Monday, January 23, 2012

Answering Objections to The Atonement 4

IV. It is further objected that the innocent suffering for the guilty is inconsistent with reason and with the goodness and justice of God. How, so goes the objection, can it be imaginable that an innocent victim should suffer for the guilty?

Problems with this objection:
A. It must simply be admitted by all that, under the moral government of God, sometimes the innocent do suffer for the guilty.

B. This objection weighs against opponents of the doctrine of the atonement. They claim that Christ suffered for the benefit of mankind. They will admit that, at least as far as the alleged grounds of his sufferings, He was innocent. No objector has ever claimed that Christ was anything but perfectly upright and immaculately pure. Well, what is this but the innocent suffering for the guilty? We say He suffered in our stead; they say He suffered for our benefit. But at the end of the day, it is still the innocent suffering for the guilty.

C. The objectors overlook that, although Christ was personally innocent, He was viewed as legally guilty. In Himself, He could boldly defy His accusers: “Which one of you convinceth me of sin?” (John 8:46) But as the Surety and substitute of elect sinners, “the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” “He made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin.” “He bore the sins of the many.” (2 Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:6, 12)
D. Christ's sufferings, being of a voluntary nature, deflate this objection. An innocent person being compelled to suffer for the guilty would be the height of injustice. But this is not the case with the atonement. The Father did not put a gun to Christ’s head and force Him, against His will to die for the elect sinners. Christ voluntarily gave up His life for the elect sinners. Regarding His life, He Himself said, “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18). Romans chapter 5 shoots this objection right between the eyes.

E. This objection appear even more futile when we note that in this arrangement (the innocent suffering for the guilty), the ends served by punishment are more fully attained by the innocent’s suffering than by the suffering of the guilty themselves. At the same time, no injury is done either to the Law or to the sufferer. The Law is neither harmed nor violated, and no ultimate harm comes to the Surety. The integrity of the Law is upheld and the retribution prescribed is meted out. The Surety fulfills the Law perfectly, pays the penalty for its violation, yet because He is God, He is able to bear the infinite wrath of God in the brief span of time He spent on earth. When He cried out, “It is finished;” it truly was finished. Christ no longer suffers for sin.

F. It ought also to be taken into consideration that, in respect of the substitutionary sufferings of the Son of God, the rewards of the Mediator for His suffering far outweigh the suffering itself. In other words, it is of such a compensative arrangement that it prevents all ultimate injury to the party concerned. (cf. Philippians 2:1-10). We rejoice in the cross of Christ as the source of our pardon. Our satisfaction is heightened by beholding it succeeded by the crown. He was for a only little while made lower than the angels for the suffering of death. But now He is crowned with glory and honor and now sits at the right hand of the Father while His enemies are made His footstool. His humiliation was followed by His exaltation.

G. Finally, it must be borne in mind that the substitution of Christ is a case which is absolutely peculiar. The substitutionary atonement of Christ is exactly of the nature required. It is an event that is unique, in the fullest sense of that word. We have no reason to imagine that anything like it ever existed before, or will ever exist again. It is a singular event in the divine administration. Christ has once suffered for sin. Christ was once offered to bear the sins of the many. Once in the end of the world did He appear to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (Isaiah 53:12; Hebrews 9:28)

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