The Doctrine of the Atonement (part 4) - God's Plan for Salvation

When God created Adam and Eve, they were created in His "image," i.e. they had God's spiritual life and could have fellowship with Him. When they sinned, they became spiritually dead and also prone to physical death. We, the human race, inherited Adam's sinful nature and are thus spiritually dead and incapable of fellowship with God. From Genesis to Revelation, the central theme of the Bible is God's eternal, perfect plan for the salvation of mankind.

In order to gain an overview of this vast subject, I have divided it into six sections:

1. The necessity for the atonement

1.1 God's holiness
1.2 Man's sinfulness
1.3 God's wrath
1.4 God's justice and love

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2. Atonement in the Old Testament

2.1 Definition of the term
2.2 The sacrificial system
2.3 The day of atonement
2.4 The passover

3. Atonement in the New Testament

3.1 A revelation of God's love
3.2 Representation
3.3 Substitution
3.4 Identification or union

4. Atonement: the work of Christ

4.1 Christ's obedience
4.2 Christ as the ultimate sacrifice
4.3 Christ as the mediator of the new covenant
4.4 Christ as the eternal high priest

5. The purpose and effects of the atonement

5.1 The Godward aspects

5.1.1 Propitiation
5.1.2 Vindication of the lawgiver
5.1.3 Remission of sins
5.1.4 Reconciliation

5.2 The manward aspects

5.2.1 Reconciliation
5.2.2 Justification
5.2.3 Redemption
5.2.4 Adoption

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4. Atonement: the work of Christ

4. Atonement: the work of Christ
Through Christ's (i) obedience in becoming (ii) the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, He (iii) mediated a new covenant for us in which He represents us before God as our (iv) eternal high priest:

4.1 Christ's obedience
Theologians usually distinguish between Christ's "active" and "passive" obedience. His active obedience consists in all He did to observe the law as the condition for obtaining eternal life. Thus, as the disobedience of the first Adam made us all sinners, so through the obedience of the "last Adam" [1] we "will be made righteous. [2]

Christ's active obedience also obtained for us freedom from sin, [3] freedom from the law, [4] deliverance from death, [5] "the promise of the Spirit," [6] "the full rights of sons" [7] and victory over Satan. [8]

Christ's passive obedience consists inf His paying the penalty of sin by His suffering and death, and thus absolving the obligation of all His people. Only by virtue of His deity and infinite worth could He thus redeem mankind. His passive obedience is taught throughout scripture. [9]

4.2 Christ as the ultimate sacrifice
Christ "was put to death for our tresspasses. " [10] His blood was shed "for many for the forgiveness of sins." [11] The Greek word for "forgiveness" is aphesis  which means literally "to put off" or "put away," and should rather be translated as "remission." [12] Thus, as the "scapegoat" of the OT, as "our Passover," [13] or as "the Lamb of God," He took away the sins of the world. [14]

Because "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins," [15] God has given His one and only Son [16] "as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in His blood." [17] Animals have a different "kind of flesh," [18] and therefore the Son of God had to share our humanity [19] in order to become our "source of eternal salvation." [20] The OT sacrifices  only served as illustrations, foreshadowing the present age and helping us to see the significance of Jesus' death.

4.3 Christ as the mediator of a New Covenant
There is but "one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."[21]  In these words Paul stresses both the deity and humanity of Jesus, because only he who is both true God and true man can serve as the intermediary between a holy God and sinful men. The Son of God took on human nature and became Son of man, so that we might be adopted as children of God. [22] Both natures were necessary in order to atone for sin: He needed the weakness of human nature to submit to death, and the power of the divine to overcome it that He might win victory for us. [23]

Because the Israelites could not be faithful to the old covenant, God promised them a new one: "I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts." [24] The new covenant is both "superior" to the old one and is "founded on better promises." [25] Under the old covenant the worshippers could only be made "outwardly clean," but under the new their consciences are cleansed "from acts that lead to death." [26]

