by Dr. Ken Matto

When we speak of the vicarious or substitutionary atonement of Christ, what are we really speaking of? Is it the fact of eternal security or is that a derivative of the atonement? In other words, why do we receive eternal salvation? What really happened when the Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross for those He planned to save? I guess if you ask 3 preachers you would probably receive 4 answers. I want to delve into four aspects of the atonement which will give us a good understanding of some verses which when juxtaposed seem to contradict each other. Let me assure you, there are no contradictions in the Bible. The seeming contradictions are there to confound the wise.

I wish to explore the following four elements of the atonement which were bestowed upon the child of God:

Christ made us alive!

Christ destroyed all my sin!

Christ gave us a new spirit whereby we do not sin!

The Preparation for Heaven!

There are no doubt many more but these (especially the second and third) have been somewhat a mystery to the believer. My goal is to open up some of the more difficult passages and show the reader the fullness of the atonement of Christ, that it is more than just the method of entrance into heaven. It is the believer’s qualification for eternal life and it is all a gift. What is the qualification for eternal life? It is purity of spirit on the believer’s part. This is not the doctrine of entire sanctification which Wesley taught. That doctrine is erroneous since how can sinful man expunge his own sins to the point of canceling original sin? Living a holy life to expurgate sin from our life is a work and is unacceptable in God’s sight. Our holiness is a result of what Christ did, not what we do. This we will see when we study the portion on receiving a new Spirit whereby we "cannot" sin. We will see that all has been taken care of by Christ.



(Eph 2:1-6 KJV) And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: {2} Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: {3} Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. {4} But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, {5} Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) {6} And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

As you can see by these verses we were spiritually dead, that is, we were alive unto the things of the world and dead toward the things of God. In other words, we were enemies of God as all the rest of the unbelievers are in this world. We wanted nothing to do with God or "religion." Verse 4 tells us that God rich in mercy made us alive together with Christ. In other words, a resurrection took place. Now what type of resurrection? When you became saved, did your physical body die and was raised from the dead? Of course not!

Something else was raised and that was your dead spirit as we read in Ephesians 2:1-6. Do we have other biblical evidence to support this? Let’s take a quick look at Revelation 20:5-6:

(Rev 20:5-6 KJV) But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. {6} Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Notice this verse teaches that the second death has no power over the first resurrection. Why? The first resurrection was when we received our resurrected souls. We were dead and now we were made alive. It is at the moment of salvation that God’s elect receives their resurrected soul and all spiritual blessings which accompany it.

(Eph 1:3 KJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

Proponents of the universal atonement theory will have a problem with Eph. 1:3 and the following verses from Romans. Christ did not die for the sins of every person on earth, He died only for those He planned to save. If you notice the Bible uses the word "us" to describe whom Christ died for. This means it is a select group of people on earth and not the entire earth's population.

(Rom 5:8-11 KJV) But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. {9} Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. {10} For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. {11} And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

This is biblical evidence that Christ died for a specific group of people and as a result of His death we receive the following benefits of the atonement:

Vs 8 - God’s love is focused on us

Vs 9 - Justified by His blood

Vs 9 - Saved from wrath

Vs 10 - Reconciled to God

Vs 11- Joy in God

Vs 11 - We received the atonement

We have been given great things as a result of the atonement of Christ. He made us alive whereas before we were dead.

(Rom 6:11-13 KJV) Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. {12} Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. {13} Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

The atonement of Christ made His people alive unto the things of God. This is the first magnificent blessing from the atonement.



(1 John 3:5-8 KJV) And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. {6} Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. {7} Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. {8} He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

In this section and the one following I wish to open up some passages which seem to hold heavy contradiction and confusion until we really get into the biblical method of hermeneutics which is found in 1 Corinthians 2:13, "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." If we are to understand Scripture, it must be interpreted with Scripture. This is God’s method of giving us understanding. Commentary based interpretation is dangerous as all interpretations made outside of Scripture.

