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Zwingli on the Unlimited Expiation and Unlimited Redemption

August 31, 2007

Zwingli (1484–1531)

Sins of the World and cognate phrases:

Various works:

1) Today certain persons preach human ravings most wantonly, and try to frighten minds truly free, teaching that there is sin where there is no sin, and most cruelly murdering the soul. The Apostles taught that the Son of God out of pure generosity did not so much pardon the sins of all as give himself up as an expiatory offering for all. Zwingli, “Early Writings,” Defence Called Archeteles, (Labyrinth Press), p., 258.

2) Therefore the birth had to be absolutely pure of every stain, because He that was born was also God. Second, on account of the nature of the sacrificial victim. For that had to be free from all blemish, as the law of Moses required, though that only applied to the purity of the flesh, Heb 9:9. How much more had the victim to be absolutely spotless which made atonement for the sins not only of all who had been, but of all who were yet to come… Of this figure I shall say nothing more, since it is perfectly clear in itself and through the notices of all who have spoken of it. Furthermore, the John who baptized the Son of God, as soon as he saw Christ coming towards him, pointed out to his disciples with the words: “Behold the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!” John 1:29. Zwingli, Commentary on True and False Religion, (Labyrinth Press), p., 112 and 113.

3) A little while after he says [Jn 1:29-31]: “John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world… The divine Baptist shows by these words that Christ is the lamb that atones for the universal disease of sin, and that he himself is preaching a baptism of repentance before Him that He may be made manifest to Israel. For when man through repentance has come to the knowledge of himself, he is forced to take refuge in the mercy of God. But when he has begun to do that, justice makes him afraid. Then Christ appears, who has satisfied the divine justice for our trespasses. When once there is faith in Him, then salvation is found; for He is the infallible pledge of God’s mercy. For “he that gave up a Son for us, how will he not with him also give us all things?” Roms 8:32. Zwingli, Commentary on True and False Religion, (Labyrinth Press), p., 122-123.

4) But I ask your attention to what follows, in order that the nature of repentance may become still clearer and that at the same time I may answer an objection, which is to this effect: If we are to understand Christ in this way, as the sacrifice which, offered but once, made satisfaction for the sins of all, we shall all be more inclined to follow our lusts, inasmuch as all these sins can be committed with impunity: for Christ is the pledge that all sins are washed away.

I will first of all show by the Holy Scriptures how Christ is the only One through whom there is approach to the Father, and that He alone blots out all sins. For then the argument that these people use will finds its place. That Christ, then is the only One through whom there is approach to the Father will be plain for ths reason, that if God could have been reached in any other way there would have been no need of Christ’s death.

It is well, however, to bring His own words before us. Of these will first set down those by which He bears clearly witness that He is One sent for the salvation of all; then those by which He bears witness that He is the only One through whom salvation is given; for “is” precedes “is the only.”

John 3:16 says: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.” By these words the whole reason, and meaning of the Gospel are explained–the reason, that God gave His Son because he so loved the world; the meaning, that whosoever believeth on Him attains eternal life.

A little later the divine Baptist says [Jn. 3:35-36]: “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son shall hath eternal life; but he that believeth not on the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” This passage makes for both points; that is, as well for the point that Christ is a means of salvation for all, as for the point that He is the only means of salvation for all.

In John 6:53-58, Christ’s main purpose is to show that He is such food that whosoever eateth Him shall live; that is, He is such a treasure of the soul that whosoever fixes his heart and hope on Him will have eternal life. For He came down from heaven, He says, that the world through Him might have life. In this same chapter He says: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath eternal life.” To all, therefore, whose hope in Him he is a means of salvation. Zwingli, Commentary on True and False Religion, (Labyrinth Press), p., 124-125.

5) But now I come to the words I quoted [Jn. 6:53]: “Except ye eat,” i.e., except ye firmly and heartily believe that Christ was slain for you, to redeem you, and that His blood was shed for you, to wash you thus redeemed (for that is the way we are in the habit of showing bounty and kindness to captives–first freeing them by paying a ransom, then when freed washing away the filth with which they are covered), “he have no life in you.” Since, therefore, Christ alone was sacrificed for the human race, He is the only One through whom we can come to the Father. Zwingli, Commentary on True and False Religion, (Labyrinth Press), p., 128.

