Jesus Christ, The God-Man, Part III
God’s Atoning Sacrifice for Sin
Read Leviticus 16. If you missed the sermons that covered this passage in Leviticus 16, it would be of great benefit to you to see how Christ Jesus fulfilled every single detail of the feast in His work leading up to and culminating in the cross. Today, we will learn about what that means for us as His people.
We have learned from the previous two sermons that Jesus Christ is both fully human and fully God. In His humanity, He is uncreated except as is incidental to the initial act of creation. His humanity descends from Adam, through Abraham, through David, etc.
Of His humanity, Paul says in Colossians 1 that in Christ Jesus “we have redemption through His blood.” He also says that He is “the firstborn from the dead.” It is Sunday, and not normally a day to take a test, but let’s try it anyway –
1) Does God have blood? No.
2) Can God die? No.
See you get an A+ already. As Jesus Christ’s earthly body had blood, something which is created, and as Jesus Christ died, something that cannot happen to God, then Jesus Christ is…? Yes, correct. He is a human. In theology 1 + 1 will always equal 2.
In His deity, Paul states in Colossians 1 that “He is the image of the invisible God.” Also, that “by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on the earth.” Further that “He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”
Logically, thinking through these few words from Paul, it is perfectly evident that Jesus Christ is God. The Greek word translated as “image” signifies a mirror-like representation. It is a direct correspondence to something.
The meaning then is that Jesus Christ is the supreme expression of God. As God is infinite, and as Jesus Christ is the supreme expression of an infinite, then He must be God, because only God is an infinite.
Further, 1) if He existed before all things, and all things other than God are created, then He is God; 2) as He is the Creator of all things, then He is God, and 3) as all things continue to be sustained and held together by Him, then He is God. 1 + 1 will always equal 2 in proper theology.
Jesus Christ is fully human and yet He is fully God, nothing less. Thus, Jesus is the God-Man. He is not God who is a finite human – a logical contradiction. Instead, He is a human who is also God – two natures which never overlap, but in which there is no separation.
For fallen man, there is a reason why Christ, the God-Man, had to come. That reason branches out in both directions. His humanity is necessary for man’s atonement, but His deity is also necessary for man’s atonement.
Only with an understanding of this dual nature of Jesus Christ, can what He came to do be fully understood. Understanding this, at least in a limited way, will be our goal today.
Text Verse: “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” Colossians 1:19-22
After Paul proclaimed both Christ’s humanity and His deity, he speaks of reconciliation and peace instead of alienation. He says that this came about “through the blood of His cross.” The implication is that without the blood, there would be no reconciliation, but rather enmity. And there would be no peace, but rather there would be strife.
What Paul describes, then, is the process of atonement. The word “atonement,” in its simplest form signifies “a covering.” It comes from the Hebrew verb kaphar, which means exactly that. For example, the first of its 104 occurrences is found in Genesis 6:1 –
“Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.”
A very high stress is placed upon this word in Leviticus, and in particular in Leviticus 16 which details the Day of Atonement which occurred every year in Israel. In a covering, there is a pacifying action, and in that there is realized a satisfaction, or propitiation.
In this, one can see that something is exposed, and it is an offence. In covering that which is exposed, the one who is offended is pacified, and there is a return to a propitious (let us say a “happy”) relationship. It is a favorable, benevolent relationship which is realized.
Today we will look into the atonement of man’s sin, and why it was needed. We will also look into how that is accomplished by God, and why it could only be through Jesus Christ who is the God-Man. It could not have come about without Christ being both God and Man. That is what the Bible teaches, and that is what we shall see revealed today.
The biblical doctrine known as “Atonement” is a marvelous part of God’s superior word. And so, let us turn to that word once again, and may God speak to us through His word today, and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. The Offering and the Place of Offering
The first implied atonement, or covering, found in the Bible – though that term is not used – is seen in Genesis 3. The man and his wife offended God. The harmony which existed was destroyed, and a curse came upon them.
