This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. It began as an effort to blog through that book, posting each of the Questions and Answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. I started this on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed blogging from that book on July 11, 2015. Along the way, I began to also post snippets from Dr. Steele's other writings — and from some other holiness writers of his times. Since then, I have begun adding material from his Bible commentaries. I also re-blog many of the old posts.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Was Christ on the Cross a Sinner?

We once heard a layman, an ex-president of the Boston Y.M.C.A., assert in a public evangelistic service that "Jesus Christ on the cross was the greatest sinner in the universe!" Such statements are usually attended by the portrayal with terrific distinctness, of the Almighty Father in the act of hurling His thunderbolts, in blasting shocks, down upon the defenseless head of His shrinking and suffering Son.

We indignantly repudiate the monstrous idea that Jesus on the cross was a sinner overwhelmed with the bolts of the Father's personal wrath. What we do affirm is that his sufferings and death were in no sense a punishment, but a substitute for punishment, answering the same end, the conservation of God's moral government and the vindication of His holy character while He pardons penitent believers.

The chief proof-text of the doctrine that Christ on the cross was a gigantic sinner, is 2 Cor. v. 21. "For He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." This is styled "the sublime equation." Jesus becomes guilty of our sins and suffers their punishment, and His righteousness is henceforth forever reckoned as ours. The exchange of our sin for Christ's righteousness is "absolute."

The common sense exegesis of this text is, that Jesus became of His own free will a sin offering for us, and that this is the meaning of sin in the first clause. This is the interpretation of Augustine, Ambrosiaster, Erasmus, Œcumenius, Vatablus, Cornelius a Lapidis, Piscator, Ritsche, Wolf, Hammond, Michaelis, Rosenmüller, Ewald, Raymond, and others.

It is a remarkable fact that the Hebrew word, חַטָּא (chattath), is used in the Old Testament by actual count one hundred and sixty times for sin, and one hundred and twelve times for sin-offering. It is very natural that such a mind as Paul's, saturated with the Hebrew Scriptures, should sometimes use the Greek term for sin, ἁμαρτία (hamartia), in the sense of sin-offering. So obvious is this usage in Paul's Epistles, that the Revision has twice, at least, translated this term by "sin offering" — Rom. viii. 3; Heb. xiii. 11. We contend that it should be thus rendered in 2 Cor. v. 21.

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