SIN and suffering and death came through the single offense of one
man because all humanity was generated by him; so salvation comes through the solitary
sacrifice of our Saviour since all were created in Him. God's method of salvation is inclusion,
not substitution. Christ does not take the place of each sinner of the race, as
though He were a mere man. He displaces Adam, and His work affects all, even as Adam's has
done. He is the second Man, as though none had intervened between Him and the first. He is
the last Adam, in Whom there is a new humanity, which will be blessed by His one
sacrifice, even as the old humanity was doomed by Adam's single transgression.
The why of salvation may be answered by a single word-- love. God saves
because He loves. The how may also be explained by one word--sacrifice. But
thoughtful saints are not satisfied with so summary an explanation. The further question
arises, How does sacrifice save? Many are the philosophies, and more are the
illustrations used to show how Christ can save the sinner. These have come between us and
the simple truth so effectually that it is almost impossible to brush them aside and get
through to the facts. The, only encouraging sign is that few who really investigate are
fully satisfied with any "theory of the atonement" propounded hitherto.
CHRIST IN CREATION
A laudable desire to emphasize the distance of the sinner from God has led to the
practical repudiation of Christ's relationship to mankind in creation. Paul reminded the
Corinthians of this truth. He said, "Now I want you to be aware that the Head of every
man is Christ, yet the head of the woman is the man, yet the Head of Christ is
God" (1 Cor.11:3). This cannot be referred to Christ's headship of the ecclesia, for
there He is Head without reference to sex. There the man is not head in any sense. Christ
is the Head of every man, by creation, apart from faith, apart from sacrifice. He
will prove it by rousing all from the dead and sitting in judgment on the lives and deeds
of every human being.
This headship is not confined to humanity. He is the Head of every sovereignty and
authority (Col.2:10). Throughout the limitless realms of space the stars swing round their
orbits according to His bidding. He is the Central Sun around which all others revolve.
Powers celestial and terrestrial, visible and invisible, are subordinate to Him. The human
race occupies somewhat the same place in the universe that the nation of Israel does on
the earth. Both are selected to play a part for the benefit of all the rest.
Let us rid ourselves of the fatuous notion that Christ was not affected by sin until He
came to put it away. Let us never imagine that He stood by, indifferent to the havoc which
it wrought. It deprived Him of His place at the head of creation, which was made for Him.
He was in Eden with Adam. He lost the companionship of His handiwork. His mediatorial work
was threatened with destruction. His future looked like a failure, and God's glory seemed
about to suffer a total eclipse.
THE WHY OF SALVATION
All was created in the Son of God's love (Col.1:16). God loved His Son. Creation
should never be divorced from that substratum of divine affection which brought it forth.
This is the unbreakable tie which binds God to His creation, and the Son to every creature
in the universe. Whatever occurs, this underlying love abides, even though it be eclipsed
temporarily and assume the garb of hate. Like the foundation of the temple of Solomon,
this solid substructure is seldom seen during the eonian times. It is covered by the
debris due to the destructiveness of sin.
The immanent love residing in God and in His Son, which occasioned creation, craved a
response from His creatures which they were not qualified to give. Like Adam, they had not
the knowledge of good, hence could not appreciate or give thanks for it, or adore he
Giver. As we are constituted, such a knowledge can come only through an experience of
evil. That is why God planted the tree of the knowledge of good (and evil) in the garden.
Evil comes through sin. Both are tutors in the appreciation of God's goodness and lead to
the revelation of His grace.
In considering Adam's transgression, almost everyone focuses his eye on the word
"evil," as though the tree did not give the knowledge of good. This,
coupled with the expressed warning of God, gives the impression that it was not His
intention that Adam should get the knowledge of this tree. It would have been far simpler
to cut it down if that were His object. God did wish Adam and his race to appreciate the
good He gave them, even though it involved the knowledge of evil. The very act which
brought sin into the race, while it was a direct transgression of His word, was in line
with His underlying purpose, for it gave the knowledge of good.
Though God's love demanded the presence of evil and sin in order to make itself known,
it also requires that this process should be limited in time. Endless evil and sin would
defeat the very purpose for which these were introduced. Hence, a definite duration is
devoted to this process, called the eonian tunes. These eons were made in God's Son
(Heb.1:2). Sin and evil are strictly confined to them. The first three eons are devoted to
the development of sin, the last two to its retirement. As a result, all creatures will
revel in a knowledge of God's goodness and grace, and He will become All in all, thus
accomplishing the object for which they were formed.
