“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.

“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.

“The blood of the Son of God” by Stephen Charnock

“The sin of a creature could never be so filthy as the blood of the Son of God was holy.”

–Stephen Charnock, “A Discourse on the Acceptableness of Christ’s Death,” The Works of Stephen Charnock, Volume 4 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1865/2010), 4: 558.

“Having this gift we have God the Father’s boundless love” by J.C. Ryle

If ye being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.” (Luke 11:13)

There are few promises in the Bible so broad and unqualified as those contained in this wonderful passage. The last in particular deserves especial notice.

The Holy Spirit is beyond doubt the greatest gift which God can bestow upon man.

Having this gift, we have all things, life, light, hope and heaven.

Having this gift we have God the Father’s boundless love, God the Son’s atoning blood, and full communion with all three Persons of the blessed Trinity.

Having this gift, we have grace and peace in the world that now is, glory and honor in the world to come.

And yet this mighty gift is held out by our Lord Jesus Christ as a gift to be obtained by prayer!

“Your heavenly Father shall give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.”

There are few passages in the Bible which so completely strip the unconverted man of his common excuses as this passage.

He says he is “weak and helpless.” But does he ask to be made strong?

—He says he is “wicked and corrupt.” But does he seek to be made better?

—He says he “can do nothing of himself.” But does he knock at the door of mercy, and pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit?

—These are questions to which many, it may be feared, can make no answer. They are what they are, because they have no real desire to be changed.

They have not, because they ask not. They will not come to Christ, that they may have life; and therefore they remain dead in trespasses and sins.

And now, as we leave the passage, let us ask ourselves whether we know anything of real prayer?

Do we pray at all?

—Do we pray in the name of Jesus, and as needy sinners?

—Do we know what it is to “ask,” and “seek,” and “knock,” and wrestle in prayer, like men who feel that it is a matter of life or death, and that they must have an answer?

—Or are we content with saying over some old form of words, while our thoughts are wandering, and our hearts far away?

Truly we have learned a great lesson when we have learned that “saying prayers” is not praying!

If we do pray, let it be a settled rule with us, never to leave off the habit of praying, and never to shorten our prayers. A man’s state before God may always be measured by his prayers.

Whenever we begin to feel careless about our private prayers, we may depend upon it, there is something very wrong in the condition of our souls.

There are breakers ahead. We are in imminent danger of a shipwreck.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 2: 9-10. Ryle is commenting on Luke 11:5-13.

“Pure good” by Thomas Brooks

Remedy (7). The seventh remedy against this device of Satan is, wisely to consider, That as there is nothing in Christ to discourage the greatest sinners from believing in Him, so there is everything in Christ that may encourage the greatest sinners to believe on Him, to rest and lean upon Him for all happiness and blessedness, (Cant. 1:3).

If you look upon His nature, His disposition, His names, His titles, His offices as king, priest, and prophet, you will find nothing to discourage the greatest sinners from believing in Him, but many things to encourage the greatest sinners to receive Him, to believe on Him.

Christ is the greatest good, the choicest good, the chiefest good, the most suitable good, the most necessary good. He is a pure good, a real good, a total good, an eternal good, and a soul-satisfying good, (Rev. 3:17-18).

Sinners, are you poor? Christ hath gold to enrich you.

Are you naked? Christ hath royal robes, He hath white raiment to clothe you.

Are you blind? Christ hath eye-salve to enlighten you.

Are you hungry? Christ will be manna to feed you.

Are you thirsty? He will be a well of living water to refresh you.

Are you wounded? He hath a balm under His wings to heal you.

Are you sick? He is a physician to cure you.

Are you prisoners? He hath laid down a ransom for you.

Ah, sinners! Tell me, tell me, is there anything in Christ to keep you off from believing? No.

Is there not everything in Christ that may encourage you to believe in Him? Yes.

Oh, then, believe in Him, and then, ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool,’ (Isa. 1:18).

Nay, then, your iniquities shall be forgotten as well as forgiven, they shall be remembered no more. God will cast them behind His back, He will throw them into the bottom of the sea, (Isa. 43:25, 38:17, Micah 7:19).”

–Thomas Brooks, “Precious Remedies,” in The Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1, Ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2001), 1: 143-144.

“The keys of Death and Hades are now in our Savior’s hands” by Matthew Emerson

“The most important practical application of the descent, at least in my opinion, is that it means that Christ experienced death in the same way we do and also defeated it.

