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Posts Tagged ‘Gospel’

Enjoying God for All He’s Worth

April 22, 2015 6 comments

The other day I enjoyed a particularly breath-taking moment with God. I had just finished a good work out and was eating some fruit in the living room while my wife rested from a long day. I like fruit, but for some reason, I was particularly aware of it’s sweetness this day.

I intentionally slowed my pace so that I could really enjoy the sweetness more thoroughly. As I did I began to take note of a few other delights as well. I focused on the beauty of some roses sitting on our coffee table, relished the companionship of my wife and relaxed in the silence of a nice Spring evening.

This was the first time in several weeks, maybe even months, that I had slowed down enough to really savor life. My wife and I have been busy preparing for our first child, selling our house and taking care of our daily affairs. It has been particularly easy to miss out on all the good around us.

A Taste of Something Sweeter

For some reason, on this particular night, however, God seemed to put the world on pause so that I could enjoy him in a way I hadn’t for quite some time. Then it hit me. I wasn’t just enjoying the fruit, the flowers or my wife, I was enjoying God through the fruit, the flowers and my wife.

Psalm 19:1 says, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” The same is true of the rest of creation as well. God radiates his glory, excellence and beauty. It proceeds from him, like light and heat proceed forth from the sun. All of creation then reflects God’s glory, excellence and beauty in one way or another to one degree or another, like the moon reflects the light of the sun.

That’s breath taking enough as it is. When we take a step back to meditate on this Scripture a little longer, it becomes even more breath taking. This ultimately means that fruit is only sweet because it reflects the sweetness of God’s glory. Roses are only beautiful because they reflect the beauty of God. Companionship is only enjoyable because it reflects the companionship we can have with God through Jesus.

Image via colindye.com

Image via colindye.com

Seeing and Savoring Christ

Amazing right? It gets even better. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” Romans 1:19-20 reminds us that God has made himself known plainly through creation. This means that things like a refreshing Spring rain, a savory meal or an adventurous road trip are all means by which we can enjoy more of all that God is for us in Jesus.

It is through Jesus that we enjoy, as Ephesians 1 says, “every spiritual blessing.” It is through creation that we get to savor those spiritual blessings through tangible experiences that bring the many benefits of Christ’s work to life for us. God’s glory is to be seen and savored through all of creation as creation redirects our hearts back to the good things we have in Jesus Christ. Next time you do something that you enjoy, let your enjoyment of God’s creation redirect your heart to God so that you can enjoy him for all that he’s worth.

Categories: Theology Tags: , , ,

The Myth of Tolerance: Why It’s Better to be Loving Than Tolerant

September 9, 2014 5 comments

The term “tolerance” has grown in popularity over the past several years.  It’s used most commonly to promote diversity, inclusion and a general acceptance of all lifestyles, worldviews and beliefs.  In many cases, when people call for tolerance they’re not actually asking for a general acceptance of who they are as a person (most people are ok with this concept), they’re demanding a celebration and embrace of their lifestyle and worldview, no matter how absurd they may be.

More Harm Than Good

The myth of tolerance is that it’s loving to embrace and celebrate other people no matter how damaging their behaviors.  While it is important that we love people who are different than us, that doesn’t mean we have to accept and celebrate their sinful choices.

Image via store.gospeltract.org

Image via store.gospeltract.org

At first glance, tolerance seems like the loving route, but it’s not.  When I was a kid for example, my little brother and I were playing in the yard when we discovered millions of little yellow pellets littering the grass.  We didn’t know what they were, but they looked fun, so we started playing with them.  We put them in our pockets, threw them in the air and rubbed them on our skin.  We did everything short of eat them.

It wasn’t long until my mom came out in a panic and rushed us into the house to wash off the fertilizer we had foolishly been playing with.  She cleaned us up, warned us never to play in the fertilizer again and sent us back outside.   It might have been tolerant for my mom to let us play in the fertilizer, but it wouldn’t have been loving.  In fact, tolerance would have done my brother and I great harm.

A Better Way

The truth is, at times genuine love must be intolerant.  Because I love my wife, I won’t tolerate anyone mistreating her.  Because I love my church, I won’t tolerate false teaching. Because parents love their children they won’t tolerate them eating fertilizer, sticking their hands down the dish disposal or playing in the street.  Why?  Because real love refuses to tolerate the things that do harm to the people we care about.

This doesn’t mean we should degrade, mistreat or condemn the people who are unlike us.  We should love, care for, respect, serve, bless and befriend people with different beliefs, world views and lifestyles, but that doesn’t mean we have to embrace and celebrate their sin. It means that we care for and respect others in spite of their sins and differences, not because of them. And it means that, at times, we should love them enough to correct them. Just like God does for us.

Love Wins

God accepts and affirms believers in Jesus Christ in spite of our sin, but that doesn’t mean that he is ok with our sin. Just like my mom refused to tolerate my brother and I playing in the fertilizer because we could get hurt, so God also will not tolerate the sin in our lives because it does great damage to our souls.  My mom loved my brother and I exactly as we were, but she refused to let us stay that way.

Similarly, God loves us exactly as we are, sin and all, but he loves us enough not to let us stay in our sin. He loved us enough to send Jesus to the cross to forgive us, clean us and free us. As we come to know the love of Christ, our sin is confronted and our hearts are changed.

Instead of tolerating people, try loving people.  Look past their sins and short-comings and accept them for who they are, just as God does for you in Christ.  Lovingly correct others when needed and be open to correction from others at all times. Point them to Jesus and let him be the one to change their world views and lifestyles, just as you look to Jesus to change your own.

This post is an excerpt from a recent sermon I preached in the “Sex, Singleness & Marriage” sermon series at the Living Hope Church-Maryville Campus called “Tolerance & Sexuality.” You can view the sermon by clicking here.

Categories: Culture, Theology Tags: , , , ,

What the Gospel Means for You.

There are at least two types of Bible passages related to the Christian life. One type are called “indicatives” and the other type “imperatives.” Indicative Bible passages are those that indicate a benefit Christians have received by virtue of their faith in Christ. This is what Ephesians 1:3 refers to when it mentions “every spiritual blessing” given to those who believe. In other words, the indicative passages communicate that which is true for believers in Christ.

Imperative Bible passages are those that command Christians to live in a particular way. These passages inform Christians on what it looks like to live for God. The idea is that if you want to live for Christ you must first believe that which is true for you in Christ.

Identity in Christ

When Jesus died on the cross he not only secured our salvation, he also secured our identity. The truth of the gospel is not simply a change in where you will go, it is fundamentally a change in who you are. (1 John 3:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17) This essentially means whatever is true of Christ is now true for those in Christ.

When you turn to the Lord none of your sins or wrong-doings are counted against you anymore, while all of Christ’s perfection, accomplishments and obedience are credited to your name. Jesus takes your sin and he gives you his righteousness. (2 Corinthians 5:21; Psalm 103) God not only sees you as though you have never sinned, he now sees you as though you have always obeyed.

This is the good news! Jesus has eternally secured our right standing and acceptance before God through what he has accomplished on the cross. God no longer sees you as an ill-deserving sinner, but as his dearly loved son or daughter. (Galatians 4:4-7)  He will never condemn you, never shame you, never guilt you and never forsake you. He will always love you, always accept you and always welcome you into his presence; not because of what you do for him, but because of what he has done for you in Christ. (1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:23-25; Romans 8:1-4) These are the indicative truths of the gospel.

Image via thecenterforgospelculture.org

Image via thecenterforgospelculture.org

Living for Christ

The result of believing the gospel’s indicative truths is power to live Scripture’s imperative commands. When we believe what Jesus has done for us it empowers us to live in obedience to God. For example, the most basic command in all of Scripture is to love God and to love people (the imperative). (Mark 12:30-31) The power to love God and people comes from understanding and believing that you are loved by God in Christ (the indicative). (Romans 5:1-5; 1 John 4:9-10)

The New Testament is filled with indicative truths for us to believe and imperative commands for us to obey. It’s critical that we obey God, but it’s only possible when we believe Jesus.  Faith in Jesus empowers obedience to Jesus.

What is the Gospel?

