What can wash away my sin? 
Nothing but the blood of Jesus. 
What can make me whole again? 
Nothing but the blood of Jesus. 

For my pardon this I see: 
nothing but the blood of Jesus. 
For my cleansing this my plea: 
nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone: 
nothing but the blood of Jesus. 
Naught of good that I have done: 
nothing but the blood of Jesus.

This is all my hope and peace: 
nothing but the blood of Jesus. 
This is all my righteousness: 
nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain: O precious is the flow
that makes me white as snow; 
no other fount I know; 
nothing but the blood of Jesus. 

I love hymns! Having been the daughter and granddaughter of a church organist and pianist, I grew up listening to and singing hymns regularly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to contemporary Christian songs, but there is something about a good hymn that I find soul-gripping and nostalgic. Honestly, I took for granted the depth as well as the theological and doxological implications found in the many hymns that I sang in my small, Missionary Baptist church during my younger years. During that time, the doctrine of atonement is certainly one element of my faith that I did not fully understand from a theological perspective.

ATONEMENT (Ȧ·tōnʹ mĕnt) - the biblical doctrine that God has reconciled sinners to Himself through the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ.(1)

Atonement is simply God’s way of bridging the gap between Himself and sinful man.  Without atonement, we are all lost and forever without hope. In order to better understand this theological concept, it is best to take a walk through Scripture. The concept of atonement spans throughout both the Old and New Testaments.  To start, we’ll first take a look at the book of Leviticus. 

He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.  (Leviticus 1:4 ESV)

At the outset of Leviticus, we find Moses and the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. Israel had failed to live up to God’s righteous requirement; thus, a means of atonement was necessary.  Additionally, in Leviticus we see a continuation of the major premise that God is holy; thus, His people are to be holy as well. Through the law, we are provided with God’s very detailed instructions on how his people are to worship Him.  However, the grand issue is that God’s people typically fall short. Our inclination to sin is very strong and we are incapable of escaping it without help. 


I am convinced that many people don’t understand the depth of our separation from God. I have had conversations with people who claim to be Christian, yet they will still affirm the belief that there are many paths to God and that Christianity is merely one path. But on the contrary, there is but one path to God and that is through Christ Jesus. No other person could do what Jesus Christ has done. There is no way that any mere human could have bridged the gap between man and God. We are just too sinful; innately sinful. The thing about sin is that it’s not a little oopsie. It’s not something that should be taken lightly. Sin is awful. God hates it and He is so reverentially holy that the very presence of sin is reprehensible to Him. And in our naked sinfulness, we are reprehensible to God. In our sinfulness, none of us can say that we have done good (Psalm 14:3); all have fallen terribly short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) as such, we are completely incapable of meriting justification before Him. And that is precisely why we need Christ.  


And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only So from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 ESV)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)

Before we could even fathom turning back to God, God made the first move. God the Father sent God the Son, Jesus Christ, to dwell among us in the flesh. Not only did He dwell among us, He lived humbly and perfectly. And then, Christ sacrificially gave of Himself by dying on the cross at Calvary. Through the shedding of His blood, Christ’s atoning work on the cross became the single most loving act to ever occur because God successfully did what man could never do. Through Christ’s atoning work on the cross, all who believe are cleansed from the guilty stain of sin and made righteous. Christ became the propitiation (i.e. appeasement) (1 John 4:10) for our sins and through Him, we stand not guilty before God.


The uniqueness of Christ’s atoning work can best be understood through taking a deeper look at the book of Hebrews. In Hebrews 9:11-28, the author specifically focuses on how we are redeemed through the blood of Jesus Christ. As previously mentioned, atonement was first introduced in the Old Testament where the shedding of animal blood was required.  This is the first covenant (Hebrews 9:18-20). In examining Scripture, we can clearly see that the shedding of blood has always been central to the removal of sin. In Hebrews 9:22, the author emphasizes that there is simply no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood. Although animal sacrifices were the initial means for making penance for sin; this shed animal blood only served as a foreshadowing of the blood that would be shed through Christ Jesus. Animal sacrifices were incapable of truly atoning for sin. “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second” (Hebrews 8:7). Sacrifices may have been made, but they were tainted by the sinfulness of man. But Christ (in His perfection) shed His blood once and for all! His sacrifice was unblemished and unparalleled. He is the perfect lamb who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29, 1 Peter 1:19).


There is nothing that we could have done or can do to justify ourselves before God. Our sins are great and infinite before Him and it is only through Christ's righteousness that we can be reconciled to Him. Christ’s atoning work on the cross was sufficient, substantial, and satisfactory. He took on the full wrath of God and received the full measure of punishment for sin on our behalf. And in the most merciful way, He clothe us in righteousness and placed us in right standing before God. Our glorious change in status from sinner to saint is eloquently described by the prophet Isaiah,

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
    my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
    he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  

Today, as I sing and reflect on the words of the old hymn “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus” I will forever be reminded of the preciousness of Christ’s blood and the depth of His sacrifice. He washed away my sin, He made me whole again. It was nothing but the blood of Jesus!

Scriptures on Atonement:  Leviticus 1:4, 16:29-43, 17:11; Matthew 26:28, Mark 10:45, John 1:29; Romans 3:25-26, 5:6-8; 2 Corinthians 5:11-21; Galatians 3:13; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Timothy 2:4-6; Hebrews 2:17, 9:22-28; 1 Peter 1:18-20, 2:24-25, 3:18; 1 John 2:1-2

Recommended Reading: “The Truth of the Cross” by R. C. Sproul

References:  Moore, R. D. (2003). Atonement. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 139). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.