Dr. S. Lewis Johnson concludes a three-part series within his exposition of Christ's sufferings that focuses on the history of the Christian doctrine of the atonement. The work of St. Anselm from the 11th Century is emphasised.
[Prayer] Father, we are grateful to Thee for the Scriptures, for the light that they shed upon our pathway, above all for the light that they give us concerning Jesus Christ who loved us and gave himself for us. And we thank Thee for the atonement which he has accomplished. We recognize Lord that the death upon the cross and the shedding of the blood is that upon which we have based our hopes for the future as well as for the present.
And we’re grateful to Thee for the assurance that has come to us through the work that he did. And we ask, Lord now as we consider some of the interpretations that have been placed upon the atonement, that Thou would guide us into that which is in accordance with Thy mind.
We pray that Thou will give us diligence, that Thou will give us keenness of mind, as well as heart to understand, and enable us to realize and grasp the significance of the atoning work of Jesus Christ. We commit this hour to Thee for Thy blessing upon us. In Jesus’ name, and for his sake. Amen.
[Message] Tonight is the third, and the final, within our series entitled, “Why Did He Die? The Answers of History.” Now if you look at the series of messages and the schedule, you’ll notice that from time to time I will be giving other messages on the subject of the atonement as we proceed through the Gospel of Mark and the passion account to understand the topic “The Suffering Savior” and the Old Testament. Next week we turn again to Mark and consider the text itself, but tonight is the third in our series of studies, “Why Did He Die? The Answers of History.”
We have pointed out that all of the many attempts to explain the atonement are attempts to elucidate our Lord’s little word must. The Son of man must go to Jerusalem and die. And so all of our wrestling with the problems of the atonement are attempts to explain what Jesus Christ meant when he said, must. Now he does not tell us what he meant by that, and so it is our responsibility to search the Scriptures and to seek to find what he meant when he said, “The Son of man must die.”
The two most famous attempts of the past that we have considered so far are often called by these names. First The Classic Theory, this is the theory usually related to Irenaeus. It conceives of the work of Christ as terminating in some way upon Satan. Origen from Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa and others set it forth in the form of a ransom to Satan theory. By that, they understood that Jesus Christ came to offer his sacrifice upon the cross at Calvary as a ransom price which was paid to Satan. They theorize that as a result of man’s fall in the Garden of Eden, man fell into the hands of Satan, and since Satan was man’s prison keeper, it was necessary for the ransom to be paid to Satan in order that men might be released. That aspect of it has been largely denied by students of the Bible because there is no place in the Bible that even suggests that our Lord paid a ransom to Satan. Every indication of the payment of a ransom suggests that the ransom is a price that Jesus paid to God rather than to Satan. So The Classic Theory is a theory that looks at the work of Christ as terminating upon Satan. But some who have held to that theory have modified it and have spoken of a ransom price paid to Satan.
The second part of it, the ransom price paid to Satan is not a Scriptural aspect of The Classic Theory. The other aspect that is that the work of Jesus Christ terminates in some way upon Satan is a biblical stress. Because, remember we have in 1 John chapter 3 verse 8, “the Son of man was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” In Colossians chapter 2 and verse 15, we have a similar text in which the work of our Lord is related to “principalities and powers” or the Satanic or demonic world. And in Hebrews chapter 2 verse 14, the passage that I’ve cited more than once to you, the writer of that epistle says that,
“Inasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
So the idea that Jesus Christ’s work terminates upon Satan in some way is a biblical stress. But the idea that he paid a ransom to Satan himself is not a biblical stress. That’s The Classic Theory, it’s called classic because one of the popular risers of this theory in recent times, Bishop Aulen, a Swedish theologian, has claimed that it was probably the theory that the early church most spoke of and proclaimed. I do not think, really, that that is justified but nevertheless it has become so well known in theological circles and The Classic Theory that it’s probably safe for us to call it The Classic Theory, remembering it’s simply the work of Christ terminating in some way upon Satan.
Now, later on we will have occasion to deal with these in the context of the Gospel of Mark, and we’ll deal a little more with the detail of it. What I’m trying to do is to feed you a little bit of theology here and there so that you won’t get sick and go back to the text and handle the text a little more and get you strong again, and then feed you a little more theology so that ultimately you will say, “Give me more theology.”