It is only through Jesus Christ that sinners can know and live for God. This truth, called the gospel, is the “good news” about who Jesus is and what he has done.  It includes his deity, incarnation, life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension into heaven, present rule as King of kings and Lord of lords and his future return to establish God’s Kingdom on earth.

Image via katieyunholmes.blogspot.com

Image via katieyunholmes.blogspot.com

God: Supremely Worthy

The Bible teaches that God is the supreme being of the universe. (Psalm 115:3; Isaiah 42:8; Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 48:11; Romans 11:36) Creation declares the magnitude of his worth, the heavens display the beauty of his excellence and he alone deserves the entirety of our lives. (Psalm 8:1-4; Psalm 19:1; Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 10:31) In love, this God created us to live in unhindered relationship with him and with one another as we enjoy his glory together. (Genesis 1-2; Isaiah 43:7; Isaiah 43:21)

Man: Ill-Deserving

We, however, like our first parents Adam and Eve, have refused to give God the glory that he alone deserves. We have rejected him, disobeyed his commands and turned to worship created things rather than God our Creator. (Romans 1:18-25; Romans 3:9-10, 23) We have broken friendship with God by turning away from him in sin earning his just condemnation in the eternal, conscious torments of a very real hell. (Romans 6:23a; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10)

There is absolutely nothing that we can do to earn God’s forgiveness or acceptance. No good work will get us to heaven; no amount of personal effort will bring us back into loving friendship with God. (Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:11) We are powerless to overcome sin and its effects on our own. (John 8:34; Romans 7:7-25)

Jesus: All Sufficient

God, in his loving-kindness, has, however, chosen to glorify his name by saving sinners through his Son, Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:3-14) He demonstrates his love for us by sending Jesus to the cross while we “were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10) God didn’t wait for us to get our life together, to earn his approval or to prove our worth through our good deeds. He sent Jesus to remove our sin and bring us back to him through his death and resurrection. When we were at our worst, God gave us his best.

In other words, God sent Jesus to live as our example, (Philippians 2:5; 1 Peter 2:21; Hebrews 12:1-3) to die on the cross as our substitute (Romans 4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 3:18) and to rise from the dead as our Lord,¹ freeing those who believe from Satan, sin, hell and death and redirecting our worship back to God. (Luke 24:1-12; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Romans 5:9; Romans 8:1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8) The good news, then, is that ill-deserving sinners can receive forgiveness of sins and be brought back into loving relationship with God by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:11-21; 1 Peter 1:3; 1 John 4:9)

We are not saved by our good works, but by Jesus’ finished work. We can know, enjoy and live for God not because of what we do, but because of what Jesus has done for us. Our acceptance before God is eternally secured when we turn from sin and self-reliance to believe in and depend on Jesus alone for salvation. (Romans 3:23-25; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:1-7)

Lord of All

The gospel, then is the good news that Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and earth.  He used his authority entirely for the benefit of ill-deserving sinners by sacrificing himself in our place on the cross.  He then rose from the dead victorious over sin and death so that those who believe can freely worship in submission to and reverence for Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jesus Christ is Lord of all.  We live for him because he died for us.  (2 Corinthians 5:14-15) This news, as the Apostle Paul says, is of first importance. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) If you truly want to live for God you must come to terms with the gospel. It must determine who you are and how you live.

¹Paraphrased from “The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out” by Mark Driscoll.

Christ Our Life

This short clip is from a sermon called “Christ Our Life” preached by Bryan Mowrey, Jordan Dillon and David Qaoud at Jubilee Church in St. Louis, MO on May 11, 2014. This particular clip is of David, my good friend, preaching from Colossians 3:4.

I share this clip with you for two reasons:

1. David does an absolutely phenomenal job of communicating what this text means, why it matters and how it applies. He rightly emphasizes the importance of Jesus Christ being the sum total of our lives and not just a modest addition to our lives. This clip is well worth every second.

2. David and I have been friends for quite some time. He has sensed God’s call to preach the Bible for as long as I can remember. He has preached several short chapels to his college football team before games and a time or two at Living Hope before moving to St. Louis, but this is the first opportunity he’s had to preach at Jubilee.

