Part two will appear tomorrow on Easter Monday.
•••by Russell Young
The crucifixion of Christ is celebrated for the freedom that His life offering brings to mankind. Because of its significance, and the event is so well known, it truths have been over generalized and often misrepresented, or at least have not been well understood by many believers. The Lord’s crucifixion has left them a place to rest their confidence without true appreciation of that which He actually achieved.
The writer of Hebrews has presented the accomplishments of the cross. “For this reason [to cleanse our consciences (moral consciousness) from acts that lead to death] Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”1
The crucifixion of Christ provided a ransom. A ransom is a price to be paid to release one from bondage. In this case the ransom provided by the life of Christ released the believer from the consequences of the sins that he had committed while under the first, or Old, Covenant. The consequence of those sins is death. The Word of God speaks of the payment of his ransom as being His purchase of the believer resulting in his “redemption.”2
Paul wrote, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…He redeemed us in order that the blessings given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”3 Accordingly, Christ redeemed the believer from the law for a very specific reason…that he might receive the promise of the Spirit. The purpose of the believer’s redemption is to release him from the bondage of the law and give him the Holy Spirit. One’s having been ransomed and redeemed does NOT equate to his eternal salvation but makes him a slave to Christ, his redeemer and his owner.
Paul has made it clear that more is required for eternal salvation than the “justification” provided through the sacrifice of Christ. To the Romans he stated, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more shall we be saved through his life.”4 That is, more than justification through the blood of Christ is necessary in order to avoid the wrath of God. (Underlining added.)
The redemption provided by the blood of Christ paid the cost or penalty for the sins that existed at the time of one’s confession of faith. This payment was necessary in order to satisfy the terms of the Old Covenant so it could be brought to a conclusion. Christ brought the repentant confessor back to God. It made him friends with God. It renewed his relationship with God. As Paul has stated above, Christ did this so that we might receive the gift of Holy Spirit. However, one’s justification and redemption did not necessarily remove the wrath of God. It might still fall on the redeemed one; he needs to be saved from God’s wrath through the life of Christ (the Holy Spirit) living in him.
Consider the death of our Lord in another manner. What would have happened if Christ had died a natural death such is the outcome of all mortal beings. Had He died a natural death, He would have returned to the Father since He had not sinned and it is sin that separates man from the Father and His Kingdom.5 A natural death would not have advantaged mankind in any way. Because of His sinlessness, Jesus would have had victory over death but for Himself only.
If his natural death would have meant nothing even though He had lived a sinless life, mankind’s hope must rest in His crucifixion? How is this? The answer is found in 1 Peter: “He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’”6 Christ took on our sins. He became burdened with the sins of each sinner and has left the redeemed one free of any sin…righteous and clean. This is known as the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer…the great transaction, but he must still “live for righteousness.”
It is important to remember the words to the Hebrews. The Saviour’s ransom was for sin committed while under the first or Old Covenant. The writer has also stated that “he became the mediator of a new covenant. This mediation needs to be understood, however the process of His mediation was not fully accomplished by His death, His crucifixion.
Christ “bore our sins”, in fact, He bore the sins of the world. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”7 The crucifixion of Christ allowed Him to atone for all of the sins of the world.
Does this mean that all of the sins of the whole world have been atoned for, that sin no longer carries a consequence for anybody since it has been atoned for? No! His atonement is available but only becomes active through (by reason of) faith in his blood. The atoning sacrifice is only applied to those who have faith.8 Faith9 itself means persuasion and requires constancy of that persuasion for His atonement to apply. Faith is placed in something and in this case in the atoning sacrifice provided by the blood of Christ for sins that are past or are under the jurisdiction of the Old Covenant. The atoning sacrifice for sin applies as long as the constancy exists; that is why Christ said that “he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”10 It cannot be said that the faith that existed at one’s confession of faith has cleansed him of all future sins because there is a need for constancy of faith and that constancy is only proven over time.
1 Hebrews 9:15, NIV
2 Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 5:9
3 Galatians 3:13…14, NIV
4 Romans 10: 9-10, NIV
5 Isaiah 59:2
6 1 Peter 2:24, NIV
7 1 John 2:2, NIV
8 Romans 3:25: “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood.” (NIV)
9 Faith is translated from the Greek pistis and means “persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstractly,constancy in such profession; by extension, the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself:—assurance, belief,believe, faith, fidelity. “- Strong’s Greek Dictionary #3982
10 Matthew 10:22, NIV