We want to remember as we study these Sabbath School lessons on the “Atonement,” that the word is not a Latin term that is muddled in meaning. It’s pure, simple Anglo-Saxon that ordinary people can grasp immediately: it means to be “made one.”
And the alienation that it heals has been one-sided—we humans are the ones who were separated, or isolated; it’s “the carnal mind [that is] enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7).
He has always been reconciled to us, no “enmity” on His part. It was the Father who “so loved the world” that He “gave His only begotten Son” to demonstrate His one-ness with us (John 3:16). The giving was total, the emptying of Himself in so doing (see Phil. 2:5-8; “the death of the cross” was the death in hell itself—the second death).
“Enmity” is exceedingly painful to endure, especially when it separates two people who once loved each other and once were “one.” A divorce for example can be worse than death; if hatred has entered in where once only love ruled—the human spirit knows no bitterness worse.
The loving Father wants the whole universe to know that He is already reconciled to us sinners, and that His reconciling love heals the wounds such alienation brings.
When this News breaks on to the darkened alienated human heart, if the heart is honest it is melted with contrition: “Does He care about me? Is His divine heart wounded by my willful alienation from Him? Oh, I repent of my alienation from Him!”
The response of the believing heart is a million miles from being self-centered: fear of hell doesn’t enter in, and hope of reward is forgotten. The sublime words describe this joy: “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
By Him “we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand.” No joy in the wide universe can equal this! The weight has been lifted. At last we realize that His “yoke is easy, and [His] burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
From “henceforth” we serve the One who died for us not because of fear of hell or hope of reward in heaven, but solely because His love [agape] “constraineth us.” It’s the joy that is supreme in God’s universe.
The scholars can describe it as “atonement announced,” and that is good; the “announcement” is the Good News that Paul says “is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16).
Its joy is just indescribable.
May you, dear reader, know it first hand; that’s a prayer offered for you from one thankful heart.
—Robert J. Wieland