Title: The Atonement
FCF: We often struggle appreciating the full scope of the atonement of Christ.
Prop: Because the atonement goes beyond our understanding, we must glorify God for so great a salvation.
[Slide 1] Please take out your bible and turn to Romans 5. We have a lot of scripture to look at today but for the sake of time and because I am nice, I have included it all on the screen.
Today we endeavor to do something profound. Today we endeavor to look at the atonement of Jesus Christ from a Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22: 21 kind of perspective. To do this, is outside the scope of possibility. So already today I am admitting defeat. Not that we won’t try, but because the flesh is weak, and our brains can only fit so many things into it, and in attempting to understand the vast wealth of the riches God has given, we really do hit the wall of possibility. Truly, we may never actually understand all that Christ did in coming, actively obeying God in reference to the law, passively obeying God in reference to His death, dying for us, and being raised again, and ascending to the Father. We may never understand the greater redemptive plan of God where He takes us from Eden to better than Eden.
Friends, it is foolish for us to try, but in trying and failing, I hope that we will praise God all the more.
Several weeks ago we found ourselves reading the words of Christ on the cross. He quoted scripture while asking His God why He had forsaken Him. In that moment we understood that something was happening there that angels look on in wonder to behold.
For the last month we have been walking through church history, attempting to stand on the shoulders of other men to get a peek over the fence and behold God’s purposes in the work of Christ. Through their thoughts and exegesis of the scripture we have seen several facets of the atonement, yet all incomplete in some way.
So today we attempt to sew together their theories and understand them as a whole. To look on the history of redemption from eternity to eternity. And as I stated – we will fail at this. But in failing, I hope that we can still learn.
Before we dive headlong into this let’s pray and seek the Lord’s help to get closer to the marvelous mystery of His Christ’s Atonement.
[Slide 2] So first, I want to go back over the good parts of the atonement theories we have seen. The parts that are clearly taught in scripture. But I also want to expand on them and add a little more too.
I.) Expanding what we’ve learned
a. [Slide 3] A Substitute – The undeveloped theory of Tertullian, Athanasius, Augustine of Hippo and Cyril of Jerusalem, which stands as one of the earliest concepts of the atonement.
i. We will not take the time to turn to scripture to understand this substitutionary concept, primarily because it is the core of many of the atonement theories we have already seen.
ii. He substituted for us in punishment for sin – AND He has also substituted for us as The Son of God. All of mankind has been placed into one of two categories – in Christ or not in Christ. Substituted or not substituted. Sons of God or children of wrath.
iii. And so flowing from this substitution we see many of the theories we discussed as subpoints of that substitution.
iv. Negatively or perhaps we could say, passively - He substituted for our failure
1. A Life-giving New Adam – Irenaeus’s work
a. [Slide 4] Romans 5:12-21
b. In Adam’s disobedience sin entered the world and death through sin. All who are from Adam have inherited sin, death, and condemnation.
c. Not only that, but Paul seems to indicate here that there is a union with Adam. We are in Adam.
d. This is perplexing for us to think about, but if I can be so vulgar to suggest that much like our DNA is woven to Adam, to the extent that we are all from Adam– so also - our spiritual selves have been woven to him as well.
e. Adam’s spiritual DNA including the defect of sin which causes death, is woven to us.
f. But for those who are in Christ, for those who have been baptized into his death and raised with him in His resurrection (Romans 6 and 7 go into this) If we are in Christ and if He is in us, our body is still dead because of sin, but we are given the Spirit which is our life.
g. And so it seems - and that is the best way I can say it right now – it seems as though, when we shed this body we will be resurrected and if we are resurrected without the Spirit we will be cast into the second death. But if we are resurrected with the Spirit we will inherit eternal life.
h. Therefore, Adam was our head, our representative. And Christ is our new head and representative.
i. Again from the vulgar, it is like this. The human race is like a hard drive that has been corrupted. The one thing that is certain is that the drive must be reformatted but reformatting means that all data will be lost. God predicted to Adam that when you sin, you will surely die. Meaning, you will surely need to be reformatted, and when that happens, you will be lost. So what is Christ? He is the source code. He is the boot disk. All those who are in Him – when reformatted, will have all files restored to perfect condition.
j. Again – I hope you understand that these are very simple and probably grossly inefficient illustrations. All in an effort to help us understand.
