Worship Through the Introduction & Prayer
Good morning everyone! Welcome to our first Grace & Glory Sunday. These will be on the first Sundays of the month at Berean Baptist Church. Every Sunday should be about the “Grace and Glory” of God. But on these particular first Sundays, we will be making a special focused effort to major on the glorious aspects of Jesus Christ and His Gospel work for us the sinners. We desire for Jesus Christ to be the most loved and honored Hero in our midst. Let all glory go to God. Soli Deo gloria. Romans 11:36 states,
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”
The amazing part about God is that He desires for us to share in His glory. The night before Jesus died, He prayed to the Father:
And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one . . . Father, I desire that they also whom You gave me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which you have given Me” (John 17).
Clear back in the ancient psalter of the O.T., one of the psalmist promises,
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11).
Visitors, we are so thankful for you joining with us today. It is our desire that you taste and see that the Lord is good.
Let’s begin this morning with a word of prayer.
Dear Father, we humbly bow before your presence today. Words cannot begin to express what we think of you. You are incomparable. You are the sovereign God of all. From nothing, you made everything below us and everything above us for our enjoyment and your glory. But we rebelled against you, Father. We selfishly took your gifts and sought to elevate ourselves and our pleasures above you. But you—the loving, merciful God—purposed before the foundations of the world to send your perfect Son to atone for all our sin. We are in awe. Thank you, Father. Your love is incredible. Today, we honor you by honoring your Son. He is our Hero. And we glory in His cross. We have been restored to sonship, rescued from tyranny, and redeemed by his blood. Again, thank you, Lord God. Let your Spirit move mightily in every heart this morning. In Christ’s name we pray, amen.
Worship with Patch the Pirate Club
“God’s Love Never Changes” – Patch the Pirate Club
Worship through Marilyn Peter’s Sunday School Class
Marilyn’s fourth through sixth grade Sunday School class acted out a short presentation on truth and consequences in regards to answering questions concerning Christ’s atonement.
Worship with the Congregational Singing
- “At the Cross” (Isaac Watts) – “Well might the sun in darkness hide and shut His glories in, when Christ, the mighty Maker, died for man the creature’s sin.”
- “One Day” (J. Wilbur Chapman) – “Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me; buried, He carried my sins far away; rising, He justified freely forever: one day He’s coming—O glorious day!”
- “A Tender Heart” (Ron Hamilton) – “Use me now, Lord Jesus, use me, as I tell of Calvary. May Thy Spirit move within me, bringing souls to Thee.”
- “The Gospel Song” (Drew Jones and Bob Kauflin) – “Holy God, in love, became perfect man to bear my blame. On the cross He took my sin, by His death I live again.”
Worship through our Church Family Scripture Reading & Grace Giving
In 2011, we have read together the book of Romans and the book of Galatians. Today, we begin our reading in the book of Colossians: Colossians 1:1-18. These verses establish beyond a shadow of a doubt, the preeminence of the Lord Jesus Christ through His gospel work and His glory. In Christ, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. In Christ, we have reconciliation. In Christ, we have rest. This is all accomplished through His atonement. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, William Tyndale gave us a wonderful word for our English Bibles. “At—One—Ment” with God. Have you personally experienced this gift?
Worship through the song, Behold Our God
Worship through the Preaching
On each one of these Grace & Glory Sundays, we will be basking in the gospel work of the Savior. Today, our theme is “Atonement through Christ!” The word, atonement, is often seen in the Old Testament. In Sunday School, Beau Floyd did a good job of leading us through Old Testament passages on the subject of atonement and then taking us to the book of Hebrews. But in the New Testament, we don’t see the word atonement at all, except in the King James Bible, Romans 5:11. When we think of the atonement, we think of Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb of God who died for the sin of the world. We think of His precious blood being shed for us, that washes us from our sins, that makes our hearts as white as snow. We love to sing about the atonement. We love to hear of the atonement. In this message, today, God will be declaring to you through His Word (1) that you once were or perhaps even now are in a position of hostility to God, (2) that through the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ you can be reconciled to God, and (3) you must repent of your sin and place your faith in the atoning, shed blood of Christ alone for your salvation. Salvation is faith alone in Christ alone.
