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force of the example of Christ to the abiding fact
of His sin-bearing (3 18 ) : ' Because Christ also
suffered for sins once (tra, 'once for all'), the
righteous for (virtp) the unrighteous, that He might
bring us to God.) Access to God is regarded as a
high privilege obtained by a great self-surrender
and not as a native right to be taken for granted.
Of course these ideas, which the writer of 1 Petet
discusses in this apparently incidental way, are
closely akin to those of the righteousness by faith
and ethical obedience 'in Christ' which St. Paul
discusses so fully and of set purpose in Rp 3 and 6
respectively, and this may suggest his influence.
If so, then the evidence of 1 Peter will fall into the
later Pauline period of apostolic doctrine, which
we shall now consider at length; but that would
not depreciate its value as a witness to the faith of
the Apostolic Church in its wider range.

Pauline type. It will be obvious to any reader of
the literature of the Apostolic Church that its
doctrine of atonement was the subject of consider-
able development in form. In tracing this the
Pauline writings must be our main source. Of all
NT writers, St. Paul goes into the greatest detail
and has most deliberately and continually reflected
upon this subject. Indeed, the abundance of the
material he provides is embarrassing to any one
seeking a unified doctrine. In St. Paul we find for
the first time a philosophy of the death of Christ
in relation to the forgiveness of sins, which is ulti-
mately based upon an analysis of the Divine
attributes and their place in the interpretation of
the doctrine of the cross. At the same time the
emphasis he lays upon this is regarded by him as
in accordance with the belief and teaching of the
primitive community ; it is the centre of his gospel
and theirs. It may be assumed, therefore, that




we are as likely to learn from him as from any
other source what was the inner meaning of the

Erimitive Christian belief. He declared that what
e preached concerning the dying of Christ for our
sins according to the Scriptures he 'received' (1 Co
15 3 ) . Whilst it is possible that this statement finds
a fuller definition in his further assertion, ' Neither
did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but
it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ'
(Gal I 12 ), it seems clear that St. Paul's doctrine
rested upon the common apostolic data given in (1)
the words of Jesus respecting the necessity of His
death on man's behalf ; (2) the very early Christian
idea that it was included in the Divine purpose ; (3)
the conception of the vicarious sufferings of the
righteous and their merit founded on Is 53 which
had been elaborated in later Jewish thought.*
Although it seems clear that this late Jewish doc-
trine was a source of St. Paul's theory, it under-
went partial transformation at his hands ; it was
ethicized ; moreover, it was probably the vicarious
idea, as it was associated with the prophetic rather
than with the priestly or legal conceptions, that he
appropriated ; it was not the literal legal substitu-
tion and transfer, but the vicariousness of a real
experience in which the righteous bear upon their
hearts the woes and sins of the sinful, f

(1) St. Paul's early preaching. The earliest
indication of St. Paul's view of atonement would
naturally be sought in his preaching during the
fifteen or more years before he wrote the letters in
which he sets forth more deliberately and with ob-
vious carefulness his matured doctrinal judgments.
The author of the Acts gives little light on St.
Paul's method of setting out his interpretation of
the death of Christ in his discourses ; how he was
accustomed to place it in relation to forgiveness of
sin in his earliest preaching does not definitely
appear. The discourse at Antioch in Pisidia may
illustrate the character of his reference to it :
'through this man is preached unto you forgive-
ness of sins' (Ac 13 38 ) ; but nothing is defined more
closely. To the Ephesian elders at Miletus he
speaks about 'the Church of God, which he pur-
chased with his own blood ' (20 28 ) . St. Paul himself
gives us the only valuable account of his preaching.
Its dominant topic was the crucifixion 'the
preaching of the cross' (1 Co I 18 ) ; 'I determined
not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ
and him crucified' (2 2 ). No explanation is given.
But the fact that he made the cross supreme when
it was regarded as a direct antagonism and provocat-
ive by those he sought to win a scandal to Jews
and foolishness to the Gentiles implies that it was
associated with an interpretation that made it
something different from a martyrdom. Such a
martyrdom neither Jew nor Greek would have
regarded with the scorn they exhibited for the
interpretation St. Paul gave them in order to meet
then* challenge for explanation.