2. [Slide 5] A Ransom Payment to God – Origin’s work
a. [Slide 6] I Timothy 2:5-6 –
b. Jesus who is the God-Man is the only one who can mediate the opposing positions of mankind and God. He has his foot in both camps if you will.
c. To mediate our position, Christ paid a ransom to the Father.
d. A ransom is a price paid to purchase the freedom of a slave.
e. So we have to ask ourselves who or what has enslaved us?
f. It is attractive to point to sin, death, and even Satan as our masters. And indeed they are.
g. However, God is Sovereign and God is the one who gave men over to be slaves to Satan, sin and death.
h. So where does the ransom payment go to free the slave? The payment is made to God. Jesus is not the mediator between man and Satan, or even between God and Satan, but man and God.
i. Jesus pays the price required to free men of their slavery. And what is that price? His life.
j. This goes back to our union with Adam. Union to Adam means death through sin – union to Christ means righteousness unto life.
3. [Slide 7] A Complete Satisfaction of our dishonor – Anselm’s work
a. [Slide 8] Isaiah 53:3
b. Although we can’t really prove it was God’s honor that was offended or harmed
c. We can sufficiently say that in our sin, in Adam, as slaves, we were cursed and dishonored.
d. Jesus bore that curse and dishonor for us. Our shame matches our guilt and Jesus took them both on that cross.
e. God abandoning Jesus is just as much a shame concept as it is a guilt concept.
4. [Slide 9] A Complete Satisfaction of God’s Justice – The reformer’s work
a. [Slide 10] Romans 5:6-11
b. God is Just and God is righteous
c. He must judge those who are worthy of judgment.
d. And in this Jesus reconciles us to God by bearing our sin – the reason we are condemned before God
e. He adequately and completely satisfies the wrath of God for those who are His.
f. This is a term we use in theological circles called – propitiation. To appease God’s wrath.
g. In a real sense there is no more holy anger left against those who are His children. There is displeasure and chastening – but if you are in Christ, the wrath has been extinguished, fully, forever.
5. [Slide 11] The Solution to sin – Girard’s heavily modified concept
a. [Slide 12] Leviticus 16 and John 1:29
b. Jesus is our scapegoat. He is our Passover lamb. He is killed instead of us. He is exiled instead of us. He bears the punishment of sin and the guilt of sin that was ours.
c. In this sense he takes away our sin. He removes it from us. This is a theological term called expiation.
d. In this sense we are no longer liable for our sins. God promises in Psalm 103 that he will remove our sins as far as the east is from the west. This is expiation. Not only is the punishment paid, but the cause for the punishment is removed.
v. [Slide 13] So passively in Christ’s death he substituted our failure as God ordained Him to do from the foundation of the world. But actively or positively, Christ substituted Himself as the law keeper for us.
1. A Love that frees us to Love/ Fulfillment of the law – Abelard, Bushnell, Grotius
a. [Slide 14] Matthew 22:34-40 –
b. The law is summarized in these two commands to love God with all you are and others as yourself.
c. [Slide 15] Matthew 5:17 -
d. Jesus fulfills the law in that He perfectly and perpetually succeeds in keeping it for us, and that he perfectly and completely has paid the price for our failure.
e. Therefore, His act of love has freed us to love God and others.
2. [Slide 16] A perfect and perpetual payment – Thomas Aquinas
a. [Slide 17] Hebrews 4:14-16 –
b. Christ is now the High Priest, so those who are in Him have access to the Father where they can get grace and mercy to help them
c. His payment was perfect and one-time – but with perpetual results.
3. [Slide 18] An ongoing salvation
a. [Slide 19] Philippians 1:6
b. The atoning work of Christ may free us from Sin’s penalty – but it also unbinds our service to the master of sin. We are progressively changed by God through His grace to be more and more like Christ.
c. Our union with Christ becomes deeper and more full.
d. [Slide 20] Ephesians 4:13-16 – Our maturity is measured by reaching a stature of Christ. By growing up into Christ.
e. [Slide 21] Galatians 2:15-21 – Paul’s point is that obeying the law for righteousness is never going to happen. But in Christ, when united with Christ, His grace can produce righteousness in us.
f. And all of this is related to Christ’s ongoing substitution for us in a positive sense. He continues to be united to us and continues to be our substitute. His Righteousness becomes, not just our positional righteousness, but also our active and practical righteousness.
g. Until we are saved to the uttermost!
b. [Slide 22] A Conquering Spiritual Warrior King
i. Not only was Christ’s death a substitute for us, but also, it was a conquest over God’s enemies. In one sense, we are His enemies and He conquered us by making us His friends.
ii. But this conquest is farther reaching and we would do well to understand it.
