Done before Do

By Bryan Chapell, author of Unlimited Grace: The Heart Chemistry That Frees from Sin and Fuels the Christian Life. Getting the Order Right When you see the message of grace unfolding in the Bible a pattern emerges. God is gracious to us, and then expects us to respond. It is never the other way around—we respond in obedience and then somehow God decides to be gracious to us. There is always this order of the “who” and the “do”. We are loved; we are the children of God. Therefore we respond in what we do. God never says, “You obey me and then I’ll love you.” He is always saying, “Because I have loved you, because I have claimed you, you are mine. Now walk in my ways.” This is the pattern of the ten commandments themselves. There are certainly many things we’re told to do in the ten commandments. But before God tells us to do anything he says,

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Is Jesus our Substitute or our Representative?

Andrew Wilson:   Here are the concluding two paragraphs of Simon Gathercole’s superb Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in Paul. It’s not every day that the final paragraphs of an academic monograph are both a revelation and a joy to read. Nor is it common for a book to engage in detailed Pauline exegesis and dialogue with German interlocutors, and then conclude with a reflection from the Heidelberg Catechism. But this one is, and does: Even if the precise relations of substitution, representation, and liberation may be unclear, there is no reason all three cannot simultaneously inhabit Paul’s thought and biblical theology more broadly. It is striking how, when Paul comes to summarise his gospel in 1 Corinthians 15, he describes how Christ’s substitutionary death has dealt with sins (15:3) and in the same chapter also goes on to focus on the ultimate conquest of the “last enemy to be defeated,” death (15:26). Similarly, as was noted earlier, Colossians

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Sunday: Gathering in Gratitude for Our Substitute Sacrifice

Mark Dever, from It Is Well: Expositions on Substitutionary Atonement: Christian brothers and sisters, do you climb up the church steps every Sunday burdened with guilt, as if there’s some way you need to perform on a Sunday morning in order for God to once again be sufficiently pleased with you to allow you to go on for another week? That’s not the gospel; that’s not the good news of Jesus Christ. Do you feel that there is something you still need to do to gain God’s favor? There isn’t. There is nothing else you need to do in order to gain God’s favor. God has done that for you in Christ. God has provided a substitute to bear His correct punishment of us for our sins, to bear His wrath for us, and because of that we are left in the incredible state of freedom and acceptance. Indeed, for us to think there is something else we need to do

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The Heart of the Gospel

  From What is the Gospel, by Greg Gilbert: The Heart of the Gospel Sadly, this doctrine of substitution is probably the one part of the Christian gospel that the world hates most. People are simply disgusted at an idea of Jesus being punished for someone else’s sin. More than one author has called it “divine child abuse”. And yet to toss substitutionary atonement aside is to cut out the heart of the gospel. To be sure, there are many pictures in Scripture of what Christ accomplished with his death: example, reconciliation, and victory, to name three. But underneath them all is the reality to which all the other images point—penal substitution. You simply cannot leave it out, or even downplay it in favor of other images, or else you litter the landscape of Scripture with unanswered questions. Why the sacrifices? What did the shedding of blood accomplish? How can God have mercy on sinner without destroying justice? What can

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Agnus Victor: Satan defeated through the substitution of the Lamb

Martin Downes: The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism views the atoning work of Christ as dealing with the satisfaction made for all our sins (penal substitution) and his redeeming us from all the power of the devil (Christus Victor). What is your only comfort in life and in death? That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him. Thus the Catechism holds together what ought

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Jesus dies on the cross, but not of the cross

“To use the magnificent words of B.B. Warfield, ‘Jesus dies on the cross, but not of the cross.’ The cross was the means by which He died, but not the reason why He died. He died through being crucified, but not because He was crucified. He was nailed to the tree, but that wasn’t the cause of His dying. The cause of His dying is precisely because He is there as the substitutionary atonement for the sins of His people. He dies bearing my sins in His body to that tree, so that I might live; so that through His condemnation at Calvary, the Judge in heaven will say to the sword of justice as it hangs over my head for my sins, ‘Do not slay my son. Jesus has been crucified. He has been put to death’; and I am now pardoned through His dying, justified by His blood, saved from the wrath to come.” — Iain D. Campbell, “The Children of

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Definite Atonement

“The Arminians say, ‘Christ died for all men.’ Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, ‘No, certainly not.’ We ask them the next question: Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They answer ‘No.’ They are obliged to admit this, if they are consistent. They say, ‘No; Christ has died that any man may be saved if ?’ and then follow certain conditions of salvation. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as infallibly to secure the salvation of anybody. We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ’s death; we say, ‘No, my dear sir, it is you that do it.’ We say Christ so died that he infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death

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The Cross Offers a Glimpse into the Heart of God

By Trevin Wax: The cross offers a glimpse into the heart of a God who is willing to bewith us in death and suffering. But we need more than a God who knows our pain. We need mercy for our own contributions to the pain in the world. Christ’s death is not merely a picture of God with us. It is also a picture of a God willing to stand in our place. Jesus Christ dies instead of us. He not only identifies with our suffering caused by our sin; He also enters into our sorrow and makes it His own. He takes our sin and its consequences upon Himself so that we can be free. He experiences the full force of God’s wrath toward sin in order that we might be saved. Only the cross satisfies God’s demand for justice and our desire for mercy. Picture the first humans in the garden of Eden in uninterrupted fellowship with God and each other. They

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The Suffering Son of Man: A Glimpse into Jesus’ Own Christology

By Luke Stamps: It is commonly recognized that the title “Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite self-designation.  It is also noteworthy that its usage is relatively unique to Jesus himself; in only three other places in the New Testament does a subject other than Jesus use this term as a reference to Jesus (Acts 7:56; Revelation 1:13; 14:14).  But what did Jesus mean when he called himself the Son of Man?  Jesus’ use of this title is one of the most intriguing aspects of his own Christology—his own understanding of the identity and mission of the Messiah. Most admit that Daniel 7 lies in the background of Jesus’ usage of the term.  There, Daniel describes “one like a son of man” who approaches the Ancient of Days, that is, the Lord himself, and is given “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass

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A powerful argument

“Such was the dignity, value, and completeness of Christ’s satisfactions, that in strict justice it merited our redemption and full deliverance. If he be made a curse for us, we must then be redeemed from the curse, according to justice. “He is just to forgive us our sins.” (1 John 1:9) What an argument is here for a poor believer to plead with God! Lord, if thou save me by Jesus Christ, thy justice will be fully satisfied at one full payment; but if thou damn me, and require satisfaction at my hands, thou canst never receive it: I shall make but a dribbling payment, though I lie in hell to eternity, and shall still be infinitely behind with thee. Is it not more for thy glory to receive it from Christ’s hand, than to require it at mine? One drop of his blood is more worth than all my polluted blood.” — John Flavel The Fountain of Life (HT: Of

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When we see the necessity of the atonement

“All inadequate doctrines of the atonement are due to inadequate doctrines of God and man. If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to his, then of course we see no need for a radical salvation, let alone for a radical salvation to secure it. WHen, on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God, and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge what we are, namely ‘hell-deserving sinners’, then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before.” — John Stott The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 109 (HT: Of First Importance)

The soul and substance of the divine message

“The heart of the gospel is redemption, and the essence of redemption is the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. They who preach this truth preach the gospel in whatever else they may be mistaken; but they who preach not the atonement, whatever else they declare, have missed the soul and substance of the divine message.” CH Spurgeon – Spurgeon at his Best, p.17

6 Things Christ accomplished by his death

Here’s a very brief summary of the six core things Christ accomplished in his death, by Matt Perman: 1. Expiation Expiation means the removal of our sin and guilt. Christ’s death removes — expiates — our sin and guilt. The guilt of our sin was taken away from us and placed on Christ, who discharged it by his death. Thus, in John 1:29, John the Baptist calls Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus takes away, that is, expiates, our sins. Likewise, Isaiah 53:6 says, “The Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him,” and Hebrews 9:26 says “He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” 2. Propitiation Whereas expiation refers to the removal of our sins, propitiation refers to the removal of God’s wrath. By dying in our place for our sins, Christ removed the wrath of God that we justly deserved. In fact,

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The Problem with Christus Victor

By Mark Galli, for Christianity Today: An increasingly popular view of the atonement forces the question: What are we saved from? Universalism is not the only topic in Rob Bell’s Love Wins that deserves comment, though given the buzz, you’d think that’s all he discusses. Among other things, the book also attacks “toxic” forms of substitutionary atonement, and advocates the use of a plurality of atonement theories. In this, Mr. Bell is repeating decades-old arguments in our movement, arguments that seem to be winning the day. One atonement theory in particular has exploded in popularity, in fact. Hardly an atonement discussion goes by that I don’t hear an evangelical say they doubt the usefulness of substitutionary atonement and now favor Christus Victor. The Christus Victor model has much to commend it. The idea is this: Christ is victor. Christ in his death and resurrection overcame over the hostile powers that hold humanity in subjection, those powers variously understood as the devil, sin,

