As we discover the centrality of Jesus Christ in all the Bible, atonement is central to the Old and New Testaments and the one subject most important to all who call themselves Christians. No other theme is as important to a believer as this one, therefore, we ought to study to clearly understand its meaning.
As I realized this to be my next word on the list, I knew it would be a most arduous undertaking. It is truly too high for me. To pretend to understand and define this word is not what I want to do, lest I lessen the impact of its true and powerful meaning. My best attempt will be to share my simple understanding and include two links to aid those readers who earnestly want to have a deeper knowledge of the major work of our Lord Jesus Christ. You may have other sources to add in the comment section.
The purpose of publishing Words of Life ~ A to Z ~ The Ordinary Vocabulary of a Christian is to focus on the language of those who are born into God’s kingdom through Jesus Christ.
We can only carry so much from the Old Testament to bring understanding to a Christian vocabulary, so where books have been written on one particular word, we are using more of the references that pertain to our position as a child of God in the New Testament.
Old Testament H3722
Strong’s Concordance defines ATONEMENT kaphar kä·far’ to cover, purge, make an atonement, make reconciliation, cover over with pitch
to cover over, pacify, propitiate
to cover over, atone for sin and persons by legal rites
the same word is used for appease, cleansed, pardon
The Old Testament records the Lord’s commandments for sacrifices to be offered for certain Israelite occasions – for childbirth Leviticus 12; for leprosy Leviticus 14; uncleaness Leviticus 15. These are not relative to a Christian.
We will use the references that relate to the understanding of the sacrifice made as an atonement for the forgiveness of sins – the type and the atonement that foreshadowed the atonement that would be made for us through Jesus’ sacrifice.
Atonement for Forgiveness of Sins
“And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the Lord commanded Moses.” Leviticus 16:34
Leviticus 16 speaks of the many facets of the atonement made by the priests once a year for the nation of Israel. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews compares these to the one sacrificial atonement Jesus made once for all. (Every Christian should study this book for these comparisons.)
The everlasting statute made for the children of Israel was no longer necessary when Jesus died for the sins of His people.
New Testament G2643
Strong’s Concordance defines ATONEMENT, katallagē kä-täl-lä-gā’ adjustment of a difference, reconciliation, restoration to favor,
The same word is used for reconciliation in the N.T. of the restoration of the favor of God to sinners that repent and put their trust in the expiatory death of Christ
“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.”
“And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
by whom we have now received the atonement.”
“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ,
and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;”
2 Corinthians 5:18
Ephesians 2 is a must read for us to understand how both the nation of Israel and other nations are brought together and reconciled to God.
“And that he might reconcile both unto God
in one body by the cross,
having slain the enmity thereby:”
In my meager understanding, there seem to be specific elements relating to Jesus’ atonement: a perfect life, sacrifice, blood, death, and resurrection.
A Perfect Life was required to appease the wrath of God (1 John 4:10).
“But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:” 1 Peter 1:19
Sacrifice in the willingness to give His life (Ephesians 5:2).
“But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;” Hebrews 10:12
Blood is shed on behalf of His people.
“Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Hebrews 9:12
“And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” Hebrews 9:22
the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (Revelation 1:5)
the blood of the everlasting covenant (Hebrews 13:20).
Death is the result of His sacrifice made for atonement–the finished act on His part to take our punishment upon Himself.
“And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight“: Colossians 1:20-22
“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” John 19:30
Resurrection is the means for His ascension as our High Priest–ever living to make intercession for us, saving to the uttermost those who come to God by faith in Christ (Hebrews 7:25).
How blessed we are to study and meditate on the truths of Jesus’ life and His purpose for being here on earth —to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). I am both amazed and humbled. The power of His holy will to secure a people for Himself by providing all that is needed for our salvation is incomprehensible. To believe that He included me in this covenant of redemption can only be a work of His Holy Spirit within me. I am powerless to do anything in this atoning work. Atonement planned and executed by a Triune God leaves nothing to the imagination of man nor of his will to help or add anything to it. Atonement in the life and work of Jesus Christ is the only means to obtain at-one-ment with God our heavenly Father.
Dear Father, we can only know the power of your love that secured a new life for us through the atoning work of your Son, except as you work it in each of us. Continue to show us, teach us, and lead us as the God of our salvation. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
What is Atonement?
The Day of Atonement Charles Spurgeon