Lecture 7: Aspects of the Atonement - Part 2
Course: Systematic Theology II
Lecture: Aspects of the Atonement - Part 2
1. The Doctrine of the Person and Work of Christ
II. The Work of Christ
A. The Past Work of Christ, The Atoning Savior
1. Theological basis for the cross
2. Aspects of the Atonement
a. The atonement understood as sacrifice
b. The atonement understood as substitution
c. The atonement understood as Redemption
(Lecture begins here)
d. The atonement understood as Propitiation
Propitiation is used in four passages in the Bible and it is a very important term. It is used in Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; I John 2:2; I John 4:10
Romans 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
1 John 2:2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
In each of these cases it has the same meaning. To propitiate is to satisfy or appease the wrath of God against our sin. So, propitiation is the satisfaction or appeasement of God’s wrath against our sin by virtue of Christ’s payment in full for our sin.
Romans 3 is beautiful expression of that.
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
Romans 3:25a whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.
“as a propitiation” Your translations may say something different maybe satisfaction or atoning sacrifice or something like that. I wish they would keep the word propitiation in our translations because it is just used four times and it would be nice to know as an English reader when you come across it. The NASB uses that term exclusively for this Greek term.
Romans 3:25a whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.
Romans 3:25b This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
The whole point that Paul is making here is that God’s righteousness is called into question. How can God be righteous when He has passed over sins previously committed? They haven’t been paid for. The blood of bulls and goats cannot pay for sin and yet He has passed over them. He has accepted people as though they are forgiven and yet their sin is not forgiven. So God must demonstrate His righteousness; that He is righteous in forgiving at the present time so that He could be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. The context indicates clearly that propitiation is this satisfaction of God’s righteous demands against our sin. Only because of Christ’s payment is that true. Up and until that point the blood of bulls and goats did not satisfy His wrath. He always looked at those sacrifices in light of what they pointed to, in light of what they connected to. In and of themselves they were totally ineffective. But seen in light of, connecting to the sacrifice of Christ then He could forgive based upon the real sacrifice, the real payment that would be made at some point future. So here it is, He demonstrates His righteousness.
We normally think of salvation as dealing with our problem sin. It is true that salvation does deal with our problem of sin and guilt and death but salvation also more fundamentally has to deal with God’s problem. God’s problem is how do I forgive, justify, and accept sinners? How can this be? In Romans 4 there is this remarkable phrase that some translations have messed up badly so that you really can’t see it.
Romans 4:5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,
How can God justify the ungodly? If they are ungodly, they shouldn’t be declared righteous. God’s just demands require that if they are ungodly they be declared ungodly. How can He declare those who are ungodly righteous? The answer is the only way He can be just and the justifier, justify the ungodly is if He provides a way by which the just standards of His righteousness against our sin are met. So propitiation is that meeting of, that fulfilling of the requirement established by His righteousness against sin. Sin has to be paid for. If we pay for it, it is eternal condemnation. Christ pays for it in one act, once and for all so God can by our faith in Him justify us, declare us just and He can be just in so doing.
This is an extremely important area in theology. Sacrifice is the form in which the payment is made; namely a blood sacrifice it has to be the shedding of blood, it has to involve another for me. They are all facets of one thing. None of these aspects of the atonement should be viewed exclusively apart from the others. They all work together.
The main term that is used is hilasmos (ἱλασμός). It is this hilasmos (ἱλασμός) word group that is found in the New Testament. Studies have been done for example Leon Morris in his boo, the book that made him famous, the book that put him on the charts, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross has a wonderful discussion of this term and it usage. Clearly it implies our guilt and God’s wrath. That is implied in this term hilasmos (ἱλασμός). We are guilty before God, He is wrathful against us and the only way His wrath can be satisfied is if the payment is made; our guilt is paid for; hence the notion. This is why this term has been so despised in liberalism because they don’t like the notion of being wrathful; God is disappointed, God really wishes that we would follow Him and it breaks His heart that we don’t but He is not wrathful against us, in liberalism. He loves us, He is not mad at anybody. We may be mad at Him but He is not mad at us so says the liberal. This word and biblical theology teaches the wrath of God, but this word indicates that God has something against us that has to be satisfied and can only be satisfied when a payment is made in full. Of course, that can only happen through the death of Christ.
All four of the references that I gave earlier are usages of hilasmos (ἱλασμός). Now that you know what this term means listen to it in I John 4:10.