(Heb 2:14 KJV) Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

This passage is a gateway to the understanding of the fullness of the atonement. It tells us that Christ, through His death, destroyed Satan. If Satan is destroyed then why do we see so much sin in the world and why is it escalating? We must look at this passage in two ways, futuristic and contemporary. First, Satan has been defeated at the cross and has been sentenced to eternal damnation when the Lord returns on the last day. Secondly, Satan has no power over the Christian. When we sin it is purely voluntary because we still have bodies that lust after sin. We can blame others or even Satan for our sin but the real blame is always to be laid at our door step. The power of death which has been defeated is the power of the second death over which the believer is victorious because of Christ. John 14:30 states: (KJV) Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.

The Lord Jesus Christ is giving a great principle of the Christian life. If Satan had nothing in Christ, as Children of God, he has nothing in us either which means he has no authority over us. We must never think for a moment that we were translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God with God still allowing Satan to have any authority over us. We are ruled by Christ and not Satan. Satan can work from a base of a sinful, dead spirit, because there is nothing to hinder his work. We are alive unto God and dead to sin as Romans 6 tells us. Christ destroyed my sin and now I am able to live unto God in an unhindered fashion.

(Heb 10:16-17 KJV) This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; {17} And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

One of the great aspects of the covenant is that God has forgiven and forgotten my sins. All my sins were expunged because of Christ. This verse must be skipped by those who advocate you can lose your salvation because if God has forgiven all our sins and forgotten them, then what can God hold against us?

(Isa 43:25 KJV) I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.

This is not a promise to national Israel, it is a promise to the Israel of God. Only the sin of the Christian is completely blotted out. Is this borne out in other passages of Scripture? Yes, indeed it is!

(Heb 10:18 KJV) Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.

God continues His thoughts on the heels of those two great verses which state He forgave and forgot our sins that there is no more offering for sin. Why is there no more offering for sin? There is no more offering for sin because there is no more sin in the believer’s life to be atoned for. But I sin every day and will till I die or the Lord returns, why do I do this if my sins have been destroyed? The better question to ask is when were my sins atoned for? When were they removed? Was it at the cross? What saith the Scripture?

(Eph 1:4 KJV) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

Here we see a mighty truth revealed concerning the election of the believer. Before there was a world or universe, God already chose His children. Does this apply to the believer? It sure does! Let us look at the following verses which continue this marvelous thought.

(Eph 1:5-7 KJV) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, {6} To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. {7} In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

Did you see what Verse 4 stated?

(Eph 1:4 KJV) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

Did you see that? God chose His children to be holy and blameless before the foundation of the world. This means that before you were even born, your sins were paid for already in principle.

(Rev 14:1-5 KJV) And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. {2} And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: {3} And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. {4} These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. {5} And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.

The 144,000 is a figurative number which is a representation of all the true believers on earth. These verses speak of the Christians in heaven before the lamb and notice their condition: redeemed, no guile in their mouth, without fault, they follow the Lamb, not defiled by false religion (women), we are chaste virgins. Ephesians 1:4 has given us insight into the character of the believer before birth. If we are made holy and blameless before God, then there is only one way this can be accomplished, and that is if our sins were paid for before the foundations of the world. Do we have Biblical evidence for such a statement? We sure do!

(Heb 4:3 KJV) For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

(Rev 13:8 KJV) And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

(Rev 17:8 KJV) The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

In principle Christ was already slain before the foundation of the world, which means that God saw me as sinless from the moment of my birth because the salvation plan was already completed in eternity. We have a saying in Christianity, "Christ died for my sins." Do you remember what He said while still on the cross with breath in his body?

