Hundreds of students are returning from Word Alive, and Dan Hames reports here from the event with news of the doctrine of the atonement being brought to the fore, as it should be. Consequently, the student Word Alive track will be departing from the Spring Harvest weeks into a new Bible-focused family holiday week, with a student section running alongside it. The current site for the new week is up here.
Pierced for our Transgressions, the new book on the doctrine of penal substitution from Sach, Jeffrey, and Ovey, is already out of stock at publishers IVP having only been on sale for a month. Beginning with Moses are offering a special discount on it – it will be one of those books you’ll still appreciate having on your shelf in thirty years, I’m sure. If you haven’t checked out the site, or you’re not really sure why so much of a big fuss is being made out of what happened on the cross, then do click here. It’s packed full of info, downloadable sermons, and even some free song downloads.
This book is making quite a buzz across the country at the moment. Released next month, it looks set to become the must-read as we see how the wonder of the cross has become sidelined and shamed over the last few years particularly in Christianity.
Steve Chalke’s comments in The Lost Message of Jesus are probably but the visible tip of a mammoth iceberg that is subtlely undermining Scripture’s rich but clear revelation about what God was doing at Calvary 2000 years ago. Garry Williams has written a few articles recently that I found very useful when defending the penal and substitutionary nature of Jesus’ death in a Theology essay last year, and Jim Packer’s RTSF monologue What did the Cross achieve? is a classic work of recent years. But I can’t think of such a systematic study of the biblical texts, the history of the doctrine, and the common ways in which penal substitution is called into question that has been quite so extensive. I hope in fifty years, God willing, I’ll have a well-worn and much-prized copy of this on my bookshelf.
You can read John Piper’s foreword on the book’s site here, but here’s a snippet that caught my eye:
There was only one hope for me – that the infinite wisdom of God might make a way for the love of God to satisfy the wrath of God so that I might become a son of God.
This is exactly what happened, and I will sing of it forever. After saying that I was by nature a child of wrath, Paul says, ‘But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ’ (Eph. 2:4-5 ESV). What a grievous blindness when a teacher in the church writes that the term ‘children of wrath’ cannot mean ‘actual objects of God’s wrath . . . [because] in the same breath they are described as at the same time objects of God’s love’. On the contrary. This is the very triumph of the love of God. This is the love of God – the ‘great love with which he loved us’. It rescued me from his wrath and adopted me into sonship.
“No treatment of the atonement can be properly orientated that does not trace its source to the free and sovereign love of God.” Easy-to-overlook, but totally mega!
And this love is distinguishing: he predestinates (Rom 8.29) and chooses (Eph 1.4,5). It is the determinate purpose of this love that the atonement secures. God is love, truly. Yet the nature of electing love means that God is under no necessity to set his love upon undesirable and hell-deserving objects.
“The atonement does not win or constrain the love of God … It must be regarded, therefore, as a settled datum that the love of God is the cause or source of the atonement.”
But why the necessity of the atonement? Why was the means of accomplishing love’s determinate purpose, the atonement? Murray points to two schools of thought: hypothetical necessity and consequent absolute necessity. The former claims there was a way of forgiving sin and saving the elect without atonement or satisfaction, it’s just God chose in wisdom to use this ‘way’. The latter claims, sure salvation was the good pleasure of God and of no necessity to God, but once God has selected some to everlasting life out of grace, he is under necessity to accomplish this through the atonement.
Is it impossible for him to save sinners without vicarious sacrifice? To help me digest Murray’s argument I’ve made brief notes as below:
1. Hebrews 2.10, 17 :: Implies that salvation should be accomplished through a captain of salvation who would be made perfect through sufferings, and this entailed he be made in all things like his brethren.
2. John 3.14-16 :: This verses suggest the alternative to the giving of God’s son are the eternal perdition of the lost.
3. Hebrews 1.1-3; 2.9-18; 9.9-14, 22-28 :: There is a necessity that can be met by nothing less than the blood of Jesus, as he is Son and partaker of flesh and blood. This is due to the gravity of sin, and the required sacrifice to deal with sin.
4. Salvation comprises of justification to those previously condemned, thus a righteousness is necessary. The only such righteousness available is that of Christ.
5. Can the cross be held aloft as the supreme demonstration of the love of God if there another way of achieving salvation, and thus such costliness were not necessary?
6. Sin is such that salvation from sin without expiation and propitiation is inconcievable. Christ was a propitiation to declare God’s righteousness.
“The more we emphasize the inflexible demands of justice and holiness the more marvellous become the love of God and its provisions.”