Atonement Then and Now

“If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the Lord‘s commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them, though he did not know it, then realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bear his iniquity. He shall bring to the priest his offering, and the priest shall make atonement for him for the sin which he has committed, the mistake that he made unintentionally, and he shall be forgiven. It is a guilt offering; he has indeed incurred guilt before the Lord.” Leviticus 4:2,22-23,35; 5:17-19

The burden in the Old Testament was that of sin, and the way for which it was atoned. The guilty was to bring an offering to the Priest, who would sacrifice it on his behalf. The only way to be forgiven was through recompense and restitution, and there was a constant stream of sacrificial blood on the altar. The high calling of priests was a heavy and messy burden in itself, requiring regular handling of the sacrifices according to God’s specific commands on behalf of the people. Sin was sin, and holy God would have none of it, so justice must be met through the substitution offering. (Leviticus 11:44-45)

The burden in the New Testament is also that of sin, but by grace and the death of Jesus, our penalty has been paid! Our Great High Priest entered the Most Holy Place once for all, to satisfy justice, to redeem our debt, to win our atonement and secure our sanctification, that there need be no more shedding of blood. He opened the way between man and God forever that we may now directly approach His throne of grace with confidence and gratitude. (Hebrews 4:14-16; 8:11-12,15,26; 10:11-12,19-22)

Crucufixion saucer w Mary, John, Chinese Export 1745

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him… you [who] were dead in your trespasses, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Colossians 1:21-22; 2:13-14; 1 John 1:9

On this side of the cross, an added gift for us is the indwelling Holy Spirit, Who warns and counsels us against sin, Who gives power to withstand temptation, Who convicts of even unintentional sin, making us aware of our erring thoughts and ways. He is the One Who teaches us the deep things of God and fills our hearts with joy at understanding the application of our blessed atonement. The Spirit indwells us, guaranteeing our eternal inheritance and enabling us to bear His manifold fruit. Atoned for, “at-one” with Him, we are freed from guilt and free to live for His glory. (John 14:15-16; 16:8-11,13; Romans 6:6-14; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 1:14; 6:13-17)

Father, help me daily live in the truth and freedom and assurance of the atonement accomplished by Jesus, to the praise of Your immeasurable love and mercy and glory.

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