Evangelism & the Atonement

Posted: February 10, 2012 by doulos tou Theou in Apologetics and Evangelism, Christianity, Discipleship

Helpful blog post at The Cripplegate by Mike Riccardi


….eventually my continued study of the Scriptures led me to realize that the Apostles and disciples never called people to faith on the basis of the extent of the atonement. Rather, they announced Jesus’ death as the purchase of the forgiveness of sins for all who would believe, and His resurrection as the vindication of Jesus’ righteousness and proof of their message.

Some time later, I read J. I. Packer’s classic, Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God. On pages 65 to 69 (in my copy), he articulated the thoughts I couldn’t quite capture in my own words. He explained the relationship between the extent of the atonement and evangelism. I want to share that section with you, in the hopes that it will equip you to more effectively proclaim the Gospel in a way that is faithful to Scripture.

We must not present the saving work of Christ apart from His Person. Evangelistic preachers and personal workers have sometimes been known to make this mistake. In their concern to focus attention on the atoning death of Christ, as the sole sufficient ground on which sinners may be accepted with God, they have expounded the summons to saving faith in these terms: ‘Believe that Christ died for your sins.’ The effect of this exposition is to represent the saving work of Christ in the past, dissociated from His Person in the present, as the whole object of our trust. But it is not biblical thus to isolate the work from the Worker. Nowhere in the New Testament is the call to believe expressed in such terms. What the New Testament calls for is faith in (en) or into (eis) or upon (epi) Christ Himself—the placing of our trust in the living Saviour, who died for sins.

The object of saving faith is thus not, strictly speaking, the atonement, but the Lord Jesus Christ, who made atonement. We must not in presenting the gospel isolate the cross and its benefits from the Christ whose cross it was. For the persons to whom the benefits of Christ’s death belong are just those who trust His Person, and believe, not upon His saving death simply, but upon Him, the living Saviour. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,’ said Paul. ‘Come unto me…and I will give you rest,’ said our Lord.


finish reading the whole thing here

  1. nannykim says:

    I think Catholics get this point a lot better than Protestants. This is evident in their view of the Eucharist. They see it as “inviting us to eat his Flesh and drink his Blood, and so to enter into a growing partaking of his divine life in the communion of the Most Holy Trinity, to live in this love and peace throughout all our daily life..” The Mass “is very far from being the mere repetition of something. Rather, in its action it takes us mortals across the threshold that lies between time and eternity and locates us in that Presence where there is no time and, hence, no repetition. In this Presence (it is called eternity), that which is true appears in its perfection. There is neither before nor after” One is brought up into his presence–entering heaven itself—the veil in the heavenly temple has been torn and we are worshiping right there, right now in the presence of our redeemer—it is all glorious. —so glorious! I truly feel protestants only are dealing in the shadow land.

  2. doulos tou Theou says:

    some protestants


  3. boydmonster says:

    Nannykim, I’m not sure that I totally agree with your assessment. I fear that in the same way that some evangelicals put more trust in the atonement than in Christ, many catholics put their trust in the mass over Christ. The point is the same, both are meant as means to attaining Christ, and yet often they are rested in as if they are Christ Himself. For many evangelicals, then, Christ becomes not a person but a doctrine. Likewise, for many catholics, the ceremony of the Mass replaces the person of Christ. In both cases, what is lost is the relational aspect of faith. Faith becomes assent to an intellectual concept rather than trust in a Person and His promises.

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