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No Abstract Atonement


In our theology of the atonement, we use the language of substitution, and this is appropriate—Christ truly fulfilled the law and bore the penalty of sin in the place of sinners, providing a righteousness that we did not possess, and satisfying the wrath of God against sin. But substitution does not tell the whole story.

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It was not only for sin in a vague, abstract, indeterminate sense that He was delivered up, but in the room of the sinners given to Him, and whose place He representatively occupied. It was only in their room and stead that Jesus was placed at the bar as a criminal. And this was a real transaction before the tribunal of God, not a semblance of a trial. The sinner was there, but Jesus took his place. And only in this way can we explain either the prophetical sayings which describe Him as wounded for our transgressions (Isa. liii. 5), or those apostolic sayings which represent believers as co-crucified (Gal. ii. 20), as co-dying (Rom. vi. 8), and as suffering in the flesh (1 Peter iv. 1), when in point of fact the Lord appears to human view single and alone in the historic narrative of the evangelists.

—George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 171.

Therefore, believers can know not only that Jesus died specifically for us, but that we died in him, so that “I am crucified with Christ” is not a hypothetical proposition that became reality when we believed, but an historical event that actually took place on the cross. “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Yes, I was.



Posted 2018·05·17 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Atonement · Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement · George Smeaton · Limited Atonement · Substitution · Union with Christ

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