THE INCLUSION OF ALL
The method of salvation has proved a standing puzzle to expositors as well as to
the inquiring student of the Scriptures. Why did Christ die, and how can that sacrifice
effect the reconciliation of all? The solution lies in a closer acquaintance with Christ
and his relations to God and to creation before He undertook the work of redemption and
deliverance. As the Son of God's love, all was created in Him and through Him and for Him.
Hence He is closely related to creation apart from and prior to His sufferings for sin.
It seems difficult for us to associate Christ with aught else than redemption. The
great truth that He is the Firstborn of creation seems to have vanished from the
consciousness of Christendom. Yet it is vital to an understanding of redemption. It
corrects all those false ideas that He was an unwilling Sufferer, a third party upon Whom
the role of scapegoat was forced, which led rationalists to the conclusion that the cross
was an exhibition of injustice to One and partiality to others.
The relation of the Son to creation is expressed by the title Firstborn. This is
elaborated by a series of prepositions, in, through, into or for,
and before (Col.1:16,17). These express the various aspects of His connection with
creation, apart from sin or sacrifice. We are accustomed to think of this as God's
universe. We should include Christ, for it is created in, through, and for Him. This is
the basic truth which explains the manner of its deliverance. Its Method cannot be
understood unless first we see that the Saviour is not a distant, disinterested Victim,
but as close of kin as could possibly be, apart from sin. A father toils and suffers for
his family with no thought of injustice. Relationship calls for more than justice demands.
It is desirable to have a name for Christ as the One in Whom all was created. English
has two words for progenitor, seeing that procreator has the same sense. We
suggest that progenitor be applied to Adam as the generator of the race, and Procreator be
reserved for God's Son as the One in and through Whom creation was effected. Then we can
state our case clearly and succinctly thus:
As Adam, the progenitor of humanity, by one selfish act, involved it in unutterable
woe, so God's Son, the Procreator of all, by one sacrifice, involves all in ineffable
During the eons this is reserved for an election, who are redeemed through faith. All
are not made alive in Christ until death is abolished at the consummation (1 Cor.15:26).
A good English name is sorely needed to express the idea conveyed by the preposition in.
"Inness" is awkward and obsolete. "Immanence" is misleading. The best
word available seems to be inclusion. It adds nothing to the word in. If we say
that all humanity was included in Adam we have added nothing to the sense, but me
have found a word which can be turned into a noun. We are practically compelled to say
"the inclusion of all in Adam." We suggest this word as a special
theological term to indicate the "inness" of the universe in Christ when it was
created, as revealed in the first chapter of Colossians.
There are a number of terms which may be used to express the "inness" of
mankind in Adam and its consequences. Among these may be mentioned relationship, headship,
federal headship, representation, identification, unification, and solidarity. But a close
study of each one will show that it has no clear Scriptural basis, and is not fully
satisfactory, yielding no definite explanation of the method of salvation.
The broad word relationship has much to commend it. The method of salvation is
to be explained on the ground of our Lord's relation to the race rather than individual
substitution. Its defect lies in its indefiniteness. It does not specify the nature of the
relation which He sustains, to those he saves. Conversely, we are related to Him. But that
does not give us the power and privileges which belong to Him. Relationship is right, but
has no definite scriptural equivalent, and does little more than point out the direction
of the truth. It is helpful in illustrating the fact that Christ had the privilege of
doing far more than what is just for those to whom He was related by creation and
generation. A father does not expect to be repaid for his sacrifices for his children. A
Creator must care for His creatures.
Hitherto we have used the word headship, for lack of a scriptural noun. But
headship is only one of the result's of inclusion, and does not express the central idea.
Humanity was included in Adam at a time when there was as yet no race, so that he was not
its head, except in a potential sense. Sin did not affect all his progeny because of His authority
over them, but because of his inclusion of them. "Inness" involves
headship, for the father of a family is its head because of his priority and position. But
his headship does not necessarily denote the fact that his offspring were in him and are
involved in his activities for them. The rule of Adam over the earth and its creatures is
best expressed by the term headship.
"Federal" headship brings before us a theological system which
is quite unscriptural and inadequate. "Federal" theology is based on the theory
that, before the "fall," man was under a "covenant of works," God
having promised mankind, through Adam, the "federal head" of the race, eternal
blessedness if he kept His law, but since the "fall" humanity is under a
"covenant of grace," and God gratuitously promises the same blessings to all who
believe in Christ, the "Federal Head" of the church, whether by faith in a
coming Messiah, in times past, or in the revealed Saviour, since His incarnation. This
merely needs to be stated to show how unscriptural it is. These covenants are pure
inventions, and are quite unknown to the divine records.
Representation also possesses some elements of truth not found in substitution.
