Spiritual Blessings – Atonement

THE word “atonement" is essentially an Old Testament word, where it occurs some 70 times or more. It is found but once in the Authorized Version of the New Testament; the Revised Version, however, translates it “reconciliation," as also in Rom. 11. 15 and 2 Cor. 5. 18, 19. We may ask, how is it that although the atone-ment lies at the foundation of our Christian faith, the word itself never occurs in the New Testament ? Here it is necessary to define our terms, for words change their meaning with the passing of time. The Biblical use of the word “atonement" differs from its present theological use. When we speak of the atonement in the New Testa-ment we mean the sacrificial and redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ, but this work is so great and varied in its aspects, both Godward and manward, that it cannot be compressed into one word.

The Basis of Atonement. Atonement has, as its foundation, the idea of sacrifice, and from time immemorial whenever man thought of approaching Deity, he invari-ably did so through sacrifice. In so doing he often acted far wiser than he knew. The Bible makes it very clear and plain that sin against a holy God must be atoned for, and only when this has been accomplished can man approach God. The Hebrew word “atonement “ means “ to cover up," and the very first occurrence of the word is in Gen. 6. 14, where we arc told that Noah’s Ark was covered with pitch within and without, and so made proof against the judgment waters of God. When Jacob was about to meet his brother Esau, whom he had angered and wronged, he sent a present on before and said, “ I will appease him with a present that goeth before me, and afterwards I will see his face ; peradventure he will accept me “ (Gen. 32. 20). The present was intended to cover the face of the offended person of Esau, so that he could no longer see the offence. Thus in the atonement of the Lord Jesus, sin is so completely covered that God’s anger is no longer operative against it. In the words of the apostle, “ once in the end of the world (age) hath He appeared to put away sin (not merely cover it) by the sacrifice of Him-self “ (Heb. 9. 26). Blood was sprinkled on and before the mercy-seat in the holy place of the Tabernacle, that satisfaction may be given to Jehovah. The mercy-seat hid the two tables of stone, evidence of Israel’s guilt. In like manner, there was in the death of the Lord Jesus that which satisfied the righteous anger of a holy God. More than this, in the work of Christ on the Cross there was nothing temporary or partial; His work docs not overlook or pass over sin, but “ takes it away “ (Jn. 1. 29; Col. 2. 14 ; Heb. 10. 4 ; 1 Jn. 3. 5). In the Levitical offerings provision was made for stated sins and, apart from a few exceptions, there was no atonement for sins of wilfulness, David knew this, and in sorrow cried : “ Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would 1 give it “ (Psa. 51. 16). His sin was deliberate and wilful, for which no provision had been made. Notwithstanding, the Lord was merciful to him. But the sacrifice of Christ provides for all sin.

The Author of Atonement. Of this atonement which has its basis in sacrifice, God is the author. “ The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all “ ; “ we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted “ ; “ it pleased the Lord to bruise Him, He hath put Him to grief “ (Isa, 53. 4, 6, 10). “ For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son “ (Jn. 3. 16) ; “ In this was mani-fested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only-begotten Son into the world that we might have life through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitia-tion for our sins “ (1 Jn. 4. 9, 10). “ When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons “ (Gal. 4. 4, 5).Atonement has its source in God – in God’s love. Infinite wisdom fashioned it, infinite power accomplished it, and infinite love prompted it. It was “ love unbounded led Thee thus, to give Thy well-beloved for us.”

The Divine Method of Atonement. God’s method of atonement was ever by blood. “ For the life of the flesh is in the blood : and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls : for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17. 11). Of this type, the blood of Christ is the antitype. Indeed, He is Himself the essence of the atonement. “Christ Jesus : whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, by His blood “ (Rom. 3. 24, 25, R.V.). It is important to note here the punctuation as given in the Revised Version. *The phrase “ by His blood “ is to be taken in immediate connection with “ propitiation.” Christ, through His expiatory death, is the Personal means by whom God shows the mercy of His justifying grace to the sinner who believes. The “ blood “ stands for the voluntary giving up of His life, by the shedding of His blood in expiatory sacrifice, under Divine judgment righteously due to us as sinners, faith being the sole condition of man’s part.By metonymy, “ blood “ is sometimes used for “ death," inasmuch as, blood being essential to life, when blood is shed, life is given up ; that is, death takes place. The fundamental principle on which God deals with sinners is expressed in the words, “ without shedding of blood (i.e., unless death takes place) there is no remission of sins “ (Heb. 9. 22). But whereas the essential of the type lay in the fact that blood was shed, the essential of the anti-type lies in the fact that the blood shed was that of Christ, in connexion with the great antitypical sacrifice of the New Testament. The words “ the blood “ never stand alone. The One who shed the blood is invariably specified, for it is the Person that gives value to the work ; the saving efficacy of the death depends entirely upon the fact that He who died was the Son of God.*

*{Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W. H. Vine–” Propitiation.")


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