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The sacrifice of Jesus Christ

Synopsis: the lecture discusses in a possibly detailed way the sacrifice that was made by Jesus Christ for the redemption of mankind: why it was necessary, how man's fall determined the way it was carried out, why Jesus had to die, how his baptism relates to his sacrifice and how we benefit from this today.

Contents:

  1. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ as prophesied in the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament
  2. Jesus obedience as a sacrifice for the disobedience of Adam
  3. Equivalent price
  4. The lawful deed of Jesus for the unlawful deed of Adam
  5. Death and resurrection
  6. The use of the sacrifice

To start with, it could be asked why this lecture. Every Christian knows that Jesus Christ's sacrifice consisted in his death on the cross. Why death? Because God expected that somebody sinless would give his life in exchange for the life lost by Adam. Indeed, such a view does not require additional explanations, but its simplicity is nonetheless problematic. For in what light does it place God? When Jews made bloody offerings of their sons and daughters to Molech, God told the prophet Jeremiah: "I did not command them to do this, and it did not even enter my mind that they would do such a thing and make the people of Judah sin" (Jer. 32:35 GNB). The God who abhorred the bloody sacrifices of Judah suddenly demanded the same kind of sacrifice from His firstborn son?

It's not that Jesus did not have to die. If it happened, it means he had to. Moreover, the Apostle Paul speaks of Jesus who "by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Heb. 2:9 KJV). So his death has a meaning and a place in the Divine Plan. Possibly, however, it's not the meaning and the place we usually consider. For if we stick to the traditional interpretation mentioned in the above paragraph, it will be difficult to explain convincingly, how Yahweh is different from Molech, if both demand bloody sacrifices for salvation. Of course, the Mosaic Law encompassed such sacrifices figuratively, but we need to draw the proper, Bible-based conclusion out of it. The Apostle Paul speaks of their purpose: "in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Heb. 10:3,4 KJV).

THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS CHRIST AS PROPHESIED IN THE ANIMAL SACRIFICES OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

We have to be aware of the fact that the bloody sacrifices under the Law did not have the power to justify the Jew in front of God, but were set to bring the consciousness of sin (Rom. 3:20). The Jew making bloody offerings was justified not on the basis of these offerings, but on the basis of his faith and resultant obedience to the Law (Rom. 3:28). Sacrifices made without faith were not accepted by God, which is confirmed by the prophet Samuel: "Which does the Lord prefer: obedience or offerings and sacrifices? It is better to obey him than to sacrifice the best sheep to him" (1 Sam. 15:22 GNB). Sacrifice was a tool in the hands of faith. Without faith and in itself it was useless (cf. Ps. 51:16,17).

Thus the Old Testament prophetically points to the sense of our Lord's sacrifice. His carnal body is shown to have been a tool in the hands of his faith carrying out the will of the Father, of which he himself informs: "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burmt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me), to do thy will, O God" (Heb. 10:5-7 KJV). Animal sacrifices under the Law prefigured the sacrifice of our Lord's body. This body, however, did not serve him so that he could give his human life - otherwise simple suicide would be sufficient, the value of Jesus' perfect life would be submitted to God and this huge mass of suffering that befell him could have been avoided. The aim behind the body, however, was different. It was a tool in the hands of Jesus' obedience to God: "but a body hast thou prepared me ... Lo, I come ... to do thy will, O God".

Therefore, the same principle holds with Jesus Christ's sacrifice as in the case of the Old Testament figurative sacrifices. Death of a sacrificial animal points to the death of the body of our Saviour. But as under the Law death itself did not result in justification, so Jesus' death on the cross is not the proper price for justification of man either. The price consists in faith leading to obedience. Just as the Jew under the Law was justified by faith while faithfully offering his sacrifice, so the sacrifice of Jesus' body is effective in justification of believers because it was carried out from beginning to end in complete obedience to God, without a stumble (1 Pt. 2:22).

Let us be in no doubt: the above conclusions stem not only from interpretation of the Old Testament sacrifices, but are also corroborated by straigtforward Biblical text. In Rom. 5:19 we read: "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" (KJV). There can be, therefore, no doubt that not only the very death of our Lord Jesus is the price for Adam, but his complete obedience to God kept until the end. What is also important, the Apostle Paul shows why obedience is the price: because Adam proved to be disobedient.

