According to Romans 5:18, what was lost in Adam is found in Christ. This is the great reversal passage of the Bible and the reason the gospel is “Good News.” However, we know that not everyone has accepted this reversal of sin to salvation, and those who reject it are lost (Rom.6:23; John 3:19). Specifically, the atonement saves all infants automatically by reversing the devastating effects of Adam’s sin. Secondly, it guarantees that every sinner will be evangelized in some form or another. Thirdly, it suffices for the salvation of all. And, finally, it saves those who walk in the light they have received.
“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.” As sinners, we would not get another breath or heartbeat except for God’s mercy. That mercy comes because of Christ. God told Abraham, “In thee all the families of the earth will be blessed.” The blessing of God can come to everyone, “the just and the unjust,” because of Christ. Because of Him, God can extend prevenient grace to all, creating desire and ability to respond to the gospel, and making salvation is possible for every person. Even while unconverted we receive innumerable benefits. Because of Him, the image of God exists, though damaged, even in the unconverted. It’s because of grace that people love their families, express gratitude, and sometimes keep a promise. People are able to love, serve, and sacrifice rather than living out total depravity. As Wesley said, “No man sins because he has not grace, but because he does not use the grace he has.”
Based on Romans 5:18, Adam Clarke, Methodist theologian, explained that it placed everyone “into a salvable state” in this life. In some way, everyone has been affected by the atoning death of Jesus Christ:
Preservation from total destruction – Sin does not immediately and utterly ruin anyone.
Continuing sense of right and wrong – Even though imperfect, there is a consciousness of good versus evil.
Preserved ability to receive truth – The gospel penetrates the darkness so that people can believe it.
Preservation of free moral agency – With the Holy Spirit’s enablement, men can choose to turn from their sinful ways to serve God.
Continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit – He visits people everywhere to bring awakening, enlightenment, and conviction of sin.
In the words of Daniel Steele, another renowned Methodist theologian, “God has begun to save every human soul. He has already saved the entire race from [the] extinction” that He could have imposed when Adam sinned.
Christ’s atonement has opened the door of grace. As Wesleyan-Arminians we believe that, because Christ died for all, all can be saved. Since it is not God’s will that any perish, the opportunity to be saved is available to everyone. God is working in the hearts of all men everywhere, drawing them to a saving knowledge of Himself.
God is in Christ reconciling all things to Himself. He is at work transforming everyone and everything. The gospel has had a powerful “leavening” effect on all of human history. Think of the amazing change for good since the cross: descendants of headhunters now raising Christian families, hospitals helping the sick, diseases cured, colleges and orphanages started, and societies influenced and even transformed because of the gospel’s power. While evil is still at work in the world, the gospel has profoundly influenced the world in the last 2000 years. Christ’s atonement reaches beyond just saving individuals; it is also transforming systems and societies.
First and foremost, the Atonement provided the only way for the lost to obtain hope. We are well-versed (hopefully) in that message. The Atonement also began the purifying process of cleansing the culture of the people. Yes, that implies "changing the culture." However, that change takes place within the culture and is not merely imposed from agents on the outside such as missionaries. As the new converts are changed from within, their culture follows suit from within. A redeemed worldview results in changed values, beliefs, and behavior as the Holy Spirit works within the hearts of these new converts. That is right ... change. But it is changed within the cultural context of the people! What solid, long-lasting effects the Atonement makes!
The atonement of Christ benefits the lost in a number of ways: