The death of Christ is a much debated often heated discussion in the Church today. Paul makes it clear in 1st Corinthians 15:3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures”. Paul earlier in 1st Corinthians 15:1-2 that Christians are those who, “hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1st Corinthians 15:2).
With the growing tide of secularism, individualism, pluralism, relativism and the lies of religion seemingly pervading the day in today’s society; a clear explanation on the Cross is not only the need of the day but it ought to be the message which Christians are proclaiming everywhere. The death of Christ according to Paul forms one part of the Gospel which is of first importance. This means a denial on the work of Jesus Cross is a denial of Christianity and shows one is not a Christian. This examination on the Cross will challenge every believer to put in practice what they profess, and challenge the non-Christian to see their sin, and come to the Savior who offers forgiveness for sin.
Biblical Evidence for Jesus Death
One of the greatest needs in the Church today is to understand what Jesus has done in dying for the sins of the world. In a world that celebrates ideas, philosophies and even makes these ideas and philosophies into religions; the only constant to history has been the Cross. After all, all of history revolves around the person and work of Jesus Christ since historians have divided one part of history B.C. or before Christ and A.D. After Christ’s death into segments that divide history. In this section the discussion will focus on the holiness of God, God creating everything good, Sin results in death, Jesus is sinless, we are sinful, Jesus became our sin, and Jesus died for humanity.
The holiness of God
Many people today think God is evil either because of their experiences or because they have been taught this lie. The Bible teaches that God is holy, without sin and altogether good. The Holiness of God is the most frequently mentioned attribute in Scripture (Lev 19:2, Isaiah 6:3; 1 John 1:5)
God created everything good
Everything the Lord created was originally good, including human beings who were made in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:31; Eccl 7:29).
Sin results in death
Sin is the greatest diseases known to man because it kills man leaving him apart from the God who created him. The Lord is the living God and the source of life. The Bible clearly teaches that man is physically alive but spiritually dead. (Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 6:23 Eph 2:1 Col 2:13)
Jesus is sinless
Jesus is greater than every prophet and teacher because He alone was sinless. He said this about Himself and the testimony of Scripture affirms this truth. (John 8:46 Hebrews 4:15 7:26 1st Peter 2:22)
We are sinful
People today would rather not view themselves as they are or they attempt to minimize the teaching of Christianity because of all of the talk of sin from Christians. The fact is that one cannot deal with reality without understanding sin. The fact is that everyone is a sinner. People today attempt to explain away sin, or to justify their sin. All attempts to do this fail because the facts are our sin includes our words, deeds, thought and motives. Our sin includes omission (not doing what God commands) and commission (doing what God forbids). (Isaiah 64:6 Romans 3:23 1st John 1:8
Jesus became our sin
The very fact that Jesus died as a substitute for man’s sin should be not shocking as today people worship sports, creation, cause and the list goes. This very fact shows that everyone has a “savior” mentality whereby they pursue what they want whenever they want. While everyone is pursuing righteousness unto themselves Jesus died on the Cross as the sinless Lamb of God. In that moment Jesus took upon Himself all the sin ever committed throughout the history of the world and died. Scripture declares that on the Cross Jesus exchanged his perfection for our imperfection, his obedience for our disobedience, his intimacy with God the Father for our distance from God the Father, his blessing for our cursing and his life for our death. Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned- every one-to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Furthermore, Scripture teaches, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (Romans 5; 2nd Corinthians 5:21)
Jesus died for us
The substitionary atonement of Christ means that His death was in our place solely for our benefit and without benefit for Himself. It means that Jesus took the penalty for our sins so we do not have to suffer the just penalty ourselves. The wrath of God that should have fallen on us and the death that our sins merit fell upon Jesus. Jesus did this willingly for us. Isaiah 53:5, “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. “ Isaiah 53:12, “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. “ Romans 4:25,” who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.“ Romans 5:8, “8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.“ 1st Corinthians 15:3, “3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” 1st Corinthians 3:18, “18Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.“ 1st John 2:2, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.“ Galatians 3:13, “13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written,” Cursed is everyone who is hanged(C) on a tree”— “
The sinless Jesus literally stood in our place to suffer and die for us. In doing so Jesus is a Savior who alone can take away the curse we deserve because of our sin. The Scriptures are clear that Jesus is the only Savior who died in our place, bearing our punishment and taking away our sin (Isaiah 53:10).
On this point some will say well that isn’t like my god who is loving and just. Isaiah 53 clearly teaches though it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief. The Cross of Jesus most clearly shows the love of God for sinners. John 15:12-13, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Great love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. The death on the Cross is where God’s love is most clearly seen in all his creation. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believe sin him should not perish but have eternal life. Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we are yet sinners, Christ died for us. 1st John 4:9-10, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” The bloody death of Christ is all about His love.
Among the events of the Old Testament, is the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur, according to the regulations of the book of Leviticus. In the Jewish calendar the Day of Atonement was the most important day. It was a day intended to deal with the sin problem between humanity and God. Of the many prophetic elements on this special day, one stands out. On that day, two healthy goats were chosen; they were therefore fit to represent sinless perfection. The high priest would slaughter one gat, which acted as a substitute for the sinners who rightly deserved a bloody death for their sins. The high priest treated the first goat as a sin offering. He slaughtered the innocent goat and sprinkled some of its blood on the mercy seat on top of the ark of the covenant inside the Most Holy Place. But the goat is no longer innocent when it takes the guilt of our sin because it is a sin offering for the people (Leviticus 16:15). The blood represents life given as payment for sin. The result is that the welling place of God is cleansed from all of the transgression and sins of the people of Israel and God’s wrath is satisfied.
