Before The Blazing Throne

No human mind can adequately estimate the infinite value of the divine sacrifice, for great as is the sin of God’s people, the atonement which takes it away is immeasurably greater.

Therefore, the believer, even when sin rolls like a black flood, and the remembrance of the past is bitter, can yet stand before the blazing throne of the great and holy God, and cry, ‘Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea rather, that hath risen again.’

While the recollection of his sin fills him with shame and sorrow, he at the same time makes it a foil to show the brightness of mercy. Guilt is the dark night in which the fair star of divine love shines with serene splendour.

—Charles Spurgeon
Evening entry for July 6 from Morning and Evening

Via: Tolle Lege

Power Only In The Cross

One moment’s believing, close contact with the cross will do more to break the heart for sin, deepen the conviction of its exceeding sinfulness, and disenthrall the soul from all its bondage and its fears, bringing it into a sense of pardon and acceptance and assured hope, than a lifetime of the most rigid legal duties that ever riveted their iron chain upon the soul.

—Octavius Winslow
The Foot of the Cross

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Jesus Became A Curse

The following is an excerpt from Dr. R.C. Sproul’s plenary address at Together for the Gospel (T4G) 2008 titled “The Curse Motif of the Atonement”:

The Curse Motif of the Atonement

One image, one aspect, of the atonement has receded in our day almost into obscurity. We have been made aware of present-day attempts to preach a more gentle and kind gospel. In our effort to communicate the work of Christ more kindly we flee from any mention of a curse inflicted by God upon his Son. We shrink in horror from the words of the prophet Isaiah (chap. 53) that describe the ministry of the suffering servant of Israel and tells us that it pleased the Lord to bruise him. Can you take that in? Somehow the Father took pleasure in bruising the Son when he set before him that awful cup of divine wrath. How could the Father be pleased by bruising his Son were it not for his eternal purpose through that bruising to restore us as his children?

But there is the curse motif that seems utterly foreign to us, particularly in this time in history. When we speak today of the idea of curse, what do we think of? We think perhaps of a voodoo witch doctor that places pins in a doll made to replicate his enemy. We think of an occultist who is involved in witchcraft, putting spells and hexes upon people. The very word curse in our culture suggests some kind of superstition, but in biblical categories there is nothing superstitious about it.

The Hebrew Benediction

If you really want to understand what it meant to a Jew to be cursed, I think the simplest way is to look at the famous Hebrew benediction in the Old Testament, one which clergy often use as the concluding benediction in a church service:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
(Numbers 6:24–26)

The structure of that famous benediction follows a common Hebrew poetic form known as parallelism. There are various types of parallelism in Hebrew literature. There’s antithetical parallelism in which ideas are set in contrast one to another. There is synthetic parallelism, which contains a building crescendo of ideas. But one of the most common forms of parallelism is synonymous parallelism, and, as the words suggest, this type restates something with different words. There is no clearer example of synonymous parallelism anywhere in Scripture than in the benediction in Numbers 6, where exactly the same thing is said in three different ways. If you don’t understand one line of it, then look to the next one, and maybe it will reveal to you the meaning.

We see in the benediction three stanzas with two elements in each one: “bless” and “keep”; “face shine” and “be gracious”; and “lift up the light of his countenance” and “give you peace.” For the Jew, to be blessed by God was to be bathed in the refulgent glory that emanates from his face. “The Lord bless you” means “the Lord make his face to shine upon you.” Is this not what Moses begged for on the mountain when he asked to see God? Yet God told him that no man can see him and live. So God carved out a niche in the rock and placed Moses in the cleft of it, and God allowed Moses to see a glimpse of his backward parts but not of his face. After Moses had gotten that brief glance of the back side of God, his face shone for an extended period of time. But what the Jew longed for was to see God’s face, just once.

The Jews’ ultimate hope was the same hope that is given to us in the New Testament, the final eschatological hope of the beatific vision: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Don’t you want to see him? The hardest thing about being a Christian is serving a God you have never seen, which is why the Jew asked for that.

The Supreme Malediction

But my purpose here is not to explain the blessing of God but its polar opposite, its antithesis, which again can be seen in vivid contrast to the benediction. The supreme malediction would read something like this:

“May the Lord curse you and abandon you. May the Lord keep you in darkness and give you only judgment without grace. May the Lord turn his back upon you and remove his peace from you forever.”

When on the cross, not only was the Father’s justice satisfied by the atoning work of the Son, but in bearing our sins the Lamb of God removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. He did it by being cursed. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'” (Galatians 3:13). He who is the incarnation of the glory of God became the very incarnation of the divine curse.

