A STUDY OF SEVERAL OFTEN MISUNDERSTOOD TERMS ASSOCIATED WITH SALVATION
The doctrine of salvation is both profoundly simple and profoundly complex. The simplicity lies in what is required in order to be saved, i.e. “…..whosoever believeth in Him shall….have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). But many of the terms associated with salvation are misunderstood by many Bible believing Christians. This paper will discuss those terms which include:
FROM WHAT IS THE BELIEVER SAVED?
The believer is saved from the grave by means of the resurrection. But too many assume that every time they see the word “saved” it refers to salvation from the grave. For that reason I think it would be helpful to consider a few passages in the Bible that speak of one being saved from something other than the grave.
Consider, for example Matt. 8:25, “And His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish”. But this was not a cry for salvation from the grave. The next verse tells us that it was a cry for salvation from death by drowning, “….Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea…”.
Matt. 10:22 is a very interesting verse. Our Lord, in addressing His disciples said, “And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved”. The question must be asked, saved from what? The context concerns the tribulation which is proved in the very next verse, “But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another”. But the salvation spoken of here is not salvation from the tribulation because our Lord said, “he that endureth to the end”. In other words,one may be called to endure the tribulation. If they were to be saved from it, they obviously would not need to endure it. What does it mean to endure the tribulation? It means to get through it without receiving the mark of the beast. Those who endure the tribulation are believers and all believers will be saved by the rapture from the day of God’s wrath which follows the tribulation (see Matt. 24:29). So in this passage the Lord speaks of one being saved from the day of God’s wrath.
Let us also consider Romans 5:9, which is another passage that speaks of salvation from God’s wrath. “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” There is no wrath in death, (please see the paper on this web-site What Happens When We Die? for the Scriptural evidence of that statement), therefore the only wrath that this could possibly refer to is the day of God’s wrath, i.e. the day of the Lord.
My point is that we must not assume every time we read of salvation that it must refer to salvation from the grave.
HOW IS THE BELIEVER SAVED?
As the reader will see as we continue in this study, the believer is not saved from the grave by the fact that he has been sanctified. And the believer is not saved from the grave by his having been made righteous, or from his having been reconciled. The believer is saved from the grave by resurrection.
“But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. ………If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished” (I Cor. 15:14-18).
Please note that “they that are fallen asleep in Christ” are believers. These believers are dead, but they were sanctified, they were made righteous and they were reconciled. But apart from resurrection they “are perished”. It is only resurrection that saves the believer from the grave.
WHEN IS THE BELIEVER SAVED?
We read in Luke 7:50, “And He said to the woman, ‘Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace'”. Note the past tense, “hath saved”.
I Cor. 1:18, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. The note in the Companion Bible on the phrase “us which are” reads, “those who are being saved, (even) us”. Again, note the present tense.
We read in II Cor. 2:15, “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved….”. The note in the Companion Bible on the word “saved” reads, “being saved”. Note the tense.
But in the section above we learned that we are not saved from the grave until we are resurrected in the future. Obviously, there are no contradictions in the Word of God, so we must consider these things more carefully.
The reader may recall that in the opening statement of this paper I commented on the fact that the doctrine of salvation is both profoundly simple and profoundly complex. The Word of God teaches us that the believer is saved (present tense) at the moment that his or her faith was exhibited (Luke 7:50). But we read in I Cor. 15 that our salvation is yet future, i.e. when we are resurrected. How can we rectify this seeming contradiction?
The figure of speech “Heterosis” is defined in the Companion Bible as, “Heterosis” “Exchange of one …tense …..for another”. Let us consider other scriptures that use the figure of speech, “Heterosis”. Isaiah 53 was written hundreds of years before the coming of Christ to earth to die on the cross. But we read in verse 3, “He is despised and rejected of men”. Verse 4, “Surely He hath borne our griefs”. “Yet we did esteem Him stricken”. Verse 6, “the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Verse 7, “He was oppressed and was afflicted”. Verse 8, “He was taken from prison and from judgment”. Verse 9, “He made His grave with the wicked”.
