Why The Atonement Matters For Church Planters (3)

Why The Atonement Matters For Church Planters (3)

Atonement’ edited by Gabriel Fluhrer (P&R Publishing 2010)

This is a series of lectures about ‘blood’ according to the book’s sleeve and is a compilation of 8 essays on the topic by 7 evangelical theologians and pastors. Such is the importance of this subject for every Christian, whoever they are and whatever they do, I have decided to give a brief summary over the coming weeks of some of the essays and how I think it could apply to inner city planters (although the application is really universal). This week we have my personal favourite, James Montgomery Boice.

James M Boice – The Nature of Atonement: Propitiation

Which of us have not heard the following before, either in old school liberalism or, in recent years, from some hip or media savvy ‘evangelical’ who has repackaged it to sound painfully earnest?

‘Those who hold to the fire and brimstone school of theology revel in ideas such as that Christ was made a sacrifice to appease an angry God, or that the cross was a legal transaction in which an innocent victim was made to pay the penalty for the crimes of others in propitiation of a stern God. This finds no support in Paul. These notions came into Christian theology by way of the legalistic minds of medieval churchmen and they are not biblical Christianity.’ (quoting William Neil, p35)

JMB takes 1 John 4:10 as a launch pad for his essay. He understands the atonement in light of three terms: (1) justification (2) redemption and (3) propitiation.

Redemption – This is something that Jesus does for his people.

Justification – This is something that God does for his people

Propitiation – This is something that Jesus Christ accomplishes for the Father

Because of Jesus’ propitiatory sacrifice on the cross, God is now free to justify repentant sinners. Again, it is important to understand that propitiation is not man trying to appease God but God appeasing his own wrath through Jesus Christ. We must have this absolutely right in our own minds and in our thinking. Much of what drives the whole ‘cosmic child abuse’  concerns in relation to Christ and the wrath of God is down to a poor understanding at this point.

For the planter, under pressure to ‘produce results’ in the form of converts, this is a huge encouragement. We are not selling a product that people need to buy. Our job as Christ’s ambassadors is simply to proclaim what He has already done and call all people everywhere to repent. The rest is up to the working of His Holy Spirit. The atonement, once again, proves to a be a fundamental tool in the kit bag of any church planter. Understanding and applying it can be the difference between life and death for ourselves as well as for those to whom we have been sent.