The Cross – The Work of Jesus Christ
The Atonement PART 3 – The Necessity of the Atonement
For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. NASB
The Necessity of the Atonement
When we speak about the “necessity” of the atonement, it is important to realize that there is more than one issue at hand. First, mankind has a great “need” to be saved because of sin, and he has an utter inability to save himself. If God does not act to save mankind from this desperate plight, mankind would be hopelessly lost and destined to perish. This is because of the Holiness of God. God cannot allow sin to go unpunished, His justice will not allow it. If He did He would not be truly just or righteous. But He is in fact righteous, and His nature demands the just satisfaction of the consequences for sin.
Deuteronomy 27:26 – 26 'Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.' And all the people shall say,' Amen.' NASB
Romans 1:18-20 – 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. NASB
Sin is a violation of the very nature of God whish is expressed in the Law of God. By this Law, the whole world has become aware of its desperate plight before God and is now accountable to God.
Romans 3:19-20 – 19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. NASB
This is the reason why God gave the Law. It was to make it painfully obvious to us that we have violated God’s nature continually, and this has brought death upon us and brought about our great need to be saved from the wrath of God.
Romans 7:12-13 – 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. NASB
The Law also teaches us that God’s standard of righteousness is unattainable for sinners. This purpose of the Law is to show us our great need for justification before God’s holiness. Because we are in such a desperate plight, the Law leads us to the obvious conclusion, that we need a Savior.
Galatians 3:19-22 – 19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. 21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. NASB
Therefore when we see our utter inability to measure up to or keep the Law of God, we are driven to a hopeless and desperate state in ourselves to meet God’s demands of righteousness. This then teaches us that we must look outside of ourselves to Christ Jesus to be saved.
Galatians 3:23-24 – 23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. NASB
Therefore is absolutely necessary that mankind have a way to become justified before God. This now is why the atonement is necessary for mankind to be justified before God. Without it mankind is guilty under God’s law and hopelessly awaiting His fearful judgment which His nature demands. God cannot be violated by sin without reacting to it according to His nature.
Consider how John Murray has expressed this…. “Sin is the contradiction of God and He must react against it with holy indignation. This is to say that sin MUST meet with divine judgment. It is this inviolable sanctity of God’s law, the immutable dictate of holiness and the unflinching demand of justice, that makes mandatory the conclusion that salvation from sin without expiation and propitiation is inconceivable. It is this principle that explains the sacrifice of the Lord of glory, the agony of Gethsemane, and the abandonment of the accursed tree. It is this principle that under girds the great truth that God is just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. For in the work of Christ the dictates of holiness and the demands of justice have been fully vindicated. God set Him forth to be a propitiation to declare His righteousness.”
These ideas illustrate another aspect of the “necessity” of the atonement. Secondly, if God decides to save mankind, there becomes a “need” for the means by which God will do it. Because mankind cannot provide a way for himself to be justified before God, having violated Gods Law and become accountable to him, God must now act to save mankind, or they will perish. Now concerning this matter, there are two views about the necessity of the atonement.
· Hypothetical Necessity – This view was held by good men in the church such as Augustine, Aquinas, and even Calvin for many centuries. It is the idea that God has no necessity to save mankind by means of the vicarious substitution of Christ, but could have used other means to bring about atonement. But God in His wisdom chose to use the means of the atonement of Christ, to save mankind because it was the way in which the greatest number of advantages concur and in which grace is most marvelously exhibited. In other words, the Cross was not absolutely necessary to be the means of salvation, but the means that God chose to use by His own sovereign decree.
· Absolute Necessity – This view is the classic protestant view held by such men as Turretin, RL Dabney, Berkhof, Murray and both A.A. and Charles Hodge. In this view, the atonement is seen as necessary because God had purposed by His free and sovereign grace to save mankind in His decree, and because of His perfect nature, vicarious sacrifice was the only menas by which it could be brought about. Murray states, “while it was not inherently necessary for God to save, yet, since salvation had been purposed, it was necessary to secure this salvation through a satisfaction that could be rendered only substitutionary sacrifice and blood-bought redemption.”
Concerning these two views of the necessity of the atonement one might ask, why does it matter? The answer to this question is of paramount importance, as to see the infinite value of the Cross of our blessed Savior. Why did Christ die? Was it absolutely necessary? Could some other person have achieved this great salvation? Might we have been saved some other way, or was this just a “hypothetical” set of circumstances that God chose to use of which He had many choices? On these questions we shall look to the Scripture. It is rather clear in the text of Scripture that the atonement of Christ was in fact the only means by which salvation could be obtained. In Hebrews chapter 2 we see that in order for Christ to “make propitiation” or satisfaction for divine justice, and also to be merciful to mankind, “He had to be made like His brethren in all things.”
Hebrews 2:17 – 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. NASB
More than this, because of the infinite perfections of God, we needed a high priest that was undefiled and without blemish so that He could die for the sins of others and not His own sins.
Hebrews 7:26-27 – 26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. NASB
Also, we needed an undefiled high priest who could enter the tabernacle in heaven, and sprinkle the mercy seat there, in the presence of the Holy God, once for all.
Hebrews 9:23-24 – 23 Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 23 For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; NASB
The sacrifice of Christ was absolutely necessary because it is impossible for the blood of goats and bulls to take away sins.
Hebrews 10:4-7 – For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, "Sacrifice and offering Thou hast not desired, But a body Thou hast prepared for Me; 6 In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast taken no pleasure. 7 "Then I said, 'Behold, I have come (In the roll of the book it is written of Me)To do Thy will, O God.'" NASB
Because of God’s inviolable holiness and perfection, in order to be accepted by Him a person must be holy and righteous. Because all mankind have sinned, they cannot therefore be accepted by God without a justification brought about by God Himself. He must be “the justifier,” and this justification must be of such quality that it actually provides and infinitely perfect righteousness for the person being justified. This can only be provided by a vicarious substitute, since mankind can in no way become this. This is why the redemption in Christ is absolutely necessary.
Romans 3:25-26 – 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. NASB
Further, this atonement is absolutely necessary to be the supreme display of the love of God and the costly value of it. It is the greatest demonstration of the love of God and this love could not have been displayed apart from the infinitely valuable price of the death of His perfect Son.
1 John 4:10 – 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. NASB
If there could have been any other way than the sacrifice of Jesus to save sinners, surely God would have answered Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane!
Mark 14:35-36 – 35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground, and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for Thee; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt." NASB
Of all of the reasons why it is absolutely necessary that Christ’s Cross be the only means of propitiation for sinners, it is because God, in His infinite wisdom and omniscience, has set forth in the divine decree that it should be so. In other words, God has decreed that salvation be wrought by this means, and this makes it absolutely necessary because God does not deliberate in moments of time in His consideration of decrees, but rather in perfect omniscience decrees that which is perfect in one simple and eternal act.
1 Peter 1:20 – 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you NASB
Praise God, the sacrifice of Christ is sufficient to meet all of these demands of God’s holiness, and the Cross does provide for us a righteousness before God.
Hebrews 9:13-14 – 13For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? NASB
The demands of divine justice have been satisfied by Christ, and sin has been put away.
Hebrews 9:26 – 26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. NASB
Let us therefore see and affirm that it was absolutely necessary for Jesus to die in our place, and for us, and this to be a propitiation for our sins. In light of this, let us consider the infinite value of His death, and may His blood be to us what it truly is, “precious blood!”
This teaching is a part of a 12 month series called "The Savior, The Cross, and The Gospel" ….
See the Outline here….. http://www.abqhcf.com/handouts/2008/shaanSS/SCG_37-38.pdf
This teaching can be heard on audio here:
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