Atonement: Establishing Borders

Failing to understand a part of a story in its context can lead to a fail in understanding of the whole story itself. Many non-Christians and Christians failed to understand why Christ Jesus, a claimed God-man, had to die for others. Could not God just forgive sin? What kind of God would require a blood sacrifice? If Jesus was God, how could He die?(I answer this in Hypostatic Union) What was the point of Jesus’ death?

To understand this part of Christians story, we are commended to understand the context, the whole, of God’s story as understood by early Judaic Christians. It is wise to understand the whole story so as help and guard us not to impose our modern’s 21st century thinking into ancient Judaism. We ought to first understand what it meant in their worldview before we criticize it with our own worldviews.

What is atonement? Harper’s Bible dictionary defines atonement, as “the means by which the guilt-punishment chain produced by violation of God’s will is broken, as well as the resulting state of reconciliation (‘at-onement’) with God.” (Achtemeier et al. 1985: 80)

Evans’ Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion clearly and concisely definition of atonement as a “ Christian doctrine that Christ has in some way solved the problems created by human sinfulness, especially the problem of alienation from God.”(Evans 2002:13-4) resonates Achtemeier’s definition.

Atonement is an objective means by which the guilt of sin is removed through the sacrificial blood, signifying the life of the sacrificed being, in place of a worshipper. New Testament divulges atonement as the “work Christ did in his life and death to earn our salvation.” (Grudem 1994: 568 emphasis original). Old Testament sacrificial system symbolized the future sacrifice that “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering”(Gen. 22:8, 14).

Boso captured his teacher’s position, Anselm of Canterbury, correctly as he explained that “[t]his debt[man owed God for his sin] was so great that, while none but man must solve the debt, none but God was able to do it; so that he who does it must be both God and man. (Anselm 2009, 278-9)

Thus accordingly to His own prerogative, the Lamb of God, who is God-man, took away the sin of the world through willingly laid down of is life. (John 10:11-18) He was pierced for our transgression and crushed for our iniquities. (Isa. 53:5 cf. Rom. 4:25)The Lamb of God poured out the pass-over blood (1 Cor. 5:7) acceptable as ransom for all (1 Tim. 6:2 cf Matt. 20:28), whom the Lord our God calls to himself.(Acts 2:39b)

Atonement is the demonstration of the righteousness and holiness God as He justified all, without distinction, through the redemption work of Christ Jesus, whom God put forth as propitiation by His blood. (Rom. 3:22-24)

The author of Hebrews explained that; “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”(Heb. 9:22b ESV) and that it was “impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”(Heb. 10:4 ESV) Thus, God in his forbearance left their sins unpunished until He presented the Lamb of God, Christ Jesus, to drink “the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger”(Rev 14:10) in their place.

The Apostle Paul argued that, “[t]his was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”(Rom. 3:25-26 ESV)

Question: Was atonement defined correctly? Give reasons

Next: Atonement: Dancing With Theories

Previous: Extent Of Atonement: Worldviews In Collision



Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row, P., & Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed.). San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Anselm, S., Archbishop of Canterbury, & Deane, S. N. (2009). Proslogium; Monologium; An appendix, In behalf of the fool, by Gaunilon; and Cur Deus homo. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Evans, C. Stepheven (2002). Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press.

Grudem, W. A. (1994). Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine.

2 thoughts on “Atonement: Establishing Borders

  1. I wanted to comment on the question “Could God not just forgive Sin?” No He couldn’t and we wouldn’t want God to do that. When we think of sin we often trivialize it. We don’t see it as evil as we should. But for one moment let’s imagine the worst sin possible. Let’s take this to the extreme. Could God not just forgive Hitler? Everything in ourselves screams out, No! God shouldn’t forgive Hitler. It would be totally unjust for God to forgive Hitler. It would be absolutely wrong for God to just willy-nilly forgive Hitler. All those individuals whose live Hitler destroyed would rise up against God if God just forgave Hitler. The problem with god forgiving sin is that when God forgive sins God’s justice is questioned. Can God be just and gracious and merciful toward sinners at the same time? This is the reason for the Cross. In the Cross we see both God’s justice and mercy displayed. God’s wrath and God’s grace are intermingled. This is the amazing moment of Atonement.

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