6) And Peter says in Acts 4:12: “For neither is there any other name under heaven given among men, wherein we must be saved.” There is no name, no force or power which can make us blessed save that of Christ. Christ, therefore, is the only one in whom we are blessed. Pal, 1 Tim. 2:5-6, conforms this: “There is one God, one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all men.” Now it is sure that the “unus” [one] is used here in the sense of “solus” [only one], as in the passage, Matt. 19:17… I think it is now sufficiently clear that through the Christ alone we are given salvation, blessedness, grace, pardon, and all that makes us in any way worthy in the sight of a righteous God.

However, from these premises (namely, that Christ is the expiation for the sins of all and the way of salvation, and that He alone is this way and expiation, and this to him only who trusts in him), those who either have not faith enough in the gospel or have not taken it in its full purity think it follows that all who lean upon it must degenerate from over freedom. For, they reason, when the human heart learns that all sins are so bountifully pardoned, through Christ, it quite naturally must become more prone to vice. Hence some of them, out of a foolish prudence, have wished to guard against anything of this sort of happening, and have proclaimed that Christ made atonement either for the original guilt only, or only for those sins which were remitted before He came. Zwingli, Commentary on True and False Religion, (Labyrinth Press), pp., 129-130.

7) Now as to those imposters who, not to keep silence when they cannot endure that all sins should be washed away through the grace of Christ (for they would rather, though they cannot make atonement, yet for pay received seen to do so)–who, I say, not to keep silence assert that Christ made atonement for original sin only, or for the sins of merely those who were before Him. Their error might be at once over-thrown by that single proclamation of the Baptist [John 1:29]: “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world”; for original sin is not the only sin in the world, and Christ takes away all the sins in the world. Yet I would by no means pass over the very clear testimony of 1 John 2:1-2, that they may not be able to plead any excuse. “Little children,” he says, “these things write I to you, that ye may not sin. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for our only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

With this testimony, then, I shall here be content, since it has been abundantly proved above that Christ is the means of salvation to all. Zwingli, Commentary on True and False Religion, (Labyrinth Press), pp., 155-156.

8) This view would get very strong from Christ’s declaration in John 6:51: “The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” For this is equivalent to saying: “Behold this very body, which I very recently declared must be sacrificed for the life of the world! It will presently be hurried to the altar. But have no fear or anxiety. I am here, and show myself. And that yo may not fall into any error, for instance, the error of believing that because I am the Son of God I am not going to give this body to be slain, but am suddenly to produce another, as angels have often been seen to do–that you may not, I say, with the recklessness characteristic of human imagings, fancy that I am going to give another instead of this body, I say to you plainly and clearly that I am going to deliver up for the redemption of the world this body which you see before you.” Zwingli, Commentary on True and False Religion, (Labyrinth Press), pp., 221-222.

9) I. The blood of Christ alone takes away our sins; for He is the only one who takes away the sins of the world and who has reconciled all things through His blood, Col. 1:20. For if sins could have been expiated in any other way, Christ would have died for nought, and those who eat Him would still hunger, those who drink Him would none the less thirst. Far be this from the minds of believers. He Himself, lifted up from the earth has drawn all things to Himself [Cf. Jn. 12:32]. But sin is also not removed without blood, Heb. 9:32.

II. But the blood of Christ was offered once only; for it is the eternal blood of God’s eternal Son. Heb 9:12: “Through his own blood he entered once for all into the holy place.”

III. Therefore the blood of Christ, offered once for all, endures to remove all the sins of all men. Zwingli, Commentary on True and False Religion, (Labyrinth Press), p., 234.

10) For as, before Christ was born, no one could effect that any offering should save us, so, now that He has reconciled us to God by having once suffered death on the cross, no congregation, no Council, no Fathers, can effect that He be offered up again. For He has atoned for the sins of all from the founding of the world, so is He even unto the end of the world, the bearer of salvation to all who trust in him; for He is everlasting God; through Him we were created and redeemed… They are the dispensers of the mysteries, that is, the hidden things of God [cf. 1 Cor. 4:1], and are not the priesthood of Christ; for that can be nothing else than Christ Himself making satisfaction with the Father for us forever. Zwingli, Commentary on True and False Religion, (Labyrinth Press), p., 235-237.

