Redemption, accomplished and applied
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Top Customer Reviews
If you've ever asked these or similar questions, this paperback is for you. Professor Murray needs to be read slowly and thoughtfully, but is immensely helpful. Like me you might find that your understanding of the death of Christ is revolutionised through this book.
In the first section John Murray explains, beginning with man's need for atonement for sin, what Christ's death achieved, and for whom he achieved those things. The second part of the book deals with the blessings that the true Christian has because of Christ's death, and covers such areas as adoption, justification, and perseverance.
But don't get the idea that this is dry-and-dead theology. The Bible truths that John Murray explains will hopefully have a profound effect on your worship and your zeal as well.
It is a pity is is only available second hand.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The book is divided into two basic sections. The first section analyzes the accomplishment of the atonement. This is the section where Murray argues in favor of the most disputed point of the 5 points of Calvinism, 'limited atonement'. It is also the section where Murray puts forward the somewhat controversial doctrine of divine alienation, which says that the reconciling act of the atonement did much more to address God's holy alienation from us than it did to address our alienation from God. This doctrine tends to go against modern views which say that reconciliation is purely an event where we become reconciled to God as soon as we exercise faith, and that's it. Murray takes exception to this by saying that alienation is not purely humanity's alienation from God, but also God's holy alienation from us as a result of our sin and that this holy alienation must also be addressed in order for genuine reconciliation to be possible. Murray does a very good job of analyzing this area and might well be the most profitable part of the book from a purely theological perspective since this aspect of the atonement is rarely thought about or discussed.
The second section of the book is where Murray puts forth the classic reformed understanding of the ordo salutis. This is the section where Murray argues that monergistic regeneration precedes faith and makes a faith response on our part possible. This is one of the main aspects of reformed soteriology that is an affront to the anthropocentric soteriology held sacred by much of Christendom. However, I happen to strongly agree with Murray here. His analysis of regeneration, justification, sanctification, and perseverance are all very good.
The one area where I thought the book lacked a bit was in Murray's exposition of limited atonement. I personally thought that this section could have been beefed up considerably, and it surprised me that Murray didn't make a bigger investment here in defending this doctrine, knowing full well that this doctrine is a source of intense controversy. For what Murray says, he does quite well. But there was much here that didn't get said, and a number of difficult Scripture passages that weren't really dealt with, and as a result, I think someone who wants to read an exhaustive defense of limited atonement will not be able to rely completely on this book.
However, I want to make clear that even though the limited atonement section is arguably a little thin, I do think that Murray makes a good case for limited atonement, while making very compelling cases for many of the other doctrines that he discusses in the book. Definitely an important read for Christians of all stripes and at all levels of Christian maturity. Very profitable for both the beginner and the seasoned believer.
I have given away at least 6 or 8 copies of this book over the past few years. It can't be beat for rigor, orthodoxy, and clarity. Buy two or three while its still in print!
The book is divided into two parts; Redemption Accomplished, which deals with the necessity, nature, perfection, and the extent of the Atonement, followed by Redemption Applied. The chapter on Justification is the capstone of the book.
This book is not an easy read, nor is it a cursory treatment of biblical soteriology. The thoughtful reader will benefit from the richness of John Murray's prose, as well as the masterful way he rightly divides the word, using both Old and New Testaments.
The book is divided into two parts:
Part 1: Redemption accomplished
1. The necessity of the atonement
In this chapter, Murray presents a scriptural argument, particularly from Hebrews, against "hypothetical necessity" (this views says that God did not have to save by atonement but that he only chose to save by this method). Instead, Murray argues in favor of "indispensable necessity," that the holiness of God and the sinfulness of sin demand the vicarious sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Murray says "if we keep in view the gravity of sin and the exigencies arising from the holiness of God which must be met in salvation from it, then the doctrine of indispensable necessity makes Calvary intelligible to us and enhances the incomprehensible marvel of both Calvary itself and the sovereign purpose of love which Calvary fulfilled."
