Archives For Atonement

In the context of Christian salvation, the word, “propitiation”  means the turning away of wrath or anger usually by an offering.[1] Propitiation appeases the wrath of God rightly brought about by our sin.[2] First John 4:10 summarizes, “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 ESV).”

Similarly, in arguably the most important paragraph ever written,[3] Paul wrote that Christ was “put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:25a)

On the Cross, Jesus satisfied the wrath of God by dying in the place of Christians.

Hence, the Gettys were right to refuse to remove from their song, “In Christ Alone,” the words, “till on the cross where Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” See here.[4]

If you find yourself uncomfortable with the idea of the wrath of God, see Sam Storms’ Can a God Without Wrath Be Good?

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[1] Leon Morris, The Cross of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 6.

[2] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 809.

[3] Chris Brauns, “The Most Important Paragraph Ever Written!,” A Brick in the Valley: The Web Site of Pastor and Author Chris Brauns, March 19, 2010, http://chrisbrauns.com/2010/03/the-most-important-paragraph-ever-written/.

[4] Collin Hansen, “Keith Getty on What Makes ‘In Christ Alone’ Accepted and Contested,” TGC – The Gospel Coalition, December 9, 2013, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/keith-getty-on-what-makes-in-christ-alone-beloved-and-contested.

Atonement is central to what Christians believe. Yet, many believers cannot define this important word. Michael Horton offers this explanation, “Christ died in our place, bearing God’s wrath, satisfying his justice, and reconciling us to the Father.”

Broadly, the word “atonement” refers to reparation for an offense. In the context of Christianity, the wrong in view is the rebellion of all image bearers against our Creator and the reparation is the reconciling of God and humanity through the work of God’s only unique Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:21). So Jesus atoned for the sins of Christians.

But how did Jesus atone for the sins of his people? The Bible teaches that the atoning work of Christ involves both substitution and satisfaction. Christ was the substitute for his people and he satisfied the demands of God’s justice (1 John 4:10, Isaiah 53, 2 Cor 5:21).[1]

Said another way, the central aspect of Christ’s atoning work is that that he paid the penalty for his people on the cross. Theologians refer to this truth as penal substitutionary atonement. Michael Horton summarizes, “Christ died in our place, bearing God’s wrath, satisfying his justice, and reconciling us to the Father.”[2]

In order that we might grasp both the problem sin creates, and the solution for how sinners can be right with God, the Bible describes sin using different pictures including debt, enmity, and crime. R.C. Sproul helps us understand how Christ atones for our sin with the following table.[3]

Sin as . . . Man God Christ
Debt Debtor Creditor Surety
Enmity Enemy Violated One Mediator
Crime Criminal Judge Substitute

For more, see Kevin DeYoung’s important post, Substitution is Not a “Theory of the Atonement”

[1] R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1992), 172–173.

[2] Michael Horton, Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 208.

[3] R.C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2007), 42.

In his short essay, “Christian Doctrine and Life,” The theologian John Murray stressed that the great doctrines of the Christian life have implications for everyday life.

Consider these texts:

[43] But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, [44] and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. [45] 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 10:43-45

[21] For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21

Elsewhere, I have given a brief overview of systematic theology for our church family. But one thing that we must never lose sight of is that even though doctrine may stretch our intellect and vocabularies, it is not in any sense removed from every day life. John Murray beautifully explains this point. Here are a few excerpts he makes relative to the above Bible texts and others as well:

“It is worthy of note that some of the most characteristic definitions of Christ’s atoning accomplishment are given in appeals to believers to practise the most elementary duties of their heavenly vocation.” cf. (Matt 20:28, Mark 10:43-45).

“And the great lesson for our present interest is that there is a direct connection between the most sacred truths of our faith and the most elementary duties of our Christian calling. The great truth of the atonement, than which nothing is more central, is the incentive to humble, devoted, self-sacrificing service in the kingdom of God.”

“There is a straight line of connection between the death of Christ and elementary virtues of the Christian life.”

 

Psalm 22 - Summary of New Testament UsageCharles Spurgeon believed Jesus may have repeated Psalm 22 word for word on the Cross. If you review the New Testament usage of Psalm 22, you will understand why Spurgeon thought so.

