September 6, 2017

Why the Cross?
The Cross Is For the Guilty, Not the Righteous

Ezekiel 18:4 (NASB)

Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.

Review: The cross is the visual identity for Christianity. The Latin word “crux” means “central” – as in “that is the crux of the argument.” It is the root word of crucifix. The cross is the crux of Christianity. “I desire to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2). The cross is for justice. “God’s justice is His eternal, immutable commitment always to do what is right.” The cross is where wrong is punished; it’s the ultimate fulfillment of God’s declaration that “the person who sins shall surely die” (Ezekiel 18:20).

"Sin is cosmic treason." R.C. Sproul

We rarely take the time to think through the ramifications of our sin. We fail to realize that in even the slightest sins we commit, such as little white lies and other peccadilloes, we are violating the will of the Creator of the universe. In the smallest sin we defy God's right to rule and to reign over His creation.

Every sin, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is truly an act of treason against the cosmic King. There are two aspects of the one problem we must understand if we are to grasp the necessity of the Atonement of Christ. God is just. He cannot tolerate unrighteousness. He must do what is right. But I also alluded to the other aspect of the problem-we have violated God's justice and earned His displeasure. We are cosmic traitors. We must recognize this problem within ourselves if we are to grasp the necessity of the cross.

  1. Everyone’s sins against God are egregious and ugly.
    This is the difficult part with understanding sin. You only see dirt with light; you know black by white. To comprehend the blackness of sin, you must have a revelation of the holiness and purity of the Lord. Isaiah saw a glimpse of the Lord “High and Lifted Up” and he fell on his face and cried, “Woe is me!”
    1. Sin is called a debt.
      Jesus identifies sin as a debt in the Lord’s prayer. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). In a later parable Jesus taught that Christians have an obligation to forgive the sins of others because God has forgiven us our “debts” to Him (see Matthew 18:21-35).
    2. Sin is a debt to God because of God’s authority.
      The root word of authority is author. God is the Author of the universe; and you are His creation. A duly constituted authority, that is one in an office of official authority, has the right to impose obligation. If I am under that duly appointed authority, I am obligated to obey if the command is “moral” or “righteous.” Since God is perfectly righteous, His commands are always moral/right.
    3. God’s command to His creation is to be morally perfect.
      “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The debt that we owe to God (moral righteousness) is impossible to pay because He is perfect.

  2. Sinners are saved by God’s grace through perfect justice.
    • Many believed God loved sinners in so far as they had the potential to not be sinners. A modern parallel would be someone promising God to be better in the future.
    • Others spoke of the necessity of an absolutely selfless act of contrition (sorrow) and love for God by natural means if a person was to be saved. A modern parallel would be self- examination to see if "you really meant what you prayed," or, being asked by another "were you sincerely genuine when you gave your life to Christ?"
    • Some believed justification in the eyes of God was a moral transformation of life. Thomas Aquinas, the great Catholic theologian, spoke of justification as "infused grace." The unjustified person was given inner grace to become justified. This "justification" was accomplished by cooperating with the Holy Spirit. A modern parallel would be "God has done all He can do, now it is up to you!"
    These false theologies of justification led to doubt, fear, and finally despair, for a sinner wishing to be saved. Romans 3:20-24 wipes away all doubt as to how a sinner is justified. Justification is a forensic declaration, that is, it comes from the world of law courts. In the courtroom of God, we, the guilty party, stand before the righteous Judge and are declared not only innocent, but perfectly righteous. Justification is the Judge’s declaration that the law has been perfectly kept.
    1. Justification is a problem for every sinner, the moral and immoral.
      "Therefore, by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight" (v.20). If you look to any of your obedience for assurance of your right standing in God's sight, you are in trouble—big trouble. No flesh is justified by personal obedience.
    2. Justification is a promise of God's grace, not man's methods.
      Justification is something that happens "outside of yourself." God justifies the ungodly. The ungodly never justify themselves before God. It is impossible. Does He simply "wink and overlook sin?" No, then He would deny Himself, for He is a "just" God and "must" punish sin. So, He has done a marvelous work.
    3. Justification is a product of God's work, not man's work.
      "Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (v.24). This redemption is the payment of a debt, and the release from bondage. God's law demands death to the sinner, "The soul that sins, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4).
    4. Justification is a proclamation, not necessarily an invitation.
      I proclaim the good news. I tell you what God has done for sinners in Christ. Then we'll see whether or not the gospel is sweet to the taste. The justified find it sweet. The Father justifies, the Son redeems, and the Spirit sanctifies sinners—hallelujah!

  3. God has justified us through the work of Jesus Christ.
    God has not, and will not justify every sinner, but He justifies those who are one with Christ. We have dealt with justification in several passages already and we find it again in our text.
    1. Jesus Christ lived His earthly life at one with us.
      "In Him was no sin" (I John 3:5), and Christ is also "A lamb without blemish" (I Peter 1:19).
    2. Jesus Christ died on His cross at one with us.
      "What can wash away my sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus" made me wonder as a kid if there was something magical about blood. I know now it is His death that is special. "He who knew no sin became sin for us" (II Corinthians 5:21). God imputed our sins to Christ.
      1. God views those who are at one with Christ, "just as if they never sinned."
      2. God views those who are at one with Christ, "just as if they fully obeyed."
        What is the evidence that Jesus atoned for my sins (lived and died for me)? The only warrant I have to believe God justified me is my trust in Him.
      3. God’s justifies sinners in Jesus Christ by grace through faith.
        This is why, though justification is a work of God, it is called justification by faith.