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Lesson 3: The Death of the God-Man
Since the day that God created man, God has always loved man and desired to bless him.
But man's rebellion and sin raised a great barrier that blocked God's blessing. The prophet Isaiah wrote,
"Your iniquities [sins] have separated between you and your God." (Isaiah 59:2)
It was the Son of God Himself who came to deal with this great barrier of sin which stood in the way of God's blessing men. He came to remove this barrier in a way that would glorify God. The Bible says that He is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." (John 1:29)
Two Aspects of Christ's Death
There are two aspects of Christ's death on the cross. One aspect relates to us, and the other aspect relates to God.
The aspect of Christ's death which relates to us is called "substitution." This simply means that Christ was our substitute—He took our place and died for our sins. The Bible says,
"The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6)
The other and more important aspect of Christ's death is that which relates to God. It is called "propitiation." Propitiation means that Christ, by His death on the cross, completely satisfied God's righteous wrath against sin.
The righteousness of God must always be against sin. On the cross Christ bore God's righteous judgment against sin. The Bible says,
"He is the propitiation [perfect sacrifice] for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2)
Why couldn't God just Forgive Us?
Many people do not understand why Jesus died on the cross. They say, "Why couldn't God just forgive us? Why did Jesus have to die?"
The reason why God could not "just forgive us" is that He is absolutely righteous. God has His ways of doing things, and righteousness is always His way.
Whatever God does, He does in perfect righteousness. The Bible says,
"The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works." (Psalm 145:17)
In the matter of our salvation, God was seemingly faced with a most difficult problem. He loves us and desires to save us, but He must save us in a way that no man, no angel, no demon and not even the devil himself can criticise. Above all, God must save us in a way that completely satisfies Him.
Many years ago there was a courtroom judge in a large city who was much loved by the people of that city. They loved the judge because he was a righteous judge. He carried out the laws fairly and could not be bribed or persuaded to do wrong. The people also loved him because he was merciful and kind; he loved the people.
One day a man was brought into the courtroom, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. The judge asked, "Are you guilty?" The man answered, "Yes, your honour, I stole the bread, but I was hungry and I had no money."
The judge said, "I am in sympathy with you, sir, but you have broken the law. There is a fine for stealing. You must pay the fine or go to jail."
The old man said, "I have no money."
The judge looked down at the man with compassion. Then he did a wonderful thing. He laid aside his robes as a judge and came down to where the man was standing. Placing his hand upon the man's shoulder, he said, "Sir, as your judge I had to fine you, but as your friend, I am going to pay your fine for you."
The judge paid the man's fine in full and gave the man some additional money.
No one could accuse the judge of being unrighteous. He had carried out the law; yet, at the same time, he had shown love and mercy.
We are like that man who broke the law and could not pay. God could not overlook our sins. To do so would be unrighteous. Yet He loves us and wants to save us.
We can see that there are four factors in the "problem" before God:
1. We have sinned.
2. We, therefore, should perish.
3. God loves us and wants to save us.
4. God cannot be unrighteous.
How did God solve this "problem"? God solved the problem of our sins by the One who came forth from Himself. His beloved Son took our place and paid the full penalty for our sins. The Bible says,
"For He [God] has made Him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Christ's Death on the Cross
God wants His people to think and meditate much on the death of His Son. Christ's death on the cross was altogether a most unusual situation. He was the God-man, the only perfect man who ever lived. He perfectly glorified God. He never committed a single sin in His entire life.
Yet this Man, who was a delight to God, died the death of a criminal on a Roman cross. He was forsaken by His friends, His disciples, and by God Himself.
When our sins were laid on Christ, God's wrath against sin was poured out on Him. It is important to understand that God's wrath was not against Christ personally. He was never more precious to the Father than when He hung on the cross, for He was obediently doing His Father's will.
God's wrath was not against sinners. God loves sinners. He loves them so much that He gave His Son to die for them. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…"
What, then, was God's wrath against? God's wrath was against SIN! Christ took our place and He was dealt with according to the place He had taken. God poured out His righteous wrath against sin in the very fullest way possible.
Crucifixion was the most shameful and the most painful death ever devised for a criminal. This horrible death was not for ordinary criminals but for those who have committed the most terrible crimes. Think of the Son of God being put to death in such a shameful manner!
As painful as the physical suffering was, Christ's greatest suffering came from His inward emotions and feelings. He was the holy Son of God; yet He who knew no sin was "made to be sin for us."
No human being can fathom what He suffered in His inner being when He was separated from His Father because of our sins. In His agony He cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt. 28:46)
Jesus was crucified about nine o'clock in the morning. He died about three o'clock in the afternoon. From noon until three o'clock, there was darkness over the face of the earth. Jesus cried out with a loud voice and said, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit." (Luke 23:46) The God-man had died.
Christ's Death Reveals the Righteousness of God
In taking our place and paying the full penalty of our sins, Christ glorified God with respect to our sins. God can now righteously forgive the sins of those who believe on His Son. God does not overlook our sins or pretend that He does not know about them. He forgives them righteously because he sees the blood of His Son which was shed for them.
