Robert Morris - The Beginning of Atonement
We're in a series called The Principles of First Mention. Last week, we talked about The Beginning of Death. It's when a word is first mentioned in the Bible, So we're taking these out of Genesis. We have the devotional and this was actually going to be an expounding, because the devotionals are small, on day eight. So depending on when you started, you will probably get to day eight sometime this weekend if you started last weekend. It's a devotional written by David Blease, one of our student pastors. Great job. All 21 are great. None of them were written by me. They're all great, people on our staff. They're just fantastic. I've read all 21 of them. So I hope you get to do that. And if you get behind, just either start on the day where it should be, or just catch up or just take 42 days to do it, or 139, or whatever it takes. Just take your time, but make sure you read all 21, alright?
So this message is going to be called The Beginning of Atonement. I know that's not a word that we use a lot. I know it's a church word. It's a word, actually, that God started. And it's, the word itself in English is not in Genesis, but it is in Hebrew, the Hebrew word. So I want to show it to you in Genesis chapter 6. This is when God's talking to Noah, verse 14, he says, "Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch". Now this Hebrew word for cover is kaphar. It's in the Old Testament, 'cause we're taking about the Old Testament written in Hebrew, the New Testament in Greek. So it's in the Bible in the Old Testament 102 times. This is the only time it's translated "cover". The only time. Nearly every time it's translated atonement. This is the Hebrew word for atonement. And then David actually brings out about the word for pitch as well, meaning ransom or satisfy, to satisfy. And he says, cover it inside and out.
So atonement, what is atonement? I spent maybe three minutes on it, one time in a message, but this will be the first time to take a whole message on it. But I showed you then a way to remember what it means. It means to be in unity with God, or to be made one with God. But the way you remember it is look at the word atonement. Let me put it on the screen so you can see it. This is the word atonement. Then just divide it into three parts: At-one-ment. At-one-ment and then "ment" being the word "with". Substitute the word with: At-one-with It means, "at one with God". That's what the word... So you can always remember At-one-ment means at one with God, but I have a question for you. How can sinful people be made one with a holy God, something's got to be done for a sinful person, not just to talk to God, but to be made one with God, something's got to happen. So that's what we're going to talk about today.
So here's point number one: Our sin is covered. Remember how we talked about this Hebrew word means to cover, and it means a little more, which we'll get into, but to cover. Our sins are covered. Do you remember the first thing Adam and Eve tried to do when they sinned? They tried to cover themselves. Genesis chapter 3 verse 7, "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings". In other words, they tried to atone for their sin themselves. They tried to cover their sins themselves. God comes along, and you remember what God did? He makes them new coverings. Genesis chapter 3, verse 21, "Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics". You know what this word is? Coverings. He made coverings of skin and clothed them.
Here's something you need to understand. Only God can cover sin. You can't do it. You can't cover your own sin. Only God can cover sin. He's the only one that can do it. He's the only one that can cover it. So Adam and Eve try to cover. Think about how many times we try to cover up ourselves, when only God can come along and truly cover. Now, when God is speaking to Noah, he says, I want you to cover the ark, and I love this, inside and outside. Inside and outside. Here's the reason I like that. It means that God is covering my sin, what I did, and even what I thought. He's covering my outside actions, my transgressions, and he's covering my inside motivations, my iniquities. Iniquity is inward motivation and a transgression is outward movement. In other words, you might have lust, which is an inward iniquity, but you may never move on it outwardly, that would be to transgress or step over, like trespass, step over a line.
The Bible is so perfect by the way, Isaiah 53. Remember, iniquity is inward, transgression is outward. The Bible says in Isaiah 53, He was bruised for our iniquities. A bruise is inward bleeding. And he was wounded (that's on the outside) for our transgressions. He was hurt (inside) for our inside sin. He was hurt on the outside for our outside sin. Another reason I like this is because sin always brings shame. The very first thing Adam and Eve felt: ashamed. They were ashamed. They felt shame. So immediately God says, Listen, I need to cover you. And then he expounds on it when he gets to Noah, and says, you make sure you atone the ark, cover the ark, and I'm going to use the word atonement because I'm going to teach my people what atonement is. It means to cover, but I want you to cover it inside and out.
