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Tuesday, July 1, 2014
A thumbnail sketch of the atonement in the Bible
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.
Today I want to lay down a basic outline of one of the greatest and most central teachings of sacred scripture - the atonement. This post is not meant to be exhaustive nor comprehensive, but rather represents a thumbnail sketch of the atonement's main features.
A helpful definition of this term can be seen in the word itself: At - One - Ment. When we talk about the meaning of the term "atonement", it refers to 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, but made possible by His resurrection).
A Basic outline of the key thoughts making up the Atonement in the Bible
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 text for example illustrates perfectly the biblical picture of the atonement: 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 the key Biblical themes of atonement and the Gospel in this passage:
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. 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 achieved by Christ on the cross 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)
Two major themes of "achievement" and "application" dominate any discussion on the subject of atonement. Christ achieved the atoning work in the events of the cross/resurrection and the Spirit applies such at saving faith.
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 of Jesus cleanses, reconciles and restores.
May you dear reader be blessed as you contemplate the atoning work of Christ.