Christianity 101: Christ’s Death

We are on to part four of our Series Christianity 101, Christ’s Death.  This material in based on the book…

You can find the complete series here

Items covered
Week 1: The Bible
Week 2: God
Week 3: Jesus Christ and how he fits into the Godhead.
This week we will go into more detail about the death of Christ.

The cross of Jesus Christ has been called “the central fact of human history.”
To the entire world the cross is the primary symbol of Christianity.
It crowns church spires, highlights church auditoriums, and even dangles on jewelry counters.
The cross was Jesus’ intentional goal.
The death of Christ on the cross also singles out the uniqueness of Christianity. 
Here God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Every other religious system in the world is essentially a “do it yourself” proposition.  Only in Christianity is salvation a free gift.

When we fully grasp the meaning of Christ’s death for us then and only then will our hearts turn to true worship.

Let’s work on that understanding.

Forecast in the Old Testament
Last week we looked at how Jesus predicted his own death.
Christ’s death is the central theme of the Old Testament.

What are some Old Testament references to Christ’s death?
• Already in Gen. 3:5 God promised a Deliverer
• Isaiah gives us a clear promise  Read (Isa. 53:5-6)
• Jesus talks about the prophecy that talked about his dying. (John 5:39; 12:41)
• Heb 10 explains how the OT sacrificial system was set up as a symbol of the true sacrifice that came in Jesus
• The death of Christ is linked to the OT Abrahamic covenant of Gen.12:3 stating “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you”

Throughout the OT God reveals more of his plan of salvation.
2 factors underlie this plan.
1. Man continues to sin breaking relationship with God.
2. God in mercy takes the initiative to mend this broken relationship.

In the OT forgiveness is obtained by sacrifice.

The Sacrificial System
Let’s look more closely at the OT sacrificial system.
The whole sacrificial system of the OT was a symbolic portrayal to be fulfilled in Christ.
• The Passover is the clearest picture. 
The shed blood of the perfect lamb caused the angel of death to Passover the house.  The lamb was the substitute.

What are the elements of the Passover?
Egypt’s hardened hearts
Lying hands on the Lamb and killing it.  Collecting the blood for the door posts.
Passover meal.  Bitter herbs (bitter cup of Christ), unleavened bread (no yeast or sin.), meat of the lamb. (Matt 26:26)  like the body of Christ given for them
Using the blood over the door post to cover the sins of those inside.  Like Christ’s blood of the new covenant.

• Christ is the fulfillment of all that the Passover lamb stood for.  He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
• The OT people looked forward to the coming Messiah.
• We look back to the cross of Christ.
• The animal sacrifices did not save, but faith in what it symbolized did.

Christ’s Death in the New Testament
Sacrifice or penalty continues to be a major theme in the NT. 
NT writers use several terms to explain the significance of the crucifixion.
• Atonement for our sin:
What does this mean?
At-one-ment. Bringing together of those who are estranged.  To cover.
Animal sacrifices covered sin until Christ’s death could destroy it’s power.
• Reconciliation:
What does this mean?
We were God’s enemies.  Sin separates us from God.  Christ’s death did away with the cause of God’s anger.  God sees us as reconciled through Christ.

• Appeasement or propitiation:
• What does this mean?
The removal of wrath by the offering of a gift
Jesus perfectly fulfilled God’s holy and just standards.

• Ransom:
What does this mean?
Redemption, buying back.  Like redeeming a slave.
It is important to remember he loved us before we were reconciled with him.

Our Substitute
Substitute is one of the clearest words that describe Christ’s death.
• Christ died for us.  In our place.
• The righteous for the unrighteous.
• Read 2 Cor. 5:21
• Examples
Man convicted of a serious crime.  The Judge is his friend.  Judge takes the penalty.
Governor of MN Al Quie asked to pay penalty for Chuck Colson.
• These examples are somewhat inadequate but they shed some light on how God the creator laid aside His deity to become our substitute.
• God’s desire throughout the Bible is for relationship with us.  Thus Reconciliation, ransom and sacrifice are continuing themes.

Attempts to Minimize Christ’s Death
Throughout history many people have tried to discredit Christ’s death on the cross.  Below are some examples
1. Moral influence or example theory:
What are the Ideas of this Theory?
• Man only needs to repent and reform to be reconciled to God
• Death of Christ was only a powerful example Not actual substitution
• This theory ignores the many scriptures that teach that Christ died for our sins.
2. Governmental theory:
What are the Ideas of this Theory?
• The cross was necessary to preserve God’s law and authority.
• Christ’s death was only a public spectacle so that we can see the high regard God holds for the Law and the horrible guilt for violating it.
• So why was Christ needed?
• Why should one that is perfect suffer as opposed to one who is guilty?
• This view fails to line up with scripture like Paul’s words “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” 2 Cor 5:21
3. Accident of history theory:
What are the ideas of this theory?
The cross was just a reaction of the people to his teaching.
There was no history before leading up to the action and no result from it.
• Obviously these people have either not read scripture at all or have a very low esteem for what scripture says.
• Christ knew the purpose of his death.  John 12:27, John 10:17-18
• The prophets also predicted Christ’s Death.
4. Christ was merely another martyr theory:
What are the ideas of this theory?
The political and religious turmoil of the time caused his crucifixion.
• Again like 3 above, a little knowledge of scripture kills the idea of Christ’s death just being another meaningless death. 
• (Matt. 26:28) Christ said his blood was the new covenant for the forgiveness of sins.

Why Couldn’t God Just Forgive?
• God is all-powerful.  Couldn’t an all-powerful God just forgive without requiring a sacrifice?
• Archbishop Anselm 12th century.  “God’s will is not His own in the sense that anything is permissible to Him or becomes right because He wills it.”
• If God did not punish sin or make adequate satisfaction for it then he would be forgiving it unjustly.  God is just.
Can anyone help put this in English?

Love and Holiness
So, if God is perfect and can not allow sin into his presence and he is loving and merciful how does all this work together?
• God’s holiness is perfect righteousness.  This is the basis for understanding why we need to be forgiven.
• God can not stand any Sin.
• There are not little or big sins to God.  Sin is sin.  Holiness means no sin.
• God exercises all his attributes at the same time.  Therefore holiness and perfection are working at the same time as love and mercy.
• His holiness demands atonement or penalty for sin.
• His Love/ Mercy provides a method for satisfying the demands of Holiness.
• In the cross of Christ “Love and faithfulness meet together” Ps. 85:10
• God not only forgives sin but also in a way that shows he hates sin.

Was Christ an Innocent Victim?
• If Christ were an unwilling victim, then his death would be a crime… but
• Christ was willing…”He humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on the cross” (Phil. 2:6-8)
• The cross of Christ was voluntary.

One Person Die to Save the Whole World?
How could the death of one person possibly cover all the sins of the whole world?
• The effectiveness of the death of Christ depends on who died.
• Christ’s life was of infinite value, and his death likewise had infinite worth.
• His death was also of infinite value.  The intensity of the spiritual suffering He endured is beyond our comprehension.
• God did not die when Christ died.  When he died as a man it was only his body that died.

The Gift of God
What are the implications to us of this free gift of reconciliation from God?
1. Our future destiny:
• Our destiny is an issue of life or death.
• The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23)
• “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life”  (John 3:36). 
• “Believe” here means understands the death and resurrection and accepts the free gift that is offered.
• There is not an in-between position.  A person is either saved or lost.
• We all must take the step ourselves and receive “the gift of God.”
• The final judgment of others is God’s.
• The “Universal Fatherhood of God” is a farce.
• It is clear that God designed and created us all.  He loves us all and desires a relationship with us.  We need to do our part.  Accept the free gift.  We need to reach out to the one true God.
2. The cross is God’s Gift.
• (John 1:12)  “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”
• (Rom. 5:8)  “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”
• There is nothing we can do to earn the gift.  It is a free gift.

Assurance of Salvation
What is our assurance of salvation based on?
Our “assurance of salvation,” rests entirely on the substitutionary death of Christ as its base of a restored relationship with the Creator.

This is not an arrogant claim based on the thought that “I’m better then you.”
Rather it is confidence in the trustworthiness of God’s Word.  God can not lie.
• From the cross Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).  His atoning work was finished.
• The Lord has already done everything needed for our salvation.
• “I write these things to you …so that you may know that you have eternal life”  (1 John 5:13)
• Assurance of salvation should not lead to smug indifference.  It should lead to deep joy and a loving response to Christ as we continue to trust in Him.
• We are not our own.  We were bought at a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  Redeemed from our slavery.
• We have a new live.  Our attitudes, motives, values and will are changed.
• In ourselves we are incapable of such changes.  In Christ all things are possible.
• Paul was adamant that nothing be added to simple faith for salvation.
• The Gospel is not Christ plus.  It is Christ alone.  What matters is his atoning death.

God’s Love in Action
If you look around you, you see pain everywhere.
Our God is a God that is interested in our lives.
• No one is interested in an aloof God untouched by human need.
• God showed his desire to touch us in the reconciling cross of Christ.
• God in Christ became involved in our lives.
• “This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us”  (1 John 3:16)

This material in based on the book…


About waynem

As a Minnesota based photographer and artist I have been greatly influenced by the Upper Midwest. I focus my skills and energies on portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, architectural and fine art work. My best work comes from images first painted in my mind. I mull over a prospective image for weeks or months, seeing it from different angles and perspectives, then finally deciding what to capture. The result is images that deeply touch people's emotions and powerfully evoke memories and dreams. My images are used commercially by companies and organizations ranging from Financial Services firms, mom and pop Ice Cream shops and The Basilica of St Mary to communicate their shared vision and values. Book and magazine publishers have featured my images on their covers. My photographs also grace and enhance the decor of many fine homes.
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