The Atonement: The Fall and Rise.

“And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21)

“Atonement is secured, not by any value inherent in the sacrificial victim, but because sacrifice is the divinely appointed way of securing atonement.” J.I. Packer

“The first physical deaths should have been the man and his wife, but it was an animal—a shadow of the reality that God would someday kill a substitute to redeem sinners.” John MacArthur

Why was it necessary for God to provide garments of skin for Adam and his wife?  The answer is found within the context of Genesis 3:1-7. God prohibited by a solemn command the man and his wife from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17). He warned them that in the day they ate from it, they would surely die. Tragically, they did not obey the LORD.

Genesis 3:1-7 says, Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

Sin commonly occurs in several ways. Therefore, believers must always be on their guard (I Peter 5:8-9).

Sin occurs by questioning what God has commanded. The serpent asked the woman, ““Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” How crafty the question was regarding what God actually commanded. God did not say that the man and the woman were not to eat of “any” tree in the garden, but to not eat of only “one” tree: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17).

Sin also occurs by adding to what God has said. God never offered a command saying the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not to be touched. The woman added that stipulation. We are never to either add to, or take away, from the revealed Word of God (Revelation 22:18-19).

Sin finally occurs by the outright denial of what God has said. “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Not only was there a denial of what God said, there was also the failure to explain the consequences the couple would face in knowing good and evil. They, who had been good, would now know what evil was by having become evil themselves.

Giving into temptation then becomes sin (James 1:12-15). Temptation, resulting in sin, involves the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life (I John 2:15-17). The person tempted sees the object of their lust and justifies wanting what they want by their craving of it, their gazing at it, and their sense of entitlement for it. In other words, the sinner sees something, wants what they see and convinces themselves they deserve what they see and want. The sinner questions what God has said, adds or takes away from what God has said and then outright denies what God has said.

When the man and the woman took and ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they then understood they had disobeyed God and were filled with a sense of guilt and shame. Consequently, they sought to cover their guilt and shame, along with their bodies, with man-made loincloths from leaves. Even today, mankind seeks to cover its and shame because of their sin by a self-righteous works based system of penance or atonement.

Genesis 3:21 is the first allusion in Scripture of what would become known as the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Granted, the doctrine is not completely explained, as it would be in Romans 3:21-26, but it is demonstrated as God provided coverings for the man and his wife following their act of disobedience against Him. God alone would efficiently cover and forgive the man and woman’s sin by coverings He would Himself provided through the death of innocent animals. The guiltless would die in place of the guilty.

“And the LORD God.” Two names are mentioned: LORD and God. LORD is the English rendering for the Hebrew word Yahweh. This is the most personal name for God. It means self-sufficient One or I Am Who I Am (Exodus 3:1-14). The name God means mighty and powerful.

“Made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins.” The Hebrew word “made” means to manufacture. God manufactured garments for Adam and his wife. The garments were shirt-like tunics. They were made from animal skins, perhaps leather, although the text does not specifically say what kind of animal. Symbolically, the animal skins represented an atonement for sin, which was not accomplished through some man made effort but rather by a God provided substitute.

Dr. John Walvoord writes, An animal was sacrificed to provide garments of skin, and later all Israel’s animal sacrifices would be part of God’s provision to remedy the curse—a life for a life. The sinner shall die! (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23) Yet he will live if he places his faith in the Lord, who has provided a Substitute. The skin with which God clothed Adam and Eve perpetually reminded them of God’s provision.”

Puritan Matthew Henry writes, “These sacrifices were divided between God and man, in token of reconciliation: the flesh was offered to God, a whole burnt-offering; the skins were given to man for clothing, signifying that, Jesus Christ having offered himself to God a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour, we are to clothe ourselves with his righteousness as with a garment, that the shame of our nakedness may not appear. Adam and Eve made for themselves aprons of fig-leaves, a covering too narrow for them to wrap themselves in, Isaiah\ 28:20. Such are all the rags of our own righteousness. But God made them coats of skins; large, and strong, and durable, and fit for them; such is the righteousness of Christ.”

Take time today to thank God for covering your sin with the righteousness of Christ. I encourage you to read Zechariah 3:1-5.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

The Atonement: The Need for an Atonement.

“What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,” (Romans 3:9)

 “The need for atonement is brought about by three things, the universality of sin, the seriousness of sin and man’s inability to deal with sin.” J.I. Packer

The universality of sin is taught throughout the Scriptures. “There is no man who does not sin” (1 Kings 8:46); “there is none that does good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:3); “there is not a righteous man on earth, who does good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Jesus told the rich young ruler, “No one is good but God alone” (Mark. 10:18), and the Apostle Paul wrote, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

The seriousness of sin is also taught throughout the Scriptures. Ephesians 2:1-3 says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Colossians 1:21 says, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.”

Man’s sin problem is not just in what he does, or does not do, but rather who and what he is in his soul: sinful. A human being does not become a sinner when they sin. Rather, they sin because they are a sinner by nature. This natural propensity to sin is evidenced by the sinner’s behavior, thinking and speech.

Man’s inability to remedy his sinful condition is likewise proclaimed throughout the Scriptures. The sinner is not able to keep his sin hidden (Numbers 32:23). The sinner cannot cleanse himself of his sin (Proverbs 20:9). There are no good works which the sinner may do which will ever enable him to stand righteous and justified before God (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16).

