Spurgeon on Substitutionary Atonement

This was directed toward those, who in Spurgeon’s time, rejected the idea of Christ’s substitutionary atonement for the sins of the God’s elect.

Those who set aside the atonement as a satisfaction for sin also murder the doctrine of justification by faith. They must do so. There is a common element which is the essence of both doctrines; so that, if you deny the one, you destroy the other.

Modern thought is nothing but an attempt to bring back the legal system of salvation by works. Our battle is the same as that which Luther fought at the Reformation. If you go to the very ground and root of it, grace is taken away, and human merit is substituted. The gracious act of God in pardoning sin is excluded, and human effort is made all in all, both for past sin and future hope. Every man is now to set up as his own savior, and the atonement is shelved as a pious fraud.

I will not foul my mouth with the unworthy phrases which have been used in reference to the substitutionary work of our Lord Jesus Christ; but it is a sore grief of heart to note how these evil things are tolerated by men whom we respect.

We shall not cease, dear brethren, in our ministry, most definitely and decidedly to preach the atoning sacrifice; and I will tell you why I shall be sure to do so. I have not personally a shadow of a hope of salvation from any other quarter: I am lost if Jesus be not my Substitute. I have been driven up into a corner by a pressing sense of my own personal sin, and have been made to despair of ever doing or being such that God can accept me in myself.

I must have a righteousness, perfect and Divine; yet it is beyond my own power to create. I find it in Christ: I read that it will become mine by faith, and by faith I take it. My conscience tells me that I must render to God’s justice a recompense for the dishonor that I have done to His law, and I cannot find anything which bears the semblance of such a recompense till I look to Christ Jesus. Do I not remember when I first looked to Him, and was lightened? Do I not remember how often I have gone as a sinner to my Savior’s feet, and looked anew at His wounds, and believed over again unto eternal life, feeling the old joy repeated by the deed?

I would like to rise from my bed, during the last five minutes of my life, to bear witness to the Divine sacrifice and the sin-atoning blood. I would then repeat those words which speak the truth of substitution most positively, even should I shock my hearers; for how could I regret that, as in Heaven my first words would be to ascribe my salvation to my Master’s blood, my last act on earth was to shock His enemies by a testimony to the same fact?

from chapter 12, “The Minister in These Times” in An All-Round Ministry

Bad News, Good News?

The Wrath of God and the Atonement

The bad news:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” – Rom 1:18 

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” – Eph 2:1-3

The good news:

“(Christ Jesus), whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.  – Rom 3:25a

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,” – 1 Cor 5:

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” – 1 Jn 2:2

“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 Jn 4:10

The writer of Hebrews speaks of the priesthood of Christ, and compares Jesus’ sacrifice to the High Priest’s sacrifices in the OT:

“Therefore he (Christ)had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Heb 2:17

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Heb 9:11-12

Propitiation, as defined in Easton’s Bible Dictionary, is that by which God is rendered propitious (favorably disposed as opposed to wrathful toward), i.e., by which it becomes consistent with his character and government to pardon and bless the sinner. The propitiation does not procure his love or make him loving; it only renders it consistent for him to execise his love towards sinners. Christ is “the propitiation,” because by his becoming our substitute and assuming our obligations he expiated our guilt, covered it, by the vicarious punishment which he endured.

It can be said that the ‘bad news’ (the wrath of God) is central to, and must precede, the message of the ‘good news’ (the atonement of Christ), when we who call ourselves ‘evangelical’ Christians present the gospel message to the lost and dying all around us.

How sad it is that many of us not only don’t precede the good news of the Atonement with the bad news of God’s wrath against sin, we don’t mention it at all!

My friends, to not address the issue of sin, God’s hatred of it, and wrath against it, is tantamount to standing at the foot of theCalvary’s Cross and grinding the  Savior’s blood into the dirt!

To the Praise of His Glorious Grace – D. A. Carson

To the Praise of His Glorious Grace

What astonishing mercy and power:
In accord with his pleasure and will
He created each planet, each flower,
Every galaxy, microbe, and hill.
He suspended the planet in space
To the praise of his glorious grace.

With despicable self-love and rage,
We rebelled and fell under the curse.
Yet God did not rip out the page
And destroy all who love the perverse.
No, he chose us to make a new race,
To the praise of his glorious grace.

Providentially ruling all things
To conform to the end he designed,
He mysteriously governs, and brings
His eternal wise plans into time.
He works out every step, every trace,
To the praise of his glorious grace.

Long before the creation began,
He foreknew those he’d ransom in Christ;
Long before time’s cold hour-glass ran,
He ordained the supreme sacrifice.
In the cross he removed our disgrace,
To the praise of his glorious grace.

We were blessed in the heavenly realms
Long before being included in Christ.
Since we heard the good news, overwhelmed,
We reach forward to seize Paradise.
We shall see him ourselves, face to face,
To the praise of his glorious grace.

