THEORIES concerning the value of Christ's death have
a special interest for the saints. In glancing through an exchange, I
noticed that the theory of Satisfaction is taken as the true one,
and the Government theory is said to be false. I doubt whether the
leading exponents of either theory could give an exact definition of
their view. In fact, the latter seems to be a reaction due to logical
contradictions in the former. I have no doubt that there are elements of
truth in both, but the large amount which has been written indicates the
impossibility of discovering the truth by using these words, and
suggests that there is something amiss in this method of searching God's
Word. "Satisfaction," in theology, does not mean that God is
satisfied with the sacrifice of Christ, with which we would fully
concur, but that it settles the claims of God against the sinner.
At least so it seems to be used.
To the man of God the question arises, why should
there be any "theory" on this subject at all? In science,
theories are put forth and tested by the facts of nature. But there is
no need for this in revelation, for it is itself the answer to, and
explanation of, the questions that arise. However, if any investigation
is desirable, we should heed the apostle's admonition, and cling to
the pattern of sound words which Paul has used in dealing with the
subject in hand (2 Tim.1:13). The word "satisfaction" may do
to represent a human theory, but God has not used it to express the
divine truth as to this matter, although it may accord with some
aspects of it. The same is true of the term "governmental."
These are unsound words, which not only fail to lead us fully
aright, but actually introduce ideas which are contrary to the truth.
Many years ago, when I heralded what I had been
taught was the gospel, I told my listeners that Christ had died in their
room and stead and "satisfied" the claims of God
against them, and exhorted them to believe and accept God's grace. But
when I walked away, my conscience bothered me, for I was not at all sure
that I had told the truth. I could not help thinking that, if Christ had
died as their Substitute, a righteous God must save them even if
they did not believe. If the price had been paid, how
could God refuse to deliver the goods? This troubled me so much that I
made a prolonged study of all the words involved, in the original Greek.
This led me to discard such terms as "room and stead,"
"satisfied," "substitute," etc., and form a
vocabulary of sound words, patterned after Paul.
Such terms are not even applied to this matter in the
popular versions, let alone the inspired Original. Since then I have
never felt the need of them, although I have written much concerning the
value of Christ's death, in relation to God as well as to man. By means
of a concordant vocabulary, and such distinctions as that expressed by conciliation
and reconciliation, the problems that arise from the use of Satisfaction
and Government are avoided, and the truth emerges clearly and
conclusively. I now have the fullest liberty in heralding that God
was conciliated to the world by the death of Christ, whether they
believe it or not. And I can go on and pray them to be
conciliated to Him. If they believe, then there is reconciliation along
with salvation and justification. This needs no theory or explanation,
and does not demand that the evangelist preach a palpable falsehood.
This should be a lesson to us, for there is a strong
tendency to use unscriptural key-words, or to use the inspired terms
outside their proper sphere. This was brought to my mind lately by an
effort to prove that God controls everything, but predestinates
only the essentials. There are only a few' passages which deal
with God's activities in relation to all things. It is revealed
that all is out of and through and for Him
(Rom.11:36), and that He is operating all (Eph.1:11), and that He
is able to subject all (Phil.3: 21), and that all has its cohesion
in Him (Col.1:17) and that the Son is carrying all (Heb.1:3), but
not that God controls all. I do not doubt this in the least, but
I can find no context to which I can anchor the thought, or test its
scope, or fix its limitations. For me it is enough that God is operating
all according to the counsel of His will. I fear, the term
"control" will lead me into theories and theology.
On the other hand, pre-determination, or
rather, designating beforehand is a scriptural thought, which
should be considered in its contexts to determine its scope. That it is
applied to the saints is not in question (Rom.8:29,30; Eph.1:5,
11). But it is also applied to the acts of evil men, especially
at the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 4:28). Paul, in Ephesians, puts us on
the right, track when he calls attention to the fact that we were
designated beforehand according to the purpose of the One Who is
operating all in accord with the counsel of His will (Eph.1:11).
Pre-determination is only one aspect of God's larger purpose.
There is a double harmony in this verse. The pre-determination agrees
with the purpose, and that agrees with the counsel of His will.
The latter two are concerned with all which is headed up in the
Christ, both that in the heavens and that on the earth (v.10).
The same agreement is seen in connection with
pre-designation in the conclusion of the first part of Paul's epistle to
the Romans. We are aware that God is working all together for the good
of those who are loving Him,, according to the purpose that, whom
He foreknew, He designates beforehand...(Rom.8:28,29). God cannot
confine Himself in His working to the saints alone because they are
vitally affected by their environment, sinners as well as saints, things
as well as persons. Consequently, while only those who love God are
spoken of as designated beforehand for special blessing, this involves a
previous purpose in regard to all as well as them. And the
purpose must have been formed in God's mind before its execution or it
would lack the essential sense conveyed by BEFORE-PLACing in the
The divine process, expressed in human terms, but
refined by divine usage, is this: God wills to reveal Himself. He
takes counsel with Himself, as there was none other. As a result,
He forms a purpose or plans all to the consummation. Some
are chosen or selected and designated beforehand to be
associated with Him in the execution of His purpose, and have a special
place in His plan. What is true of them is not said of all, and should
not be attributed to them. All will be saved, but only those chosen have
eonian salvation. Only the members of the government in the
United States are elected. The rest of us are not elected to be
private citizens. Neither are the bulk of mankind chosen not to be
saints. Saints alone are selected according to His purpose.
