Friday, March 21, 2008

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED ON THE CROSS?
...Christ died for God - this is called propitiation

and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance
he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time,
so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
-Romans 3:24-26

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.
-1 John 4:10


The real suffering that Christ endured was not at the hand of Pilate's cat-of-nine-tails with the scorpion hook he brutally inflicted upon our Lord's body. No. But the greatest affliction occurred when on the cross our Lord became our divine substitute for us (2 Cor. 5:21) and took our sin, the penalty and guilt of our sin, and all of the Father's wrath that burns against us and our sin that we deserved. He took it for us! As Isaiah 53 says, "It pleased God to crush Him for our iniquities."

O what majesty in the midst of such suffering; what glory in the midst of such agony; and what grace,love and mercy in the midst of such sinful man's rebellion. Hallelujah to the King of Righteousness this blessed day of our salvation.

And wherever you are today, remember this beloved: that at precisely 3:00pm our Lord cried out from Calvary's tree these eternal words: "IT IS FINISHED!" Never forgot what a wonderful, merciful Savior we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. And He is worthy of our reverence, respect, worship and adoration.


The Cross Displays the Satisfaction of God
-Solus Christus (Christ alone)

One of the key words the N.T. writers use to speak of vicarious penal substitutionary atonement is propitiation (Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2:2, 4:10, Heb. 2:17).

This word carries with it two ideas:
1. to satisfy;
2. to quench, to assuage.
Taken in context, Jesus Christ on the cross took not only the guilt and penalty of our sin, but the full wrath of God for His elect. That is what the Apostles Creed means when it says, "…He [Jesus] descended into hell." Jesus literally didn’t go to hell after He died (the false teachings of the Word/Faith movement), but He endured the full weight of God’s eternal wrath for us as our Federal Head on the cross. And in that manner He “descended into hell…” for all those He came to save.

God's Wrathful Presence
Hell is not simply the absence of God beloved as some would suggest; hell is His wrathful presence being poured out upon all the ungodly, Satan and his demons forever. Listen, hell would be “Club Med” if it were not for the presence of God’s wrath.

This wrath of God that you and I deserve to be poured out upon us in unmitigated gall and ferocity without reprieve was fully poured out upon Jesus on the cross. This is truly miraculous. The sinless Son of Man; the perfect Son of God; the spotless Lamb; and the holy High Priest drank the cup of wrath on our behalf so that we may have peace with God forever. That was the punishment that Christ endured for us; that is penal substitution. This is not “cosmic child abuse” as one (who shall remain unnamed) author refers to it. This is a profound truth and mystery. Whatever eternal wrath comprises, the miracle was that it was compressed into time and poured out on the Son for us as the Father faced the Son and the Son faced the Father and the fullness of His anger was consumed, quenched, and satisfied by the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is what propitiation is:
wrath assuaged and God satisfied.


The sins of the elect (every sin, that would ever be committed, by everyone, who would ever believe) was thrust on Jesus.

The prophet Isaiah in his fourth song of the Suffering Servant, gives us the most graphic picture of this once for all propitiatory sacrifice for our sins:
“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:4-6).
The fullness of the guilt and penalty of ours sins were thrust on Him. And the greatness of my wretched sin and yours would have beeen enough to bear... But it was the burden of the cross, the eternal wrath of a holy God that was poured out upon Jesus Christ. THAT was the cup that only Jesus could drink; that was the cup that He wrestled with in the garden. It was not the cup of death or dying. He wasn’t fearful to walk the way of the cross. Wicked men had gone Golgotha’s way before and were rightly punished for their crimes. Many went laughing, mocking, unafraid, scornful of their insurrections and offenses. They were the worst of criminals deserving to die and punished justly for their crimes.

But not so with the Lord Jesus Christ. He was sinless, holy God incarnate; guilty of no crime that humanly deserved this kind of death sentence. As the Apostle Paul has said, “He who knew no sin, became the sin offering for us; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Only God incarnate, Jesus Christ the Lord, could drink the cup of God's wrath. And He drained it beloved; He drained it to the very dregs and fully redeemed us at Calvary. Christ suffered in our place so that we may have peace with God forever (Rom. 5:1-2). He became, what Paul says in Galatians 3, “a curse for us.”

Christ Died for God
What were we saved from? Our sins? Yes. Hell? Yes. The sting of death? Yes. But those pale in comparison with this profound reality: on the cross, God through Christ saved us from Himself. That’s right – God through Christ saved us from Himself. From His wrath, His holiness, His justice. And Because Jesus Christ fully satisfied God (propitiation) on the cross as our Divine Substitute, we need to never fear of eternal judgment, condemnation, wrath or punishment for our sins. The penalty of our sins have been fully quenched in the once for all vicarious penal substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the Good News of the gospel beloved.

