I. Examining the Atonement
A. The Atonement’s Purpose
What did Christ intend to accomplish by his death? His name itself summarizes the purpose of his atoning work. In announcing his birth an angel of the Lord said, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). Jesus’ name reveals several essential truths about his purpose: 1) he brings salvation, 2) his salvation is for his people, and 3) his salvation delivers them from their sins. Therefore, Jesus Christ has a specific chosen people for whom he came to save.
God’s people were predestined to be the beneficiaries of Christ’s death. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian church: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world. . . . In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph 1:3-4a, 7a). Christ’s death was always intended to redeem a chosen people. Elsewhere, Paul cautioned to the Ephesian church elders: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Christ obtained a people through his sacrificial death on the cross.
Nevertheless, the salvation he brought is Trinitarian, involving the Father, himself, and the Holy Spirit. The Father gives a chosen people to his Son to save, the Son saves these elect ones, and the Holy Spirit applies this salvation to them. Jesus himself explained this intratrinitarian work. “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:37-39). James White explains,
The will of the Father for the Son . . . is that He (the Son) should lose nothing of all that the Father has given to Him; rather, the Son is charged with the responsibility of raising up at the last day all those who have been given to Him. This is His task, His duty, His act of obedience to the Father. . . . In short, the Son is charged with securing not simply the possibility of salvation for God’s elect, but, positively, with actually saving completely those who are the objects of God’s saving grace.
All the Father gives to Christ will be saved by him and raised on the last day. The security of their eternal life is found in the very nature of God himself as the Trinity. Christ’s death actually and fully saves his people from their sins.
James White, Drawn by the Father: A Study of John 6:35-45 (Southbridge, MA: Crowne, 1991), 37-38.