THE OBLIGATION OF THE WORK OF ATONEMENT
Paul E. Kretzmann
There is no fact in Gospel history more consoling or more conducive to the strengthening of the Christian’s faith than that of the readiness and willingness of Jesus in carrying out God’s plan of salvation. If the Redeemer had faltered at any time, if the weakness of His human nature had at any time caused an unwillingness to carry out the work of atonement, the Gospel history would be worthless, and the comfort of a Christian in relying upon the satisfaction of Christ’s vicarious suffering would be vain.
Jesus came to do the will of God
It had been prophesied concerning the Messiah: “Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the Book it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will, O My God,” Psalm 40:7-8. This delight in doing the will of God, in carrying out the plan and counsel of God for the salvation of man, is a prominent and necessary feature of Christ’s Ministry. He had a clear and full conception of the extent and of the obligation of the work which He had come to perform, Hebrews 10:5-10. He knew exactly wherein the will of His heavenly Father consisted. “This is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing. … And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son and believeth on Him may have everlasting life.” John 6:39-40.
Christ’s zeal for His ministry
In accordance with this situation and the full understanding of its nature and scope, Jesus at all times kept the work of redemption foremost in His mind, to seek and save that which was lost, Luke 19:10. Even at the age of twelve years He was fully conscious of the obligation resting upon Him, when He told His mother: “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” Luke 2:49. To His disciples, who asked about the man that had been born blind, He briefly and succinctly stated His conception of His ministry: “I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work,” John 9:4. To the eager Zacchaeus He calls out: “To-day I must abide at thy house,” Luke 19:5. That was a part of His work, of the ministry of saving souls, which He therefore could not neglect.
The endurance of Christ
When the time came that He should enter into the glory of His Father through the way of suffering and death, He did not falter or waver, but set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem, Luke 9:51; Mark 10:32-33. He told His disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer many things,” Luke 9:22; Matthew 16:22. He was perfectly aware of the fate that was awaiting Him at Jerusalem, and yet He announces: “I must walk to-day and to-morrow and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.” Luke 13:33.
The Lamb of God
This being the case, namely, that the chief aim and purpose of Jesus in coming into the world was to work the redemption of mankind by the shedding of His blood as an atonement for the guilt of all, He emphasized this one point to the exclusion of everything else. He tells His disciples on the evening before His death: “This that is written must yet be accomplished in Me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors; for the things concerning Me have an end,” Luke 22:37. And in the garden He rebukes the impulsive Peter: “How, then, shall the Scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?” Matthew 26:54. The same truth is emphasized so strongly in His discourses on the afternoon and evening of the resurrection day, as well as by the angels in their first announcement of the Easter miracle. “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? … All things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms concerning Me. … Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer,” Luke 24:7,26,44,46. And these words were echoed by Peter in the interval between Christ’s ascension and the Day of Pentecost: “Men and brethren, this Scripture must needs have been fulfilled,” Acts 1:16.
We confess the person and works of Christ
Upon the basis of these authoritative utterances we condemn all attempts to make the work of Christ seem of a nature concerning this world only. In the face of the blasphemous efforts of the millennial dreamers we hold firmly to the teaching, preaching, and confessing of Christ’s work: “Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned sinner, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil … with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.”