Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Hidden Atonement Allegory in Philemon

A Verse-by-Verse Break-down of the Atonement Symbolism in Paul's Epistle to Philemon

Noun:  1) A story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.
            2)  The genre to which such works belong.

The epistle of Paul to Philemon contains an incredibly rich allegory concerning the power of Christ to reconcile man to God through his atonement.  I feel that applying an allegorical interpretation to this letter reveals a particularly significant insight into the apostle Paul’s fully developed understanding of and teachings about the gospel (and the atonement) of Jesus Christ.

I present here a breakdown of Paul’s epistle to Philemon, with all 25 verses broken down verse-by-verse and presented in bold type.  Many (but not all) of these verses are also accompanied by scriptures that support and expound on the principle being taught in Philemon as well as by my own commentary (in italics).  I have provided all of this in order to make plain the allegorical meaning behind the text.


1  PAUL, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,

The Zondervan NIV study bible has this to say in its introduction to the epistle to Philemon:

    “Paul wrote this letter to Philemon, a believer in Colosse who, along with others, was a slave owner...One of his slaves, Onesimus, had apparently stolen from him (cf. v. 18) and then run away, which under Roman law was punishable by death.  But Onesimus met Paul [apparently during Paul’s incarceration in Rome] and through his ministry became a Christian (see v. 10).  Now he was willing to return to his master, and Paul writes this appeal to ask that he [Onesimus] be accepted as a Christian brother ( v.17).”

2  And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:

2 Corinthians 5:20  Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.

Understand that from this point on Paul is speaking in the person of Christ-that is, he represents Christ-both in the sense that as an apostle Paul is an actual representative of Christ, and more particularly that Paul figuratively represents Christ for the purposes of this allegory.  Philemon in turn represents God, the injured party who has the right (according to justice) to seek redress for Onesimus’ transgressions, which in this case (and for the sake of the allegory) means death.  Onesimus represents fallen man, or in other words, you and I.  He (and we) has become estranged from the Master through transgression, and without intervention (to wit: mediation) from another Onesimus (and we) have no hope of reconciliation with his (our) estranged master and therefore must face death as the rightful penalty for his (our) crimes.  Fortunately for Onesimus (and us), Paul does intercede and (in his role as Christ) pleads for mercy on behalf of Onesimus and beseeches Philemon to accept him back into his household once again on the condition that Paul will pay Onesimus’ debt.  Paul cites the debt which he merits from Philemon in order to incite him to have mercy on Onesimus.  Rome represents the fallen world, and Philemon’s home represents heaven (specifically God’s throne).


Paul: Christ
Philemon: God
Onesimus: You and I
Rome: The fallen world
Philemon’s household: Heaven/God’s household and throne
Death: Hell/consequences of sin

3  Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Onesimus, or the fallen man, is at odds with his master through sin.  He is, for all intents and purposes an enemy to (God) Philemon.  God sends tidings of grace and peace through his emissary Paul (Christ).  God seeks to be reconciled with us through Jesus Christ in order that we might rejoin his household.

Acts 20:32  And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

Romans 5:1-2  Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Philippians 4:7  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:14-18  For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.  For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

Colossians 1:20  And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

4  I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,

1 Corinthians 15:57  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 25:8-9  He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.  And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Psalms 30:11-12  Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent.  O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.

5  Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;

Only through faith in Jesus Christ can the fallen man be redeemed and gain salvation.  We demonstrate our faith in (and our love for) him through willing obedience to the commandments of God.  While we are saved by grace and not by “good works” or obedience to God’s commandments, such obedience is still required if we hope to return to God’s presence again.  Furthermore, rather than subjecting us once again to the bondage of innumerable laws and commandments, Christ’s atonement enables us to live the higher law of the Gospel (or: “the law of liberty” or “the royal law”) in which love toward, and faith in, God, (which includes love for our fellow-man) is the highest good.  Love for God and love for others constitute the highest commandments because, in keeping these, all other commandments will be kept.  “Love is the fulfilling of the law.”

