Doctrine: The Atonement of Christ

Posted: January 10, 2009 in Theology
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The Doctrine of Christ 

The Atonement
Greg Brandenburg
Grace Community Church Tyler
January 4, 2009
January 11, 2009
Was it necessary for Christ to die? What happened in the atonement? Did Christ descend into hell?
I. Definition
A. The action of Christ in His life and death that secured our salvation.
II. Cause
A. God’s love
John 3:16
B. God’s justice
Fellowship with God could not be restored without the payment of the penalty for sin.
Rom. 3:25-26 – God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, {[25] Or as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away sin}through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–  26  he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
III. Necessity
It was not necessary for God to save anybody – 2 Pet.2:4 – God did not spare angels
Two motivations: God’s love and the fact that we were created in His image
Once He decided to save – then it was necessary for Christ to die (consequent absolute necessity)
Mt. 26:39 – Jesus prayed “if it is possible, let this cup pass…” – clearly it was not possible
Luke 24:25-27 – “Was it not necessary that Christ should suffer these things?”
A better sacrifice than the blood of bulls and goats (Heb.10:4) is required
IV. Technical Things
A. Active obedience – Christ ‘s obedience for us
Securing forgiveness only would not grant us access to heaven. Perfect obedience is required to maintain fellowship (see Adam and Eve)
We need a clean slate (forgiveness) but also get positive, active moral righteousness. His righteousness becomes ours. We get the penalty paid but also get to enjoy perfect standing with God as if it never happened.
If a perfect sacrifice was all that was needed, Christ could have died a day after birth.
B. Passive obedience – Christ’s suffering for us
1. At the cross
He experienced suffering not just at death but His whole life in this fallen world. (Heb.5:8)
b. the weight of sin
2 Cor.5:21 – 21  God made him who had no sin to be sin {[21] Or be a sin offering}for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God
God the Father considered our sins to be Christ’s
c. abandonment
Mk.14:34 – my soul is sorrowful unto death
Mt. 26:56 – all the disciples fled
Mt. 27:46 – my God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
d. bearing God’s wrath
the concept of “stored up wrath”
Heb.2:17 – 17  For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for {[17] Or and that he might turn aside God’s wrath, taking away}the sins of the people.
1 Jn.2:2 – 2  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for {[2] Or He is the one who turns aside God’s wrath, taking away our sins, and not only ours but also}the sins of the whole world. 
1 Jn.4:10 – 10  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for {[10] Or as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away}our sins.  
each verse has the word hilaskomai – a sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God making God favorable (propitious) toward us
Our Need His Remedy
Sentenced to death by our sin Sacrificed to pay the penalty – Heb.9:26
Under God’s wrath Propitiation takes away wrath – 1 Jn.4:10
Separated from God Reconciled – 2 Cor.5:18-19
In bondage to sin Redeemed – Mk.10:45; Heb.2:15
V. Views of the Atonement
A. Penal substitution – Christ bore our penalty when He died as our substitute. AKA vicarious atonement
B. Ransom to Satan – the ransom Christ paid to redeem us was paid to Satan
1. No confirmation in scripture
2. few supporters in the history of the church
3. Satan requires the payment rather than God
4. Gives credit for great power
C. Moral Influence Theory -Christ’s death was a way for God to show how much He loves us. God did not require a payment for sins. Our grateful response gains our salvation.
1. Contrary to scripture
D. The Example Theory – God did not require a payment for sin. Christ’s death is an example of how we should trust and obey God.
1. Christ is an example for us, but not just an example.
2. Teaches that man can save himself
E. The Governmental Theory – Christ’s death did not pay the price of sins but He suffered to show that when God’s laws are broken there has to be some kind of penalty
1. Contrary to scripture
2. Changes the atonement from satisfying God’s justice
VI. Did Christ Descend To Hell?

suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into hell. [See Calvin]

The third day He arose again from the dead;


The phrase was not used in the creed widely until after 650. Before then “descended into hell” may have been synonymous with “He was buried.”


Arguments against the idea:

Lk.23:43 – “today you will be with Me in paradise”

Jn.19:30 – “It is finished”

Lk. 23:46 “into Your hands I commit My spirit”


1 Pet.3:18-20 – For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,  19  through whom {[18,19] Or alive in the spirit, [19] through which}also he went and preached to the spirits in prison  20  who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

Roman Catholicism – Christ went to limbo to give those in waiting a second chance

(see current teaching on limbo )

Lutherans – Christ descended to Hades to pronounce a sentence of condemnation

Anglicans – Christ went into the paradise side of Hades to teach the full truth of salvation


It seems best to restrict these preaching to the time of Noah’s flood (v.20). 

It could be literally that the preincarnate Christ preached through Noah the way of salvation from the flood.

Or figuratively that Jesus preached in the power of the Spirit the way of salvation during His life but the people were just as unresponsive as those in Noah’s day


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