The second theory that we’ve talked about was the Abelardian theory. This is the theory associated with Pierre Abelard, and it is generally spoken of or called a moral influence theory. It conceives of the work of Jesus Christ as terminating upon man in some way. And usually, specifically, in this sense, that the life and death of Jesus Christ took place in order to kindle within the hearts of men loving obedience to God. We are not to think that Jesus Christ shed his blood under the punishment of sin, but we are rather to think of Jesus Christ as offering us a beautiful example of love and out of that love God desires to inculcate within our hearts a loving obedience to him. I asked the question last time, “Did Jesus Christ redeem us by revealing God in this way, or does he reveal God by redeeming us?” And of course the answer is the he reveals God by redeeming us. He does not redeem us by reveling God.
Perhaps we can make this question of The Moral Influence Theory of the atonement a little more real to us by the use of an illustration. Let’s just suppose that a man has a son who has been ruined by living a reckless and wicked life. Now the father genuinely loves the son, but the son does not think that the father has loved him, and his heart is bitter against his father and so he goes off and as the parable of our Lord has put it, he waists all that he has in riotous living. Until finally, he reaches the last extremity of misery, he’s utterly destitute. He’s suffering from a disease that is a mortal, fatal disease, and it is evident that he soon must die. His life is in peril, and news comes to the father that the son is in this condition. And so he goes to see his son because he wants to, if possible, preserve him or save him from dying, ultimately, hoping of course, to influence him for good. When he reaches his son he discovers that his son is insensible. He is unconscious. It is impossible even for the son to speak to him. The only thing that the father can do is to provide for him in a way that his love would dictate, and so, he quickly arranges for him to go to the hospital. He arranges for all of the kinds of care that he needs and for days upon end, he sits by his bedside and a miracle takes place, and the young man is ultimately restored to his senses. And finally the father is able to take him out of the hospital and take him to the beach and over a period of weeks and months, finally, he is restored to health and strength.
Now we might way was the love of the father revealed to the son and was he saved by the revelation of the love. Or did the father, by his activities, save the son and thus reveal his love for the son. Well, it’s obvious that his was not by revealing his love to the son that he saved his life. It was in saving his life that he revealed his love. And the same thing is true in connection with the death of Jesus Christ. God does not redeem us merely by revealing his love for us in a marvelous sacrifice of his son. But he reveals his love by redeeming us the revelation comes through the redemption and not vice versa. All such attempts to posit redemption through the revelation of love fail, for it’s the revelation of love that follows from the redemption.
Now, in this lecture we want to come to the third of the historical attempts, the most famous of the historical attempts, to frame a theory of the atonement. And undoubtedly this particular attempt to frame a theory of the atonement is the finest of them all, and it is the Anselmian Satisfaction Theory sometimes called the Latin View of the Atonement. And if you listen to gospel preaching in 1974 men who are evangelicals many of them would not even know the name Anselm, and many of them who use the name might not know a great deal about the theory of Anselm. But you, immediately, if you heard them preach would recognize the influence of Anselm of Canterbury.
So Roman I in our outline, we want to first say just a few words about Anselm Canterbury as a man and as a theologian. This is only an introduction, of course, to his work, and I want you to understand that that is all it is.
Anselm the man, Anselm was born many think in 1033 AD. He died in 1109 AD. He actually was a younger contemporary of Abelard, and so they lived at the same time, roughly speaking. Their lives overlapped, as I remember, for about thirty years. He was an Italian by birth. He became the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093. He was a friend and follower of one of the most famous of theologians of his day, a man by the name of Lanfranc, who also as the Abbot of the monastery at Bec in France, and then later too, the Archbishop of Canterbury. And Anselm, as well, became the Abbot at the monastery at Bec, a famous monastery in Normandy in northern France, and also became the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Anselm the theologian, Anselm was a very strict Augustinian. He was a follower of Augustine in his philosophy and in his theology. He was, therefore, a man who believed in the depravity of human nature. He believed in a number of other of the doctrines that Augustine believed in. You remember that we have a kind of progression from the Apostle Paul through Athanaeus and Augustine and Anselm and Luther and Calvin and S. Lewis Johnson, Jr, in 1974
So Anselm was a strict Augustinian. He was the founder of scholasticism, probably the greatest of the scholastic theologians, although Roman Catholics, of course, would say that Thomas Aquinas was. He’s known for his great principle of Fides Quaerens Intellectum, which means faith seeking understanding. There has been a great deal of discussion over what Anselm meant by faith seeking understanding. Some theologians have claimed that what he meant by that was that a man approaches the Bible on the basis of faith and, out of his faith, he comes to understanding of God. That probably is the general understanding of what Anselm meant by that great principle faith seeking understanding.