JESUS' OBEDIENCE AS A SACRIFICE FOR THE DISOBEDIENCE OF ADAM

Through sin the first man showed he did not understand the Divine justice. And because "The person who sins is the one who will die" (Ezek. 18:4 GNB), salvation involves teaching man what this justice is, and what is obedience to it. This is the essence of Jesus Christ's sacrifice. When Pilate asks our Lord whether he is a king, Jesus confirms and adds: "I was born and came into the world for this one purpose, to speak about the truth" (Jn. 18:37 GNB). This is actually the fullest expression of the meaning of our Saviour's sacrifice, who comes to give testimony of God's righteousness. He does not say: "I came so that you could kill me" because it wasn't the objective of his sacrifice. Death on its own cannot effect the reform of the fallen man's character; death suffered as a consequence of unflinching obedience in the service of truth - can effect it.

This positive, example-giving influence of our Lord's sacrifice is dealt with by the Apostle Paul in Heb. 2:14,15,18 - "Since then the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. And deliver them, who, through fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage ... For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted" (WB). Jesus' experience of death was therefore necessary as an example for those who due to their faith bear sacrifices for their obedience to God, including the biggest sacrifice of life. Moreover, the Apostle Paul teaches that Jesus himself was made perfect this way (Heb. 5:8,9). Having the same experience, our Lord knows how to support "them that are tempted".

The meaning behind Jesus Christ's sacrifice stems directly from the logic of the Divine plan of creation. God's activity aimed at creation of perfect man did not finish at the moment God created Adam. Adam was not perfect, but he was "very good". And very good he was because he wasn't created as a complete being, i.e. he was created in God's likeness, but not in God's image. Because his character wasn't God's image, Adam ended up in a fall. The present seventh day of creation is called God's rest because God's image in man is created on the basis of Jesus Christ's sacrifice - on the basis of the perfect testimony about truth that he left us (Gen. 1:26,27; Heb. 4:1-11). This way by one offering of Jesus Christ God has perfected those that are continuously consecrated - that are consistent in following his steps (Heb. 10:14; cf. 2 Cor. 3:18; Heb. 12:1-3).

EQUIVALENT PRICE

In 1 Tim. 2:5,6 the Apostle Paul writes that "there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all" (KJV). The word 'ransom' is readily used by theologies supporting the traditional view of Christ's sacrifice mentioned in the lead-in to the lecture. Because ransom instantly connotes measurable, material values, using it as a Biblical term additionally strengthens the argument that the sense of Jesus' sacrifice lies with his giving back to God what was lost by Adam - the value of perfect life. A transaction, therefore, takes place between God and Jesus Christ in which God has imprisoned the debtor (Adam) and his children in the prison of death. Freedom will be given back to them on condition that somebody turns up (Jesus Christ) and gives back to God the value lost by the debtor (life lost by Adam).

Weakness of this kind of transactional doctrine of redemption will become manifestly visible when we consider that in this view the value delivered to God by Jesus is not his property! Debtor (or his replacement) cannot give the lender something that belongs to him anyway and assume the debt has been repaid! And precisely this kind of fallacy is built into the transactional doctrine, for we need to take into account the fact that Jesus' life also comes from God. Our Lord does not possess existence on his own, but he is a son of God - God's creation - regardless of whether we speak of his pre-human, human or post-human existence (Jn. 1:1,2, 5:25; Lk. 1:35; Col. 1:15-17, 18-20; Heb. 1:3-5). Should then the notion of life be seen as a value in itself, a life-giving force, Jesus could not give it back to God as ransom because he did not possess it as his property.

The ransom of which we read in 1 Tim. 2:5,6 KJV is translated from the Greek anti-lytron - equivalent price. Equivalent price was the price of obedience, as we read in Rom. 5:19. Paul, however, says of this equivalence another interesting thing one verse earlier: "So then, as the one sin condemned all people, in the same way the one righteous act sets all people free and gives them life" (Rom. 5:18 GNB). Thus, the equivalence which is tied to anti-lytron, is not only equivalence of obedience/disobedience in general, but also equivalence of "the one righteous act" - a specific action taken by our Lord which in the context of obedience was directly opposite to "the one sin" committed by Adam. Let us be certain that it's not about death - it is difficult to call man's death an act, and the more so a righteous act.