All for whom a representative stands may be said to be in him. His acts are theirs.
He is engaged for them. The difference between the two terms may be readily seen if
applied to a delegate to a legislative assembly. If he is ill, another may act as his
substitute in some of his work. That is one person taking the place of another. As a
representative, however, he is supposed to be chosen to act for his constituency,
not simply as a substitute for each of them. But representation fails to indicate any
vital relationship. We did not choose a stranger to save us.
Identification seems to come still closer to the truth for mankind and Adam were
the same when it was in him. It does not, however, show how this identity came about. We
cannot use it freely and say that we are all identical with Adam. There is always the
possibility that it will be abused, because it has implications which are not in
inclusion. We were all included in Adam, and consequently are identified with him within
certain limits, but we can hardly make the absolute assertion that each human is identical
with him. It would be nearer the truth to use this term of the sum of all humanity, the
whole race, which came out of him. The great diversities which have entered, such as sex
and race and idiosyncracy, makes it difficult to apply to the individual. One who has been
in Adam may be a part of him, but not necessary wholly the same.
Unification is a good word to express one aspect of our relation to Adam and to
Christ. Being in Adam, we were one with him, and the race has been treated as though it
were Adam in some respects. God speaks of only two men when dealing with life and with
making all alive. Unification may express the fact that humanity and Adam are one and
humanity and Christ will be one. But it does not explain how. A man and woman may be
united and become one in an entirely different way. And the pressing need is to point out
how mankind is united to Adam.
Solidarity, a term sometimes used in this connection, is not very acceptable. It
denotes a compact, rigid unity, which might well have characterized humanity if sin had
not come in. It is true that all men are brothers beneath the skin, but they do not
coalesce or combine. The color of their skin is of far more consequence than the
composition of their blood, so far as solidarity is concerned. There is nothing in this
term to indicate the source of their solidarity. It merely expresses a result, which is by
no means as evident as it should be. It will be far more apt when used of the new humanity
of the future. In Christ the present lack of solidarity will no longer obtain.
ADAM A TYPE OF CHRIST
The truth that all creatures were in the Son of God's love is difficult to entertain or
explain. It is much easier if we bring it down to our level, and see it illustrated in
humanity. When Adam sinned we were in him. All that we are has come to us from him, so it
must have been at least latent in him first. The investigations prompted by the theory of
evolution have shown that no living thing transmits anything permanent from its
environment or experiences. All comes to it through heredity, so that all we see is the
development of potentialities which were given to the first member of each species at its
beginning. The whole human race was created in the first Adam. In a very real sense all
mankind sinned in him. It is impossible to be of his race and not partake of the penalty
of his act. In Adam all are dying. Not through, but in.
In order to realize and appreciate what Christ is to creation, we will use Adam as an
illustration. The weakness of this parallel lies in Adam's failure. To strengthen it we
propose to relieve Adam temporarily of the disabilities brought about by sin, so that we
can see more clearly what Christ would be, in his place, and what Christ is, in His higher
and earlier position.
Let us suppose that sin had not come in and that Adam were alive today, the firstborn
of humanity, the head of the human race. The fact that he was not born, but created,
would not bar him from the title "first-born," for that is a faded figure,
indicating rank and dignity, even when literally untrue. He would not only be the one in
whom the race had its rise, the one through whom it came into being, but, in a very
real sense, the one for whom it exists. All humanity would belong to Adam. All
would be members of his family. His honors as head of the race would depend on them. If
there were no race he would have no headship. There would be a vital relation between him
and his progeny.
Furthermore, let us suppose that, in our day, some spirit being from without our world
should entice a pair to sin and disobedience and death. What would be Adam's attitude
toward this incursion into his race? Could he refrain from exerting all his power to
recover his lost progeny, even at the risk of suffering to himself? If he were sinless and
powerful (as Christ), would he not take upon himself some of the consequence's if he could
recover his sons? Even if he found it necessary to judge the culprits, had he the power,
would he not bring them back from death?
Now let us change our supposition slightly, so as to more fully accord with the facts.
Leaving Adam alone untouched, let us suppose that sin is contagious, that it spreads from
one to another until all humanity is inoculated with its deadly virus. What then would be
Adam's proper reaction? Immune himself, would it not be torment for him to behold the
plight of his progeny? Could he be inhuman enough to stand aside in his holiness and allow
his race to go to wreck and ruin? If he were the least bit like Christ he would go far
beyond the bounds of justice in his efforts to serve and to succor. He is not some cynical
spirit from another sphere, unmoved by the plight of humanity. They are His. They are for
Long before humanity was in Adam, all creation was in Christ. He is vitally related to
every creature in God's universe. He included creation in a higher sense than Adam
incorporated humanity. There is a unity among the genus Homo which declares their
relationship to Adam. There is a oneness in all creation which proclaims its connection
with Christ. Its cohesion is in Him. The scientific theory that the unity of creation
points to a single origin finds its answer, not in a primordial germ, but in Christ. All
its potentialities were in Him before they became manifest in the creatures of His hand.