Others, however, have disagreed. But he is known also for the precision of his theological works. And he has written several which are quite important. One of them, called the Monologium, which he wrote in 1070, is a book in which he construction rational proofs for the existence of God. That was a very important work in its day. He also wrote a sequel called the Proslogium, and in it he advanced the ontological proof for the existence of God, probably one of the most famous for the proofs for the existence of God and one that philosophers and theologians in nineteen hundred and seventy four are spending a great deal of time over. It’s one of the famous rational proofs for the existence of God that has lasted down through the years and is an active question so far as the proof of the existence of God from reason is concerned.
Now, I do not think that you can prove the existence of God by reason myself. But if you were to attempt it then, the ontological proof for the existence of God may be one of the proofs that you might be interested in. But Anselm’s greatest work was his work, Cur Deus Homo. Now if you remember your Latin, remember cur means why, deus means God, and homo means man. And so that means simply, “Why God became Man,” or, and many feel that this may be the best translation, “Why the God Man?” This is an epic making work. There is no question about it. If you wanted to go back and read some medieval work of theology, this is one you should read. It is a work that has affected all thinking about the salvation work of Jesus Christ ever since it was written. So for eight hundred years, it has been an important work.
Now let’s come to Anselm and the atonement or the Cur Deus Homo. Anselm’s theory has received differing responses since it was issued. Harnack, the great German theologian said, “No theory so bad had ever before his day been given out as ecclesiastical.” He did admit, however, that it was the first attempt to frame a theory of the necessity of the incarnation and the death of our Lord. James Denney, on the other hand, a relatively modern Scottish theologian said about Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo, “It is the truest and greatest book on the atonement that has ever been written.”
Now two such divergent viewpoints by two great scholars can only be explained by the fact, and I’m sure you’re not surprised, that Harnack was a great liberal scholar, and Denney was a great conservative scholar. And so one of them thinks it’s one of the worst books ever written and called an ecclesiastical work of theology. The other thinks that it’s the finest book on the atonement ever written, which only goes to show that if you’re a Christian, there are some things you like, and if you’re not a Christian, the same things may be very offensive to you, which is nothing more than what the Bible said would be the truth anyway.
Now let’s look at the major points in the theory of Anselm in the Cur Deus Homo. The title, I mentioned that this may be rendered why God became man or why the God man, but in essence you can see, Anselm addresses himself to the question, why did Jesus Christ come? It is a work then about the incarnation of our Lord seeking to discover the reason why Jesus Christ came.
Capital “B”, “The Principles in Summary,” I know, you know I’m proceeding so fast tonight you think I’ve got an engagement after this, but that’s not really true. “The Principles in Summary,” in essence his answer to his question is, the rationale of the incarnation lies in the atonement. Now this is an important conclusion. In Anselm’s day it was not so obvious. A great deal of stress was laid upon the incarnation in Anselm’s day. And there were many who felt that the incarnation itself represented the purpose and plan of God, and the death of Jesus Christ was not as significant as we see it today. But Anselm concluded that the rational of the incarnation lies in the atonement and the atonement is accomplished by the death of our Lord.
If we wanted to select two of his most famous statements, you could almost summarize all of his teaching around them. And one of them is the famous statement which is quoted over and over again in theological works. I’ll quote it in Latin first, “Nondum considerasti, quanti ponderis sit peccatum,” and I’m sure if you’ve read any theological work at all you would have seen that expression. You may not have recognized it when I cited it because you are not use to such beautiful pronunciation of Latin, I know. But anyway, the meaning of that is, a famous statement of theology, “You have not yet considered what a heavy weight sin is.” And Anselm is in the course of arguing the importance of the death and the atonement, and he speaks to his interlocutor Boso, and he says, “You have not yet considered how great a weight sin is.”
