Now we have arrived at the pivotal point of all history and the central mystery of our faith: the incarnation and saving ministry of the Son of God.

...although He existed in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:6-11).

For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven (Colossians 1:19-20).


Christ's coming was for the purpose of accomplishing a number of things, not merely one. And any one of His teachings or actions might be for the purpose of accomplishing several things at once, as we shall see. This is a rather important principle for you to remember as you read the gospels.

Although all of His purposes are interrelated, I believe we can describe them separately as (1) to persuade men, (2) to be a new Adam, (3) to bind Satan, (4) to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, (5) to begin to fulfill God's original destiny for the creation, (6) to bring the kingdom of God and the new covenant to man, and (7) to provide for a reconciliation between man and God.

He came to persuade men

Jesus had to bring men to a willing submission to God, and therefore He had to persuade men. He had to convince men to forsake the world, the flesh and the devil, and for them to accept Him as the way back to the Father. He had to convince men of God's love and good will toward them. Therefore Christ's works may be partially understood as works to evoke a response from man: to inspire trust, to cause them to abandon deceptions, to evoke sorrow. For example, one purpose of the cross is to pierce our hearts with the knowledge of how horrible in consequence our sins truly are. Another purpose is to communicate to us that He has no desire to "get back" at us for our past sins (e.g., Romans 8:31-32): Christ has taken upon Himself the full weight of our burden, so that we can come to the Holy and Mighty God with full assurance. This aspect of the cross does not, of course, exhaust the meaning of the cross, but it is certainly one part of its meaning.

He came to become a new Adam

Jesus had to create the New Adam (e.g., 1 Corinthians 15:45), into whom all men might be grafted. This concept of the representative man who heads the race is the image Paul has in mind whenever he speaks about being "in Christ": "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22; see also Romans 5:12-21). God's salvation, and all the blessings of the new covenant are within Jesus Himself: "I  am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6), "I  am the resurrection" (John 11:25). We are given eternal life by being grafted into its source, Jesus; we quite literally participate in His life. "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

And so, in order to become a new Adam for the human race, Jesus had to succeed where Adam had failed: to be perfectly obedient and trusting before God, in order that God might be able to work out His purposes for the whole race in Him who was the new race's representative. Therefore, the events in Christ's life may be partially understood as works by which He Himself was tested and perfected:

For it was fitting for Him (i.e., the Father), bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings (Hebrews 2:10).

Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:8-9).

As the new representative for the whole race of man, Christ's life establishes the pattern for every one of the elect. He was "born of the Spirit" (Luke 1:31-35); cf. John 3:5f); baptized in water and the Spirit (Mark 1:9-10); perfected in obedience and fulfilled His appointed ministry; left this world in perfect consecration to the Father; and then entered into resurrection glory. All who would have Him be their forgiveness must also have His pattern be the pattern of their lives:

If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:26-27).

He came to defeat Satan

Jesus came to bind the strong man, Satan (Matthew 12:29), so that man might have the chance to escape the satanic system. "The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). Unless Jesus properly established His absolute authority over Satan and his demons, no man would be able to escape the web of deception, enticement, condemnation and affliction by which Satan holds the world in an unshakable grip: "...the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19). Therefore, Jesus' works may be partially understood as works relating to Satan: "outsmarting" him (by consistently choosing the way of surrender to the Father); enduring his wrath; tearing down his kingdom by teaching truth, by healing and by casting out demons; and by receiving a higher name than his (Philippians 2:9f). Jesus also, as a new Adam, had to prove Himself to be a person whom Satan could not seduce and capture, in order to have that higher name.

He came to fulfill all the Law and the Prophets

Much of Jesus' ministry consisted of interpreting and tightening up the Law (e.g., Matthew 5:17-48), and then proving to be perfectly obedient under that Law. He had to receive the blessings that God had promised to pour out in response to perfect obedience to the Law (Deuteronomy 28:1-14, 30:15f).

