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A Bible Study of the Atonement o         atonement jesus christ atonement

The Biblical Revelation of the Cross

- the new online edition!


Part One: “The Biblical Revelation” ( the first edition, revised and expanded)

Part Two: “The Early Church”

READ ONLINE: Either 1) Click on image to the left to begin reading using the sidebar to select each chapter/heading; or 2) Click on image above and simply scroll down to read the whole book on one page, using internal links (to print: right click anywhere on the open page and select your own printer preferences).

Use ’control’ and either + or - to adjust text size for easy reading online.

Check the Scriptures

Ever since the time of Eusebius of Caesarea, writing in the early fourth century, various theologians have attempted to explain the cross of Christ in terms of some form of penal substitution. Indeed, in Evangelical Christianity many would argue that such a tenet is not only the teaching of Scripture, but also one of the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith – one that needs to be rigorously defended against all opposition and interpreted by many to have historical, traditional and scriptural support.

Nevertheless, to many others, this ‘crowning tenet of faith’ causes unease – like viewing the woven crown of thorns thrust down upon the head of our Saviour, in mockery of His true Lordship and the justice of God. Instead of THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, Jesus is often portrayed as sin personified – one left derelict at the cross. In the place of God’s righteous judgment, we see a travesty. His murder is termed ‘God’s wrath’. Cursed by man, He is deemed to have suffered the curse of God. Though innocent, we are taught that He suffered the punishment of God, as one guilty in our place.

In Penal Substitution theology, it is thought that God caused our Lord’s death by allowing His Son to be crucified as a penal substitute for us. In this view, the just end is thought to justify the use of unjust means and to overcome moral issues concerning how one who is innocent could be rightfully punished for the crimes of the guilty.

However, sincerity of belief is not the issue, here. It is truth. How clearly we know the truth will determine how effective we are as His disciples, for Jesus is the Truth. Scripture reveals that God was not the cause of our Lord’s death. Jesus died as a result of the sinfulness of man.

Man has freewill and was allowed to act against God’s Son, according to God’s foreknowledge, within and up to the bounds that He had set, that His Son should fulfill all that was required of Him, as a necessary witness and propitiation for our salvation. His death was unavoidable in the course of His ministry and witness to us. The sacrificial offering of His life was the propitiation.

John exhorts us to ‘lay down our lives for the brethren’ as we have example in Christ, who ‘laid down His life for us’ (1 John 3:16). This was the sacrifice of Christ as John described it. Jesus laid down His life for us.

In Scripture, it is clear that the terminology of self-sacrifice that can be used for us is the same as that used of Jesus. Paul was prepared to die for his brethren if that could save them (Rom.9:2-3). Stephen, as we read in Acts (chapter 7), did die in his witness for Christ (as have many others). He did not recant of his faith before the Jewish council, but knowingly gave up his life in the service of God. – Now, can we say that God ‘caused’ the death of Stephen? The disciple was certainly ‘sent’ by God – but he was sent ‘to preach the gospel’ of Christ and Stephen’s death, though necessary, was not caused by God. In the case of Stephen, it was necessary for him to also suffer and die. He died for the sake of those who heard and saw his witness of faith. Amongst those who heard Stephen, as we read, was one ‘Saul of Tarsus’ – who was later to become ‘Paul the Apostle’.

This was the manner of the sacrifice of Christ, as is written of Him in the Scriptures. Yet, of course, there is a difference between the sacrifice of God’s Son and that demanded of us. He lived without sin. He rebuked the devil and all temptations to do evil. He was God’s righteousness revealed. In all respects, he succeeded where Adam had failed. He was ‘God with us’, in the flesh. But, He was also the Lamb of God, sent to be a sacrifice and to die for us. His life and sacrifice of Himself, therefore, was pleasing to God. He held nothing back, but permitted Himself to be taken and His body killed. – In so doing, He revealed that in Him we should have no fear of death. Though suffering wrongfully, He ‘committed Himself to Him who judges righteously’ (1 Pet.2:23, NKJV), and received from Him the justice of the resurrection. Now, for all who look to Him, His offering of Himself avails. We are accepted with Christ.

The aim of this book is to reveal the witness from Scripture and the Early Church concerning the atonement and how this should be understood, according to the biblical revelation itself. I have no doubt it will be challenging to many, but keep an open mind and be like the Bereans, who were praised for zealously checking the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11).

Belief in creation and evolution is also discussed in the Addenda and may be found of help with reference to the Genesis account of creation and the fall.

God bless you through your studies.

Norman McIlwain


A share in ministry?

In publishing Part One of this book in print and now as an expanded and extensively revised online edition, together with Part Two, I have wished to follow the instruction: ‘Freely you have received, freely give’ (Mt.10v8).

The online edition of the book (containing Parts One & Two) is currently made available only online through bible-study-online.org, but it is hoped that this will also receive publication in print, pending finance. That is where readers might help.

Having freely received, some may feel they want to give something in return. If, however, you are not able to give any financial support, do not worry. The Lord bless you. Give me your prayers and share with others.

It also seems wrong to deny others this means of sharing in the work. For this reason, anyone who wants to make a financial contribution can now do so online by using the secure PayPal or card facility, as shown below. Another way of helping is by providing a link.

Thank you for reading.

God bless you!

Norman McIlwain

6th February, 2013

To God be the glory. Amen.

email: nmc@ website

All rights reserved: © N.McIlwain, 2006-2013