What in simple language, does the church think about the atonement?
Before the crucifixion, the Disciples knew that Jesus was a wonderful man, for they had seen the wonders that He worked, and they had seen His readiness to place His life in God’s hands. After the Resurrection, they had to change their thinking. They had to appraise all the acts of Jesus’s life, for they knew that this act of dying was a greater act than they had dared think. The church has therefore thought from the beginning that the Atonement was unique in man’s history. Other men have died for those they loved, or for truths they believed in, but the Church believes that this death differs from all of those.
The church believes that the Death of Christ expresses the price that God is willing to pay for man’s salvation. The church is saying that the deliverance of man is carried out by God himself. The church knows that the sacrifice of Jesus is God’s sacrifice.
The church believes that the death of Christ overcomes evil and reconciles man to God. In Jesus’s death and resurrection, Jesus broke the bonds of evil once and for all. If we think of sin as alienation from God, here is reconciliation. If we think of sin as a debt to God, it is paid. If we think of sin as death, we have been made alive.
The church believes that the death of Christ pays the price of sin and reconciles God to man. Man has sinned against God, and deserves to be punished. The victory of Christ is not only the conquest of evil, but it is also a reconciliation of God. By the same act of conquering evil, God is satisfying His justice by Jesus’s atonement.
The church also believes that the death of Jesus changes the heart of man, thereby bringing about his salvation.
The word Atonement as used in Christian thought, expresses the idea of intervention by one who was not implicated in the sin. It suggests the importance of the sinner, and his need for someone to come to his rescue.