For two thousand years, many millions of people have said, and believed, "Christ died for me." They may disagree about many other things, but they have ALL said, "Christ died for me."
This statement is so basic that we can almost make a rule: that if a person cannot say, "Christ died for me", that person is not a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But have those millions of people been victims of the biggest confidence trick in history?
How did "Christ die for me?" How does it work?
In the history of mankind many thousands have been crucified. So how is Christ's death different from any other person who has laid down his life for others? After all, it is not just in war, that a person has given up his life that others might live.
Despite the way it was portrayed by Hollywood in the film, 'Titanic', of the over 1500 people who perished, nearly 1350 of those were MEN. But only a little over 100 women and 60 boys and girls died. They laid down their life for others because most men in 1912 believed that women and children should go first. But all the people who survived the Titanic disaster are now dead 90 years later.
So how is Christ's life different? If Christ were just a teacher, a good person, a prophet, or even a king, then He could only save a few for a limited time. If Christ were just a man, He Himself would have died unable to save anyone.
This is recognized in scripture. Psalm 49:7-9 in the NIV is clear:
"No man can REDEEM the life of another or give to God a RANSOM for him - the ransom of life is COSTLY, no payment is ever enough - that he should live on for ever and not see decay."
There is another reason: As every human being is already a sinner he cannot give his own life for another. And as all life is God's, no man has life he can give. Only God can make that gift.
When we are honest with ourselves, we know that we are not perfect, that we are sinners. If I fell into a pig sty and were filthy and stinking, I would need a good bath.
So it is easy to see how I could be cleaned up on the outside. But people have felt the need to be clean on the outside and on the inside. It is hardly surprising then, that in most religions there is some sort of ritual cleansing ceremony.
Even in Christendom, there is a belief that baptism not only pictures the death and resurrection of Christ, but it also shows that the baptized person is now clean in the sight of God. Without this public display, it is claimed, a person cannot be considered a true follower of Christ.
Many of us who have been baptized believed that. But getting wet, immersed in water, can only be a physical symbol of no power in itself. What is important is BELIEVING what God has said.
Ephesians 1:13 -14 tells us that on HEARING the word of truth (the evangel of our salvation) and also on believing, we are sealed with the holy spirit of promise.
Ephesians 5:25-26 tells us that Christ loves the ecclesia and gives Himself up for its sake, that He hallows it, cleansing it in the bath of the water. It is to be a glorious ecclesia, and it is to be HOLY and FLAWLESS. This spiritual cleansing lasts a lifetime, not just for a few minutes in a ceremonial baptism.
One of the problems we face in understanding 'how it works' is our culture in the modern Western world. We are very much individuals . Why should we be blamed for something someone else did thousands of years ago? Especially when it was only because someone ate a piece of fruit! We do not feel SOLIDARITY with Adam.
But, whether we like it or not, there is one thing that we ALL have in common with each other and with Adam. Sooner or later, we all DIE. It is the only solidarity the whole human race has.
But the Jewish people did not have this culture problem. A Jewish child could ask his family at Passover, "Why are WE doing this?" The reply is: "When WE came out of Egypt." Even hundreds of years later, the reply is the same, "When WE came out of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 6:20-25). There is a recognition that they are all the same flesh and blood.
So the Jew could feel solidarity with another Jew, but what about ONE Jew and the WHOLE OF HUMANITY? How does CHRIST have solidarity with every person who has ever lived?
To answer our question we need to know what happened in the beginning before time and the Universe. How do we know what happened then? It is recorded for us in John 1:1:
"In the beginning was the Word."
Everything came into being through the Word. Nothing came into being apart from the Word. The world came into being through Him. This Word became FLESH and tabernacles among us. This is the One Who is in the bosom of the Father and He unfolds Him - Christ reveals the Father.
Colossians 1:16 repeats this:
"For in [Christ] is ALL created, that in the heavens and that on the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones, or lordships, or sovereignties, or authorities, ALL is created THROUGH Him, and FOR Him, and He is before all, and all has its cohesion in Him."
So God created (through Christ) Adam, the first man. Adam is the PHYSICAL father of all human beings, yes, but Christ CREATED Adam in the image of God. So Christ has a far greater claim of ownership over humanity than Adam. The Scripture says in 1 Corinthians 15:22:
"For even as, in ADAM all are dying, thus also, in CHRIST, shall all be vivified."
All die in Adam. All shall be made alive in Christ. It is also essential that mankind be saved by a MAN who knew no sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21:
"For the One not knowing SIN, HE makes to be a sin offering for OUR sakes that WE may be becoming God's righteousness in HIM."
