“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.”