The Consequences of Redemption
by Archbishop Dmitri
Man, then, has been redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ from his sinful state, from the curse and the sentence of death, from enmity with God, from slavery to sin and the devil, and from idolatry.
Does this rescue from sin and death bring with it any positive consequences? For the person who has faith in Christ, it does most assuredly. Yet that faith is necessary for his participation in the effects of the redemption.
A New Covenant By His Blood
Jesus Christ has established by His blood a new covenant with God and has brought about a new union with Him. “And for this cause, He is the Mediator of the new testament [covenant], 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. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.” (Hb. 9:15,16)
Further, by His death Christ has brought all men into unity in Himself, specifically the Gentile and the Jew. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ …He is our peace-He hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us …for through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.“ (Eph. 2:13-18)
Children of God by Adoption
Christ made us the adopted children of God and dwellers in His house. “God sent forth His Son… to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Gal. 4:4,5) “Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Eph. 2:19)
Justification and Sanctification
By His death, Christ has given us the means of being justified, sanctified, and deified, “…being now justified by His blood…” (Rm. 5:9) He “bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness…” (I Pet. 2:24) “…Now hath He reconciled [you] in the body of His flesh to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight” (Col. 1:21,22), “that …ye might be partakers of the divine nature…” (II Pet. 1:4). “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them…” (Jn. 17:22)
Eternal Life and Glory
Christ has gained eternal life and glory for us. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:14,15) “For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one…” (Hb. 2:10,1.1)
Can One Die For Many?
Now, how can it be that the sacrificial death of One can accomplish all these things for the rest? After all, it was man that had sinned and owed the debt, even though we admit that the eternal Son of God became man and offered Himself in sacrifice to God. To say that He suffered for us and died for us must mean that He took our place and offered a representative sacrifice for our sins. Is this kind of substitution consistent with the principles of equity and justice?
In order to answer this crucial question, consider the explanation given by St. Paul in the fifth chapter of Romans: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (v.12) So it was that sin was first committed by one, and the consequence of that sin was death. This death passed to all men, not as to innocent bystanders, but because they have all sinned.
“…For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.” (v.15) The effects of sin were so extensive that all men were subject to death. [The word “many” in the language of the New Testament means “all.”]
“For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift and of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” (v.17) The gift of Christ, eternal life, far outweighed the results of sin.
“Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” (v.18) Just as mortality was inherited by all, even though they may not have been guilty, so also the gift of justification was bestowed upon all without their deserving it.
“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (v.19) So everyone became a sinner as a consequence of the first man’s disobedience. By Christ’s perfect obedience, all have the possibility of being righteous.
What was inherited by all, as a consequence of the sin of Adam, was death, judgment to condemnation, and sinfulness. The expression “for all have sinned” emphasizes the fact that each man not only sins but has the responsibility or guilt for it.
The underlying idea in all the passages cited is that what affects one man affects all, although each man or woman is a person and not a part of some larger super-person.
St. Athanasius perceives the truth of the matter and provides the solution to the problem. “The solidarity of the human race is such that, since the Word of God dwelt in a single human body, the corruption which accompanies death lost its power over all.” (The Incarnation of the Word of God, 9, n.2) In the same way that death had passed to all from the place of its original infection, the cure is affected from one starting point.
There is a real unity of human nature, although there are millions of persons, each grity. The Son of God identified with the human race in the Incarnation. In the same way, Christ, the New Adam, comprises each human individual. He is not just “another”.
He that “taketh away the sins of the world” took upon Himself the sins of all men and of all times. In His holy humanity He committed no sin, but He was made sin for us. (II Cor. 5:21) “For being over all, the Word of God naturally by offering His own temple and bodily instrument for the life of all satisfied the debt of all by His death.” (St. Athanasius, Op.cit.)
None of this can be understood purely in a juridical sense. From a purely human idea of justice, this way of redemption can appear to be absurd. “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God …the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (I Cor. 1:18,25)
The divine principle at work in the whole process of the redemption is love. For “God is love.” In this was manifested the love of God toward us. God sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (I Jn. 4:10) “For God so loved the world,” in spite of its sinfulness. “that He gave His only begotten Son.” Christ took upon Himself human nature with its sins, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Jn. 3:16) For Christ the High Priest, by virtue of His redemptive sacrifice, remits the sins of those who go to Him with love and repentance.
