A Primer on the Atonement (pt. 3)
In this ongoing series from John Gerstner’s Primitive Theology, Dr. Gerstner uses a fictional dialog between Christian and Inquirer to provide a primer on the Christian doctrine of the atonement.
(Continued from Part Two)
I: So He could not tell them what weighed most heavily on His heart, the inevitability and meaning of His death, because they were not prepared to accept that awful fact?
C: Yes. That is the most poignant part of the incarnation story. Christ was born to die, and those for whom He was going to die were utterly unprepared to accept that awesome display of divine love for them. So our Lord had to go to His cross alone, suffering for people who did not even realize He was suffering for them.
I: That certainly explains to me, as nothing else does, the need for the atonement. We sinners need atonement for our sins.
C: How true. Would you like me to cite a number of passages to which Christ no doubt alluded, along with other New Testament passages on the atonement, or shall we continue the discussion assuming the existence of such passages?
I: I believe you when you say there are many such passages. But I think it may be good to hear some of them. That may answer the questions I still have.
C: Very well. Let me read two dozen:
Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire; mine ears hast Thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast Thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart (Psalm 40:6–8; see Hebrews 10:5–9).
Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him: and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray: we have turned every one to His own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare His generation? for He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was He stricken … . Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong: because He has poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:4–8, 10– 12).
In that day there shall be a fountain opened in the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness (Zechariah 13:1).
For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:30).
And [Jesus] said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:46–47).
[We are] Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God: To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus (Romans 3:24–26). [He] was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification (Romans 4:25).
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3).
Grace be to you, and peace, from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father (Galatians 1:3–4).
In [Him] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7).
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father (Ephesians 2:13– 18).
In [Him] we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins … . For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in His sight (Colossians 1:14, 19–22).
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus: Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time (I Timothy
[He] gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Titus 2:14).
… by the grace of God [Jesus] should taste death for every man … . Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:9, 17).
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance … . Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then he must often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:12–15, 25–26).
[We have come] to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel (Hebrews 12:24).
Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate … . Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will (Hebrews 13:12, 20– 21).
Forasmuch that ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you (1 Peter 1:18–20).
[Jesus Himself] bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed (1 Peter 2:24).
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit (I Peter 3:18).
The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood… . (Revelation 1:5).
And they sang a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation (Revelation 5:9).
I: That is really impressive. And I understand that there are many other passages you have not read here. The atonement is much more central to the Bible than I realized. But I still have some questions.
C: Please raise them.
To be continued…
Excerpted from Primitive Theology by John H. Gerstner.