This series is based on teaching I first gave at Jubilee Church. If you want a sneak preview of what is coming, you can download the audio (you may need to right click and save to your PC) or listen online here:
Last time we left ourselves with a terrible dilemma. We saw that God made these demands on the world in the law, which none of us could keep. We saw that He is described both as holy and forgiving, and yet not someone who “lets people off.”
Jesus seems initially to make the problem worse. We expect Him to come and say, “It’s okay, I changed my mind — I will make it easier for you.” Instead, He puts even greater demands on us by expanding the place of the law from behaviour into the attitudes of our hearts. He then says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfil them (Matthew 5:17).
It is as well that early in John’s gospel we read the following, for without it we could definitely have concluded the opposite — that Jesus had come merely to make us feel worse about our predicament:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:16-18).
Possibly the most well-known verse in the Bible tells us that it is through faith in Jesus that we will be saved. The context begins to hint how that will be — and tells us that Jesus, in spite of initial appearances, didn’t come into the world to condemn it, but to save it. We see already that this salvation is in some way the result of His death and is appropriated by faith. That the death of Jesus was no afterthought — it was absolutely essential to the mission He was sent to earth to complete.
From even before Jesus’ birth, His death was hinted at. His name means “God saves,” and the angels announcement to Joseph makes it clear that He came for one reason only: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Mary was warned also that a “sword will pierce your heart.”
John the Baptist says of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We are now let into a little bit more of the picture — somehow Jesus will actually remove the sins of the world — what an interesting concept. “Just how will that occur?” people must have thought.
The gospels, taken as a whole, leave us in no doubt that the death of Jesus was no accident which surprised Him. Rather, it was part of the plan, and was THE reason He came.
Throughout His ministry we see the recurring theme that He knows He has come in order to die. Jesus “sets His face” to Jerusalem and repeatedly warns His disciples of what will happen. We see also in the unwitting prophecy of the high priest a very clear hint of substitution.
“. . . it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish” (John 11:45-53)
Continues with “Packer on Penal Substitution.”
The latests posts from my blog about the atonement can be seen below. For more, follow the xml link: