In his book, “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” (1684) John Owen wrote to combat a false doctrine of his day; namely, the un-biblical teaching of universalism. This book has much to say even to our modern context. However, I would like focus upon the very title of the work. Why should we discuss the death of Christ?
The death of Jesus Christ was no ordinary event. In fact, the death of Christ is the singularly most significant event in history. Why should we care about the public execution of a poor, small town carpenter? It’s because that carpenter was none other than God in the flesh sent to earth to redeem a people for Himself through a voluntary, sacrificial death. If this bold assertion is true, then His death has monumental implications in our response to it and to how we then live our lives.
Eternal Purpose Through Death
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus mentions His mission here on earth, stating the He came “not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) Statements such as these make it clear that Jesus was not merely some religious guru unwittingly killed by outsiders. His very purpose was to die. When we celebrate the incarnation of Christ (God becoming flesh) during the Christmas season, one truth often pointed out is that this baby born in a manger is born in order that He may die. In fact, this was the very purpose of God, that evil men would put Christ to death. Acts 2:23 states, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” God brings about His purposes and plans even through the evil intentions of the hearts of wicked men. Therefore, we see the greatest tragedy in human history, the death of Christ, is also the greatest joy for those who trust in Him.
Joy Through Death
Why is the death of Christ a joy for Christians? It is through His death that we are made right with God and brought into a relationship with Him. Through the death of Christ we can have true, transcendent joy and peace. Through the death of Christ, reality and life make sense. You see, from a biblical Christian perspective, the death and resurrection of Jesus is not simply something we celebrate at Easter every year; it is the very heart and soul of who we are and we hope in.
Throughout history, many have tried to diminish the extent and power of Christ’s atoning death. Some people teach that Christ’s atonement merely “wiped the slate” of the man born into sin, but after that, it is up to man to live a life worthy of God. However, the worth and value of the atonement of Christ is far beyond anything we can ever imagine. When Christ shed His blood upon the cross of Calvary, he paid for the sins of his people: past, present, and future. Because of the unconditional nature of the election of God, and the fact that Christ’s sacrifice for his people is undeserved, and not earned, we can also have comfort in the fact that the salvific effects of the atonement can never be lost in the life of the believer.
Life Through Death
The perseverance of the saints is a foundational truth within the Christian faith, and not only because it comforts the soul of man, but because it is wrapped up so tightly within the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrificial death. “The law has but a shadow of the good things to come.” (Hebrews 10:1) Within the nation of Israel, Jews would continually offer sacrifices in order to make themselves right with God. But even as soon as the sacrifice was offered, they would leave the temple and fall into sin. Although this sacrifice was commanded by God, it was not fully sufficient to cover their sin for all time. Repeated sacrifices were necessary. As Hebrews explains, the “shadow” of the sacrifices can never make perfect those who offer them. In the same way, we can be certain that no modern person can be made right with God by “being good enough”; we always fall back into our sin.
However, Christ is the substance of what the shadow of sacrifice is pointing toward. Because He offered His body, sacrificing Himself, we can be sure we are sanctified through Him, once for all, when we trust in Him. “When Christ had offered for all time, a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:12) These verses clearly show the role of Christ as our priest, relating back to the idea of the priests in the temple. There were no chairs in the Temple; these men did not sit down until their work was complete. When Christ, as our priest, sits down beside the Father, we see the completion and finality of His sacrifice. His work is done and accepted as sufficient by God the Father. The act of God raising Jesus from the dead proves that God accepted the sacrifice of Christ.
Death to Death
What does the death of Christ have to do with me? Everything. It is the instrument through which God brings broken, sinful people to Himself. Apart from the death of Christ, we are utterly lost and hopeless. However, when someone turns from their sins and turns to Jesus, he or she can bold proclaim, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55) It is then when we truly see the death of death in the death of Christ.
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