Books on the Atonement

Many people today assume that we’re generally good by nature, and therefore, the death of Jesus as a substitution for our sin has come under increasingly harsher and harsher criticism in recent years.

But what happens if we do something wrong? Not just make a mistake, but really, truly, and awfully wrong? 

Does our guilt just magically disappear overnight? Or do we play endless games of restitution, proverbially washing our hands like Lady Macbeth, trying to right the past?

Dear reader, if you’re stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of guilt, might I suggest that Jesus’ atoning death on the cross is very, very good news? That it holds the power to not only free us from the crushing weight of guilt, but also, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to raise us from the dead and cleanse us from unrighteousness?

But before we get ahead of ourselves, here are a handful of excellent, accessible books helping to explain the important work of atonement in the life of Jesus and what it means for us today:

📖 The Heart of the Cross – Boice Ryken – These devotional readings probe Christ’s last earthly words and the biblical writers’ words about the cross to reveal not only the meaning of Calvary but the heart of God. They will also give you a richer understanding of the amazing love that drove Jesus to the cross, conquering the powers of hell once and for all.

📖 The Cross – Lloyd Jones – This exposition is taken from the third volume of Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ series on the Epistle of the Romans.

📖 The Atonement – Morris – The Bible uses a host of terms to illuminate the answers to these questions: covenant, sacrifice, the Day of Atonement, Passover, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, justification. In plain English Leon Morris explains each of these words, thus opening up for students, pastors and teachers the fuller biblical dimension of God’s great salvation.

📖 The Passion of Jesus Christ – Piper – This link is a free PDF download of the book. “When all is said and done, the most crucial question is: Why? Why did Christ suffer and die? Not why in the sense of cause, but why in the sense of purpose. What did Christ achieve by his pas- sion? Why did he have to suffer so much? What great thing was happening on Calvary for the world? That’s what the rest of this book is about. I have gathered from the New Testament fifty reasons why Christ suffered and died. Not fifty causes, but fifty purposes. Infinitely more important than who killed Jesus is the question: What did God achieve for sinners like us in sending his Son to die?”

📖 In My Place Condemned He Stood – Packer & Dever – An important anthology that reaffirms the classic doctrine of substitutionary atonement and counters the ongoing attacks against it. Combines three classic articles by Packer-“The Heart of the Gospel”; his Tyndale Biblical Theology Lecture, “What Did the Cross Achieve”; and his introductory essay to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ-with Dever’s recent article, “Nothing but the Blood.” It also features a foreword by the four principals of Together for the Gospel: Dever, Ligon Duncan, C. J. Mahaney, and Al Mohler. 

📖 The Crucified King – Treat – demonstrates that Scripture presents a mutually enriching relationship between the kingdom and atonement that draws significantly from the story of Israel and culminates in the crucifixion of Christ the king. As Israel’s messiah, he holds together the kingdom and the cross by bringing God’s reign on earth through his atoning death. 

📖 The Cross of Christ – Stott – More than a study of the atonement, this book brings Scripture into living dialogue with Christian theology and contemporary issues. What emerges is a pattern for Christian life and worship, hope and mission. The linked version is a centennial release with foreword by Alistair McGrath.

📖 From Heaven He Came and Sought Her – Gibson & Gibson – as it examines definite atonement from historical, biblical, theological, and pastoral perspectives. Offering scholarly insights for those seeking a thorough and well-researched discussion, this book will encourage charitable conversations as it winsomely defends this foundational tenet of Reformed theology.

Pro-tip for beginners: start with the shorter ones and work up to the longer ones. 😉 This is the kind of theology that takes a lifetime to appreciate, so just remember you’re running a marathon, not a sprint.

And for everything, read with discernment, weighing it by Scripture.

🌟Have you read any of these? Which ones would you add?

Note: Local Cochrane and Calgary area friends, if shipping costs are prohibitive or you’re having a hard time finding some of these titles, check out our local Christian used bookstore, Better Books and Bibles!

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