Skip to main content

Salvation - The Death of Christ (Part 1)


Atonement

Cairns defines atonement as “The satisfaction of divine justice by the Lord Jesus Christ in His active and passive obedience (i.e., His life and death), which procures for His people a perfect salvation.”[1]
Merrill Unger states, “…the atonement is the covering over of sin, the reconciliation between God and man, accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the special result of Christ’s sacrificial sufferings and death by virtue of which all who exercise proper penitence and faith receive forgiveness of their sins and obtain peace.”[2]
Paul Enns writes, “The foundational meaning of the death of Christ is its substitutionary character. He died in place of sinners that He might purchase their freedom, reconcile them to God, and thereby satisfy the righteous demands of a holy God.”[3]

In Scripture, we find other words that help us gain a better understanding of atonement, words that cast light upon its meaning. We will look at these words more closely in order to come to a better understanding of the meaning of His death.

Substitution
Ezekiel 18:20 tells us that “The soul who sins shall die” (NKJV). This is the law of God, a law He cannot set aside, yet because of His indescribable love for mankind, a way was provided that would satisfy the righteous demands of God. God provided a substitute, One who would die in the place of sinners, in their stead. The Incarnate Word of God came to bear the punishment due sinners, their guilt was imputed to Him. He died in our place in order to satisfy the demands of the offended righteousness and holiness of God. Jesus died as the sinners substitute, in the sinners place (Isa. 53:4-6; Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; Luke 22:19, 20; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13; 1 Tim. 2:6; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18).

Redemption
The general idea for redemption from the words used in both the Old and New Testament is basically the same, the freedom that results from the payment of a price. The word redeem means to buy or buy back again, to purchase in the marketplace. In the New Testament, the words translated “redeemed,” “redemption,” and “bought” carry ideas that show progression.
(1) The first idea is the concept of the believer being bought by Christ (e.g., 2 Pet. 2:1). The purchase price of the believer was the blood of Christ (Rev. 5:9, 10). Because we have been bought, we now belong to Him; we have become slaves of Christ (1 Cor. 6:19, 20; 7:22, 23). Leon Morris states, “The redeemed are paradoxically slaves, the slaves of God, for they were bought with a price…Believers are not bought by Christ into a liberty of selfish ease. Rather, since they have been bought by God at terrible cost, they have become God’s slaves, to do His will.”[4]
(2) The second idea is the concept of security. Paul stated that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Gal. 3:13). Not only did Christ purchase us, but once purchased He removed us from the market never to be on sale again. The believer has been set free from bondage to the law and from the “curse of the law” or its condemnation.
(3) The third idea is the concept of freedom (1 Pet. 1:18). The word “redeemed” here carries the idea that the one purchased has been set free, he has been ransomed. He is no longer a slave to sin and/or the devil, we were bought by the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:18) in order to “purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus2:14).

Propitiation
The righteous demands of God the Father were satisfied by the death of Christ. Man’s sin offended the holiness of God and all men have sinned (Rom. 3:23). The only thing that would meet His righteous demands would be a sinless sacrifice. Christ provided that sinless sacrifice by providing Himself and shedding His blood in the place of sinful man. The death of Christ allows God to act in love toward sinners without violating His justice, righteousness, or holiness. Love was what motivated God to send Jesus as a propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10). First John 2:2 tells us that it was all-inclusive, “but also for the sins of the whole world.” Romans 3:25 tells us that those who put their faith in Jesus find mercy for Christ has become our “mercy seat,” He is the place where Holy God can meet sinful man.

