Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Christ's Substitutionary Atonement for Our Sins

At the link is an excellent article by J. I. Packer on the importance of what he calls "penal substitution." This is the idea that Jesus died in our place on the cross so that God could justly say the sentence against us had been carried out against Jesus as our representative substitute and sacrifice, and could then attribute to us the righteous obedience of Jesus. To paraphrase Sproul, "we have been saved from God, by God, for God, through God." The idea that Christ bore our sins so we could be forgiven is clearly evidenced in the prophecy of Isaiah52:13 through 53:12 as well as in the New Testament. It is at the heart of what makes faith in Christ different from other religions. It remains unpopular due to mankind's desire to earn salvation, or to believe that forgiveness has no cost in blood - but it is the truth.


Anonymous said...

Dear Dean McConnell,
Have you ever read that Jesus says guilt relative to sin remains the outstanding issue, but this AFTER his crucifixion? And have you ever read that God says that whenever any man's life is taken by bloodshed God himself demands an accounting for that action? Isn't it a bit of a stretch to say that the crucifixion of Jesus is the resolution between you and God when God and Jesus say otherwise? There must be a least one sin that Jesus' crucifixion has not resolved for some kind of sin has to be repented of to obey the Acts 2:38 command. Got any idea of what this sin is?
Theodore A. Jones

Dean McConnell said...

The most important call to repentance is to repent from unbelief. But belief is not a work. We need God's help to believe. Hence the man who says to Jesus "I believe, help my unbelief."

Jesus death must deal with all guilt for all the sin of God's people or nobody would be saved. One sin is enough to damn anybody, and even devout Christians sin countless times every day because even proud, envious, lustful, or unjustifiably angry thoughts are sins. No, all sins must be atoned for. As Amselm understood about original sin, so it is true for all sin, that humans, apart from the God/Man Jesus, have nothing of enough value to atone for sin.

Jesus blood and righteousness are what make us righteous. Ministerial measures like agreeing with God about our sins, accepting God's forgiveness, and believing what God has revealed about the atonement by Jesus are necessary for the atonement to apply, but none of these things is what does away with the sin and guilt.

I am not advocating universalism. Not everybody will go to heaven because of Jesus atonement for sin. God's forgiveness must be accepted. We have to believe and agree with God about our sins, and accept a relationship with God. This relationship does not end our sinning in earthly life. It does start a process where God is at work in us to conform us to his image. Calls to repentance are calls to believe and enter that relationship. When we do, by God's grace and action in us, believe and enter into that relationship, we accept the pardon for all sins, including our past, present, and future doubts. So when Jesus or anyone else in the Bible says we must do something to be saved, this does not mean all sins of the elect were not atoned for, nor does it mean that salvation is based on our works or our forbearance from sin.

I am also not advocating antinomianism. God wants us to keep his law. There are still consequences for disobeying God's laws. And God still intends human government to punish evil and reward good to maintain order on the earth.