The Christian faith exists by the work of Jesus Christ.
In I Corinthians 15 the apostle Paul affirms the most important confession of the Christian faith. He said, “I delivered to you as of first importance…” It’s a two-fold confession. We will consider the second part of the confession Easter Sunday morning. But today we reflect on the first part. “I delivered to you as of first importance…that Christ died for our sins.”
The text doesn’t just say “Jesus died.” It says He died “for our sins.” These three additional words teach us three important lessons about the cross:
The cross says something about our guilt. “Our sins!” The question is if often asked why Jesus had to die? We do well to realize that He didn’t have to. There was nothing within Himself that needed to be atoned for or that He was obligated to do. We were the ones who needed Him to die. That means the cross doesn’t just say something endearing about Jesus. It says something indicting about us. We were guilty of moral crimes against God.
Perhaps the accusation that we offended God so grievously is a basic offense against us. We don’t like to be told we did anything wrong. We are most skilled in the art of self-justification. But the cross messes all of that up! Christ’s death was not just a kind gesture or the ultimate expression of love, though it was that. Nor was His death just an act of identifying with those who suffer. His death accomplished something very specific for us: making possible the forgiveness of our sins.
The cross says something about our value. The cross also communicates the extent to which God was willing to go to save us from the penalty of our sin (Romans 6:23). In love He was willing to do the only thing that could be done to save us from our plight (John 3:16). He took upon Himself the punishment for our sin, substituted Himself for us, taking our place in the judgment we deserved
To his friend Timothy Paul wrote, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor…. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” (I Timothy 1:12-15)
The cross says something about our invitation. We must respond. In order to appropriate the power of God’s mercy and grace in Christ, we must confess our need for His forgiveness. That will require giving up sovereignty of our lives and confessing that we can’t live the way we want to anymore. And then we ask for Him to cleanse us of all that has come between us and Him. It is accepting that the death we deserved became the death He died, so that through His death we could die to sin (Romans 6:6).
Peter wrote, “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (I Peter 2:24).
The Christian faith exists by the work of Jesus Christ. That means living it is a gift of His grace.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, in your mercy you saved me from the death I deserved (separation from you), and in your grace you have given me a life I don’t deserve (reconciliation with you). Thank you!