A Vindication of the Satisfaction of Christ, as the first Effect or Fruit of his Priesthood
by John Flavel
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.
Gal. 3: 13
You have seen the general nature, necessity and parts of Christ's priesthood, viz. oblation and intercession. Before you part from this office, it is necessary you should farther take into consideration the principal fruits and effects of his priesthood; which are, complete satisfaction and the acquisition or purchase of an eternal inheritance. The former viz. The satisfaction, made by his blood, is manifestly contained in this excellent scripture before us, wherein the apostle (having shown before, at ver. 10. that whosoever "continues not in all things written in the law, to do them, are cursed)" declares how, notwithstanding the threats of the law, a believer comes to be freed from the curse of it, namely, by Christ's bearing that curse for him, and so satisfying God's justice, and discharging the believer from all obligations to punishment.
More particularly, in these words you have the believer's discharge from the curse of the law, and the way and manner thereof opened.
1. The believers discharge; Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law. The law of God has three parts, commands promises, and threatening or curses. The curse of the law is its condemning sentence, whereby a sinner is bound over to death, even the death of soul and body. The chain, by which it binds him, is the guilt of sin; and from which none can loose the soul but Christ. This curse of the law is the most dreadful thing imaginable; it strikes at the life of a sinner, yea, his best life, the eternal life of the soul: and when it has condemned, it is inexorable, no cries nor tears, no reformation nor repentance can loose the guilty sinner; for it requires for its reparation that which no mere creature can give, even an infinite satisfaction. Now from this curse Christ frees the believer; that is, he dissolves the obligation to punishment, cancels the hand-writing, looses all the bonds and chains of guilt, so that the curse of the law has nothing to do with him for ever.
2. We have here the way and manner in and by which this is done; and that is by a full price paid down, and that price paid in the room of the sinner, both making up a complete and full satisfaction. He pays a full price, every way adequate and proportionable to the wrong. So much this word, "hemas exegorasen", which we translate redeemed, imports; he has bought us out, or fully bought us, that is, by a full price. This price with which he so fully bought or purchased our freedom from the curse, is not only called "lutron", Mat. 20: 28. or ransom, but more emphatically "antilutron", in 1 Tim. 2: 5, 6 which might be translated an adequate or fully answerable ransom. And so his freeing us by this price, is not only expressed by "egorasas toi Theoi hemas", "Thou hast bought us to God by thy blood," Rev. 5: 9. but "exegorasen hemas", he has fully, perfectly, bought us out. And as the price or ransom paid was full, perfect, and sufficient in itself; so it was paid in our room, and upon our account: so saith the text, "By his being made a curse for us," the meaning is not, that Christ was made the very curse itself, changed into a curse; no more than when the word is said to be made flesh, the divine nature was converted into flesh, hut it assumed or took flesh; and so Christ took the curse upon himself; therefore it is said, 2 Cor. 5: 21. "He was made sin for us who knew no sin;" that is, our sin was imputed to our surety, and laid upon him for satisfaction. And so this word "huper" [for] implies a substitution of one, in the place and stead of another. Now the price being full, and paid in lieu of our sins, and thereupon we fully redeemed or delivered from the curse, it follows, as a fair and just deduction, that,
Doct. The death of Christ; has made a full satisfaction to God for all the sins of his elect.
"He (to wit our surety, Christ) was oppressed, and he was afflicted," saith the prophet, Isa. 52: 7. it may be fitly rendered, (and the words will bear it without the least force) it was exacted, and answered. But how, being either way translated, it establisheth the satisfaction of Christ, may be seen in our learned Annotations on that place. So Col. 1: 14. "In whom we have 'apolutrosin dia tou haimatos', redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sin." Here we have the benefit, viz. redemption interpreted by way of opposition, "even the remission of sins;" and the matchless price that was laid down to purchase it, the blood of Christ. So again, Heb. 9: 12. "By his own blood he entered once into the holy place, having obtained 'aionian lutrosin', eternal redemption for us." Here is eternal redemption, the mercy purchased: his own blood, the price that procured it.
Now forasmuch as this doctrine of Christ's satisfaction is so necessary, weighty and comfortable in itself, and yet so much opposed and intricated by several enemies to it; the method I shall take for the clearing, establishing, and preparing it for use, shall be,
First, To open the nature of Christ's satisfaction, and shew what it is.
Secondly, To establish the truth of it, and prove that he made full satisfaction to God for all the sins of the elect.
Thirdly, To answer the most considerable objections made against it.
And lastly, To apply it.