At this point, the atheist or cynic will argue: "The whole of your faith is built on Christ as recorded in your holy book."
They are right. If the Scriptures are not true, we can't trust anything it says, including that Christ died for me. But it is NOT a case of being tricked by a massive fraud.
The reason literally millions of people over two millennia have believed, 'Christ died for me' is because they have experienced a RELATIONSHIP. That relationship involves a commitment by God to break down the barriers between Himself and His creation - US.
God is doing all the work. God is showing SOLIDARITY with His creation - and showing it through mankind. Not everyone would agree with that statement.
Not if we look only at the MESS the world is in.
Not if we look at the PROBLEMS we have with other people.
Not if we focus on our FEELINGS to gauge our levels of HAPPINESS, prosperity or health.
Not if we think that there is NO PURPOSE in life.
Not if we think that GOD is NOT in control of OUR world or the UNIVERSE.
We all rely on our five senses - hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, tasting. But we cannot supply the missing something that is absent from our experience, and we cannot have peace without it. That something is God's Spirit. God's Word reveals what we could not know otherwise. If there is an unseen God He must reveal Himself.
Christ is the One who reveals that God is the Father, that He has a loving relationship with His children. But it is not enough just to read about what God is like, we need to experience it. We need to be shown in everyday life, not just in books. We need to be shown that God LOVES his children.
There is a common misconception that God is a hanging judge, angry and austere. That Christ is loving, graceful and merciful and that our Lord by His sacrifice changed God's attitude towards mankind.
But Paul shows that the whole process of salvation is the will of God. 2 Corinthians 1:21 tells us that God anoints us, seals us and is giving the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. To the Galatians, Paul wrote (1:4) that the Lord Jesus Christ gives Himself for our sins, so that He may extricate us out of the present wicked eon, according to the WILL of our God and Father.
God's attitude didn't change by anything that Jesus did. Jesus expressed exactly God's attitude to mankind. Salvation did not come to men in opposition to the will of God. It came because it was the will of God. Jesus came to tell men, not that God hates sinners, but that He LOVES them.
In Colossians 1:20 it is God Who is making peace by the BLOOD of His cross and reconciling all unto Himself. It is MAN that needs to be reconciled to GOD.
The responsibility for the breach between man and God lies, not with God, but with MAN. It was man's attitude to God that needed to be changed. God's attitude to man always was and always will be LOVE. Jesus did not discover or create GRACE. He brought to men the already existing grace of God.
We hear about Christ being our sacrifice, but what does that mean? All through the Scriptures, we read about animal sacrifices. Sacrifices seem so barbaric, so remote from our 21st century life. Yet the lessons of sacrifices are for our learning, for our admonition.
Sacrifices started at the beginning. A different beginning to the one described in John 1. This one is in the first chapters of Genesis, when Adam ate the fruit given to him by Eve. When Adam knowingly disobeyed God and obeyed Satan. Scripture says we are slaves to that which we obey (2 Peter 2:19).
Adam started to die, to be under the bondage of sin, to belong to Satan, as soon as he ate the fruit. Access to God was now blocked. Adam could do nothing to restore his relationship with God. It was left to GOD to do what was necessary. God did not have a Plan B, in case Adam sinned.
Revelation 13:8 shows that Christ was slain before the creation of the world. Yes, before Adam was created, let alone before he sinned. The dying Adam could not procreate children who would live forever. The whole human race was, and is, affected by this dying state.
Adam and Eve must have been vegetarians. Only when they had sinned and knew they were naked do we see animal skins being used as clothing. An animal has to be killed to become a pelt. There was no death until SIN entered the world.
So right at the beginning, they learnt this lesson: Sin produces death, and that a sacrifice was necessary. So how is Christ's sacrifice different to any other sacrifice?
On the annual Day of Atonement, the High Priest first had to sacrifice for himself, before he could offer the sacrifices for his nation, because he was a sinner like all men.
But as Jesus is sinless, there was no need for Him to sacrifice for Himself. He was in perfect fellowship with the Father and needed NO cleansing. There was NO BARRIER between God and Christ. Christ's sacrifice was once and for all, not like the temple sacrifices which had to be repeated.
That in itself tells us that the temple sacrifices were not perfect. Those sacrifices could only temporarily cover sins; they could never cleanse or remove sin permanently.
