Atonement is the term that has come to be widely used to denote the substitutionary work of Christ which culminated in the sacrifice of Calvary. The term occurs frequently in the A.V. of the Old Testament as the rendering of the Hebrew root kaphar but only once in the New Testament (Rom. 5:11) where it refers to the reconciliation. The term itself is not adequate to express what is involved in Christ's vicarious work. In fact, no one term can express the manifold aspects from which, according to Scripture, this work of Christ must be viewed. Atonement, however, when understood in the way that usage has determined, is sufficiently inclusive to serve as a general designation.
Source. Any doctrine
of the atonement is misdirected from the outset if it does not take
account of the fact that the atonement is the provision of God's
love. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten
Son" (John 3:16). "Herein is love, not that we loved God,
but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for
oar sins" (I John 4:10; cf. Rom. 5:8; 8:32; Eph. 2:4, 5; I
John 4:9). The title "God" in these texts refers specifically
to God the Father. So it is to the initiative of the Father's love
that our attention is drawn when we think of the fountain from which
the atonement emanates. And all that has been achieved by Christ's
vicarious undertaking must always be subordinated to the design
and purpose of the Father's love. This is the orientation which
the classic exponents of Reformed doctrine have always recognized,
and it is a caricature of their position to suppose that they represented
the love and compassion of the Father as constrained by the sacrifice
II. The Necessity. The love of
God is the cause of the atonement. But why did the love of God take
this way of realizing its end? This is the question of the reason
as distinguished from the cause. Notable theologians in the history
of the church have taken the position that there was no absolute
reason, that God could have saved men by other means than by the
blood-shedding of His own Son, that, since God is omnipotent and
sovereign, other ways of forgiving sin were available to Him. But
God was pleased to adopt this method because the greatest number
of advantages and blessings accrued from it. God could have redeemed
men without the shedding of blood, but He freely chose not to and
thereby He magnifies the glory of His grace and enhances the precise
character of the salvation bestowed (e.g., Augustine, Aquinas,
Thomas Goodwin, John Ball, Thomas Blake).
A. Salvation requires not only the forgiveness of sin but also justification. And justification, adequate to the situation in which lost mankind is, demands a righteousness such as belongs to no other than the incarnate Son of God, a righteousness undefiled and undefilable, a righteousness with divine property and quality (cf. Rom. 1:17; 3:21; 22; 10:3; II Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9). It is the righteousness of the obedience of Christ (Rom. 5:19). But only the Son of God. incarnate, fulfilling to the full extent the commitments of the Father's will, could have provided such a righteousness. A concept of salvation bereft of the justification which this righteousness imparts is an abstraction of which Scripture knows nothing.
B. Sin is the contradiction of God and he must react against it with holy wrath. Wherever sin is, the wrath of God rests upon it (cf. Rom. 1:18). Otherwise God would be denying Himself, particularly His holiness, justice, and truth. But wrath must be removed if we are to enjoy the favor of God which salvation implies. And the only provision for the removal of wrath is propitiation. This is surely the import of Romans 3:25, 26, that God set forth Christ a propitiation to declare His righteousness, that He might he just and the justifier of the ungodly.
C. The cross of Christ is the supreme demonstration of the love of God (cf. Rom. 5:8; I John 4:9, 10). But would it be a supreme demonstration of love if the end secured by it could have been achieved without it? Would it be love to secure the end by such expenditure as the agony of Gethsemane and the abandonment of Calvary for God's own well-beloved and only-begotten Son if the result could have been attained by less costly means? In that event would it not have been love without wisdom? In this we cannot suppress the significance of our Lord's prayer in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:39). If it had been possible for the cup to pass from him, his prayer would surely have been answered. It is when the indispensable exigencies fulfilled by Jesus' suffering unto death are properly assessed that we can see the marvel of God's love in the ordeal of Calvary. So great was the Father's love to lost men that He decreed their redemption even though the cost was nought less than the accursed tree. When Calvary is viewed in this light. then the love manifested not only takes on meaning but fills us with adoring amazement. Truly this is love.
