“How can His chastisement make us whole?” by John Webster

“The chief task of Christian soteriology is to show how the bruising of the man Jesus, the servant of God, saves lost creatures and reconciles them to their creator.

In the matter of salvation, Christian theology tries to show that this servant—marred, Isaiah tells us, beyond human semblance, without form or comeliness or beauty—is the one in and as whom God’s purpose for creatures triumphs over their wickedness.

His oppression and affliction, His being put out of the land of the living, is in truth not His defeat at the hands of superior forces, but His own divine act in which He takes upon Himself, and so takes away from us, the iniquity of us all.

How can this be? How can His chastisement make us whole? How can others be healed by His stripes?

Because, Isaiah tells us, it was the will of the Lord to bruise Him; because God has put Him to grief; because it is God who makes the servant’s soul an offering for sin.

And just because this is so—just because He is smitten by God and afflicted—then the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand, and the servant Himself shall prosper and be exalted.

And not only this: the servant shall also see the fruit of the travail of His soul and be satisfied; he shall see His offspring.

As it tries to explicate how God is savingly at work in the affliction of His servant, Christian soteriology stretches both backwards and forwards from this central event.

It traces the work of salvation back into the will of God, and forward into the life of the many who by it are made righteous. Soteriology thus participates in the double theme of all Christian theology, namely God and all things in God.

The matter of the Christian gospel is, first, the eternal God who has life in Himself, and then temporal creatures who have life in Him.

The gospel, that is, concerns the history of fellowship—covenant—between God and creatures; Christian soteriology follows this double theme as it is unfolded in time.

In following its theme, soteriology undertakes the task of displaying the identities of those who participate in this history and the material order of their relations.

The Lord who puts His servant to grief is this one, dogmatics tells us; this is his servant, these the transgressors who will be accounted righteous.

So conceived, soteriology pervades the entire corpus of Christian teaching, and its exposition necessarily entails sustained attention to trinitarian and incarnational dogma, as well as to the theology of creatures and their ends.

Indeed, no part of Christian teaching is unrelated to soteriology, whether immediately or indirectly.”

–John Webster, God without Measure: Working Papers in Christian Theology, God and the Works of God, vol. I (London; Oxford; New York; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury T&T Clark: An Imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2016), 143–144.

“This happy victory” – The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

“O Almighty God,

The sovereign commander of all the world, in whose hand is power and might which none is able to withstand:

We bless and magnify Thy great and glorious name for this happy victory, the whole glory whereof we do ascribe to Thee, who art the only giver of victory.

And, we beseech Thee, give us grace to improve this great mercy to Thy glory, the advancement of Thy gospel, the honour of our nation, and, as much as in us lieth, to the good of all mankind.

And, we beseech Thee, give us such a sense of this great mercy, as may engage us to a true thankfulness, such as may appear in our lives by a humble, holy, and obedient walking before Thee all our days, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with Thee and the Holy Spirit, as for all Thy mercies, so in particular for this victory and deliverance, be all glory and honour, world without end.

Amen.”

–Samuel L. Bray and Drew Nathaniel Keane, eds., The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, International Edition (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2021), 576.

“There is unspeakably more in the promises of God than we are able to understand” by Charles Hodge

“‘I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’

This is the great promise of the covenant with Abraham and with all the true Israel. It is one of the most comprehensive and frequently repeated promises of the Scriptures. (Gen. 17:8; Deut. 29:13; Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10)

There is unspeakably more in the promises of God than we are able to understand.

The promise that the nations should be blessed in the seed of Abraham, as unfolded in the New Testament, is found to comprehend all the blessings of redemption.

So the promise, “I will be their God, and they shall be My people,’ contains more than it has ever entered into the heart of man to conceive.

How low are our conceptions of God! Of necessity our conceptions of what it is to have a God, and that God, Jehovah, must be entirely inadequate.

It is not only to have an infinite protector and benefactor, but an infinite portion; an infinite object of love and confidence; an infinite source of knowledge and holiness.

