Notes on The Atonement1

1) Christ had the same nature as we have, and was tempted in all the same ways, yet he never once sinned by giving way to temptation. Heb. 2:14-18, 4:15, Jas. 1:13-15.

2) Concerning his coming crucifixion, Christ said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (Jn.3:14 -15). “ is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:13). Thus Christ showed that this condemnation of the brass serpent, by being hung on a pole in the wilderness (Nu. 21:7-9), was a type for his own sacrifice, through which the serpent nature would be condemned and destroyed and believers could inherit eternal life.

3) ‘Sin’ or ‘iniquity’ in scripture is applied both to the act of sinning and to sinful nature itself.2 It is in the latter sense that Christ was made sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). It was human nature, with its propensity to sin, which was cursed on the cross - in a representative rather than a substitute man. In the manner of Christ’s death, by being hung on a tree, his (and our) nature was cursed in one who had never given way to it. Gal.3:13.

4) The only way our nature can be destroyed is through death. This was also true of Christ who, although being sinless did not need to be reconciled to God, he did need to die himself to be rid of his “body of sin.” Rom. 6:5-7.

5) Thus, when Christ died, he destroyed ‘the devil' and the ‘enmity’ in himself. Heb. 2:14, Eph. 2:15-16 (AV margin).

6) Because he never sinned, God was able to raise him from the dead without violating His precept, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Acts 2:24, Ez.18:20).

7) All unbelievers are still only worthy of death, both because of their disobedient natures and because all, other than babes, actually sin. Jer. 31:30, Rom. 5:12, 19.

8) In His mercy, God has provided a way whereby, through baptism, believers are allowed to share in His Son’s death and resurrection so that their ‘old man’, with all its sins, is considered dead and buried in baptism. Risen from the waters of baptism they can walk in newness of life having been, by a figure, raised with him. Rom. 6:3-11, Acts 22:16, Col. 2:13

9) Baptised believers, being reconciled to God, are no longer under the condemnation of the serpent nature so long as they continue to ‘walk after the Spirit’. Rom. 8:1-2.

10) Although exhorted to ‘walk after the Spirit’, believers are still prone to temptation and sin due to their fleshly nature but, in Christ, they have an advocate with the Father and, if they confess their sins, they are forgiven. 1 Jn. 1:8-2:1.

11) After Christ’s resurrection, his nature was changed to the divine, or Spirit nature – the nature which he had manifested during his earthly ministry by always behaving in accordance with His Father's teaching - and he is now no longer subject to temptation or death. Rev. 1:18.

12) The faithful who are alive at Christ’s coming, having ‘died’ in baptism, will not have to die to be finally rid of their sinful nature but will be ‘changed’ and given the divine nature. They will then share fully in Christ’s resurrection, together with those who are raised after having died in faith during past millennia. 1 Co. 15:51-52, 2 Pet. 1:4, Heb. 11:39-40.

[1] The only time the word ‘atonement’ is used in the NT is in Rom. 5:11. It also links the work of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement with that of Christ (Heb. 9:7, 12). The word is usually translated as ‘reconcile’ although the original meaning was actually ‘At-One-ment’. Neither word involves the idea of penance. Christ was born a Jew and, as such, was not estranged from the covenents of promise. He was circumcised the eighth day, kept the Law perfectly and was always ‘At One’ with his Father. He manifested his Father’s divine nature rather than his own human nature - always obeying His Father's will rather than His own.

...God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself... (2 Cor. 5:19)

Thus Christ never himself needed to be reconciled to God and it is through his death that both Jew and Gentile can be reconciled without the works of the Law (Eph. 2:11-22).

[2]The imporant difference between sin and the sinful nature can be illustrated by the following topical analogy: Who deserves the greater condemnation: the suicide bomber who is convinced he is fulfilling Allah’s will, or the organisation controlling him, and which tempts him with the lying promise of immediate entrance to paradise? If we take this analogy a little further and suppose that the designated suicide bomber resisted the compulsion of the organisation behind him, realising that there is a higher authority with a different message who should be obeyed. Is not that person free of sin (in this instance), yet the organisation still deserving of condemnation? So it was with Christ. Although tempted by his human nature, He remained sinless, yet it was in the manner of his death that human nature (‘The Devil’) was brought into rightful condemnation by being cursed on the cross.


©2018 Martin Allen Cragg