A Compendium of Christian Theology

By William Burt Pope, D.D.,

Volume Two

Chapter 11

The Finished Work




            as to Himself

            an Obedience unto Death

            Obedience or Sacrifice

            Obedience and Sacrifice

            Virtue or Merit

            not for Himself but for us


            as to Man Vicarious as to the World

            Representative as to His People

            in their Mystical Union with Him

            Satisfaction and Expiation

            Atonement and Propitiation

            Scriptural Phraseology

            Theological Modifications

This comprehensive historical view of the Saviour's manifestation leads finally to what is its one result as it respects the salvation of mankind. This is sometimes called Atonement, sometimes Redemption: the former term derived from the efficient virtue, the latter from the effect, of the Saviour's intervention. The teaching of Scripture on this subject may be summed as follows: The Finished Work, as accomplished by the Mediator Himself, in His relation to mankind, is His Divine-human obedience regarded as an expiatory sacrifice: the Atonement proper. Then it may be studied in its results as to God, as to God and man, and as to man. First, it is the supreme manifestation of the glory and consistency of the Divine attributes; and, as to this, is termed the Righteousness of God

Secondly, as it respects God and man, it is the Reconciliation, a word which involves two truths, or rather one truth under two aspects: the propitiation of the Divine displeasure against the world is declared; and therefore the sin of the world is no longer a bar to acceptance. Thirdly, in its influence on man, it may be viewed as Redemption: universal as to the race, limited in its process and consummation to those who believe

These general propositions express the revelations of Scripture mainly in its own terms

Their modifications in historical theology will be considered afterwards and in strict subordination. The term FINISHED ATONEMENT must be understood to be used here with a threefold design. First, it is intended to mark the compendious result or summary of the work of Christ in all His offices, and in its final expression: almost every element of the doctrine of the Atonement has been introduced in the previous section, which traced the historical manifestation of the Redeeming Mediator; but now the issue of all is set forth in its finished statement. Secondly, it gives emphasis to the fact that the work of Christ is here viewed objectively, as the atonement for mankind; it is the accomplished redemption as apart from the application of it; it is the basis and foundation of all that follows in the economy of the Holy Ghost. Thirdly, this meaning is to be kept distinct from that which refers the finished work of Christ to the secured salvation of the Elect, laying the stress on its being finished FOR THEM once for all and for ever. It is perfect in the design of God and in the work of His Son; but its application to individual sinners is perpetually beginning afresh


Our Saviour's sacrifice on the cross finished a perfect obedience which He offered in His Divine-human Person. This was His own obedience, and therefore of infinite value or worthiness; but it was vicarious/ and its benefit belongs absolutely to our race, and, on certain conditions, to every member of it. As availing for man, by the appointment of God, it is no less than the satisfaction, provided by Divine love, of the claims of Divine justice upon transgression: which may be viewed, on the one hand, as an expiation of the punishment due to the guilt of human sin; and, on the other, as a propitiation of the Divine displeasure, which is thus shown to be consistent with infinite goodwill to the sinners of mankind. But the expiation of guilt and the propitiation of wrath are one and the same effect of the Atonement. Both suppose the existence of sin and the wrath of God against it. But, in the mystery of the Atonement, the provision of eternal mercy, as it were, anticipates the transgression, and love always in every representation of it has the pre-eminence. The passion is the exhibition rather than the cause of the Divine love to man


Viewed as His own, the expiatory work of Christ was a perfect spontaneous Obedience and a perfect spontaneous Sacrifice to the Will of the Father imposed upon Him. The two terms may be regarded in their difference and in their unity as constituting the act and virtue of the Atonement. Its worthiness, or what is sometimes called its merit, connects it with the human race, and depends on two other truths; it was not due for Himself, but was an act of infinite charity for man; and that act was Divine, both in its value and in its efficiency. The offering of the Redeemer had infinite efficacy for the human race