Not only does God say He has no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs and goats (Isaiah 1:11), but it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. The sacrifices were just a reminder of sins (Hebrews 10:3-4). It was not the physical suffering of the cross that burdened Christ, great though that was. The fact is He would be made sin and separated from His Father. He did not pray to be saved from death, but to be saved out of death. In other words, that He should be RAISED from the dead.
I thought of using the analogy of Satan having kidnapped Adam and Eve, to show that Satan would demand a ransom for his captives. But the analogy is not accurate enough. No, the best one is that used in the Scriptures. We are slaves, legally owned by Satan. If God wants to have us back, He has to pay for us.
But how does He do this? It was GOD, not man, who provided the means to do it. The means God provided was the BLOOD of the CROSS.
In Scripture, the word 'BLOOD' is highly significant. Blood is a visible token of life violently ended, either given or taken in death.
The greatest OFFERING or service one can render is to give one's blood or LIFE.
"Greater LOVE than this has no one, that anyone may be laying down his SOUL for his friends"
The greatest earthly CRIME or evil is to take blood or life by manslaughter or MURDER.
The greatest PENALTY or loss is to have one's blood shed or life taken. The principle is - LIFE for life and BLOOD for blood. God has provided the BLOOD of the CROSS.
Revelation 5:9 records a new song sung by the four living creatures and the 24 elders to the Lamb:
"Worthy art THOU to be taking the scroll and to open its seals. For Thou wast SLAIN and dost BUY us for God by the BLOOD, out of every tribe and language and people and nation."
WHERE did the Lamb shed His blood? Colossians 1:19-20:
"For in Him the entire complement delights to dwell, and through Him to reconcile ALL to Him (making peace through the BLOOD of His CROSS), through Him, whether those on the earth or those in the heavens."
Yes, Christ shed His blood on the CROSS. The 'blood of His Cross' means the pouring out in death of Christ's earthly human life by crucifixion on a common gibbet. That is the deed that puts men right with God.
When the scriptures talk of Christ's 'days of His flesh' (Hebrews 5:7) or of knowing 'Christ according to the flesh' (2 Corinthians 5:16), it refers to His earthly life - i.e. the days of His flesh and blood.
Like everybody else, He had flesh kept alive by the blood that was in it. The 'blood of Christ', can only refer to his earthly death.
Our Lord spoke about His glorified body as having flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). No mention of blood, for the simple reason that the CORRUPTIBLE had put on INCORRUPTION (1 Corinthians 15:50-53) and that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Christ has life inherent in Himself; He needs nothing to sustain life. That is why Christ had to empty Himself and become a MAN, so that He could make peace through His BLOOD, shed on the cross.
It is not just the death of Christ, for salvation, but the cross of Christ for humiliation. It is a shameful death. Not only are we worthy of death, but the disgraceful death of a criminal.
These words Paul wrote to the Colossians (1:21-23) are important:
"And you, being once estranged and enemies in comprehension, by wicked acts, yet NOW He reconciles by His body of FLESH, through His DEATH, to present you holy and flawless and UNIMPEACHABLE in His sight, since surely you are persisting in the faith, grounded and settled and not being removed from the expectation of the evangel which you hear which is being heralded in the entire creation which is under heaven of which I, Paul became the dispenser."
What was the good news Paul brought? Today, there are many ideas about what the good news or evangel is all about. There are two EXTREMES:
The first extreme is, "Flee from the WRATH TO COME." Terrible things are prophesised for sinners. They will burn in an everlasting hell. But if they repent they will be saved. Fear is the motivation to become a believer.
But 1 John 4:18 reads:
"FEAR is not in love, but PERFECT love is casting out fear, for fear has CHASTENING. Now he who is fearing is NOT perfected in LOVE."
The second extreme is the teaching that people do not love themselves enough. The argument goes, "How can we love God and others if we do not love ourselves?" Therefore ALL problems are supposedly resolved by SELF-LOVE, and SELF-ESTEEM.
But Jesus did not command people to love themselves. He does not say there are three commandments - love God, love neighbour and love SELF. In fact, Jesus would not command people to love others as themselves, if they did not already love themselves. The commandment is not, "Love yourself first, so that you will be able to love God and others."
Scripture teaches that people do love themselves. For example, Ephesians 5:29:
"For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church".
We are not commanded to love SELF. We already do. We are commanded to love others as much as we already love ourselves. Luke 6:31:
"And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them likewise".
Love originates with God and then extends to others. 1 John 4:19:
"We are loving God, for HE FIRST loves US".
