What is the Atonement?

The atonement and the riches bought their are truly innumerable and inexhaustible for the man or woman who has eyes to see and ears to hear. J.C. Ryle in his commentary on the book of Matthew said “We can never attach too much importance to the atoning death of Christ. It is the leading fact in the word of God, on which the eyes of our soul ought to be ever fixed. Without the shedding of his blood, there is no remission of sin. It is the cardinal truth on which the whole system of Christianity hinges. Without it the Gospel is an arch without a key-stone, a fair building without a foundation, a solar system without a sun… This, after all, is the master-truth of Scripture, that “Christ died for our sins.” To this let us daily return. On this let us daily feed our souls. Some, like the Greeks of old, may sneer at the doctrine, and call it “foolishness.” But let us never be ashamed to say with Paul, “Be it far from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 6:14.)” I hope this encourages and builds your faith.

  • What is the atonement?
    • The atonement is the work Christ did in his life and deathto earn our salvation.
      • There are also saving  benefits that come to us from Christ’s resurrection, ascension, intercession in Heaven, and his Second Coming.
  • What was the ultimate cause that led to Christ’s coming to earth and dying for our sins?
    • Both the love and justice of God.
      • “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)”
      • “Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3:25-26)”
  • Was there any other way for God to save human beings than by sending his Son to die in our place?
    • Before answering….
      • “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment…(2 Pet. 2:4)”
    • Once God decided to save human beings, His Son’s death was the only way…
      • “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will. (Matt. 26:39″
      • “And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? (Luke 24:25-26)”
      • “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  (Heb. 2:17)”
      • For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Heb. 10:4)”
  • What is the nature of the atonement?
    • Christ’s obedience for us (active obedience)- Christ, as our representative before God the Father, obeyed the requirements of the law in our place and was perfectly obedient to the will of God for us. Without this, we would have merely been viewed as neutral. Not righteous…
      • “….and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith… (Phil. 3:9)”
      • “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption… (1 Cor. 1:30)”
      • “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Rom. 5:19)”
      • “But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. (Matt. 3:15)”
    • Christ’s sufferings for us (passive obedience)- Christ, as our representative before God the Father, suffered the due penalty for our sins opening up full reconciliation to God.
      • Suffering for his whole life
        • Jesus suffered when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11)
        • He also suffered in growing to maturity (Heb. 5:8)
        • He faced intense opposition by  the religious leaders of the day (Heb. 12:3-4)
        • He suffered grief at the death of loved ones around him (his earthly father, John 11:35)
        • He was to be a man of sorrows (Isa. 53:3)
      • The physical pain of the cross
        • “And they crucified him…(Mark 15:24)”
      • The pain of bearing sin
        • Our sins, with all their psychological guilt, anguish, bitterness, and hatred, were placed upon Jesus.
          • “and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isa. 53:6)”
          • “…yet he bore the sin of many…(Isa. 53:12)”
          • “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)”
          • “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Gal. 3:13)”
          • See also Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 2:24
      • Abandonment
        • By his closest friends
          • ” And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch. (Mark. 14:43)”
          • “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)”
          • “…Then all the disciples left him and fled. (Matt. 26:56).”
        • By God the Father
          • “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong…(Hab. 1:13)”
          • “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matt. 27:46)”
      • Bearing the wrath of God
        • Jesus’ sacrifice is described as a “propitiation.” A “propitiation” is a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath to the end and in doing so changes God’s wrath toward us into favor.
          • “Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3:25-26)”
          • “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)”
          • “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)”
          • See also Heb. 2:17
        • What exactly is the “wrath” of God? What did it feel like?
  • Who required Christ to pay the penalty for our sins?
    • God the Father required the penalty and God the Son graciously, lovingly, and wholeheartedly obediently accepted this requirement out of love, mercy, justice, and other attributes.
      • 2 Cor. 5:21; Isa. 53:6, 10; Rom. 5:8
  • What does the “blood of Christ?”
    • The blood of Christ is the clear outward evidence that his life was poured out when he died a sacrificial death to pay our redemption.  The blood of Christ means his death and it’s saving aspects.
      • It has many benefits
        • Our consciences are cleansed (Heb. 9:14)
        • We gain bold access to God in prayer and worship (Heb. 10:19)
        • We are progressively cleansed from remaining sin (I John 1:7; Rev. 1:5)
        • We are able to conquer the devil (Rev. 12:10-11)
        • We are rescued out of the sinful way of life (1 Pet. 1:18-19)
  • How else can we described the atonement?
    • We deserve to die as the penalty for sin.
      • Sacrifice-“…. he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Heb. 9:26)”
    • We deserve to bear God’s wrath against sin.
      • Propitiation-see earlier verses
    • We are separated from God by our sins.
      • Reconciliation- “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:18-19)”
    • We are in bondage to sin and the kingdom of Satan.
      • Redemption-  “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)”…”He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1:13-14)”

Adapted from Grudem’s Systematic Theology

There are a host of other benefits won and gained as a result of the atonement.