1 Timothy 1:5  Now the end of the commandment is charity [love] out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:

Galatians 2:16-17  Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.  But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin?  God forbid.
2 Nephi 25:23  For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

Ephesians 2:8-10  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

James 2:17-18  Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

James 2:10-12  For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.  For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill.  Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.  So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

Matthew 22:36-40  Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

James 2:8  If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

Galatians 5:14  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Romans 13:9-10  For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

6  That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.

Salvation through Jesus Christ comes as a gift to us through his grace alone, and the giving of this gift cannot be induced by any action on our part.  Strictly speaking, God is not obligated to allow us to return to his presence.  For we merit nothing from him, and are in fact in God’s debt, because of sin.  Just so, Philemon is under no obligation whatsoever to allow Onesimus to return to his household, and under the terms of the law is well within his rights to have him killed for his crimes against him.  If he elects to be merciful and allow Onesimus to return it will be purely because he chooses to do so based on Paul’s (Christ’s) merits, and his agreement to pay Onesimus’ debts for him.

Matthew 7:11  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Romans 5:18  Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

Ephesians 2:7-8  That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Moroni 7:12-13  Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.  But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.

7  For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.

The very fact that we have a Savior who was willing to die for us in order that we might repent and return to God is a sign of God’s love for us (See John 3:16-17).  Without the Savior and his atonement there would be no way for us to ever pay the price necessary to redeem our own souls (let alone those of other men:  See Psalms 49:6-8 and Alma 34:11-12 and 42:11-12).  The hope that comes through the knowledge of the plan of redemption brings great joy and consolation, just as Onesimus must have been relieved that Paul was willing to pay his debt for him and intercede with Philemon on his behalf.

1 John 4:9-10  In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Titus 3:4-6  But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17  Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

Isaiah 12:2-3  Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.  Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.

Helaman 3:35  Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.

8  Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient,

When we know that we have a Savior who suffered for our sins and experienced our sicknesses and trials (see Alma 7:11-14) and we understand that he has paid our debts for us we can now approach the throne of God to ask for mercy and grace.  Even so, this would be impossible without Christ as our mediator.  Onesimus certainly would not have dared even to contact Philemon without Paul acting as a go-between to plead for mercy on his behalf.

Philippians 4:6  Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Matthew 7:7-8  Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

John 16:23-24  And in that day ye shall ask me nothing.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.  Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

Hebrews 4:15-16  For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

9  Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.

Christ stands as our advocate with the Father-he pleads for mercy on our behalf.  However, unlike a defense lawyer, he does not argue for our innocence-instead he pleads for clemency for us based on HIS innocence.  Because Christ did no sin and he performed the atonement, he can exercise his “rights of mercy” before God (based on his merits alone) and answer “his righteousness” to satisfy the demands of justice.  Christ chooses to extend his merits only to those who exercise faith in him and who have repented of their sins with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

Isaiah 3:13  The LORD standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.
D&C 45:3  Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—

1 Timothy 2:5  For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

10  I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:

As we exercise faith in Christ and repent of our sins with a broken heart and a contrite spirit we can begin to be converted and, as symbolized by the ordinance of baptism, we are reborn through the spirit and become “begotten sons and daughters” of Christ (and not just of God).  If we are truly born again then we will continue to “press forward steadfastly” and learn and grow in the gospel so we can faithfully endure to the end.

D&C 25:1  Hearken unto the voice of the Lord your God, while I speak unto you, Emma Smith, my daughter; for verily I say unto you, all those who receive my gospel are sons and daughters in my kingdom.

Mosiah 5:7  And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.

Mosiah 27:25-26  And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.   

