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The Cross of Jesus Christ

Satisfaction for our sins

Scripture Readings

  • Daniel 9:4-19
  • Hebrews 9:11-28

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

I personally favour the terms Day of the Crucifixion and Resurrection Sunday, plainly to steer away from the secular connotations to these very important events on the Christian calendar. For many people these days Good Friday is good because it introduces the first long weekend of the year.  Easter Sunday has lost its meaning in everyday speech because Easter Monday, which has nothing to do with anything in the Scripture makes for an extra long weekend which is and is muddled up with bunnies, eggs and chocolates.  I think it is important that we are very specific about things we believe in.

These two events, Day of the Crucifixion and Resurrection Sunday taken together tell of the total gift of grace in Jesus Christ.  On the Day of the Crucifixion Jesus died on the cross to be our righteousness before God.  On Resurrection Sunday He overcame death to procure a new life for those whom He died on the Day of the Crucifixion.

We do not use the word righteousness loosely and without meaning.  The portion we read from Hebrews 9 has this verse in it:

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22)

Biblical righteousness describes God’s requirement of what is needed for man to come into a relationship with God.  God is righteous and He demands those in relationship with Him to be righteous too.

He, the Righteous One, established a covenant with his people; He lovingly redeemed them, and graciously promised to be their God and the God of their children. This covenant relationship was not dependent on the righteousness, past, present, or future of the people. The Law was an impersonal instrument which found its complement in a righteous leader by whom righteousness was to be advanced, but ultimately God’s demand for righteousness was someone He, the only righteous One, could and would provide.

This doctrine is fundamental to the understanding of salvation. If we don’t understand this correctly we fall into the trap of a DIY religion and we try to work out our own salvation.  Here major division within Christianity starts, and here all other religions oppose the teachings of the Bible.

Righteousness

To be righteous in the eyes of God, then, God needs the kind of satisfaction He prescribes before He will prepared to forgive.  And for God to forgive there is a necessity for someone to be a substitute for those who are by nature unrighteous.

Sir Alister Hardy, a very prominent British Scientist, could not reconcile himself with the idea that God’s righteousness can only be satisfied by a person who would be a substitute for sinful man.  In his book The Divine Flame he states:

“I feel certain that He [Christ] would not have preached to us of a God who would be appeased by the cruel sacrifice of a tortured body.  I cannot accept either the hypothesis that the appalling death of Jesus was a sacrifice in the eyes of God for the sins of the world, or that God, in the shape of his Son, tortured Himself for our redemption.”

And yet, the Bible is clear (unless one deliberately tries to read it other otherwise, or delete certain portions of the Bible):  man cannot satisfy the righteousness of God and man cannot make atonement for himself.  On the way to Calvary we see the Son of God carry the cross; He is tortured, scorned, forsaken; and on the cross He paid the penalty of our sins to purchase our standing in the presence of God.  He is our righteousness before God and He satisfied God’s demands to be blameless and without sin.

The cross did not satisfy the devil

There are some people who argue that we are not in the grip of sin, and therefore under the domain of the devil, but that we are born as children of the devil.  For us to set be free God had to pay a price for Satan.  The price was that Jesus would die on the cross to satisfy the demands of the devil.

This view of course puts the devil in direct opposition to God as far as his power is concerned.  In fact, he is given more power than God, that’s why God then has to pay him to set us free.

Let’s get this straight:  the devil has no right over us.  What he has was given to him by God.  God has no reason to pay him some sort of ransom price for those He wanted to save.  Those who keep on sinning and keep on rejecting the free offer of the Gospel are handed over to Satan.

Further, Christ is God, and no gift to Satan.  Christ defeated Satan because He is more powerful than Satan.  Christ declared that no one can take his life; He lays it down voluntarily, of his own accord.  Christ is not in the hands of Satan, or under his power now that God has paid the ransom price for believers.  The opposite is true:  the devil is bound and thrown into the pit and Christ reigns eternally.

The cross satisfied the curse of law

God is holy and his law is holy, but the law is not something on its own.  It was instituted by God to give us a glimpse on his holiness and righteousness. The demands of the law are the demands of God for holy living.

Daniel, in the chapter we read this morning, prayed this:

  1. He entreats God on the grounds of his covenant grace:  “The awesome God who keeps his covenant of love with all who love Him.”
  2. He confesses his sins and those of the people:  “We have sinned and done wrong.”
  3. He understands that God is righteous and we are unrighteous:  “Lord, You are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame.”  “You have fulfilled the words spoken against us.”
  4. God is gracious:  “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him.”
  5. We deserve God’s punishment:  “The curses of the covenant have been poured out on us.” 
  6. He pleads on the grounds of God’s righteousness, power and faithfulness:  “… our God who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand.”  “In keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath.”
  7. His is not hiding their sin:  “We do not make requests of You because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.”
  8. All about the glory of God:  “For your own sake do not delay.”

