Mark spoke about the person of Jesus and his work on the cross. He said that he believed that it was important for preachers of the gospel from time to time to sit and hear the gospel.
He began in 1 Corinthians 2 — “… I resolved to know nothing when I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified ….” The only thing that must be preached is Jesus and him crucified. Apart from Jesus and his death, we have nothing to offer anyone.
It takes three generations to lose the gospel. One generation believes, the next assumes too much, and the third forgets it or denies it. We cannot assume anything. If we say Jesus, Bible, God, cross, sin—we must not assume that anyone has any idea what we are talking about!
Martin Luther said that in our preaching of the cross, we should “ … beat it into their heads continually!”
Many traditions love one side of the jewel of Jesus’ death. Mark believes we must appreciate eleven sides of the cross. We must also think of it in the context of Jesus’ whole life—his incarnation, holy life, death, resurrection, and ascension. We need to emotionally encounter the significance of the crucifixion and all that it has accomplished for us. The Jews couldn’t understand how God himself could be cursed by hanging on a tree.
It is perhaps the most amazing thing that has ever happened—that the cross should become the most popular symbol in human history. To call the day Jesus died “Good Friday” is also astonishing. We must understand the theological aspects of the cross.
ELEVEN ASPECTS OF THE ATONEMENT
- The Central Theme—Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA)
We cannot assume anything. A war is brewing over this issue. This is the issue we must be willing to fight over. If we lose this, we lose the gospel. Mark said that if you deny this, you have essentially lost the Christian faith. Isaiah 53:5 — “ … FOR our transgressions.” Romans 5:8 — “Christ died FOR us.” 1 Corinthians 15:3 — “Christ died FOR our sins.” Sin results in death. In the Garden of Eden, our first parents sinned in our place. They substituted themselves for God—they made their own rules and lived as though they were God.
As we substituted ourselves for God, God substituted himself for us to fix this. Sin is only atoned for in substitution — e.g. in the sacrifices of atonement.
What does this mean practically? I MURDERED GOD! He died for MY sin! He paid MY penalty of death. As MY substitute he endured what I deserve in order to give me what I don’t deserve. If you lose substitution, you lose all sense of gratitude.
- Jesus is Our Victor
Jesus conquered Satan and demons. We don’t like demons, so this is a good thing! Colossians 2:13-15 — “ … disarmed the rulers and authorities …” It looks as if Jesus is defeated on the cross. Isaiah 45:15 — “God hides.” He hid victory in defeat because God is humble. Those who are proud (like Satan) don’t see it! We aligned ourselves with Satan. Being “spiritual” is not good if it’s not the Holy Spirit. Satan is real. There is a real war. Revelation 12:10 — Demons accuse people: “You are a loser; you are not a real Christian …” The devil condemns people and haunts them with past sin. He loves death and wants to kill. Jesus cancelled the rights that Satan and demons have towards the children of God. He has been defeated and disarmed. There is victory over Satan and demons for the people of God.
- Jesus is Our Redemption
Don’t teach this from the pagan slave market. Rather, speak about God redeeming his people from the slavery of Pharaoh—in slavery to sin. We can’t stop. We are not free. We can’t escape. But just like the people of Israel, we have been set free to worship God! We are liberated to live new lives. To have joy. To worship God together as his people.
- Jesus is the New Covenant Sacrifice
1 Peter —“… precious blood of Christ like that of a lamb.” Blood disgusts us. We must identify the horror of blood and death as sin. God is as disgusted with sin as we are with blood. God is horrified by sin. We should be as horrified by sin as we are by blood. God was the first person to shed blood in the Bible—to cover the sin of Adam. The Bible is a bloody book. The first thing Noah did after the flood was to sacrifice. Noah was not “a good guy.” Noah found GRACE. He found unmerited grace, and then he became righteous. After the flood, it was as though Noah said, “God should have killed me, too”—that was why he had to offer a sacrifice. “I deserved to die.” He, of course, promptly went on to demonstrate why— by getting naked and drunk.
Hebrews is clear on this. We don’t need a temple or a priest or a lamb because we have Jesus. His blood was shed for our sins. When sinned against we often say, “I want blood!” Well, you already have it. The gospel is the good news that we should have died, but instead we are loved. So we must show love to others!
- Jesus is Our Justification
No one will be justified by works of the law. God would not be good if he let everyone into heaven. If he did that, when we got there it would be like earth, full of hatred and sin and evil. God’s heart is gracious mercy and forgiveness. But because of his justice, he has to deal with our sin. God’s standard is perfection. No one can say they are perfect. Lust counts as adultery and anger counts as murder. People want righteousness, which is why hard firm religions attract people. When you go to the bathroom, that’s about how impressed I am with your righteousness. Our righteousness is described by the Bible as human excrement and menstrual rags. God hates religion. He despises it. You must call sinners to repentance, and also call “righteous” people to repent of their religious righteousness. Righteousness is GIFT righteousness. It is the righteousness of God. “Jesus was the most despised thing in all creation on the cross” (Luther). Righteousness only comes from faith in Christ. When we stand before God it will be imputed righteousness—that is what will appear on our resume. I trust Jesus.