1. A Complete Victory over the forces of darkness and the revocation of their power they were given to wield. – Aulen’s work
a. [Slide 23] Colossians 2:13-15
b. This is profoundly recorded in the word of God, that although we are not owned by Satan, sin, death, we certainly are enslaved to them. They have power over us in some way or another.
c. And the cross, most definitely freed us from that power.
d. They have been defeated so that we could be freed. And in this Colossians passage, it is not just our freedom, but their public disgrace too.
e. But this is perhaps bigger than just us…
2. [Slide 24] A victory to redeem not just man but all of creation
a. [Slide 25] Psalm 36:5-6
b. [Slide 26] Romans 8: 18-25
c. We know from scripture that Adam was given dominion over the world. To care for and tend the garden of Eden. But when Adam fell, that dromion was adversely affected. In fact, after the flood, the animal kingdom fled in fear from men.
d. The Bible doesn’t really spell this out for us, but at some point dominion over God’s creation was not in the cards for mankind. The animal kingdom was lost. And even the dominion of the earth – the dirt itself was cursed to produce thorns and thistles.
e. It is obvious from the New Testament that Satan has been given dominion of this world, along with principalities and powers. Even as far back as Deuteronomy we see that Israel was Yahweh’s portion and the rest of the nations were given over to lesser beings – Some of His fallen angels.
f. Although we really don’t have time today to do a deep dive into this, when God created the world and when both angels and men had fallen into sin, God released, in some sense, dominion to the forces of darkness.
g. God is sovereign and even though Satan is called the power that rules this age – he is ultimately subservient to God as we see in Job.
h. God from beginning of time selects a family – the line of Seth
i. Then a nation through Seth – Abraham and Israel
j. Then a Sovereign nation through David
k. Then a people of many nations through David’s descendant Jesus Christ – A church. A Church that is given such power as to storm the gates of death and hell. A church that is said God will use to crush Satan under its feet.
l. There is more to this atonement then our souls. There is a war going on. A war for dominion over this world.
m. A war that God could have won in a blink if He wanted to – but has chosen a specific path to win.
n. So how does the person and work of Christ win the victory? Basically He defeats death and sin – disarming Satan of power. He creates a new people for Himself that cannot be thwarted by Satan. He reclaims the world as His own as He waits for the full number of His own to come. And ascends to heaven to be their help and advocate – preparing a place for them – which He will bring with Him in the last day and truly and completely establish His Kingdom and eliminate – forever – the kingdom of darkness.
o. The war is won legally… but the interlopers are still here. Toothless and penniless they roam seeking whom they can devour.
p. They play for power here in this world – knowing that it is ending. It is like the men in Noah’s day fighting for power in a world that will be absolutely destroyed. While those in Christ are on a sealed boat waiting for God to tell them it is safe to come out.
q. But from our passages of Scripture we see that not only has God acted to redeem us - but He has also acted to redeem His creation. To reinstall sons of God – REAL sons of God – ones that are His Sons to rule and reign and exercise dominion over His creation again. More on this in a moment.
r. He will redeem His whole creation. Again, just like in the days of Noah. Not just of men, but of every living creature. He will make it new and make it better even than it was before.
c. [Slide 27] Adoption
i. Another aspect of the atonement is to recreate all of the elect into a new family. We talked briefly about how God chose a family in the line of Seth to be His.
ii. [Slide 28] And really that choice goes back to the prophesy in Genesis 3 when He promises the woman that a seed would come from her and it would be opposed by the seed of the serpent.
iii. [Slide 29]Paul emphasizes this point in Galatians where that seed is Christ and therefore, In Christ, we become a family of promise.
iv. [Slide 30] Galatians 4:6-7
v. God sent the Spirit to those who are in Christ, adopted as sons, so that they with the voice of the Spirit of God cry out – Abba Father –
vi. We are no longer in the family of the evil one. We have been set free from that name and given the name of Christ! We who are in Christ have become Sons and Daughters of God. Reborn into a divine and royal lineage.
d. [Slide 31] Reigning with Christ
i. [Slide 32] II Timothy 2:8-12a
ii. Union with Christ not only frees us from death and not only frees us to life but life with a purpose.
iii. We have been given a position with Him to reign with Him.
iv. [Slide 33] I Corinthians 6:3
v. [Slide 34] Hebrews 2:9 – Our unity with Christ means we will be elevated above even the angels in the New Kingdom
vi. [Slide 35] Revelation 19:6-21 – We are wed to Him – the two become one flesh- then we ride out to conquer the world with Him!
vii. [Slide 36] Revelation 21: 5-7 - God speaks to us united to His Son
viii. [Slide 37] Revelation 22:1-5 – God will dwell with us, His glory will shine on us and we will reign forever and ever!
ix. All of this means that the privileges of being united with Christ in this life are far less than those we inherit in Him, in the next.