First, What is the satisfaction of Christ, and what does it imply? I answer, satisfaction is the act of Christ, God-man, presenting himself as our surety in obedience to God and love to us; to do and to suffer all that the law required of us: thereby freeing us from the wrath and curse due to us for sins.
1. It is the act of God-man; no other was capable of giving satisfaction for an infinite wrong done to God. But by reason of the union of the two natures in his wonderful person, he could do it, and has done it for us. The human nature did what was necessary in its kind; it gave the matter of the sacrifice: the divine nature stamps the dignity and value upon it, which made it an adequate compensation: so that it was opus "Theandrikon", the act of God-man; yet so, that each nature retained its own properties, notwithstanding their joint influence into the effect. If the angels in heaven had laid down their lives, or if the blood of all the men in the world had been poured out by justice, this could never have satisfied, because that "axiosis", worth and value which this sacrifice has, would have still been wanting. "It was God that redeemed the church with his own blood," Acts 20: 18. If God redeem with his own blood, he redeems as God-man, without any dispute.
2. If he satisfy God for us, he must present himself before God, as our surety, in our stead, as well as for our good; else his obedience had signified nothing to us; to this end he was "made under the law," Gal. 4: 4. comes under the same obligation with us, and that as a surety, for so he is called, Heb. 7: 22. Indeed his obedience and sufferings could be exacted from him upon no other account. It was not for any thing he had done that he became a curse. It was prophesied of him, Dan. 9: 26. "The Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself;" and being dead, the scriptures plainly assert it was for our sins, and upon our account: so 1 Cor. 15: 3. "Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures." And it is well observed by our divines, who assert the vicegerency and substitution of Christ in his sufferings, that all those Greek particles which we translate [for] when applied to the sufferings of Christ do note the meritorious, deserving, procuring cause of those sufferings. So you find, Heb. 10: 12. "He offered one sacrifice 'huper hamartion', for sins." 1 Pet. 3: 18. "Christ once suffered, 'peri' for sins." Rom. 4: 25. "He was delivered, 'dia', for our offences." Mat. 20: 28. "He gave his life a ransom, 'anti', for many." And there are that confidently affirm this last particle is never used in any other sense in the whole book of God; as "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," i.e. one in lieu of another. Just as those whom the Greeks called "antipsuchoi", men that exchanged their lives, or gave life for life, staking down their own to deliver another's, as Philumene did for Aristides. And so the poet Virgil speaks: Si fratrem Pollux alterna morte redemit. And indeed, this very consideration is that which supports the doctrine of imputation, the imputation of our sins to Christ, and the imputation of Christ's righteousness unto us, Rom. 5: 19. For how could our sins be laid on him, but as he stood in our stead? or his righteousness be imputed to us, but as he was our surety, performing it in our place; so that to deny Christ's sufferings in our stead, is to lose the corner-stone of our justification, and overthrow the very pillar which supports our faith, comfort and salvation. Indeed if this had not been, he would have been the righteous Lord, but not the Lord our righteousness, as he is stiled, Jer. 33: 16. So that it was but a vain distinction, to say it was for our good, but not in our stead: for had he not been in our stead, we could not have had the good of it.
3. The internal moving cause of Christ's satisfaction for us, was his obedience to God, and love to us. That it was an act of obedience, is plain from Phil. 2: 8. "He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Now obedience respects a command, and each a command Christ received to die for us, as himself tells us, John 10: 18. "I lay down my life of myself; I have power to lay it down, and power to take it again: this commandment have I received of my Father." So that it was an act of obedience with respect to God, and yet a most free and spontaneous act with respect to himself. And that he was moved to it out of pity and love to us, himself assures us: Gal. 5: 2. "Christ loved us, and gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God." Upon this Paul sweetly reflected, Gal. 2: 20. "Who loved me and gave himself for me." As the external moving cause was our misery, so the internal was his own love and pity for us.
