The Atonement of Christ

by Mike Ratliff

More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:11 ESV)

The very heart of Christianity is the doctrine of the Atonement. Is it no wonder that so many proclaiming a “new type of Christianity” also attempt to do away with this doctrine? Any attempts to redefine Christianity by modifying or eliminating this doctrine are marks of heresy. I have seen professing Christians argue and write off former brothers in the faith over aspects of our faith that are nowhere near as vital to orthodoxy as the doctrine of the Atonement. I have been cursed and called heretical because I have differed from those doing so on things like eschatology or on the Sovereignty of God. How can we do that to our brothers and sisters in Christ whose sins have been atoned for by Christ just as ours have? Emerging Christianity is a nebulously defined paradigm that sees doctrine as divisive and, therefore, unimportant. Its advocates want Christianity to be only about social and relational things and not about doctrine at all. To make that paradigm shift though requires a departure from Christian Orthodoxy because that also says that the Atonement of Christ is not something that should be what defines what real Christianity is or is not. 

Also, to declare doctrine unimportant requires a departure from Sola Scriptura. Why? Sola Scriptura says that God’s Word defines our doctrines as given to the Church by God Himself. Our doctrines are not man-made. They are Biblical and so are binding on God’s people. Therefore, we will attempt to define the doctrine of the Atonement of Christ biblically.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ESV)

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ includes a sinless and a bodily-resurrected Christ. Notice also the centrality of the biblical fact that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures. No matter who attempts to detract from this, the Word of God is clear; the Death of Jesus Christ was sacrificial and necessary for Man’s redemption. I placed Romans 5:11 at the top of this post. Here it is in Greek: ου μονον δε αλλα και καυχωμενοι εν τω θεω δια του κυριου ημων ιησου χριστου δι ου νυν την καταλλαγην ελαβομεν (Romans 5:11 WHNU)

Not (ου) alone (μονον) but (δε) but (αλλα) also (και) boasting (καυχωμενοι) in (εν) the (τω) God (θεω) through (δια) the (του) Lord (κυριου) of us (ημων) Jesus (ιησου) Christ (χριστου) through (δι) whom (ου) now (νυν) the (την) atonement (καταλλαγην) we received (ελαβομεν). (Romans 5:11 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

Combine this passage with 1 Corinthians 15:3,4 and it is difficult to see how anyone who claims adherence to Sola Scriptura could possibly deny the veracity of the doctrine of the Atonement of Christ. The ESV renders καταλλαγην as “reconciliation.” Καταλλαγην defines a change of condition in which relationship and/or standing is restored from one of separation to one of unity. Who has been reconciled to whom and how was it accomplished? These are important considerations. Paul states in Romans 5:11 that ελαβομεν this καταλλαγην. Ελαβομεν refers the action of receiving something presented, but the one doing the action is not necessarily the one “receiving” what is given. Ελαβομεν in this passage is aorist tense, indicative mood, and active voice. The means of believers “receiving” the καταλλαγην is given to us through the Lord Jesus. It is a gift. We see the means of its reality in 1 Corinthians 15:3,4 and Ephesians 2:8,9).

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

The καταλλαγην was appropriated by God through Christ dying for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures. This καταλλαγην, this atonment, is the means of making amends. All people are born in sin. All people are dead in their trespasses and sins. Those who are declared righteous by God are those on whose behalf the καταλλαγην was made. Never forget my brethren, God’s wrath burns against all sin. John 3:36 tells us that the wrath of God abides on the sinner, however, our Lord Jesus has made the atoning sacrifice acceptable to the Father for the sins of His people. Also, this atoning sacrifice is complete and eternal.

