We now approach one of our most crucial subjects. In his letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul categorically stated: “For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:10). It was only right that the Logos Himself, in order to bring many sons to glory, as the author or pioneer of their salvation, first should be made perfect – according to His human nature – through suffering.
In another portion of the same letter, St. Paul taught: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of the angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2: 14-18).
St. Paul clearly taught that after the Logos became flesh, He had to die in order to destroy by death the one who holds the power of death – Satan, and to set free all who by fear of death were subject to slavery all the days of their lives. Thus, as St. Paul declared, it was fitting, and it is fitting for us also, to examine and consider this marvel carefully, in order to understand it properly and measure its value correctly.
Why did the Logos incarnate have to die to lead many sons to glory? In order to establish the will of God, the Logos had to reveal Himself in the world, but also had to die, becoming obedient to the will of God unto death, even death on the Cross (Philippians 2:8). He had to die in order to impart life to the world and inflict death on the Devil, because Christ’s death for man means life, but for the Devil, it means death. Therefore, life and death are the purpose of the death of Christ.
Just as by the death of Christ man receives life and the Devil receives death, so also through His Resurrection, man – who has been given life – is allowed to live forever, but to the Devil, who has been given death, is assigned eternal death and perpetual extinction. Because man sinned before God and became a transgressor of the moral law, he lost the right of life entirely and was in captivity to the Devil, the killer of man, the one who first brought evil into the world. Because man was a captive and was living the evil life of sin, he required divine mercy to emerge from his captivity and escape from the life of sin in which he remained against his will, terrorized by the Devil, who, by means of sin, seized dominion over mankind and became the ruler of the world.
Finally, in order to set free those still in captivity and in need of salvation, God commissioned the new man, Jesus Christ, who committed no sin, and no guile was found on His lips (I Peter 2;22 and Isaiah 53:9; LXX). God sent Christ into the world as the saviour of the world and the liberator of captive man. The new man undertook the work of liberator and saviour; hence He entered into conflict with the ruler of the world, and He purposed to despoil him of his power and abolish his dominion by fair means.
The Devil became the ruler of the world according to the law of righteousness, because it was through sin that he seized power. And since all men were sinners and therefore mortal, the ruler of the world held them all under his authority, reigning over and subduing everyone. Therefore, action in accordance with the law of righteousness was the only fitting action to bring about the destruction of the Devil’s tyranny, the abolition of his power, the devastation of his kingdom of darkness, and the overthrow of the gates of Hell, by which the human race was confined and plunged into the murky depths of ignorance.
This is why the first task of the incarnate Logos on earth was the work of salvation, and also why the first name that was given to Him was Jesus, which means “saviour.” The concept of saviour includes the concept of the saved and some notion of the method of salvation – just as the concept of ransomer includes concepts of the ransom and of the ransomed. Christ is saviour, redeemer, and liberator of the human race from the hands of the tyrant, the Devil, who oppresses the human race through sin and death.
What method does Christ use to carry out His work of salvation, and just how does He save man? Justice condemns the sinner to death, for by sin he loses the right to live – a right which was given to him on condition that he would do all in obedience to the divine will. Every transgression or disobedience, wrote St. Paul, receives a just retribution (Hebrews 2:2), and again, “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:” (Hebrews 10:28).
Adam and Eve died as a punishment from almighty God because they did not keep His commandment. Likewise, none of their descendants, because they are prone to sin by nature and sin easily in life, are free from the sentence of sin. However, when the new man died willingly on behalf of the sinner, though He was sinless both by nature and by act of will, and when Christ submitted Himself to death voluntarily for love of the repentant sinner, a righteous man for the unrighteous, then the amends due to righteousness were made.
In addition, the goodness of God which seeks to have mercy on man without the righteousness of God being impaired, while at the same time punishing sin, is satisfied. It accomplishes its own task, showing mercy and saving the sinner through the grace of Christ who died voluntarily instead of sinners, although He Himself was righteous and sinless. Thus the death of Christ became the means whereby a balance is reached between the two qualities of God – His righteousness and His goodness, in which neither is destroyed, but both are met together in a wonderful way.
Since the death of Christ was not in accord with justice – because being without sin both by nature and by choice, Christ still had by nature the right to live forever – the righteousness of God launched an attack on the Devil who wronged Christ, and condemned him to eternal death. Then it justified the one who was put to death unjustly and raised Him from the dead, thereby justifying for eternity all those who believe in Christ, unjustly put to death and justly raised again.
