Co-Signer, Debt, Legality, Righteousness, JUSTICE:
IF a debt – of any type has been paid in the stead of another, then legally (hence, righteously), there is no further indebtedness to the creditor for that debt. Meaning, once payment was actually paid by a substitute and accepted by the creditor to whom the debt was owed, as payment for that debt, the creditor can not legally still come after the person who originally owed it. Their debt has been paid. Hebrews 7:22 says Jesus was and is “the surety of the better testament”. Surety is an ancient term meaning the same thing as our modern “Co-Signer”/guarantor. A co-signer is a guarantor of the debt of another at His or her own expense. Regardless why or how the person defaulted on paying their debt, once a co-signer has stepped in and accepted that responsibility, from all legal perspectives, the Creditor will seek from the Co-Signer the full debt incurred. Whether the one the Co-Signer wilfully defaulted or is genuinely unable to Pay, is irrelevant. The Creditor will seek payment from the Co-Signer. In some places the Creditor may still first seek payment from the original debtor him/her self. And only if they cannot personally pay, will then go after the Co-Signer who then assumes all legal responsibility to pay whatever is owed. However, that is not always the case legally. At such a point as the Co-Signer is called upon due to the negligence, or inability for whatever reason of the indedbted person, the original person who actually owed the debt, becomes irrelevant. At this point, all transaction now legally takes place between the Creditor to whom the debt is owed and the Co-Signer.
God Required And Accepted Christ’s Suffering As Blood Atonement:
In the case of the gospel, God knew the sinner cannot in any way atone for his/her own sin and also accrue positive righteousness. Jesus put it this way “With man (salvation) is impossible” (Matt 19:26). Not merely difficult, but impossible. The impossibilty is on many levels. Sinful man cannot atone for his own sin to and by which he is enslaved (Jn 8:34). Sinful man cannot accrue positive righteousness since as Isaiah said “All our righteousness is as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). You see, holiness is required by God. And without both forgiveness of sin and positive righteousness, there is no salvation! So unless both aspects are being clearly presented in the gospel and understood, “the gospel” is not present. The gospel is about much more than forgiveness of sin. True, it certainly includes that wonderful, necessary truth. But ultimately, it is about righteousness. Specifically, the righteousness of God Himself. The gospel reveals the righteousness of God in how God
I. Justly required payment for sin,
II. Justly accepted Christ’s horrific suffering as the offering and offerer for sin, and
III. how God therefore justly forgives all those for whom Christ actually paid the price!
This is the heart and soul of the gospel – the goood news. Romans 3:25-26 says,
“whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus”.
Here then is the fullest, most straightforward, concise definition of the gospel. And you notice, the gospel is all about righteousness! God who righteously demanded sin be paid for, who righteously accepted Christ as both payee and payment, and God who therefore justly forgives everyone for whom His Son died as substitute and surety. According to Romans 3:25-26, it would be unjust for God to withhold forgiveness from any for whom His Son acted as surety, guarantor…in biblical terms, atoning sacrifice, mediator, redeemer. In a word Saviour!
Righteousness must be present in us somehow, for “without holiness, no one will see God” (Heb 12:14). So Jesus undertook in Himself to do both for every one who believes. Paul says “Christ Jesus who is wisdom from God – that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor 1:31). This is legal terminology. The concept of imputation is essential to the truth of the gospel. So much so, that without the truth of imputation, we do not have “the gospel” at all! When Paul rebuked the Galatians, “Who has bewitched you? Before whose eyes, Christ was portrayed as crucified”, Paul used this as theological shorthand for the gospel truth of “imputed righteousness”. When Paul reminded the Corinthians that the gospel was that “Christ was crucified for our sins according to the scriptures”, the word for is clearly theological. It is soteriological – pertaining to the doctrine of salvation. There is no truth of the gospel where the why of Christ’s death as well as the what -it accomplished, as well as the who of it, is not presented or clearly understood.
Christ has become our righteousness, holiness, Paul said. Hence, our righteousness now and forever is obtained, secured, found in and established by another – The Lord Jesus. Hence, He is our righteousness and holiness! “This is the name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness’.” (Jer 23:6).
