Full disclosure: this article presents a slightly altered version of the doctrine of atonement and imputation than the one typically held by Reformed theologians. I have not arrived at my conclusions lightly, however, and I do not believe we should set this discussion aside as an idle, esoteric theological controversy. Our doctrine of atonement has far-reaching implications for (at least) salvation, piety, and evangelism, so I think it is important we make sure our views on atonement agree with the whole, balanced counsel of the Bible.
In this, one central goal has guided me: greater faithfulness and submission to more of the Bible simultaneously. I believe refined doctrinal positions should at least do the same justice to biblical texts as the original positions did, and in addition, the refined positions should do a better job of explaining the few anomalous passages that have before escaped our resolved theological compass. It is my contention that hermeneutical gymnastics are the canaries of error—we resort to them almost exclusively when our doctrinal views are unbalanced or erroneous.
At the same time, it does no good to change our doctrinal stance to accommodate a handful of “difficult,” outlying passages if our new stance completely fails to do justice to the overwhelming remainder of Scripture. Doctrinal innovation is especially disastrous if our main reason for seeking a refined position is that we have either become bored with the traditional view or are tired of defending it against the forces of an ever-turning cultural tide.
With that in mind, let me be clear that my revisitation of atonement and imputation (especially the imputation of sin) stems from a sincere desire to be faithful to the regularly cosmic soteriological and hamartiological language of the Scriptures, but I believe further that my view does no damage to the major doctrines (e.g., definite atonement, justification by faith) the traditional Reformed view has regularly and, I think rightly, defended.
Conflating Expiation, Propitiation, Atonement, and Salvation
The question, “Did Jesus die for the sins of all people?” will immediately elicit the negative from most Reformed Christians, since most of us assume that Jesus cannot erase a person’s debt of sin without “saving” that person, and additionally, we believe that Jesus did not come to save everyone.
That He did not come to save everyone should be apparent from the fact that not everyone is saved, unless you think a Sovereign God and a Perfect Messiah could fail in their mission. But it is my contention in this essay that, as odd as it sounds even to my own ears, Jesus could have died for the world’s sin without the world being saved and without God failing to accomplish any part of His Sovereign plan. I will attempt to show this from Scripture and reasonable inference.
By conflating salvation and the payment of sin’s debt, many Reformed theologians have, perhaps unwittingly, blurred the subtle distinctions between expiation, propitiation, and salvation. Expiation is the removal of an offending cause (in our case—sin’s debt). Propitiation is the appeasing of an offended one’s wrath allowing for the reconciliation of estranged parties.1
Most often, propitiation and expiation have the same outcome, which explains why they are often conflated: to remove a cause for wrath is usually to appease the wrathful one and therefore to effect reconciliation.
This is not always the case, however. If the offending party refuses to be reconciled, even after his original offense has been removed and the offended party’s wrath is appeased, full reconciliation cannot happen, and wrath is sure to be rekindled—perhaps to an even more pitched degree. In fact, the offending party’s refusal to be reconciled becomes the new and overwhelming grounds for relational rupture.
To this point, Jesus’ Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor (Matt. 18:21–35) may instruct us. The unforgiving servant was forgiven a massive debt (clearly representative of the sin God has forgiven us), but because the servant did not evince a master-like forgiveness toward his fellow servants, he ultimately suffered an even greater punishment. We should not read too much into a parable, but it should strike us immediately as strange: the debt is paid, yet the servant is not saved. What does this mean?
