Friday, April 17, 2009

He was numbered with the transgressors: Luther on penal substitution

Justin Taylor draws our attention to Martin Luther:
488 years ago, April 17-18, Martin Luther stood trial at the Diet of Worms [a small town on the river Rhine in present-day Germany).

On the 17th Luther was asked whether certain writings were his and if he would revoke them as heretical. He asked for time to compose his answer--he prayed for long hours and consulted with friends, and returned the next day to give his famous answer.
The following extracts from Luther's writings are in Packer's footnotes to his Tyndale lecture What did the cross achieve? The logic of penal substitution. I often refer to the last one when preaching on the atonement. Christ remained innocent, in himself, he never was personally guitly of sin. But he bore our sins in his body on the tree. Indeed it was as if he himself was personally guilty of them:
‘This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s: and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied himself of his righteousness that he might clothe us with it, and fill us with it: and he has taken our evils upon himself that he might deliver us from them . . . in the same manner as he grieved and suffered in our sins, and was confounded, in the same manner we rejoice and glory in his righteousness’

‘Learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to pray to him and, despairing of yourself, say: “Thou, Lord Jesus, art my righteousness, but I am thy sin. Thou hast taken upon thyself what is mine and hast given to me what is thine. Thou hast taken upon thyself what thou wast not and hast given to me what I was not”’

‘All the prophets did foresee in spirit, that Christ should become the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, rebel, blasphemer, etc., that ever was . . . for he being made a sacrifice, for the sins of the whole world, is not now an innocent person and without sins . . . our most merciful Father . . . sent his only Son into the world and laid upon him the sins of all men, saying:

Be thou Peter that denier; Paul that persecutor, blasphemer and cruel oppressor; David that adulterer; that sinner which did eat the apple in Paradise; that thief which hanged upon the cross; and, briefly, be thou the person which hath committed the sins of all men; see therefore that thou pay and satisfy for them. Here now cometh the law and saith: I find him a sinner . . . therefore let him die upon the cross . . .’

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