The Doctrine of Christ (part 10)

May 19, 2008     Time: 00:54:51


Craig continues on the Doctrine of Christ (Christology). Shift in study from the person of Christ ("who is Christ") to a discussion of Christ's work ("what did He do"). Atonement - substitutionary death on the cross.

This has been another incredible week – hasn’t it? – with the bombings in London. It was just horrifying to hear of those attacks in the subways and on that double-decker bus. It is a reminder to all of us that we are at war. Just as surely as the United States was at war in the Second World War after Pearl Harbor, we are at war as a nation. There is an implacable enemy that hates us deeply and wants to destroy our way of life and the democratic way of life that the Western democracies embody and will stop at nothing in order to do it. That is just a good wake up call for us as Americans to be vigilant and to realize these are very, very extenuating times.

[Opening prayer]

Today we are going to continue our discussion of Christology. But I am happy to say for any of those who are visitors today that you’ve come on a good day because today represents a sort of seam if you will in which we turn to a new topic. We will beginning afresh today with a different topic.

The area of Christology that we’ve been looking at is the doctrine of Christ.[1] We saw the very first day that we began this that there are two basic areas of Christology; namely, the person of Christ (which is what we’ve been discussing for the last several weeks) and then secondly the work of Christ. Last week I completed my defense of a model for the incarnation that would help us to understand the person of Christ as a unique person having two natures, human and divine, each complete and unattenuated and united in the single person of Christ who is also the second person of the Trinity.

What we want to do today is to turn from a discussion of the person of Christ to a discussion of Christ’s work. The first area discusses “Who is Jesus Christ?” The second area discusses “What did he do?” What did Christ accomplish that makes him important?

Unfortunately, arriving this morning and opening my notebook I discovered to my horror that I had forgotten my notes for this morning. What I have here is the sort of scratch pads that I prepared in getting ready for this lesson, but my final notes I apparently left back in the office. So with self-loathing and self-flagellation I come before you this morning trying to wing this based upon my preparation and my scratch notes. So bear with me.

What I discovered in looking at this area of the work of Christ is that this is an area that is vastly more complex than I even imagined. I had thought perhaps we would spend a day on it today and then next week Mike Licona is going to be teaching the class. Mike is a Director of Evangelism and Apologetics with the North American Mission Board for the Southern Baptist Convention. A very fine young apologist and expert on the resurrection. Since the work of Christ is primarily composed of the two areas of the atonement and the resurrection I thought I would just deal with the atonement today and then Mike could talk about the resurrection. But as I began to prepare for this, what I’ve discovered is that this issue of the atonement is vastly, vastly more complex and subtle than I had appreciated. So we are going to spend some more time on that and return to it after Mike speaks here next week.

The atonement of Christ speaks of his substitutionary death on the cross; that is to say, his death on the cross or crucifixion on our behalf. This is one of the few, if not the only, prominent theological word which is not based upon a Greek or Latin precursor. Rather, this is a word that is an English word. It is derived from Old English. Basically what it means is, by breaking it up, “at” “one” “ment” - that is to say, it is how Christ makes us one with God. We who were separated and estranged from God through sin are now made at one with him again. We are reconciled to God through Christ’s death on the cross. The atonement is this doctrine of how the death of Christ serves to reconcile us to God and restore the personal relationship with God that was disrupted from sin. To eliminate the estrangement and alienation from God that sin had wrought in our lives. That is the fundamental idea of the atonement.

The doctrine of the atonement or of Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross stands really at the very heart of the Christian message. For example, Paul the apostle, when he came to Corinth, says in 1 Corinthians “I determined to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Paul will often refer to the Gospel as “the Word of the cross.” So the very Gospel message in Paul’s preaching is the message of the cross. It stands at the center of Christian proclamation.[2]

At face value this is very odd. Why in the world would the humiliating death of a movement’s leader at the hands of the Romans be the very centerpiece of that movement’s proclamation? For Jewish people, the idea that Jesus of Nazareth could have been Messiah was patently absurd in light of his crucifixion. Messiah when he came was supposed to restore the throne of David in Jerusalem and establish the Kingdom of God. That meant, of course, throwing off the yolk of Rome – the pagan military dictatorship that had subjugating Israel. The idea that Messiah would come and instead of conquering his enemies be humiliatingly executed by them as a criminal was absurd to a first century Jew. Similarly, for sophisticated Greeks and Romans, the idea that this crucified criminal could be in some way God’s Son or divine was equally ridiculous. He wasn’t a man of great education or pedigree or wealth or importance. He was this obscure Palestinian criminal who had been put to death under Pilate. The idea that he was somehow important was ridiculous to Greeks and Romans.