Finding a Central Question on Imputation and Atonement
Consider this question to clarify our trajectory: “Can a person be saved by Jesus’ death without being unified to Jesus by faith?” The answer should come readily: No, of course not. A person cannot experience any of Jesus’ saving work without being unified into Him. Union with Christ alone makes the application of Jesus’ saving work possible. Without that union effected by faith, even Jesus’ death is useless to us for salvation. As Calvin says:
We must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us.2
There are two necessary conditions for reconciliation with God (i.e., salvation). One is payment to God for sins already committed (often called Jesus’ passive obedience), and the other is the presentation to God of a perfect righteousness (often called Jesus’ active obedience). The question of this essay then is this: Is it possible that one of those conditions, namely, payment for our sins (expiation/propitiation), could be satisfied without necessarily meeting the other condition (full reconciliation/salvation)? As odd as this may seem, Jesus’ passive obedience is not alone a sufficient condition for salvation, for it is only by being united to Christ in faith that we share in His righteousness and therefore “enter His rest” (Heb. 4:1ff).
So let’s refine our central question yet again. Can a person be the beneficiary of Jesus’s passive obedience without benefitting automatically from Jesus’ active obedience? We know that Jesus cannot impute His righteousness to us unless we are unified into Him by the Spirit through faith (this is at root what is actually meant by full reconciliation with God), but, and this is crucial: Can sin be imputed to Jesus without Jesus being spiritually unified to the sinner? If so, could the total sin of humankind be transferred to Jesus without all human beings themselves uniting to Him? That is the central issue, isn’t it? If all human sin can be imputed to Jesus without all human sinners being joined to Him, then it is possible (but not necessary) that Jesus died for the sins of all men without them ultimately being fully reconciled to God by that alone.
I will have to consider this issue in pieces, then I will answer some objections, the most obvious of which involves the unacceptable and repulsive possibility of double payment for sin.
Imputed Sins or Imputed Sin?
We know certainly that Jesus died for (in the sense of because of) sin. Further, Jesus died not only for our sins, but for sin categorically. If Adam hadn’t brought categorical sin into the world by sinning, a substitutionary sacrifice of appeasement for reconciliation would not have been necessary. Clearly, Jesus came to deal with the reality of sin and its cosmic sway over human beings and the universe, not merely particular sins in particular people (in fact, the one does not deny the other).
It is important here to note specifically what John the Baptist said: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29). Jesus takes away the sin of the world, and not merely some sins. Sin here is singular, which indicates a universal reality hanging over the cosmos.
Consider also 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” The definite verb “be” is coupled with the, again, singular “sin,” whereas our becoming righteousness is subjunctive. Jesus certainly and definitely became sin, so that we “might [subjunctive] become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Note the similarly cosmic or universal aspect of other passages concerning sin and salvation:
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:18–19; emphasis mine)
So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. (Rom. 5:18)
For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. (1 Tim. 4:10)
And He Himself [Jesus Christ the Righteous] is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
It is this last text, and others like it, that have caused the most consternation for Reformed Christians, and simply because we tend to believe Jesus could not have paid for sins without that payment ineluctably resulting in salvation. Such cosmic expiation/propitiation seems to contradict our view on definite atonement. These texts are more easily and more naturally understood, however, and without necessary impingement on definite atonement, if we take them to mean: Jesus paid for all human sin, thereby removing the cause of humankind’s relational rupture with God the Father our Judge, but the payment of our sin debt does not guarantee that personal and particular reconciliation with God will happen (i.e., salvation) because each individual could still remain separated from Jesus—having no union or identity either in Him or, particularly for continued reconciliation, in His righteousness.
My contention is that the Cross, not merely sufficient to pay the whole debt on sin, actually did pay the whole debt on human sin, particularly against God the Father as Judge.3
Jesus’ death (expiation) satisfied God’s wrath (propitiation) creating the possibility of reconciliation with God if only we would be reconciled by faith into Jesus (atonement, salvation).
Romans 5:8f speaks to this: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by [lit., in] His life.” Notice: much more we will have salvation in His life (when we enter into it), having had reconciliation purchased through His death. The accomplishment of reconciliation to God (which happened while we were separate from Jesus) is here markedly distinguished from salvation “in His life.”