God treated Christ on the cross as if He lived our life, so that we by grace through faith in Him, can be treated as if we lived His life (2 Cor. 5:21). He was clothed with our sin (thought sinless and holy); so that we might be clothed with His righteousness (though are sinners and sinful). That is the great doctrine of imputation.

When the fullness of that wrath was embraced by Jesus on the cross He cried out, "My God, My God, why has thou forsaken Me?" Many commentators think that at this point on the cross that God simply turned His back on His Son in shame for He could not look on sin.

Though sentimental, this view is not biblical.

This belief stems from inaccurate rendering of a verse in Habakkuk 1:13 where the prophet says,
“Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil, And Thou canst not look on wickedness with favor. Why dost Thou look with favor On those who deal treacherously? Why art Thou silent when the wicked swallow up Those more righteous than they?” (NASB) (Emphasis mine).
Notice, it isn’t that God cannot look on sin; but He cannot look on sin with favor. Consider these verses:
Jer. 16:17 "For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes."

Prov. 15:3 "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good."
The Lord “sees” all things continually – including our sin. So the forsaking of Jesus on the cross by the Father couldn’t be something as emotional as God turning His back to His Son because He cannot look on sin.

Again, the key here is that God cannot look on sin with favor, with approval. His holiness demanded a sacrifice; His justice demanded satisfaction; His righteousness required perfection. God had to be satisfied before we as sinners could be justified!

Therefore, Jesus was, as Hebrews 2:17 says,
"that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (emphasis mine).
That phrase "in things pertaining to God" in the Greek is: pros ton theon. It means "face to face with God"; and this occured on the cross. Don't miss this amazing picture of redemption: the Son faced the Father from the cross; and the Father faced His Son on the cross; and He poured out upon Him the eternal wrath that we deserve in hell forever.

"Amazing love how can it be..." Amen?

Christ was absolutely forsaken; He bore our sin, its guilt, penalty, and shame. And He bore the wrath of God that burns against us. He drank the cup of wrath; He became the curse for us; he endured the shame of the cross for the joy set before Him; He was bruised, crushed, chastined for our iniquities. Once again beloved... hear this today: the Father faced the Son on the cross; and the Son faced the Father from the cross; and He “bore God’s wrath—all of it” as our divine Substitute in His once for all propitiatory sacrifice on the cross for His own.

When Jesus finally cried, "IT IS FINISHED" what had happened?
  • He had fulfilled the Law;
  • went beyond the veil;
  • satisfied God's wrath;
  • fulfilled all righteousness;
  • exalted grace;
  • took away the guilt and penalty of our sin;
  • destroyed Satan's hold of death;
  • abolished death and its sting;
  • secured for us eternal life;
  • brought us into intimacy with God;
  • instituted a new covenant;
  • and made for us peace with God forever!
Now THAT is a cross we can glory in!

The death of Christ was both a propitiation AND an expiation of sin. Propitiation refers to the turning away of wrath by an offering. God's wrath was satisfied and His justice meted out by Jesus’ once for all sacrifice on the cross. Expiation refers to covering sins and in specific, the guilt of sin. By the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Christ Jesus on the cross, our sins and their penalty are removed from us. The atonement satisfies both the demands of the Father and the needs of Christ's people (1 Pet. 1:2).

As brother Spurgeon can only say:
"When Jesus gave himself for us, he gave us all the rights and privileges which went with himself; so that now, although as eternal God, he has essential rights to which no creature may venture to pretend, yet as Jesus, the Mediator, the federal head of the covenant of grace, he has no heritage apart from us. All the glorious consequences of his obedience unto death are the joint riches of all who are in him, and on whose behalf he accomplished the divine will. See, he enters into glory, but not for himself alone, for it is written, "Whither the Forerunner is for us entered." Heb. 6:20. Does he stand in the presence of God?-"He appears in the presence of God for us." Heb. 9:24.
Can we now say with confidence this day with Paul himself: "If God be for us... who can be against us?"

14 comments:

cyd said...

This is an excellent exposition, Steve. I am really enjoying studying through these series, especially part 4.
It is rare to hear this kind of teaching today - that God was "face to face" with His Son on the cross. It gives a whole new wonderful meaning to picture and text.
Thank you!!

Carla Rolfe said...

I have to agree with Cyd here, this is excellent.

Thank you for the time invested in this.

Tom Chantry said...

I love what you're writing this week Steve. I just this afternoon had time to catch up on it. (You're posting this stuff faster than I can read!) Very good - it warms my soul.

SJ Camp said...

A very grateful thanks to you all for your very kind and encouraging words. They mean much to me this week.

You see, I have been sick for about one week now with a cold/flu bug and it is a slow recovery. When you're not getting much sleep or rest; have little or no energy; five kids to watch over and attend their respective events and school activities; eyes and head aching most of the day, etc. it's hard to see what you are writing can be profitable to others--though the text of God's Word IS powerful and always beneficial to all who read ITS words--regardless of the fittedness of the servant attending to its exposition. Amen?

