Monday, May 3, 2010

Suffered, Crucified, Dead and Buried

I took a couple of days off from Calvin this weekend in part because I was studying some Barth to teach to my Sunday school class.  Interestingly, I was teaching about book IV of Barth's Church Dogmatics which is on the doctrine of reconciliation.  The topics that Barth covered in this book are exactly what we have been reading with Calvin over the past couple of weeks.  Barth mostly holds a classical position in his theology concerning reconciliation.  But enough about Barth, let's get back to Calvin.

Christ brought righteousness to us.  This was achieved through an entire life of obedience.  Paul wrote in Romans 5:19, "For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous."  Calvin writes, "from the time when he took on the form of a servant, he began to pay the price of liberation in order to redeem us."  Christ specifically paid the price for our sins through his death.  We are told that Christ came, "to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).  John the Baptist called Christ, "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).  In Romans 5:9-10, Paul tells us that we are justified through the blood of Christ, we are reconciled by his death, and we are saved by his life.  There are so many more examples throughout Scripture which remind us that it is through Christ's death that we are reconciled to God.  But we must not forget the obedience that Christ had through his entire life.  Philippians 2:7-8 reads, "but [Christ] made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."  He was wholly obedient to God the Father and willingly gave up his life.  Calvin writes, "And truly, even in death itself his willing obedience is the important thing because a sacrifice not offered voluntarily would not have furthered righteousness."  Later he writes, " proper sacrifice to God could have been offered unless Christ, disregarding his own feelings, subjected and yielded himself wholly to his Father's will."

Not just any death would have been satisfactory.  If his death had been accidental, from illness, old age, etc. it would not have had the sacrificial effect that was necessary.  Pilate's condemnation transferred our sin onto Christ, who was without sin and guilt.  Calvin writes, "To take away our condemnation, it was not enough for him to suffer any kind of death: to make satisfaction for our redemption a form of death had to be chosen in which he might free us both by transferring our condemnation to himself and by taking our guilt upon himself."  Calvin declares, "This is our acquittal: the guilt that held us liable for punishment has been transferred to the head of the Son of God."

The cross was accursed, this according to the laws of the Old Testament.  Deuteronomy 21:23 reads, "his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God."  Calvin emphasizes this by stating, "Hence, when Christ is hanged upon the cross, he makes himself subject to the curse.  It had to happen in this way in order that the whole curse - which on account of our sins awaited us, or rather lay upon us - might be lifted from us, while it was transferred to him."  Calvin then looks at the foreshadowing of this in the Old Testament and the sacrificial system.  Paul also often showed how Christ's sacrifice was the perfect sacrifice foreshadowed by the prophets of old.  It was through Christ's blood that we have been restored.  His blood cleanses us from our sin.  Revelation 1:5 reads, "and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.
To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood..."

Christ took our place to pay the price of our redemption.  "Death held us captive under its yoke; Christ, in our stead, gave himself over to its power to deliver us from it."  Calvin speaks of two "fruits" of Christ's death for us.  The first fruit is that we are now liberated from the death to which we had previously been bound. "He let himself be subjected to it, not to be overwhelmed by its power, but rather to lay it low, when it was threatening us and exulting over our fallen state."  Hebrews 2:14-15 reads, "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,  and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."  The second fruit of Christ's death is the mortification of our own flesh.  Romans 6:4-5 reads, "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection."  Our flesh will die like Christ died, but we shall be resurrected from the dead as Christ was resurrected.

Tomorrow's reading: 2.16.8-2.16.12

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