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Redemption Accomplished and Applied Paperback – December 12, 1955
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— from the foreword
"The book you have in your hand is a miniature masterpiece of theology, dealing reverently on every page with matters of great theological significance. Whether you end the book by agreeing or disagreeing with its author, you will have found your own thinking on these issues sharpened and clarified."
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He wrote in the Preface to this 1955 book, “It is with some misgiving that I have ventured to offer for publication the following attempt to deal with an aspect of the divine revelation that has been explored to such an extent. This present study cannot pretend to be in the same class as many of the superb contributions of both the more remote and the more recent past. I can only claim that I am presenting what has passed through the crucible of my own reflection. I am conscious of the profound debt I owe to numberless theologians and expositors… However, there are certain facets of this great truth which I have sought to bring into cleared focus. Perhaps some neglected factors have received an emphasis which our present-day theological situation demands.”
In Chapter 1, he outlines, “The question really is: does the Scripture provide us with evidence or considerations on the basis of which we may conclude that this is one of the things impossible or necessary for God, impossible for him to save sinners without vicarious sacrifice and inherently necessary, therefore, that salvation freely and sovereignly determined, should be accomplished by the blood-shedding of the Lord of glory.” (Pg. 7)
He acknowledges, “While the New Testament writers do not find in Christ’s offering of himself a literal fulfillment of all the prescriptions of the Levitical law as applied to the animal offerings, yet it is very apparent that they have distinctly before their minds certain specific transactions of the Mosaic ritual. For example, in Hebrews 9:6-15 the transactions of the great day of atonement are specifically mentioned, and it is with these transactions clearly in mind and on the basis of the symbolical and typical import of this ritual that the writer sets forth the transaction efficacy, perfection, and finality of the final sacrifice of Christ.” (Pg. 21)
He points out, “Propitiation presupposes the wrath and displeasure of God, and … the doctrine of propitiation means that Christ propitiated the wrath of God and rendered God propitious to his people. Perhaps no tenet respecting the atonement has been more violently criticized than this one. It has been assailed as involving a mythological conception of God, as supposing internal conflict … between the persons of the Godhead… While the doctrine of propitiation is presented in this light it can be very effectively criticized and can be exposed as a revolting caricature of the Christian gospel. But the doctrine of propitiation … has been misconceived and misrepresented… First of all… It is loose thinking of a deplorable sort to claim that propitiation … is incompatible with the fullest recognition that the atonement is the provision of the divine love. Secondly, propitiation is not a turning of the wrath of God into love.” (Pg. 27)
He notes that “Ransom presupposed some kind of bondage or captivity, and redemption, therefore, implies that from which the ransom secures us… redemption as purchase or ransom receives a wide variety of reference and application. Redemption applies to every respect in which we are bound, and it releases us unto a liberty that is nothing less than the liberty of the glory of the children of God. We must not, of course, press the language of purchase or ransom unduly.” (Pg. 40)
After quoting Romans 5:18, he asks, “are we to suppose that justification came upon the whole human race, upon all men distributively and inclusively? This cannot be Paul’s meaning. He is dealing with actual justification… And we cannot believe that such justification passed upon every member of the human race unless we believe that all men will ultimately be saved, something contrary to Paul’s teaching elsewhere… Consequently, though Paul uses the expression ‘all men’ in the first part of the verse in the sense of all men universally, yet he must be using the same expression in the second part of the verse in a much more restricted sense… of all those who will be actually justified… So it will not do to quote a few texts from the Bible in which such words as ‘world’ and ‘all’ occur in connection with the death of Christ and forthwith conclude that the question is settled in favor of universal atonement.” (Pg. 58-59)
Of the doctrine of Limited Atonment, he observes, “This may or may not be a good or fair denomination. But it is not the term used that is important; it is that which it denotes… we must reckon with the fact that unless we believe in the final restoration of all men we cannot have an unlimited atonement. If we universalize the extent we limit the efficacy. If some of those for whom atonement was made and redemption wrought perish eternally, then the atonement is not itself efficacious…. The doctrine … which we maintain is the doctrine which limits the atonement to those who are heirs of eternal life, to the elect.” (Pg. 62-63)
