2010-04-18 (am) 2 Corinthians 5.11-21 50 Reasons Part 1
For the next few weeks, with some interruptions, we’ll be camping out in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. Our guide in this will be Pastor John Piper’s book, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. Our goal in this series is to have our minds blown away by God’s amazing grace, his justice, mercy and love.
From this, we will gain a better understanding of the cost of reconciliation, both the reconciling of sinful humanity to God and the reconciliation between people. As we saw in the call to confession, Lord’s Day 2, answer 5 says, “We have a natural tendency to hate God and our neighbour.” In other words, we naturally fail to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and we fail to love our neighbour as ourselves.
Not only are we enemies of God, we have a natural tendency to make enemies with other people, even members of our own families. Reconciliation makes us friends of God, indeed, we become his children through reconciliation, and it also makes us friends with those with whom we’ve been at odds. We go beyond blood relations, we’re relatives, brothers and sisters through Christ’s blood!
What we learn from the Bible, from Jesus, is that reconciliation is expensive. If you fail to reconcile your taxes each year, if you get audited, and they discover you’ve underpaid, you have to pay interest in order to reconcile.
With God, humanity has been piling up sin after sin. We’re so deep in debt, there’s no getting out. In fact, it is worse than that, every attempt at doing right, on our own just piles on more debt! Isaiah describes it like this: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isa. 64:6). So that brings us to the first reason Jesus came to die:
#1 To Absorb God’s Wrath
Because God is the greatest being in all the world, he demands the greatest honour. He deserves sole worship. We all have honoured, have worshipped other things, thus we’re all guilty of sin. Think about your life, what do you glorify the most in it? Family? Work? Sports? God? We all strive to honour God, but the plain fact of it, is that we very easily slide to honouring other things. And that’s living as Christians? Before we converted, those who have not converted to Christianity, live entirely for other than God.
This is serious because this sin isn’t like stealing a toy from a sibling. It isn’t like failing to give respect when pulled over. It isn’t like failing to bow before a dignity like the Queen. It is failure to honour the creator of the universe in every way, in everything we do—as the Supreme Being; God deserves nothing less.
God doesn’t ignore this treasonous activity. He has righteous wrath against it. As it says in Rom. 6:23, the wages of sin is death. If God did not punish sin, he would not be just. His justice demands the full exercise of his wrath.
On the other hand, God’s love called him to absorb that wrath himself. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3.13) The theological term for this is propitiation. Propitiation is removing God’s wrath by the provision of a substitute. That substitute is Christ.
Jesus doesn’t just wipe our sin away, as we might wipe words off a dry erase board, Jesus absorbs God’s wrath, diverting to himself. He dealt with God’s just, right wrath, God’s justice is satisfied, and he demonstrates his amazing love.
Consider, think about, and understand your sin. Look at it. See it’s putrescence in God’s sight. See Jesus taking it upon himself. See Jesus’ love for you, absorbing your punishment, making you right with God. “This is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the [wrath-absorbing] propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10).
#2 To Please His Heavenly Father
The second reason Jesus came to die was to please his Heavenly Father. Jesus didn’t have to war against his Father, he didn’t have to take him out, take him down, subdue him and force him to be nice to us. No, Jesus’ death was part of the Father’s plan, laid out before the beginning of the creation of the universe.
Isaiah 53 talks about Jesus, describing his afflictions, his taking on of sin for us all who have gone astray.
Jesus fulfilled God’s plan. Jesus was fiercely obedient to his father. Satan tried to tempt him out of it in the wilderness. The people tried to force him to become king. Judas tried to force his hand. Satan tried again in the garden. But Jesus was resolutely committed to loving his father, demonstrating that love through perfect obedience.
Jesus Christ willingly humbled himself to the lowest point, even to death on the cross. As the scriptures say, “cursed is the one who hangs on a tree.” Christ willingly bore our curse, became a curse, in order to set us free.
God’s love is tough. Think about it. This is the plan, “You’re going to die for them, and they don’t even realise it, they won’t even appreciate it. You will cry out from the cross, you will be in anguish, not because of the pain you are suffering physically, but because I will have turned my back on you, so that you can bear their punishment. Oh, the cost! Consider the Father’s pain when he heard his son cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
God willingly poured out his wrath upon His Son. Jesus proved that he was totally innocent, he did not deserve such punishment. But Jesus’ sacrifice was done out of obedience to his Father’s will, it was an act of love, reciprocated by his Father.
#3 To Learn Obedience and Be Perfected
Reason three is To Learn Obedience and be perfected. Now, at first glance this sounds weird. Jesus, we know, was perfect. He was sinless. The scriptures testify to that fact. But Jesus didn’t just show up age, 33, die, rise and ascend to heaven, problem of sin solved.
