Atonement: Take it or Leave it.

Praise God that Jesus died for our sins. Praise God that He who knew no sin became sin for us.

I unequivocally believe that I sinned against a Holy God and could do nothing to remove my transgression of His will. It is only because Christ has washed me with his blood that I stand righteous before God.

I anticipate extensive comments expressing concern for my following points (My note title does not reflect in anyway my attitude toward the atoning work of Christ). Please offer them, my theology is dependent on the corrective witness of others calling me to the Truth of the Word.

However, I think God’s saving activity has been revealed along far broader lines than that. I shudder anytime I hear mention of the “whole Gospel”, as if God’s salvation can be summed up definitively in a single sermon or even a single sentence. Granted, the New Testament contains numerous loaded statements such as, “Christ came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost” (1 Tim 1:15). But these should not be considered pure distillations of what the message of the Gospel is.

The Bible, instead of constantly repeating the same point that Jesus died to save sinners in different words, has revealed numerous expressions of the Gospel which are all necessary and related. However, we often focus so much on a single expression (or “mode”) that we exclude marginal modes of salvation that have been revealed.

Here is the crux of my present point. I do not intend here to describe various modes of expression describing the Gospel. I am rather claiming that the mode of substitutionary atonement (which is undeniably true for the orthodox Christian) can be omitted from particular expositions of the Gospel. What I invite you to consider is not the enormous weight of evidence for the importance of the atonement, with which you could no doubt flood the comment box, instead read this passage from Acts 2:17-41. I am not claiming this is the complete expression of Luke’s soteriology. However, in Luke’s narrative it is a complete sermon given by Peter. In it, there is not a single mention of the atoning work of Christ (references to the cross or salvation are not references to the atonement properly defined). Yet even in the absence of any mention of the atonement three thousand persons respond and believe the Gospel.

Please avoid commenting until you have read the passage.

14Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17″ ‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19I will show wonders in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.'[c]
22″Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[d] put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25David said about him:
” ‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will live in hope,
27because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
28You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

29″Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
” ‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.” ‘

36″Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

37When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.


One comment on “Atonement: Take it or Leave it.

  1. Sethorton says:

    If you read this and chuckle at my expectation of “extensive comments”, you should know that I originally posted this in another venue with a few more readers.

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