Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, April 8, 2010 11:55 am
The Messenger, April 8, 2010
By DEON BARNES
Special to The Messenger
The past two articles examined Charles Finney’s faulty thought processes that resulted in his notions of God being less than God and Christ’s sacrifice being nothing more than a didactic presentation. But all was not lost during the period of the Second Great Awakening. Charles Hodge (1797-1878)), a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and a devout Presbyterian, was one of many men who preached sound Biblical doctrine, even while others were being led astray by the likes of Finney.
In his “Systematic Theology Vol. 11,” Hodge deals with the atonement, which is the redemption from sin brought about by the death of Christ. He poses the question, “For whom did Christ die?”
This a practical and very logical question for any person to ask, but Hodge prompts the reader to stop and think before arriving at a conclusive answer concerning the atonement.
Hodge states, the question of whom Christ died for “does not concern actual application of the redemption purchased by Christ. It concerns simply the purpose of God in the mission of His Son.”
What was God’s purpose in sending Christ to die on the cross? Why did God ordain the killing of His only Son?
Throughout the history of the human race, God has had a chosen people, set apart from the rest of mankind. A covenant has always existed between God and His people. God’s purpose in this covenant is to repair the breach, to make His people holy so that He may commune with them once again. The human race is covered in sin and cannot stand in the presence of God until that sin is removed.
It all started with Adam and Eve. Yes, they were the only humans in existence at that time, but God chose to create them and they were therefore His chosen people. Adam and Eve proved that they were not immune from sin. The result of this sin was not instant annihilation for disobeying. Instead, an animal was sacrificed to clothe them (Gen. 3:21-24) and God’s grace allowed them to live.
The Hebrew people, whom God grew into the Israelite nation, were also God’s chosen people, set apart to display the glory of God. The Israelites were not chosen because of their might — they were the weakest of all the people. They were not chosen because of their faithfulness — they denounced God on many occasions and proved repeatedly their inability to follow the counsel of God.
God provided a way for His people to receive atonement for their sin through burnt offerings and animal sacrifices. Although these rituals have lost their significance over the years, this was tithing to the extreme. Go tell any cattle farmer that he must kill one calf and set it on fire, every day, every week, or at least every month, and see what his reaction is!
The Hebrew people had faith that God would count these things as penance. The people knew this was the only way to gain favor in the sight of God (see Leviticus).
Since the time of Christ, people from different nations and races have been grafted into the family of God (Romans 11:11-24) and counted as God’s chosen people. We typically refer to these people as Christians. They are not chosen because of their faith — their faith is a gift from God (Romans 12:3). They are not chosen because of their works — if not for God’s grace, there would be no good works (Eph. 2:8).
God’s covenant with His people still stands. However, the removal of sin no longer requires an animal sacrifice. It requires faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. This was God’s purpose in the death of His Son. The sins of His people needed to be atoned for and Christ offered the perfect sacrifice.
While Charles Finney taught that men are brought to faith by pragmatic evangelistic methods and emotional appeals, Charles Hodge preached that sinners are saved by a faith given by God. Christ did not die to “potentially” save those who might be manipulated into believing. Rather, He died to effectually save those whom God would call to Himself.
For whom did Christ die? He died for the Christians, the people of faith, the people chosen by God.
Editor’s note: Deon Barnes attends Grace Community Church in Union City (www.graceunioncity.com) and is a future candidate for the ministry in the Presbyterian Church in America.