Defining Atonement

The Hebrew word for Atonement is Kaphar (Kaw-Far), it literally means to “cover over”, or to appease. The idea is to pacify an authority for a wrong that has been done, to give a gift that may cause the judge to look past the offense.

From the third chapter of the Bible, we learn the lesson, “If you sin, then you will die.” Romans 6:23 repeats this message:

“for the wages of sin is death…”

This causes our Loving God a big problem because we all have sinned, and deserve the punishment for our sins, eternal death. Yet his great desire is for a relationship with us. He needed something that will cover over our sin.

In 1987 there was a movie titled “The Last Emperor” this movie told the story of Pu Yi the last Emperor of China, crowned when just a child. In one scene his brother asked him, what happens when you do something wrong? Yi reply’s, someone else is punished. To demonstrate, Yi breaks a jar, and one of his many servants is brought in and beaten for the transgression.

That was the answer for us. Someone else would be punished for our transgressions. The only one qualified to put back together what sin has torn apart is Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God. The sacrifice of his life on the cross covers over our sin.

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

Even though the Hebrew word for atonement means to “cover over”, I like our English word at-one-ment. Atonement puts our relationship with God back together. Jesus’ sacrifice makes everything right with the law of God, gives us a clean slate, and makes us “at one” with God.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™


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