Those who think that in pursuance of God's saving purpose the cross was not intrinsically necessary are, in reality, not dealing with the hypothetical necessity of the atonement but with a hypothetical salvation. For, on their own admission, they are not saying that the actual salvation designed and bestowed could have been enjoyed without Christ but only salvation of lesser character and glory. But of such salvation the Scripture knows nothing and no good purpose can be served by an imaginary hypothesis.
III. Nature. The nature of the atonement is concerned with the ways in which the Scripture characterizes Christ's vicarious undertakings and accomplishments. The most basic and inclusive of these categories is obedience. And there are four categories that are more specific sacrifice, propitiation, reconciliation, and redemption.
Obedience does not define for us the specific character of the other
categories but it does point us to the capacity in which Christ
discharges all phases of his atoning work. No passage in Scripture
provides more instruction on our topic than Isaiah 52:13-53:12.
It is in the capacity of Servant that the person in view is introduced
and it is in the same capacity he executes His expiatory function
(Isa. 52:13, 15; 53:11). The title "Servant" derives its
meaning from the fact that He is the Lord's Servant, not the Servant
of men (cf. Isa. 42:1, 19; 52:13). He is the Father's Servant and
this implies subjection to and fulfillment of the Father's will.
Servant defines His commitment, and obedience the execution.
Psalm 40:7, 8 points in the same direction. Our Lord Himself confirms
what the Old Testament foretold. "I came down from heaven,
not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me' (John
6:38; cf. 4:34; 10:17, 18). The pivotal events of redemptive
accomplishment He performed in pursuance of the Father's commandment
and in the exercise of messianic authority. Paul's witness is to
the same effect as that of the Old Testament and of Jesus Himself.
Most important is Philippians 2:7, 8. For this text in respect of
the capacity in which Jesus acted attaches itself to Isaiah 52:13-53:12
and represents the climactic event of Jesus' commitment, the death
of the cross, as an act of obedience. And Romans 5:19 expresses
that it is by the obedience of Christ that many are constituted
righteous. This evidence shows that our thought respecting the nature
of the atonement is not biblically conditioned unless it is governed
by the concept of the obedience of Christ in His capacity as the
Servant fulfilling the Father's commission.
There is abundant evidence in the New Testament to show that Christ's
giving of Himself is to be construed in terms of sacrificial offering
(I Cor. 5:7; Eph. 5:2; Heb. 7:27; 8:3; 9:14, 23, 25, 26, 28; 10:10,
12, 14, 26). And it is not only these express statements which support
the thesis but also references which can only be interpreted in
terms of the altar of sacrifice (cf., e.g., Heb. 13: 1-l3).
The notion of sacrifice entertained by these New Testament writers
is that derived from the Old Testament, for the allusions to the
sacrificial ritual of the levitical economy make it apparent that
the latter provided the type in terms of which the sacrifice of
Christ was to be interpreted. The Old Testament sacrifices were
expiatory of guilt. This is particulary true of the sin-offerings,
and these are specifically in view in some of the New Testament
passages (cf. Heb. 9:6-15, 23, 24; l3:1-13). The idea of
expiation is the removal of the liability accruing from sin. Sacrifice
is the provision whereby this liability is removed it is the substitutive
endurance of penalty and transference of liability from the offerer
to the sacrifice.
Propitiation. The language of propitiation is clearly
applied to the work of Christ in the New Testament (Rom. 3:25; Heb.
2:17; I John 2:2; 4:10). Plausible attempts have been made to interpret
propitiation in terms of expiation and thus avoid the prima facie
import of propitiation. The fallacy of these attempts has been successfully
demonstrated by scholarly and painstaking study of the biblical
data (see bibliography). The reason for the attempt to relieve the
work of Christ of its strictly propitiatory character is obvious.