The atonement was our Lord's OBEDIENCE unto death; and it was the SACRIFICE of His life in perfect obedience. There is one passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews which perfectly unites these two representations: Lo, I come to do Thy will, 0 God!1 These words, twice uttered, present the Saviour's whole work as one great act of obedience. But they are preceded and followed by a reference to sacrifice. First, to the sacrifices offered by the law, which are displaced: sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me; then to His own perfect oblation: by the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. The obedience to the will of God is the sacrifice of the body prepared for our atoning Mediator

1 Heb. 10:5-10

1. Either of these words taken alone expresses the quality and character of the atoning act. (1.) It was a great OBEDIENCE, in the perfect submission of His will to the will of the Father, which required the surrender of His life as the penalty of guilt: all was summed up in that one word. He undertook the service of man's redemption as laid upon Him, and He accomplished it through all its requirements down to the suffering of the penalty of Divine displeasure against sin: He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.1 As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the Obedience of One shall many be made righteous.2 Here the whole work of atonement is one obedience which counterbalances the act of man's disobedience. (2.) But it was also a passive endurance of a lot imposed upon Him from the moment of His assumption of our nature; and this is expressed by the word SACRIFICE. It is true that our Representative offered the sacrifice freely of His own will; but the whole series and detail of His humiliations, sorrows, and derelictions came upon Him as it were from without: from the mysterious pressure of sin without guilt, from the enmity of the world and of Satan, from the visitation of the Father. His entire incarnate existence on earth was a meek endurance: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things? Thus it is written!3

1 Phil. 2:8; 2 Rom. 5:19; 3 Luke 24:26,46;

2. Their difference, however, must also be marked; though now only in relation to our Lord Himself. (1.) The Obedience regards the whole work of Christ as an active fulfillment of righteousness, passing through all stages to its consummation in death. As the appointed Representative of mankind He had an atoning work to do, which included, and also infinitely exceeded, the ordinary duty of human nature. Yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.1 We never read of any obedience of the Godman which was not submission and endurance. He entered on His career of duty by this gate. The moral law was to Him as law written afresh and in one character, as the expansion of one only duty. It is not said that His obedience was made perfect by suffering; but that He Himself was as a Sufferer made perfect through sufferings.2 His supreme submission to that law was His finished obedience; and that consummate selfsurrender tested and approved in extreme temptation was the active side of His atonement: the negativing sin itself in His own Person, representing mankind. (2.) But the very same deeds and sorrows which undid or cancelled the sin of humanity were a suffering endurance of the penalty of sin; and this was the passive side of His atonement: the tribute of expiatory satisfaction to the justice of the Lawgiver. The mystery and perfection of our Saviour's Atoning Act was this, that, as vicarious, it at one and the same moment made both the sin and the penalty as though they were not. Viewed in one light He represents man as canceling his sin by a new obedience; viewed in another He represents man as discharging the debt as penalty

1 Heb. 5:8; 2 Heb. 2:10

3. It will perhaps throw some light both upon the unity and upon the difference of these two terms if we refer them to the Mediatorial Court and the Mediatorial Temple respectively

Viewed as a tribute to Righteousness the Ministry of our Lord is simply and solely a great Obedience, active AND passive, and nothing more. Law demands both obedience and the penalty of disobedience: not both at once from man and in human courts; but from the Representative of man and in the court Divine both are required, and both in His life and death are offered. Viewed as a tribute to the Holiness of the Divine nature the Ministry of our Lord is a sacrifice which God accepts as offered for the human race

Transferred into the Holiest the satisfaction of Divine justice becomes a satisfaction of Divine love. And here the same most wonderful combination of two ideas comes in. As an expiatory sacrifice to the holiness of God the soul of the sinner could not be at once offered in death and accepted as living; could not be at once a sin offering doomed to destruction and a burnt offering well pleasing to God. But in man's Representative at the holy altar these most gloriously meet. He presented a sacrifice which was the veritable endurance of the consequence of transgression: He died unto sin once.1 But that death was also the LIVING SACRIFICE2 of our human nature, given back to God in its perfection again. As in the court of law perfect obedience is rendered by discharge of a duty which was also the suffering of the penalty of disobedience, so in the temple of holiness an expiation of guilt by death is itself the display of propitiation towards the living offender