2. The nature of the atonement
Murray then discusses the two distinct aspects of Jesus Christ's vicarious obedience - recognizing that the law has both penal sanctions and positive demands. He says, "Christ's obedience was vicarious in the bearing of the full judgment of God upon sin, and it was vicarious in the full discharge of the demands of righteousness." In relation to Christ's substitutionary atonement, Murray then unwraps the following biblical concepts:
a. Sacrifice. Linking Hebrews 9 and 10 with the Levitical sacrifices, he shows that the Old Testament sacrifices were patterned after the heavenly reality and that the blood of Christ "purges our conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Heb 9:14). Christ is the High Priest that has presented Himself as the offering for sin.
b. Propitiation. "God appeases his holy wrath in the cross of Christ in order that the purpose of his love to lost men may be accomplished in accordance with and to the vindication of all the perfections that constitute his glory." Romans 3:25-26 says "God displayed [Christ] publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness...that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
c. Reconciliation. It is true that we are alienated from God, but, the emphasis of scripture is that God is alienated from us because of our sin. God must take the initiative. Romans 5:8-11 says that we are "reconciled to God through the death of His Son" (v10) and "justified now in his blood." (v9). Citing 2 Cor 5:18-21, Murray emphasizes the necessity of divine monergism as God was in Christ "reconciling the world to Himself." (v19)
d. Redemption. Linking all of these concepts together, Murray says, "As sacrifice is directed to the need created by our guilt, propitiation to the need that arises from the wrath of God, and reconciliation to the need arising from our alienation from God, so redemption is directed to the bondage to which our sin has consigned us." (Rom 3:24-26 links all of the terms in one glorious passage) First, Christ frees Believers from the guilt of sin by purchasing His own with His blood (Acts 20:28). Second, Christ frees Christians from the power of sin based on union with Christ in His death and resurrection (Rom 6:1-10, 2 Cor 5:14-15, Eph 2:1-7, Col 3:1-4, 1 Pet 4:1-2). In sanctification, Believers are thus exhorted "to reckon yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Rom 6:11).
3. The perfection of the atonement. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1). The atonement is a completed work, never repeated and unrepeatable (Heb 1:3, 9:12, 25-28). Addressing the perfection of this atonement, Murray says, "[Christ] did not make a token payment which God accepts in place of the whole. Our debts are not canceled; they are liquidated." (emphasis mine) Hebrews 10:14 says, "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified."
4. The extent of the atonement. Murray answers the question, "for whom did Christ die?" He begins by examining several proof texts for the alternative view of "universal atonement." He demonstrates that this incorrect view actually limits the power of Christ's atonement by saying that the atonement could apply theoretically to someone who ends up in hell. In contrast, the correct view of "limited atonement" or "definite atonement" says that the atonement only applies to heirs of eternal life, the elect of the ages. He says "Christ did not come to put men in redeemable position but to redeem to himself a people." The atonement definitely secured for Christ a people for His own possession (Titus 2:14) Rhetorically, Murray asks, "Did [Christ] come to put all men in a salvable state? Or did he come to secure the salvation of all those who are ordained to eternal life?" He then examines Romans 8:31-39 to show that the elect for whom Christ died in verse 32 are the same who are justified in verse 33.
Part 2: Redemption applied
1. The order of application. Tying together John 3:3, John 1:12, Romans 8:30, John 6, etc, Murray orders the application of redemption as: calling, regeneration, faith and repentance, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, and glorification. Each of these concepts is then explained in the subsequent chapters.
2. Effectual calling. The calling of God in salvation is an efficacious summons by God Himself that will not be thwarted (Rom 8:30, 1 Cor 1:9, 2 Peter 1:10, 2 Tim 1:8,9, John 6:44,45).
3. Regeneration. Since a person is dead in trespasses and sins, the Holy Spirit (John 3) must divinely beget him as a new creation in Christ. Only by the "first cause" of the Holy Spirit can anyone be saved. Faith is not the actual first cause. Murray says, "we are not born again by faith or repentance or conversion; we repent and believe because we have been regenerated." Further, regeneration will also have lasting effects in the sanctification of the believer. The one born of God will not continue in sin since he has been delivered from the power of sin and overcomes the world (1 John 3:9, 5:4, 5:18). Murray comments on the state of the church in his day that can apply be said today, "A cheap and tawdry evangelism has tended to rob the gospel which it proclaims of that invincible power which is the glory of the gospel of sovereign grace. May the church come to think and live again in terms of the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation."
