left the last lesson with a dilemma: how does God deal with sin, both in mercy
and in justice?
turns out that God laid groundwork for his solution in the Old Testament. One
of the difficulties in reading through the Bible is Leviticus. To a young
Christian it appears a series of rather boring rituals. But hidden within
them, when you piece together the details, is the secret of atonement.
means to make amends for your sins—to wipe out the penalty for them. The one
consistent pattern for atonement sacrifices is this: the sacrifice must be
perfect—no defects allowed. So if you had an animal in your flocks that was
blemished in some way, you could not use it for an atonement sacrifice. All
atonement sacrifices involved bloodshed. That would ring true with a Jew of
the time—he would think of Passover. Remember that in Passover the angel of
death “passed over” the houses marked with blood.
is this important to the Christian today? Because these Old Testament
regulations give us a picture of what was to happen when Christ came. It also
gives us confirmation of one very important thing: Jesus came to be the
atonement sacrifice for our sins. So he had to be “unblemished” in the
spiritual sense—meaning, He was without sin. Therefore, under the law of the
righteous God, he could be the one who paid the penalty of our sins. But only
by one method: bloodshed. Jesus is in fact our Passover lamb.
about Jesus points to that one fact. But there is more than that; we need to
take things in order to understand just how much of a sacrifice this truly is.
man of Galilee, the Son of David, and all those other human titles—was God.
You heard it right: Jesus of Nazareth, a man with a body just like the rest of
us, was and is God in the flesh. The Bible clearly gives us detailed
statements about this.
like God the Father, he exists before time. Indeed, he is said to be the agent
of creation and the sustainer of creation. He is eternal.
He was born of a virgin. If you’ve ever sung the Christmas carol “Silent
Night” you might remember these words:
yon virgin mother and child,
Infant so tender and mild”
a reminder of the virgin birth. Why is that important? Let’s go back to Adam
and Eve. The Bible clearly teaches the idea that anyone born in the usual way
inherits Adam’s fallen nature. This baby is to grow and live a sinless life.
That can’t be done—unless the Holy Spirit (also God) is involved in the
to catch the magnitude of the change. Being one who is equal to God, he
becomes man. It would be like you volunteering to become an earthworm—so you
could save the earthworms.
the reason He came: to be our Savior. He preached for about three years
before the Crucifixion; the record of that preaching is found in the Gospels
(Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). At the end of that preaching—and at exactly
the right moment based upon the Old Testament laws—he died. He died the
horrible death of one who is nailed to a cross after being beaten, and then
left to die. It was considered merciful to stick a spear in someone like
that. For sport, the Roman soldiers who carried out such executions would
often take a large mallet and shatter the leg bones—leaving the man to hang by
his hands in excruciating pain.
died a physical death—like all of us are likely to die, and all who have gone
before us. But God’s plan was not yet complete. He died on a Friday. Sunday
morning, God raised him from the dead—in a physical body. “He is Risen” - the
watchword of the church.
review the key points:
Jesus is God in the
flesh—completely human, completely God.
He lived a sinless life, preparing
him to be our atonement.
His purpose in coming was to save
us from our sins.
He died on a cross—a physical
He rose from the dead by the power
of God—a physical resurrection.
list these points for a reason: they are the ones that all fraudulent versions
of Christianity attack. Such attacks are called “heresies.” For your
reference, we list a few here:
wasn’t really sinless—he took over someone else’s body. He was born of a virgin—the mother who followed her
son to his crucifixion.
really easy for Jesus to be sinless, because he’s God. So his being sinless
doesn’t really count. No, he’s also
completely man as well as completely God.
didn’t really die; it was just a swoon.
Tell that to his apostles; they hid in fear after they saw him die.
wasn’t really a human; he was some sort of ghost. Ghosts don’t eat breakfast with their disciples.
really was no resurrection; it’s all a myth. Of the twelve apostles, all but one died a violent death because of
their faith in him. Men don’t die for a myth.
is really inferior to God—like an angel. No, fully God as well as fully man.
matter can be reduced to a simple illustration. Suppose you wish to build a
suspension bridge over a river. It’s not very much use to have a tower on one
side of the river if you don’t have a tower on the other side as well. Jesus
can be thought of as our bridge. On our side is human frailty and sin. On
God’s side we find heaven and perfection. But which of us could bridge that
gap? Only the one who was able to be completely on
one side and also the other. Only one man ever fit those qualifications:
Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of man and the Son of God.
he has paid the price of our sins is an accomplished fact. But—if you will
recall—God is still righteous. We must either take on the righteousness of
Christ or try to rely on our own. God has not yet closed the books on right
and wrong. Someday He will do that.
you see, is coming back. When? No one really knows; but Jesus told us that
he would come back as surprisingly as a thief in the night. Until then, we are
to stay alert and follow his commands.
facts surrounding his second coming are tantalizingly few; the theories about
it many. But there are some things we do know:
When he returns, he will gather
his followers to himself, welcoming them into the kingdom of God.
When he returns, he will judge all
others by the things they have done.
rather unfair, doesn’t it? But remember: the only way a righteous God can
pardon us is because of the perfect sacrifice (“atonement”) of Jesus. He is
the only way to pardon. If God dealt with us in our own righteousness alone,
He would find us all sinners. The penalty for sin, as we have seen, is death.
Some complain that God will forgive too few; the truth is, forgiving any of us
is an extravagance that only God could possibly afford. And it cost Him the
life of the Son.
we know what Jesus has done for us. The next question is, what should we do
about it? That will have to wait for the next lesson.