Unlike many men who desire to preach, however, David’s all-consuming desire has simply been to know Jesus and make him known. He has submitted himself to church leadership, focused primarily on maturity as a disciple of Jesus and has refused to let a pre-occupation with preaching keep him from making disciples by serving the church where he is needed most, even in areas I know he wouldn’t be thrilled about for any other reason than to serve. He has been a good friend and a great example of what it looks like for Christ be be our life.

Therefore, this clip is worth watching not simply because David has preached a great message, but because I’ve seen him live this message every day for the past five years.  The best sermons are not only preached, they are lived by the preacher.  David does that and, for that reason, I commend his words to you today.

To watch the full-length sermon click here.

 

 

 

 

5 Discipleship Principles from the Great Commission

Moments before the Lord ascended into the heavens, he left his disciples with a simple mandate called, “The Great Commission.” At this point in Scripture, Jesus had completed his earthly ministry, atoned for the sins of the world and risen from the dead, victorious over Satan, sin and death. He then gathers his remaining followers for one final instruction, like a coach gathering his team for a momentum shifting half-time speech.

Matthew records the Lord’s words in the final lines of his gospel, which says, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and an earth has been given unto me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'”

Image via lindenwoodcc.com

Image via lindenwoodcc.com

When you view Christ’s commission in the context of his ministry, it’s clear that his instruction is about discipleship.  His instructions emphasize five important principles for this task.  These components can be experienced in any order, but I have listed them in the order that most people experience them, rather than the order they appear in the text.

1. Relationship. The Lord’s instruction is simple, “go and make disciples.” In that day, discipleship was a mentor relationship in which someone learning a trade, such as religion, would find a person, such as a rabbi, to personally teach it to them by example, instruction and experience.  If we want to be effective disciple-makers we must understand, like the first disciples, that discipleship is not a program or a curriculum, it’s a personal relationship with others as we journey in Christ together.

2. Learning. In Matthew 28, Jesus explicitly says that we are to teach our disciples about God.  This means that a disciple is always learning to live for God as he is also teaching others to live for God. It’s important to understand, however, that a person often learns about the Lord long before he ever comes to faith.  Learning happens before, during and after conversion. We are to disciple both those who are Christians and those who have yet to become Christians.

3. Faith. Baptism is the outward expression of inward faith in Jesus.  It is the way a person publicly professes that they have believed in Jesus for forgiveness and new life in God.  Discipleship, therefore, must progress to and be built on genuine, personal faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

4. Obedience. The text clearly states that disciples are to observe or obey all that the Lord has commanded.  This means that the goal of discipleship is not simply faith, but a faith and obedience. Faith comes first, but if it’s genuine obedience will follow. We must urge those we are teaching to live for God, not just to believe in him.

5. Reproduction.  Christ commands his disciples to go and make more disciples.  This implies our disciples will make disciples who make disciples.  We should strive to know the Lord as personally and deeply as we can, but we must be diligent to help others grow in Christ as well.

Discipleship, therefore, is about learning to live in obedience to God by faith in Jesus Christ through relationship with others over time.  As we grow as disciples, we then make more disciples by repeating the process with others.  This is the heart of the Great Commission.

This post is adapted from a sermon I preached at the Living Hope Church-Maryville Campus called “Discipleship: Our One Objective.” You can watch the sermon by clicking here.

The Cross: God’s Love Magnified or His Wrath Satisfied?

April 18, 2014 7 comments

This post is in defense of the biblical doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement.  It is written as a response to specific misconceptions about what Jesus accomplished on the cross. This post is exceedingly long and it is intended to be for the sake of a thorough defense of an important doctrine. Be advised. 

Image via dvrbible.wordpress.com

Image via dvrbible.wordpress.com

The cross and resurrection are the culmination of Christ’s ministry.  It was here that Jesus would die for the sins of the world. (1 John 2:2; John 1:29)   It was here that sin and death would be defeated.  (1 Corinthians 15:56-57; 1 Corinthians 15:26) It was here that the Lord would have his victory over Satan and hell. (1 John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14-15; Revelations 12:11; Revelation 20:13-14; Revelation 20:6)   It was here that sins would be forgiven and those who believe would be made right with God. (Hebrews 8-10)

Because of our sins, for our Benefit

On this topic Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3 that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” To die for our sins means to die because of our sins.  Elsewhere Paul says, “for our sake [God] made [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Here Paul indicates that Jesus not only died because of our sins, he also died for our benefit.  Peter echoes this in 1 Peter 3:18 when he says “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”

This exchange is known as penal substitutionary atonement; penal meaning penalty, substitutionary meaning in our place because of our sins and atonement meaning to make those who believe right with God. In other words Jesus died on the cross in our place to take the penalty we deserve for our sins so that those who believe in him can be made right with God.

