CHRIST SET FORTH
Section Three :: Chapter Three
The first head: The evidence of justification which Christ’s resurrection affords to faith, explained by two things: 1. By showing how Christ was made a Surety for us. 2. How his resurrection as a Surety holds forth this evidence.
1. Concerning the first of those two heads at first propounded, namely, the evidence which Christ’s resurrection affords unto our faith in point of non-condemnation, I have two things to handle in this chapter to make this out: first, how Christ was made a Surety for us, and what manner of Surety he did become; secondly, what the consideration hereof will contribute to that evidence which faith has from Christ’s resurrection.
(1.) For the first, Christ was appointed by God (and himself also undertook) to be our Surety. This you have in Hebrews 7:22, “He was made Surety of a better testament” or covenant, namely, of the new. The Hebrew word for covenant the Septuagint still translated Διαθήκη, testament: the word in the Hebrew being of a large signification, and comprehending both a covenant and testament; and so in the New Testament it is used promiscuously for either; and indeed this “new covenant of grace” is both. Of this covenant Christ is the ἕγγμος, the plighter of his troth for it, the Surety, the Promiser, the Undertaker. The verb this comes of is ἐγγυάω, promittere, which comes from is ἐν γυίοις, in manibus, striking hands, or giving
one’s hand, as a sign of a covenant; and so to bargain with, or make up a covenant. Proverbs 22:26, “Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts,” which whole verse the Septuagint reads, “Give not yourself εις εγγύην, to suretyship,” the same word that is here used by the apostle. It was the manner both of the Jews and Romans also, to make covenants by striking of hands. And in testaments, the heir and executor shook hands, or the executor gave his hand to fulfill it. And the word ἐγγυήσασθαι is used, not only in promising to pay a debt for another, but also in becoming a pledge for another, for to undergo death or a capital punishment in another’s room, as in that famous story of friends, namely, Evephenus and Eucritus: Eucritus did
ἠξίωσεν ἐγγυήσασθαι,* willingly become a surety for Evephenus, when condemned to die by Dionysius the tyrant. This very word is used by Polyænus,* the historian of that fact. Now such a Surety every way did Christ become unto God for us, both to pay the debt, by undergoing death in our stead, and so to satisfy God; and then as the Heir, to execute his will and testament. He became a Surety of the whole covenant, and every condition in it, take it in the largest sense; and this of all, both on God’s part, and on ours. For us he undertook to God to work all our works, and undergo all our punishments; to pay our debts for us, and to work in us all that God required should be done by us, in the covenant of grace. And thus to be a surety is much more than
simply to be an intercessor or mediator (as Pareus well observes). God did (as it were) say to Christ, What they owe me, I require it all at your hands; and Christ assented, and from everlasting struck hands with God, to do all for us that God could require, and undertook it under the penalty that lay upon us to have undergone.
* It is remarkable that Goodwin has, through inadvertence, mistaken the meaning of this expression. It was Evephenus, who, having sent for Eucritus, ἠξίωσεν ἐγγυἠσασθαι, asked him to stand surety for him. The mistake does not affect the argument, which depends upon the meaning of ἐγγυήσασθαι, and not upon that of ἠξίωσεν.-ED.
Yes, Christ became such a Surety in this for us, as is not to be found among men. On earth, sureties are wont to enter into one and the same bond with the creditors, † so as the creditor may seize on which of the two he will, whether on the debtor or on the surety, and so (as usually) on the debtor first, for him we call the principal. But in this covenant God would have Christ’s single bond; and hence Christ is not only called the Surety of the covenant for us, but “The Covenant,” Isaiah 49:8, and elsewhere. God making the covenant of grace primarily with him, and with him as for us, thereby his single bond alone was taken for all, that so God might be sure of satisfaction: therefore he laid all upon Christ, protesting that he would not deal with us, nor so much as expect any payment from us, such was his grace. So Psalm 89:19, where the mercies of the covenant made between Christ and God, under the type of God’s covenant with David, are set forth, “You spoke in vision to your holy One, and said, ‘I have laid help on one who is mighty.’” As if God had said, I know that these will fail me, and break, and never be able to satisfy me; but you are a mighty and substantial person, able to pay me, and I will look for my debt of you. And to confirm this, than which nothing can give stronger consolation, or more advances God’s free grace, when God went about the reconciling the world in and by Christ, and dealt with Christ about it, the manner of it is expressed to have been, that God took off our sins from us, and discharged us, as it were, meaning never to call us to an account for them, unless Christ should not satisfy him, and laid them all on Christ, so as he would require an account of them all from him first, and let him look to it; and this he
did to make the covenant sure. Thus in 2 Corinthians 5:19, it is said (the apostle speaking of God’s transaction of this business with Christ) that “God was in Christ,” namely, from everlasting, “reconciling the world” (of elect believers) “to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; and made him sin who knew no sin.” Observe, that as he laid our sins on Christ, so further he discharged us in his compact between Christ and himself, “not imputing their trespasses to them.” So then, all laid upon Christ, and he was to look to it, or else his soul was to have gone for it. This is not the manner of other creditors: they use to charge the debt on both the surety and the debtor; but in this covenant (of grace, namely) Christ’s single bond is entered; he alone is “The Covenant,” so as God will have naught to say to us, until Christ fails him. He has engaged himself
first to require satisfactions at Christ’s hands, who is our Surety.
