Understanding the effects of sin
There is a tension in the descriptions of God as he relates to our sin; he is portrayed as both merciful and wrathful.
Jesus says – God is like a shepherd looking for his lost sheep, or woman looking for her lost coin, or a father looking for his lost son. (Luke 15)
Jesus says – God is like a harsh master who throws an unworthy servant into the outer darkness, like a bridegroom who leaves the bridesmaids locked outside the party, like a judge who sends some to eternal joy and others to eternal fire. (Matthew 25)
Here is the reveal – God is both the Father of Victims, and the Father of Criminals. He hates sin because it hurts his children (see Romans 1:18), but he loves all his children, victim and criminal alike.
As the father, what would you do? How do you make right what they have made wrong, without having to punish them as they deserve? How would you rescue them from the evil that has captured them, without denying their own involvement in it?
This is precisely God’s situation with us. Therefore, Scripture uses language of “saving” “ransoming” “buying back” and “reconciling” to describe God’s plan on our behalf.
Jesus said that he came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). We know this is God’s plan; today we have to discuss the “how” of the plan.
God’s Solution, Part One – Paying Back (Substitution)
God both desires justice as the Father of victims, and desires mercy as the Father of criminals.
This process of payment for our sins is accomplished partly through a radical idea espoused by God throughout Scripture. That idea is what we call substitutionary atonement.
God’s wrath at our sin is appeased by the death of a worthy substitute, and his mercy is demonstrated by a willingness to accept the substitute in our stead.
Ultimately, this entire system points to Jesus, “The Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.” Jesus is the only appropriate and effective substitute for us, for the following reasons:
1. Only a human deserved to pay for humanity's sin.
2. Only God could pay for our sins.
3. Only an innocent man could pay for our sin.
4. Only a willing sacrifice could truly offer his life as a gift on our behalf.
God’s Solution Part Two - Paying Forward (Imputation)
Part of God's payment is the covering up of our sins. But this word also includes the idea of our reception of Christ’s righteousness, as well as his reception of our sin.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
The last verse of this passage is overwhelmingly significant. This reconciliation comes not only through the covering up of our sins by Jesus’ death, but also through the addition of his righteousness into our lives. “He made him who knew no sin to become sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
He took our place so that we could take his. Or as the early church fathers said, “God became man so that man might become God.”
More on this idea next week!
God’s Solution Part Three - Paying For (Christus Victor)
Remember that at the beginning of our conversation, we said that God both wanted to right the wrongs we have committed, and also rescue us from the evil that has captured us? The idea of payment primarily addresses the above idea of substitution, but there is a second, incredibly important aspect of what Jesus does to save us. This is the idea called “Christus Victor” by the early church.
Jesus’ resurrection, three days after his death, is a critical component of our salvation.
First, his resurrection is a vindication of his life and his message – the greatest proof possible that everything Jesus said was true. Jesus repeatedly foretold his story to his disciples (for example, Luke 9:22); he would die and be raised from the dead after three days.
But equally importantly, his death, and especially his resurrection, is a victory over the powers of evil in this world.
Colossians 1:15 states that God, “having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” The words “powers and authorities” in the New Testament refers to the personal spiritual forces of evil. In other words, Satan is the ISIS from whom Jesus came to ransom and rescue us. And in the cross, and the resurrection, we see Jesus as victorious over his enemies. We are not the enemy; we are the prize the hero came to reclaim.
Unlike every other religion, our propitiation comes not from our goodness, but the gift of Christ’s life for us. He took the punishment we deserved; he gave us the righteousness he deserved; and with his death and resurrection he defeated the enemy of our souls.
Our task, then, is not to earn what he has already earned, but to accept his gift by joining with him in faith.
Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”