11) Nay, those very blood-thirsty villains who brought Christ to the cross or vilified Him as He hung upon it, would have changed their purpose and kept their wicked hands off from Him, if external things brought faith or remission of sins. For they saw not only represented by symbols but accomplished before their own eyes that by which the sins of the whole world were atoned. But nothing of the sort happened. Only those repented whom the Spirit illumined within so that they recognized that this was the Saviour, and whom the Father drew to come to Him and accept Him. Zwingli, On The Providence of God, Labyrinth Press, p., 190.

12) Let sin accuse him, which is so intimately connected with us that if we boast of freedom from it we are vain fools; straightway the light of faith takes up the defense, declaring that sin is not such that on its own account God refuses His kindness, if only we frankly confess our fault and are ashamed of it. For the sins of the world could not prevent Him from leading His Son to the altar to atone for them. Zwingli, On The Providence of God, Labyrinth Press, p., 199.

13) And again John the baptizer in Jn. 1:29, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the entire world. Zwingli, Exposition and Basis of the Conclusions or Articles Published by Huldrych Zwingli, 29 January 1523, Pickwick Publications, vol 1, p, 16.

14) “That Christ was offered himself up once as a sacrifice, is a perpetual and valid payment for the sin of all believers

For just as all persons die only once, and immediately after their death follows the judgement of God, so Christ has offered himself only once through the death he suffered. And after his death follows the taking away of the sin of all, i.e., of all who believe

But if he were to be offered up again and again, he would be much like the sacrifices in the Old Testament which had to be offered up repeatedly because of their imperfection. This would mean a belittling and degrading of the perfection of the sacrifice which is Christ who through his death has offered himself to God for the sins of all who ever been and ever shall be. Zwingli, Exposition and Basis of the Conclusions or Articles Published by Huldrych Zwingli, 29 January 1523, Pickwick Publications, vol 1, p, 92, 93, and 94.

15) If then Christ by his death has reconciled all people who are on earth when he poured out his blood on the cross and if we are on earth, then our sins, too, and those of everyone who has ever lived, have been recompensed by the one death and offering. Zwingli, Exposition and Basis of the Conclusions or Articles Published by Huldrych Zwingli, 29 January 1523, Pickwick Publications, vol 1, p, 97.

16) He obtained eternal salvation for all people for they were all created as well as redeemed through him. And since he is the eternal God he is sufficient and worthy enough to take upon himself the sin of all people for eternity and to lead us into eternal salvation, according to Hebrews 9 and 10. Zwingli, A Short Christian Instruction, Pickwick Publications, vol 2, p, 56.

17) So that we see how God is so favorable to us he says further: “He did not spare his own son but gave him for us all. Has he not given us all things with him?” [Rom. 8:32] It is as if he were to say” “How could one reconcile the fact that he had given for us the greatest treasure, his own son, and would now deny us anything?” With that God teaches us through the mouth of Paul to come to him in joy and in trust. If w are simple and cannot speak to God then it is enough that we only show our trust in God through Jesus Christ in our hearts. “He represents us before God with sighs which we cannot imagine,” according to Romans 8:26. He is wise enough, for he is the Divine Wisdom and yet has become ours; therefore, he is our wisdom. When we are unjust and impure, then he us just and pure and has paid for our righteousness. When we are unholy and sinful, then he is holy and yet he is ours. When we are mortgaged because of our sin, then he is our ransom and payment. Therefore, see: whatever is lacking in us, Christ obtains for us before God. For whatever he is, he is ours. This is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:30, “he was made or given to us by God, so that he is our wisdom, our righteousness, our holiness and our salvation.” John says in 1 John 2:1f.: My son! I write these things to you that you sin not. But if one has sinned, then we have an advocate or represented with the father, the righteous Jesus Christ, and he is the reconciliation for our sins, and not for ours alone, but for the sin of the whole world.” Zwingli, A Short Christian Instruction, Pickwick Publications, vol 2, pp., 60-61.

