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Do the Work, Be Fearless, and Embrace Your Oneness with God!
Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on

"Doctrine of Atonement"
for October 15—21, 2018

By Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. Glen Ellyn, Illinois (Bartlett) / (630) 830-8683

How often do you think about atonement? Probably not a lot unless it happens to be in an assignment, or a Bible Lesson. According to The Student’s Reference Dictionary, “atonement” is defined as an agreement, or reconciliation after enmity or controversy. Further definitions include reparation made for a specific injury—and the old theological view—“expiation of sin made by the obedience and personal sufferings of Christ.” This traditional theological view of atonement implies that Jesus’ suffering served to make amends for the sins of all who believed on him for all time to come. We’ll get to that in a little bit, but the net effect of atonement for our purposes—in the simplest of terms—is that atonement means aligning our hearts and lives with God.

In the Golden Text the prophet Micah reminds his audience that all of the rituals and ceremonial rites they regularly used to make peace with God were not enough to atone. God requires full compliance of our hearts, minds, and actions, not mere symbols of repentance and contrition. Micah points out that God requires us to do right, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. Aligning God’s will with our own, and living consistently with God’s law is atonement of the highest order. [See Warren’s PS#1 for its link to the Sixth Tenet.]

The Responsive Reading furnishes some specific instructions given to Moses and Aaron for making atonement. Once each year the high priest would enter into the Holy of Holies (which was an inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle partitioned by a veil, containing the Ark of the Covenant) to make a blood offering of atonement for his own errors and for those of the people. This sacred space was never entered without the deepest reverence and careful preparation. As mentioned above, Christian writers realized that such a ceremony was insufficient to expiate the sins of the people. They considered Jesus’ supreme sacrifice more effective in accomplishing through one act, what the priests could not accomplish in hundreds of years—complete atonement with God

In the book of Hebrews, the Law of Moses is represented as being only a “shadow of good things to come.” Albert Barnes (1798-1870), reminds us that the whole Mosaic Law was a shadow—“a rough outline…a mere sketch, such as a carpenter draws with a piece of chalk…It bears a resemblance to the finished product but is not the ‘very image’ complete and whole.”

Just as Aaron wasn’t allowed to enter the Holy of Holies without solemn preparation and reverence, we are asked to draw near to God with a “full heart.” This means being completely sincere—strictly obedient to God in everything we do. At the same time we’re also directed to “Consider one another,” and to “provoke” each other to love and good works. John Gill (1697-1771), suggests that, “to consider one another,” means to recognize each other as facing the same challenges and hardships as we do. We are all working out our salvations, so we are to refrain from judging each other harshly. By the same token, we all have equal access to oneness with God through obedience to Jesus’ commands. So, rather than judging our fellow Christians, we should provoke them to love and good work. The word “provoke” is a medical term from which comes the English word “paroxysm,” meaning a sudden attack or outburst often felt throughout the body. The suggestion here is that we are to be so filled with love that our vehemence is at its fullest pitch. Yielding to such love paves the way to atonement.

Section 1: Stirred to Repentance [also with W’s PS#2 and #3]

Peter did his best to “provoke” his listeners. He stirred them by striking at their conscience. While he doesn’t lay blame for the crucifixion completely on the Jews—because he says that the whole mission of Jesus was pre-ordained—he does take the Jews to task for allowing one of their own to fall into Roman hands. Barnes points out that Peter didn’t mince words. He was respectful but firm as he pointed out their error. Many of the Jews who heard him apparently recognized the part they played in persecuting Jesus, and were left no choice but to ask what they needed to do to make things right.

Barnes writes, “Never was a more important question asked than this. It is the question which all convicted sinners ask.” We might think of Peter’s discourse as a remote event in history, but Barnes’ explanation strikes a chord for all who have denied Christ, either implicitly or explicitly. “What shall we do to atone for our sins?” The degree of urgency in that question depends on the amplitude of our wrongdoing. The deeper the sin, the more profound is the question, and the more earnest the desire for repentance. Keep in mind too, that not long beforehand, Peter himself had denied Jesus three times. Everyone is in the same boat one way or another. Peter replies to their question by urging them to repent, and be baptized; and he promises that those who repent will receive “the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (B1).

