The sign on the front of the church read, “Jesus Saves.” Some prankster removed the sign from the church and placed it in front of the local bank, “Jesus Saves.” Subway joined the parade sometime back with this slogan, “Subway — Good, so you don’t always have to be.” The message implies that eating the right food at the right place can save us from a lot of wrongs! Subway Saves! So, eating at Subway will atone for our sinfulness. Or will it?
Atonement is a good “church word.” An act of atonement is any action that erases our wrongs and makes us right with our God.
In Old Testament days, people relied on the Priest to perform an act of atonement on their behalf. The Priest would kill an innocent lamb, allowing the blood of the lamb to flow down and cover the Altar. Then the lamb’s body would be burned on the Altar, an appeasing sacrifice to God. It was believed that God would see the blood, would smell the fragrance of fresh Bar-B-Q, and be pleased; that God would then forgive, erase, all the sins the people had committed; and that the act of atonement would make everything right with God.
In New Testament times, we still believe that a sacrificial lamb is required to erase our wrongs and to make things right between us and our God. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is that Sacrificial Lamb, chosen by God for that specific purpose. Jesus, the Christ, willingly sacrificed his life on the Cross. His holy blood flowed down and covered all our sins. He shouldered all our wrongs; our sins were nailed with Him to the Cross. Christ’s sacrificial act of atonement effectively erased our wrongs, and made us right with God.
Through the centuries, however, the Church has held on to the idea that we need to do something right in order to make up for our wrongs.
Faithfulness saves! If only we are faithful enough to God, if only we say the right words and act in the right way. we will atone for our sinfulness. If I commit a small sin, then one act of goodness will cover it; if, however, I commit a major sin, it might take several acts of goodness to make things right with God. Money saves! Since our society says that money can solve any problem, why not spend our money to save us from our sins? I’ll just give more money to the church, or to my favorite charity; surely God will accept my money as payment for my sins. Goodness saves! “Subway -Good, so we don’t always have to be.”
We have all sinned! We have all done wrong! And since our sins are against Almighty God, only God can forgive our wrongs and make us right with Him! God, in his divine wisdom, has already erased all our wrongs, and made us righteous. Atonement, salvation, is God’s doing! Praise be to God!