So he not only takes away my sin. He takes away my shame. Now I don't, I don't know about you, but I dealt with a lot of shame, a lot of shame. I would say that I did things that I'm still ashamed of. I wouldn't want to talk about some things that I did in private. I wouldn't want to talk about it. I'm ashamed, but I'm not carrying the shame. I can stand up before you, even when the enemy... when I first started preaching, the enemy would say, who are you to preach? And I'd have to answer back just in faith. A son of God who's forgiven. That's who I am. Not perfect, but forgiven. When the church was smaller, I say, I tell people I have a bad past, and I let you know that because I want you to understand, I can relate. If you've done some things you're ashamed of, I can relate to you.
And so I have a bad past, and I've said that many, many times. So I was at lunch with this guy one time in the church. And he said to me, Hey, um, you know, you've said this many times, you said you have a bad past. Then he said to me, what exactly did you do? And I said, I'll tell you if you tell me everything shameful you've done and go into great detail. He said, I don't want to do that. I said, I don't want to do it either. I'd like to leave the past in the past, please. I'd like to leave the past... Let me say it this way: under the blood of Jesus, that his blood covers, covers me.
So number one, our sins are covered. Here's number two: our sins are removed. They're not just covered. They're removed. Because we're going to become one with God. How are you going to become one with God when you're just wearing a covering, but underneath you're still have sin. See to become one with God. He's actually got to remove your sins. So this word atonement, as I said, 102 times in the Old Testament in Leviticus 16, it's used 13 times in one chapter and it's one of the best representations of our sin being covered, and our sin being removed. He tells him to take two goats. And he said, one's going to be a sacrificial goat and one's going to be a scapegoat. And we, you've probably heard the term, a scapegoat. It means basically it's a scapegoat, but it means almost as I'm saying it fast, escape, the goat that gets away. And they cast lots.
So, you know, if you're the goat, you're like, please, please, please, you know. Don't want to be the sacrificial goat. Want to be the one that gets away, you know? So, one of them, he's to sacrifice, and this is Aaron the high priest, and he's to sprinkle the blood on the Mercy Seat. Now you have to remember the Mercy Seat covered the Arc of the Covenant, and in the Arc was the Law. So first of all, this is such a great picture. You need to know that there's the Law, all the things you got to do right, But even God covers the Law with mercy. Even God. And then, to be able to atone for our sins, he applies the blood. See even with Adam and Eve, in order to clothe them, an animal had to die. Blood had to be shed. Hebrews says it this way, Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin.
So God goes all the way back to the garden to help us understand that principle. No, you can't cover with anything except blood. It's the only thing that covers. So one of the goats is killed, and his blood is sprinkled on the mercy seat to cover our sins. But what about this part of atonement that means to remove our sins? Well, let me show you what happens to the second goat, even though he gets away, let me show you. Leviticus 16 verse 21, "Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it", now watch, I was talking about iniquities, transgressions, sin, "confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man". "The goat shall bear", remember Christ bore our sins on the cross, "The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness".
So here's what he's saying. I'm going to cover your sin, but I'm going to remove your sin as well, because I can't have a relationship with you, if I don't deal with your sin. So all the way back to the tabernacle of Moses, God is giving us types, and shadows and, and symbolism. An allegory to help us understand what Christ did. He covers and he removes our sin. Here's a really great verse about God removing our sin. Psalm 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west so far has He removed our transgressions from us".
Now, let me just remind all you church people. This is good news, because y'all are actually bad, even though you look good right now, Right? We've all sinned. We've all fallen short of the glory of God. So he didn't just cover, he removed them. He removed our sins as far as the East is from the West. That's a long way. They're gone. They're removed.