This gift includes “the great and precious promises” that open us to our divine nature, and free us from the corruption of the world (B2). This is achieved through

  • virtue—the courage to profess our faith;
  • knowledge—to direct our actions wisely;
  • temperance—self-control to keep the lower propensities at bay;
  • patience during trials;
  • godliness—embracing the law of God in our hearts and actions;
  • brotherly kindness—which leads to the agape love by which Christians are known.

These qualities will never fail. They are evidence of our being at one with God (B3). And note that the work doesn’t have to be drudgery. We do it with joy!

Mrs. Eddy defines “atonement” as “the exemplification of man’s unity with God” (S1). Jesus was the highest example of atonement. Thinking back to the Responsive Reading, traditional theology sees Jesus’ sacrifice as being sufficient to cleanse all who believe in Christ, and to free them from the bonds of the flesh. But our textbook specifies that Jesus didn’t do our work for us. Rather, he showed us how to do it for ourselves. We have to embody all those virtues mentioned in II Peter, and bring them out in life-practice (S2).

Section 2: Some Directions from The Sermon on the Mount [also from W’s PS#4, #5 and #6]

Jesus’ begins his public ministry by underscoring our need to repent (B5). The Amplified Bible puts it this way: “Change your mind for the better, heartily amend your ways, with abhorrence of your past sins.”

The Sermon on the Mount is a guide for turning our lives toward God (B6, 7). The world is in great need of active peacemakers today. Matthew Poole (1624–1679) makes this interesting, and timeless observation:

The world blesseth the boisterous, unquiet party of it, that can never be still, but are continually thinking of more worlds to conquer, and blowing up the coals of war, division, and sedition: but they are blessed indeed, who study to be quiet, seeking peace, and pursuing it; and are so far from sowing the seeds of discord, or blowing those coals, that their great study is to make peace between God and man, and between a man and his neighbour, doing this in obedience to God, and out of a principle of love to God and men; for those that do so shall approve themselves like unto God, to be his children, and so they shall be called.

Peacemaking is an active way to bring our practice of Christianity to those around us. Jesus urges his followers to let their light shine. If religion is not manifested in our lives, there is no evidence that we are Christians. Often in Christian Science church meetings, people express hesitancy at revealing their religious beliefs publically. Why do we do that? Attempting to conceal our Christianity, Barnes says, renders “our lives useless.” Every Christian regardless of their occupation, or status, has the opportunity to do good things in their lives, thus blessing a world in need, even in the slightest way.

Jesus also teaches us to love our enemies. It’s easy to love people who agree with you. But those who injure you, or act against you are harder to love. Jesus isn’t asking us to love their conduct, but to do everything we can to look for goodness in them, and magnify what we see. Additionally, Jesus tells us to “be perfect.” I remember being told that “perfect” meant being full-grown, like a mature tree. However, Barnes tells us that the word “perfect” was originally applied to a mechanism, as in a machine that is complete, and working with all its parts. This implies not only individual completeness, but collective harmony as well.

The Sermon on the Mount is an instruction manual for spiritual thinkers. The precepts Jesus taught are somewhat counterintuitive to human nature. But, that’s the point of it all isn’t it? To turn us away from self-centered materially based thinking, to the demonstration of our spiritual natures. Our Leader reminds us, “that in Christian Science the first duty is to obey God, to have one Mind, and to love another as yourself” (S4). Loving others as ourselves is often difficult to do, but our love for God has to be practiced through our love for mankind. Mrs. Eddy says of The Sermon on the Mount that it is “the essence of this Science” (S5).

How well are we doing in following Jesus’ instructions? Our textbook directs us to examine ourselves to see where we are in practicing Christianity, and to learn where we can do better (S6). It can be challenging. But it has to be done if we expect to progress.

Section 3: At-one-ment with God Heals [also with W’s PS#7, #8 and #9]

As we saw in the Lesson on Substance last month, the disciples were willing to give up everything—including their livelihoods (B8). A running theme in the Bible citations of this Lesson is that the people are “astonished” by what Jesus taught. It’s not surprising that the materially minded are confounded by spiritual requirements and precepts. Poole notes that it’s one thing to be astonished, and another to actually believe. If we aren’t “provoked” unto love and good works, our belief is little more than talk.