(John 19:30 KJV) When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

Jesus said, "It is finished." Then He died. God’s salvation plan was completed in principle before the foundation of the world and in essence at Calvary. Yes, Christ did die for my sins, but the salvation plan was completed before he died. The complete atonement for my sins were made in eternity, yet completed on earth. This atonement plan is so thorough yet there are those who feel they can lose their salvation. The sad fact is they live a miserable existence trying to work for something already paid for. Instead of seeing God as a compassionate, joyful Father, they view Him as a cruel taskmaster making us work for our portion of the salvation plan. Perish the thought that we can do anything to add or complete an already completed salvation plan. It is the height of arrogance to believe one can add anything to God’s perfect plan.

Now the question remains, if I am sinless in God’s sight, where is all the sin that I am performing coming from? The answer is simple. All the sins which I am committing in my life are the sins which were paid for in eternity by Christ. Let us look at 1 John 1:10: (KJV) "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."

Even though God views us as sinless, the truth remains that I am a part of the human race which means I still sin. The sins that I commit are atoned for and this is why God can look upon me as sinless. If I say I have no sin I would be saying that Christ died in vain since I was sinlessly perfect to begin with, therefore able to save myself. The essence of 1 John 1:10 is that even though Christ died for me, I will commit sin but they have been forgiven. Christ died for the sins I would commit from the time of my birth to the time of my home going. This is why the Bible says in Hebrews 10:18 there is no more offering for sin, because atonement was a one time event lasting for eternity. Those who are covered are saved, those who are not are unsaved and will remain unsaved. There is no "you can lose your salvation" doctrine taught in Scripture. There are only two camps on earth, saved and unsaved.

(1 John 2:19 KJV) They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

This verse reveals that those who go out from the camp of the Lord did not lose salvation, they were never saved to begin with. We must never build into Scripture more than God has put there. We can happily see that Christ destroyed all my sins and they will never be held against me, for they are forgiven and forgotten. Pity the person who thinks God’s plan is incomplete without their works. Error!



What a statement to make! Don’t we Christians sin after salvation? Well, remember we tackled the sin problem in the last section and found out that we are committing all the sins which Christ already atoned for. In 1 John 3:9, we have a very peculiar verse to reckon with.

(1 John 3:9 KJV) Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Notice the wording in a portion of this verse, "and he cannot sin." Is God saying that we cannot sin if we belong to Him. The word "cannot" is a word of ability and not a word of permission. In essence if we belong to God we cannot sin. How then is this possible? Let us look at two more verses:

(1 John 3:8 KJV) He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

(1 John 3:10 KJV) In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.

As we look at these two verses we plainly see that whosoever sins is of the devil and that sin reveals a distinction between the children of God and the children of Satan. As Christians that sin every day, I think we need to dig deeper as to what God is saying here so we do not arrive at an erroneous conclusion concerning our standing with God. To understand the verses in 1 John, we need to expand our study to Romans 7:15-22.

(Rom 7:15 KJV) For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

In verse 15 we see Paul surfacing the spirit-flesh struggle. As long as we remain in these earthly tabernacles we will always have this struggle. We want to do good but yet we will do the very things we hate. It is a spiritual war to fight against the flesh.

(Rom 7:16 KJV) If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

The Bible is teaching us that we are unable to keep the law and the law of God has a good handle on human beings. We may have a desire to do good but because of sin, the working out of that desire may result in some sinful acts. In other words, God is correct when He says we cannot keep the law.

(Rom 7:17 KJV) Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

A major principle unfolds for us in understanding the sin problem in the Christian’s life. Paul states that when he sins it is no longer he that does it but sin that dwells in him. How could that be when he performs the sin, how could it not be him? The sin principle remains in the believer after salvation and the next verse tells us how.

(Rom 7:18 KJV) For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

Here is the culprit that causes the Christian to sin. THE FLESH! Paul says that he wills to do good but that he cannot because sin abides in his flesh. Paul makes sure he emphasizes the fact that the no good thing is what dwells in his flesh not his spirit. Romans 6:12 says, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof." Do you see where the sin abides? It is in the flesh and not the spirit. There is a war waging between the mortal body and the eternal body which is our spirit essence.

