- atonement and
“…He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but have everyone to come to repentance.”2
“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”3
There is no Hebrew word for substitution but the biblical concept is documented.
“Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.”4
“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”5
Any one of us can pay the cost of sin in our life by accepting the punishment of death but what’s the benefit in that? None of us wants to be condemned, punished and die for the sins of our life. I suppose for some, choosing salvation may seem a coward’s way of facing the consequences of sin but the truth is that each of us looks for a way of escape. When you’re stopped by a policeman for speeding, you don’t say, “I broke the law, give me a ticket officer”. No, you offer a substitute (an alibi) in an effort to excuse your actions. When the officer says, “I’m not going to give you a ticket this time. Please drive the posted speed limit.” You don’t get angry and demand a speeding ticket. No, you say, “Thank you officer” and go on your merry way. Yes, the world's answer to consequences is escape. People take their life (e.g., suicide), sabotage (e.g., addiction) their life and frustrate their life (e.g., greed) in an effort to escape.
The same is true for salvation. You and I know we deserve the just punishment of God but none of us would argue with God when He freely accepts the substitutionary life of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world (you, me and everyone else). When we accept Christ as savior, God sees His life poured out as a sin offering for all. As a result, no further substitution is necessary. God forgives because of the substitutionary act of Jesus Christ. God values Jesus Christ more than sin. When someone offends me, I need to substitute Jesus Christ for that offense; giving greater value to who Christ is than what someone has done to me. To do otherwise would mean that the offense is more important to me than Jesus Christ. Recognizing Christ is greater than the offense towards me enables me to forget.
The second step towards forgiving is atonement. The Hebrew word for atonement is kaphar (kaw-far’) which means to cover. In God’s eyes, atonement can only be achieved through death; blood must be shed, someone must die. When I look at the biblical form of forgiving, I recognize that God requires atonement (or covering) for sin. Each of us is guilty of sin and the verdict of death has been given. Either I must die or someone must atone for my sins. That sounds harsh but that’s the just penalty for sin. Someone has to die for your (and my) sin before God is satisfied the punishment has been executed. The interesting thing is that because we all are under sin, not one of us can atone for someone else. The truth is that even if I could die for your sin, so that you would live, I wouldn’t choose to. It’s like being on the ship Titanic, everyone on board knows the ship is sinking and everyone behaves under the rule of, every man for himself. I can’t help you because I’m too busy helping myself.
I need to understand that the blood of Jesus Christ covers me (once and for all). This means that when the accuser of our brethren condemns me, God sees the blood of His Son; I am righteous before God. This is my vindication. In accepting the atonement of Christ on my behalf, I must now see others as God sees me.
But how does the forgiveness of God help me forgive others?
Tomorrow I will conclude atonement and the final step to forgiving.
- Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
- Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
- The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA