Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Universalism; A Reality Check

Atonement; 1. satisfaction, reparation, or expiation given for an injury or wrong; a. Reconciliation or an instance of reconciliation between God and humans.

b. Atonement Christianity The reconciliation of God and humans brought about by the redemptive life and death of Jesus.

Atonement, Biblically means reconciliation, to remove by sacrificial offerings the effects of sin, and in relation to the New Testament it specifically refers to the reconciliation between God and man effected by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God's Son.

A more accurate understanding of atonement mat be found in the word expiate, because it is God Who 'atones for' and 'covers' human sin. Expiate means  To atone or make reparation for. To make amends or pay the penalty for. To relieve or cleanse of guilt. In essence atonement and/or expiation involve the removal of the barriers between God and man which sin has created.

There are many who would like to remove sin from the equation of God's reconciliatory act. I believe for the most part it enables those to live life as they see fit without the worrisome guilt and accountability imposed by believing in a Holy God Who requires personal relationship, personal holiness and the work of the Cross to provide propitiation (a satisfactory sacrifice) and these are such as can only come from God Himself, not at our own bidding, but in response to His love.

Expiation and propitiation are concepts establishing the reconciliatory acts of God with regard to establishing friendship. Think about it, friendship. With a friend you forgive, show mercy, love ... You do not begrudge, seek to do harm, hate ...

Atonement, like friendship has its origins in love, a desire 'to be with', to have relationship. In God's economy "... all have sinned ..." "... your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you. but "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son ..." This does not mean that God loves us because Christ died for us, it means Christ died for us because God loves us. "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." This makes it a divine gift, not an act of human endeavour. It is God's will to save out of a righteous love, the cross being  "... simultaneously a manifestation of God's will to save and of His wrath against sin."
This is emphasized by Jesus Christ being both fully man and fully God, allowing Him to act in a representative and substitutionary aspect. Being man Jesus acted on behalf of all men this is representative. Being God, Jesus was not  a third party coming between man and God to absorb the wrath and punishment due humanity. Substitution means that God did only what God can, He bore the consequences of sin at a cost to Himself only.

There is no Biblical Theory of Atonement which can be pulled from the Bible to fully and concisely explain all the nuances of Jesus Christ's life and death and its atoning work. What does exist in the Bible to the dismay of some and to the joy of others, is a series of dialogues which suggest or more accurately portray via images the meaning of atonement. Each image is not sufficient in itself to fully encapsulate the whole picture, however each adds depth to what parallels are being drawn. Atonement involves ransom, rescue, victory, deliverance, sacrifice and glory.

The Biblical narrative does furnish us with information on what atonement means philosophically, we are given certain facts:
1) it is an accomplished and complete fact;
2) this fact is necessary to human salvation;
3) the virtue of atonement is found in Christ's death on the cross, therefore His death is indispensable;
4) the death of Jesus exhibited not only the Holy wrath of God but more profoundly the love of God;
5) redemption was built into creation at its inception, so that when man fell, he fell into the arms of divine mercy Revelation 13:8;
6) atonement is universal in its gracious provision;
7) universal provision does not mean universal salvation, salvation may be rejected and therefore God's provision for salvation would avail nothing;
8) atonement is the actual objective ground upon which the forgiveness of sins and acceptance with God are founded for all penitent believers. "We are actually justified, pardoned and reconciled when we repent and believe. Whatever thoughts and purposes of grace God in Christ may have towards us from all eternity, yet we are under the fruits of sin till we become penitent believers ... That these are conditions which alone make us capable of pardon is evident." T. Manton

"This reconciliation, purchased by the blood of Christ, is offered unto men by the Gospel upon certain articles and conditions, upon the performance whereof it actually becomes theirs, and without which, notwithstanding all that Christ has done and suffered, the breach still continues between them and God."

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