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Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Atonement

This past weekend - Good Friday, Saturday and Resurrection Sunday - Welkom Baptist Church had a conference focusing on The Atonement.  I think everyone reading this post knows the holidays I referenced, but many people may not know what "Atonement" means.  Now, we just had like 6 hours of preaching and teaching on the subject, but a simple definition is "Reparation or Expiation for Sin". The dictionary gives the origin of the word as meaning "at one + ment" denoting unity from the Latin word "to unite."

Ultimately, we know that our sin separates us from God.  Sin is a violation of the character and laws of an infinite person (Rom 3:23, I John 3:4), meaning that there is an infinite punishment to pay (Rev 20:10-15).  But when Jesus, the sinless Son of God, accepted the punishment for sin, He proved to be the sacrifice that removes God's wrath...the one who brings unity with God (Is 53, John 1:29, Rom 5:1, Gal 1:4, I Pet 1:18-19).  Through His infinite righteousness He fulfilled all the requirements of God to expiate sin, making a way for us to be reunited with the source of all life.  And when we are united with God, we ourselves possess eternal life (John 17:3).

The problem is that:
1) humans don't like to admit fault for anything, let alone the fact that we're completely sinful.
2) due to our sinfulness, there is no way we can ever do anything to cleanse our souls and merit God's favor.
3) we constantly try to appease God when His standard is absolute perfection, something we can never attain.

Yet for the one who understands his sinfulness and God's righteous obligation to punish sin, the one who responds "God, have mercy on me, a sinner!", this very one receives God's approval on the basis of His approval of His Son's sacrifice.  It isn't anything I've done, am doing or can do.  It is all a work of Jesus.  My baptism, church attendance or allegiance, my acts of penitence, my acts of charity, any righteous deed - none of these things earn God's favor.  They can only be worshipful offerings of thanksgiving to my Savior.  If I think these offerings somehow pay for my sins, somehow balance out God's divine ledger, I've just nullified the death of Jesus by making the statement that my efforts will appease God's wrath.  I CAN'T DO IT!

But now, as a child of God, I now receive all the benefits described in Romans 8.  Paul's flawless logic in Rom 8:32 puts it this way "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?"  You see, if God was willing to give His Son on my behalf, is there anything more precious than that?  If He gave it all, what more is there to give?

Pastor John Macdonald was our preacher for the Good Friday service.  By way of illustration he told the story of a wealthy man whose son passed away.  Admittedly this story is most likely an urban legend, but it encapsulates the point well:
A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art. When war broke out, the son went to serve. He was very courageous, and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified, and grieved deeply for his only son.
About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands. He said, "Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you and your love for art." The young man held out his package. "I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this."
The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. "Oh, no, sir," said the young man, "I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift."
The father hung the portrait over his mantel. Every time visitors came to his home, he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.
The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.
On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. "We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?"
There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one."
But the auctioneer persisted. "Will someone bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?"
Another voice shouted angrily, "We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!"
But still the auctioneer continued, "The son! The son! Who'll take the son?"
Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I'll give $10 for the painting," he said. Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.
"We have $10, who will bid $20?"

"Give it to him for $10," called out an angry voice. "Let's see the masters."

"$10 is the bid, won't someone bid $20?"

The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections. At last, the auctioneer pounded his gavel. "Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!"
A man sitting in the second row shouted, "Now, let's get on with the collection!"

The auctioneer laid down his gavel. "I'm sorry, the auction is over."

"What about the paintings?"

"I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!"

I John 5:11-12 "And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life."

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