SCRIPTURE AND SATISFACTION
We may now turn directly to Scripture for proof of this satisfaction-idea which is so strongly emphasized in our confessions.
Turning to the Old Testament, first of all, we may note that the typical sacrifices of the old dispensation, such as the sin offering and the trespass offering, were expiatory. In other words, satisfaction for sin and for sin’s guilt characterized these sacrifices. Such sacrifices are said to bear the sins of the offender, to make expiation for sin, to be a propitiation, to cover the sins of the people in the sight of God. Moreover, all such sacrifices involved the shedding of blood, in order that they might typically represent the shedding of Christ’s blood. The result, or fruit, of these sacrifices was the forgiveness of sins. The Hebrew term that occurs so often in connection with these sacrifices is translated frequently in our English Bible by the word “atone” or “atonement.” The term itself (kaphar) actually means as a noun “a covering” and as a verb “to cover.” And the idea of this “covering” is not that it covers up and hides sin and guilt from the sight of God,—something which would be, of course, impossible. The idea is rather that of “coverage,” much in the sense in which we speak of coverage for damages and costs in a potential accident in connection with automobile insurance. The idea of satisfaction, therefore, and of penal satisfaction, satisfaction of justice is on the foreground in these sacrifices. This was also graphically symbolized not only by the fact that the sinner himself was supposed to bring the sacrificial victim to the altar as an acknowledgement of the fact that he had offended and was therefore justly exposed to the wrath of God, but also by the fact that the offender laid his hands on the head of the sacrificial victim to express the idea of transfer of guilt and responsibility to the animal to he sacrificed. It is also in this connection that we can understand the fact that this blood was sprinkled upon the altar in the holy place by the priest, as well as the fact that on the great day of atonement this expiatory blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat in the holy of holies. Because this blood was the blood of atonement, because it implied that satisfaction of God’s justice had been accomplished, the offerer was acceptable in the sight of God.
Approximately the same idea of a propitiation, or covering, is expressed in the New Testament by such Greek terms as hilaskomai, and hilasmos, andhilasteerion. The term occurs in Hebrews 2:17, where it is translated by “to make reconciliation.” There we read: “Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” And in I John 2:2the term is translated by “propitiation.” There we read the well-known words, so often given the misinterpretation of a general atonement: “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” We may note, in parentheses, that if “the whole world” means “all men, head for head,” this simply means that as an objective fact the sins of all men have been covered by the atoning blood of Christ; and then these sins can never be held against them again. For propitiation means that the damages of sin, the debt, are completely covered by the blood of Christ. The satisfaction-idea is obviously on the foreground.
Next, I call your attention to the term that is rendered by “ransom.” This term (lutron in the Greek) is found, for example, in Matthew 20:28: “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” It is also found in I Timothy 2:5, 6 (where the Greek is antilutron): “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” This term denotes the notion of a ransom, the payment of a price, in conformity with a certain demand, in order to purchase one free. We are all familiar in every day life with the ransom demanded by a kidnapper or by one who holds a hostage. In that case, of course, there is not justice but injustice. Nevertheless, the illustration serves to clarify this idea of a ransom. It implies a demand. Unless that demand is met and the price demanded is paid, the hostage or kidnap-victim will not be set free. If the price is paid, the victim is supposed to be freed. Thus also, when the price demanded by a slave-holder is met, a slave may be ransomed out of his bondage. Basic to the idea of Christ’s death as a ransom, therefore, is this idea of the satisfaction of the demand of God’s justice. Only thus is the slave of sin and death purchased free out of the power of the devil. Again we may note in passing what devastating results are obtained when, for example, in the passage from I Timothy 2 the “all” is interpreted as every human being. That can only mean rank universalism. For if satisfaction has been made for every human being, then the justice of God requires that every human being shall be accounted righteous and innocent in the day of judgment, and shall, therefore, be saved.
A related term (Greek: apolutrooseoos) occurs inRomans 3:24, where it is rendered by “redemption.” Thus we read: “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” And it is striking that the term here occurs. in connection with the idea of judgment and justification. Evidently the same idea of satisfaction is basic. This “redemption” denotes deliverance through the death of Christ from the retributive wrath of God and from the merited penalty of sin. In the same sense it is used in Hebrews 9:15: “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” And the verb “to redeemi” (lutrooseetai), occurs in Titus 2:14, where we read: “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
In all these passages and terms, therefore, the confessional dogma of satisfaction is clearly on the foreground.
(to be continued)