Basic Christianity: Atonement

Today’s post is part of a series to help us take what we learn on Sunday into the rest of the week. These posts summarize the main points from the week’s sermon and include questions for continued reflection and prayer. The posts in this series are written by members of our church’s Adult Christian Formation team.


Our service theme last Sunday was “God Forgives Us.” Pastor Bobby preached from 1 John 1:5-2:2 on the theme of “atonement.” The main point of his sermon was that the exchange of one life for another is at the heart of Christian community.

To get this, we need to grasp the reality of sin: If we deny that we have sinned, we are lying (1 John 1:8, 1: 10). We all at least want to fulfill the Golden Rule, to treat others how we want to be treated. But we fail to do that, and we focus inward upon ourselves rather than outward on God and others. Our loves are not ordered, and our actions are messed up.

The solution for this is in the atonement provided in Jesus. In the Old Testament, we see the tabernacle and the Temple as the place where God met and restored people through animal sacrifice. This exchange of life follows the principle “my life for yours.” As author Thomas Howard points out, this exchange is at the heart of how life works in the world. 1 John 2:2 shows that God believes in this principle, exchanging the life of Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for ours.

If we see an innocent person willingly suffering in our place, that can transform who we are. If we are a community centered around exchanged life (like the Israelite dwellings built around the tabernacle), we will have a way of life among ourselves that the world needs.

Questions for prayer and reflection:

How did the Holy Spirit speak to you through this Scripture and sermon?

In your own words, how would you explain the principle of exchanged life described in the Bible?

In what ways have you had to face the reality that you have sinned? How have you failed to love your neighbors in recent weeks?

What sort of actions would we take if our church community was based on the principle of exchanged life, of sacrifice for the good of one another?

Do you know anyone who does not know Jesus who would be changed by the reality that someone suffered in their place? What kinds of changes would that realization cause in someone’s life?

Have you had trouble admitting that you are a sinner who needs forgiveness and atonement? Why might you find it difficult to face the reality that you have sinned?