Why the atonement matters for church planters (6)

Why the atonement matters for church planters (6)

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 one of my favourite authors, James Montgomery Boice.

James M Boice – The Language of the Marketplace

This chapter is basically an overview of the book of Hosea who was commanded by God to marry a woman who he knew would be unfaithful to him. JMB weaves in the theme of redemption – the buying and selling – throughout his essay as he discusses what it means to be bought back from bondage to our sin.

We are reminded that Hosea is, in reality, a beautiful biblical picture of God’s redeeming love and faithfulness to a faithless and ungrateful people. Hosea marries Gomer and they have children before she runs off with a man and soon descends into a spiral of sin and hopelessness (the price we always ultimately pay when we turn our back on God). At her lowest ebb, God commands Hosea to go to her with food and clothing so that she doesn’t end up completely destitute. He goes to the house where she is living with her latest lover and he takes the stuff off Hosea and then the lover passes off the gifts as coming from him not her husband!

Things get worse and worse and Gomer ends up being put up for sale at a slave auction. God instructs Hosea to go and buy his wife back, which he does. She now legally belonged to him and he was free to do anything he wanted with her, even take her life if he desired. Who would blame him? After all, what a mare she was! But instead he loves her and demands a life of faithful obedience to him alone as her husband.

We are like Gomer in that we have prostituted ourselves to the delights of the world. We have rejected God’s great love for us. We have chased after our heart’s desires. We have sought to satisfy our own lusts. We have been slaves to sin and its terrible consequences. But God sent Jesus  to buy us back at the cost of his lifeblood. He now demands a life of faithful obedience to him. We have been set free to serve and love the One who gave himself fully to redeem us from our terrible condition.

The atonement matters to church planters because it reminds us that God’s great love in Christ has covered over even our greatest failings. We exist, not to please ourselves, or to impress our congregants, or even to win the lost. We exist to live a life that glorifies and honours the one who paid such a high cost for us. A church planter must be a ‘God glorifyer’ first and foremost. God’s Word reminds us: ‘Those who honour me, I will honour’ (1 Sam. 2:30).