The Atonement Made Easy, Part 2


The Atonement was Christ’s reason for leaving the glories of Heaven and coming into our world of sin. It’s the greatest gift any sinner can receive. The Atonement of Christ’s death is a huge doctrine that involves our Lord’s humiliation and death. Jesus paid the price; He was judged in our stead; He died so we never will. But the Atonement did other things a lot of Christians never think about. So, let’s continue our look at the Atonement made easy.

The Atonement moves us to service, 2 Corinthians 5:14

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. (TNIV)

Christ died once for all – that’s the Atonement boiled down to its essential meaning. Five words that describe our Lord’s mission, a mission that was motivated by His love for sinners. Paul wrote that Christ’s love – the love that hung Him on the Cross – compels us. But what does the Atonement compel believers to do?

Verse 14 occurs in the midst of Paul discussion of the believer’s “ministry of reconciliation.”

Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade people. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. (2 Corinthians 5:11 TLB)

Some people in Corinth were bad-mouthing the apostle Paul. That’s not an uncommon thing; Christians are often bad-mouthed by people for a lot a reasons. Sometimes non-Christians are offended by Christians and they gossip and lie about them. Other times fellow Christians bad-mouth their fellows out of envy or jealousy. Whatever the reason, bad-mouthing can make you feel bad and it can even ruin your effectiveness for the Lord. For that reason, Paul had to defend himself and his ministry among the Corinthians.

Contrary to what some might have thought, Paul and his friends (“we”) were preaching Christ not out some self-seeking, selfish reason. They were engaging in the ministry of reconciliation for the right reason: the love of Christ, manifested in the Atonement, moved them to share the Gospel with the lost.

In verse 14, Paul writes that it was Christ’s love that controled him. It’s not that he couldn’t preach the Gospel for other reasons – because he could! Paul possessed a towering intellect. He could reason, write, speak, and persuade. He could have made a fortune. But he didn’t do what he did for any other reason than that of Christ’s love – His atoning love. Christ’s love for sinners drove the Lord to die on the Cross, and that same love compelled Paul and people like him to preach the Gospel. Through the Atonement, here’s what happened:

…God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5 TNIV)

Paul explains why the love of God in Christ had such a controlling influence on his life and life’s work: It’s because Christ died for all, and therefore all died. When Christ died, the whole human race was involved. He was the representative Head of the human race, so in Him, all people are regarded as dead and in utter need of saving, otherwise Christ wasted His time providing Atonement. The idea is this: Christ was substituted for us. He died in our place. He didn’t need saving. He didn’t need to be punished for anything. But He stepped in to face God’s wrath so you could step out. Christ’s horrible death on the Cross was the death of us all. He died the way every one of us should have died.

Because of that ultimate demonstration of love, Paul and his friends felt moved to share the Gospel of life – the ministry of reconciliation – with the lost. Does the Atonement move you to get involved in the great ministry of reconciliation? It should. We who have received to much owe it to the those have nothing.

Every sinner is dying. There is a limited amount of time to get the Gospel of life to them. We all know the famous words of Psalm 23:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death… (Psalm 23:4a KJV)

When David wrote those words, he wasn’t referring to his death bed; he was referring to life. Life is like walking through a great, long canyon of death that gets narrower and narrower, darker and darker the older you get until, finally, you are forced to go through that doorway of death. The Atonement compels believers to intercede and share life with those people traveling through the valley of the shadow of death.

The Atonement gives us victory, Revelation 12:11

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (TNIV)

This verse refers to a group of believers we call the Tribulation saints; people who find salvation during the Great Tribulation. But this is a verse that is applicable to all believers of any dispensation. The key is the preceding verse:

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. (Revelation 12:10 TNIV)

The “accuser of our brothers and sisters” is none other than Satan himself. And accusing believers before God “night and day” is what he does. He won’t be doing it just during the Tribulation, he’s always been doing it!

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. (Job 1:9 TNIV)

Job is an ancient book, so we know Satan has been running around accusing believers in God of all kinds of things that aren’t true for a very long time. But don’t ever feel overwhelmed or discouraged or set upon because of this. Victory in this life over the forces of evil is guaranteed. Victory comes to believers through the Atonement; through “the blood of the Lamb.” As the old hymn goes,

“There is power, power, wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb.”

There is! Never overlook the power of Christ’s shed blood or underestimate its power. It forgives sins, but it also guarantees you victory over the enemy of your soul. The “good life” is yours, right now, and it doesn’t depend on you thinking the right thoughts or praying the right prayers. Victory is yours because of the Atonement. But there is more at work here. While the basis of present victory is the blood of the Lamb, the activity that brings about victory is your witness or testimony for Christ. That ties this in to what Paul wrote about the ministry of reconcilliation. The Atonement compelled him to testify and witness for Christ. As you do that, you will experience victory over the enemy. If you find this present victory elusive, maybe you aren’t doing your part. The attitude behind victory is a complete dedication to Christ and His work and a sense of self-sacrifice – even to the point of death. It boils down to this: apparent defeat is ultimate victory over the enemy of our souls.

The Atonement draws people to communion, 1 Corinthians 10:16

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? (TNIV)

This is not an unfamiliar verse, but its context may be. It’s actually part of a larger concern that Paul was addressing – Idolatry. This was a constant danger for the Corinthians; that they would relapse into idolatry.

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14 TNIV)

“Flee” is written in the present imperative, which means that Paul wanted his Corinthian friends to make a habit of running away from idolatry and avoid anything that might lead them back into it.

The primary reason for fleeing idolatry is the communion service, which itself is a celebration of the Atonement. Verse 16 in the KJV looks like this:

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16 KJV)

The words “communion” and “participation” come from the Greek word koinonia, which means “having in common.” What do believers have in common? Both the blood of Christ and the body of Christ. In other words, believers share in the redemptive work of Christ. And the focal point of the redemption He provided is the “cup of blessing” and “the bread.” Therefore, and here’s the point, communion with the Lord brings communion with each other. As members of a church celebrate communion together they are brought into the closest possible fellowship with each other and their Lord.

And this is why a true believer who enjoys this kind of spiritual intimacy with Jesus Christ and other believers can never go back to his old life of idolatry. The Atonement draws believers together in a spiritual bond, and together with Jesus Christ, they ascend to the heights of spiritual fellowship. Why would any Christian, in his right mind, give that up to go back to his old way of life? His old empty and unsatisfying way of life?

The Atonement inspires worship, Revelation 5:9

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God members of every tribe and language and people and nation.” (TNIV)

The scene is in Heaven. The “they” in this verse refers to the living creatures surrounding the throne of God along with the elders, and together with the angels, they sing this new song. It’s an amazing scene. They all “sing,” written in the present tense signifying an ongoing activity, a song of praise directed to the Lamb of God, who is seen holding a scroll. He is praised as the redeemer of all men, from all time, from all places.

This “new song” is a song of redemption; it’s a song celebrating the Atonement. Why is it called a “new song?” The old song was a song of creation. In Job we read this:

Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:6, 7 KJV)

Back then, the greatest act of God was creation. But when Jesus Christ gave His life to save you, that became the greatest act of God. That became the new song of praise. Creation was an incredible thing, but nothing can touch your re-creation in Christ.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is cause for all Heaven to rejoice. It’s the singular marvel of God in all the universe that was accomplished once for all. Imagine something so powerful that it moves the angels and inhabitants of Heaven to stop all their activity so they can give praise to the One who’s responsible! So significant is the Atonement that it changes lives on earth and influences the activity of Heaven.

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