In these next three posts, we’re going to look at the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Scripture has a great deal to say about it, yet I venture to say that what it says is hardly ever really looked at and taught. I asked a fellow what the Lord did on the Cross, and beyond the fact that He died, the fellow had no idea what that death really involved.
III. The Costliness of Grace.
Don’t mistake the title of this section. It doesn’t mean that the grace of God is for sale! In Matthew 16:26, our Lord asked, “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Even the Old Testament recognized this. The Psalmist declared, Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches, none of them by any means can redeem his brother, nor give God a ransom for him – for the redemption of their souls is costly, and it shall cease forever – that he should continue to live eternally, and not see the Pit, Psalm 49:6-9.
The Bible teaches that salvation is free, and yet the Psalmist says that redemption is costly. There is no contradiction. Grace is free, but it is not “cheap”!
The Gospel is often summarized as “the death, burial and resurrection” of Christ. This is true, yet, according to 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4, this summary is incomplete. You see, the Gospel is indeed good news, but it isn’t simply good news about “history”: the mere facts of our Lord’s death and resurrection. It is about Christ’s death for our sins, and it is about Christ’s death for our sins according to the Scriptures.
In these posts, therefore, we want to see what the Bible has to say about that death. What it says involves four things.
1. The death of Christ with reference to the Father.
2. The death of Christ with reference to believers, whom Scripture also calls” the elect”.
3. The death of Christ with reference to the world.
4. The death of Christ with reference to the individual.
A. The Death of Christ With Reference to the Father.
In the New Testament, there are at least 30 references to the Father in connection with the ministry of the Son. Most of these occur in the Gospel of John. We’ll look at only two things about this “connection”:
1. The will of the Father for the Son.
2. The work that the Father gave to the Son.
1. The will of the Father for the Son.
In John 4:34, Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me, and to finish His work.”
There are more references to this part of the study than to the other three areas combined. These clearly show that the Lord Jesus wasn’t just merely acting on His own or acting in an impromptu manner. He didn’t “improvise” as He went along. Ephesians 3:11 refers to the eternal purpose that the Father accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Even that terrible hour of which it was said that Pilate delivered Jesus to their will, Luke 23:25, was included. Our Lord said to Pilate, “You could have no power [“jurisdiction”] at all against Me unless it were given you from above,” John 19:11. The no is emphatic, underlining the rest of the sentence that God was as involved in the events of the Crucifixion as any of the others in that whole grim episode. The Lord Jesus came to do His Father’s will.
Further references: Matthew 20:23; Luke 4:43; John 5:30; 6:38, 39, 44; 7:28, 29, 33; 8:16, 18, 28-29, 42; 10:18, 36; 11:42; 12:44, 45; 14:31; 16:5; 17:8, 18-21, 25; 18:11; 20:21; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Galatians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 3:2; 13:20; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 John 4:9-10; Revelation 13:8.
2. The work that the Father gave to the Son.
In John 4:34, the Lord said, “My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me, and to finish His work.” In John 17:4, Jesus told the Father, “I have finished the work You gave Me to do.”
Throughout His life, our Lord was conscious of His Father. Even as a mere lad of twelve, He must be about His Father’s business, Luke 2:49. His mission included at least two things:
a. John 1:18 says, No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. The word translated “declared” is the word we get our word “exegesis” from. An “exegesis” is a detailed explanation of a passage of Scripture. The Greek word means, “to make known.” So the Lord came to make God known, to “flesh out,” as it were, the God of the Bible, to reveal Him as a real Person, not just as some nebulous something or other floating “out there” somewhere.
This, however, isn’t the main reason our Lord came.
b. In John 4:34, the Lord said that He had come to finish, that is, complete what the Father had begun when He chose sinners to be saved. That “work” is the work of redemption.
For decades, “the love of God” has been so distorted in the churches that we have almost completely lost sight of what Paul called the severity of God in Romans 11:22. A Bible class was studying the attributes of God. Someone mentioned His “immeasurable love.” The teacher wrote that down. Someone else mentioned His “inflexible justice,” and the teacher immediately said, “Ooh, I don’t like that!” He would only write “”justice” on the board. In that teacher’s mind, who claimed to believe the doctrines in these posts, God’s justice is less severe than His love is great. The Scripture teaches otherwise.
In Numbers 15:32-36, we have the story of the man executed for picking up some sticks of the Sabbath. Some find this unnecessarily harsh, forgetting that breaking even the least of God’s laws makes us guilty of breaking the whole thing, James 2:10. God cannot and will not “overlook” sin. After all, wasn’t it a relatively “minor” sin, as the world looks at it, that was committed in the Garden of Eden? Sin must be, and will be, punished.
Further references: Luke 4:43; John 4:34; 5:36; 6:39; 8:29; 9:4; 20:25, 37.
B. The Death of Christ with Reference to Believers, or The Elect.
A mother-daughter duet once sang a song in church to the effect that “when He died, He didn’t even know my name.” It was very lovely and well-sung. Beautiful harmony. And absolutely wrong. It may seem very wonderful and emotional that Jesus would die for people without knowing anything about them, but it isn’t Scriptural. Cf Isaiah 53:11; John 18:4; 19:28. If we’re ever privileged to join the blood-washed multitude of the redeemed in praise to Him Who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever, Revelation 5:11, 12, it won’t be because He died for us without knowing our names. It will be because He knows EVERYTHING about us…, and He died for us, anyway.
The last post mentioned that the Lord Jesus undertook special responsibility for His sheep. Though it will take eternity for God to explain it, Ephesians 2:7, what He did may be summarized in two statements.
