Category: Jesus, Word: ATONEMENT
December 4, 2015 | by: Kendell Easley, prepared by Dave Maniquis | 0 Comments
Posted in: 52 Words
How much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14)
DEFINITION: Atonement refers to reconciling alienated parties by making amends, that is, by fully satisfying the penalty so that the offense is removed and the relationship is restored. In Scripture, Christ’s death provided atonement in that He died as a substitute for sinners.
What was the meaning of Christ’s death? How did He view His mission of suffering and death? We know from the words He spoke at the first Lord’s Supper that He understood the crucifixion as “for the forgiveness of sins.” Explaining what this means has occupied the energies of many a theologian and minister. Some have taught that he died a moral example of righteous suffering, but surely it was much more than this.
Over the centuries, the best thinking has been done by those who understand the New Testament to be teaching a “substitutionary atonement.” The precedent is found in the Old Testament system of sacrifices that required animal blood to be shed. The Lord told the Israelites through Moses that the animal’s blood makes “atonement on the altar for your lives, since it is the lifeblood that makes atonement” (Lev. 17:11). Yet as Hebrews 9:11-15 teaches, these sacrifices were mere shadows and types, looking ahead to the one sacrifice that would provide forgiveness.
The atonement is the biblical solution to two sets of truths that could not otherwise have been reconciled. On one hand is the holiness of God and His wrath against sin. He cannot look at sin and His justice requires that He must punish it (Jer. 44:4; Rom. 2:5-9). “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). On the other hand is the love and grace of God extended toward helpless, hopeless sinners. The resolution of this difficulty was for God Himself to provide the satisfaction for sin by sending His own sinless Son to pay the terrible price to satisfy His wrath. Thus when a sinner places faith in Jesus, God grants forgiveness and at the same time retains His own righteousness (Rom. 3:26).
The Bible abounds with a variety of terms to refer to the meaning of Jesus’ death.
- Substitution: the death of One on behalf of many (Matt. 26:28; Rom. 5:12-21)
- Sacrifice: the violent shedding of Jesus’ blood as the Lamb of God (Jn. 1:29; Rev. 1:5)
- Ransom: paying the price to set us free from sin’s slavery and penalty (Matt. 20:28: Mk. 10:45)
- Redemption: paying the price to gain release from the law’s curse (Gal. 3:13-14; 1 Peter 1:18)
- Propitiation: quenching God’s wrath against sinners (Rom. 3:25; 1 Jn. 2:2)
- Expiation: removal of sin by being punished and paying the penalty (Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14)
No better summary of the message of the atonement can be found than Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “[God] made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
REFLECTION: Why was it important for Jesus to view His death as an atoning sacrifice? Explain “atonement” in your own words. Which term from the list do you prefer for Jesus’ death? Why?
PRAYER: Lamb of God, Your death paid the penalty for my rebellion against God and against His glory. Thanks be to God that in Your death there is atonement, a sacrifice of redemption in which the wrath of God was satisfied. Amen.
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. Government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.