The Agora
Atonement Questions

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How Did Christ Destroy the Devil?

We cannot have a proper understanding of the death of Christ, who was the second Adam, unless we have a clear perception of the cause of the death of the first Adam. At his creation Adam is described as being "very good". If there were no physical change in him at the time of his condemnation, he must have remained so throughout his life. In such a case his posterity, who inherited the qualities of his physical organization, would surely he described by later writers as having at least something good present in their nature: but Scripture says: "in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing" (Rom 7:18).

Initially, Adam was not hampered with the shackles of sin, the bondage of corruption, nor sorrow of heart and bodily pain. Instead, he was a "living soul" (neither mortal nor immortal), entirely free from the power of sin and death But the transgression brought both a moral and a physical change. There was implanted in it the seeds of decay, which ultimately brought forth death. His flesh became what the Bible calls "sinful flesh". 'Sin' became a law of his being -- a physical property in his constitution. This principle was called "sin in the flesh", and it was transmitted to all his descendants, Jesus Christ included (cp the genealogy in Luke 3). If Adam had been obedient for some determinate period, we might suppose that God would have allowed him to enter eternal life without dying, because there was no sin in his flesh before he fell. But with Christ it was quite different. In being born of Mary -- "made of a woman" -- he was 'made sin' (2Co 5:21); he became a partaker of the nature that had sin in its constitution -- the law of sin and death in its members. And as that law had not been abrogated, Christ's obedience could not exempt him from death; he could not enter eternal life alone without dying.

In Mat 19 a young man addressed Jesus as "Good Master". Christ replied: "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one... God" (vv 16.17). What was there about the Son of God that was not good? His moral character was flawless, perfect, and unparalleled in history (Joh 8:46). The excellence of his life and conduct was such as evoked from Pilate the declaration: "I find no fault in him" (Joh 19:4,6). What was there in him, then, that was faulty or not good? Surely it was his defiled and unclean nature inherited from Adam through Abraham, David, and Mary.

That nature was originally "very good" and free from the principle of death, but now it had been physically changed in this respect by the introduction of "the law of sin and death in its members". While being perfect morally Jesus was yet not "very good" physically. Had he been as undefiled physically as he was morally or as good physically as Adam was before the Fall, death would have had no claim on him whatever. Consequently there would have been an injustice committed in giving such an one over to death. But had he been as imperfect morally as he was physically, there would have been no resurrection and consequently no salvation. Both features were required in the plan of redemption that God "might be just and the justifier of him who believeth" (Rom 3:26).

"Sin in the flesh" (Rom 8:3) when personified in Scripture is called "the devil" (Heb 2:14,15). Part of the mission of Christ was to destroy this devil through death. This mission would have been impossible if sin as a physical element had had no existence in him. But having sin in him constitutionally, we can see how he "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb 9:26). This diabolos, or devil, being in all the descendants of Adam, is called "our old man" and "the old man". In mankind generally we see "the old man with his deeds" (Col 3:9), but in Christ "the old man" existed without his deeds, that is, without evildoing. In his death the old man was crucified, that the body of sin might he destroyed (cp Rom 6:6): the enmity (Gen 3:15) in himself was slain and abolished (Eph 2:16). There was justice in his death, and justification in his resurrection. In his death there was a declaration of God's righteousness (Rom 3:26 again), by showing man's sinfulness even by nature, and in his resurrection an illustration of the fact that God would not suffer His Holy One (even in sin's flesh) to see corruption (Psa 16:10; Acts 2:27; 13:35).

Because of the whole argument above, it is wrong to suggest that death was inherent in Adam's nature from his creation. Those who maintain that mortality was a law of his being even before the transgression, and that as a result of his disobedience he was simply driven from the garden and allowed to die when his nature wore out, are in fact teaching that that which worketh death in us was in Adam before he sinned. They are also suggesting that, contrary to Rom 5:12, death did not come by sin, but rather by the law of nature as at first constituted. Such a position also destroys the force of the reasoning in Heb 2:14, as to why Christ needed to be partaker of our nature and nullifies the statement that the power of death lay in the diabolos, or "sin in the flesh". To suggest that the Diabolos already existed in Adam even before the Fall requires that it must have been a "very good" Diabolos, and if "very good", then why destroy it?

This latter reasoning leads inevitably to confusion. It is far simpler and more satisfying to accept the fact that there was no Diabolos in Adam's flesh prior to the fall. The implantation of the law of sin and death in his members by God's sentence was the introduction of something that did not previously exist there. That 'something', having in it the power of death, was transmitted to all born in him, causing death to pass upon all (Rom 5:12). The only way of salvation for any of the children of Adam who are passing away under this irrevocable law is by the destruction of this evil principle. Christ destroyed this evil principle in his nature by death, after living a morally perfect, upright and holy life, keeping all God's commandments. This act entitled him to a resurrection from the dead.

What was accomplished in Christ was a moral impossibility with mankind, because of the depravity of their nature, caused by indwelling sin. No man, left to himself, is able to keep the law of God perfectly and sin not: and, consequently, no man is able to secure for himself a resurrection to life. God, who understands this and knows what is in man, sees the weakness of the flesh and has pity upon His children. In His infinite love and wisdom, God developed a plan of redemption by sending His own Son in sinful flesh.

Concerning the working out of this plan, God was in Christ -- in him by His Spirit which dwell in him without measure, specially strengthening him for the purpose at hand (Psa 80:17). It was God in Christ that enabled him to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, or sin in the flesh. Through death he destroyed this devil, and by a shedding of his blood offered a sacrifice for sin's flesh, and therefore could and did thereby obtain eternal redemption for himself because of his holy life. God's purpose from the beginning was the perfecting of one of the race for the salvation of many. Jesus was a declaration of God's righteousness showing the justice of His dealings with the human race. Through forbearance, God remits or passes over the sins of all coming unto Him through this perfected Son, whom He has established as a mediator, and in whom He has been sanctified. The conditions for such forgiveness are faith in His promises and a manifestation of that faith by obedience.

Thus God has opened up a way through His dear Son whereby many shall be redeemed from death. As in Adam we die, so in Christ we shall be made alive (1Co 15:22). In Adam we partake of his sinfulness, and in Christ we are covered by his righteousness (2Co 5:21). Christ having had our nature, "our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed" (Rom 6:6). For those whose sins are remitted, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not alter the flesh, but alter the Spirit". The law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ makes us free from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:1,2). And so it is that "as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" (Rom 5:19). But it must be the obedience of one of the race that was under the condemnation of death. This was the case with Jesus Christ, who was the Son of man as well as the Son of God, and thus it was not possible for him to enter eternal life alone without dying.

Some may protest that in emphasizing his Adamic condemnation and defilement by sinful flesh we are belittling Christ. Not so. It is really honoring Christ to recognize that a life of perfect obedience was achieved, as it were, against the grain of a nature encompassed with the infirmities of the flesh. To maintain that somehow Christ was not defiled misses the glorious plan of redemption that God has worked out in Christ.

"For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist... If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds" (2Jo 1:7,10,11).

Why does the kind and loving Apostle John write so harshly in these verses? Surely it is because the Truth can least afford compromise on this very question of the nature of Christ. To water down, or explain away, such plain statements as have been discussed here, is to introduce an element that disrupts and distorts the plan of salvation at its very heart: the sacrifice of Christ.

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