Sunday, April 26, 2009

"The Atonement" -- Herald of the Morning, 9/1878

Below is the article that Russell wrote in response to Barbour's article regarding the ransom sacrifice of Jesus.

September 1878 - Vol. 7 - No. 3
Unpleasant though it be, I feel it necessary to take exceptions to an article by my brother upon this subject, in the last number of this paper. I make the objection not from a spirit of controversy, but because I believe the doctrine of substitution assailed in that article to be one of the most important teachings of God’s word.
One of the beauties of our position is, that we have no creed but the Bible, and we judge of each others’ teaching and writing by the Scriptures only. If my brother can convince me that substitution is not taught in the Bible, I care not from whom it came, I do not want it; but if I can call his attention to passages in God’s word, which do teach it, I know that he is ready to bend opinion, etc., to that word.
With the latter part of that article, in which Christ is referred to as the “beginning of the New creation of God,” the spiritual man; and that this was effected by the death and resurrection of Christ; and that “it was only in this way he could become the head and impart to the creature the divine image and nature,” we fully agree, and the error we apprehend lies in the supposing that if Christ died to become “the head of the new creation,” he did nothing else by that death.
Christ accomplished various good things for us in his death and resurrection. He was our substitute in death; he died the just for the unjust – all were unjust. Jesus Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man. This dying for the guilty was one part of the work – substitution; but not all. No! He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him. Here is a different work as a substitute dying in our stead – we are made nigh by the blood of Christ. He became a mediator – a go-between – making us at-one with God; hence the work is called at-one-ment – for without the Christ’s death bringing us nigh to God, it was impossible for us to obey. In a word, while Christ was the substitute for all – so that “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive;” yet, Christ does not become the spiritual head to all for whom he died, but to those who believe and obey. All men get life from HIS DEATH. Some (believers) will receive eternal salvation through his life. “Because he lives we shall live also. He ever liveth to make intercession for us,” etc.
We recognize, then, these two phases to Christ’s death and resurrection:
1st . Death (substitution) “for the sins of the whole world.” Reconciliation (at-one-ment.
“For God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; but he laid upon him the iniquity of us all. “By his stripes we are healed. He died the just FOR the unjust, tasting death FOR every man.”
2d. His resurrection, by which he became the captain or leader of our salvation – the beginning of the new creation, and makes it possible for us to come into the spiritual condition – the perfect condition – the image of God. By his resurrection he became our faithful high priest – our advocate and representative in the Holy of Holies, whither he hath entered, there to appear in the presence of God for us.
Through our family head Adam, “sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Rom. 5:12.)
Here, then, we were all under condemnation, subject to death. A law of God had been violated, and God allowed justice to take its course in the punishment of the guilty. But while the justice of God was being vindicated, the mercy of God was equally active; and while mercy may not thwart justice, it may satisfy it. As none of our race could in their fallen condition keep God’s perfect law, they were unable to meet the claims of the law upon themselves, much less
satisfy the back account of the remainder of the family.
God seems to have adopted this plan to teach the righteousness of his law – the perfection of his justice, and finally his great mercy and love: “For while we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly;” and “when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.”
To redeem is to buy back. What did Christ buy back for all men? Life. We lost it by the disobedience of the first Adam. The second Adam bought it back with his own life. “By obedience unto death, even the death of the cross.” (See Rom. 5:11 to 19.) “We were sold under sin to death, but Christ hath redeemed us, not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but with his own precious blood – as of a lamb, without blemish and without spot.”
The law, which was a shadow of good things to come declared by the death of bulls, lambs, doves, etc., that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” The type certainly did not illustrate the reality fully, because the lambs, etc., did not die willingly, while Christ, our lamb, gave himself a sacrifice. It will be noticed, however, that in the selection of a type, such animals were chosen as make least resistance – lamb, dove, etc. “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her sheerer, is dumb,” etc.
Thus we see the justice, mercy and love of God manifested as no other way of saving the human family could display them; and the center pivot of it all is, that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture,” and Paul argues that this proves the wondrous love of God for us. “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die – yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die; but God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:7.)
Had he not died for us, we should have continued under the dominion of death. With no resurrection the first death would have been eternal death. Our works had nothing to do with bringing us under dominion of death; it was the first Adam’s – our works have nothing to do with our escape from death’s dominion; that is the second Adam’s work.
If Christ had not risen from the dead, our resurrection, and that of all men, would have been assured by his death, for as “he tasted death for every man, the claims of justice to the life of every man had been forfeited, and they must go free; but they would be only natural men still, and must fail of entering the higher plane of existence – the spiritual – without a leader, a guide, a helper, an advocate – the very thing Christ became in his resurrection. So that we can say with Peter, “Blessed be God, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath begotten us again to a lively hope (hope of eternal life) through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.” “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of this Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved through his life.” (Rom. 5:10.)