1. He was their REPRESENTATIVE, Isaiah 53:11, 12; John 10:15; Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:7.
The preposition translated “for” in the NT verses above doesn’t mean “for the benefit of,” but “instead of.” The Just suffered “instead of” the unjust. All the verses at the beginning of this section refer to blessings given to or actions done on behalf of believers, hereafter simply called “the elect.” Though it’s common for preachers to preach these things to a mixed assembly of believers and nonbelievers, or to apply to unbelievers verses which were written to believers, there is no Scriptural support for it. For example, no unbeliever was ever told that Christ had died for him, paid the penalty for his sins, or that God loved him, or her. We’ll have more to say about this, later.
Another word for this is “substitute.” Christ came to be the substitute for the elect. This was taught even in the OT sacrifices. When an Israelite brought an animal to the priest, he would lay his hand on the head of that animal, Leviticus 1:4, and it shall be accepted in behalf of him. It became his substitute. The animal died so that the Israelite could continue to live. In the NT, however, it is God who brought the sacrifice, not the individual sinner. This in spite of what a noted NT scholar claimed: [Jesus] “was the lamb without blemish which humanity had chosen to offer to God.” (George M. Lamsa, “Gospel Light,” p. 313.) Lamsa was known for his knowledge of Aramaic, the language of NT times. In this, though, he was dead wrong. As we saw in previous posts, humanity had nothing to do with it! Wanted nothing to do with it. Rejected the Lamb when He came. Had God not intervened, we would have had no hope, no Savior and no salvation, as much as sinful men would like to believe otherwise.
I’ve already referred to the fellow who had no idea what Christ did on the Cross. This brings us to our next section: what DID Jesus do on the Cross?
2. He was their REDEEMER.
a. He satisfied the requirements for redemption.
We’ve already seen that the elect are by nature the children of wrath, Ephesians 2:3. Therefore, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us, Galatians 3:13. For Him to do this, three things were necessary.
1). He obeyed the precepts of the Law.
He is the only one who could ever truly say, “I always do those things which please Him” [the Father], John 8:29. Most people only seem to be aware of the “thou shalt nots” of the Law. However, there are positive commands in there, as well. It isn’t enough not to do the “nots,” we must also “do” the “does.” We must not murder, for example, but we must also love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength, Deuteronomy 6:5. Only the Lord Jesus ever did that.
But, why was it necessary for Jesus to keep the Law? Three reasons, at least.
a.) According to Galatians 4:4, He was born of a woman, born under the Law. That is, He was human, and He was a Jew. On both counts, He Himself was accountable to God. When the Scripture says that Jesus was tempted [or tested] in all points like we are, one area of testing was obedience. In Heaven, He was equal with the Father; on earth, He laid aside that equality and came in the form of a bondservant, Philippians 2:7, a servant who was submissive to the will of the Father.
Hebrews 5:8 says, …though He were a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Just in passing, if the Word, John 1:1, were only a created being, as certain cults claim, wouldn’t He have “learned obedience” before His incarnation?
b). He must obey the Law so He wouldn’t incur its penalty and come under the wrath of God Himself. Scripture is plain: the soul that sins shall die, Ezekiel 18:20; the wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23.
c.) He must obey the Law so as to secure its righteousness.
What does this mean? First of all, what is “righteousness”? Simply put, it’s a right standing before God. To “secure” means to “obtain, to get.”
Israel never kept the Law so as to do this, Romans 10:2, 3; Deuteronomy 6:25. Now, they thought they had. Like Paul before his conversion, they thought that concerning the law, they were blameless, Philippians 3:6. After his conversion, Paul considered all such efforts as detestable and worthless, v. 8. Paul had learned that the only righteousness God will accept is one that he couldn’t work out or earn and didn’t deserve, and it was only to be obtained by faith in the One whose righteousness it is. It’s noteworthy that our Lord is called Jesus Christ the righteous in 1 John 2:2. That’s because we have no righteousness of our own. Only with His righteousness imputed to us by faith will we ever stand before God uncondemned.
In keeping the Law, Jesus “secured” a righteousness He didn’t need because He already was, and is, holy, harmless, undefiled [and] separate from sinners, Hebrews 7:26. So it became “available” for others to use. Multitudes look to the supposed “merits” of man-made saints to help them get to Heaven. Beloved, there is only one Person who ever had any “merit” to begin with, let alone have some “left over” for others!
2). He suffered the punishment due to breaking the Law.
Though sinless Himself, He was numbered with the transgressors, Isaiah 53:12. He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 9:26. Though innocent, He was treated as guilty – even by the Father. Though some question how Jesus could suffer an eternity of punishment in just a few hours, the truth is that He did. The sufficiency of His death doesn’t depend on long [in time] He suffered, or even how many He died for. The sufficiency of His death comes from the fact that HE died – God manifest in the flesh! Everything about His death depended on that one fact – that God manifested in the flesh died on a Roman cross. And He did die. The soldiers, the centurion, even Pilate, gave witness to that fact. He didn’t just “swoon” or some other Devil’s lie from hell. Though fully God, He laid aside His power, position and prerogative as God and, though still God, He became fully human, apart from sin (which is not an essential to being human), and lived and died as every human being must.
However, unlike every other human death, His death actually took care of the reason why men all die: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
1. Write out Psalm 49:6-9.
2. What does this Psalm say about the “costliness” of redemption?
3. What did the Father have to do with what the Son did?
4. What was Jesus’ “exegesis” of the Father?
5. Is God’s love greater than His justice?
6. Did Jesus know for whom He was dying?
7. How, or why?
8. What was Jesus’ first responsibility as far as His sheep were concerned?
9. What does the preposition, “for,” mean?
10. What did Jesus do to satisfy God’s Law?
11. Can anyone else do that? Why, or why not?