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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, April 18 2024

What was the purpose of Christ’s death?

Christ, the Son of God, gave His life for the remission—the forgiveness (pardon, penalty or removal) of human sins: "...God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us….having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (Romans 5:8-9).

Many Bible passages explain why Jesus died for humankind, one of the most well known being: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation [atoning sacrifice] by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed" (Romans 3:23-25).

Paul told the Corinthian church that God the Father "made Him who knew no sin [Jesus Christ] to be sin for us" (2 Corinthians 5:21), explaining Jesus took our guilt on Himself and paid the penalty for us by His death. The Apostle John also explained the reason for Jesus' death: "If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2). The prophet Isaiah also wrote of the purpose of Jesus' death centuries before it took place: "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).

Scripture is very clear that Jesus had to die because of sin—yours, mine and everyone else's.

Sin is the violation of God's law (1 John 3:4), and it requires a price to be paid because, as Romans 6:23 tells us,"The wages of sin is death." Without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins, human beings would have no hope beyond the grave. "For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life" (Romans 5:10).

Adam and Eve sinned, but they weren't the first to sin. The archangel Lucifer, also known as Satan, was the first to sin against God and break His laws (Ezekiel 28:15-16). Then, in the Garden of Eden, he lied to and influenced the thinking of Adam and Eve. Since then all human beings have also sinned (Romans 5:12). If God had not provided us with a solution for sin by His sacrifice, sin would have eventually destroyed all mankind.

However, some find it difficult to understand the relationship between God's grace and God's laws. The view most commonly held is, "If there's something we must actually do to be forgiven, then grace is meaningless because grace implies God demands nothing in return." But God's forgiving grace was never intended as a license to continue sinning. Paul makes this very plain:"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2).

Grace, made possible through Christ's sacrifice, allows us to be "redeemed"—to be bought back by God because Christ paid the price for our sins. Grace does not replace the laws of God. The Bible is clear about this: "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body… but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law [that is, under its punitive judgment for violating it, as we had been before we repented] but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! " (Romans 6:12-15).

A frequently misunderstood scripture focussing on the importance of Jesus' death is found in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." The last part of this verse, "that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life," is sometimes misunderstood, by assuming believing in Jesus means only believing in His identity and promises and that it does not require any reciprocal action on our part. Yet truly believing in Jesus Christ as our savior is demonstrated by our actions.

To be saved we must repent of our selfish ways, turn to God in faith and believe what Christ tells us to do (Acts 2:38 and Luke 6:46). When a rich young man asked Jesus what it would take for him to enter eternal life, Jesus clearly told him:"If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). On another occasion He also warned: "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19).

At the end of the Bible in Revelation 22:14 this is again emphasized: "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life [the gift of eternal life], and may enter through the gates into the city [the new Jerusalem, our ultimate destiny]" (Revelation 22:14). Salvation is offered to those who are willing to strive to keep God's commandments, keeping His laws in the spirit as well as in the letter—genuinely understanding and applying their full intent.

Having accepted God's grace and forgiveness of our past failure to keep His laws properly, we must strive with His help to obey His laws, always repenting and asking for forgiveness when we fall short. God wants to transform our lives, to build in us His righteous character by keeping His laws because we respect and love them and have repented of breaking them.

The death of Jesus Christ applies to us personally when we are drawn by God to understand His truths and respond (John 6:44). We must realize our sins necessitated His death, without which we would die permanently and be forever forgotten. Jesus died in our place. We deserve death, but Jesus didn't. He willingly took that penalty on Himself and died in our stead. In response, He expects us to listen to His instruction, and obey His commands.