THE LAWFUL DEED OF JESUS FOR THE UNLAWFUL DEED OF ADAM

Equivalence of the test of obedience obviously is not about eating of the forbidden fruit, the more so that the book of Genesis does not tell the story in literal terms. The core of the test is keeping obedience in comparable circumstances. The question is, when did Jesus undergo a test equivalent to the test of Adam? When he was hanged on the cross. The key to analysing this issue is God's statement: "and they become one" (Gen. 2:24 GNB). Adam knows that he is one with his wife, so when he sees her with the forbidden fruit, he is certain she has brought the sentence of death also upon himself. Later on he will grudge against God for the woman he was given (Gen. 3:12). Adam therefore finds himself in a situation when not having committed any transgression yet he is certain he has already come under the death sentence. But he still has a choice whether to stick to God's instruction or not. For some reason, however, he decides to break it, willingly and consciously.

For this reason the Apostle Paul says that sin was not attributed to Eve, but to Adam, for "it was not Adam who was deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and broke God's law" (1 Tim. 2:14 GNB). Our forefather was not deceived - he understood the need for obedience, but did not understand that no circumnstances exempt man from his obligations towards God's law. There is no situation in which man can say: "now it doesn't matter". It is quite possible that Adam said precisely this, knowing that the death sentence is irreversible and further observing God's instructions will not change it. Jesus, on the contrary, came to give man an example of complete obedience which lasts regardless of circumstances.

Jesus completes his sacrifice with a test equivalent to the test of Adam. While hanging on the cross our Lord experiences the loss of community with God. His cry "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" suggests that Jesus feared that he had failed at some point; something must have happened which turned God away from him (Mt. 27:46 KJV). Just as Adam is convinced of his condemnation when he sees Eve with the forbidden fruit, our Lord is convinced he had failed and brought God's condemnation upon himself. Adam fails indeed; Jesus is faithful to the end, thus passing his test of obedience without one false move and one false word. At the same time, his testimony about the truth, of which Jesus spoke to Pilate, comes to be complete.

DEATH AND RESURRECTION

The purpose of this lecture is to show that the meaning of Jesus Christ's sacrifice is to preserve absolute obedience to God in the mission of testifying to the truth. His death on the cross was an element of this mission, and a very important one as it completed the whole redemption work. However, one needs to recognize that the offering of Christ's body did not start on Calvary and was not limited solely to the cross. The sacrifice of the body is inseparably connected with the sacrifice of obedience. The human body which Jesus received at birth from Mary was a tool aimed at fulfilling his mission, which is clearly indicated in the already quoted Heb. 10:5-7 - "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me ... Lo, I come ... to do thy will, O God" (KJV). Therefore, his body - his human life - is placed on the altar of death much earlier than on the day of crucifixion.

If we say that the sacrifice of Jesus' body is a part of his mission, its beginning should be sougth where his mission began - at the moment when the prophetic words "I come" were spoken out. This moment is Jesus' baptism in the Jordan river when he comes to John to 'fulfill all righteousness', i.e. voluntarily and personally attend to the service of God's will (Mt. 3:13-17). The Apostle Paul explains that our Lord's immersion and emergence in the waters of the Jordan were a symbolic expression of the spiritual baptism which he then experienced in the element of immersion in the death of his human life and simultaneous resurrection from the dead as a spiritual son of God, which was confirmed by God's words: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Mt. 3:17 KJV; Rom. 6:3-5).

Baptism in the spirit, therefore, means to our Lord both the birth of the spirit, which he himself will later teach Nicodemus about, and the death of his humanity, which was at that moment laid on God's altar and there fully consumed 3.5 years later (Jn. 3:3-8). Not without significance is the fact that the first of the letters by the Apostle Paul begins precisely with this information about our Lord, "who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh. And declared [to be] the Son of God, with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:3,4 WB). The Spirit of God by which the life of our Lord was sacrificed to death was also the source of his resurrection from the dead as a spiritual Son of God, begotten to the divine nature (Jn. 1:18). And because there is no resurrection without prior death, Jesus' baptism also marks the end of his human existence, which from that moment on was destined to be terminated in the physical death - actual and final.

This information is extremely important to the elect, who also experience baptism in the spirit in the image of the baptism of Jesus Christ. It is evident not only from Rom. 6:3-5, but also i.e. Col. 3:1-4 - "If ye then be raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, [who is] our life, shall appear, then will ye also appear with him in glory" (WB). Here, too, there is an element of death and subsequent resurrection. After the example of our Lord, we too are brought by the spirit of sacrifice to God's altar so that our life is henceforth devoted to God and in the service of God completed. And as our Lord in the Jordan began the sacrifice of his body, so we are to 'present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God" (Rom. 12:1 WB).

