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24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

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24. Being justified freely, etc. A participle is here put for a verb according to the usage of the Greek language. The meaning is, — that since there remains nothing for men, as to themselves, but to perish, being smitten by the just judgment of God, they are to be justified freely through his mercy; for Christ comes to the aid of this misery, and communicates himself to believers, so that they find in him alone all those things in which they are wanting. There is, perhaps, no passage in the whole Scripture which illustrates in a more striking manner the efficacy of his righteousness; for it shows that God’s mercy is the efficient cause, that Christ with his blood is the meritorious cause, that the formal or the instumental cause is faith in the word, and that moreover, the final cause is the glory of the divine justice and goodness.

With regard to the efficient cause, he says, that we are justified freely, and further, by his grace; and he thus repeats the word to show that the whole is from God, and nothing from us. It might have been enough to oppose grace to merits; but lest we should imagine a half kind of grace, he affirms more strongly what he means by a repetition, and claims for God’s mercy alone the whole glory of our righteousness, which the sophists divide into parts and mutilate, that they may not be constrained to confess their own poverty. — Through the redemption, etc. This is the material, — Christ by his obedience satisfied the Father’s justice, (judicium — judgment,) and by undertaking our cause he liberated us from the tyranny of death, by which we were held captive; as on account of the sacrifice which he offered is our guilt removed. Here again is fully confuted the gloss of those who make righteousness a quality; for if we are counted righteous before God, because we are redeemed by a price, we certainly derive from another what is not in us. And Paul immediately explains more clearly what this redemption is, and what is its object, which is to reconcile us to God; for he calls Christ a propitiation, (or, if we prefer an allusion to an ancient type,) a propitiatory. But what he means is, that we are not otherwise just than through Christ propitiating the Father for us. But it is necessary for us to examine the words. 119119     On this word ἱλαστήριον, both Venema, in his Notes on the Comment of Stephanus de Brais on this Epistle, and Professor Stuart, have long remarks. They both agree as to the meaning of the word as found in the Septuagint and in Greek authors, but they disagree as to its import here. It means uniformly in the Septuagint, the mercy-seat, כפרת, and, as it is in the form of an adjective, it has at least once, (Exodus 25:17,) ἐπίθεμα, cover, added to it. But in the classics it means a propitiatory sacrifice, the word θῦμα, a sacrifice, being understood; but it is used by itself as other words of similar termination are. It is found also in Josephus and in Maccabees in this sense. It appears that Origen, Theodoret, and other Fathers, and also Erasmus, Luther and Locke, take the first meaning — mercy-seat; and that Grotius, Elsner, Turrettin, Bos, and Tholuck, take the second meaning — a propitiatory sacrifice. Now as both meanings are legitimate, which of them are we to take? Venema, and Stuart allude to one thing which much favors the latter view, that is, the phrase ἐν τω αἵματι αὐτου; and the latter says, that it would be incongruous to represent Christ himself as the mercy-seat, and to represent him also as sprinkled by his own blood; but that it is appropriate to say that a propitiatory sacrifice was made by his blood. The verb προέθετο, set forth, it is added, seems to support the same view. To exhibit a mercy-seat is certainly not suitable language in this connection.
   Pareus renders it “placamentum — atonement,” hoc est,placatorem,” that is, “atoner, or expiator.” Beza’s version is the same — “placamentum;” Doddridge has “propitiation,” and Macknight, “a propitiatory,” and Schleusner,expiatorem — expiator.”

   The word occurs in one other place with the neuter article, τὸ ἱλαστήριον, Hebrews 9:5, where it clearly means the mercy-seat. It is ever accompanied with the article in the Septuagint, when by itself, see Leviticus 16:2, 13-15; but here it is without the article, and may be viewed as an adjective dependent on on, “whom,” and rendered propitiator. Had the mercy-seat been intended, it would have been τὸ ἱλαστήριον. — Ed.