He states, “the security of which Paul here [Rom 8:32-39] speaks is a security restricted to those who are the objects of the love which was exhibited on Calvary’s accursed tree, and therefore the love exhibited on Calvary is itself a distinguishing love and not a love that is indiscriminately universal. It is a love that ensures the eternal security of those who are its objects… [and] which secures for them the justifying righteousness through which eternal life reigns. And this is just saying that the atonement which Calvary accomplished is not itself universal.” (Pg. 68)
He notes, “Perhaps no text in Scripture presents more plausibly support to the doctrine of universal atonement than 1 John 2:2: ‘And he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.’ The extension of the propitiation to ‘the whole world’ would appear to allow for no other construction than that the propitiation for sins embraces the sins of the whole world. It must be said that the language John uses here would fit in perfectly with the doctrine of universal atonement if Scripture elsewhere demonstrated that to be the biblical doctrine. And it must also be said that this expression OF ITSELF would not offer any proof of or support to a doctrine of limited atonement. The question however is: does this text prove that the atonement is universal?... There is good reason why John should have said ‘for the whole world’ quite apart from the assumption of universal atonement. 1. It was necessary for John to set forth the scope of Jesus’ propitiation---it was not limited … to the immediate circle of disciples… 2. It was necessary for John to emphasize the EXCLUSIVENESS of Jesus as the propitiation…” (Pg. 71-72)
He says, “There is still more we can know of the bitterness of sin and death. The lost in perdition will everlastingly bear the unrelieved and unmitigated judgment due to their sins; they will eternally suffer in the exaction of the demands of justice. But there was only one, and there will not need to be another, who bore the full weight of the divine judgment upon sin and bore it so as to end it. The lost will eternally suffer in the satisfaction of justice. But they will never satisfy it.” (Pg. 76)
He considers John 3:5: “Except one be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” noting that “those who believe in baptismal regeneration like to appeal to this text in support of that doctrine,” and arguing, “it should be noted that Jesus does not say baptism; he says water. We must not take it for granted that he means baptism unless there is some compelling reason for thinking that … he must have been referring to the water of baptism… we should keep in mind … [that Jesus] was engaged in a dialogue with Nicodemus… the religious import of water in the Old Testament… pointed in one direction, and that direction is purification… that message would be focused in [Nicodemus’s] mind … the indispensable necessity of purification for entrance into the kingdom of God.” (Pg. 101-102)
He states, “Faith is assent. We must not only know the truth respecting Christ but we must also believe it to be true. It is possible, of course, for us to understand the import of certain propositions of truth and yet not believe these propositions. All disbelief is of this character… A person who rejects the virgin birth may understand well what the doctrine of the virgin birth is and for that very reason reject it.” (Pg. 116)
He clarifies, “the emphasis which the Scripture places upon faith as the condition of salvation is not to be construed as if faith were the only condition… Repentance is that which describes the response of turning from sin unto God… True faith is suffused with penitence… repentance results in constant contrition. The broken spirit and the contrite heart are abiding marks of the believing soul… The way of sanctification is the way of contrition for the sin of the past and of the present…. forgiveness is sealed by the light of [Jesus’] countenance, but we do not save ourselves.” (Pg. 121-122)
He explains, “This is what is meant when we insist that justification is forensic. It has to do with a judgment given, declared, pronounced: it is judicial or juridical or forensic… Regeneration is an act of God in us; justification is a judgment of God with respect to us. The distinction is like that between the act of a surgeon and the act of a judge. The surgeon…. removes an inward cancer, he does something in us. That is not what a judge does---he gives a verdict regarding our judicial status. If we are innocent he declares accordingly.” (Pg. 127-128)
He admits, “It is possible to give all the outward signs of faith in Christ and obedience to him, to witness for a time a good confession and show great zeal for Christ and his kingdom and then lose all interest and become indifferent, if not hostile, to the claims of Christ and his kingdom… Some appear to be converted, they boil over with enthusiasm for a little while, and then suddenly cool off. The disappear from the fellowship of the saints. Others do not show the same enthusiasm… We must appreciate the lengths to which a temporary faith may carry those who have it.” (Pg. 161-162)