It says in that account that even before the curse came, however, that the man and the woman realized their transgression, and their fallen state. This is seen with the words, “and they knew they were naked.” In order to hide their nakedness, it says –
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” Genesis 3:7
A knowledge they previously lacked now belonged to them. They were unashamed, and suddenly they were ashamed. To correct the matter, they covered themselves. But the record is specific. They didn’t just use leaves to do so. They used t’enah, or fig leaves.
From this point on, the fig takes on a particular meaning in Scripture based on what is seen here. The fig signifies a spiritual connection to God, or the lack of it. This is seen, for example, in the words of Jesus in Mark 11 –
“Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 In response Jesus said to it, ‘Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.’” Mark 11:12-14
Jesus was making a theological point concerning the place where He had left the day before, and where He immediately returned to the next day – the temple. Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree was a parable of the ending of the temple rites and the law as God’s means of restoration with Him. The spiritual connection of the law was to be severed.
He was taking us back to Eden. The man and the woman had tried to make a spiritual reconnection through the leaves of the fig to what they had lost, but it was too late. God rejected that, He cursed the serpent, the woman, and the man. Death entered the world through the act, and then came the judgment.
The spiritual reconnection could not come through their efforts. The fig leaves were insufficient to restore what had been lost. But while standing there, covered in their own unsuitable works, the Lord spoke out words of promise via His curse upon the serpent –
“And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:15
The new master of the realm, the serpent, would be defeated through the Seed of the woman. It is absolutely certain that this is a promise of the coming Messiah. The man and his woman stood there, dead in their sin and destined to die in their bodies. The Lord had just said to the man that he would return to the dust from which he had been taken, but the promise of life, even from their state of death, was made.
We know this because immediately after the pronounced curse upon the man, the very next words say, “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20).
The man, though now spiritually dead, and destined to die – meaning he lived in a body of death, now named the woman he had been given – Khavah, or “Life.” Though they stood before the Lord dead, he had believed the promise that the author of death would be destroyed. If death was destroyed, life would come. The naming of the woman “Life” was an act of faith, and in that act, a covering was given –
“Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21
Something died in order to cover their shame. Blood was shed, and it was not done so by the man. Rather, it was the Lord who did it, and thus it was an act of grace. Further, it was the Lord who clothed them – He provided the covering. There was no active participation on their part. They simply received what the Lord had provided. This is what the words indicate.
In only a few verses of the first chapters of the Bible, the entire basis and process for the redemption of mankind is given. The theology of what is presented in the Genesis 3 narrative will never be departed from.
Man fell; man is fallen; man cannot correct the matter; the Lord will intervene; the Lord – through His grace – will accomplish the necessary sacrifice; the Lord will provide the necessary covering for restoration with that sacrifice; and it will be based on a simple act of faith by the man. Everything in Scripture after this point will be based on that notion, and it will support that typology. Atonement is wholly an act of the Lord.
The atonement mentioned concerning sin, such as that on the Leviticus 16 Day of Atonement, is simply the word kaphar, or atonement. However, in order to be a covering, something needs to be covered. That is where the kapporeth, or mercy-seat, comes in.
The kapporeth is literally the propitiatory, or place of propitiation. That word is from the same as kopher or, the price of a life – meaning a ransom. Both words are derived from kaphar, or atonement. Thus, the verb kaphar is what covers the kapporeth, or place of propitiation.
To understand the significance of this place of propitiation, meaning the typology of its construction, what it is made of, and so on, a full study of the subject is found in our sermons of Exodus which detail the construction of the sanctuary of the Lord, and which includes all of the implements found within the sanctuary.
To understand the significance of the covering itself, meaning the sacrificial offerings, their blood for atonement, and so on, a detailed study of the subject is found in our sermons of Leviticus and Numbers which detail these things minutely.
God laid out every detail of what He was going to do in Christ Jesus in advance – showing through types and representations – so that nothing which occurred when He came should have been a surprise. The theology surrounding His work is detailed and complicated, but the concepts which they detail are simple enough to see and understand on a very basic level.
