(The following is taken from the e-book, “How To Find Peace With God (Answers From The Book About Salvation).” If you missed the first part of this series, please Click Here. If you would like to receive the entire e-book (in PDF format), please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
What God Has Done
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)
There may be fewer verses in the Bible more well known than John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” For the Christian, these words bring hope and peace, reminding us of God’s great love for us. They offer a promise of everlasting life, a promise that belongs not only to us, but to the whole world – whosoever believes in Christ. No other verse of Scripture seems to so succinctly encapsulate the work of God on man’s behalf that we might be saved.
But this verse, when considered in isolation from the rest of the Bible, begs a lot of questions. Why is it that God needed to give His only begotten son? How does that keep those who believe in Him from perishing? Why are we perishing in the first place? In the last two chapters, we looked at what man’s problem is: that sin is what separates us from God and the judgment of that sin is the sentence of doom hanging over our heads. We are perishing because we have sinned against a holy God, a God Who is compelled by His own righteousness to judge all sin and wickedness wherever it is found. But how does the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ cancel out the penalty that we are due? How is it that His death gave us life?
Perfect Judge, Perfect Savior
There was a small-town judge whose own own son came before him, on trial for carelessly causing a fire which burned the multimillion dollar factory where he worked to the ground. The evidence against the young man was incontrovertible, the testimony of several witnesses corroborating the reports, the son himself confessing his error through tears of contrition. Everyone present in the gallery waited with bated breath, wondering what the judge would decide.
To his right, the judge looked upon the faces of the owners of the factory, now stripped of their livelihood by a fire that wiped out everything they had owned. These were not just prominent businessmen of the community, these were personal friends of the judge, men with whom he had often enjoyed spending time socially, sharing jokes over dinner at the local steakhouse and joining in rounds of golf at the country club.
To his left, the judge saw the tear-stained face of his sole offspring, a boy whom the entire town knew he loved and cherished above all else. Everyone knew that this judge had invested all of his hope and aspirations into this young man, especially after the passing of the boy’s mother. This son was the only family the judge had, and he loved him very much.
With the factory owners pleading for justice and the son begging for mercy, the tension in the courtroom was palpable as the spectators prepared themselves for a long wait, certain the judge would retire to his chambers for a prolonged deliberation. How would he be able to make such a difficult judgment? If he sided with the factory owners, his son would lose everything he had. Even at that, the meager assets the son possessed came nowhere near the value of what the fire had destroyed. No, the young man’s entire life would be ruined as he would forfeit not only what he had, but most of what he would ever have. And even that would not be enough.
To side with the son and deny the plaintiffs’ petition would be a gross miscarriage of justice. This was, for all intents and purposes, an open-and-shut case. His son’s guilt was utterly undeniable. Having a staunch record of impeccable impartiality, this judge was respected as a no-nonsense purveyor of unbiased justice, his record reflecting a career of reaching prudent verdicts.
As the attorneys for each side completed their closing remarks, many in the courtroom whispered to one another, wondering if this case would be the one to break the judge’s resolve, forcing him to choose between his love for his own flesh and blood over his principles. Either way, it was undeniable that a decision must be made, and the man behind the bench was faced with the unenviable task of choosing between the son he adored and the professional reputation he had worked half his life to achieve.
Audible gasps of disbelief were heard throughout the courtroom when the judge announced that there would be no recess for deliberation. A verdict had been reached and he was ready to hand it down. Without batting an eye, his voice clear and calm, having no sign of the emotional turmoil that was surely churning inside him, the judge sided with the plaintiffs, awarding the full amount of damages. Smiles of unanticipated relief upon their faces, the factory owners and their team of legal counselors briskly shook the hands of one another, congratulating themselves on the fact that it appeared now that some of their losses would be recouped. On the opposite side of the courtroom, the face of the son turned a ghostly white, the realization hitting home that his life would never again be the same, a life that would be now spent in endless servitude to his former employers as he forever chiseled away at an insurmountable debt, the way a solitary miner might hopelessly attempt to chisel away an entire mountain.