Now that kind of a statement, of course, is the kind of statement that you could write over almost all liberal theology today. You have not considered how great a weight sin is because the methods of atonement are not suited to the depth of human sin. We must find a method of atonement that is suited to total depravity, for example. So Anselm’s question, or statement, “You have not yet considered what a heavy weight sin is,” is a very important statement and expresses an important truth of theological thinking.
The second statement is, “It is not fitting for God to remit or forgive any irregularity in his kingdom.” It is not fitting for God to forgive any irregularity in his kingdom. And what he means by that is that God cannot just pardon sin willy-nilly. He cannot remit irregularity in his kingdom. There must be satisfaction for irregularity. There must be satisfaction for sin because if there were no satisfaction for sin then there is no law in the kingdom of God, and all of the moral universe would collapse like a deck of cards if it is true that God says something and when God’s words are broken by men, no punishment follows. And so the statement, “It is not fitting for God to forgive or remit any irregularity in his kingdom.” These two statements tell us the essential facts of Anselm’s theory.
But now, I want to look at its theory in the steps in which Anselm presented it. And then we’re going to criticize it a little bit and look at some of the New Testament passages which stress some of the things which Anselm was trying stress. Now Anselm in writing his work Why the God Man was seeking to convince Jews and Pagans, as well as Christians, by reason, by reason alone. He states that he wants to do this by reason alone. I say, “I don’t think it can be done.” But, he did a beautiful job of trying to do it, and in the course of it expressed some important truths. Specifically, he’s writing to Jews and Pagans, as well as Christians. And he wants to answer those who say, “Why cannot God just forgive sins sola volen toti,” that is by his own will, or by the mere exercise of his will. This is a common viewpoint among men. They think that it is possible for God, if he wishes, to forgive sin just to forgive sin. Why is it necessary that anyone should die for sin? Why cannot God just say, “I forgive your sin?” Fathers do that for children don’t they? We don’t require satisfaction. Why should God require any kind of satisfaction? Why do we have to have any atonement at all? Why not just believe in a God who just forgives sins?
Now you know in preaching the gospel, there are lots of people who would not reply, “Yes I believe that he can just forgive sins and that’s the end of it.” There are lots of people who would not say that, but who at the same time preach a gospel which means that. And if you analyze carefully what they are saying, they’re saying, in effect, that what Jesus Christ did so moved God that he was moved by mercy and pity and grace to forgive men apart from righteousness.
Now that is frequently the preaching of the gospel in the hands of men who are conservatives, who do not understand fully what the word of God teaches. They talk about being saved by grace, but they make the grace the forgiveness of the Father rather than the gift of the Son. You see, the truth of the Bible is that we are saved through righteousness. It is a righteous salvation that we possess. It is grace for God to give the Son, but our salvation is a righteous salvation. It is absolutely just that we should be freed, delivered, justified through the work of Jesus Christ. It is absolutely just. It is not grace that we should be justified, assuming the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is grace that God gave the Son, but it is by righteousness that we are saved.
So when I get to heaven I shall not be embarrassed at all. I shall arrive at the door, and if Peter is there, I doubt very much that he shall be there, but if St. Peter is there, I shall say, “Step aside, I have a place in here on the basis of righteousness.” I’m not looking for pity and mercy that has been exercised in the gift of the Son. But when he died and shed his blood, my salvation was righteousness procured. Now do you believe that? Well now if you don’t believe it, you’re not believing what the Bible says. Let me read you, the Bible says, “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” So our salvation is a righteous salvation. The Savior was given in grace, but the salvation is righteous salvation, so that grace reigns through righteousness.
Now how did I get off on that? We were talking about Anselm’s method by which he developed his argument. And now, let’s look at the lines of his argument. First of all, he begins by pointing out that God’s goal in creation is man’s blessedness. This is why God created men. Now if he does not attain this, Anselm says, then God’s purpose is frustrated. Considered by itself, of course, this kind of an argument would lead to Universalism. But Anselm does not say anything about that, I’m sure because the ones to whom he was writing would have thrown up their hands in holy horror at the idea of Universalism.
Now in the 20th Century that, of course, is not true because in the 20th Century Universalism is one of the most popular doctrines in our professing Christian churches throughout the western world. In Karl Barth’s theology, while Professor Barth specifically disowned Universalism, he admitted that his teaching led to Universalism, and his disciples have not stopped at the place where Professor Barth stood. They have gone on beyond Barth and teach without question the principles of Universalism. There are others who have a kind of holy skepticism about the whole question, but in the course of it, they say that we cannot deny Universalism.
Now to show you that this is right on your door step, I want to cite a news item with reference to one of our Southern churches, an important church, one that I’ve kept up with because it was the church in which I was originally brought up. This is a news item about the Presbyterian church in the United States, The Southern Presbyterian Church. A study of Universalism has been completed by the permanent theological committees of the Presbyterian Church U.S. and will be recommended to the one hundred and fourteenth, General Assembly, that’s this year, to be passed on for study in the denominations four thousand churches.
So along about June when they have they’re General Assembly, you look in the Dallas papers because there will be a report of it in the paper and see what happened to the report of the committee on Universalism. The 1972 Assembly, the news item continued, requested the committee to write the paper and report in 1973, but the committee last June asked for, and received, a year’s extension to finish its work. In various sections of the report, the committee states, “The key to understanding God is Jesus Christ.” Now there are some ellipses in this and I’m just reading it as the news item had it. “God’s final victory over evil and death is not dependent on us, but is assured because of God’s power and purpose. There is nothing in Scripture which expressly states that a person who dies without having faith in Jesus Christ will be saved.”
Now that, of course, is a true statement. There is nothing in Scripture which expressly says that a person who dies without having faith in Jesus Christ will be saved. But there is sufficient evidence for hope to caution us against closing the door on God’s possibilities. Now there, you see, is Universalistic influence. This particular report of the committee admits there’s not a text in the Bible, not a single text that suggests that a faithless person will be saved. But there is sufficient evidence unstated for hope to caution us against closing the door on God’s possibilities.
Now I’d like to know what hope we can possibly have arguing from Scripture if there’s not a single text that gives us an illustration of a person without faith being saved. Not to mention the fact that totally overlooked are all those passages in the Bible, of which there are many, and of which Jesus Christ himself is the greatest proclaimer, which say that the man who has no faith in him shall be lost. That’s not all the report says.
Now you know a committee can only get away with a report like this because the people are not studying the Bible. That’s why I can get away with a lot of things with you, because you don’t study the Scriptures and I could probably fool you on a lot of things. I think some night I’m going to try to do that [laughter]. And after I’ve fooled you, then I’m going to tell you because I’m not going to let you run off in error. Something might happen to you, but one of these nights I may just take out for a paragraph just insert a little counterfeit truth in the midst of all this wonderful truth that I’m talking about to see if you grasp it.
Now, it continues, the committee confirms in their conclusion, “God’s purpose for mankind and for his whole creation is gracious and loving. God’s love is universal. How his loving and holy purpose is ultimately to be realized is beyond our comprehension or understand. We must not seek to resolve that mystery by assertion of Universalism,” so we must not assert Universalism, “or in the fear of Universalism deny the universal love that is undeserved by us as sinful creatures.” So we must not assert Universalism, nor must we assert the contrary, but we must remain in this no man’s land of what I would call a holy skepticism over the whole question.
Now, I guess I must admit that I’m rather glad that I’m no longer in that particular denomination. I don’t often say that, but nevertheless I guess that I must say that I am rather glad. And I certainly am glad that my family, my immediate family has not been taught by men in that denomination. I’m certainly glad of that.
Well, now Anselm began then with a principle that might be pressed to Universalism, but he himself did not believe that. He said, “God’s end in creation is man’s blessedness.” That, I do not believe to be true God’s end in creation is the blessedness of some men, but not all men. If it were the end of God and the aim of God that all men should be blessed, then we would have Universalism, but we do not have. And so we can only conclude since God is sovereign, you do believe God is sovereign don’t you? Not two people believe God is sovereign. If God is sovereign in his purposes, and it is evident that many are lost, then we cannot say that it is the end and aim and purpose of God that all men be blessed through the creation.