He continues, “it is possible to have very uplifting, ennobling, reforming, and exhilarating experience of the power and truth of the gospel… [that produces] effects in us which to human observation are hardly distinguishable from those produced by God’s regenerating and sanctifying grace and yet not be partakers of Christ and heirs of eternal life. A doctrine of perseverance that fails to take account of such a possibility and of its actuality in certain cases is a distorted one … [and] not the doctrine of perseverance at all… It is true that a believer sins; he may into grievous sin and backslide for lengthy periods. But it is also true that a believer cannot abandon himself to sin; he cannot come under the dominion of sin; he cannot be guilty of certain kinds of unfaithfulness. And therefore it is utterly wrong to say that a believer is secure quite irrespective of this subsequent life of sin and unfaithfulness.” (Pg. 163)
He concludes, “Here indeed is mysticism on the highest plane. It is not the mysticism of vague unintelligible feeling or rapture. It is the mysticism of communion with the one true and living God, and it is communion … because it is communion with the three distinct persons of the Godhead in the strict particularity which belongs to each person in that grand economy of saving relationship to us…. It si not the blurred confusion of rapturous ecstasy. It is faith solidly founded on the revelation deposited for us in Scripture…” (Pg. 183)
This is perhaps Murray’s most influential book, and will be “must reading” for anyone studying Evangelical Reformed doctrine.
The book is divided into two parts:
Part 1: Redemption accomplished
1. The necessity of the atonement
In this chapter, Murray presents a scriptural argument, particularly from Hebrews, against "hypothetical necessity" (this views says that God did not have to save by atonement but that he only chose to save by this method). Instead, Murray argues in favor of "indispensable necessity," that the holiness of God and the sinfulness of sin demand the vicarious sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Murray says "if we keep in view the gravity of sin and the exigencies arising from the holiness of God which must be met in salvation from it, then the doctrine of indispensable necessity makes Calvary intelligible to us and enhances the incomprehensible marvel of both Calvary itself and the sovereign purpose of love which Calvary fulfilled."
2. The nature of the atonement
Murray then discusses the two distinct aspects of Jesus Christ's vicarious obedience - recognizing that the law has both penal sanctions and positive demands. He says, "Christ's obedience was vicarious in the bearing of the full judgment of God upon sin, and it was vicarious in the full discharge of the demands of righteousness." In relation to Christ's substitutionary atonement, Murray then unwraps the following biblical concepts:
a. Sacrifice. Linking Hebrews 9 and 10 with the Levitical sacrifices, he shows that the Old Testament sacrifices were patterned after the heavenly reality and that the blood of Christ "purges our conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Heb 9:14). Christ is the High Priest that has presented Himself as the offering for sin.
b. Propitiation. "God appeases his holy wrath in the cross of Christ in order that the purpose of his love to lost men may be accomplished in accordance with and to the vindication of all the perfections that constitute his glory." Romans 3:25-26 says "God displayed [Christ] publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness...that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
c. Reconciliation. It is true that we are alienated from God, but, the emphasis of scripture is that God is alienated from us because of our sin. God must take the initiative. Romans 5:8-11 says that we are "reconciled to God through the death of His Son" (v10) and "justified now in his blood." (v9). Citing 2 Cor 5:18-21, Murray emphasizes the necessity of divine monergism as God was in Christ "reconciling the world to Himself." (v19)
d. Redemption. Linking all of these concepts together, Murray says, "As sacrifice is directed to the need created by our guilt, propitiation to the need that arises from the wrath of God, and reconciliation to the need arising from our alienation from God, so redemption is directed to the bondage to which our sin has consigned us." (Rom 3:24-26 links all of the terms in one glorious passage) First, Christ frees Believers from the guilt of sin by purchasing His own with His blood (Acts 20:28). Second, Christ frees Christians from the power of sin based on union with Christ in His death and resurrection (Rom 6:1-10, 2 Cor 5:14-15, Eph 2:1-7, Col 3:1-4, 1 Pet 4:1-2). In sanctification, Believers are thus exhorted "to reckon yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Rom 6:11).
