Biographical Sketch of Dr. Stuart E. Lease / Bible Messages by Dr. Stuart E. Lease
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THE VICARIOUS ATONEMENT
FATHER Were thankful that we can handle Your Word. We realize that of ourselves we are not worthy or are able to do this, but You have made us worthy in and through Your Beloved Son; and You have made us able by Your Holy Spirit Who indwells us and Who delights to take the things of Christ and reveal them to us. May this be a precious and profitable time for us as we open Your Word and also open our hearts to receive Your Truth. I pray in Jesus Name. Amen.
Open your Bible with me please to Romans chapter three. Im speaking this morning on the theme The Vicarious Atonement of Christ. Now the term atonement is really an Old Testament word. It is not a New Testament word in spite of the fact that the word dies occur in Romans 5:11; and there, it is really a mistranslation and should really be translated reconciliation as it is translated in the newer versions and translations of the Bible. That verse, by the way in Romans 5:11, And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom we have now received the atonement. And yet the term has come to be accepted generally in theology as referring to that which represents all that Christ did on the cross for us so its in that general and wide term in the Old Testament. The term atonement simply means, a covering, and that would not be sufficient really to deal with all thats involved in what Christ did for us on the cross, but were using it in the broad and generally accepted concept of what Christ did for us on the cross.
Now I want us to see it in three ways. Number one, the Problem in relation to the atonement and why it was needed. Second, the Provision and what was provided for us there and how; and then, the Product, what we received from the atonement.
Now the Problem in a very simple word is a three letter word, and it is [What?] sin, SIN. In Romans 3 beginning in verse 9, What then? Are we better than they? [That is, are Jews better than Gentiles?] No, in no wise: for we have before proved both both Jews and Gentiles [By the way, this embraced all the human race, Jews and Gentiles. Notice the verdict here, in just five words.] that they are all under sin. And then in analyzing this and confirming it theres a three-fold comparison. First, there is the judges verdict [verses10-12]. Theres the physicians diagnosis [verses 13-15], and the historians evaluation [verses 16-18]. The judges verdict, As it is written [Now if you ever go to court, they will decide your case on the basis of what is written concerning other cases that have been judged in the past. If you go to an attorney, sometimes you will meet with him in their library. Now the attorneys around here dont have too large of a library, but I have a friend who works for a firm of attorneys in Philadelphia, and they have one entire floor of a huge high-rise in Philadelphia that is given over just to their library; and its filled with legal definitions and terms that have happened in the past, and they look back for precedents to see what is written.] Now here the judge, As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one [In the sense, the Greek there no not so much as one.]: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. You say, Thats a severe indictment of the human race, then it would not be as acceptable as the fact that this is a perfect, sovereign, holy God Who is making the indictment. When we compare ourselves with ourselves we say, Well, Im not so bad. After all, Im not as bad as this fellow or that fellow or somebody else. But when God looks down upon us [and God is holy; He says, There is none righteous, no, not one.
I was asked to respond to questions in a church down in Florida, a year or so ago, and one of the questions was a typical one that people raised, Since God is a loving God, how can He possibly condemn anyone to hell? And, I was going to address myself to that in a number of ways; but when I stood up to answer the question, this is what I said, Love is not the fundamental attribute of God.[Do you believe that? Thats right.] Anyone who studies theology knows that there is one thing that is the fundamental attribute of God, which sets Him apart from all others and all else. [And I sometimes tell people that you dont have to open your Bible to know what it is. You just need to look on the cover, on the binding and youll find the Third Person of the blessed Trinity Who is called the Holy Spirit. Holiness is the fundamental attribute of God, and I believe that, and I believe the Bible teaches that. Thus, everything else has to relate to Gods holiness including His love and it does. Now holiness [and we have to define that, at least to an extent] involves on the one hand, separation. Separation from all that is sinful and defiling. But it also involves cultivation of all that is pure and just and true and good. [I meet some fundamentalists that tell me all the things that they dont do. They dont do this, they dont drink, they dont smoke, they dont chew. Some say that they dont go with girls that do, and they add all these things.] Now I do believe there are things that a believer should not do. There is a negative aspect to holiness. But, there also needs to be the positive aspect of cultivation of what is pure, and just, and true, and good. When God looks at the human race from His absolute standard of holiness, which includes righteousness. Righteousness is, I believe, legislative holiness. He says, There is none righteous, no, not one.
Now second, Physician. What is the first thing usually the doctor does after hes asked you a few questions and then he begins to examine you? What does he say? Open your mouth. And then he puts this depressor on your tongue. He says, Stick out your tongue, and then he looks down and makes a kind of a diagnosis. Now, when the Divine Physician looks at the human race, what does He see? Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. And then not only from head, but also, Their feet are swift to shed blood. The human race from a physicians diagnosis, is in terrible condition.