(Rom 7:19 KJV) For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

In verse 19 we see the struggle between spirit and flesh continue. It will never cease until we are freed from our earthly bodies.

(Rom 7:20 KJV) Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

Paul reiterates that sin is the culprit and not "I."

(Rom 7:21 KJV) I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

Good is always hounded by evil.

(Rom 7:22 KJV) For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

Here is the verse that we need to look at as it ties together 1 John and Romans. The law of God after the inward man is a synonym for salvation, it is the regenerated spirit, in contrast to the outward man which is corrupted flesh. The reason Paul says that it is not "I" doing the sin is because he was given the same spirit that "cannot" sin as all believers are. The reason we have such a struggle between spirit and flesh is because we have a pure spirit given to us by God which is incapable of sinning and we have flesh that is corrupt and highly capable of sinning. As the war continues between a pure spirit and corrupt flesh we will always feel bad when we sin. This is how we grieve the Holy Spirit and sin should grieve us too. So to sum up this teaching we may conclude that the passages in 1 John are teaching us that because we are born again of the Holy Spirit and since the Holy Spirit is eternal God, we, in our spirit essence cannot sin but since we live in the flesh that pure spirit is surrounded by corruptible flesh which continually seeks to sin. This why we always have a spirit-flesh struggle.

Now let us pose a question at this point. Are there any examples of this in Scripture? There sure is and it is found in John 1:47!

(John 1:47 KJV) Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!

Isn’t this an interesting verse where the creator of the universe calls a sinful human being an "Israelite indeed in whom is no guile!" How could this be? The Bible teaches that every human being created on earth is a sinner, so how could there be one in which is no guile? The word "guile" may also be translated "deceit or craftiness." There is a little deceit and craftiness in all of us, so why not Nathanael? Let us look further at John 1:49. (KJV) Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.

Here is a testimony of a saved man. So this would mean that Nathanael would have a proper understanding of who Christ is. Now back to verse 47 for a moment. When Christ describes Nathanael as an "Israelite" he was not only describing him as belonging to the physical nation of Israel but Nathanael was a member of the "Israel of God." Christ saw him as a redeemed man and could say he had no guile because Christ knew that Nathanael’s sin was removed before the foundation of the world.

Christ calls his sheep by name. There is no greater example of this in Scripture than the calling of Lazarus from the dead. Christ knew him and called him by name. So we see clearly that Christ was looking at Nathanael in the spirit and not the flesh. If Christ saw him according to the flesh, He would have seen only sin and corruption.

(2 Cor 5:16-17 KJV) Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. {17} Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

These two verses give us the insight we need to know how Christ viewed Nathanael. He saw him according to his renewed spirit and not according to the old flesh. It is a shame that so many biblically illiterate pastors and theologians use verse 17 to approve divorce and remarriage. Verse 17 tells us that the old things (dead spirit toward God) have passed away and all things (a living Holy Spirit toward God) are become new. Our flesh was not saved only the inward man. When I hear a pastor abuse this verse to approve carnal behavior I grieve because the next generation of Christians will carry on that error. This entire study deals with what was made new and what was not. It is the spirit not the flesh. If the flesh and its deeds were made new, why do we need cemeteries? The reason why Christians obey the Bible is because our spirit rules the flesh and directs its operation, even though imperfectly because we get in the way of our own obedience.



(2 Pet 1:11 KJV) For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Here is the simple result of the first three blessings. The result of being alive unto God, Christ destroying all my sin, and giving me a spirit whereby I do not sin qualifies me for Heaven. Something I did? No, something God did in eternity. It is called His salvation plan. Do you see how full the atonement of Christ was? He left nothing undone, all was completed. This is why if you are a truly saved Christian, you can never lose your salvation. Rebuke those who attempt to seduce you into believing you can lose your salvation. Maybe you can lose "your" salvation but you will never lose God’s. He who has ears to hear!