This love is sacrificial love expressed by Christ on the cross. 1 John 4:10-11:
"In this is love, NOT that WE love GOD, but that HE loves US, and sends His Son, a propitiation shelter concerned with our sins. Beloved if thus God loves us, we also ought to be loving one another"
"Yet God is commending this love of His to us, seeing that, while we are still sinners, Christ died for our sakes"
Another form of this extreme false gospel is the "PROSPERITY" gospel. If you have the right formula prayer, you will be blessed financially, health-wise, etc., because you will have MANIPULATED God to give you what you want.
Don't think that we are unaffected by this common teaching. Do we desire a comfortable and trouble-free life? Of course we do. We do not want pain, or anything unpleasant.
There are many Scriptures which show that sufferings are not a token of God's DISPLEASURE, but a FAVOUR given to those who are faithful to do God's will.
2 Timothy 3:12:
"For to you it is GRACIOUSLY granted, for Christ's sake, not only to be BELIEVING on Him, but to be SUFFERING for His sake also."
"And ALL who are wanting to live devoutly in Christ Jesus shall be persecuted."
We are to share in Christ's SUFFERING, in order that we may also share in His GLORY. (Romans 8:17).
If when you said, "Christ died for me," you were told that life would be hunky dory from then on, and were not warned to count the cost, then you were ill prepared for the real life of a believer.
In no other gospel but the TRUE gospel, is the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God revealed (Romans 1:17).
How is God's righteousness revealed in the 'FEAR' gospel, the 'SELF LOVE' gospel or the 'PROSPERITY' gospel?
But enough of HUMAN philosophies and FALSE gospels. Paul said the gospel was the UNSEARCHABLE RICHES of Christ (Ephesians 3:8) So what is the gospel, the good news that should be proclaimed today? 1 Corinthians 15:1, 3:
"Now I am making known to you, brethren, the evangel which I bring to you, which also you accepted, in which also you stand.... that Christ died for our sins according to the SCRIPTURES, and that He was entombed, and that He has been roused the third day according to the SCRIPTURES, and that He was seen by Cephas, thereupon by the twelve."
Paul says it twice - "according to the Scriptures." The cynics are right - IF the Scriptures are fakes then our faith is futile. Paul admits it. 1 Corinthians 15:16-17:
"For if the dead are NOT raised, then Christ has NOT been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised we are still in our sins."
Then there is no hope for anyone. God has failed. He was powerless to achieve His purpose. We will have endured the pain and the suffering of this life, (yes, and the joys and pleasures) for NOTHING.
Without a life to come, it is impossible to believe in either the LOVE or justice of God. In his second letter to the Corinthians (5:18), Paul wrote:
"... God, conciliates us to Himself through Christ, and is giving us the dispensation of the CONCILIATION, how that God was in Christ, conciliating the world to Himself, not reckoning their offences to them, and placing in US the word of the CONCILIATION. For Christ, then, we are ambassadors, as of God entreating through us. We are beseeching for Christ's sake, Be conciliated to God! God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him, we might become the RIGHTEOUSNESS of GOD."
Our job then, as ambassadors of Christ, is not to force the gospel down people's throats, not to 'win souls for Christ', but to cast the seed and let it fall where CHRIST can let it grow. We cannot draw people to Christ, only GOD can.
So we are to implore on Christ's behalf: BE RECONCILED TO GOD.
Yes, it is helpful to understand HOW and WHY Christ died for me. But it is not essential to understand the mechanism, the legal framework or even the technical Greek or Hebrew words. Or for that matter, to understand the English words, like: propitiation, atonement, justification, redemption etc. Helpful, but not essential.
God hasn't called all the world's most intelligent, the wisest, most influential, most noble people. He chose the foolish, weak and lowly, so that NO-ONE could boast before Him (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
I am not knocking KNOWLEDGE, neither did Paul. He prayed that (Ephesians 3:18-19)
"Christ would dwell in your hearts through FAITH, that YOU, having been rooted and grounded in LOVE, should be strong to grasp, together with all the saints ... to know the LOVE of Christ as well, which transcends knowledge - that you may be completed for the entire complement of God."
All the talk about animal sacrifices, solidarity with people, false gospels means nothing to a CHILD. Even a very young child, though, knows if he is being LOVED. Knowledge, by itself, is not enough. Words are cheap. God has proved His DEEP LOVE for the whole of creation and it is proved by what God has done in the lives of ordinary human beings.
We cannot disregard a FACT of history - In the past 2000 years, millions of people have said and believed, "CHRIST DIED FOR ME." They have not just read the theory about it, they have experienced it in their everyday life.
So in this I will boast: "CHRIST DIED FOR ME."
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