What does it mean here, and in other places (e.g., 1 Pet. 3:18), that Christ’s death is applied to us even before we had entered into Him in faith—while we were yet “ungodly” and “enemies.” It’s easy to overlook texts like this, yet they are central to our understanding of the relationship between propitiation and salvation. If Jesus died for us while we were yet separate from Him in sin, then it seems His passive obedience can apply to you even without union through the Spirit. This does not effect full reconciliation, however, since full reconciliation (salvation in Christ’s life) requires a presentation of righteousness only possible by union with Jesus.
So Why Does Anyone Go to Hell?
This raises the obvious and pressing question: “Why then are not all saved?” Or the related questions: “Is sin paid for twice? Why does anyone suffer punishment in hell if sin has been paid for already on the Cross?” The simple answer is this, as has already been affirmed: Not all are unified to Jesus Christ and His righteousness through faith.
That needs unpacking, however, for its implications may not be obvious at first. Jesus’ death, were it payment for all sin, could still not be payment for itself. By simple logic, it could pay for anything and everything but itself, in the same way that you can borrow money to pay any debts other than the one debt you just incurred by borrowing to consolidate your debts. In other words, even if the Cross paid the debt for all your previous sins and even the categorical sin of humankind (i.e., Original Sin), there would still be at least one transgression left outstanding on everyone’s account: crucifying the Son of God! Is not crucifying Jesus a sin so heinous that it completely overwhelms all other sins? And if you have not been crucified with Christ in union with Him, you are responsible for His crucifixion because your sins contributed directly to its necessity.
The only way to avoid the wrath due to those who crucified Christ is to be reconciled with God in Christ while there is time. In other words, one would have to take up Jesus’s Cross and follow Him in death, being raised with Him in righteousness. One would have to put off the crucifying old man and put on the once-crucified, now-resurrected new man in order to be free from the guilt of the Cross. Jesus is the only human being totally innocent of His rejection and crucifixion, and if you are not found in Him, you are therefore guilty of the Cross.
There is a terrifying and sobering reality in this. Jesus’ first coming was at the same time an extraordinary magnification of God’s mercy and grace to us in providing the only way of reconciliation, but it also just as significantly raised the stakes for unbelievers. The author of Hebrews expounds on this at length:
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Heb. 10:26–30)
Centrality of Union with Christ
The only refuge then is union with Jesus, through which the believer is unified to Him on the Cross (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 5:24). The body of Christ, the true church, is not culpable for the crucifixion: in Christ, we are the victim of Jesus’ rejection, not its perpetrators. So, in the end, you have two choices for representative identity: Adam the Efficient Cause of Sin and the Formal Cause of the Crucifixion or Jesus Christ the Crucified. There is no neutral ground, no person not included.
Therefore, the one who refuses union with Jesus is guilty almost singularly for the one single transgression the Cross does not cover (the Cross itself), and no other sins matter much in the face of that (though one’s sins evidence, of course, continued separation from Jesus and His holiness). Additionally, by continuing to sin, humans continue reinforcing the cause of the crucifixion, as if “they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame” (Heb. 6:6).
Consider the Parable of the Landowner (Matt 21:33ff). Once the worthless stewards had murdered the son of the landowner, all of their other transgressions paled in comparison. All their former failures were subsumed into their murder of the son. Jesus makes this rejection (or acceptance) the central issue of the parable in His explanation: “And he who falls on this stone [Jesus, the chief corner stone] will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust” (Matt. 21:44).
One would think, then, that if all other sins had been cleared away by or at least subsumed into the enormity of the Cross, the main issue of the Last Judgment would mainly focus on Jesus, and particularly—whether or not a person rejected union with Him (and thereby became culpable for His crucifixion). And this seems to be exactly what we find! When I consider the relatively scant biblical data we have on the Final Judgment, I am always struck by two quite odd revelations:
- It is Jesus Christ and not the Father (as one might expect) who is Judge in the end.
