Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Why the Cross 1: Atonement

“Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous…” (1 Pet 3:18)

There are many facets to the crucifixion of Christ – many explanations as to why He allowed Himself to be killed. The current least favorite in our culture is also the most powerful: substitutionary atonement, i.e., as a payment for our sins.

The biblical support for this explanation is strong. The Master Himself described His mission: “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

The prophet Isaiah described the Lord’s death like this: “…He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, … and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6).*

“Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people” (Heb 9:28), but more than that, Christ “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20, emphasis mine). My sin necessitated the cross. My sin made it necessary for my Lord to be abused, broken, cursed.

It’s worth meditating on the cross as a demonstration of how horrible sin is, for what else could have required such a horror as a cure?

It’s also worth considering that the Master died not only for the sins of yesterday but also for the sins of tomorrow. How much more abuse can we heap upon our Savior?

*Some might say that we assume too much by applying this passage to Jesus, but the early church started the trend (Acts 8:26-40).

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