These seem to be paradoxes; but they express the very secret and mystery of our redemption. It cannot, however, be too deeply impressed that these two are only aspects of one atonement. As an obedience unto death it becomes ours in justification; as a sacrifice of self-surrender, it becomes ours in sanctification

1 Rom. 6:10; 2 Rom. 12:1


The term ATONEMENT, by which the sacred writers express the idea of Reconciliation as the effect of Christ's work, is in modern theology used to express the virtue of the redeeming passion as resting upon the merit of Him who suffered it. The value of the perfect oblation is of great importance, as the link which connects it with us. Neither of these words is used in Scripture, which, however, always assumes and implies the inconceivable price at which are to be valued both the Person and the work of the Redeemer Himself

1. Nothing that belongs to the incarnate history of Jesus can be regarded as terminating in Himself, He was not man for His own sake: had He joined us for His own glory His alliance with our race would not have been by incarnation and birth into its dying lineage

He became man that He might give us what He needed not for Himself. Virtue there would have been, but not merit, in the sorrows of one who expiated his own sin, and in that sense was made perfect through suffering. Remembering that the Redeemer’s duty was His passion, and that in His example as proposed to us this is always prominent, if not alone, we shall see the force of St. Peter's words: Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust.1 Almost every leading exhibition of the Atonement in Scripture makes the sinlessness of the Redeemer prominent; and this implies that His passion was voluntary and for others. Nowhere is the active righteousness regarded as obligatory on Christ: He descended to a kind of obedience which was no necessity of His being. Hence both as a Sacrifice and as an Obedience the Lord's work was for us: meritorious, to use our human term, as not required for Himself

1 1 Pet. 3:18

2. The atoning work itself was a manifestation of perfect charity viewed as offered by a Man. If we strive to rise to the conception that our Lord's obedience and sacrifice were presented by a member of our race untainted by sin, and therefore reckoned to such a Person as something most precious in the sight of Heaven, and then superadd to this that, being God, He can bestow on His creatures this Gift of His own work, then we have the Scriptural teaching of an offering presented by Man for himself: combining supreme love to God and supreme charity to mankind in the highest perfection of both. Now we must so view it, as our own oblation. Man was in Christ reconciling God to himself by the most precious oblation. We are Christ's and Christ is ours. The Redeemer was not His own but our possession. He gave Himself TO us before He gave Himself FOR us. When He obeyed unto a sacrificial death we undid our sin by a perfect obedience, and at the same time gave our life and our all as a penalty for our sin. Our redeeming Representative was our Sin-offering and Burnt-offering in one: in Him we give our life to justice, and present our expiated life anew to God, and both in one

3. But the virtue, value, and merit of the Atonement must be measured by the value of His Person who is at once the Offering and the Offerer. It is an unreal abstraction that we consider when we speak of the Great Oblation being presented by man. But it becomes a most blessed concrete reality when we regard it as offered by the God-man Who gave Himself.1 As God He gave His human life, but more than that: He gave the value of His Divine Sonship with it. As Man He freely presented Himself in obedience to the Father; but it was the Eternal Spirit of His Divinity that gave Him the strength to make the offering, and impressed on it its value when made. Here is the secret of our Saviour's merit: it is only the human word for the Divine complacency in the submission of His Son. This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.2 The meaning here is, that on this Man, or Representative of man, God can look with more than the original satisfaction with which He regarded Adam. He saw His beloved Son incarnate; and, when He uttered His complacency, it was over the whole work and passion of Christ, which was anticipated as finished; and, as finished, made available for the human race