This is so much the case that the heart of what He accomplished is summed up in what is known as “the gospel.” All of the many books, chapters, and verses, all of the theology found in them, and all of the typology and imagery used in them, is summed up in the following words of Paul to those at Corinth –
“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
In its most basic sense, without even mentioning the words grace, mercy, atonement, propitiation, substitution, expiation, or a hundred other theological terms, all of those things are summed up, and can be grasped, through this simple gospel message. And that gospel message, given by Paul, and which all of the apostles also preached (1 Corinthians 15:11), is then summed up in one verse from the gospel of John –
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
If one can understand that simple sentence, he can then grasp Paul’s fuller explanation of it in regard to the gospel. The mind grasps what God has done, and in that grasping – if faith to accept that message is exercised – atonement is provided, and salvation is secured. How can this be? It is because it follows the pattern given all the way back in Genesis 3. Once again –
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
1) The Initiator of the process is God. Salvation is of the Lord. 2) The offering is a Gift – God gave. 3) The recipient of the Gift is the world. 4) The beneficiary of it is general and yet exclusive – whoever. 5) However, it is all-inclusive of that exclusive group (none should perish). 6) And, those who are included are so included for one reason… they believe. 7) The action is fully sufficient and eternal in its effect – none should perish but have everlasting life.
Paul’s simple gospel further explains Jesus’ statement. Christ died. God’s giving of His Son was not only as a living being, but as a being who would die. He was buried. Christ did not die and then quickly reanimate, as if he were given CPR. He was truly dead, and His life was completely extinguished.
He entered the realm of the dead and remained there long enough to satisfy all doubt that He was truly dead. But after that, He rose again the third day. Death could not hold Him. What Jesus proclaimed in John 3:16 is magnificently explained in 1 Corinthians 15. Summing up all of the theology of what God would do.
We get it, even without further explanation. This is so much the case that children who are just learning to speak understand it. And it is understood in every language and culture that it is presented. It is grasped by the humble and by the proud. It is perceived by the idiot and by the scholar. We get it.
But what is the theology behind that simplicity that we intuitively get? What does the gospel encompass? In regard to atonement, it means that Christ Jesus is both that which atones, and He is the place of the atonement.
In regard to Christianity, atonement refers to the need for a kaphar, or covering for our fallen state. In the reception of this covering, reconciliation between sinful man and the holy God is effected. This reconciliation is possible through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. His blood, which is shed, is our kaphar, our atonement.
That shed blood of atonement is what then provides the propitiation. The Greek word used to explain this is hilasmós. It is a noun defined as “propitiation” It is an offering to appease or satisfy an angry, offended party. God is that offended party, and He is angry at man’s sin.
This word, hilasmós, is only used twice in Scripture. Both times it speaks of Christ’s atoning blood that appeases God’s wrath in regard to that sin –
“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” 1 John 2:1, 2
“In this is love, 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
Christ is the actual point of propitiation, but more, it is because of His death that this is so. Another noun, hilastérion, which is also found only twice in Scripture explains this. The word means “a sin offering.” It is that by which the wrath of the angry God is appeased.
In type, it was the covering of the ark which was sprinkled with the atoning blood on the Day of Atonement. Its two uses are found in Romans and Hebrews –
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:21-26
“For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; 3 and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, 4 which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; 5 and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.” Hebrews 9:2-5
As can be seen with the use of these two Greek words, hilasmós and hilastérion, which equate directly to the Hebrew words kaphar and kapporeth – and as we have already noted – Christ Jesus is both that which atones, and He is the place of the atonement.
But this only takes us so far. In our minds, when we receive the gospel, we are making a mental assent that God has done this thing, and that is then received by us. But Paul speaks of “another Jesus,” implying a false Jesus, in 2 Corinthians 11:4 –
“For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!”
He further speaks of a “different gospel” in Galatians 1 –
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9
One speaks of a false Jesus, meaning a Jesus who is ineffective in atoning for man’s sin. The other speaks of a false gospel, meaning that what is presented cannot save. Together, these call out for a Jesus who is both truly God and truly Man, and for a salvation which comes from God alone.
An offering for sin to restore the peace
I come to petition my God at His holy altar
Until I do, the enmity will never cease
But knowing He will forgive, in this I will not falter
He the holy altar, and He is the Door and the Tent
Christ the Lord is slain; His life ebbs away
In that exchange, God’s wrath is spent
Harmony is restored, and has come a new Day
Innocent and pure, no fault of His own
The death truly touches my heart
But in this exchange, I am clearly shown
That only through death, can there be a new start
Thank God that Another has died in my place
In His death I can again look upon God’s face
II. Why the God-Man?
Why was it necessary for Christ to be a human in order to atone for man’s sin? In a previous sermon, two weeks ago, it was fully established that Jesus Christ is fully human. He wasn’t created as a human in Mary’s womb. Rather, He is fully human because Mary is fully human.
From her, He received all of the genetic information of His humanity – meaning all of that which came from Adam and those who descended from him, and which then was found in Mary.
This genetic information includes all of His human characteristics, including the knowledge of good and evil, human weakness, skin color, and on and on – just as any human possesses because of being born into a particular genealogy. This was necessary for reasons explained by the author of Hebrews –
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2:14-18
The author of Hebrews shows that there must be a necessary connection between the Christ and His people. An angel wouldn’t satisfy, nor would an animal. Further, a human body, created in Mary’s womb without any connection to her humanity would mean He was not made like His brethren in all ways.
The only thing Christ did not possess that we as humans possess is inherited sin – something which comes via the human father. The different categories exclude the possibility that the Christ would be anything other than a human being, descended from Mary, and God being His Father.
In this, the author uses the verb hilaskomai, or to make propitiation, to show that what Christ did in the granting of God’s mercy necessitated that a human being be the means of accomplishing the act of atonement. In His atonement, He made propitiation for the people’s sins.
In his defense of this, he will later – in Chapter 10 – demonstrate further why this was necessary. But before going there, one must go back to the law itself. The law was given to Israel as the standard which God expected for man. In the doing of the law, man could be expected to live. God says as much, explicitly, in Leviticus 18 –
“You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 18:5
In essence, God told His people, all descended from Adam, that if they did the things of the law, they would live. “This is My standard. In meeting every precept, and in failing in none of them, you shall live.” In failing to meet the things of the law, life would not come.
However, within the law itself, there was given the provision for forgiveness of sin committed under the law through the sacrificial system. This system was highlighted by the annual Day of Atonement. The implication was that atonement was needed because the law could not be met. So obvious was this, that the Lord made it explicit in Leviticus 23 –
“And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. 29 For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. 30 And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people.” Leviticus 23:28-30
“You shall observe this day, and if you do not, your life is forfeit.” Atonement was required because the people needed atonement. What is still implied, but which is obvious, is that none had done the things of the law. God was angry at their sin, and they needed their sins covered over. With that understanding, Chapter 10 of Hebrews explains why only a man could actually atone for the sins of the people –
“For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” Hebrews 10:1-4
First, the provisions of the law could not take away sin. They were a temporary, annual reminder to the people of this fact. And more, the reminder was that they were, in fact, under law. But it is the law which brought about the people’s infractions. If there was no law, then there would be no law to break.
Therefore, in order to atone for the sins of the people, there would need to be a Man to free them from the law. But more, there would need to be a Man without sin to do so. Otherwise, such a man with sin could not atone for his own sin, much less someone else’s. But even more, there would need to be a Man, born under the law, who was also without sin, to do so. That is explained by Paul in Galatians –
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4, 5
In order to atone for sin under the law, the Man who did so would have to be born under the law. Otherwise, He could not be considered an acceptable atonement, nor a suitable place for atonement. This is because the sacrifices of the law are given according to the law, and yet they did not actually take away sin.
To resolve this, only someone coming from under the law, but who had no sin prior to, or during His time under the law, could sufficiently and truly atone for sin. The author of Hebrews explains that this Someone is Christ Jesus –
Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:
“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,
But a body You have prepared for Me.
6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin
You had no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—
In the volume of the book it is written of Me—
To do Your will, O God.’ ”
8 Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), 9 then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Hebrews 10:5-10
Paul says that the human Christ was born under the law to redeem those who were under the law. The author of Hebrews says that this is done by taking away the law which came through the Mosaic Covenant. The Mosaic Covenant is taken away in order to establish the New Covenant – the Christ covenant.
This could only come about through a Man, it could only come about through a Man born under the law, and it could only come about through a sinless Man. And yet, He must be a Man who was born under a law that could not take away sin, meaning He must have been born without sin. And further, He must be a Man who lived without sinning under that same law.
And that premise then leads to the second half of the equation. Why was it necessary for Christ to be fully God in order to atone for man’s sin? In the sermon last week, it was altogether established that Jesus Christ is fully God. Of this, and understanding what we went over, it is perfectly clear to any who are simply willing to check.
But why was this necessary? The answer follows logically with what we just deduced. A Man with sin could not atone for the sins of another. Rather, he too would need atonement. But the Bible, both implicitly and explicitly, teaches that man has inherited sin. The sin of Adam transfers to all of Adam’s seed. This is stated explicitly by David –
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.” Psalm 51:5
It is also taught explicitly by Paul –
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” Romans 5:12, 13
So, sin entered through Adam, and all are in Adam. But what about Aaron the high priest? When he and his sons were ordained, didn’t the sacrifice for their sins make them sinless before God? Couldn’t Aaron just have taken one of his four sons, sacrificed him, and been done with all of the sin of the world from that point on? Their ordination is detailed in Leviticus 8. In that ordination, they are clearly presented as having sacrificed for their own sins.
The law was established, and the men who were to be ordained as priests brought a sacrifice for their sins. This would then make them acceptable to sacrifice for the people of Israel. Once their sins were dealt with, why could they not be an acceptable atonement for the sins of the people?
The answer is the same as for the people. The blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin. The proof of this is found in the verse which immediately follows God’s acceptance of the Levitical priesthood which was in Leviticus 9:24. In the following verses, Leviticus 10:1, 2 – we read this –
“Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. 2 So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.” Leviticus 10:1, 2
Nadab and Abihu were not made perfect, nor did they remain perfect. Instead, they died in sin. At the end of that chapter, Moses became angry with Aaron and his remaining two sons because they did not eat the sin offering of the people, which was required under the law so that they could bear the guilt of the congregation.
Aaron’s reply to him was, “If I had eaten the sin offering today, would it have been accepted in the sight of the Lord?” (Leviticus 10:19).
The answer to his question is obvious, “No.” If the sin offering and the burnt offerings which were intended to take care of the sins of the priests, before they tended to the sins of the congregation, were tainted by what occurred, thus meaning they – even though priests – were also tainted, then how could they take on the sin of the people in order to purify them? Aaron’s logic was impeccable, and it revealed, right at the beginning of the law, how vastly inferior this priesthood is to that of Christ – infinitely so.
Understanding this brings us to understanding the need for Christ’s deity. It has been established that Christ had to be a human in order to save the people. However, if He was only a human, He would bear Adam’s sin.
If he were created as a human, as one person we cited had said in a previous sermon, he would have lacked the experiential knowledge of good and evil necessary to deal with man’s sin until he gained such knowledge. But that – as we saw in the Genesis account – comes by law. Only by an infraction of the law did man acquire that knowledge.
That knowledge, which was obtained by Adam, was passed on to Christ, but the guilt of it was not. This is, as we saw in the sermon on Christ’s humanity, because sin travels from father to son. But Christ had no human father. Rather, His Father is God.
As all things reproduce after their own kind, we have a human Man, born of a human woman, and born without sin – because He had no human Father. And yet, He possesses the knowledge of good and evil.