He also had to receive the curse that man had incurred under that Law. It was as if the Law and the Enemy both said to Jesus regarding men: "If you want them from us, you will have to pay off their indebtedness to us." Therefore, Jesus had to receive the curse of the law and the wrath of the enemy that was justly coming to man. If you acquire a company, you acquire its indebtedness along with its assets; as our new Adam he generously undertook responsibility for our indebtedness (our "assets" brought nothing measurable into his coffers, we may be sure!).

He also had to fulfill all of the types and the prophesies that had been given to identify Him and His kingdom, and He showed great care to do so during His ministry (e.g., Matthew 21:4, 26:54; Luke 21:22).

Consequently, the works of Jesus may be partially understood as works to fulfill the law and the prophets.

He came to bring God's kingdom to Earth

Jesus came in order that there might begin the fulfillment of God's original destiny for the creation: the full revelation of God, and the glorification of man and matter.1 Therefore, the works of Jesus may be partially understood as works that reveal the kingdom of God. The triune nature of God was to be revealed; the glory of God's dimension was to be manifested (e.g., Matthew 17:1f, John 2:11, Acts 2:1-21); man was to receive supernatural life for body and spirit (2 Peter 1:4; 1 Corinthians 6:19). In short, the time had come for the kingdom of God to be brought to the earth: "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since then, the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached..." (Luke 16:16; see also Luke 11:20, 17:21). It was time for the heavenly dimension -- its glory and its way of life -- to become available on the earth, through Jesus and then through the Spirit in the Church. Quite literally, true Christianity is the fellowship of heaven lived out on the earth.2

He came to bring a new covenant

Jesus came to provide a new basis for relationship between God and man, and therefore the works of Jesus may be partially understood as works that establish the New Covenant, a covenant that came with

Jesus is "the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises" (Hebrews 8:6). It is the covenant announced beforehand by the prophets of the old covenant.3 It is a covenant they said would include the gentiles.4

He came to make an atonement for sin

Jesus came to provide an atonement for the guilt of man's sin, which would make possible the removal of the barrier between man and God. Therefore, His works may be partially understood as works of reconciliation and redemption. From the very beginning of His ministry He was identified as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29). The need was for God to initiate and effect a ministry on behalf of man that would get to the very heart of the relationship problem that existed in man: God had to be able to effect a change in man's heart or conscience.

For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:13-14).

Hebrews thus tells us that in order for us to serve the living God, He must effect the purging from our hearts of our instinctive but foolish reliance upon our own goodness, behavior and wisdom.

As you read through the gospels and come upon various teachings and actions of Jesus, try to understand how many different purposes of God are being fulfilled at the same time. Some, like the crucifixion, fulfill almost all of the purposes outlines above. Some, like His entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey, might fulfill only one.


The works of Christ accomplish the purposes for which He came. Let us consider them briefly.

The Incarnation

While not directly a biblical term, "incarnation" nevertheless well describes the Biblical event as found in the passage from Philippians at the beginning of this chapter, and as described in John: "And the word became flesh, and dwelt among us" (1:14). The apostles taught us that Jesus is Divine, the eternal Son of God, as we saw in the first chapter. They also taught us that He was "a man" (e.g., Acts 2:22; Romans 5:15). Restless theologians, forever rushing in where angels fear to tread, have sometimes attempted to show precisely how He was both God and man, but with limited success. In the early centuries the carnal tendency was to have the Son take the place of the human spirit in Jesus, which left you with one who was not really a man, but rather with God using a human body. In our times the carnal tendency is in the opposite direction: to describe Jesus as a man who was so yielded to God that to see Him was to see God, "as it were." In the former heresy, you could only call Jesus a man by stretching language; in the latter, you can only call Him God by stretching language. But the Scriptures do not permit anything other than a literal and full identification of Jesus as a sinless man (Hebrews 4:15), and as the eternal Son of God (as we have already seen). The orthodox formulations of the early Church wind up saying only just that, after one carefully investigates all the terms involved.5 They, like the Scriptures, do not attempt to describe a "physiology" of the Incarnation; neither shall we. All we can say is that it is obvious from reading the gospels that Jesus was conscious of being only one personality: there were not two different "people" speaking through one body at different times. He is fully and perfectly God and man, and can thus perfectly reveal both God and man to us.6

The Incarnation of the Son of the Most High God is also the source of glorification for the whole creation, because the uncreated Creator has wedded Himself to humanity and to atoms. He has thereby elevated the dignity of man and of matter to heights heretofore unimaginable. And when all the consequences of that one Incarnation are extended throughout the creation there shall come into being a new heaven and earth! It may well have been that it was to be through that Incarnation of the Son that the original glorification of the earth was to have taken place; in that case, the fall of Adam delayed it, but could not prevent it.

