Thus far we have looked at both the actual playing out of the crucifixion historically and some of its prophetic fulfillment.
· Last week we specifically saw John’s one thousand year old prophetic connection between Jesus and David.
· The connection was found in Psalm 69.
· We saw that Psalm 69 gave us a “type” for the Righteous Sufferer in David.
o Jesus perfectly fulfilled this “type”.
· We also so that Psalm 69 had a “sour wine” connection with Jesus.
· Both David and Jesus as Righteous Sufferers were mocked and “sour wine” was used to do the mocking.
· Today we will examine the theological/spiritual significance of the cross.
1) IT IS FINISHED
John 19:28–30 (ESV) — 28After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
When Jesus spoke the words, “It is finished” (vs. 30), an obvious question presents itself.
· What is finished?
· Putting ourselves in the shoes of Jesus’ followers who were present at the cross, we can speculate that they would have been tempted to fear that all hope was finished.
After all, they had just witnessed:
· The death of their Messiah.
· The death of their King
· The death of their Rabbi.
· The death of the Son of God.
· The death of a dear friend.
Yet we know that Jesus’ words were not a “cry of defeat” – D.A. Carson.
· And in three days, Jesus’ followers would also know it as well.
· His words were a “cry of victory”.
With the completed work of Jesus on the cross, at least three things were accomplished (there were many more of course).
· (1) Jesus had completed the Father-given mission of bearing witness to the truth.
o John 18:37 (ESV) — 37b …For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.
· (2) He finished laying the groundwork for the now and not yet Kingdom of God.
o Historical Jesus scholar Dale Allison puts it like this, “Jesus’ death marked the beginning of the fulfillment of eschatological expectation…the birth of the new era” – DJG.
o Jesus Himself said He must die so that He could send the Holy Spirit (John 16:7).
· (3) The Atonement
We are going to dive deeper into the third of these three – the atonement.
Jesus’ own words introduce us to His thoughts about the atonement.
· Mark 10:45 (ESV) — 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
· John 12:32 (ESV) — 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
Paul’s words, the earliest written words we have from Christianity, agree with Jesus’ – not surprisingly.
· Romans 4:25 (ESV) — 25 who was delivered up for our trespassesand raised for our justification.
· 1 Corinthians 15:3 (ESV) — 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
So having seen briefly that both Jesus and Paul saw the work on the cross as essential for the atonement, let’s see what exactly the atonement is.
2) THE ATONEMENT – JESUS’ WORK ON THE CROSS
What is the atonement?
· “The atonement is the work Christ did in his life and death to earn our salvation”– Wayne Grudem.
· “By offering himself as a sacrifice, by substituting himself for us, actually bearing the punishment that should have been ours, Jesus appeased the Father and effected a reconciliation between God and humanity” – Millard Erickson.
Why is it so important?
· “The atonement is the crucial doctrine of the faith. Unless we are right here it matters little, or so it seems to me, what we are like elsewhere” – Leon Morris as quoted by Millard Erickson.
· This is because the atonement is where the love, justice and holiness of the Father and the depravity of man find resolution in the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
· So how one views God’s love, justice and holiness and how one views the extent of man’s depravity affects how one views what happened on the cross.
Millard Erickson teases out the implications of a right or wrong view of the atonement as follows:
· “If God is a very holy, righteous, and demanding being, then humans will not be able to satisfy him easily, and it is quite likely that something will have to be done on humans’ behalf to satisfy God. If, on the other hand, God is an indulgent, permissive Father who says, “We have to allow humans to have a little fun sometimes,” then it may be sufficient simply to give them a little encouragement and instruction. If Christ is merely a human being, then the work that he did serves only as an example; he was not able to offer anything on our behalf beyond his perfect example of doing everything he was required to do, including dying on the cross. If, however, he is God, his work for us went immeasurably beyond what we are able to do for ourselves; he served not only as an example but as a sacrifice for us…If humans are basically spiritually intact, they probably can, with a bit of effort, fulfill what God wants of them. Thus, instruction, inspiration, and motivation constitute what humans need and hence the essence of the atonement. If, however, humanity is totally depraved and consequently unable to do what is right no matter how much they wish to or how hard they try, then a more radical work had to be done on their behalf.”
3) WHY WAS THE ATONEMENT NECESSARY?
God didn’t have to save us.
· The atonement was not necessary.
· God was not lonely, lacking love and fellowship – all were perfectly present in the Trinity.
· So, He could have simply dealt with us the way He did with sinful angels.
· 2 Peter 2:4 (ESV) — 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;
But God did choose to reconcile believers to Him.
· In His grace and mercy, He desired to invite us into the eternal fellowship of the Trinity – Father, Son, Spirit.
· So having freely chosen to do this, we have to ask the following question.
Why was Christ’s work on the cross necessary, can’t an all powerful God just forgive our sins?
· There are many reasons why the cross was necessary.
· We will look at just a few.
· We will organize them into God-Centered reasons and Man-Centered reasons.
1) Jesus Says So
· Matthew 26:39 (ESV) — 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
· Wayne Grudem says of this passage that if Christ was to accomplish what the Father had sent Him to accomplish, then “it was not possible for Jesus to avoid the death on the cross”.