You say, well, how do you get in on this? Well, it's free for you. For you. Doesn't cost you anything. A famous preacher, G. Campbell Morgan, which you probably have to be a pastor. You might recognize that name if you've done some study. He pastored Westminster Chapel in London, England, Very famous church. After him, there were a few others, but then there was a famous Martyn Lloyd-Jones, very famous pastor for many years. And then after him even, not very long ago was R. T. Kendall. And R. T. Kendall has been here at our church, Dr. Kendall. So G. Campbell Morgan, very well known. And he shared some stories about his life.
And this is one of the stories Dr. G Campbell Morgan was trying to explain free salvation to a coal miner, but the man was unable to understand it. He said, I'm going to have to pay for it. With a flash of divine insight. Dr. Morgan asked, how did you get down into the mine this morning? He said, Why, that was easy, the man replied, I just got on the elevator and it went down. Then Morgan asked wasn't that too easy? Didn't it cost you something? The man laughed. No, it didn't cost me anything, but it must have cost the company plenty to install that elevator. Then the man saw the truth and Morgan said to him, it doesn't cost you anything to be saved, but it cost God the life of his Son. It is free salvation. Doesn't cost us, but it cost God everything. So he covers our sins. He removes our sins. It's the removal, the covering of sin, the removal of sin.
Here's point number three, and I want to spend a little, this is where my burden really is. God's wrath is removed. Our sin is covered. Our sin is removed. God's wrath is removed. Now I'm going to get a little historical on you. I'm going to give you some history and some theology. And I like to share with Debbie my message, because it helps me, she'll say I don't understand that or whatever. It helps me to be able to explain what's in my heart. You know? So I was sharing this with her Friday and she about halfway through her eyes kind of glazed over. And so I said, are you still with me? And she said, barely. And so I said, just please just stay with me, okay? She said, okay. When I got to the end, those same eyes that glazed halfway through teared up, and she said, you have to share all that, 'cause I wouldn't have understood it without that, even though that's tedious to go through.
So, so I'm just, I'm just warning you. Okay? So in about 250 BC, 250 years before Christ between 285 BC and 240 BC, about 243, if you want to be specific. Ptolemy II did something. Ptolemy, his father was Ptolemy, who was one of the generals from Alexander. When Alexander died, Alexander the Great at 32, Ptolemy and Seleucus took over, became the Ptolemaic Period and the Seleucid Period. Okay? Ptolemy was a better general than his son Ptolemy II. He realized that people were more moral, the Hebrew people, the Jewish people, because of the Hebrew scriptures. I'm thinking to myself, wouldn't it be great if leaders understood that today? Actually King James, where we we got the King James Bible, understood that, and even though he had some vain reasons, he named it after himself, and he put his name in the Bible, which James is not in the Bible. I know you think it is, but it's not, but he put his name in the Bible in place of Jacob. James is not a Hebrew name. Jacob is.
I remember saying that one time in the pulpit, and my son James said, Well, thanks a lot, dad. Okay, so... But the point is that King James knew that if people could read the Bible for themselves, They would be a more moral people. That printing of the Bible then caused the Great Awakening, where we'd been in the Dark Ages. Put the Bible in hands of people. So Ptolemy II realized this about 250 years before Christ. And so he went to, he gathered 72 Hebrew scholars, six from each of the 12 tribes. It eventually, somehow became 70. We don't know whether two didn't come or two didn't finish or whatever. But he put them in separate rooms, didn't let them know there was another scholar, and told them to translate the scriptures, which had been the Old Testament, at that time, that's all there was obviously, into Greek. Koine Greek is what it was translated into, which koine means "common". And then Greek morphed into Medieval Greek, and then into what we call today, Modern Greek. Alright, but Koine Greek.