It doesn’t end with imputed righteousness. He gives us a new heart and a new nature. This gives us a desire to do right things. He gives us new power through the Holy Spirit to live life. He gives us a fulfilling life. We are regenerated. We change.
- Jesus is Our Propitiation
Four times in the Greek New Testament. 1 John 4:10 — This is love—not that we have loved God.
It’s not because you are a good person that God loves you. You don’t obey so God will love you; you obey because God already does love you!
Propitiation is how God demonstrates his love. God hates sinners. You have been told that God loves sinners, but hates sin. No, Gandhi said that! God often says he hates people. We are by nature sinners. “I hate the essence sum and total of what you are, but I really love you.” We have a sinful nature and commit sins. “God hates all who do evil.” God hates a lot of people. God’s wrath is mentioned more than 600 times in the Bible. More verses talk about the wrath of God than those which state that he loves us. The gospel starts with “God hates you and it’s going to go really really bad forever and ever!” Jesus suffered the wrath of God, and it is thereby taken away from sinners who are in Jesus. The question is not, “How can a loving God send anyone to hell?” The real question is, “Why does a holy God take anyone to heaven?” The passover demonstrates the wrath of God passing over the ones covered by the blood of Jesus. Jesus is our passover Lamb.
- Jesus is Our Expiation
This is different from propitiation. Propitiation takes away our wrath. Expiation deals with our defilement. This is often overlooked. Sins have also been committed against us. In 1 John it says that Jesus’ blood purifies us from all unrighteousness. Expiation deals with the feeling of being dirty, a feeling that is experienced by both sinners and those sinned against. “Dirty people do dirty things.” Our identity is sometimes about what people have done against us rather than what Jesus has done for us. Feeling defiled, feeling dirty, is a huge issue. The scapegoat was set free. Sin was laid on Jesus and it was taken away. The blood of Jesus CLEANSES us. We are clean. We are clothed in white by Jesus. We should see ourselves and others that way. We can be clean. We don’t need to manage, shift blame, or excuse sin; rather we need to face it and deal with it.
- Jesus is Our Ransom
There is only one mediator. Music, Bible translations, etc. don’t mediate. If the music changes, we can still worship God. We owe a debt to God. Every sin or omission is a debt. We have a mountain of debt. We cannot possibly pay it to God. Doing good for awhile doesn’t reduce our debt, it just doesn’t increase the amount of our debt! A mediator pays the debt on our behalf.
- Jesus is Our Example
1 Peter 2:21 and Philippians 2 — “Christus exemplar.” Jesus has always been God. He came into human history as man. How did Jesus live his life? It wasn’t a fake—like Superman and Clark Kent— i.e. God can’t be tempted. Jesus DOES sympathize with our weaknesses because he was tempted. Jesus did not cease to be God. He set aside the use of his divine attributes. God knows everything, but Jesus had to learn. How did he do it? It was by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit filled Jesus. He was the Anointed One. All was done by the power of the Spirit. We can now also live Spirit-filled lives. Being spirit-filled means living the life of Jesus. We do what Jesus did. The Spirit led Jesus into temptation, into suffering. We suffer too (Philippians 1). We will be led into difficult times. We are perfected by our suffering, when we suffer like Jesus did, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Don’t waste your pain or your suffering. Use it for a witness, use it for the gospel. Christians are like nails—the harder you hit us, the deeper we go.
- Jesus is Our Reconciliation
Sin separates us from God and each other. The cross brings us together. “… be kind … forgiving one another as God forgave you …” We are sinned against and either become bitter or become like Jesus. That is the choice we have. We often have two standards. When we sin, we want mercy; when others sin, we want hell. Bitterness is often caused by the person we love the most sinning in a little way against us. There are only two problems in a marriage—the man and the woman. We can either learn to forgive or let sin destroy our relationships. We can only be true community and reconciled in the cross. We need the Prince of Peace to know true peace.
- Jesus is Our Revelation
Who is God? Where do we begin? Start at the cross. Jesus reveals God to us. The centerpiece of Jesus’ life is the cross. Look at the cross to see what God is like. Love and justice. Holiness and mercy. No other religion has a concept of God like that. Our God is not a god who asks for blood; instead, he offers his own. You can talk about the attributes of God all day; it is only in the cross that it all makes sense. The revelation of God comes together at the cross.
Mark closed with a few comments on 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 — the gospel must be reiterated to us, and we must remind our people of it. We must not assume it. If we do, they will deny it. It must be continually proclaimed and declared—not offered as a helpful suggestion! Jesus must be magnified. It must be RECEIVED. It is personal. We must be changed by it. We must go on believing it. It is central in every way. You can’t teach marriage, parenting, work, or for that matter, anything, without the cross. It precedes everything else. The gospel gets passed on. Paul received it and passed it on. If anyone changes it, they are a demon. They are sent from Satan and they are going to hell. We don’t change what we received!
It’s all about Jesus!
- It is penal—Christ died.
- FOR our sins—it is substitutional.
- It is eschatological—Jesus didn’t remain dead, but was raised. Forever is a really long time!