At the same time, we have the incarnation of God in Christ because He is begotten of the Father. He is the God-Man. Without the Deity of Christ, sin would have been involved in the picture, and atonement for man could never have taken place.
But with the Deity of Christ, we have a perfect man, born under the law. Thus, He required no sacrifice for sin, as Aaron did. He also lived under the law without sinning, and thus He needed no sacrifice for sins, as Aaron did. And He died under the law having no sin.
And thus, He was the acceptable offering for sin, and the acceptable place of offering for sin. He is both the hilasmós, or offering, and he is the hilastérion, or mercy-seat – meaning the place of offering. This is explained by the author of Hebrews –
Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. Hebrews 7:23-28
These things are both logical and expected based on the simple gospel given to us by Paul earlier. We may not think all of this theology through when we accept the gospel of our salvation, but all of it is implied. But what is more, is that the Deity of Christ is not only implied in these truths, it is proven because of them.
Christ Jesus died for sins, Christ Jesus was buried in His death. But that was not the end of the story. Christ Jesus rose again (Hallelujah!), proving that He had no sin. If He did have sin, He would have remained in the grave. But He did not. He rose. Concerning death, Peter says in Acts 2 that “it was not possible that He should be held by it.”
It could only be true if He was without sin, and being without sin, it was impossible that it could be otherwise. Thus, the Deity of Christ is first, an absolute necessity for our atonement, and secondly, absolutely proven through His resurrection.
Understanding this, it still has to be noted, to sufficiently explain God’s process of atonement, that Jesus Christ actually did die. We must remember that Christ is both the propitiation for sin, and He is the place of propitiation for sin.
His blood was given to cover our sin, but our sin was placed upon the place of propitiation – God’s Mercy Seat. In other words, Christ truly did die, and Christ truly did die for sin. But Christ did not die in sin. Rather, His death was as a substitutionary death for our sin.
In this, and because we understand that He is God’s Mercy Seat, we can then fully appreciate what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5 –
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
Christ became our sin and took our judgment upon Himself. In exchange, He grants us God’s righteousness, because being fully God, He is the possessor of the righteousness of God.
Christ redeemed us from the law, we stand justified through Christ’s fulfilling of the law, we are granted the righteousness of God in Christ, and we overcome the world and the power of the devil through the actions of our Lord. John explains this in his first epistle –
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:4, 5
Earlier, we spoke of the shame which Adam and Eve experienced at the fall, and their useless attempts to cover that shame with t’enah, or fig leaves. The covering was insufficient, and the guilt remained. They attempted to work their way back into a right spiritual relationship with God, but they failed to do so.
After that, Adam demonstrated faith, and in his act of faith, God covered his two wayward children, setting the example of atonement and redemption which has never been deviated from throughout the entire body of Scripture.
John confirms that the covering of man is externally granted. It is obtained by being born of God. In that, one overcomes the world. It is through the work of God alone, and it is appropriated by us through an act of faith – nothing more. And in exchange for our shame and nakedness, or for any of our own futile attempts to cover our souls, when we demonstrate faith in what God has done, He carefully tends to us –
“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Revelation 3:5
Who is he that overcomes? It is the one who trusts in what God has done through Jesus Christ – that He is the Son of God. And what does God do for you in that act? He grants you white garments of righteousness – His own righteousness – in place of your sin.
There is a true gospel, and there is the true Jesus, the Christ of God. The true gospel is that God has done all that is necessary to save the human soul and that we exclude ourselves from God’s promise when we attempt to earn His favor through the law.
The true Christ is Jesus who is both fully Man and fully God. As Jesus is God’s only begotten Son, Jesus is the only Messiah, and He is the only path for atonement, for justification, for sanctification, and for glorification before God. He is our both our propitiation and our place of propitiation. He is JESUS!
Call on Christ, receive God’s offer of pardon, and have your sins atoned for through His precious blood – to the glory of God the Father.
Closing Verse: “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” Romans 5:6-11