The miraculous conception of Jesus in the womb of a virgin by the Holy Spirit (i.e., the "Virgin Birth") is the way by which the Incarnation of the Son was accomplished: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason  the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). The virgin birth cannot be dismissed, as modernists usually do, with the opinion that it is not really an integral or necessary part of the Incarnation. If you do not believe in the direct conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit, any "incarnation" you attribute to Jesus is mere poetry or philosophical abstraction. The miraculous conception is the very means of the divine Incarnation.

Finally, from the perspective of Christ the Incarnation is to be thought of as a humbling act on the part of the Son. In some manner that staggers the imagination, in incarnating Himself the Son of God set aside His exalted place and "emptied Himself" (Philippians 2:7). We are not told just what He became emptied of: of divine omniscience or other powers of God, or merely His status. But he was, in fact, "made for a little while lower than the angels" (Hebrews 2:9), and He did it so that we might come to enjoy His riches (2 Corinthians 8:9).

The hidden years

For thirty years we know almost nothing about Jesus, except that He "kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men," and that He "continued in subjection" to His parents (Luke 2:51-52). Can you imagine Jesus in his early twenties, having been sinless from birth and therefore already more mature and wise than anyone who has ever lived, waiting year after year for His Father to call Him out onto the stage that he knew was waiting for Him? But He waited patiently until, when He was about thirty years old, the Spirit of the Lord moved upon John the Baptist to begin the ministry that was designed to prepare the way for Him and to introduce Him to the world.7 Certainly these years were a part of His proving Himself faithful and patient. And if even the Son of God had to be trained to wait patiently, we must expect the same kind of training in our walk with God.

The baptism by John

(Luke 3:1-23; John 1:29-34)

Jesus came to John to receive a baptism that was for the purpose of the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:4). Although He had no sin, Jesus justified his baptism on the ground that it "fulfilled all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15). From the very beginning of His ministry He was purposely fulfilling all that the righteous demands of God and the Law required, and was working to make the righteousness of God available to man. He who would take the sinner's place on the cross (1 Peter 2:24) also took the penitent's place in baptism. In doing this, He was also showing that baptism is necessary for His disciples (e.g., Mark 16:16).

The receiving of the Spirit

(Mark 1:10; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-33)

Immediately after being baptized, Jesus went out of the water and, while at prayer, the Holy Spirit came upon Him as a gentle dove.

Thus began the fulfillment of the promise God had said would usher in the last age (Joel 2:28), and the new covenant (Isaiah 59:19-21). The coming of the Spirit in this way was the Father's anointing of Jesus to be the Messiah8 of Israel (John 1:32-33). This coming of the Spirit identified Him as that long-awaited hope of Abraham for Israel and for the whole world (Genesis 22:18); it identified Him as the center of all human history, the bringer of the new covenant, the One who is decisive for man's salvation (e.g., Isaiah 11:1-2, 42:1, 59:21). This coming of the Spirit was also the source of power for His ministry (Matthew 12:28; Luke 4:1,14; Acts 10:38).

The temptation by Satan

(Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-3)

Before entering His ministry, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness country in order for Him to fast, to pray and to be tempted by Satan. Satan tried to get Jesus to use His power to serve His own needs and prove that He was God's Son; but Jesus refused (then as well as later) to overwhelm mens' unbelief with divine power, responding instead with appeals to Scripture. Satan then tried to buy Jesus' worship by offering Him all the kingdoms of the world in exchange, but again Jesus refused. How unlike Adam and Eve was this New Adam proving to be!

