The Judge of all men is also the same person as the Savior of all men: Jesus Christ. The fall of man, the sinfulness of sin, the corruption of the human race, and transgression of God’s law are all clear. “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31)—this Man who will judge the world with justice is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. To “repent” means to change your heart, and manner of life, to turn away from wickedness, and onto the path of righteousness.
Some preachers say that it is impossible for a man to do this! Sad lot! They say that man is so corrupt and sinful that he is unable to repent, even all the while: God “commands all people everywhere to repent”! (Acts 17:30). Some of these people (though not all) call themselves Calvinists. They say, “God’s Spirit forces them to repent if they are to be saved, and this will all happen in good time; so it is not for preachers to preach the commandment of repenting.” But can I respectfully say this sounds silly? The conscience is a gift from the Holy Spirit: “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9, NKJV); and that which was perfectly manifested in the person of Jesus. “‘Do not I fill Heaven and Earth?’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 23:24). The Holy Spirit is omnipresent, all-present, everywhere; drawing all men to Christ by the conscience He has enlightened them with, so that “when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves” (Rom. 2:14). But “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23); and no one can keep the law perfectly, even if all they are working with is the conscience they have been given. It is for this reason that Christ said of His dying on the cross: “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32).
“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ” (Gal. 3:24). But when the man with the sensitive conscience comes to Christ, he will hear Him say, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). That is, you cannot come to a right relationship with God through any other faith: not through Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Judaism, or any cult. Why? Because they do not have atonement. Only the death of Christ, the Messiah prophesied through the Old Testament (Isa. 53; Ps. 22)—only His death on the cross atoned for the sins of the world, the transgressions of the law. This is why no one comes to the Father except through Jesus. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). And “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36, NKJV).
What exactly is “atonement”? In order for us to understand this fully, and to apply it to our lives by faith in it, let us define some terms:
Atonement – To become “at one,” or in union with, or reconciled to a right relationship with God. Formerly there was a breach or separation in this relationship because of the guilt of sin; but now, with the coming of Christ as the only Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), dying for man’s sins, through faith only in this, is the breach healed, and a right relationship to God restored and reconciled. To preach this Gospel message is called “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18). Those who continue in this faith are considered “saved” from the wrath of God, and from an eternal punishment in Hell fire (Rom. 5:9).
Propitiation – To appease the wrath, and calm down the anger of someone; and in turn, make them turn to you with a favorable attitude. In our understanding of the atonement, Christ died on the cross and shed His blood to appease the justice and wrath of God at our sins, so that He might turn favorably to us with the love He has for all men, while at the same time maintaining all His holiness and righteousness: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10, NKJV). The NIV says “atoning sacrifice” instead of propitiation.
Expiation – To make amends for one’s crimes; to repair the damage that has been done to another. In relation to the atonement, we lost and guilty sinners, are to make amends for our sins against an eternally holy God through one way only: FAITH that Jesus’ death on the cross is sufficient to save us from God’s wrath (Rom. 5:9), provided that we repent from sin, and go and try to sin no more throughout the course of our Christian life (John 8:11). “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings.” There are no other good works that can be done to appease the wrath of God: only faith in the blood of Jesus will do. Although God requires Christians to live a holy and righteous life, and try to keep the commandments out of obedience and love—this is all too imperfect, and is certainly not good enough to appease God’s wrath. “Good works, which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment.” ONLY FAITH in the shed blood, and death of Christ, will calm down the righteous anger of God at you (Rom. 3:25; Eph. 2:8-9).
Why is this necessary? I don’t think I will ever understand the full meaning of the revelation on the death of Christ. But I know this: I am a sinner and God is holy. God was angry at me till I repented of my wicked ways, and believed Jesus died on the cross for my sins. If Christ had not stepped in to receive the punishment I deserve for my sins, I should deserve to be punished eternally in Hell fire; for the wrath of God would abide eternally on my immortal soul. Just as animals such as bulls, sheep, and goats were burned on the altar in the Old Testament as sin offerings (Lev. 4:29-31)—so I would have to be burned forever in the lake of fire and brimstone, and the smoke of my torment would rightly have to ascend forever and ever, into the nostrils of God Almighty (Rev. 14:9-11).
