Heartfelt Questions about Christ (III)

Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Gen. 18:25)

Question: I am starting to see why I would need a Mediator between God and me. But what do you mean by Him making satisfaction for my sins?

Satisfaction means to perfectly satisfy divine justice, that is, to make complete payment so that God’s justice is satisfied or appeased. In His passive and active obedience Christ gave perfect and complete satisfaction to the justice of God. That’s why He said He came “to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He died in the place of many as the payment of the price to set them free from what they deserved.

Why would God’s justice need to be satisfied?

God’s justice requires that sin receives punishment. Sin provokes God’s righteous hatred. Psalm 5:4–5 says, “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.” Psalm 11:6–7, “Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.”

Most people don’t believe that.

Sadly, no, they do not. The clear teachings of the Bible have little effect on their hearts. By nature we are prone to think God is like us. We want to hear only about God’s love but ignore His righteousness. But the sinner experiences something of God’s justice when God begins to work in his heart. For the first time in his life he does not excuse himself by looking at other people or outward circumstances. He sees into his own heart by the light of God’s Spirit and compares himself with God’s holy law. He experiences that no man shall be justified by that law, and says, “I am guilty. I really do deserve to go to hell forever.” God’s justice becomes solemnly real. In this way the sinner realizes that he needs a righteousness he does not have.

Doesn’t that drive men to despair?

It drives them to despair of themselves. It cuts off their hopes of saving themselves or making themselves worthy of heaven. No amount of prayer and good works can compensate God for our sins. All our prayers and works are stained by sin. It would be like trying to get out of debt by taking on more debt to pay the bills.

But it does not lead them to absolute despair. Instead it moves them to begin casting about for some hope outside of themselves. They cannot make satisfaction to God by their own obedience, so they look for someone else who can make satisfaction for them. By faith they look to Jesus Christ, whose passive and active obedience satisfies God’s just demands on men.

What is Christ’s passive and active obedience? How does it make satisfaction?

His active obedience means that Christ actively and perfectly obeyed and fulfilled the law of God in both its literal commandments and its spiritual intent, loving God above all and loving His neighbor as Himself for the full duration of His 33 years of life. He obeyed in the stead of His people who had disobeyed, thereby meriting their right to eternal life. Thus Romans 5:19b says that “by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”

His passive obedience refers to Christ’s suffering or passion (Latin passio), patiently bearing and willingly drinking the full cup of God’s wrath against the sins of His elect. He took the full punishment due to their sins upon Himself in hellish sufferings and agonies, thereby satisfying the justice of God and removing the curse of the law from them. Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”

So there is a way, a glorious way, a fully-paid way for a sinner to escape God’s punishment by the work of Another. God looks upon the obedient sufferings of His Son and His justice is completely satisfied. As Christ said on the cross, “It is finished!”