Now the second point that Anselm set forth was that man has sinned. Man’s sin therefore needs remission. And what is sin for Anselm? Well sin for Anselm is the creatures withholding from God the honor due him. So to withhold from God the honor that is due him is for Anselm sin. This is very close to the biblical statement, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Well what’s to be done about the fact that God wishes that men be blessed through creation, but man has sinned.
Well the third of Anselm’s steps is, “There must be either satisfaction or punishment. If God is not to suffer ultimate defeat, something must be done.” Anselm says. But he cannot forgive sins by arbitrary exercise of his will. Sin would then be treated as if it were not in existence. If God were able just to forgive men apart from their sin, then there’s no such thing as sin demanding punishment. So it would be, Anselm said, to act as if sin is not in existence, if God should just forgive men in their sin.
Furthermore, he says that would destroy both the moral order and God’s honor. You cannot have any moral order in the universe if God’s laws are violated and men are not punished because of the violation of that law. Furthermore, God’s honor, thereby, is damaged since then men do not think of God in an honorable way, since he’s now just an old man who has given us a lot of laws which he does not enforce. And you know what happens in a human family when the head of the house says, “If you do so and so, this will happen,” and when you do it, it doesn’t happen pretty soon, you become a joke in your family.
That’s why men, as fathers, and women, as mothers, it’s important that you be constant in your dealings with your children so they will know precisely what the laws of the household are and what is to be expected and in collocating in them such principles when they hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and they hear about a God in heaven who has certain laws set forth in his word, then they will pay him a great deal of attention. But if he’s like their earthly father and he has a lot of laws that do not make any difference at all, then don’t be surprised if your children, if you’re that kind of a father, don’t pay any attention to God either.
Further, Anselm continued, punishment would frustrate God’s purpose. If God intends for some people to be blessed as a result of the creation, but all have sinned, if it’s satisfaction or punishment, well if we engage in the other alternative of punishment then God’s purpose would be frustrated. Therefore you must have a satisfaction. But a satisfaction must be of something greater than all the worlds, greater than everything which is less than God himself, Anselm pointed out.
Now this kind of satisfaction for all of the sin that has been committed or this kind of satisfaction for the sin of the elect well that is something that is beyond man’s power, Anselm pointed out. Man cannot render the satisfaction that is needed. Punishment of course would destroy God’s purposes, would mean that they would not come to pass. But man cannot offer the satisfaction that is the other alternative. It’s beyond his power. He’s under sin himself. And yet the satisfaction must be offered by men, Anselm pointed out. Furthermore, he said, if it is offered by a man, it must be by a man who while a man is not really under this principle of sin which pervades the whole of the human race. And so therefore he must be a man who offers the satisfaction, but he must not be a man who has come from a sinful mother. Therefore it is evident that he must be born of a virgin. And this is how Anselm approached by reason the necessity of the virgin birth, now you can see if Anselm is right about this, why the virgin birth is not an ancillary Christian doctrine, but a very important Christian doctrine. So what we need then is a man taken from a virgin, but yet at the same time from the original stock of humanity.
So what we need then is someone who is big enough to offer a satisfaction that is greater than all the worlds, greater in value than everything which is less than God himself and yet at the same time a man. What we need is a God man, Anselm reasoned, a man who is entitled to offer the ransom, and a God who is able to give that kind of satisfaction. Obedience is not the satisfaction, Anselm pointed out, because the man himself who offers the God man, he’s responsible to offer obedience because he’s a man. And so, it’s not the obedience of the Son of God that is the satisfaction for sin. There is only one thing that Jesus Christ can offer, because his perfect obedience is something he owes as a man. The only thing that he can offer is something he does not have to do. He doesn’t have to die. And so Anselm came to the conclusion that the atonement consisted in the offering by Jesus Christ of his death as a satisfaction to God. And because he is the God-man, he offered to God his own death which was more than all the worlds, less than God himself, as Anselm put it. And at the same time, it came from a God-man. That’s the satisfaction.
Well now it is evident that while Anselm theory may have some flaws in it, it is essentially what the Bible teaches about the offering of Jesus Christ. For our Lord did come to offer a satisfaction. G. Campbell Morgan, one of the great Bible teachers of a generation ago used to say, “Man’s need is three fold. He is distanced from God by sin. He is ignorant of God through sin. And he is unlike God in sin.” But when Jesus Christ as the God man came God found himself in this person, and being in this person he was with men and men by faith finding themselves in Jesus Christ, finding themselves with God. And so in the God man, man may be restored to God, although he was distanced by sin. He may come to know God truly, even though he was ignorant of God through sin and ultimately he will be like God in righteousness, though he was unlike him by his sin, or in the words of Job in the Old Testament, “His daysman has been found.”
