Wednesday, April 9, 2014

God’s Love and the Wonderful Cross

Apostle John:  Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us. 1 John 4:7-12 (NLT)

The New Testament frequently connects Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross with God’s love and our salvation (e.g., John 3:16; Romans 3:25; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:11-28; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 1:5). In fact, the Cross of Jesus Christ has become the symbol of Christian faith and God’s love for the world (John 3:16; see also 1 John 4:7-12). The Cross is absolutely central to Christian salvation from sin and eternal death. Other religions have their martyrs and rules, but Jesus Christ’s sacrificial life and death was of a Savior to save humans (Matthew 1:21). Jesus Christ’s death saves all people from their sins through belief and acceptance of His life, teaching, and death on the Cross.

Apostle Paul:  Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it (sin) completely into Himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the Cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. And now, because of that, the air is cleared and we can see that Abraham's blessing is present and available for non-Jews (Gentiles), too. We are all able to receive God's life, His Spirit, in and with us by believing—just the way Abraham received it. Galatians 3:13-14 (MSG)

God is a loving (1 John 4:7-21) but He is also a holy God of justice (Deuteronomy 32:4). The Holy Scriptures are clear that God cannot forgive sins without a sacrifice to pay the full penalty for sins. The Apostle Paul explains that is why a loving God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die and become the final sacrifice (“propitiation”) to save human sins (Matthew 1:21). Jesus Christ voluntarily took the full penalty due for our sins, God’s wrath, and died for our sins (Romans 3:25-26; see also John 19:30; Hebrews 2:17). In other words, Jesus Christ bore the sinful weight of millions upon millions of people on Cross and took on God’s wrath and fury for our sins. Therefore, there are no more penalties for sin left to pay.

And He did not enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, He has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by His own death as a sacrifice. And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for Him. Hebrews 9:25-28 (NLT)

As the final sacrifice for human sins, Jesus Christ's death brings our eternal redemption, salvation, rescue, and restoration (Romans 8:1-4; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Peter 1:18-19). In other words, Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross became our rescue by ransom because His death paid the price to free and deliver us from sin, death, and condemnation (Romans 3:24; Galatians 4:4-5; Colossians 1:14). Even more, Jesus Christ's death was God's way of reuniting and reconciling us humans to Himself and overcoming His own anger and hostility towards us that our previous sins had caused (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Colossians 1:20-22).

Apostle John:  I am telling you this so that you will stay away from sin. But if you sin, there is someone to plead for you before the Father. His Name is Jesus Christ, the One who is all that is good and who pleases God completely. He is the One who took God’s wrath against our sins upon Himself and brought us into fellowship with God; and He is the forgiveness for our sins, and not only ours but all the world’s. 1 John 2:1-2 (TLB)

The Cross propitiated (or satisfied) God’s anger and wrath against human sins by atoning (expiating) our sins and so removing them from God’s sight (see Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10). God’s holiness and righteousness demands punishment for human sin. Therefore out of love, God sent His one and only Son into the world to make a substitutionary atonement for human sin for all who believe (1 John 4:10; John 3:16). In His sacrificial suffering, Jesus Christ assumed or absorbed our sinful identity and endured our just punishment for sin (Galatians 3:13). In other words, Jesus Christ became our sin and took our punishment from God for our sins (Colossians 2:14; cf. Matthew 27:37; Isaiah 53:4-6; Luke 22:37). God placed our sins and shame on Jesus Christ while He was on Calvary’s Cross (see Isaiah 53:6, 12; 1 Peter 2:24). In this way, God the Father’s wrath against sin was satisfied because His wrath against our sins has been turned away and directed to His own Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 3:25). There was no other way for our loving God to save humans than for Jesus Christ to die in our place on Calvary’s Cross. Here, we see the amazing love of both God the Father and Jesus Christ in redemption of human beings. Therefore, God’s love and justice are equally revealed in the atonement – Jesus Christ’s life and sacrificial death.

