Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Bible Doctrine Series-The Death of Christ
The death of Christ is the heart of the Gospel and in a sense is the central theme of Scripture. The Fact of the Death of Christ. 1. In Types and symbols. a. The Old testament sacrificial system—Romans 3:21. b. The coats of skin—Genesis 3:21. c. Abel’s lamb—Genesis 4:4. d. The offering of Isaac—Genesis 22. e. The brazen serpent—Numbers 21; cf. John 3:14-15. f. The Passover lamb—Exodus 12; cf. John 1:29. 2. In Prophecies. a. The seed of the woman—Genesis 3:15. b. The Sufferer of Psalm 22. c. The Sufferer of Psalm 69. d. The suffering servant—Isaiah 52:13-53:12. e. The cut-off Messiah—Daniel 9:24-26. f. The smitten shepherd—Zechariah 13:7. 3. In the Preaching of John the Baptist—John 1:29. 4. In the Teaching of Christ Himself. For the first two years or so of Jesus’ ministry He stressed the Kingdom of God and the need to prepare for that great era (Mark 1:14-15). The emphasis of His ministry then was not so much on His death as on His role in the Kingdom. However, there are allusions to the cross (John 2:18-22; 3:14-15; 6:51-56). It was at Casearea Philippi that He first began openly to teach and proclaim His death (Matthew 16:21). This was because the rejection of the Kingdom by Israel and its postponement were inevitable, and Jesus began to prepare His followers for His death and absence. It has been said that “Christ came, not so much to preach the Gospel of His own death, but in order that there might be such a Gospel to preach.” 5. In the Preaching of the Apostles. Acts 2:23; 3:14-15. The Necessity of the Death of Christ. Jesus expressed a compelling need to go to the cross (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31). This was not a necessity or fate since Jesus went voluntarily (John 10:14-18; Ephesians 5:2). Nor was it simply an earnest but erroneous way to induce the coming of the Kingdom (as says Albert Schweitzer). Not the Biblical reasons for the death of Christ. 1. To Fulfill His Own Eternal Purpose. John 12:27; Revelation 13:8; 1 Peter 1:19-20. 2. To Be Obedient To the Will of God the Father. Matthew 26:38-39, 42, 44; Hebrews 10:5-7, 10. Note: Was God under obligation to send Jesus to the cross? God was not under obligation to save sinners; He could have given all the just deserts of sin. But God in grace chose to provide salvation from sin, and thus arose the necessity of accomplishing this purpose through the death of His own Son. It was impossible for even God to save sinners apart from vicarious sacrifice once the decision was made to save sinners. So Jesus died in obedience to God’s will. 3. To Fulfill Prophecy. Matthew 26:52-54; Luke 24:44-46. 4. To Share His Own Eternal Life With Men. John 3:14-15; 12:20-24. The Nature of the Death of Christ. 1. Death in Scripture carries the idea of separation. There are basically two kinds of death; both mean separation and both are the result of sin. Physical death—the separation of the soul and spirit from the body. Spiritual death—the separation of the person from God; the second death is a permanent and final confirmation in spiritual death. Spiritual death is a result of sin and physical death is a result of spiritual death. When Jesus was “made sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21), He experienced both kinds of death. 2. Jesus was separated from God—Matthew 27:46. When Jesus was “made sin,” that is, judicially accounted with our sins (He was not personally polluted with sin), God, as the Righteous Judge, turned His face from Jesus. 3. Jesus’ spirit was separated from His body—Matthew 27:50. The order is first abandonment by the Father, then physical death. Jesus’ literal blood was shed on the cross (John 19:33-34). Although one is not saved by touching the molecules of Christ’s literal blood (if it was even possible), it is not wise or Scriptural to deprecate the literal blood of Jesus (as R. B. Thieme does, for example). The Meaning of the Death of Christ. The meaning of Christ’s death is found in the word “atonement.” Atonement means basically to cover. Sin is covered by the blood of Christ. But what does this mean? Note several factors. 