The Hostility Against Atonement
Even as God would send His only Begotten to this world as the Savior for people in this world, people would despise this kind of God. There are many who are publicly hostile to the topic of Christ’s atonement. The religious leaders in Jesus’ day hated him. He once shared a parable about an owner of a vineyard who sent workers into his vineyard. Continually, the community harassed, harmed, and killed his servants. So the master sent his own Son. But they ended up killing him. If Jesus were to come back today, and if it were solely up to the will of man, they would kill him again. Sinful mankind will not tolerate a pure, holy, and loving God. Today, people attack the idea of necessity of Christ’s shed blood, both those who are secularists and those who are religious. Back in 2005, the secular British columnist, Polly Toynbee openly declared her contempt for C.S. Lewis’ Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia in the article, “Narnia Represents Everything That Is Most Hateful about Religion”:
Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?
In the book, It Is Well (2010), a compilation of Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence’s sermons, Dever sadly shares the utter disdain by liberal, female theologians in our country for the cross of Christ:
In November 1993, about two thousand people (mainly women) gather in Minneapolis for a theological conference. This one, however, had nothing to do with “Desiring God.” The conference was called “Re-imagining God,” and it was exactly what its name suggests. Lesbian feminist Virginia Mollenkott of the National Council of Churches suggested that it may be necessary for women to leave denominations in order to create a new holistic church. She also claimed that the idea of Jesus’ atonement was “the ultimate in child abuse and a model of human child abuse” that depicts “God as an abusive parent.” Aruna Gnanadson of the World Council of Churches, and Dolores Williams, then a professor of Union Theological Seminary in New York State, both agreed, condemning the idea of Christ’s atonement as an abusive patriarchal system with the comment, “I don’t think we need folks hanging on crosses, dripping blood, and weird stuff.” Too many people today would agree with these women, that the story of the cross is simply “weird stuff.” Yet, like it or not, there it stands at the very heart of Christianity. The cross is at the core of how we know what God is like.”
Now, we might not experience the intensity of such a hatred for the atoning work of Christ. But in our culture, though there is much public conversation that would express appreciation for Christ’s atonement, there is a tendency to not find much of any rest in the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, in all the discussion about the atonement by religious leaders, people are given wrong teaching that would dilute the seriousness of our sinful predicament and also strip the full efficacious power of Christ’s atonement in delivering us from our helpless state. For instance, listen to this parable:
“Let me tell you a story—a parable.
“There once was a man who wanted something very much. It seemed more important than anything else in his life. In order for him to have his desire, he incurred a great debt.
“He had been warned about going into that much debt, and particularly about his creditor. But it seemed so important for him to do what he wanted to and to have what he wanted right now. He was sure he could pay for it later.
“So he signed a contract. He would pay it off some time along the way. He didn’t worry too much about it, for the due date seemed such a long time away. He had what he wanted now, and that was what seemed important.
“The creditor was always somewhere in the back of his mind, and he made token payments now and again, thinking somehow that the day of reckoning really would never come.
“But as it always does, the day came, and the contract fell due. The debt had not been fully paid. His creditor appeared and demanded payment in full.
“Only then did he realize that his creditor not only had the power to repossess all that he owned, but the power to cast him into prison as well.
“ ‘I cannot pay you, for I have not the power to do so,’ he confessed.
“ ‘Then,’ said the creditor, ‘we will exercise the contract, take your possessions and you shall go to prison. You agreed to that. It was your choice. You signed the contract, and now it must be enforced.’
“ ‘Can you not extend the time or forgive the debt?’ the debtor begged. ‘Arrange some way for me to keep what I have and not go to prison. Surely you believe in mercy? Will you not show mercy?’
“The creditor replied, ‘Mercy is always so one-sided. It would serve only you. If I show mercy to you, it will leave me unpaid. It is justice I demand. Do you believe in justice?’
“ ‘I believed in justice when I signed the contract,’ the debtor said. ‘It was on my side then, for I thought it would protect me. I did not need mercy then, nor think I should need it ever. Justice, I thought, would serve both of us equally as well.’
“ ‘It is justice that demands that you pay the contract or suffer the penalty,’ the creditor replied. ‘That is the law. You have agreed to it and that is the way it must be. Mercy cannot rob justice.’
“There they were: One meting out justice, the other pleading for mercy. Neither could prevail except at the expense of the other.
“ ‘If you do not forgive the debt there will be no mercy,’ the debtor pleaded.
“ ‘If I do, there will be no justice,’ was the reply.
“Both laws, it seemed, could not be served. They are two eternal ideals that appear to contradict one another. Is there no way for justice to be fully served, and mercy also?
“There is a way! The law of justice can be fully satisfied and mercy can be fully extended—but it takes someone else. And so it happened this time.
“The debtor had a friend. He came to help. He knew the debtor well. He knew him to be shortsighted. He thought him foolish to have gotten himself into such a predicament. Nevertheless, he wanted to help because he loved him. He stepped between them, faced the creditor, and made this offer.
“ ‘I will pay the debt if you will free the debtor from his contract so that he may keep his possessions and not go to prison.’
“As the creditor was pondering the offer, the mediator added, ‘You demanded justice. Though he cannot pay you, I will do so. You will have been justly dealt with and can ask no more. It would not be just.’
“And so the creditor agreed.
“The mediator turned then to the debtor. ‘If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?’
“ ‘Oh yes, yes,’ cried the debtor. ‘You saved me from prison and show mercy to me.’
“ ‘Then,’ said the benefactor, ‘you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible. I will provide a way. You need not go to prison.’
“And so it was that the creditor was paid in full. He had been justly dealt with. No contract had been broken.
“The debtor, in turn, had been extended mercy. Both laws stood fulfilled. Because there was a mediator, justice had claimed its full share, and mercy was satisfied”
In this parable of the atonement, if the individual does not pay off his debt to the Lord Jesus Christ, the atonement of Christ does not work to bring about eternal life for the individual. Really? Is that how Christ’s atonement works?
Mankind’s systems of rationalism, Epicureanism, and legalism reveal hostility to God’s plan. All of our philosophies—trying to think away our guilt, drown our guilt through pleasure, or overcome our guilt by doing—none of this takes away or solves our sin problem – that man is dead in his trespasses and sins and that man will pay for his sin through an eternal death. The only salvation for us is through the atonement of Christ. And it is Christ’s atonement alone because he paid it all.
Full Satisfaction and Reconciliation through Atonement
Nothing in my hand I bring, only to the cross of Christ I cling!
Paul shares with us in Romans 3:21-26,
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
He explains further in Romans 5:8-11,
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
In II Corinthians 5:20-21, Paul begs you,
We implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Through Christ’s work on the cross, the wrath of God against sin is appeased. Christ’s work satisfies God’s judgment against sin. So in salvation, you are rescued from the holy wrath of God against your sin, but you also gain something. You gain the full righteousness of God. The full righteousness of God does not come by your achieving it through a religious system of penance or a system of merit achievements in obedience to commandments. It comes through faith.
Peter joins Paul in urging you to understand the atoning work of Christ. In I Peter 2:22-25, he describes Christ as One,
Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth; who , when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
And in the next chapter, Peter continues,
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (I Peter 3:18).
Turn from your sin and accept Christ’s gift through faith
During the Jewish feast day of passover, it was customary of the Roman government to release a prisoner (Mark 15). Pilate strategized. He called for a notorious prisoner, a rebellious murderer named Barabbas. Who would the people choose to be crucified? The wicked Barabbas or the holy Son of God? The perfect Saviour died in the place of Barabbas. And Jesus died on my behalf. And he died in your place.
Two men hung on crosses on either side of Jesus. Luke’s Gospel gives the account:
Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord , remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to 1you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:39-43).
One criminal rejected Christ’s atoning work on the cross. The other criminal looked to Christ in faith. What about you? Will you come to Christ, repenting over your sin, and put your faith in his substitutionary atoning work for you. He paid the full debt that you owed to God. He asks you to come to Him, today. Make Him your Lord and Savior. Will you?
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
If you have presently put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible declares that you have now been given new life, everlasting life. You are now by grace through faith a child of God. It is all grace and glory. Hallelujah.
Greg, doesn’t the Bible say that God hates the sinner?
Where does the Bible say that? OTOH, Jesus tells us we need to “hate” family, but he is being hyperbolic.
But what does John 3:16 say? Or Romans 5:6-8: “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man — though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. BUT GOD SHOWS HIS LOVE FOR US IN THAT WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS CHRIST DIED FOR US.” (Emphasis added)
Hyperbole, Todd. Just like Jesus telling us we must “hate” our family.
Hyperbole? What? And you get after me for not taking some parts of Scripture literally . . . 🙂
I have no problem with the Lord God who loves perfectly and hates perfectly.
Todd, it has been a very long time since I have claimed to take every word literally, certainly not since you’ve known me. But some words need to be taken more literally than others. “Body” and “Blood” for example.