The so-called God-delimma

This presents what some people now refer to as God’s dilemma:  God is holy; we know it by his Law and we see it in his covenant stipulations.  On the other hand, man is sinful, unrighteous and deserving of punishment.  God demands righteousness and man in return cannot live righteously.  And God does not turn a blind eye on sin.  Someone puts it this way:  “God cannot abolish that moral constitution of things which He has established.”  God is not fair, for if He was, He would have forgiven us without demanding righteousness. God is not fair; He is righteous and holy, but also gracious.

So how does God solve this so-called dilemma?  Without a sacrifice there is no forgiveness of sin.  Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.  He demanded the High Priest to go into the Most Holy and there sacrifice a perfect lamb and shed the blood of that lamb onto the altar.  Then there was forgiveness.  But the problem was that this had to be repeated over and over again.

This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order. (Hebrews 9:9-10)

There was a cry for something better, something which would last into eternity and satisfy the righteousness of God altogether. This is now what we read about in Galatians 3:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:13-14)

Christ redeemed us from the Law in two ways:  He paid the price of our disobedience to the law, and therefore our rebellion against the righteousness of God, but He also meet the righteousness of God by living in accordance with the Law.  It is only by believing in Him and being clothed in his righteousness that we can be counted righteous as we ourselves accomplished that righteousness.

The cross satisfied the holiness of God

Our relationship with God does not rely independently on us, as if we are making the choice to serve God.  It is the other way round:  God sovereignly makes a covenant with us.  In this covenant He makes the rules and sets down the standards of living in relationship with Him.  We owe Him everything because He redeems us and promises to be our Father.  We sin when we do not serve Him rightly.  We take from his glory and want it for ourselves.  Sin is an insult to the holiness of God.  The problem then is that all of us have sinned.  We need to repay God and give him honour and glory, but sin robbed us from that possibility.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23)

If we are to be forgiven, we must repay what we owe.  John Stott writes:

“Our present obedience and good works cannot make satisfaction for our sins, since these are required of us anyway.  So we cannot save ourselves.  Nor can any other human being save us.”

The only possible way out of this human dilemma is that there is no one who can make this satisfaction, except God Himself; but no one ought to make it except man, otherwise man does not make satisfaction.

On the cross hangs Jesus Christ:  his name is Jesus, because He is the Saviour born in Bethlehem who grew up in Nazareth and worked in a carpenter’s shop. But his name was also Christ, because He was the Messiah sent by God to bear the iniquities of his people.  When He gave Himself up He did not pay a debt, because He was sinless, but He died for the honour and glory of God.

Daniel prayed:  “For Your sake, O Lord, look with favour.”  The Lord made for Himself a name by saving the people out of bondage, and it is for the glory of that Name that God is called to restore his people by a righteousness only He can provide.

It is for the glory of that Name that Jesus died on the cross.  By nature people hate God and dishonour his Name, but when they find salvation in the cross of Christ, they live for the glory of that Name.  They can do it, because between them and the holy and righteous God stands a holy and perfect Saviour.  Through Christ a living relationship with God is possible, and more than that, it is demanded.

The cross satisfied God

When our Lord died on the cross, and when He cried out, “Why have Thou forsaken me?” God’s anger against sin is played out.

We cannot experience Crucifixion Friday or Resurrection Sunday if we cannot see the anger of God against sin.  God hates sin and in order to satisfy his righteousness against sin, God had to discharge of his anger by condemning do death the sinner.

2Corinthians 5 teaches us:

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:19-21)

Because Christ was made sin for us, God had no choice to bring upon Him the curse which was meant for us.  The wages of sin is death and as such Christ had to die by taking our sins upon Him in order to give us free life in God.

In this sense we learn from the Bible that God is true to Himself:  in order to satisfy Himself, the cross was a necessity. When we then say that Christ “shed his blood” we do not mean that He cut Himself and let some blood; we mean that He gave his life. And that He died. He paid our ransom and satisfied God.  He turned God’s anger upon us into God’s favour now seen in his grace.

Conclusion

Brothers and sister in the Lord, the cross is defining event in history. Without the cross on which our Lord died to become our righteousness there is no peace with God.  There is only eternal fear and punishment as a way by which the righteous and just God will deal with those who rebel against Him.  The Bible is not DIY book instructing us how to work out our salvation.  The Bible is about Christ as the only way to the Father.

These are the things we need to remember this time of Crucifixion Day and Resurrection Sunday. To this Saviour on the cross we must cling.

May God bless us richly.  AMEN.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on The Day of the Crucifixion, 18 April 2014

 

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