UNLIMITED ATONEMENT means that Christ paid THE FATHER for ALL sins on the Cross...using His Thinking, under the Power of the Holy Spirit (NOT His own Deity) while alive -- it isn't His physical death which paid for sins.
That payment for sins would be needed seems to trouble folks. Think of it this way: you buy something at the store: say, some canned tomatoes. You open the can, and what do you find in it? Maggots. Don't you want the store to at least refund your money? So: should God, who went to the expense, as it were, of making us, be entitled to compensation for any defects in us? Shall we who are merely human be paid better than God? Perish the thought!
Notice how it doesn't matter that the maggots probably got in that can by mistake. Notice how it doesn't matter that the person who could be "blamed" for that maggoty can is in fact a really nice guy. Notice how it also doesn't matter that you yourself didn't eat those maggots, so YOU suffered no harm. Notice how it doesn't matter that a can of tomatoes is cheap, compared to your own worth and assets (even the poorest person can afford a can of tomatoes). It's nonetheless a judicial requirement that you be compensated for the loss. So also, with God.
Atonement is that compensation, to God. Atonement is needed, not because we are vile child murderers who engorge ourselves on baby's blood. No: the problem is that GOD is infinitely perfect. Even if the only sin anyone ever sinned was to get angry even once in his lifetime, a total "atonement" must be paid, because the whole person is thus damaged. It's the damage of sin, not some nasty deity looking for sadistic fun. The "wages of sin is death". ("Sin" in the singular refers to the result of Adam's Fall: death is its "wage", what the "work" of that Fall "earns".) So, see? We are spiritually dead due to Adam's Fall. That's why we have this genetic predilection to sin, just like we have eye and hair color. Atonement pays for that damage, which of course includes all the sins we will sin in our lifetimes. (God is Infinite, never partial.)
Salvation is thus made available to all men, fulfilling the desire expressed in 1Tim2 above (and similar passages). God is Infinitely HOLY. It is a complete affront to His Righteousness to SEE even one "teeny" sin. It is a complete affront to His Righteousness to see even one corrupt act or thought (i.e., human good or evil). Since all such corruptions come from sin or the body of sin, Unlimited Atonement is a prerequisite for any person's EXISTENCE; PROPITIATION must be made for EACH SUCH SIN that will be committed, or that person's existence must be forbidden to occur. The FULL "damages" judicially occurring against God's Holiness must be paid. Not partial payment, but all the way to the full redemption value, or God's Integrity is not fully compensated.
Man's receipt of redemption is not even available until and unless GOD HIMSELF is first compensated. NOTE WELL: God is under no obligation to "spend" this compensation on any man. That He chooses to do so illustrates the Infinite Integrity of His LOVE for Christ. (May none of us ever be so arrogant as to think God chooses us for any other reason whatsoever.) God's Genius in making Christ the sole criterion for our even breathing is a source of complete comfort, i.e., assurance about salvation's permanence: see 2Cor5 (whole chapter).
Crux: So no individual exists whose sins aren't FULLY paid by Christ's Atonement. So, all are equally eligible to get the same grace, the same Gospel, the same Redemption, because everyone born is fully atoned for, too. You can quickly prove this by looking at 1Jn2:2, and at the Great White Throne Judgement in Revelation 20:11-12(KJV is best English translation of that verse). People are then judged based on their WORKS, not based on their sins. ["Works" is Greek "ergon", and always has the connotation of good-deeds, as in Modern English (well, sometimes the Bible is sarcastic); "sins", by contrast, is "hamartia"(only in the plural form). "Ergon", not "hamartia" is used in Rev20:11-12.] So: NO ONE IS JUDGED FOR HIS SINS. Why? Because Christ paid for them all, atoned for them all: 2Cor5:21 shows that He was IMPUTED with AND JUDGED for all the sins of mankind. [The Greek SHOUTS it -- English translation ADDS verb "to be", to try to convey the shouting. So, if you shout "to be!" you get the flavor of the Greek, which shouts by omitting a verb.] So, no human is ever judged for his sins. (Divine Discipline to humans is corrective, not atoning. Thus you know God is NOT compensated in any way by letting you be hurt, or punishing you. Thus you know Hell doesn't compensate God -- contrary to the crazy lie that God is somehow sadistically benefitted by folks burning forever.)
If you now understand that "Atonement" was paid for EVERY sin, EVERY person, to justify one's existence so he could become eligible for salvation; and you understand that God is never compensated in the slightest for any kind of suffering or "hell", then skip the text between the brick-wall tables, below.
