“Atonement” is a theological word that gets mentioned. In short, atonement refers to the work that Christ has done for those who have faith in Him to earn their salvation.
I think people sometimes approach the gospel with skepticism. Jesus died for the sins of all who believe in him.
I know I used to ask was “why do we need this? Why do we have to believe in Jesus? Is sin such a big deal? Why is he the only way?”
I think the atonement helps make sense of that.
Jesus living a perfect and righteous life and dying in our place so we could be made right with God.
But the Bible tells us about the wrath of God for our sin.
The Bible doesn’t hide the fact that God hates sin.
Exodus 34:6-7 says
“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
And there are other passages in the Old Testament that express the same ideas, that use the same language. God is loving and faithful. He does forgive iniquity and transgression and sin. But he will by no means clear the guilty.
Romans 2:5 says, “because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”
Keep in mind that when we sin against God, it’s not some little, inconsequential matter. It is sin against an infinitely Holy God.
And the answer to sin is Jesus.
His sacrifice for our sins, his blood shed for our sins, his life given for our sins. Because of his love for us.
We were unworthy. If we could be worthy, we wouldn’t have needed Jesus. But we were totally unworthy. Separated from God in sin.
I love this quote by John Stott, “Before we can see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.”
We sinned and have sinned so grievously that the only hope was through the redemption of the Lord.
Why did Jesus die? What was the point of it?
Our culture is doing away with the idea of sin.
We just have to accept any debaucherous, hedonistic, revelrous activity that people want to engage in and say that sin isn’t sin under the banner of “love” and “tolerance.”
But we have a society that increasingly likes to tell people “you’re fine;” “Be true to yourself,” “find yourself;” “Do what makes you happy;” “Find your bliss;” “Find your true north;” “You do you;” YOLO.
But we don’t like to acknowledge sin.
Even when we do talk about sin, I think we like to soften it. But it’s not soft! We have all willingly transgressed against a Holy God.
We soften it. All sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
We like to imagine a God who will just let us do whatever we want and call that love. God shows us his love that he died for people who were so blind to sin that they undermined and ignored the thing they were doing which were a very affront to the holiness of God.
And we are not always altruistic. Our motivations are not always pure. We do not always perfectly love and honor God. And as we perpetually are not perfectly doing that, it makes it impossible for us to ever be righteous enough on our own. Because even if there were a finite punishment, like a temporary jail sentence for our sin, we’d still be sinning during that! And we’d still be having time added to the sentence!
But praise be to God, that it is not based on what we do. That we all do sin. We all do fall short of the glory of God. But we have a glorious God, a wondrous God. A Holy God A majestic God who allows us into his presence. Who invites us into heaven. Even though we don’t deserve it.
Originally published August 22, 2017
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Josh Benner has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.