We could not be more excited that Mockingbird has been able to bring Paul Zahl’s book Who Will Deliver Us?: The Present Power of the Death of Christ back into print! One of my favorite sections comes from Chapter 3, which is entitled “Christ Died for Our Sins”, p. 41-43:
I believe in the atonement of Jesus Christ because it disarms the law and frees me from the fear of judgment. This judgment would use as evidence against me not only the deliberate sins and conscious moral failures of which I feel most painfully aware, but also the compulsive patterns and imprisoning proclivities the origin of which I scarcely know except they feel like flesh of my flesh. I have often felt judgment not as the condemnation of things about me I can help, but condemnation of my very self and character. Judgment makes me believe that “I,” to the extent that I am able to think of myself as a unity, have no definite, rightful place in the world. Because of judgment, I feel in the position of having to earn this rightful place. I have always worried that the governing truth about my life may be the dark finality of grievous solitude. Do I have a right to exist? The law has judged not only what I do, but who I am. For this reason law is my chief adversary in life.
I am a little like a duck hunter who was hunting with his friend in a wide-open barren of land in southeastern Georgia. Far away on the horizon he noticed a cloud of smoke. Soon he could hear the sound of crackling. A wind came up, and he realized the terrible truth: a brushfire was advancing his way. It was moving so fast that he and his friend could not outrun it. The hunter began to rifle through his pockets. Then he emptied all the contents of his knapsack. He soon found what he was looking for–a book of matches. To his friend’s amazement, he pulled out a match and struck it. He list a small fire around the two of them. Soon they were standing in a circle of blackened earth, waiting for the fire to come. They did not have to wait long. They covered their mouths with their handkerchiefs and braced themselves. The firs came near–and swept over them. But they were completely unhurt. They weren’t even touched. Fire would not pass where fire had passed.
The law is like the brushfire. I cannot escape it. But if I stand in the burned-over place, where law has already burned its way through, then I will not be hurt. Not a hair of my head will be singed. The death of Christ is the burned-over place. There I huddle, hardly believing yet relieved. I believe in the atonement. The law is powerless: Christ’s death has disarmed it. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”