Figures of speech are used to enhance a truth. What truth is being enhanced when we read that one is saved, even before he is raised from the grave? I believe the truth being enhanced is that nothing at all can prevent the resurrection of believers from the grave, i.e. it is as good as done.
Many believe that reconciliation is the same as salvation. That is to say, they believe that when we believe in Christ we are reconciled to God and thereby saved. As we consider Rom. 5:10, however, the reader will see that reconciliation is not the same as salvation. That verse reads, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life”. Note the phrase “much more”. If reconciliation is the same as salvation Paul could not have said that salvation was “much more” than reconciliation.
Furthermore, whereas salvation is a gift given to those who believe in Christ, reconciliation is not dependent on belief, i.e. it is a unilateral act of God, not dependent on man’s acceptance of it. Rom. 5:10 does not say that we were reconciled to God if we believed, it says that “we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son”. Let us look at other scriptures which speak of reconciliation.
II Cor. 5:19, “To wit, God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them”. Again, there is simply nothing in this verse, or in the context, that suggests that reconciliation must be accepted in order to be put into effect.
Some have suggested that the Greek word itself (katallasso) means reconciliation by two parties. But, as we have seen, there is nothing in the passages quoted above which tell us of reconciliation that implies a required participation of two parties. The Companion Bible, Appendix 196 1. c gives us the definition of “katallasso, and reads, “to change or exchange something (anything) arbitrarily: not as by mutual consent, but as proceeding from one…..”. Let us look at the other occurrences of this Greek word and the occurrences of the related word “apokatallasso” so that we might discover from its usage the Scriptural definition. .
The only occurrence of the Greek “katallasso” apart from the passages we have already considered is found in I Cor. 7:11. “But if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife”. In my opinion this verse is not conclusive as to whether this is a unilateral act, so it is not helpful in our search on this matter.
The Greek “apokatallasso” is “katallasso” with the added prefix “apo”. The word is found in two passages, i.e. Eph. 2:16 and Col. 1:20-21. The prefix does not change a unilateral act to one that requires acceptance. The Companion Bible defines “apo” in Appendix 106 as, “…it is used of motion away from a place”.
Eph. 2:15-16, “Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace; that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby”. The context will show that it is believing Jews and Gentiles who are being reconciled to God in one body. That is to say, whereas before the cross believing Jews and Gentiles were separated by the “middle wall of partition”, after the cross, Jews and Gentiles were no longer separated, but reconciled to God in one body. Paul’s point was that Jew and Gentile believers were now one. It is true, of course, that one had to accept the message of salvation in order to be counted as a believer, but there is nothing in this passage that suggests that the reconciliation of believers in one body was dependent upon them accepting the message of reconciliation. That is to say, Jew and Gentile were reconciled to God in one body whether or not they accepted that fact. This was a unilateral act that resulted in reconciliation.
Col. 1:20-22, “And 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. and you that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy…..in His sight”. This is written to believers, so Paul could say with confidence that they would be presented “holy…. in His sight”. But there is nothing in this passage that suggests that things in heaven and things in earth needed to accept this reconciliation in order for it to be in effect.
Because Scripture never speaks of acceptance of reconciliation for it to be put into effect, I believe that we may accept Dr. Bullinger’s definition that reconciliation (katallasso and apokatallosso) is “not as by mutual consent, but as proceeding from one“.
The paper on this web-site Who Was Reconciled To God By The Cross? gives the Scriptural reasons for my belief that it was those nations of Rom. 1:19-24 who were put aside because of their sins who were reconciled to God by the cross. We read in Rom. 1:24, “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness……”. Those nations were put aside and later reconciled to God by Christ’s blood shed on the cross. It was a unilateral action and had nothing to do with salvation.
The Hebrew and Greek words translated “justified” and/or “righteous” come for the same root and it would therefore, be advantageous to study them together. What does it mean to be justified or to be made righteous? The only way to discover God’s definition is to look in His holy Word. But let us not make the mistake of starting our study with the New Testament. The New Testament did not come out of a vacuum. In order to understand the mind set of the New Testament writers we must understand justification/righteousness from the Old Testament.
We read in Romans 3:4, “….as it is written, ‘That Thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged'”. The Greek word translated “justified: in this verse is “dikaioo”. This verse is a quote of Ps. 51:4. The Holy Spirit then, gives us the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word. The Hebrew word translated “justified” in Ps. 51:4 is tzahdak”. By studying how the Holy Spirit uses that word we will be able to understand what God means when He writes that one is justified.
The first occurrence of “tzahdak” is found in Gen. 38:26 where it is translated “righteous”, “….she hath been more righteous than I because that I gave her not to Shelah my son”. Note the use of the phrase “more righteous”. Obviously, in this case righteousness can not refer to being saved from the grave as a result of the fact that one is seen to be without sin. One is either without sin or not, there can be no degrees of righteousness in terms of salvation. In this case, “more righteous” refers to the fact that one was more correct in their dealing than another. Ezek. 16:52 and Job 32:2 also speaking of some being “more righteous”
Job 33:12 is another usage of the word that gives us its definition, “Behold, in this thou are not just,: I (Elihu) will answer thee, that God is greater than man”. Here too, the word is used in the sense of being correct.
In chapter 40 of Job the Lord answered Job. In verse 8 the Lord said to Job, “Wilt thou also disannul My judgment? wilt thou condemn Me, that thou mayest be righteous?”. Obviously, Job had not been implying that the Lord was not righteous in terms of sin. Here too, the word is used in the sense of “correct”.
Deut. 25:1 is also helpful, “If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked”. Man can not declare another man righteous in the sense of being sinless. Here too, the judges declare one person correct.
In my opinion, the God given definition of the the Hebrew word “tzahdak”, and therefore the Greek word “dikaioo” is “correct”. We are now ready to look at the New Testament meaning of justification..
The first occurrence of the Greek “dikaioo” is found in Matt. 11:19, “….Wisdom is justified of her children”. What does that mean? It means that those who are wise prove wisdom correct. The first occurrence of the Greek word gives us the very same meaning as the Hebrew word, i.e. “correct”.
Luke 10:29 is also helpful, “he (the lawyer-vs. 25) willing to justify himself, said…..”. This young lawyer in a discussion with Christ was trying to say that he was correct in what he had been saying.
Before we go on to the use of the word translated “justified” after Christ’s death and resurrection, let us consider Luke 18:14 because it is, in my opinion, an excellent example of how we must not assume that to be justified means to be saved. “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased: and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted”. Let us put this in context. A Pharisee and a publican came to pray. The Pharisee exalted himself and the publican humbled himself. If we say that the publican was saved because he humbled himself then we must conclude that the Pharisee rejected salvation by his exalting himself. One is saved when one believes God. Salvation, per se has nothing to do with exalting or humbling himself. In this case the publican being justified means that he proved himself correct in his attitude. That is what the Greek word means and that is what the context leads us to.
So far we have learned that the basic meaning of the word translated “justified” is “correct/right”. How does this impact on what justification has to do with salvation? I believe Rom. 6:6-7 will give us the answer to this question, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin”. The word “freed” is the word used to translate the Greek word also translated “justified”. In other words, to be justified is to be seen by God to be freed from sin, i.e. as though we had never sinned and had always done what was correct and right.
There are three other Greek words translated “justified” and all have the same root. They are “dikaios”, dikaioseie” and “dikaiosis”. As one would expect, because they all have the same root, they all have much the same meaning. Let us consider each word and how it is used by the Holy Spirit.
“Dikaios” is used in Luke 23:50 where it is translated “just”. “And behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just“. This verse does not tell us that Jospeh was saved, it tells us that he was a good man and that he was seen to have done the right and correct things in his life. I am not suggesting that Joseph was not saved, only that this verse does not tell us he was saved.
We read in Acts 4 of Peter preaching Christ to the rulers of Israel. In verse 18 we read that Peter was commanded of them to not preach Christ. Then in verse 19 we read, “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, ‘Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God judge ye”. In this verse the word is used in the sense of what is right. Paul uses the word in the same way in Eph. 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right“.
Consider also Phil. 1:7 where the word is translated “meet”, “Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all”. And in Phil. 4:8 we read, “Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, ……think on these things”. See also Col. 4:1, Titus 1:8 and II Peter 1:13.
