Set Apart: The Satisfaction of Christ

Charles Hodge, the famous professor of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary in the nineteenth century, said that redemption, as used in verse 24, means “deliverance effected by the payment of a ransom.… That from which we are redeemed is the wrath of God; the price of our redemption is the blood of Christ.” A few paragraphs earlier we saw that justification is a gratuitous act of God as far as we are concerned. But though it was totally free to us, it was in fact “purchased” by Christ with His blood. Christ paid the ransom that redeemed us from God’s just and holy wrath.

At this point it will be helpful to distinguish between justification and a mere pardon. A pardon is excusing an offense without exacting a penalty. It may be granted gratuitously by a president or governor for no reason at all, and sometimes has been done at the expense of justice. For example, there was a great outcry when the late President Nixon was pardoned because many felt, rightly or wrongly, that justice had been violated by the granting of his pardon.

In God’s plan of justification, however, justice is not violated by a gratuitous pardon of the convicted sinner. Rather, justice has been satisfied; the penalty has been fully paid by the Lord Jesus Christ. In a sense, to justify is to declare that the claims of justice have been fully met.

We need to dwell more on the work of Christ as it satisfied the demands of God’s Law. I once was given a book titled The Satisfaction of Christ. I opened it expecting it to be about finding satisfaction in my daily relationship with Christ. Instead, I discovered it to be about the death of Christ and how His death completely satisfied the justice of God. I had been a Christian for more than twelve years and had never before heard the expression “the satisfaction of Christ,” let alone understood its significance.
The satisfaction of Christ is more than a mere theological expression. It is a concept we need to become acquainted with in our daily lives. When our consciences are smiting us because of our sin, it is important to reflect upon the fact that, though our sins are real and inexcusable, nevertheless God’s justice has already been satisfied through the “satisfaction of Christ,” that the penalty has been fully paid by Him.

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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