Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Potter’s House: The Three Exchanges of True Biblical Atonement

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on March 9, 2014

HF Potters House (2)


Exchange (2)

We are inserting another interlude into our Romans series, the very important subject of atonement.

A clear definition of the word atonement, or at-onement, is critical to the discussion. The word primarily means to be reconciled as “onement” would imply. Unfortunately, atonement is often defined as “a covering” which is not the primary meaning of the word. “Covering” is not consistent with the idea of things separated becoming one. Mankind is at enmity with God and needs to be reconciled to Him.

It could be argued that covering is the result of reconciliation, but really, the result is an EXCHANGE. The exchange can be best summarized as an exchange of death for life. According to John J. Parsons, author of Hebrew 4 Christians .com, the English translation for the Jewish Day of Atonement is Yom Kippur which can mean “ransom,” “substitute,” or “redeem.” In Parson’s estimation, the overarching idea is an exchange of one life for another.

The idea of a covering for sin in the way you would cover something over to hide it is prevalent in the Old Testament. The word for covering something over appears in the Old Testament roughly 160 times, and about half of those pertain to a covering of sin. These are variations of kipur, kapar, kasa, and are usually translated in English as “cover” or “atonement.” The word atonement has a late etymology (16th century) and has religious implications. This shouldn’t surprise us because the Old Testament pointed to the eradication of sin on the cross while the Old Covenant covered, or held sin captive until Christ exchanged His life for ours:

Galatians 3:21 – Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

In the New Testament, the word atonement doesn’t appear. The KJV translates katallage as atonement, but elsewhere in Romans 5:10,11, 11:15, 1Cor 5:18, 7:11, 2Cor 5:19,20, the only other places the word appears, it is translated “reconciliation” or to be reconciled.

The word for “cover” in the New Testament (kalypto) appears four times; once for the admonishment to not use our freedom as a covering for sin (1Pet 2:16); twice in regard to love covering sin among Christians (1Pet 4:8, James 5:20), and one Old Testament reference to Psalm 32:1,2 in Romans 4:7. But the real test is in the Old Testament narratives which exemplify EXCHANGE. The first is the account of Abraham and Isaac:

Genesis 22:1 – After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba.

The angel of the Lord waited long enough to establish the fact that Isaac was as good as dead before stopping Abraham. The ram was then sacrificed in place of Isaac—this is an exchange of death for life. We learn from Hebrews that Abraham assumed God was going to raise Isaac from the dead, so Abraham may have understood far more about the coming Messiah than we would imagine (Heb 11:1-19).

The next example may be sanctified speculation, but I would like to enter it into the lesson:

Hebrews 11: 4 – By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.

Hebrews 12:24 – and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Genesis 4:1 – Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

God set a mark on Cain to preserve his life. This is the death of a righteous one that results in the preservation of one undeserving of life. Again, this may be speculative, but I offer it up for your consideration. Less speculative is the sacrifices demanded under the Old Testament law, particularly the Day of Atonement:

Leviticus 16:6 – “Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. 7 Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 8 And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel [scapegoat/goat of departure]. 9 And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, 10 but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

Leviticus 16:29 – “And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. 30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins. 31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever. 32 And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments. 33 He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Aaron did as the Lord commanded Moses.

Leviticus 14:49 – To purify the house he is to take two birds and some cedar wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop. 50 He shall kill one of the birds over fresh water in a clay pot. 51 Then he is to take the cedar wood, the hyssop, the scarlet yarn and the live bird, dip them into the blood of the dead bird and the fresh water, and sprinkle the house seven times. 52 He shall purify the house with the bird’s blood, the fresh water, the live bird, the cedar wood, the hyssop and the scarlet yarn. 53 Then he is to release the live bird in the open fields outside the town. In this way he will make atonement for the house, and it will be clean.”

In addition, these sacrifices, especially the Day of Atonement, signified the taking away of sin rather than a mere covering:

Leviticus 16:21 – And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness.

John 1:29 – The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

When we believe in Christ, we are persuaded that He laid down His life for ours. We are persuaded that He bore all of our sins and paid the penalty of death for them. He also was resurrected as well. His death and resurrection resulted in three exchanges that mark the true gospel. These are three exchanges that exhibit true atonement.

1. An exchange of the old us for the new us. When we believed on Christ, the old us literally died with Christ, and the new us was resurrected with Him. This is the meaning of baptism; it pictures that transaction:

Romans 6:1 – What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

The denial of a literal spiritual death and resurrection resulting in a new person is NOT tantamount to the true gospel.

2. There must be a transaction of law. There must be a transfer of jurisdiction in regard to law. There must be an exchange of “under law” for “under grace.” It is an exchange of the law of sin and death that condemns for the law of liberty/law of the Spirit:

Galatians 4:21 – Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written…

Romans 3:21 – 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it — 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

We are justified apart from the law, but there is a law that bears witness to us. Unless we have a different relationship to the law than condemnation, there is no true gospel. A gospel that posits the idea that Christians are still under a law that can condemn us is a false one.

3. There must be a transaction of slavery. No unbeliever sins perfectly, and no believer obeys perfectly. Unbelievers are enslaved to unrighteousness and free to do good—believers are enslaved to righteousness and free to sin (Romans 6:20-23). Christ purchased us with His blood for service to His kingdom, and we were purchased from the slavery of the world (1Cor 7:23). Redemption is our resurrection when Christ takes full possession of us into His presence (Luke 21:28).

A true gospel must speak of these three transactions; you cannot have one without the other.

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