A. Atonement means “restoration” or “divine favor.”
B. A Laymen’s Definition of Atonement: “At-one-ment” or “At-one-with-God.”
We are made “at-one” with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:11 “And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”
Leviticus 17:11 “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.”
Note: Leviticus is the bloodiest book in the Bible. Blood is mentioned 84 times. Seventy-one times it is referring to a sacrifice to be made for sins. But the word “atonement” also appears in Leviticus more than any other book in the Bible (49 times). Thus, there is a parallel between the blood of Christ and the doctrine of atonement.
“Atonement” is found almost exclusively in three books: Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. It is only found once in the New Testament – Romans 5:11 above.
A further definition of atonement is “to appease, to ally resentment, to expiate, to placate, to cancel the obligation to punish the crime.”
Illustration: A just judge must condemn the guilty or let the innocent go free. He would not be just if he did not. God is just – Isaiah 45:21 “Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.”
Seeing it is against the nature of God to be unjust, He must punish all, for all have sinned (Romans 3:23). He is obligated to punish, thus there must be a place to punish the guilty.
Jesus was punished for us, and — through the shedding of His perfect blood — made atonement for us, thus canceling the Judge’s obligation to punish us for our crimes. That is atonement. God is no longer obligated to punish the believing sinner. Jesus satisfied that obligation for us. When lost sinners reject Jesus and His atonement, they deserve the just punishment.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”