Radio Address of Oct, 18, 1942, over W.L.A.V. (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Jesus saves! This brief statement, which one may read now-a-days on billboards and fences, on church buildings and automobiles, is true in all its implications, much more so than those who are responsible for its public display are willing to admit. That Jesus saves is guaranteed by His very name, for His name is not a mere, meaningless appellation, but expresses what He actually is, for it was given Him, not by His parents, but by divine command through a heavenly messenger. And the name signifies: Jehovah saves, or Jehovah is salvation. It denotes that this savior is not a mere man, coming with a human claim that he is able to save, but God, the God of our salvation come down to us, revealing Himself to us in the face of Jesus Christ. And God is mighty to save to the uttermost, and the fact that He reveals Himself as Jesus, Savior, is the indubitable assurance that He shall surely accomplish our salvation. And thus the name is interpreted by the angel to Joseph in a dream: “and thou shalt call his name Jesus, for He shall save his people from their sins” (). Indeed, Jesus saves! Jesus as He is revealed to us in the Scriptures, who was born in Bethlehem, who sojourned among us for a few years and revealed the Father, who suffered and died on the cross of Calvary, who was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, who was received up into heaven and became the life-giving spirit,—this Jesus saves. And there is no one with Him, He alone saves. For there is no “salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” ( ). Salvation is not in man or angels; it is not in our own works or righteousness or religiousness,—it is in Jesus alone. Nor is there any part of salvation, be it ever so small, in us. There is absolutely nothing we can do of ourselves that adds to, that aids Him in His work of saving us. All the work of salvation belongs exclusively to Him. And He surely saves. He does not create a possibility of salvation, He does not reveal a willingness to save, He does not establish the necessary conditions unto salvation: He saves! Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.”
This, then, is the true implication of that frequently advertised statement: Jesus saves. It means that He alone, without the help of man, shall surely and completely accomplish all the work that is necessary to bring a man that is utterly lost in sin and death to the heavenly glory of an everlasting righteousness and eternal life. For this is salvation. And we may consider this glorious work of grace from different aspects. For it implies, first of all, that the sinner is translated from a state of guilt and damnation into a state of prefect righteousness in which he is worthy of eternal life; secondly, that he is changed from death into life, from darkness into light, from corruption into holiness, from the slavery of sin into the perfect liberty of the children of God; thirdly, that in this state of righteousness and condition of holiness and liberty he is preserved in the midst of this present world even unto the end; and, lastly, that he is delivered from the corruption of physical death and translated into immortality and incorruptibleness through the final resurrection. All this Jesus accomplishes with infallible certainty for and in all whom He saves. He shall save His people from their sins!
Salvation, I said, is first of all a change of our state. By state is understood our legal position before God;. God is our Judge. And He is not a Judge before whose bar we appear occasionally, or, perhaps, only once, at the end of time, but who always judges us. Always we stand in judgment before Him. And always He expresses verdict. And it is that judgment of God, the verdict He pronounces that determines our state. According to that verdict of the Judge of heaven and earth we are either righteous or guilty. If He declares us righteous, we are worthy of life; if we are found guilty, we are liable to the punishment of death. Righteousness and life, guilt and death are inseparably connected by the righteous judgment of God. We should be careful lest this truth be denied or distorted, for it is one of the foundation stones of the doctrine concerning our salvation. There are many who consider this a hard doctrine. They try to circumvent this unbreakable connection between righteousness and life on the one hand, and unrighteousness and death on the other, by an appeal to God’s goodness and mercy. God is too merciful and kind to inflict the punishment of death upon the guilty sinner!. He will pardon him and give him life! But this is a very pernicious error. Can a man put his hand in the fire and not burn it? Can he take poison and not be killed? Or can he indulge in a life of immorality and dissipation without ruining his body? Neither can he sin against God with impunity. God cannot deny Himself. He is unchangeably righteous and just, And since this is true, the relation between righteousness and. life, unrighteousness and death, cannot be broken. Only he who according to the righteous judgment of God is in the state of righteousness is the object of His favor, and is worthy of life and glory.
Now, by nature, as we stand before the tribunal of God by ourselves, on the basis of our own merits, and by virtue of our relation to the first man Adam, we are in a state of guilt. We have sinned, and we do sin, and we increase our guilt daily. This guilt is the legal basis of all our misery. We are in the prison of sin and death, so to speak; and salvation consists in our deliverance from that prison, and our transference to the state of everlasting liberty and life. One that is to save us, therefore, must be powerful so to deliver us. He must be able to enter into our prison and lead us out into freedom. But this is not all. He must not only be mighty to deliver, but he must have the right to set us free. Our being in this prison of sin and death is not accidental, it is the execution of a sentence that is pronounced against us by the justice of God. Justly we are committed to the slavery the devil. It is according to strictest justice that sin and death have dominion over us. We have no right to be delivered, because we are guilty and under sentence of condemnation. If, therefore, one is to save us from this power of sin and set us free, he must first obtain for us the right to life and liberty. And to obtain that right for us he must remove the guilt of our sin; he must be able to transfer us from the state of guilt and condemnation into the state of perfect and everlasting righteousness. He must redeem us!