4. The matter of Christ's satisfaction, was his active and passive obedience to all the law of God required. I know there are some that doubt whether Christ's active obedience have any place here, and so whether it he imputed as any part of our righteousness. It is confessed, that scripture most frequently mentions his passive obedience, as that which made the atonement, and procures our redemption, Matth. 20: 28. and 26: 28. Rom. 3: 24, 25 and elsewhere: but his passive obedience is never mentioned exclusively, as the sole cause, or matter of satisfaction. But in those places where it is mentioned by itself, it is put for his whole obedience, both active and passive, by an usual trope; and in other scriptures it is ascribed to both, as Gal. 4: 4. he is said, "to be under the law, to redeem them that were under the law." Now his being "made under the law" to this end, cannot be restrained to his subjection to the curse of the law only, but to the commands of it also. So Rom. 5: 19. "As by one man's disobedience, many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one, shall many be made righteous." It were a manifest injury to this text also, to restrain it to the passive obedience of Christ only. To be short, this twofold obedience of Christ, stands opposed to a twofold obligation that fallen man is under; the one to do what God requires, the other to suffer what he has threatened for disobedience. We owe him active obedience as his creatures, and passive obedience as his prisoners. Suitably to his double obligation, Christ comes under the commandment of the law, to fulfil it actively, Matth. 3: 15. and under the malediction of the law, to satisfy it passively. And whereas it is objected by some, if he fulfilled the whole law for us by his active, what need then of his passive obedience? We reply, great need; because both these make up that one, entire, and complete obedience, by which God is satisfied, and we justified. It is a good rule of Alsted, obedientia Christi est una copulativa; the whole obedience of Christ, both active and passive, make up one entire perfect obedience; and therefore there is no reason why one particle, either of the one, or of the other, should be excluded.
5. The effect and fruit of this his satisfaction, is our freedom, ransom, or deliverance from the wrath and curse due to us for our sins. Such was the dignity, value, and completeness of Christ's satisfactions, that in strict justice it merited our redemption and full deliverance; not only a possibility that we might be redeemed and pardoned, but a right whereby to be so, as the learned Dr. Twiss judiciously argues. If he be made a curse for us, we must then be redeemed from the curse, according to justice; so the apostle argues, Rom. 3: 25, 56. "Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time, his righteousness, that God might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." Mark the design and end of God in exacting satisfaction from Christ, it was to declare his righteousness in the remission of sin to believers; and lest we should lose the emphatical word, he doubles it, to declare, I say, his righteousness. Every one can see how his mercy is declared in remission: but he would have us take notice, that his justification of believers is an act of justice; and that God, as he is a just God, cannot condemn the believer, since Christ has satisfied his debts. This attribute seems to be the main bar against remission; but now it is become the very ground and reason why God remits. O how comfortable a text is this! Doth Satan or conscience set forth thy sin in all its discouraging circumstances and aggravations? God has set forth Christ to be a propitiation. Must justice be manifested, satisfied and glorified? So it is in the death of Christ, ten thousand times more than ever it could in thy damnation. Thus you have a brief account of the satisfaction made by Jesus Christ.
Secondly, We shall gather up all that has been said to establish the truth of Christ's satisfaction; proving the reality of it, that it is not an improper, catachrestical, fictitious satisfaction, by divine acceptilation, as some have very diminutively called it; but real, proper, and full, and as such accepted by God. For his blood is the stood of a Surety, Heb. 7: 22. who came under the same obligations of the law with us, Gal. 4: 4. and though he had no sin of his own, yet standing before God as our Surety, the iniquities of us all were laid upon him, Isa. 53: 6. and from him did the Lord, with great severity, exact satisfaction for our sins, Rom. 8: 32. punish them upon his soul, Matth. 27: 46. and upon his body, Acts 2: 23. and with this obedience of his Son, is fully pleased and satisfied, Eph. 5: 2. and has in token thereof raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand, 1 Tim. 3: 16. and for his righteousness-sake acquitted and discharged believers, who shall never more come into condemnation, Rom. 8: 1, 34. All this is plain in scripture; and our faith in the satisfaction of Christ, is not built on the wisdom of man, but the everlasting sealed truth of God: yet such is the perverse nature of man, and the pride of his heart, that whilst he should be humbly adoring the grace of God, in providing such a Surety for us, he is found accusing the justice, and diminishing the mercy of God, and raising all the objections which Satan and his own heart can invent, to overturn that blessed foundation upon which God has built up his own honour, and his people's salvation.
Thirdly, In the next place, therefore, we shall reject those doctrines, and remove the principal of those objections that are found militating against the satisfaction of Christ.
And, in the first place, we reject with deep abhorrence that doctrine, which ascribes to man any power, in whole, or in part, to satisfy God for his own, or other men's sins. This, no mere creature can do by active obedience, were it so complete that he could never sin in thought, word, or deed, any more, but live the most holy life that ever any lived: for all this would be no more than his duty as a creature, Luke 17: 10. and so can be no satisfaction for what he is by nature, or has done against God as a sinner. Nor yet by suffering; for we have offended an infinite God, and can never satisfy him by our finite sufferings.
