Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, June 06, 2008

Why Did Jesus Die, Atonement without Penalty

Remember when you were a child, how the good news of the Bible was so simple. You can probably still remember the first real complete Bible verse you learned. It went like this For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV). We grew up knowing that the gospel was simple, even a child could understand it. But as a child did we really understand it, and now as adults can we really say we understand it. That is, how could Jesus come and give His life and through that process somehow save us.

How many explanations of this process have you heard, doubtless at least two or three. Some think Christ was a sacrifice to appease God who says that somebody has to die since the law was broken. That God mystically placed all the sins of the entire world on Christ who then paid the death penalty for sin. The idea being that someone has to be punished and die because sin was committed. If these reasons were correct than God’s justice should certainly be questioned. Is this how justice works, is this what a God of justice would do, is this what is required for sin to be forgiven?

Remember those who told us that the gospel was so simple, well they were completely right. Somehow we have strayed from the truth's simplicity. It only takes one sentence to explain why Jesus Christ came to earth to live and die and live again. He came to show us what God is like, to demonstrate the lengths to which rebelling against God goes and to prove that He has the power of life even over death. Okay so there are several different items in the one sentence and yes more could be added but that is the gist of it.

Let’s takes a more in depth look at why Jesus came to earth. Hebrews 2:17 explains; Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. (KJV) Jesus came to reconcile us to God. "That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." 2 Corinthians 5:19 (NIV) Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines reconcile as: to restore to friendship or harmony. Now that’s an important mission for we were once God’s enemies. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation-- Colossians 1:22(NIV)

Now that we understand that Christ came to reconcile us to God, we must determine how this is done. The story of the Garden of Eden is used to demonstrate that we have doubts and questions about God. In the story man is freshly created and placed in a beautiful garden yet the man and woman questioned whether God really had mans best interests at heart. The voice of questioning is presented in the guise of a talking serpent, man disregards Gods warnings after the serpent insinuates half truths about God since a half truth is far more effective then a clear untruth. Being newly created in the story they have nothing to base their knowledge of God on so the falling ideas appear to have merit to the couple in the story and to all subsequent people.

1. God is not a God of love and he does not have mans best interest in mind.

2. God is vindictive and to disagree with Him will bring His wrath upon one’s self.

3. God is not the only source of life. Every being has the potential to become a god and to be as God is. God is selfishly withholding knowledge from us.

Using the above assumptions about God man can hardly trust and it is impossible to have a close relationship with anyone you don’t trust, it becomes a barrier that separates.

The best way for God to reconcile us to Himself was for Him to answer our questions and misunderstandings about Him without overwhelming us. This is the work of reconciliation that Jesus came to earth to perform.

1. God proved His love by sending His son John 3:16. Jesus is not simply a son but He is God Himself. John 1, Col 1:19, Col 2:9 Even knowing how He would be treated His love was shown by revealing the character of God. (John 14:9 NIV) Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? (John 15:13 NIV) Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

2. God proved he is not vindictive by providing a way of escape from our sinful condition Romans 6:23 . (Rom 3:25) (Romans 5:10) For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (NIV)

3. God proves that He freely forgives sin. (Luke 23:34 NIV) Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. Matt. 9:6

4. God shows that he is the source of life by the resurrection of Christ. Romans 1:4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. (NIV) (1 Cor 15:20 NIV) But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

You may be saying to yourself did not Jesus die a Substitutionary death for us. Did not he have to die because God’s law says the wage of sin is death. Think about what this is says that one innocent man’s death can substitute for billions of sinner's deaths. This could in no way be considered justice. Justice would have the one innocent man freed from any penalties while the guilty pay for their crimes. Perhaps we are missing something, maybe there is an exception in this law on the wages of sin. Let us take another look at Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV) All who sin should die but and this is a very large exception, God is willing to give us a gift, the gift of eternal life. So we see that God is willing to save us for no other reason than that he loves us (love is another word for grace). Remember John 3:16 that favorite from long ago. There is a gift that can be given to those who desire to receive it. The result of remaining in sin is that you will die, but if you want the gift of God he will freely give it to you. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is the method God used to bring us to the point where we would desire to receive God’s free gift of grace. Romans 3:23-25 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- (NIV) Remember it is not forgiveness if someone is punished.

Did not Jesus taste death for everyone, therefore isn’t he our substitute according to Hebrews 2:9? But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (NIV) Here we see that Christ did die for everyone, however it is not a Substitutionary death. Christ’s death was a means of drawing us back to God. Remember what Ephesians 2:16 says: and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. (NIV) It is not God’s hostility that is the problem, for it is “God with us” Immanuel, the Logos that became flesh and dwelt among us, God was reaching out to man.

Finally, does not Hebrews 9:28 tell us that Christ bore our sins on the cross? So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9:28 (NIV) To understand this text we must understand what sin is. How could all the murders, violence, and pain of sins be placed on Christ? In fact they cannot, but the attitude that is where all sin begins could be placed on Christ at the cross. Our desire to do our own thing is the entire reason why Christ had to come and die. To show us that our desires bring us only disaster, but submitting to God, brings us life. Sin is often correctly defined as being separation from God it is the attitude which cannot trust God because the person is too selfish to look outside of their own limited view and desires. Christ demonstrated just how tragic selfish actions are by submitting to people in rebellion against God. Separation from God leads to the cruelty that was poured out upon the one who never sinned. So much hate and cruelty that people were willing to kill their own creator. Acts 3:15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. (NIV) This is the result of sin, and this is the sin that Christ bore on the cross. This is Christ’s sacrifice, he gave up the comforts of heaven to come to earth and share in mans suffering and then upon the cross he died, yet even as he died he offered the forgiveness that love offers all. Reminiscent of the way sin is removed by being forgiven as love keeps no record of wrongs 1 Cor. 13. Then on the third day he arose, proving what he had told us was true and commissioning us to help Him in spreading the message of reconciliation.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NIV)


Anonymous said...

God thoughts Ron and I agree with much of it, but if the bible says Christ died for the sins of many, then thats substitution. While Christ was not guilty of sin and he was not punished for sin, The bible does teach that Christ suffered for our sins...thats substitution. Theres is a big difference in being punished and suffering.

I think its just a matter of you not wanting to recieve the biblical fact of substitution...and that idea is a thread through out the bible. And you also fail to recieve the biblical fact of the legality of sin and death, that is...the transgression of Gods law by humanity. But for the most part, I do agree with the MIT, but you also must understand, Its more about the legal matters of why He died and not the Moral of it. But in the end...the ultimate reason why Christ came to die was to exault the Father....its not about us, but really about God. Ask your self....what was the end for which God created the world? Him self!


Anonymous said...

Sorry...thats good thoughts Ron