In his massive Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem defines atonement as follows: “The atonement is the work Christ did in his life and death to earn our salvation.” Most Christians solely focus on the death of Christ but, as we shall see, the life Jesus lived is equally as important to our reconciliation to God. Let’s begin to work through this.
1) “What was the ultimate cause that led to Christ’s coming to earth and dying for our sins? To find this we must trace the question back to something in the character of God himself. And here Scripture points to two things: the love and justice of God.”
God loves us (John 3:16) but because God is the greatest good imaginable and all of us have sinned against Him, which constitutes the greatest evil imaginable, then justice must be done. The Apostle Paul writes that Jesus’ death propitiated (or satisfied) God’s justice (Rom. 3:25-26). In other words, for those of us who trust in- and declare loyalty to Jesus, he pays the penalty for our sin by undergoing the humiliating torture that was the cross. Thus, the cross demonstrates both God’s love and His justice simultaneously.
2) “Was there any other way for God to save human beings than by sending his son to die in our place?” As Dr. Grudem points out, we must first note that “it was not necessary for God to save any people at all.” For example, God did not spare the angels when they sinned (2 Peter 2:4). Yet, mercifully, God chooses to save some of us. Could He have done it any other way?
Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt 26:39). Thus, it appears that it was NOT possible for our salvation to come any other way. Only the blood of the one who was both fully God and fully man could truly take away sins (Heb. 9:25-26).
Tomorrow we will discuss the nature of the atonement. Until then, grace and peace.