Bible Study Lesson 6

His Vicarious Atonement For The Sins Of Mankind By The Shedding Of His Blood

Vicarious means “in the place of another” or “identifying oneself with another.”  Some people have a vicarious reaction to a sports team…we did this, we did that.  When we speak of a vicarious atonement, there is a much deeper meaning.  We mean that the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross identified Himself with us; literally He took our place; He identified Himself with our sins.

He suffered our penalty.  He who knew no sin became sin for us “that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21) In our behalf, in our place, God’s only begotten Son “bare our sins in his own body on the tree…(I Peter 2:24) God, tasted death for every man (Hebrews 2:9); and when we accept Him as our personal Savior, realizing that “He was wounded for our transgressions,” that “he was bruised for our iniquities,” that “the chastisement of our peace was upon him,” and that “with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5), we are identified with Him in righteousness.

The word atonement has somewhat the same meaning as propitiation.  Jesus Christ “is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:2).  “Herein is love,” we are told, “not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10).

“All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:  Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Romans 3:23-26.)

Pagans try to propitiate their gods by offerings and sacrifices.  Let the storm rage and the pagan will make an offering or sacrifice in hopes of turning aside the anger of his god.  The sacrifice may be a chicken, a coconut, or in some countries, a child—but it is an attempt to make the god forget his wrath.  Propitiation, then, is an offering or some act of humility by which an attempt is made to turn aside wrath, anger, and indignation.

Atonement, though similar to propitiation has a slightly different meaning.  It means “reconciliation between two parties who had been separated by a difference.  “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

As sinners, we were at enmity with God.  We had wronged Him, and God could not look on us, could not fellowship with us, in our sinful state.  But through the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross, that enmity was healed (Ephesians 2:16).  “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Ephesians 2:14); and we are able to come “boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).  In other words, between God and us was the wall of our sins.  God could not tolerate sin; so we were separated from God.  But when Jesus Christ paid the price of sin—suffered for sin—our sins were put away; and by faith in His finished work we become sinless in God’s sight.  The wall is broken down; God’s anger is turned aside—not because He forgets to be angry, but because His wrath against sin is satisfied by the death of His Son, Who was the perfect Sacrifice.