It is for God to be to us what He designed to be when He created us after His image, and filled us with His fulness.

His people, are those whom hHe recognizes as His peculiar property, the objects of His love, and the recipients of His favours.”

–Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1891), 170–171. Hodge is commenting on 2 Corinthians 6:16.

“You see the ‘therefore'” by Charles Spurgeon

“‘Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.’ (2 Cor. 7:1)

The drift of the argument is this,– if God dwells in us, let us make the house clean for so pure a God.

What! Indwelling Deity and unclean lusts? Indwelling Godhead, and yet a spirit defiled with evil thoughts? God forbid!

Let us cry aloud unto the Most High, that in this thing we may be cleansed, that the temple may be fit for the habitation of the Master.

What! Does God walk in us, and hold communion with us, and shall we let Belial come in? What concord can we have with Christ?

Shall we give ourselves up to be the servants of Mammon, when God has become our Friend, our Companion? It must not be!

Divine indwelling and divine communion both require from us personal holiness. Has the Lord entered into a covenant with us that we shall be His people?

Then does not this involve a call upon us to live like His people, as becometh godliness?

Favoured and privileged above other men to be a peculiar people, separated unto God’s own self, shall there be nothing peculiar about our lives?

Shall we not be zealous for good works?

Divinely adopted into the family of the Most High, and made heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, what need is there of further argument to constrain us to holiness?

You see the ‘therefore.’

It is just this, because we have attained to such choice and special privileges, ‘therefore’—for this reason, ‘let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.’

I remember hearing a man say that he had lived for six years without having sinned in either thought, or word, or deed.

I apprehend that he committed a sin then, if he never had done so before, in uttering such a proud, boastful speech.

No, no; I cannot believe that the flesh can be perfect, nor, consequently, that a man can be perfect in this flesh.

I cannot believe that we shall ever live to see people walking up and down in this world without sin.

But I can believe that it is our duty to be perfect, that the law of God means perfection, and that the law as it is in Christ—for there it is, you know,—is binding on the Christian.

It is not, as in the hands of Moses, armed with power to justify or to condemn him, for he is not under the law, but under grace; but it is binding upon him as it is in the hands of Christ.

The law, as it is in the hands of Christ, is just as glorious, just as perfect, just as complete, as when it was in the hands of Moses; Christ did not come to destroy the law, or to cast it down, but to establish it.

And therefore, notwithstanding every point where I fall short of perfection as a creature, I am complete in Christ Jesus. That which God requires of me is, that I should be perfect.

That I can understand; and the next thing I should know is, that for such perfection I ought to pray.

I should not like to pray for anything short of that. I should not like, at the prayer-meeting, to hear any of you say, “Lord, bring us half-way toward perfection.”

No, no, no; our prayer must be, “Lord, put away all sin; deliver me from it altogether.” And God would not teach you to pray for what He did not mean to give.

Your perfection is God’s design, for He has chosen you to be conformed to the image of His Son; and what is that? Surely the image of His Son is perfection.

There were no faults in the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are to be made like Him; and as this is the work and design of grace, then perfection is the centre of the target at which God’s grace is always aiming.

All that He works in us is with this great ultimate end and aim, that He may sanctify us wholly,—spirit, soul, and body; and that He may release us from sin, and make us perfect even as our Father who is in heaven is perfect.

Oh, when will it be? When will it be? Why, the very thought of it makes me feel as if I could sing, “Oh! happy hour, oh! blest abode, I shall be near and like my God.”

What a joy it will be to be just like Him, to have no more corruption of the flesh, and no more incitements to sin to destroy the soul’s delight and pleasure in her God!

May the Lord hasten on the day! ‘Perfecting holiness.'”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Our Position and Our Purpose,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 57 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1911), 57: 175–177.

“Atonement is at the top” by Herman Bavinck

“The benefits Christ obtained for us through His perfect obedience are so rich that they seem almost impossible to enumerate and are never fully appreciated.

They include no less than the whole and complete work of salvation; they consist in redemption from the greatest evil– sin– with all its consequences of misery and death, and include the gift of the highest good– communion with God and all His blessings.

