How Did Jesus Christ Atone for Sin?

Jesus is the Lamb

A key significant event in Christ’s life was His atoning death. His death is commemorated annually in Good Friday services around the world. As is the case with His birth, various historical details concerning the death of Jesus are well known by many people. But many of those same people do not understand the special significance God attached to the death of Jesus. Many view His death as that of a martyr who died for a noble cause, but the Bible describes His death as having a greater significance than mere martyrdom.

Understanding Atonement

Bible teachers use the word atonement to describe the character of Jesus’ death. The word atonement literally means “covering” and is used in the Old Testament to describe the limited covering of sins accomplished by animal sacrifices. When applied to the death of Christ, this word has a much broader meaning and describes that which was accomplished by His death. Those accomplishments may be summarized by the words substitution, redemption, propitia­tion, and reconciliation.

The Bible teaches that Christ’s death was substitutionary in nature. Under the Old Testament law, animals were sacrificed as substitutes for people who were sinners. Jesus fulfilled this aspect of the sacrifice by dying as a substitute for Christians (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 5:8), the church (Eph. 5:25), and for every person (Heb. 2:9). Christ’s death was also redemptive in nature.The word redemption means “to purchase.” The apostle Paul uses three different Greek words to describe the redemptive nature of Christ’s death.

The 4 Components of Jesus’ Death

1. Purchasing Us In the Marketplace

First, the word agorazo means “to purchase in the market” (Gal. 3:10). This word describes Jesus purchasing us in the slave market of sin just as people purchased slaves in the first century slave markets.

2. Purchase and Take Home

Second, the word ekagorazo means “to purchase out and take home” (Gal. 3:13). This word describes our being purchased and removed from the marketplace, never again to be sold into sin. Third, the word lutroo means “to purchase and give freedom” (Titus 2:14). This word describes our being purchased as slaves and granted liberty as free persons (Gal. 5:1).

3. Satisfying God’s Justice

The third word describing Christ’s death is “propitiation.” This is a technical term refer­ring to sacrificial offering that appeased or satisfied God (Rom. 3:25; 1 John 4:10). Christ’s death was propitious in two senses. It satisfied God who is the One ultimately offended by sin (1 John 2:2). It satisfied the demands of the law which is violated when we sin (Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14).

4. Bringing Peace to the World

The fourth accomplishment in Christ’s death was the reconciliation of the world to God (2 Cor. 5:19). Sin made us the enemies of God, but in His death Christ made it possible for us to become friends of God. The Cross was the means of removing the enmity between God and people (Eph. 2:16). When we come to Christ for salvation, we are placed “in Christ” (Gal. 2:20) and He acts as our mediator (1 Tim. 2:5). When God looks at us, He sees His Son. Therefore, we are presented as savable sinners.

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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