If Paul taught the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians,
Galatians, and Colossians to count
the atonement to themselves daily, then wouldn't the other
apostles have taught the same thing? Paul even told his disciple
Timothy in 2:11 of his second letter, "For if we died
with Him, we will also live with Him." One wonders then whether the
other New Testament writers agree with Paul? I find no trace of this
identification-approach to atonement in the writings of James and Jude,
but Peter teaches it and John as well.
WHAT PETER SAID
Paul commanded us to "put on the armor of light... put on the Lord King Jesus " in Romans 13:12-14 similar to Ephesians 6:13-17. In Romans 6:11 he commanded the saints to consider themselves "in King Jesus." Likewise in Galatians 3:27 he had said, "For as many of you as were baptized into the King have put on the King." Peter may have taught in a similar vein of putting-on-the-King when he spoke of Jesus as the "living stone rejected by men" then referred to us also as "living stones." He wrote in 1Peter 2:4-5, "coming to Him, a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God, precious. You also, as living stones, are built up... acceptable to God through King Jesus."
Later in the same chapter, Peter explicitly mirrored Paul's teaching of atonement-as-identity. He said in 1Peter 2:24 that Jesus "bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we, having died to sin, might live to righteousness." Peter sounded almost identical to Paul's words in Romans 6:11, "therefore consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in King Jesus."
WHAT JOHN SAID
John did not explicitly repeat Paul and Peter's teachings about atonement-as-identity. John did however have a famous contradiction which we can resolve if sees as Peter and Paul's atonement-as-identity.
In 1John 1:9-10, the apostle wrote, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us... If we say that we haven't sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us." By all appearances, John wrote those words expecting believers will sin, yet he turned and said the opposite in chapter three of the same letter. In 1John 3:6-9 he said:
Today we believers identify quite naturally with
John's words in chapter one, "If we confess our sins..." We love John's
assurance that God will forgive us if
we confess. In contrast however, we make no habit of quoting his
third chapter: "Whoever is born of God... can not sin because he is
born of God." We identify with John's assurance of confession, yet we
do not identify with John's assurance that we are incapable of sin. We
cling to only one side of John's coin because we fail to practice what
Paul, Peter, and John apparently practiced: personally counting the
atonement to ourselves every day for a new identity.
TWO PERSONS IN ME?
John's contradiction between chapters one and three of his letter make us accuse the apostle of counting himself like Paul said, "dead to sin and alive to God in King Jesus." If we too would count ourselves each day as new creations, then we would be convinced like John that we can not sin because we are truly "born of God." Whenever I confess my sins (as John said in chapter one), I should then prayerfully "take off" that sinning tendency as an old identity because I have been born of the Holy Spirit; the new me simply has no interest in sin.
In Romans 7:15-17 Paul (like John) separated himself from the sins he engaged because he hated those sins. He said, "I do not practice what I want to do; instead, I do things that I hate. But when I do things I hate, then I agree that the law is good. So it is no longer I who do it, but Sin living in me." Again in verse twenty he said, "But if I do the things which I do not desire, it is no longer I who do it, but Sin living in me."
Finally in verses 22-23, Paul referred to the "inner man" of 2Corinthians 4:16 also known as the "new man" (col 3:10), the "new creation" (2cor 5:17), or "newness of life" (rom 6:4). Paul switched his language in the next verse, calling the inner man his "mind" and attributing the old man to his body. In Romans 7:22-23 he said, "For I delight in God's law in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in my body-parts, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of Sin which is in my body-parts." Then Paul cried out in anguish, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 I thank God through King Jesus, our Master. So then my mind is a slave of God's law, but my body of Sin's law." Paul had already shown in Romans 6:19 that our bodies are not truly enslaved to sin. His claim of bodily enslavement in 7:25 only illustrated an old self to discard and a new self to embrace through the King's atonement.
PETER AND JOHN'S POWER
Peter explicitly counted the atonement as creating new identities in 1Peter 2:24. He then referenced the "inner" self in 1Peter 3:4. John must have operated in the same habit of counting the atonement to himself daily and teaching others to do the same because he was able to write to his disciples both as people who dealt with sin in chapter one and as new creations unable to sin in chapter three.
Have you begun to daily count yourself dead to sin, reborn for God, and clothed in King Jesus? We find it explicitly commanded by Paul and taught throughout his letters. We find it practiced by Peter and inherent in John's teaching. When believers recognize the atonement as secondary to the gospel, we find the atonement more powerfully useful for renewing our minds each day. Through a prayerful embrace of the atonement, we take off our old sinning identity, count ourselves as new, and present our body-parts to God as slaves of righteousness. We walk in victory because we engage the atonement the way the apostles taught the atonement. Scripture bears no record of the apostles preaching atonement as a gospel for unbelievers. In scripture the apostles preach the atonement as our daily power recognize we are new creations in the King!
"Did John and Pete Breathe the Atonement?" by Matthew Bryan was first published at www.matthewbryan.net on November 10th, 2013. All rights are reserved.