The making of disciples and of fellowship

Jesus gathered disciples and taught them to enter into fellowship with Him and with each other. They became disciples by publicly pledging consecration to Him and His teachings, a pledge expressed through baptism (John 4:1). Some of the disciples had all their worldly ties to follow Him all the time, but most stayed in their villages and occupations (e.g., John 19:38, Matthew 8:38-39).9 But all had pledged to obey Him and prefer Him above all other loyalties. These disciples were the nucleus of His future Church (Matthew 16:18); they were the Church in embryo, as it were.

His doctrine

Jesus taught for three years, teaching the undecided multitudes in parables, but explaining His teachings in private to those who had become His disciples (Mark 4:33-34). He explained the true requirements of the Old Covenant Law, He taught about this "kingdom of God" that He was bringing to the earth, He taught the obedience of discipleship, He encouraged miracle-working faith, and He explained the end of the age (Matthew 24).

Signs and wonders

For these three years He healed the sick and cast out demons, and never turned away anyone who came to Him for ministry (e.g., Matthew 8:16; Acts 10:38). All His deeds of power were prompted by compassion and by the desire to demonstrate that the kingdom of God had indeed come through Him (e.g., Matthew 12:28; Mark 1:41). His healings and exorcisms were also a part of His attack on the kingdom of Satan (Luke 11:17-22; also 1 John 3:8).

He performed other miracles, most often, it seems, for the purpose of building up the faith of those who already believed in Him,10 and of revealing His glory in a selective way.11

Patient endurance

He endured great frustration in being away from His Father and being surrounded by us hard-hearted and thick-headed human beings (e.g., Matthew 17:17; Mark 6:6, 16:14).


He boldly and scathingly confronted the corrupt shepherds of Israel (e.g., Matthew 23:1-39).

The Last Supper

He established the Lord's Supper at the time of the Passover meal: "Take it; this is My body... This is My blood of the Covenant."12

His betrayal

He was betrayed, arrested and tried before Jewish and Roman Authorities (Luke 22:47-23:25).

His crucifixion: our atonement

On the cross, Jesus experienced humiliation, physical torment, God's wrath upon sin, and even our alienation from God (Matthew 27:46); then He experienced death itself.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us -- for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree" (Galatians 3:13).

He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14).

As we saw in the last chapter, Jesus was God's appointed sacrificial offering for sin. His death is the great source of division for the human race. For those who reject Him, His death is the most terrible of the charges God has against them,13 but for those who accept Him that very death becomes the source of their peace with God and with each other (e.g., Ephesians 2:13-16). The death of Jesus has become the source of reconciliation and the source of fellowship -- the meeting place for fellowship, as it were -- between God and man. There are several reasons why this is so, not simply one reason.

One reason is the powerful demonstration it provides that God's attitude toward man, even in man's sinful and degenerate condition, is full of mercy and love: "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8; also 5:6-10). "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). He whose heart will not open in trust toward Jesus after seeing God's love so powerfully demonstrated in the cross is hard indeed, worthy of hell.

Another aspect of this reconciliation is the "penal" aspect: God must be just in all He does, and His standard of justice demands the punishment of evil attitudes and deeds. To Him, distrust, disobedience and rebellion are very serious matters, and they demand judgment. Forgiveness for sin, therefore, is a costly thing, not a mere forgetting of past misdeeds. In His loving desire to take the initiative in reconciling us to Himself, however, God bore the cost of that forgiveness Himself, by having Jesus -- Who is God as well as representative man, remember -- bear our iniquity as well as the punishment for that iniquity:

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him... The Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him (Isaiah 53:5,6).

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed (1 Peter 2:24).

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

...Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness... that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:25-26).

