Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Design of the Atonement

This is a Sunday School lesson that I did with my class a few weeks ago. We have been going through the book 1Peter.

The Design of the Atonement
1Peter 1:18-19

The main idea of verses 17-21 is that we are to live out the short time we have on this earth in the fear of God, which produces the holy conduct that Peter mentions in the previous verses. And the way that we do this is by knowing that we were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. This should be the power that drives our holy living.

This is why doctrine is so important to know. The apostles place a high importance on doctrine. For example, Peter mentions the doctrine of election in the very first verses of this epistle. Why? These suffering believers needed to know that they were not rejected by God. They were known intimately by God, indeed they were chosen for this great salvation that they were suffering for.

Paul does the same thing in Romans. The first eleven chapters are mainly doctrinal explaining salvation. It is not until he gets to chapter twelve that he starts discussing the more practical side of the Christian faith. Why? Doctrine fuels practice. Granted there are those who have a head knowledge filled with doctrine, but there lives don’t match what they believe. However, that’s not the way that it’s supposed to work. Doctrine is meant to fuel our obedience. I love the way John Piper puts it, “Theology can conquer biology.”

The atonement of Christ is the most important doctrine that a Christian can know. It is the most freeing and comforting doctrine in the whole Bible. When a person understands what Christ did for them on the cross, that He bore their sin, took their punishment, and absorbed the entire wrath of God that should have been theirs, they are set free from the fear of punishment, and eternal judgment.

One of the most comforting verses of scripture is found in the next chapter of this epistle:

1Pe 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

The word “bore” in the Greek means to take up, or to carry. Christ died for the actual sin of actual people. This atonement was a real atonement. In Romans 3:25 Paul uses a word that we don’t hear very often anymore. It’s the word “propitiation.”

Rom 3:25 whom God put forward as 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.

Propitiation relates to appeasing or expiating. The atonement of Christ had a definite purpose. The purpose was for Christ to die as a substitute, bearing all of the sins of God’s people, absorbing the Fathers wrath for their sins, and by this guaranteeing their faith and repentance.

The atoning sacrifice of Christ guarantees the salvation of everyone that Christ died for. Not one person for whom Christ died for will be lost.

Joh 6:39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

There is a misunderstanding of certain passages of scripture that would seem to say that Christ died for every single individual that has ever or will ever live; 1John 2:1; John 3:16; 1Timothy 2:4; 2Peter 3:9. The main problem that this creates is “Universalism.” “If Jesus died for everyone, then everyone will eventually be saved.” We know that this isn’t true because the Bible clearly teaches that not everyone will be saved. Some will die in their sins and pay the penalty for their sins themselves forever in hell. And if they are in hell suffering for their own sins, how could Christ have paid for their sins on the cross? Did Christ pay for the sins of those who were in hell before He died? Was there an actual atonement made on the cross for those whom Christ knew was going to reject Him? Listen to what Charles Spurgeon said in his sermon entitled “Particular Redemption:

We hold—we are not afraid to say that we believe—that Christ came into this world with the intention of saving "a multitude which no man can number;" and we believe that as the result of this, every person for whom He died must, beyond the shadow of a doubt, be cleansed from sin, and stand, washed in blood, before the Father's throne. We do not believe that Christ made any effectual atonement for those who are for ever damned; we dare not think that the blood of Christ was ever shed with the intention of saving those whom God foreknew never could be saved, and some of whom were even in Hell when Christ, according to some men's account, died to save them.

Because of the lack of time; we will deal with the passages that seem to say that Christ died for every single individual next week, but to give an example of how many ways that the word "world,"( the Greek word "kosmos"), is used, listen to what "Strong's Greek Lexicon says about this word:

2889 kosmov kosmos kos’-mos

probably from the base of 2865; TDNT-3:868,459; n m

AV-world 186, adorning 1; 187

1) an apt and harmonious arrangement or constitution, order, government
2) ornament, decoration, adornment, i.e. the arrangement of the stars, ‘the heavenly hosts’, as the ornament of the heavens. #1Pe 3:3
3) the world, the universe
4) the circle of the earth, the earth
5) the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family
6) the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ
7) world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly
7a) the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ
8) any aggregate or general collection of particulars of any sort
8a) the Gentiles as contrasted to the Jews (#Ro 11:12 etc)
8b) of believers only, #John 1:29; 3:16; 3:17; 6:33; 12:47 #1Co 4:9; 2Co 5:19

For Synonyms see entry 5921

(Note where Strong's places the word "world" in John 3:16. He places it under 8b, "of believers only")

Another problem with the belief in a general atonement is that it assumes that man has the ability to come to Christ on his own. But the Bible is very clear that man is so radically depraved that it takes the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit enabling the person to come to Christ before he will ever come. Some verses that show this are:

Eph 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins

Eph 2:5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--

Mat 8:22 And Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead."

1Jn 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

We need to understand the analogy made in the Bible about spiritual death. All men are born spiritually dead. Just as a physically dead person has no ability to do anything no matter how much you try to stimulate him, so a spiritually dead person has no ability to respond to the gospel. The only way a physically dead person can respond to any stimuli is if he is resurrected. In the same way, the only way that a spiritually dead person can respond to the gospel is if the Spirit of God raises him from the dead and gives him spiritual life.

This is why salvation is a miraculous event. It is all the work of God. It is free grace. Verses that support this are:

Joh 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

Joh 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Joh 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Joh 6:65 And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."

Joh 10:16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Php 1:29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,

Joh 1:12-13 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Jas 1:18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Rom 9:14-16 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

So we can see by these passages of scripture that God is the One doing all of the work in our salvation. The implication of these passages is that because God is the One doing the work in bringing us to repentance and faith in Christ, the atonement of His Son Jesus Christ has a specific design in mind, namely the salvation of God’s elect. Again from his sermon entitled “Particular Redemption,” Charles Spurgeon says:

Now, beloved, when you hear any one laughing or jeering at a limited atonement, you may tell him this. General atonement is like a great wide bridge with only half an arch; it does not go across the stream: it only professes to go half way; it does not secure the salvation of anybody. Now, I had rather put my foot upon a bridge as narrow as Hungerford, which went all the way across, than on a bridge that was as wide as the world, if it did not go all the way across the stream. I am told it is my duty to say that all men have been redeemed, and I am told that there is a Scriptural warrant for it—"Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." Now, that looks like a very, very great argument indeed on the other side of the question. For instance, look here. "The whole world is gone after Him." Did all the world go after Christ? "Then went all Judea, and were baptized of him in Jordan." Was all Judea, or all Jerusalem baptized in Jordan? "Ye are of God, little children," and "the whole world lieth in the wicked one." Does "the whole world" there mean everybody? If so, how was it, then, that there were some who were "of God?" The words "world" and "all" are used in seven or eight senses in Scripture; and it is very rarely that "all" means all persons, taken individually. The words are generally used to signify that Christ has redeemed some of all sorts—some Jews, some Gentiles, some rich, some poor, and has not restricted His redemption to either Jew or Gentile.

To see this sermon in its entirety, cut and paste the address;

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