Archives For Soteriology

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.

Watch this video and see, also, What Scares Me Most as a Pastor.”

Stott summarizes three truths enforced by the cross:

  1. Our sin must be extremely horrible.
  2. God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension.
  3. Christ’s salvation must be a free gift.

Stott writes:

In conclusion, the cross enforces three truths – about ourselves, about God and about Jesus Christ. First, our sin must be extremely horrible. Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross. For ultimately what sent Christ there was neither the greed of Judas, nor the envy of the priests, nor the vacillating cowardice of Pilate, but our own greed, envy, cowardice and other sins, and Christ’s resolve in love and mercy to bear their judgment and so put them away. It is impossible for us to face Christ’s cross with integrity and not to feel ashamed of ourselves. Apathy, selfishness and complacency blossom everywhere in the world except at the cross. There these noxious weeds shrivel and die. They are seen for the tatty, poisonous things they are. For if there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our unrighteousness, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed. It is only when we see this that, stripped of our self-righteousness and self-satisfaction, we are ready to put our trust in Jesus Christ as the Saviour we urgently need.

Secondly, God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension. God could quite justly have abandoned us to our fate. He could have left us alone to reap the fruit of our wrongdoing and to perish in our sins. It is what we deserved. But he did not. Because he loved us, he came after us in Christ. He pursued us even to the desolate anguish of the cross, where he bore our sin, guilt, judgment and death. It takes a hard and stony heart to remain unmoved by love like that. It is more than love. Its proper name is ‘grace’, which is love to the undeserving.

Thirdly, Christ’s salvation must be a free gift. He ‘purchased’ it for us at the high price of his own life-blood. So what is there left for us to pay? Nothing! Since he claimed that all was now ‘finished’, there is nothing for us to contribute. Not of course that we now have a license to sin and can always count on God’s forgiveness. On the contrary, the same cross of Christ, which is the ground of a free salvation, is also the most powerful incentive to a holy life. But this new life follows. First, we have to humble ourselves at the foot of the cross, confess that we have sinned and deserve nothing at his hand but judgment, thank him that he loved us and died for us, and receive from him a full and free forgiveness.

Against this self-humbling our ingrained pride rebels. We resent the idea that we cannot earn – or even contribute to – our own salvation. So we stumble, as Paul put it, over the stumbling-block of the cross.

The Bible describes sin using different pictures including debt, enmity, and crime. R.C. Sproul  (42) helps us understand how Christ atones for our sin with the following table.

Sin as . . .

Man

God

Christ

Debt

Debtor

Creditor

Surety

Enmity

Enemy

Violated One

Mediator

Crime

Criminal

Judge

Substitute

Suppose someone encountered the Easter story for the first time. Imagine how overwhelmed he or she would be with all the details. This year for Easter I am working on a primer that will summarize:

  • Places – Where did the events of the Holy Week take place.
  • People – Who was who in the Easter story.
  • Chronology – What happened up to and during Holy Week.
  • Terms – what theology terms do I need to know to understand the Easter story.

This morning I worked on the theological term “atonement.” Below is my attempt to give a simple explanation. How can this definition be improved staying simple and concise?

Atonement refers to the reconciling of God and humanity through the work of God’s only unique Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:21).  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 this aspect of the atonement, “Christ died in our place, bearing God’s wrath, satisfying his justice, and reconciling us to the Father.”

Another key aspect of the atonement is that of Christus Victor meaning Jesus won the victory over the powers of sin and death.

In his book, A Community Called Atonement: Living Theology, Scot McKnight motivates us to study the atonement when he explains that the atonements explains how the gospel works:

Christians believe that God really did atone for our sins in Jesus Christ and that God really did redemptively create restored relationships with God, with self, with others, and with the world. Christians believe that this all took place in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and (the silent part of the story) in the gift of the Holy Spirit. The atonement, in other words, is the good news of Christianity—it is our gospel. It explains how that gospel works.

To become a Christian, you need only believe in Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31). Being a Christian is not fundamentally about doing or earning. By all means, if you have questions about how to become a Christian, let me buy you a cup of coffee in Stillman Valley!

But understand. While one becomes a Christian through faith in Christ, and not by earning salvation, the faith that saves is a living faith. If you truly believe in Jesus, then you will be changed by the power of Christ.

Here is a great quote from the Westminster standards.

“Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet it is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.” The Westminster Confession of Faith, 11.2.

See also: What Do Christians Mean When They Reference the Gospel or Good News?

 

We’re dreaming about seeing the Fellowship of Christian Athletes become a growing movement in Northern Illinois. You can find out more at our Facebook page.

Here’s how you can help:

(1) Let interested coaches know about our Coaches Huddle on 6:00 PM, August 4, 2013 at the Red Brick Church in Stillman Valley. It’s a low key, non-threatening, chance to be encouraged with other coaches.
(2) Like our FCA Facebook page and share it on the wall of those who might be interested.
(3) Encourage those who are interested to contact me (Chris Brauns). Facebook is a good place to connect or my email is cdbrauns (@ sign) gmail.com
(4) Pray for the opportunity to connect with young people through athletics!

