Monday, May 28, 2012

Introduction to the atonement

1 John 2:2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

For the next few days I want us to begin exploring a major concept in the Bible: "atonement". A helpful definition of this term can be seen in the word itself: At - One - Ment. That is, it is God's saving work whereby He provides the grounds for the sinner to be At-One with Him. Other meanings of this word include the ideas of removal of God's wrath (called by Bible teachers "propitiation") and removal of the sinner's guilt before God (called "expiation"). 

For now we will restrict ourselves to the term "atonement", since it covers so much ground and is a summary word for all that was accomplished and effected by Christ's life and work on the cross (chiefly His crucifixion). 

In the Old Testament, the idea of cleansing away of sinful guilt was of chief importance in the minds of the Old Testament writers. One verse that uses the Hebrew word for cleansing illustrates perfectly the biblical picture of the atonement:

Picturing the atonement from Job

Job 37:21-22 “Now men do not see the light which is bright in the skies; But the wind has passed and cleared them. “Out of the north comes golden splendor; Around God is awesome majesty."

Notice how we see a picture of the sinner:
1. Lost in darkness. Picture men who are in darkness, unable to see the light. Ephesians 2:1-2 and 2 Corinthians 4:1-4 characterizes unbelieving man like the men here in Job 37:21.

2. Light of God's Glory. The light is in the sky, but inaccessible and unseeable. The clouds of judgment veil the face of God. Unbelieving man faces judgment due to His rejection of Holy God. (Romans 1:18-31; John 3:17-19)

3. The Cleansing away of darkness. This is what takes place when the atonement is applied to the believer by grace through faith. The darkness of judgment is swept away by the blood, and behold the sinner is declared a saint and can now walk under an open heaven with God. (1 John 1:6-9)

4. The Glory of God. This is what the sinner had fallen short of, but now the glory of God is central. What was formerly frightening is now delightful. Atonement reconciles us to the majesty of God. The blood cleanses, reconciles and restores. 

May you dear reader be blessed as you contemplate the atoning work of Christ.