1 1 Tim. 2:6; 2 Mat. 17:5


As the Atonement avails for the human race, and is therefore ours, it must be viewed as a vicarious satisfaction of the claims of Divine justice or expiation of the guilt of sin, and propitiation of the Divine favor

No adjective equivalent to the term Vicarious, as expressing the Redeemer's relation to mankind, is used in Scripture; nor is there any equivalent for Substitution, the noun corresponding to the adjective. But the idea of a strictly vicarious representation lies at the root of its teaching. An absolute substitution of the Saviour's obedience or sacrifice in the place of the suffering and obedience of His people is not taught in the Word of God

The substitutionary idea is in their case qualified by that of representation on the one hand, and the mystical fellowship of His saints on the other. If unqualified at all, it is so with reference to the race at large or the world of mankind

I. The purely vicarious quality of our Saviour's work refers only to the world or the race

Christ in His Person is the Son of man; and, as the new Adam, the Head and Summary of mankind, stands in the stead of all whom He represents. All that He is and does and suffers He is and does and suffers for the entire human family. Adam represented all, the multitude who were not in existence save in him; our Lord represented the same, who were not in existence save in Him. Before men were in being He assumed a universal relation to them, and that must have been strictly vicarious. The preposition anti, instead of, is used by our Lord in a saying which must rule all others: The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many;1 where the many are the all. St. Paul employs uper: If one died for all, then were all dead,2 or, rather, all died. Both, united and strengthened, are used by him again at the close of his teaching, in a sentence which condenses more of the substance of the doctrine than any other: For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time:3 anti lutron uper panton, both the word and the construction being unique in Greek literature. The idea of substitution is stamped deeply here; and in this its most forcible expression in the New Testament the vicarious universality is stated in three ways: the Person is MAN, for men; He is a ransom FOR ALL; and the context admits no limitation, as the intercession was demanded for all men, and of God Who willeth all men to be saved.4

1 Mat. 20:28; 2 2 Cor. 5:14; 3 1 Tim. 2:5,6; 4 1 Tim. 2:4

II. Our Lord's vicarious relation to His people, subjectively receiving the Atonement, is modified by the two ideas of representation and the mystical personal union with Him

1. The former is current in the New Testament, which invariably represents Jesus as standing at the head of a fellowship of men for whose sake He has done and suffered all, that through His atoning mediation they might have access and hope. The doctrine is not that a penalty has been endured by Christ instead of His people; that He has occupied their legal place and borne their legal responsibility; and therefore that they are for ever discharged. It is rather that a sacrificial offering has been presented by Him instead of the race; and that He, making the virtue of His atonement the strength of His plea, represents all that come unto God by Him.1 The propitiation offered for all men, and accepted, becomes effectual only for the penitent who embraces it by trusting in Him Whom God hath set forth to be a Propitiation in His blood through faith.2 So also Christ appears in the presence of God for us,3 or on our behalf. His sacrificial obedience is not vicarious in the sense of discharging all its beneficiaries from obligation to do and suffer; for it was offered on behalf of the whole world,4 and they may perish for whom Christ died.5

1 Heb. 7:25; 2 Rom. 3:25; 3 Heb. 9:24; 4 1 John 2:2; 5 1 Cor. 8:11

2. The union of the believer with his Lord gives another qualification to the vicarious idea. Substitution pure and simple is inconsistent with the thought that the virtue of the Atonement is in any way dependent on personal participation with Christ by faith. But nothing is more certain than that His sacrifice is valid only for those who are mystically united with their Head in His death and resurrection. St. Paul says, not for himself only but for every believer, I am crucified with Christ . . . Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.1 And he habitually speaks of fellowship with the Savior in His death and resurrection, as making the general Atonement the individual possession. Now this union with Christ by faith does not mean, on the one hand, that the believer must add anything to the Supreme Expiation: that is a perversion which has been forced on the doctrine. But, on the other, it precludes the possibility of such a vicarious substitution as makes the atoning, work of Christ absolutely independent of, our relation to it. The propitiation in His blood is through faith;2 and this faith, uniting the soul to Christ, qualifies without impairing the truly vicarious character of His redeeming work