To propitiate means to pacify, to conciliate, to make propitious.
It presupposes that the person propitiated is angry and needs to
be pacified. If Christ propitiates, it must be God whom he propitiates.
And surely, it is alleged, we cannot think of God as needing to
be pacified or made propitious by the blood of Christ. If the atonement
springs from the love of the Father and is the provision of His
love, as has been shown above, is it not contradiction to maintain
that He is conciliated by that which is the expression of His love?
If invincible love is antecedent, then no place remains for the
pacifying of wrath!
Reconciliation. Just as sacrifice has in view the
exigency created by our guilt and propitiation the exigency
arising from the wrath of God, so reconciliation is concerned
with our alienation from God and the need of having that alienation
removed. In the Scripture the actual terms used with reference to
the reconciliation wrought by Christ are to the effect that we are
reconciled to God (Rom. 5:10) and that God reconciles us to Himself
(II Cor. 5:18, 19; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1 :2-22). Never is it expressly
stated that God is reconciled to us. It has often been stated, therefore,
that the cross of Christ, insofar as it contemplated reconciliation,
did not terminate upon God to the removal of His alienation from
us but simply and solely upon us to the removal of our alienation
from Him. In other words, it is not that which God has against us
that is dealt with in the reconciliation but only our enmity against
Him. It is strange that this contention should be so persistent,
that scholars should be content with what is, to say the least,
so superficial an interpretation of the usage of Scripture in reference
to the term in question.
1. In Romans 5:8 it is the greatness of God's own love towards us that is being accented. This love is demonstrated by two considerations (1) that Christ died for us and (2) that He died for us while we were yet sinners. Our attention is directed to what God did when we were still in our sinful state and, therefore, when we were estranged from Him. This verse, furthermore, enunciates the essence of what follows in the next three verses. For the clause "Christ died for us" (vs. 8) is expanded in verse 10 in the words "we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son." Hence it is reconciliation through the death of Christ that was accomplished while we were yet sinners. How nullifying this would be if the reconciliation were conceived of as consisting in the change of our hearts from sin and enmity to love and penitence! The whole point of verse 8 is that what God did in the death of Christ took place when we were still sinners and did not consist in nor was it premised upon any change in us. To introduce the thought of change in us is to contradict the pivot of the declaration.
2. Verses 9 and l0 are parallel to each other; they express the same substantial truth in two different ways. More specifically, "justified now in his blood" is parallel to "reconciled to God in the death of his Son." "Justified" and "reconciled" must, therefore, belong to the same orbit; they must express similar concepts. But the term "justify," particularly in this epistle, has forensic meaning. It does not mean to make righteous; it is declarative in force and is the opposite of "condemn." It is concerned with judicial relations. "Reconcile" must likewise have the same force and cannot refer to an inward change of heart and attitude. The same conclusion is derived from II Corinthians 5:19: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." Not imputing trespasses is either explanatory of the reconciliation or it is the consequence of the latter. In either case it shows the category to which reconciliation belongs and is far removed from that of a subjective change in us.
3. Both passages emphasize the historic once-for-allness of the action denoted by reconciliation. It was in the death of Christ reconciliation was accomplished, and this was once for all. The tenses indicate the same thought "we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son" (Rom. 5:10); "all things are of God who reconciled us to himself . . . God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" (II Cor. 5:18, 19). But a change of heart in men is not a once-for-all accomplished event; it is being continuously realized as reconciliation is applied.
4. In II Corinthians 5:21 we are pointed to the kind of action involved in the reconciliation spoken of in the preceding verses. It is that 'him who knew no sin he made to be sin for us." This unquestionably refers to the vicarious sin-bearing of Christ and belongs to the objective realm; it has no affinity with a subjective change registered in our hearts.
5. In Romans 5:10 it is all but certain that the expression "when we were enemies" reflects not on our active enmity against God but upon God's alienation from us. The same term enemies occurs in Romans 11:28: "concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes." "Enemies" here must mean alienated from God's favor for two reasons. (1) What Paul is referring to is the rejection of Israel, their being disinherited for the present from the covenant privileges. (2) In the same verse "enemies" is contrasted with "beloved." But "beloved" is certainly beloved of God. Hence "enemies" must reflect on God's relation to them, the casting away of them (cf. vs. 15). This sense is well suited to the thought of Romans 5:10. For what the reconciliation accomplishes is the removal of God's alienation, in that sense His holy enmity, and the argument is that, if when we were in a state of alienation from God, He brought us into His favor by the death of His Son, how much more shall we be saved from the wrath to come by the resurrection of Christ. If, however, the term "enemies" here means our active enmity against God, then the thought is similar to, and has the same force as, that of verse 8, noted above.
6. The statement in Romans 5:11, "through whom now we have received the reconciliation," ill comports with the viewpoint being controverted. Reconciliation here is represented as a gift bestowed and received, indeed as a status established. The language is not adapted to the notion of a change in us from hatred to love and penitence. This kind of change is one that must enlist our activity to the fullest extent. But here (Rom. 5:11) we are viewed as the recipients. It is that representation that is in accord with the whole emphasis of the preceding verses. God has come to sustain a new relationship, and we have received this new status. This, likewise, agrees with the declaration of II Corinthians 5:19: "and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." The message of the gospel is the proclamation of what God has done, particularly that which He has done once for all in Christ. In terms of reconciliation it is the proclamation of his reconciling action and cannot be construed as a change in our hearts. This latter is the fruit of the gospel proclamation. Love or penitence on our part is that to which the gospel constrains. Hence "the word of reconciliation" is antecedent and cannot consist in the proclamation of our change of heart. The import of the exhortation in II Corinthians 5:20 is also to be understood in this light. "Be ye reconciled to God" is often regarded as the appeal to us to lay aside our hostility. This is not of itself an improper appeal as the appropriate response to the gospel proclamation. But the evidence derived from the passages dealt with do not support this interpretation. It is rather an appeal to us to take advantage of that which the reconciliation is and has accomplished. It is to the effect: enter into the grace of the reconciliation; embrace the truth that "him who knew no sin he made to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (II Cor. 5:21).
The sum of the doctrine is, therefore, that reconciliation as action refers to what God has done in Christ to provide for the alienation from God which is the necessary consequence of our sin, and reconciliation as a result is the restoration to the favor and fellowship of God. It is the disruption caused by sin that made the reconciliation necessary, it is this disruption that the reconciliation healed, and it is fellowship with God that the reconciliation secured. At no point do the provisions of the atonement register its grace and glory more than at the point where our separation from God is the exigency contemplated and communion with God the secured result.
No category is inscribed more deeply upon the consciousness of the
church of Christ than that of redemption. No song of the saints
is more characteristic than the praise of redemption by Jesus' blood:
"Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood
out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev.
Since the word of our Lord (Matt. 20:28; Mark
10:45) sets the points for the doctrine of redemption and since
He represented the giving of His life as the ransom price, we are
prepared for the emphasis which falls upon the blood of Christ as
the medium of redemptive accomplishment. "We have redemption
through his blood" (Eph. 1:7; cf. Col. 1:14). "Ye
were redeemed," Peter says, "not with corruptible things
such as silver and gold . . . but with the precious blood of Christ"
(I Pet. 1:18, 19). It is through His own blood that Jesus entered
once for all into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption
(Heb. 9:12). And Jesus as the mediator of the new covenant brought
his death to bear upon the redemption of the transgressions that
were under the first covenant (Heb. 9:15). The new song of the redeemed
is, "Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood"
(Rev. 5:9). We cannot doubt then that, when Paul says, "We
were bought with a price" (I Cor. 6:20; 7:23), the price is
none other than the priceless blood of Christ. It is to the same
truth that we are pointed in Galatians 3:13 where Christ's being
made a curse for us is clearly to be understood as that which secured
our redemption from the curse of the law. There can be no question
then but the death of Christ in all its implications as the consequence
of His vicarious identification with our sins is that which redeems
and redeems in the way that is required by and appropriate to the
redemptive concept, namely, by ransom price.
from Sin. That deliverance or salvation from sin
is basic in the saving action of Christ needs no demonstration.
It is sufficient to be reminded that this is the meaning of the
name "Jesus" (Matt. 1:21). And the title "Saviour"
is that by which He is frequently identified He is the Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ. The saving action comprehends much more than
is expressly specified in the term "redemption." All of
the categories in which the atonement is defined sustain a direct
relation to sin and its liabilities. And, apart from express statements
to this effect, we should have to understand that, if redemption
contemplates our bondage and secures release by ransom, the bondage
must have in view that arising from sin. But the express intimations
must also be appreciated. Christ Jesus, Paul states, "gave
himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify
for himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works"
(Titus 2:14). Though the relation to our sins is not as expressly
stated, it is equally implied when redemption through Jesus' blood
is defined as "the forgiveness of our trespasses" (Eph.
1:7; cf. Col. 1:14). And similarly apparent is the reference
to transgression in Hebrews 9:15 Jesus' death was unto the redemption
under the first covenant. Since the reference to sin is overt in
these passages we are compelled to infer that in others where sin
is not mentioned it is, nevertheless, the assumed liability making
redemption necessary and giving character to it (cf. Rom.
3:24; I Tim. 2:6; Heb. 9:12). And this reference to sin finds its
Old Testament counterpart in Psalm 130:7, 8, that with the Lord
is "plenteous redemption" and that "he shall redeem
Israel from all his iniquities."
2. Redemption from the Curse of the Law. The curse of the law does not mean that the law is a curse. The law is holy and just and good (Rom. 7:13), but, because so, it exacts penalty for every infraction of its demands. The curse of the law is the curse it pronounces upon transgressors (Gal. 3:10). The law's penal sanction is as inviolable as its demands. To this sanction as it bears upon us redemption is directed. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13). Nowhere in Scripture is the price of redemption more forcefully portrayed than in this text. It reminds us that the cost was not merely the death of Christ and the shedding of His blood but these in the circumstance of Golgotha's shame He was "made a curse for us." We cannot measure the intensity of the reproach nor fathom the humiliation. To be unmoved before the spectacle is to be insensitive to the sanctions of holiness, the marvels of love, and the wonder of angels.
It is because we
are ransomed from the curse of the law that we are represented as
having died to the law (Rom. 7:6; Gal. 2:19), as put to death to
the law (Rom. 7:4), and as discharged from the law (Rom. 7:6). We
are released from the bondage of condemnation and are free to be
justified apart from the law. The relation between redemption from
sin in its guilt, defilement, and power and redemption from the
curse of the law is intimate. For the strength of sin is the law
(I Cor. 15:56).
