Sunday, June 06, 2010

Scriptural Extent of Christ’s Atonement

Speaking of the extent of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, John Wesley stated of its reach "…just as wide as sin extends, the propitiation extends also…"1. To suggest otherwise would be to declare Christ insufficient for the His purpose revealed in scripture. If Jesus came to be a propitiation or appeasement, a satisfaction for the sin of the whole world, then His work cannot be limited to satisfy the philosophical demands of any theological perspective. A clear reading of scripture presents the work of Christ as a satisfaction for God on behalf of all mankind, the whole world. Robert Picirilli in quoting W.G.T. Shedd, a Calvinist, provides:

"Vicarious atonement without faith in it is powerless to save. It is not the making of this atonement, but the trusting in it, that saves the sinner… If it were made, but never imputed and appropriated, it would result in no salvation… In this state of things, the atonement of Christ is powerless to save. It remains in the possession of Christ who made it, and has not been transferred to the individual. In the scripture phrase it has not been imputed… After the vicarious atonement has been permitted and provided, there is still another condition in the case: namely, the sinner shall confess and repent of the sin for which atonement was made, and trust in the atonement itself2"

"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (Joh 1:29 AV)

"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world." (1Jo 2:1-2 AV)

"And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son [to be] the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." (1Jo 4:14-16 AV)

"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, [and] giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and [for] all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this [is] good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, [and] lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." (1Ti 2:1-8 AV)

This last passage from Paul's fist letter to Timothy sums up the truth of Christ's atoning sacrifice as well as any other in scripture. We have an exhortation to pray for all without distinction to meet the expectations of the LORD who desires all to be saved. The provision for such is made by Christ as a ransom for all. For those who desire scripture to be first and philosophy second, there is little room for denying the universal extent of Christ's work of atonement.

  1. Expository Notes on Ist John, John Wesley
  2. Robert Picirilli, Grace Faith Free Will (Nashville, Randall House Publications, 2002), p132