Because our sin separates us from God, we are in a negative relationship with Him. If we are going to be made right with God, we need someone to intervene. This is exactly what God did in the atonement of Christ.
The Atonement was God’s idea. As we examine Scripture it is clear we could not have nor would we ever have come up with this idea. Only God would.
One of the most important passages about Christ’s atonement is Isaiah 52:13-53:12.
In Isa. 52:13 Jesus is called my servant. The servant being described here is God’s servant. In Matthew and Mark, we have Jesus’ own words about why He came.
Matthew 20:28, “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, came to be a servant (Phil. 2:6). Jesus is God’s servant who came to serve others. His supreme act of service was His death on the cross (Phil. 2:8). Jesus came to give Himself.
Isaiah also teaches us that the atonement was God’s idea. “It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief.” (Isa. 53:10) The Father crushed Christ. However, we understand this, we at minimum learn that God is the one who took the initiative in the atonement. This is clear in the New Testament as well. The Apostle John tells us that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son.” (John 3:16). In a letter written by him he wrote, “In this is the love of God, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10).
The atonement is an expression of God’s love for sinners (Rom. 5:6-11). The atonement of Christ did not purchase God’s love for us rather it is an expression of His love. The Father and the Son loved us therefore they atoned for our sin in Christ. The cross proclaims God’s love to us. God loved so He gave.
God’s servant serves God and us. This was God’s idea. He was the first mover in the atonement. Because the atonement was His idea, we need to ask what did God intend to do in the atonement?
An Accomplished Atonement
Turning our attention back to Isaiah we read what God’s servant accomplished in 53:4-6. This is the work of the servant but in His work, we see what He accomplished. Jesus, God’s servant, did not make atonement for sinners possible, He accomplished it.
- He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows
- He was pierced for our transgression
- He was crushed for our iniquities
- His chastisement brought us peace
- His wounds heal our wounds
- He took our iniquity upon Himself
This is definite language from Isaiah. He has borne, He did not make it possible. He really carried our sorrows. He was pierced, He was crushed, He has brought us peace (Rom. 5:1), the LORD did lay on Him our iniquity. For those who come to faith in Christ we can rest assured that our sin has been decisively dealt with because Christ’s atonement paid it all.
This is not a hypothetical work from Christ but an actual one. Why was this work of atonement needed? Because of our transgressions and iniquities. As we look forward again to Jesus’ words in Matthew and Mark and Paul’s words in Philippians 2, we learn that Jesus gave Himself as a ransom for many.
When the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream in Matthew 1 the work that Christ would accomplish was announced. “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21) Jesus did not make salvation possible for His people He saves them.
Jesus Prays for Us
We often overlook an important connection between Christ’s work of atonement and His work of intercession. Christ’s work of intercession is simply His work of praying for His people. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
Jesus’ prayer for us is effective because of His accomplished atonement. If Jesus only made atonement a possibility for sinners, then His intercession on our behalf is only a possibility. Jesus would have nothing to plead if He did not accomplish anything in His atonement (1 John 2:1-2). This is foretold in Isaiah, “he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”
It is a comfort that Jesus prays for us and to know it is effective because He really accomplished something in His atonement, namely He paid the penalty for our sin in our place. He lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserved.
The atonement of Christ on behalf on sinners like you and me brings us great security. Because of His work we stand secure with God. God, in Christ, has decisively dealt with our sin. We are in a positive relationship with God and now we call Him Father.
Praise God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
- Isaiah 52:13-53:12
- What is the work of the Servant?
- Why is the word “for” important? (Isa. 53:5)
- Who put the servant forward?
- Leviticus 16
- How often did the High Priest have to do this?
- What was the purpose of the Day of Atonement?
- Why were two goats needed?
- Who bore the people’s iniquities?
- Hebrews 9:11-14
- What role did Jesus have in His word of atonement?
- How often did Jesus offer Himself compared to the Old Testament High Priestly sacrifices?
- What did Christ accomplish?
- Who did Jesus offer Himself through?