Psalm 22 is a psalm with application in David’s life (circa 1000 B.C) but it is prophetic and fulfilled completely only by Christ. Hence, it is sometimes called the 5th Gospel account of the cross.[1] Spurgeon says that this Psalm is beyond all others:

The Psalm of the Cross. It may have been actually repeated word by word by our Lord when hanging on the tree; it would be too bold to say that it was so, but even a causal reader may see that it might have been . . . O for grace to draw near and see this great sight! We should read reverently, putting off our shoes from our feet, as Moses did at the burning bush, for if there be holy ground anywhere in Scripture it is this psalm.[2]

 Regarding Psalm 22, Kaiser writes:

David did experience unusual suffering, but under a revelation from God he witnesses suffering of one of his offspring, presumably the last in that promised line, that far transcends anything that came his way.[3]

The Psalm’s essential message is summarized in verse 24. In spite of God’s awful delay in answering prayer, he answers and upholds ultimate justice.”[4] So, someone has said, that while Psalm 22 begins with a “sob”, it ends with a “song” in anticipation of the resurrection.[5]

Derek Kidner:

No Christian can read this without being vividly confronted with the crucifixion. It is not only a matter of prophecy minutely fulfilled, but of the sufferer’s humility – – there is no plea for vengeance—and his vision of a world-wide ingathering of the Gentiles. The Gelineau translation entitles it ‘The suffering servant wins the deliverance of the nations’.

 No incident recorded of David can begin to account for this Psalm. It is prophetic of the Cross.[6]

 

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[1] Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50, ed. David A. Hubbard et al., Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word, 1983), 202.

[2] {Citation}

[3] Walter C. Kaiser, The Messiah in the Old Testament, Studies in Old Testament Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 113.

[4] Waltke, Bruce K., Houston, James M., and Erika Moore, The Psalms as Christian Worship: A Historical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 398.

[5] “Psalms Studies – Book 1,” accessed March 27, 2012, http://www.christadelphianbooks.org/booker/psalms1/psabka30.html.

[6] Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72, ed. D.J. Wiseman, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1973), 105.

See also:

What Happened Each Day of Holy Week : This post gives a summary of what happened each day of Holy Week.

The people involved in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ: Have problems keeping track of all the Marys and the other people involved in Holy Week? Here’s a summary.

Places Associated with Holy Week: Calvary is the same as Golgotha and other helpful facts about Holy Week places.

Isaiah’s servant songs (Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-9, 52:13-53:12) are four passages in Isaiah that uniquely prophesy Christ and are of central importance as we remember the death, burial, and resurrection. Select quotes below show the importance of Isaiah’s Servant Songs.

Eugene Peterson’s Summary of the Four Servant Songs[1]

Servant Song Peterson Thought
Isaiah 42:1-9 The servant is chosen for a mission. He won’t force his way, but will do it quietly and gently.
Isaiah 49:1-7 The servant is formed in the womb. It will be a huge task, but he will be given as a light to the nations.
Isaiah 50:4-9 This song reaffirms the servant’s work of witness and preaching that is met with scorn and contempt.
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 The servant will win the victory through the unlikely approach of suffering in the place of those he saves: “sacrificial suffering, suffering with and for others.”

Youngblood says that the theme of the suffering servant is the most important theme in Isaiah.[2]

Oswalt regarding the Servant Songs writes:

 . . . there is a unique emphasis on what the Servant will accomplish for the world . . . my position is that in these passages Isaiah is speaking of an individual, almost certainly the Messiah, who will be the ideal Israel. Through his obedient service to God, Israel will be enabled to perform the service of blessing the nations that had been prophesied in Gen 12:3 and elsewhere.[3]

 God’s answer to the oppressors of the world is not more oppression, nor is his answer to arrogance more arrogance; rather, in quietness, humility, and simplicity, he will take all of the evil into himself and return only grace. That is power (Oswalt, 111).[4]

In the context of reflecting on the Servant Songs, Edward J. Young writes:

Christ was sent in order to bring the whole world under the authority of God and under obedience to Him.[5]

Those who gather about him to hear his teaching will discover that he spoke as never man spoke. His teaching was not accomplished through loud proclamation but by quiet instruction.[6]

Isaiah 52:12-53:12 is one of four servant songs. In the Old Testament “Only the strange, silent figure of Isaiah 53 stands before us as one who, it is said, remains innocent and righteous.” N.T. Wright[7]

Along with Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 is the central prophetic prophecy of the atonement found in the Old Testament. It vividly describes Christ’s substitutionary death 700 years before the cross. The Church Father Polycarp said Isaiah 53 is the golden “passional” of the Old Testament evangelist. Youngblood tells us that this song is often called the Gospel of the Old Testament and this passage is quoted more often than any other in the New Testament.