SON OF MANKIND
Our Lord continually insisted on His close relation to mankind, as such, apart from
redemption. This is concentrated in His title Son of Man, or, better, Son of Mankind, or
humanity. That this name means far more than the fact that He was a human being is evident
wherever it is used. Neither is it limited to His disciples. In Hebrew it would be
rendered Son of Adam. This gives the key to its significance. He inherit's the headship of
the race. All that belonged to Adam, apart from sin, is His. Indeed, seeing that He is
sinless and superior to Adam, he claims more authority than we would accord to Adam. Since
Adam cannot fulfill his functions in regard to the race it devolves on the Son of Mankind
to shoulder them.
It is because the sabbath was made for mankind, that the Son of Mankind claims lordship
over the sabbath (Matt.12:8). He has authority on earth to pardon sins (Matt.9:6). He came
to seek and to save that which Adam lost (Luke 19:10). It is as the Son of Mankind that He
suffered and died and rose and will come again in glory to rule the earth. As such all
judgment is committed to Him (John 5:27). Every member of the race must stand before Him
to give an account of himself. None of this is based on His redemptive work. It is His by
creation. Adam, the subordinate source, has failed. Now Adam's Source descends to undo the
work that Adam did, and do the work that Adam should have done.
THE NEW HUMANITY
The mode of application of the benefits of Christ's sacrifice are evident from the fact
that He heads a new humanity (Eph.2:15; 4:24). He does not start, as Adam did, by wrecking
His race. Nor does He commence by preserving a negative innocence. He transmits to each
one of the new humanity the positive benefits and infinite values of His great sacrifice.
Adam transmitted death, and through death sin. The channel is flesh. Christ transmits
life, and through life righteousness and holiness. The channel is spirit.
Not all the saints will die. Not all will be made alive from death. Some will be living
when Christ comes. How will they be rid of the presence and practice of sin? They will be
vivified, that is, become deathless. Mortal, they will become immortal. Death will cease
to operate in them. They will have superabundant life, so that it will be impossible for
them to sin. There is no such thing as the "eradication of the sinful nature."
It will not be necessary to take out the propensity to sin. All that is needed is the
reversal of the process started by Adam. He doomed us with the process and crisis of
death. Vivification is the impartation of superabundant life.
NUMBER AND QUANTITY
To minds accustomed to the idea of substitution, there are two principal points that
need explanation, in treating of the method of salvation. They may be expressed by the
commercial terms number and quantity. How can one Man take the place of
many? We have all heard stories of men giving their lives as substitutes for others. But
they could save only one. Then, how can one sacrifice be sufficiently severe to outweigh
the weight of all the sins which have ever been committed? In these regards, the theory of
substitution is quite inadequate. Instead of explaining, it calls for explanation, and
none can be given.
ONE FOR MANY
How can One Man settle for the sins of so many? This is, perhaps, the chief
problem in the minds of many who stop to think about the matter. It is evident that no
mere man can die for another's sins, for he is doomed to death for his own. Nor could a
sinless man (if such there were) take the place of the race simply because he has no sin
of his own. That would keep him from perdition on his own account, but would not save
anyone else. It is evident that Christ's sinlessness was not sufficient to make Him a
sacrifice for all. He must be more than spotless to be adequate.
Let us consider our inclusion in Adam in connection with sin. We know that His
transgression brought in death. He became mortal. His life became a slow death process.
This he has passed on to us. Hence we also sin. It is evident that we were involved in
Adam's judgment. If that had been different it would have affected us. If the question of
sin had been settled while we were still in Adam we would have profited by it. Let us
suppose that, through Christ, Sin had been completely repudiated while we were still in
Adam. Then we would all have been saved in him. Here we have a clear illustration of how
one can involve all. Adam did not act as a substitute for each of us in sin nor could he
have done so if he had brought salvation. It is because we were and are included in him,
that his fortunes affect ours.
It is a mistake to suppose that Adam transmits sin. In his case death came through sin.
In the case of his descendants, sin comes through the operation of death. The process of
dying, due to a lack of vitality, is transmitted by generation, and this leads to sin.
