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Atonement and the Cross of Christ

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The Doctrine of Atonement

When taken to the hospital, the old herdsman was sick, blind, and dying. While he was there his granddaughter came every day and read to him; the old man enjoyed the soft sound of the child's voice. One day she found, in the room, a Bible left by a friend. She casually opened to 1 John 1 and began to read. He listened attentively, and when he heard the words "And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin," he interrupted her.

"Tell me," he said, "is that really there?"

"Yes, Grandpa, it's there."

"Could you read it to me again?"

" 'And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.' "

For a few seconds there was silence; then he asked, "Are you quite sure that's there, in that book?"

"Yes, Grandpa, quite sure."

"Please, take my hand and place my finger on that passage and read it to me again." As she did it, tears dripped down from his sightless eyes, and his voice was heard speaking with difficulty but with great assurance.

"My dear child . . . if anyone should ask you how I died, please tell them that I died . . . cleansed."

What this story shows is that the doctrine of atonement is not an abstract theory of salvation; it is, rather, the saving power of God in the lives of fallen, sinful beings.

What is atonement? In general, it could be said that the word atonement refers to the removal of any hindrance to fellowship with God. In a sense, atonement is the equivalent of reconciliation, but it also includes the idea of expiation, a fancy word that portrays the idea of removing any barrier that exists between God and us. The doctrine of atonement emphasizes the sacrifice of Christ as the exclusive expiatory means by which the barrier between us and God—which is sin—is removed, leaving us reconciled to Him.

The atonement, in fact, is the biblical doctrine around which all others revolve. It is centered in Christ's life, death, resurrection, ascension, mediation, and return. It presupposes the presence of sin, our fundamental and desperate need of salvation, and God's loving disposition to save us.

A proper understanding of the biblical doctrine of God is also indispensable for understanding the atonement. It was God's love that made it possible to restore us to union and fellowship with Him through Jesus Christ. We should never give the impression that the death of Christ was needed in order to persuade God to love us. God sent Christ to die for us because He already loved us. The biblical doctrine of atonement is grounded in God's love for sinful and rebellious creatures.

The fullness of the benefits of the atonement is enjoyed only by those who, after being touched by the Holy Spirit, accept God's offer of salvation in Christ as the exclusive means of forgiveness and reconciliation. Their hearts are possessed by love and gratitude to God and Christ for this infinite sacrifice.

Thus, it's our sincere hope that this quarter, as you study the meaning of Christ's substitutionary sacrifice, you will be moved toward a greater commitment to the One who suffered so much for us, so that whether you live or die, you can, like the old herdsman, do so in peace.

Dr. Ángel M. Rodríguez, a native of Puerto Rico, is the director of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference headquarters, Silver Spring, Maryland.

Contents:  (all lessons may not be posted)

No. Study


Oct 4 God's Nature:  The Basis of Atonement  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Oct 11 Cosmic Crisis:  The Disruption of god's Established Order  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Oct 18 The Fall Into Sin  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Oct 25 Atonement and the Divine Initiative  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Nov 1 Atonement Announced  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Nov 8 Atonement in Symbol:  I  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Nov 15 Atonement in Symbol:  II  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Nov 22 Born of a Woman—Atonement and the Incarnation  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Nov 29 Metaphors of Salvation  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Dec 6 Atonement at the Cross  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Dec 13 Benefits of Christ's Atoning Sacrifice  (KJV)  (NKJV)


Dec 20 United to Christ  (KJV)  (NKJV)
 13 Dec 27 Atonement and Universal Harmony  (KJV)  (NKJV)

Giardina Sabbath School Study Helps

Jerry Giardina of Pecos, Texas, assisted by his wife, Cheryl, prepares a series of helps to accompany the Sabbath School lesson. He includes all related scripture and most EGW quotations. Jerry has chosen the "New King James Version" of the scriptures this quarter. It is used with permission.  The study helps are provided in three wordprocessing versions Wordperfect; Microsoft Word;  RTF for our MAC friends (this is now a zip file); and HTML (Web Pages).

Last updated on November 10, 2008

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