ARTICLES

Why Jesus had to Die

I once heard the host of a popular talk-show in Jamaica describe God as a “blood-thirsty” being. His reason for coming to this conclusion was that he could not understand why God should demand death for the smallest act of transgression, and why He should be so inflexible in His demand that the only way He will forgive us is if His own Son should die instead. The way he explained it, it was God's demand for retribution which made it necessary for the sinner to die and if this was not to be, then the only thing which God would accept was that His own Son should be sacrificed instead.



This man, clearly was in great darkness, yet he highlighted an issue which had been a nagging one with me for many years and for which I had heard many explanations, but none which really satisfied the concept of a God of infinite mercy.

I have heard it said that the law demanded the death of the sinner, that justice required that if man was to be spared, then one had to die in man's place, and not just anyone, but one who was a divine Being – one who was equal to the law – the lawgiver himself.

The brand of sin upon the soul can be effaced only through the blood of the atoning Sacrifice. No less an offering was required than the sacrifice of Him who was equal with the Father ... {RH, February 3, 1891}

But my question was, what law, what judicial system will accept that one person shall be punished for the sins of another? Who does this satisfy?

Let me explain what I mean by using an illustration. If I instruct my son not to pick any of my mangoes and he disobeys, then in order to make my instructions meaningful, I need to impose a penalty. This is for two reasons, first that my authority may be maintained and secondly that he may learn, for his own good that obeying me is important. Disobedience could get him into serious trouble some time. But in punishing my son these are the issues I consider. It is never an issue of vengeance, it is not to satisfy some desire in me for retribution, it is not to make him suffer for daring to go against my will. Furthermore, I would never say to my son, “If you pick the mangoes I will kill you!!” My punishment would be redemptive and rehabilitative. It would be for the purpose of making him a better person, of saving his life, not destroying it. Furthermore, if my son is truly sorry for what he did and demonstrates that he deeply regrets his actions, would it still be necessary to punish him? Why would I need to say, “well son, I see that you are sorry and I want to forgive you, but I cannot do that unless somebody is punished. You disobeyed my instructions and before I can forgive, somebody has to be punished. I see that you are sorry so I will not punish you, I will punish your brother instead.” Does this make sense?

This is an area of the plan of redemption which admittedly has been a gray area for me and for many others. I accepted the fact that there was a good reason why Christ had to die, and I accepted that it could not have been God who demanded His blood, but I could not understand or explain the reasons why it all was necessary. But thankfully, in studying righteousness by faith I have finally seen the reason why it was essential, and I have come to appreciate what a wonderful plan it really was!!

Legal fiction?

Not too long ago I came upon a question in browsing the internet which intrigued me. The question was, “is the gospel legal fiction?” The basis of the question is this: When men believe in Christ (accept Him as Saviour) then they are justified. That is, they are declared just, God forgives all their sins and regards them as being as righteous as Christ Himself. However, popular Christianity teaches that such a person is not actually in himself, in his nature and actions as righteous as Christ. Thus the gospel is open to the charge of being, “legal fiction.” It is seen as a legal transaction by which God “legally” accepts what is not true. He accepts us as righteous when in actual fact we are not. The theoretical issues, the legal arguments become the focus, they become the important things rather than the reality of what our condition actually is!

I have to be honest and say that such a concept presents a picture of God which is not becoming of the pure king of the universe. It pictures Him as one of the glib, fast-talking lawyers who use legal loopholes to free the vilest criminals, setting them loose on society only to repeat their crimes again and again. Is this to be accepted as the best “plan of salvation,” that God could offer? Is the gospel about legal arguments, or is it about the real problem of freeing man from actual sin?

In the main article in this publication (see front page), we established the fact that it is sin which kills men. The converse is true, righteousness is life When we understand this, the death of Christ takes on a completely different complexion.

How life is transmitted

First, we must make note of an important fundamental principle which is critical to our understanding of this issue. It is this; once God has created life, it can only be passed on by birth (or by division as in the case of Eve who came from Adam's own life by way of his rib). Every creature receives his fundamental nature when he is born and it determines what he is, whether dog, cat, lion, wolf, human etc. Within the framework of that nature, each develops a character, but the nature is what determines the kind of creature it is.

As human beings we are all born with a spiritual, as well as a physical nature. All who come of Adam's race, are born with a sin-weakened, feeble, degenerate, dying body (sinful flesh) and a carnal, sin-enslaved, unrighteous spirit (a carnal mind). This is what we receive at birth, and none of the devices of men – medical science, psychology, education, re-socialization, religion etc. can change this nature, physically or spiritually, although man may subdue or disguise some of its manifestations. Nature is only transmitted by birth!! Man is born with a nature which, spiritually is dead. The Bible describes him as, “dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1,5).” He is born with a body which is dying. If he is ever to escape the power of this double death (physical and spiritual) which is at work in him, then man must be born again! Because nature is only transmitted by birth! (It cannot be obtained by imitating another).