Romans 5:12 should read "death came through into all mankind, on which
all sinned." Men do not sin because of the presence of some esoteric
"principle" within them, but because they are deficient in vitality, because
they are mortal, undergoing a process of corruption. Human nature, or instinct, and
conscience, are not sinful. They may be stifled by sin, but they are arrayed against it
(Rom.1:26; 2:14,15,27). This is the key to the cure of sin.
Adam cannot save, for he became a sinner. However, to help us realize the place of
Christ, we will suppose that he was sinless, and that sin came in some other way. Can we
imagine how Adam would feel if he saw his progeny suffering and sorrowing in sin while he
himself is exempt? Is it possible that he would not make some effort to deliver his
offspring? The question is, would he have the right to stand for all? Could he alone
shoulder the responsibility and deal with sin for the whole race? He surely could. If,
while the whole human family was in him, he affected all for woe, it is evident that he
may also effect its weal if he is able. This is the key to our difficulty. The fact that
sin entered humanity by one man shows that its exit also may be through One. The first man
contained the race. The second Man also; at one time, contained creation in Himself.
Because creation was once in Him, as mankind was in Adam, the Son of God has the right
and the responsibility to stand for all. The apostle reasons that the death of Christ
affects all. "If One died for the sake of all, consequently all died" (2
Cor.5:14). Certain it is that Adam's one act has affected us all. If Another, Who included
the race within Himself, acts so as to countervail and overwhelm Adam's sin, that must
also eventually affect all.
There is nothing immoral in a Sinless One suffering for the sake of a sinner. It
is utterly contrary to all righteousness for Him to suffer as a substitute or instead of a
sinner. Adam did not sin as our substitute, but He sinned for us, or on our behalf. So
Christ suffered for all. As all were in Him in the beginning so they are all seen in Him
CHRIST MADE SIN
As Adam is entirely unable to save those whom he generated, it devolves on his Creator,
Who, not being weakened by sin, is able to cope with it, to conquer it for all. Thus it is
that the Son of Mankind came down from heaven to involve Himself in the sin of the race in
order to save them from it. Until the cross, He was sinless, but there He was made to be
sin itself, with a view to its repudiation at the end of the eons.
We are all suffering as a result of Adam's sin. We realize this through sad experience.
It is not necessary to reason it out in order to prove it true. It should not be
impossible, then, to conceive of the opposite. If Adam had achieved some great deed for
Jehovah, not merely just or neutral, but excessively meritorious, more so than his
transgression was bad, and God had rewarded him for it by multiplying the abundance of his
vitality, would he not have transmitted this to us, his posterity? Life may be imparted as
well as death. Life may be transmitted, even as death has been.
Moreover, if Adam should do this deed long afterward, let us say at the time that
Christ suffered, then all of his posterity from that point would benefit. Would that be
just to his previous progeny? Seeing that his future offspring are blessed merely because
he is their progenitor, it would be necessary to make it retroactive, for he is progenitor
of all. Superabundant life would come to all of his race, merely because they were once in
In a figure we have transferred all of this to Adam. It is not at all true of him, but
it is of Christ. If sin and death and corruption can come through one man, then
righteousness and life and incorruption can come through Another, provided that He also
included the race in Himself. If we endure sin's penalties because of one sin we may also
enjoy the awards of one act that exceeds the demands of righteousness. If the act that
brought in sin was in no way the equal, in duration or quantity, of the results which
flowed from it, there is no reason why the act which brings in righteousness and blessing
should be commensurate, in duration or quantity, with the infinite fruitage which follows
As an aid in comprehending the difference in magnitude between Adam's act and Christ's
sacrifice, let us consider the rivers of blood which flowed from the veins of innocent
animals, merely to set forth His supreme sacrifice. There is nothing trivial here.
Millions of animals yielded their lives simply to recall to mind the act that saves. Each
one of these sacrifices was a far more serious affair than that which took place in the
garden. Adam destroyed insensate fruit by eating it. The priests destroyed a sentient
animal of much greater value and higher organization, simply to suggest a picture of
I do not think we have a right to expatiate upon the sufferings of these animals. I do
not believe that it is God's purpose that they should suffer, even to portray His passion.
A special method of killing was provided, so that they should not suffer. This consisted
in draining out the blood at once. There is no sensation where there is no blood. Soul, or
sensation (not life), is in the blood. It is said that dentists, can operate painlessly by
injecting warm water into the veins around a tooth. This forces out the blood and feeling
goes with it. Animals properly sacrificed do not suffer much. But the blood was not
drained from the great Victim until after His sufferings were over. He suffered beyond our
power to comprehend.