- The decisions of the Final Judgment seem quite pointedly fixed on one’s treatment of or relationship to Jesus and the people unified into Him.
Judgment of the Father or of Christ?
To the first point, in John 5:22, Jesus says, “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.” Other texts point clearly to Jesus as the Final Judge (Acts 10:42, 17:31; 2 Tim. 4:1; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Pet. 4:5). In Revelation, we see the slain Lamb coming to the throne and receiving the sealed book of Judgments from the right hand of the One on the Throne (Rev. 5:6–10). This seems to be the very point at which judgment is delivered to Jesus: after his accomplished death, resurrection, and ascension to the throne-room of heaven.
That the Judgment Seat on the Last Day belongs to Christ and not the Father (or God more generally) has not regularly been explored, but this truth should cause us to pause. Most would agree that Jesus bore the wrath of the Father on the Cross. If God the Father dispensed the wrath, isn’t He the offended party? That would seem to be the implication. So why has He turned over judgment to the Son in the Last Judgment if, in fact, many offenses against the Father are still outstanding (in unbelievers), and they still need adjudicating?
It would seem that, through his being slain, the Lamb has consolidated to Himself all rights of Judgment. On account of the Cross, He has become the chief Plaintiff in the lawsuit between heaven and earth, so, following His Father before Him, He has become the chief Judge. In a manner of speaking, he bought up all the debt of human sin on the Cross, so that it is with Him alone that all people must now have dealings for right standing in the Judgment (cf. Jn. 14:6).
Why Judgment Comes on the Unbeliever
To the second point, concerning the mode of Christ’s prosecution in the Last Day, notice why “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16) comes upon unbelievers in the Final Judgment. Revelation contains numerous explanations on this point: “for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets” (16:6); “and I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus” (17:6); “and in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth” (18:24). Judgment comes against “those who pierced him” and those responsible for “the blood of saints and prophets,” who are really one and the same. These twin realities are not separable in the least, because of the saints’ union to Christ.
Perhaps the first herald of the Gospel to fully understand this was Paul, and he was taught this truth from his first encounter with Christ, when he heard, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). Paul might have responded, “Lord, when did I persecute you? I have merely persecuted Christians.” To which Jesus likely would have countered, “To the extent that you persecuted those who are in me (i.e., “the least of these”), you have persecuted me.”
This should remind us of perhaps the most extensive biblical account of the Final Judgment we have, found in Matthew 25:31ff. In it, again, the judgment seems entirely focused on how believers or unbelievers have acted toward Jesus and His people. Have they evidenced unity with Jesus by being Christ-like to “the least of these”? Or have they evidenced separation from Jesus (even active antagonism against Him)? This union between believers and Christ is so great that Paul even goes so far as to say that his own suffering for Jesus’ saints (at the hands of unbelievers) was “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col. 1:24).
In summary, Jesus’ passive obedience has a cosmic and universal application: it removes sin from the cosmos, preparing it for its final recreated state, and it is the way, absolutely clear of any obstacles, for any to be reconciled with God.
That all people can be beneficiaries of Jesus’ death even without uniting to Him in faith is made quite clear by the Scriptures: He died for us while we were yet estranged from Him in sin so that we could enter through Him into fellowship with God (Eph. 2:13f). His death makes our union possible by removing all obstacles to reconciliation, but His death in our behalf does not require that union has already happened, for many are yet not found in Him. And without union (which effects the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us), there is no abiding reconciliation with God and therefore no salvation.
So our sin can be imputed to Jesus without union through the Spirit, but His righteousness cannot be imputed to us without that union. In this way, our sins against the Father are forgiven in the Son (through the Cross), and our sins against the Son (in the Cross) are forgiven in the Spirit which unifies us to Him. But denying the Spirit and rejecting reconciliation altogether is unforgivable.