Among all these benefits, atonement is at the top. This is expressed in the New Testament by two words, which unfortunately have been translated as the same word in our translation.

The one word (or rather different words but from the same stem) appears in Romans 3:25, Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2 and 4:10: it is the (147] translation of a Hebrew word that originally means “to cover” and then indicates the propitiation (verzoening) brought about by the sacrifice to God.

Just like now, in the Old Testament worship the sacrificial blood was an actual means for atoning for (Lev. 11:17; Heb. 9:12) the sin (guilt, impurity) of the sacrificer before God, and so deprived sin of its power to provoke God to anger.

Likewise in the New Testament, Christ is the high priest who through His sacrificial blood, through His perfect obedience unto death, covers our sins before God, turns away His wrath, and makes us partakers of His grace and favor.

He is the means of propitiation (Rom. 3:25), the atonement (de verzoening) (1 John 2:2; 4:10), the high priest, who is working with God to atone for the sins of the people.

Distinct from this objective atonement (verzoening), which Christ has brought about on our behalf before God, is now another kind [of atonement], which in the New Testament is indicated by a second, specific word.

This word appears in Romans 5:10-11 and 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; it originally has the meaning of reversal, exchanging, reckoning, settling, and denoting– in the places where it occurs– that new, gracious disposition God has toward the world on the basis of the sacrifice made by Christ.

As Christ covers our sin by His death and has averted God’s wrath, God sets Himself in another reconciled relationship to the world and says this to us in his gospel, which is thus called the word of reconciliation (verzoening).

This reconciliation (verzoening) is also an object; it is not something that comes about first through our faith and our conversion, but it rests on the atonement (satisfaction) that Christ has already made, consists of the reconciled, merciful relationship of God to us, and is received and accepted by us in faith (Rom. 5:11).

Since God has cast off His hostile [148] disposition on the basis of the death of Christ, we are exhorted to also put off our enmity and to be reconciled to God and to enter into the new, reconciled relationship God Himself sets before us.

Everything is finished; there is nothing left for us to do.

We may rest with all our soul and for all of time in the perfect work of redemption that Christ has accomplished; we may accept by faith that God has renounced His wrath and we have been reconciled (verzoend) in Christ to God, and that He is God and Father to guilty and unholy sinners.

Whoever wholeheartedly believes this gospel of reconciliation immediately receives all the other benefits acquired by Christ. For in the relationship of peace in which God places Himself to the world in Christ, all other goods of the covenant of grace are contained.

Christ is one and cannot be divided nor accepted in part; the chain of salvation is unbreakable.

‘Those whom God has predestined, these He has called, and those whom He called, these He has also justified, and those whom He has justified, these He has also glorified (Rom. 8:30).

Thus all who are reconciled to God through the death of His Son receive the forgiveness of sins, adoption as His children, peace with God, the right to eternal life, and the heavenly inheritance (Rom. 5:1; 8:17; Gal. 4:5).

They are in union with Christ, having been crucified with Him, buried, and raised, seated in heaven, and are increasingly conformed to His image (Rom. 6:3; 8:29; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:22-24).

They receive the Holy Spirit who renews them, guides them into the truth, testifies of their sonship, and seals them until the day of redemption (John 3:6; 16:13; Rom. 8:15; 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 4:30).

In this fellowship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, believers are free from the [149] law (Rom. 7:1; Gal. 2:19; 3:13, 25; 4:5; 5:1), and they are exalted above all power of the world and death, hell and Satan (John 16:33; Rom. 8:38; 1 Cor. 15:55; 1 John 3:8; Rev. 12:10).

God is for them, so who then will be against them (Rom. 8:31)?”

–Herman Bavinck, Guidebook for Instruction in the Christian Religion, translated and edited by Gregory Parker Jr. and Cameron Clausing (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Academic, 2022), 123-124.

“Ravished with wonder” by John Calvin

“David shows how it is that the heavens proclaim to us the glory of God, namely, by openly bearing testimony that they have not been put together by chance, but were wonderfully created by the supreme Architect.