The true formula of God's method of salvation is given us in the fifth chapter of
Romans. It may be arranged in a variety of ways, thus:
Adam's act is to Christ's act as Adam's effects are to Christ's
Adam's act is to Adam's effects as Christ's act is to Christ's
Christ's effects are to Christ's act as Adam's effects are to Adam's
This formula, for it is really only one, is worthy of our most earnest meditation. Our
minds are unable to compute the staggering total of human woe. The fruit of Christ's
travail is the unknown quantity which we wish to apprehend. How shall we attain a true
estimate of the effects of the sufferings of Christ? By comparing them with the pleasure
of Adam. The eating of the forbidden fruit gave Adam a micrometric measure of agreeable
sensations. Compare this with the sufferings of the cross, physical torment for three long
hours, spiritual agony due to God's withdrawal, all raised to the highest degree by the
exquisite sensibilities of the Victim and His previous experience of divine glory and
As much more as Christ's sacrifice surpasses Adam's act in its quantitative
values, so much more will be the measure of its effects over those of Adam's sin.
As a result human sin dwindles down into a trivial affair compared to the blessings
which are due from the cross of Christ. Let no one misunderstand me. I have suffered
agonies in the last few years. As I write I am in pain. I do not minimize human sin or the
suffering which it entails. But I do magnify the work of our Saviour. There is not much
danger that my readers would believe me if I should say that, in the absolute sense, sin's
effects are trivial. Not many are really deluded as to that. But, great as sin's havoc is,
the happiness to come will dwarf it into insignificance.
This is best realized when we try to expatiate on the delight which came to Adam while
he ate the offending fruit. Hardly anyone has ever thought of that. It seems of so little
consequence. Yet it is the only pleasure which came to him in introducing sin. It
is the only act which we can logically compare with the sufferings of Christ. It must
sustain the same relation to it as the sufferings of humanity sustain to the bliss brought
by His sacrifice. The quantitative difference between Adam's act and that of Christ is
enormous. One is almost the least of pleasures, the other the greatest of agonies. So the
ravages of sin will appear to us in the future bliss. They will be but light afflictions
compared with the tremendous weight of blessedness which will come from the accursed
Ultimate reconciliation was first in the heart of God. There never would have been any
estrangement without it. Therefore enmity was introduced in a manner closely
corresponding with the way it is overcome. Because salvation was planned to be the
great achievement of the Son of God's love, the One in Whom creation first came into
being, therefore sin was planned to reach the race through the failure of the one in whom
it was created. Adam's offense is an inverted silhouette, a shadowgraph reversed, of the
sacrifice of Christ. In their main outlines, their outstanding features, they are alike,
though as far apart as the poles in moral values.
We may suppose that sin could have been introduced in a different way. It might have
been limited to Adam, and each of his progeny might have been tested as he was, so that it
would have been an individual failure. Adam might have had a considerable progeny before
his transgression, who would have been free from the effects of his offense. So the race
might have been broken up into groups or units. But God did not arrange it so. Sin must
enter through one man because it was to be settled through One. The relation
between Adam and his descendants must correspond to that which existed between God's Son
and creation. Both could act on behalf of all who had been in them.
THE DURATION OF SUFFERING
The theory of substitution demands that Christ should suffer, in time and extent, as
much as the sum of all the suffering which it saves. An explanation of this has seldom
been attempted. The usual suggestion is that the capacity of the Sufferer was so great
that it was possible to concentrate it upon a single Victim, and compress it into the
short period of His agony. This is most unsatisfactory, especially as to time. We cannot
imagine that the anguish due to billions of beings for considerable periods (especially
for eternity), could be so condensed. It is beyond all comprehension. It appears to be
both illogical and immoral.
If substitution is true, and eternal torment the destiny of all who do not believe on
Him, He must, at the very least, suffer eternal torment to redeem a single soul. To save
more, He should suffer this much multiplied by the number of the lost, not only in amount
but in duration. If we see that eternal torment is not true, but that each sinner suffers
only for the limited time between his resurrection and the second death, being judged
according to his acts, the matter comes nearer the sphere of rational inquiry. We cannot
comprehend even a single eternity, much less billions of them, but we can compute billions
of periods not more than a hundred years in duration. Yet this is not much relief. Our
Saviour did not and will not suffer many hundreds of billions of years in order to save
His people or the race.
The quantity of His suffering is beyond computation, but the duration is well within
our ken. His sacrificial sufferings, during which He was under the curse of God, did not
exceed three hours. If the multitudes who are saved by Him each ought to have endured it
for their fraction of the time, it would be so short that not one of them would feel it.
