On the Atonement
That Jesus' atonement was not substitutionary (Answers, p. 25; What They Believe, p. 71).
‘But it is equally true that, being 'made sin for us' (2 Cor. 5:21), he himself required a sin offering...’ (Answers, p. 24)
The second secret of the cross is that it is the source of the forgiveness of sins. It is not a debt settled by due payment. It is not a substitutionary offering whereby someone is paid a price so that others might then go free’ (p. 71 The Christadelphians: What They Believe and Preach, by Harry Tennant).
Bible answers to Christadelphianism on the Atonement
1 Cor. 15:3: ‘For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.’
Romans 3:25 ‘whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously’
Romans 5:8 ‘Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.’
Christadelphians agree with all of the verses which were quoted here on the ‘Christ died for us’ issue. But none
of the verses quoted above, prove that Jesus was ‘our substitute.’ Indeed, the Bible repeatedly affirms that Jesus was our covering
(which is what the word ‘atonement’ actually means.) This is typified by the covering of skins that was given to Adam and Eve, and also by the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant - neither
of which are adequately fulfilled by the concept of Jesus as ‘our substitute.’
Thus, from Brown-Driver-Briggs:kapporethkappôreth
1) Mercy-seat, place of atonement.
1a) The golden plate of propitiation on which the High Priest sprinkled the seat 7 times on the Day of Atonement symbolically reconciling Jehovah and His chosen people.
1a1) Tthe slab of gold on top of the ark of the covenant which measured 2.5 by 1.5 cubits; on it and part of it were the two golden cherubim facing each other whose outstretched wings came together above and constituted the throne of God.
A few points:
- We see that this was originally the place on which the sacrifice was made. It was not the sacrifice itself or even a word to describe the effects of the sacrifice.
- That same word was later translated by the writers of the LXX and NT as hilasterion and hilasmos. Its definition, however, remains the same.
- It does not denote a ‘replacement’ or a ‘subsitute.’ It is intimately connected with Christ because he alone is in the unique position of having become both our sacrifice and then later, our High Priest and Mediator.
- I Timothy 2:5.
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
- Hebrews 2:17.
Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
It's important to notice that there is no mention of a ‘replacement’ or ‘substitute’ in these passages. The meaning is clear. On the cross, Jesus was made a sacrifice
for us. In heaven, he is our mediator.
Naturally enough, the apostles urge us to follow Christ's example:
- Romans 12:1.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
- I Peter 2:5.
Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
The very word ‘atonement’ itself, means
‘a covering.’ That's the whole point. That's how it fulfils the typology of Genesis 3
, in which Adam and Eve's sins were first covered by themselves (using an insufficient covering) and later by God Himself (providing a sufficient covering.) The key words involved (from the kpr
group of Hebrew words) are:
- kippurim (kippurim) - plural, and used as Yom Kippurim (‘Day of Atonement.’)
- koper (koper) - ransom, in the sense of money.
- kapporet (kapporet) - the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant.
- kippur (kippur) - a highly flexible verb, with definitions including ‘to forgive, purify, cleanse, atone, cover, propitiate, expiate, reconcile, avert God's wrath, compensate.’
Thus, from standard authorities:The lexica of the nineteenth century
[including Gesenius and Tregelles] associated Heb. kipper with the Arab. kafara, ‘cover,’ describing the act of atonement as the covering of guilt. Since Heinrich Zimmern's reference to Bab. kuppuru, the two etymologies agree.
Arabic lexicographers derive the word from kafara, ‘cover.’Botterweck, Ringgren, Fabry (1994), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Vol, VII.
The sacrifices of the Law of Moses symbolized a ‘covering over’ of sin which had to be regularly performed in a ritual sense until it was literally performed by the atonement of Christ. The OT covering, therefore, was temporal
- the NT covering was complete and immutable. The first use of the root word for the Hebrew kippur
, is in Genesis 6:14
(twice.) It is the word ‘pitch’ which was the oil based product used to seal and cover the joins and any cracks in Noah's Ark. The NKJV renders the verse: ‘cover it inside and outside with pitch.’ So we are introduced to the idea of covering
, from the very first use of this word in Scripture.
Hence the following quote from Smith's Bible Dictionary
(Exodus 25:17; 37:6; Hebrews 9:5)
This appears to have been merely the lid of the ark of the covenant, not another surface affixed thereto. (It was a solid plate of gold, 2 1/2 cubits (6 1/3 feet) long by 1 1/2 cubits (2 2/3 feet) wide, representing a kind of throne of God, where he would hear prayer and from which he spoke words of comfort. --ED.)
It was that whereon the blood of the yearly atonement was sprinkled by the high priest; and in this relation it is doubtful whether the sense of the word in the Hebrew is based on the material fact of its ‘covering’ the ark, or derived from this notion of its reference to the ‘covering’ (i.e. atonement) of sin.
Notice that he says that the sense of the word in Hebrew (kippur
) might be derived from the fact that it was a covering for the ark, or else from the fact that it was a symbol of our ‘covering’ (atonement) for sin. Either
way, he is certain that it represents a covering
- and either
way, it is inextricably linked to the idea that the atonement itself is a covering
for our sin.
The curious idea of a ‘substitutional atonement’ finds no support from Scripture.