Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Accomplished Atonement

What does atonement really mean? There's a clue in its spelling: "at-one-ment." We are made "at one" with God. The other word for this is, of course, reconciled. Like wayward sheep, or estranged children, we were lost and in need of being brought back. Jesus' atoning sacrifice reconciled us to our Father. The division that sin caused, because we are sinful and God is holy and perfect, has been covered, broken down, overcome, destroyed by the atoning payment of Christ's sacrifice.
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. (Eph. 2:12-14)

We who were once far off have been brought near by Christ's blood. His blood reconciles us to God. His sacrificed flesh breaks down the dividing wall.

Remember what happened in the temple when Jesus was crucified? The heavy, huge veil that hung between the outer courts and the holy of holies, the great symbol of the divide between the perfect and holy presence of God himself and us, the unwashed riffraff, was ripped right in two. It tore from top to bottom.

That's an amazing picture of what Christ's sacrifice has done. It has torn in tow the division between God and man, because the God who became man for man threw his beaten body into the gears of time and ended forever the otherwise endless process of making amends. The system of alienation, of estrangement, of irreconcilable differences has been vanquished by Christ's sacrificial body. He has made atonement for us, done the dirty work we couldn't and wouldn't do to restore us to right relationship with God.

Look at the language Paul uses in Ephesians 2: we were brought near by Christ's blood; we have been made one by his flesh. That's an accomplished work, an effective sacrifice. And that's why we can't have any of this wishy-washy stuff about Christ's death making a way to God, or Christ's death making salvation potential, or Christ's death being "a good example." What God sent Christ to do, Christ did. What Christ's death was meant to accomplish, it accomplished. He made atonement. He saved us by his blood. He brought us near. He didn't just show us the way. He blazed the trail, picked us up, and ran us down it.

(This is an excerpt from my book Your Jesus is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Savior, coming in July from Kregel)


Andy Thompson said...

I really enjoyed this excerpt. Ephesians is one of my all-time favorite books of the Bible.

I love the imagery here, of Christ as this perfect, holy super glue -- taking what is broken and putting it back together ... for good.

Thanks for posting this.

Randi Jo :) said...

awesome. I loved this:

"He didn't just show us the way. He blazed the trail, picked us up, and ran us down it"

I know that's true. I believe it, experience it, live it.

awesome as always pastor JW