Wonderful, very wonderful, indeed, is the method of the salvation of man and of his ransoming! The fact that the life of Christ was taken from Him unjustly, brings the righteous anger of God upon the Devil, but for sinners it brings the grace and mercy of God. Because Christ, by His death, did two things: On the one hand, He slew the Devil, “trampling down Death by death,” and on the other hand, He gave man life.
Whosoever believes in Christ, remembers also that Christ suffered for our sake, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God the Father. When the sinner realizes that Christ, the new man, sinless both by nature and by choice, died in his place, he believes in Christ and is justified and saved through this very faith. This is what St. Paul said in most of his epistles: Man is justified through faith and not by works of the law, for he had in mind such a faith as this, which also is called justifying faith.
The Devil could not have been assigned to death, nor could man have been given life if Christ had not died. The righteousness of God could not have come to terms with His goodness, except by the method which God revealed – through the Cross and through the death of Christ. Indeed, if Christ had not died, God could not have carried out His work, but would have been brought to a standstill. Therefore, whoever expressed the opinion that if Christ had not died, God would have died, expressed a correct and wise opinion.
The death of Christ is the means of our salvation. Verily, it is the only means. Christ offered Himself up to death voluntarily so that we might live. He offered Himself, yet He was the eternal high priest, innocent, holy, undefiled, separated from sinners, and raised high above the heavens. Christ offered Himself to death, yet He performed the sacrifice of an eternal victim – oblation and sacrifice forever – for the eternal redemption of the human race from the grasp of Satan.
Moreover, since our eternal redemption could not have been won except through the sacrifice of the true lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, was it possible that the lamb of God should not die to take away the sin of the world, to crush the Devil who holds the power of death, and to procure the eternal redemption for which we long? It was completely impossible for the Logos to procure eternal redemption for us, except by His death. This is why He assumed a body – in order to offer it upon the Cross to God the Father as an acceptable sacrifice, a sacrifice to obtain eternal redemption.
Consequently, because our redemption as believers in Christ, who suffered for us and was buried and rose again, is eternal, so also is the condemnation of any who refuse to believe in Christ and do not accept His teaching, His acts, or His words. From faith in the eternal sacrifice offered to God once and for all upon the Cross by Christ follows the eternal redemption of believers from the hands of the Devil, and from eternal death.
Conversely, refusal to believe in this eternal sacrifice results in the eternal punishment and penalty of unbelievers – their eternal captivity in the hands of the Devil. Hence the death of Christ frees and saves all who believe in Him.
Therefore, since our eternal redemption is achieved only through the death of Christ, surely it was right and proper for Christ to die in order to grant us life. This very expression -“right and proper“- is based on the goodness and love which the Logos has for His scattered sheep. These sheep He came to call and to gather about Him as the true shepherd who sacrificed His life for His sheep.
Christ Himself declared: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seethe the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:11-16). The voice of Christ, the good shepherd, is heard by all those who are His sheep, by all who have good intent and the integrity to believe in the truth, and are reasonable, thinking people who believe in the orthos logos and the Gospel.
But those who have been corrupted in mind and heart do not hear the voice of Christ, nor do they believe in the orthos logos and the truth. They are pitiable fools who believe in the false teaching and duplicity of pseudo-philosophers. They are led by specious arguments because they are incapable of seeing and knowing the truth, inasmuch as they are blind and confused in mind. This is why they also lend their ears gladly to follies and lies.and irresponsible statements, but close them to the truth, for they do not wish to learn the truth and be saved thereby.
However, there is not the slightest resemblance between the fools and us, or any reasonable, thinking man. We hear the voice of the good shepherd, Christ, and heed His divine words, for they are spirit, truth, life, and light. We believe in the words of the divine saviour, and recognize in the Theanthropos, our saviour, truth itself; and this truth helps us to perceive the mystery of God, of the universe, and of man.
We do not believe the fabrications and itching tales of the theological cranks of the present and past; rather, we believe in the wisdom of Christ, which fills all time and gives us insight into the mystery round about and within us. We believe that we have been saved through the awesome death of Christ, and have passed from death into life eternal.
In Christ alone we have our eternal high priest and the mediator between God and ourselves. Through Christ we look to be delivered from death and Satan. St. Paul exhorted, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession” (Hebrews 4:14). We do hold fast our confession, as did St. Paul, for in Christ Jesus we have our only high priest – holy, sinless, and fully able to save us.