Tag Archives: Redemption

Christ Crucified. What did Jesus’ Death Accomplish?

Prior to Christ’s crucifixion on the cross two thousand years ago, people sought to cleanse their impurities by sacrificing animals to God. But the Bible makes clear that such an approach is imperfect: “Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could (only) cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity” (Hebrews 9:13, NLT). That left the sins of the people unforgiven. Why? Because, as the writer of Hebrews informs us, “it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 104, NLT). The washing away of sins requires a more perfect sacrifice than the blood of animals.

For the old covenant between God and man required “the priest stand and minister before the alter day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins” (Hebrews 10:11, NLT). And if those “sacrifices could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped. For the worshippers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared” (Hebrews 10:2, NLT). 

So if the old system was inadequate to cleanse people from their sins and restore them into a right relationship with God, what purpose did it serve? Once again the writer of Hebrews explains: “The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship” (Hebrews 10:1, NLT). Perfect cleansing could only come from a perfect sacrifice.

And the perfect sacrifice required the shedding of blood, “for without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22b, NLT). For that purpose God sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world, to redeem mankind (see John 3:16-17): “With His own blood – not the blood of goats and calves – Jesus entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever” (Hebrews 9:12, NLT). Meditate on that incredible truth for a moment. Jesus’ blood was fully sufficient to cleanse us from our sins, and His sacrificial death eliminates the need for daily sacrifices. He redeems us from our iniquities, once for all eternity.

Now, because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a, NLT) and the Lord “is not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9), God sought to reconcile us to Himself so that we would not spend eternity in hell. “For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time” (Hebrews 10:10, NLT). 

And in obedience to the Father’s will, Jesus went to the cross: “For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins” and in doing so He “mediates a new covenant between God and mankind” (Hebrews 9:14b-15a, NLT). Jesus suffered a death He did not deserve that we might have eternal life that we do not deserve.

It is important to understand that in His suffering on the cross Jesus experienced more than an excruciatingly painful and tortured death; He bore God’s punishment for our sins so we would not have to bear them. “For Christ died to set (us) free from the penalty of sins (we) committed” (Hebrews 9:15b). That penalty is everlasting torment and suffering in hell (see Revelation 20:15, 21:8). To avoid eternal damnation, and instead receive forgiveness of sin and eternal life, one need only believe in and receive Christ.

Take some time this week to study the truths above and allow them to nourish your soul. They are a lot to digest in a single setting, in part because of their complexity and in part because they run counter to what our culture teaches.

Fortunately, the apostle Paul summarizes the above message in a clear and compelling way: “God, in HIs grace, freely makes us right in His sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. You are made right with God when you believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood” (Romans 3:24-25). Paul then adds that “God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for He Himself is fair and just, and He makes sinners right in His sight when they believe in Jesus” (Romans 3:26b. NLT).

Finally, Paul provides a succinct summation that you would do well to memorize: “For God showed us His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God’s condemnation … for there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 5:8-9, 8:1, NLT).

So to answer the question posed in the title, ‘What did Jesus’ death accomplish?’ Quite a lot actually: Forgiveness of sins; Restored relationship with God; and Eternal Life for all who believe in Jesus. May that truth be a source of joy and encouragement for you today.

Six Stages of the Christian Life.

In the first chapter of his letter to the church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul provides his spiritually young audience an overview of the Christian life. Although brief (the chapter is only twenty-three verses), Paul covers considerable ground as he tackles this weighty subject matter. It is an exceptional and encouraging epistle that serves as a theological primer for new and young Christians, both yesteryear and today. For that reason, it is worth exploring each stage briefly.

1) Chosen: Paul wastes no time getting started. In verse four we read, “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ” (Ephesians 1:4, NLT). Take a moment to meditate on that incredible statement. Before creating the foundations of this world, and long before you were born, God chose you to spend eternity with Him. That profound truth is so important that Paul reiterates it in the next verse: “God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ” (1:5a).

Now you may wonder why God almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, would choose you to be part of His family? Well, Paul answers that question in the second half of the verse: “This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure” (1:5b). We didn’t merit or earn this honor through our works; it was entirely His choice – a product of His grace.

Perhaps aware that this fundamental truth may be difficult to accept, Paul revisits the point a third time in verse eleven: “God chose us in advance.” At this point, there should be no confusion that our citizenship in God’s kingdom has nothing to do with our own efforts but is entirely a function of God’s choice. Jesus explained it to His disciples in this way: “For no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them to Me” (John 6:44, NLT). Those God chose in the past He draws to Christ in the present so that they spend eternity with Him in the future.

2) Purchased: Having learned of God’s decision to bring us into His family, some may ask, ‘how did He accomplish this?’ Paul addresses that question with this theologically thick statement: “God is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins” (vs. 7). Notice that God is purchasing our freedom – but freedom from what? Sin! Jesus tells us, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34b, NKJV). And since all have sinned (see Romans 3:23), all are slaves to sin, which eventually leads to death (see James 1:15 and Romans 6:16, 8:2).

But God frees us from sin and death through the blood of Jesus, “for without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22b, NLT). And without forgiveness “each person is destined to die once and after that face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27a, NLT). And that judgment leads to condemnation for those without Christ (see John 3:18, 36). So “Christ offered Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins” (Hebrews 9:14b). As a result, Jesus “with His own blood … secured our redemption forever” (Hebrews 9:12, NLT).

We who have been purchased by the blood of Christ are now His. Consequently, we can echo Paul’s statement, “I have been crucified with Christ it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20).