So these 70 scholars transcribed the scriptures, Genesis to Malachi, into Greek. That is called The Septuagint. Thank you. The Septuagint. Septa means 70 in Greek. When you put the agint on it, it means transcription. So the word Septuagint means the transcription of the 70. Matter of fact, if you're reading the commentary sometime, you'll see it. They just use Roman numerals, the L for 50, and then X and X. Some of you men know about the Roman numerals because you've seen the Superbowl. That's what those letters mean. Okay. Alright, so... So sometimes you'll see, according to the LXX, which means the 70, which means the transcription of the 70, The Septuagint. Okay? So they translated it, and they took all 70 together, and this is what history says, that they were exactly alike.
Now we don't know for sure, obviously, but that's the way they record it, that there was no variation. And that's The Septuagint. Now, why did I, why am I telling you that? Because when they translate it into Greek, there was no word in Greek for atonement, and yet it's 102 times in the scriptures. There's no word. So they looked for a Greek word to translate it. They chose the Greek word propitiation. Well, that's not the Greek word. That's our English word. I wrote it down, because I know some of you want it: Hilasterion Anyway, nevermind. So it becomes propitiation. It's in the New Testament and mainly in Romans, and we're going to look at it. But why did I give you that little lesson? Because propitiation includes expiation, which is out, means the covering and the removing of sin. But the pro- means the removal of wrath, is what the word means.
Now, it was used in Greek mythology, so some people don't like that. And it was used because people would try to appease a god like the rain god or the prosperity god or the sun god, and they would bring a gift, and that's how the false deities began to use this word. But you need to understand what's different about this is that it's not a person bringing a gift to appease God, it's God appeasing himself. It's God providing the gift. God provided his Son, Jesus Christ. And by the way, let me tell you what else pro means. You know this, propitiation. Expiation means out of, but pro means for. Have you ever said, What are the pros and cons? Con means against, pro means for. What this means is that God was against you, but now he's for you. You need to know that God does have anger.
Liberal theologians today want to remove the word "propitiation" from the Bible. And they'll put in expiation or they'll even put in atonement, but that's not the word, when the Holy Spirit inspired Paul in Romans and then the writer of Hebrews to put it, he inspired them to put the word, which means propitiation. And I believe he inspired those Hebrew scholars to put the word propitiation, because it does mean the removal of wrath. Liberal scholars, liberal theologians today don't want you to talk about that God gets angry. Anger is an emotion, not a sin. As a matter of fact, the Bible commands you to be angry. Ephesians 4:26 says, Be angry, but do not sin. In other words, you can be angry, but don't go kill him. That's a sin. But you can be angry. It's okay to be angry. It's an emotion. God has joy. He has grief. Don't grieve the Holy Spirit. He gets angry. I'm going to make a statement that's going to be a little strong, 'cause when I did it, Debbie gave me the look like, you're making that up. I said, God is angry with the wicked everyday.
Now, I've taught you and I'm training you. Sometimes you don't even know I'm training you, but I'm training you to never believe anything that's said from this platform or that you hear on TV or the internet, whether it's me or anyone else without that person being able to back it up with the Bible, 'cause we don't care about people's opinions. We care about what the Bible says. So maybe you're thinking, Okay, pastor, you've trained us to not believe anything that's said from this platform, even if it's you, without a scripture. You just said, God is angry with the wicked every day. Do you have a scripture? I'm glad you asked. Psalm 7:11, "God is angry with the wicked every day". Wouldn't you be. I want you think about it. Wicked people hurt people, and God loves people. Of course, he's angry with the wicked, because wicked people hurt people, and God loves people.
Now, I'm going to give you a horrific illustration. It's horrific. If there was a man who was torturing little children to death, would it make you angry? Of course it would. Now, again, this is horrific. I'm sorry to even say this, but I've got to get you to understand God has righteous anger. What if he did it to your child? Of course you'd be angry. God is angry with the wicked every day. So you need to know that the Bible teaches us about the anger of God, the wrath of God. And you need to know that God avenges, he doesn't revenge he avenges, And there's a difference Avenge is to punish. Revenge is to punish back. And what he says is, Don't you do it. I'll do it. "Vengeance is mine". And what he's saying is, I'm the only one that's justified to punish. You're not justified to. I'm the only one without sin. I can punish. Don't you punish. But God acts on our behalf.
