“The Work of Christ” (Robert Letham)

The following is not a blanket-endorsement of Letham of course, but I like how some of this is worded:

“What do we mean by ‘the work of Christ’? In short, we refer to all that Christ did when he came to this earth ‘for us and our salvation’, all that he continues to do now that he is risen from the dead and at God’s right hand, and all that he will do when he returns in glory at the end of the age …. What Christ has done is directly related to who he is. It is the uniqueness of his person that determines the efficacy of his work …. G.C. Berkouwer (1903– ) too warns strongly against any separation between person and work, since, he argues, any such separation will cause us to go astray with respect to both. An isolated consideration of Christ’s person is impossible since he can be known only in connection with his holy work” (Robert Letham, The Work of Christ, pp. 18-19, 24, 25-26).

Chris: Interesting. Who do we know who likes to separate the Person of Christ from the Work of Christ? Oh, yes. It’s the tolerant Calvinists. And Berkouwer nails it (even if unwittingly) when he says those who make this unbiblical separation in the way the tolerant Calvinists do “go astray with respect to both” (cf. 2 John 9). And relevant to this inextricably connectedness, is the following quote:

== After hearing all this, someone may ask, “But don’t Arminians believe that Jesus Christ is God?” Our response should be, “What kind of god do Arminians say that Jesus is?” Someone else may ask, “But don’t Arminians believe that Christ died on the cross for our sins?” Our response should be, “Do Arminians believe that Christ’s blood atoned, redeemed, and propitiated? If not, what in the world does an Arminian mean by ‘Christ died on the cross for our sins?'” Arminians say biblical phrases. They talk of Christ’s death for sinners. They talk of grace. They even talk of the sovereignty of God. But when you confront them on what they really mean, you find that their house is built on sand. http://www.outsidethecamp.org/heresyarmin.htm ==

More from Letham:

“It appears to follow that if we wish to maintain that Christ died for all without exception while rejecting universalism, we will have no alternative but to redefine the nature of the atonement. Christ’s death will then have secured the salvation of no-one in particular. It will simply be a provisional suffering, dependent for its effect on a believing response by the sinner. This is seriously deficient for a number of reasons. In the first place, the fulcrum of atoning efficacy then belongs to human beings. It is our response which brings the atonement into effect. Christ on the cross did not fully and exhaustively pay the penalty for all the sins of anyone. Therefore, it is the point of repentance and faith on our part that brings the atonement into actuality. Until that time and apart from the fulfilment [sic] of that condition, Christ atoned for the sins of no-one. Faith is the hinge on which the atonement depends. The suffering of Christ on the cross is purely contingent and provisional. It seems impossible theologically to hold to the penal substitutionary nature of the atonement and at the same time maintain that Christ died provisionally for all without exception” (Robert Letham, The Work of Christ, p. 230).

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