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Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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(See RECONCILIATION.) Literally, the being at one, after having been at variance. Tyndale explains "One Mediator" (1 Timothy 2:5): "at one maker between God and man." To made atonement is to give or do that whereby alienation ceases and reconciliation ensues. "Reconciliation" is the equivalent term given for the same Hebrew word, kopher , in Daniel 9:24; Leviticus 8:15; Ezekiel 45:15. In the New Testament KJV once only "atonement" is used (Romans 5:11): "by whom (Christ) we have received the atonement" (katallage ), where the reconciliation or atonement must be on God's part toward us, for it could not well be said, "We have received the reconciliation on our part toward Him."

Elsewhere the same Greek is translated "reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). A kindred term expressing a different aspect of the same truth is "propitiation" (hilasmos ) (1 John 2:2), the verb of which is in Hebrews 2:17 translated "to make reconciliation." Also "ransom," or payment for redeeming a captive (Job 33:24), kopher , "an atonement," Matthew 20:28. Hebrews 9:12; Christ, "having obtained eternal redemption for us" (lutrosis , the deliverance bought for us by His bloodshedding, the price: 1 Peter 1:18).

The verb kipper 'al , "to cover upon," expresses the removing utterly out of sight the guilt of person or thing by a ransom, satisfaction, or substituted victim. The use of the word and the noun kopher , throughout the Old Testament, proves that, as applied to the atonement or reconciliation between God and man, it implies not merely what is man's part in finding acceptance with God, but, in the first instance, what God's justice required on His part, and what His love provided, to justify His entering into reconciliation with man. In Leviticus 1:4; Leviticus 4:26; Leviticus 5:1; Leviticus 5:16-18; Leviticus 5:16; Leviticus 17:11, the truth is established that the guilt is transferred from the sinful upon the innocent substitute, in order to make amends to violated justice, and to cover (atone: kipper' al ) or put out of sight the guilt (compare Micah 7:19 end), and to save the sinner from the wages of sin which is death.

On the great day of atonement the high priest made "atonement for the sanctuary, the tabernacle, and the altar" also, as well as for the priests and all the people; but it was the people's sin that defiled the places so as to make them unfit for the presence of the Holy One. Unless the atonement was made the soul "bore its iniquity," i.e. was under the penalty of death. The exceptions of atonement made with fine flour by one not able to afford the animal sacrifice (Leviticus 5:11), and by Aaron with incense on a sudden emergency (Numbers 16:47), confirm the rule. The blood was the medium of atonement, because it had the life or soul (nephesh ) in it. The soul of the offered victim atoned for the soul of the sinful offerer.

The guiltless blood was given by God to be shed to atone for the forfeited blood of the guilty. The innocent victim pays the penalty of the offerer's sin, death (Romans 6:28). This atonement was merely typical in the Old Testament sacrifices; real in the one only New Testament sacrifice, Christ Jesus. Κaphar and kopher is in Genesis 6:14, "Thou shalt pitch the ark with pitch," the instrument of covering the saved from the destroying flood outside, as Jesus' blood interposes between believers and the flood of wrath that swallows up the lost. Jacob uses the same verb (Genesis 32:20), "I will appease Esau with the present," i.e., cover out of sight or turn away his wrath.

The "mercy-seat" whereat God meets man (being reconciled through the blood there sprinkled, and so man can meet God) is called kapporeth , i.e. flee lid of the ark, covering the law inside, which is fulfilled in Messiah who is called by the corresponding Greek term, hilasterion , "the propitiatory" or mercy-seat, "whom God hath set forth to be a propitiatory through faith in His blood" (Romans 3:23). God Himself made a coat (singular in Heb.) of skin, and clothed Adam and his wife (Genesis 3:21). The animal cannot have been slain for food, for animal food was not permitted to man until after the flood (Genesis 9:3); nor for clothing, for the fleece would afford that, without the needless killing of the animal. It must have been for sacrifice, the institution of which is presumed in the preference given to Abel's sacrifice, above Cain's offering of firstfruits, in Genesis 4.

Typically; God taught that the clothing for the soul must, be from the Victim whom God's love provided to cover our guilt forever out of sight (Psalms 32:D (not kaphar , but kasah ) (Romans 4:17; Isaiah 61:10), the same Hebrew (labash ) as in Genesis 3:21, "clothed." The universal prevalence of propitiatory sacrifices over the pagan world implies a primitive revelation of the need of expiatory atonement, and of the inefficacy of repentance alone to remove guilt. This is the more remarkable in Hindostan, where it is considered criminal to take away the life of any animal. God's righteous character and government interposed a barrier to sinful man's pardon and reception into favor. The sinner's mere desire for these blessings does not remove the barrier out of the way. Something needed to be done for him, not by him.