When we behold the heavens, we cannot but be elevated, by the contemplation of them, to Him who is their great Creator; and the beautiful arrangement and wonderful variety which distinguish the courses and station of the heavenly bodies, together with the beauty and splendour which are manifest in them, cannot but furnish us with an evident proof of His providence.

Scripture, indeed, makes known to us the time and manner of the creation; but the heavens themselves, although God should say nothing on the subject, proclaim loudly and distinctly enough that they have been fashioned by His hands: and this of itself abundantly suffices to bear testimony to men of His glory.

As soon as we acknowledge God to be the supreme Architect, who has erected the beauteous fabric of the universe, our minds must necessarily be ravished with wonder at His infinite goodness, wisdom, and power.”

–John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, trans. James Anderson (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845; repr. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 1: 309. Calvin is commenting on Psalm 19:1.

“Beautifully good news” by Dustin Benge

“Paul’s introduction to his letter to the church in Rome makes it quite apparent that the entire epistle’s theme is the good news of “the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1).

Bracketing Romans is the apostle’s reminder to his readers that he was called to be “set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1) and a”minister of Christ Jesus… in the priestly service of the gospel of God” (Rom. 15:16).

This good news of the gospel is

  • “the good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 16:16),
  • “good news… of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12),
  • “good news of peace” (Acts 10:36),
  • “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24),
  • “the gospel of his Son” (Rom. 1:9),
  • “the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13),
  • “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:11).

Surrounded by bad news at every turn, the church has been entrusted with good news, the good news of the gospel, which finds its foundation in God himself.

The gospel is not an earthly message but a heavenly message. Paul says that this is the “gospel of God‘ (Rom. 1:1).

The gospel is about God– His holiness, love, grace, wrath, and righteousness. But Paul’s main emphasis here is that the gospel is from God.

He is the single author and architect of the gospel. The gospel doesn’t originate in the church.

The church doesn’t devise the gospel. The church hasn’t crafted the gospel.

The gospel is a message given to the bride of Christ announcing his mediatorial triumph over sin, death, and the world.

The word translated “gospel” is a compound in Greek, euangelion. The prefix eu means “good.” The primary root word angelion means “messenger” or “message.”

When those two words are placed together, the word gospel simply means “good news.”

The gospel is the good news of salvation through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. It is the message that sinners can be rescued from God’s wrath against sin through the sacrificial, substitutionary death of Jesus Christ upon the cross and his triumphant resurrection from the dead.

This isn’t only good news; it’s beautifully good news. We will never hear anything more surpassingly beautiful than the truth that Jesus Christ is a willing liberator and Savior of sinners.

What specifically is the message of God’s beautiful gospel?

God sent His Son, the second person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ, to rescue sinners.

He was born of a virgin and lived a sinlessly perfect and obedient life under the law.

He was crucified on a cross as a substitute to pay the penalty of God’s wrath against the sins of all those who would ever believe.

In His body, He bore on that tree the punishment due to sinners, and His perfect righteousness was imputed to them, making them acceptable in the sight of God.

He was buried in a borrowed tomb and on the third day rose from the dead.

He ascended back to the authority and power of the right hand of his Father to intercede for all believers.

Now, everyone who by faith “calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Rom. 10:13).

No church has the freedom to tamper with, tweak, add to, or subtract from the good news of Jesus Christ– we are just to herald it.

For there is nothing more beautiful and lovely in the sight of God than the extricating of sinners from the kingdom of darkness and delivering them to the kingdom of light.”

–Dustin Benge, The Loveliest Place: The Beauty and Glory of the Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2022), 122-124.

“This is the mystery of the Divine love” by Herman Bavinck

“The sacrifice of Christ is related to our sins.

Already in the Old Testament we read that Abraham offered a burnt offering in the place of his son (Gen. 22:13), that by the laying on of hands the Israelite caused a sacrificial animal to take his place (Lev. 16:1), and that the servant of the Lord was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities (Isa. 53:5).