* Stratagems, Book V. chap. ii.—ED. †Qu. ‘debtors?’—ED.
(2.) Now then to make use of this notion, for the clearing of the point in hand. It might afford us matter of unspeakable comfort, only to hear of Christ’s having been arrested by God for our debt, and cast into prison, and his bond sued, and an execution or judgment served on him, as the phrases are in Isaiah 53:8. For thereby we should have seen how God had begun with our Surety, as minded to let us alone, and that it lay on him to discharge the debt, who was so able to do it. And thereby we might also see how he was “made sin for us,” and therefore we might very well have quieted our hearts from fearing any arrests, or for God’s coming upon us, until we should hear that our surety were not sufficiently able to pay the debt, as you have heard he is.
But yet our hearts would still be inquisitive (for all that) to hear whether indeed he has perfectly satisfied God or no; and would be extremely solicitous to know whether he has satisfactorily performed what he undertook, and how he got clear of that engagement, and of being “made sin for us.” And therefore the apostle comforts believers with this: that Christ shall the next time appear without sin. “Unto them that look for him he shall appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation,” Hebrews 9:28. One would think it no great matter of comfort to us to hear that Christ should appear without sin; for who would imagine that it could be otherwise with “The Holy One,” “The Lord of Glory”? There is no wonder in that. Ay, but, says the apostle, your very salvation is interested in this, as nearly as is possible. It is well for you that Christ is now without sin; for he having as your Surety
undertook to satisfy for sin, and having accordingly been once made sin when on earth, and arrested for it by God at his death; in that now he is clear of that engagement—which could be no way but by satisfaction, which he undertook—this does plainly evince it, and ascertain you, that you shall never be condemned for it; for by the law, if the surety has discharged the debt, the debtor is then free. And therefore no news would or could be more welcome to sinners, than to have a certain and infallible evidence given, that their Surety were well come off, and had quitted all, to satisfaction.
Now then to evidence this serves his resurrection; “Christ is risen.” Nothing so sure. Therefore certainly the debt is discharged, and he has paid it to the full, and so is now without our sin, and fully got clear of it. For God having once arrested Christ, and cast him into prison, and begun a trial against him, and had him to judgment, he could not come forth until he had paid the very utmost farthing. And there is the greatest reason for it, to ascertain us, that can be. For he was under those bonds and bolts, which if it had “been possible,” would have “detained” him in the grave, as Acts 2:24. The strength of sin, and God’s wrath, and the curse against sin (you shall die the death) did as cords hold him, as the Psalmist’s phrase is. Other debtors may possibly break their prisons, but Christ could not have broken through this, for the wrath of the all-powerful God was this prison, from
which there was no escaping, no bail; nothing would be taken to let him go out but full satisfaction. And therefore to hear that Christ is risen, and so is come out of prison, is an evidence that God is satisfied, and that Christ is discharged by God himself; and so is now “without sin,” walking abroad again at liberty. And therefore the apostle proclaims a mighty victory, obtained by Christ’s resurrection, over death, the grave, the strength of sin, the law, 1 Corinthians 15:55, 56, and cries out, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory, through Jesus Christ our Lord,” 1 Corinthians 15:57. You may now rest secure indeed: “Christ is risen; who therefore shall condemn?”