Summary: Dotrine of the atonement.
READ: Colossians 1:19-23
Continuing with our series on the things “We Believe”, we come this morning to the death of Jesus: ‘WE BELIEVE IN JESUS’ ATONING DEATH”. As we do so, we are right at the heart of our faith; right at the centre of Christianity.
What other religion exults in the death of its leader? Christianity is UNIQUE. We sing songs of blood. The most central (and cherished) symbol of our faith is the Cross - have you ever thought about that? Our symbol is an instrument of torture! What would we think of a society whose unifying logo was a RACK or a GALLOWS, and yet essentially it’s the same thing. Oh, we tend to make our crosses smooth, and put them under soft lighting to make them warm and attractive, but the reality is that the Cross speaks of cruelty and violent death.
We have made this Cross our banner, our rallying point, our badge of honour. Wherever you go in the world you will find Christians meeting under a cross, wearing crosses; we have them in our homes and businesses, on our cars, and even as bookmarks in our Bibles.
And if someone were to come from a far off land, or a desert island, having never heard of Christianity before, and it was explained to them what a cross is, then we’d have to forgive them if they felt that this is all a little obscene! That it is offensive to decorate our churches, our homes and our cars with an instrument of torture.
Paul writes, in 1 CORINTHIANS 1:18 . . .
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
He goes on in the same passage (vv22-25) to say:
“For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
The Cross is a the centre of our faith because it was on the Cross that Jesus died to atone for our sin. Without the Cross there IS NO saving work - we are cut off from God - we have no religion! WITHOUT THE CROSS!
And so we wear our crosses, and we sing our anthems, and we glory in the Cross - and we dare not get away from it (no matter who is offended) . . .
“On a hill far away stood an old rugged Cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame.
And I love that old Cross,
Where the Dearest and Best,
For a world of lost sinners was slain.”
“When I survey the wondrous Cross,
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
For bid it Lord that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God,
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.”
We, the Church of Jesus Christ, believe in Jesus’ atoning death. We preach Christ, and Him crucified.
All right, let’s look at it, this morning, from this passage we have read in Colossians chapter 1. We’re zeroing in on verses 19-23. And from these verses I note three things about the saving Cross-work of Christ:
- Jesus died an ATONING death.
- Jesus died a RECONCILING death.
- Jesus died a JUSTIFYING death.
1. JESUS DIED AN ATONING DEATH.
[READ vv19-20 . . . (NB) “having made peace through the blood of His Cross”
We talk about Jesus’ “ATONING” death - or “the Atonement” - but what does the word “atonement” mean? Webster’s Dictionary defines it this way: to atone is “to make amends”; atonement is “reparation for an offence”.
Let me illustrate the meaning of atonement for you on various levels:
i) A little boy every day on his way home from school passes an apple orchard. One particular apple tree is very close to the fence, and so every day he jumps the fence and pinches two or three apples to eat on the way home. After a couple of weeks of doing this the owner of the orchard notices the rather bare-looking tree by the fence, and so that afternoon, when the boy pays his usual visit, the owner is lying in wait and catches him red-handed. He marches the boy home to his parents. (How many of you have ever been “marched home” to your parents by a stranger? It’s humiliating isn’t it? Of course, it’s never happened to me!). So the owner of the orchard and the boy’s parents come to an agreement. A week later school holidays start, but this boy is not off playing with his friends - HE SPENDS TWO WEEKS WORKING IN THE ORCHARD. At the end of that time, he has made amends - he has made reparation for his offence - he has ATONED for his wrongdoing. That is the basic meaning of the word “ATONEMENT”.