The doctrine concerning the atonement made by Christ rests on the fact that it perfectly satisfied the righteousness and justice of God. These characteristics which we attain to God are extensions of His love, that is, the righteousness and justice of God denote His desire to replace sin and consequently wrath in man with Himself. Properly understood sin is nothing else than a disorder in man, that he is not what he is created to be and that a spiritual power in opposition to God has taken God’s rightful place in man. It is in sin that we find wrath, resentment, envy and strife. The whole nature of redemption has no other end than to extinguish or remove the wrath and enmity between man and God. This is accomplished through the new birth from above where the old man is completely blotted out and in its stead a new being who is a partaker of divine nature is miraculously formed. This new birth is made available through Jesus’ perfect and once and for all sacrifice where He became sin so that we could be partakers of His divine life.
If we assert that this wrath which is sin, which is the blamable cause for the separation between man and God, is found in God then we are saying that Christ made an atonement for God and not for man. Then we are saying that Christ came to change God and not man – that somehow God needed to be reconciled to man and not that man needed to be reconciled to God; for atonement implies the alteration, or removal of something that is not as it ought to be. We cannot claim that God needs atonement, because then we say that God is not perfect, that there is something in Him which needs to be altered. Hence we cannot suppose that wrath, which Christ died to extinguish, is found in God. There was no wrath from the beginning when Eve and Adam enjoyed an unchecked relationship with God in their first perfect state of being. Sin and wrath was a consequence of the fall and found their place inside man when he began his cursed walk.
In Christ sin and evil are taken out of man and replaced with goodness from above. Ezekiel’s prophecy has come to pass in Christ: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” (36:26). Therefore this scripture announces that no more sacrifices for sin is required. The work of Christ at the cross was a huge success, and God’s righteousness and justice were satisfied when that stony, evil and wrathful heart was taken out of our flesh. In addition the success of the cross declares that man is not only saved from his old wrathful self, but in him there is now a heart of flesh. We were saved by His death, but how much more are we not saved by His life? The wrath in the prodigal son caused him to leave his Father’s house. The Father never left the son neither in mind nor thought. His predominant desire was to be reconciled to His son. In the parable we never find the slightest hint of wrath in the Father.
Paul wrote that we by nature are children of wrath (Eph 2:3), the same thing as the psalmist said: “I was shapen in Wickedness, and in Sin hath my Mother conceived me.” We cannot escape the fact that we were conceived in sin, and that sin and wrath were in us until this wickedness was taken out of us by Christ when we in faith returned to our true home. In like manner as the prodigal son there was in us a faint memory of what we left behind when we embarked on our journey in wretchedness. The doctrine that thus says that Christ came to extinguish the wrath in God in effect says that God wanted to extinguish a part of Himself, which is to say that He willed the extinguishment of His omnipotence. A contradiction or impossibility like this can only have its origin in the adversary, and as a disease it has infected human reason and become one of the many tenacious myths regarding God.
Born by the Spirit we are conceived in righteousness and shaped in goodness. By nature we are now children of love. We are reconciled to God, and everything we held against Him is now taken out of us. In our hearts we hence cry: “Abba!” It should by this be quite evident that since His goodness and love have replaced evil and wrath in us we are forever perfected in Him, because we find nothing else than perfection and wholeness in Him.
“This, I presume, is enough to show you, that the Atonement made by Christ is itself the greatest of all Proofs, that it was not to atone or extinguish any Wrath in the Deity itself; nor, indeed, any Way to affect, or alter any Quality, or Temper in the Divine Mind, but purely and solely to overcome and remove all that Death and Hell, and Wrath, and Darkness, that had opened itself in the Nature, Birth, and Life of fallen Man.” (William Law)