascribes to Himself the power to grant all these benefits to His disciples.

Just as He has power to heal the sick, so He also has the authority to forgive sins. By this combination of powers, He proves that He is the complete Savior of His people. For that reason, too, there is no way of gaining admission into that kingdom and no participation in those benefits except by faith in His name.

For it is He Himself who gives His life as a ransom for many and who, in His death, breaks His body and sheds His blood to inaugurate and confirm the new covenant with all its blessings (Matt. 20:28; 26:28).

In the Acts of the Apostles, the death of Christ is especially presented as an appalling crime that was inflicted on Christ by the hands of lawless men but was nevertheless from eternity included in counsel of God (Acts 2:23; 4:28; 5:30).

Therefore, God also raised Him from the dead and exalted Him as Lord and Christ, Ruler and Savior, in order, in His name, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:36; 4:12; 5:31).

For Paul, Christ’s death on the cross was originally the great offense, but when it pleased God to reveal His Son in it, that cross became for him the crown of Jesus’ messiahship and the only means of salvation. For on that cross God made Him to be sin and a curse for us in order that in Him we would have wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption, salvation and eternal life (Rom. 3:24; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13).

The Letter to the Hebrews describes Christ especially as the perfect and eternal high priest who was not only Himself sanctified (perfected) through suffering (2:10; 5:9) but by His one perfect sacrifice put away the sins of His people (7:27; 9:26; 10:12) and is still continually at work as high priest in heaven, continuing and completing the purification, sanctification, and perfecting of His own (7:3, 25; 8:1; 9:14; 10:12ff.).

Peter pictures Christ’s suffering as that of a lamb without blemish or spot; and in that suffering He not only bore our sins and redeemed us from our futile ways of life but left us an example that we might follow in His steps (1 Pet. 1:18f.; 2:21f.).

And John makes Christ known to us as the lamb and the lion, as the life and the light, as the bread and the water of life, as the grain of wheat that, dying, bears fruit, and as the good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep, as the Savior who gives life to the world, and as the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

So, indeed, one can find in the New Testament different appraisals of the person and work of Christ, which, however, do not exclude but rather supplement one another and enrich our knowledge. Just as in the old covenant there were diverse sacrifices and the promised Messiah was repeatedly presented under different names, so this many-sidedness in the description carries over into the New Testament and even markedly increases.

The death of Christ is a paschal offering, a covenant offering, a praise offering as well as a sacrifice; a ransom and an example; suffering and action; a work and a ministry; a means of justification and sanctification, atonement and consecration, redemption and glorification; in a word, the cause of our whole redemption.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 3:383-384.

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