So at the very surface level, the idea of the cross as the centerpiece of the Christian proclamation strikes one as bizarre and absurd. How is it then that this death on a cross should be so important in our reconciliation to God? That is the fundamental question that we want to ask ourselves. How is it that the death of Christ should serve to make us at one with God? How would it serve to give us peace with God? How would that serve to reconcile us to God? That is the fundamental question that we want to pose and address in the coming weeks as we think about the death of Christ.

In order to understand the death of Christ or the doctrine of the atonement, we first need to look at some scriptural data concerning this. I want to invite you to take out your Bible. We are going to spend today basically looking at the scriptural data on the atonement because this is very complex and variegated. Then we will reflect later on this scriptural data.

The place to begin, I think, in trying to understand the atonement and the death of Christ is to begin with Jesus himself. How did Jesus see his own death? One of the most important passages is Mark 10:45. Here Jesus speaking of himself as the Son of Man says, “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” So Christ thought of his death in terms of a ransom; in terms of buying back many (that is to say, a people), to serve them by ransoming them in some way.

Also, I think we see Jesus’ attitude toward his death in his words spoken at the Last Supper that he celebrated with his disciples prior to his crucifixion. Let’s look at Matthew’s account in Matthew 26:26-28. This is the Passover meal that Jesus is celebrating with his disciples prior to his arrest and crucifixion.

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, [some manuscripts insert “new covenant”] which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

So Jesus thought of his impending death in terms of the inauguration of a covenant.[3] Even if the word “new” is not in there, certainly you can see why the copyists would add it because he is evidently inaugurating a new covenant. This is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus thinks of his blood symbolized by the wine (i.e. his death) as being poured out to inaugurate a new covenant with man. It will bring about the forgiveness of sins. That ties in with this ransom idea, doesn’t it? His death is like a ransom purchasing forgiveness of sins for many people and inaugurating a new covenant between God and man in place of the old covenant – the Mosaic covenant – which had existed up until then.

Finally, let’s look at Luke 24:25-26 in a post-resurrection appearance on the Emmaus road. The Emmaus disciples had said they had hoped that Jesus was the promised deliverer but now he was crucified and his tomb was found empty. They don’t know what happened to the body. Jesus says in verse 25:

And he said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ [the Messiah] should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

Jesus saw his death as inherent to his messianic calling. He thought of himself as the Messiah and that inherent to his messianic task was this death which inaugurated a new covenant between man and God and therefore ransomed people from sin.

Jesus’ own attitude toward his death was salvific. He saw it as winning salvation, as winning forgiveness of sins and restoring people’s relationship with God.

What about the apostle Paul? How did Paul see the death of Christ? As I prepared for this lesson, one scholar I read pointed out that there are two sort of formulaic expressions that Paul uses with respect to Christ’s death. Two formulas that Paul repeatedly uses. The first of these has to do with giving up Christ. Christ is given up either by God (God gives Christ up or Christ gives himself up) and the other formula is the formula “Christ died for our sins.” Let me just give an example of each of these.

For example, with respect to the giving up of Jesus, look at Romans 4:25. This isn’t reflected in my English translation that I am going to read, but I can point out to you the verb. He says Jesus “was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” The word there that my English Bible translates “put to death” is “delivered up.” He was delivered up to death by God for our trespasses. That would be an example of this motif of giving up Christ; Christ was given up or delivered up for our trespasses.

By contrast the expression “died for our sins” features prominently in 1 Corinthians 15:3.[4] Those of you who were with us when we were studying the resurrection earlier will note that this is extremely important because this is part of this early tradition that Paul hands on. A tradition which has been dated back to within 5 years after the crucifixion in AD 30. What this represents is extremely old traditional material that was handed on by Paul to the Corinthians and formed the summary of the earliest preaching of the apostles. Paul begins to quote this formula in verse 3 where he says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received,” and then he begins to quote the formula, “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” That would be an example of this old formula that he died for our sins.

