Adding to the Atonement, Part 2

The Dangers of Adding

In the first article, an explanation of adding healing and financial prosperity to the atoning work of Christ was given. It is to argue that Jesus died for sin as well as sickness and shortage of finances. This argument proposes that Jesus’ work on Calvary was aimed at putting things back to how they were before the Fall of Adam. Whether that refers to eternal hope as a response to future glory or temporal happiness as a response to present success is not clear. If if it is the second, then there are some grave dangers in this teaching. Here they are.

Although this matter relates to the core of Christianity, it is outside of what we call “essential truths” or those doctrines that a Christian must believe to be saved. Still, it is definitely close. In fact, at first glance, I was convinced that it was essential.

The line dividing this from the essentials is so thin. And this teaching comes radically close to crossing it. From a distance, I would not be surprised that most Christians considered it essential until further investigation. The atonement is the focal point of the Christian faith. It is the crease in the middle of a book to which all pages are bound. The Old Testament looked forward to it. The New Testament looked back. The atonement is the center stage, the main attraction, where God most glorifies Himself and demonstrates His power and nature. Yes, this issue is cutting it real close.

The fact is, in regards to the atonement we must believe that Christ died for our sins, vicariously paying our debt to the Lord. In doing so, Jesus made salvation available to those who believe. As far as the atonement, this is what we must know and believe in order to be saved. Adding to this by making healing and financial prosperity available at the same time, complicates things, but does not render your faith useless. No, you can be saved and believe these additions.

But make no mistake, these complications can be severe and fatal to some. If one believes that Jesus made salvation, healing, and financial prosperity equally available on the cross, then one may have expectations that are not met by God. And, if such expectations are high, one might walk away from Him.

Here is an example. Suppose I told you that Jesus died for you and wanted to give you salvation and a lollipop. You, being a lollipop lover, agreed. I mean, this is like having your cake and eating it, too (only it is a lollipop). You sign up for this Jesus and love him and your new life. But, after months have passed and you have not received your lollipop, you start to wonder.

At best, you are wondering what you did wrong. Did you believe enough? Did you have enough faith? Did you say the right thing? Did you do something to offend God so that He is not so gracious? At worst, you are wondering if you are really saved and if this Jesus is really God. If he hasn’t given me my lollipop, has he not given me my salvation either? Is Jesus a liar or unable to follow through on his promise? If he can’t grant me some candy, can he do the greater and save me from hell?

This sort of thinking sets people up with wrong expectations. The dangers are not necessarily at the time of decision, but afterward. Some people might think that they got a Jesus that they didn’t sign up for.

Of course, this is not far-fetched. There are scenes throughout the Scriptures where something similar happens. Take John 6 for example. A crowd numbering more than 5,000 is following Jesus. So He gathers with the disciples on a mountain top and sees the crowd. They are hungry. So Jesus takes the 5 loaves and 2 fish and feeds them (Jn. 6:9). The crowd was satisfied and impressed with Jesus.

The following day, some of the crowd remained at the foot of the mountain where they were fed the loaves and fish. Seeing Jesus, they pressed Him again for food. This time, He didn’t grant them anything, but to say that He should be their satisfaction, not food (Jn. 6:26-40).

The people grumbled, argued and eventually, “turned back and no longer walked with him” (Jn. 6:66). Apparently, Jesus doesn’t always give people their earthly desires and it results in the turning away. This was such a reality that immediately after this, Jesus turns to his twelve disciples and says, “Do you want to go away as well?”

Another story, and one that doesn’t require much telling, is the story of the rich young ruler. He came to Jesus with an eagerness to follow. Jesus tells him to give all the riches away first. Luke 18:23 says, “when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.” The rich young ruler turned away just like the crowd.

Stories like this teach us that if we set people up with expectations of which there is no guarantee, we are possibly leading them to a different Christ altogether. We are leading them to a Jesus that will let them down.

Equating salvation with physical healing and financial blessing and making them equally available by the atonement is not necessarily essential at its core. However, as these biblical accounts detail, it can definitely change the outcome.

Suppose Jesus were to tell them that he would make them rich and keep their tummies full. I think that these stories would have had a totally different ending. And Jesus would not have said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God” (Luke 18:25).

The dangers are real, but they are not for everyone. Those who add healing and prosperity to the atoning work of Christ while believing that salvation is the real prize, will likely not suffer this doctrine. However, those who signed up, basing their trust in this gospel and later find it untrue, will be like the crowd or the rich young ruler if God doesn’t intervene.

In short, the orthodox view of the atonement is safe – even if it were wrong. This new view of atonement is unsafe. The dangers are grave and they lie at the heart of Christianity – even unto our eternity.

Posted by Jacob Abshire on July 17th, 2009 - 11:14 pm
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