(2) The Pauline Epistles. On the whole, St.Paul' s
preaching carries us no further towards a know-
ledge of any reasoned doctrine of atonement than
the position reached in the preaching of his fellow-
apostles that 'Christ died for our sins according
to the Scriptures.' Of course this is in itself a vast
doctrinal implication. Still, for the structure of
the Pauline doctrine we are shut up to his teach-
ing in his Epistles. In his earliest writings
the Thessalonian Epistles we practically get no
further towards his doctrine than in his preaching,
except perhaps that the idea emerges that in some
way Christ identifies Himself with our evil that
He may identify us with Himself in His own good
(1 Th 5 9f -)- We meet the organized body of his

* Cf. Stevens, Christian Doctrine of Salvation, 59, 122.
t Cf. G. A. Smith, Mod. Crit. and Preaching ofOT, London,
1901, p. 120 ff.

doctrine in the well-authenticated group of his
writings to the Galatians, Romans, and Corinth-
ians, with a supplementary view in the Imprison-
ment Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians.
We may differentiate this teaching, but it has
throughout most important underlying principles
in common. It falls conveniently into five divisions
Atonement and Law ; Atonement and Righteous-
ness; Atonement and Personality; Atonement
and Newness of Life ; Atonement and the Universe.
In briefly reviewing these, it should be remembered
that according to St. Paul the love of God is the
first and last motive of redemption, and that none
of the atoning processes is separable from the full
activities of the Divine Personality.

(a) Atonement and Law. This is the form in
which St. Paul construes his doctrine in the Galatian
Epistle, which deals more exclusively than any
other NT document with the significance of the
death of Christ. 'Christ redeemed us from the
curse of the law, having become a curse for (virtp)
us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that
hangeth upon a tree' (Gal 3 13 ). The conception
here is distinctly juridical ; whether it is also penal
will depend upon the definition of 'penal.' If
punishment implies guilt, the sufferings of Christ
were not strictly penal, for He is always set forth
as guiltless ; moreover, guilt cannot be transferred
as guilt. His sufferings did, in St. Paul's judgment,
serve the end of punishment ; they were representa-
tively penal ; Christ took the place of the guilty
as far as it involved penal consequences ; for special
emphasis is laid upon the instrument of death the
cross and upon its curse, though there seems
nothing to justify the attributing to Christ of the
position suggested by the allusion to Dt 2 1 23 of one
' accursed of God ' which has at times been pressed
by expositors. That He endured the consequences
of such a position and in this sense was 'made a
curse on our behalf' is the Apostle's application of
it. This endurance is regarded as the recognition
of the just requirement of the law of God not the
ceremonial law alone, but also the moral demands
arising out of God's holy and righteous nature,
and especially those which empirically St. Paul
had put to the test in vain in his seeking after
personal righteousness. St. Paul does not deny
the authority of this law; he asserts it, but the
fact that it was added to the promise for 'the sake
of transgression ' resulted in its making men sinful;
it brought a curse : ' Cursed is every one which con-
tinueth. not in all things that are written in the
book of the law, to do them ' (3 10 ) . With this curse
in its consequences Christ identifies Himself, as in
the Apostle s thought He had identified Himself
with mankind in being 'born of a woman, born
under the law' (4 4 ). By thus making Himself
absolutely one with those under ban, absorbing
into Himself all that it meant, He removed the
obstacle to forgiveness in the righteous attitude of
God towards sin which could not be overcome until
sin had been virtually punished. It was thus that
the way was opened for man to identify himself by
personal faith and living experience with Christ's
death, so that St. Paul was justified in saying:
'For I through the law died unto the law, that I
might live unto God. I have been crucified with
Christ ; yet I live ; and yet no longer I, but Christ
liveth in me' (2 1 "-)

This conception of St. Paul's adds the ethical
idea of atonement to the juridical, which other
passages reiterate (5 24 6 14 ). It is, however, essenti-
ally Pauline to regard the ethical as depending
for its possibility and efficacy in experience upon
the juridical; otherwise 'Christ died for nought.'
God must vindicate His law so that He may
justly forgive ; the operation of grace is connected
with the assertion of justice. But ultimately St.




