Luke Liechty

The Atonement of Christ: A Prelude to Dialog by Luke Liechty

At the cross, where Jesus laid down his life, an infinite price was paid. An infinite debt was paid. An infinite punishment was endured. A single transaction of infinite effect was made.

However, the legal effects of this sacrifice, as pertaining to a particular sinner’s guilt before God, only becomes applied at the moment that the sinner/guilty believes in Jesus, the great I Am.

Unbelief, the refusal to accept Jesus as God in the flesh (and thus his teachings), results in one being judged guilty and sent to eternal punishment for his own sins. Mark 16:16 (for those of you who have not cut it from your texts) reinforces this concept that, “the wrath of God remains upon them that believe not.” (Henry, vol.5, p.989)

What happens at salvation then is this. At the moment someone believes, the price that Jesus paid is applied to the debt, sin, of the believing. Not before, not some second blessing later but at the moment of belief. Jesus does not, however, die again every time someone believes. Hebrews 9:24-26 teaches that Jesus died once.

At the cross, Jesus paid the debt for those who had died in belief. Hebrews 11 has a list of many, though it is not exclusive to them alone as being the only ones who died in belief. But the forward application of the cross only takes place when a person “believes” in Jesus as the great I Am.

The blood of Jesus shed at the cross, like such, will keep being applied to the sin debts of those who believe until there remains no more to believe. The cross, like the pot of oil, has great potential to fill many. But its application stops once there are no more who believe.

The potential rests not in the ability of Christ’s sacrifice but in the application of Christ’s sacrifice. The application of the sacrifice awaits the response of the individual. As with the brass serpent in the wilderness, healing was offered (potential) to all who were bit, but was profitable (actual) only to those who looked in obedience (responded) to the word of God. (Numbers 21:4-9)

Who then can be saved? Whosoever will, let him come. For Jesus’ payment will be applied to your debt at the moment salvation is graced upon you. But know this, refuse to have faith in Jesus, the great I Am, and you will die in your sins and YOU will eternally pay your debt of sin.

It is not enough to know His teachings. It is not enough to believe He is a prophet. It is not enough to believe He was a good man. He must be received, by faith, as the Christ, the Messiah, the Lamb of God. If there is an empty vessel, there is oil to fill it.

This article is located at SBC Tomorrow, Personal Reflections of Peter Lumpkins.

Luke Liechty asks: “Are they already saved at the moment of Christ’s sacrifice or is atonement applied at the moment they receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ?”

If Calvinists answer the former, then faith is of none effect. If they answer the latter, then the atonement remains potential, contingent upon faith, as in, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.”  (Ephesians 2:8)

At the cross then, the payment was “actual” for those who lived in faith and died before the Christ, and is “potential” for those coming after the Christ. It is kind of like the miracle of II Kings 4:1-6. As long as there are vessels to be filled, the oil will keep pouring and will not stay until there are no more vessels to fill.
Question:  The infant who dies in infancy never believes. The mentally challenged who die without ever having historical or actual comprehension die without ever believing. What then saves the infant and the mentally challenged from hell?

Answer:  The imputation of sin. Jesus states: “And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.’ Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, ‘We are not blind too, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, “We see,” your sin remains.’” (John 9:39-41)
Question:  Was Christ’s death potential for those coming before Christ as you say it was for those coming after Christ? In other words, was Christ dying to make atonement for Pharaoh and Esau? Was he dying to make atonement a potential reality for them?

Answer:  Can those in Hell repent and be saved? No? Why not? The answer is because its too late. Why is it too late? Because the offer of salvation does not apply to those who died rejecting it. It only applies to those who repented and received it, while in this life. Thats why the Old Covenant faithful who died in Abraham have a share in Christs sacrifice. While they were alive, they turned to God. Thats why Christs sacrifice was actual for those who died in faith, while potential for those who are alive and remain, in order to repent and receive it.

Luke Liechty answers: “I believe that Christ’s death has the potential to cover the sins of Pharaoh but only at the time during Pharaoh’s life. In other words, those before Christ looked ‘forward’ while those after look ‘backwards’. There was as much potential for Pharaoh as there was for Moses. Belief is what would separate the two if we find out that Pharaoh died outside of faith in the coming Messiah.”