Jesus didn’t simply preach—he proved his teachings through works. There were others claiming to cast out evil spirits, but Jesus didn’t merely entreat the evil spirits, with authority he commanded them to depart. Jesus was keen to make sure that observers of this healing power acknowledged that the power wasn’t his, but was the power of God (B9). However, he did not equivocate when he claimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (B10). As the Responsive Reading quotes, the Mosaic Law was “but the shadow” of things to come—only the rough sketch—Jesus fleshed it out through demonstration, and instruction. Barnes writes:

“The life, the purity, and the teaching of Jesus Christ was the most complete and perfect representation of the things of the eternal world that has been or can be presented to man. The ceremonies of the Jews were shadows; the life of Jesus was the truth. The opinions of men are fancy, but the doctrines of Jesus were nothing more than a representation of facts as they exist in the government of God.”

Our Leader highlights Jesus’ demonstrations as proof of the veracity of his teaching (S7). She reiterates that Jesus’ demonstration didn’t relieve his followers from doing their own work. As we’ve mentioned numerous times, traditional theology tends to focus on accepting Jesus as the savior of mankind, but Christian Science emphasizes obedience to all of Jesus’ commands including the command to heal (S8). For many, the word “healing” might suggest only healings of sickness, and therefore be beyond their capabilities. But healing also includes overcoming sin. For some that might be an even taller order. But in either case, Jesus expected his followers to be able to prove their faith through healing sickness and sin.

Mrs. Eddy as well, challenges Christians to follow Jesus in every way he commanded (S9). She too, lived and demonstrated what she taught. She devoted her life to practicing herself, and teaching us how to fulfill Jesus’ commands.

For starters, she instructs us to always dispute the testimony of the senses (S10). Again, that’s somewhat foreign to human nature. But as in all spiritual growth, denying the mortal picture, and turning to God is exactly the point. Our Leader tells us when faced with either sin or sickness, to dismiss it instantly. This isn’t done through human willpower, or force. It’s exercising divine authority as Jesus did, whose demonstration of oneness—atonement—with God showed us that we are truly saved through following his healing example (S11).

Section 4: Cleansing Fires

In Bible citation 11 Peter is addressing skeptics who wonder at God’s delaying the Day of Judgment. According to The Message, God is delaying “because He doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone the space and time to change [emphasis added].” Anyone who has ever tried to reverse course, and change his or her behavior, knows that it rarely happens in a single step. True, Mrs. Eddy tells us that, “If [we] believe in and practice wrong knowingly, [we] can at once change [our] course and do right” (SH 253:18-19), but in practice, she also knew that we might have many challenges before we gain the final victory.

Jesus was adept at provoking his listeners to action, but sometimes his methods weren’t all sugar and sweetness. Once he boldly cast out those who defiled the temple (B12). Once again, they were “astonished at his doctrine.” For him, the temple was to be free from all worldly and unholy influences. Not only did he cast out the moneychangers and those selling animals for sacrifice, but also those who casually used the temple as a common thoroughfare. The temple was meant to be holy, and so are we. As Jesus cleansed the temple, so we should allow the Christ to cleanse our lives. The psalmist welcomed such cleansing (B13).

Finding at-one-ment with God is making His will our own. Jesus cleansed the temple of self-interest and personal gain, and our individual lives have to be cleansed of these as well. That is one of the hardest tasks to achieve. As we’ve noted, our Leader knew that the cleansing process wouldn’t be quick. She writes, “The atonement requires constant self-immolation on the sinner’s part” (S12).

If you haven’t thought about it, self-immolation is actually setting one’s self on fire. Of course we don’t do that literally, but metaphorically we burn off the old man—the false traits and habits. One way or another, “justice requires reformation” (S13). Mrs. Eddy suggests that suffering isn’t the only pathway to reformation. She tells us it’s also possible to reason our way to freedom (S14). But whatever struggles we may encounter along the way, either through reason, or hard experience, they all help us understand the atonement (S15). Saying, “I’m sorry” but continuing without changing our wicked thoughts and actions is not enough. We have to follow through. Fortunately, be it slow or fast, both sin and suffering will fall (S16). How grateful we are, that Jesus showed us the path to atonement. (S17).