—Dr. R.C. Sproul
The Curse Motif of the Atonement

I can’t think of a better way to end this post than with the closing line from Dr. Sproul’s message:

If you believe that, you will stop adding to the Gospel and start preaching it with clarity and boldness, because, dear friends, it is the only hope we have, and it is hope enough.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Via: Ligonier Ministries Blog

That Is How Jesus Died

Shredded flesh against unforgiving wood, iron stakes pounded through bone and wracked nerves, joints wrenched out of socked by the sheer dead weight of the body, public humiliation before the eyes of family, friends, and the world – that was death on the cross, ‘the infamous stake’ as the Romans called it, ‘the barren wood, ’ the maxima mala crux. Or as the Greeks spat it out, the stauros. No wonder no one talked about it. No wonder parents hid their children’s eyes from it. The stauros was a loathsome thing, and the one who dies on it was loathsome too, a vile criminal whose only use was to hang there as a putrid decaying warning to anyone else who might follow his example.

That is how Jesus died.

—Greg Gilbert
The Gospel: God’s Self-Substitution for Sinners

Via: Of First Importance

Christus Victor and Propitation

Any adequate understanding of the atonement must include within it this aspect of Christ’s disarming of the powers of darkness. It is personally gratifying in this context to be able to quote some apt words from the late Professor John Murray:

Redemption from sin cannot be adequately conceived or formulated except as it comprehends the victory which Christ secured once for all over him who is the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air. . . . It is impossible to speak in terms of redemption from the power of sin except as there comes within the range of this redemptive accomplishment the destruction of the power of darkness.

A comprehensively biblical exposition of the work of Christ recognizes that the atonement, which terminates on God (in propitiation) and on man (in forgiveness), also terminates on Satan (in the destruction of his sway over believers). And it does this last precisely because it does the first two.

In this respect, [Gustav] Aulén’s view was seriously inadequate. He displaced the motif of penal satisfaction with that of victory. But, as we have seen, in Scripture the satisfaction of divine justice, the forgiveness of our sins, and Christ’s defeat of Satan are not mutually exclusive but complementary. Each is an essential dimension of Christ’s work. Each is vital for our salvation, and each provides an aspect of the atonement from which the other aspects may be seen with greater clarity and richness. Moreover, these aspects are interrelated at the profoundest level. For the New Testament the dramatic aspect of the atonement involves a triumph that is secured through propitiation. Aulén therefore failed to recognize that in setting the dramatic view over against the penal view of the atonement he inevitably enervated the dramatic view of its true dynamic.

—Sinclair Ferguson
For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper

Via: Justin Taylor

Audio: R.C. Sproul on the Atonement

As a follow-up to the previous post on Yom Kippur I want to present the audio from a portion of Dr. R.C. Sproul’s presentation at Together for the Gospel 2008. The title of his presentation was “The Curse Motif of the Atonement” and it was one of the finest messages I’ve ever had the privilege to hear. FYI – this audio selection is a little over 13 minutes in length.

You can view the entire presentation at Ligonier’s website or download the audio at the T4G website.

For God So Loved the World

This article, which appeared in TableTalk Magazine, was written by Pastor Tom Ascol, Executive Diretor of Founders Ministries. It presents a clear explanation and distinction of how Calvinists and Arminians view the death of Christ differently. The original article can be found here.

Every Christian believes in limited atonement. That may sound ludicrous to my Arminian friends because it has long been assumed that only Calvinists hold to the dreaded “L” in TULIP. But if the death of Jesus Christ is recognized as an actual atonement (and not merely a potential one), then the question of limitation cannot be escaped, unless you believe the lie of universalism.

It is the recognition that Christ’s death actually atoned for sins that governs our interpretation of those wonderful texts that speak of the great breadth of His saving work. For example, John writes that Jesus is “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). The choice here is not between Calvinism and Arminianism. It is between Calvinism and universalism. If “world” means “each and every person who ever lived or will live” then everyone will be saved because of the objective nature of propitiation. No sin would be left unpaid for — including the sin of unbelief.

No one who takes seriously the Bible’s teachings on hell and judgment would ever affirm universalism, which means that John uses “world” here to mean something other than each and every person who will ever live (as he often does; see John 14:19; 16:8; 18:20; 1 John 2:15,). John’s concern is to assert that Jesus is the only Savior the world has. His death redeems people not just from among the Jews or Americans or from any one group, but from among the whole world.

