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De Moor on God's Essential Vindicatory Righteousness: The Satisfaction of Christ, Part 6

Finally, the procession of texts is closed by that passage so frequently recited, Romans 3:25, 26, ὃν προέθετο ὁ Θεὸς ἱλαστήριον διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι, εἰς ἔνδειξιν τῆς δικαιοσύνης αὐτοῦ, διὰ τὴν πάρεσιν τῶν προγεγονότων ἁμαρτημάτων, ἐν τῇ ἀνοχῇ τοῦ Θεοῦ· πρὸς ἔνδειξιν τῆς δικαιοσύνης αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ νῦν καιρῷ, εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν δίκαιον καὶ δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. The subject of this oration is Christ Jesus, named immediately before in verse 24, who, occurring here under the pronoun ὃν/whom, is said to be set forth, by a verb compounded from the preposition πρὸ/before; which, since it is able to be understood indifferent of time or of place, is able to be admitted here in either respect; but it appears to be more agreeable to the circumstances of the text to expound πρὸ/before of place; so that He might be set forth openly, exposed to the eyes of all, not so much by the preaching of the Gospel after His Ascension, which is rather consequent upon this προθέσεως, setting forth, which is here treated; as indeed in the days of His Flesh in His multifaceted Suffering, and especially in the subsequent Crucifixion and shameful Death (with the Apostle thus declaring the manner of the acquisition of that ἀπολυτρώσεως/ redemption, of which he had made mention in verse 24). In which, since He acted the part of Sacrifice and Priest at the same time, He is rightly said to have been set forth by God the Father, exhibiting the person of a Judge, as a ἱλαστήριον/propitiation: not so much with respect to the Lid of the old Ark, so called by the Septuagint and by Paul in Hebrews 9:5,[1] according to the judgment of the most illustrious JACOB ALTING also, Heptade II, Dissertation II, § 44, since that most illustrious Man on that very passage judges that that is rather to be referred mystically to the Prophetic office of Christ, concerning which there is now no space for me to dispute: but simply, either in a masculine sense (for the absence of the Article here left the gender undetermined), placating, propitiating or propitiatory, that is, in whom is the power of placating and propitiating: or even in a neuter sense, with ἱερείῳ/victim or θύματι/sacrifice, propitiatory victim, understood; or posited absolutely and substantively, so that it might correspond to ἱλασμὸς/propitiation, and might be a means of appeasement or propitiation, as it is rendered by many Interpreters; with the word ayswx employed in the SYRIAC, with which same word he translated the ἱλασμὸς just now mentioned in 1 John 2:2;[2] 4:10.[3] Which interpretation best agrees with this passage, in which the Priestly office of Christ is treated, and a mention of αἵματος αὐτοῦ, His blood, is added, and this ἱλαστήριον/propitiation is openly displayed, and a special ἔνδειξις/declaration/demonstration of the Divine Righteousness is found in it; which things are not found thus to square with the covering of the Ark. Whatever the case may be, the Apostle adds that this act of the προθέσεως, setting forth, of Christ for ἱλαστήριον διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι, a propitiation through faith in His blood, had a goal, even ἔνδειξιν τῆς δικαιοσύνης τοῦ Θεοῦ, a declaration of the righteousness of God; or the greatest and completely irrefragable demonstration δικαιοσύνης, of righteousness; not of the faithfulness of goodness or righteousness imputed to faith, which latter does not exist in God, but is granted by Him to us graciously: but in the most proper sense of His Righteousness, that is, Vindicatory Righteousness, which prevents the remission of sin without Satisfaction, and which in the Satisfaction of Chirist is not able to be acknowledged without admiration and wonder by all, not altogether destitute of common sense; in which manner God at the same time accomplishes the goal, which He proposed to Himself in this work. And the elegant epanalepsis[4] argues the certainty and weight of the matter, and also adds weight to our argumentation; of which epanalepsis the Apostle makes us, next writing again, πρὸς ἔνδειξιν τῆς δικαιοσύνης αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ νῦν καιρῷ, a declaration of His righteousness at this time, in opposition to the Old Testament, which he had just called the time of ἀνοχῆς/forebearance; since under that God had through His Tolerance delayed His wrath and punishments, which Righteousness was requiring. All which are most solidly confirmed, when to all these the Apostle superadds, εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν δίκαιον, καὶ δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ, that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus: that is, so that, while God lavishes Grace upon sinners, who had otherwise brought upon themselves liability to eternal destruction, but lay hold of the merits of Christ by faith; in justifying these He at the same time might detract nothing from His Righteousness, but in the midst of His Grace towards sinners might simultaneously demonstrate His Righteousness most manifestly, so that God might be able, not only to be Just, but also always to remain such. Therefore, Slichtingius incorrectly contra Meisnerum[5] de Justificatione: Indeed, He manifested neither Righteousness nor Mercy, if your opinion is true. Not Righteousness, because He punished one properly innocent: but one innocent is not able to be punished except with injustice. Not Mercy, because He did not yield His right, but pursued His right in its entirety. The passage in Romans 3:25 does not pertain to this. I respond: But God did indeed manifest both Righteousness and Mercy according to our opinion, which is true; provided that the Word of God be not mistaken. Righteousness; since, so that this might not suffer any detriment, He set forth His beloved Son as a propitiation according to Romans 3:25, which passage has the greatest possible bearing upon this; He severely punished Him, one innocent indeed, but not as one innocent; but as laden with the sins of the Elect, which by a voluntary promise He had taken upon Himself in eternity; according to which God the Father μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν, ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν, ἵνα ἡμεῖς γινώμεθα δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ, made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Corinthians 5:21. And in this manner the innocent Christ was able to be punished without any injustice. For neither was injustice inflicted upon Him; since He was carried off to this punishment, not with a rope around His neck, but willingly offering Himself. Nor upon the Judge, who not only consented unto this substitution, but He Himself contrived and set forth the same. Moreover, with the just taking the place of the unjust in a criminal case, in this manner injury is done to the republic, which, being bereaved of a good citizen, is compelled to nourish wicked men unto its own destruction: but neither is any place left here for this injury; since Christ by divine power successfully overcame all sufferings and death itself; and those, in whose place He was elected, by His heart-changing power He converted to better fruit. In addition, God here magnificently revealed His Mercy; tempering His Righteousness with ἐπιεικείᾳ/gentleness, in such a way that in punishing sin He spares the sinner himself; and, so that He might be able to spare him through Holiness and Righteousness, He preferred to give His Only-Begotten Son to death, than to devote the man that had justly deserved that to eternal destruction with the Angels not keeping their first estate.[6] In which whoever does not acknowledge the incomparable Mercy and φιλανθρωπίαν/philanthropy of God, surly such a one ought at length to pay the penalties of an ungrateful soul! Thus against Slichtingius. See additional things making for the exposition of this Pauline passage out of the most illustrious MARCKIUS, Exercitationibus Textualibus, Part III, Exercise XLIX, § 1-3. So also in this passage the Apostle derives the expiation made by Christ, not from God’s indifferent will and Decree; but from His Essential Righteousness, which necessarily had to be demonstrated, and thus is the Foundation, upon which the Decree of Satisfaction rests. And so let us also exclaim with JUSTIN Martyr in his most elegant Epistle to Diognetus,[7] Parisian edition, page 500, Αὐτὸς τὸν ἴδιον Ὑιὸν ἀπέδοτο λύτρον ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν, τὸν ἅγιον ὑπὲρ ἀνόμων, τὸν ἄκακον ὑπὲρ τῶν κακῶν, τὸν δίκαιον ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀδίκων, τὸν ἄφθαρτον ὑπὲρ τῶν φθαρτῶν, τὸν ἀθάνατον ὑπὲρ τῶν θνητῶν· τί γὰρ ἄλλο τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν ἠδυνήθη καλύψαι ἢ ἐκείνου δικαιοσύνη; ἐν τίνι δικαιωθῆναι δυνατὸν τοὺς ἀνόμους ἡμᾶς καὶ ἀσεβεῖς, ἢ ἐν μόνῳ τῷ Ὑιῷ τοῦ Θεοῦ; ὢ τῆς γλυκείας ἀνταλλαγῆς, ὢ ἀνεξιχνιάστου δημιουργίας, ὢ τῶν ἀπροσδοκήτων εὐεργεσιῶν· ἵνα ἀνομία μὲν πολλῶν ἐν δικαίῳ ἑνὶ κρυβῇ, δικαιοσύνη δὲ ἑνὸς πολλοὺς ἀνόμους δικαιώσῃ, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy one for transgressors, the blameless for the wicked, the righteous for the unrighteous, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for mortals: For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? by what other was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the Son of God alone? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors! Therefore, I subjoin a conclusion: The Suffering and Death of Christ was absolutely necessary, or not. If not; the consummate Love, with which the Father embraced the Son, does not appear to have been able to permit that to His free Decree, that by it He might be delivered to the most bitter sorrows and to the curse itself. But if it was absolutely necessary, that necessity is not able to be found in any other place than in the Vindicatory Righteousness of God. Therefore. I willingly here again subscribe to the words of the most illustrious VOETIUS, who, treating the Argument proposed against Twisse, thus concluded: Indeed, of itself this reason does not suffice; yet it is perhaps of less moment than the reasons opposed to the opinion.

[1] Hebrews 9:5: “And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat (τὸ ἱλαστήριον); of which we cannot now speak particularly.”

[2] 1 John 2:2: “And he is the propitiation (ἱλασμός; ayswx/חוסיא, in the Syriac) for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

[3] 1 John 4:10: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation (ἱλασμὸν; ayswx/חוסיא, in the Syriac) for our sins.”

[4] That is, the repetition of words, with other words intervening.

[5] Balthasar Meisner (1587-1626) was a German Lutheran theologian. He defended Lutheran orthodoxy against the Socinians.

[6] See Jude 6.

[7] Although the author of the Epistle to Diognetus is unknown, it has been traditionally attributed to Justin Martyr.

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