By Jared Wilson:
“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”
– John 1:29
John the Baptist commands a beholding of the sin-taking-away Lamb. What do we see in this beholding? How exactly does Jesus take away our sin?
Here are 6 things Jesus does with sin:
1. He Condemns It.
Jesus puts a curse on sin. He marks its forehead.
Romans 8:3 – “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”
Jesus says to sin in no uncertain terms, “Sin, you’re going to die.”
2. He Carries It.
Like the true and better scapegoat, Jesus becomes our sin-bearer.
1 Peter 2:24 – “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
3. He Cancels It.
He closes out the account. (Even better, he opens a new one, where we’re always in the black, having been credited with his perfect righteousness.)
1 Corinthians 13:4-5 – “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful”
That word resentful is more directly “to count up wrongdoing,” which is why some translations of this text say that “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”
Colossians 2:13-14 – “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
That last proclamation leads us into this great truth:
4. He Crucifies It
1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”
At the cross, Jesus dies and takes our sin with him. Only the sin stays dead.
5. He Casts It Away
Jesus takes the corpse and chucks it into the void.
Micah 7:19 – “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”
Psalm 103:12 – “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
6. He Chooses to Un-remember It.
Jesus is omniscient. He is not forgetful. But he wills to un-remember our sin.
Jeremiah 31:34 – “And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Hebrews 8:12 – “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
Hebrews 10:17 – “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Astonishing. We bring our sin to him, repentant and in faithful confession, and he says, “What’re you talking about?”
This is how Jesus forgives sin: He condemns it, carries it, cancels it, kills it, casts it, and clean forgets it. If we’ll confess it.
1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
“When we are united to Christ a mysterious exchange takes place: he took our curse, so that we may receive his blessing; he became sin with our sin, so that we may become righteous with his righteousness. . . . On the one hand, God declined to ‘impute’ our sins to us, or ‘count’ them against us, with the implication that he imputed them to Christ instead. On the other, God has imputed Christ’s righteousness to us. . . . We ourselves have done nothing of what is imputed to us, nor Christ anything of what is imputed to him. . . . He voluntarily accepted liability for our sins.”
John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, 1986), pages 148-149.
(HT: Ray Ortlund)
“There may be some foul spot in our lives; the kind of thing that the world never forgives, the kind of thing, at any rate, for which we who know all can never forgive ourselves. But what care we whether the world forgives, or even whether we can forgive ourselves, if God forgives, if God has received us by the death of His Son?
If we could appeal to God’s approval as ours by right, how bravely we should boast—boast in the presence of a world of enemies! If God knows that we are right, what care we for the blame of men? Such boasting, indeed, can never be ours. But we can boast in what God has done. Little care we whether our sin be thought unpardonable or no, little interested are we in the exact calculation of our guilt. Heap it up mountain high, yet God has removed it all.
‘I know not,’ the Christian says, ‘what my guilt may be; one thing I know: Christ loved me and gave Himself for me.’
—J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith? (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991), 82
(HT: Of First Importance)
For Mel and James.
“…my obedience is neither the basis for my justification nor the ground of my approach to God as a sinner who has been besmeared by sin, and I flee afresh to the Mediator of the New Covenant. Every exposure of sin in the life of a true believer drives him afresh to his Saviour, and anything that drives him afresh to his Saviour makes his Saviour more precious.”
From The Practical Implications of Calvinism By Albert N. Martin
This is excellent from Kevin DeYoung:
Read the whole thing here.
So why do so many Christian feel guilty all the time?
1. We don’t fully embrace the good news of the gospel. We forget that we have been made alive together with Christ. We have been raised with him. We have been saved through faith alone. And this is the gift of God, not a result of works (Eph. 2:4-8). We can be so scared of antinomianism, which is a legitimate danger, that we are afraid to speak too lavishly of God’s grace. But if we’ve never been charged with being antinomian, we probably haven’t presented the gospel in all it’s scandalous glory (Rom. 6:1).
2. Christians tend to motivate each other by guilt rather than grace. Instead of urging our fellow believers to be who they are in Christ, we command them to do morefor Christ (see Rom. 6:5-14 for the proper motivation). So we see Christlikeness as something we are royally screwing up, when we should it as something we already possess but need to grow into.
3. Most of our low-level guilt falls under the ambiguous category of “not doing enough.” Look at the list above. None one of the items are necessarily sinful. They all deal with possible infractions, perceptions, and ways in which we’d like to do more. These are the hardest areas to deal with because no Christian, for example, will ever confess to praying enough. So it is always easy to feel terrible about prayer (or evangelism or giving or any number of disciplines). We must be careful that we don’t insist on a certain standard of practice when the Bible merely insists on a general principle.
Let me give another example. Every Christian must give generously and contribute to the needs of the saints (2 Cor. 9:6-11; Rom. 12:13). This we can insist on with absolute certainty. But what this generosity looks like–how much we give, how much we retain–is not bound by any formula, nor can it be exacted by compulsion (2 Cor. 9:7). So if we want people to be more generous we would do well to follow Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians and emphasize the blessings of generosity and the gospel rooted motivation for generosity as opposed to shaming those who don’t give us much.
4. When we are truly guilty of sin it is imperative we repent and receive God’s mercy. Paul had a clean conscience, not because he never sinned, but, I imagine, because he quickly went to the Lord when he knew he was wrong and rested in the “no condemnation” of the gospel (Rom. 8:1). If we confess our sins, John says, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We aren’t meant to feel borderline miserable all the time. We are meant to live in the joy of our salvation. So when we sin–and we’ll all sin (1 Kings 8:46; 1 John 1:8)–we confess it, get cleansed, and move on.
This underlines one of the great dangers with constant guilt: we learn to ignore our consciences. If we are truly sinning, we need to repent and implore the Lord to help us change. But if we aren’t sinning, if we are perhaps not as mature as we could be, or are not as disciplined as some believers, or we are making different choices that may be acceptable but not extraordinary, then we should not be made to feel guilty. Challenged, stirred, inspired, but not guilty.
As a pastor this means I don’t expect that everyone in my congregation should feel awful about everything I ever preach on. It is ok, after all, for people to actually be obedient to God’s commands. Not perfectly, not without some mixed motives, not as fully as they could be, but still faithfully, God-pleasingly obedient. Faithful preaching does not require that sincere Christians feel miserable all the time. In fact, the best preaching ought to make sincere Christians see more of Christ and experience more of his grace.
Deeper grace will produce better gratitude, which means less guilt. And that’ s a good thing all the way around.
This piece from Todd Pruitt sums up the thrust of my teaching here in Rwanda.
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for fall have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 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 3:21-26
Martin Luther refered to Romans 3:21-26 as, ““the chief point, and the very central place of the epistle, and of the whole Bible.” There are three words in this text that ought to be a part of every Christian’s personal lexicon.
We are “justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (v.24).
Redemption applies to our bondage to sin. It carries with it the notion of being purchased. In this case we have been bought back from slavery to sin. We are told in 1 Corinthians 6 that we have been “bought with a price.” The purchase price of our redemption was the death of God’s beloved Son. In 1 Corinthians 1 we’re told that Christ has “become our redemption.” In Titus 2:14 Paul tells us that Jesus, “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
“…Whom God put forward as a propitiation, by his blood, to be received by faith” (v.25).
Propitiation applies to God’s wrath toward us as sinners and rebels. To propitiate is to turn away wrath. John Murray writes, “To propitiate means to placate, pacify, appease, conciliate.” Propitiation, the satisfaction of God’s wrath, is an idea that is attacked quite often. But it is essential to our understanding of ourselves, our understanding of God, and our understanding of what God has done to save us.