Both covenants were put into effect with blood, "because a will is in force only when somebody has died." [27] "For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant ... now that He has died to set them (those who are called) free from the sins committed under the first covenant." [28] Thus the first covenant was effective only in anticipation of the new, and now that the new has come the old has been made "obsolete." [29]

4.4 Christ as the eternal high priest
Christ was sent by His Father to fulfill three offices: the kingly, prophetic and priestly. His work of atonement was the main part of His priestly office. Biblical priests were appointed by God [30] to represent men before Him, i.e. they had the special privilege of approach to God, and of speaking and acting in behalf of the people. [31] Thus again it was necessary for the Son of God to become Son of man, so that we might have "a merciful and faithful high priest" who is "able to sympathise with our weaknesses." [32]

Perfection could not be attained through the Levitical priesthood,[33] who daily offered "the same sacrifices which can never take away sins." [34] Therefore God made Jesus an eternal priest "in the order of Malchizedek," thereby introducing "a better hope," [35] because "He always lives to intercede for us." [36]

When "this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God" so that "there is no longer any sacrifice for sin." [37] Furthermore, as a holy high priest, He had no need to offer sacrifices for Himself, [38] but "has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifece of Himself." [39] By entering the heavenly Holy of Holies "once for all by His own blood." [40] He has opened for us "a new and living way" to "draw near to God." [41]

References:
1. 1 Corinthians 15:45
2. Romans 5:19
3. Romans 6:14
4. Galatians 2:19
5. John 11:26
6. Galatians 3:14
7. Galatians 4:5
8. 1 John 3:8
9. Isaiah 53:6; Romans 4:25; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; 1 John 2:2
10. Romans 4:25
11. Matthew 26:28
12. Wuest, p.62
13. 1 Corinthians 5:7
14. John 1:29
15. Hebrews 10:4
16. John 3:16
17. Romans 3:25
18. 1 Corinthians 15:39
19. Hebrews 2:14
20. Hebrews 5:9
21.  1 Timothy 2:5
22.  Romans 8:15-17
23.  Calvin, p.466
24.  Jeremiah 31:31-34
25.  Hebrews 8:6
26.  Hebrews 9:13-14
27.  Hebrews 9:16-18
28.  Hebrews 9:15
29. Hebrews 8:13
30. Deuteronomy 18:18; Hebrews 5:4
31. Berkhof, p.361
32. Hebrews 2:17; 4:14
33. Hebrews 7:11
34. Hebrews 10:11
35. Hebrews 7:17-18
36. Hebrews 7:25
37. Hebrews 10:12,18
38. Hebrews 7:26-27
39. Hebrews 9:26
40. Hebrews 9:11-12
41. Hebrews 9:19-22

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Berkhof, L. Systematic Theology, Michigan, U.S.A.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1941

2. Berkouwer, G.C. The Work of Christ, Michigan, U.S.A.: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965

3. Calvin, J. Institutes of the Christian Religion, Philadelphia, U.S.A.: Westminster Press, 1960

4. Deist, F. A Concise Dictionary of Theological Terms, Johannesburg, R.S.A.: Van Schaik, 1984

5. Douglas, J. (ed.) New Bible Dictionary, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1962

6. Goodrick, E.W. The NIV Complete Concordance, Michiga, U.S.A.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981

7. Hammond, T.C. In Understanding Be Men, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968

8. Packer, J.I. Knowing God, London, England: Hodder & Stoughton, 1975

9. Pearlman, M. Knowing the Doctrines of the Bible, Roodepoort, R.S.A.: Gospel Publishing House, 1937

10. Richards, L.O. Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, Michigan, U.S.A.: Regency Reference Library, 1985

11. Stott, J.R.W. The Letters of John, Leichester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1988

12. Thompson, F.C. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, Michigan, U.S.A.: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1983

13. Vine, W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words, Massachusetts, U.S.A.: Hendrickson Publishers, ?

14. Webster, ? Webster's 7th Collegiate Dictionary, Massachusetts, U.S.A.: G & C Merriam Co., 1965

15. Wuest, K.S. Word Studies: Romans in the Greek NT, Michigan, U.S.A.: Eerdman's Publishing Co., 1955

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