09 August 2009

Active Obedience and Substitutionary Atonement

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson




The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "The Shame and Spitting," a sermon preached Sunday morning, 27 July 1879 at the Met Tab. See also this dose o' Spurgeon from a few months ago.




here has risen up a modern idea which I cannot too much reprobate, that Christ made no atonement for our sin except upon the cross: whereas in this passage of Isaiah we are taught as plainly as possible that by His bruising and His stripes, as well as by His death, we are healed.

Never divide between the life and the death of Christ. How could He have died if He had not lived? How could He suffer except while He lived? Death is not suffering, but the end of it. Guard also against the evil notion that you have nothing to do with the righteousness of Christ, for He could not have made an atonement by His blood if He had not been perfect in His life. He could not have been acceptable if He had not first been proven to be holy, harmless, and undefiled. The victim must be spotless, or it cannot be presented for sacrifice. Draw no nice lines and raise no quibbling questions, but look at your Lord as He is and bow before Him.


Understand, my dear brothers and sisters, that Jesus took upon Himself our sin, and being found bearing that sin He had to be treated as sin should be treated. Now, of all the things that ever existed sin is the most shameful thing that can be. It deserves to be scourged, it deserves to be spit upon, it deserves to be crucified; and because our Lord had taken upon Himself our sin, therefore must He be put to shame, therefore must He be scourged.

If you want to see what God thinks of sin, see His only Son spat upon by the soldiers when He was made sin for us. In God's sight sin is a shameful, horrible, loathsome, abominable thing, and when Jesus takes it He must be forsaken and given up to scorn. This sight will be the more wonderful to you when you recollect who it was that was spat upon, for if you and I, being sinners, were scourged, and smitten, and despised, there would be no wonder in it; but He who took our sin was God, before whom angels bow with reverent awe, and yet, seeing the sin was upon Him, He was made subject to the most intense degree of shame. Seeing that Jesus stood in our stead, it is written of the eternal Father that "He spared not his own Son." "It pleased the Father to bruise him: he hath put him to grief"; He made His soul an offering for sin.

Yes, beloved, sin is condemned in the flesh and made to appear exceeding shameful when you recollect that, even though it was only laid on our blessed Lord by imputation, yet it threw Him into the very depths of shame and woe ere it could be removed.

C. H. Spurgeon


12 comments:

Greg Gibson said...

Spurgeon: "whereas in this passage of Isaiah we are taught as plainly as possible that by His bruising and His stripes, as well as by His death, we are healed."

May I question Spurgeon's interpretation of Is. 53:5?

1. Peter interprets Is. 53:5 as applying to Christ's crucifixion, not his whipping...

"He Himself bore our sins in His body ON THE TREE...by His wounds you have been healed." (I Pet. 2:24, NIV)

2. Some commentators, including MacArthur and Carson, see the verse's context as Christ's crucifixion, not His whipping.

"Is. 53:5...The stripe (the Hebrew noun is singular) that caused his DEATH has brought salvation to those for whose sins He died. Peter confirms this in 1 Peter 2:24" (MacArthur Bible Comm., p. 825).

"1 Pet. 2:24...'by whose stripes you were healed'...Through the wounds of Christ AT THE CROSS" (MacArthur, p. 1911).

"Peter's addition of the two phrases 'in his body' and 'on the tree' specify Jesus' CRUCIFIXION as the locus of the sacrifice that he has in mind...By his wounds you have been healed" (D.A. Carson, Comm. on the NT Use of the OT, p. 1035).

3. Several Bible versions plus Hebrew and Greek scholars translate it as "wounds," instead of "stripes" (although the words are probably related). Even if the correct translation states or implies stripe(S?), it is best understood as figurative stripes from God the Father, not literal stripes from the Romans. Stripe/wound is likely figurative like "crushed" and "poured out." Vine agrees with the figurative interpretation...

"MOLOPS, a bruise, a wound from a stripe, is used in 1 Pet. 2:24 (from the Sept. of Is. 53:5), lit., in the original, 'by whose bruise,' not referring to Christ's scourging, but figurative of the stroke of Divine judgment administered vicariously to Him on the Cross" (Vine, Exp. Dict. of NT Words, p 83).

In conclusion, I don't think 1 Pet. 2:24 is a good prooftext for the Imputation of Christ's Active Obedience (IAO). Phil, what do you think?

P.S. A couple months ago, I searched for your FIRE paper on IAO, but could not find it. Can you please link me to it? Thanks.

Daryl said...

Greg,

I wonder if you're splitting hairs that need not be split. It seems to me that the cross encompasses all of his suffering in relation to the execution. Indeed, often when we speak of the cross we infer the cross, the resurrection and the ascension.

Did Jesus suffer for me only on the cross? If so, for whom was he whipped and beaten? Certainly not for him, and I can't think that God allowed that to happen for no good reason.

That Conservative Dude said...

Thanks for the post Phil. I wondered why if it was just Jesus dying on the cross that was needed why God allowed Jesus to go through so much more. I know that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin & blood was shed from His hands & feet from the nails.I thought that the beatings, floggings, crown of thorns, spitting & humiliations were just man's evil nature having a blood lust.

Greg Gibson said...

Daryl: It seems to me that the cross encompasses all of his suffering in relation to the execution.

Greg: Hi Daryl. I can't think of anywhere in the NT where "on the cross/tree" refers to His entire 33 years, instead of the last 6 hours of his life. And, I don't think He atoned until the end of that 6 hours when He died.

Daryl: Did Jesus suffer for me only on the cross? If so, for whom was he whipped and beaten?

