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09 - IX. The Atonement

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24 Aug, 2008 AM

Tree of Life Wesleyan Church

Billings, MT.

IX. The Atonement

Romans 3:20-26; Luke 24:45-48; Eph. 2:13; 1 John 2:2

                Here’s an incredible story of forgiveness that came out of Tulsa, OK, a couple of years ago. Tom McGee was a young man who went out for a night of partying & revelry. He got drunk & ran head-on into a car driven by a young man by the name of Ted Morris. He killed Ted Morris instantly while driving under the influence of alcohol.  This wasn’t the first time he had been arrested for drunk driving, so Tom McGee was put on trial for manslaughter, found guilty & sentenced to a term of several years in prison. But the prison was crowded, & prisoners were being given early paroles, so Tom McGee actually spent only a few months in prison before being released on parole.   But he evidently hadn’t learned his lesson, for it wasn’t long until he was arrested again for drunk driving. So his parole was revoked, & he was sent back to complete his prison sentence.  Jack Morris, his victim’s father, visited Tom McGee in prison. After visiting several times, he started taking cookies that his wife, Elizabeth, had baked for him. And they became friends.   Finally Tom McGee was released from prison, but he had no place to go. So Jack & Elizabeth Morris invited him into their home, & gave him a place to stay. They provided the means by which he could receive an education, & helped him find a job.  They were members of a Church of Christ in Tulsa, so they took him to church with them, where Tom McGee accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord & Savior, & was baptized for the remission of his sins.  Just recently, the news has come out that Jack & Elizabeth Morris have formally adopted Tom McGee & made him their son. When Jack & Elizabeth Morris die, Tom McGee will inherit whatever they have accumulated in this life. Now that’s forgiveness - an incredible story of forgiveness.

                A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice and justice demanded death.  "But I don’t ask for justice," the mother explained. "I plead for mercy."  "But your son does not deserve mercy," Napoleon replied.   "Sir," the woman cried, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for."  "Well, then," the emperor said, "I will have mercy." And he spared the woman’s son.

                There is something special about these stories, in both of them, someone was forgiven of something that we would normally think they should not be forgiven of.  But that is exactly what God did.  He looked at us in all our faults and sins, and provided a way for us to become worthy to be in His presence.  That’s called “atonement.”  The definition of “atonement” is, “Amends or reparation made for an injury or wrong – In Hebrew Scriptures, it means, man’s reconciliation with God after having transgressed (or broken) the covenant.”  This atonement could only be brought about by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  The Atonement is article nine in our articles of faith, and it reads:

                We believe that Christ’s offering of himself, once and for all, through His sufferings and meritorious (or praiseworthy) death on the cross, provides the perfect redemption and atonement for the sins of the whole world, both original and actual.  There is no other ground of salvation from sin but that alone.  This atonement is sufficient for every individual of Adam’s race.  It is unconditionally effective in the salvation of those mentally incompetent from birth, of those converted persons who have become mentally incompetent, and of children under the age of accountability.  But it is effective for the salvation of those who reach the age of accountability only when they repent and exercise faith in Christ. (Disciple)

This morning I would like us to start our study in the book of Romans, chapter 3, starting with verse 20:

                Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.  But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified
(accepted) freely by his grace through the redemption (or deliverance or rescue) that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.

                What does this verse say?  Well, it tells us that no one can or will be declared righteous in God’s sight by just observing or keeping the law.  There are those who believe that they are righteous, and will be with God in heaven, just because they keep the Ten Commandments -- that just because they do not commit adultery, or kill, or steal and that they honor their parents and go to church on Sunday, or keep a day holy, that they will be found righteous or blameless.  But that is not what Paul tells us here.  He says that it’s because of the law that we become conscious of sin.  It is because we have a commandment that tells us we should honor our parents that we become aware that we are sinning if we don’t honor them.  Or because we have a commandment that tells us we are not to steal, we are aware that we are sinning when we steal.  The law does not make us righteous, it makes us aware of sin.

                But there is a righteousness or blamelessness that comes from God, something that is apart from the law.  In our society we have laws, and it’s because of those laws that we know we are doing wrong.  If we are traveling at 50 miles an hour down main street, and don’t see a speed limit sign, how are we to know we are doing wrong?  But once a speed limit sign is put up telling us that the posted speed is 25, we now know that what we are doing is wrong.  Something else that comes from that law, is law enforcement – who demands that we obey that posted speed limit.