3) Sealed: When we commit our lives to Jesus, God places His seal on us, confirming our salvation and our citizenship in His kingdom. That seal is the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us, “And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit” (vs. 13). The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, evidenced by our ongoing sanctification (among other things), assures us we belong to God and are part of His family, The disciple John explains, “God has given us His Spirit as proof that we live in Him and He in us.” (1 John 4:13, NLT). Paul reiterates this point when he tells the church at Corinth, God “sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a deposit.” (2 Corinthians 1:22, NKJV). In a similar vein he reminds his audience that by the Holy Spirit of God“ you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30, NKJV). This gives those of us who believe in Christ considerable confidence in our salvation.

4) Re-purposed: Having learned that God manifested His love when He chose us from the beginning, purchased us with Christ’s blood, and sealed us with the Holy Spirit, we now turn to the question of why? Paul offers this clear and compelling response: “The Spirit is God’s guarantee that He will give us the inheritance He promised and that He has purchased us to be His own peopleHe did this so we would praise and glorify Him.” (Ephesians 1:14, NLT). It is important to understand, accept, and apply this critical truth. Too often we focus on the first sentence and ignore the second. We revel in the knowledge that God made us His people and promised us an inheritance, and understandably so. But that cannot come at the expense of knowing why He did that. The two are inexorably linked. God’s people praise and glorify Him because He is worthy and they are grateful. This lifestyle of worship is the product of a heart transformed by the Holy Spirit. It no longer seeks to satisfy self but instead pursues the presence of God. In Christ, we have new life and new meaning. We have been re-purposed to exalt Him.

5) Enlightened: Paul tells the Ephesian church he prays that God will “give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God” (Ephesians 1:17, NLT). This knowledge deepens the believer’s relationship with the Lord, strengthens his faith, and produces spiritual fruit. And it flows generously from God who “has showered (us) … with all wisdom and understanding” (Ephesians 1:8, NLT). This wisdom comes from the Holy Spirit and includes a) knowing what to say when accused and ridiculed for your faith (Luke 12:11-12); b) understanding Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:10, 1 John 2:27); c) insight into the mind of Christ (John 15:26); and d) guiding us in all truth, including the future (John 16:13).

6) Empowered: Paul prays that his audience “will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead.” (Ephesians 1:19-20a, NLT). There are four aspects of this power we need to understand. First, it is God’s power and therefore infinitely greater than the power of man. Second, God gives this power to all “who believe Him.” Only Christians have access to this power, which accompanies the Holy Spirit when He enters our lives. Third, this power glorifies God, as evidenced by the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. And finally, this power accomplishes God’s will and furthers His interests. We do not use it to satisfy our selfish ambitions, pursue our dreams, advance our agendas, or acquire worldly treasures, influence, and accolades. Those who do will fail; their greed and self-centeredness revealing their false faith in Christ. (For a more detailed discussion of God’s power in the Christian life, click here).

Of course, this is neither a comprehensive list nor an exhaustive study of the stages in a Christian life. Remember, the Ephesian church was young and untrained in truth. Paul wanted to equip them with some fundamentals of the faith so they would grow as believers and resist the teaching of false prophets, who were proliferating in the area. Hopefully, this brief overview of that message will encourage and equip new believers today to move forward boldly and enthusiastically in their faith.

Profile in Courage

Few have done more to further the gospel and build the church than the apostle Paul. He authored most of the New Testament, traveled throughout Europe and Asia to share the good news, and invested his entire post-conversion life to nurturing believers, persuading unbelievers, and teaching the truth. He suffered stonings, beatings, and floggings; endured hunger, weariness, and nakedness; escaped violent mobs, sailed turbulent seas, traveled foreign lands, and withstood false brethren. He preached, encouraged, rebuked, refreshed, and debated.

His legacy of faith, however, does not exist without the remarkable courage of a man named Ananias. Before he encountered Jesus, Paul ruthlessly persecuted the church and did everything in his power to destroy the fledgling faith. His desire to annihilate the church before his conversion, was as passionate as his effort to cultivate the church post conversion. It is that cruel man, known then as Saul, who Christ confronts outside Damascus, afflicts with blindness, and then sends into the city for further instructions.

Three days later the Lord appears to Ananias in a dream and tells him where to locate Paul, so he can restore his sight and baptize him in the Holy Spirit. Ananias resists. He informs God of Paul’s brutality against the church and argues that it’s not safe to meet with him, let alone baptize him. Jesus understands Ananias’ anxiety; so He explains that He has chosen Paul and has a plan for him.

Despite the overwhelming risk to life and limb, Ananias obeys. He ignores those voices that tell him that Paul is beyond redemption; that men so hostile to the gospel, so hateful to Christ, and so harmful to the church cannot be salvaged; that they are doomed to darkness. Instead he locates Paul, introduces himself as a brother in Christ, heals his blindness, and baptizes him.

The rest is history. Paul becomes the most influential individual in church history. Without Ananias, however, Paul the church pillar remains Saul the church killer.

How many of us avoid sharing the gospel with people antagonistic to Christianity; who denigrate the Lord or mock His people? How many of us calculate an individual’s likelihood of conversion before we discuss Jesus’ sacrifice? How many potential Pauls never hear the gospel because we assume their inflammatory rhetoric and brash hostility towards Christianity disqualify them from joining our ranks?

Take time this week to identify someone in your life unlikely to embrace Christ – someone who defiantly shakes his or her fist at God, condemns the church, and views Christians with contempt. Ask God to soften the person’s heart and provide you with an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus. Who knows, perhaps that person who appeared so opposed to God becomes an effective advocate for Him.