The truth of the universality and seriousness of sin is first set forth in the Book of Genesis. Following God’s creation of the world and all contained therein, including man, Genesis 2:15-17 says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Notice that God’s statement to the man was not a suggestion but rather a command: a command to be obeyed. God gave everything to the man in the garden, with one exception. The man must not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Were man to do so, then God said the man would surely die. This was a serious command by God, as are all of His commands.

It is within this background context that Genesis 3:1-7 unfolds. We will examine this particular text when next we meet.

Are you personally aware of the universality to sin, the seriousness of your sin and your inability to efficiently solve the problem of your sin before God? Take this moment right now to repent of your sin and ask God to save you from the penalty of your sin. If you are a believer in Christ, ask God to deliver you from the ongoing power of sin in your life.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!   

 

The Atonement: What and Why?

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

What exactly is meant by the word atonement? Atonement, of and by Jesus Christ, is the act by which God and man are brought together into a reconciled relationship. When once man was God’s enemy (Romans 5:10a), by virtue of Jesus Christ’s virgin birth, sinless life and death, burial and resurrection, the sinner is now justified by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone (Romans 5:10b-11).

The term “atonement” originates from the Anglo-Saxon phrase meaning “making at one,” or “at-one-ment.” It sets forth the biblical truth that sinners are spiritually separated or alienated from God and that this alienation must be overcome if sinners are to be delivered from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin. Atonement is synonymous with other biblical words such as reconciliation and forgiveness.

As one commentator explains, “The idea of atonement is one of the fundamental concepts of Scripture. God is seen as taking the initiative in man’s salvation; thus atonement is the work of God. For the sinner, who cannot know God, who cannot bridge the gap between himself and God, a “new and living way” is opened up by God.”

Why do sinners need an atonement from God in the first place? The prevailing cultural perspective is that mankind is basically good, so why the need for such a doctrine like atonement? The Bible says the need for an atonement is two-fold.

First, atonement from and by God is necessary because of man’s sinfulness. Fallen man is a radical sinner. In other words, the sinner is totally depraved. This does not mean that every sinner is as bad as they could possibly be, but rather that sin has affected every part of the soul: intellect, emotions and will.

The prophet Isaiah stated, “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). According to the Prophet Jeremiah, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). David wrote, “There is none that does good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:3).

The Apostle Paul described sin’s effects preceded by the sinner’s disobedience and idolatry (Rom 1:18–32). Following a summation of man’s inability to come to God (Romans 3:10-20), the apostle concluded that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Additionally. Paul described men as enemies of God (Romans 5:10), “hostile to God” (Rom 8:7), as “estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (Colossians 1:21). Furthermore, sinners are dead in their trespasses and sins and objects of God’s just and righteous wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned” (Romans 5:12).

Second, atonement from and by God is necessary because of God’s holiness. When the Prophet Isaiah saw the holy God in the temple, he was undone because of his own sinfulness (Isaiah 6:1–5). When Isaiah saw God for who He truly was, holy, holy, holy, then Isaiah saw himself for who he really was: sinful.

Not only is man terribly sinful, but God is fearfully holy. Consequently, man dreads God and can do nothing to change this situation. He is lost, helpless, standing under the awful judgment of God. He cannot justify himself before God and cannot merit God’s love. Therefore, the reality of atonement rests entirely with God. This is the sinner’s only hope: that God, by His grace and grace alone, provides a solution to the problem between sinful man and the holy, biblical God.

As we will see next time, the nature of that atonement, as proclaimed and illustrated in biblical history, affirms both the holy nature of God and the sinful nature of man.

Has God brought you to the biblical understanding of how truly sinful you are and how truly holy He is? If so, rejoice that He has made you His child. If not, then repent of your sins today and receive forgiveness from the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Atonement: The Cornerstone of all Theology.

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:10-11)

As we anticipate and prepare for Easter 2019, I thought it wise that I prepare my heart, and hopefully yours also, for this remembrance and celebration of the Lord Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection by studying the biblical doctrine of the atonement. One theologian called the atonement “the cornerstone of all theology.” Dr. Leon Morris said, “The atonement is the crucial doctrine of the faith. Unless we are right here, it matters not, it seems to me, what we are like elsewhere.”

It must be made clear at the outset that the atonement in question is particularly referred to in Scripture as the substitutionary atonement by Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners. It is the preaching of the cross. It involves such biblical words as redemption, propitiation, expiation, reconciliation and justification.

Aside from today’s text, where else does the Bible affirm the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ?

I Corinthians 15:1-3 says, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.”

Romans 5:6-8 says, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

2 Corinthians 5:14-21 says, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

I Peter 2:21-25 says, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Meditate upon these Scriptural references today. Take time to thank the Lord for dying in your place on the cross.

Hymn writer Isaac Watts expressed the truth of the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross as follows:

  1. 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.
  2. Forbid 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.
  3. See from His head, His hands, His feet,
    Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
    Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
    Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
  4. Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    That were a present far too small;
    Love so amazing, so divine,
    Demands my soul, my life, my all.

May each of us be strengthened in our faith by our survey of the wondrous cross.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!