1. The foundations of the Atonement. a. Satisfaction-Romans 3:25-26. God’s perfect and absolute holiness sets up a perfect and absolute standard of right which in turn demands perfect conformity (in motive, disposition, word, thought, deed, etc.) to the standard. Sin is nonconformity or a violation of God’s perfections, and creates guilt that must justly be punished. God’s holy demands are satisfied in this retribution or punishment. This is in the judicial or penal realm (not the emotional). Jesus’ death was the penal satisfaction of God’s wrath on the guilt of sin. b. Substitution. By substitutionary atonement is meant the death of Christ in the place of the sinner. It is sometimes called vicarious atonement. God demands that a sinner pay for his sin (Romans 3:23); He demands satisfaction for sin. Jesus has voluntarily become a substitute for sinners and has suffered the punishment of sin in their stead. Isaiah 53:5-6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18. 2. The Categories of the Atonement. a. Sacrifice—Hebrews 9:26. Sacrifice presupposes guilt. It is an Old Testament idea (based on the sin offering and the entire Levitical sacrificial system), but actually the Old Testament sacrifices were patterned after the yet future sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9:23). Sacrifice brought final expiation of sin. b. Redemption—Ephesians 1:7; Matthew 20:28. (Also has the idea of Ransom). Redemption presupposes bondage. To redeem means to buy out of slavery by the payment of a ransom price. Christ’s death redeems sinners out of the slave market of sin. c. Propitiation—1 John 2:2. Propitiation presupposes wrath. It means to placate, appease or pacify. God’s hold wrath against sinners is pacified by the perfect death of His Son. God’s wrath is based on His holiness and is administered by His justice. Jesus took the just deserts of sin and placated God’s righteous anger. It is not that God’s wrath turns into love. But His wrath having been propitiated, there is a basis or channel for His live (cf. 1 John 4:10). d. Reconciliation—2 Corinthians 5:19. Reconciliation presupposes alienation or enmity. It means that the alienation has been removed and peace and harmony established. Reconciliation affects both God (Matthew 5:23, 24) and man (Romans 5:10). The death of Christ accomplished this reconciliation; it is something that must be received (Romans 5:11). 3. The Efficacy of the Atonement. What gives efficacy to the blood of Christ so that it can satisfy God’s holy demands in the areas of guilt, bondage, wrath and enmity? In other words, what unifies and gives cohesion to the atonement? The answer is obedience. The obedience of Christ is what enables His blood to cleanse from all sin (1 John 1:9). God reckons Christ’s obedience to our account of disobedience. a. Active Obedience. This is the title given by theologians to Christ’s obedience to His Father’s perfect will during His lifetime—Hebrews 5:8. b. Passive Obedience. This is the name given to Christ’s obedience in yielding up His life in death as a satisfaction for sin—Philippians 2:8; Mark 14:36. 4. The Extent of the Atonement. a. It’s Universality. 1) Being infinite, the atonement is sufficient for the sins of the world. John 1:29; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Hebrews 2:9. 2) The atonement made salvation and its blessings available to all. Revelation 22:17. 3) The atonement exerts drawing power on all (commonly called the “general call”). John 12:32; Acts 17:25-27. 4) The atonement brings restraint on sin for all and enables all to do some measure of right and honesty (usually called “common grace”). Matthew 5:45. b. It’s Limitation. There are certain benefits of the atonement that are limited to the elect; i.e., to believers. These are the benefits that are redemptive in nature (or saving in nature). 1) The atonement is efficient only to those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:10. 2) The elect are effectually summoned from death to life (termed the “effectual call”). 1 Corinthians 1:24; John 5:25; Romans 8:28. 3) The elect are efficaciously brought to faith and repentance upon hearing the Word of God (called “efficacious grace”). 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5; 1 Corinthians 1:18. Note: These particular benefits of the atonement do not relieve man’s freedom and responsibility –2 Peter 1:10; Hebrews 12:25. 4) Believers have the certainty of final salvation because of the atonement of Christ. Romans 8:31-39. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.