We also, with like detestation, reject that doctrine which makes the satisfaction of Christ either impossible, or fictitious, and inconsistent with grace, in the free pardon of sin. Many are the cavils raised against Christ's satisfaction; the principal are such as these that follow:
Object. The doctrine of Christ's satisfaction is absurd, for Christ (say we) is God; if so then, God satisfied himself, than which what can be more absurd to imagine? Sol. I answer, God cannot properly be said to satisfy himself for that would be the same thing as to pardon, simply, without any satisfaction. But there is a twofold consideration of Christ; one in respect of his Essence and Divine Nature, in which sense he is the object both of the offence, and of the satisfaction made for it. Another in respect of his person and economy, or office; in which sense he properly satisfies God, being in respect of his manhood another, and inferior to God, John 14: 28. The blood of the man Christ Jesus is the matter of the satisfaction, the Divine Nature dignifies it, and makes it of infinite value. A certain family had committed treason against the king, and are all under the condemnation of the law for it' the king's son moved with pity and love, resolves to satisfy the law, and yet save the family; in order whereunto he marries a daughter of the family, whereby her blood becomes royal blood, and worth the blood of the whole family whence she sprang; this princess is by her husband executed in the room of the rest. In this case the king satisfies not himself for the wrong, but is satisfied by the death of another, equivalent in worth to the blood of them all. This similitude answers not to all the particulars, as indeed nothing in nature does, or can; but it only shows what it was that satisfied God, and how it became so satisfactory.
Object. If Christ satisfied by paying our debt, then he should have endured eternal torments; for so we should, and the damned shall.
Sol. We must distinguish betwixt what is essential, and what is accidental in punishment. The primary intent of the law is reparation and satisfaction; he that can make it at one entire payment (as Christ could and did) ought to be discharged. He that cannot (as no mere creature can) ought to lie for ever, as the damned do, under sufferings.
Object. If God will be satisfied for our sins before he pardon them, how then is pardon an act of grace.
Sol. Pardon could not be an act of pure grace, if God received satisfaction from us; but if he pardon us upon the satisfaction received from Christ, though it be of debt to him, it is of grace to us: for it was grace to admit a Surety to satisfy, more grace to provide him, and most of all to apply his satisfaction to us, by uniting us to Christ, as he has done.
Object. But God loved us before Christ died for us; for it was the love of God to the world that moved him to give his only-begotten Son. Could God love us, and yet not be reconciled and
Sol. God's complacent love is indeed inconsistent with an unreconciled state: He is reconciled to every one he so loves. But his benevolent love, consisting in his purpose of good, may be before actual reconciliation and satisfaction. Object. Temporal death, as well as eternal, is a part of the curse, if Christ have fully satisfied by bearing the curse for us, how is it, that those for whom he bare it, die as well as others? Sol. As temporal death is a penal evil, and part of the curse, so God inflicts it not upon believers; but they must die for other ends, viz. to be made perfectly happy in a more full and immediate enjoyment of God, than they can have in the body: and so, death is theirs by way of privilege, 1 Cor. 3: 22. They are not death's by way of punishment. The same may be said of all the afflictions with which God, for gracious ends, now exercises his reconciled ones. Thus much may suffice to establish this great truth.
Inference 1. If the death of Christ was that which satisfied God for all the sins of the elect, then certainly there is an infinite evil in sin, since it cannot be expiated but by an infinite satisfaction. Fools make a mock at sin, and there are but few souls in the world that are duly sensible of, and affected with its evil; but certainly, if God should damn thee to all eternity, thy eternal sufferings could not satisfy for the evil that is in one vain thought. It may be you may think this is harsh and severe, that God should hold his creatures under everlasting sufferings for sin, and never be satisfied with them any more. But when you have well considered, that the object against whom you sin, is the infinite blessed God, which derives an infinite evil to the sin committed against him; and when you consider how God dealt with the angels that fell, for one sin, and that but of the mind; (for having no bodily organs, they could commit nothing externally against God:) you will alter your minds about it. O the depth of the evil of sin! If ever you will see how great and horrid an evil sin is, measure it in your thoughts, either by the infinite holiness and excellency of God, who is wronged by it; or by the infinite sufferings of Christ, who died to satisfy for it; and then you will have deeper apprehensions of the evil of sin.
Inf. 2. If the death of Christ satisfied God, and thereby redeemed the elect from the curse: then the redemption of souls is costly; souls are dear things, and of great value with God. "Ye know, (says the apostle,) that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation, received by tradition; but with the precious blood of the Son of God, as of a lamb without spot," 1 Pet. 1: 18, 19. Only the blood of God is found an equivalent price for the redemption of souls. Gold and silver may redeem from Turkish, but not from hellish bondage. The whole creation sold to the utmost worth of it, is not a value for the redemption of one soul. Souls are very dear; he that paid for them found them so: yet how cheaply do sinners sell their souls, as if they were but low priced commodities! but you that sell your souls cheap, will buy repentance dear.
