by Mike Ratliff
29 Τῇ ἐπαύριον βλέπει τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐρχόμενον πρὸς αὐτὸν καὶ λέγει· ἴδε ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ αἴρων τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου. John 1:29 (NA28)
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the lamb of God, the one lifting up the sin of the world!” John 1:29 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
In my Nave’s Topical Bible there is a subsection under “Atonement” titled “Atonement – Made by Jesus.” It covers half of page 85 and runs through half of page 88. I find it interesting that the leaders in the emergent church such as Brian McLaren focus so much of their energies on trying to deny that the Lord Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice on the Cross to atone for the sins of His people was the primary mission of His incarnation. Instead, these false Christian leaders point their followers to follow a man-made Jesus whose purpose in His incarnation was to show people how best to live and make the world a better place. At the same time, so many “denominations” are rapidly apostatizing through cultural compromise and moving away from God’s moral standards. Our enemy has planted easily believable lies throughout the visible Church and has given verbiage to the lying mouths of his prophets that are designed to confuse and take away the clarity of God’s Truth. For instance, the emergent leaders cannot preach a thing without emphasizing that ultimate truth is unknowable while elevating indefiniteness as a virtue. They teach that if solid, defined lines run between professing Christians and God in which doctrines are clearly held and proclaimed then those Christians have made-up what they believe and are no longer in communion with God. Sounds a bit like a post-modern version of Gnosticism to me.
God is very precise. He is perfect and He has given us His Word, which contains His revelation for His Church. One of the doctrines under much attack by our enemy and his seed is the Atonement. Carefully read the passage (John 1:29), which I placed at the top of this post. John the Baptist said this as he saw Jesus of Nazareth approaching. He called our Lord “the Lamb of God.” The Jews were very familiar with the sacrificial system in which a lamb was offered as a blood sacrifice. His reference of the Lord Jesus as God’s Lamb was speaking of His being sacrificed on the Cross to atone for the sins of the world. The word “world” here as well as in John 1:9 is the Greek word κοσμου. The basic sense of this word in Greek means “an ornament.” Peter used in it 1 Peter 3:3 with a “cosmetic” slant. In any case, John used it over 78 times in his Gospel, 24 times in his three epistles, and 3 times in Revelation. He used it several different ways including 1) the physical universe, 2) humanity in general, and 3) the invisible spiritual system of evil that we call the “world system.” John used this word mostly in a very negative way. However, in John 1:29 κοσμου is used to refer to humanity in general, not specifically every person. The word sin, αμαρτιαν, in v29 is singular. Our Lord’s atoning sacrifice, therefore, has the potential to take away the “αμαρτιαν” of all people in the κοσμου John was talking about, however, as we see in vv11-13 below, our Lord’s sacrifice is efficacious only for those who receive Him as Lord and Saviour, therefore, the number of those people John and the Holy Spirit were referring to was not in any way the entire population of planet Earth.
1 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:11-13 (NASB)
Christ’s sacrifice has ultimate potential to save an untold number of people, but the Word of God makes it clear that most people do not “receive” Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
Some want a Saviour, but not a Lord.
14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ Luke 19:14 (NASB)
This rebellion is rampant in the visible Church in our day. This is the root of the apostasy in which Sola Scriptura is rejected thereby allowing aligning the Church with the world and its ways. In the same passage our Lord revealed what will happen to those who rejected Him as Lord.
27 But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.” Luke 19:27 (NASB)
On the other hand, those who are truly in Christ have received forgiveness for their sins because His sacrifice on the Cross paid the penalty for them. This is Penal Substitution. It cost our Lord much.
47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” John 6:47-51 (NASB)
Here we see that He gave His life for the life of the world. The bread that those who receive eternal life eat is His flesh. In other words, our Lord gave up His own life for them that they may eat of His sacrifice and not die. This is speaking of the “eternal death” or the “second death” in which those who reject His sacrifice are cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). These who do eat His flesh, that is, believe the Gospel and are justified by faith.
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10 (NASB)
By God’s grace these have been saved through faith, all by His doing, not theirs. The gift of saving faith comes only by His will and purpose, not according to any work or merit on the part of those He saves. Why? It is so these cannot boast. They are God’s workmanship. They are New Creations in Christ Jesus, created for good works. These also have peace with God through their Lord and Saviour.
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 (NASB)
The Lamb of God is the mediator between God and those for whom He died.
5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NASB)
The Atonement is unlimited in sufficiency; however, Penal Substitution tells us that His death is applied to the elect alone. His atoning death, His shed blood, is sufficient to cover the guilt of all the sins of all so God commands us to preach the Gospel to all people groups since we do not know who the elect are. Of course, only the elect will respond and be saved according to God’s eternal purpose as He draws them to the Saviour.
44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. John 6:44-47 (NASB)
65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” John 6:65 (NASB)
My brethren, our Lord’s sacrifice as the Lamb of God is sufficient to save all people so God has given us the command to preach the Good News to all people groups. He will save His people from among them as we obey. These will be given saving faith. They will believe the Gospel, come to Jesus and be saved. Therefore, we must obey Him. Share your faith with all who will hear. Live out your faith before everyone so God can plow their hearts by using your example of what a real Christian is like. Always be ready to give an account of what God has done for you. Never be ashamed of the Gospel. Christ died to purchase a people for Himself. The Father chose them, but we do not know who they are so we must preach the Good News.
Soli Deo Gloria!