In Hell there is no forgiveness of sins, because the wrath of God abides eternally on those immortal souls who chose not to believe the Son of God died on the cross for their sins. They had their chance to live by faith; and stand justified before God; but they gave up on faith and chose to live in sin, and their guilt remained, and they died in their sins and remained that way till now, and will, forever and ever. “It is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Lev. 17:11, NASB). If the life-blood of God, Jesus Christ, is not applied to your life by faith in it—how can there be anything except the wrath of God abiding on you? You are too wicked; your life is just one enormous sin. Your sins mount up to Heaven, as a stinking garbage heap of refuse, ready to be burned in the fire of Hell!
“The Avenger of Blood” is after you, sinner! (Deut. 19:12). The Father has seen that His Son has been killed; and He is urgent to exact revenge upon the ungodly: all who will not believe, and all who mock Christ, and in spirit, join with those wicked ones who crucified Him. Choose you this day (Josh. 24:15)—to serve God or satan; to live in sin, or to have faith in the blood of Christ turning away His Father’s wrath at you, and pursuing God in a life of righteousness, and obedience, yea, an imperfect obedience to His law, but still growing; and a holy submission to Christ, not only as your Savior from Hell, but as your Lord, King, and Governor, and law giver in this life. Not only did Christ come to save you from Hell in the afterlife, but also from sin in your present life. It is for these two reasons that “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).
The blood, the gore, and the death of Christ—like the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament—has been commanded and ordained by God to show to men the consequences of their sins: how horrible they are—that either an innocent animal or the innocent Christ would have to suffer on your behalf, because the cost of the sin-guilt is too high for any man to pay back to satisfy God’s justice. And also, to show man the WRATH that God has for sin: how angry He must be—that when reconciliation with man is to be made; it must only be done by means of extreme violence to a pure and innocent being. As if to reverse the violence and offense that man has done in sinning against the only pure and innocent God.
And note: faith in Christ’s blood only appeases God’s wrath for “the remission of sins that are past” (Rom. 3:23, KJV). The blood of Christ does not atone for presently committed or future sins; there is no way you can cheapen God’s grace, and somehow avoid holy living; God sees what you are doing. The blood only applies to sins you have committed in the past. Jesus did not die on the cross for your “past, present, and future sins”—as some people say. Only for “the remission of sins that are past.” This requires us to maintain a clear conscience before God; and to live “in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life” (Luke 1:75, KJV). “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1). And if, as Christians trying to live for God, after we give into a temptation, and sin, if “we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and by the grace of God we may arise again, and amend our lives.”
And so, although Christians are called to live in holiness and righteousness, when we fall into sin, for that is probably going to happen: we can return with the eyes of faith to the cross of Christ, and receive atonement again for our freshly committed sins; and once again, return to the war against evil within our hearts and lives. This is possible because His death was “offered for all time one sacrifice for sins” (Heb. 10:12). “Christ died for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). His death stands as a perpetual atonement that we can return to again and again for our sins; so that in faith, in prayer, and in life, we may continue to walk in spiritual peace with God.
Only after the extreme violence done to Christ on the cross was expressed by the devil’s workers, under the administration and direction of God, can peace with God, and forgiveness of sins result upon confession of faith in this. We have “peace through His blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:20). Only in Christ’s death can we stand boldly before the Throne of Grace (Heb. 4:16); only in this has God’s revenge against Christians’ sins been completed: “it is finished” (John 19:30). Only in this can sinners receive His forgiveness, and come to God by a true and living spiritual friendship. And be like the founder of the faith: “‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend” (Jas. 2:23). We must be careful to examine our lives; and to remember what Christ has done for us, and continues to offer us, on the cross; it is for this reason that we take the Lord’s Supper: “In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the New Covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:25-26).
This section from “In Christ Alone” by Stuart Townend, seems fitting:
In Christ alone who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.
And the prophecy of Isaiah, from around 712 B.C.:
He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by 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…
It pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin…
By His knowledge My Righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities…
He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.
(Isa. 53:5-6, 10-12, NKJV)