Without double imputation – our sins to Christ on the cross and His righteousness to us who by grace alone, believe (Acts 18:27; Eph 2:8-9; 2 Cor 5:22), one no longer has or holds to the Christian gospel. Imputation was central to the gospel Paul preached. Via imputation, God the righteous Judge credits righteousness to the person who believes, as He did for Abraham (Rom 4:1-8). Via imputation, the sins of His people are transferred to Christ on the cross and His personal righteousness is credited to them. Thus “He made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin (personally) to be sin (via imputation) for us, that we may become (via imputation) the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:22).
God does not bother to first seek from the sinner who believes that which is owed. Rather, in, by and through Jesus, God has already been both Judge and Justifier. Executor of His holy law and also Saviour. He became in the person of His Son Jesus, both Offering and Offerer. Jesus “offered Himself without spot or blemish to God” (Heb 7:27; 9:12; 10:14, Eph 5:2). And He was Himself the offering, being “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). Now this terminology “the world” is either literal or, it is Jewish synecdoche . Jesus either died for and literally took away the sin of every person without exception – a doctrine which if true, leads and must lead ultimately to only one conclusion…universalism – everyone is and will be saved . Or, He died for hence, took away the sin of “His people” only (Matt 1:21; Jn 11:51-52; Acts 26:18 etc).
I intend to clearly demonstrate that it is and can only be the latter.
The Gospel REVEALS God’s Righteousness:
God is not unjust. It was in fact His very justice, not merely His love which required and provided the gospel. Therefore, to believe the gospel as presented in scripture, requires the sinner be taught, understand and believe what the gospel reveals – the righteousness of God (Rev 1:17). God is both “just and the justifier of him who believes” (Rom 3:26). God is Just. Meaning, the cross of Jesus Christ demonstrated His justice on two levels:
I. It revealed that God’s justice required sin be paid for. If God were only love, but not just, Jesus would not have had to suffer the horrific brutality He endured. The gospel reveals the justice of God. There would be no need for good news if there was no bad news! Sin is such an affront to God that nothing short of the horrific, barbaric, excruciating brutality Jesus was subjected to and endured, could or would satisfy God’s Holy and righteous anger against it. Sin is deadly serious to God!
II. God, the just party, righteously offended due to human sin, is revealed to be just by requiring and accepting the horrific suffering of His Son as the only payment for sin He will accept. This is the heart of the gospel. Paul said it like this “He was delivered over because of our transgressions and was raised up because of our justification” (Rom 4:25). Paul’s gospel was this:
* Payment was required by the Creditor – God.
* Payment was willingly offered and fully discharged by a substitute/guarantor/surety, Co-Signer – the Lord Jesus, who acted as Surety for His own people (Matt 1:21).
* Payment was accepted by the Creditor – for every person for whom the Substitute acted as Surety – “His people”, who are the ones He was born to save. (Matt 1:21). Since the sin-debt to God required the horrific death of the Substitute, God demonstrated His acceptance of Christ’s payment by raising Him from the dead (Rom 1:4).
The Creditor Transacts With The Co-Signer Not The Indebted:
A Co-Signer is legally accepting the indebtedness of a specific person, or persons. The contract is what defines this. The contract is NOT between the indebted and the Creditor, as is widely assumed and taught. Rather, it is between the Creditor and the Co-Signer! This is an extremely significant fact. To view the contract as being between God and humanity is to deny the heart and soul of the gospel which clearly demonstrates that Jesus- in His own person as the God-Man, mediated and transacted the covenant between God and those for whom He, the Substitute was offered, and for whom He made actual atonement.
“But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. 11As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquity” (Isa 53:10-11).
Thus, the contract of salvation was always between the Father and the Son! Before time began, the Father chose a specific number of Jews and Gentiles to be His Son’s. The Son accepted the contract to act as Surety, Co-Signer on their behalf and for them alone, He transacted the contract in His own person and body. He defined His mission in His own words thus, “For You (God the Father) gave Him (the Son) authority over all flesh so that He might give eternal life to all You have given to Him” (Jn 17:2).
