Good Friday: The atoning sacrifice

For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin.  As it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;

no one understands;

no one seeks for God.

All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;

no one does good,

not even one.”

“Their throat is an open grave;

they use their tongues to deceive.”

“The venom of asps is under their lips.”

“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”

“Their feet are swift to shed blood;

in their paths are ruin and misery,

and the way of peace they have not known.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

…But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.  (Romans 3:10-18; 21-25)

Whenever a law is broken, there is a punishment that must be carried out.  Whenever a hurt is inflicted, it must be redressed.  The most basic sense of justice won’t allow otherwise.  If an injustice between two humans is serious enough to merit retribution, how much more the wrong between man and his Creator, a woman and her Maker?  Even more so because all wrong done from one person against another is ultimately against God.  The idea of justice is not a human one, for

“the LORD sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice” (Ps. 9:7)

There is only one answer for those who do not fear God: eternal punishment without relief.  No one can escape it

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23)

and

“the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23)

This does not mean physical death, although that is part of the curse, but that Christ will inflict

“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 the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thess. 1:7-9)

Because of the nature of sin and the nature of justice,

“without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sin” (Heb. 9:22)

The Law, given in the Old Testament illustrates the holiness of God and the repulsiveness of sin so that we can understand the nature of both.  Even in the Law sacrifices were given that would temporarily cover over the sinner’s offense.  But this was only to show the way to Christ, who became the only atoning sacrifice, the only propitiation.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all…

And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.  Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. (Isa. 53:4-6; 9-11)

Perfect justice meets perfect mercy.  In his death, Christ bore the sin that separated me from God.  He took my sin so that He would bear my punishment so that I may believe and find forgiveness and peace with God.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21)

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

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