Why the Atonement Matters for Church Planters (8)

Why the Atonement Matters for Church Planters (8)

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 Alistair Begg.

Alistair Begg – Preaching the Cross

1 Corinthians 1:22-25 is the chosen text for this essay. This part boils down to the main reasons we should be faithful in preaching the cross. In this part the theme comes together and is used to apply it to the ministry of pastors and preaching. He basically makes three simple points:

(1) The atonement reminds us of the seriousness of sin (Ro. 3:23; Ez. 18:4; Jn. 3:36)

(2) The atonement demonstrates the necessity of God’s grace (Eph. 2:1-2)

(3) The atonement gives unbelievers an opportunity to respond to God in faith (Acts 2:26)

Alistair reminds us that

Without the cross of Jesus Christ there is not gospel. There simply is no good news without the cross. Indeed, any attempt to preach the gospel, minus the cross, is to offer people a placebo rather than the very medicine they require.

This is the final part of this book review and I have to say it is definitely up there as one of my favourite reads of 2011. The editor, Gabe Fluhrer is also heavily involved with Reformation 21 a blog that is already recommended on this site. If you buy one book this year on the atonement then you won’t go far wrong with this one. I recommend it without hesitation.

Why I believe that the atonement is so important to church planters in housing schemes

1. It gets our foundation right in terms of understanding the human condition. We have offended our Holy God and His wrath rests upon the guilty sinner. God must and will punish the guilt sinner and His full wrath will be brought to bear. If he did not spare His own Son then we have no justification whatsoever for thinking that there will be some sort of ‘get out clause’ at the end.

2. It helps us to understand the seriousness of the task at hand. We are preaching to people lost in sin and under the just condemnation of God. It is easy to forget that and make excuses, especially in places full of the ‘disadvantaged’. There is no special dispensation for those of us who have had a crap life. We must take responsibility for our sins.What sinners need above all else is to be humbled by the gospel and not to have their self esteem boosted by self help nonsense.

3. It teaches our people ‘proper theology and doctrine’. The popular Christian mantra that ‘Jesus loves you’, whilst a truism,  is not the good news on its own. We need to explain how Jesus has loved us to death on the cross through his atoning sacrifice. He died because of the seriousness of our sin. Wrath currently rests upon the sinner and in love God has made a way possible to escape this. We must not confuse this otherwise sin gets diluted along with the gospel.

4. It gives us a greater appreciation of the gospel. I was once accused by somebody of ‘always preaching Jesus in your sermons’. Whilst not meant as a compliment, I can tell you  that I was well chuffed! As I said on that day, and as I always say to this: ‘I am afraid I have got nothing else to pull out of the bag.’ How can I not preach Christ in light of the atonement? Such great love and such a great cost at the expense of such a great sinner. What else am I supposed to talk about in my sermons? What else am I supposed to talk about I my life? The doctrine of the atonement drives us into the arms of God and causes us to marvel at its wonder and glory.

5. It reminds us of the importance of solid, doctrinal, biblical preaching. This is the big pressure in our context. Time and again I am met with baffled looks in Christian circles when I explain that we operate a systematic, expository ministry on a Sunday in Niddrie. I can sometimes see people physically wince with disappointment. Give people what they want – that is the undertone. Preach to the issues brother! The atonement is the issue! If people do not understand the cross and its necessity then they understand nothing.

6. It keep us from preaching moralism. It is easy for law to overtake grace in housing schemes. This is the silent killer here. People live such chaotic lives that it is easy to send them away with a ‘to do’ list rather than continually preach grace to them. It is easy for Christians to put their assurance for salvation in the things they do for Jesus rather than in the Son of God himself. I woke up this morning confident of heaven. Not because I had a great devotional or because my prayers were on fire. Because Jesus died on the cross for my sin. He absorbed the wrath that was duly mine. He paid a price that I could not afford. He has been raised to the right hand of God the Father where he intercedes for me, even now.The atonement was his glorious, bloody idea from start to finish.

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here,he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:11-14)