How can this be accomplished? What must be done in order to remove the guilt of sin and obtain for the sinner righteousness and life? The justice of God against sin must be satisfied. And God’s justice can be satisfied only by suffering the punishment of sin willingly and in perfect obedience. This is the meaning of atonement. To atone for sin is not merely to bear the punishment and pay the penalty. The suffering of death, the bearing of the punishment must be an act of loving obedience. Such an act of perfect obedience is the sacrifice that satisfies the justice of God and removes the guilt of sin. It is the price of our redemption. And when we say “Jesus saves,” we mean, first of all, that He performed this act of perfect obedience, offered this atoning sacrifice and so paid for us the price of our redemption, obtaining for us the forgiveness of sin and eternal righteousness. He accomplished this by coming into our flesh, assuming the form of a servant, in order that He might take upon Himself our sins, and bear for us the wrath of God. He paid the price and atoned for our sins by His act of perfect obedience on the cross of Calvary, where He voluntarily laid down His life and tasted death in all its depth of horror. There He willingly descended into the depth of hell to satisfy the justice of God and fulfill all righteousness. And the verdict of God was rendered from heaven, when He raised Him from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is God’s seal of approval and acceptance of the perfect sacrifice of the Savior, His sentence that Jesus’ death is the blotting out of the guilt of sin, and that we are justified through Him. He was delivered for our transgressions, and raised for our justification (). Jesus paid the price of our redemption.
Several questions may be asked and often are asked concerning this vicarious, substitutional suffering and death of our Lord. And it is well for us to consider them for a moment, especially since these questions are often raised in the form of objections against the doctrine of vicarious atonement itself. We shall never be able to fathom and completely comprehend this mystery of the kingdom of heaven. It belongs to those things that never arise in the heart of man, and that can be apprehended only through God’s revelation. For us it is sufficient, therefore, that the Bible teaches us that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. Nevertheless, we like to have something to answer those that oppose and deny the truth, and for this reason it is well that we weigh the objections raised, and attempt to remove them. The question may be asked: how is it possible that one person so bear the punishment of another that the latter becomes righteous? Can such a substitution be made according to justice? Is there not rather a double injustice involved in such vicarious suffering, the injustice of acquitting the guilty, and the other injustice of punishing the innocent? Besides, is it not a very dangerous policy to punish the righteous for the guilty and let the wicked go free, a policy that must be detrimental to all religion and ethics? Moreover, how could the death of Christ on the cross in the year 33 be sufficient to justify the many and deliver them from the guilt of sin and the punishment of eternal death? One man dies and many are made righteous. One man suffers for a few hours on the cross, and many are redeemed from eternal death. How is this possible? Where is the justice of God in all this? Yet, so the Bible teaches us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly (). And as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous ( ). For he hath made him to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him ( ). By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified ( ). Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree ( ). For Christ also hath suffered for sins, the just for the unjust ( ). There can be no question about the truth of this doctrine of Christ’s vicarious suffering in the light of Scripture. The only question is whether we can discern a little, perhaps, of the divine reasonableness of this truth.
And then we must remember, first of all, that the statement that Jesus died for our sins is not the same as saying that one man died for another, that the righteous died for the guilty. If by an earthly court a man should have been convicted of murder and condemned to die on the gallows, and if then someone else, an innocent man, would offer himself as a substitute for the murderer, the court would never accept such a substitution. The innocent man that offers himself as a substitute is merely another individual, that stands in no legal relationship to the murderer, and who, therefore, cannot possibly take his place. Rut this is not true of Jesus. He is not just another man, but one who stands in a very definite relation to us. For, first of all, He is the person of the Son of God Himself, the Judge of heaven and earth, Who certainly has the right (if we may even speak thus of Him), to place Himself under the law in order that He might redeem us from the guilt of sin. But, secondly, He is also the representative head of all His own, the elect, given Him before the foundation of the world. He was ordained before the world was to be the head of all the elect, and these are chosen in Him. He is responsible for them. He represents them before the face of God. Even as the first man Adam stands as the representative of the entire human race in paradise, so Christ stands by God’s own decree as the representative of all the elect in the hour of judgment on Calvary. Even as the sin of Adam is imputed, to all men, so that they are all guilty in Him, so the righteousness of Christ is imputed to all the elect, so that they are righteous in Him before God. They are one body with Him as the head a legal body that is represented by the head. On the accursed tree Christ does not die for strangers but for His own, made into one body, one legal corporation with Him, that could be legally represented by their one head. For so he says: I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me is greater than all (). “Jesus saves” signifies, not that He created a certain possibility of salvation by His atoning suffering and death, but that on the cross He certainly paid the price of redemption for all whom the Father gave Him, so that their sins are blotted out, and they are certainly saved.