Are We All Then Saved?
The sacrifice of the great High Priest, Jesus Christ, was offered for all. Its propitiatory effects extend to all men.
The will of God is certainly that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ; who gave Himself a ransom for all…” (I Tm. 2:4-6)
All men were lost, and in the Saviour’s own words, He came “to save that which was lost.” (Mt. 18:11) He is the propitiation for and the salvation of the whole world. (I Jn. 2:2; 4:14)
St. Basil the Great summarizes this point in this way: “There is one superior to our nature; not a mere man, but one who is man and God, Jesus Christ, who alone is able to make atonement for us all because God ‘appointed Him to be a propitiation through faith in His blood’–Romans 3:25.” (Jn Psalm 48:3)
Again, St. Gregory of Nyssa remarks: “As a priest after the order of Melchisedec, He offered Himself to God in redemption, not only for Israel, but also for all men.” (On the Lord’s Prayer)
Although Christ died for all, only those who believe in Him are saved.(Jn. 3:16) As St. John Chrysostom says: “The Lord died for all in order to save all; this death corresponded to the perdition of all, but it did not erase the sins of all, because they themselves did not wish it so.” (On Hebrews, Homily 17, n.2)
The sacrifice of Christ redeems us from sin in general, from original sin, from past sins and from future sins. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (I Jn. 1:7) “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Rm. 5:19)
“God …set forth [Jesus Christ] 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.” (Rm. 3:25)
“My little children, these things I write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…” (I Jn. 2:1,2)
St. John chrysostom describes the effect of the sacrifice in this way: “Grace has destroyed not only original sin, but also all other sins; moreover, not only has it destroyed sins, but it has also given us holiness; and Jesus Christ has not only restored everything that had been corrupted by Adam, but also has reestablished it more abundantly and to a better degree.” (On the Epistle to the Romans, Homily 10, n.2)
Christ’s sacrifice is effective for all times. This is why He is called “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8) and “a priest for ever” (Hb. 7:21). The redemption He has gained for us is eternal. “Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Hb. 9:11,12)
His reconciliation was universal, in that He tore down the wall of separation between heaven and earth by His cross. “It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Col. 1:19,20)
Jesus Christ, in His sacrificial death, carried out the will of His Father who had decreed to save the world by the blood of His Son-made-Man. By the Son’s own will, He was obedient and underwent a lifetime of humiliation. “For the joy that was set before Him, [He] endured the cross, despising the shame…” (Hb. 12:2)
Now, His state of humiliation was followed by His glorification. (Jn. 12:16) This was a glorification not of His divinity, which was always glorious, but in His human nature, which lie had taken into the unity of His person.
Just before His death, Christ prayed: “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee…I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (Jn. 17:1,4,5)
Then after His resurrection, having appeared to two of His Apostles returning to Emmaus, who were uncertain about the death of their Master, Christ said to them: “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?” (Lk. 24:25,26)
In his discourse to the Jews, St. Peter said: “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up.” (Acts 3:13) Peter later wrote in his first epistle that the prophets foretold the sufferings of Christ and His glorification that was to follow. (1:11)
St. Paul likewise testifies to the glorification and exaltation of the God-Man after His death. (Phil. 2:9; Hb. 2:9)
This glorification is to be understood in the following terms. Christ entered as God-Man into the same glory that He had as God with the Father before the world was. (Jn. 17:5) The Father raised Christ from the dead, His body being made glorious (Phil. 3:21) and set Him down at His own right hand (Eph. 1:20). The God-Man ascended into heaven and was given authority over all, even the angels. (I Pet. 3:22) In fact, as Christ Himself says: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Mt. 28:18) He receives as God-Man the adoration that always belonged to Him in His divinity. (Phil. 2:10)
In the fullness of His divine glory, Christ will come again one day as King to judge the living and the dead (Mt. 16:27; 19:28; 24:30), and of His Kingdom there shall be no end (Lk. 1:33).
From The Doctrine Of Christ, A LAYMAN’S HANDBOOK By Archbishop Dmitri