If one does not understand the INFINITE Righteousness of God, he'll misunderstand the meaning of Atonement, too. God's Infinite Righteousness (aka Holiness) MUST be Propitiated. God, not man, is the center of the universe. To say that God would allow even ONE sin to be unpaid by Christ is to say God is UnHoly. Even logically, think: if God didn't assure His Own Propitiation for His Own Righteousness, can you trust Him? If He can't "do" for Himself, then relationship with Him would be...um, not good. If He can't get paid fully, how could He be Omnipotent, let alone, Righteous? Moreover, if Christ had to pay AT all, but not FOR all, then why did He have to pay AT all? It's all or nothing. Else, God is UnHoly, UnLoving -- TO CHRIST, as well as to Himself. (Think over "Righteousness" sufficiently, and you will find proof of "who" God is, and why our salvation is through Christ. 'Why it is such Genius-Perfection. "Does God Exist" link at the Home Page plays out some of the logic, if you're seeking a catalyst for your brain...)
As noted above, Bible says "Atonement" is payment to GOD. "Propitiation" is the result of Atonement being sufficiently made: it means God is "satisfied" with the Atonement. ("Propitiation" is English translation of an OT Hebrew term for what in English is sometimes called "the Mercy Seat" of the Ark, on which animal blood, depicting Christ's yet-future payment, was sprinkled.)
"Atonement", in the Bible, ONLY covers the toward-God problem of our sins. God is Infinite Righteousness. So, any sin would be offensive, and subject to total legal penalties. On the Cross, Christ was imputed with our sins and judged for them -- yet He Himself did not sin, not even during that most-horrible imputation and judgment. So, the "Lamb of God" took "away the sins of the world." NOTE: even if NO one believed in Christ this payment is due God. God is thus Propitiated ONLY by Christ (satisfied, compensated). That is why, at the "Great White Throne Judgment" of Revelation, no one's sins are the basis of condemnation. Rather, one's good deeds are valued -- and always add up to less than God's Righteousness.
Only ONE Person has ever qualified to make atonement. Codex II of the Mosaic Law (which is an old theological title for those OT verses relating to the laws of animal sacrifice, basically) made that fact clear (sacrificing the animal associatively-taught the yet-future work of He Whom the Jews knew then as "The Redeemer"). Likewise, in NT, Scripture has verses which say He is the Atonement/Propitiation, "for all". The "for all" construction only has one meaning: for all people, whoever, everyone. NO exceptions. ["All" is Greek "pas". In the plural, it becomes a noun, and is all-inclusive. Calvinist Greek scholars "spin" the noun to all-within-a-group, and that "group" to them, is ONLY the "elect". Never mind that the Bible says it applies, for example, "to the entire world" (i.e., in 1Jn2:2), "all men" (i.e., 2Cor5:14,15,19,21). The fact that "pas" means "all men" even without the word "men" being needed, in the Greek, is proven from its use in ancient Greek texts within and outside of the Bible. Poor scholarship alone accounts for a slanted definition of "pas" in the plural.]
There's thus only one "sin", as it were, for which one can go to Hell: "concerning sin, because they have not believed in Me." (John 16:9, corrected translation -- Bible's Greek "not" comes in two flavors: the stronger of these two is "ouk", used in the verse here. "Ouk" tends to be shout-y. It has English connotation of "not ever!" "never!", "not-to-date!") The works also don't make up for that "sin", because it is a free-will issue: God accepts Christ's payment, not man's works.
Man is constantly prone to thinking his good deeds count for something, or -- just as idiotic -- that his bad deeds count for something. Scripture is so often seized on and distorted, so that man can feel right about himself (the sin nature's drive to regain perfection!) -- which urge, we all have -- such a mindless ant's blasphemy, against the Infinite Righteousness of God, often in the very name of being respectful to Him! (That God disciplines sin is NOT related to salvation. We have to be told that sin gets punished. Careful reading of Scripture shows that punishment is never atonement, hence is not what makes one gain salvation, lose salvation, or partially-gain/lose salvation.)
This depraved misunderstanding leads many Christian denominations to have different definitions of what falls under the "Unlimited Atonement" rubric. For example, some treat Atonement AS salvation, which it is not. Some treat Atonement as mere forgiveness, which it also is not. Hence the petty ceremonies, the punctiliar taboos and observances, foods, days.. endless wood, hay, stubble. Like Elihu said in his discourse (book of Job) -- these things help you and your fellow man, maybe-- but WHAT do they do for God?! Nuttin' (Job4:6b compared to 35:1-7,36:21-33).
Man's suffering would and does only add to the "cost"! of God bearing with us. If you doubt this, ask yourself the question, what good does someone's suffering do for even you? Don't all our problems in society come from someone's suffering? Would anyone steal if he weren't suffering from evil thoughts? How painful is it, to be around some else who is suffering? So, where do we get the goofy idea that Hell, or other suffering, does a thing to compensate God?
Christ did not compensate the Father due to His Suffering per se, but due to His Perfect Thinking, even under maximum suffering conditions. So, as it were, God the Father 'looks' at Christ's Thinking way back then -- when He sees our sins (which, to us, are "now").
Let's focus on this suffering issue for a bit longer, since many folks have trouble seeing God as Loving, when they look at Christ's Suffering, God's Sternness and Punishing -- and, especially, when they look at "Hell". How can a loving God send His creatures to Hell?
