The modifications on which the best authorities are substantially at one we have seen to be such as these: –
1. Reconciliation is not the result of a change in God from wrath to love. It flows from the changeless will of a loving God. No other view could make the reconciliation sure. If God changed to it, He might change from it. And the sheet-anchor of the soul for Eternity would then have gone by the board. Forgiveness arose at no point in time. Grace was there before even creation. It abounded before sin did. The holiness which makes sin sin, is one with the necessity to destroy sin in gracious love.
2. Reconciliation rests on Christ’s person, and it is effected by His entire work, doing, and suffering. This work does three things. (1) It reveals and puts into historic action the changeless grace of God. (2) It reveals and establishes His holiness, and therein also the sinfulness of sin. And (3) it exhibits a Humanity in perfect tune with that will of God. And it does more than exhibit these things – it sets them up, grace, holiness, and the new Humanity in its Head.
3. This reconciling and redeeming work of Christ culminates in His suffering unto death, which is indeed more of an act than an experience. Here, in the Cross, is the summit of His revelation of grace, of sin, and of Humanity. And the central feature of this threefold revelation in the Cross is the holiness of God’s love. It is this holiness that deepens error into sin, sin into guilt, and guilt into repentance; without which any sense of forgiveness would be but an anodyne and not a grace, a self-flattering unction to the soul and not the peace of God.
4. In this relation to God’s holiness and its satisfaction, nobody now thinks of the transfer of our punishment to Christ in its entirety – including the worst pains of hell in a sense of guilt. Christ experienced the world’s hate, and the curse of the Law in the sense of the suffering entailed on man by sin; but a direct infliction of men’s total deserts upon Him by God is unthinkable. His penalty was not punishment, because it was dissociated from the sense of desert. Whatever we mean by atonement must be interpreted in that sense. And judgment is a much better word than either penalty or punishment.