3. The perfection of the atonement. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1). The atonement is a completed work, never repeated and unrepeatable (Heb 1:3, 9:12, 25-28). Addressing the perfection of this atonement, Murray says, "[Christ] did not make a token payment which God accepts in place of the whole. Our debts are not canceled; they are liquidated." (emphasis mine) Hebrews 10:14 says, "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified."
4. The extent of the atonement. Murray answers the question, "for whom did Christ die?" He begins by examining several proof texts for the alternative view of "universal atonement." He demonstrates that this incorrect view actually limits the power of Christ's atonement by saying that the atonement could apply theoretically to someone who ends up in hell. In contrast, the correct view of "limited atonement" or "definite atonement" says that the atonement only applies to heirs of eternal life, the elect of the ages. He says "Christ did not come to put men in redeemable position but to redeem to himself a people." The atonement definitely secured for Christ a people for His own possession (Titus 2:14) Rhetorically, Murray asks, "Did [Christ] come to put all men in a salvable state? Or did he come to secure the salvation of all those who are ordained to eternal life?" He then examines Romans 8:31-39 to show that the elect for whom Christ died in verse 32 are the same who are justified in verse 33.
Part 2: Redemption applied
1. The order of application. Tying together John 3:3, John 1:12, Romans 8:30, John 6, etc, Murray orders the application of redemption as: calling, regeneration, faith and repentance, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, and glorification. Each of these concepts is then explained in the subsequent chapters.
2. Effectual calling. The calling of God in salvation is an efficacious summons by God Himself that will not be thwarted (Rom 8:30, 1 Cor 1:9, 2 Peter 1:10, 2 Tim 1:8,9, John 6:44,45).
3. Regeneration. Since a person is dead in trespasses and sins, the Holy Spirit (John 3) must divinely beget him as a new creation in Christ. Only by the "first cause" of the Holy Spirit can anyone be saved. Faith is not the actual first cause. Murray says, "we are not born again by faith or repentance or conversion; we repent and believe because we have been regenerated." Further, regeneration will also have lasting effects in the sanctification of the believer. The one born of God will not continue in sin since he has been delivered from the power of sin and overcomes the world (1 John 3:9, 5:4, 5:18). Murray comments on the state of the church in his day that can apply be said today, "A cheap and tawdry evangelism has tended to rob the gospel which it proclaims of that invincible power which is the glory of the gospel of sovereign grace. May the church come to think and live again in terms of the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation."
4. Faith and repentance. There is a universal command from scripture for men to repent and believe the Gospel (e.g. Acts 17:30-31). Man has the responsibility to believe. The concept of biblical faith is knowledge, conviction and trust. Faith is NOT something that merits the favor of God. "All the efficacy unto salvation resides in the Savior...The specific character of faith is that it looks away from itself and finds its whole interest and object in Christ. He is the absorbing preoccupation of faith." Repentance is the conscious turning from sin unto God with full purpose of, and endeavor after new obedience (Luke 24:46-47, Acts 2:37-38, 5:31, 20:21, etc).