In the mean time, take just a few minutes to watch this video from Colt McCoy when he was at Texas:

I am praying that our VBS will be centered on the King and His Good News!The word “gospel” means “good news.” It is from the Greek word from which we get “evangelical.” This is what the word looks like in Greek: εὐαγγέλιον. Even if it’s all Greek to you, you can make out the outline of the word, “evangelical”

So, what is the “good news” referenced? In the Bible, the good news is that the Triune God is rescuing his people and his creation from their rebellion against him. Were there no rescue, the only expectation for eternity would be judgment. But, God is gracious and merciful (Ephesians 2:4ff). He sent his only begotten Son to die on the Cross for the sins of those who put their faith and trust in him (John 3:16, 36). One day soon (Revelation 22:12, 20), Jesus will return, and those who have truly believed will spend eternity with Christ on a New Earth (Revelation 21:3-5).” This is the Gospel or the Good News.

Be aware of the sobering truth that for those who reject Christ, the news is not good. We are judged by God’s standard, not our friends and neighbors. All have sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

The below thoughts on 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 provide further information about what is meant by the gospel.

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Our understanding of the Gospel must be based on what the Bible says. First Corinthians 15:1-8 is a good place to begin.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.(1 Co 15:1-8).”

In this passage, notice four aspects of the Gospel or Good News:

1. The Gospel was Planned. Paul said that Christ died for our sins, “according to the Scriptures.” Before the foundation of the world, God knew how he would rescue His people and His Creation from sin and destruction. Indeed, Isaiah talks about the good news of Christ 700 years prior to the time of Christ (Isaiah 52:7ff). After the resurrection, Jesus explained on the road to Emmaus how all the Scriptures pointed to his death burial and resurrection (Luke 24:27).

2. The Gospel is centered on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He was buried. He rose again. And, many people saw him, touched him, talked with him, and ate with him after his resurrection. These things really happened. They are the reality on which the Good News is based.

3. The Gospel proclaims that Christ paid the penalty for the sins of his people. I mentioned earlier that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The only way that sinful people can justly spend eternity with God is if the penalty for their sin is paid. That’s why Paul stressed, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”

Screenshot 2016-06-01 15.54.224. The Gospel requires that salvation must be received by saving faith. Notice Paul’s “if”:

. . . which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

Paul’s point is that true faith will be accompanied by a changed life. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). As surely as God made little green apples from little green apple trees, his grace will result in Christ-like fruit in the life of a believer (Matthew 7:16).

If you say that you have faith in Jesus – – but, you haven’t been changed, then you may not have saving faith. See 1 John 2:3-4, James 2:14-26. Or, as I often stress at our church:

Works or conduct has nothing to do with salvation, but conduct does have something to do with assurance of salvation.

Quacking doesn’t make you a duck. But, ducks do quack. Acting like a Christian, doesn’t make you a Christian. But, Christians act like it.

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Many authors have summarized what Christians mean by the word, “gospel.” R.H. Mounce wrote:

The gospel is the joyous proclamation of God’s redemptive activity in Christ Jesus on behalf of man enslaved by sin.” R.H. Mounce. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.

Before you criticize his spelling, know that it was in 1525, that William Tyndale penned:

Evangelion (that we call the gospell) is a Greek word; and signifieth good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that maketh a man’s heart glad, and maketh him sing, dance, and leap for joy. William Tyndale, 1525, From The Prologue to the New Testament.”

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See also this post, what scares me most as a pastor in which I talk about the reality that there are some people who think they are Christians who are not. Or, read this post (click here) on assurance of salvation.

I would also recommend John Piper’s sermon, “How I Distinguish Between the Gospel and False Gospels.”

D.A. Carson’s summary of the Bible in 221 Words is also very helpful.

 

Do you believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation?

Do you believe it is necessary to profess faith in Christ to be saved?

Based on your answer to those questions, you can decide if you are a pluralist, inclusivist, or exclusivist.

Jesus Christ is the Only Savior

Believes “no one can be saved unless he or she knows the information about Jesus’ person and work contained in the Gospel and unless he or she exercises explicit faith in Jesus Christ (25).”*
Pluralism

No

No

Inclusivism

Yes

No

Exclusivism

Yes

Yes

“A pluralist is a person who thinks humans may be saved through a number of different religious traditions and saviors (p. 23).”

Inclusivists agree with exclusivists and differ from pluralists in affirming that Jesus Christ is the only Savior. No man or woman can possibly be saved apart from the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, inclusivists say, and this is so whether the person is raised under a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, or Hindu System.

But inclusivists also part company with exclusivists, a point that at first may seem confusing. How can a position that insists on the deity of Jesus Christ and the indispensability of his redemptive work for salvation be a source of concern to theologically conservative Christians . . .

So inclusivists believe that salvation is impossible apart from Jesus and that he is the only Savior. But this does not mean that people have to know about Jesus or actually believe in him to receive that salvation . . . Inclusivists dismiss exclusivists as cold, uncaring people who are unwilling to explore other ways to expand the scope of God’s love (p. 23).”

Christian exclusivism can be defined as the belief that (1) Jesus Christ is the only Savior, and (2) explicit faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation (p. 11).”

* Nash, Ronald H. Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.