“All rise”, the bailiff called out as the judge stood after reading the verdict. As everyone stood to their feet, expecting the the judge to depart through the door behind the bench, the door which led directly to his chambers, they looked at him with curiosity as he removed his robe and hung it over his chair. Now adorned in a typical business suit, a suit not unlike that of many of the trial’s other participants, the judge stepped down from his bench and walked over to his son. After embracing the young man for a moment, the judge sat down in the chair beside him. Every eye in the room was fastened on him as he reached into his pocket and withdrew his checkbook.
No sound but the rhythmic clicking of a clock on the wall and the scribbling noises of pen on paper were heard as the room fell silent, it’s occupants now staring in bewilderment at what this judge was doing. When he finished filling the paper out, the judge handed it to his son and said, “This check is for the total amount of damages. You give it to them, your debt is now paid in full.”
Jesus Christ, Judge And Savior
Jesus Christ is so often thought of as the Savior that many times we forget that He is also the Judge. He is a perfectly just and impartial Judge, a Judge who will no more acquit the guilty than the judge in the story would acquit his guilty son. In order to understand what God has done on our behalf, we must first realize that His love for us is one of His attributes, but so is His righteousness. God is just, and the moment that He just arbitrarily wipes away the guilt of any sin, He ceases to be truly just. Contrary to what many think today, a good and just judge is not a soft and lenient judge. Any judge’s worth is found in his fairness, a fairness that both exonerates the innocent and punishes the guilty.
We live in a day when many judges seem to pride themselves on their lenience and tolerance, mistaking irresponsible dereliction of duty for sensitivity and mercy. But this is not the type of Judge God is. God is not going to turn a blind eye to any sin nor will He let any unconverted sinner slip into Heaven through the cracks. As we previously considered: all sin must be dealt with.
Like the fictional judge in the story, Jesus Christ has stepped down from His seat of judgment in order to sit beside us, paying the debt that we could never pay. He is the Judge Who has found us guilty, but He is also the Savior Who has payed the penalty for that guilt. All that is necessary for us to be saved, Christ has done.
Jesus Our Propitiation
The word “propitiation” is not used very often in the English language. In the rare instances it does appear, it normally refers to a sacrifice offered by primitive heathens in order to appease an angry deity. Images of young maidens being hurled into a volcano in order to save the village from some island god’s vengeful anger come to mind. But when the word propitiation appears in the Bible, it refers to a Sacrifice offered by God: His Son Jesus Christ.
God provided His own Propitiation in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ in order that He might be “appeased.” Taking upon Himself the sins of mankind, Jesus Christ died that we might have life. He is our Sacrifice to God, made so that His wrath will not abide upon us. Jesus Christ is the Sacrifice that God will accept on our behalf; no sacrifice that we present can or will be accepted.
Crucified For Us
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)
How is it exactly that the death of Jesus Christ could enable God to pardon our sins and save us? Because He took our place. The Cross really belonged to each one of us. The Lord Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life (Heb. 4:15) and did nothing to earn the penalty of death. He is the only One ever to be sinless and it is because of this that He is the only One Who could pay the penalty on our behalf. One criminal can hardly take the place of another criminal, especially when the punishment is death, for how is one able to give his own life twice? But an innocent person can take the place of a criminal and give their life for them, the innocent accepting the penalty of the guilty. This is precisely what Jesus Christ has done. He voluntarily took the place of each and every sinner under the sentence of death (which is every one of us) and gave His own life for them.
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Jesus died for us, giving His own life so that we could have eternal life. Because God is righteous, the penalty required for the sins of each of us must be paid. But because God is loving, He has paid that penalty Himself.
God has done everything that needed to be done so that our sins could be forgiven and His perfect righteousness would remain intact. He has done everything necessary, removing all obstacles standing between a perfect and holy God and a frail and sinful people, providing a Way for us to come boldly to His Throne of Grace and receive the free gift of Justification. But there is one thing that we must do in order to secure the Salvation that He has provided. We must believe and trust in Him. We will look at this important factor of Salvation in the next chapter.