Summary: What is atonement and how did God purchase it for us?

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Romans 5:1-11


Woodlawn Missionary Baptist Church

January 22, 2006


In Romans 5:11, the apostle Paul wrote,

“And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”

Perhaps one of the greatest lies of Satan is that eternal life is granted to those who are moral and decent people. In September of 2001 an article appeared in the US Catholic Magazine which quoted Pope John Paul II as having said, “All who live a just life will be saved, even if they do not believe in Jesus.” While I am sure that none of you would agree with that statement, it is sad that there are people all over the earth who do. But the Scriptures are clear that there is only one plan of salvation; and it is “by grace through faith” in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

Tonight I want to talk to you about that redemptive work and particularly about this term that we find at the end of verse 11, “atonement.” Although it has been several weeks since I have preached on Sunday night, we have been using this time together to consider some of the great theological terms found in the Bible as they relate to our salvation and relationship to God. We began with justification and propitiation, and tonight I want to deal with the subject of atonement. In order to do that, we are going to consider the atonement of Christ under four headings: 1) The meaning of the atonement; 2) The cause of the atonement; 3) The way of the atonement; and 4) The blessings of the atonement.

The Meaning of the Atonement

An African missionary struggled for an answer when a national asked how he knew what was in a can of food without opening it. Not realizing the problem the answer would cause, he responded, “See the picture on the can? That’s what’s inside.”

A few days passed and the missionary saw groups of nationals gathered in the compound. As he approached, they scattered. After several occasions, he called the key national in and demanded, “I know something is going on. What’s wrong?”

Reluctantly, the national responded, “Missionary eats babies.”

“How in the world did you come to that conclusion?” asked the missionary. Walking to the pantry, the national picked up a can of baby food and pointed to the baby picture on the outside.

“See,” he explained, “Baby on the outside, baby inside. Missionary eats babies.”

Sometimes it can be difficult to communicate what we really mean when we say a thing, but I don’t want you to be confused about what is meant by atonement. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as making amends for a wrong or for an injury. The word atonement is simply a compound word formed from the two words, at-one, so that we might say that atonement means at-one-ment.

The meaning of the word is really the state of being at one or being reconciled. In fact, some of your Bibles probably had the word reconciliation in the place where I read atonement in Romans 5:11. Every time the word is found in the New Testament it is translated reconciliation with the exception of this one place. Verse 10 uses the word atonement twice, but both times it is translated reconcile.

If I were to sum up the meaning of atonement, I would say then that atonement, as it relates to our salvation, is the work Christ did in His life and death to earn our salvation, thus enabling us to be at-one with God. In this sense, understanding atonement should remind us of our studies about justification and propitiation, for they all have to do with much the same things.

The Cause of the Atonement

What were the ultimate reasons God sent Christ to earth to atone for our sins? I believe we can find three primary reasons in the Scriptures.

The Love of God

Two passages of Scripture come to my mind as we think about the love of God. The first is John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The second is Romans 5:6-8.

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth is love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

The Bible is clear on this point: God loved mankind so much He was compelled to make atonement for man’s sins.

The Justice of God

When we studied propitiation we considered Romans 3:23-25.

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