Friday, June 1, 2012

What must be removed for the atonement to work

1 John 3:5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.

The Atonement was positively established on two realities
Truly Christ's work of atonement is rooted in what was present: The Perfect representation by the Perfect Mediator Jesus Christ. (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 5:14, 7:25-26)  Also too, the precious blood of Christ from His perfect humanity crucified on the cross ensures the purchase of the believer from the dominion and enslavement to sin. (1 Peter 1:18).  These two truths state in positive terms what had to be present in order to establish the necessary grounds for the Atonement - or God's saving work. 

The Atonement's application requires the removal of two realities
The two ways the Old and New Testaments communicate both the picture of atonement (i.e the Old Testament sacrifical system) and its fulfillment (i.e Christ's work on the cross) are both positive and negative.  We started out by noting positively what needed to be present in order for the Atonement to be established: namely Pefect Representation and the shedding of untainted blood.  However for the remainder of our time we want to state negatively, or what must be removed, in order for the atonement to be applied to the believer. 
We will propose that the guilt of sin and the wrath of God must be taken away if a person has any hope of benefitting from the atonement.  Today we will focus on the need for the offense of sin to be removed.

Saved from what?
When we communicate God's work of salvation, the atonement, we often will tell people that they need to "be saved".  That statement begs the question: "saved from what"?  Romans 5:9 clearly answers what sinners are to be saved from: "more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." God's wrath is His judgment on whatever is contrary to His Holy character.  According to Habakkuk 1:13, God cannot stand to look upon sin.  In salvation, God is pleased to declare sinners who receive Christ by grace through faith to be justified or "innocent" in His sight. 

But how does God do this without violating Who He is in His Holy character?  From the opening passage of today's blog, 1 John 3:5, we understand Christ came to "take away" or "remove" the very cause of God's wrath, sin. 

The offense of sin must be removed in order for God's wrath to be removed
When we speak of the atonement "removing my sin" out of God's sight, we use the term "expiation" (ex-pee-at-shun).  To "expiate" means to "remove out of sight, to clear away".  Thus in order for a dish to be used, the "dirt" on that plate must be removed by cleansing away what would otherwise make me sick. 

This word "expiate" has as its Latin root "piare" which means "to appease, to satisfy".  Thus when we add that prefix ex (meaning away from), we have the full meaning then of "appeasing or satisfying by the removal of the offense".  In order for me to be saved from God's wrath, which I rightfully deserve, the very sin that is standing between me and God must be removed out of the way. 

The New Testament's emphasis on "expiation" or "removal of sin's offense"
Several passages in the New Testament emphasize this point of removing the offense of my sin or "expiation" as providing the grounds for application of the atonement.  Hebrews 9:14 for example speaks of Christ "cleansing my conscience from dead works".  As impossible as it was for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:3), yet Christ's blood alone, applied at the moment of saving faith, expiates or "washes away" the effects of an evil conscience (Hebrews 10:22); puts out of sight our sin (Hebrews 9:26); releases us from guilt or grants forgiveness on basis of His blood. (Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:9)

Truly then the offense of sin must be removed if the atoning work of Jesus Christ is to be applied.  With that said, tomorrow we will consider the second thing that must be removed for the atonement to be applied to the believer at salvation - the wrath of God.