Paul's conception really transcends these contrasts ;
for it is God Himself who in His love provides
the way to be both just and gracious ; He, not
another, provides the satisfaction. In the last
analysis God is presented as removing His own
obstacles to forgiveness; the death in which His
righteous law is exhibited is the provision of His
antecedent love ; the commending of His love is
the prior purpose resulting in Christ being 'made a
curse on our behalf.'* Consequently the whole
Christian life is resolved into a response to God's
love exhibited in the death of His Son ; it does
away with the hindrance to forgiveness in God's
law, and at the same time inspires the faith which
conducts into ethical conformity to Christ in man's

(6) Atonement and Righteousness. This is dealt
with exhaustively in the Epistle to the Romans ;
the great question the Epistle discusses is How
shall a sinful man be righteous with God ? and the
answer is By receiving 'a righteousness of God'
which is 'revealed from faith to faith.' In the
interpretation of this answer we reach the heart
of the apostolic doctrine, and upon it the great
bulk of later historical discussions has turned.
For more than the briefest hints here given of the
points of exegesis involved, reference should be
made to commentaries on the Epistle. St. Paul
distinctly states the two sides of the meaning
of atonement referred to in the beginning of this
article. But his interest is primarily absorbed
by the efficient cause of at-one-ment as the ideal
end, viz. the atonement, the Divine provision of
the satisfaction which the Divine righteousness
requires to be exhibited in order that forgiveness
of sins may be bestowed and a restoration of
fellowship between God and man achieved. To
this he devotes his utmost strength; he regards
it as primary in the order of thought as well as in
the redemptive process. Still he is nobly loyal to
both conceptions, if, indeed, they were for him
really two ; for he thinks of the unity of the pro-
cess with the end as exhibiting the perfectnesa of
the Divine purpose of grace. This point will be
discussed lat er . M eanwhile it must be pointed out
that the strong divergencies revealed in the inter-
pretation of the apostolic doctrine have frequently
resulted from regarding one or other of these
phases of the Pauline doctrine as in itself adequate
to explain the whole. Ethical theories have sought
to ignore the juridical means ; juridical theories
have often stopped short of the ethical end. The
Pauline doctrine does neither. Both are met in
the conception, essential to his doctrine, of the
ideal and actual identification of Christ with man
in his sin, and of man with Christ in newness of
life ; and also in the identification of both with
God in His unchanging righteousness and in His
eternal love ; for St. Paul with ceaseless loyalty
carries all the processes of redemption in time up
to the initiative and executive of the Divine pur-

Righteousness is the starting-point of his discus-
sion ; it is seen in ' the wrath of God revealed from
heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteous-
ness of men' (Ro I 18 ). God can never be at
peace with sin. Law brings no righteousness ; ' by
the law is the knowledge of sin' (3 20 ). All have
sinned ; not one is righteous ; the necessity for a
righteousness apart from the law is obvious.
The provision of this, 'even the righteousness of
God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them
that believe' (3 22 ), is the Divine atonement. This
implies, of course, in its completion a great moral
and spiritual change in the nature and character
of those who 'have received the atonement' ; that

* Cf. P. Wernle, Anfange unserer Religion, Tubingen, 1901,
p. 146 ; Steveiia, Christian Doctrine of Salvation, 67.

end does not yet receive St. Paul's attention ; his
mind is preoccupied with the means. He is not even
at present intent on demonstrating the necessity
of this ethical transformation ; he is in subjection
to the arresting fact that all ungodliness and un-
righteousness of men was exposed to the Divine
wrath, and is constrained to show how the wrath
was withheld . This was not primarily to be sought
in the measure in which men might be arrested by
the fact and cease to sin ; they must and would do
that in proportion as they received the atonement.
But for the time being St. Paul is confining his
thought entirely to the 'objective' work of Christ
in the atonement, whereby was provided and set
forth the means by w r hich the 'subjective' work of
Christ in personal union with the believing soul
might be possible ; indeed, in some respects it had
been actual also in the past, for sins had already
been remitted by God. ' Being justified freely by
his grace through the redemption that is in Christ
Jesus: whom God set forth to be a propitiation,
through faith, by his blood, to show his righteous-
ness, because of the passing over of the sins done
aforetime, in the forbearance of God ; for the
showing, I say, of his righteousness at this present
season : that he might himself be just, and the
justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus' (3 24ff -).