God is not a man, so we cannot reason from our
standpoint to His. Yet a wise man will act more like God than a fool. As
I did much of the work myself on the first house I built, I made no
detailed plans, thinking I could save myself that effort. But experience
taught me, the folly of this. So, when I built my last house, I had an
architect make detailed drawings from my full sketches. Alterations,
while building, are vexatious and expensive. That is doubtless why God's
plans show so much detail. Of course it could not all be revealed to us
because of our limitations. But some prophecies of the future are most
minute in their descriptions, and these are only samples of God's
What a marvelous revelation it was for our hearts
when we first saw that God had a purpose, or plan! He knows all
beforehand because He created all and operates all according to the
counsel of His will. This word, purpose, is the one which tells
us of God's activity in respect to all things before they enter
the sphere of His operations. Nothing is left to chance. And the
purpose is based upon counsel, not guesswork, and conformed to
His will. He has a definite object in view, and has planned all
beforehand, so that He will be All in all at the consummation. Let us
keep this order. God's will leads to counsel, and counsel presents a
plan or purpose which is for all, and not till then are election
and pre-designation introduced for some.
Can we be sure that anything is not essential
(another unscriptural term!) in His plan? In itself, apart from its
consequences, which were not apparent at the time, how insignificant was
the eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil!
What a small thing was the cry of the infant Moses! A sleepless night on
the part of a king led to the deliverance of Israel and the feast of
Purim, which they observe to this day. And so, throughout the record of
God's dealings with mankind. God chooses the weak things and that which
is not, in order to exclude man's boasting (1 Cor.1:27-29).
To be sure, if we walk in a circle, with no
destination, no purpose, no step is essential, for we always
arrive where we began. But if we have a goal and wish to get somewhere, every
step is necessary. If we leave one out, we fail to fulfill our destiny.
God has a purpose, and every step is essential, if He is to accomplish
And in our daily lives, how delightful to leave everything
in His hands! Often it is the trivial matter that threatens to disturb
our peace and mar our ministry. Just now, when I wished to write this
article, the electricity failed, and I had to do some of it by
candlelight. Such a thing is apt to be very upsetting when one is in the
throes of composition. But if we "practice the presence of
God," and take everything from His hand with thankful hearts, it
transforms our lives and encourages our hearts. Then faithless friends,
false brethren, subtle opposition, slander, even the fiery arrows that
undoubtedly come from the spiritual powers of darkness, though they
arrive through some unwary saint, and most of them are non-essential,
all these may be borne with endurance, nay, with thankful appreciation,
when we realize that they ultimately and actually come from His loving
hand and heart.
He who knows the number of the stars has also counted
the hairs of our heads. No sparrow falls to the ground without His
notice. Not only the mighty sun in its magnifical course is guided by
His arm, but the tiny, glowworm is dependent on Him for its light. When
He willed and counselled and purposed to save mankind, He did not send
mighty Michael to execute the stupendous task, but used a tiny Babe, a
poor Palestinian Artisan, Who was done to death as a criminal. He is not
only the God of the vast universe, but of the various parts of the atom.
There also He reveals His power. What says the law? Our Lord taught His
disciples "Whosoever should be annulling one of the least of
these precepts..." And again, "till heaven and earth should be
passing by, one iota or one serif may by no means be
passing by from the law till all should be occurring"
(Matt.5:18,19). Nothing could be smaller than this. In God's ways there
are no non-essentials. And in His Word there are no superfluous letters
or distinguishing features of letters. Such is the God Who speaks to us
in His revelation, and such is His way with us in our experience.
Such an experience is the very opposite of fatalism.
For the greater part of a year I lived among a people who attributed
everything to kismet or Fate. Its effect is quite the reverse of
a joyous submission to a God who is operating all for our welfare. They
had not the least idea why things were as they are, or that they
were cooperating for their benefit. Many were submissive, but depressed,
hopeless and despondent, and some were quite sure that fate was against
them and always would be. I object to the word fatalism on
philological grounds. It ought to be fate-ism. But I would not change
it, for its effect is fatal and deadening. The result of seeing
God's hand and heart in even the most trivial of our experiences, in
contrast, is a continual solace for the bitterness of our existence and
fills the heart with the continual joy and rejoicing, even in the
severest strokes of apparent misfortune. It is an elixir of life and
What a puzzling task it would be to sort things out
into essential and otherwise! Theologians could make this an eternal
battle-ground, such as the age of responsibility, or just how much must
the sinner hear in order to become a Christ-rejector, etc., etc. When I
lose something, I almost subconsciously leave it in the hands of God
lest it disturb my work, and manage without it meanwhile, if possible.
In almost every case it turns up of itself, and I am thankful that its
loss did not disturb my spirit, as it ordinarily would have done.
Essential! I would say that every step is essential, and if taken out of
fellowship with God, it could easily transform my ministry from one of
edification to destruction, from one of gracious forbearance, to
reviling, or even from close adherence to the form of sound words to the
darkening of counsel by abandoning the patterns presented to us in
Paul's epistles. Are any of us essential?
OUT OF, THROUGH, FOR
Is it not a sorrowful sight to see how the saints,
who have believed for their own salvation, refuse to believe in His
glorification? Almost all reject some phase of it. Some refuse to
believe that all is for Him and denounce the reconciliation of
all. Others will not give Him His place as the One through Whom
all is being operated today. Still others, such as we have been
considering, have difficulty in accepting the basic truth of the
beginning, that all is out of Him. May He be gracious to
us in our feeble efforts to grasp His glories, and grant that we give to
Him the praise that is His throughout the times eonian!