11  Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:

When we allow our lives to become polluted with sin we become effectively worthless and  therefore “unprofitable” as expressed by the prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 64:6  But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

In this worthless and “unclean” state we are unfit to return to the presence of God (see 1 Nephi 10:20-21).  Unless we are “redeemed,” or in other words, unless someone or something can compensate for our faults and defects there is no way that we can become clean again and profitable to God.  No matter how hard we work there is no way that we can ever accomplish this on our own.  Fortunately we have a “redeemer” who makes it possible for us to become clean once again and through his atonement returns us to a state in which we have value (HIS value) and are therefore “profitable” and eligible for re-entry into God’s household.  Incidentally, the name Onesimus means “beneficial, or profitable.” (source:

Romans 3:10 &12  As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Psalms 30:9-10  What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit?  Shall the dust praise thee?  shall it declare thy truth?  Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper.

Mosiah 2:21   I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.

Job 22:2-3  Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself?  Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous?  or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?

1 Timithy 4:8-11  For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.  This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation.  For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.  These things command and teach.

Titus 3:7-8  That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.  These things are good and profitable unto men.

12  Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:

John 17:11, 20-23    And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee.  Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.  Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

13  Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:

14  But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.

Galatians 1:3-4  Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:

Luke 22:42  Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

John 6:38-40  For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.  And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.  And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

15  For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;

Onesimus became estranged (both physically and emotionally) from Philemon by stealing from him and then running away.  We become estranged from God through death and sin (physically and spiritually) which are a consequence of the fall as well as our own disobedience. In our disobedience we “injure” God (and justice)  There is no way for us to overcome this estrangement without the intervention of a third party.  God is the injured party, and justice dictates that he deserves redress.  We are the offenders and therefore owe this redress to God, but unfortunately we do not have the wherewithal to pay the debt required by justice.  Christ (and Paul) steps in and acts as amediator between the two parties in order that he might reconcile the two estranged parties.  Christ (and Paul) agrees to pay the debt required in order to satisfy the demands of justice in redressing the injury that we have done to God through our sin.  Christ must therefore be paid, however he provides terms that make it possible for us to pay our debt to him so that he can return us to the household of God once and for all.  All parties are satisfied, and we can now return and be reconciled to our father, as did the prodigal son. 
Psalms 58:3  The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.
Isaiah 59:2-3  But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.  For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.

Isaiah 53:6  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Malachi 3:7  Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them.  Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.  But ye said, Wherein shall we return?

Ephesians 2:12-13  That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

Colossians 1:21-22  And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

Isaiah 54:7-8  For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.  In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.

1 Peter 2:25  For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. 

Colossians 1:23  If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

16  Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?

In the KJV New Testament “servant” and slave” are used interchangeably.  Onesimus left Philemon’s household as (and because he was) a slave (or a servant) of sin.  He met Paul and learned the truth (the gospel)-which set him free.  Now he has been called to be a servant of the Lord (in the sense that we all have been called as saints to serve and obey God), and in that spirit Paul has directed him to return to Philemon’s service, which must seem to Onesimus like a return to captivity.  We might similarly be tempted to look upon service to God as a burden, which consists largely of onerous rules designed to keep us from having fun, but in truth service to God makes us free to exercise our agency to its fullest without the burden of guilt and unintended consequences that tends to follow the “freedom” of sin.  Not only does service to God set you free, but faithful service enables God to exalt you in due time-so much so that you are no longer a servant in his household but are now a SON and an HEIR.  This elevation does not come to us on the strength of our own merits however, no matter how faithful our service may be.  We only become eligible to become sons and heirs if Christ elects to designate us as his brothers (and is “not ashamed to call us his brothers”) and if we act as such by willingly enduring suffering alongside Him.

John 8:34-36  Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.  And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.  If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Mosiah 5:8  And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free.  There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.

Galatians 5:1  Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Romans 6:12-13  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.  Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

Romans 6:17-18  But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.  Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

1 Corinthians 7:21-23  Art thou called being a servant?  care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.  For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant.  Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.