Praise the Lord that God is not dependent on this vessel of earthen ware to accomplish His great, awesome, and eternal purposes. How wonderful to be used continually in spite of oneself and not because of oneself.

One or two more installments to follow on this great theme of "Orthodoxy: A Theology of the Cross."

I so admire, love, stand in awe, and crave this passage of Scripture (Roms. 3:21-31); mining its truth is humbling indeed. Writing about it is even a greater lesson in humility. "Oh the depth of the riches of God..."

Grace and peace to you all.
Seeing through a glass dimly...
Steve
2 Cor. 4:5

Bhedr said...

Much pressure often causes the quill to write for itself and so we have more of Christ and less of Steve. Very encouraging. If God be for us who can be against us. Amen.

Season_in_His_refinery said...

P.F.Y., brother....

(...and may the Eagles get their wings clipped this evening).

Debbie said...

Over the past few days I’ve been reminded in such concrete ways of the sacrificial nature of God’s undeserved love poured out in Christ …to know that we have been pardoned and no longer stand condemned (Romans 8:1) … to know that each day, because our risen Lord is interceding on our behalf before the Father (Romans 8:34), we can walk in confidence, receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16) …to know the sufficiency of His grace; His power made perfect in our weakness (II Cor. 12:9).

“I hear my Savior say, ‘thy strength indeed is small,
Child of weakness, watch and pray; find in Me thine all in all.

For nothing good have I whereby Thy grace to claim,
I’ll wash my garments white in the blood of Calvary’s Lamb.

JESUS PAID IT ALL, ALL TO HIM I OWE,
Sin had left a crimson stain; He washed it white as snow.”

Because of His lovingkindness,
Debbie
Psalm 86:5

Douglas said...

"Amazing love how can it be..." Amen?"

That God died? That God died upon the cross? Really? Truly?

Who was looking after things while God was dead?

Who is the picture of in your post? Whose image is it? The God-man? Is that what He looks like?

I am starting to wonder if Christianity is true or not. I really am struggling.

Douglas said...

I asked the pyromaniacs if God can die and their answer did not satisfy. They jumped on me for even asking the question. So I never did get a clear answer from them whether God died or not.

Can God die?

"If God is immutable, can He die? The obvious answer is no. Then why do so many Christians speak as if God could die?

Many hymns mention the death of God on the cross. Charles Wesley wrote a hymn entitled "And Can It Be" in which the lyrics express amazement and delight that our God has died for us.

Did God die on the cross? Really? Was there a moment in human history when the Lord God Omnipotent was deceased? In the darkest hour of Calvary was heaven suddenly vacant? Did God pass out of existence?

What would happen to the universe if the heart of God skipped a single beat? The universe not only was created by God but is sustained moment to moment by His power. If God were dead for one second, the world would collapse. The sun would vanish; the trees would vaporize, and no one would survive for an instant to behold it. If God died, the world would perish with Him.

Would it be better, perhaps, to say that part of God died on the cross-the Second Person of the Trinity, the divine Logos, was slain on the cross, but the world didn't perish because the Father and the Spirit were still intact? No, this is improper also. If God is three in One and only one of the three Persons died, the unity and immutability of God's essence would be destroyed. If the unity of His essence were destroyed, He would cease to be God.

Why, then, do Christians speak of God's dying on the cross? Jesus did die on the cross. Jesus was the God-man. If Jesus was God and Jesus died on the cross, it does seem logical to say God died on the cross.

Again, we must distinguish the two natures of Jesus without separating them. Human natures can die, but divine natures cannot die. Death affected Jesus' human nature. The perfect humanity of Christ was slain on the cross. That perfect humanity was in perfect union with the deity of Christ. That does not mean, however, that the deity died. The perfect union between the two natures continued even in death. The difference was that the Second Person of the Trinity was perfectly united with a human corpse rather than with a living man." ~ pages 89-90 "The Character of God, Discovering The God Who Is" by R. C. Sproul

How can Jesus be God and man?
"Another example is Christ's death. God cannot die. We should never speak of Christ's death as the death of God. But humans can die, and Jesus' human nature did die. Thus, even though Jesus' divine nature did not die, we can still say that the Person of Christ experienced death because of the union of the two natures in the one Person of Christ. Because of this, Grudem says, "by virtue of union with Jesus' human nature, his divine nature somehow tasted something of what it was like to go through death. The person of Christ experienced death."[7] - John Piper
(7. Grudem, p. 560.)

