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Salient Points with respect to the Work of Christ


Christ as Teacher and Exemplar.

In class we’ve pointed out the heresy of regarding Jesus as teacher only or teacher primarily, and underlined the peculiarity of liberal theology’s venerating Jesus as teacher only to have his teaching render him superfluous.  At the same time, he is teacher; if we fail to appreciate this then we relax the rigours of discipleship, and detach discipleship from faith.  For this reason we ought never to neglect the written gospels.  As much can be said about Jesus as example.  See John 13:15 and 1 Peter 2:21.


In opposition to some schools of NT study it can be maintained (and must be maintained) that Paul’s understanding of the work of Christ didn’t complicate “the simple Jesus.” Paul’s teaching about the work of Christ didn’t differ fundamentally from that of the early church.  And Paul’s teaching about the work of Christ didn’t differ fundamentally from that of Jesus himself.  It’s important for us to understand that Paul didn’t invent; the tradition about the force of Jesus’s death is rooted in the utterance of Jesus himself.


Concerning propitiation:

“Propitiation” is the proper translation for the hilasterion word group.  Without “propitiation” we deny the wrath of God (as his response to our sin) and the holiness of God.


At the same time, the sacrifice offered to God (Jesus) is first the sacrifice offered by God — or else we’ve landed ourselves in the pagan notion of sacrifice as an attempt at bribing the deity.


Reconciliation is possible only because of propitiation.  Our alienation from God is the consequence of God’s judgement on our sin (unbelief).  I.e., we aren’t alienated from God in that we’ve distanced ourselves from him; our alienation from him is his judicial act upon us in the face of our sin.  (People with a non-biblical, existentialist cast to their theology fail to grasp this point.)


Apart from propitiation we have no grounds for thinking that God loves us.


Christ’s death not only relieves us of sin’s guilt; it also releases us from sin’s grip or power.


Christ’s death has cosmic significance, not merely “terrestrial” or human significance.


Our suffering doesn’t save us, but our suffering for Christ’s sake identifies us as saved.


Christ’s death is a once-for all, finished act.  To add to it is to detract from it is to deny it is to repudiate it is to forfeit one’s “benefit” from it.


  1.   Note the two hymns, one reflecting Jewish apocalyptic and the other Christian mysticism, from the pen of Charles Wesley.  This kind of comprehensiveness should be found in all believers.


Come, Thou Conqueror of the nations

Now on Thy white horse appear;

Earthquakes, dearths and desolations

Signify Thy kingdom near;

True and faithful!

‘Stablish Thy dominion here.


Open, Lord, my inward ear,

And bid my heart rejoice;

Bid my quiet spirit hear

Thy comfortable voice;

Never in the whirlwind found,

Or when earthquakes rock the place,

Still and silent is the sound,

The whisper of Thy grace.