1 Gal. 2:20; 2 Rom. 3:25


There are two Greek terms, or families of terms, on which hang the details of the doctrine just laid down: hilasmos and katallage are their representatives. The relations of these are clear and distinct in the original Scriptures; but they are to some extent confused in our present English translation

1. The former assumes three leading forms in the New Testament. Christ is the halismos, the virtue of the propitiation and the Propitiator: He is the Propitiation for our sins;1 not the hilasmor, because the process of His propitiating is lost in the effect. He is the living Expiation. He is also the hilasmrion, the Kapporeth, or Mercy-seat, according to the use of the word in the Septuagint: Whom God hath set forth to be a Propitiation,2 that is, as a mercy-seat, between Himself and sinners. Or, if the word be an adjective, then Thuma is understood, and He is a propitiatory sacrifice. As the High-priest He is said halaskesthas tas hamartias, that is, to expiate sins; a correct English translation gives this meaning: to make propitiation for the sins of the people.3

1 John 2:2; 2 Rom. 3:25; 3 Heb. 2:17

2. The latter is the word which is translated in the English version both by atonement and by reconciliation: the latter, however, is its strict meaning; or atonement, if this word retains its original sense AT-ONE-MENT. The verb katallassein signifies the virtue of the mediation of Christ as composing a difference between God and man, and katallagh the result: the new relation in which the world stands to God, He being no longer an antidikos, and the world being no more an object of wrath. The context in the two passages where the verb is used shows that God is the antagonist; of which more hereafter

3. Both these verbs have God for the Subject and not for the Object. The Supreme Being reconciles the world to Himself; it is not said that He is reconciled: this simply gives expression to the great truth that the whole provision for the re-establishment of peace is from above. God is reconciled to man, but in Christ who is Himself God: He therefore is the Reconciler while He is the Reconciled.1 So also the word expiate refers to an act of God: it is not said that He is propitiated, but that He propitiates Himself or brings Himself near by providing an expiation for the sin. Strictly speaking the atoning sacrifice declares a propitiation already in the Divine heart

1 2 Cor. 5:19

4. A comparison of the two passages already referred to will illustrate this. In the one, We also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom we have now received the Atonement,1 thn katallagoon, this last word ought to be rendered the Reconciliation. In the other, A merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people,2 hiláskesthai tás hamartías, ought to be rendered to make atonement for the sins. If the terms Atonement and Reconciliation changed places, in these passages, the meaning would be more clear. It may be observed, in connection with this, that there is a similar want of uniformity, as to the phraseology, in the English translation of the Old Testament. The expression lakapeer is the habitual technical term for the ceremonial covering of sin, as in this leading passage: For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have GIVEN it to you upon the altar to make an atonement FOR your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement IN the soul.2 Here three things already adverted to may be recalled. The atonement is given or appointed of God: His own Divine and eternal ordinance of canceling sin. Then, the life or soul in the blood, not the blood itself, makes the atonement. Finally, the atoning life covers the soul for which it avails. It is obvious that in this central passage sin is the object of the whole transaction. The reconciled or propitiated Jehovah displays His method of expiating transgression. But in some other passages the same verb is, as in the New Testament, translated by Reconcile; as if ton Theon were to be understood after hiláskesthai. One may be quoted which represents many: And when He hath made an end of reconciling the holy place,3 where the idea is that of applying the virtue of the atonement to the place which thus only can retain the indwelling Presence. A careful comparison of the Hebrew verb and noun with their equivalents in the Septuagint and the English Version will show that many accessory notions have been connected with them, such as Ransom, Cleansing, Satisfaction, Propitiation. But the fundamental thought remains that the Atonement is a Covering provided by God for the sinful and guilty soul of man

1 Heb. 2:17; 2 Lev. 17:11; 3 Lev. 16:20


There are certain modifications of those two leading terms which, both by inflection and addition, have been introduced into historical theology. These may be best studied in some of their mutual aspects