Our salvation rests on the righteousness of God. God has not forgiven us carelessly; He has forgiven us righteously. No person, no angel, no demon, and not even the devil himself can ever accuse God of being unrighteous.
Most important of all, God Himself is perfectly satisfied with the salvation which He has provided for us.
Christ's Death Reveals the Love of God
God loves sinners. The Bible says that He is "not willing that any should perish." (2 Peter 3:9) God showed His great love for us by giving His Son to die for our sins. The Bible says,
"God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
The death of Christ on the cross is the great, eternal proof of God's love for us. To those who doubt His love, God points to the cross and says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love. I showed My love for you by giving the most precious possession I had. I gave My beloved Son to die in your place. When you look at the cross and see My beloved Son suffering and dying for your sins, how can you doubt My love?"
God so desires that believers know His love that He has given the Holy Spirit to pour out His love in our hearts. The Bible says,
"The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5)
Christ's Death Glorified God
How does one glorify God? No one, not even the Lord Jesus Christ, can add anything to God's glory. How then can one glorify God? The only way anyone can glorify God is by revealing Him as He is.
Christ glorified God by revealing Him in all His glory as a Savior-God. God has been glorified in respect to sin. Christ glorified God by bearing God's just and righteous judgment against sin. In the death of Christ, two things are plainly set forth:
God is a righteous God.
God is a Savior-God.
God said, "There is no God apart from Me, a righteous God and a Saviour." (Isaiah 45:21 NIV)
God's glory is the glory of grace. He delights in forgiveness. By His death on the cross, Christ brought the glory of God into full and everlasting display. Every intelligent creature in the universe will know that God is the holy and righteous One who cannot overlook sin; yet He is the One who loves sinful men so much that He gave His Son to die for them.
Christ's Death Removed the Barrier of Sin
The great barrier of sin which stood in the way of God's blessing man has been removed. The Son became a man that He might remove this barrier by the sacrifice of Himself. The Bible says,
"But now once in the end of the world He [Christ] appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." Hebrews 9:26
God is now offering full and free forgiveness of sins to every person through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. God is saying to the sinner, "I have demonstrated My love for you by giving My beloved Son to die in your place. He has removed the great barrier of sin that stood between us. The moment you put your faith in My Son and in His blood which was shed for your sins, I will forgive you of all your sins." The Bible says,
"To Him [Christ] all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission [forgiveness] of sins." Acts 10:43
What must I do to be Saved?
We are not saved by what we do for God, but by what Christ has done for us.
The Son of God has been in the world to deal with our sins. We could commit sins, but we could not put them away. It took the Son of God to do this. He came in love and grace to do it, and He did it. The Bible says, "He is the propitiation [perfect sacrifice] for our sins."
All the value of Christ's work is in Christ Himself. If you want the benefit of His work, you must go to Him, believing that He died for your sins.
A simple illustration may help us understand this. A medical student spends untold hours studying his books. He spends much time in practical training, doing procedures, working in hospitals, preparing himself for his future practice.
When all of that work is finished, he becomes a licensed medical doctor. All the value of the work resides in the person who has done it. If you want the benefit of his long study and experience, you must go to him—the person who did the work.
So it is in the matter of salvation. All the value of Christ's work resides in the glorious Person who did it—Christ Himself. If you want the benefit of Christ's work, you must go to Him, trusting Him as your Saviour. You can do this with a prayer like this:
"Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I am truly sorry for my sins. I believe that You are the Son of God and that You shed Your precious blood for my sins. Please come into my heart and forgive me of my sins. Right now I am taking You as my Saviour."
* By his death on the cross, Christ removed the great barrier of sin which stood between God and man.
* God now righteously forgives the sinner who puts his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The foundation of God's great salvation is the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross. In His death on the cross, Christ glorified God with regard to our sins.
Is God satisfied with the salvation which He has provided for us? Yes, He is completely satisfied with it. God's love is perfectly expressed in the cross of Christ, and His righteousness is perfectly satisfied. The death of Christ on the cross is God's masterpiece because it enables God to save people righteously.
Whether or not we have confidence and boldness before God depends largely on whether or not we understand the righteousness of God. Many of God's children are not clear on this point. They think that they were forgiven purely because God felt sorry for them and had mercy on them.
God did indeed feel sorry for sinners and have mercy on them, but His great salvation is based on His righteousness. The apostle Paul said,
"I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes…For therein is the righteousness of God revealed…" Romans 1:16-17
God has given to us His Son, who has paid the penalty of sin for us. Since Jesus Christ paid the penalty of sin for us, God is bound to forgive all who come to Him through Christ. To do otherwise would be unrighteous, and God can never be unrighteous.
We know that we are saved by God's grace, but God's grace comes to us through His righteousness. It may be said that God's righteousness is the "channel" through which His grace comes to us. The Bible says,
"As sin has reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 5:21
Knowing that God is perfectly righteous in forgiving us gives us great confidence and boldness before God. We do not look at ourselves—what we are or how we may feel—but we depend on the unchangeable righteousness of God. Anyone who really knows God is bold before Him, because he know that God has forgiven him righteously.