The Atoning Work of Christ

Being the beginning of Holy Week, I wanted to take a look at Christ’s death on the cross, or His atoning work. These are notes from my latest Sunday School lesson, so they’ll be in more of a bullet point format. It begins with His words at the Last Supper (Mt. 26:26-69).


What is it?

  • The work of Christ in His perfect life and death on the cross to earn our salvation.
  • Not just that He died for our forgiveness – that would have only made us morally neutral.
  • But also He lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father in all righteousness (Mt. 3:15) so that we could become the righteousness of God in Christ (Phil. 3:9, 1 Cor. 1:30).

What were the causes of the Atonement?

  • The love of God (John 3:16, Rom. 5:8).
  • The justice of God (Rom. 6:23, Gen. 2:17, Rom. 3:23).
  • In our culture, especially in my generation and younger, we tend to place so much emphasis on the love of God that we forget that He hates sin so much that He sent God the Son – perfect, spotless, sinless, blameless, holy, who enjoyed perfect communion with the Father and Spirit for all eternity – to die on a bloody cross taking the full force of the Father’s anger, wrath, and hatred.

Did Christ have to die?

  • Yes and No.
  • No. God did not have to save anyone. We all deserve Hell. There is nothing in us that obligates God to save us.
    • He didn’t spare the angels when they rebelled (2 Pet. 2:4).
  • Yes. Because of His choice to love and save sinners Christ had to die.
    • Blood is required for the forgiveness of sins (Heb. 9:22).
    • The blood of bulls and goats isn’t enough (Heb. 10:4).
    • A better sacrifice was required (Heb. 9:23).
    • Only Christ’s death was able to take away our sins (Heb. 9:25-26).

Penal Substitutionary Atonement

  • This is the term for the position I take.

Penal – Punishment.

  • There must be a penalty paid for the wrong we have done and the sins we have commited.
  • We have sinned and rebelled against an infinitely holy and perfect God. Our sin is worthy of infinite punishment (Rom. 6:23).
  • We cannot even begin to fathom God’s holiness, how different He is than us, how perfect and pure He truly is!

Substitutionary – Christ died in our place, for our sins.

  • “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous…” (1 Pet 3:18).
  • “…he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Heb 9:26).

Atonement – Because of Christ’s perfect obedience and Him taking our place under God’s wrath, God can now propitiate our sins.

  • Propitiation – Having God’s wrath removed by placing it on another.
  • 1 John 4:10
  • This was symbolized in the Old Testament by the use of the scapegoat in atonement ceremonies.


God’s Plan

  • All of this was God’s plan form the beginning.
  • Isaiah 53.
  • It pleased God to do this – Mind blowing!
  • He did this for His own glory and for His Name’s sake.
  • We are the benefactors of God choosing to glorify Himself through us.


The New Covenant

  • We are under the New Covenant established by Christ.
  • It is not nullified if we don’t “hold up our end of the deal.”
  • Contracts can be nullified, not covenants.
  • We brought nothing into this covenant except our sin.
  • God initiated it (just as He did with Abraham), not us.
  • God is the One who sealed it in blood, not us.
  • He started it. He keeps it. He will finish it.
  • He gave us salvation. He sanctifies us. He will glorify us. (Phil. 1:6)

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