So where “dikaioo” has the basic meaning of “correct”, “dikaios” has the basic meaning of right in the sense of what is good.
One of the Greek words most often translated “righteous” is “dikaiosueie”. The first occurrence is found in Matt. 3:15, “to fulfill all righteousness“. This was the reason our Lord gave for His baptism, i.e. to do everything in the right way. Acts 10:35 uses the word in the same way, “But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him”. Again, the word is used in the sense of doing the right things.
How does this word figure into salvation from the grave? Once again our answer is found in Romans. We read in Romans 5:21, “that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life -by Jesus Christ our Lord”. In other words, by God’s grace, the believer is seen to have done all things right so that he might have eternal life through Christ.
The fourth word we will consider occurs only two times and I will therefore quote each verse. “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). And we read in Rom. 5:18, “therefore as by the offence 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”.
We have learned that to be justified or to be made righteous is to be seen by God as having done all things correctly, and all things right. In other words, as if we had not sinned.
Once again, in the interest of discovering how the Holy Spirit would have us understand sanctification it would, in my opinion, behoove the student of the Word of God to begin the study in the Old Testament. The New Testament writers were, of course, quite familiar with the Old Testament, as were most of those to whom they were writing. If we are to understand how those first century believers understood sanctification, then we would know how to interpret sanctification in terms of how it impacts the believer’s salvation from the grave. That understanding came, of course, from the Old Testament.
The Hebrew word translated “sanctified” is “kahdah”. The first occurrence is found in Gen. 2:3 where we read, “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it”. We read in Joel 1:14 and 2:15 that Israel was to”sanctify a fast”. The word is translated “holy” in Ex. 29:71. That verse reads, “the altar shall be holy” (see also Ex.. 40:9 and 10 and 29:44). What do these verses tell us as to the meaning of sanctification? In my opinion, to sanctity something is to set it apart. In Gen. 2:3 the seventh day was set apart from all other days. In Joel 1:14 a fast was to be set apart as a special fast. In Ex. 29:71 the altar was to be set apart from all other altars as a special one. In other words, to be sanctified in the Old Testament means “to be set apart”.
Now let us look at the Greek word translated “sanctified”, i.e. “hagiazo”. The first occurrence is found in Matt. 6:9 where it is translated “hallowed”, “Hallowed be Thy Name”. The meaning of sanctification remains the same in the New Testament as it was in the Old Testament. God’s Name is to be set apart from every other name as special. In John 17:17 we read, “sanctify them through the truth”. Again, those who know the truth are set apart from those who do not know the truth. I Cor. 1:2, “unto the church of God at Corinth to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus”. Again, these believers are set apart from unbelievers.
Now let us ask once again consider how sanctification impacts on the believer’s salvation from the grave. Believers are set apart from unbelievers. Does that separation, in and of itself, save one from the grave? The answer must be no, it does not. Why must we answer that way? Because of I Cor. 15:17-18 where we read that even those “in Christ” are, apart from resurrection, yet in their sins. In other words, the believer may be set apart by God, but that setting apart does not save him from the grave, only resurrection does that.
Once again, if we are to correctly understand the New Testament teachings about redemption we must understand the mind set of the writers of the New Testament. That mind set came, of course, from the Old Testament. So we will begin this study of redemption with a study of the Old Testament words translated “redeem” or “redemption”.
The reader will see as we continue in this study that all the Hebrew words translated “redeem” share one thing in common. That point of commonality is that some thing or some one is purchased.
One of those Hebrew words is “gahal”. It is used many times and is translated “purchase”, “revenge”, “redeem” and “Redeemer”. For example, we read in Lev. 25:33, “and if a man purchase of the Levites, then the house that was sold…..shall go out in the year of jubilee…”. In this verse the word is used of purchasing a house of a Levite. It is also used this way in Lev. 27:13, 15, 19, 20 and 31 as well as many other passages.
I found Num. 35:12 to be a very interesting usage of the word so often meant as “purchase”. That verse reads, “And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger…..”. The word is translated here “avenger”. How does the word used for “purchase” also mean “avenger”? When one considers that to take revenge is to exact payment for a crime, it does make sense.