As I began to look up the verses, however, that supposedly support this distinction, what emerged in my mind was that this is not, in fact, really the significant distinction. In fact, most of the verses that this scholar quoted as saying that Christ died for our sins don’t really use that expression. Rather, what I found was that over and over again what it says is “he died for us.” Not that he died for our sins; he died for me. He died for us. Similarly, when it talks about giving up Jesus, sometimes it will say, “gave him up for our sins.” So the important bifurcation, I think, is not in the verb (“giving up” versus “dying for”). The really significant distinction is the object of the verb, namely, that this death occurs for us or it occurs for our sins. The one is an impersonal object – he died for our sins, he died to take care of our sins. But even a more fundamental truth is that he didn’t just die for my sins, he died for me, which is a lot more personal. It also suggests the idea of substitution. He died for me.

Let’s just look at some of these verses and see how this pattern emerges.

For example, Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” There we have the idea that Christ was given up for us.

Galatians 1:3-4 “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins . . .” Notice there the “giving up” that Christ is is not for us; it is for our sins. He gave himself for our sins. That really fits under the second one. The object is different. The verb is the same as in Romans. He gave himself up, or Christ was given up. But here it is for our sins, not for us.

Over in Galatians 2:20 it says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” So in chapter 1 of Galatians he gave himself for our sins, but here in Galatians 2:20 he gave himself for me.

What about the passages that talk about Christ dying?[5] Romans 5:6,8 “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Notice he doesn’t say he died for our sins. He died for the ungodly. Then in verse 8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” There, again, you have the personal object to the verb – he died for us.

Also in Romans 14:9: “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” There you have simply Christ died, and it doesn’t have an object. It just said he died and rose again.

1 Corinthians 8:11: “And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.” There you have the personal object again. He died for this Christian brother.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” There you have, again, the personal object. He died for all of these people. He died for their sake.

Galatians 2:21. This is not a verse I would have included in my final notes. He says there: “if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose.” Here it doesn’t mention an object; it just has the verb that he died.

Finally, 1 Thessalonians 5:10, speaking of obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ “who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him.”

What struck me as I looked up these verses is the expression “died for our sins” really isn’t all that frequent. It is mainly “he died for me” or “he died for us” or “he died for the ungodly.” It is very personal, whereas he was also given up for us or given up for our sins. But it is also true that he died for our sins, as we have in the formula in 1 Corinthians 15:3.

In addition to what Paul has to say and what Jesus thought about his own death, we come to a very, very important motif that is developed in the New Testament with respect to the cross or the death of Christ. This is the idea of Christ’s death as a sacrifice. This emerges very large in the New Testament as you begin to study the death of Christ. You think of it in terms of its Old Testament background – of the sacrifices offered in the temple for sin and for other purposes. For example, John 1:29 presents Jesus as a sacrificial lamb. John 1:29, when John the Baptist sees Jesus, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”[6] Jesus was called the Lamb of God not because he was meek and mild but rather because he would be the sin bearer just as in the Old Testament the animal sacrifices were thought to bear the sins of the people or to be a substitute for them. So John the Baptist sees Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb of God. He says “He takes away the sins of the world.” This idea of sacrifice is clear in the way John the Baptist thought of Jesus.

We have this same motif in Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7 where Paul uses the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread as a symbol for Christ and for the purity that he wants the Corinthians to have in their church. In verse 7 he says, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened.” He wants them to be like the unleavened bread that was used in the Passover without the leaven of sin. Then he says, “For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.” Christ is our Passover lamb, Paul says, and he has been sacrificed. Paul also thinks of Christ’s death in terms of the Passover and as a sacrifice.

But certainly the most extensive reflection upon Christ’s death as a sacrifice comes in the book of Hebrews. Let’s turn to Hebrews 9. I want to look at some fairly lengthy passages here because this is so extensively developed. Hebrews 9:11-14, 24-10:10:

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Here he presents Christ on the model of these Old Testament sacrifices and says if they sanctified for the purification of the flesh, how much more Christ’s own blood which is offered up by Christ as a sacrifice will purify us. Then in verse 24 he says,

For Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the Holy Place yearly with blood not his own; for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered? If the worshipers had once been cleansed, they would no longer have any consciousness of sin. But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year.[7] For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired,
but a body hast thou prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God,’
as it is written of me in the roll of the book.”

