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I am the Pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. It's a church made up of people from around the world who love Jesus and find themselves here in France. These articles are written with them in mind, but feel free to read them wherever you are from!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Understanding the Gospel - Part 4: The Atonement

We have come to the heart of the gospel: Jesus died for our sins.
But why did Jesus have to die? What did it accomplish?

Our Hopeless Position

These are important questions to answer, particularly if we have pondered the universal nature of sin, the extensive nature of sin, and its ultimate consequence.

Because of sin:

  • We justly deserve death (Romans 6:23).
  • We are justly objects of God's wrath (Ephesians 2:3).
  • We are justly separated from God (Isaiah 59:2).
  • We are justly in bondage to sin and Satan (Romans 6:17; (Colossians 1:13).
It would have been perfectly just for God to have left everyone in this condition. He did not need to save anyone. Ponder for a moment that Satan and other demons are not going to be saved. They are in rebellion against God and will suffer the eternal consequences (2 Peter 2:4). God could have justly chosen to leave mankind in the same condition, but he did not. God, out of love, decided to create a pathway to salvation. His justice, however, meant that these each of these four consequences of sin needed to be addressed. In the atonement we see the justice and love of God on full and glorious display.

Jesus Christ Meets Our Need

Jesus Christ's death on the cross meets our need in remarkable ways. As we look at them, though, it is important to remember that his meeting our needs was only possible because he did not sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15). Had he sinned, he also would have deserved death, wrath, separation, and bondage.

Jesus Died in Our Place

Scripture is clear that Jesus died for us. Consider Romans 5:8 which tells us that the death of Christ for us a was demonstration of God's love for us. He was sacrificed on our behalf (Hebrews 9:26). Isaiah 52:12-53:12 beautifully prophesies the sacrificial death of Jesus for our sins.

Jesus Experienced Wrath in Our Place

Not only did Jesus die in our place, he suffered the wrath of God on our behalf. The apostles coined a new word to describe this: propitiation. It's an unusal word, that isn't in the vocabulary of most English speakers, nor was the Greek word in the first century. It means a sacrifice that that bears God's wrath and in doing so changes God's wrath to favor. God sent Jesus to be the propitation for our sins (1 John 4:10). 

Jesus Experienced Separation from God in Our Place

Jesus experienced separation from God on the cross. Who can imagine the agony the Son of God was experiencing when he cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). While the mystery of the incarncation will be explored in a future blog post, this cry, a quotation of Psalm 22, is a call of one experiencing the absence of God while undergoing severe trials. Jesus' death on the cross allowed us to reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

Jesus Paid the Ransom for Us

"Redemption" is the word used of paying the "bondage price" of a slave. Mark 10:45 notes that Jesus came to give his life as a ransom. We have been set free! We are no longer slaves of Satan (1 John 5:19), nor are we in bondage to sin (Romans 6:-11-14). The idea of being ransomed is a powerful image, but we must be careful to realize that it is an analogy. We were slaves because of our sin. It was part of the justice of God that we be enslaved to sin. Jesus did not pay a ransom to Satan for us. Instead, he removed the legal guilt that held us in bondage. We have been set free.

For Whom Did Christ Die?

When we quote verses that say that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (like 1 John 2:2) that we make sure that we are clear what these verses mean. They do not mean that everyone will be saved. The offer of salvation can be made to all, but only those who believe will be saved (John 3:16). Thus, we could say that the death of Christ has a theoretical potential to save all, but it is only effective to save those who believe. Because we do not know who will believe, it is important to present the gospel in the hopes that they will believe and be saved. This is why Paul talked about his obligation to all different types of people (Romans 1:14-17). So we can say that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, but that the forgivenenss of sins is only available to those who repent and believe the gospel. We'll talk about that more in a future post.

As we present the gospel to people we need to keep the cross at the center. Sure, Jesus taught some things that are really beneficial to add to our lifestyles, but our core problem is sin and the central message of Jesus was that he was born to die for our sins. So let us not be ashamed to speak about the  death of Jesus for our sins. It is our only hope!

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