The death of Christ on the cross is the only way to be redeemed, forgiven and saved before God. There is simply no other way. Once it becomes one of the ways, and not the only way, then there is no need for Christ, and no justification for the existence of Christianity.
If God is to be God, then, just as He is perfect in His characteristics, He is perfect in His mechanism for being reconciled to Him. There is nothing else needed. God cannot but provide the perfect atonement for our sins. If it is imperfect or contingent in any way, then we are lost. Our God is not God, and we have little hope.
The atonement of Christ achieves perfectly what it set out to do…pay the price for the sins of those that God saves. The death of Christ is on behalf of those that are God’s. Nothing else is needed, it is a perfect atonement.
1Pe 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
Of course, this is in contrast to postmodern evangelism. We hear it from the pulpits time and again. I just read it again this morning on a discussion board. The atonement is not an actual perfect atonement, it is a theoretical or potential atonement. And it may or may not be perfect, depending.
Let me explain. Somewhere along the line, the actual perfect atonement of Christ became an act of imperfect possibilities. The story goes like this: Jesus died on the cross for the sins of every single person in the world. If individuals exercise faith in Jesus, they get to share in the benefits of His death on the cross. If you do not believe, then it will do you no good. Christ really really really wants to save you, and even died on the cross for you, if only you would believe.
While that is a nice story, it turn the perfect atonement into a contingent atonement. The death of Christ was not to potentially save sinners, it was to actually save sinners. It requires nothing additional. It does not require good works, or an autonomous act of faith from a free will. His death was not to provide the possibility of being saved, it was to save. And it does, it saves every person that it was intended to save.
Some object, and throw out passages that talk about God intending to save all, and that He does not want any to be lost. To which I can only ask…was the atonement perfect or not? Did Christ die in vain for the majority of what He set out to do? Because we know that some, indeed most, are lost. That means that God failed, and that not only is His atonement not perfect, but so is His love, justness and sovereignty. In short, it means that God is not God.
No, it cannot be. For God to be God, He has to achieve what he sets out to do perfectly, and that means the perfect substitionary atonement for all those that He intends to save. It means perfect harmony between His intent, His actions and His outcomes. This also what Jesus said about His purpose:
Joh 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
Joh 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
Joh 6:39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
If God does not save perfectly, what hope do we have, either now, or in the future? Are we to trust our own fickle beliefs and believe on good days, and disbelieve on bad days? God does save perfectly, through His perfect grace, perfect love and perfect sovereignty. It is not a perfect scheme, or plan or contingency. It is actual salvation, brought about by actual atonement.
There is no other basis for salvation, no other way to God and no hope without it. God claimed His people on the basis of His perfect atonement.