The Wrath of God

The Bible clearly states in both the Old and New Testaments that God’s wrath is against those who do evil.  God’s wrath is his just anger against sinners. We see this in the passages below as well as many others:

1) Psalm 78:21-22:Therefore, when the Lord heard, he was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob; his anger rose against Israel, because they did not believe in God and trust in his saving power.”

2) Ezekiel 25:17: The Lord said, “I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I lay my vengeance upon them.”

3) Nahum 1:2:The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.”

4) Romans 12:18:Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

5) Ephesians 2:1-3:And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

6) Revelation 19:21:He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.”

Basically, God is loving, gracious and kind. He is slow to anger, wanting all to turn from sin and be saved, but he will not withhold his wrath from those who continually refuse his loving kindness. (2 Peter 3:9; Exodus 34:6-7)

All Have Sinned

Scripture is also clear when it states that all people have sinned against God and face his wrath.

1) Romans 1:18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

2) 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9:when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from[a] the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might”

3) Romans 3:10-12, 23: “None is righteous, no, not one; no on understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless.  no one does good, not even one… For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

4) 2 Peter 2:9:Then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment”

Jesus, therefore, substituted himself for sinners at the cross.  He would die so that we could live.  He would be condemned so that we could be forgiven.  He would absorb the wrath of God so that those who believe could instead receive the mercy of God.

A Necessary Substitute

This is called propitiation, which means to appease or deal with a persons anger by diverting it to someone or something other than the person who deserves it. In other words, the offense is actually dealt with by someone or something other than the person who committed the offense, it’s not just overlooked. The following passages illustrate this clearly:

1) 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10:For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven,whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

2) Romans 5:9:Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

3) Romans 3:23-25:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift,through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 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.”

4) 1 John 2:2:He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Scripture is clear: all people are sinners who deserve the wrath of God.  God, in his kindness and love, sent Jesus to the cross as our substitute to absorb the wrath of God so that those who believe could instead receive his love.  God is holy.  It would be unjust for him to simply overlook our offenses.  The cross is where God can execute justice against sin, while simultaneously showing mercy to sinners.

Naysayers and False Teachers

At this point, many progressive Bible teachers speak out against the truth of God’s Word.  These are the men who would rather tell the gospel as they’d like for it to be than as it actually is. (2 Peter 3:14-18) Their arguments are as follows:

1) Modern Bible translations have misinterpreted the word propitiation used in places like 1 John 2:2, Romans 3:25 and 1 John 4:10.  They argue that the word translated as propitiation doesn’t actually mean to “pacify wrath,” but that it should be translated as expiation which means to “remove sin.”  The truth is that Jesus both pacifies wrath and removing sin.

Let’s assume however that you’re smarter than I because you know Greek and Hebrew (or can quote the first website that agrees with your opinion) and that the word for propitiation is incorrectly translated.  There are other Scriptures that do not use the word propitiation and still communicate that Jesus saves us from the wrath of God.

1 Thessalonians 1:10, for example, states that “Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come.” Likewise, Romans 5:9 clearly states that we are “saved from the wrath of God by [Jesus].” Finally, John 3:36 explicitly says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Scripture clearly and emphatically teaches that  Jesus saves from God’s wrath.

2) The second argument against Jesus’ substitutionary work is that Jesus never stated that he died to save sinners from God’s wrath.  This is simply not true. In John 3:16-17 Jesus himself says that “For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  Jesus is referring to a person perishing because they are condemned, but condemned to where?  The answer is hell, the place of God’s wrath as we’ve already seen in 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9. At the cross Jesus was condemned so that those who believe wouldn’t have to be. 

