Part 1: Foundational Principles
Studies in the Atonement by
Dr. Robert A. Morey
e shall now set
forth some foundational principles which shall guide us in our study of
the nature of our salvation.
Why was mankind created? Was it not
to bear God’s image, i.e. to reflect His moral character? We read in Gen.
said, “Let us make human beings in our image, according to our likeness!
Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the
sky, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all crawling things
that crawl on the earth!”
created human beings in his own image:
in the image of God did he create them,
male and female did he create them.
But man fell into sin, and his
image‑bearing capacity and faculties were distorted and corrupted. He is
now called a “child of Satan” because he bears the image of Satan more
than he bears the image of God:
They replied to him, “Our father is Abraham!”
Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing
what Abraham did. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told
you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham would not have done that.
You are doing your father's works.”
They said to him, “We are not illegitimate children. We have one Father,
Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would have loved me,
because I came from God and am here. For I have not come on my own
accord, but he sent me. Why don't you understand my language? It's
because you can't listen to my words. You belong to your father the
devil, and you want to carry out the desires of your father. He was a
murderer from the beginning and has never stood by the truth, since
there is no truth in him. Whenever he tells a lie he speaks in
character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But it is because I
speak the truth that you do not believe me. Can any of you prove me
guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? The
one who belongs to God listens to the words of God. The reason you do
not listen is because you do not belong to God.” (John 8:39‑47)
You used to be dead because of your offenses and sins, n which you once
lived according to the ways of this present world and according to the
ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now active in those
who are disobedient. Indeed, all of us once behaved like them in the
lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of our flesh and senses. By
nature we deserved wrath, just like everyone else. (Eph. 2:1‑3).
God in His mercy did not abandon man to His just judgment. Instead, God
decreed a plan of salvation which would save man from the penalty,
power, and presence of sin and, at the same time, recreate him in the
image of God.
And we know that he works all things together for the good of those who
love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he
foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in
order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom
he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called, he also
justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Rom. 8:28‑30)
However, that is not the way you came to know Christ. Surely you have
listened to him and have been taught by him, since truth is in Jesus.
Regarding your former way of life, you were taught to strip off your old
man, which is being ruined by its deceptive desires, to be renewed in
the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new man,
which was created according to the likeness of God in righteousness and
Therefore, stripping off falsehood, “let each of us speak the truth to
his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, yet do not
sin.” Do not let the sun go down on your wrath, and do not give the
devil an opportunity to work. The thief must no longer steal but must
work hard and do what is good with his own hands, so that he might have
something to give to the needy.
Let no filthy
talk come out of your mouths, but only what is good for building up as
the need may be. This way you will give grace to those who hear you. Do
not grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom you were marked with a seal for the
day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, quarreling, and
slander be put away from you, along with all hatred. And be kind to one
another, compassionate, forgiving one another just as God has forgiven
you in Christ. (Eph. 4:20‑32).
Thus we must conclude that man‑as‑image‑bearer was the purpose of God in
creating man and is also the purpose of God in saving man. We were created
and are saved in order to bear or reflect God’s character in the universe.
in saving man gives us a sure guide in determining the essential content
of salvation, i.e. what salvation will do for and to man.
holiness an attribute to God’s character (Isa. 6:3)? It is not surprising,
therefore, to learn that man was originally created in holiness and that
God supplies an imputed and imparted holiness in His plan of salvation for
man (Eph. 4:20‑24).
essential to man’s salvation because he cannot be created in God’s image
without it. Thus we are told that “without holiness none shall see the
Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Holiness is an essential part of salvation. Without
holiness, salvation is impossible. That holiness is essential in salvation
because God is holy and man was created and is saved to bear this aspect
of God’s character is clear from Lev. 11:44 and 1 Pet. 1: 15, 16.
For I am the LORD your God: ye shall
therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy:
neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that
creepeth upon the earth (Lev. 11:44, KJV).
Instead, just as the one who called
you is holy, be holy in every aspect of your life. For it is written, “You
must be holy, because I am holy.” (I Pet. 1: 15, 16)
We must conclude therefore that God’s
holiness demands that salvation contain an imputed and imparted holiness
for sinners regardless of the age in which they live. To say that
salvation is different in each age is to say that God’s character changes.
This is impossible for we are told in Mal. 3:6,
I, the LORD, do not change.