Jesus came as a human, in every way, Christ was fully human as well as fully divine. In every human way, Christ was tempted, and yet he remained without sin. But whereas we struggle with sin, we fall into the temptation to put something ahead of our love for the Father. Jesus didn’t ever let anything come before or between him and his love for his Dad.
To say that Christ learned obedience is to say that with every temptation, every trial he faced, he faithfully obeyed his Father. In this, he was fulfilling the perfect righteousness he had to have in order to save sinful humanity.
Remember what Jesus said to John when he showed up to be baptised? John tried to say, “I can’t baptise you? I need you to baptise me!” Jesus said, “This is to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15).
Jesus had to live a full life, just like every other human; otherwise, he would not have been a true Saviour. His life demonstrated his true humanity, allowing him to call us his brothers and sisters.
#4 To Achieve Resurrection from the Dead—His Own.
The 4th reason also seems strange. Jesus Christ came to die in order to achieve his own resurrection from the dead. When Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples on the night he was betrayed, he said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” The old covenant was made with the blood, shed by a lamb, as observed at Passover, and by the sacrifices of animals, and the blood, shed in the covenant of circumcision. But all those things were to point to Jesus’ blood, shed unto death.
Jesus shed blood was responsible for his own resurrection. His death was perfect; God rewarded his death with resurrection. In Christ’s death, God’s wrath was satisfied. The proof of this satisfaction is Jesus’ resurrection.
Paul is blunt about this fact. “If Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, our faith is futile and we are still in our sins.” But the eyewitness record is beyond dispute; Jesus did rise from the dead. More than 500 people saw him at one time; he ate fish. He really was alive after been dead for 3 days.
Because of this, we put our trust in Christ. We are not still in our sins; we have been raised with Christ.
#5 To Show God’s Love and Grace for Sinners
Now, finally, our fifth point, to show God’s love and grace for sinners. This is really huge. God shows his grace this way. Even though humanity had sinned for centuries against God, he showered blessings upon them, being satisfied to wait until the fulfillment of time to send his Son to pay for sin once and for all.
The sacrifice of God was great: he gave his only Son; he gave his anointed Son, His Son, anointed to be king of Israel, king of the world, to be a sacrifice for sin. And this sacrifice was huge, infinite even, when you consider how far removed from God we were by sin. Because God is so holy, so pure, no blemish could be near him at all. But Christ absorbed it all, in order to bring us close to God.
Now, perhaps you’ve heard it, you may have even heard it from me, that because we’re created in God’s image, we have worth, we were worth dying for. Someone once said, “God didn’t die for frogs. So he was responding to our value as humans” (p. 29). This isn’t grace. If we have value, Christ’s death isn’t grace; it is the reward of our inherent value as humans.
Grace is this, in our sinfulness, we’re worse than frogs! Frogs didn’t sin! They are doing what God created them to do. Humans, created to honour and glorify God, have not done what we’re created to do. So, in light of that, frogs aren’t bad enough for God to have to die for them. Our debt, our sin, is so great that only a divine being could pay for it!
This is grace, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! The secret service agents pledge to throw themselves into harm’s way if the President is threatened. They are willing to do this, even if they don’t like the person, because of who he represents.
What Christ did, was throw himself in the line of fire for total rotters—people as evil as Hitler. For Hitler’s crimes were bad against people, and against God. But all have sinned, all are as guilty as Hitler. And still, Christ died for sinners such as these.
So, because of this, we live for Christ. We no longer live for ourselves, as it says in 2 Cor. 5:15. We live for him who died for us and was raised again.
Because of the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection, because Christ has reconciled us to God, we no longer regard anyone from a worldly point of view. We are in Christ. We are new creations. We now really live, as God created us to live. Freed from the burden and bondage of sin, we can throw off the temptations that come our way, because Christ, who lived the perfect life, lives in us, through the person of the Holy Spirit.
We live, knowing we’re reconciled to God. We live basking in the glow of God’s amazing love, his amazing grace. We live awed by the sacrifice of Christ, the absorption of wrath consumed by Christ in order to make us right with God. We live in gratitude, knowing that we can do nothing to improve our standing before God; we live in order to tell others about God’s amazing loving sacrifice.
Saved by grace, through faith, ask yourself this: “Who am I living for?” Is it for God or for someone or something else? Are you holding anything back? Is there any sin that I’m clinging to, that separates me from God, or separates me from someone else? Maybe this is what Paul meant when he said, “I resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).