Atonement and the Works of Christ

Hello everyone! I want to begin this weeks post by thanking everyone for the positive feedback regarding last week’s post. I hope to continue producing work that is helpful for everyone who is in need of such information. Last week we looked at Conversion, which includes True Repentance and Saving Faith. The next topic seems logically fitting as we will be talking about the Atonement or the work of Christ. When looking at this topic there is a lot of ground to cover and so I hope to avoid bogging people down with too much information. This hope leads to a basic overview of the work of Christ.
Before I go further I want to mention that this topic is very important and I think it can get overlooked in several regards. Firstly, it is important because Christ’s work on the cross should always be exalted, never minimized, so that Christ in all his glory is seen. Secondly, this topic is important because a lot of heresies downplay the atonement, one unnamed cult only believes in the ransom work of Christ while rejecting the rest. This actually has huge theological implications and makes their beliefs far more separated than you would normally think. Lastly, this is important because it establishes your identity in Christ. To be a healthy Christian is to know who you are in Christ, and the work of Christ makes it clear where you stand. We’ll have a look at the Identity in Christ at a later time as well.

What is Atonement? 

From my little dictionary of Theological Terms we can establish what atonement is, “atonement refers to God’s act of dealing with the primary human problem, sin.” Lets also throw in the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry’s definition to solidify this working definition, “atonement theologically speaks of God’s acting in human history to re-establish the original relationship between God and man by dealing with sin. To atone means to make amends – to repair a wrong done. Biblically, it means to remove guilt of man.” By the way CARM has a good Dictionary of Theology, among other things, that I recommend for any of you who are interested (https://carm.org/dictionary-atonement).

Now, the atonement is a Work of Christ, but since the atonement encompasses all of the work of Christ, I use “atonement” and “work of Christ” interchangeably. From here we’ll begin looking at the works of Christ beginning with his substitutionary work, which is the foundation of the atonement.

Before we start, though, it is worth noting that understanding the character of God makes all of the works of the atonement easier to grasp. In some cases you may find yourself saying, “why is that necessary?” To answer this question is to go into (a) the character of God and (b) the doctrine of sin. This post assumes that you can make those connections, but I will minimally explain in order that we can get through the work on the cross. The character of God and a closer look at the doctrine of sin can definitely be seen in the future. It is also worth noting that a lot of these works are odd when you break them down because they are indeed all connected.

Once we lay the ground work of Substitution, we’ll be going through rather quickly. Simply being aware of these works is great, but I encourage you to dive deeper into the topics presented! I’d be happy to direct you to more resources if needed.

Substitution: 

The first work of Christ to note it is his substitutionary death in place of Sinners. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” To understand the work of substitution requires a basic understanding of the Old Testament and how substitution was established. The quickest way to explain this work of substitution in the Old Testament is to look at the Mosaic law. God established the standard for holiness and any time the law was broken there had to be a means to pay for that transgression or “sin.” In a simple analogy it is like paying a judge for a ticket. Got questions explains substitution as follows, “By sacrificing an innocent animal according to God’s specifications, man could have his sins forgiven and enter the presence of God. The animal died in the sinner’s place, thereby allowing the sinner to go free, vindicated.” [1] The animal acted as a scapegoat and the sinner was cleansed by substitution. In Christ we have the ultimate substitution (Hebrews 9:22).

Propitiation:

Following substitution is propitiation, which means that Christ’s death fully satisfied all of the righteous demands of God towards the sinner. Gotquestions on this topic is wise to note that while “appeasing” or satisfying a God or gods is common among even pagan religion, but that the bible differs in that this is a work of God not a gift or sacrifice offered to God. [2]  This is a big distinction and ties in nicely with substitution. This satisfies, again, the righteous requirements of God by sufficiently satisfying God’s nature in that he is just. See Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10; Romans 3:25.

Forgiveness:

Next is forgiveness which is the “legal act” of God removing the charges that were held against the sinner because of the atonement for sin. Here we see substitution playing out yet again as the substitution satisfies the righteous demands, and the charges against us are cleared and forgiven. You can see this here Colossians 2:13 and Ephesians 1:7. In my experience forgiveness is a centerpiece for most Christians, and so chances are you’re familiar with forgiveness.

Justification:

Following forgiveness is justification, which is a legal act of God whereby he declares the believing sinner righteous on the basis of Christ’s blood. As we go through these works you’ll be able to make the logical connections, I believe. But Justification, while it can be logically reached, and biblically support, is commonly rejected. Justification is specifically rejected in work-based heresies in which works are the means by which salvation is obtained. The reason why justification and salvation are equated is because being righteous is the means by which we are truly of God because of God’s character. While we were imputed sinful nature, we are also imputed righteousness. An example of a teaching that rejects justification is Jehovah’s Witnesses as they believe you must work to obtain righteousness, which man’s works cannot appease and satisfy the righteous requirements of God as we can see in propitiation. Typically, as with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, you must reject most of the biblical teachings on the atonement on Christ to come to the conclusions they hold… but we’ll go into that at a different time. You can take a look at some instances of justification here: Acts 13:39, Romans 4:2-5; 5:1-9.

Adoption:

Next is one of my favorites, adoption. This is one that I will definitely be going into sooner rather than later because of its wonderful implications. In Adoption the believer gains the rights and privileges of a fully legitimate son of God. The believer becomes an heir to God’s estate, and the believer is literally, and absolutely the son of God. This is a fantastic truth that I really recommend you get engraved into your heart, but this is also very important. We hear people casually use, “we’re all God’s children” and this is actually wrong, biblically speaking. While I wish to go into this more as well, it is important to remember that we are God’s children in the sense that we are his creation, but we are not his children in the sense that people use it in.

In fact, those without Christ are considered children of the world, children of the devil, and children of wrath. Take a look at 1 John 3:10 to get a glimpse at this. While I don’t want to spend time on this now, it is very important. I will go into this more soon!

Reconciliation:

Simple and sweet is reconciliation. We are brought into communion with God. All of the works, which as I mentioned are logically linked together, bring us to this place of communion with our Father. For some quick reading on reconciliation take a look at Isaiah 59:1-2, Colossians 1:21-22, James 4:4 and Romans 5:10.

Redemption: 

Lastly, we have redemption, which refers to the “purchase” of sinners out of the slave market of sin. We hear scripture speak on slaves to sin and slaves to righteousness or Christ, well, you were a slave to sin before Christ, but now Christ owns you. This is off putting to some, but believers see the beauty in its truth as they grow. We are no longer bound by the destructiveness of sin, but are free in Christ. It almost seems contradictory, but being in a closer state to the glory you were originally designed for is far better than being a slave to sin. This is important because people forget about it and therefore fail to rid their lives of sin. Sure, it is a process, but falling into a pit of “I cant be free of this sin” is simply a lack of trust in Christ, his work, and power, or failure to recognize this truth and understand it. Check out some texts on redemption: 1 Peter 1:18, 1 Corinthians 6:20. Galatians 3:13, 4:5

Conclusion:

While I burned through these very quickly, I hope that I provided information that will get you thinking, thirsty, and studying scripture. Maybe you really needed to know that you are redeemed, justified, or adopted, or maybe you needed a reminder of those things. Who knows? I simply hope it is helpful in some shape or form.

Thank you all for reading or watching, and I hope to see your feedback! What topic would you like me to go into next? I imagine some of my comments on adoption may spark some curiosity, but there is plenty of interesting and great material to go through!

God bless you all!

Sources:

[1] http://www.gotquestions.org/doctrine-substitution.html

[2] http://www.gotquestions.org/propitiation.html

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