So many people -- Christians as well as unbelievers it seems -- picture the cross as God's punishing one of us: "I've got to punish someone for your sin; so I'll punish Him instead of you, and then you and I can have peace." There is enough scandal in the true picture of the cross without adding to it a picture of a God who feels such a need to punish. Once you have come to see who Jesus really is, once your view of Him has become radically transformed, then the way you view that terrible sacrifice must also become radically transformed. Because of the fact that when I see Jesus I am seeing the Father,14 when I view the cross, I now see God taking into Himself  all the poisons, the guilts and the punishments that I have ever spawned. From now on, God declares from the cross, "this My sacrifice is the means by which you may approach Me as well as the offering with which you may approach Me."  If your heart has not yet begun to be deeply moved by this self-sacrificial act of divine love, it is not yet ready to see His face.

Another aspect of this reconciliation, often forgotten, is the transaction and conflict with Satan and his demons that was involved. Jesus said He had come to give His life as a "ransom" for many (Matthew 20:28).15 There is a controversy of long standing about the identity of the recipient of such a ransom, since it is not stated explicitly. But we do know that through His death He "rendered powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14). It is certainly a legitimate, though non-revealed, conclusion that since God had decided not to simply destroy Satan through Christ, that Satan would continue to claim His "rights" as god of this world's citizens and in his hatred of God and man demand "His life for theirs."16 Satan had the "power of death" and perhaps was so deceived as to think that He could actually hold down this One who had delivered Himself into that heretofore unbreakable death-grip of his.

Whether or not Jesus' combat with Satan took this particular form, Hebrews demonstrates that there was some kind of encounter between Jesus and Satan on the cross, and that it was by His dying that He rendered Satan powerless (see also Colossians 2:14-15). Satan, who, after the temptations in the wilderness, had "departed from Him until an opportune time" (Luke 4:13), now came back to deal with Jesus (John 14:30). According to this "ransom" theory of the atonement, Jesus gave Himself into Satan's power as the ransom price demanded by the "kidnapper" of the race.

In any event, Satan used the entirety of his cunning and his abilities upon Jesus -- climaxing at the crucifixion -- but it was not enough, praise God! And so, Jesus was the only one in human history who had the right to come back in victory from the grave, and tell us that the dread enemy could not hold down Him or those who were yolk ed to him through faith.17

The descent into Hades

...having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient... (1 Peter 3:18-19).

For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God (1 Peter 4:6).

These passages are the source of that phrase in the Apostle's Creed, "He descended into Hell."18 The most natural interpretation of these two passages is that Christ, during the time between His death and resurrection traced the route that the human race had been taking since the first death: He went to the two regions of the dead, where the "disobedient spirits" were (1 Peter 3:19; also Jude 6, Luke 16:23), and where Abraham was (Luke 16:19-31). He announced His victory to both, to the deepened agony of the rebellious and to the joy of the faithful.

The resurrection

(Luke 24:1-49; John 20-21)

Christ came back from the formerly escape-proof penitentiary of death and established the only truly unshakable source of hope: "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). O blessed hope! If you, pilgrim, have ever ceased believing in the resurrection of Jesus and then have come back to that belief (as I have), you know the difference that the resurrection of Jesus

His ascension into glory

(Luke 24:50f; Acts 1:9f)

Jesus took His sinless, immortal, body-and-blood-laden life out of this dimension and into the glory of the Father. Humanity and matter, which had already been given dignity in His incarnation, now entered into the beginning of their destiny of glory. Jesus' body was not only raised but glorified, becoming a "spiritual body": is sown (i.e., into the grave) a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15:44-45).

You see, Jesus' body now possesses the qualities of spirit; now it is quite possible for Jesus to be in heaven and in the Church's assemblies at the same time, unlike before His glorification. This fact is a very important factor in understanding the way in which He is present in the Lord's Supper.

His return

There is one more work of Christ that remains: His return. "This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).  Much more will be said about this later.

These are the works of Christ, by which God accomplished the purposes for which He came. As you read the New Testament, try to see how many different things were being accomplished in the acts and teachings of Jesus.


The definition of the Council of Chalcedon

This council was called in 451 A.D. at Chalcedon, near Constantinople, to resolve disputes that were raging about how to understand the nature of Christ. Most Christian traditions acknowledge this council as providing the most well-defined statement of the humanity and divinity of Christ.

