How Much of Christ’s Suffering and Death Did YOU Owe?

Posted on July 23, 2013 by

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I owed it ALL. ALL of His blood was needed to wash away my sin alone. I cannot look to His cross and say that only one stripe on His back or only one drop of His blood was for me—He suffered my penalty and all of it was for me. So how is there any left over to save you?

Most Baptists see Christ’s sacrifice as an overabundance, paying for the sins of all God intends for it to pay, and with an infinite surplus of “value.” As Millard Erickson sees it, Christian Theology, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), pp. 825-826, the reason that Christ’s sacrifice is able to save so many is because it is of infinite value:

When evangelicals ask the question, “For whom did Christ die?” they are not asking whether the death of Christ has value sufficient to cover the sins of all persons. There is total agreement on this matter. Since the death of Christ was of infinite value, it is sufficient regardless of the number of elect…

But this is flawed, as it makes each sinner’s share of those finite hours of vicarious suffering infinitely small, so that only an infinitely small part of Christ’s suffering was necessary to pay what I owed for my sin. Not only is sin devalued, it is infinitely devalued. The cross does not save on the principle of a value-based transaction, but on the principle of one-for-one substitution. As Andrew Fuller rightly pointed out, if the same sacrifice is required to save one sinner as to save all sinners, then there is no more “propriety” in asking, “Whose sins were laid on Christ?” Atonement must proceed on the principle of one-for-one substitution alone.

Rather than the time-worn axiom, sufficient for all but efficient for some, I suggest that the cross of Christ is sufficient for any sinner and efficient for every believer. One-for-one substitution requires a one-for-one application. The scope of applicability is universal, and the effectiveness is complete to all to whom it is applied. The only limiting factor is the lack of faith in those who do not believe. Even the nonelect sinner would be gloriously saved by this cross if he would but be willing to believe.

The payment that was exacted of Christ on the cross was exactly equal to what any single sinner owed: it was the suffering of the complete wrath of God. The fact that each of us owes exactly that same debt means that anyone can look to the cross and say, “He paid what I owed.” When He suffered and died, He did not represent us according to a collective, divided up value—one stripe to pay for your sin and one nail to pay for mine. But rather, He suffered as the archetypical sinner, so that the entirety of His sacrifice can extinguish the sin-debt of any sinner who comes to Him in faith, leaving no excess value.

Atonement is the satisfaction of justice by the interposition of the sacrifice between the sinner and God. God does not choose to hide you behind the cross until you come to faith. The cross was a general, universally applicable sacrifice that particularly atones for the sinner only when he comes to Christ in faith.

Ken Hamrick, 2013

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