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For the past several weeks, we have with due diligence considered what the Bible teaches us concerning atonement and why Christ’s atonement is necessary for our salvation. In the Old Testament, the animal sacrifices that were offered as burnt offerings to atone for sin foreshadowed the bloody and substitutionary nature of Christ’s atonement. The sacrifices that were performed in the tabernacle, under the Aaronic priesthood, according to the Mosaic Law, and on behalf of the Israelites, foreshadowed the particularity of that ultimate atonement. Mankind has sinned against a holy God, and because of that, a payment of death is required. Lest we bear the eternal punishment ourselves, we need an atonement for our sin, a lamb that is without blemish. We need a high priest who can offer up the perfect sacrifice that would not just cover up our sin as the Old Testament sacrifices did, but to be a once-for-all sacrifice that would be acceptable to God on behalf of God’s chosen people. Jesus Himself is our great High Priest, who offered up Himself as our perfect sacrifice. He is the Lamb of God who is without blemish and “…was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:25).

Last time, we made the argument that universal atonement is a problematic position to take for several reasons. We reasoned from the Scriptures that affirming universal atonement, while also maintaining the doctrine of election, disrupts the perfect harmony that exists within the Trinity. If the Father elected someone whom the Son did not provide atonement for, then the Son failed in His propitiatory mission. If the Son provided atonement for someone whom the Father did not choose, then the Father failed in His electing purposes. Therefore, the people whom the Father elects and those whom Christ provided redemption for through His blood must be one in the same. While this argument is helpful in addressing the question of for whom Christ died, there is another fundamental problem with the common objection raised against limited atonement that we began to address in our last post. The objectors assume that God must open the possibility of atonement to every single person in order to be loving. But is this reasoning biblical?

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When it comes to the atonement of Christ, there are certain essentials that all true Christians must be in agreement on. For example, we must believe that Christ actually died on the cross and reject any opposing heresies (a popular one being the swoon theory: a belief that Jesus did not really die on the cross but rather became unconscious and was later resuscitated). We must also agree that Christ’s death was a legal transaction, in that a double imputation took place between Christ and the sinner, for as the Scripture says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Adding to our list of essentials, we must also believe that Jesus died the death we deserved, and became our substitution, a view of the atonement known as penal substitutionary atonement. We must embrace the voluntary nature of Christ’s sacrifice, while rejecting any claims that downplay or deny it (i.e. “Jesus was a victim”, “Jesus died merely as an example of suffering”, etc.). And finally, we must affirm that the atonement of Christ was a complete removal of sin, and not a mere covering of sin as the Old Testament sacrifices were.