The Death of Christ

(I) The event declared. The apostle Paul, in his summary of the Christian message, wrote to the church at Corinth in these words, “ I delivered unto you first of all … how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures “ (1 Cor. 15. 3, 4). To the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul attached supreme importance.

In the Old Testament we see the event:

(a) foreshadowed in the coats of skin provided for the pair in Eden’s garden ; in Abel’s sacrificial lamb ; in the Levitical ritual and offerings, and in the Day of Atone-ment and the Passover.

foretold by the prophets, the main theme of prophecy. Peter reminds us that “ the things which God foreshadowed by the mouth of all the prophets, that Christ should suffer, He thus fulfilled “ (Acts 3. 18, R.V.). To the two on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24. 26-46) the Saviour said, “ O foolish men and slow of heart to believe all that the pro-phets have spoken : ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory ?” What details are listed in Psalm 22–the shooting out of the lip and the shaking of the head in mockery ; the pierced hands and feet; the extreme thirst as His tongue cleaves to His jaws ; the gambling for His only possession, a garment without seam !

(b) fulfilled. The Saviour said, in John 6. 51, “I am the living Bread … which I will give for the life of the world “ ; and in Matthew 20. 28, “ the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many.”

In the Acts we find this event the theme of preaching. Peter declared (Acts 2. 23, R.V.) that “ Him, being de-livered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye, by the hands of lawless men, did crucify and slay.” It was “ in the name of Jesus of Nazareth whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead “ (Acts 4. 10, R.V.) that Peter explained the healing of the man at the Beautiful Gate. To the eunuch in the desert of Gaza (Acts 8. 35) Philip preached Jesus, as he read “ He was led as a lamb to the slaughter “ ; whilst Paul reminds the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20. 28) to feed the church of God, “ which He hath purchased with His own blood.”

(2) Some aspects described. The death of our Lord Jesus Christ was:

(a) voluntary. – The Saviour said, “ Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life that I might take it again “ (John 10. 17). He said to Peter who would resist those who came, armed with swords and staves, to take Him, “ Thinkest thou that I cannot be-seech My Father, and He shall even now send Me more than twelve legions of angels ?” (Matt. 26. 53, R.V.). He “ offered Himself without spot to God “ (Heb. 9. 14)–the perfect burnt-offering.

(b) vicarious. – He died ‘ for’ us, ‘ for’ sinners, and ‘ for’ our sins. It was on our behalf that He died. “ He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all “ (Rom. 8. 32) ; “ the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me …” (Gal. 2. 20, R.V.) ; “ our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity “ (Titus 2. 14, 15).

(c) substitutionary. – He died ‘ instead of us ‘; “ the Son of Man came … to give His life a ransom for many “ (Matt. 20. 28) ; “Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all “ (1 Tim. 2. 5, 6). This little word ‘ for’ may not only mean ‘ on behalf of’ and ‘ instead of’ but also ‘ on account of’ and here we discover that the death of Christ was

{d) penal. – “He was delivered up for our tres-passes and was raised for our justification “ (Rom. 4. 25, R.V.), that is, the Lord Jesus died on account of the fact of our sin and need, not for Himself, but on the sinner’s behalf and established the law by enduring its penalty, death (Gal. 3. 13 ; 2 Cor. 5. 21). “ He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities ; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him … for the transgression of My people to whom the stroke was due “ (Isa. 53. 8, R.V., margin).

(e) propitiatory. – “Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth a propitiation (sacrifice) through faith in His blood “ (Rom. 3. 25). The ‘ mercy-seat’ was sprinkled with atoning blood on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16. 14) in token that the righteous sentence of the law had been (typically) carried out. A judgment-seat becomes right-eously a mercy-seat, a place of communion (Ex. 25. 21, 22). We must note, however, that there is no thought in pro-pitiation of placating a vengeful God, but of doing right by His Holy Law and so making it possible for Him righteously to shew mercy.

(f) redemptive. – “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Eph. I. 7); “ Ye are not your own, for ye were bought with a price; glorify God, therefore, in your body “ (1 Cor. 6. 19, 20, R.V.). The slaves of sin can be delivered from its power and its guilt.

(g) reconciling. – Man is not only a slave in the power of sin and Satan and in need of liberty, but he is by nature an enemy to God and needs to be reconciled. And so we read in 2 Cor. 5. 19, that “ God was in Christ recon-ciling the world unto Himself.” Further, “ and you … hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish and unreproveable before Him “ (Col. 1. 21, 22, R.V.).

(h) revealing. – Here is the supreme evidence of divine love for fallen man, for “ God so loved … that He gave His only begotten Son “ (John 3. 16) ; “ Herein was the love of God manifested in our case, that God hath sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him “ (1 John 4. 9, 10, R.V.).

(i) efficacious and victorious. – The Lord Jesus, speaking of the manner of His death, said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Myself “ (John 12. 32, 33, R.V.). What blessings and effects flow to us from the cross of Christ! “ Justified by His blood “ (Rom. 5. 9) ; “ made the righteousness of God in Him “ (2 Cor. 5. 21) ; “ made nigh by the blood of Christ “ (Eph. 2. 13) ; “ loosed (washed) from our sins in His own blood “ (Rev. 1. 5, R.V.).

(3) Some effects desired in the Christian experience:

(a) Separation from the world. It was the apostle Paul’s desire to glory alone in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, “ through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world “ (Gal. 6. 14, R.V.). The death of Christ divides us from the world.

(b) Identification with Christ. In the symbol of baptism we acknowledge our identification with Christ. Going down into the water, the believer witnesses to his acceptance of God’s judgment in death. In his immersion in the water he signifies his burial, the severance of the last links with sin and its service, the world and its ways (Col. 2. 20).Emergence from the water is symbolical of the fact of resurrection here and now by the operation of God, (Col. 2. 12, 13) to walk and live as one “ risen with Christ “ (Col. 3. 1) to seek the things above.

(c) Proclamation of His Death. What a privilege and joy it is for believers in Christ to gather together on the first day of the week to remember their Lord and to proclaim His death ! “ For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death, till He come” (1 Cor. 11. 26,R.V.).

What does “ the word of the Cross “ mean to you ? Js it foolishness, or is it the power and wisdom of God ? Shall we join with Bunyan in his ‘ Pilgrim’s Progress ‘ ?–

“Blest Cross !blest sepulchre !blest rather be

The Man that there was put to shame for me !”


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