The slaughter of the goat on the day of Atonement represents propitiation. Propitiation means that God’s wrath was turned away or propitiated from sinners and diverted to Jesus Christ. This was made possible because Jesus himself died in our place as both our high priest and the lamb of God to pay the penalty for our sins (Hebrews; John 1:29). The high priest, acting as the representative and mediator between the sinful people and a holy God, would take the second goat and lay his hands on the animal while confessing the sins of the people. This goat was called the scapegoat would then be sent away to run free into the wilderness, symbolically taking their sins with it. This is the doctrine of expiation, whereby our sin is expiated, or taken away so we are made clean.
The Bible uses a dozen words to speak of sin in terms of staining our soul, defiling us, and causing us to be filthy and unclean (Psalm 106:39; Proverbs 30:11-12; Mark 7:20). The effects of sin are seen everyday and can make one feel guilty. The scapegoat illustrates for us how Jesus takes away our sin so that we can become new people who live new lives. Scripture uses a variety of verbs such as cleanse, and purify to explain this aspect of Jesus work on the Cross (Lev 16:30; Jer. 33:8; Zech 13:1; 1 John 1:7-9; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:14). The Bible also frequently mentions people wearing white as a symbol that they have been cleansed from sin (2 Chron 5:12; Eccles. 9:8; Acts 1:10; Rev. 3:4-5; 6:11; 7:9-14; 15:6; 19:8).
How people view the Cross today
Much of what is said on the atonement today is not only wrong it is heresy. One person from the United Kingdom calls the substitionary death of Christ “cosmic child abuse” and other Pastors support this position which has sparked a debate on both sides of Atlantic regarding the substitionary atonement of Christ. The sad thing is that the liberal position on the atonement is no position just, “I feel that the Scripture says this” which is no way for any Christian, let alone a Pastor to explain the Scriptures which they have been charged with preaching (2nd Timothy 4:2). The Truth of 2nd Timothy 3-4 becomes clearer everyday as people turn to themselves, set themselves up as their own saviors, and set up their own religion of comfort rather than taking up the Cross, dying to self, and living a holy life. The Gospel is the good news of what Jesus has done.
Throughout history many people have said a lot regarding Jesus Cross. Jean-Jacques Rousseau said: “If Socrates live and died like a philosopher, Jesus live and died like a god.” Gandi said, “His death on the Cross was a great example to the world, but that there was anything like a mysterious or miraculous virtue in it, my heart could not accept.” Mark Twain said, “Jesus died to save men- a small thing for an immortal to do- and didn’t save many, anyway. But if he had been damned for the race, that would have been an act of a size proper to a god, and would have saved the whole race. John Knox said, “To remember Jesus is to remember first of all his Cross.” Fridrich Nietzsche said, “Jesus died too soon. If he had lived to my age he would have repudiated his doctrine.” Puritan John Owen said, “There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.”
The lie of today’s individualism is that one can be a “savior” when the only Savior is Jesus Christ. Ultimately the lies of culture stem down to one thing- pride. Pride is the reason why Satan fell and why man today fails to worship, honor and give glory to God who alone is worthy of honor, glory and praise. The religion o today says Jesus is just a teacher, prophet, or a good man. Jesus is more than these things which focus merely on one aspect or another of what Jesus has done. Jesus is the only Savior who provides the only means to deal with the problem of sin which separates man from God and the only solution which He provided for in His death. Furthermore Jesus is the only One through His resurrection who can give people new life.
Today’s culture is set against God, His Word and His Son. The heresy of today’s culture is not an accident it is done with a goal in mind- to discredit Christianity. Yet in “attempting” to discredit Christianity the culture has failed. The only thing the culture has shown is that it doesn’t believe the same values it exposes and is guilty of hypocrisy which is interesting since it accuses Christians of not living up to the standards of Jesus.
The only solution for Christians is to not be ashamed of what Jesus did on the Cross but stand on the byways, highways and marketplaces of today’s culture and proclaim the Gospel. People may call you all sorts of names; ridicule you for the name of Jesus but what is better to receive an eternal reward or earthly praise? The kind of life Jesus called believers to is one of persecution, a life of taking up one’s Cross, living the Truth, despising heresy; calling for people everywhere to repent turn from sin and live for Him now (Matthew 5-7; Luke 6, John 15). The kind of life Jesus calls believers to live is centered upon Him and His Work. Believers are to live for the glory of the One who is glorious who is worthy to be praised. It is to Him that belongs all honor and glory. May you be found Christian be found bringing glory to Him who was faithful to save you from your sins and give you new life through His death, burial and resurrection.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to his wife, Sarah. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, the Host and Producer of Equipping You in Grace Podcast, and is a contributor to and producer of Contending for the Word. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021), The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age (G3 Press, 2022), and Contentment: The Journey of a Lifetime (Theology for Life, 2024). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.