Section 5: Consecrated Work

The Jews prided themselves on the traditional authority of past teachers. But with God as his authority, Jesus didn’t need to learn from a human teacher (B14). He spoke as God’s ambassador. His every word carried the weight of divine authority, and he challenged his listeners to test his teachings to discover their veracity for themselves. Barnes elaborates: “To do the will of God is to obey His commandments; to yield our hearts and lives to His requirements. A disposition to do His will is a readiness to yield our intellects, our feelings, and all that we have entirely to Him, to be governed according to His pleasure.”

Some might feel that is quite a lot to ask, and they’d be right. It is a lot to ask. Jesus told us that to be his followers we must deny ourselves and take up our cross (B15). Many traditional Christians suggest that denying yourself, and taking up the cross means being willing to give up everything for Christ including your life if necessary. Well-known evangelist Billy Graham suggested that it was a metaphor, “to put to death [our] own plans and desires, and then turn [our] lives over to Him and do His will every day” ( The Greek word used for “cross” means a stake or a post.

Based on this translation, some scholars have said that the stake referenced a tent stake, and that Jesus was saying you have to be willing to take up your tent and move to better places. But the Aramaic translation says, take up (as with the hands) a “cudgel” or, “rod.” According to the website, “A cudgel or rod was one of the primary tools of the shepherd. The rod was specifically used as a weapon to defend the flock. Idiomatically, to ‘take up the rod’ was to pursue the work of the shepherd and defend the flock.” This definition adds a new dimension to our Christianly duty.

Whatever definition we choose to use, the emphasis of the text is on unwavering devotion to the mission, and on practice rather than profession. Mrs. Eddy felt so few Christians understand this because his precepts “require the disciple…to set aside the most cherished beliefs and practices, to leave all for Christ” (S18). She reminds us too, that the work never ends. It’s a constant endeavor to apply ourselves toward holy devotion to God (S19). Faithfully following the Master will bring us into “newness of life” (S20). This will open our hearts and minds to God, and we will be taking part in the atonement as our Master did.

Section 6: I’m Not Ashamed [also not without a song in my heart as in W’s PS#10]

Paul writes to the Romans, “I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts Him…” (B16 The Message). The King James Version begins, “I am not ashamed…” Where would you place yourself on the scale? Do you lean toward shame of your religious outlook? Or are you “most proud”? We don’t have to confine our declarations of faith to having a spiritual chat with people. We can, and do express our faith through our lives as well.

Timothy receives specific instructions to adhere to the word of the law without adding anything to it; to keep his conduct in every area of his life in consonance with truth; to express Christian love for all; to perform all good works through spiritual motivation; to remain faithful to God, and to execute his duties properly, improving everything he touches; and to be mindful of purity in all his dealings (B17).

Our lives should reveal a pattern of good works, maintaining focus on the “blessed hope” of having our oneness with God appear (B18). Traditionalists believe this appearing refers to Christ’s second coming, but we can see and experience this “second coming” individually right now as we let the Christ transform our lives. And as we mentioned in the beginning, this holy work is far from drudgery. The Scriptures promise us that abiding by these holy precepts assures happiness (B19).

Our textbook explains that we are one with God as a drop of water is with the ocean (S21). Jesus showed us the way by giving us a “truer sense of Love” (S22). All of the directions found in the commands given to Timothy (B17) are stepping-stones to living spiritually, and in finding our oneness with God. Following these commands promises “sure entrance into the realm of Love” (S23).


So where are we on the scale? Are we ashamed? Or are we proud to be Christians? Are we speaking boldly? Are we taking steps each day to be more spiritual, and doing our part to take up the rod, and be defenders of the flock? “If Truth is overcoming error in [our] daily walk” (S24), we can say we’re keeping the faith. The guidelines are spelled out for us. Fulfilling them will bless the entire world, and this is living our at-one-ment right now.

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