This is being written to comply with a specific request that a layman discuss the meaning of the Atonement in terms a layman can understand. Definitions will be limited to terms that are more or less familiar to laymen, and discussion will be kept within the framework of the teachings of the Bible.
On the legal level, atonement means a satisfactory reparation for an offense or injury. Unjust as some awards may be, payment for injury to persons and property resulting from an automobile accident carries with it the implication of atonement to the one injured.
In the realm of theology, the Atonement means “at-one-ment” between God and man which is made possible by Christ’s death on the cross for our sins and by all of the implications of that death.
Let it be said at the outset that no one definition of the Atonement can possibly cover all of the marvelous implications of this wonderful act of God’s love for sinful man. Nor can it cover all that is involved in Christ’s coming into the world, living, dying, and being raised again.
Our concern is therefore with some of the immediate and eternal effects which the Atonement has on those who believe in Christ as the Son of God and as Saviour from sin, and who make him the Lord of life.
The need for the atonement goes back to the basic problem of sin.
Sin is described as “any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God.” It is a universal disease affecting all men everywhere. Our newspapers recount multiplied acts of overt sin. Our world unrest is due to the failure of men to keep God’s holy laws. Our own hearts convict us of sins of thought, word, and deed—sins of commission and of omission. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” and ...1
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