In the 9th chapter and the 32nd and the 33rd verses, you’ll remember, job cries out, “For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, (that is between me and God) that might lay his hand upon us both.” There is no intermediary who may at the same time lay his hand upon God because he is God and lay his hand upon man because he is man and bring the two into fellowship of one another. But in the coming of Jesus Christ, the God man, we have a God, who can lay his hand upon God, and we have a man, who can lay his hand upon man, and he can bring into fellowship men who put their trust in him. That’s the essence of the saving work of Jesus Christ.
Now then let’s look at the New Testament for a few moments, Anselm and the New Testament and first a critique and then a comparison. I don’t have time to talk about Anselm’s theory for another hour, but I think it be criticized to that extent and I could take about an hour various facets of it that are not really true to the New Testament. A lot of it is because Anselm lived in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and because he did, he was bound upon the Roman Catholic penitential system. And some of his statements, particularly a statement concerning satisfaction is bounded by the limited viewpoint that they had in those days. And as a result of that certain things that he said are not true to New Testament teaching. And there are other things as well, but I’m going to just mention three things that I think are weak in Anselm’s theory.
First of all, Anselm does not stress, I do not think it is fair to say that he does not say anything about the love of God, he does. But he does not stress the love of God in providing the satisfaction. One of the reasons for this may well be the fact that Anselm was trying to convince pagans and Jews of the truthfulness of the satisfaction theory by reasoning with them. But at any rate, he doesn’t stress the love of God in providing the satisfaction. Now if we want to hold to that which is good in his theory and yet at the same time give the New Testament stress, then we must stress the love of God in the provision of the satisfaction. And this is the thing that Anselm did not stress.
Second, Anselm spoke of satisfaction or punishment, it never dawned on Anselm that the satisfaction that the Son of God rendered in his death was also a punishment for sin. He spoke of it as a satisfaction which was offered to God to gain merit so that sins would be forgiven. But it was Calvin, as you might expect, it was Calvin, the greatest theologian of the past, who came along after the time of Anselm and pointed out that it is not a question of satisfaction or punishment, that is not the dilemma that man faced, but it is satisfaction through punishment, and that is the biblical teaching, that God is satisfied through the punishment of our Lord Jesus Christ in our place, in our stead.
Third, Anselm failed to clarify the way his death’s benefits come to man. Anselm growing up in the Roman Catholic church and being strong a part of it, never grasped the full significance of what it was to be justified by faith. As you know that is a difficult thing for a Roman Catholic to grasp today. He likes to think of justification if he’s been liberated at all by Vatican too, but he still thinks of justification as accomplished through the church, through joining the church, through the ordinances of the church. The idea, of being justified though faith alone, is something that it is difficult for them to grasp. As a matter of fact, it’s difficult for all of us to grasp. And it is only by the irresistible grace of the Holy Spirit that we who are dumb and deaf and blind and hard hearted ever come to understand that we are justified by faith. Now this was missing from Anselm theory.
Now let’s, for a few moments, compare what Anselm taught to a couple of passages in the New Testament. Now I know that Mr. McRae has been talking about Romans chapter 3 verse 21 through verse 26 and so I will not say a whole lot about this passage. I’m sure that you have been pondering it and meditating upon it over the past month or so. This is one of the greatest passages in the New Testament on the doctrine of justification of course and it therefore is one of the great passages on the atonement. [Indistinct], the French theologian, has called it the marrow of theology. It is evident from reading this passage that Paul’s God is a God who demands satisfaction, but he is also a God who supplies the satisfaction that he demands. And we want to stress the fact that Paul’s God demands satisfaction but we want to stress also the fact that it is God who supplies the satisfaction that he demands.