Regarding the importance of Isaiah 53 in regards to the atoning work of Christ, Stott writes:

But it is particularly the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, describing the servant’s suffering and death, which is applied consistently to Jesus Christ. ‘No other passage from the Old Testament’, Joachim Jeremias has written, ‘was as important to the Church as Isaiah 53.’19 The New Testament writers quote eight specific verses as having been fulfilled in Jesus. Verse 1 (‘who has believed our message?’) is applied to Jesus by John (12:38). Matthew sees the statement of verse 4 (‘he took up our infirmities and carried our diseases’) as fulfilled in Jesus’ healing ministry (8:17). That we have gone astray like sheep (v. 6), but that by his wounds we have been healed (v. 5) are both echoed by Peter (1 Pet. 2:22–25), and so in the same passage are verse 9 (‘nor was any deceit in his mouth’) and verse 11 (‘he will bear their iniquities’). Then verses 7 and 8, about Jesus being led like a sheep to the slaughter and being deprived of justice and of life, were the verses the Ethiopian eunuch was reading in his chariot, which prompted Philip to share with him ‘the good news about Jesus’ (Acts 8:30–35). Thus verses 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 11 – eight verses out of the chapter’s twelve – are all quite specifically referred to Jesus.[8]

Stott also notices that Jesus himself made numerous references to Isaiah 53.[9] For example, Christ said that he would be:

  • Rejected
  • Taken away.
  • Numbered with the transgressors

Many other statements allude to Isaiah 53. Regarding Isaiah 53, Spurgeon wrote:

This is one of the chapters that lie at the very heart of the Scriptures. It is the very Holy of holies of Divine Writ. Let us, therefore, put off our shoes from our feet, for the place whereon we stand is especially holy ground.

And:

This fifty-third of Isaiah is a Bible in miniature. It is the condensed essence of the gospel. I thought that our beloved friend, Mr. Moody, answered with extreme wisdom a question that was put to him when he came to London some years ago. A number of ministers had come together to meet Mr. Moody, and they began to discuss various points, and to ask what were the evangelist’s views upon certain doctrines. At last, one brother said, “Would Mr. Moody kindly give us his creed? Is it in print?” In a moment the good man replied, “Certainly; my creed is in print, it is the 53rd of Isaiah.” It was a splendid reply. How could a man come closer to the very essentials of the faith than by saying, “My creed is in the 53rd of Isaiah”? I trust that many of you, dear friends can not only say, “This is my creed,” but also, “This is the foundation upon which I have built all my hopes for time and for eternity; this is the source of my sweetest consolation; this is the sun that makes my day, and the star that gilds my night.” In these twelve verses there is everything that we need to teach us the way of salvation; God, the infinitely-wise Teacher, has revealed to us, within this short compass, all that is necessary to bring peace to troubled Spirits.

[1] Peterson, The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way, 175–176.

[2] Ronald F. Youngblood, The Book of Isaiah (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), 147. See also Peterson, The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way, 174.

[3] John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah Chapters 40-66, ed. R.K. Harrison and Robert L. Jr. Hubbard, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 108.

[4] Ibid., 111.

[5] Youngblood, The Book of Isaiah, 111.

[6] Ibid., 113.

[7] N.T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 72.

[8] Stott, The Cross of Christ, 145.

[9] Ibid.

Last week, I posted a basic explanation of the atonement. In summary, the atonement references how sinners can be made right with God.

Earlier this week, I pointed out that in order that we might grasp both the problem sin creates, and the solution for how sinners can be right with God, the Bible describes sin using different pictures including debt, enmity, and crime. See here.

In his immensely accessible book, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, R.C. Sproul stresses that the orthodox Christian understanding of the atonement has involves the ideas of both substitution and satisfaction.

Orthodox Christianity has insisted that the Atonement involves substitution and satisfaction. In taking God’s curse upon Himself, Jesus satisfied the demands of God’s holy justice. He received God’s wrath for us, saving us from the wrath that is to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

The Future of Justification

Chris Brauns —  November 6, 2007 — 5 Comments

John Piper has written a new book, The Future of Justification.  In it, he responds to the new perspective on Paul.  I have ordered it, but not yet received it.  In the mean time, Adrian Warnock provides some very helpful excerpts and commentary.

This morning I have been writing a critical chapter in my book on forgiveness.  It is one in which I consider the nature of the atonement and how God forgives Christians.  Of course, this is pivotal for any book on forgiveness given that God expects us to forgive one another as he forgave us (Eph 4:32).

It struck me in writing how thankful I am for the blogs on the atonement that I have followed on Adrian Warnock’s site, Peter Kirk, and others.

Continue Reading…

John Piper has posted an excerpt from his forthcoming book,  The Future of Justification.

 HT: JT

Piper shares the testimony of one man’s journey regarding his understanding of the atonement.