Another Hebrew word sometimes translated “redeem” is “pahdah”. Lev. 27:27 translates the word as “redeem”. “And if it be of an unclean beast. then he shall redeem it according to thine estimation, and shall add a fifth part of it thereto…..”. In this verse the word is used in the sense of purchasing.
In Ex. 21:8 the word is translated “redeemed”, “If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed; to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her”. Here too, it is clear that the word is used in the sense of “to purchase”.
But this Hebrew word is also translated “deliver” and “rescued” which gives this word a different shade of meaning. We read in Ps. 69:18, “Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it: Deliver me because of mine enemies”. The Hebrew word translated “redeem” in this verse is “gahal” discussed above. So here too redeem means “to deliver”.
And in I Sam. 14:45 “pahdah” is translated “rescued”, “And the People said unto Saul, ‘Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid; as the Lord liveth there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day.’ so the People rescued Jonathan, that he died not.”
The third Hebrew word translated “redeem” is “goolah” and is, as mentioned above, also used in the sense of “to purchase”. Lev. chapter 25 speaks of the year of jubilee when debts are forgiven. We read in verse 13, “In the year of the jubilee ye shall return every man unto his possession”. In Lev. 25:24 we read, “And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land”. That is to say, the land may be purchased. And in verse 29 we read, “And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold….”.
And in Jer. 32:7 we read, “Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee, saying, ‘Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it”.
As we approach a study of the New Testament Greek words translated “redemption” we must bear in mind that the writers of the New Testament had the mind set of redemption primarily as “being purchased”. And also that this purchase was often to rescue or to deliver.
One of the Greek words that is translated “redeem” is “exagorazo”. It is used only four times and I will give each verse in which the word is used.
Gal. 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law”. In my opinion, Paul would think in terms of “purchasing” in order to deliver or rescue, i.e. that Christ purchased them from the curse of the law. The purchase price was nothing less than His own blood.
Gal. 4:4-5, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons”. Here too, I believe that because the Hebrew words translated “redeem” primarily carries the idea of “purchase” we are told that Christ purchased those under the law in order that they might become sons of God. And again, the purchase price was nothing less than the blood of the only begotten Son of God.
Eph. 5:16 and Col. 4:5 both speak of “redeeming the time”. What does that mean? I believe it means that if one redeems the time he is counting each hour as special. Because the Hebrew words translated “redeem” mean primarily “to purchase”, in my opinion, these verses have the sense of buying back each hour of the day so as to not waste it.
There are three Greek words translated “redeem” that come from the same root. They are “lutron”, “lutrosis” and “apolutorosis”.
“Lutron” is used only three times, so I will give each occurrence.
Luke 24:21, “But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel…..”. The redemption of Israel is a subject of the prophecy spoken by Zacharias and recorded in Luke 1:67-79. The redemption of Israel spoken of in this prophecy is not unto salvation from the grave, it is a redemption of the nation of Israel from Her enemies. We read in Luke 1:71, “That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us”. And again in verse 74, “That He would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear”.
Titus 2:14, “Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works”. Note that this redemption is also not from the grave, that is to say it has nothing to do with salvation. It is a redemption of believers unto good works.
I Peter 1:18, “forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers”. Note that here too, the redemption has nothing to do with salvation from the grave. It is a redemption unto a way of life (i.e. conversation) received from tradition.
“Lutrosis” is another Greek word translated “redeem”, and because it is used only three times, we will once again consider each time it is used.
The first occurrence is in Luke 1:68, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed his people”. This is in the prophecy of Zacharias discussed above (see note on Luke 24:21). It has to do with the redemption of the nation of Israel from Her enemies.
Luke 2:38, “And she (Anna the prophetess) coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
Heb. 9:12, “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”. This verse tells us quite specifically the price that was paid for our redemption, i.e. the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
The Greek word “apolutrosis” is obviously from the same root as the word discussed above.
Luke 21:28 comes in the immediate context of the Lord speaking of the signs of the coming day of the Lord, i.e. the day of God’s wrath. We read in that verse, “and when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh”, The redemption spoken of here is deliverance (the same Greek word is translated “deliverance” in Heb. 11:35) from the day of God’s wrath, i.e. the day of the Lord. It is interesting to note that Christ tells them to “lift up your heads”. If we combine that with the fact that Christ will appear in the clouds at the beginning of the day of the Lord (see Matt. 24:29), we may, I believe, conclude that this verse refers to the rapture as redemption from God’s wrath.