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Do you see how that connects with love? What love God has for us that His just demands against us, His own wrath toward us would be satisfied by giving us His Son. We have the guilt, we could not get rid of it. God is the only One who could provide a way by which our guilt could be paid and done with and us acceptable to Him. That could only happen through the death of His Son. What love, marvel.
e. The atonement understood as Expiation
It is kind of the other side of the coin from propitiation is expiation. Expiation is the removal of our liability to suffer sin’s penalty. The necessity that we had apart from Christ, to pay for our sin is removed, or eliminated because the payment has been made on our behalf in full. It is like taking a bill that you get from a creditor and writing across it “paid in full.” You don’t owe this anymore. So our debt that we had before God, the payment that we owed to Him because of our sin is paid by another and hence we are expiated. By the redemption of Christ God is propitiated, we are expiated. We are rendered not liable to suffer sin’s penalty by virtue of His death on our behalf.
Passages that make this clear.
2 Corinthians 5:19
2 Corinthians 5:19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
not counting their trespasses against them – expiation. He doesn’t against them any longer their trespasses because Christ has come and paid the penalty to reconcile them, to bring them back. So, obviously, propitiation and expiation are necessary for reconciliation. What he is stressing here is that until expiation takes place our transgression, our trespasses are counted against us. We owe it to God and hence we are not acceptable to Him, we cannot be in right relationship with Him, we are objects of His judgment and wrath. When the payment of Christ is made on our behalf then He does not count our trespasses against us.
Colossians 2:13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,
The notion of forgiveness implies expiation. If a penalty is forgiven, you don’t have to pay it any longer
Colossians 2:14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
This is a beautiful picture. It is like taking all the debts that we owed, imagine them being place on a sheet of paper maybe on reams of paper and God takes all of these debts and He nails them to the cross. When Christ dies, He pays those debts on our behalf.
We took this passage one time as the basis of a Good Friday service at a church that I served in Illinois. It was a wonderful experience. We had a large rough hewn beam cross in the front of the church. So as to avoid the problem of people hitting their thumbs with a hammer we put into the cross a bunch of nails toward the middle. At a certain point in the service we had total silence, no music, no noting for about 15 minutes and asked people to meditate and for God to bring to mind sins that they could think of; perhaps once that had already been confessed. But we wanted to picture Christ paying for our sin. Write them down on little slips of paper and bring them to the front and put them on the cross. We had about 600 people there for that service and when everyone had done this that cross was just filled with little notes of paper indicating the sins of the people.
He took our certificate of debt which was against us, which was hostile to us and He took it out of the way having nailed it to the cross.
That is expiation. Because He has paid for it we don’t have to pay for it. Because He has paid for it, how insulting to Christ and the sufficiency of His cross to think we could do something to contribute to its payment. Here is why justification is by faith apart from works period. Why is justification by faith alone such a hallmark of the Reformation? Because any single instance of human works contributing in any way to our right standing before God is to say of Christ that His payment was not sufficient. It is an offense to Christ to say that somehow our works of any kind could contribute hence it is by faith alone. It is also exalting to us. Scripture will not let on either ground either the sufficiency of the death of Christ or our total inability to do anything about, on either of those grounds will not permit us to think in terms of our contributing to our right standing before God, our salvation.
f. The atonement understood as Reconciliation
Reconciliation is change in relationship between God and human beings.
It involves 3 aspects
1) It presupposes and estrangement or alienation between God and sinners which characterized both by human rebellion and divine judgment (impending judgment) against us.
Whose fault is the estrangement and alienation? Whose fault is this breach in relationship between God and sinners? It is ours; we bear the responsibility for the estrangement.
2) It involves intervention to remove the basis for the alienation or estrangement.
Who does this? God does. It is just remarkable. We are the guilty ones, we ought to be the ones who go to Him and say, listen we really blew it, we are sorry and want to make things right but we don’t do that. He has to come to us; we who have treated Him as enemies, we who are opposed to Him, hostile to Him. Think of Romans 8, who do not seek God, who do not want Him, who do not want to obey Him. He comes to us to remove the basis for alienation which our sin.
3) A positive change in relationship now to one of peace, acceptance and mutual fellowship.
It isn’t just a relationship like a treaty is signed and two warring factions just agree not to fight any more; a truce. This is a relationship which is marked by mutual acceptance, peace fellowship which takes place between God and sinner. We caused the problem; God solves the problem and brings us to Himself.
1) Key terms for reconciliation.
katallassō (καταλλάσσω) is one of the main terms. This term refers to a change of relationship; to exchange from one kind of relationship to another or to reconcile.
Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
You can hear in that reconciliation which is our union with God, our being reunited with Him comes as a gift from God. He pursues it, He makes it happen.
2 Corinthians 5:17 ff.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,
God does it through His Son but then He gives to us this privilege of announcing to the world, God has worked through Christ to reconcile you through Him, which is the Gospel message.
2 Corinthians 5:19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Reconciliation is being used in two different ways here. A work has been done by Christ and that is finished. But a response is needed from us to experience the reality of it. There is a sense in which objectively reconciliation has been accomplished but subjectively, experientially, we need to enter into it by coming to God through faith in Christ.
apokatallassō (ἀποκαταλλάσσω) This has the preposition apo (ἀπο) in front of it. Now you have two prepositions that are involved here. This intensifies it.
Ephesians 2:16 which speaks of the circumcision and the uncircumcision made into one new man.
Ephesians 2:16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
Here is the enmity, the estrangement, the alienation that was separating them now God removes it and brings them to Him.
This text has the seed of a theology of horizontal reconciliation that is huge. When he says that the circumcision and the uncircumcision, which are at odds with one another and are hostile to each other, that He reconciles them in one body to God, do you know what that means? That means that reality of vertical reconciliation with God is necessarily pictured through horizontal reconciliation with those of other cultures, traditions who now with you one in Christ. The point of the text is that there really cannot be genuine vertical reconciliation with God without horizontal reconciliation. The text is just powerful on this. You can’t find two groups more at odds with each other than Jews and Gentiles, circumcision and uncircumcision. They both had terrible things to say about the other; there was animosity. They were angry with each other and didn’t want to have anything to do with each other but they are reconciled together in one body to God. Just as with so many social programs, while social restoration is not the goal in and of itself, it is not the end, social expressions are often times the necessary outcome of a spiritual reality being true. So if it is true that we are reconciled on the same terms by faith in Christ not because of my circumcision or your circumcision or uncircumcision but by faith in Christ, then we realize that commonality in Christ is greater than any differences we had and therefore we are united in Him. That pictures our union with Christ.
Colossians 1:20-22 This is tough text and one that I will come back to when we talk about the extent of the atonement issue.
Colossians 1:19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, Colossians 1:20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. Colossians 1:21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, Colossians 1:22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
This is fascinating because on the one hand you have the statement in Colossians 1:20 this statement, through Christ He reconciled all things to Himself through the blood of His cross whether things in heaven or things in earth. In case you are wonder if it really means all things, the heaven and earth ought to tip it off that it does. The second thing is that this comes right after Colossians 1:16 where Christ created all things
Colossians 1:16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.
Not only did He create all things but He reconciled all things. Isn’t it clear that it means absolutely everything? And it says having made peach through the blood of His cross. Some have used this text and others to argue for universalism; there is ultimately no hell. Karl Barth would say that God’s yes is stronger than man’s no, when God will in fact bring everything into subjection to Him. Clearly universalism runs contrary to so much of biblical teaching it is impossible to hold it with integrity as viable biblical view, even in this text. Look at how he goes on then from there. After he talks about this universal reconciliation he says,
Colossians 1:21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, Colossians 1:22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith
Here is an appeal to persevering in faith, the necessity of persevering faith as evidence of true saving faith, but at it relates to reconciliation, do you see the implication. If you don’t persevere you won’t be reconciled. I thought Col. 1:20 said He reconciled everything in heaven and earth?
So there must different senses in which the saved and the unsaved, those of persevering faith and those not of faith are reconciled to God. It appears from Scripture, several indications, that there is a sense in which all of creation comes to the point where it acknowledges, particularly moral creation, moral angels, demons, human beings, sinners and saints, regenerate and not all of God’s creation comes to the recognition that God is God, that Christ is Lord and through that the rebellion is over. C. S. Lewis in the Problem of Pain has a chapter on hell. He has very vivid picture in there, in one of them he says, the rebels flag is planted in hell and the gates of hell are locked on the inside. The point is, nobody is keeping us here want to be here. The gates of hell are locked on the inside, we don’t want anybody in, we want to stay. Why? Because in his view is that only reasons sinner are in hell is because they continue in their rebellion against God. But I look at Colossians 1:20 and ask myself how it can be that everything on heaven and earth is reconciled to God and there being the rebel’s flag and fist continuing to be expressed? It seems to me that it is impossible for both to be true.
Here is another text.
Philippians 2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
Whether that is a reference to demons or the dead or both, I don’t know, but the point is he is including everybody.
