Troublesome Topic: Bacon, Forgiveness and Atonement

Lesson 21 of 21

You may have noticed that, in the lessons up till now, we have been discussing the issue of “atonement” for sin, however, the word “forgiveness” has been rare.

Why the emphasis on atonement rather than forgiveness? What is the difference between forgiveness and atonement?

Forgiveness is the emphasis of man, because it is what he needs; atonement is what God emphasizes because that is what He demands. Forgiveness basically means to not receive the punishment that was deserved. To atone for sins means to satisfy the holiness of God. Preachers and writers today usually bring up forgiveness much more often than atonement, but in the Bible it is just the opposite, God’s teaching is more often centered around the issue of atonement. The reason is very simple. When God’s holy nature is appeased, the punishment will no longer be meted out

Go to footnote number

Forgiveness is the product of atonement. There can be no forgiveness of sins without atonement for sins.

Let me share a word picture with you that will exemplify the point being made and help you remember it. The word picture involves food – we learn and remember better if the lesson involves food. However, it is a food that the ancient Jews could not eat. I will use bacon as my example. However, if you follow a kosher diet and thus cannot eat bacon, the example will also work with mutton, which I gather is also a fatty meat.

We put bacon (or mutton) in the frying pan and when we are done, we have plenty of grease left over. Right? We did not put the grease in the pan, it came as a by-product of frying the meat. Now imagine someone putting grease in the pan and expecting bacon or mutton to appear. It would be a long wait! We all know that meat does not come as a by-product of frying grease. You can fry grease as long as you want and all you will get is a visit from the fire department. The meat is the cause; grease is the effect. It is never the other way around. So it is with atonement and forgiveness. Atonement is the meat, and forgiveness is the resulting grease.

The next lesson in the full series on Covenants is Love Your Neighbor.



The idea of appeasement is very biblical, but not in the same sense as the appeasement observed in other religions of ancient time. Others were trying to quell the anger of a loveless god who cared nothing for their well-being; we have a God whom we know to be loving and compassionate, but He is also holy. Atonement is needed because His holy nature has been offended and He cannot have an intimate relationship with something unholy, without first doing something about the issue of sin. He has established what He will accept as atonement, what will appease His holiness; we do not have to guess and then hope we got it right. We seek atonement with faith and gratitude; other religions sought appeasement out of fear.