“We also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received atonement.”—Romans 5:11
The word “Atonement” occurs about eighty times in the Old Testament and only this once in the New. But the fact of atonement is everywhere in both Testaments, beginning with Abel’s bloody sacrifice and ending with “The Lamb as it had been slain in the midst of the throne.”
A friend said to John Newton, “I cannot see the doctrine of the atonement in the Scriptures.” Mr. Newton replied, “I tried to light my candle the other evening with the extinguisher on it.” One who reads the Bible without seeing atonement has on his mind the extinguisher of prejudice or false teaching. It is the sun in the heavens of revealed truth. The types of the Old Testament, the ordinances of the New, and the teachings of the prophet, and apostle join with John the Baptist in saying, “Behold the Lamb of God.” As the scarlet thread runs through all the cordage of the British Navy, so the atonement of Christ runs through all the teaching of the Bible.
The necessity of atonement is denied only by those who make light of sin. If sin be embryonic goodness, or merely hallucination of moral mind, there is, of course, no need of paying attention to it; the less said about it the better. But it is plain that God sees sin as alienation from Himself, rebellion against Him, disease of soul ending in eternal death, moral and spiritual anarchy that keeps heaven out of man and man out of heaven; and seeing sin as it is, His righteousness demands, while His love provides, atonement.
If, therefore, I accept Jesus Christ as “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” I may lovingly demand salvation upon the ground of justice. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins.” Forgiveness is now demanded by justice as well as granted by mercy. “Mercy and Truth are met together, Righteousness and Peace have kissed each other.” Justice demands what mercy delights to give. There is no war between the attributes of God. To save a sinner without atonement would destroy His righteous rules—would, indeed, be the abdication of His throne. But now that atonement is made and justice satisfied, for Him to refuse to save the sinner who comes to Him pleading propitiation through the blood of Christ would be again to abdicate the throne, which is founded upon the righteousness which demands that the sinner whose debt of sin has been paid, and the payment accepted, shall be acquitted. God’s throne would fall if a sinner who refuses atonement should be saved; and God’s throne would just as certainly fall if a Christian who has accepted atonement should be lost. The foundation of both heaven and hell is the righteousness of God.
And yet let us never forget that back of all this is the love of God. God does not love us because Christ died; Christ died because God loved. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Back of Calvary is love. It was love that led to the satisfaction of justice.