· Jesus also alludes to the necessity of the cross on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24:25–26 (ESV) — 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these thingsand enter into his glory?”
· John 12:27 (ESV) — 27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have cometo this hour.
2) God’s Holiness
· The very nature of God’s holiness required action to be taken that believers might be reconciled.
· Millard Erickson puts it like this, “The nature of God is perfect and complete holiness. This is not an optional or arbitrary matter; it is the way God is by nature. Being contrary to God’s nature, sin is repulsive to him. He is allergic to sin, so to speak. He cannot look upon it.”
· The presence of sin could no more exist in fellowship with a holy God than there could be a square circle.
The holiness of God is so absolute and unrelenting it can seem oppressive.
· The story of David and Uzzah demonstrates this for us.
· 1 Chronicles 13:9–11 (ESV) — 9 And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled. 10 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God. 11 And David was angry because the Lord had broken out against Uzzah.
· R.C. Sproul tells us, “Uzzah assumed that his hand was less polluted than the earth. But it wasn’t the ground or the mud that would desecrate the ark; it was the touch of man.”
· God’s holiness and our depravity are oil and water; they can’t be mixed and God’s holiness can’t be diluted.
3) God’s Covenant
· Our God is a covenant God.
· And the new covenant of Jeremiah 31 “will be dependent on [God’s] performance rather than [ours]” – Michael Horton.
· Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV) — 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Jesus’ work on the cross was part of this new covenant action of God.
· And as with the Mosaic covenant, the new covenant was to be sealed with the shed blood of an acceptable sacrifice.
· Hebrews 9:22b (ESV) — 22b …and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
· John 1:29 (ESV) — 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
So as we pivot from these God-Centered reasons to some Man-Centered reasons for the atonement, we have to appreciate and recognize something absolutely foundational.
· The atonement had meaning for us first and foremost because it had meaning between Jesus and the Father.
· “The primary emphasis and the primary influence of Christ’s work of redemption is not on us, but on God the Father” – Wayne Grudem.
· Millard Erickson also argues that the direct effects of the atonement were first on God the Father and then on believers.
o He says that firstly, “Christ died to satisfy a principle in the very nature of God the Father.”
When the Father’s wrath was satisfied and justice was secured, Jesus’ work on the cross could save believers.
· Jesus first had to accomplish the work required by the Father.
· And only then could the Holy Spirit apply Jesus’ work to us.
· This is called the economy of salvation.
Now we can look at some Man-Centered reasons for the atonement.
In addition to the necessity of the atonement as cited above, there also exist at least 5 perils of the human condition that necessitated action from God (1stfour from Wayne Grudem).
· (1) We deserve to die as the penalty for sin.
· (2) We deserve to bear God’s wrath against sin.
· (3) We are separated from God by our sins.
· (4) We are in bondage to sin and to the kingdom of Satan.
· (5) We fall short of the glory of God.
How did the cross remedy the five aforementioned perils?
Five Perils Remedied by the Cross:
The 5 perils of the human condition were remedied for believers by Christ’s work on the Cross in the 6 ways.
(a) Sacrifice – Hebrews 9:26 (ESV) — 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
· “To pay the penalty of death that we deserved because of our sins, Christ died as a sacrifice for us” – Grudem.
· Hebrews also shows Christ “as the high priest who entered into the Holy Place to offer sacrifice. But the sacrifice Christ offered was not the blood of goats and calves, but his own blood” – Erickson.
· The priests offered sacrificed year after year but the nature of Christ’s sacrifice made it necessary only one time.
· “What is unique about Christ’s sacrifice, and very important to keep in mind, is that Christ is both the victim and the priest who offers it” – Erickson.
(b) Propitiation – 1 John 4:10 (ESV) — 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
· “To remove us from the wrath of God that we deserved, Christ died as a propitiation for our sins” – Grudem.
· A propitiation is an appeasement and removal of God’s wrath from believers; Christ took believer’s wrath on Himself.
· “‘Propitiation’ is a reminder that God is implacably opposed to everything that is evil, that his opposition may properly be described as ‘wrath’, and that this wrath is put away only by the atoning work of Christ” – NBD.
(c) Reconciliation – 2 Corinthians 5:18–19 (ESV) — 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
· “To overcome our separation from God, we needed someone to provide reconciliation and thereby bring us back into fellowship with God” – Grudem.
· “The death of Christ…brings to an end the enmity and estrangement that exist between God and humankind” – Erickson.
(d) Redemption – Mark 10:45 (ESV) — 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
· Because “We as sinners are in bondage to sin and to Satan, we need someone to provide redemption and thereby “redeem” us out of that bondage”, Christ ransomed Himself to destroy that bondage. – Wayne Grudem.
(e) Substitution – 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) — 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
· Galatians 3:13 (ESV) — 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
· “Because he has come to be sin, we have ceased to be sin or sinners” – Erickson.
· Christ took our place literally not symbolically.
(f) Participation – John 17:22–23 (ESV) — 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
· Paul tells us that we fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
· We lack the character and attributes of God – His glory.
· Because of the work of Jesus on the cross, we are afforded the privilege of participating in Jesus’ glory.
· The glory that He shares with the Father.
· Our glory deficit is thus remedied.