What is Atonement?

A Younger Pastor Andy G flashing the "I Love You" sign

When talking about the similarities of the Old and New Testaments, we need to understand that there is no “plan B”; the New Testament is still ‘plan A’ – God’s covenant with Israel did worked; Jesus is actually the fulfillment of the Law, which is also part of the same plan, not the beginning of a new one.

Second, to fully understand, I need to answer 2 questions:

  1. What is the Covenant?
  2. What is atonement, and what’s the importance of Christ’s resurrection?

1. What is the Covenant?
In the beginning, God walked with His creation. When sin entered the picture, creation was separated from him.
The Lord called Abram to follow Him, promising Abram that He would create a great nation through him and bless him with more descendants than there are grains of sand on the earth. Abram didn’t have anything but faith in God’s words alone to trust, but the Lord God also promised him a son, through whom this promise would take ground. It was because Abram had faith that the Lord would keep His word, that he followed, and that God claimed him righteous. This promise to Abram is the Covenant – everything else is part of God’s plan to fulfill this promise.

Exodus 24 talks about the Law as a Covenant, and 2 Corinthians 3 talks about the New Covenant, both of which were sealed with blood. But they both reflect upon fulfillment of the one, original covenant made between God and Abram.

The Old Covenant (the Law) is still in effect, only it’s been fulfilled in Christ, so that all who have the same faith in Jesus, as Abram did in God, also choosing to follow Him (Jesus) as Lord, will too be seen as righteous in God’s sight. And notice when God gave the Law to His people: He gave it to neither Adam and Eve, nor Noah nor Abraham. He could have given it to Jacob (Israel) before they went to Egypt so that it would be on their hearts before captivity, but God chose not to. Instead, the Lord gave the Law to His people after He rescued them from slavery in Egypt at Mt. Sinai. This Law was God’s way to teach them what sin was, and was used to humble the proud – a means to train them to become how God’s people should be.

But why did God wait so long to present the Israelites with the Law? Because when God sent Moses to rescue His people from slavery in Egypt, He did so not just as a means of rescue, nor was it just to show them that He will keep His promise, which He made with Abraham, but also to give them a taste of what’s to come in His Son.

2. What is atonement, and the importance of Christ’s resurrection?)
One way to understand atonement is to look at it as “At-one-ment”, or reconciliation with God – becoming one (again) with God. See, when sin was introduced into the picture, creation was separated from God. It was then that God demonstrated the first blood sacrifice. For according to the Old Testament Law, because the punishment of sin is death, when somebody sinned, that person needed to be reconciled with God by the means of a blood sacrifice, performed by the high priest.

But since, according to the Law, nobody could become righteous through works alone, the sacrifices needed to be made on a regular basis. I suppose you could say that the Israelites messed up a lot. However, that’s not the reason why God introduced a second part, nor did God fail with the first part. The Law was only supposed to be temporary (the Apostle Paul called the Law of Moses a “nanny” to the people – watching over them and guiding them along until Christ came). So you see, God had always intended for something more permanent.

When Jesus died on the cross, he became the blood sacrifice that we needed for the atonement of our sins, once-and-for-all. He was the perfect sacrificial lamb, needed to reconcile us to God from our sins and guilt. Upon His death, the veil that led to the high place was also torn in half, symbolizing the start of the “New Covenant”. Christ is our Great High Priest – He was fully human and fully God. If He hadn’t been fully both, then the sacrifice would have been invalid.

But the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead shows us that God is still keeping to His promise, the original Covenant with Abram: for all who receive Him, who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God. Jesus’ resurrection is proof that God is faithful to His covenant with Israel. But just as God required a response of faith from Abram, He also invites a response from us – and this is still part of “plan A”.

So in Summary, all throughout biblical history, the Lord’s acted out the Savior-role towards those whom He chooses. For instance, He saved Noah and his family from the flood that killed everybody else on the earth; He rescued Lot and his daughters from the destruction of Sodom; He rescued Joseph from prison, and the Israelites from famine; God also used Moses to save His chosen people from slavery (Egypt); and finally through Jesus, God saved the rest of creation from slavery (sin) and its wages, which is death. In the beginning, God walked with His creation. Then sin entered the equation. The means of the ‘New Covenant’ was God’s way of bringing His people back to Him legally – meaning, according to His own rules (the Law). The Prophets spoke of this day, and Genesis even sneaks in a mention. But it’s not until the Lord’s return that the Covenant will be completely fulfilled.

And that’s my point: It’s all “plan A”.


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