My good friend Mike Mitchell, a few months back, saw me paging through a book from his shelf entitled, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, by John Murray, a classic treatise on Christ’s work on the cross, which I had never read. Generous as Mike is, he said that if I wanted it, it was mine. I picked it up to begin reading it last night and wasn’t able to put it down until my head started bobbing. Few and far between are the books that are so able to combine such depth of theological insight with such worshipful expression. Throughout this week, I’ll share (partly as a means to entice you to read it) some of Murray’s thoughts on a particularly troubling question. Some of this will be difficult reading, but it will richly repay your efforts.
Murray frames the question this way: “Why, we are compelled to ask, the sacrifice of the Son of God, why the blood of the Lord of Glory? For what necessity and for what reason…did God, since he is omnipotent (all-powerful), take upon himself the humilitation and weakness of human nature in order to its restoration?” (11).The first thing Murray makes clear is that, in one sense, the atonement was not necessary: “Truly God is love. Love is not something…God may choose to be or choose not to be. He is love…necessarily, inherently, and eternally. Yet it belongs to the very essence of electing love to recognize that it is not inherently necessary…that he should set such love as issues in redemption and adoption upon utterly undesirable and hell-deserving objects. It was of the free and sovereign good pleasure of his will, a good pleasure that emanated from the depths of his own goodness, that he chose a people to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. The reason resides wholly in himself and proceeds from determinations that are peculiarly his as the ‘I am that I am.’ The atonement does not…constrain the love of God. The love of God constrains to the atonement as the means of accomplishing love’s determinate purpose” (10).
Friend, may you be delighted in the fact that though the God who is love was under no compulsion to provide an atonement for us sinners, yet of his goodness and mercy, and at great cost to himself, he did just that.