Thus St. Paul conceived the method of deliver-
ance from the wrath of God which was inevitable in
the presence of unrighteousness ; it is an objective
work and is in response to faith, however full of
personal renewal in righteousness its ethical impli-
cations may eventually become ; for the destruction
of sin and the gift of life are regarded as depending
upon a free bestowal on sinners of a righteousness
of God. The interpretation of this crucial passage
and its context depends upon the meaning assigned
to the terms 'righteousness of God' and 'propitia-
tion.' The idea expressed in the former term
occupies the central place in St. Paul's conception
of atonement. Righteousness was his passion ; its
quest the summum bonum of his life ; ' he had
sought it long in vain, and when at length he found
it he gave to it a name expressive of its infinite
worth to his heart: the righteousness of God.'*
To this title ' a righteousness of God ' he firmly
adheres ; it is distinctive ; to him it is something
belonging to the Christian man, yet it is not his
personal righteousness of character ; he receives it.
It also belongs to God, but it is not His personal
righteousness which is imparted to the believer.
St. Paul's conception of it does not occur in the
Gospels, where the term stands for the righteous-
ness of which God is the centre, which is His
essential attribute. The nearest approach to the
Pauline sense in the teaching of Jesus is the grace
of God in the free pardon of sin. In St. Paul,
righteousness is a 'gift' from God to him who
believes in Christ. He is dealt with as righteous.
To regard the righteousness of God as essentially
self-imparting, taking hold of human lives and
filling them with its Divine energies, without any
reference to the problem sin has created, is not
Pauline. To St. Paul, as well as to all NT teaching,
God's righteousness was the affluent, overflowing
source of all the goodness in the world, but he felt
that sin made a difference to God ; it was sin against
His righteousness ; and His righteousness had to
be vindicated against it ; it could not ignore it.

Any view which failed to appreciate this problem
would miss the characteristic solution that St. Paul
unceasingly presents in the 'propitiation' in the
blood of Christ, 'whom God had set forth to show
his righteousness in passing over sins done afore-
time.' Ritschl's view, that always in St. Paul the
righteousness of God means the mode of procedure
which ia consistent with God's having the salva-

* Bruce, St. Paul's Conception of Christianity, 146.




tion of believers as His end, * overlooks the emphatic
contention of the Apostle, that it is the ungodly to
whom God is gracious rather than the faithful
within the covenant privilege ; this latter is the
class referred to in the Psalms and Second Isaiah,
to whom God exhibited His righteousness in pres-
ence of the wrongs done them by their enemies.
Ritschl's conception is an attractive presentation of
the meaning of the term in other relations, but it
is irrelevant to St. Paul's distinctive meaning. The
suggestive view of the term expounded by Seeberg
in Der Tod Christi, that the righteousness of God
means simply His moral activity in harmony with
His true character, the norm of which is that He
should institute and maintain fellowship with men ;
that if He did not do so He would not be righteous
and would fail to act in His proper character, leaves
unanswered in any distinctive Pauline fashion the
question what means God takes to secure fellowship
with sinful men so that He may act towards the
ungodly in a way which does justice to Himself.
St. Paul does not leave the presentation of Christ
as a means by which this fellowship may be
instituted, without a much closer definition; he
clearly relates it to the vicarious principle lying for
him in his elect word 'propitiation,' whether it be
taken as a strictly sacrificial term or not (see, in
addition, art. PROPITIATION).

Denney, who discusses these views at length, t
maintains that the righteousness of God has not
the same meaning throughout this passage (3 21ff -) ;
it has ' in one place say in v. 22 the half -technical
sense which belongs to it as a summary of St.
Paul's gospel ; and in another say in v. 26 the
larger and more general sense which might belong
to it elsewhere in Scripture as a synonym for God's
character, or at least for one of His essential at-
tributes.' But these two views are not unrelated ;
they cannot be discussed apart ; we see them har-
monized as complements in the true meaning of
'propitiation.' Christ is set forth by God as a
propitiation to exhibit their unity and consistency
with each other. When the Pauline view of ' pro-
pitiation,' as 'relative to some problem created by
sin for a God who would justify sinners,' is accepted
in a substitutionary sense and the argument of the
passage reaches its climax, the two senses of the
righteousness of God in it 'have sifted themselves
out, so to speak, and stand distinctly side by side.'t
God is the Just in His own character ; and at the
same time, in providing a righteousness of God
through faith, which stands to the good of the
believing sinner, He is the Justifier. That both
these meanings are present in atonement and are
there harmonized with one another, is what St.
Paul seeks to bring out.