A New Source of Life

But let us remember that when birth takes place, there is always an original source of life. There is always a parent, one who passes life on to the other. If there was ever to be a new birth for man, if he was to receive a new life, a new nature, then there had to be an original source, there had to be a parent in whom this new life existed. Furthermore, all the vital attributes, the characteristic qualities of this new life, this new nature had to be intrinsically woven into the original life. They had to be first a part of the life of the parent before they could be passed on to the offspring.

What was it that God wanted to do for man? He wanted to give him a life in which sin had been defeated and destroyed, a life in which the nature turned to God and His righteousness as naturally as the flower turns towards the sun. Only by receiving such a life could man be redeemed from the awful destiny imposed upon him by the life passed on from Adam.

This is what God proposed to do in Christ. Jesus was to be the second Adam, the second prototype of humanity, “the everlasting Father (Isa. 9:6),” of a new humanity who could pass on a life in which sin had been conquered and destroyed and righteousness was a natural reality. But in order to have such a life to pass on, what qualifications did Jesus need to have?

a. He needed to have taken sin upon Himself, experienced its power and to have defeated and destroyed it. Only in this way could He have a victorious life to pass on to His offspring.

b. He needed to be a divine being, One who was, in His very nature, equal to the law. One who was the very reality of the living law. Only if He was such a Being would He be able to transmit a nature in which harmony with the law was a natural and perfect reality. An angel could have given instructions as to how to obey the law, he could even have given us an example, but only the Lawgiver, Himself the living law, could pass on a nature in which the deep principles of that law were built in.

This is exactly the kind of Saviour that Jesus is and these are His exact qualifications. It is awesome when we understand the wonder and the perfection of the plan of salvation. Jesus had to be human, completely human, or else He could not have taken our sin upon Himself. He could not have taken our disease so that He could destroy it. Yet at the same time, salvation could not come from one who was only a son of Adam. By the law of heredity all that Adam could transmit to his offspring was sin and death. If Jesus were only a son of Adam that is all He could pass on. In order to give life, He had to be from out of this world. He had to be of another race so that He could be able to bring a new element into humanity. More than this, Jesus had to be fully divine!! Only by being a divine Being, one equal with God, could He impart a life of perfect righteousness, one which did not only conform to rules, but which was in itself, by nature, pure, righteous and holy.

Made to be sin

So the word of God tells us,

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Cor 5:21)

Notice what the word of God says; this is much stronger than saying that Jesus died for our sins. It says, He was “MADE” to be sin. How was this possible for a Being who was sinless? How was He made sin? How could it be that as Peter says,

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree . . . (1 Pet 2:24)

Because we have not properly understood the true nature of sin we have always misunderstood this. Some have believed that He bore our sins and was made sin, simply by the fact that He came with a degenerate human body and had the weaknesses of the flesh common to all men. Others, because they limit sin to acts of transgression, have supposed that He bore our sins in that every single wrong act ever committed in the history of mankind was in some mysterious way gathered together and piled up upon Christ. However, when we have a proper understanding of what sin really is, suddenly we understand what happened when Jesus became sin for us. Suddenly it makes crystal clear sense. We see the wonderful truth which is at the same time, awful, and yet, awesome.

The root of all sin is unbelief, resulting in separation from God. In every being who has ever experienced this separation, whether it be Lucifer and the fallen angels or Adam, Eve and their offspring, this separation has, in every case immediately resulted in the manifestation of sin, that is, in the performance of sinful deeds. It is important that we understand the steps in this downward process of sin so that we may fully grasp what happened when Jesus bore our sins.

1. First there is unbelief – an unwillingness to trust God.
2. This results in separation from God.
3. The immediate consequence is a totally selfish nature.
4. The natural and unavoidable result is the committing of sinful actions.

Each of these stages has been referred to as sin because they are all related, with each one being either the cause or the result of the other.

The generally held belief is that Jesus only took the last one of these stages of sin, (the sinful actions) when He bore our sins. But since He Himself never committed a single act of sin, then it must have been simply the penalty of those sins which He bore. Thus our idea is that when Jesus bore our sins, God took every single wrong act which has ever been committed in the history of the world and laid the penalty of those wrong actions upon Him. This again has made us view salvation as a legal issue, something which relates to paper-work, the balancing of the books. We see Jesus bearing the penalty so that in letting us off, God may legally balance the books. We do not see the sins which Christ bore as an actual reality which dynamically affects the very lives in which we exist in a real and practical way.

But it was our sin which God laid upon Christ. Not sin in its end-result of sinful actions, not sin in its third stage of selfish nature, but sin in its very origins, in its basic principle, where it begins. Of course, Jesus did not lose faith in God. He never chose his own way (the first step) so He did not separate Himself from God (the second step). But God laid our sin upon Him (Isa. 53:6). God imposed the second step, (separation from Himself), upon Christ. He had to do this in order that Christ could destroy the sin principle!

As God withdrew Himself from His Son, Jesus suffered the full consequences of sin.

The spotless Son of God took upon Himself the burden of sin. He who had been one with God, felt in His soul the awful separation that sin makes between God and man. This wrung from His lips the anguished cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:46. It was the burden of sin, the sense of its terrible enormity, of its separation of the soul from God—it was this that broke the heart of the Son of God. {SC 13}

Sin Condemned

The agony of that separation was more than Christ could endure and it broke His heart. But let us consider what Christ did. In every other being who had ever been separated from God the immediate result had been selfishness. The third step in sin had followed rapidly. The desire for self-preservation had immediately become the predominant principle of the heart. Even Adam, who found his whole joy in Eve, found himself immediately accusing her in order to save his own skin after he sinned and became separated from God!

Now God left Jesus alone and immediately a horror of great darkness came upon Him. Without the comforting assurance of God's spirit everything looked uncertain and foreboding. Even the prophecies which related to His resurrection looked vague and intangible. The thought pressed upon His darkened and confused mind that if He died, it would be forever. Let us remember that Jesus was not in the comfort of His bedroom studying His Bible with the holy spirit illuminating His mind. He was a tortured human being, suffering greatly, deprived of sleep for probably more than twenty-four hours, suffering from loss of blood, bordering on hallucination and now, worst of all, abandoned by the spirit of God! There was no ray of light to shine into His mind, no comforter to bring the prophecies back to His thoughts with fresh power. In addition Satan assaulted Him with wave upon wave of doubt.

The logical, the natural, seemingly, the inevitable result, was that Jesus would take the next step in the path of sin and turn to selfishness, that He would seek to preserve His own life. Any other being in the universe would have done this. The holiest angel in the same situation would have done this. But Jesus was fully divine. He was God's begotten Son, of the same pure, holy, selfless nature of God and even when His powers were taken away, when the holy spirit was taken away, when hope was taken away, He could not stop being Himself. He could not become selfish for He was God by nature, and God is wholly good! Hallelujah!

Instead of turning to self, instead of taking the next step in sin, instead of bowing to Satan's principle, Jesus died to sin. He resisted sin in Himself and resisted it unto death, thus destroying sin forever in human flesh.

…. God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (Rom 8:3)

It was in His flesh, in His human flesh that Jesus condemned sin. He took it on Himself and condemned it. Now there is a humanity in which sin has been destroyed. Now there is a humanity in which the enmity between man and God has been removed. There is a human life over which sin has no more dominion, a life in which sin took its best shot, but was defeated and destroyed. Where is this life? Where is this humanity? It is in the second Adam, the new creation, it is in Jesus Christ (1 John 5:11).

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Rom 8:1)

Sin in us condemned us and produced death in us. Separation from God produced selfish natures and selfish actions. But Jesus took this condemnation upon Himself, He bore the curse in His own body (Gal. 3:13) and there, destroyed this condemnation. This is the life which Jesus now imparts to all who will believe. A life in which separation from God, selfishness, selfish deeds, have all been abolished. And this is why Jesus had to die.

In all human beings there is a natural law at work implanted and inherited from Adam. This dreadful law is called “the law of sin and death,” and the apostle Paul describes the way it works in Romans 7:14-24. No man can, by any human device or effort overcome the effects of this law. It is a principle built into the lives of all who come of Adam's race. It is a natural law, a law of nature. Rules and regulations cannot cancel or override natural law, so the Ten Commandments, God's law expressed in judicial form, is helpless to solve the problem. Judicial law is never the real answer. Because law (judicial law) is weak, through the flesh (Rom. 8:2). A greater law than judicial law is at work in the flesh and judicial law cannot overcome that. It would be like me commanding a man, “when you leap into the air you shall not fall again to the earth.” All my commands would be useless. They could not overthrow the natural law of gravity, no matter how much I pleaded or threatened, or how hard this man tried. If natural law is to be overcome, a higher natural law must be introduced to counteract the previous law.

Gravity is a natural law which demands that all things remain bound to the earth. However, the effects of the law of gravity may be overcome by the law of aerodynamics. This is another law which, when applied may enable a person to rise above the law of gravity. This is demonstrated every day when we fly in aeroplanes. We overcome gravity by applying a higher law. Though this man would find my command impossible to obey in himself, yet if he were to apply the law of aerodynamics he would be able to obey my command.

The Law of the Spirit

So the word of God says, “the law of the spirit of life (natural law - the law of Christ's righteous nature) in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death (natural law - the law of my sinful nature).” (Rom 8:2)

… what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (Rom 8:3)

The law of sin and death ruled in my being and I was helpless to resist it. The ten commandments could not produce the strength necessary to overcome it. But there is another law, the law of the spirit of life and where does this law exist? It is in Christ Jesus!! It may be found and experienced in Christ. What God did was to introduce another natural law to cancel the effects of the first law. Those who experience this natural law fulfill the righteousness of the law, they mind the things of the spirit, they have life and peace , their bodies are dead to sin and alive to righteousness, they are the sons of God (Rom. 8:4-14).

Restoration Ministries

Restoration Ministries is dedicated to the promotion of the truths contained in the word of God. In particular to the restoration of those truths which have been cast down to the ground and trampled underfoot by the papacy, and adopted by her daughters.

Our purpose is to motivate men and women to commit themselves wholly to the task of personal preparation for the coming of the Lord, and to the taking of the final warning message to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.

Website: www.restorationministry.com

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