When he said above, “Thou hast neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Lo, I have come to do thy will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Notice what he says in this passage. He definitely thinks of Christ’s death as a sacrifice. He explicitly says so – that Christ gave himself as a sacrifice. He also says that it does what these sacrifices in the Old Testament couldn’t do; namely, it takes away sin. He says that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. So there is something qualitatively different about Christ’s death – his sacrifice – from these Old Testament sacrifices. It is not just a repetition of the same thing. There is something different about the sacrifice of Christ that makes it final and efficacious. It does what they could not do, and therefore it does not need to be repeated. It is permanent. It is eternal. It is forever. Therefore it will cleanse, he says, the worshipers from sin. It says it will purify our consciences in the way that the Old Testament sacrifices could not do. It will cleanse them from sin in a way that these Old Testament sacrifices were incapable of doing.

Related to this is the motif that you also find in certain passages in the New Testament that Christ bears our sins or that he is the sin bearer. For example, look at 1 Peter 2:24: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” There in the first part of that verse you have this idea of the sin bearer. The same thing that you found in Hebrews 9:28 where it says that he bore our sins. This is the idea of sacrifice again. In the Old Testament the scapegoat where the priest would lay his hands on the scapegoat and then he would be driven out into the wilderness to bear away the sins of the people so that the sins symbolically would be born away. Similarly, Christ is presented as the sin bearer by his death.

But then notice it also says “by his wounds you have been healed.” This is a clear reference to Isaiah 53, the passage in the Old Testament about God’s suffering servant. Let’s turn to Isaiah 53. The New Testament authors (and probably Jesus himself) thought of Jesus as the fulfillment of this suffering servant of Isaiah 53. Let’s just look at some of the verses there that also suggest this idea of being a sin bearer and the atonement for sin. For example, in Isaiah 53:4:

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that made us whole,
and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

There you have both of those motifs that we saw in 1 Peter – both the bearing of sin, the laying of sin, on the suffering servant.[8] But then also the healing through his wounds, through his stripes, which refer to the lashes that would be brought by the whip.

Then further in Isaiah, for example verse 10:

Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him;
he has put him to grief;
when he makes himself an offering for sin,

There you see again the offering motif, or the sacrifice motif. Then in verse 12:

Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out his soul to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

So Isaiah 53 is a very rich source of reflection upon Christ as the sin bearer, the one who bore our iniquities and was punished in our place.

This motif of being the sacrifice raises a very debated issue within New Testament theology as to whether or not Christ’s sacrificial death should be thought of as a propitiation of God or as an expiation of our sins.

Let’s explain what those terms means. A propitiation means a kind of satisfaction of God; to placate, in a sense, a person is to propitiate him. In pagan religions, the gods needed to be propitiated, that is to say, they needed to be placated. You need to do things to win the favor of these gods. So you would bring them offerings in order to get the gods on your side. The idea of propitiation is a sacrifice which is offered to the deity in order to mollify the deity’s opposition to you and to win the favor of the deity.

Expiation has the idea of extinguishing something, of wiping something out. The idea would be that a sacrifice would expiate a person’s sins. It would extinguish their sins; it would cleanse them from sin. That is the idea of expiation. So the object of expiation is not God. The object of expiation is the sins; it is the sins that are expiated or wiped out and cleansed away. Whereas it would be God that is propitiated.

The word that is used in the New Testament for this is hilasterion. That is the Greek word. The question is: how should we translate hilasterion? Is it to be translated as propitiation or expiation? Hilasterion literally means “mercy seat.” It is the word that is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (which is called the Septuagint) for the mercy seat in the altar in the Holy of Holies in the temple where the priest would go and sprinkle the altar with blood of the sacrifice. He would sprinkle it on the mercy seat. The Septuagint, which is usually abbreviated LXX – this is the Greek translation of the Old Testament and already existed in the time of Jesus. So the New Testament writers read the Septuagint. They could read the Old Testament in Greek, because ever since Alexander the Great conquered the Middle East in the 300s BC, Greek was the common language spoken by many people.[9] It was the language of commerce and the sort of international language that folks could speak even if individually you spoke Aramaic, say, as a Jew. When you dealt with Romans or other foreigners you would speak Greek. This is a term that is used in the Septuagint for the mercy seat. The question is: when is this used of Christ’s death? Is it a propitiation or expiation?

A very famous New Testament scholar named C. H. Dodd argued that the idea of propitiation is a pagan idea that is unworthy of Christianity and unworthy of the New Testament. So he argued that the term hilasterion should be translated only as expiation. Christ died as an expiation for our sins, to wipe out our sins. My translation of the Revised Standard Version reflects this attitude. It never uses the word propitiation the way the old King James Version does because it adopts this view that hilasterion means expiation.