Therefore, salvation in the Old
Testament as well as in the New Testament must supply the needed holiness
which will render sinners acceptable in the sight of a holy God.
The same can be said of God’s
attribute of perfection. Man was created perfect. Through sin, he has lost
this perfection. Now, through grace, salvation comes to re‑create man in
the perfection of God. Thus we read in Matt. 5:48, “So be perfect, as your
heavenly Father is perfect.”
Perfection must be a part of
salvation regardless of what age in which the sinner lives. Thus
glorification awaits all the people of God from every age (Rom. 8:28‑30).
They will all be “made like unto Him” when He comes (I John 3:1‑2). At the
resurrection of the just, all the people of God from every age will
experience the entire sanctification of body, soul and spirit because no
imperfect or unholy creature will be allowed into heaven (1 Thess. 5:23,
24; Rev. 21:27). The Old Testament saint must be given perfection as well
as holiness if any salvation is to take place at all. The unchangeable
character of God demands it.
Just these two Biblical examples are
enough to establish the truth that the unchangeable character of God
guarantees that salvation will be essentially one throughout all ages.
Indeed, the necessity of holiness and perfection alone can supply us with
sufficient reason to see the Old Testament saints regenerated, justified,
sanctified, adopted, called, glorified, etc. The entire process of the
application of redemption has as its goal, the recreating of man in the
image of God. Whatever is needed today to make sinners acceptable in God’s
sight, has always been and will always be needed.
The relationship between eternity and
time is a very difficult subject. But what seems to be clear to nearly
every Christian is that time is a creation of God. Time has a beginning
and an end because it is bound to created reality. Eternity existed before
time and the eternal state will again set in after the day of Judgment.
God is transcendent over time and eminent in time at the same time.
Being transcendent above time, God
sees all of history from beginning to end as present to His sight. He sees
Adam eating the forbidden fruit, the flood, the birth of Christ, the
discovery of America, the present situation and future events all at the
Perhaps this diagram will help to
understand God’s transcendence.
God sees all of time from beginning
(A) to end (Z). Everything which we call “past” and “future” is present to
Him who sees all. Thus each incident which happens in time is, at the same
time, a fact of eternity. God does not have to wait until something
happens before He can know about it. God’s omniscience guarantees that He
knows about everything past, present, and future. See
Battle of the Gods for a complete statement.
The prophecy is not God’s hope that
certain things will happen in the future, but instead, prophecy is God
telling us what He knows will happen because He already views it as
This is why prophecy is said to be
“confirmed beyond doubt” (2 Pet. 1: 19). This is why the people of God are
said to be “glorified” while this aspect of salvation is yet future and
concerns the resurrection of the dead (Rom 8:30). God speaks of our
glorification as a fact of eternity while it is yet a future incident in
The transcendence of God above or
over time guarantees that history will follow God’s eternal plan. History
is His‑story. Time is not unfolding itself according to chance but
according to God’s eternal purpose.
This is particularly clear in
reference to the work of Christ. Christ came to earth at the precise
moment God had decreed according to Gal. 4:4, 5:
But when the fullness of time had
come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we
might receive adoption as his children.
The death of Christ is viewed as
being planned by God from all eternity in Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28:
This very man, after he was arrested
according to the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you
crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. …For in this city both
Herod and Pontius Pilate actually met together with the Gentiles and the
people of Israel against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do
all that your hand and your will had predetermined to take place.
Thus it is obvious that the death
of Christ is a fact of eternity to God because it is real historical
incident in time. God has viewed Christ as crucified from all eternity.
This is why Peter could speak of salvation as flowing from the blood of a
…but with the precious blood of
Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or defect. On the one hand, he
was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but on the other hand,
he was revealed at the end of time for your sake. (Pet. 1:19, 20).
passage Peter keeps the balance between the eternal and historical aspect
of Christ’s death. Christ was the Lamb of God before the worlds were
created but He was manifested in history to shed His blood for His people. This truth is further strengthened by
Rev. 13:8 where we read,
All those living on earth will
worship it [the Beast], everyone whose name is not written in the Book of
Life belonging to the lamb that was slaughtered from the foundation of the
We are aware that some commentators
have felt uneasy with the phrase “slaughtered from the foundation of the
world” and have said that the phrase “from the foundation of the world”
should modify the word “written” and not “slain.” Thus the verse would
“…whose names are not written¾from
the foundation of the world¾in
the book of life of the Lamb slain.”
