The more I learn about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the more I realize that I do not know. I believe that the Son of God took upon himself the sins of every person who will repent, but I do not understand how He did it. This week during my Come, Follow Me studies I learned a little bit more about His sacrifice.
The Apostle Paul seemed to use a lot of imagery in his writing, making it difficult for us to understand his meaning unless we understand the imagery. In Colossians Paul explained that we are “Buried with him in baptism” (Colossians 2:12). When we understand that baptism by immersion means that we are “buried” in the water, it is easier to understand what Paul meant.
In the same verse Paul wrote, “ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” This seems to mean that we can rise from the dead because Jesus Christ overcame death and was resurrected.
In verse 13 Paul wrote that we were “dead in [our] sins,” but we are “quickened together with him” because He has “forgiven [us] all [of our] trespasses.” In other words, Christ forgives us of our sins and makes it possible to return to the presence of Heavenly Father.
I found verse 14 quite interesting. Paul wrote, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us … nailing it to his cross.” What handwriting? How is this handwriting nailed to Christ’s cross?
The New Testament Student Manual – Religion 211-212 (2014, 441) tells us that this verse has to do with an ancient Roman practice. In the time of Paul, the Romans had a certain practice that they performed when a criminal was crucified. They would write the crimes that were committed by the condemned person on a placard – meaning a sign or poster but most likely made of wood – and hang it on the cross for everyone who passed by to see.
I found this information interesting because there was a sign written in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew and hung on the cross with Jesus Christ. This placard was written by Pilate, but the writers of the four Gospels report that it said different things. Matthew 27:37 says, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Mark 15:26 says, “THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Luke 23:38 says, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Luke 23:38). John 19:19 says, “JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.” No matter what the actual sign said, it is obvious that Pilate considered Jesus Christ to be King of the Jews. Pilate recognized that Christ’s only “crime” was being the King of the Jews.
The Colossians were familiar with the Roman practice of writing sins on placards, so they would understand what Paul meant. Since most of us are not familiar with ancient Roman practices, I am grateful that the New Testament Student Manual gives us more understanding.
Paul used this imagery in verses 13-15 to teach the Colossians that they had been forgiven. It was as though a list of all the spiritual charges and accusations against the Colossian Saints, including their sins and infractions against the ordinances of the law of Moses, were placed on a placard and nailed to the cross. Through the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, these were erased or blotted out.
Through His Atonement and Resurrection, Jesus Christ triumphed over all earthly powers and authorities (see Colossians 2;15).
We must remember that we are using imagery, but I want you to think about how you would feel if all your sins were written on a sign and hung in a public place for all to see. This could be terribly embarrassing for most of us. However, we do not have to suffer this embarrassment because Jesus Christ atoned for our sins on the condition that we repent of them.
In Colossians 1:23 Paul wrote that we will be saved, “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.” Since we all make mistakes and sin, we all have need for repentance. We must send the roots of the gospel of Jesus Christ deep into our hearts and intertwine them with the hearts of other followers of Christ.
The winds of life are terribly strong, and we must be strong to withstand them. Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave the following warning.
[The] world will not glide calmly toward the Second Coming of the Savior. The scriptures declare that “all things shall be in commotion” …
More concerning than the prophesied earthquakes and wars are the spiritual whirlwinds that can uproot you from your spiritual foundations and land your spirit in places you never imagined possible, sometimes with your barely noticing that you have been moved.
The worst whirlwinds are the temptations of the adversary. Sin has always been part of the world, but it has never been so accessible, insatiable, and acceptable. There is, of course, a powerful force that will subdue the whirlwinds of sin. It is called repentance.
Elder Andersen continues his talk titled “Spiritual Whirlwinds” (Ensign, May 2014, 18-21) by describing how trees grow stronger roots and branches to withstand the winds that blow around them and telling us how we can withstand the spiritual whirlwinds around us. As we live the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can grow strong enough to withstand the spiritual whirlwinds that blow around us. The link above also contains a cute video illustrating the words of Elder Andersen.
The Atonement of Jesus Christ means many things to me, but it particularly means that I am given the opportunity to repent. I can stop committing the various sins to which I succumb, repent, and become clean because the Atonement of Jesus Christ erases my sins from my placard. This makes it possible for me to return to the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and to live with them forever. I am truly grateful for the gift of repentance given to all of us by Jesus Christ through His atoning sacrifice.