St. Paul would show God righteous in His
forbearance in 'the passing over of sins done
aforetime.' But, as he defines the effects of the
propitiation, he leaves the wrath of God in the
background ; the forbearance of God becomes the
centre of his thought ; that is a gracious fact and
must be accounted for. Why has God never dealt
with sinful men according to their sins? He has
always been slow to anger and of great kindness, a
gracious God and merciful ; sins done aforetime were
passed over. Does the doing of this impugn His
righteousness? St. Paul finds his apology for, and
explanation of, the universal graciousness of God in
the propitiation which He has set forth in Christ
by His blood. God cannot be charged with moral
indifference because He has always been God, the
Saviour. Sin has never been a trivial matter ; any
omission to mark it by inflicting its full penal con-
sequences has been due to forbearance, which now
in the propitiation justifies itself to His righteous-

* R echtfertiffung und Versdhnung, ii. 117.

t Death of Christ, 164 ff. J Ib. 165.

ness. If, apart from this, God had invested with
privilege those whose sin deserved the manifesta-
tion of His wrath, He would, St. Paul thinks, have
suppressed His righteousness. To show the Justi-
fier, whether ' in respect of sins done aforetime ' or
'at this present season,' to be Himself just, St. Paul
holds the setting forth of His righteousness by the
propitiation in the blood of Christ to be necessary.
Christ's death, therefore, was something more than
a great ethical appeal of the love of God in suffer-
ing for sin to the heart and conscience of men ; it
had been rendered necessary by the remission of
sins in ages before the Advent, as well as to justify
the readiness and desire of God to remit the sins of
any man who 'at this present season' 'hath faith
in Jesus.'

This exaltation of the forbearance of God as the
ultimate explanation of the propitiation is intended
to make known the ultimate fact that the wrath of
God against sin lies within the supreme constraint
of the love of God 'His own love' which He com-
mendeth toward us in that while we were yet sinners
Christ died f or us (5 6ff ) . Christ was set forth by God
Himself ; His love provided the propitiation ; there
was no constraint upon Christ. He gave Himself up
for us; there was no conflict between the Divine
wrath and the Divine love ; they were reconciled in
God, and their reconciliation set forth in the pro-
pitiation in the blood of Christ. The wrath is the
expression and minister of the love ; mere self-con-
sideration is unknown in the Divine activity. More-
over, where the love has prevailed, the wrath fails,
' While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us ; much
more then being now justified in his blood shall we
be saved through him from the wrath. For if while
we were enemies we were reconciled to God through
the death of his Son, much more being reconciled,
shall we be saved by his life' (5 8ff -). The achieve-
ment of redemption in its ethical value proceeds
from the death of Christ as the supreme demonstra-
tion of the Divine love, by evoking in sinful souls
the response of a personal surrender to the newness
of life to which it constrains. This may introduce
the classical passage in St. Paul's writings on the
doctrine of atonement. 'All things are of God,
who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ,
and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation ; to
wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world
unto himself, not reckoning unto them their tres-
passes, and having committed unto us the word of
reconciliation. We are ambassadors therefore on
behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by
us ; we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye
reconciled to God. Him who knew no sin he made
to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the
righteousness of God in him' (2 Co 5 1811 -). The
Pauline doctrine receives its most satisfying and
probably its most permanent interpretation in the
restoration of acceptable personal relations between
God and man, and the perfecting of these in a
fellowship of holy love.

(c) A tenement and Personality. Love, the perfect
expression of the Divine Personality, constrained
God to identify Himself in Christ with us, and con-

Online LibraryJames HastingsDictionary of the apostolic church (Volume 1) → online text (page 38 of 234)