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The recent case of Stephen Mendez, who allegedly shot a 21-year-old in the head, has caused a stir due to New York’s new bail laws. Mendez was set free, leaving many outraged that justice was not served. 

In another case, Raymond Wilson, who was released without bail for other charges, broke into the bedroom of a ten-year-old girl and attempted to rape her. 

Hearing that criminals can commit such heinous crimes and then be simply allowed to walk free doesn’t sit well with us. 

It is a familiar feeling that those who commit crimes should be held accountable for their actions. But where did this sense of justice come from? 

We are an Atonement-Conscious Culture

The idea of atonement – of paying for one’s sins – has existed in cultures throughout history. The sense of justice comes naturally to us.

(This question drives evolutionists crazy. There is no biological reason to account for it. Animals don’t care about the concept of justice!).

 But where did our sense of justice originally come from?

Justice Goes Way Back.

In Christianity, the idea of atonement is rooted in the story of Adam and Eve. When God created Adam and Eve, he gave them the freedom to choose to sin. 

But with freedom comes a cost. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, they faced the consequences of their actions.

God could have reacted in two ways. 

  1. He could have simply overlooked their sin. Winked at it. It can’t be that bad, right? We’re only human. We all make mistakes, and… boys will be boys.
  2. Or he could have killed them on the spot. That would have been just, after all. He did tell them that if they ate of the tree, they would surely die, and they chose to eat. 

Both of these reactions come easily and, in different contexts, can seem right. 

But instead, God chose a third solution. 

Christianity is the ONLY religion that offers a THIRD WAY.

There had to be consequences for their sin, right? Otherwise, God would no longer be just. He would be *tolerant* and *permissive.* It’s important to note that tolerance is not KIND or JUST

At the same time, God did not make them bear the brunt of the punishment. 

After telling them what the consequences would be, God’s next act was to kill an animal. This forced Adam and Eve to confront death for the first time.

Many Christians pass this part by, but it’s essential to the narrative. The third way is the ATONMENT offering. An animal was killed so that Adam and Eve might be clothed and covered. It was their first time encountering death. 

Sin always leads to death.

But from the start, God made atonement for their sin. 

What is Substitutionary Atonement?

The concept of substitutionary atonement is ESSENTIAL to Christianity. When there is a sin, something must pay for that sin. Otherwise, justice will not be served. 

There are two ways of paying for sin: 

  1. The criminal can pay for it himself, 
  2. An innocent being can be punished on behalf of the criminal. 

Something innocent must die for a sinner’s debt to be paid.

Christianity is the only religion that works this way. God arranged for an innocent third party to bear the punishment and satisfy the crime. This is how God can be both just and the justifier, tenderly compassionate and holy. It is an almost impossible paradox for humans to grasp.

The Blood of the Lamb

When the Israelites were still slaves in Egypt, they were treated terribly by the Egyptians. The Egyptians sinned on a grand scale and deserved justice. God promised to bring punishment by killing the firstborn son in every household throughout Egypt. 

However, God once again offered a third solution. He instructed the Israelites to take the blood of an innocent lamb and smear it over their doors. By doing this, God’s spirit would pass over their houses and spare the lives of their firstborn sons. 

This was another form of substitutionary atonement. 

Who Will Pay for Your Sins?

According to the Bible, we all have a sinful nature and have committed wrong (Romans 1, Psalm 14). When we face God’s judgment, we will be held accountable for all our sinful thoughts, words, and actions. 

There are two options for payment for these sins: 

  • Pay for them yourself by spending eternity in hell.
  • Or accept the substitute that God provided through Jesus Christ.

This is the essence of the gospel – the good news of salvation. If you have not accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, I encourage you to take some time to understand this message and pray for help. 

Through the death of His Son, God offers forgiveness and the gift of eternal life to all who believe in Him. If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Dream City Church, or join us for Sunday worship

The above is an abbreviated version of the message that Pastor Luke originally preached on April 2, 2023. We invite you to join us for Sunday Service at Dream City Church each week to hear Pastor Luke and other speakers in person. You can also stream our services online here. If you enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it with someone who might need to hear this powerful message!

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