His human body went to the grave and His human soul went to the place of the (righteous) dead. This is not a natural state for humanity.

Death is an effect of the fall (Gen 3:17–19; Rom 6:23), and Jesus became fully human to the point that He experienced the fullness of death. He did not die one moment on the cross and rise the next moment but remained dead for three days.

This is a great comfort to those who are facing death or those who have lost loved ones. And those two categories encompass everyone on the planet.

When we, or those we love, face death, we can find assurance in the fact that Christ, too, has experienced death in all its fallen fullness. He really, truly died.

His soul was separated from His body for three days. This is just as we will remain dead and just as our souls will remain separated from our bodies until Christ returns.

Our Savior has gone before us.

Just as the Ark of the Covenant went before the people of Israel through the wilderness for three days to find a place for them to rest (Num 10:33), so Christ has gone before us through the wilderness of Hades to prepare a place for us to rest in Him.

But He has not only experienced the fullness of human death; He has also defeated it. Death does not have the last word.

Those of us who trust Christ do not have hope only because Christ experienced it as we do, but because in it experiencing it as the God-Man He defeated it.

And one day He will expel it fully and finally from His presence and from our experience.

We do not remain dead, just as Christ did not remain dead, because Christ has defeated death in His death, descent, and resurrection.

Because Christ rose, we long for the day when we will rise with Him and dwell, bodily, with Him forever on the new heavens and new earth.

This should also bring believers comfort here on earth as they experience evil, suffering, oppression, and all other effects of sin. Christ’s descent answers the problem of evil because in it (and His death and resurrection) He has defeated the principalities and powers (Col 2:15).

The descent, then, ought to be a great comfort to those facing death, whether their own or a loved one’s. It is part of the reason we grieve, but not as those without hope (1 Thess 4:13).

When we cite Paul’s statement in funeral contexts, it is usually to point to the resurrection. And that is right and good, and the ultimate grounds of such hopeful grieving.

But in the meantime, while we think of our departed dead, while we walk in their graveyards and look at their ashes and remember their lives, while we ponder our own deaths, and while we consider how long it is, O Lord, until the Second Coming, we do so with hope.

We hope because Christ also remained buried in the grave, buried with us and for us. We hope because we have a High Priest who has experienced death as we all will, if the Lord tarries.

We hope because we have an advocate who has experienced the pain of death and yet has done so victoriously, rising from it and drawing us with Him on the last day.

We therefore dig our graves, facing toward the East, knowing that as our bodies decompose, our souls remain with Christ, awaiting the day when He will with loud trumpets return and reunite our bodies and souls so that we can live with Him forever by the power of His Spirit to the glory of the Father.

Charles Hill summarizes this hope well:

Christ descended into Hades so that you and I would not have to. Christ descended to Hades so that we might ascend to heaven. Christ entered the realm of death, the realm of the strong enemy, and came away with his keys.

The keys of Death and Hades are now in our Savior’s hands. And God His Father has exalted Him to His right hand, and given Him another key, the key of David, the key to the heavenly Jerusalem.

He opens and no one will shut, He shuts and no one will open (Rev. 3:7). And praise to Him, as the hymn says, “For He hath op’ed the heavenly door, and man is blessed forever more.”

All praise and honor and glory to the Lamb who has conquered! “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth” (Rev. 14:13).

And blessed are we here and now, who even now have this hope, and a fellowship with our Savior which is stronger than death! Thanks be to God. Amen.

Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.”

–Matthew Y. Emerson, “He Descended to the Dead”: An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2019), 219–221.

“No one ever need be friendless while the Lord Jesus Christ lives” by J.C. Ryle

“Does any reader of this paper need a friend? In such a world as this, how many hearts there are which ought to respond to that appeal! How many there are who feel, “I stand alone.”

How many have found one idol broken after another, one staff failing after another, one fountain dried after another, as they have travelled through the wilderness of this world.

If there is one who wants a friend, let that one behold at the right hand of God an unfailing friend, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let that one repose his aching head and weary heart upon the bosom of that unfailing friend, Jesus Christ the Lord.

There is one living at God’s right hand of matchless tenderness.

There is one who never dies.

There is one who never fails, never disappoints, never forsakes, never changes His mind, never breaks off friendship.