He was whipped and beaten as our example, not our substitute.

Joelle said...

Is the posted title original to Spurgeon? I got the impression that in this instance Spurgeon was contrasting death-only with death-and-suffering, not with death-and-obedient-life.

Anyway, thanks for the post.

CharlieontheT said...

I wish Spurgeon were around to answer the NPP....

Daryl said...

Greg,

I never mentioned 33 years, just his execution. His 33 years are the active obedience imputed to us.

Where do you get the idea that the whippings were an example?

It was all for me, not as an example, merely, but actually to be applied to me in full.

Greg Gibson said...

Daryl: I never mentioned 33 years, just his execution. His 33 years are the active obedience imputed to us.

Greg: I'm sorry I misinterpreted your comment and assumed that you meant his suffering from His entire life. But, perhaps you were referring only to His suffering during His arrest? However, the phrase "on the tree" (I Pet. 2:24) can only refer to the time of His crucifixion, not earlier during His arrest.

Daryl: Where do you get the idea that the whippings were an example? It was all for me, not as an example, merely, but actually to be applied to me in full.

Christ's whole life (His faith, obedience, love, teaching, evangelism, suffering, etc.) are an example to us (1 Pet. 2:21ff.) Where does the Bible tell us that His prayer in the Garden or His beatings during His arrest were substitutionary or atoning? Doesn't that view imply that His death was NOT sufficient to atone for our sins?

Daryl said...

Well Greg, to use that reasoning, even the crucifixion wasn't for me. After all he said, "No one takes my life from me but I lay it down of my own accord."

So clearly it was only the very moment of his decision to stop living that atoned for us, the cross was immaterial.

I think you're being way to reductionistic in your definition of the cross or of Jesus' death.

Greg Gibson said...

FWIW, I do agree with MacArthur and other scholars who view the NT references to Christ's blood as a metaphor for His death. So, I don't think any of His blood spilled before death (during whipping) atoned. Likewise, if one day He had cut Himself shaving, that couldn't atone. Christ's death alone sufficiently atoned for our sins.

And, yes I concede that I am being reductionistic about Christ's death because I believe the Bible is reductionistic in these 4 verses below...

Christ suffered and offered Himself for our sins only once, not multiple times during His life. The most natural way (although not logical) to interpret the word "once," is "(ONLY) once."

"I will remove the sin of this land in a SINGLE day." (Zech. 3:9)

"For Christ also suffered ONCE for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous" (1 Pet. 3:18).

"Christ, having been offered ONCE to bear the sins of many will appear a second time" (Heb. 9:28).

"But when Christ had offered for all time a SINGLE sacrifice for sins...For by a SINGLE offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified" (Heb. 10:12-14).

I have never heard anyone who believes IAO even attempt to explain these 4 verses.

Greg Gibson said...

Spurgeon: Never divide between the life and death of Christ.

Greg: Sometimes, but not always. Sometimes the NT refers to Christ's whole life, from His birth to His death. Sometimes it isolates His birth alone. And, sometimes it isolates His death alone (Zech. 3:9, 1 Pet. 3:18, Heb. 9:28, 10:12:14).

Spurgeon: There is risen up a modern idea which I cannot too much reprobate, that Christ made no atonement for our sin except upon the cross

Greg: Someone here correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the historical record exactly the opposite? Wasn't atonement by Christ's death the historical teaching of the apostolic fathers for centuries. Then, wasn't atonement by Christ's law-keeping and suffering from His birth to death invented centuries later (maybe in the 16th century)?

I usually agree with Spurgeon ~98% of the time. But, I've got to differ with him here. In light of his interpretation of Is. 53:5, plus Christ's once for all time sacrifice in Zech 3:9, 1 Pet. 3:18, Heb. 9:28, and 10:12-14, and church history, IMO Spurgeon hasn't thought through this issue very clearly.

Andrew said...

Greg: Someone here correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the historical record exactly the opposite? Wasn't atonement by Christ's death the historical teaching of the apostolic fathers for centuries. Then, wasn't atonement by Christ's law-keeping and suffering from His birth to death invented centuries later (maybe in the 16th century)?

Andrew: Not exactly. The historical teaching of the apostolic fathers and others in early centuries of the church tended to focus on the moral change in the Christian that came from following Jesus' teachings and example. This is often known as the "Moral influence" view, or "Moral exemplar" or "moralism". During and after the fourth century, several new theories became popular: Various theories such as a ransom from Satan, a union with God, a fight with Satan, and a payment to God's justice began to be mentioned by some writers.

In the 11th century, Anselm expanded a minor theme from Augustine's writings into an overarching framework of atonement. In Anselm's model it is Christ's faithfulness to God, his law-keeping and suffering throughout his life, and finally his faithful death that matter. By living and dying faithfully to God, Christ makes up for human unfaithfulness. Christ voluntarily pays God the honour and faithfulness which humans had owed but failed to give. This model is known as the "Satisfaction" theory.

Around the 16th century around the time of the Reformation, Anselm's model was usually reinterpreted into what we know as "Penal Substitution". His feudal notions of honor and repayment were replaced with law-court notions of guilt and justice. Christ's sufferings were seen a him enduring our punishment on our behalf. This idea had a number of variants which were explored by different writers.

I think Spurgeon is comparing some of the different variants of penal substitution. So he would have in mind the various interpretations of it presented in the period ~1500-1880AD. So when he calls the version of penal substitution he is critiquing "modern", the implication is that it became common in the 1800s. I have no idea whether he is right in this claim - you'd need to ask someone whose specialty is variants of penal substitution in the period 1500-1900.