It was for God, against whom man sinned, to appoint the means for removing the barrier. The sinless Jesus' sacrifice for, and instead of, us sinners was the mean so appointed. The sinner has simply by faith to embrace the means. And as the means, the vicarious atonement by Christ, is of God, it must be efficacious for salvation. Not that Jesus' death induced God to love us; but because God loved us He gave Jesus to reconcile the claims of justice and mercy, "that God might be just and at the same time the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus" (Romans 3:26; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Jesus is, it is true, not said in Scripture to reconcile God to the sinner, because the reconciliation in the first instance emanated from God Himself. God reconciled us to Himself, i.e. restored us to His favor, by satisfying the claims of justice against us.

Christ's atonement makes a change, not in God's character as if God's love was produced by it, but in our position judicially considered in the eye of the divine law. Christ's sacrifice was the provision of God's love, not its moving cause (Romans 8:32). Christ's blood was the ransom paid at the expense of God Himself, to reconcile the exercise of mercy and justice, not as separate, but as the eternally harmonious attributes in the same God. God reconciles the world unto Himself, in the first instance, by satisfying His own just enmity against sin (Psalms 7:11; Isaiah 12:1, compare 1 Samuel 29:4; "reconcile himself unto his master," not remove his own anger against his master, but his master's anger against him). Men's reconciliation to God by laying aside their enmity is the after consequence of their believing that He has laid aside His judicial enmity against their sin.

Penal and vicarious satisfaction for our guilt to God's law by Christ's sacrificial death is taught Matthew 20:28; "the Son of man came to give His life a ransom for (anti) many" (anti implies vicarious satisfaction in Matthew 5:28; Mark 10:45). 1 Timothy 2:6; "who gave Himself a ransom for (antilutron , an equivalent payment in substitution for) all." Ephesians 5:25; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:15; "the Just for the unjust ... suffered for us." John 1:29; "the Lamb of God taketh away the sin of the world." 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:19; John 10:15; Romans 4:25; "He was delivered on account of (dia ) our offenses, and raised again for the sake of (dia ) our justification." (Revelation 1:5; Hebrews 9:13-14.) Conscience feels instinctively the penal claims of violated divine justice, and can only find peace when by faith it has realized that those claims have been fully met by our sacrificed substitute (Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 10:1-2; Hebrews 10:22; 1 Peter 3:21).

The conscience reflects the law and will of God, though that law condemns the man. Opponents of the doctrine of vicarious atonement say, "it exhibits God as less willing to forgive than His creatures are bound to be;" but man's justice, which is the faint reflex of God's, binds the judge, however lamenting the painful duty, to sentence the criminal to death as a satisfaction to outraged law. Also, "as taking delight in executing vengeance on sin, or yielding to the extremity of suffering what He withheld on considerations of mercy." But the claim of God's righteousness is not pressed apart from that of God's love; both move in beautiful unity; the atonement is at once the brightest exhibition of His love and of His justice; it does not render God merciful, but opens a channel whereby love can flow in perfect harmony with His righteous law, yea "magnifying the law and making it honorable" (Isaiah 42:21).

At the same time it is a true remark of Macdonell (Donellan Lectures): "Christ's work of redemption springs from an intimate relationship to those whom He redeems. It is not only because He suffers what they ought to have suffered that mercy becomes possible; but because He who suffered bore some mysterious relation to the spirits of those for whom He suffered; so that every pang He felt, and every act He did. vibrated to the extremities of that body of which He is the head, and placed not their acts, but the actors. themselves, in a new relation to the divine government and to the fountain of holiness and life." It is only as Representative Head of humanity, that the Son of man, the second Adam, made full and adequate satisfaction for the whole race whose nature He took. He died sufficiently for all men; efficiently for the elect alone (Hebrews 2:9-15; 1 John 2:2; Acts 20:28; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 Timothy 4:10).

Anything short of an adequate satisfaction would be so far an abatement; of divine justice; and if part of the sin might be forgiven without the satisfaction, why not all? If God can dispense with the claims of justice in part, He can as well do it altogether. A partial satisfaction would be almost more dishonoring to God's righteousness than a gratuitous forgiveness without any satisfaction whatever. With God alone it rested to determine what is adequate satisfaction, and how it is to become available to each man, without injury to the cause of righteousness.

God has determined it, that in Christ's infinite dignity of person and holiness above that of any creature, there is ensured the adequateness of the satisfaction, made by His obedience and suffering, to meet the claims of justice against those whose nature He voluntarily assumed; nay more, to set forth God's glory more brightly than ever; also God has revealed that by believing the sinner becomes one with the Redeemer, and so rightly shares in the redemption wrought by Him the Head of the redeemed. No motive has ever been found so powerful as the sinner's realization of the atonement, to create love in the human heart, constraining the accepted believer henceforth to shun all sin and press after all holiness in order to please God, who first loved him (Romans 8:1-3; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 1 John 4:19).

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Atonement'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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