Today is Yom Kippur, Judaism’s day of atonement. It’s a day for fasting, repentance, and healing. Atonement is a concept that Christianity inherited from Judaism. Jesus’ cross is our Yom Kippur for our sins. The Hebrew word kippur means most literally “to cover.” In English, atonement is a compound of three words: at-one-ment. So what is being made “at one” with atonement? And how does being “covered” by something make us “at one”? Continue reading
A basic principle of Christianity is that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. What exactly this statement means has increasingly come under debate in our time. For most of the modern period, Protestantism has almost exclusively understood Jesus’ death on the cross as a punishment that pays a debt, or “penal substitution.” Added to this has been the assumption that the primary problem resolved by the cross is God’s anger about our sin. These are two separate issues. I believe that penal substitution has Biblical support, but it has been drastically over-weighted; I do not believe that a view of the cross as an appeasement of God’s anger is Biblically faithful. One way of exploring this phenomenon (imperfectly) is to look at all the references to Jesus’ blood in the New Testament to see what the Bible says that the blood actually does.
This spring has been a difficult one for me as a gardener. My peppers have been wiped out multiple times, but their demise has provided me with helpful metaphors to think about the Christian gospel, particularly in relation to the account of 1 John 1:5-10, which provides an excellent summary of God’s nature, human nature, and how we are reconciled with God and each other:
God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7 but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. Continue reading
Many Christians today misunderstand the ancient Israelite practice of sacrifice. The ancient Israelites did not think they were “punishing” the sacrificial animals for their community’s sins, nor did they think that they were placating a capricious God as the pagan religions around them understood sacrifice. The purpose of sacrifice was to purify the community of sin with the life in the blood of the animal (Leviticus 17:11). The reason Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice is because He is the source of all life as the Word of God. Thus His blood is the purest life there is, having the power to remove the curse of sin from our world.
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