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)