4. Faith and repentance. There is a universal command from scripture for men to repent and believe the Gospel (e.g. Acts 17:30-31). Man has the responsibility to believe. The concept of biblical faith is knowledge, conviction and trust. Faith is NOT something that merits the favor of God. "All the efficacy unto salvation resides in the Savior...The specific character of faith is that it looks away from itself and finds its whole interest and object in Christ. He is the absorbing preoccupation of faith." Repentance is the conscious turning from sin unto God with full purpose of, and endeavor after new obedience (Luke 24:46-47, Acts 2:37-38, 5:31, 20:21, etc).
5. Justification. How can sinful man be just with a righteous God? God must do the justifying (Rom 8:30). Contrary to the Roman perversion, it does not refer to the renewing and sanctifying grace of God or any "infusion of grace." Murray says, "If justification is confused with regeneration or sanctification, then the door is opened for the perversion of the gospel at its centre." Rather, justification is judicial or forensic. God gives the verdict regarding our judicial status. Justification is a declarative and constitutive act of God's grace. God must constitute the new relationship as well as declare it to be. The constitutive act consists of the imputation to us of the obedience and righteousness of Christ. Then He declares it to be so.
6. Adoption. As in John 1:12, adoption is the act of transfer into the family of God Himself. It is distinct from justification but not separable from it. It is also a judicial act. Those adopted are given the Spirit of adoption whereby they are able to recognize their sonship and exercise the privileges which go with it (Galatians 4:6, Rom 8:15-16).
7. Sanctification. For the believer, sin is dethroned in every person who is effectually called and regenerated. Sanctification is concerned with the elimination of all sin and complete confirmation to the image of God's own Son, to be holy as the Lord is holy. The believer must be dependent on the Holy Spirit as the agent of sanctification. The Believer is not passive in this process; however, the means of sanctification is the work of God Himself (Phil 2:12-13).
8. Perseverance. John 8:31-32 says that "If you continue in [Christ's] word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." Jesus' true disciples are characterized by continuance and endurance in His word (c.f. Matt 10:22, Heb 4:14). In contrast, apostasy is only temporary. It shows the "outward signs of faith in Christ and obedience to him...then lose all interest and become indifferent, if not hostile to the claims of Christ and of his kingdom." It is the lesson of the seed sown on rocky ground (Mark 4:5,6,16-17). According to 1 Peter 1:4-5, a true child of God is kept "by the power of God" until the end. How is he kept? 1 Peter also says that he is kept "through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." The perseverance of the saints reminds us that only those who persevere to the end are truly saints. John 6:39 says that of all that the Father has given the Son, He will "lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day." They will never perish, and no one can snatch them out of the Son's, nor the Father's hand (John 10:28).
9. Union with Christ. "Nothing is more central or basic than union and communion with Christ," says Murray. "It is not simply a phase of the application of redemption...Union with Christ binds all together and insures that to all for whom Christ has purchased redemption he effectively applies and communicates the same." "...the greatest mystery of creaturely relations is the union of the people of God with Christ. And the mystery of it is attested by nothing more than this and it is compared to the union that exists between the Father and the Son in the unity of the Godhead." The Holy Spirit take residence in the believer and he experiences fellowship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (1 John 1:3, John 14:16-17).
10. Glorification. This is the final phase of the process of redemption. "It is the attainment of the goal to which the elect of God were predestined in the eternal purpose of the Father and it involves the consummation of the redemption secured and procured by the vicarious work of Christ." When a believer dies, he is perfected in holiness (Heb 12:23). Then, glorification will be consummated at the end of the age when, along with the creation's deliverance, believers will experience "the adoption, the redemption of the body" (Rom 8:23) and "mortal will put on immortality" (1 Cor 15:54).
Murray is clear, deep, and precise. However, this is not just another systematic theology. You will be spiritually and emotionally challenged as you read, because the author obviously knows the Lord of whom he writes, and the import of His sufficient work. It is wonderfully organized and well written. Some might say that the language is a bit scholastic - I say it is how I wish I could write and others should. While deeply intellectual, it cuts to the heart and soul. NO contemporary author does this as well.
It is a REAL shame that people are out buying up the latest Christian 'self help' "book", and not buying up every copy of this riveting work on God's beautiful and sufficient work to redeem sinners.
IF you THINK you understand the Gospel, the Atonement, etc. and have not read this book, you do yourself a disservice.
Murray's treatment of definite atonement, and perseverence are superb. The whole book is a wonderful display of Biblical exegesis. READ THIS OVER AND OVER!