The Cross of Christ
Dr. R. C. Sproul

Notes from Dr. Sproul's video series

Part I,
The Need for an Atonement

1.    False: It was Unnecessary
God required no satisfaction for sin before He could pardon the sinner

2.    False: It was Hypothetically Necessary
God could have redeemed us by a host of means, but He chose the Cross

3.    True: It was Absolutely Necessary
Understand Two Things: There is a Holy God, and Sin is an offense before that God

"It is quite evident, however, that atonement was necessary in view of the justice of God. This was violated by man's transgression, and therefore naturally called for satisfaction. The righteousness and holiness of God, which can brook no sin, certainly cannot simply overlook open defiance to His infinite majesty. God hates sin with a divine hatred, and His whole being reacts against it (Gen. 18:25; Ex. 20:5, 23:7; Ps. 5:6, 7; Nah. 1:2; Rom. 1:18, 32). Moreover, the veracity of God required that the sentence which He had pronounced on sin should be executed (Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 6:23)." - Manual of Christian Doctrine, by Louis Berkhof

Part II,
The Drama of Redemption

1.    A Debt
Mankind owes a debt to God the Father, who acts as a creditor. Jesus Christ becomes our surety.

         God, as the Author, has the right to spell out obligations (e.g., "Be ye holy").

         We take on responsibility to fulfill those obligations.

         When we fail, our debts are infinite because He is.

2.    An Expression of Enmity (hostility versus love) Mankind is at enmity with God. He is the offended party, and Jesus Christ acts as a Mediator.

         We are enemies and haters of God, openly defiant to His infinite majesty. We follow after our father, the devil.

         God is the injured party. We have severed the relationship, not Him. He has never violated us, nor acted wrongly towards us. God is "sorely displeased."

3.    A Crime against the Law of God
Mankind has committed a crime against God. God is our Governor and Judge, and Christ becomes a Priest and Victim.

         We have transgressed against God's law.

         God is the Judge. We are judged using His holiness as the standard.

"The god which the vast majority of professing Christians love, is looked upon very much like an indulgent old man, who himself has no relish for folly, but leniently winks at the indiscretions of youth. But the Word says, 'Thou hatest the workers of iniquity' (Ps. 5:5). And again, 'God is angry with the wicked every day' (Ps 7:11). But men refuse to believe in this God, and gnash their teeth when His hatred of sin is faithfully pressed upon their attention." - The Attributes of God, by A. W. Pink.

1.    Pecuniary offenses require payment. Anyone with the means can pay this debt for another. No human has the means to pay someone's pecuniary debt before God.

2.    Penal offenses demand punishment, and unlike a pecuniary offense, God has the right to accept or reject a substitution on our behalf.

3.    Jesus is our substitute and pays our offenses, both pecuniary and penal, and God accepts His payment on our behalf.

Part III,
Christ, our Ransom

1.    Redeemer: one who provides a ransom

2.    Ransom: setting something free. In ancient societies, it was the price paid to set free slaves, etc.

3.    Expiation: to make atonement for someone

4.    Propitiation: to appease an offended party. For example, "God is propitiated by Christ's expiation."

Part IV,
Justification by Faith

1.    Total Depravity refers to the sinful pollution of all of mankind. "Total" does not refer to utter depravity (as bad as we can be). "Total" means it is radical -- affecting the whole person in every area. Our sin is measured externally by the law and internally by the heart.

2.    If God is too holy to even look on sin, so how can the unjust become just? God could not overlook our unjustness without forfeiting His own justness. There needs to be a mediator.

1.    Justification is a forensic term (i.e., a formal, declarative act) and an imputation of something not ours.

2.    Jesus takes on our sins, and we get His righteousness. We are "simultaneously a sinner and justified by God" (M. Luther). This is the Good News -- Christ's death was my punishment and His life, my justice. We have a foreign righteousness.

3.    Justification is applied by faith alone (sola fide) and is by Christ alone (solus Christus).

Part V,
Blessing or Curse

1.    A covenant has the following aspects: a historical prologue by the Sovereign involved, terms and stipulations of the agreement, and dual sanctions (rewards and penalties).

2.    In the Old Testament (e.g., Deut. 28), the reward was a "blessing" and the penalty, a "curse."

1.    A blessing to a Jew meant the supreme favor of God.

         "The LORD bless you and keep you,
The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace."
(Numbers 6:24-26, NKJV)

         The above text uses synthetic parallelism to compare three identical ideas. The blessings of the Lord are compared to His face shining upon us and His countenance lifted up to us. These ideas show blessings to be a proximity, a nearness, to God.

2.    A curse is the opposite of a blessing.

         The Lord is removed from us; He has turned His face away from us.

         He is judgmental (opposite of gracious) and gives turmoil instead of peace.

         Note that the Gentiles were strangers and foreigners, outside of the Israelite "household". Note also that the scapegoat under the sacrificial system had the sins of the people ceremonially transferred to it, and that it was driven outside the camp into the wilderness. Both are symbols (i.e., types) of a curse.

1.    Literally, Christ was driven outside the camp. He was delivered to the Gentiles for judgment. He was killed by death on a cross, a Roman means of execution, not Jewish. He was crucified outside Jerusalem.

2.    Christ was forsaken by the Father when He took on the sins of the world. He was completely and utterly cut-off. He suffered hell on the cross.

Part VI,
Securing our Faith

1.    This concept of "Limited Atonement" (or particular redemption), associated with acrostic TULIP, was not originally introduced by Calvin nor is unique to Calvinism. The debate on the on the atonement has occupied the church for many centuries. St. Augustine and Pelagius debated this topic in the 4th century.

2.    The atonement can be described as:

         "sufficient" - the atonement holds infinite value


1.    Defined as "acting directly to produce an effect"

2.    Universalists say Christ's atonement was "efficient for all" (i.e., all are saved).

3.    We don't believe it was "efficient for all", but for whom was it efficient? To answer that, we must consider the intent and design of the atonement.

1.    For those who aren't universalists, there are two options for the atonement's intent and design:

         Option 1: God intended and designed the atonement for all men. (Arminian)

         Option 2: God intended and designed the atonement for certain people (the elect). (Calvinism)

2.    The Arminianist position holds that Christ's saving work makes possible salvation for all men on the condition of faith, but does not guarantee or secure the salvation of any person. The atonement is limited in effectiveness. It saves no one, but makes it possible for all people. Salvation is conditioned on a person's faith. The expiation and propitiation of Christ are conditioned on man. God can be frustrated when people reject Him, and He hopes some will be saved.

3.    The Calvinist position holds that Christ's saving work actually secures the salvation of certain people and not others. The atonement is limited in scope (or extent). It saves only certain people. God is not frustrated, and He knows with certainty all He secured salvation for through Christ will be saved.