1. The specific idea of SATISFACTION has been added to that of EXPIATION. The former is in the court of law what the latter is in the temple. Reparation is made to the honor of the Lawgiver and the claims of the law in the suffering of Christ: and that is satisfaction. The atoning blood and life of the Victim covers the guilty soul so that its sin is not visited for punishment: and that is expiation. But the idea as referred to the Divine Being is really twofold: it is the satisfaction of His unutterable love which provides the atonement; and it is the satisfaction of His eternal holiness which must be a consuming fire to evil. Referred to the law, it is purely the endurance of its sentence or sanction, without which law is not law: this latter is the common theological meaning, but the former ought not to be forgotten. The word is not found in our Scriptures save once: Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction, koper, for the life of a murderer.1 There was no Levitical atonement for him, he shall be surely put to death. As commonly used to signify the unlimited reparation made for the dishonor done to the majesty of holiness by sin, it has no direct, though abundant indirect, sanction in the New Testament. But it evermore blends with the idea of propitiation: God is propitious, or favorably brought near, to the entire race of mankind: there is now but one anthroopoktónos, for whom eternal right shall take no satisfaction.2 And the satisfaction offered in the sacrifice of Christ is a satisfaction of the Divine love before it is to be considered as a reparation to the Divine justice

1 Num. 35:31,32; 2 John 8:44

2. Hence EXPIATION and PROPITIATION, one in Scripture, are theologically to be separated

Expiation refers the sacrifice to the sinner and the sin; Propitiation to the Supreme whose displeasure, not whose justice, —for justice cannot be propitiated, — is declared to be allayed. Both terms have a high and glorified meaning in Scripture as compared with secular phraseology and conceptions. Expiation requires sacrifice: a victim there must be; for this word, whether in heathenism or in revelation, belongs to temple ritual. Heathen expiations regarded only the blood and the vicarious death, which the guilty conscience of mankind has always vainly presented to appease the deities. Revealed expiation regards the life as in the blood: having always in view that sacrificial death which was offered by a Living Sacrifice. In one and the same symbol the death was suffered, the blood being sprinkled in token of that, and also the spotless life of the victim interposed between justice and the sinner, covering his person and his guilt. Propitiation, from PROPE, near, indicates in the Bible that the favor and good pleasure of God is attracted to the sinner by the mediation of Jesus. HE IS THE PROPITIATION1 because in Him God is nearer to man the sinner than even to man the unfallen. The fact, that holy wrath is turned away through the Atoning satisfaction is a secret behind the Incarnation: in the very essence of the Triune God. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son the Propitiation for our sins.2 The profound truth remains, that the Divine wrath and the Divine love are revealed at once in Christ, but love must have the pre-eminence in our phraseology

1 1 John 2:2; 2 1 John 4:10

3. The word ATONEMENT has undergone a certain change. In the New Testament it is rather a legal term, signifying the restoring of a pacified relation, katallagoo. But, as a theological and not a Biblical word, it returns from its New-Testament signification to that of the Old Testament. It expresses the Divine virtue of that mediatorial work which reconciles in God Himself love and holiness, justice and mercy: in God Himself, before the Reconciliation was exhibited in the world. Of the distinction between this Atonement eternally in God and Reconciliation in the world of time we must speak again. Suffice that the word in our current use testifies, not to the restoration of fellowship with God, but to the virtue of the Great Sacrifice through which that restoration is displayed or effected. We mean by THE ATONEMENT the whole economy of our Lord's saving intervention as consummated on the cross. It is the ilasmos and ilaskesthas which answers to the koper and the kaper Just as we employ the term Redemption to designate Christ's work as saving man generally; and the term Reconciliation to signify the ministry through which that salvation is proclaimed; so we use the term Atonement to include the virtue of the redeeming work as propitiating the Divine mercy to our race. In fact, it is the theological formula for all that belongs to that work