Interestingly, the death of Jesus Christ placed on God's altar in the waters of the Jordan river seems to have been foreseen in the Mosaic Law. In the previous part it was argued that Jesus' crucifixion on a tree was on behalf of those among the Jews who would accept him and thus became subjects not of the Old, but of the New Covenant. Well, the Law did not require that a living person be hanged, but the person's corpse (Deut. 21:22,23). Our Lord, as we know, at the time of crucifixion was conscious. The provision of the Law may therefore allude at this point to the fact that our Lord, being physically alive, in a spiritual sense had already sacrificed his human life to death.

APPLICATION OF THE SACRIFICE

A question therefore remains, how do we benefit from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ? It will not be difficult to answer if we take into account its basic sense - the sacrifice of our Lord consists in his testimony of complete obedience, which was given to sinful man so that we, modeled on Jesus Christ, could come to the same state of complete obedience to God. Such is in fact the sense of salvation - restoration of human life rights on condition of complete obedience to the principles of divine justice. God does not need anyone to give him the right to redeem man. If we say that Jesus offered to God his right to perfect human life so that it could be subsequently used for raising Adam and his offspring, we say in fact that God was lacking it.

God does not need anyone's permission to prove himself to be the Creator and Savior of man. His only limits are his own principles of justice - the principles that say: "the soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezek. 18:4 KJV). Therefore, restoring the human race to life is based on the condition of restoring it to justice. "But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right ... he [is] just, he shall surely live" (Ezek. 18:5-9 KJV). And here is the task for our Lord Jesus who comes to teach sinful man about what is divine justice and what is complete obedience to it. So when do we use the sacrifice of Jesus Christ? When we follow the example that he left us.

Precisely this thought seems to be expressed by the Apostle Paul in 10. chapter of his letter to the Hebrews. In verses 5-7 our Lord prophetically declares the sacrifice of his human life for the fulfillment of the will of God. Then Paul adds, "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once [for all]" (Heb. 10:10). Thus, the same will of God which expected faithful service of our Lord also expects the same service and the same dedication from us. What's more, we read that our consecration takes place "through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ," and so after the pattern of his own sacrifice. And it is not about a one-time sacrifice of one's own life because a moment later the Apostle adds that our Lord's sacrifice leads to perfection, but only those who are constantly sacrificed - who continue in their consecration, and not just make a one-time act of sacrificing their lives (Heb. 10:14).

The fact that our Lord's sacrifice consists in his complete obedience in testifying to the truth is also supported by - "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence ..." (KJV). If God grants the gift of life on condition of obedience to His righteousness, one needs to understand this justice first to even think about its compliance. Adam did not understand. We are taught about it due to the fact that our Lord made his sacrifice - not a sacrifice of life rights, but the sacrifice of obedience to the truth. If we understand redemption in this way, it is not difficult to understand how it is "abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence." Through his sacrifice Jesus delivered an example from which we are to learn, and learning - also perform. Application of life rights in the form of wisdom is pure abstraction; it may be attractive to theologians, but it is completely useless from the point of view of the elect.

There is at least one more reason why the transactional doctrine of redemption should be rejected. In Col. 1:19,20 we read: "For it pleased [the Father] that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, [I say], whether [they be] things in earth, or things in heaven" (KJV). If we understand that Jesus gave his life for Adam as the equivalent price, how then could this price apply for "things in heaven"? There is no need for a particularly thorough analysis to see that between the life of man and the life of an angel there is no equivalence whatsoever. To make matters worse, there is no mention in the Scripture that the fallen angels were sentenced to death - on the contrary, they still live and act with their leader Lucifer. Therefore, securing life rights for them seems to be completely pointless.

But if we understand that the core of our Lord's sacrifice was the preservation of perfect obedience in his testimony to the truth, the text becomes obvious - the example left by our Lord serves both to people and the fallen angels who want to return to fellowship with God. In this way, the sacrifice is used in any place and towards any creature - be it physical or spiritual - affected by sin (cf. 1 Pet. 1:12). So we have our Lord's sacrifice which we consume not in any virtual or mystical way, but in the very real way, if only we enter the narrow path of sacrifice through him and remain on it (Mt. 7:13,14).


Keywords: redemption, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, equivalent price, anti-lytron
 
Bible translations used in the lecture:
WB - Webster Bible
GNB - Good News Bible
KJV - King James Version
 
Published:
Last reviewed: 22-01-2017


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