Apostle Paul:  When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Romans 5:6-11 (NLT)

Through FAITH and acceptance in Jesus Christ’s life and sacrificial death, God becomes favorably disposed toward us and we are declared righteous and holy by God (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Philippians 3:9). Because the penalty for our sins has been entirely paid by Jesus Christ on the Cross, we have no remaining fear of condemnation or punishment (Romans 8:1-4). This transaction is often called “the great exchange” or “marvelous exchange” – our sin for Jesus Christ’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21 see also Romans 5:19; Galatians 2:16). Our sins were poured into Jesus Christ at His sacrificial death and His righteousness is poured into us at our acceptance of His life and death for our sins.

And He took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He (Jesus) gave it to them (disciples) and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is My blood, which confirms the covenant between God and His people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. Matthew 26:27-28 (NLT)

Most important, Jesus Christ's atoning death confirmed the beginning of a new covenant (relationship) between God and His people. Under this new covenant, we humans now have full access to God under all circumstances as guaranteed by Jesus Christ's final sacrifice that covers all our sins – past, present, and future (Matthew 26:27-28; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 9:14-15, 26; Hebrews 10:12-18; 1 John 4:10). In other words, we humans can approach God directly through faith because Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice and death has made us righteous, holy, and acceptable in God's eyes (Romans 3:21-24; see also Romans 5:18; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Peter 2:24).

Apostle Paul:  For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when He held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for He was looking ahead and including them in what He would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for He Himself is fair and just, and He declares sinners to be right in His sight when they believe in Jesus. Romans 3:23-26 (NLT)

Forgiveness through Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice is not limited to one particular group only. God’s forgiveness has worldwide applications (John 1:29). Jesus Christ was our sinless and spotless Passover Lamb of the world (Isaiah 53:7; Hebrews 9:28) offered for the sins of ALL people (John 1:29; Revelation 5:6-14). To receive God’s forgiveness, all we have to do is turn from our sins, receive Jesus Christ's forgiveness, and wholeheartedly commit our lives to Him (John 3:16; 1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:4-10). Through faith and acceptance of Jesus Christ’s atoning work, we have “received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11) with God and become “the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In Jesus Christ, we are now forgiven, cleansed, and declared righteous. Because of Jesus Christ’s selfless, sacrificial death, He is SUPREME above all!

Apostle Paul:  Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we cannot see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through Him and for Him. He existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is His body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So He is first in everything. For God in all His fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through Him God reconciled everything to Himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the Cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were His enemies, separated from Him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now He has reconciled you to Himself through the death of Christ in His physical body. As a result, He has brought you into His own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before Him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Do not drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it. Colossians 1:15-23 (NLT)

The sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ has so many benefits. First, faith in Jesus Christ’s blood removes our guilt and shame before a loving and holy God. Also by the blood of Jesus Christ, we are cleansed and purified (Hebrews 9:14). “The blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out” (Hebrews 9:14, MSG). Moreover, we gain full access to God in worship and prayer through Jesus Christ’s sacrificial blood (Hebrews 10:19). Finally through Jesus Christ’s blood, we are increasingly cleansed from remaining sin (1 John 1:7; see also Revelation 1:5); we are able to defeat evil (Revelation 12:10-11); and we are saved from our sinful way of life (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Apostle Peter: For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered. He left His case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in His body on the Cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed. 1 Peter 2:21-24 (NLT)

Jesus Christ’s sacrificial life and death was part of God's loving plan (Matthew 16:21-23; Luke 24:25-27, 44-47) and was purposed to save humans (Matthew 20:28; 26:28). God replaced all the Old Testament ritual requirements for sacrifice by Jesus Christ’s final sacrifice on the Calvary’s Cross, which wipes away our sins (Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 10:14-18). The only sacrifices now required of believing Christian are those of praise and thanksgiving, which take the form of worship in spirit and in truth and obedience to Jesus Christ’s teaching (Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 13:15-16; 1 Peter 2:5). In essence, God calls us to demonstrate our thankfulness for Jesus Christ’s self-sacrifice by leading lives of love, goodness, holiness, truth, and mercy – just like Jesus Christ!

Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994.
Packer, J.I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Carol Stream, IL:  Tyndale House Pub., 1993.

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