Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Packer, J.I. and Mark Dever, In My Place Condemned He Stood: Celebrating the Glory of the Atonement. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007.

To reclaim with the centuries of Christians, the cross of Jesus Christ is, no doubt, the absolute centerpoint of evangelical (“biblical”) Christianity—period. In this much-needed in our modern liberal-bent, wishy-washy evangelical day, Packer and Dever put the infinitely glorious atonement of Jesus Christ, his penal substitution, the propitiation of the Father’s angry and fierce wrath, and the accomplished work done in place of the Christian by Jesus Christ hails as the thematic thread weaving every chapter together with breathtaking beauty. This work is absolutely needed because of the modern-day attack on the biblical doctrines of penal substitution and divine propitiation. In the book, JI Packer, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Albert Mohler, Jr., and CJ Mahaney all unite and remind everyone that the truth has been and still is central in biblical Christianity,

Man of Sorrows! What a name

For the Son of God, who came

Ruined sinners to reclaim:

Hallelujah, What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,

In my place condemned He stood;

Sealed my pardon with His blood;

Hallelujah, What a Savior!

Indeed this has been sung since the mid nineteenth century and shall be sung til our Lord returns. As Mohler states in the foreward: “If we truly stand together for the gospel, we stand together for the fact that Christ died on the cross as our substitute, paying the infinite penalty for our sins we could never pay” (15).

Current evangelicals may be puzzled over the modern-day objections to this biblical truth. Western liberal unorthodoxy is essentially declaring that violence is always immoral and since the biblical doctrine of penal substitution at its very heart explicitly affirms that Jesus suffered severe, divine, and infinite wrath from God the Father, then this must—no doubt—be the most heinous account of human violence ever created. Truth be told, this is not a created account. Contrariwise, this is at the heart of the gospel. At the fore of the modern-day liberal critics is a misapprehension of the sinfulness of mankind. If we truly understood just how wretched we really are then we would understand the infinite wrath from Almighty God that we deserve in the eternal Lake of Fire.

The first chapter is really an introduction (and reiteration) of the doctrine of the atonement and penal substitution as the Scriptures speak of it. For the Apostle Paul, the reality that Christ bore our penalty in our place is the very heart and soul of the atonement. Hear what Paul says,

2 Corinthians 5:21 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Galatians 3:13 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE "—

Galatians 2:20 20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

What these phrases have in common is the unified theme that Jesus Christ was crushed by the Father for sinners; that is, in the place of, or on behalf of sinners! What a redemption!

Packer then unPacks the “heart of the Gospel” for about 30 pages in chapter 1 talking about propitiation, God’s anger, the atonement, and what it means for us as sinful creatures who believe in Jesus Christ to be at peace with the Holy God of the universe!

The second chapter in the book talks about penal substitution and clearly, concisely, and cogently defines just what this phrase means and how the Scriptures do, in fact, affirm that Jesus Christ—the God-man—paid the infinite penalty that we sinful, immoral, and idolatrous creatures deserve by bearing the eternal and infinite punishment from the Father as our substitute.

Mark Dever follows Packer in speaking of the blood of Christ and how we are saved by being cleansed by His blood. He dealt with the critics and listed a number of opposing theories and viewpoints to penal substitution. Yet Dever confidently and rightly affirmed that penal substitution is “the dominant atonement image used in the Bible” (106). He concluded with exhorting the reader to be atonement-centered. It is, Dever argues, impossible for one to be ‘too-atonement-centered.” Therefore, we must center our lives around Christ’s atonement.

Packer concludes the work by giving a brief—albeit helpful—introduction to John Owen’s magnum opus, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ where he unswervingly and biblically and irrefutably affirms that Jesus Christ’s death on Calvary’s cross actually accomplished salvation for sinners. Therefore, as Owen asserts, when Jesus died on the cross, he finally and fully accomplished redemption and thereby saved His own elect only for eternal salvation.

In conclusion, I note Spurgeon and how responds to some criticisms from those who believe in universal redemption (unlimited atonement):

“We are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ, because we say that Christ has not made a satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved. Now, our reply to this is, that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it: we do not. The Arminians say, Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, “No, certainly not.” We ask them the next question—Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They answer “No.” They are obliged to admit this, if they are consistent. They say, “No. Christ has died that any man may be saved if…”—and then follow certain conditions of salvation. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as infallibly to secure the salvation of anybody. We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ’s death; we say, “no, my dear sir, it is you that do it.” We say Christ so died that he infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it” (quoted on 129).

I highly recommend this essential and extremely-needed work. It is simple enough that the newest Christian can read and comprehend, yet it is saturated with enough Scripture and theology that even the most brilliant of theologians have meat to chew on until that Final Day.

Till then, let us keep laboring for the biblical gospel where our Savior bore the Father’s wrath in place of sinners who believe in Him. This is cause for great glory and joy!

Your pastor,

Geoff Kirkland

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