Calvinism protects from the heresy of universalism on the one hand and the error of reducing the objective nature of the atonement on the other. The Calvinist recognizes that the death of Jesus saves everyone for whom it was designed. In other words, the atonement is viewed as limited in its scope and purpose. All for whom Christ died will be saved.

Arminianism, however, cannot successfully guard against such mistakes. The Arminian claims that the death of Jesus was designed to save each and every person in history without actually doing so. As such, the atonement did not save everyone for whom it was intended. In other words, the Arminian view, while claiming that the atonement is unlimited in its extent, is forced to conclude that it is limited in its efficacy. It failed to accomplish its universal purpose.

The difference between these two views is like the difference between a narrow bridge that extends all the way across a valley and a wider one that only goes halfway. Who cares how broad it is if it does not get you to the other side?

This difference is what made Charles Spurgeon argue that Arminianism, much more than Calvinism, limits the atonement of Christ. The Arminian says, “‘Christ has died that any man may be saved if’ — and then follow certain conditions of salvation. Now who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as infallibly to secure the salvation of anybody. We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ’s death; we say, ‘No, my dear sire, it is you that do it.’ We say Christ so died that he infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it” (Spurgeon’s Sermons, vol. 4, p. 228).

Well, what is “our” view of the atonement that Spurgeon so passionately defended? Specifically, it is the understanding that Jesus actually redeemed everyone He intended to redeem when He shed His blood on the cross. Just as the high priest under the old covenant wore the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on his breastplate when he performed his sacrificial service, so our great High Priest under the new covenant had the names of His people inscribed on His heart as He offered up Himself as a sacrifice for their sins.

In John 10, Jesus clearly announces the particular focus of His atoning death. He calls Himself the “Good Shepherd” who “lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Shortly after this, He describes His sheep as those who have been given to Him by His Father. Furthermore, He bluntly declares to some unbelieving Israelites, “you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep” (John 10:26–29 NKJV).

Our Lord’s high priestly prayer in John 17 shows the same kind of limited scope. As He braces for His sacrificial death for His people, He prays specifically — indeed, exclusively — for them. They are the ones whom the Father had given Him out of the world (v. 6). Consequently, His priestly intercession was limited to them: “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours” (v. 9). It is inconceivable that Jesus would fail to pray for those for whom He was about to die as a substitutionary sacrifice. The ones for whom He prayed are the same ones for whom He died.

The doctrine of limited atonement, or particular redemption, does not suggest any inadequacy in the death of Christ. Because of who it is that suffered, the death of Jesus is of infinite worth. The Canons of Dort go to great lengths to establish this point and declare plainly that “the death of the Son of God … is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world” (2.3).

The limitation in the atonement stems from the intention and purpose of God in sending Jesus to the cross. Christ’s redemptive work was designed to be a particular atonement for His own people — those whom the Father had given Him. His death was intended to save the elect.

Jesus teaches that His whole redemptive ministry was carried out in fulfillment of a divinely prearranged plan. This is what He means in John 6:38–39: “For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”

Theologians refer to this arrangement as the covenant of redemption in which, before history began, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit pledged to bring about the salvation of fallen people. Out of sheer mercy and grace, the Father chose individuals to be saved (Rom. 9:11–13; Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13). These chosen ones He gave to His Son (John 6:37, 39; 17:6, 9, 24) who committed Himself to accomplish their salvation through His incarnate, redemptive mission (Mark 10:45; John 10:11). In keeping with this divine agenda, the Spirit is sent into the world by the Father and the Son (John 15:26; 16:5–15) to apply the work of Christ to those whom the Father gave the Son and for whom the Son died.

This view of the atonement guarantees the success of evangelism. God has a people who will be saved infallibly through the preaching of the Gospel. He has chosen them. Christ has died for them. And the Spirit will regenerate them through the message of salvation. This truth kept Paul going in the face of discouragement at Corinth (Acts 18:9–10), and it will keep us going on in our evangelistic efforts today — not only locally, but globally (Rev. 5:9).

—Tom Ascol
TableTalk Magazine, September 1, 2005

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He Atoned for Your Sins on the Cross

One of the sweetest statements from the lips of Jesus is this: ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ (Matthew 25:34b). There is a plan of God designed for your salvation. It is not an afterthought or an attempt to correct a mistake. Rather, from all eternity, God determined that He would redeem for Himself a people, and that which He determined to do was, in fact, accomplished in the work of Jesus Christ, His atonement on the cross. Your salvation has been accomplished by a Savior, One who did for you what the Father determined He should do. He is your Surety, your Mediator, your Substitute, your Redeemer. He atoned for your sins on the cross.

—R.C. Sproul
The Truth of the Cross

Via: Of First Importance