“He will justify many because He will bear their iniquities”
Who would the Saviour justify? “The many”. How would He do so? By their faith? As is commonly, erroneously taught? No! Is their faith the basis or cause of their justification? No! He will justify them “for (means ‘because’), He will bear their iniquities”. Their justification therefore is a finished work. It is not a pending work. It is completed by Jesus via what HE accomplished on their behalf – as Heb 10:14 clearly states! Faith comes after the Surety has transacted for all His own. By faith one receives what Jesus has already obtained by His work – not ours. But never forget, His work was contracted, accepted and discharged wholly independent of any act or response by us! His work was therefore not conditional upon anything we would or could do. His suffering was real – not hypothetical. The debt He paid by that suffering was likewise real, not hypothetical. His work is accomplished. By faith, it is applied.
The gospel knows of no “potential” or “pending” payment. It knows only of a completed payment. The only question is, whose debt did He truly pay for?
This is all legal language. It reveals the justice of the just God. So legally, hence righteously, the Just God who required, took and accepted from the Surety the full payment for sin owed by those for whom Surety acted and represented, will not and cannot righteously legally still seek from them, that indebtedness which Surety atoned/paid for! This is very…very… good news!
Therefore, THE GOSPEL reveals the justice of God!
“God presented Him as an atoning sacrifice through faith in His blood, in order to demonstrate His righteousness , because in His forbearance He had passed over the sins committed beforehand. 26He did this to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and to justify the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:25-26)
Apart from God’s justice, the gospel of Jesus Christ does not and cannot be valid. The gospel is as much or more about the justice of God than it is about His love! His love apart from His justice would not have required the cross! His love is what moved Him to satisfy His own justice at His own expense in His own person. The union of two full and distinct natures, Divine and human in the Lord Jesus, fully God by nature and fully man by nature with a body was so that He as one person – the Lord Jesus Christ, (the God/Man) could in Himself, by Himself truly mediate between God and man. Thus, “There is one God and one meditator between God and man – the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5).
Q. Why Is Faith Necessary Then?
The Christian scriptures make it clear that faith is necessary for a person to be and know themselves to be justified. ” Being justified freely *by His grace* , we have peace with God” (Rom 3:24). Here scripture declares we are justified by the grace of God – His unmerited, supernatural enabling mercy. Therefore, since it is said to be by grace, it is therefore not by any work which we have done (Titus 3:5). But what about faith? Surely that is a necessary part, right? Indeed it is. Paul also said, “Being justified through faith we have peace with God” (Rom 5:1). Here we see that faith is also a necessary part. Meaning that there is NO justification which is not simultaneously by both grace and faith! Grace is the foundation, faith is the means of reception. Since faith is a necessary element (meaning, it is an essential element without which the end-result is not obtained), and it is wholly “BY GRACE” that one is justified, as Rom 3:24, Eph 2:5-6, 8-9 state, is therefore proof positive that the ability to believe the gospel is wholly wrought in us who believe by/through the grace of God! It is therefore not wrought in us by anything of ourselves. Therefore, no human can ever boast of their faith – as if they are morally, spiritually superior to, wiser or stronger than those who do not believe. God forbid! Such a boasting is an affront to the justice and grace of God revealed by, in and through the gospel! This is why the scriptures expressly declare we “through grace, believe” (Acts 18:27).
Grace leaves NO Room For Self-Boasting
Luke the Evangelist did not feel the need to qualify that summary by adding “through grace and their own …” Many a self-boaster wants to add it. But neither the Spirit who breathed on Luke, nor Luke himself did so! This is why the proper Greek construction of Eph 2:8-9 states clearly that “the gift of God” is not just salvation, as the self-boasters argue – saying grace is His gift, but faith is our response. Rather, it is the complete package of “salvation-by grace-through faith” which is THE GIFT of God. Many a self-boaster argues “Scripture no where says faith is the gift”. They are either genuinely ignorant or outright lying arrogant who say such things! Paul clearly associated his faith and response to the grace of God. “And His grace was exceedingly abundant along with faith and love in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 1:15). “BY the grace of GRACE of God, I am what I am and Hs grace to me was not without effect for I worked harder than the rest –yet not I, but the grace of God wth me” (1 Cor 15:10).Which is why Paul summarized the whole simply – “It is BY GRACE you have been saved” (Eph 2:5). Not “By grace and your own…” as the self-boasters say. Just, BY GRACE!
