Edwards on the Infinite and the Sacrifice of Christ

Anyone who is familiar with the sermons of Jonathan Edwards will have noted the way in which he constantly appeals to the infinite nature of God and the bearing it has on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Anselm was the one who really stressed the fact that one sin against an infinitely holy God deserved infinite punishment. This is precisely what Edwards develops in his sermons when he preaches about the cross. In a sermon entitled Life Through Christ Alone he wrote:

In several respects eternal life in communicated by Christ. 1. He bought it for us. If we had not sinned, God would have given us eternal life upon the account of our obedience. But by our sin we lost it and Christ alone can redeem it, seeing divine justice must be satisfied and it would not have been just with God to let sin go unpunished. Christ so loved the offender that, rather than he should die, He would pay all that justice demanded, and [that] he has done so that justice is paid and everlasting life purchased and is to be received, without any money or price, by those who will come to Christ for it.

In a footnote to this paragraph he notes:

Eternal life was not bought by silver and gold, and such corruptible things, but by the precious blood of the Son of God (1 Peter 1:18). Christ’s life went for ours. So great a thing as eternal life, so infinite a blessing, was not purchased by anything but that which in God’s sight was of infinite value, even the blood and obedience of his own and only Son.

You can see how the notion of the infinite bears on Edwards theology. The infinite God promises to give us Himself in the Covenant of Grace. But since we deserve the infinite wrath of God (which is why hell will be for all eternity) it takes an infinite being to give an infinite blessing. It takes an infinite being to save us from our sins that deserve infinite punishment. This is why the eternal Son of God had to save us. When Jesus died on the cross an infinite being (God manifest in the flesh) suffered the wrath of the infinite God. And Jesus was called “the Beloved” because He was infinitely loved of the Father. It took one who was infinitely lovely to save those who were infinitely hated by a holy and righteous God (see Edwards on “The Wisdom of God Displayed to the Angels” for a development of this thought).

I wonder if the lack of teaching on this in our own day is the cause of many heresies in the church. It seems likely that this is one of the reasons that many former protestants have become Jehovah’s Witnesses. The rejection of this, or the ignorance of it, probably plays into how men can downplay the work of Christ in favor of bringing our works to bear on some future justification. If we deserve infinite punishment for sin, then how can we ever think that we bring anything to God for our salvation. It would be the highest insult for a poor man, indebted to the wealthiest man in the world, to bring a penny to him trying to gain a place in the rich man’s house. Praise be to the infinite God for the unsearchable riches of Christ. May we come to know more of what we have in so great a Savior.

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