As to the objection that it is a dangerous policy to let the righteous die for the wicked, to punish the innocent and let the guilty go free, it is not difficult to see the error of this. The objection is really a very old one. Already in the days of the apostle Paul there were those who argued that the doctrine of free grace, and of the justification of the ungodly through the blood of Christ, inevitably must lead to the conclusion, that it mattered not how much we sin. In fact, the more we sin the more the glory of the grace of God would become manifest. Let us therefore sin, that grace may abound! And, to be sure, this argument would be valid, if salvation meant nothing more than that Christ suffered and died for the ungodly in order that the latter might escape the punishment of hell and damnation and go to heaven. If among men the wicked is acquitted, ‘the result will surely be that he will increase in wickedness. But this is not salvation. For Christ did not die for the ungodly, in order that he might continue in his iniquity and feel secure in his sin, but in order that He might obtain for him the righteousness on the basis of which he may be delivered from the power of sin and death and be made alive unto God. He saves His people from their sin! And this implies that He also delivers them from the dominion of sin, cleanses them, sanctifies them, and makes them servants unto righteousness. It is quite impossible for a sinner that lays hold on the righteousness of God in Christ to become careless and profane. A man who would argue that in the blood of Christ his sins are all blotted out, and that, for that reason, he can safely sin according to all the desire of his flesh, would thereby reveal that he never received the grace of forgiveness and justification. He is a stranger to Christ. For whom Christ redeems He also delivers; whom He justifies He also sanctifies. Thus the apostle writes: “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” ().
But how can the death of one be the justification of many? Is the substitution of one man sufficient to atone for the sin of thousands and millions? Is the justice of God really satisfied by the self-sacrifice of this one man? Indeed, for so the Scriptures teach us plainly. The Son of man gave His life as a ransom for many. And in order to understand a little of this mystery of the cross of Christ, we must remember that He Who died on Calvary is the Son of God in human nature, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, coequal with the Father and the Holy Ghost. And this makes His death so precious that by it millions are redeemed and justified. Even in the world of creatures there is a great deal of difference in our estimation of the death of one creature and of another. No one hesitates to kill a fly; but if we accidentally kill a dog we feel quite different about it; and how much more precious in our estimation is the death of a human being! But there is an infinite difference between the greatest and most honored man and the eternal Son of God! His death is of infinite value! If Jesus is not the Son of God, if the one that died on Calvary were a mere man, His death would be powerless to redeem. But now He is God’s only begotten Son, God of God in human nature, Immanuel! He it is that suffered death in our stead. No, it was not in the divine nature that the Son of God died, for the divine nature is not subject to death. But in the human nature, which He had adopted from the virgin Mary, it was, nevertheless, the person of the Son of God that tasted death. And herein is the great mystery and the unfathomable mercy of God, not in that He winks at sin and pardons the sinner without satisfaction of His justice, but in that He came Himself in the person of His only begotten Son to bear away the guilt of our sin for ever. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life! (John 8:16). And the death of the Son of God is of infinite value, abundantly sufficient to atone for the sins of all His people. And this is the ministry of reconciliation that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them”).
This, then, is the first element in the work of salvation, and it is the indispensable basis for all the rest. Jesus saves! That means that Jesus reconciled us unto God through the blood of the cross and His perfect obedience, It is an accomplished fact. The sins of all whom the Father gave unto our Lord from before the foundation of the world are forever blotted out. Salvation is not an opportunity, a possibility, a chance, but a certainty. It is not contingent upon the will of man, or upon his works; it is not even contingent on our faith. For even though we are saved through faith, we are not saved because of our faith, or upon condition of faith, but only on the basis of His perfect sacrifice. And in that sacrifice alone believers must and do find their perfect righteousness before God, the only ground of their hope. In the cross of Christ they glory! And as by faith they appropriate the righteousness of God in Christ, they are clothed with a righteousness that far transcends the righteousness of the first Adam before the fall. For, first of all, it is a righteousness that can never be lost, it being rooted in the perfect obedience of the Son of God in the flesh. And, secondly, it is a righteousness that far transcends the righteousness Adam before the fall ever possessed, or could ever have attained, for it makes us worthy of eternal life and glory in the heavenly tabernacle of God! For, He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? O, indeed, Jesus saves! He is our blessed Redeemer forever!