Rom. 8:23, “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body”. The “redemption of our bodies” is obviously resurrection.
Eph. 1:14, “Which (the holy spirit of promise) is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory”. The “purchased possession” is, of course our bodies. It was purchased by the blood of Christ. The redemption will be when the purchased possession is raised in resurrection.
What does “atonement” mean? For the answer to that question we will look at the first occurrence of the word as found in Gen. 6:14 where God tells Noah how to build the ark, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the arc, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch”. The note in the Companion Bible on the word “pitch” is extremely helpful. That note reads, “Coat it. Heb. kaphar, to cover; the only word for ‘atonement’ in the OT so that it is only atonement that can keep the waters of judgment from us”.
What does “kaphar”, i.e. “atonement” mean in terms of God’s plan of salvation? The Greek equivalent is found in Romans 3:25 where we read, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “kaphar”) through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins……..” . Let us put this verse in context so that we are not misled.
We read in verse 22 of the “righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe….”. Please note that this righteousness is “by faith of Jesus Christ“. Both the NIV and the NASB have “faith in Jesus Christ”.
Let us consider the reason that Christ is the propitiation of our sins. We read in verse 25 exactly what that reason was, “to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins”. What does that tell us? It tells us that a holy God cannot look upon, or fellowship with, sinful man, so by covering those sins He maintains His own righteousness while He fellowships with His children.
CHRIST MADE SIN
We read in II Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him Who had no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God”. This verse tells us that Christ was made sin. But some have argued that that is not the case. They say that Christ was made a sin offering. I would like to address that argument in this Appendix.
One argument I have seen says that “by translating this phrase from the original, it should not read ‘be sin for us’ but ‘be a sin offering‘, as the Jews were sacrificing their lamb every year to have their sins forgiven – the lamb was ‘a sin offering’. The translators recognized that the Greek word for “sin,” i.e. “hamartia’, can be used (by the Figure of Speech Metonymy) to mean ‘a sin offering’.
I agree that the phrase “made….to be sin for us” is the figure of speech Metonymy. One can not be made sin, so that statement can not be taken literally. If it cannot be taken literally, it must be understood figuratively. But we need to go a bit further and determine which of the four ways Metonymy is used. The only one that makes sense in this context is Metonymy of Adjunct, which is defined in the Companion Bible as, “When something pertaining to the subject is put for the subject itself”. In this case sin is that which is pertaining to the subject and is put for the subject itself, i.e. Christ.
In point of fact, if one translates II Cor. 5:21 as “sin offering” it is not a figure of speech. That is to say, if this phrase read, “God made Him Who had no sin to be a sin offering” then the phrase must be taken literally because there is no reason that it must be understood figuratively. Bearing in mind that figures of speech are used to enhance a truth, let us consider what truth is being enhanced by the statement that Christ was made to be sin. In my opinion, to say that Christ was made to be sin is much more powerful than to say that He took on the sins of the world. That is to say, the awesome ugliness of the Son of God taking on the sins of the world is enhanced by the figure of speech that reads He was made sin.
Let us consider Christ as a sin offering. We read in Lev. 16:21-22, “And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness; and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited; and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness”.
I’m sure that most agree that the goat in this passage is a figure of the true sacrifice made by our Lord. That being the case we may conclude that upon Christ was laid the sins of the world. The phrase in II Cor. 5 is the truth of Lev. 16 put in a figure of speech. That is to say, whereas in Lev. 16 we are told in a literal sense that the sins of Israel were placed on a goat, in II Cor. 5, Paul tells us in a figure of speech that Christ was made sin. Figures of speech are used to enhance truth, not to diminish it. That is why the language is somewhat different in II Cor. than it is in Lev. 16. That is to say, where Lev. 16 says that sin was placed on the goat we may understand that literally. However, II Cor. 5 tells us that Christ was made sin and that is a figure of speech.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond you may write to me at: email@example.com