That One, the Lord Jesus, I commend to all who need a friend.

No one in a world like this, a fallen world, a world which we find more and more barren, it may be, every year we live,—no one ever need be friendless while the Lord Jesus Christ lives to intercede at the right hand of God.

Does any reader of this paper need a priest. There can be no true religion without a priest, and no saving Christianity without a confessional.

But who is the true priest? Where is the true confessional? There is only one true priest,—and that is Christ Jesus the Lord.

There is only one real confessional,—and that is the throne of grace where the Lord Jesus waits to receive those who come to Him to unburden their hearts in His presence.

We can find no better priest than Christ. We need no other Priest.

Why need we turn to any priest upon earth, while Jesus is sealed, anointed, appointed, ordained, and commissioned by God the Father, and has an ear ever ready to hear, and a heart ever ready to feel for the poor sinful sons of men?

The priesthood is His lawful prerogative. He has deputed that office to none.

Woe be to any one upon earth who dares to rob Christ of His prerogative!

Woe be to the man who takes upon himself the office which Christ holds in His own hands, and has never transferred to any one born of Adam, upon the face of the globe!

Let us never lose sight of this mighty truth of the Gospel,—the intercession and priestly office of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

I believe that a firm grasp of this truth is one great safeguard against the errors of the Church of Rome.

I believe that losing sight of this great truth is one principal reason why so many have fallen away from the faith in some quarters, have forsaken the creed of their Protestant forefathers, and have gone back to the darkness of Rome.

Once firmly established upon this mighty truth,—that we have a Priest, an altar, and a Confessor,—that we have an unfailing, never-dying, ever-living Intercessor, who has deputed His office to none,—and we shall see that we need turn aside nowhere else.

We need not hew for ourselves broken cisterns that can hold no water, when we have in the Lord Jesus Christ a fountain of living waters, ever flowing and free to all.

We need not seek any human priest upon earth, when we have a divine Priest living for us in heaven.

Let us beware of regarding the Lord Jesus Christ only as one that is dead. Here, I believe, many greatly err. They think much of His atoning death, and it is right that they should do so.

But we ought not to stop short there. We ought to remember that He not only died and went to the grave, but that He rose again, and ascended up on high, leading captivity captive.

We ought to remember that He is now sitting on the right hand of God, to do a work as real, as true, as important to our souls, as the work which He did when He shed His blood.

Christ lives, and is not dead. He lives as truly as any one of ourselves.

Christ sees us, hears us, knows us, and is acting as a Priest in heaven on behalf of His believing people.

The thought of His life ought to have as great and important a place in our souls, as the thought of His death upon the cross.”

–J.C. Ryle, “Christ’s Power to Save,” Old Paths: Being Plain Statements of Some of the Weightier Matters of Christianity (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1877/2013), 414-415.

“Practical Christianity” by J.C. Ryle

“The world would be a happier world if there was more practical Christianity.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 289. Ryle is commenting on Luke 10:29-37.

“A pointer to something other and outer” by C.S. Lewis

“But what, in conclusion, of Joy?

For that, after all, is what the story has mainly been about. To tell you the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian.

I cannot, indeed, complain, like Wordsworth, that the visionary gleam has passed away.

I believe (if the thing were at all worth recording) that the old stab, the old bittersweet, has come to me as often and as sharply since my conversion as at any time of my life whatever.

But I now know that the experience, considered as a state of my own mind, had never had the kind of importance I once gave it.

It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer.

While that other was in doubt, the pointer naturally loomed large in my thoughts.

When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter.

He who first sees it cries, “Look!” The whole party gathers round and stares.

But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare.

They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up.

But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold.

‘We would be at Jerusalem.'”

–C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (New York: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1955), 238.

“Our need of Christ’s blood and righteousness” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us not forget, in leaving this passage, to apply the high standard of duty which it contains, to our own hearts, and to prove our own selves.

Do we love God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind?

Do we love our neighbor as ourselves?

Where is the person that could say with perfect truth, “I do?”

Where is the man that ought not to lay his hand on his mouth, when he hears these questions?

Verily we are all guilty in this matter!

The best of us, however holy we may be, come far short of perfection.

Passages like this should teach us our need of Christ’s blood and righteousness.

To Him we must go, if we would ever stand with boldness at the bar of God.

From Him we must seek grace.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 284. Ryle is commenting on Luke 10:29-37.