One of the pyromaniacs quoted Acts 20:28 which in many translations of the Scriptures it is not translated correctly and should be clearly translated like it is in the RSV Bible: "Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son." Acts 20:28 was used at the beginning of one of the sessions at the Shepherds conference recently plus they played the tune of "How Can it Be" at the end of one of the sessions but I am not sure if they sang the whole thing. Acts 20:28 in many translations reads this way: "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." (NKJV) I believe that is not the correct reading of that verse.

20:28 with His own blood. The phrasing is remarkable in the way it acknowledges that the blood of Christ is the blood of God. Many ancient manuscripts have a different word order, reading "the blood of His own," that is, of Christ. (The New Geneva Study Bible, NKJV, now called The Reformation Study Bible)

20:28 with His own blood. See note on 1 Pet. 1:18 Paul believed so strongly in the unity of God the Father and the LORD Jesus Christ that he could speak of Christ's death as shedding the blood of God-who has no body (John 4:24, cf. Luke 24:39) and hence no blood. (MacArthur Study Bible)

So it was the humanity of Jesus Christ that died, not His deity? It was His humanity that shed blood not His deity? So God did not, does not die or shed blood if He has no body or blood?

Douglas said...

Is R. C. Sproul correct?

THE FAMOUS HYMN OF THE CHURCH "AND CAN IT BE?" CONTAINS A LINE THAT ASKS A VERY POIGNANT QUESTION: "HOW CAN IT BE THAT THOU, MY GOD, SHOULDST DIE FOR ME?" IS IT ACCURATE TO SAY THAT GOD DIED ON THE CROSS?

This kind of expression is popular in hymnody and in grassroots conversations. So although I have this scruple about the hymn and it bothers me that the expression is there, I think I understand it, and there's a way to give an indulgence for it.

We believe that Jesus Christ was God incarnate. We also believe that Jesus Christ died on the Cross. If we say God died on the Cross, and if by that we mean that the divine nature perished, we have stepped over the edge into serious heresy. In fact, two such heresies related to this problem arose in the early centuries of the Church: theopassianism and patripassianism. The first of these, theopassianism, teaches that God Himself suffered death on the Cross. Patripassianism indicates that the Father suffered vicariously through the suffering of His Son. Both of these heresies were roundly rejected by the Church for the very reason that they categorically deny the very character and nature of God, including His immutability. There is no change in the substantive nature or character of God at any time.

God not only created the universe, He sustains it by the very power of His being. As Paul said, "In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). If the being of God ceased for one second, the universe would disappear. It would past out of existence, because nothing can exist apart from the sustaining power of God. If God dies, everything dies with Him. Obviously, then, God could not have perished on the Cross.

Some say, "It was the second person of the Trinity who died." That would be a mutation within the very being of God, because when we look at the Trinity we say that the three are one in essence, and that though there are personal distinctions among the persons of the Godhead, those distinctions are not essential in the sense that they are differences in being. Death is something that would involve a change in ones being.

We should shrink in horror from the idea that God actually died on the cross. The atonement was made by the human nature of Christ. Somehow people tend to think that this lessens the dignity or the value of the substitutionary act, as if we were somehow implicitly denying the deity of Christ. God forbid. It's the God-man Who dies, but death is something that is experienced only by the human nature, because the divine nature isn't capable of experiences death. pages 158-161 The Truth of the Cross by R. C. Sproul (emphasis mine)

John D. Chitty said...

Douglas,

Perhaps the lines get blurry when we see in Scripture the human Christ receiving worship as God. Though I heartily agree Christ's divine nature remained immutably the source of life while his human nature suffered and died on the cross, it is largely because of this act that we worship Christ, and indeed, it is because of the crucifixion and resurrection of the Son's human nature that our worship is received. So, even though I get your point that, technically, God didn't die on the cross, the One who is in his entirety (both divine and human natures), my God and Savior, who receives my worship along with the Father and the Spirit, did.

Interesting point. Thanks for bringing it up.

John D. Chitty said...

I wouldn't say that it would be error or heresy to point at the human form of Jesus (since it's the image of the invisible God) and say, "He's my God."

The human and divine natures are distinct, yet they are one, kind of like the trinity.

Just thought I'd throw that in.

I'm from Geneva, and I'm here to help! :)

candyinsierras said...

Yesterday, on Friday, I ended the school day by reading from the scriptures to my fourth and fifth grade students about the journey of Jesus to the cross. It was a fitting way to end the week and start the week of Easter break. My class was silent and sober minded during the reading.Thanks for posting on the cross.

Strong Tower said...

It pleased the father to bruise him. This word also is used to mean humbled. But, it also comes from a root that means to grind, and also powder. The depths of the death of Christ goes back, way back to: By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” cf. Genesis 2.7.

It all had to be made again. The wrath of God poured out on Christ who stood in the place of humanity, taking the grinding down to the very substance from which man was drawn upon himself, to the very undoing of the creative work of God, so that it could be made a new creation.

Awesome love.