The merits of our great Redeemer are as sweet savour to the Most High. Whether we speak of the active or passive righteousness of Christ, there is an equal fragrance. There was a sweet savour in His active life by which He honoured the law of God, and made every precept to glitter like a precious jewel in the pure setting of His own person. Such, too, was His passive obedience, when He endured with unmurmuring submission, hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, and at length sweat great drops of blood in Gethsemane, gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked out the hair, and was fastened to the cruel wood, that He might suffer the wrath of God in our behalf. These two things are sweet before the Most High; and for the sake of His doing and His dying, His substitutionary sufferings and His vicarious obedience, the Lord our God accepts us. What a preciousness must there be in Him to overcome our want of preciousness! What a sweet savour to put away our ill savour!  What a cleansing power in His blood to take away sin such as ours! and what glory in His righteousness to make such unacceptable creatures to be accepted in the Beloved! Mark, believer, how sure and unchanging must be our acceptance, since it is in Him! Take care that you never doubt your acceptance in Jesus. You cannot be accepted without Christ; but, when you have received His merit, you cannot be unaccepted. Notwithstanding all your doubts, and fears, and sins, Jehovah’s gracious eye never looks upon you in anger; though He sees sin in you, in yourself, yet when He looks at you through Christ, He sees no sin. You are always accepted in Christ, are always blessed and dear to the Father’s heart. Therefore lift up a song, and as you see the smoking incense of the merit of the Saviour coming up, this evening, before the sapphire throne, let the incense of your praise go up also. – C.H. Spurgeon from Spurgeon’s Evening by Evening for March 28.

This short study does not do justice to such an important subject as the doctrine of the Atonement of Christ. We have barely scratched the surface. However, let us not forget that it through the Atonement of Christ we are reconciled to God, not the doctrine of the Atonement of Christ. It is vital that we adhere to God’s Truth not that of men. Truth is truth regardless of whether it is popular or believed. This is why true Christianity is made up of what must be believed by faith not sight. When man insists on his own way of Christianity it will be of the works of the flesh and devil and will not be focused on God’s Truth because those who do such a thing do not possess saving faith.

Soli Deo Gloria!





8 thoughts on “The Atonement of Christ

  1. The church’s one foundation
    is Jesus Christ her Lord;
    she is his new creation
    by water and the Word.
    From heaven he came and sought her
    to be his holy bride;
    with his own blood he bought her,
    and for her life he died.

    Elect from every nation,
    yet one o’er all the earth;
    her charter of salvation,
    one Lord, one faith, one birth;
    one holy name she blesses,
    partakes one holy food,
    and to one hope she presses,
    with every grace endued.

    Though with a scornful wonder
    we see her sore oppressed,
    by schisms rent asunder,
    by heresies distressed,
    yet saints their watch are keeping;
    their cry goes up, “How long?”
    And soon the night of weeping
    shall be the morn of song.

    Mid toil and tribulation,
    and tumult of her war,
    she waits the consummation
    of peace forevermore;
    till, with the vision glorious,
    her longing eyes are blest,
    and the great church victorious
    shall be the church at rest.

    Yet she on earth hath union
    with God the Three in One,
    and mystic sweet communion
    with those whose rest is won.
    O happy ones and holy!
    Lord, give us grace that we
    like them, the meek and lowly,
    on high may dwell with thee.

    What a powerful hymn!

    Thank you for your efforts Mike.


  2. Hi Mike,
    Amen! It is a beautiful thing when grasped by the mind and the eyes of faith, isn’t it? He is our cover, our shield. When the Father looks on us He sees Christ first–our barrier so to speak. Christ makes us acceptable by His righteousness even though we are still full of sin. I never hear that preached in sermons at the church we attend.
    Thank you for this…we need to hear more and more of what exactly Jesus did for us. We gain confidence and gratitude toward Him and this makes us love Him more.
    Bless you today. Glad you are back and also glad that we have such assurance from the word of God of His never leaving nor forsaking us.


  3. Thank you Diane. I agree about the necessity of hearing these truths as much as possible. It is good for the heart and for our assurance to have these truths made evident to us as much as possible. What a blessing it is to know that God has done for us and will continue to do for us to bring us home to Him in His timing.


  4. Though with a scornful wonder
    we see her sore oppressed,
    by schisms rent asunder,
    by heresies distressed,
    yet saints their watch are keeping;
    their cry goes up, “How long?”
    And soon the night of weeping
    shall be the morn of song.

    WHAT A GREAT VERSE…..not familiar with this verse!


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