  • To Absorb the Wrath of God
    • Gal. 3:13; Rom. 3:25; 1 John 4:10
  • To Please His Heavenly Father
    • Isa. 53:10; Eph. 5:2
  • To Learn Obedience and Be Perfected
    • Heb. 2:10; 5:8
  • To Achieve His Own Resurrection from the Dead
    • Heb. 13:20-21
  • To Show the Wealth of God’s Love and Grace for Sinners
    • Rom. 5:7-8; John 3:16; Eph.1:7
  • To Show His Own Love for Us
    • Eph. 5:2; 5:25; Gal. 2:20
  • To Cancel the Legal Demands of the Law Against Us
    • Col. 2:13
  • To Become a Ransom for Many
    • Mark 10:45
  • For the Forgiveness of Our Sins
    • Eph. 1:7; Matt. 26:28
  • To Provide the Basis for Our Justification
    • Rom. 3:24; 3:28; 5:9
  • To Complete the Obedience That Becomes Our Righteousness
    • Phil. 2:8; 3:9; Rom. 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:21;
  • To Take Away Our Condemnation
    • Rom. 8:1; 8:34
  • To Abolish Circumcision and All Rituals as the Basis of Salvation
    • Gal. 5:11; 6:12
  • To Bring Us to Faith and Keep Us Faithful
    • Mark 14:24; Jer. 32:40
  • To Make Us Holy, Blameless, and Perfect
    • Heb. 10:14; Col. 1:22; 1 Cor. 5:7
  • To Give Us a Clear Conscience
    • Heb. 9:14
  • To Obtain for Us All Things That Are Good for Us
    • Rom. 8:32
  • To Heal Us from Moral and Physical Sickness
    • Isa. 53:5; Matt. 8:16-17
  • To Give Eternal Life to All Who Believe on Him
    • John 3:16
  • To Deliver Us from the Present Evil Age
    • Gal. 1:4
  • To Reconcile Us to God
    • Rom. 5:10
  • To Bring Us to God
    • 1 Pet. 3:18; Eph. 2:13
  • So That We Might Belong to Him
    • Rom. 7:4; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; Acts 20:28
  • To Give Us Confident Access to the Holiest Place
    • Heb. 10:19
  • To Become for Us the Place Where We Meet God
    • John 2:19-21
  • To Bring the Old Testament Priesthood to an End and Become the Eternal High Priest
    • Heb. 7:23-27; 9:24-26; 10:11-12
  • To Become a Sympathetic and Helpful Priest
    • Heb. 4:15-16
  • To Free Us from the Futility of Our Ancestry
    • 1 Pet. 1:18-19
  • To Free Us from the Slavery of Sin
    • Rev. 1:5-6; Heb. 13:12; Rom. 6
  • That We Might Die to Sin and Live to Righteousness
    • 1 Pet. 2:24
  • So That We Would Die to the Law and Bear Fruit for God
    • Rom. 7:4
  • To Enable Us to Live for Christ and Not Ourselves
    • 2 Cor. 5:15
  • To Make His Cross the Ground of All Our Boasting
    • Gal. 6:14
  • To Enable Us to Live by Faith in Him
    • Gal. 2:20
  • To Give Marriage Its Deepest Meaning
    • Eph. 5:25
  • To Create a People Passionate for Good Works
    • Titus 2:14
  • To Call Us to Follow His Example of Lowliness and Costly Love
    • 1 Pet. 2:19-21; Heb. 12:3-4; Phil. 2:5-8
  • To Create a Band of Crucified Followers
    • Luke 9:23; Matt. 10:38
  • To Free Us from Bondage to the Fear of Death
    • Heb. 2:14-15
  • So That We Would Be with Him Immediately After Death
    • 1 Thess. 5:10; Phil 1:21-23; 2 Cor. 5:8
  • To Secure Our Resurrection from the Dead
    • Rom. 6:5; 8:11; 2 Tim. 2:11
  • To Disarm the Rulers and Authorities
    • Col. 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8
  • To Unleash the Power of God in the Gospel
    • Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18
  • To Destroy the Hostility Between Races
    • Eph. 2:14-15
  • To Ransom People from Every Tribe and Language and People and Nation
    • Rev. 5:9
  • To Gather All His Sheep from Around the World
    • John 11:52-53; 10:16
  • To Rescue Us from Final Judgment
    • Heb. 9:28
  • To Gain His Joy and Ours
    • Heb. 12:2; Psa. 16:11; Luke 15:7; John 15:11
  • So That He Would Be Crowned with Glory and Honor
    • Heb. 2:9; Phil. 2:7-9; Rev. 5:12
  • To Show That the Worst Evil Is Meant by God for Good
    • Acts 4:23, 27-28; Isa. 53:10

 

Adapted from John Piper’s 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. A free pdf version of the book can be found here.

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