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A simple, straightforward and scriptural explanation of the Atonement which takes in all Bible facts and presents them fairly and in an easily understood way so that a child can see the truth of it.

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John the Baptist said, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" and the Apostle Paul, "we have before proved both Jew and Gentile that they are all under sin." It is evident that Jesus did not take away the sins we still commit, and Paul's words cannot apply to character because a person of moral goodness is as much "under sin" as the worst sinner. The truth is that the whole human family is estranged from God because of sin.

Adam was created at the beginning a man of flesh and blood with the same corruptible nature as all other living creatures. In order to develop character he was placed under a law requiring obedience. He transgressed and incurred the penalty of sin. The account in Genesis is almost universally misunderstood and it is believed that sin made man corruptible and his eventual death the punishment. But what actually happened proves that this is not so. He had been warned that in the day he sinned he would surely die, yet he lived on for more than 900 years. What is the explanation? Did God change His mind? If we look up all the other instances of the same expression as that in Genesis 2:17 (e.g. 1 Kings 2:37-42) we find that it implies an inflicted death on the day of the crime. Similarly, every instance of the punishment of presumptuous sin was a judicial execution (cf. Genesis 20:7). This is what Adam incurred but it is clear that he was not put to death; but how could he possibly escape if God was not to be untrue to His word? The explanation is the plan of redemption whereby Adam died in law, but under a typical sacrifice his life was spared - he was delivered as Isaac was when Abraham was about to kill him - and he lived to become the father of the human race. God did not change His mind, but He made it possible in His own wisdom to open to man the hope of regaining, by faith, what had been lost by disobedience.

In Romans 5:18,19 the Apostle Paul shows how God has chosen to regard all men as involved in the Sin of Adam. "By one man's disobedience many were made sinners." They were not made sinners in the sense of being created evil, or obliged by their nature to become sinful; the meaning is that we are legally classified as sinners in a similar way to that which we are by law citizens of the country in which we are born. The sentence of death incurred by Adam 'passes upon' all his descendants, since all who share his life would have perished in him if he had been put to death on the day of his sin. So that Adam is not only the man from whom we are all descended, but he is also appointed the federal head of all who are under the reign of Sin. This is the relationship of being "in Adam" and its vital importance is because if we remain in it, that is, unredeemed, we are inescapably destined to receive the wages of sin.

Sin is literally the transgression of the law and one has to know that a law exists before, in justice, one can be held guilty under it, so that those who are ignorant of God and His purpose are not accountable. But sin is also personified as a king, or master, holding man in bondage, and the reason for this is given in Galatians 3:22, "The scripture hath concluded all under sin that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe."

The meaning is that God has appointed a second federal head, Jesus Christ, and the only way we can demonstrate that we have the faith which will make us acceptable to God is to recognize that our relationship, by birth to the first Adam by which we are in bondage under sin, can only be changed by getting ourselves out of Adam and into Christ. To do this we have to believe and obey, dying in baptism a symbolic death to our former life and being re-born by faith as children of God.

Law is the basis of the Divine plan. It is God's will that we should not perish but have everlasting life, even though by our own efforts we cannot earn it. He wishes to be merciful and to show His love towards us, but He will not do so at the expense of the supremacy of law. So there is a double problem - to show mercy, and at the same time uphold a just law which must condemn sin - and it is solved in a wonderful way by the sacrifice of Christ.

Under the supreme law of a righteous God a man who is a sinner does not deserve to live, he has forfeited his life, which means that the death which came by sin is not so much a punishment as a debt. A sinner owes that which he cannot pay without perishing; he owes his life. The basis of the Atonement is that if someone else could be found with the means to pay the debt, and providing the supreme authority sanctions the transaction, the sinner might be free from his debt while at the same time the justness of the law is upheld. God brought Jesus into the world for this purpose.

When Jesus submitted Himself to the death of the Cross, He made Himself the sin- bearer, translating into reality the deliverance from the death foreshadowed in Eden when Adam was covered by skins of animals slain. His death was therefore an exact substitutionary sacrifice, not to appease the wrath of God by the infliction of undeserved punishment on the innocent in order that the guilty might escape; this would have been an injustice; but Jesus voluntarily submitted Himself to the condemnation passed upon Him by wicked men, because He saw Himself as paying the price of their redemption. He was wholly good and innocent; there was no cause of death in Him, but what Jesus knew was that He alone could pay the price of their deliverance. Why He alone?

This brings us to the vital factor in The Atonement which God kept concealed from the beginning - the fact that the Redeemer was to be His own Son. Most Christians believe what is revealed in The Gospels about His origin but they do not understand its true significance.

Born of a woman, He was the same natural flesh and blood as all other men, but as He was begotten by the Holy Spirit His life was not a continuation of the Adam-life but a new life direct from God. He was therefore born outside the state of captivity, not under the reign of sin but free, and therefore in a position to purchase the release of those who were enslaved. Jesus said (Matthew 20:28) that He came to give His life a ransom (lutron) for many; the word lutron means a price paid. The apostle Paul also wrote (Galatians 4:5) that Christ was sent to redeem (exagorazo) and this word means to acquire out of the forum, in the same way as slaves were bought, or prisoners ransomed. So this is how Christ redeemed mankind. We have been purchased out of bondage, the bondage of sin, by the payment of a price. It is a figurative transaction, but it was completed by a literal price, the life of Jesus which He laid down for us on the Cross.

If Jesus had not proved Himself personally sinless, He could not have offered Himself as a sacrifice for sin, because a sacrifice had to be perfect and unblemished before sin could be laid upon it. But, even though He had been sinless, if He had been the son of a human father it would have been impossible for Him to meet the legal claim of sin because his life would not have been His own to give; he would have been in the same hopeless condition as all in Adam.

Therefore, being the Son of God and having proved Himself obedient under temptation He was legally free and morally perfect. Though He could have claimed a kind of equality with His Father, he humbled Himself (Philippians 2:5-8) and became obedient unto death, suffering what was due to sinners, giving Himself the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God.,

The purpose of God in Christ is unique in history, in what it reveals of His mercy and love and in the logical perfection with which it meets man's needs, enlightens his mind and gives him hope. It spans the ages from the moment when God said "Let there be light" to the infinite future when He will declare "Behold, I make all things new." These are indeed things which even the angels desired to look into. Today they are open to us and they show the way to eternal life.

Ernest Brady.

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