Now, let me show you the scripture in Romans 3:25, says, "whom God set forth", 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 committed". Okay. Notice he talks about wrath. I've also said, don't take one scripture and try to prove something. You need to understand that Romans talks about wrath 10 times, the wrath of God. Romans 1 says, the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness, unrighteous, the wrath of God, Romans 2 talks about it twice. So wrath is in there. So God does have wrath. So this is where God comes and covers it.
Now, do you remember the scripture? Let me read it to you. James 1:20 says, "For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God". You remember that? "For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God". Okay now, listen carefully to me. The wrath of man does not produce the righteous of God, but the wrath of God produced the righteousness of man. God was angry at your sin. So he sent his Son, John 3:16 says, he sent... God, so loved the world, he sent his Son to take your punishment so you could be made the righteousness of Christ. That's what the wrath of God did. See, you need to know God was angry because if you don't know that he was angry, you can't be happy now that he's not angry. You understand? So it's all through scripture. And I had at least 30 scriptures on the wrath of God, but I didn't have time to go through them. But what it means is that God has, God's wrath has been satisfied.
Now, we started with Noah and the ark, right? So I'm going to end with Noah and the ark. What is the promise that God will never again, flood the earth. What's the promise? Rainbow, right. We for awhile, you know, there are people mixed up in the world, you know, for a while there was a guy coming here that was mixed up, and he was going around telling everybody that, you know, God had told him another flood was coming. You know, I mean, we had to tell him he couldn't, you know, keep doing things. He also wanted to put flyers in all of our lobbies, inviting men to go to strip clubs to witness. And when I heard about it, I said, that's not witnessing, that's eye-witnessing And men don't need to go to there to witness. Ladies can, but not men.
Okay, so. So anyway. But he took my son James to lunch one time. I'll never forget. He said, God has shown me there's going to be another flood. And my son's got this sense of humor. He said, Well, so much for the rainbow. And then the guy was selling seats on his boat, you know? And then he'd, you know, when James would disagree with him, he said to him, you're off the boat, you're off the boat, you're off the boat, you know? So it just, anyway...I digress. So, I started there. Rainbow is the sign, you're right. But did you know God references Noah and the ark and makes another promise. He references the flood. And he says, let me make you another promise.
Isaiah 54:8-9 "'With a little wrath'", see, he does have wrath, "'I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,' says the Lord, your Redeemer. For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.'" Here's what God says. I'll never be angry with you again. That's a promise. That's a good promise. And here's why, because my Son atoned for your sins. He covered them, he removed them, and he satisfied my wrath. I'll never be angry. That's my burden for you this weekend. My burden is for you to know God is not mad at you because Jesus is our propitiation.
I want you to bow your heads and close your eyes. And every weekend, we just take a moment after the message to say, Holy spirit, what are you saying to me? And what's amazing is that even as believers, so many times we just blow it and we feel like, well, he's not overly mad, but he's a little mad. And I keep coming back to him over and over and over with this same sin. He's gotta be a little irritated at me. No, all of your iniquities, we read it a moment ago, all of your transgressions, all of your sins have been atoned, covered, removed, and all of God's wrath has been satisfied. So I want you to know this is the reason that we can approach the throne boldly. Because there's nothing between you and God anymore. You've been made one with God through the atonement.
Lord, I pray that you would let this truth sake in deeply, God, that there's no way the enemy would be able to talk us into hiding from you like he did Adam and Eve, that we wouldn't feel shame and guilt and even fear. They said that we were afraid. I pray God that we would understand that we blow it as humans, but because of the atonement, our sins have been covered and removed, and you're not angry with us, and you'll never be angry again. And I thank you for that and Jesus' name, amen.