The Atonement – Part Two

The apostle Paul speaks of our sinful nature because of Adam’s fall (as representative of the whole human race) in 1 Corinthians 15:22: “for as in Adam all die,…” (c.f. Rom. 5:14-18); in Colossians 1:21, Paul speaks of our personal sins against God: “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.”  We are helpless sinners, destined for condemnation by the most perfect Judge; there is nothing, in and of ourselves, that any of us can do to change this destiny.[1]

One could argue that simply repenting of our transgressions is enough to receive forgiveness from the most High God.  However, although God forgives us our sins when we repent and turn away, we cannot erase our past disobedience.  Our sin is a violation of God’s law (1 John 3:4) and we cannot remediate it.

…[Jesus Christ] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:6-8).

Christ has always been present with God, we find evidence of this in 1 John 1:1: “That which was from the beginning …” (c.f. John 1:1), and though he was God he humbled himself in obedience to the Father and became man to carry out God’s plan of redemption for his chosen people.  That is exactly what the cross is.  J. J. Scott Jr. states that “…at the simplest level, the crucifixion of Jesus was the means by which God provided salvation, the forgiveness of sins (c.f. 1 Cor. 15:3).”[2]

In Romans 5:8, Paul states that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Not only did Christ die for us, but he suffered an insurmountable amount of pain in order to fulfill God’s plan and offer us salvation and reconciliation to God the Father.  The Bible does not give us a very specific account of the crucifixion, perhaps because in those days the people had witnessed them and knew exactly how horrifying, excruciating, and humiliating it was.  Below is a description of crucifixion as noted by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears:

The victim was affixed to the cross with either ropes or nails.  The pain of crucifixion is due in part to the fact that it is a prolonged and agonizing death by asphyxiation.  Crucified people could hang on the cross for anywhere from three to four hours or for as long as nine days, passing in and out of consciousness as their lungs struggled to breathe while laboring under the weight of their body.

In an effort to end the torment, it was not uncommon for those being crucified to slump on the cross to empty their lungs of air and thereby hasten their death.  Further, there are debated archaeological reports that suggest sometimes seats were placed underneath the buttocks…to prevent slumping, thereby ensuring a lengthy and most painful death.

None of this was done in dignified privacy, but rather in open, public places.  I would be like nailing a bloodied, naked man above the front entrance of your local mall.  Crowds would gather around the victims to mock them as they sweated in the sun, bled, and became incontinent from the pain.[3]

Why would God sacrifice his only son in such a way for a sinful people?  In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul states that “…Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”[4]  Christ died for our sins in fulfillment of the Scriptures! We know that “…the wages of sin is death,”[5] Jesus dies in our place, taking the guilt of our transgressions upon himself so that we can be reconciled to God.

We have already established that the Bible teaches that God is a loving God; but we see evidence throughout the Old Testament of God pouring out his wrath upon the people because of their wickedness (Gen. 13:13; Psalm 37:10, 145:20).  God’s wrath is a result of his perfect righteousness and justice, requiring punishment for the evil acts of the people.  Therefore Christ had to pay the ultimate price on the cross to propitiate[6] for our sins.

                [1] Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, and R. K. Harrison, “Atonement,” in Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1995), Libronix Digital Library System (accessed December 16, 2010).

                [2] J. J. Scott Jr., “Significance of the Cross,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 310.

                [3] Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 246-247.

                [4] 1 Corinthians 15:3b-4.

                [5] Romans 6:23.

                [6] To propitiate is to pacifying wrath by taking care of the penalty for the offense that caused the wrath.  Driscoll and Breshears, Doctrine, 259.

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About Bárbara

I am a Christ follower, wife, mother, missionary, and Online Instructor for LU Online teaching Introduction to Missions. My family and I serve at Living Bread Ministries; planting churches among the desperately poor in South America. I have an MA in Intercultural Studies from LBTS. My passion is to see the Lord Jesus worshiped among the poor and needy and to see lives transformed by the power of the Gospel.
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