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The Nature of the Atonement

The Nature of the Atonement

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Published by David Salazar
The Nature of the Atonement
Phil Johnson
Executive Director, Grace to You
This seminar will explore the meaning of the atonement itself, and examine some dangerous
corruptions of this vital doctrine.
The Nature of the Atonement
Phil Johnson
Executive Director, Grace to You
This seminar will explore the meaning of the atonement itself, and examine some dangerous
corruptions of this vital doctrine.

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Published by: David Salazar on Jan 14, 2009
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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The Nature of the Atonement
Phil Johnson
 Executive Director, Grace to You
This seminar will explore the meaning of the atonement itself, and examine some dangerouscorruptions of this vital doctrine.I.
Substitutionary Atonement Addresseda.
One of the “fundamentals” of the faith b.
At the start of the fundamentalist movement (end of the 19
century) thisdoctrine was one of the main battlegroundsc.
Many modern evangelicals seem to be of the opinion that it doesn’t really matter what view of the atonement you hold, as long as you believe that in some senseJesus’ death atoned for sins.d.
This erosion of commitment to a right understanding of the atonement is one of the main reasons the whole evangelical movement today is in serious trouble.II.
Three Wrong Views of the Atonement and their Hazard to the Gospela.
The Ransom Theoryi.
Origen developed this theoryii.
View: Satan was tricked into accepting Christ’s death in exchange for the souls of sinners, not realizing that Christ would rise from the dead.iii.
Based on a misunderstanding of Mark 10:45 and 1 Timothy 2:6; defines“ransom” in these verses as a fee paid to Satan to purchase the release of sinnersiv.
Revival of this view in recent years by various charismatic teachers,especially Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, and others in the word-faith movement1.
They teach that Christ purchased ransom for sinners by literallysuffering in hell2.
They surmise that when He died He descended into hell andsuffered there in order to render a payment for sin to Satanv.
What’s wrong with this view?1.
Scripture does not imply that Satan has any legitimate claim onsinners2.
Satan is not the one who must be satisfied before sinners may beredeemed3.
Biblical word ransom simply means “redemption-price”; it doesnot necessarily imply a price paid to
Scripture teaches that Christ’s atonement was a sacrifice to Goda.
Ephesians 5:2 b.
Isaiah 53:10 (“The Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as aguilt offering.”) b.
The Moral Influence Theoryi.
Peter Abelard (12
century) developed this theoryii.
Abelard’s view:1.
Christ’s death was an example for believers to follow, a radicalexpression of love that influences sinners morally and gives
them a pattern to follow but does not actually pay any price ontheir behalf 2.
God’s justice demands no actual payment for sin3.
God’s justice is subjugated to His loveiii.
What’s wrong with this view?1.
Bernard of Clairvaux, a contemporary of Abelard, noted that if Christ’s death was merely an example, then the actual work of salvation is still the sinner’s task to perform2.
The Council of Sens in 1141 declared Abelard a hereticiv.
This view resurfaced during the Reformation in the teaching of theSocinians1.
They insisted that God’s predominate attribute is His love, whichvirtually cancels out His wrath2.
Therefore God is inclined to pardon sinners without demandingany payment3.
They taught that Christ’s death served as an example of obedience and love to believers, pointing the way to lifev.
There has been a revival of this view in modern times amongevangelicals who adhere to Open Theism—see John Sanders’ book 
TheGod Who Risks
Major Problem with this view?1.
This view makes the atonement nothing more than an exampleand as a result there is no real propitiatory aspect to Christ’sdeath2.
If sinners are “redeemed” by following an example of Christ,then “salvation” is reduced to moral reform motivated by love— and salvation is by works3.
Abelard’s argument for this view is that divine forgiveness is solavish that it renders a payment for sin unnecessary4.
But Scripture says that “without shedding of blood there is noforgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22); divine forgiveness is rooted andgrounded in a blood atonementc.
The Governmental Theoryi.
This view was devised by Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) during theArminian controversy in Hollandii.
The view:1.
It stated that God Himself requires no payment for sin, but that public justice did require some token or display of how muchGod despises sin.2.
Christ was sacrificed to display to the world what God’s wrathagainst sin looks like.3.
The atonement accomplished nothing objective on the sinner’s behalf. Redemption therefore is primarily a subjective issuehinging completely on the sinner’s response.iii.
Modern revival of this view1.
Embraced by several New England theologians in the 17
centuries, including Charles Finney and Albert Barnes2.
Promoted through groups like Youth With A Mission (YWAM)and popular Christian authors and speakers, such as Jed Smock (“Brother Jed”), a well-known campus evangelist, and George
Otis (see his message entitled “The Atonement” athttp://www.concentric.net/~for1/otisa.htm)3.
Man-centered revivalism is linked with this theory. See Web sitewww.revivaltheology.com4.
Popular among Charismatics, especially in the Assemblies of Godiv.
Major problems with this view1.
Defines salvation in terms of what the sinner must do leading to perfectionism, moralism, or other works-based forms of religion2.
Redefines the significance of the cross: rather than emphasizingwhat Christ objectively accomplished there, people who hold tothis view must define the cross in terms of how it cansubjectively change the human heartIII.
The True Doctrine of Atonement: Christ’s Death as a Penal Substitutiona.
Doctrine of Atonement taught in Scripturei.
Christ’s death was a substitution for sinnersii.
God imputed the guilt of their transgressions to Christ and then punishedHim for itiii.
This was a full payment for the price of sins, to satisfy both the wrathand the righteousness of God, so that He could forgive sins withoutcompromising His own holy standard b.
This doctrine was an essential part of Christian doctrine from the beginningi.
Anselm of Canterbury focused his efforts to understand this doctrine1.
He wrote
Cur Deus Homo?
Why Did God Become Man?
This offered compelling biblical evidence that the atonement wasnot a ransom paid by God to the devil but rather a debt paid toGod on behalf of sinnersii.
Anselm’s work established a foundation for the Protestant Reformation,specifically the understanding of justification by faithc.
Biblical texts that prove this viewi.
Isaiah 531.
vs. 5-6 speaks specifically of the imputation of the sinner’s guiltto Christ2.
vs. 8-9 states that Christ was punished for others’ sins and HeHimself was innocent of any wrong doing3.
vs. 10 underscores the fact that it was God who exacted the penalty for sin4.
vs. 11 highlights the principle of substitution, alongside thenotion that this is a penal substitutionii.
Other verses that underscore the substitutionary nature of the atonement1.
2 Corinthians 5:212.
Galatians 3:133.
1 Peter 2:244.
1 Peter 3:185.
1 John 2:2d.
Scripture teaches that divine justice is perfectly fulfilled in the atoning work of Christi.
Romans 1:17ii.
1 John 1:9

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