There are many different views of the atonement in our day. Whether you belong to a Baptist denomination or a Lutheran, you are bound to hear slight variations on the meaning and definition of this term. But for this exercise, I’ll try to prove through the careful examination of Scripture and pointing to verse after verse as to why I believe the definition that I am about to expound upon.
Disclaimer: If you are easily angered or even offended by those who profess to believe the Bible to be God’s complete and perfect Word, then please read carefully. I am not here to offend, but to help those who are simply curious to a point of view that may be the right one. Hopefully, and prayerfully, it is. And I’m going to use much Scripture to help prove my points.
Our Needs as Humans Who Sin
Before we can give somebody a treatment plan and cure for the disease they possess, they must first know that they have a disease. Why would you accept cancer treatment if you didn’t think you had cancer? Take it the other way. Why would you not accept cancer treatment if you knew you had cancer? So, here we are. And you have cancer. But so do I. And the only cure for this disease is what I’m going to be discussing in this article: the atonement of Jesus Christ.
Our cancer is sin. But what exactly is sin? It doesn’t seem to be some type of matter. We can’t see it; we can’t feel it, we can’t touch it; or anything else; but we are definitely affected by it. Sin is: any moral failure to conform to the law of God in attitude, nature, thought, or act. We need to define sin in relation to God because we would not know it otherwise. Take for example: you wouldn’t know dark without light; and you wouldn’t know love without hate; grace without failure; good without evil. We know sin because God gave us a perfect law that requires us to conform to.
But we failed. We failed from birth. We were born with sin (Psalm 51:5). We have all sinned because Adam chose to sin (Romans 5:12-21). We are utterly cut off from God and under His wrath because of our nature, thoughts, actions, and attitudes (Romans 3:10-12; John 3:36). There are a plethora of passages that explain this predicament that we find ourselves. Go to an online Bible reference and type in “wrath of God.” Did you know that Jesus speaks more about Hell than Heaven? And that there are more than twice as many passages of Scripture about His wrath than about His love?
Anyways, you get the idea. As humans, we all find ourselves separated from God and under His wrath. So how do we become reconciled to God? How does one become a child of God? How does your sins become atoned for; or your slate become wiped clean?
Repentance from Sin and Faith in the Son of God
Because of what Jesus Christ did in His life and in His death, we have the opportunity to be saved; to have all of our sinful acts remembered no more. But this takes faith. It takes belief. And not simply believing something is fact. The Bible teaches that the demons believe and shudder (James 2:19). You will need to put all of your hope and trust in what Christ did for you. But you also need to do another thing. Repent.
Repentance is a turning away from something and making a 180-degree turn toward something else. You cannot have faith in Christ if you’re focused on your sin. You must first turn from your sin and look upon the risen Christ and be saved. This repentance is a changing of the mind. It’s a giving up on yourself and anything you can do to save yourself. Repent of all of your sins, but also repent of all of your good works as well. Nothing but the blood of Jesus Christ will give you the atonement you absolutely need.
So what is this atonement? What did Jesus accomplish so that I could be saved? Well, it’s a very deep topic, and one that I definitely need help to explain. So I’ll be turning to the Bible a lot.
The atonement is actually everything that Jesus Christ did in His life, death and resurrection to provide for your eternal salvation. Because God is saving people all over the world does not mean that He is loving or just. You cannot have one without the other. God is a judge. We are the sinners. He judges us righteously according to our sin.
So, if you went to court, and God was sitting on the throne, He would look down at you and condemn you to Hell for eternity; even for the smallest of your sins. Because you offended a perfect God with betrayal and deceit, you definitely deserve a righteous punishment. So God would be completely just and loving to send you to Hell. He would be loving because He is not offending anybody and upholding the perfect law. You wouldn’t want a rapist to be let free because the judge was “loving”, would you? It would be more loving if he was justly judged. Therefore everybody deserves Hell.
But what about all of those people who are being saved? What about those that were saved in the past? Without God doing something about their sins, they could rightly call God unjust and unloving. But God did do something. He came to Earth to atone for the sins of His people. He stepped down from His throne and lived the life we should have lived and died the death that we deserve to die so that we would be saved if we trust in that sacrifice on our behalf. And that sacrifice was His very own Son.
Conclusion of Part 1
In the next part of the Biblical Terms series, we’ll dive into the atonement on a much deeper level with many Scripture passages to study. Hopefully you will grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. He truly is our salvation.