Now thirdly, the Historians Evaluation, Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. [I majored in history in college and also in the university. We had a professor who headed the history department, at the college I attended, and he was a real meany. I mean, he really just delighted to flunk people. Some of you remember back in the radio days a Mr. Keen, tracer of lost persons. Well, this professor was a loser of traced persons, and he was really tough; and those of us who majored in history had no choice but to take his course. Everybody else in other majors just avoided him. The only consolation any of us had, and we kind of consoled ourselves with this, is that even if we failed, we could say that we went down in history! Now one of our professors was the dean of the college, now a president of a college; and in our last class session with him, he said, Now men, Ive been putting you to work all semester and asking you questions and making you produce [and we had to write papers and all sorts of things]. Now do you have any questions for me? And one of the more astute brethren said, Yes, I have a question. We were seated around the seminary table, and he said, I would like you to state all of history in one sentence. And the professor leaned back in his chair and he said this, I think I would say Throughout mans existence, he has sought for peace and has never found it. You know, thats a profound statement Throughout mans existence, he has sought for peace and has never found it. Do you know that we mark our history by the wars we have fought? This is true of the history of England its to 1648 and since 1648. Here is America, its to the Civil War and since the Civil War. We mark our history by the wars that we fought. Well, the Bible knew this. Thats what it says, Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known. Why? Because There is no fear of God before their eyes.
Now then, we come to a summarization here in regard to the insufficiency of man and how sin has dominated it. Verses 19 and 20, Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law [that is to the Jews]: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world [That includes the Gentiles] may become [What?] guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. So the problem is right there, the very last word sin is our problem.
Now the Provision. The provision is set forth in the verses that follow in Romans 3 beginning at verse 21, But now the righteousness of God without [or apart from] the law is manifested, being witnesses by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that [What?] believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God [and that really means are coming short of the glory of God]; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in [Whom?] Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be [that is, God the One Who makes righteous] , and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
I want to take that word propitiation and explain the provision that God has made as seen in that word, which I think, is probably one of the best words in the Bible to indicate what the provision has been made for us in Christ. Now there are four things I want you to see in that word, propitiation. By the way, when we come to a subject like this [I taught a course on soteriology that had forty five semester hours, that is, forty five class hours], but I do remember reading something before I ever came to teach and it said this, You can either be complete and unknowable or selective and understandable. So what were doing this morning, just being selective and I hope, understandable. Now there are four Ss here, and I hope this will help you to understand in regard to propitiation.
First, it has to be Satisfactory to God. You see, we need not our righteousness but the righteousness which is satisfactory to God. The righteousness of God is manifested [is shown forth]. God has let us know what He expects of us. You know what He expects? Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, with all thy strength. That is absolute perfection. I once heard a psychiatrist, and I dont think that he was a born again Christian, ask a patient, What is the first commandment? and then he stated and said, Do you know why God could make that command? He said, Because He only is perfect. And he said, Your mother is not perfect, your husband is not perfect, your children arent perfect, you arent perfect, so you can neither give or expect a perfect response from anybody, because you arent perfect. But God can and does.
Now suppose I go into a restaurant and I order something well, I order filet mignon and instead they bring me lobster. Now I like lobster. In fact, I think that I like it better than filet mignon. But do I have to accept that? No, its not what I ordered. And the righteousness of God is what He ordered. Therefore any righteousness that we try to give Him, is not acceptable. It is not satisfactory with God. It has to be what He wants and expects, which is perfection. Now they say, Nobodys perfect. [A pastor said one time, There is no perfect man. And, a fellow said, Yes, there is. Theres my wifes first husband. Well, these are all by relative standards, you see. Its like when I asked one of my history professors at Boston University if he believed in absolute truth. He said, I believe in a relative standard of absolute truth. My first semester professor, an outstanding scholar when asked it he believed in absolute truth, he said, I certainly do. I found out that he was an old-fashioned Methodist, and he was a born again man that really knew Jesus Christ as his Savior. But, God expects perfection and the only way we can get it is by receiving it from Him satisfactory to God.
Second, propitiation involves a concept that it has to be substitutionary for man. Go back to Romans 5 beginning in verse 1, Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By Whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope; And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time [What are the next words?] Christ died for the ungodly. Thats substitutionary for us. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners [What?], Christ died for us. Died for us! Thus, God sent His Son to take the place of sinful men and to die for us on the cross. How grateful we can be that He willingly took our place. By the way, the word vicarious in the theme of our message means just that. The vicarious atonement means that Christ took our place. He was in our place there on the cross, substitutionary for man.
Third, it has to be sufficient for sin and sins. Turn to Hebrews chapter 9 beginning at verse 23, It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these [that is, with earthly sacrifices]; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world [end of the age] hath He appeared to put away sin [What?] by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment; So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin [or apart from the sin problem] unto salvation. For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? If they ever had a perfect sacrifice, prior to Christ there would never have needed to have another sacrifice that would have taken care of it, but the very fact that they kept on offering again and again and again was the indication that ...there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when He [that is the Lord Jesus] cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body has thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I [This is the Lord Jesus speaking], Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do Thy will, O God. You see, that takes us back to the first point. It has to be satisfactory to God. But it also has to be substitutionary for men, but it has to be sufficient for sin and for sins. Notice verse 8, Above when He said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then saith He, Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God. [Im going to do what You want me to do.] He taketh away the first [the Old Covenant), that He may establish the second [New Covenant]. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ [What are the next words?] once for all. One perfect sacrifice! Then he goes back to relate again, And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which [What are the next two words?] can never take away sins: But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins [What is the next two words?] for ever, sat down on the right hand of God. You know thats the great difference the Old Testament sacrifices can never take away sins The perfect sacrifice of Christ for ever takes away sins. For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
Now there is a teaching abroad known as the limited atonement. They take it from expressions such as in Ephesians 5 [where Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it] and therefore Christ died only for the church, only for the elect, only for those who will believe. When they come to a passage such as in John 2:2 where it says And He is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world they make that the world of the elite; and I think that they have a greater problem though [and Ive taken it up with some of them]. In II Corinthians 5 where it says in verses 14 and 15, For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead... Now what I say to them, if the all for whom He died were only the elect, then the all that were lost are also only the elect and therefore the non-elect are not even lost. You follow that? Did you get that term? Well, thats what it would be here. If one died for all [and by their definition, the all of the elect that would have been dead and the non-elect would not even be dead] so, you have to have the universal salvation for the non-elect. Well, its repeated again, ...He died for all [Thats what it exactly says.] I think that theres an Old Testament pre-figuring of the sacrifice of Christ found in the passover; and remember this folks, there was always more blood that was shed than was able to be sprinkled, and there is a difference between the shedding which is the provision and the sprinkling which is the application. The shedding is sufficient for all. The sprinkling is efficient only to those who believe. I do not believe in universal salvation, but I do believe in universal provision; and I believe that anyone can believe and receive salvation, because Im convinced that the sacrifice of Christ is sufficient for all sin.
Now fourthly, satisfactory to God, substitutionary for man, sufficient for sins, and the sacrifice for one. Sacrifice for one! Going back to Romans 5 beginning at verse 12, Wherefore, as by [How many?] one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adams transgression, who is the figure of Him that was to come. But mot as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by One man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification...) Going down to verse 19, For as by one mans disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of [How many?] One shall many be made righteous. And, it was the total obedience of the Lord Jesus that enabled Him to be the all-sufficient sacrifice on the cross of Calvary for us.
Now, Jesus Christ had to be eternal to offer Himself eternally that is, to be eternally effective. Since the wages of sin is death and the death is spiritual, Jesus had to undergo not only a physical death but a spiritual death which He on the cross, when He cried out, My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken me? But do you know that Jesus also had to die an eternal death on the cross? How is that possible? [Well, Im indebted to one of my professors of theology who pointed out to us that God can embrace all eternity in a moment of time, or even in a brief period of time; and during that time that Jesus was separated from the Father on the cross, He embraced all of eternity and thereby died an eternal death for all of us. The sacrifice of One was sufficient for all.] Satisfactory to God, substitutionary for man, sufficient for sin, the sacrifice for one.
Now the Product is salvation. Im just going in to recite that, in fact I think that this was covered in another message salvation means deliverance from sins penalty in the past (Ephesians 2:8-9, For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God...), from sins power in the present [By the way, you can say penalty or damnation, power or domination and that would be Philippians 2:12 and 13, ...work out your own salvation... That which is worked in you, work out.]; and then, from sins very presence of defilement Hebrews 9:28, So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
In closing, I want to give you three positives. [Those I just gave you are all negatives: from sins penalty, power, presence.] But from sin there is also a deliverance to something, and its to Gods perfect position for us. You have that in Ephesians 2:4-7 where were placed in heavenly places in Christ, But God, Who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ. (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. See, were not only saved from sin, were saved to something. Were saved to this position; and then second, were saved to His present provision for us. Romans 8:32, He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? [Present provision]. When you are saved, youre not only saved to all that Jesus is, but to all that He has, and its yours with Him.
Finally, were saved to a Perspective Perfection. I John 3:2-3, Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be [What?] like Him [and you cant get better than that]. Thats the salvation we have, and I think sometimes when we only present the three negatives, we ought to add the three positives: Perfect Position (right now), Present Provision (right now), Prospective Perfection (in the future) when we shall be like Him. Thats all made possible through the Vicarious Atonement of Jesus Christ!
FATHER We have dealt with a tremendous subject today in a rather brief period of time, and yet a subject that will stand us in good stead for all of eternity. Were thankful for all that we have and are and for all that we can anticipate because the Lord Jesus freely, willingly, totally gave Himself from Calvarys cross for us. With Paul we would say, God forbid that we should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. May this become increasing, practical reality to us day by day. I pray in Jesus precious Name. Amen.