5. Justification. How can sinful man be just with a righteous God? God must do the justifying (Rom 8:30). Contrary to the Roman perversion, it does not refer to the renewing and sanctifying grace of God or any "infusion of grace." Murray says, "If justification is confused with regeneration or sanctification, then the door is opened for the perversion of the gospel at its centre." Rather, justification is judicial or forensic. God gives the verdict regarding our judicial status. Justification is a declarative and constitutive act of God's grace. God must constitute the new relationship as well as declare it to be. The constitutive act consists of the imputation to us of the obedience and righteousness of Christ. Then He declares it to be so.
6. Adoption. As in John 1:12, adoption is the act of transfer into the family of God Himself. It is distinct from justification but not separable from it. It is also a judicial act. Those adopted are given the Spirit of adoption whereby they are able to recognize their sonship and exercise the privileges which go with it (Galatians 4:6, Rom 8:15-16).
7. Sanctification. For the believer, sin is dethroned in every person who is effectually called and regenerated. Sanctification is concerned with the elimination of all sin and complete confirmation to the image of God's own Son, to be holy as the Lord is holy. The believer must be dependent on the Holy Spirit as the agent of sanctification. The Believer is not passive in this process; however, the means of sanctification is the work of God Himself (Phil 2:12-13).
8. Perseverance. John 8:31-32 says that "If you continue in [Christ's] word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." Jesus' true disciples are characterized by continuance and endurance in His word (c.f. Matt 10:22, Heb 4:14). In contrast, apostasy is only temporary. It shows the "outward signs of faith in Christ and obedience to him...then lose all interest and become indifferent, if not hostile to the claims of Christ and of his kingdom." It is the lesson of the seed sown on rocky ground (Mark 4:5,6,16-17). According to 1 Peter 1:4-5, a true child of God is kept "by the power of God" until the end. How is he kept? 1 Peter also says that he is kept "through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." The perseverance of the saints reminds us that only those who persevere to the end are truly saints. John 6:39 says that of all that the Father has given the Son, He will "lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day." They will never perish, and no one can snatch them out of the Son's, nor the Father's hand (John 10:28).
9. Union with Christ. "Nothing is more central or basic than union and communion with Christ," says Murray. "It is not simply a phase of the application of redemption...Union with Christ binds all together and insures that to all for whom Christ has purchased redemption he effectively applies and communicates the same." "...the greatest mystery of creaturely relations is the union of the people of God with Christ. And the mystery of it is attested by nothing more than this and it is compared to the union that exists between the Father and the Son in the unity of the Godhead." The Holy Spirit take residence in the believer and he experiences fellowship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (1 John 1:3, John 14:16-17).
10. Glorification. This is the final phase of the process of redemption. "It is the attainment of the goal to which the elect of God were predestined in the eternal purpose of the Father and it involves the consummation of the redemption secured and procured by the vicarious work of Christ." When a believer dies, he is perfected in holiness (Heb 12:23). Then, glorification will be consummated at the end of the age when, along with the creation's deliverance, believers will experience "the adoption, the redemption of the body" (Rom 8:23) and "mortal will put on immortality" (1 Cor 15:54).
This is by far one of the greatest works I've ever read on the subject concerning the very heart of the Christian faith: redemption. Systematically going through the aspects of both the accomplishment of redemption and its application to the believer, Murray leaves the believer with nothing but a humble fear and an unquenchable joy because of the person and work of Christ the Savior.
The book is laid out as follows:
Part 1: Redemption Accomplished
1. The Necessity of the Atonement
2. The Nature of the Atonement
3. The Perfection of the Atonement
4. The Extent of the Atonement
Part 2: Redemption Applied
1. The Order of Application
2. Effectual Calling
4. Faith and Repentance
9. Union with Christ
After taking the reader through the Scriptures as they pertain to each of these topics, one cannot help but to bask in the glory of being united to Christ, rest peacefully in the redemption He accomplished for your sake, and look forward boldly into the future when we shall be glorified with Him because of what He's done.
This book is going to be one that I'll read over and over again. It never gets old, and its audience is never unfit. Whatever your current status in your walk with the Lord, this book will refresh your heart and convict your soul - to the glory of Christ our Lord and Savior!