Enns writes, “Propitiation is related to several concepts. (1) The wrath of God. Because God is holy, His wrath is directed toward sin and must be assuaged to spare man from eternal destruction. (2) God provides the remedy. God provides the solution to sin by sending Christ as a satisfaction for sin. (3) Christ’s death assuages the wrath of God. The gift of Christ satisfied the holiness of God and averted His wrath.”[5]
Wendell Johnston states, “The biblical meaning of propitiation is that God’s wrath has been turned away from the sinner because of the supreme sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.”[6]

Reconciliation
Cairns states, “In terms of biblical doctrine, reconciliation is the removal of the enmity between God and the sinner, and the establishment of a new relationship of peace and friendship between them, on the ground of Christ’s payment of everything due to God and His holy law because of sin.”[7]
Ryrie writes, “To reconcile means to change. Reconciliation by the death of Christ means that man’s state of alienation from God is changed so that he is now able to be saved (2 Cor. 5:19). When a man believes, then his former state of alienation from God is changed into one of being a member of His family. The extent of reconciliation affects the entire world (2 Cor. 5:19) in the sense that trespasses are not imputed and God is able to offer man His love in Jesus Christ; but it affects believers in a saving sense so that when that gift of love is personally received we are saved (Rom. 5:11).”[8]

The parable of the prodigal son helps to illustrate reconciliation. The relationship between father and son had been ruined by the son’s rebellion. When the son returns, the father celebrates his return because reconciliation has occurred: “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:24). It illustrates reconciliation because as in the parable, our relationship with God was ruined because of sin which resulted in us becoming enemies of God (Rom. 5:10). The death of Christ and our trusting Him as Lord and Savior fixed our broken relationship with God. Our sin was erased and the relationship was restored resulting in us now having peace with God (Rom. 5:1).

Paul tells us that in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19), that Jesus’ death was the means of our reconciliation (Rom. 5:10), and that Christ, the sinless One, was made to be sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). It was man who needed to be reconciled to God and God who initiated that reconciliation.

Forgiveness
When a sinner trusts Jesus for his salvation and receives Him as his Lord and Savior, at that moment that sinner receives forgiveness for his sins. Since Christ has made atonement for those sins, the penalty due the repentant sinner is erased. Colossians 2:13 teaches that our debt has been cancelled and we have been made alive in Christ. Our debt was nailed to the cross; the charge against us no longer stands, for Christ has already paid the debt by dying in our place. When God forgives us, He releases us from judgment. We are no longer indebted to God for our sins, for God has now judicially forgiven us all our sins (Acts 10:43; Eph. 1:7; Col. 2:13).

Positionally, God’s forgiveness extends to all sins; past, present, and future (Col. 2:13). Practically, in order for the believer to continually experience the joy of his salvation and uninterrupted fellowship with God, there must be daily cleansing (1 John 1:9).

Justification
Without a doubt, the doctrine of justification is one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith. In forgiveness something is taken away, in justification something is added to the believer.
Norman Geisler states, “Justification is the act of God by which we who are unrighteous in ourselves are nevertheless declared righteous before God. It is a judicial (legal) act of pronouncing one to be right in God’s sight.”[9]
George E. Ladd declares that “The root idea in justification is the declaration of God, the righteous judge, that the man who believes in Christ, sinful though he may be, is righteous—is viewed a being righteous, because in Christ he has come into a righteous relationship with God.”[10]

So, because of our position in Christ, God declares us righteous (Eph. 2:13), for the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us (Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21). It is not, as some often believe, God now seeing us as if we had never sinned, but rather as sinners to whom the righteousness of Christ has been added. In justifying us, God doesn’t pretend we are something we are not. His righteous demands were met in Christ, therefore He remains just while justifying us (Rom. 3:25-26). Our sins were imputed to Christ and Christ’s righteousness credited to our account.

It is imperative to note that the Bible is very clear in teaching that man is justified by grace alone (Rom. 3:24; Eph. 2:8), through faith alone (Rom. 3:22, 28; 5:1; Gal. 2:16), in Christ alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5-6).

Adoption
The word adoption as used in the Pauline epistles is a declaration by God in which He accepts those who have been born-again, as sons who have the legal rights of inheritance in Christ. Geisler states, “Adoption means ‘placing as a son’; it signifies, literally, ‘a legal child’ (Ex. 2:10)…Theologically, adoption (Gal. 4:5) refers to the act of God that places a person as a son in God’s family. Adoption is a term of position whereby one becomes a son by the new birth (John 1:12-13), is redeemed from the bondage of the law (Gal. 4:1-5), and, although only a child, is by adoption made an adult son, which is fully manifested at the resurrection of the body (Rom. 8:23; cf. 1 John 3:2).”[11]

The New Testament commentator William Barclay states that in the legal Roman ceremony of adoption, four things happened, “(a) the adopted person lost all rights in his old family, and gained all the rights of a fully legitimate son in his new family. (b) He became heir to his new father’s estate. (c) The old life of the adopted person was completely wiped out. For instance, legally all debts were cancelled; they are wiped out as if they had never been. (d) In the eyes of the law the adopted person was literally and absolutely the son of his new father.”[12]
In his epistles, Paul describes the believer’s new status in Christ by using the Roman background.

The Christian shows evidence of sonship by his submission to the leading of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14), by his separation from the world (2 Cor. 6:14-18), by overcoming (Rev. 21:7), and by the Father’s discipline in his life (Heb. 12:6-8).


[1] Alan CairnsDictionary of Theological Terms, expanded third edition (Greenville: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002), p. 44.
[2] Merrill F. Unger, The New Ungers Bible Dictionary, R. K. Harrison, ed. (Chicago: Moody, 1988), p. 123.
[3] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody, 1989), p. 323.
[4] Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), p. 54.
[5] Enns, p. 325.
[6] Wendell G. Johnston, “Propitiation,” The Theological Wordbook, Charles R. Swindoll, ed., (Nashville: Word, 2000), p. 282-283.
[7] Cairns, p. 366.
[8] Charles C. Ryrie, Survey of Bible Doctrine (Chicago: Moody, 1972), p. 122.
[9] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (Bloomington: Bethany House, 2004), p. 227.
[10] George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), p. 437.
[11] Geisler, p. 226.
[12] William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1957), pp. 110-111.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

On Affirmations of Faith

The dictionary defines affirmation as, “The assertion that something exists or is true. Something that is affirmed; a statement or proposition that is declared to be true.” Affirmations imply knowledge, understanding, certainty, and conviction. Affirmations mean very little unless they reach to the point of identification and involvement. Knowing what one believes and why is a must for every genuine Christian, in fact, it is a biblical mandate. An Affirmation of Faith is no affirmation at all unless God and His truth have become experiential and they have utterly gripped you. Superficiality and confusion as to what we believe are at the root of moral and spiritual calamity in Christian experience, and of weakness and worldliness in the life and witness of the church. I know, what is true of many is not representative of the entire Christian community. Knowing where we ought to be (we learn that in Scripture) and getting there requires us to first take stock of where we currently are. Trut…

The Existence of God - Naturalistic & Biblical Arguments

Charles Ryrie states that traditionally there have been two lines of argument used to demonstrate the existence of God, the naturalistic and the biblical arguments.[1] Here I will evaluate those that fall within both the naturalistic as well as the biblical arguments.
Naturalistic Arguments
Dan Story contends that “it doesn’t take much reflection for us to realize that we exist, and we did not create ourselves. And since that’s true, it’s easy to figure out that something or someone besides ourselves brought us to be. And with a little more reflection, we can also see that the entire universe came to be in one of three possible ways: (1) it created itself; (2) it has always existed, and therefore had no Creator; or (3) it was created by something or someone outside of itself.”[2]
Cosmological Argument A well-established philosophical principle is ex nihilo nihil fit (Latin meaning, “from nothing, nothing comes”). The idea or point of the principle is that you cannot get something out of n…

The Doctrine of the Trinity

Benjamin Warfield defines the Trinity as follows, “There is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence.”[1]
Chafer states, “The Trinity is composed of three united Persons without separate existence—so completely united as to form one God. The divine nature subsists in three distinctions—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”[2] Geisler, in giving the meaning of Trinity, he states, “It means that God is a triunity: He is a plurality within unity. God has a plurality of persons and a unity of essence; God is three persons in one nature. There is only one ‘What’ (essence) in God, but there are three ‘Whos’ (persons) in that one What. God has three ‘I’s’ in His one ‘It’—there are three Subjects in one Object.”[3]
The Athanasian Creed clearly sets forth the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, “That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons nor dividin…