Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On the Importance of the Atonement

Life of Christ 85

          This is startlingly true: Jesus was willing to call a man He dearly loved 'Satan' because that man spoke against the atonement (Matthew 16.23). Jesus had set His face like a flint (Isaiah 50.7), and nothing and no one was going to bar His march toward the being of our substitutionary atonement. In this we see the tremendous importance He attached to it, and thus that we ought likewise to attach to it.
          What is the atonement? The simplest answer is sometimes the best. The atonement is an at-one-ment. Between God and man a great barrier was fixed. Sin had separated the two, and it took the blood of the God-man, Jesus Christ, shed at His death, to break down that barrier and reconcile the two former enemies.

Colossians 1.20  And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
21  And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled
22  In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

          In fact, the entire point of the Jewish religious sacrificial system in the Old Testament was to represent the necessity for this atoning death. 'For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul' (Leviticus 17.11).
          The word 'atonement' is used 70 times in the Bible, 69 of them in the Old Testament. The dictionary defines the word as satisfaction for a wrong or injury. The original language in the Old Testament gives the idea of covering over something i.e. our sins.
          The illustrations of this in the Old Testament are many and varied, beginning all the way back in the Garden of Eden when an animal was sacrificed, and its skins used to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve after they had sinned. We see it in the atonement money paid by the Jewish people to the Temple. We see it in the great feast known as the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, with its famous scapegoat. We see it in the constant references to atonement in the various sacrifices instituted to care for the sins of the Jewish people in the Old Testament. No, these sacrifices never permanently covered sin. 'It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin' (Hebrews 10.4). But they did provide a constant and ever-present reminder that the sin must be paid for in death and blood in order for God's justified wrath to be appeased.
          We see this even more clearly in the only use of the word 'atonement' in the New Testament.

Romans 5.6  For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9  Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10  For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
11  And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
          How could Jesus be so harsh on Peter when all Peter wanted was to speak out against the death of His beloved Messiah? Because in speaking thus, Peter was seeking to throw up a road block on Jesus' journey toward the atonement.

          Doctrine. It's a beautiful thing, isn't it?

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