Love without Righteousness cannot be love, except in the transient emotional sense -- conditional, subject to whim, certainly not the kind of love anyone wants! "God" by definition must be Righteous -- else, how could "God" have true meaning as a word? ("God" is not really but "god" if not absolute -- so, He must be Absolute Righteousness, or He couldn't even be fair to Himself, much less, us.) So, because the integrity of a thing depends on its rightness, and because love has no value if no integrity, one can hopefully begin to fathom the vitalness of God's being Righteous -- of His NOT being compromised by even one teeny sin --- He MUST be paid, and He MUST be paid as HE --- not us -- dictates. And what does He dictate? 'Believe in My Son.' So, even the most handicapped person, the youngest, the oldest, the healthiest, the smartest -- all can be saved. By simply ONCE believing in Christ. Then, and only then, is Love, Love: for is it love to FORCE someone to believe in Him? Definitely not.
So, what is left over, to those who reject God their whole lives? They don't WANT a universe of which God is a part, so to speak. What kind of universe, then, must God make? One "apart" from Him. But God is GOOD. So this separate universe (called "hell", in common slang, because at present it is merely a compartment under the earth, not yet a separate universe) -- well, it must be the OPPOSITE of "GOOD". So, what must be its characteristics? See the grief? Like the Lord said at the end of Matt5, even 'tax collectors' (an epithet for a repugnant person) love their own children: how much more, God? (Free will and the-problem-of-hell is the central issue in the Trial conflict with Satan. Mammoth site on that topic is "Thinking Out Loud" on the Home Page.)
What does please God, then? What DOES please God is perfectly-compatible Thinking: "For God is a Spirit: they that worship Him must Worship Him in Spirit and in doctrine" -- John 4:24+Heb11:6(parallel verse:"faith", when the word is used alone, nearly always means doctrine, what-is-believed, in the Bible). This Thinking was Bible Doctrine (then, the OT, as evidenced by Matt4, for example), in Christ, built by the Holy Spirit over time, into the Lord's Humanity, by His Humanity's continuing discrete CONSENT. This point is CRITICAL: under the doctrine of TRUE Kenosis, He did not use His Own Knowledge as God -- no mixing of Attributes! -- to grow as a Human. His pattern of depending on the Spirit, rather than on Himself; His Pattern of learning is our legacy (i.e., per Eph1 and 3, 5-6; 1Cor Chaps 2,4,5; Hebrews end 1, beginning of 2; Chap4, Heb5:8-9, Chaps7-10, 11:6, and 12; all of 1Jn and Peter's epistles)-- why we get the Holy Spirit to Indwell us, to Fill us, and as a Teacher -- as part of the doctrine that believers share in all He (Christ) is and has. The NT is His Thinking in His Humanity, "the Mind of Christ" (1Cor2:16, Heb4:12 and many other passages).
"True Kenosis" (theological term taken from use of verb "kenoo" in Philipians 2) means Christ did not USE His Deity to stay Perfect, or provide for His Humanity in any way (i.e., learning). Matthew 4 is a good place to see briefly this fact: first two Temptations are temptations to USE His Deity. (Fix the "if" in Satan's 1st two temptations to say "since", to get the right meaning of the Greek particle "ei" when used with the indicative mood.) The "L" section will explain briefly why it was necessary, as Mediator, for Him NOT to use His Own Deity to train for and provide Salvation.
Nowhere is the fact of God's Righteousness only being propitiated by Compatible Thinking (under MAXIMUM pressure!) so dramatically illustrated, as at the Cross. The Absoluteness of His Righteousness, which His Love loves FIRST -- this is what is so shockingly demonstrated. As the last phrase in Psalm 138:2 puts it, "For You have magnified your WORD above (even) Your own Name (person, reputation)!" How much more, then, are we commanded to think like Him! Beware, then, a too-light emphasis on learning Bible Doctrine.
In SUM: Perfectly-Compatible Thinking, Divine Thinking, Perfectly Executed, is what Atones -- not man's works, not partial thinking, not even "cheating" by looking into His Own Deity for the information. The Mercy Seat, Christ, must be Perfect in His Humanity, to be an acceptable sacrifice: that is why He was and is the Unique King-Priest, as the Book of Hebrews explains. Note that this Perfect Humanity was only a shell, even so! It was His Thinking which Propitiated the Father, paid for sins (which also come from thinking)!
-- and thus Righteousness is Propitiated by His Priestly Unique Sacrifice, which such Thinking alone can produce. Not by anyone or anything else.
So, the question is, will man accept Christ's payment, since God the Father did so? One party in the Mediation, God, is propitiated by Christ's work on the Cross (Gal3:20 -- NASB is excellent, here). The other party, actually the one causing the offense, man -- well, he has free will and might NOT accept Christ's work as removing the brick-wall barrier between God and man.
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