In conclusion, it was not God’s intention through the Cross to save all human beings, but to open the only way of salvation for all human beings through Jesus. If He hadn’t truly opened the way, and that to all, how could any be saved? He made the way clear, so that His people could enter in. With all this in mind, we can outline some of God’s central intentions in the Cross.
Christ’s death on the Cross was used in God’s Sovereign plan
- to clear away sin entirely as an obstacle to reconciliation,
- make the way to salvation clear for all, and
- draw into Christ those elect who were called from eternity in Christ,
- to relieve the cosmos finally of its futility under sin,
- remove all excuses in the Judgment, and
- put all things in subjection under Christ.
No one has an excuse for not being reconciled to God, because Jesus actually did for all people everything necessary for reconciliation: He paid the debt, and He conciliated our justly wrathful God. The only thing all humans must now determine is their relationship to Christ and Him crucified: Are we responsible for the crucifixion, or are we victims of it in Christ? These are the only two options, so all humans are subject by this to Christ, Lord of all.
There are numerous other implications to the view I’ve presented, some of which I would like to briefly outline here.
First, it explains the almost uncanny change in disposition from our God in the Old Testament (fulfilling Just Wrath and Righteous Judgment warnings for the future) and our God in the New Testament (fulfilling Grace and Mercy promises from the past). The New Testament God is an appeased God, not a different God as some have wrongly supposed (e.g., Marcion). The Father has been fully satisfied in and by His Son, and therefore, the only wrath left to visit on the wicked belongs to the Son.
Second, mirroring that meditation, the Son, by the time we reach the end of Revelation, has undergone a quite complimentary change in aspect. The meek and gentle Lamb who divested his glory to be the vessel of the Father’s wrath to enrich us to overflowing has become the fierce and mighty Shepherd King, with eyes of lightning, feet like burnished bronze, and a sword coming out of his mouth to judge the nations. The Wrath of the Father has become the Wrath of the Lamb.4
Third, union with Christ is indispensable to the Gospel of reconciliation. It will be that very union upon which our judgment will stand or fall in the Last Day. We cannot walk in the reconciliation to God, that Jesus made open to all people with His death, outside of union with Jesus through faith. This is another way of stating the obvious: that unless we will be reconciled, we won’t be.
Fourth, all human beings are defined by their relationship to Jesus and His death, believer and unbeliever alike. We are all one or the other: either crucified, raised, and ascendant (and therefore judging, Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:30; 1 Cor. 6:2; Rev. 20:4) with and in Christ or we are responsible for His persecution and death (both against Him and against His “witnesses”) eternally.
Fifth, Christians in union with Christ will suffer as He suffered and be rejected as He was rejected. That is why we rejoice when we are persecuted for righteousness (James), because this is one of the clearest ways the Spirit testifies in our heart to our union with Christ, the certainty of our salvation, and our ultimate freedom from the enormous guilt of the Cross.
Sixth, we would all naturally refuse to be reconciled to God (according to the bondage to our sin nature) unless we were and are found in (called in) the Son (The Word, The Book of Life) from before time began (2 Tim. 1:9), so definite atonement still carries full force. As Jesus said, “All that the Father has given Me will come to Me” (Jn. 6:37). So only those who are given to Christ by the Father in eternity will experience salvation fully, for they alone will “much more” unite themselves to Christ’s life and righteousness in time, thereby fleeing the wrath to come against those “who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (1 Thess. 1:8). But, on the other hand, none of us can be certain who the Father called in Christ from eternity, so in humility, hope, and obedience…
Seventh, we offer the pure and simply free Gospel of accomplished reconciliation to any and all people—completely unfettered by any conditions, either of works or the undisclosed roster of election. Our particular sins (and the original, categorical sin in humankind) had blocked our way to God. But all our sins have been forgiven in Christ, while we were all yet separate from God and His enemies. This is not conditional. Jesus died for the sins of all, even if they will not believe into Him, and we can and should tell people without equivocation that Jesus died for them. Jesus paid all that is necessary for all, and the way to God is therefore entirely clear and unblocked through Him. All that is left is for our salvation is for us to in fact be reconciled.
