Spurgeon, Atonement, and Your Life in Christ

by Aaron Lumpkin January 14, 2021

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892), the famed “prince of preachers,” navigated his life by the reality of the living Christ, the influence of the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God. Even though he grew up in a Christian household, he did not come to faith in Christ until he wandered into a Primitive Methodist Chapel in 1849. Here, he experienced the power of God through Isaiah 45:22—“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!” He believed upon the Lord Jesus, and his life was radically changed.

For Spurgeon, the atoning work of Jesus illuminated and enlivened his piety towards a faith marked by good works, and he emphasized the centrality of the cross in our union with Christ, union with one another, and our mission in this life.

Communion with Christ

Spurgeon understood the Christian faith to be built solely upon the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Faith in the atoning work of Christ brought communion with Christ. Jesus is the federal head, and “every redeemed soul is one with the Lord from heaven, since he is the second Adam, the sponsor and substitute of the elect in the new covenant of love.”[1] This unity with the Lord was neither a mystical experience nor an intellectual ascent. It was a life-giving reality that transformed the life of the believer.

Spurgeon believed our union to Christ was all-encompassing. Spurgeon wrote, “We have communion with Christ in His thoughts, views, and purposes, for His thoughts are our thoughts according to our capacity and sanctity. Believers take the same view of matters as Jesus does; that which pleases Him pleases them and that which grieves Him grieves them also.”[2] Unity with Christ directed the life of the believer.

This led Spurgeon to conform his views on cultural issues to the Scriptures. When advocating for the abolishment of the slave trade, he said, “I do from my inmost soul detest slavery anywhere and everywhere, and although I commune at the Lord’s table with men of all creeds, yet with a slaveholder I have no fellowship of any sort or kind.”[3] His experience with the gospel of Jesus Christ altered all of life, even how he navigated controversial issues of the day.

Ultimately for Spurgeon, union with Christ means “Christ is our life.” Spurgeon said as much in his devotion Morning by Morning. He wrote,

Christ is the object of our life. As speeds the ship toward the port, so hastens the believer toward the haven of his Savior’s bosom. As flies the arrow to its goal, so flies the Christian toward the perfecting of his fellowship with Christ Jesus. As the soldier fights for his captain and is crowned in his captain’s victory, so the believer contends for Christ and gets his triumph out of the triumphs of his Master. For him to live is Christ. Christ is the exemplar of our life. Where there is the same life within, there will, there must be, to a great extent the same developments without, and if we live in near fellowship with the Lord Jesus, we shall grow like Him. We shall set Him before us as our divine copy, and we shall seek to tread in His footsteps, until He shall become the crown of our life in glory. Oh! How safe, how honored, how happy is the Christian, since Christ is our life![4]

Communion with the Saints

Spurgeon believed the atoning work of Christ not only united him to God but also connected him to the people of God—the church. Like today, there were many views regarding the church in Spurgeon’s era. He described this, saying,

There are various estimates of the Christian church. Some think everything of her; some think nothing of her; and probably neither opinion is worth the breath which utters it. Neither Ritualists, who idolise their church, nor sceptics, who vilify all churches, have any such knowledge of the true spiritual church of Jesus Christ as to be entitled to give an opinion. The king’s daughter is all glorious within, with a beauty which they are quite unable to appreciate.[5]

Spurgeon found the true church to be all together beautiful because of its connection to Jesus Christ. This was made possible through Christ’s atoning sacrifice. In fact, the atonement is the “conquering truth” for the Christian and the banner that the church carries!

Spurgeon emphasized the true identity and name of the church. It is the “church of the living God.” The significance is obvious. Spurgeon could not move past the reality of the life of God and the believer’s life in the living Christ.  He wrote,

The church is not a number of unregenerate people coming together entirely of their own notion to defend such and such dogmas. Such persons may form a club, but they cannot make a church. There must be a coming together of renewed men, in the name of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and these must meet for purposes which God himself ordains, and be joined together after his own fashion. Jesus must be the uniting corner stone, and his Spirit the indwelling power….[6]

Jesus, through his life, death, and resurrection, builds and unites his people for his glorious purposes.

Mission in the World

Spurgeon also found the cross of Christ at the center of the mission of God’s people. The cross offered the evangelistic power necessary to see lives radically transformed. Christ and his atoning work are the magnetic power to soften hearts and to reorient lives. He wrote,

Not in his robes of glory does he subdue the heart, but in his vestments of shame…. The crown of thorns has a royal power in it to compel a willing allegiance, the scepter of reed breaks hearts better than a rod of iron, and the robe of mockery commands more love than Caesar’s imperial purple. There is nothing like it under heaven.[7]

Spurgeon knew that this power—the power of the cross of Christ—led the people of God to be on mission for God. This began at home but extended to the nations. “Conversion,” he wrote, “should begin with those who are nearest to us in ties of relationships.”[8] While we may set our eyes on India or Africa, Spurgeon would say look first to your own home and pray for those who are far off. In the end, “[W]hen we have proved our God by prayer, He will pour down such a blessing that we shall not have room to receive it.”

Gospel Power

Ultimately, Christians must remember the gospel is “a thing of power.” It unites us to Christ; it brings us into a new family; it sends us on mission. The gospel is “Christ, the power of God.”[9]


[1] From “Bands of Love: or, Union to Christ,” Sword and the Trowel (September 1865), 374-75. Cited in Nathan A. Finn and Aaron Lumpkin, The Sum and Substance of the Gospel: The Christ-Centered Piety of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Reformation Heritage, 2020), 37.

[2] From “Communion with Christ and His People,” Sword and the Trowel (February 1883), 54. Cited in Nathan A. Finn and Aaron Lumpkin, The Sum and Substance of the Gospel: The Christ-Centered Piety of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Reformation Heritage, 2020), 91.

[3] Charles H. Spurgeon, “A Letter to the Editors of the Christian Watchman and Reflector” (Boston, January 26, 1860).

[4] From “August 10,” Morning by Morning, 207–8.

[5] From “The Church As She Should Be,” MTP 17, https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-church-as-she-should-be/#flipbook/.

[6] From “What the Church Should Be,” MTP 24, https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/what-the-church-should-be/#flipbook/.

[7] From The Passion and Death of Our Lord, in A Treasury of Spurgeon on the Life and Work of Our Lord, 6vv. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 6:365.

[8] From Word of Counsel for Christian Workers (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 10–12.

[9] From “Christ Crucified,” New Park Street Pulpit, (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1856), 1:57.

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared at the blog for Credo Magazine and is used with permission.