Human functions are not quick enough to sense a hundredth of a second. If we divide three
hours, or one hundred eighty minutes, or only about ten thousand seconds, by the billions
who will be saved, each period would be practically imperceptible. There is no possible
parallel between the time periods.
THE QUANTITY OF SUFFERING
The eating of fruit is not an uncommon or important action. In Adam's case its
fearfully destructive power lay wholly in its relation to God. Apart from His prohibition
it was a trivial incident. After God had spoken, it became a sin, a transgression, an
offense, a channel of unutterable woe to humankind. So with its counterpart. Many men have
been executed. Some have been crucified, but they were already enemies of God. When Christ
was crucified, it was the word of God that intervened and made Him accursed. Its relation
to God changed it from a death to a sacrifice, charged with infinite power for good, with
a scope unutterably wider and higher than Adam's sin.
It is evident that any attempt to show that our Saviour suffered the commercial
equivalent of that which His creatures were doomed to endure is absolutely hopeless. It is
illogical and unnatural. The true equation should read like this: As Adam's act is to the
sum total of its effects, so Christ's suffering is to that which it accomplishes. We must
compare Christ's act with Adam's offense, not with its effects on mankind. Mathematically
speaking, the formula for substitution has ignored the main members of the equation, so
that the formula is insoluble. It may be expressed thus:
Christ's act equals Adam's effects minus that endured by unbelievers.
His accomplishment is thus shown to be much less than Adam's, contrary to the
God gives us the basic principles of His judgment of mankind in the second chapter of
Romans. He will pay each one according to his acts. Those who endure in good acts, seeking
glory and honor and incorruption, will get eonian life just as surely as others will get
fury, affliction and distress, if they effect evil. The fact that no one qualifies for
eonian life does not destroy the principle that God's judgments are just. He rewards as
well as condemns with an even hand. If Adam's sin produces such a fearful crop of
distress, the sacrifice of Christ must reap a harvest of untold happiness.
If we wish to understand sin's exit we should consider its entrance. Adam enjoyed the
pleasure of eating the forbidden fruit for a few moments and it resulted in all the misery
and woe which torments humanity. He did not experience an hour's pleasure to compensate
for each hour of our pain. There is no comparison between the duration and extent of his
indulgence and the length and amount of human suffering which it has occasioned. He was in
no sense our substitute on the debit side of the account. Neither is Christ our substitute
on the credit side.
It is a poor rule which does not work both ways. If Adam's momentary indulgence was
effective in producing such stupendous suffering and loss because the race was in him, why
should not the prolonged anguish of Christ operate to insure much greater happiness and
gain, since He is the Son of God, in whom all was created? His work avails for all, not
because of its bulk or duration, but because of the potentiality of His relation to those
for whom His sacrifice was offered.
If any comparison is to be instituted, we should note how very mild was Adam's
enjoyment of the pleasure of sin. Christ's sufferings were immeasurably greater. No one
would endure them for a billion such experiences as Adam had. Then, if Adam's mild act
brought disaster to the race, shall not the awful sorrows of Golgotha retrieve the loss
and immeasurably more? The Scriptures testify that this is true, hence we may assume that
the comparison and reasoning are right. Christ's sacrifice brings us infinitely more
blessing than we lost through Adam's sin.
If the sacrifice of Christ had risen above the strict standard of right just as much as
Adam's offense had sunk below it, it would have sufficed for the recovery of the race. It
would have eventually canceled the effects of sin. But there would have been no gain. All
of the process would have been in vain. But Christ's work soared gloriously high above the
demands of justice, far further than Adam's offense was beneath it. Hence there is no mere
recovery, no return to innocence, no new probation on Adamic ground. On the basis of the
knowledge of evil there is the appreciation of good and of the superexcess of grace which
was made possible by the ravages of sin.
This point is of surpassing importance. The act which afflicts us was below the
standard of justice. The act which graces us was immeasurably above the demands of
righteousness. Christ's sacrifice was not merely just. Right cannot neutralize wrong. It
was infinitely more than that. If Adam had never sinned again, if he had done many signal
acts of justice, none of these would counteract his transgression. It brought him into a
condition where he could not do anything of sufficient virtue to cancel his offense.
An act which so far transcends justice must appear unjust to those out of sympathy with
it. The rationalist, who knows nothing of the love of Christ, is right in claiming that
substitution is immoral. Yet even he will go far beyond the bounds of strict justice to
save his own child from harm, and never think of that as aught but the very highest phase
of morality. It is because saints have lost the sense of their relationship to God and His
Son that they have floundered so feebly when they unfold the work of our Saviour. They
fail to accord Him His place in creation, hence cannot understand the manner of His
Every time we transfer something to another without compensation it is, strictly
speaking, a departure from justice. Whether it is injustice or kindness depends on our
attitude toward the recipient. If we give unwillingly, moved by coercion, it is wrong. If
we give freely, motivated by love, it is more than just, but not unjust. If Christ was
dragged to death, an innocent and unwilling substitute, to expiate our guilt, it was the
greatest wrong that has ever been perpetrated. It is only the love of Christ for us and
His devotion to God which redeems the cross from being the greatest crime that was ever
committed. He had done nothing to deserve it. On the contrary, He was worthy of blessing
and glory. He loved much, therefore He gave His soul and Himself for the objects of His
THE TIME OF SACRIFICE
If he could have borne it, the suffering due to sin might have been laid upon Adam
while we were still in him. Then we would have escaped, but we would not have learned the
lesson which it is sent to teach. That was neither the right time nor the right person,
but it would have affected all. Similarly sin could have been counteracted long before,
when creation was still in the Son, even though it was unknown. He was the right Person
and it would have affected all, but there would have been no beneficial results. It was
only after sin had operated sufficiently to provide a contrast for good that the time was
ripe for the sacrifice of Christ.
God could have repudiated sin and saved all immediately after the great Sacrifice had
been accepted. What more is needed? Is anything still to be added to Christ's sacrificial
work? He could do this at the commencement of the millennium, or of the new creation. Why
does He not do so? Is it not clear that God deliberately delays the disposal of sin in
order that it may accomplish the work assigned to it in His intention? He even leaves it
to afflict the lives of His saints until their vivification.
THE DEATH OF THE CROSS
Christ emptied Himself of the form of God for the express purpose of becoming the
Sacrifice for sin. Sin involves suffering and death, hence He took a mortal form, in which
alone these could be endured. During His life and ministry He suffered from contact with
the sins of others. But it is evident that men could not make Him to be sin without the
aid and consent of God. In all their hatred He retained the smile and confidence of His
Father, until He deliberately allowed Himself to be placed under the curse of the cross.
The key to the sacrifice of Christ lies in the manner of His death. Had He been stoned,
according to Jewish custom, He would not have borne the sin of the world. God could not
have made Him to be sin. But, because He was gibbeted, in Roman style, He came under the
curse of Deity. "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree" is God's own mandate,
made to fit this very case. This is what changes the whole scene from a martyrdom, to a
Sacrifice. It is God's act in forsaking Him on the cross, which constitutes the
basis of our salvation.
In conclusion, let us look at God's salvation from the divine standpoint, ere sin had
entered the scene. Since He is Supreme, sin could not insinuate itself apart from His
purpose. Since sin is to be introduced to form a background for the revelation of His
grace and love, He would surely provide for its control and conquest before it is allowed
to play its part. This was done when all was created in the Son of His love. If men
were logical, this statement alone would absolutely guarantee a universal reconciliation.
Given a God worthy of the name, and a creation conceived in His love, and
eternal torment is a noxious nightmare. Even annihilation is utterly subversive of His
deity or a direct denial of His love. Both death and suffering must be temporary and serve
His purpose, or else He is a hateful and impotent friend, a fool who cannot satisfy his
God's method of salvation was inaugurated long before men were lost. Later on, when sin
was introduced, the process was copied from the earlier mode of salvation. In effect God
provided the manner and means of salvation before there was any need for a Saviour. He
operated through only two, His Son and the head of the human race. First He created all in
His Beloved--which assures their ultimate weal--and later He puts all mankind in
Adam--which involves their temporary woe. Their inclusion in Adam made them partakers of
the effects of his offense. Their earlier inclusion in the Son involves them in the
benefits of His sacrifice. The details of the application of His salvation during the eons
should not obscure the universal ultimate, when the eons are over. All were in Adam, and
are lost. All were in the Son of His love and shall be saved.
The key word is in, or inclusion. If anyone was not in Adam he is not a
sinner and needs no salvation. If anyone was not in the Son of His love he will not be
saved. But, since all were created in the Beloved, so long as my mind retains its
sanity I shall assert that God Himself will lose His deity if He cannot satisfy His own
affections by delivering those on whom His heart has been fixed since the very dawn of
creation. May God Himself saturate our very being with the triumphant truth that He is
love, in creation as well as in redemption. Creation was not the act of a neutral,
insensible Power, without aim or object, but the achievement of a heart-hungry Father,
seeking to satisfy the longings of latent love, who first assures the salvation of His
creatures ere He lost them for a time, that they might discern the depths of His affection
and learn the lesson of His love.