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The Nature and Extent of the Atonement (1)


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There is a considerable number of the sayings of Jesus which bring out, with unmistakeable precision, the efficacious character of the atonement, or that the death of Christ had a special reference to a people given to Him. The redemptive efficacy of His death is described as taking effect within a given circle, and as bearing upon a given company of persons. What is that circle, or who are the parties described as participating in the fruits of Christ’s death? The Lord’s sayings on this point are so express, that we are not left in any doubt whether the atonement was offered specially for the persons who receive the benefit of His death. He indicates that they for whom it was offered and accepted, were the persons who had been given to Him, and to whom He had united Himself in the eternal covenant.

All who have a biblical scheme of doctrine, understand, by Christ’s dying for His people, a dying in their room and stead. They attach no lower sense than this to the expression. They hold that Christ underwent the penal suffering which was their due, that He occupied their place as the sin-bearer and curse-bearer, and that He rendered the full obedience which was required; and they hold that it was a real and valid transaction . . .

The proper nature of the atonement must first be ascertained before we can advance, with any precision, to define its extent; and when that point is settled, there is but one step to an accurate definition of its extent. . . . the atonement, as a fact in history, is as replete with saving results and consequences, as the fall of man, with which it must ever be contrasted, is replete with the opposite. Its extent coincides with its effects. In the Scripture mode of representing it, we find it placed in causal connection with man’s salvation, as a fact not less real than the fall, and not less fraught with consequences (Rom. v. 12–20). The words intimate, that if the fall was fruitful of results for man’s condemnation and death, the atonement is not less so for man’s restoration.

. . . If a causal connection obtains between one man’s disobedience and the sin, judgment, and death in which the world is now involved, a causal connection obtains, too, between the second man’s obedience and the saving benefits in which all Christians participate. If the fall was pregnant with consequences which cannot be gainsaid, and which ramify so widely, that they are everywhere apparent; the atonement of Christ in like manner produces, and will continue to produce, results which are as real, and shall ramify as widely, through time and through eternity.

—George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 366–367.



Posted 2018·06·07 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Atonement · Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement · George Smeaton · Limited Atonement

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