In this outstanding and now classic treatment of a central doctrine of the Christian faith, Dr. Murray divides redemption into two main sections: its accomplishment by Christ (atonement) and then divine application to those He has made alive and adopted into His family, the ordo salutis (order of salvation).
PART ONE – REDEMPTION ACCOMPLISHED: The Atonement (how, why, and for whom God makes salvation from divine wrath through Christ both possible & perfectly effective).
Chapter 1: Lays the groundwork of the divine motivation and necessity of the Atonement. The motivating force flows from God’s infinite, perfect love and goodness (John 3:16-18, Romans 5:8; 8:31-32) . This love, however, is not indiscriminate, general, fuzzy, or an afterthought, but is precise, unchangeably determinate in its its object(s), and unfailing effective in achieving its specific, redemptive purposes (Romans 8:28-30). The objects of His love are those He has freely, sovereignly, eternally chosen to be made spiritually alive and permanently adopted into His family as created beings to reflect, worship, and enjoy His uncreated, unending glory (Ephesians 1:4-5), chosen out of the depths of His goodness and the good pleasure of His perfect will.
The necessity of this particular means of atonement, via the substitutionary incarnation, life, suffering, and death of Christ, is also due to the infinite evil and gravity of sin requiring its complete nullification by some means if any are to be saved. So then, atonement rests upon “the finality, perfection, and transcendent efficacy” of His sacrifice, based on who He is and what only He could do (Hebrews 1:1-3; 2:9-18; 9:9-28). We see also from Hebrews 9, that the Levitical priesthood was derived from the heavenly reality of Christ’s atonement, not the other way around. The salvation thus made both possible and unfailingly effective for those divinely appointed is in being freed from sin’s vice-like death grip and consequences and to holiness of life, though neither is fully realized in this life. This happens through God-given faith in the Christ of the gospels, the grounds of our being fully, legally, and permanently acquitted (justified) of all violations and fully forgiven.
being from and is constrained by one necessary, inherent, eternal characteristic of the God that is, namely His perfect, eternal love.
As the apostle John wrote, “For God so loved the world that He gave … ” John 3:16-18, reflecting an “ultimate of divine revelation and therefore of human thought. Beyond this we cannot and dare not go.” See also Romans 5:8, Romans 8:31-32.
Redemptive alternatives limited to just one . . .
But why did God adopt this particular means of redemption? Why did the eternal Son have to become man and suffer extremes of physical and emotional suffering, militant unbelief and rejection, humiliation, forsakedness, and death? Could not God have chosen to justify and redeem His chosen ones merely by divine decree, as Augustine and Aquinas believed possible (hypothetical necessity) so that a greater demonstration of His gracious character would accrue to His glory, rather than the costly, substitutionary sacrifice of His Son? Or did God freely and not out of any inherent necessity other than His freely determined choice and requirement of His perfect being, save people in the only manner possible that would not conflict with that? Based on extensive Scriptural analysis, Murray opts for the latter, t
Without this perfect path back into God’s favor and presence made possible only by the atonement, there is no hope for any (John 3:14-18, Hebrews 1:1-3, Hebrews 2:9-18)
John Murray. Eerdmans, 1955, 191 pp, paper, Scripture and topic index, ~ $10.
Dr. Murray (1898-1975) was born in Scotland and educated in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Princeton. He taught Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia from 1930 to 1968! Known for his precision, care, genuine faith, and vast theological insight, Dr. Murray was among the most outstanding theologians of the 20th century.