Therefore, following the holy Fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable [i.e., "rational"] soul and body; of one substance ("homoousios") with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer ("Theotokos"); one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence ("hupostasis"), not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.19

Selection of Christus Victor

Gustaf Aulen, Swedish Lutheran theologian and bishop, wrote this study on the three main interpretations of the Atonement throughout Christian history, and it has become a modern classic among those studying the nature of the Atonement. In this passage he discusses the "Ransom" theory, dealing especially with Gregory of Nyssa (d. 395) and with Origen of Alexandria (d. 254).

The most common view is that since the Fall the devil possesses an incontestable right over fallen man, and that therefore a regular and orderly settlement is necessary...

Gregory of Nyssa, who discusses with especial fullness this subject of Christ's dealings with the devil, plainly asserts that the devil acquired rights over mankind through the Fall. Here he is really following Athanasius, who had spoken of death as having lawful dominion over men...

But Gregory is at the same time anxious to show the rightfulness of the deliverance of man from the devil's power. The deliverance is the work of God's Love, but also of His Wisdom and His Righteousness; God does not effect His purpose by sheer force. Gregory takes an analogy from slavery and emancipation: if a slave is set free by an act of violence, then he is not rightfully set free. `The case was similar, when we of our own free will had sold ourselves, and God in His goodness would restore us again to freedom. There was a kind of necessity for Him not to proceed by way of force, but to accomplish our deliverance in a lawful way. It consists in this, that the owner is offered all that he asks as the redemption-price of His property' (Great Catechism, ch. 22).20



1 One of God's surprises was His accomplishment of all this through two advents of Christ, instead of just the one that had been assumed of the Messiah. During the ministry of His first coming, He established what Paul calls the "first fruits" or "pledge" of that future glory (Romans 8:23; 2 Corinthians 1:22, 5:5 -- "pledge" here means "down payment", not "promise"). This means that the full revelation of God, His kingdom's glory, and the "powers of the age to come" (Hebrews 6:5) begin now, but not in their fullness. The fullness begins with the events of Revelation 21:1. <back>

2 This is the key for understanding the term "fellowship" that is used so often in the New Testament. The implications of the term are so much more revolutionary for the life of the Church than commonly understood. <back>

3 e.g., Jeremiah 31:31-34, 32:40. <back>

4 e.g., Isaiah 2:2-4, 42:1-6, 49:5-6. <back>

5 See the formula of the Council of Chalcedon, at the end of this chapter. <back>

6 It is very important to remember that we need revelation to understand human nature every bit as much as we need it to understand divine nature. <back>

7 "...I did not recognize Him, but in order that He might be manifested to Israel I came baptizing in water" (John speaking, in John 1:31). <back>

8 i.e., the "Anointed One" <back>

9 Contrast the "great multitude" of them in Luke 6:17 and John 4:1 with the smaller band described in Mark. 8:10, 14:4 and Acts 1:15. <back>

10 e.g., Matthew 14:22f, 21:18f; John 21:1f. <back>

11 John 2:1f; Luke 5:4f; but contrast with Mark. 8:11 and John 6:30. <back>

12 Chapter 12 deals much more fully with the Lord's Supper. <back>

13 E.g., Acts 2:23, 3:14-15, 7:52. <back>

14 "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9ff). <back>

15 The "ransom" (Greek: "lutron") was literally a "payment price" demanded by someone (a kidnapper is not necessarily to be presumed) as the acceptable substitute for the person or thing involved. <back>

16 We see an example of Satan's rights of demanding and accusing in Luke 22:31, where he demands to sift the disciples like wheat, and was obviously granted permission. <back>

17 All others before Jesus who had "cheated death" had either bypassed the grave (Genesis 5:24, Hebrews 11:5, 2 Kings 2:11), or would have to return to it (e.g., Luke 7:11f, John 11:43). <back>

18 "Hell" having here the undisputed meaning of the Biblical "Hades" (the place of all departed spirits prior to His resurrection), rather than the hell prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). <back>

19 Henry Bettenson, editor, Documents of the Christian Church. London: Oxford University Press, 1963; p. 73. <back>

20 Gustaf Aulen, Christus Victor. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1969; p. 48. <back>