In Christian thought, the act by which God and man are brought together in personal relationship. The term is derived from Anglo-Saxon words meaning “making at one,” hence “at-one-ment.” It presupposes a separation or alienation that needs to be overcome if human beings are to know God and have fellowship with him. As a term expressing relationship, atonement is tied closely to such terms as reconciliation and forgiveness.
The word “atonement” occurs many times in the OT but only once in the NT.
And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation. | Romans 5:11 (CSB)
Modern translations generally, and more correctly, render the word “reconciliation.” The idea of atonement is ever present in the NT, however, and is one of the fundamental concepts of Scripture.
God is seen as taking the initiative in man’s salvation; thus, atonement is the work of God, who opens the possibility for sinful human beings to receive pardoning grace. For those who miss God’s goal (aka sinner), who cannot know God, who cannot bridge the gap between himself and God, a “new and living way” is opened up by God. That reconciliation is made possible by the death of Jesus.
- 1 Corinthians 15:3 — For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that the Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
- Romans 4:25 —He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.
- Romans 8:3 — For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,
- Galatians 1:4 — who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
- 1 Peter 3:18 — For the Messiah also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;