The Cross of Christ

The Doctrine of Christ - Lesson # 9

Joel Stephen Williams


    I. The historical fact

       A. Share what you know about crucifixion, how it was practiced in the ancient world, its origin, and its significance.

       B. Since crucifixion had its origin among people considered "heathen" and "barbaric" by the Greeks and Romans, and since it had certain negative implications for the Jews, what did this mean for how the death of Christ on a cross would be perceived? 1 Cor. 1:18-2:2; Gal. 3:10-14; 5:11

       C. Jesus could have died for mankind in any of a variety of ways. What reasons can you give for crucifixion being the way chosen by the providence of God for him to die?

  II. Theories of the atonement

       A. A "theory" of the atonement is an attempt to understand the purpose, meaning, and effects of Jesus' death on God and man and how these truths are related in a consistent way with other truths, e.g. the doctrine of God, the doctrine of sin, and the doctrine of salvation. For example, since God is a God of holiness and love, our understanding of the meaning of the death of Jesus needs to be consistent with what we know about God.

       B. Try to learn something about the following theories of the atonement, their origin, and their teachings. What problems do you find with any of them? What good ideas are found in each of them? In what ways are each of them only a partial expression of the whole truth?

            1.  Ransom or classic theory

            2.  Moral influence theory

            3.  Governmental theory

            4.  Satisfaction theory

       C. Discuss some of the following motifs in relation to atonement

            1.  Objective atonement - the atonement has an actual and direct affect upon God or mankind or both

            2.  Subjective atonement - the atonement has an effect on mankind indirectly as a consequence of people being motivated by the cross to repent and obey

            3.  Sacrifice

            4.  Substitution or vicarious atonement - 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18; 2 Cor. 5:14; Rom. 5:6

       D. Universal atonement versus limited atonement

            1.  Many Calvinists teach the doctrine of "limited atonement," that is, that Jesus died only for the elect, those who (Calvinists say) were predestined to be saved.

            2.  Study the following verses and discuss limited atonement versus universal atonement - Jn. 1:29; 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 5:14, 19; 1 Tim. 1:15; 2:6; Tit. 2:11; Heb. 2:9; 2 Pt. 2:1; 1 Jn. 2:2; 4:14

            3.  Which theory of atonement, universal or limited, seems more consistent with the character of God? 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4

            4.  Not everyone will be saved, so the atonement of Jesus is limited in some way. In what way is it limited? 1 Tim. 4:10

III. Conclusion

       A. How important or central is the doctrine of Christ's death? 1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2; 15:1-4; 2 Cor. 4:5; Gal. 6:14

       B. In what way is Christ's selfless sacrifice at Calvary a standard or model for church life? Mk. 8:34-37; 1 Jn. 4:19; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; Jn. 12:32; 15:13; Phil. 2:5-8; 3:10; 1 Pet. 2:21; Heb. 12:1-3

       C. Memory verse - 1 Cor. 1:23