The Doctrine of The Work of Christ: EFCA Ordination (Part 5 of 11)
This morning I passed my ordination exam in the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA). I’ve been writing about it on the blog for the last month or so. If you’d like to read about what the process looks like, you can read the first post (here). The 4-hour oral exam occurred this morning. What a day! Almost two dozen members from my church made the 90-minute drive (one way!) to attend. Also in attendance were my wife, oldest daughter, and my parents.
Throughout the autumn, I’ll occasionally share the remaining sections of my ordination paper, which engages with our denominations 10-point statement of faith.
Thank you for the prayers and encouragement along the way,
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The Work of Christ
5. We believe that Jesus Christ, as our representative and substitute, shed His blood on the cross as the perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins. His atoning death and victorious resurrection constitute the only ground for salvation.
Jesus died as our representative and substitute, which means his death was a penal substitutionary atonement: Jesus took upon himself the punishment our sins deserved (Is 53:5–6; Mk 10:45; Gal 3:13; 1 Pet 2:24). His death was sufficient for all but effectually only for his elect (Mt 1:21; Jn 10:15; 15:13; Acts 20:28). What an undeserved joy we have as Christians knowing that in dying for his bride, Jesus did something special for us that he does not do for all (cf. Eph 5:25). Moreover, Jesus does not simply atone for our sins but also purchases the power that makes our salvation not merely a possibility people can experience but the reality believers will experience (Acts 20:28; Rm 8:31–34; Gal 1:4; Eph 1:11–14; Titus 2:14); his atonement is limited in scope but not in power. Related to the power of Christ’s atonement is God’s irresistible grace. To affirm God’s grace as irresistible does not mean God’s grace can’t be resisted. The Pharisees did precisely this in Luke 7:30. We do the same each time we sin. But what I cherish in irresistible grace is God’s ability, when he so chooses, to subdue all of our resistance to his love and deadness to true joy.
Since we’re talking about salvation, I should clarify what I mean. Salvation has broad meaning in the Bible, such as salvation from enemies in war or salvation from a life-threatening illness. But with respect to the atonement, salvation carries the idea of being delivered from God’s wrath (1 Thes 1:10) by God crushing his own Son in our place (Is 53:10) to bring his people near and reconcile them to himself (Eph 2:13; 1 Pet 3:18; 2 Cor 5:19). Our salvation is from God, by God, to God. God gives us eternal, abundant life with him when we only deserved eternal death and separation from him.
When discussing salvation from God’s wrath, it is helpful to define both expiation and propitiation which differentiate along these lines: expiation is an action that cleanses from sin and takes away guilt, while propitiation focuses on the appeasement of God’s wrath. Several key passages inform the discussion of expiation and propitiation (e.g., Lev 17:11 and other OT sacrificial passages; Rm 3:25; Heb 9:5; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). While both concepts are biblical, it is worth pointing out that a sinner’s guilt cannot be removed without the appeasement of God’s wrath and the shedding of blood by taking a life (cf. Lev 17:11 and Heb 9:22). Because penal substitutionary atonement and the discussion of the appeasement of wrath can provoke wrong views of God, as though he were cold and calculating, I should mention that the act of atonement itself does not make God love us; God has loved his people from before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4–5). Atonement graciously flows out of his love, not the other way around.
The exclusivity and necessity of Jesus’s death need to be asserted not only because the Bible teaches this but also because of increasing cultural pressure to regulate religious claims to mere situational truthfulness—if that’s true for you, great; but it’s not true for me. Only one way leads to God in reconciliation, namely, faith in the finished work of Jesus’s atoning death and victorious resurrection (Acts 4:12; 2 Thes 1:8). His resurrection is victorious because in rising from the dead, Christ achieved victory over sin, death, and evil (1 Cor 15:54–57; Col 2:15). Christ’s resurrection affirms his claims (e.g., Jn 3:18–22; 10:19), attests to the Father’s approval (Acts 13:30; Heb 1:8–9), and assures our own resurrection (Rm 4:5–6).
Representative and Substitute
1. What is it about Jesus’ person and work that accomplishes our salvation?
2. What does it mean that Jesus is “our representative and substitute?”
Shed Blood on the Cross
3. Why was Jesus’ shed blood necessary for our salvation?
4. Why is the centrality of the cross essential?
Perfect, All-Sufficient Sacrifice for Sin
5. What is the significance of Christ’s sacrificial death being “perfect” and “all-sufficient?” What is the value and necessity of His death?
6. How does the fact that this is the only way in which our sin is addressed compare with those embracing a wider hope of salvation beyond Christ and His work?
Atonement, Propitiation, Expiation, Redemption, Reconciliation
7. What is atonement? Define propitiation and expiation, and explain the difference.
8. Define redemption (cf. article 1). What does it mean to be reconciled to God and what is its significance?
9. What is your understanding of 2 Corinthians 5:21? Explain your view of “imputation.”
10. Why is Jesus’ resurrection considered as an element of our salvation?
11. What is the significance that Jesus’ resurrection is “victorious?” Who and what did Jesus overcome?
Only Ground of Salvation
12. What does it mean that Jesus’ work is the “only ground for salvation?”
13. What does “salvation” mean biblically? Explain your understanding of it.