Lesson 10 - Atonement

Lesson 10 - Atonement

The word in Greek for atonement is “katallage”, a word closely associated with propitiation and reconciliation (same root word).  Propitiation is the principle of satisfying the righteousness of God and atonement is the function of satisfying the righteousness of God.  Together they reconcile us to God.  The word atonement is used in the New Testament only once…(in Romans 5:11).  Similar to the meaning of reconciliation, atonement means to exchange, to adjust, or to restore to favor.  Caught up in the doctrine of atonement is the substitutionary spiritual death of Christ, a person’s adjustment to God’s standard of righteousness and the restoration of God’s favor towards that person.  The idea of “at-one-ment” is often used for atonement and is not altogether incorrect, though simplified.

Atonement in the Old Testament

In order to fully understand this doctrine it is necessary to look at its origin.  The doctrine of atonement is found throughout the Old Testament to describe the Mercy Seat that covered the Ark of the Covenant.  It was symbolic of the judgment for sin that was to be accomplished by the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Paul knew the Old Testament and the symbolism of the Mercy Seat and used this Old Testament doctrine to correctly teach the atoning work that was accomplished by Christ on the Cross.

The Mercy Seat of solid gold was the lid (covering) for the Ark of the Covenant.  Two cherubim angels guarded either end of the Mercy Seat, symbolizing God’s presence and judgment against any illegitimate approach to God.  This was God’s throne upon which He sat symbolically and it pictured His grace and mercy toward His people.  The one time a year that the high priest was allowed into the Holy of Holies where the Mercy Seat was located, he was to sprinkle blood on it to signify that an atonement had been made for the sins of the nation of Israel.  It was above the Mercy Seat that the Shekinah Glory of God resided.  Christ became our Mercy Seat having satisfied the righteousness and justice of God by His substitutionary spiritual death on the Cross (Doctrine of Propitiation).  The Greek word for Mercy-Seat is “hilasterion” and literally means a lid or a covering.  According to Romans 3:25, Christ is our Mercy Seat (our covering for sin).  In the same manner that an animal as a type of Christ was judged for sin, Christ Himself was the reality of that type. (Exodus 25:17-22; Numbers 7:89; Hebrews 9:1-28)

Mercy Seat in Hebrew is “kapporeth” and means “the cover”.  Once a year the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat, symbolizing that the nation’s sins were covered.  It was a symbol of the judgment for sin that Christ would endure in the future.  Yom Kippur is the Jewish holiday that celebrates of the Day of Atonement.  The Day of Atonement for the Jew is a time for confession of sin and asking for forgiveness from both God and people.  Even though a Jewish person may not realize it, he is acknowledging the substitutionary spiritual death of Christ, which is the basis for forgiveness from sin.  It is this Jewish feast that Paul explains in Romans as symbolic of the work of Christ in propitiation (complete satisfaction for sin). (Leviticus 23:26-32; Romans 3:25)

Necessity of the Atonement

Atonement is necessary because of Adam’s original sin, which is imputed (credited) to man’s sin nature at birth.  It is Adam’s original sin that condemns the entire human race.  Because of this condemnation, man is born spiritually dead.  Spiritual death means that mankind is separated from God without the ability to remedy the situation.  It is for this reason that God in His grace designed a plan of salvation for the human race.  This plan called for Christ to leave Heaven, become a man, live an impeccable life, be judged for our sin, and be raised from the dead.  The payment for all sin has been made and anyone can accept this payment by believing in Christ.

Hamartiology is the doctrine of sin.  The Greek word for sin is “hamartia”, which literally means “missing the mark”.  There are three categories of sin.  There is imputed sin, which is Adam’s original sin imputed to the entire human race at birth. (Romans 5:12b; I Corinthians 15:21-22)  There is inherent sin, which is the sin nature passed down to each member of the human race genetically from the father.  (Romans 5:12a, 18, 19; Psalm 51:5)  And finally there is personal sin.  Personal sin is not imputed to the human race.  Personal sins are committed as a result of having a sin nature.  All temptation to sin originates from the sin nature. (Psalm 32:2; Romans 4:8; II Corinthians 5:19)

The Extent of the Atonement

The work of Jesus Christ on the Cross (atonement) was for all mankind:

  1. Imputed sin (spiritual death) - in Adam all die spiritually, but in Christ all believers are made alive spiritually and receive (+R) the righteousness of God.  (I Corinthians 15:22;  Ephesians 2:1,5; II Corinthians 5:21)
  2. Inherent sin (sin nature) - Jesus Christ died as the payment for inherent sin (positional sanctification). (Ephesians 2:8-9)  He died to defeat the sin nature control of our soul (experiential sanctification). (Romans 8:8-10, II Corinthians 5:17) Finally, Christ died to rid the believer of the presence of the sin nature in eternity.
  3. Personal sin (overt and mental attitude) - Jesus Christ bore the sins of the world, therefore, our sins are not an issue in salvation.  God’s righteousness and justice were satisfied.  All pre-salvation sins are forgiven at salvation. (I John 2:2; Ephesians 1:7)  Since the sin nature is not eradicated at salvation, the believer continues to sin. (Romans 8, I John 1:8-10)  Post-salvation personal sin is dealt with using “The Rebound Technique” of naming your sins to God. (I John 1:9)

Jesus Christ was judged for all sin, imputed, inherent and personal.  He paid the penalty by His substitutionary spiritual death on the Cross.  (Matthew 27:26; John 19:30)  Mankind is born with a free will (volition).  Salvation is always a matter of personal choice and should never be forced or coerced in any way.  God is not willing that any person should perish without Christ.  For this reason, God constantly pursues the unbeliever.  Anyone can have eternal life if that person chooses to believe in Christ.  God extends this invitation to everyone.  Those who choose the salvation solution inherit eternal life.

One of the ministries of God the Holy Spirit is to convince mankind of its need for the Savior, Jesus Christ.  He accomplishes this in many ways.  Sometimes He uses people or circumstances, sometimes He even uses an unbeliever or an out-of-fellowship believer to expose the truth.  One thing is certain, God the Holy Spirit will always do His job.  If a person is positive at “God consciousness”, the Holy Spirit will provide enough information to that person in order for them to trust Christ as Savior.  At “Gospel hearing” the Holy Spirit makes the message understandable so that a person can accept God’s gift of eternal life.

The Effects of the Atonement

The phrase “at-one-ment” describes in a simple way the effect of the Atonement.  Because of the Atonement, those who choose to believe in Christ “become one” with Him.  The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is the placing of the believer into union with Jesus Christ.  It is this union that guarantees the believer an eternal inheritance.  The Atonement was the single act that satisfied (propitiated) the righteousness of God.

Atonement is the just act of God in pouring out the sins of the entire human race (past, present and future) upon Jesus Christ and judging

Him in our place.  Atonement accomplishes for us that which we could not do for ourselves.  The barrier of sin was removed, thus making peace with God (Reconciliation).  The believer is given eternal life and an eternal  inheritance that is beyond anything that the mind of man can imagine.  The righteousness of God is imputed to the believer and God’s justice declares the believer to be righteous as a result.  All 33 spiritual assets are transferred to the believer at the moment of salvation.  All of these assets are permanent for each believer, with the exception of the filling (control) of the Holy Spirit, which is not permanent.  (This is not to be confused with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which is permanent).

Forgiveness of sin is also accomplished by the Atonement.  The Greek word for forgiveness is “aphiemi” and means “to send away from, to send forth.”  In other words, it means deliverance from the penalty of sin and the complete removal of sin.  Jesus Christ paid the penalty for ALL sin, pre-salvation and post-salvation (I Corinthians 5:21; I John2:2)  At salvation all pre-salvation personal sins are forgiven.

(Ephesians 1:7)  After salvation, personal sins separate us from fellowship with God, cause us to lose the filling of the Holy Spirit and  the momentum of our spiritual lives.  Confession (naming, admitting, acknowledging) of known sins restores our fellowship with God, the control of the Holy Spirit and the potential for spiritual momentum. (I John 1:6-10)  The divine mechanics of forgiveness go back to the Cross where all sin was judged and forgiven.  Human mechanics simply agree with the judgment that took place on the Cross.  Rebound is an extension of propitiation and atonement.  God is completely satisfied (propitiation) with the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross (atonement) and this is the basis for our forgiveness.

The importance of understanding and utilizing the Rebound Technique of naming your sins to God cannot be overemphasized. Without fellowship with God and the filling (control) of the Holy Spirit you have no spiritual life and no Christian life.  The Christian Way of Life can be executed only by means of the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.   When you choose to sin you are “turning your nose up” at God, saying in effect, “I don’t need You.”  You have “handcuffed” (quenched, grieved) (I Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30)the Holy Spirit so that He can no longer work in your life.  You cannot function as a royal priest or properly represent Christ as His ambassador.  The character of Christ cannot be produced in your life, and therefore, your witness for Him is ineffective.  You cannot learn or apply Bible doctrine because you’re out of fellowship with God and the sin nature is controlling your soul.  Christ has atoned for your sins and this is the basis for all forgiveness.  There is no excuse for a believer to stay out of fellowship with God for very long and it is very dangerous to do so.