In any event, are you suggesting that Jesus wants us to “hate” our families? Now, as it turns out, Hebrew has a limited vocabulary when it comes to expressing affection and disaffection, like and dislike, acceptance and rejection. “Love” and “hate” apparently pretty much cover the spectrum.
“Hate” is the opposite of “Love”. We know that “God is Love”. Therefore, all of the Divine Attributes must be explainable in terms of Love. Even hatred for evil doers.
Concerning your first question, No.
And concerning the hub for all the spokes of God’s attributes, I see Love. But for me, it woud be difficult to state emphatically that it is just Love alone. But yes, if God loves, there is the opposite where God hates. And in my mind, it is a beautiful paradox that causes me to tremble.
Okay, but “God IS LOVE”, not merely “God loves” is the ontological basis for the Trinity. The Divine Nature itself can only be inherently communitarian IF God “is Love”. Obviously, if God is love, God also loves.
However, I think it is possible to understand Psalm 5:5 quite adequately, in context, if we bear these considerations in mind, including the limitations of Hebrew. To wit:
God “hates” evildoers, as described in the Psalm, because they destroy what God loves, creation, including humanity (including themselves as well actually). I would doubt that this Psalm concerns “sinners” in general, and MAY in fact be primarily about demons.
Greg, let’s just turn our Bibles back a page to Psalm 2:
“Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”
The stark reality of the God of wrath really puts the blessedness in a sharp focus.
But THAT “wrath,” as with John’s Gospel (3:18, for example) and Paul’s “salvation from the wrath to come” is specifically bound up with the rejection of the Son, who saves/heals from sin.
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.” – Acts 17:30-31
Yes, good comment, Greg. That wrath is a result and directly connected to the rejection of the divine Love.
Hmmm, I see that Aquinas was thinking about the LDS atonement the same weekend that I was.
It is the LDS scholarly but very wordy approach, highlighting Givens. In a few words, could we say, “There is Christ’s atonement, but there is justice – make sure you do your part.”
Todd, thanks for citing to my post. Givens, however, does not base his atonement theory on justice. Again, one of the main challenges in atonement theory is why God demands that his innocent Son to be punished before he can forgive. Why can’t the God of Love pardon us without requiring his innocent Son be punished, tortured, and killed? Why does God lack the ability to forgive unless blood is shed? Humans have the ability to forgive others without demanding harm, injury or death to some innocent person, why can’t God? These are the questions raised in Atonement theory.
Aquinas, those questions are only raised if certain assumptions are made, assumptions grounded in ANSELM’s understanding of the atonement, the reconciliation between God and humanity that Christ affects by his life, death, resurrection, and the sending of the Holy Spirit.
Let us not forget that Anselm writes relatively late and that his understanding, although it quickly becomes normative in the West in the Roman Catholic Church and then is carried over into Protestantism, is an innovation and is NOT at all normative in Eastern Christianity, to say the least. It has become so normative in the West that it is now read back into the relevant biblical passages.
Fr. Greg, I’m a little confused. I do agree with you that Anselm has become normative in the West, but I would add that it has been at the expense of a more Hebraic understanding of atonement. Where we read Anselm back into Scriptural texts, we may do wrongly. Would you write off Anselm’s justice in atonement theory completely? I don’t. I think Anselm is helpful in understanding atonement, and would recommend Cur Deus Homo to anyone coming to grips with these issues. But I would gladly acknowledge that there is much more to learn about the atonement, particularly through looking at the types and anti-types of Biblical typology, and looking at them through Hebraic lenses. Anselm’s Latin influenced “justice” may be narrow, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not pointing to particular truths.
Jeremy, I’m glad that you agree as much as you do. However, I must ask: what “satisfaction” does the Father of the Prodigal Son require in order to receive him back as his son? How are we to answer the questions that “Aquinas” raises?
I hope that you have read the following. If not, please do:
As St. Isaac of Nineveh says, “How can we speak of Divine justice? We know nothing of Divine justice, only Divine mercy.”
I did read the article, and do have a few comments. First of all, I agree completely with the analysis on the atheist’s “there is no God, and I hate him” sentiment. No man is without excuse (Romans 1); God has made himself known to all, and it is man that rejects Him. However, the arguments presented in the article are not strong enough to show that it follows that atheism is the natural result of erred Western Theology. That said, it is clear that if you were to ask Christopher Hitchens and other militant atheists what they thought of substitutionary atonement, their vitriol would be as great or greater than that of Kalomiros’. So what gives? I believe both Kalomiros and the atheists have oversimplified Western Theology, but for very different reasons.