Furthermore, in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5-7), Jesus states that it is better to enter life maimed than it is to be thrown into hell for one’s sin. (Matthew 5:27-30)  If a person is thrown into hell because of his sins, then for Jesus to save a person from his sins means that Jesus has saved him from God’s wrath in hell.

Lastly, John the Baptist stated that Jesus died to take away the wrath of God (John 3:36). Jesus had personal interaction with John and many of John’s disciples became Jesus’ disciples. (John 1:35-37) Surely the Lord would have heard of John’s teaching, yet no where in Scripture does Jesus refute the teaching that he is to die for our sins to take the wrath of God.  If it were not true, Jesus would have most certainly corrected the man he regarded so highly. (Matthew 11:11)

3) Those who disagree with the doctrine of propitiation also argue that this stance does not fit with the rest of the New Testament.  Hogwash.  Jesus said at least three times that he came to fulfill the Scriptures (Matthew 26:54, 56; Luke 24:27)   and Paul echoes Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:3.  The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. If Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures, that means that he fulfilled the Old Covenant with it’s laws, rights, rituals, practices, traditions, customs and requirements.

Leviticus 16 illustrates penal substitution when it describes the responsibility of the high priest to slaughter animals as a substitute, or sacrifice, for the sins of the people.  The animal would die, so that the people could live.  The animal would be condemned, so that the people could be forgiven.  If Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures, then he fulfilled this requirement by becoming the substitute for us, which is also confirmed in Hebrews 5-10.

This would also mean that Jesus fulfilled the Passover in which the death angel, executing God’s judgment and wrath against Pharaoh’s rebellion, passed over the homes of those who had the blood of a Lamb painted over their doorposts.  (Exodus 12:12-13) In Matthew 26:26-29 Jesus indicates that his blood is the blood of the covenant, indicating that he is the Passover Lamb, through whom the wrath of God passes over those who believe.

4) One final argument that is commonly made is that penal substitutionary atonement (propitiation) is too judicial.  It pits God the Father against Jesus the Son.  Those who make this argument must have removed passages like Romans 2:1-52 Corinthians 5:10, Acts 17:31 and Revelation 20:12 from their Bibles.  These passages clearly teach that we will all stand before the judgment seat of God to be judged for our sins.  You can’t get much more judicial than that.

If we are to be judged for our sins, then Jesus had to have died to take that judgment.  If he didn’t, then we have no hope but to face the judgment ourselves.  God the Father positioned himself against Jesus the Son on the cross so that he would no longer have to position himself against ill-deserving sinners, which is why 1 John 1:9 calls Jesus our advocate.

An advocate is someone who defends another person in a court of law.  Again, very judicial. How does Jesus defend us in God’s court? By taking the judgment of God upon himself so that he can rightfully defend us at our own judgment. Christ’s judgment is our restoration and without Christ’s judgment there can be no restoration. God is not Judge or Father he is both Judge and Father.

A Glorious Conclusion

Indeed, at the cross God’s wrath is most certainly satisfied.  Jesus absorbed it so we wouldn’t have to.  What then of God’s love? Is he a cold, begrudging deity?  By no means. 1 John 4:10 tells us that “in this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Other translations say “atoning sacrifice” which is another way of saying “to make right with one through the substitutionary death of another.” In fact the dictionary definition for sacrifice is “the offering of an animal, plant or human life or of some material possession to a deity, as in propitiation or homage.”

The breath-taking reality is this: God would rather pour his wrath out on his own Son than to see ill-deserving sinners get the penalty they deserve. You cannot find a better personification of love than that.  Jesus willingly took the punishment you deserve for your wrongs against God so that you could be forgiven.  That’s love.  God the Father chose to punish his Son for your sins so that he could adopt you as his child.  That’s love.

If the question is whether or not the cross is God’s love magnified or his wrath satisfied, then the answer is that the cross is God’s love magnified through his wrath satisfied.  It is at the cross that love and justice meet.  A holy God is vindicated and ill-deserving sinners are loved far beyond what their sins deserve.

This post was adapted from a sermon I preached at the Living Hope Church-Maryville Campus called “Christ Our Substitute.”  This sermon was one of four sermons in a series called “The Cross of Christ,” one of our most popular series at Living Hope.  You can view the series here and the sermon here.

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