CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION

ALL MEN, with few exceptions, believe in the existence of a Supreme Being. Only the fool says in his heart that there is no God. All clear-thinking, unbiased people, even in the natural, unregenerate state, are not only believers in a Supreme Being, but are also conscious of the fact that there is a maladjustment between God on the one hand and themselves on the other. They recognize, at least in a limited way, His sovereignty and control over all things and their utter dependence upon and responsibility to Him. As proof of this assertion, note the fact that practically all men, as they approach the inevitable hour of death, turn to God and implore forgiveness for their sins and plead for acceptance in His sight. Many of the outstanding infidels and agnostics, atheists and skeptics--after having spent a lifetime of fighting against God--in the last hours of their earthly pilgrimage, cry out to Him for mercy.¹ These facts show that man feels his utter dependence upon a Higher Power which we recognize as a personal God, whose name is Jehovah, the Self-existing One, the Uncaused Cause of all things.

This feeling of dependence upon the Almighty and the consciousness of alienation from Him lead men to long for restoration to fellowship with their Maker. This restoring of the original normal relation between them is the work of atonement, which doctrine is constantly brought to the front in the teachings of Moses.

What we mean in theological terms by the word
atonement--which literally indicates at-one-ment, a state or condition of being at peace with God--is that all barriers separating the soul from God have been removed, and that satisfaction has been made for all one's failures, shortcomings, and sins. In other words, the one for whom the atonement has become efficacious is the one who has been reconciled to God and is acceptable to Him. Hence when he leaves this life, he goes into the presence of God and enjoys the sweetest communion and fellowship with Him forever and ever.

There are various theories of the atonement that have been advanced by different theologians. An examination of any of them shows that those who formulated them, as a rule, took only a few statements of Scripture apart from the general teaching of the Bible and formulated a theory regarding it. In order to convey to us an idea of spiritual realities, truths, and principles, God had to speak in terms that were understandable to man. In doing this, He used many comparisons. But no one illustration, taken from human usage, is adequate to set before man this glorious doctrine, which is one of the profoundest of all themes set forth in the Scriptures. There is truth practically in all the theories regarding the atonement; otherwise none of them would have gained acceptance with any considerable number of people. All of them put together, after the error contained in each has been removed, begin to approximate the great scriptural doctrine regarding reconciliation. The late Dr. E. Y. Mullins, one of America's greatest theologians, has called our attention to this fact.

There are seven or eight theories that have been accepted by various groups in Christendom. For instance, the Greek theologians of the Early Church built up what is known as the ransom theory. According to it Christ paid to Satan the ransom for our redemption. He did pay the ransom; but not to Satan. There is also the governmental hypothesis, which has enjoyed extensive popularity. Again, we are familiar with the moral influence assumption. There is likewise the commercial theory. Of course the theory which recognizes the vicarious suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ in behalf of fallen men is the correct one. But it has never, in my judgment, been stated fully and accurately so as to comprehend the major factors entering into the real work of the Son of God for the redemption of mankind. Anyone who is interested in this subject--and all ought to be--can look in any good work on systematic theology and find a brief statement at least of the various and leading theories concerning the atonement. ²

Some theories of the atonement cluster around the thought of God's sovereignty as its focal point; others make man's free will the center and undervalue the Divine Majesty. Either of these methods of approaching the problem hinders one from determining the proper perspective and arriving at the true scriptural teaching. God's absolute sovereignty must be recognized in any study of the atonement. At the same time the nature with which God endowed man and his position in the divine economy must likewise be recognized as we formulate our ideas regarding this theme. Instead of thinking of the great doctrine of the atonement in terms of a circle with its one center, we should conceive of it as an ellipse with its two foci. These governing points around which the great teachings of the Scriptures relative to redemption cluster and move are the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man. When the scriptural emphasis of these two doctrines is taken into consideration, and each is related properly to the other, a person can gather and correlate the teachings regarding man's reconciliation to God and can formulate a comprehensive definition of the atonement.





Footnotes:


¹ Some men, after having spent a lifetime in the service of Satan and in the rejection of God, even though they may call upon Him for mercy, do not necessarily receive His favor. This fact is implied in Psalm 50:14-23:

14 Offer unto God the sacrifice of thanksgiving;
And pay thy vows unto the Most High;
15 And call upon me in the day of trouble:
I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.
16 But unto the wicked God saith,
What hast thou to do to declare my statutes,
And that thou hast taken my covenant in thy mouth,
17 Seeing that thou hatest instruction,
And castest my words behind thee?
18 When thou sawest a thief, thou consentedst with him,
And hast been partaker with adulterers.
19 Thou givest thy mouth to evil,
And thy tongue frameth deceit.
20 Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother;
Thou slanderest thine own mother's son.
21 These things hast thou done, and I kept silence;
Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself:
But I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.
22 Now consider this, ye that forget God,
Lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver:
23 Whoso offereth the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifieth me;
And to him that ordereth his way aright
Will I show the salvation of God.


From this quotation we learn that, if men turn to God and follow Him consistently, He will hear and answer them in times of stress and trouble. It is further stated that, if they do not follow Him constantly, they may in times of disaster cry to Him; but He gives no assurance that they will be heard. A continued and willful rejection of God and Christ on the part of the sinner has a disastrous reaction upon him in that such an attitude most frequently hardens the heart and renders the sinner incapable of genuine "repentance toward God and faith toward Christ" (Acts 20:21). But at the same time through fear one may cry out for mercy--when it is too late. On this very point Hosea spoke to the nation of Israel, together with the priests and the royal house. Having condemned them for their evil, sinful lives, the prophet declared that "They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek Jehovah; but they shall not find him: he hath withdrawn himself from them" (Hosea 5:6). (See Ps. 18:39-42.)

On the other hand, every earnest heart that turns in genuine repentance to "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world" and in true faith accepts Him shall be saved; for "him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37), declared the Saviour.


² In presenting my views on this subject, I wish to state in no uncertain sound that what I shall set forth concerning this matter is what I have got from the study of the Word of God and what the Lord has given me in answer to believing prayer. I feel that the Lord has fulfilled to me, in a measure at least, the promise that "... if any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." God does honor faith. He urges us to pray for spiritual illumination and understanding. To Him be all the glory for whatever truth I may be able to present in this book, or in any other treatise. I am convinced that God flashes truth into the mind of the one who is ready to receive it, who has stored up the Word of God in his heart, who prays for spiritual understanding, and who searches and digs for it as one does for gold, silver, and precious stones (Prov. 2:1-5)--but never apart from the Written Word, nor contrary to it. (For a discussion of Prov. 2:1-5 see "Conditions of Understanding the Word," page 20, of my volume,
The World's Greatest Library Graphically Illustrated.) Having, in a measure at least, complied with these conditions, I feel that the Lord has made good this promise to me--to some degree. I therefore present this message of the atonement and ask the reader to consider it with an open mind and with a real desire to know the truth of God on this most important subject.