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Last Update:  4/2013

The Effect of the Atonement

The gospel reveals to us in various terms the effect of the atonement of Jesus Christ has on believers.  They include justification, righteousness, redemption, forgiveness, propitiation, and reconciliation.  Each of these words by definition declares believers to be clean of sin and therefore, be in the presence of a holy God.  The gospel reveals to us the death of Jesus Christ does not just make possible, but accomplishes these results for us.

The gospel also demonstrates in various terms how we receive the effect of the atonement in words such as imputed (Romans 4:11, 24) and free or free gift (Romans 5:15-18, Ephesians 2:8), which are words demonstrating something that could not possibly be earned.

The gospel demonstrates throughout these acts are solely from the work of Jesus Christ on the cross in His death absent anything we do (obedience to laws, ordinances, works, moral conformity, etc.). Galatians 5:4 indicates if we try to add anything to what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross, His grace will be of no effect on us. That is a stern warning that not only reading, but studying the gospel message on eternal salvation and how it is gained is extremely important. So let’s explore the gospel and see what it has to say about the atonement and what it accomplishes for us.

Mormon doctrine teaches the atonement of Jesus Christ only has the power to resurrect us from the grave, which makes eternal life a possibility only after we have demonstrated “all we can do” (obedience to laws, ordinances, works, moral conformity, etc.) and “endured to the end.” Only if we demonstrate this level of obedience to the best of our abilities can we qualify for the grace of Christ in hopes He “covers the rest.”  This relegates the role of Jesus to be a janitor who comes in and cleans up whatever we could not clean up ourselves.

However, the gospel teaches the atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross makes eternal life a reality for all who believe absent our efforts. This is why Paul informs us in Galatians 2:21 if our righteousness could be gained through the law, then Christ died in vain. When you study the context in which the gospel presents the result of the atonement (justification, righteousness, redemption, forgiveness, propitiation, and reconciliation), it becomes clear each of those words is by definition what makes eternal life a reality and not just a possibility.

Colossians 1:20-22 states, “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, [I say], whether [they be] things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in [your] mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:”

Paul says Jesus made peace through the blood of his cross, so he completed the action; he does not say Jesus made peace possible by the blood of his cross. Paul also states we are reconciled by the blood and death of Jesus Christ so we may be presented as holy, blameless and righteous in His sight.

In the next chapter Paul states in Colossians 2:13-14, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;”

There are a few things to point out in these two verses.  First, we are dead in our sins because the law has revealed we are all convicted of sin (Romans 3:20, Galatians 3:24).  Being dead in sin means there is nothing we can do about it because we are out of options.  If we were just weakened by sin, there is something we could do or get help doing such as following laws or ordinances, but we are dead in sin and the verse says Jesus alone quickens us (makes us alive) with Him.  Second, Jesus’ death brings forgiveness to not just most, but ALL our sins (see also 1 John 1:7); He does not just make forgiveness possible or conditional to include our efforts, but He accomplished forgiveness for all who believe absent our efforts. Third, He blots out (removes) the laws and ordinances once was against us and convicted us of sin nailing them to the cross because they are now paid in full.