Eighth, faith then is not so much an active deed but a relinquishing. It is only by holding on to our nature in sin—and our separation from Christ in that sin—that we spoil the accomplished reconciliation for ourselves. Salvation would be accomplished in a person without any works on his part if only he would deny himself and enter Christ’s rest! Justifying faith then is not an Arminian work of the flesh (as some might charge to this view), but in fact a ceasing from the works of the flesh.5
And after this justifying (one could even say passive) faith (this dying to self and ceasing from the works of the flesh), which is grounded in the reality of our eternal identity in Christ and instigated by the testimony of the Spirit in us, an active faith of sanctification immediately begins our walk in Christ’s life and righteousness, whereby out of the black, dead soil of our crucified sin nature grows the fruit of the Spirit, sovereignly prepared beforehand in Christ Jesus.
So faith is also a gift, and not a work. The faith that relinquishes the self is not a work, but a resting from dead works. The faith that actively walks in Jesus involves works, of course, but only because the “new creation” has been given life in Jesus. Total faith involves both dying to self (which is the application of Christ’s death particularly and uniquely to those who are unified to Him) and living in Christ. Only those who never live in Christ have never died in Christ, though Christ died because of and for their sins nonetheless.
So, in the end, God Himself accomplished everything necessary for our salvation, through Christ. We must receive His life, His life-giving Word, in faith and then walk in His righteousness, for the alternative option is unthinkably grim.
Namely that, ninth, if you refuse God’s inestimable grace in this, you will incur on yourself an even greater judgment, for your very denial of Jesus makes you liable for the infinite debt of Christ’s death and you will also be held variably accountable for your respective part in the tribulation of His witnesses (because they are in Him) for all eternity. This highlights both the incalculable riches of God’s grace toward those who believe and the unfathomable abysses of the Lamb’s wrath which will come against those who reject Him all the way to their deaths and persecute His children (in Him) along the way.
Tenth, there is no need for theological gymnastics concerning the cosmic soteriological passages of Scripture. More than before, the biblical authors speak naturally and on their own terms. For me, this view of unlimited expiation and definite atonement unexpectedly refreshes many texts of Scripture without deadening the abiding vitality of traditional Reformed interpretations.
With this in view, I will close with the most quoted, perhaps now most often overlooked, verse in all the Bible, with the context following it:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes into Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes into Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed into the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16–18)
The bulk of this article was my final paper for Systematic Theology III: Christology, Soteriology, and Eschatology which I completed in the spring semester, 2017, at Reformed Theological Seminary Atlanta. I edited it slightly for online publication.
- I primarily defer here to Morris’s fine summary: “Propitiation means the turning away of anger; expiation is rather the making amends for a wrong. Propitiation is a personal word; one propitiates a person. Expiation is an impersonal word; one expiates a sin or a crime.” Leon Morris, The Atonement (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1983), 151. ↩
- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), III.1.i., 557. ↩
- Although, as I explain later, the Cross cannot pay for itself. So it pays the whole varied debts of sin other than the overwhelming single debt that it itself incurred to those who refuse to be reconciled. ↩
- This might also explain the puzzling verbal shift between the seemingly objective constitutional wrath generally associated with God (orgē) in the majority of the Bible to the more personal word for wrath (thymós) associated with God, in the Lamb, only in Revelation (Rev. 14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19; 19:15). ↩
- This is one reason why the author of Hebrews says keeping the Sabbath is an abiding commandment—because it pictures our entrance into Christ’s rest and our relinquishing of our own identity in sin (“the deeds of the flesh”). In this light, it is interesting to note the language in the Old Testament concerning the Sabbath (as translated in the NIV): deny yourselves and do no work (Lev. 16:29, 31; 23:27, 32; Num. 29:7). ↩