I find it interesting how God directs our thoughts toward a particular subject. I’ve been studying two books of the Bible simultaneously this month, reading 1 John several times a week as part of an online Bible study group, while beginning a 13-week study on Romans with a ladies’ group. It’s amazing how they overlap!
While preparing for our first “Romans” lesson, I ran across a couple of videos that gave a summary of the book. Maybe you’ve seen similar ones, where a person narrates while graphics are drawn to illustrate what’s being said. I felt they did a great job and my ladies’ group loved them. I noticed they had one on 1 John, so after I watched it, I passed the link on to the group coordinator of my online study, thinking it would be of interest to others. Her response was that she had seen some of this organization’s work, but had some issues with their doctrine and theology, so she did not want to recommend the website.
I appreciated her discernment. I wasn’t offended; I didn’t take it as a personal attack. I was grateful that someone was willing to share a warning about something they truly believed. Isn’t that how we grow and learn?
At any rate, I listened to the video link she sent (most of it, anyway). The issue came down to the video creators view on the cross, and their lack of using the word (or explaining the concept) of propitiation. The video creators did use the word atonement but apparently did not explain propitiation enough to satisfy some. This led me back to a verse in 1 John that has always challenged me, and a deeper theological discussion that biblical scholars are quite divided on.
1 John 2:2 says “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
If you’ve studied theology at all, you might have heard the terms “limited atonement” and “unlimited atonement.” Limited atonement (or definitive atonement) means that Christ’s death on the cross made payment for the sins of only the “elect” or those who will believe, having been chosen by God for salvation before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). Election is a biblical concept, even though it’s hard for us to understand. Unlimited atonement means that Christ’s death made payment for the sins of all men but is only effective for those who believe.
Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not Christ’s death actually purchased salvation and made atonement for men, satisfying the wrath of God, or only made it possible, if one believes.
Multiple scriptures are used to support both positions, but like the seemingly contradictory ideas of God’s sovereignty in election and man’s free will and responsibility to believe, I’ve concluded that we won’t completely understand it until we get to heaven. God desires all men to repent (2 Peter 3:9). He commands that we teach and preach the gospel to all the nations (Matthew 28:19). Jesus promised that if anyone comes to Him, He will not refuse them (John 6:37). If you believe, you will be saved!
As I pondered and read and researched these concepts, God reminded me of an Old Testament picture of what His Son would do one day on the cross, the Passover. On that first Passover, God instructed each family to choose a lamb without blemish. This lamb would be sacrificed, and the blood was to be placed on the doorposts and lintels of each home on the night the death angel was sent out during that last plague against the Egyptians.
Here’s the thing. They had to decide to get in the house. The lamb was already sacrificed. The blood was applied. Inside the home, the family was safe, and death did not touch them. But they were only safe inside the house, where the blood protected them. If a member of the family stayed outside, there was no protection from the death angel. I doubt very seriously that they were standing around outside debating how that blood would protect them. They weren’t trying to figure out who it was for. They took God at His word and obeyed: they simply believed. They got in the house, trusting the blood to do what God promised it would do.
Jesus’ blood has been applied. His death has accomplished salvation for all who will believe…for all who will get in the house! If you don’t believe, you’re not in the house. The blood that was shed offers you no protection.
What do I mean by “believe?”
Romans 10:9-10 – That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God who came in the flesh, lived a sinless life and died on a cross for your sins? Do you believe that He conquered death and rose from the grave? Have you confessed your sin, acknowledging your need for salvation, and asking God’s forgiveness? This is what it means to believe. This is what it means to be saved.
Where are you? Are you standing outside? Or are you in the house?
Oh, my friend! I urge you, get in the house! Christ has accomplished what He came to do. Do you believe?