The Atonement and Eternal Security

For the person who holds to the sovereignty of God in salvation, whether or not a believer will be held securely in God’s hand throughout the rest of his/her life is not in question. God’s purpose in the salvation of men was to have a people unto Himself, a remnant if you will, according to the pleasure of His will, for the praise of His glorious grace (Eph 1:5-6). Furthermore, no plan of God can be thwarted (Job 42:1-2)!

He sent His own Son do die for the sins of the remnant chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph 1), that he would give to His Son and that would surely come to the Son; that would be forever secure in the hand of God (John chapters 6 & 10).

Because God is sovereign and man is responsible, but unable on his/her own to ‘come to Christ’, God gives life to the spiritually dead sinner (Eph 2), and so acts upon the human will that those chosen for salvation (Eph 1, 2 Thess. 2:13) will come to Christ, just as God planned, and they come ‘willingly’!

This view of atonement demonstrates the awesome power and glory of God in the salvation of men! God the Father planned the salvation of the remnant, God the Son secured the salvation of the remnant, and God the Holy Spirit brings about the salvation of the remnant by raising the spiritually dead to life and leading them irresistibly to the Cross of Christ. In this view, the glory of God is central to the atonement; the God who saves us, keeps us!

For the person who holds to the sovereignty of man in salvation, that Christ died for all men everywhere and salvation depends on man’s self-determined free will decision, the concept of eternal security seems to violate that selfsame free will.  A person might not be able to ‘lose’ salvation like ‘losing’ a watch or other personal possession, but surely he/she must be able to ‘toss salvation aside” should he/or she ‘un-choose’ Christ!

At best, this view of the atonement can leave a person ‘riding the proverbial fence’, when confronted with some of the ‘troublesome’ passages of scripture. This old soldier was sore for a long time – fence riding is not a comfortable enterprise!

So there you have the atonement in light two differing views of the atonement. Is this an issue of salvation itself? No. So what’s the big deal, as long as people come to a saving knowledge and living relationship with Christ? Does one’s view of the atonement have anything at all to do with living the Christian life?

Not directly perhaps, but it does speak volumes concerning our view of God. Does God save men, from beginning to end, or do we save ourselves with our decisions? How we answer that question will impact the course of our Christian walk, and most assuredly determine how we present the Gospel of the atonement of Christ to others.

What’s this old soldier’s opinion of the matter? Well, that doesn’t matter. However, one pastor and teacher offers this:

“The most powerful argument for eternal security is Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our eternal security is based on God’s love for those whom He has redeemed. Our eternal security is purchased by Christ, promised by the Father, and sealed by the Holy Spirit.” (Emphasis added)

Food for thought. . .

What’s it "ALL" About, Ralphie?

Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The above verse is often used as absolute proof that Christ died for everyone, that his atonement paid the penalty for everyone without exception (unlimited atonement). Jesus bore the sins of everyone who ever lived. Yet a few verses further we find:

Isaiah 53:12, “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

Which is it? Did Christ die and bear the sins of everyone, or just some (many)? If both passages are true, because the Bible does not contradict itself, Christ died for “all” and He died for “Many” which is NOT “all”. Is that possible? Well. . .yes it is.

I serve on the board of directors of an organization and as boards do, we have meetings. At the outset of any meeting, you will hear the question, “Are we all here?” In that case “all means everyone who was supposed to be in attendance. I am sure you can think of any number of identical usages of the term “all”. In fact, when do we ever use “all” to mean every person on the planet, without exception? Never?

Back to our two passages. “We” in verse 6 and “us” in verse 12 define the “all” in both passages. So Who does “we” and “us” refer to? Who is Isaiah talking about? There is only one answer – the chosen people of God – the elect. The iniquity of all of God’s elect was laid on His Son, and His Son bore all of the iniquity of all the elect.

Does the above apply to the uses of “all” in the New Testament? Search them out and judge for yourself. In the end, you will probably believe what you want to believe. but go for it anyway.

Let me leave you with just one question:

How is it that we almost never use “all” to refer to everyone without exception in our daily lives, yet we love to say it means everyone on the planet almost everywhere it is used in connection with the extent of the atonement? What’s up with that?

Food for thought. . .

A ‘Sheepish’ Question

John Chapter is all about the Shepherd and His sheep. Most of it is fairly easy to understand, especially to anyone familiar with sheep and sheep herding. There was a group of Jews hanging around the synagogue who couldn’t believe Jesus was the promised Messiah, in spite of all he had told them and the miracles He had performed. Finally Jesus said this to these religious types who couldn’t seem to get the picture:

“But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.” – John 10:26

All of us who cal ourselves Christians readily agree that Jesus is the shepherd and we are His sheep. So here’s the question:

“Do we believe because we’re sheep, or do we become sheep because we believe?”