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Necessity of Atonement according to Jesus


What express doctrine is there from the mouth of Christ in regard to the necessity of the atonement? There are various allusions explicit or indirect to the necessity of His atoning death.

John iii. 14: “So must the Son of Man be lifted up.” . . . we limit our attention at present to the import of the must here uttered by Christ. Plainly, the necessity is not to be referred to the fact that the prophets had foretold it. Though the faithfulness of God must needs be maintained on account of the type, there was a further reason, which must be traced up to the divine decree, and to the divine justice. It was not a mere necessity to fulfil the type, but had its ground in the purpose of redemption, and in the end to be attained. Some, toning down the language, would represent it as arising from the present condition of the world, as if the cross were only an occurrence befalling Him in a world of rebels, and where all was out of course. But that does not approach the meaning; and the history of Jesus shows that, except in so far as He chose to subject Himself to the course of things, He was exempt from their power, and beyond their reach. They could not touch Him till His hour was come. The words here uttered mean, that in order to heal and save, He must needs be crucified,—the must indicating a necessity flowing from God’s justice, and from His decree, if men were to be saved.

. . .

Matt. xxvi. 42: “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” The argument from this utterance of Christ for the necessity of His atoning work is of the strongest. There can be no reason assigned why the cup did not pass from Him, except that the divine claims required the endurance for the expiation of sin. The only-begotten Son, notwithstanding this request to the Father, who always heard Him, must drink the cup. And to say that the impossibility of removing it did not spring from the divine justice, is plainly untenable. It cannot be supposed that, except on the ground of indispensable necessity, God would be so inflexible as to visit His Son with all that was comprehended in that cup. The suffering was indispensable—the atonement was necessary—that the cup of suffering might pass from His people.

The same thing is proved by passages which describe the irremediable consequences of neglecting the atoning work of Christ. The result of not believing on the crucified Christ is condemnation (John iii. 18).

Mark viii. 37: “What shall a man give in exchange [better, what ransom shall a man give] for his soul?” These words occur in a connection which contains an allusion to the rejection or denial of Christ, and are intended to teach that there is a ransom attainable through the reception of Christ, but no ransom to such as neglect the opportunity, or depart this life without finding the only sacrifice. He virtually says, There is no more sacrifice for sin, since they have denied Me, the only ransom or means of deliverance. But this indisputable allusion to a ransom, takes for granted its necessity,—implying that it is only found in Jesus, who has expiated sin, and paid the ransom in the sinner’s place.

—George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 37–39.

Posted 2018·04·27 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Atonement · Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement · George Smeaton

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