The problem that I see with Kalomiros’ rhetoric, which I will assume is representative of E. Orthodox, is that it finds the fact that God is love to be completely incompatible with Him having other characteristics such as justice (punishment), hatred for evil, etc. Having then accepted that premise, any problem texts in Scripture are then stretched to fit it and explained away unsatisfactorily. I think the exegesis is wanting. I would be happy to talk with you about specific texts if you would like.
In Scripture, God’s relationship with man has always been in the terms of covenant – not an employer/employee sort of contract, where the context is one owing another – but more like a marriage covenant, where the requirement is faithfulness, love and unity. God’s covenants with men include blessings for faithfulness, and curses for transgression. Christ, our federal head, rescued us from the curses of our first federal head’s (Adam’s) unfaithfulness, by being faithful to the covenant – and death is a necessary part of that, see Romans 7:1-6.
The parable of the prodigal son was not meant to be a treatise on God’s love/justice/mercy, but the main purpose was to poke the pharisees and unfaithful Israel in the eye with the obvious conclusion that they were the elder brother. He’s trying to tell them the Kingdom is a lot different than what they expected.
The issue, Jeremy, is not that there is no Divine justice or whatever, but that such characteristics of God must be understood in light of the fact that God IS love. This is an ontological statement and this is evidenced by the fact that God is the Most Blessed Trinity, the eternal, archetypal Community. Do you have children? As normal, healthy parents, everything we do with regard to our children, including the administration of discipline, is motivated by love, no?
And also, Christ’s relationship with us, and with Adam, as ours with Adam, is not just “federal” but also ontological. Christ participates in our human nature and therefore, is capable of redeeming from us death (through death actually: we will still die, even though, for the faithful baptized Christian, physical death is, in reality, somewhat anti-climactic) by his death and resurrection (and, in the process, the descent into hades and the defeat of Satan). Hebrews 2:14-15 is fascinating in this regard, don’t you think?
Concerning the “curses”. They are both curses and “blessings” as reflected in many languages in which the word is the same for both. How so? Well, for example, if we had not become subject to death after the fall, we would have become like demons with no hope of salvation (Genesis 3:22) Therefore, Christ indeed takes on our death, but not out of justice in that sense. He is literally redeeming death and making it the pathway to salvation for us (in that, in baptism,we die with Him).
Regarding the Prodigal Son: it is as you describe but it is more than t hat. It is a indeed a general statement about the dynamics of love between God and his straying human creatures.
Bottom line: we need to be reconciled to God; God does not need to be reconciled to us.
Also, these “curses” are largely, if not entirely, the “natural consequences” of failure to be faithful. Humanity became subject to death by the fall itself, by breaking communion with God, the source of all life, not because God intervened after the fall and brought about death.
I can see that there are several areas here where this gets sticky. The question is why is there a need for the substitutionary atonement? I believe that Christ had to die in order for resurrection to be possible. I think that’s what you’re saying – that Christ died to redeem death, making resurrection possible through our union with Him. Correct?
But the Fall brought on more than just natural consequences. A covenant was broken, and there were definite curses brought on directly by God’s hand. God is personally sovereign over creation. The weeds don’t naturally come up without His handiwork (unless you’re a Deist). And death (both physical and spiritual) was brought by the hand of God as well. You can say that spiritual death naturally comes by breaking communion with God. But please explain to me HOW. – What is the “natural force” behind that? God set it up that way, it’s His world, and a direct consequence of breaking communion is a punishment that God set up in nature. Somebody is behind the math that makes it all work, and that somebody is God Himself. Except that it is personal than math.
Under the Old Covenant, God punishes His people for covenant unfaithfulness – even to the point of divorce (an action taken of His own initiative, albeit after much forbearance). I would call that punishment covenantal curses.
If you take away the wrath of God, then man has nothing to be reconciled to. We have to be reconciled to God because God cannot stand unfaithfulness. Christ took care of God’s wrath upon man through atonement as the God-Man, and He gained victory over death. I see Scripture saying both.
It is perfectly compatible to say that God is love, and that God is righteous. And it is perfectly compatible to say that God, who is love, *hates* the wicked because He *loves* righteousness (Psalm 11). It’s not hyperbole.
I meant – “Except that it is more personal than math.”