My beautiful wife, Susan, took advantage of a Ligonier $5 Friday sale around Christmastime last year and picked up a copy of After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology, Essays in Honor of R.C. Sproul (P&R Publishing, 2003) for me. One morning, I decided to read O. Palmer Robinson’s essay on definite atonement, and was struck by the glorious gospel truth that for those in Christ, temporally speaking, because of Christ’s substitutionary work, God was reconciled to the sinner before the sinner was reconciled to him.
“In the death of Jesus Christ, it is not in the first place the sinner’s enmity against God that comes to an end. Instead, it is God’s enmity against sinners that is removed. Paul makes this point plain in his letter to the Romans. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Even while the sinner remains at war against God, the death of Christ effects a reconciliation (Rom. 5:10). God demonstrates his own love for us in this way: while our enmity still continued, God was reconciled to us by the death of his Son.
But who more precisely are the “we” with whom God has been reconciled? Has Christ actually removed God’s wrath toward all people by his death? Has the whole of humanity been reconciled to God? Scripture makes it plain that all sinners have not been reconciled to God. Many will appear at the Last Day at God’s left hand, and will depart into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41-46).
But God, through the death of Christ, has been reconciled to a great multitude from every tribe, kindred, nation, and people. If you in your own spirit have been reconciled to him, it is because he was first reconciled to you. If you love him, it is because he first loved you (1 John 4:19). If you have died to your hostility against God and his ways, it is because God was first reconciled to you by the death of his Son.”
Taken from O. Palmer Robinson, “Definite Atonement” in After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology, Essays in Honor of R.C. Sproul, ed. by R.C. Sproul, Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003), 104.