Mar 28 2020

Redemption Theology Part 3

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Chapter 6

Of “Saint Paul the Apostle: His Life, Theology, and Works”

(By Fr. Matthew the Poor)

Theology of Redemption

Part Three

First – The Theory of Ransom by Paying the Price (Contd.)

The real meaning of redemption: The price was paid to us: (contd.)

The apostle Paul lived through these redemptive sufferings, welcoming them and even desiring for more.

It is impossible to desire more sufferings without believing that they will lead to glory. Therefore, he boldly declares, “… if indeed we suffer with Him that we may also be glorified together,” (Rom. 8:17). It is this amazing fellowship in the redemptive pains that alone leads to fellowship in glory with Christ. These redemptive pains cannot be separated from His redemptive death and resurrection. Therefore, he declares in earnest, “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection”, (Rom. 6:5).

All of these mean that Christ’s redemptive death is our death, His redemption is ours, not as a theory to be taught but a life to be lived. And it is the life of the risen Christ that became our life and His resurrection that became ours as well. The verse is clear, “always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also be manifested in our body”, (2 Cor. 4:10). Here, St. Paul uses the power of Christ’s death to destroy the sin and the worldly desires in his own body so that the power of Christ’s resurrection and His life become manifested in Paul’s body that put his own desires to death. Thus the power of redemption accomplished through Christ’s death and resurrection becomes the source for our ethical values and Christian conduct, a life we live in power for death to our body’s desires and power for life of the spirit. Again we repeat that Redemption is not a theory that Paul invented but it is a life of victory over sin and of power to convert pain and suffering into joy and glory, and a power to convert death to full dominion over the lusts of our bodies.

Christ never paid a ransom with His precious blood to the principal of this life or to sin; certainly not; but He gave it to us with its sufferings to be ours, a salvific power that we own.

Second – Atonement by Substitution1

A punishment in place of our punishment – Christ died instead of us.

This theory is based on the Old Testament’s sacrifice concept that the death of the victim and shedding of its blood is a substitute for the sinner’s death; a soul in place of a soul, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: “and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul. (Lev. 17:11)

The general ritual concerning sacrifices underlines the concept of substitution, i.e. the victim instead of the sinner. But the most important thing the reader must understand is that in the Law of the Old Testament there is no sacrifice for deliberate and willful sin but it deserves death in any circumstances. All the Old Testament sacrifices were for the sin that is done in ignorance, which is clarified to the person afterwards:

·      “If a soul shall sin through ignorance (or unintentionally) against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them; If the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people; …….And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty let him bring for his sin, which he has sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the LORD for a sin offering…. When a ruler hath sinned, and done somewhat through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD his God concerning things which should not be done, and is guilty. Or if his sin which he committed comes to his knowledge…” (Lev. 4:1-35)

The book of Leviticus continues through the fifth chapter to list all the sins of ignorance (or unintentionally), when the sinner realizes his guilt once it is clarified to him, he immediately becomes a sinner and has to offer a sacrifice for his sin or trespass.

Here the laying of the sinner’s hand over the lamb signifies the transfer of the sin of ignorance from the sinner to the lamb which is sacrificed in place of the sinner or transgressor. The lamb’s blood is shed at the altar of the Lord and the body is burned completely; either on the altar or outside of the camp, (Lev. 4:8-12). The complete burning of the sacrificed animal by the priest then atones for the sin of ignorance.

Please note that the Old Testament’s sacrifice is offered by the sinner and slaughtered for him and died for him such that the lamb died in order that the sinner does not die. Here the animal dies alone, and therefore the life of the sacrifice was offered instead of that of the sinner.

Can this concept be applied, both in process and in meaning, to Christ’s death on the cross? There is a serious problem with that hypothesis in that all the sins that were subjected to this substitution process were sins of ignorance that had been committed unwillingly. There is absolutely no sacrifice in the entire Mosaic Law for deliberate and willful sins. To substitute a soul for a soul in cases of deliberate sins has never been applied nor addressed throughout the Mosaic Law. The soul that willfully sinned in the Old Testament was put to death. Therefore, it is difficult to apply this concept to the sacrifice of Christ which is a sacrifice on willful sins and all kinds of sins for which the law of the Old Testament cannot offer a sacrifice.

Thus it is impossible to consider that the sacrifice of Christ is in place or instead of the death of the sinner because, according to the Law of Moses he has to die and no sacrifice can be offered for him.

Then what about Christ’s sacrifice?            

Christ’s sacrifice is actually the death of the sinner. Christ took our flesh, the human flesh in fullness, and the flesh of all sinners. First, He was incarnate of the Virgin and the Holy Spirit, pure of sin but it was a real human body, the same like all of us sinners, then, He accepted all our sins in that body; all the sins of the world. He accepted death of the cross as a sinner, carrying the sins of the world, such that every sinner can count this as his/her own death. Christ did not die apart from us. He took us with Him to death, and we died in Him. Every man can now proclaim in truth that he/she actually died in Christ, paid the punishment of death and is no longer under judgement. This can never be equated to the sin of ignorance committed by someone in the Old Testament, since only the ignorance sin was paid up by the death of a lamb; by substitution. But, for willful and deliberate sin there was no sacrifice and no substitution. Thus, the sacrifice of Christ is not comparable to any of the Old Testaments sacrifices and cannot be a substitution.

Besides, the lamb in the Old Testament was fully burned, some at the altar and the rest outside of the camp. No one eats from it, neither the priest, nor the sinner since it carries sin in it. Anyone who even tastes it is cursed according to the Law. While the sacrificed body of Christ is eaten; body and blood, “Take eat this is My body … Drink of it, all of you for this is My blood” (Mt. 26, 26-28). This means that the Old Testament sacrifice bore the sin in it and, therefore, cannot be eaten. But now the sin and the curse were borne by Christ and fully abolished by His death and existed no more. Thus, His body is eaten and His blood is drunk for life and purification as they are pure and holy.

This means that Christ did not take our sins away from us and died instead of us, but took our body and killed sin in it. He did not die on the cross alone; we all were with Him on the Cross, “I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). We were all in Him when He died in the flesh, our flesh, and crucified sin – our deliberate and willful sin – that is in us: “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrectionKnowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with … Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” (Rom. 6:5-8).

Thus when Christ was crucified, He was not alone, but we were crucified with Him”. How then, do we claim that He was crucified instead of us?  

When He died, He was not alone, but we died with Him”. How then, do we claim that He died instead of us?

As we said before (in part 2 of this series), we suffered with Him. How come, then, do we say that He suffered instead of us?

But Christ was crucified in us, in our flesh, for us and therefore we were crucified with HimHe died in our flesh for us and therefore we died with Him. (Notice “for us” and not “instead of us.” More on this in the next Part)                                                                                                                                                    

(To be contd.)

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Footnotes:

  1. The Protestant Church firmly holds onto this concept of substitution. And, although we don’t want and don’t like to get into theological arguments, but we were compelled to explain our stand in this respect because of its spiritual importance which the reader will find very comforting.

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