Now the manner of the justification is set forth in verse 24 by the little word “freely.” “Being justified freely,” without a cause, for nothing, various ways that the word dorean is translated in the New Testament, justified freely, that’s the manner of our justification. We’re not justified by joining the church. We’re not justified by being baptized in water. We’re not justified by being plunged under water or having water sprinkled on our bald heads. We are justified freely, it is a gracious justification. There is no reason within us for our justification.
The method is set forth in verses 24 and 25. It is the Father who provides satisfaction. This is the thing that Anselm did not stress sufficiently, that it was the Father who provided the satisfaction. Paul says in verse 25, Romans chapter 3, “Whom God hath set forth to be a satisfaction through faith in his blood,” now he says that it is the Father who provides the satisfaction of his justice which secures our redemption by the punishment in a representative, and so Jesus Christ is our representative, and by virtue of the shedding of his precious blood under the judgment of God, God is satisfied in his justice and in his holiness.
The means of appropriation is also set forth in the 25th verse. “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith,” so the means of appropriation is through faith. And the intention, well the intention of it is best expressed in the last clause of verse 26, “that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus,” and that first little clause expresses what I’ve been trying to say tonight that no man is ever pardoned by God apart from righteous provision made for his sins. God cannot pardon sin apart from payment of the debt. So he is just in our justification that he might be just.
By the way did you notice that it is more important for Paul, if we go by that which he puts first, it is more important for Paul that God be just in his activities than that he justify us, so that the first person in the work of God is not man. The first person, the person whose interests are foremost is God himself. The problem is not so much how we can be saved. The problem is how he can save us and at the same time be just in doing it.
Down through the years of the Old Testament, the prophets and others said God is just. God punishes sin they said in words that meant the same thing, “The wages of sin is death.” The men of the Old Testament said we don’t see it. We see that some people suffer when they sin, but others don’t. Many of them seem to live very righteous lives. They seem to be very happy. Their families are happy. They have money. And when we look at the saints, they have troubles. They have problems. Tragedies happen to them. They don’t have a whole lot of money. All kinds of things seem to happen to the saints, and yet you say, “The wages of sin is death.” That questions was left unanswered until Jesus Christ cried out, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” and in the sufferings of our Lord, God answered for all of history and all of the prophetic future the question: Is God a just God? And he is. He punishes sin, and he lets us know it.
Time is flying. I have to stop, almost. I’m going to go just a few more moments over to Galatians. Galatians chapter 3 verse 10 through verse 14. Again what I’m trying to say is that God does not forgive arbitrarily. Galatians 3 verse 10,
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree”
Very quickly, God does not forgive sin without reason, without satisfaction. What Paul teaches in Galatians, as well as what he teaches in Romans 3 is that it is penal satisfaction via substitution that is the basis of man’s salvation. It is satisfaction for God is honored in his justice and in his righteousness. It is penal because Christ bares the punishment of sinners. And it is via substitution for he, the sinless one, does it for sinful men. Now this is something modern man doesn’t like at all. I think of the partner in David Lindsay’s The Three Estates, he said. “By Him that bore the crown of thorn, I would Saint Paul had never been born.” That is what a lot of modern theologians say. They can live with the words of our Lord, they like to say, but we cannot live with Paul because he’s the one who talks about this penal substitution and expiation and propitiation and all of those other big theological words. But this is the teaching of God.
The cure for the condemnation of the law is set forth in verse 13, we are cursed. He became a curse for us. We are made of sin. He was made sin for us. And the consequences are, in verse 14, “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” And so as a result, the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ was made a curse for us, who were under the curse, as a result of that, we have been delivered from the curse of the law. And in being delivered from the curse of the law we stand justified and have the gift of the Holy Spirit, the pledge of all of the Abrahamic promises and all of the promises that flow out of them will be fulfilled to those who are in Jesus Christ. Charles Simeon once said, “As God provided an offering for me that I may lay my sins on his head, then God willing I will not bare them on my own soul any longer.”
And so I say to you, and I hope you say with me, “My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.” So I trust in the blood and in the cross by which propitiation has been offered in my behalf. That’s a great message isn’t it? Let’s bow in prayer.
[Prayer] Father, we are grateful to Thee for the wonderful truth of satisfaction accomplished through a Savior who loved us and gave himself for us. And we acknowledge Lord that it comes from a God who loves, but that it comes through righteousness…
[RECORDING ENDS ABRUPTLY]