IV. The Perfection. This characterization is concerned with the uniqueness, efficacy, and finality of the atonement. There is no repetition on the part of Christ Himself. "By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14). He "was once offered to bear the sins of many" (Heb. 9:28). And there is no participation on the part of men or angels. It was He Himself "who bore our sins in his own body upon the tree" (I Pet. 2:24). The offering of Himself was a high priestly function to which only He, by reason of His unique person and dignity, was equal (cf. Heb. 7: 2-28). Christ is indeed our supreme example and it is also true that His unique accomplishments are adduced to illustrate and enforce the sum-total of devotion required of us. Nothing less than the whole-hearted commitment to the Father's will exemplified in His obedience unto death is demanded of us (cf. Matt. 20:27, 28; Phil. 2:5-8; I Pet. 2:21-24). But nowhere are we represented as following Him in the discharge of that which constitutes atonement, and we are not asked to do so. We are to be obedient to the utmost of divine demands as they bear upon us. But by our obedience no one is constituted righteous (cf. Rom. 5:19). We may have to die in loyalty to Christ and His example. But we do not thereby expiate guilt, propitiate wrath, reconcile the world to God, and secure redemption. All these categories belong exclusively to Christ. The atonement was likewise efficacious It was intrinsically adequate to the end designed. He purged our sins (Heb. 1:3). He reconciled us to God (Rom. 5:10). He accomplished redemption (Heb. 9:12; Rev. 5:9). He is the propitiation for our sins (I John 2:2). It was not a token obedience He rendered to God; He fulfilled all righteousness, and being made perfect He became the author of eternal salvation (Matt. 3:15; Heb. 5:9). It was not token sin-bearing that He endured; the Lord laid on Him the iniquities of us all and He bore our sins (Isa. 53:6, 11; I Pet. 2:24). The reconciliation He wrought was of such a character that it guarantees the consummating salvation (Rom. 5:9, 10; 8:32). He purchased the church by His blood and obtained eternal redemption (Acts 20:28; Heb. 9:12). The sum is that Christ by His own atoning work secured and insured the consummation that will be registered in the resurrection of life (cf. John 6:39).
V. The Extent. For whom did Christ die? Sober evaluation of the nature of the atonement and of its perfection leads to one conclusion. If it accomplished all that is implied in the categories by which it is defined and if it secures and insures the consummating redemption, the design must be coextensive with the ultimate result. If some fail of eternal salvation, as the Scripture plainly teaches, if they will not enjoy the final redemption, they cannot be embraced in that which procured and secured it. The atonement is so defined in terms of efficacious accomplishment that it must have the same extent as salvation bestowed and consummated. Unless we believe in the final restoration of all mankind, we cannot have an unlimited atonement. On the premise that some perish eternally we are shut up to one of two alternatives a limited efficacy or a limited extent; there is no such thing as an unlimited atonement.
It is true that
many benefits accrue from the redemptive work of Christ to the non-elect
in this life. It is in virtue of what Christ did that there is a
gospel of salvation and this gospel is proclaimed freely to all
without distinction. Untold blessings are dispensed to the world
for the simple reason that God has his people in the world and is
fulfilling in it His redemptive purpose. Christ is head over all
things and it is in the exercise of His mediatorial lordship that
He dispenses these blessings. But His lordship is the reward of
His atoning work. Hence all the favors which even the reprobate
receive in this life are related in one way or another to the atonement
and may be said to flow from it. If so, they were designed to flow
from it, and this means that the atonement embraced in its design
the bestowment of these benefits upon the reprobate. But this is
not to say that the atonement, in its specific character as atonement,
is designed for the reprobate. It is one thing to say that certain
benefits accrue to the reprobate from the atonement; it is entirely
different to say that the atonement itself is designed for
the reprobate. And the fallacy of the latter supposition becomes
apparent when we remember that it is of the nature of the atonement
to secure benefits which the reprobate never enjoy. In a word, the
atonement is bound up with its efficacy in respect of obedience,
expiation, propitiation, reconciliation, and redemption. When the
Scripture speaks of Christ as dying for men, it is His vicarious
death on their behalf that is in view and all the content which
belongs to the atonement defines the significance of the formula
"died for." Thus we may not say that He died for all men
any more than that He made atonement for all men.
are frequently used in connection with the death of Christ, as also
in connection with the categories which define its import (cf.
II Cor. 5:14, 15, 19; I Tim. 2:6; Heb. 2:9; I John 2:2). It is surprising
that students of Scripture should with such ease appeal to these
texts as if they determined the question in favor of universal atonement.