Philippians 2:11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Is that universalism? No, it isn’t, there is hell. The question is, how do you relate that to hell? How do you relate that to unbelievers? It seems to me that the way you do it is by acknowledging that the time will come. What does sin do to people in terms of their understanding of truth? It twists and distorts, blinds them from seeing it. The time will come when the deception will be over. The truth will be known. That does not mean sinners who have not been save, who have not put faith in Christ during their lifetimes will be saved, but it does that when they stand before the Great White Throne Judgment they know God is God, they know Christ is Lord, they know their sin is justly judged, they know the horror of their punishment, the glory of the heaven that they will never know or experience in any measure at all; they know all of that and they are no longer rebels against God. So I take it that there must be in Colossians 1 two senses of reconciliation; one for the entire cosmos including all sinners who never have believed and in the verses that follow for those of faith which is what he talks about there.
What a day that will be when Satan along with all of us confesses Jesus Christ it Lord.
Another thing that you have to ask about Philippians 2 is, could this possibly mean that they are being made to say it but they really don’t mean it? My answer to that is, no way. That would trivialize it. God doesn’t like hypocrites so what this is saying then is that for all these sinful people out there this enormous hypocrisy being made to say something they do not believe. No way. This is not like the little boy standing in the corner for running around the room getting in trouble saying I may be standing in the corner on the outside but I am running around this room in the inside. It cannot be like that. These are people who recognize the truth Jesus Christ is Lord and they acknowledge it. Some get to go into His presence for ever and enjoy His Lordship over their lives for ever and ever with all the blessing attending to that. Others go to hell and realize forever the Lord of the universe, the one from whom every good blessing comes will never ever be mine, I will never be His for all of eternity.
2) Object of reconciliation
Some have wanted to say that the only object of reconciliation is us, that is, we are the ones who are rebellious against God we are the ones who are opposed to Him. So the only reconciliation needed is for us to come back to God. It is very clear that God needs to be reconciled to us as well. Why? Because His disposition toward us is one of wrath. We are rebels, He is wrathful. Both of those things have to change for reconciliation to take place. Sin is behind both of those things. Sin is what produces our rebellion; sin is what elicits His wrath. When the sin is paid for, then there can be peace and acceptance once again. Remember the enmity that God has toward us, the holy wrath, hostility that He has toward us. Remember Ephesians 2:3 where Paul said
Ephesians 2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
In Romans 2:5 he says of the unrepentant that
Romans 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
So there needs to be two way reconciliation; us reconciled to God and God reconciled to us and He provides the basis entirely for that to happen.
3. Ratification of the Efficacy of the Atonement through Christ’s Resurrection
Paul said something very interesting in 1 Corinthians 15. He begins the chapter by saying this is the Gospel that I gave to you, Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He has been raised according to the Scriptures. He died for our sins. A few verses later he says if Christ has not been raised you are still in your sins and we of all people are most to be pitied if Christ has not been raised. My question to you is, is it the death of Christ or the resurrection of Christ that takes away our sin? 1 Corinthians 15 begins with Christ dies for our sins. If He died for sins and that does it, what is the point of the resurrection? Why does he say if He has not been raised we are still in out sins? What is the connection between the death of Christ and His resurrection as it relates to sin? He was vindicating that His death paid for sin. How’s so? What is sin’s greatest power? It has lots of powers, it can deceive, twist, it can mar, it can lead to all kinds of horrible things but its greatest power and its culminating power is death. The wages of sin is death. If Christ who died for sin remains dead, then He didn’t actually pay for sin because death still is holding Him. The payment, wages, which is death, are still being paid. You can think of it in two terms. You can think of it in terms of the completion of the payment requires that He be raised for the dead indicating that the payment has been made in full. The wages of death have been satisfied and so He doesn’t have to pay for it anymore through death so He necessarily raises from the dead. And you can think of it this way. Sin and death is also a power over us. If Christ conquers the power of sin, the only way He can conquer the power of sin is by conquering its greatest manifestation, which is death. How do you conquer death? Only be being raised from the dead. For Christ to have supposedly died for sin and be in the grave would indicate sin has not been paid for, sin has not been conquered. If sin has been paid for, if sin has been conquered then the one who did that and died for our sin must of necessity rise from the dead indicating His victory, His complete payment and hence vindicating the efficacy, ratifying the efficacy that it really did work, that it really did have this effect; that is the meaning of efficacy. It really did have this effect, namely of paying for sin, of defeating sin. So Christ’s resurrection is absolutely essential, as Paul puts it, if He has not been raised we are still our sins and we are of all men most to be pitied. But Christ has been raised and hence we have all the reason to hope that we to in Him will be raised and be freed from sin forever. Hasten the day, Lord Jesus come!
Blessings on you.