John 12:26  If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

Galatians 4:1-7  Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;  But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.  Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:  But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.  And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.  Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Romans 8:14-17  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.  For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.  The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:  And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Hebrews 2:10-11  For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,

17  If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.

Christ offers himself, and his perfect righteousness, in place of our own imperfect selves.  He took our place in answering for our sins as part of the performance of this atonement for us and, if we repent of our sins and live the Gospel, he will take our place before the judgment seat of God in answering for our sins at the last day.  Christ can do this because, as a God, Jesus Christ stands as an equal with God the Father.  No one but an equal could have any claim to mercy on Father’s part.  In order to for us to fully realize the power of Christ’s atonement it falls to us to strive to “put on Christ,” to “purify [ourselves] as he is pure” and to become so much like Christ “that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

Philippians 2:5-8  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Ephesians 4:32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

2 Nephi 2:6-8  Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.  Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.  Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

Romans 13:11-14  And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.  Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.  But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

Galatians 3:26-29  For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

1 John 3:1-3  Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.  Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.  And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

18  If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;

Even though Christ did no sin, and was perfectly innocent, our sins a placed on his account, which means that he must suffer for sins that he did not commit-even the sins of the whole world.  Christ doesn’t deserve this of course, but he chose to suffer for us of his own free will in order that by his stripes we might be healed.

Isaiah 53:5  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

1 Peter 2:24  Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

2 Corinthians 5:21  For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Romans 5:18  Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

Romans 3:22 & 24  Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

19  I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.

Christ is the propitiation for our sins.  Christ pays the required price (his life) for our sins.  He can do this for 2 reasons:

1)  He kept all of the commandments and is therefore perfect and without blemish.

2)  Through his obedience Christ earned the right to salvation through his own merits-he is the only one who can “demand” salvation from God based on his own merits.  Through his mercy and his grace, Christ chooses  of his own volition to cover us and in effect “share” his salvation with us in order to effect a reconciliation between God and man.  (see Hebrews 5:8-9 and Hebrews 2:9-11, 17)

1 Timothy 2:5-6  For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

1 John 2:1-2  My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.  And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

Mark 10:45  For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

D&C 45:3-5  Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.

Romans 3:24-26  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

20  Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.

Luke 15:6-7  And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.  I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

D&C 18:10-13  Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.  And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.  And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!

21  Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.

3 Nephi 19:28-29  Father, I thank thee that thou hast purified those whom I have chosen, because of their faith, and I pray for them, and also for them who shall believe on their words, that they may be purified in me, through faith on their words, even as they are purified in me.  Father, I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me out of the world, because of their faith, that they may be purified in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one, that I may be glorified in them.

22  But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.

Christ, having finished his work,  is now exalted and so takes his rightful place at the right hand of God.  Having been faithful in all things he now acts as our advocate with the Father, and in this capacity he exercises his “rights of mercy” (based on his merits alone) in order to lay claim to those who have faith in him and who have repented of their sins.

Hebrews 2:7-10  Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.  For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him.  But now we see not yet all things put under him.  But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.  For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

D&C 19:15-19  Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.  For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.

John 20:17-18  Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Philippians 2:9-11  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Hebrews 10:12-17  But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.  For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.  Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

Moroni 7:27-28  Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men?  For he hath answered the ends of the law, and he claimeth all those who have faith in him; and they who have faith in him will cleave unto every good thing; wherefore he advocateth the cause of the children of men; and he dwelleth eternally in the heavens.

John 14:2-3  In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

23  There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus;

24  Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.

25  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.  Amen.

¶ Written from Rome to Philemon, by Onesimus, a servant.


  1. THANK YOU! I broached this subject in Gospel Doctrine and it was dismissed out of hand by the members of the class. I thought perhaps I was the only one to see this allegory of the atonement!

    1. I'm sorry to hear that. I don't know why it is so difficult for some people to see it. I suppose that some things can only be known through the spirit by study and also by faith. I;m glad you liked my article. Feel free to follow my blog and share it with your friends.


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