Why Christ Came (Part One)

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10 NIV).

I write this during the Christmas season, which remains a major cultural holiday in the western world. Every follower of Jesus the Messiah views Christmas differently from the people of the world. To us, it is more than a cultural holiday. It is the time we remember that the Son of God took on true humanity. The King of all was born in the lowliest circumstances, and his mother Mary made up his first bed in a manger. There the Shepherd of God’s people received his first visitors, a group of shepherds who would go and tell the good news of his birth. To the world, this is a strange story. To those who believe in God through Christ, this was the first step to the great events of the gospel, the good news of Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, ascension,and second coming in glory. We know that the cradle led to the cross and then to the crown. But to accomplish this great purpose, many other purposes were included. Let’s consider them together.

Our first text clearly presents the core purpose that the Father sent his Son to accomplish. God, having decided to rescue his people from eternal ruin, knew what was necessary for our deliverance. A Savior must come to rescue us from the cause and the corruption of our sins. What makes sin such a great evil that a divine Rescuer is needed? Sin is the rejection of God as God, the refusal to love him completely, and rebellion against God and his will and ways. Sin is a heinous crime against the Divine Majesty. Therefore, God sent His one and only Son to do all that was necessary to pay the penalty for our sins and to make us right with him.

To do this, the Son had to become the atoning sacrifice or propitiation for our sins. He had to become what would satisfy God’s righteous wrath against sin and so turn it away from us. To do this he had to be a perfect sacrifice, without spot or blemish, and also powerful enough to absorb the wrath and to provide righteousness by his perfect obedience and sacrifice. Consider what happened when Christ died as the propitiation for our sins. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed… Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief (Isaiah 53:4-5, 10a ESV). Ponder what he suffered from God’s hand and weep for our sins that he died for.

Why did God send his Son to die as an atoning sacrifice for our sin? The simple, and beautiful and truly amazing, answer of the Holy Writings is this. God loved us. He loved sinners, who had rejected him as God, refused to love him with the total love that he deserves, and rebelled against his will and ways. John pushed aside any other reason with the all-encompassing rejection of any suggestion that we loved God. Our salvation is traced back to a single source, the love of God.  Christ came because God loved us. Read that and weep also, but for a more glorious reason. Love sent the Lord of glory as a tiny baby. Love caused him to endure the sufferings of life in this broken world. Love took him finally to a cruel cross. And there, redeeming love showed itself in an atoning sacrifice for our sins. This Christmas, focus on God’s love, regardless of all the brokenness and evil that surround us.

Grace and peace, David

The Sufferings of Christ on the Cross (Part Two)

We are pondering what our Lord and Savior suffered on the cross when he died to save his people, those given to him by the Father, from their sins to eternal glory. This rescue required an almighty deliverer. In the previous article, we thought about the physical pain and death he went through on the cross and the horror of the Holy One bearing all the sins of wicked people like you and me. Now, let us focus on two other aspects of what he endured to save us.

Third, the dearly loved One of the Father knew abandonment

  • Christ faced the suffering of the cross alone, abandoned by humans. His disciples fell asleep when he asked them to pray with him (Mark 14:35-42). When arrested, everyone deserted him and fled (Mark 14:50). Compare this with his great love for them (John 13:1). His enemies mocked him and insulted him (Mark 15:25-32).
  • Far worse was that Jesus the Son of God was forsaken by the Father (Mark 15:33-34). He had enjoyed fellowship with the Father from all eternity, sharing in his glory (John 1:1; 17:5, 24). But on the cross, the Father left the Son to suffer alone.

Christ Jesus bore the wrath of God.

  • Another time, we will take about propitiation, where we will see that in his atonement Christ satisfied the wrath of God. In short, by being our substitute he satisfied and took away God’s righteous anger against our sins.
  • We should observe that in other places the Scriptures say that Christ was stricken and afflicted by God (Isaiah 53:4-5; Mark 14:27); yes, God crushed his Servant Christ and caused him to suffer (Isaiah 53:10-11). Who can tell what it meant for the Omnipotent Father to crush his dearly loved Son for us? Only an equally Omnipotent Son could have borne up under the stroke of holy justice. Without explanation, the Spirit tells us of the suffering of the Servant’s soul (Isaiah 53:11), because who could understand how terrible that suffering was? Here, we would do well to weep and praise the Savior!

Here are some reflections on Christ’s sufferings on the cross.

  • He made a complete payment for what we owed. If we suffered for our own sins, we could never pay the penalty, and we could never attain a perfect righteousness with God. But Jesus, the Son of God was able to pay the penalty in full (John 19:30), so that the Lord declares that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). When Christ died for us on the cross, he paid for us in full once for all (Hebrews 9:25-28).
  • What is the importance of the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19)? It is clear evidence that he died a violent sacrificial death (cf. the classic work by Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross). The shedding of blood is clear evidence that his life was given as a judicial execution. The shedding of his blood clearly connects his death as the fulfillment of all the types and shadows of the sacrificial system of the law or old covenant.
  • The atonement that Christ accomplished should be considered a “penal substitution”. He paid the penalty we owed as our substitute.

Let us bow and give thanks to our wonderful, merciful Savior!

Grace and peace, David