The Scripture frequently uses universal terms when, obviously, they
are not to be understood of all men inclusively and distributively
or of all things inclusively. When we read in Genesis 6:13. "The
end of all flesh is come before me," it is plain that this
is not to be understood absolutely or inclusively. Not all
flesh was destroyed. Or when Paul says that the trespass of Israel
was the riches of the world (Rom. 11:12), he cannot be using the
word "world" of all men distributively. Israel is not
included, and not all Gentiles were partakers of the riches intended.
When Paul says, "all things are lawful for me" (I Cor.
6:12; cf. 10:23), he did not mean that he was at liberty
to do anything and everything. Examples could be multiplied and
every person should readily perceive the implied restriction. An
expression must always be interpreted in terms of the universe of
discourse. Thus in Hebrew 2:9 the expression "every one on
whose behalf Christ tasted death must be understood as referring
to every one of whom the writer is speaking, namely, every one of
the sons to be brought to glory, of the sanctified, of the children
whom God has given to Christ and of whom He is not ashamed (vss.
10, 11, 12, 13). And it must not be overlooked that in II Corinthians
5:14, 15 the "all" for whom Christ died do not embrace
any more than those who died in Him "one" died for all:
therefore all died." In Paul's teaching to die with Christ
is to die to sin (cf. Rom. 6:2-10).
Conclusion. The atonement springs from the fountain of the Father's love; He commends His own love towards us. We must not think, however, that the action of the Father ended with the appointment and commission of the Son. He was not a mere spectator of Gethsemane and Calvary. The Father laid upon His own Son the iniquities of us all. He spared not His own Son but delivered Him up. He made Him to be sin for us. It was the Father who gave Him the cup of damnation to drink. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Here is love supremely demonstrated.
No stronger expression appears in Scripture than this that God made Christ to be sin for us. We fall far short of a proper assessment of Christ's humiliation if we fail to appreciate this fact. It was not simply the penalty of sin that Jesus bore. He bore our sins. He was not made sinful, but He was made sin and, therefore, brought into the closest identification with our sins that it was possible for Him to come without thereby becoming Himself sinful. Any exposition of ours can only touch the fringe of this mystery. The liability with which the Lord of glory had to deal was not merely the penalty of sin but sin itself. And sin is the contradiction of God. What Jesus bore was the contradiction of what He was as both God and man. The recoil of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:39) was the inevitable recoil of His holy soul from the abyss of woe which sin-bearing involved. And His "nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt, bespeaks the intensity of His commitment to the extremities of Calvary, the bitter dregs of the cup given Him to drink. Here is love unspeakable; He poured out His soul unto death. Psalms 22 and 69 are the prophetic delineature of His agony, the gospel story is the inspired record of fulfilment, the apostolic witness the interpretation of its meaning. We cannot but seek to apprehend more and more of the mystery. The saints will be eternally occupied with it. But eternity will not fathom its depths nor exhaust its praise.
Professor John Murray was born in Scotland and was at the time of this writing a British subject. He was a graduate of the University of Glasgow (1923) and of Princeton Theological Seminary (1927), and he studied at the University of Edinburgh during 1928 and 1929.
In 1929-1930 he served on the faculty of the Princeton Theological Seminary. After that he taught at the Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia where he served as Professor of Systematic Theology.
He was a frequent contributor to theological journals and is the author of Christian Baptism (1952), Divorce (1953), Redemption Accomplished and Applied (1955), Principles of Conduct (1957, The Imputation of Adam's Sin (1960), Calvin on the Scriptures and Divine Sovereignty (1960), and The Epistle to the Romans, Vol I, Chapters I-VIII (1960).
This present work The Atonement was published in 1976 by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company and appeared later in Volume I of the Encyclopedia of Christianity, which was published by the Sovereign Grace Publishers, Evansville, Indiana.
Professor Murray was called home by his Lord on May 8, 1975. The following was found written inside the covers of one of his well-worn Greek New Testament during the closing weeks of his life:
O Lord, all
that I do desire