We will never understand the cross apart from a proper appreciation for God’s wrath. Graham Cole writes, “Wrath seems unworthy of God only if our own sense of sin has become so atrophied that we think that it is God’s business to forgive it” (74). James Denney in his classicThe Death of Christ wrote:
“Christ’s death, we may paraphrase (Romans 3:25), is an act in which God does justice to himself…He would not do justice to himself if he displayed his compassion for sinners in a way which made light of sin, which ignored its tragic reality, or took it for less than it is. In this case he would again be doing himself an injustice.”
Christ’s atoning work on the cross fundamentally changed God’s attitude toward us. We moved from being “children of wrath” (Eph 2) to being children of mercy. This is why we sing, “In my place condemned he stood. Hallelujuah! What a Saviour!”
Justification applies to the reality of our guilt and the alienation that comes from that. Justification presupposes two realities: 1) God is our Judge and 2) our problem is that we are guilty. And just as people resist propitiation because it necessitates belief in God’s wrath, people resist justification because it necessitates belief that God is Judge.
Theologian Miraslav Volf, a Croation who experienced first hand the bloody war in the former Yugoslavia and was himself tortured helps us understand the importance of God as Judge:
To the person inclined to dismiss [divine judgment], I suggest imagining that you are delivering a lecture in a war zone. Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers had their throats slit. The topic of the lecture: A Christian attitude toward violence. The thesis: We should not retaliate since God is perfect noncoercive love. Soon you would discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence corresponds to God’s refusal to judge. In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent it will invariably die (Cole, 76).
We all need to be justified. We need to be made right. We need to be fit in such a way that we will not be obliterated the moment we appear before a God who is holy. To be justified means that we have received the pronouncement of “not guilty” from our Righteous Judge. And this extraordinary change from guilty sinner to justified saint all comes about by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Justification is both acquittal and acceptance. That is to say, it involves both the forgiveness of sins and the receiving of the righteousness of Christ. God not only declares us “Not guilty!”, he also declares us “Righteous!” Pardon alone would leave us spiritually naked with no righteousness. Pardon might save us from hell but it alone is not enough to bring us into the presence of God. For this we need the fullness of Justification.
Paul is amazed by God’s grace. He is not surprised that the God of the Scriptures is gracious. He is well acquainted with God’s grace throughout human history. What amazes Paul is that the God of grace shows His grace and bestows His grace in such a way that His justice is not compromised.
In Proverbs 17 God Himself had said, “Cursed is the judge who condemns the innocent and who acquits the guilty.” But we are being told here that God, the Judge, does indeed acquit the guilty. And this is the thrilling reality of the gospel. Because in the gospel, God’s justice and His righteousness and His grace and His mercy are all displayed side by side, never warring against or contradicting one another. The cross is where the holy justice and tender mercy of God meet in a beautiful expression of God’s perfections.
“In order for the Christian gospel to be good news it must provide an all-satisfying and eternal gift that undeserving sinners can receive and enjoy. For that to be true, the gift must be three things. First, the gift must be purchased by the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Our sins must be covered, and the wrath of God against us must be removed, and Christ’s righteousness must be imputed to us. Second, the gift must be free and not earned. There would be no good news if we had to merit the gift of the gospel. Third, the gift must be God himself, above all his other gifts.”
- John Piper, God is the Gospel (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2005), 14.
(HT: Of First Importance)
“The gospel is saying that, what man cannot do in order to be accepted with God, this God Himself has done for us in the person of Jesus Christ. To be acceptable to God we must present to God a life of perfect and unceasing obedience to his will. The gospel declares that Jesus has done this for us. For God to be righteous he must deal with our sin. This also he has done for us in Jesus. The holy law of God was lived out perfectly for us by Christ, and its penalty was paid perfectly for us by Christ. The living and dying of Christ for us, and this alone is the basis of our acceptance with God”
Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom, p. 86
(HT: John Fonville)
By Chris Tomlinson:
Is it possible to talk too much about the cross?
I ask this question only because some preachers and writers and teachers seem to talk about the cross a lot. Some do so almost continually. We can understand why they might carry on in this way because we know the primacy and weight of Calvary. But there are still times this thought crosses many of our minds: “Great, so I understand the cross is important. But can’t we move on to the next topic?”
We say this sort of thing when we feel our faith is about more than Jesus. And in one sense, we can say this is true. Our faith is about God’s glory, and our joy, and loving others, and meeting the needs of the oppressed, and being made holy, and sojourning through life, and laying up treasures in heaven, and all sorts of other things. In this way, we are saying the expression of our faith is about many things.
But in another sense, the entirety of our faith is about Jesus. God’s grand, redemptive story begins with a foretelling of the coming Seed. His chosen servants foreshadow His mission. His prophets herald His arrival. As history progresses onward, we begin to see the entirety of God’s revelation to humanity as pointing towards the advent of the Messiah. This is perhaps why Paul says, “All the promises of God find their Yes in Him” (2 Cor 1:20). In this second kind of way, we are saying the purpose of our faith is about one thing: Jesus.
So when we find the purpose of our faith is about Jesus, we have to ask ourselves the question: why is this so? What is it about the person of Jesus, the mission of Jesus, the work of Jesus, which makes Him the reason for our faith? And this is what leads us to the cross.
Here’s why the cross matters: It is at the cross that we see God most clearly.If history were the vastness of space, the cross would be its brightest star. We see the fullness of God’s being most clearly at the cross. We see the fullness of His active purposes most clearly at the cross.
At the cross…
…We see God’s sovereignty—reigning with absolute control over humanity’s greatest sin.
…We see God’s purpose—making known the mystery of His will prepared before time.
…We see God’s plan—to unite all things, on heaven and on earth, in Him.
…We see God’s judgment—requiring recompense for guilt.
…We see God’s holiness—demanding the perfect sacrifice.
…We see God’s power—crushing the Son of God according to the purpose of His will.
…We see God’s wrath—punishing the wretchedness of sin.
…We see God’s sorrow—wailing as only a forsaken son can.
…We see God’s mystery—the Son, as God, separated from the Father, committing His Spirit to God.
…We see God’s compassion—pleading to the Father to forgive the ignorant.
…We see God’s gift—His one and only Son, bruised and broken on our behalf.
…We see God’s mercy—making unrighteous sinners righteous.
…We see God’s love—Christ dying for sinners.
…We see God’s rescue operation—delivering us from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His Son.
…We see God’s proposal—pledging Himself to His bride forever.
…We see God’s revelation—the Word of God speaking His last so He might speak on behalf of many.
…We see God’s victory—disarming His enemies, putting them to shame, and triumphing over them.
…We see God’s glory—the name of the Father being magnified for the sake of all peoples.
But seeing God most clearly is not an end to itself. If it were, then the point of all history would be our own clarity of sight. But that is not history’s purpose. Everything exists for Jesus, so that in everything He might be preeminent. We study the Scriptures to know more of God. We look forward with great hope to the day we will see Him face to face. But in the here and now, we know God most fully when we look upon the person and work of Jesus on the cross.
It is only when we behold the Son of God most clearly that we can magnify Him most fully, acknowledging His preeminence in all things, which reflects more brightly the reality of His glory. This is why one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, because on that day, all will see Him as He is, either toward our greatest joy or our greatest sorrow.
So if you preach and teach about the cross, remember that we, as your people, need the lens of your preaching to continually focus our hearts on the crucified Son of God. And if we hear or read about the cross and wonder what is next, that we’re ready to move beyond it, let us remember that the cross matters for our yesterday, and our today, and our tomorrow.
And let us always hold the best of our hearts, the fullness of our hearts, for the One whose scars will testify for eternity to the glory and horror of that day that made possible the one day we will enjoy with Him forever.
Chris Tomlinson, a graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy and the UCLA Anderson School of Business, is a businessman and writer who desires to see people realize the beauty and joy of knowing Jesus. The author of “Crave: Wanting So Much More of God,” Tomlinson also blogs regularly at Crave Something More.
From Ray Ortlund:
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” Galatians 3:13
What is the curse of the law? It is the or-else-ness of the law: “Do this, or else.” Christ took the or-else-ness of the law onto himself at the cross, so that there is no more or-else for anyone in Christ, as God looks upon us now. Or-else is gone forever from your relationship with God.
“We, being delivered from these everlasting terrors and anguish through Christ, shall enjoy an everlasting and inestimable peace and happiness.”
Martin Luther, commentary on Galatians 3:13.
As evangelical faith becomes secularized, its interests have been blurred with those of the culture. The result is a loss of absolute values, permissive individualism, and a substitution of wholeness for holiness, recovery for repentance, intuition for truth, feeling for belief, chance for providence, and immediate gratification for enduring hope. Christ and his cross have moved from the center of our vision.
We reaffirm that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our regeneration, justification and reconciliation to the Father. We deny that the gospel is preached if Christ’s substitutionary work is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not solicited…God’s grace in Christ is not merely necessary but is the sole efficient cause of salvation. We confess that human beings are born spiritually dead and are incapable even of cooperating with regenerating grace. We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God’s wrath by Christ alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that unites us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life in Him. We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature.
- adapted from the Cambridge Declaration of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
“When God planned the great work of saving sinners, he provided two gifts. He gave his Son and he gave his Spirit. In fact each person of the Trinity was involved in the great work of salvation. The love, grace and wisdom of the Father planned it; the love, grace and humility of the Son purchased it; and the love, grace and power of the Holy Spirit enabled sinners to believe and receive it.
“The first great truth in this work of salvation is that God sent his Son to take our nature on him and to suffer for us in it. The second great truth is that God gave his Spirit to bring sinners to faith in Christ and so be saved.”
—John Owen, The Holy Spirit, ed. RJK Law (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1998), 1
(HT: Of First Importance)
There is no greater message to be heard than that which we call the Gospel. But as important as that is, it is often given to massive distortions or over simplifications. People think they’re preaching the Gospel to you when they tell you, ‘you can have a purpose to your life’, or that ‘you can have meaning to your life’, or that ‘you can have a personal relationship with Jesus.’ All of those things are true, and they’re all important, but they don’t get to the heart of the Gospel.
The Gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness – or lack of it – or the righteousness of another. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.
The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn’t concerned to protect His own integrity. He’s a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son. So valuable was that sacrifice that God pronounced it valuable by raising Him from the dead – so that Christ died for us, He was raised for our justification. So the Gospel is something objective. It is the message of who Jesus is and what He did. And it also has a subjective dimension. How are the benefits of Jesus subjectively appropriated to us? How do I get it? The Bible makes it clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith – and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him – and in Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.
(HT: Todd Pruitt)
William Farley from Outrageous Mercy
The cross demonstrates the permanent, immutable nature of God’s law. To save us, Jesus did not go around the law. He did not remove it. Rather, he fulfilled it. Taht is because the law is the eternal standard by which we will all be judged, and God is passionate about it. Every jot and tittle of the law must be fulfilled, promised Jesus (Matt. 5:17-20). The cross says, “There will be no lawbreakers in heaven.” The cross says, “God is fervent about his law.”
Verses such as “Now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law” (Rom. 7:6) have convinced many that law does not apply to Christians, that in some mysterious way it is no longer relevant or important. In one sense they are right. The law no longer enslaves Christians. We could not keep the law, so Jesus kept it for us. God has released all who put their trust in God’s Son from the burden of being perfect law keepers. But the cross reminds us that we will never be released from the law as the standard for judgment.
Jesus did two things on our behalf to fulfill the law. First, he lived a perfect life. He obeyed every jot and tittle of the law so that he could impute that obedience to to unworthy lawbreakers who put their faith in him. Second, on the cross he bore the punishment that lawbreakers deserve. Jesus glorified his Father’s passion for his law by both fulfilling it and atoning for its abuse.
(HT: Todd Pruitt)
From Josh Harris:
I’m reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring to my two older kids. Last night we read the passage in which Gandalf explains the history of the pathetic Gollum as well as story of the One Ring to Frodo. I thought the following description of Gollum’s wretched state as a slave to the ring was an apt description of what it’s like to be a slave to sin:
“All the ‘great secrets’ under the mountains had turned out to be just empty night: there was nothing more to find out, nothing worth doing, only nasty furtive eating and resentful remembering. He was altogether wretched. He hated the dark, and he hated light more: he hated everything ,and the Ring most of all.
“What do you mean?” said Frodo. “Surely the Ring was his precious and the only thing he cared for? But if he hated it, why didn’t he get rid of it, or go away and leave it?”
“You ought to begin to understand, Frodo, after all you have heard,” said Gandalf. “He hated it and loved it, as he hated and loved himself. He could not get rid of it. He had no will left in the matter.” (page 54)
Isn’t that what it’s like when you’re ruled by your sinful desires? (Eph. 2:1) All the promises of sin and illicit pleasure turn out to be “empty night” and the very things you once thought would satisfy you learn to despise. And yet you can’t turn away. You have a desire to be free, a desire to do what’s right, but lack “the ability to carry it out” (Rom. 7:18).
Without Jesus I am Gollum–calling what is killing me “my precious” and all the while hating myself. Praise be to God that Jesus Christ came to redeem sinners like me. He gave up his life on the cross so that I could be forgiven and freed to know and serve God forever.
“How great an honor will it be to a person to have God at the day of judgment owning a person, declaring before all men, angels and devils that that person is before his all-seeing eyes and that he stands innocent and perfect in his sight, clothed with perfect righteousness and entitled to everlasting glory and blessedness. How honorable will this render them in the eyes of all that vast assembly that will be together at the day of judgment. That will be an infinitely greater honor than any man or any angel declaring that they judge him upright and sincere and that eternal life belongs to him. What can be a greater honor than this — to be owned by the great King and Lord of all things?”
Jonathan Edwards, The Glory and Honor of God, edited by Michael D. McMullen, page 61.
(HT: Ray Ortlund)
This is a great post from Justin Taylor:
Redemption from sin cannot be adequately conceived or formulated except as it comprehends the victory which Christ secured once for all over him who is the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air . . .
[I]t is impossible to speak in terms of redemption from the power of sin except as there comes within the range of this redemptive accomplishment the destruction of the power of darkness.
(Redemption—Accomplished and Applied, p. 50)
Colossians 2:14-15 is a key verse in this regard.
Paul lists two results of Christ’s work on the cross: (1) Christ disarmed the rulers and authorities, and (2) he publicly shamed them.
How? By triumphing over them in himself.
So how does Christ bearing God’s wrath for sinners, taking their sin as a substitute, constitute a victory over Satan?
George Smeaton (1814–1889), Professor of Exegetical Theology at New College, Edinburgh, provides the answer.
Sin was (1) the ground of Satan’s dominion, (2) the sphere of his power, and (3) the secret of his strength; and no sooner was the guilt lying on us extinguished, than his throne was undermined, as Jesus Himself said (John 12:31). When the guilt of sin was abolished, Satan’s dominion over God’s people was ended; for the ground of his authority was the law which had been violated, and the guilt which had been incurred. . . .
[A]ll the mistakes have arisen from not perceiving with sufficient clearness how the triumph could be celebrated on His cross. (The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement (Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1870), 307–308; my emphasis and numbering)
In other words, Satan’s power is based on sin and guilt; Christ’s death meant the ultimate death of sin, guilt, and death itself; and thus Satan was ultimately defanged by Christ’s atoning work.
As Smeaton says, “it was on God’s part at once a victory and a display of all God’s attributes, to the irretrievable ruin, dismay, and confusion of satanic powers.”
So it’s not Christus Victor (Christ defeating his enemies) instead of propitiation (Christ bearing God’s wrath)–rather, it’s Christus Victor because of propitiation. Both are gloriously important, but only in that order.