“Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other” (Ps. 85:10).
In order to understand properly the meaning of the atonement, we must know God’s attitude toward sin and how Christ deals with this problem. Biblically speaking, we find three major ways in which transgressions affect our relationship to the Lord:
Man has incurred a debt to God. As the Creator and sovereign ruler of the universe, God has the right to impose obligations upon mankind. He demanded from Adam perfect obedience to His command (Gen. 2:15–17). Having failed to render perfect righteousness, we, in Adam, find ourselves owing a debt to God that is impossible for us to pay (Rom. 3:23; 8:1–4). We have all sinned against an infinite person, and therefore an infinite payment is required. Thus, even if I perform only one act of wickedness in my entire life, there is no way I can do enough good to make up for it. In this context, Jesus is our surety — the one who guarantees repayment of our debt.
Man is at enmity with God. We have offended the Almighty, and our relationship with Him has been ruptured (Hos. 1:2; Rom. 3:23). One of the points of the book of Job is that the Lord upholds His creation perfectly, and thus we can never legitimately claim that He treats us unjustly. We have wronged Him. Christ as our mediator fixed this broken relationship. God is angry at His people for their evil, but in love He predestined them for adoption through His Son, Jesus (Eph. 1:3–6), who was sent to stand between God and His people, thereby restoring our fellowship with Him (John 3:16).
Man has committed a crime against God. If I were to steal ten thousand dollars, it would not be enough punishment for me to repay the money. I would also have to face some kind of jail time. Someone else could repay the money for me, but the judge would not be obligated to put away any legal penalties against me. But God is gracious and has determined not only to have our debt satisfied in Christ, He has also decided to accept His death as the penalty paid for the sins of His people (Rom. 3:21–26). At the cross, God showered mercy on us by cursing Jesus in our stead. Thus His holiness is not compromised, for our sin is judged in His Son.
Other people may treat us unjustly, but the Lord never does. His justice is perfect and will never condemn the righteous, nor will He let the sinner go unpunished. In Christ, the Father has judged His sinful people so that they might find acquittal at the Last Day. His mercy is so great that He has poured out His wrath on another so that we would not be consumed by it. Consider the mercy of God this day and imitate it by showing mercy to an undeserving person.
Passages for Further Study
- 2 Sam. 22
- Ps. 119:137–144
- Matt. 5:7; 12:15–21; 20:1–16
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