In the same way the New Testament establishes a very close connection between the sacrifice of Christ and our sins. The Son of man came into the world to give His life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:27 and 1 Tim. 2:6).

He was delivered up for, or for the sake of, our sins (Rom. 4:25), He died in relationship to our sins, or, as it is usually put, on behalf of our sins.

The communion into which Christ, according to the Scriptures, has entered with us is so intimate and deep that we cannot form an idea or picture of it. The term substitutionary suffering expresses in only a weak and defective way what it means.

The whole reality far transcends our imagination and our thought. A few analogies can be drawn of this communion, it is true, which can convince us of its possibility.

We know of parents who suffer in and with their children, of heroes who give themselves up for their country, of noble men and women who sow what others after them will reap.

Everywhere we see the law in operation that a few work, struggle, and fight in order that others get the fruit of their labor and enjoy its benefits.

The death of one man is another man’s livelihood. The kernel of grain must die if it is to bear fruit. In pain the mother gives birth to her child.

But all of these are but so many comparisons, and they cannot be equated with the fellowship into which Christ entered with us.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, though one might conceivably die for a good man. But God commends His love towards us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:7-8).

There really was no fellowship between us and Christ, but only separation and opposition. For He was the only-begotten and beloved Son of the Father, and we were all like the lost son.

He was just and holy and without any sin, and we were sinners, guilty before the face of God, and unclean from head to foot.

Nevertheless, Christ put Himself into fellowship with us, not merely in a physical (natural) sense, by putting on our nature, our flesh and blood, but also in a juridical (legal) sense, and in an ethical (moral) sense, by entering into the fellowship with our sin and death.

He stands in our place; He puts Himself into that relationship to the law of God in which we stood; He takes our guilt, our sickness, our grief, our punishment upon Himself; He who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).

He becomes a curse for us in order that He should redeem us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13).

He died for all in order that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again (2 Cor. 5:15).

This is the mystery of salvation, the mystery of the Divine love.

We do not understand the substitutionary suffering of Christ, because we, being haters of God and of each other, cannot come anywhere near calculating what love enables one to do, and what eternal, infinite, Divine love can achieve.

But we do not have to understand this mystery either. We need only believe it gratefully, rest in it, and glory and rejoice in it.

He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep had gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way. And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:5-6).

What shall we say of these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

He spared not His own Son hut delivered Him up for us all. How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies.

Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yes, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God and who also makes intercession for us (Rom. 8:31–34).”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1956/2019), 336-337.

“Everyone is a legalist at heart” by Sinclair Ferguson

“It cannot be too strongly emphasized that everyone is a legalist at heart.

Indeed, if anything, that is the more evident in antinomians.”

–Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 86.

“There’s cleansing in His blood” by John Calvin

“When we see salvation whole— its every single part
is found in Christ,
we must beware lest we derive the smallest drop
from somewhere else.

If we seek salvation,
the very name of Jesus
teaches us
that He possesses it.

If other Spirit-given gifts are sought— in His anointing they are found;
strength— in His reign; and purity— in His conception;
tenderness— expressed in His nativity,
in which He was made like us in all respects, that He might feel our pain:

Redemption when we seek it, is in His passion found;
acquittal— in His condemnation lies;
and freedom from the curse— in His cross is known.
If satisfaction for our sins we seek— we’ll find it in His sacrifice.

There’s cleansing in His blood.
And if it’s reconciliation that we need, for it He entered Hades;
if mortification of our flesh— then in His tomb it’s laid.
And newness of our life— His resurrection brings and immortality as well come also with that gift.

And if we long to find that heaven’s kingdom’s our inheritance,
His entry there secures it now
with our protection, safety too, and blessings that abound
—all flowing from His kingly reign.

The sum of all for those who seek such treasure-trove of blessings,
These blessings of all kinds, is this:
from nowhere else than him can they be drawn;
For they are ours in Christ alone.”

–John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.19, 1559 Latin ed., translation and versification by Sinclair B. Ferguson, as quoted in The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 55-56.