Truth is not only
violated by falsehood;
it may be equally
outraged by silence.
Laws reveal the lawgiver’s values. Penalties indicate the gravity of violating those laws. If there were no penalties, there would be no respect for the law. And if the penalties were not enforced, the same situation would apply.
God’s moral law and its penalty are no different. He is going to have a day of judgment. Those who are found guilty of transgressing His law, will be confined in a place that He has prepared for them. It is known as hell. The remainder will spend eternity with Him in heaven, where there will be no more mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:3-4).
J. Sidlow Baxter comments:
"It is inconceivable that the all-holy God should govern His universe with even the slightest moral laxity. If the principles of absolute righteousness were not strictly upheld, there could be no true heaven; the universe would become a moral chaos, if not an inferno. The very safety of the universe depends upon the inflexible righteousness of the divine administration." (Page 91, ;Awake My Heart, by J. Sidlow Baxter)
Adam’s fall into sin brought about the ruination of mankind (see the article listed at the bottom of the page). As his descendants, we have inherited his fallen nature. Sooner or later we find ourselves sinning in word, thought or deed.
But God had created man for Himself. And He didn’t give up on us. Instead, He devised a plan of salvation that catered for our fallen condition. In Genesis 3:16 He gave the first of His many promises about a coming Redeemer. Later on He gave Israel the sacrificial system.When a man became aware that he had sinned he brought a blemish free animal to the altar. Then he laid his hand on the animal’s head to signify that it represented him and would die in his place to cover his sin. This was a graphic picture of the coming, promised unblemished Redeemer who would shed His blood to atone for the sins of those who identified themselves with Him.
Many folk ask why God couldn’t just have forgiven us, instead of Christ having to be crucified. The first section at the top of this page gives us the answer. What would be the purpose of making a law, if we forgave those who broke it? No law that has ever existed has permitted repentance on its own to be sufficient grounds for not carrying out the penalty. Repentance does not remove the effects of our sin. It cannot bring back a murder victim from his grave, any more than it can restore anything else back to the way it was. That is why the law demands punishment.
The writer is not saying that we should not repent of our sins. Of course we should do that. And the Bible commands us to do so. But repentance alone will not wipe out our sins.
We can rest assured that God has carefully deliberated over both His law and the penalty that He has laid down for transgressing it; and that they are right and good and just.
What most people find distasteful is that the atonement involved an innocent man being punished in the most horrific manner, in order that those who are guilty might go free. They see this as being both unacceptable and unjust. But they misunderstand the facts.
If someone of their own free will sacrifices their life in order to save the life of another, nobody says that it wasn’t fair. Instead they are overwhelmed by the goodness, selflessness and heroism of the one who did the saving. And this is exactly what happened in the atonement. Christ wasn’t forced to give His life for us. He did so of His own free will, out of selfless love and mercy. That’s why He could truthfully say, “No one has taken My life from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.” (John 10:18)
So unfairness and injustice do not apply in the case of the atonement.
Common sense tells us that because God is our Creator, He has to be far greater than we are. If truth be told, our finite minds can’t even begin to imagine the glory of who He is. But He has explained as much about Himself as we are able to understand, in the pages of the Bible. And the Bible clearly indicates that He expresses Himself in a triune manner, as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (see the article on the trinity, listed below).
The Bible reveals that in an act of unfathomable selflessness and mercy, God left the glories of heaven, took on flesh and lived for a while in this sinful, hurting world. As a man, He qualified to be our substitute. And on the cross He took our place. In paying the terrible price for our sins, He atoned for our transgression of His own law.
“…, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a
bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And
being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by
becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a
cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8, NASB)
“God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them …” (2 Corinthians 5:19, KJV)
We can rest assured that if there was any other way that mankind could have been saved from the eternal consequences of his sins, God would have implemented it. But there wasn’t. And so out of His unfathomable love for mankind, He Himself bore the cost. As J. Oswald Chambers put it:
“The Cross of Christ is the revealed truth of God’s judgment on sin. … The Cross is God exhibiting His nature.” (My Utmost for His Highest, J. Oswald Chambers)
Some folk question how an act of atonement by one person could possibly have covered the sins of the whole world (c/f 1 John 2:2). The prophet Isaiah has the answer to that. He says that if we could place a value on God, it would amount to overwhelmingly more than the value of the whole of mankind plus all of their achievements, intellect and might. He says that by comparison, their combined value would be like a drop in a bucket, or a grain of sand on a scale (Isaiah 40:12-28). Because of who He is, God’s infinite worth far more than outweighs all of the sins of the whole of mankind.
God doesn’t want anyone to perish. That’s why the atonement was designed to cover the sins of all (1 John 2:2). But He will never force salvation on anyone. So just as under the levitical system the sinner needed to identify himself with the flawless substitute who would be sacrificed to cover his sin, so we too need to identify ourselves with Christ, our substitute sacrifice, before His atonement applies to us. And we do this by putting our faith for salvation from sin, in Christ alone.
Although it is right and just to punish transgressors for breaking the law, on its own punishment has never been able to bring about reform. Something else needs to be introduced to achieve this end. And Christ’s atonement has that necessary ingredient.
Once we grasp the reality of what Christ achieved for us that terrible day, on the cross at Calvary, we are filled with overwhelming gratitude. We know all too well that we are unworthy of the horrific price that He paid. And we unashamedly worship the One who bore our guilt and our shame, so that we could go free. Serving Christ and His purposes becomes our priority in life. And once we surrender our lives to Him, He begins to change us.
The whole purpose of the atonement is that all who genuinely trust in Christ for salvation, will be restored to the condition of mankind before the fall. Then they will be fit to spend eternity in the presence of a holy God. And Christ has promised that they will be saved to the uttermost:
“Wherefore He is able also to save them to the
uttermost that come unto God by Him …”
(Hebrews 7:25, KJV)
“… waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ..”(1 Corinthians 1:7-8, KJV)
“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised).” (Hebrews 10:23, KJV)
The writer gives full credit for the reasoning in this article, to Albert Barnes’s freely available HTML book, “The Atonement.”
The following articles have relevance to what we have just discussed:
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Copyright © 2013 by Yvonne Gibbs. All rights reserved.