The Marrow of Modern Divinity is a charming little 17th century work on the Federal structure of the Scriptures. Chapter 2 of the work covers God’s Plan of Grace to redeem fallen man. The outline for the chapter reflects God’s Promise as – Purposed (in eternity), Promised (in Old Testament History), and Performed (in time – Christ).
We’ve completed our look at the purpose and promise of grace, we now turn our attention to the provision – part 2.
For part 1, go HERE.
But when the fullness 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. (Gal 4:4-5)
The Infinite Value of the Atonement
Nomista: But, sir, how could the sufferings of Christ, which in respect of time were but finite, make full satisfaction to the justice of God, which is infinite?
Evangelista: Though the sufferings of Christ, in respect of time, were but finite, yet in respect of the person that suffered, his sufferings came to be of infinite value; for Christ was God and man in one person, and therefore his sufferings were a sufficient and full ransom for man’s soul, being of more value than the death and destruction of all creatures.
The Federal Nature of the Atonement
On the Federal nature of the atonement, Fisher writes:
“..as Jesus Christ, the second Adam, entered into the same covenant that the first Adam did, so by him was done whatsoever the first Adam had undone. So the case stands thus — that as whatsoever the first Adam did, or befell him, was reckoned as done by all mankind, and to have befallen them, even so, whatsoever Christ did, or befell him, is to be reckoned as to have been done by all believers, and to have befallen them. So that as sin cometh from Adam alone to all mankind, as he in whom all have sinned; so from Jesus Christ alone cometh righteousness unto all that are in him, as he in whom they all have satisfied the justice of God…”
(cf. Rom 5:12)
Thomas Boston footnotes this section (in part):
Namely, in the sense of the law; for in the law-reckoning, as to the payment of
a debt, and fulfilling of a covenant, or any the like purposes, the surety and
the original debtor, the federal head or the representative, and the represented, are but one person. And thus the Scripture determining Adam to be the figure [or type] of Christ, (Rom 5:14), teaches upon the one hand, that all mankind sinned in Adam, (verse 12), and died in him, (1 Cor 15:22); and on the other hand, that believers were crucified with Christ, (Gal 2:20), and raised up in him.
The Atonement Ensures Perseverance
Below is another meaty footnote from Boston, commenting upon a statement from Evangelista regarding the state of the Justified believer before God – viz,
regarding “the obedience of Christ being imputed unto believers by
God for their righteousness, it puts them into the same estate and case, touching righteousness unto life before God, wherein they should have been, if
they had perfectly performed the perfect obedience [in the Garden of Eden]“.
This is a weighty point, the plain and native result of what is
said, namely, that since Jesus Christ hath fully accomplished what was to have been done by man himself for life according to the covenant of works, and that the same is imputed to believers; therefore, believers are in the same state, as to righteousness unto life, that they would have been in if man himself had stood the whole time appointed for his trial. And here is the true ground in the law of the infallible perseverance of the saints; their time of trial for life is over in their Head the second Adam — the prize is won! Hence the just by faith are entitled to the same benefit which Adam by his perfect obedience would have been entitled to.
In other words, the law can no longer condemn a man, because that law has been fulfilled by the surety – the curse born away and the promise secured, so that man can no longer stand liable to its obligations. The contract is fulfilled! The law no longer can hold any condemnation for the believer, so the believer has no possibility of falling away from salvation, as there is no more Covenant of Works by which to try and condemn him.
The Atonement Frees Us From the Bondage to the Law
Nomista, a legalist as his name implies, recoils at the notion that man can no
longer be under the law as a Covenant of Works.
Nomista: But, sir, are all believers dead to the law, and the law dead to them, say you?
Evangelista Believe it, as the law is the covenant of works, all true believers are dead unto it, and it is dead unto them; for, they being incorporated into Christ, what the law or covenant of works did to him, it did the same to them; so that when Christ hanged on the cross, all believers, after a sort, hanged there with him. And therefore the apostle Paul having said, (Gal 2:19), “I through the law am dead to the law,” adds in the next verse, “I am crucified with Christ”; which words the apostle brings as an argument to prove that he was dead to the law, for the law had crucified him with Christ…
- “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Rom 3:19)
- “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the
law, but under grace.” (Rom 6:14)
- “So ye, my brethren, are dead also to the law by the body of Christ,” (Rom
No one who belongs to Christ is to have anything to do whatsoever with obedience to the law as a condition or testing for righteousness and justification. Unbelievers, of course, stand condemned by the law and fallen under it’s judgment; but for the believer, our Surety has subjected Himself to that Law and fulfilled it and born away its curse on our behalf.
In the original arrangement with Adam (Covenant of Works), God was one party to the Covenant and Adam (man) the other. In God’s Plan of Salvation by grace, God is on both sides of the Covenantal arrangement – God the Father remains as the offended party and God the Son, the Second Adam, reconciles his elect to God by bearing their sin and satisfying God’s justice on their behalf. The believer is no longer fallen under the Covenant of Works in his father Adam, but stands before God with an imputed righteousness. The believer then, has nothing at all to do with any legal/works righteousness, only Christ does, on his behalf.
For how can the law … promise eternal life, or threaten eternal death, upon condition of obedience or disobedience, to those who have already escaped eternal death, and obtained eternal life by faith in Christ?
- “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:36)
- “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24)