16. Why must he be a true and righteous man?
Because the justice of God requires1 that the same human nature which has sinned should make satisfaction for sin, but one who is himself a sinner, cannot satisfy for others.2
1 Rom 5:15. 2 Isaiah 53:3-5.
God is just. It is he, however, and not we who determines what that justice is. It was humanity, not God, who sinned. We were made good, righteous, and holy. We had no concupiscence before the fall. We had the potential to sin, but we had no actual sin. We had no innate sin. We had no tinder of sin. We had no fomes peccati. We were righteous. We required no grace, because we had no sin. We required no grace to suppress the “tinder of sin” because the latter did not exist. Neither were we, however, in the consummate state. We were under a probation. We faced a test. We failed. We sinned. We did not fall from grace but we broke the holy and righteous law of God.
The bad news is that the divine justice requires satisfaction. The bad news is that we, who violated the law, owe the satisfaction. The worse news is that, because of our sin, we are unqualified to make satisfaction. The good news is that it can be satisfied.
In an age when it common accepted among “evangelicals” that the biblical doctrine of “satisfaction” is to be regarded as “cosmic child abuse” (as if there is only one metaphor for divine-human relations and as if the “relational” category is mutually exclusive of the legal; try telling that to ones wife) it is worth thinking briefly about the truth that the divine justice has been satisfied. Recently, in this space, I finished posting an essay on the biblical doctrine of the atonement (in 9 parts). In that series we saw it repeatedly and clearly taught in Scripture that there is such a thing as a genuine, effectual expiation of sin and a propitiation of the divine wrath.
To jump to the end of the story, Jesus did not come merely to set a good example. He did not come merely to make salvation available. He did not come to do his part so that you can now do your part. He had a mission that he received from his Father from all eternity (John 17; Ps 110). In Reformed theology we call that mission the “covenant of redemption” (pactum salutis or consilium pacis). The Father, Son, and Spirit covenanted together from all eternity that the Father would give a people to the Son, that the Son shall become incarnate and obey in their place, he shall be endowed with the Holy Spirit, as their federal head (Rom 5; 1 Cor 15:45) and he shall accomplish their redemption. As a result of this accomplishment, he shall be vindicated in resurrection, raised by the Spirit and he shall endow his people, united to him by the Spirit in his resurrection, with new life.
We Jesus declared: “It is finished!” he did not say, “I’ve made a good start, now it’s your turn to do your part by grace and cooperation grace.” No, he accomplished redemption. He turned away God’s wrath for all time for all those who have trusted Christ, who are united to him by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
The bad news is that we chose sin and death. The good news is that God the Son, Jesus Christ, chose to bear our sins and to suffer death in our place, that through his death we might have life and have it abundantly. The bad news is that satisfaction was necessary. The good news is that satisfaction has been made by Jesus Christ alone and we, who trust in Christ alone, have an immutable peace with God.