Inf. 3. If Christ's death satisfied God for our sins, how unparalleled is the love of Christ to poor sinners! It is much to pay a pecuniary debt to free another, but who will pay his own blood for another? We have a noted instance of Zaleucus, that famous Locrensian lawgiver, who decreed, that whoever was convicted of adultery, should have both his eyes put out. It so fell out that his own son was brought before him for that crime: hereupon the people interposing, made suit for his pardon. At length the father, partly overcome by their importunities, and not unwilling to show what lawful favour he might to his son, he first put out one of his own eyes, and then one of his son's; and so shewed himself both a merciful father, and a just lawgiver; so tempering mercy with justice, that both the law was satisfied, and his son spared. This is written by the historian as an instance of singular love in his father, to pay one half of the penalty for his son. But Christ did not divide, and share in the penalty with us, but bare it all. Zaleucus did it for his son, who was dear to him; Christ did it for enemies, that were fighting and rebelling against him: Rom. 5: 8. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." "O would to God (said a holy one) I could cause paper and ink to speak the worth and excellency, the high and loud praises of our brother ransomer! O the ransomer needs not my report; but O if he would take it, and make use of it! I should be happy if I had an errand to this world but for some few years, to spread proclamations, and out-cries, and love-letters of the highness [the highness evermore] of the ransomer, whose clothes were wet, and dyed in blood; howbeit, that after that, my soul and body should go back to their mother nothing."
Inf. 4. If Christ by dying, has made full satisfaction, then God is no loser in pardoning the greatest of sinners that believe in Jesus; and consequently his justice can be no bar to their justification and salvation. He is just to forgive us our sins, 1 John 1: 9. What an argument is here for a poor believer to plead with God! Lord, if thou save me by Jesus Christ, thy justice will be fully satisfied at one full payment; but if thou damn me, and require satisfaction at my hands, thou canst never receive it: I shall make but a dribbling payment, though I lie in hell to eternity, and shall still be infinitely behind with thee. Is it not more for thy glory to receive it from Christ's hand, than to require it at mine? One drop of his blood is more worth than all my polluted blood. O how satisfying a thing is this to the conscience of a poor sinner that is objecting the multitude, aggravations, and amazing circumstances, of his sins, against the possibility of their being pardoned! Can such a sinner as I be forgiven? Yes, if thou believest in Jesus, thou mayest; for so God will lose nothing in pardoning the greatest transgressors: "Let Israel hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption," Psal. 130: 7. i.e. a large stock of merit lying by him in the blood of Christ, to pay him for all that you have done against him.
Inf 5. Lastly, If Christ has made such a full satisfaction as you have heard, How much is it the concernment of every soul to abandon all thoughts of satisfying God for his own sins and retake himself to the blood of Christ, the ransomer, by faith, that in that blood they may be pardoned? It would grieve one's heart to see how many poor creatures are drudging and tugging at a task of repentance, and revenge upon themselves, and reformation, and obedience, to satisfy God for what they have done against him: And alas! it cannot be, they do but lose their labour, could they swelter their very hearts out, weep till they can weep no more, cry till their throats be parched, alas, they can never recompence God for one vain thought; for such is the severity of the law, that when it is once offended, it will never be made amends again by all that we can do: it will not discharge the sinner, for all the sorrow in the world. Indeed, if a man be in Christ, sorrow for sin is something, and renewed obedience is something; God looks upon them favourably, and accepts them graciously in Christ: but out of him they signify no more than the intreaties and cries of a condemned malefactor, to reverse the legal sentence of the judge. You may toil all the days of your life, and at night go to bed without a candle. To that sense that scripture sounds, Isa. 1. 11. "Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that you have kindled: This shall ye have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow." By fire, and the light of it, some understand the sparkling pleasures of this life, and the sensitive joys of the creatures: but generally it is taken for our own natural righteousness, and all acts of duties, in order to our justification by them before God. And so it stands opposed to that faith of recumbence spoken of in the verse before. By their compassing themselves about with these sparks, understand their dependence on these their duties, and glorying in them. But see the fatal issue, Ye shall lie down in sorrow, that shall be your recompence from the hand of the Lord that is all the thanks and reward you must expect from him, for slighting Christ's, and preferring your own righteousness before his. Reader, be convinced, that one act of faith in the Lord Jesus pleases God more than all the obedience, repentance, and strivings to obey the law, through thy whole life, can do. And thus you have the first special fruits of Christ's priesthood, in the full satisfaction of God, for all the sins of believers.
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