Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Mysteries of the Cross

Here is an interesting paradox regarding the mysteries of the cross: Jesus died for our sins that we might have eternal life. Jesus is part of the Triune God, fully Divine, yet fully human in His earthly ministry and tempted in all ways as we are, yet He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

God is perfectly holy (1 John 1:5) and perfectly just. Although He is love (1 John 4:8), and has infinite love, He cannot allow sinners or sin to enter into His presence. So, in His perfect plan of salvation, He gave His only begotten Son as the perfect sacrifice (John 3:16), the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

In a transaction of infinite love, justice, holiness and perfection, Jesus took on, suffered and died for all the sins of the world, which were imputed to Him, or debited against His account. Simultaneously, His perfect righteousness and holiness were imputed to all believers, or credited to our account. (Rom 5:12-18; 2 Cor 5:18-21; Isa 53:4-11). He completely removed our sins from us, in a perfect transaction foreshadowed by the "scapegoat" in Old Testament times that carried the sins of Israel far away into the wilderness (Lev. 16:20-22).

Therefore, when Holy God the Father, the righteous Judge, looks at believers who have repented of their sins and trusted in Jesus' finished work on the cross, He sees not us and our filthy sins, but only the perfect holiness of His Son. Therefore, as joint heirs with Christ, just as Jesus was resurrected from the dead, believers will be resurrected to eternal life in Heaven with Christ (Rom. 6;8)

Yet, here is one of the mysteries: God the Father "turned His back" on Jesus as He suffered and died for our sins, because His perfect holiness could not look on sin. For that reason, Jesus cried out "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46; Ps 22:1-8) because in that moment, He felt the agony of being separated from His Father with whom He had always known perfect, intimate fellowship. At that moment, Jesus related to God not as His Father, but as the righteous judge Who had to punish sin.

So, the conundrum is, given that both God the Father and Jesus the Son are both perfectly divine, how could Jesus bear all our sins while God the Father could not even look at them? I believe that is one of the mysteries we will not fully understand until we reach glory. However, one clue to this might be that while all three members of the Trinity are equally divine, they are different.

God the Father always demands perfection, whether through animal sacrifice in the Old Testament (Ex 12:5; 29:1; Lev. 1:3), which only covered sin, and ultimately in the perfect, sinless sacrifice of His Son (1 Pet. 1:18-19; Eph. 5:2), which removed us as far away from our sins as the East is from the West (Ps 103:12).

Jesus the Son was fully divine yet fully human in His earthly ministry (yet without sin; Heb 4:15), He came to earth expressly to save sinners (Luke 19:10), and He died for us while we were yet sinners (Rom. 5:8). He was the perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament law (Matt. 5:17), yet He touched lepers, He allowed Himself to be touched by diseased and sinful women, He ate with sinners, He cast out demons, and He forgave sins.

Thank God that Jesus does not demand perfection from us, but that He died for us while we were yet sinners, and He freely gives salvation to all who repent and trust Him, taking us just as we are in our lowly and sinful state. Thank God that through the perfect, sinless sacrifice of Jesus (Hebrews 9), His righteousness is imputed to our account (1 Pet 2:21-25), and when God the Father looks at us, He sees not our sins, but only the perfect holiness of His Son.

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