                What Paul is saying here is that there is a righteousness that comes from God that is apart from the law, or that really has nothing to do with the law.  This righteousness is not enforced by an officer but it comes through faith in Jesus Christ and is given to all who believe.  This is important, because this righteousness is for all the world, for Paul said; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Those who know about the law, and those who don’t.  We believe that this came about through Jesus’ death on the cross and provides the perfect redemption and atonement for the sins of the whole world, both original and actual. 

                If you remember, we talked about original sin – that is the sin that came about because of what Adam did in the garden, when He ate of the fruit that God had told him not to eat.  In other words – Adam, disobeyed God – and that inclination or tendency or leaning towards sin is passed down to every generation – that’s what is meant by the term original sin.  The atonement that was provided by Jesus’ death on the cross makes amends for not only that original sin that we lean towards but also for actual sin, the sin that we may do during our every day activities – some sins that we know about and some that we don’t, that is until we are enlightened and told about the laws.  Jesus’ sacrifice covers both types of sins, all sins.   In the Gospel of Luke we find these words and I’m using the New Century Version here:

  Then Jesus opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  He said to them, “It is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that a change of hearts and lives and forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all nations, starting at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.”  (Luke 24:45-48)

                Going back to Article 9 it tells us that:  “There is no other ground of salvation from sin but that (Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross) and that alone.”  Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  And that name is the name Jesus!  The only way to find salvation from sin is through Jesus Christ.  Good works won’t do it, just being a good person won’t do it, obeying the laws or the Ten Commandments won’t do it but itself – it can only be granted through faith in Jesus and Jesus alone.          

Article nine goes on to say, “This atonement is sufficient for every individual of Adam’s race.”  Did you catch that?  It said, “Every Individual.”  Not just the Jews, and not just the Gentiles – but for everyone.  How do we know this?  Well, in Eph. 2:13 Paul gave us these words, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” 

                We have already been told that all have sinned, if for no other reason, because of original sin.  And because of this sin, we fall short of the glory of God.  We fall short of being able to walk before Him.  But now, because of what Jesus did, all of us who were once far away, have been brought near to God, able to walk into His presence, and that happened because of the Atoning blood of Jesus.

                You what to know something?  We have a wonderful and gracious God.  There are some religions which believe that an infant must be baptized – and their reasoning somewhat makes sense.  They do it because of that original sin – thinking that if something happened to the child, God would find them worthy to be in His presence because of that baptism.  But my God does not punish those that don’t understand.  And an infant does not understand.  Look again at what this article says, This atonement that Jesus accomplished, “is unconditionally effective in the salvation of those mentally incompetent from birth, of those converted persons who have become mentally incompetent, and of children under the age of accountability.”

                What this means is, if a person can not know the law, they will not be held accountable to it.  There are some who are mentally incompetent – this means that they do not have the ability to understand why they are not to do something.  But many tend to think that we can train them not to do something – we can train them not to steal or lie – now what I’m going to say I don’t want you to take wrong – I’m not calling these people dogs, but I can train my dog to do certain things but I don’t think they fully understand why they are doing it – they just know they are going to get a treat – they can not be held accountable.

                So someone who does not have full understanding, and can not gain that understanding, our God is gracious enough to accept them.  Some are born that way, others may become that way.  We have all seen or heard of someone who was the nicest person, then they had a stroke and all of a sudden they are yelling and cursing like they had done it all their lives.  Something has happened in their brains and our God again, does not hold them accountable for that.  Nor does He hold accountable a child who can not fully grasp and understand the law.  So, we believe that God will not hold children accountable until the age of accountability.  What is that age?  It’s different for each and every child.  Some fully understand what Jesus has done for us by the age of three, others don’t understand until they are five or maybe even seven or eight – but when they do understand then they are held accountable for that understanding.

                That’s when the last sentence in Article 9 comes in, the atonement “is effective for the salvation of those who reach the age of accountability only when they repent and exercise faith in Christ.”  It all comes back to – faith.  We must have faith in what Jesus did for us.  We must have faith that when we accept Him and repent of our sins, that we will be found worthy to be in the family of God.  We must believe what 1 John 2:2 says, that: “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”  I want to bring up one more thing this morning in regards to atonement.  Atonement can also mean apology.  So this verse in 1 John could be read this way, “He is the apologizing sacrifice for our sins,” making our apology to God for what we have done in our lives – but Jesus can only do this for us if we tell Him we are sorry for them – by repenting of our sins.

                We believe in the atoning work of Jesus – that He and He alone made the great apology to God for the breaking the covenant He had with Adam, and in so doing brings us back into righteousness and glory and into the family of God.

14 July, 2002 AM

Miles City Wesleyan Church

Miles City Mt.

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