“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Friday, February 6, 2009

Atonement

God did not send some mighty emissary to reconcile man to God. He himself came! How great a mystery it is that God, who alone is eternal and transcendent and uncreated, above all, should himself enter this fallen world in order to redeem his children, taking upon himself the humblest and lowliest form. How unexpected and paradoxical that the Creator should become as a creature!

But stranger still is the final goal of this incarnation, that God, who defines perfection and holiness, should take on himself the sin of man. Let’s look at the second question: how did the cross change our relationship to God? In sinning against God, each person had brought upon himself a debt: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). This burden of sin was transferred from the redeemed to Jesus Christ, who then paid the debt through death and thus accomplished the “substitutionary atonement” of all those who would believe. He “[canceled] the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). Thus, Christ was “regarded and treated” (Scott J. Hafemann, commentary on 1 Corinthians 5:21, ESV Study Bible) as if he was the sinner, indeed, the worst of sinners, and we who are “in Christ” are regarded and treated as pure, righteous, and holy:

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21

“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth…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.” – 1 Peter 2:22, 24

“We like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned – every one – to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.” – Isaiah 53:6

“…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.” – Romans 3:24-25
This act of love and grace was his set plan from eternity – it was in accordance with his infinite, incomprehensible wisdom. He chose to forgive. To us who deserve death, he gave life. How strange, how unexpected, yet how beautiful, true and perfect – for such is the way of love, and God is love (John 15:12-13, Ephesians 3:19, 1 John 4:16). He is the “Being for others." So high, so deep, so great is his love for us that he gave nothing less than himself for us. In the cross we see clearly the nature of God’s incomparable love, an essential part of who he is.

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