For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
What is the primary take away from the death of Jesus Christ in history? Jesus’ death obviously holds tremendous importance to Christian theology. But what?
Biblically and historically, there are two basic theories of the atonement relating to this. One is the “substitution theory” and the other is the “moral influence” theory. Both of these demonstrate wonderful truths, but are not sufficient alone.
The substitution theory of the cross says that the primary reason Jesus died was to satisfy the justice of God. God placed the punishment that sinners deserved upon His sinless Son at the cross. In dying for our sins Jesus has perfectly satisfied the offended justice of a holy God and saved us from the wrath we deserve. This makes it possible for a holy God to accept us into His presence now without guilt or blame. That the Bible teaches this reality is clear to even a casual reader of the New Testament. There is massive textual evidence for this profound meaning of the atonement of Jesus Christ.
But if you stop here, making Jesus’ death all about removing the wrath of a holy God from those He is saving, you may miss an additional and incredible aspect of the cross. And this aspect of Christ’s atonement is probably the ultimate reason for the same! Jesus’ death was most essentially about demonstrating the love of God to the world.
For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)
For God “so loved” the world that He gave His only Son…When John says that God gave His only Son, don’t miss the clear implication. He gave up His Son because He loved us so.
Many dedicated, Bible-believing Christians believe that Jesus died for their sins and that they are forgiven, but still find it really hard to deeply trust and feel that God extravagantly loves them. They accept the fact that they couldn’t be saved except that Christ died for their sins. But they fail to accept the greater truth that Christ died for us as the supreme token of God’s unfathomable love.
The Cross means to them that God now has a legal reason that motivates Him to love them. But this is a perversion of the truth. It’s actually the other way around! It’s not that justice freed God to express love to us, but rather that love moved God to pay for our sins.
Yes, the Cross shouts out, “You can be forgiven!” But it even more loudly shouts, “You are loved by God.”
Let me close with one more proof that love triumphs over judgment. I’ll do this by asking a question:
Did the Cross of Jesus solve the sin problem of the world?
Obviously not! Sin still rules the affairs of men as a whole. God’s ultimate solution for the problem of sin is NOT the cross but the final Day of Judgment. When Christ returns to judge the world, only then will sin and it’s source and co-conspirators be done away with in finality.
Will there be wrath or anger or judgment in the new heavens and earth? No. Why not? Because God’s most essential nature is not that of wrath but of mercy. The Psalmist had it right: God’s anger lasts only a moment but His love is new every morning (that is, His love is everlasting).
Love and not wrath motivated God to give His Son for you. And His love has not changed. Why would you live another day as if God is against you? Why not surrender to His love today?