But there are no real grammatical,
textual, contextual or theological reasons to reject the traditional
translation. And in the light of Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28; 1 Pet. 1:19, 20, the
principle of the analogy of Scripture would point to the traditional
exegesis where Christ is viewed as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of
It was just as easy for the Apostle
to speak of our glorification in the past tense, while not yet
historically present, as it was to speak of Christ’s death as a fact of
eternity though recently accomplished in time. In the sight of God, the
redemptive work of Christ is a fact of eternity as well as being a fact
The truth of the transcendent
character of the historical work of Christ answers the question: How could
Christ’s death nearly two thousand years ago save me today? The death of
Christ is effectual to save today because God sees Christ dying right now.
To Him, Christ’s death is present. Or to put it into other words, the
effects of Christ death continue on throughout the ages. God applies today
what Christ accomplished long ago because God is transcendent.
In the same way, Christ is said to
have been “slaughtered from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).
The verb “slaughtered” is in the
perfect passive tense and thus means that His death is viewed as an
incident in the past, the results of which are continuing unto the
Since the death of Christ is a fact
from all eternity because it is a fact of time, the redemptive effects of
Christ’s work are applied to sinners before Christ came as well as after
He came. It is just as easy for God to save an Old Testament saint two
thousand years before Christ came as it is to save you or me two thousand
years after He came. Perhaps the following diagram will help to illustrate
The benefits of Christ’s death are
equally applied before and after it was historically accomplished. The Old
Testament saints experienced the same salvation as we do today, i.e. the
salvation which flowed from the work of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament
saints were not saved by their works but by the work of Another. If
salvation were possible through obedience to the Law, “Christ died in
vain” according to the Apostle Paul in Gal. 2:21. The eternity of the
cross guarantees the same salvation in all ages.
It is Biblically accurate to say,
“Man has not changed.” He is the same as he has always been. His needs are
just the same as they were thousands of years ago. This is particularly
true of man’s sinful nature and needs.
When you consider the Biblical
material on total depravity (ex. Rom. 1‑3), it is not long before you
realize that salvation is constituted in such a way to meet the needs of
sinners. Salvation answers the question, “How can a man be just before
God” (Job 9:2)?
To say that salvation is not the same
in all ages is to say that man’s nature and needs have changed from age to
age. This is impossible.
Some dispensationalists have said
that Old Testament saints were not regenerated or indwelled by the Holy
Spirit. But we must say, did not man’s fallen nature require such works of
grace? Could it be that they were not as depraved as we are? That they had
inward power to live a godly life by the flesh which we know nothing of,
seeing we are dependent upon the Spirit?
Stop and ask yourself, “What do I
need to be saved and to live a godly life?” Whatever you need, the Old
Testament saints needed as well. If you need the new birth, so did they.
If you need the indwelling of the Spirit, so did they. The oneness of
man’s fallen nature guarantees the oneness of salvation in all ages.
We have already shown elsewhere that
the Old Testament prefigured the coming of the New Testament. Given just
the Old Testament, we are left with unexplained ceremonies, unfulfilled
prophecies, unsatisfied longings and unfinished destiny. In the New
Testament, the ceremonies are explained, the prophecies fulfilled, the
longing satisfied and the destiny of God’s people completed.
The people of God are basically one
throughout all the ages. Did not the Apostle Paul compare them to one tree
in Rom. 11:17? Did he not call Abraham “the father of all them that
believe” in Rom. 4:11? Are we not all “children of Abraham” by faith (Gal.
3:39)? Is it not the case the Christians are said to be the true “Jews”
(Rom. 2:29), the real “circumcision” (Phil. 3:3) and “Israel” (Gal. 6:16)?
Do we not constantly find the Church described by Old Testament
terminology which was originally applied to Israel (Titus 2:14; 1 Pet.
2:9, etc.)? Is it not true that the New Covenant was originally given to
Israel in Jer. 31:31 but, in the New Testament, it is applied directly to
the Church by our Lord (Matt. 26:28) and the Apostles (1 Cor. 11:25; Heb.
8:8‑13; 10:15‑25)? Are not Old Testament “Israel” passages applied to the
church (Acts 2:16‑36; 15:15‑22)?
There is no way to dissolve the
unity, continuity and harmony of the Old New Testaments. This unity
guarantees the same salvation in all ages because it is always covenantal
salvation from our covenant God.