The Essentials: The Sacrificial Death of Christ - Henry Knapp
Onomatopoeia. I just like saying the word. Onomatopoeia.
I don’t exactly remember when I first learned the word,
“onomatopoeia,” but the same twisted sense of joy I feel today about the word
started back then. An onomatopoeia is a word or phrase that sounds like its
meaning: Bang! Pop! Meow! Whoosh! Learning about onomatopoeias started me
thinking about words themselves and has led to some interesting (at least to
Take the theological term “atonement.” Atonement means “a
reparation or making amends for a wrong or injury,” and in biblical use describes
the reconciling of God to man through the sacrificial death of Jesus. But what
I like about the word “atonement,” word-wise, is how we got it as a theological
term to begin with.
When translating the Bible from Greek and Latin into English
in the early 1500s for the first time, William Tyndale was faced with a
problem. The biblical authors use a word which in both Greek and Latin has a
rich, deep, and comprehensive meaning. It means some mixture of “being
reconciled one to another,” with “paying a price” and “freedom and forgiveness”
all stirred together. For instance, something marvelous is going on when the
Bible describes the sacrificial system in Exodus and Leviticus—“forgiveness, redemption,
cost, reconciliation, sacrifice.” Paul has this same complex of ideas in mind
in Romans 5 when he talks of Jesus’ death on the cross. The problem confronting
Tyndale was that there was no single English word which did justice to the breadth
of the biblical idea.
How, he asked, could you describe in one word, the means
whereby humans are reconciled to God, forgiven of their sin, the penalty being
paid, God’s wrath satisfied? Having sin removed, peace and holiness restored,
all by means of the blood of Jesus on the cross? How in English can you talk
about the process of becoming one, reconciled to God, all in one word?
Without an appropriate word, William Tyndale simply made one
up! At-One-Ment. The ending “-ment” means “the process of…” (so, “refreshment”
is the process of being refreshed). Atonement, then, was Tyndale’s attempt to
capture the process of being “at one” with God: At-one-ment.
More than just reconciliation, more than forgiveness, or
sacrifice, or freedom, the work of Jesus is the very work of restoring our
fellowship with God in all its depth and splendor. It is atonement.
At Hebron Church, we often talk about the death of Jesus,
and what He accomplished on the cross. While we don’t often use the term,
“atonement,” that is what we are talking about. And, if we are to be true to
the fullness of the biblical witness to the cross, we need to see the work of
Jesus in its totality—capturing our forgiveness from sin, the reconciliation of
God to His wayward people, the joy of the redeemed, and the praise to the
In worship this week, we will try to capture the essence of
atonement—celebrating the completeness of God’s salvific work in and through
the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
In preparation for worship this week, read 1 Peter 2:21-25.
1. Notice that we are jumping into the middle of an ongoing
argument. Peter is addressing what it means to live under authority. How do our
particular verses factor into that discussion?
2. In verse 21, Christ’s suffering is to serve as an
example. How so? What are we to learn from His example?
3. We are told that we are “called” to this (verse 21). What
are we “called” to? Can you give an illustration in your own life of that
4. Describe Christ’s example in verses 22-23. How is this an
example for you? Is there a situation where you can apply this today?
5. How does verse 25 connect to Peter’s argument here? Why
does he mention sheep and the Shepherd?