But I have to say that most scholars have not been persuaded by Dodd’s point of view. Most scholars recognize that the Septuagint uses the word hilasterion both to mean expiation and to mean propitiation on different occasions. For example, Zechariah 7:2, Malachi 1:9. Those would be examples of where you offer sacrifices to earn God’s favor. They seek the favor of the Lord.

That does not mean that Israel or the New Testament uses propitiation in the pagan sense – of buttering up the gods to get them on your side. One of the characteristic things about the death of Christ is that it is God who takes the initiative in offering this sacrifice. It is not a human sacrifice offered to God in order to win over God’s favor, who is kind of sitting up there estranged from us. On the contrary, the teaching of the New Testament is that it is we who are alienated and estranged from God, and God seeks us out to reconcile himself to us by offering Jesus Christ as his sacrifice. So, for example, in Romans 5:8 it says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” So it is God who takes the initiative toward sinners to reconcile them to himself.

You might say, but then how is the death of Christ a propitiation? If it is God who takes the initiative, isn’t it just an expiation? Isn’t it just getting rid of our sins? What this fails to appreciate, I think, and what Dodd was so offended at is the notion of the wrath of God. The wrath of God is an undeniable part of New Testament teaching about God. The wrath of God does not mean that God is a capricious angry deity who has to be won over. As we’ve seen, that is false. He is loving. He takes the initiative. But the wrath of God is an expression of God’s righteous judgment upon sin. It is his holy indignation with sin, and he cannot simply blink at sin. In virtue of his awful holiness (and I mean “awful” in the sense “awesome,” this terrible holiness that excludes sin) God must deal with sin. The wrath of God is something that is averted by the death of Christ. Let me just read a few passages from Romans.

Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth.” The wrath of God is God’s righteous judgment and indignation with sin.

Then over in Romans 3:5 Paul says, “But if our wickedness serves to show the justice of God, what shall we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us?[10] (I speak in a human way.)” He answers, “By no means! For then how could God judge the world?” Paul clearly thinks that God is righteous in his judgment, and a holy God rightly judges the world and expresses his wrath upon sin.

Finally, Romans 5:9, following the verse we just read about how God shows his love for us in that while we were sinners Christ died for us, Paul goes on to say in verse 9, “Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” So it is Christ’s death which averts the wrath of God. As sinners condemned before a holy and righteous God, we deserve his judgment. We deserve punishment. We are morally guilty before him. But the death of Christ on our behalf is like a sacrifice that averts the wrath of God. It satisfies the demands of God’s holiness and justice. Therefore, in that sense, God’s wrath is propitiated. The demands of his justice are met.

One more verse that is a good one – Ephesians 2:3 says, “Among these [that is, the nonbelievers] we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Paul says we were under that judgment as well. We were children of wrath. But now like an umbrella in a torrent, Christ’s blood covers us and averts the wrath of God so that we walk safely under the umbrella of Christ’s sacrificial blood.

But it is also an expiation because it takes away sin, as we saw in Hebrews. It is a sacrifice that takes away and bears our sins. It removes our sin. It cleanses us. 1 John 1:7 says, “but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

I think the truth of the matter is that as a mercy seat – as a hilasterion – the death of Christ (the sacrificial offering of Christ) is both a propitiation of God’s wrath and it is an expiation of our sin.

This is the essence of the New Testament data that I wanted to share with you about the death of Christ. It is very provocative stuff. What is significant about this is that this doesn’t really answer yet the question: how is it that a sacrificial death works? It is easy to understand why the author of Hebrews would say it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. But how is it possible for Christ to take away sin by dying? What is going on there that would enable his death to somehow make me no longer guilty before God and that would somehow make me cleansed? Various theories of the atonement have been developed down through church history, like the Christos Victor model, the Satisfaction model, the Penal Theory of the Atonement. The next time we meet we will do another church historical survey and look at what some of the great thinkers of the church had thought about the atonement in order to develop a model for understanding how it is that Christ’s sacrificial death for sin and for us should be efficacious in taking away our sin.[11]



[1] 5:04

[2] 10:07

[3] 15:29

[4] 20:17

[5] 25:00

[6] 30:02

[7] 35:03

[8] 40:15

[9] 45:01

[10] 50:09

[11] Total Running Time: 54:51 (Copyright © 2008 William Lane Craig)