[Slide 38] This is SOME what the bible says explicitly about the atonement. And I’d wager that we have only scratched the surface in our understanding of it. It is bigger than mankind. It is bigger than creation. And it may be bigger than we are able to comprehend.
I want to spend the rest of our time homogenizing all that we have learned and then applying that to our lives. What does all this come together to prove or show about the atonement.
I would argue that first and foremost the atonement and all it is, was created by and for God Himself. To bring Himself GREAT glory through the work of The Father, The Son and The Spirit throughout this earth age.
Ephesians 2:6-7 says that God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in heavenly realms so he could demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of His grace and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Our glorification - when we are truly, completely, and actually united with Christ - will result in so great a demonstration of God’s grace toward us in Christ – that God will never cease to be teaching it to us – forever.
As far as I can tell, this is the single unifying principle in the atonement. It is not God’s love, or justice, or power, or might, or forgiveness, or wrath, or honor, or pleasure… it is His glory. That when all is said and done –all who are in His Son, with Him, reigning with Him in that new age – that all would worship Him as He dwells among them.
Now we do see that to get to that end – God demonstrates His love, holiness, power, might, forgiveness, justice, wrath, honor pleasure etc. But in the end it isn’t about us, or creation, or Satan, or demons, or angels, or animals, or anything except God Himself. That is God’s endgame. His Glory.
Think back through every point we’ve talked about. Is there one element in it all that does not point to God’s glory? Even in His righteous Judgment of the wicked… is there ONE element for which He does not deserve praise?
[Slide 39] What does that mean for us? What practical effect on our lives does this produce, knowing that God’s atonement is primarily so that He may receive glory?
I’ll tell you the first thing that comes to my mind. It has to do with how we talk about the atonement.
How dare we make it all about us! How dare we only talk about how we benefit!
I can’t think of a more common blasphemy in the church than to so misunderstand the gospel and the atonement so as to make it about what we get and not what He did! How dare we steal what belongs to Him!
Do we benefit? More than we could ever imagine my friends. But the chief beneficiary of God’s redemptive work, is God Himself. We simply are allowed to share in the bounty. We are the reward of Christ’s sufferings. We are the bride of the groom. We are the kingdom of priests whom He has purchased for God. We are not the object of this atonement – we are an indirect object. We come along as a means to accomplish the glory of God.
Jesus died for our sins. That much is true…
But why? Because we are worthy? Because we had a lot to offer? Because He needed us? Because He couldn’t live without us?
[Slide 40(end)] Revelation 5:12-13 “Worthy is the lamb who was killed to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, in the sea, and all that is in them – singing: “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be praise honor, glory, and ruling power forever and ever!” Jesus died for our sins to the glory of God.
When we share our faith, when we share the gospel, this is what we are sharing. When we approach a person who does not know God, who does not love God, who is enslaved in their sin – we ought to approach them and in so many words say to them “God demands glory from you sinner. God demands glory from you and He will get it one way or another. He will either get glory from you by righteously judging you for your rebellion against Him, or He will get glory from you by uniting you to His son in death and in resurrection. “ That is the message of the gospel. And then we call them to bear fruit of a changed life. “repent and believe!” An act that is impossible for a person who is still dead in sin. Nevertheless we call them to that reality knowing that that is God’s commanding call given to all men.
How else does this message of the atonement of our God that leads to His glory affect our every day lives. My friends. My friends… how could it not lead us to praise Him now?
Were you listening to the scripture this morning? Did you hear all that Christ has done? Redeeming not just your souls but the very dirt on which our building stands. This is HIS dirt.
How can we not praise Him for what He’s done?
I want to spend some time doing just that. I didn’t plan anything. And yes the service is to be orderly and I believe that we have been. But I’d like to give liberty at this point to allow the Spirit to move in our midst. Is it prayer, song, scripture reading, weeping, clapping, shouts of joy? I don’t know… To keep it orderly perhaps we should do a hand raise system where if you have an idea for praising the Lord that we can all do together that you suggest it and we will do it.
May we spend time praising God for His great work of the atonement.
And I will kick it off by reading again from Revelation 5.
Revelation 5:12-13 “Worthy is the lamb who was killed to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, in the sea, and all that is in them – singing: “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be praise honor, glory, and ruling power forever and ever!” Jesus died for our sins to the glory of God.