Those who boast of or about their faith are therefore at best, very deceived – immature and ignorant of scriptural truth, who nevertheless sin each time they attribute their faith to themslves rather than to God and His grace. Who are in desperate need of true scriptural teaching and instruction. Or if they persist lifelong in it after such instruction, they are still lost! Religious perhaps. Like a “tare” they outwardly and closely resemble “wheat”, but are not wheat! They are arrogant foolish boasters who deny God the glory He and His grace alone deserve for the whole package of salvation while they boast of self! Woe to them!!
>> Everything God purposed in eternity and accomplished in time, concerning our salvation (Eph 1:1-5), He did “to the praise of His glorious grace” Paul said (Eph 1:6). This leaves zero room for boasting of self in any way, least of all our faith!
> Believing the gospel that Jesus by His death/resurrection HAS atoned for the sin of every person who believes, is the means of receiving by faith, what has already been accomplished by Christ.
Our faith does not make it “more true” or actual. It merely brings us into agreement with God concerning the testimony of His Son – that His Son by His atoning death/resurrection has truly and fully atoned for the sins of every person who believes. Which is why He came according to Jn 3:16.
And by that agreement, we thus by grace, BELIEVE God’s testimony concerning His Son, and so we are justified BY His grace, through faith (Eph 2:8-9). God
I. Foreknew us as His own (Rom 8:29-30; 1 Peter 1:2).
II. Elected “us” in Christ before time (Eph 1:1-4).
III. Predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus (Eph 1:5) .
Jesus accepted the responsibility to act on our behalf as our Surety and Subtitute. He offered Himself as the full payment for our sin-debt (Isa 53:10-12). And in time, God through His grace, brings every person He chose before time, to repentant faith in Christ. Thus, the cycle is complete.
Redeemed Is Forgiven:
That no unbeliever is justified, proves that Jesus did NOT redeem literally all men because according to scripture “redemption” is a legal payment which forgives sin!
“In whom we have redemption, the FORGIVENESS of sin” (Col 1:14)
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sin” (Eph 1:7).
“But anyone – whosoever will, can be ‘IN Him’ if they simply choose to be, Right?” says the sincerely misinformed or the arrogant self-boaster. Wrong. Paul writing to the Corinthians about how and why they were now “In Him”, said – “So that no flesh should boast in His presence, it is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor 1:29-30). Where in this passage did Paul add “And your own…?” Nowhere! Which is why prefaced this by stating the obvious “SO…THAT…NO…FLESH…SHOULD…BOAST”.
Conclusion: Universalism Or Synecdoche:
The ONLY sins Jesus actually “took away” (Jn 1:29) are the sins of the elect of God, who come from “every nation, tribe and tongue” (Rev 5:9) – hence, “the whole world” in Jewish synecdoche (1 Jn 2:2); The church (Eph 5:25; Acts 28:28); “every believing one” (Jn 3:16); “all the Father gives” (Jn 17:2); “the children of God scattered” (Jn 11:51-52); “the sheep” (Jn 10:10, 17).
If Jesus “took away” the sins of the whole world, and the whole world means what the Arminian/Synergist says it must be – literally every person without exception, THEN every person has been forgiven by God. Their sin-debt has been forgiven by Him and there is NO debt to Him in this regard which He can still justly require from the sinner. Why then, if this be true, does God send any sinner who Jesus bled and died to atone for, to hell then?
“Their unbelief” says the synergist. But according to Jn 16:8-9 “He will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. Of SIN because they do not believe on Me”, unbelief is a sin. And according to Jn 1:29 Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away THE SIN of THE WORLD”.
So friends, EITHER the doctrine of universalism is in fact ultimately true. Meaning every single person believer or not, repentant or not, has been and will ultimately be saved by the death of the Son of God. OR, all such “universal” passages are and must be understood as synecdoche. There is simply NO third option which does not do violence to the truth that by His very real, horrific suffering, Jesus actually paid for and thus, took away sin. The only question is WHOSE?
May God give light.
John M. Platanitis March 2017