Summary: The sixth Article of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene. Explains the OT version of atonement and the full and complete atonement provided by Jesus Christ.
Okay, let’s quickly remember the Articles of Faith that we have looked at so far. They are:
I. The Triune God
II. Jesus Christ
III. The Holy Spirit
IV. The Holy Scriptures
V. Sin, Original and Personal
This morning, we are going to move to our sixth Article of Faith, which is:
Here is the description of this 6th tenet of our faith:
We believe that Jesus Christ, by His sufferings, by the shedding of His own blood, and by His death on the Cross, made a full atonement for all human sin, and that this Atonement is the only ground of salvation, and that it is sufficient for every individual of Adam’s race. The Atonement is graciously efficacious for the salvation of those incapable of moral responsibility and for the children in innocency but is efficacious for the salvation of those who reach the age of responsibility only when they repent and believe.
When speaking to you last week regarding sin, I told you that God had already prepared a remedy for the sin that Adam and Eve brought into the world by their disobedience. That remedy is atonement.
God obviously knew that mankind would choose to disobey, so He provided a means by which the relationship between Himself and His creation could be repaired. In fact, one form of theology is called relational theology. It focuses on the relationship between God and all of His creation. One of the most beautiful scenes in the Bible is that of Adam and Eve walking in the Garden of Eden as God walked with them and talked to them. How great it would be to have that relationship with the One that made us. When man chose to disobey, sin entered the world and caused a separation in the relationship between mankind and his Creator. Mankind was ejected from God’s presence because he was no longer perfect in God’s sight. Sin always creates a barrier and tears down relationships.
Jesus Christ is the only means by which any of us can be restored to a right relationship with God. It is only because of His sacrifice and the blood that He shed and His death on the cross that we can be redeemed from death. To be redeemed is to be bought back. We all understand that language because we use it all the time. When we go to the store with a coupon, we redeem it, or exchange it for money towards something we need or want. This is what atonement essentially is.
Atonement is one of the most fundamental theological ideas in Christianity and is present very early in the Pentateuch (which is the first five books of the Bible) or the Torah, as the Jews know it. In our Through the Bible series, we have consistently been made aware of the need for a blood sacrifice to atone for the sins of the people. Leviticus 1:4 says:
You shall lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be acceptable in your behalf as atonement for you.
Atonement is the idea that something or someone must make restitution for our sins by the shedding of their blood. Another word commonly used is propitiation, which isn’t any easier to pronounce or to understand. In the OT, this was mandated by blood sacrifices. God told the people in Leviticus 17:11
For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you for making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement.
God provided the Israelites a means by which they could atone for their sins. This culminated in the Day of Atonements, which God set aside for the people to fast, mourn, and repent from their sins. That day is still observed to this day, however, they no longer sacrifice the animals because they do not have their temple. The day is known as Yom Kippur. On that day, the High Priest was to sacrifice a bull and a goat and sprinkle the blood on the Ark of the Testimony, in the Holy of Holies and ask the Lord for forgiveness for the sins of himself and his people. The High Priest was the only available advocate for the people of Israel and the sacrifices made by him were the only acceptable means of atonement.
However, this system was put in place by God as a temporary stop gap for the One that would come and make the final and complete sacrifice for the atonement for the sins of, not only Israel, but for all of humanity. The great chapter in Isaiah that points toward our Messiah (Isaiah 53:4-6) says:
Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.