18) In short, the word “sacrifice” in the Old Testament stands for a gift that one has brought to God. The priest then took the gift, lifted it onto the altar and burned it, or raised it up, or moved it back and forth–in accordance with the type of sacrifice. This was done for the purification of their sin. Now all this was but an image saying that Christ, the true priest, would come, and would offer for the sins of all the world not an animal nor an imperfect sacrifice, but a pure unstained sacrifice. No person in all humanity could have been found to this except Christ himself. Therefore he offered up himself as he suffered the death on the cross for us. By this one death he purified and paid for the sins of the whole world for eternity. This true meaning one finds grounded in the letter to the Hebrews, especially chapters 6 to 10…

The first blasphemy of God is that through it the great value and treasure of the suffering of Christ is obscured. Christ, who is true God and human, is so high and valuable that is death offered only once is rich and precious enough to pay for all the world’s sin for eternity; for he is eternal God. Therefore his suffering is also unceasingly fruitful for eternity. If, now, the priesthood claims that they sacrifice for sin, then that must mean that Christ did not complete salvation perfectly with his suffering–or that it is no longer powerful. For if we believe that he, once sacrificed, has redeemed and paid for eternity for us, that is, the believers, then it must be blasphemy to undertake it again, just as if it has not been previously accomplished. Zwingli, A Short Christian Instruction, Pickwick Publications, vol 2, pp., 71-72.

19) Christ himself shows this by both word and deed, saying two days before the passover, “You know that after two days will be the feast of the passover, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to be crucified” [Mt. 26:2], meaning thereby that at this passover the lamb that takes away the sins of the world was to be slain. It is as though he said, “You know that after two days the feast of the passover is here. This is the passover at which the Son of Man will be slain.” During the eating of the feast he thus displayed the depth of his feelings [Lk 22:15]: “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” By this he sought to do away with the old festival and institute a new one, substituting of the commemoration of the deliverance of a single people from bondage to Egypt the commemoration of the redemption of the world from the power of the devil and of death. He was slain in the very midst of the feast, that even the unbeliever might see that everything was regulated by the providence of heaven.

Since, therefore, no one denies that the festival which was in old days celebrated in memory of deliverance in the flesh passed over into our Eucharist, that is, the thanksgiving by which we express our Joy–not that the flesh has been set free, but that the world has been reconciled with God through his Son–no passage from the Old Testament ought to be examined more for light upon the force and meaning if Christ’s language than this in which the passover was instituted. Zwingli, Subsidiary Essay, Pickwick Publications, vol 2, pp., 210-211.

Sufficient ransom for all:

1) I have clearly and sufficiently shown (as stated above), that Christ should and could have been sacrificed once only. It is appropriate to him alone, who offered himself up to God, to be sufficient ransom for the sins of everyone for all eternity… For Paul explains in the same context how Christ, though offered up once only, has become forever a gate and valid offering for the sins of everyone. Zwingli, Exposition and Basis of the Conclusions or Articles Published by Huldrych Zwingli, 29 January 1523, Pickwick Publications, vol 1, p, 103 and104.

Redemption price for all humankind:

1) In the same way also our sins are forgiven and we may come to God on the strength and efficacy of the suffering which Christ endured once, for us and all persons. So costly and precious it is before God that it has become for all eternity the pledge and price for all humankind by which alone they may come to God. Zwingli, Exposition and Basis of the Conclusions or Articles Published by Huldrych Zwingli, 29 January 1523, vol 1, p, 94.

New Covenant with the human race:

1) And the reason why he made the promise was none other than because of blessedness could not come to us, however much we toiled and sweated, while the fall of the first parent had not been atoned for. But when Christ, slain for us, appeased the divine justice and become the only approach to God, God entered into a new covenant with the human race, not new in the sense that he had only just discovered this remedy, but because he applied it at the right moment, having prepared it long before. Exposition and Basis of the Conclusions or Articles Published by Huldrych Zwingli, 29 January 1523, Pickwick Publications, vol 2, p., 224.

2) Testamentum, pactum, and feodus are often used interchangeably in scripture. But testamentum is used most often. We therefore refer to it here. It means “legacy”, but it is used to mean “agreement” or “covenant”, for the latter of which one usually makes between two people for the sake of peace. In this sense one speaks of the Old or the New Testament, i.e., the covenant, agreement and commitment which God has entered in with the patriarchs and which in Christ he entered in with the whole world

Everyone can see thereby that Moses’ act was a sign of that which Christ has done. For when God made a covenant and legacy and the people of Israel and their descendants (i.e., a testament), death and bloodshed were involved–but of dumb animals, as stated earlier. But when Christ made his testament with humankind, a covenant and legacy which would last unto all eternity, he did not sacrifice by killing animals but by offering himself. Zwingli, Exposition and Basis of the Conclusions or Articles Published by Huldrych Zwingli, 29 January 1523, Pickwick Publications, vol 1, p, 106.

Christ given to the entire human race:

1) For Christ Jesus is the guide and captain promised by God and given to the entire human race.

This Article is a support upon which the previous one is firmly built. For if Christ Jesus is promised the human race by God to be a guide and captain, his deeds, teaching and life must, as a result, be above any human counsel so that his name (i.e., his power, honor and strength), as Paul says in Phil. 2:9, is above every other name. Zwingli, Exposition and Basis of the Conclusions or Articles Published by Huldrych Zwingli, 29 January 1523, Pickwick Publications, vol 1, p, 37.

2) Therefore Christ says rightly in Jn. 6:51, “The bread which I shall give you, is my body.” This means, “That which strengthens and revives the soul is the one word which it believes, viz, that I am its salvation and the ransoming sacrifice before God. For my body is given for the life of humankind.” His suffering and death are bread and nourishment. Zwingli, Exposition and Basis of the Conclusions or Articles Published by Huldrych Zwingli, 29 January 1523, Pickwick Publications, vol 1, p, 114.

Christ given as High Priest to humankind:

1) Thus Jesus has become a sponsor of a better testament. Of the others who have become priests, there were many, because death did not spare them. But this one–Christ–has an eternal priesthood that he may remain a priest for all eternity. Therefore he shall keep it unto all eternity in that he himself has gone to God, alive forever to do satisfaction and to intercede for us, has sworn an oath to give humankind a high priest who would be eternal, whose office would not be cancelled as the priestly office of the Old Testament was cancelled. Zwingli, Exposition and Basis of the Conclusions or Articles Published by Huldrych Zwingli, 29 January 1523, Pickwick Publications, vol 1, p, 84.

Christ suffered for human sin:

1) Now the words of Christ refer so clearly to his suffering that they become, as we tried to show, a surety, price and payment for our sin, sufficient and inexhaustible for all eternity, as it is written in the first chapter of John [1:12ff]. Thus, as often as we want to go to God we ought to remind them that Christ has suffered for us. His blood is the blood of the eternal testament, i.e. his suffering and sacrifice have paid eternally for human sin… Zwingli, Exposition and Basis of the Conclusions or Articles Published by Huldrych Zwingli, 29 January 1523, Pickwick Publications, vol 1, p, 95.

Blood shed for “the many”:

1) From these words you may actually note that the pouring out of his blood has taken away the sin of the many, i.e., of the believing world. It follows then that the pouring out of the blood and the death are the sacrifice by which our sin has been paid up. Zwingli, Exposition and Basis of the Conclusions or Articles Published by Huldrych Zwingli, 29 January 1523, Pickwick Publications, vol 1, p, 106.

Zwingli on 1 Tim 2:1-6:

1) After having taught in 1 Tim. 2:1-6 how one ought to pray to intercede before God on behalf of all people, lords and rulers so that we might lead a peaceful, quiet life in all seriousness and submission to God, Paul says, “For this is good and pleasing to God, our redeemer and savior who wills that all manner of persons be made whole and come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; also one mediator only between God and human beings, that man Jesus who has given himself a ransom for everyone.” You note here, firstly, that Paul calls our redeemer and savior, “God” and shortly after, he calls him a man, when he says, “The man Christ Jesus”. By this you learn to know the mediator, as earlier in Gal. 3:20. Secondly, you learn that God wills to redeem everyone: i.e. all kinds of people. He wills to lead them to the knowledge of the truth, i.e. to the knowledge of the true God and his salvation. In other words, that there is only one God and only one mediator between God and humankind. Undoubtedly, we cannot achieve peace, the knowledge of the truth and knowledge of salvation with greater certainty than when we recognize in faith the only one God and the only one mediator. As long as one person seeks this mediator, and another person, that one, we shall never become one. But when all of us have Christ alone as our mediator, it follows, since we all set our hope on the one mediator, that our minds are united in the same treasure. Finally you hear, that Christ has given himself a ransom for us. Zwingli, Exposition and Basis of the Conclusions or Articles Published by Huldrych Zwingli, 29 January 1523, Pickwick Publications, vol 1, pp., 132-133.

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