The Atonement of Jesus Christ

We have been discussing that because of Adam, the earth was changed to our mortal world. We are subject to two effects of the Fall of Adam. Because we are mortal, we will die physical deaths, and because we commit individual sins we are separated from God and suffer spiritual deaths. The dilemma we face is that we can not cause our bodies to be resurrected or our sins to be removed.

Jesus the Messiah

Because of the love and compassion of God, he prepared the way for our physical and spiritual deaths to be overcome. He prepared a Messiah, one who would take upon himself the effects of all sin and provide an atonement or reconciliation with God such that we could again be with Him.

For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made. (Alma 34:9)

Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer. (1 Nephi 10:6)

In order to provide his Atonement, Jesus had to remove both physical and spiritual deaths. He overcame physical death by providing the resurrection, and he overcame spiritual death by providing forgiveness of sin. In this chapter we will discuss the Savior’s redemption from sin, and the resurrection will be discussed in a later chapter.

Redemption from Sin

Jesus Christ provided the way for our sins to be forgiven. He did this by taking upon himself the effects of all sins that have ever been or will ever be committed by all persons who have lived or who will ever live. Reflect for a moment upon all of the terrible things that exist because of sin: the murders, the suffering, the hunger, the abuse, the wars. Jesus took upon himself the effects of all those things and suffered the grief, the pain, the sorrow, and the guilt that results from sin. Alma explained that Jesus Christ would suffer this agony as he took upon himself our sins.

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and sickness of his people. (Alma 7:11)

This suffering and agony was so great that it caused his blood to drip from his body while he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion.

And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,

Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:41-44)

And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people. (Mosiah 3:7)

Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit–and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink– (D & C 19:18)

He gave his life upon the cross the next day and completed his atonement. He paid the price for our sins and provided the way for forgiveness.

And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record.

And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world. (1 Nephi 11:32-33)

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; (Ephesians 1:7)

And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (Revelation 1:5)

As the Lamb of God, Jesus gave himself as the ultimate and final sacrifice. Christ died for our sins and can remove them through his grace and blood. In addition, all effects of Adam’s sin have been removed by the Atonement. Of course, we still live in a mortal world and will suffer physical death, but we are guaranteed a resurrection.

Justice and Mercy

The Fall of Adam resulted because of Adam’s disobedience in the garden, and it caused the earth to become mortal. With that change, physical death entered the world. In addition, the conditions were created that allowed sin to occur. We have been given freedom of choice, and all of us use our freedom to disobey God and break his laws. Our sins, our uncleanliness, separate us from God, causing us to suffer spiritual death. There is nothing we can do to end death, for it is required by the justice of God.

In addition to being just, God is merciful. Justice demands we suffer the effects of our sins. Mercy, however, would have suffering come to an end. On the one hand we have the justice of God, while on the other hand we have God’s mercy. The two oppose each other. Neither can be satisfied at the expense of the other. A way is needed in which the demands of justice can be tempered by mercy. The Book of Mormon explains how God accomplished this seemingly impossible task.

Alma’s son Corianton did not understand the intricate relationship between justice and mercy, and Alma explained these concepts to him.

And now, my son, I perceive there is somewhat more which doth worry your mind, which ye cannot understand–which is concerning the justice of God in the punishment of the sinner; for ye do try to suppose that it is injustice that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery. (Alma 42:1)

Alma explained because of the Fall of Adam men are separated from God.

And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence. (Alma 42:14)

Alma explained the need for mercy but that God’s mercy could not violate his justice. He explained that through repentance we could obtain mercy.

And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience;

Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God. (Alma 42:12-13)

Alma explained that in addition to repentance, an atonement by God himself had to be made.

And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also. (Alma 42:15)

Alma is saying is that because we have sinned, we are unclean, and due to the justice of God, we can not be with him. Through God’s mercy, however, in providing the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can become clean and thus able to be with God again. Through Christ, both justice and mercy are satisfied.

But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.

For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.

What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God.

And thus God bringeth about his great and eternal purposes, which were prepared from the foundation of the world. And thus cometh about the salvation and the redemption of men, and also their destruction and misery. (Alma 42:23-26)

Purpose of Repentance

In verses quoted above, Alma said the plan of redemption could not “be brought about” without our repentance. Alma is not saying that repentance removes our sins, for they can be removed only by the atonement of Jesus Christ. He is saying that our repentance is necessary if the plan of redemption is to be “brought about”, that is, if the Savior’s atonement is to cleanse us. In a revelation to Joseph Smith, the Lord confirmed that we must repent if the atonement is to remove our sins, indicating that repentance is a doorway for the atonement to come into our lives.

For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; (D & C 19:16-17)

If we repent, we will not suffer the effects of our sins because Jesus Christ has already suffered for them. If we do not repent, however, the Savior will not allow his suffering to satisfy the demands of justice. He will not allow his atonement to cleanse us until we have suffered for our sins and thus satisfied the justice of God.

We are Adopted to Christ

The Bible speaks of those who accept Christ as being born again. Jesus taught this principle to Nicodemus.

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)

The Apostle John also taught this principle.

If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. (1 John 2:29)

One meaning to being “born again” is that we have changed from lives of committing sins to lives of following Christ. The scriptures teach, however, that there is a deeper meaning to being “born again”. In his prayer to his Heavenly Father shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus acknowledged that the Father had given the disciples to him, that is, those who believed in Jesus belonged to him.

I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.

And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. (John 17:6,9-11)

Those who follow Christ have been given to him. In being given to Jesus, we are not his slaves nor his servants. No, there is a more glorious meaning to belonging to Christ. Paul spoke of this relationship with Jesus as an adoption.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (Ephesians 1:3-5)

Paul is saying that as we accept Christ, we are adopted by him, we belong to him, and we are his. If we are adopted by Christ, then he becomes our father.

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:4-7)

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (Romans 8:14-15)

And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: (Romans 4:11)

During Alma’s conversion to Jesus Christ, he learned that when people are cleansed through the atonement of Christ, they are born again into a state of righteousness and become the sons and daughters of Jesus Christ.

And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; (Mosiah 27:25)

 The Lord revealed to the brother of Jared that we become his sons and daughters.

Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters. (Ether 3:14)

Of course Jesus is not the father of our physical bodies, nor is he the father of our spirits. He is the father of the Atonement. He is the father of the Gospel plan. He is the father of the way back to God. Through our acceptance of him, he becomes our father in a spiritual sense as we are adopted by him.

Some are Adopted to Satan

Jesus Christ is not the only personage who becomes a father by adoption. Satan also becomes a father to those who accept and follow him and become sons of perdition.

He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8, emphasis added)

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8:44, emphasis added)

Will we follow Jesus Christ and become adopted by him, or will we follow Satan and be adopted by him? The choice is ours to make.

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3 Responses to The Atonement of Jesus Christ

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