Augustine on the Atonement


I’m reading through Augustine of Hippo’s The Trinityand I came across a great passage on Christ’s sacrifice.

What priest then could there be as just and holy as the only Son of God, who was not one who needed to purge his own sins by sacrifice, whether original sin or ones added in the course of human life? And what could be so suitably taken from men to be offered for them as human flesh? And what could be so apt for this immolation as mortal flesh? And what could be so pure for purging the faults of mortal men as flesh born in a virgin’s womb without any infection of earthly lust? And what could be so acceptably offered and received as the body of our priest which has been made into the flesh of our sacrifice?

These rhetorical questions lead the reader in a helpful direction, but the next part strikes me as a particularly beautiful and illuminating piece of theological writing.

Now there are four things to be considered in every sacrifice: whom it is offered to, whom it is offered by, what it is that is offered, and whom it is offered for. And this one true mediator, in reconciling us to God by his sacrifice of peace would remain one with him to whom he offered it, and make one in himself those for whom he offered it, and be himself who offered it one and the same as what he offered.

Great stuff. The sacrifice is made to God by God, and the sacrifice is God so that sinners could become united with God. The atonement is all about what God has done.

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