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Scorning what is holy…

My thanks to Todd Pruitt for this: “There’s nothing wrong with talking and singing about how the ‘Blood will never lose its power’ and ‘Nothing but the blood will save us.’ Those are powerful metaphors. But we don’t live any longer in a culture in which people offer animal sacrifices to the gods. “People did live that way for thousands of years, and there are pockets of primitive cultures around the world that do continue to understand sin, guilt, and atonement in those ways. But most of us don’t. What the first Christians did was look around them and put the Jesus story in language their listeners would understand.” – Rob Bell on the atonement from Love Wins To strip the atonement of its substitutionary nature, as Rob Bell does, is to strip it of its power. It is to take the “good” out of the good news. It is to rip the heart out of the Gospel and therefore the hope

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The Son substitues, the Spirit empowers

Obviously the Spirit did not die for our sins, but there are less obvious implications of this fact. The work that Jesus Christ does for us is a vicarious, substitutionary work: he steps into the place that we occupy and offers himself to God in our place. As a propitiation for sin, the incarnate Son replaces us and bears the wrath of God on our behalf. The Spirit, on the other hand, does not substitute for us but empowers us. He does not take our place but puts us in our place. And in carrying out the great work of atonement, the Son completes the work once and for all in his death and resurrection, but the Holy Spirit takes that completed work and applies it to individual people. — Fred Sanders The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 140 (HT: Of First Importance)

This is that mystery

“This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s, and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours.  He has emptied himself of his righteousness that he might clothe us with it and fill us with it; and he has taken our evils upon himself that he might deliver us from them.” “Learn Christ and him crucified.  Learn to pray to him and, despairing of yourself, say, ‘Thou, Lord Jesus, art my righteousness, but I am thy sin.  Thou hast taken upon thyself what is mine and hast given to me what is thine.  Thou hast taken upon thyself what thou wast not and hast given to me what I was not.’” Martin Luther, quoted in J. I. Packer and Mark Dever, In My Place Condemned He Stood (Wheaton, 2008), page 85, footnote 31. (HT: Ray Ortlund)

Sinning as a Christian

From Reformation Theology: In one of the Q&A sessions this week at the Ligonier National Conference, R.C. Sproul asked questions submitted by attendees. On the panel were Michael Horton, Alistair Begg, Albert Mohler and Steven Lawson. An effort was made to capture in brief form the questions and answers but you may wish to track down the audio or video to hear lengthier responses. Here is one such question: Why don’t Christians care, or care enough, that they are sinning? Begg: Because we don’t truly understand the nature of the atonement and what has happened in Christ bearing our sins. A low view of the atonement goes in line with an easy-going view of sin in the same way that when people take sin seriously they have a solid and clear grasp of what has happened in Christ dying for us. This was not a moot question for Paul in writing Romans where the same question applied to the people

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The only forgiveness that matters

“There may be some foul spot in our lives; the kind of thing that the world never forgives, the kind of thing, at any rate, for which we who know all can never forgive ourselves. But what care we whether the world forgives, or even whether we can forgive ourselves, if God forgives, if God has received us by the death of His Son? If we could appeal to God’s approval as ours by right, how bravely we should boast—boast in the presence of a world of enemies! If God knows that we are right, what care we for the blame of men? Such boasting, indeed, can never be ours. But we can boast in what God has done. Little care we whether our sin be thought unpardonable or no, little interested are we in the exact calculation of our guilt. Heap it up mountain high, yet God has removed it all. ‘I know not,’ the Christian says, ‘what my

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Our salvation makes amends for all His sufferings

“Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied.”(Isaiah 53:11) “The happiness of Christ’s exalted state consists, in a great degree, in the pleasure of seeing the designs of His death accomplished in the conversion and salvation of sinners. How does His benevolent heart rejoice to look over the immense plains of heaven, and see them all peopled with His seed! When He takes a view of this numerous offspring, sprung from His blood, and when He looks down to our world—and sees so many infants in grace, gradually advancing to their adult age; when He sees some, perhaps every hour since He died upon Calvary, entering the gates of heaven, having finished their course of education upon earth; I say, when this prospect appears to Him on every hand—how does He rejoice! If you put the sentiments of His benevolent heart into language, methinks He would say, ‘Since My death has been so fruitful of

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