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The Gospel Centres On Jesus' Well-Defined Death

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1001 Illustrations that Connect Illustration 186: The Language of Resurrection

When I was about age six, a tall, pale white man stumbled into my home village of Dibagat in the northern jungles of the Philippine island of Luzon. The man didn’t speak our language, so our elders asked him the best they knew how, “Why are you here?”

“I’ve come to learn your language,” he said. “I’d like to write it down and then give you God’s Word in your language.”

We started teaching this man, Dick Roe, our language. Maybe his God could free us from the spirits.

When I was about thirteen, Dick had to return to the United States to raise support for his ministry. Before he left, he translated the gospel of Mark and gave me a copy. Sitting on top of a rock, I read the gospel of Mark in my heart language. It felt like I was actually there, seeing the characters.

The further I read, the more distressed I felt. A mob of people came to get Jesus out of the garden of Gethsemane. What did he do wrong? They accused him of all kinds of false things. They mocked him, spat on him, beat him, and took him before Pilate. Then came the scourge and the crown of thorns. It was excruciating to read that they forced him to carry a wooden cross and then nailed him to it.

Deep in my heart, a hatred of God swelled. I shook my fist and shouted, “I hate you, God, for being so powerless! Why should I believe in a powerless God like you?” I threw the gospel of Mark down to the rocks and started walking home. I couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t protect his own Son. Our headhunters defended us to the death. Because of them, no one could touch us. I wanted a god like that, someone who would protect me from the spirits that demanded we sacrifice our cows, chickens, pigs, and dogs. This God didn’t even save his own Son.

Suddenly God reached down into my heart. “Nard, don’t you understand?” I heard him say. “That’s how much I love you. I gave my Son on your behalf.” For the first time, I understood grace. I understood how much God loved me.

“God, if you love me that much,” I prayed, “I want to give you my life, my heart. It’s all yours.” I went back and began to read further in Mark. I read that Jesus rose from the grave on the third day. Nobody in all of Dibagat, nobody from among the Isnag people, had ever risen from the grave. The resurrection story changed my life.

—Nard Pugyao, “Penetrating Power,” Decision (July–August 2006)

When I was about age six, a tall, pale white man stumbled into my home village of Dibagat in the northern jungles of the Philippine island of Luzon. The man didn’t speak our language, so our elders asked him the best they knew how, “Why are you here?”
“I’ve come to learn your language,” he said. “I’d like to write it down and then give you God’s Word in your language.”
We started teaching this man, Dick Roe, our language. Maybe his God could free us from the spirits.
When I was about thirteen, Dick had to return home to raise support for his ministry. Before he left, he had translated the gospel of Mark and he gave me a copy. Sitting on top of a rock, I read the gospel of Mark in my native language. It felt like I was actually there, seeing the characters.
The further I read, the more distressed I felt. A mob of people came to get Jesus out of the garden of Gethsemane. What did he do wrong? They accused him of all kinds of false things. They mocked him, spat on him, beat him, and took him before Pilate. Then came the scourge and the crown of thorns. It was excruciating to read that they forced him to carry a wooden cross and then they ...nailed him …onto it.
Deep in my heart, an anger with God welled up inside me. I shook my fist and shouted, “I hate you, God, for being so powerless! Why should I believe in a powerless God like you?” I threw the gospel of Mark down to the rocks and started walking home. I couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t protect his own Son. Our headhunters defended us to the death. Because of them, no one could touch us. I wanted a god like that, someone who would protect me from the spirits — one who perhaps demanded we sacrifice our cows, chickens, pigs, and dogs. This God didn’t even save his own Son.
Suddenly God reached down into my heart. “Nard, don’t you understand?” I heard him say. “That’s how much I love you. I gave my Son on your behalf.” For the first time, I understood grace.
“God, if you love me that much,” I prayed, “I want to give you my life, my heart. It’s all yours.” I went back and began to read further in read that Jesus rose from the grave on the third day. Nobody in all of Dibagat, nobody from among the Isnag people, had ever risen from the grave. The resurrection story changed my life. —Nard Pugyao, “Penetrating Power,” Decision (July–August 2006)
—Nard Pugyao, “Penetrating Power,” Decision (July–August 2006)
Reading a story, like the gospel story, as much as it’s contained in the gospel of Mark, is something to do most carefully.
It’s important to know the pre-story and the post-story. Otherwise you’ll get the story from the wrong perspective.
You might get things …SO back to front ...like the young man, Nard.
We have come near to the end of our equipping series on the gospel.
My prayer is that you are becoming better equipped to more clearly and more fully share the gospel message of Jesus with others.
Last week we have reminded ourselves from Paul’s summary of the gospel — at the beginning of — that the gospel message is intended to be clear, that it is is intended to savingly communicate life to others, and that it must be seen and heard as the crucial, centre-core of the Bible...
That’s what we learned last week from the first 2 & 1/2 verses of our chapter in Corinthians.
Now we come into the last couple of phrases of Paul’s summary of the gospel at the end of verse 3.
The crucially important gospel message is this, in summary:
idlbond
THAT Christ, that the Messiah, died for our sins according to the Scriptures
How should we handle this first part of Paul’s abbreviated gospel message?
Paul’s saying that this message about Jesus and His saving Kingdom is this:
Firstly, that the Saviour, this messiah, Jesus, DIED FOR OUR SINS, and
secondly, that this death for our sins was effected in a way which was, prescribed by, or, done,
IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE SCRIPTURES.
Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
Paul doesn’t say what OT texts he has in mind in v.3.
He may have had the kind of thing Jesus himself taught after his resurrection,
when He explained to His disciples “what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” ().
Perhaps Paul was thinking of such texts as and ;
those texts were used by Peter on the day of Pentecost.
Or perhaps it included which was used by Paul when he spoke in the town of Antioch in Pisidia.
Elsewhere in 1 Corinthians Paul alludes to Christ as “our Passover sacrificed for us,”
so perhaps he could’ve been reasoning like the author to the letter to the Hebrews,
who elegantly traces out some of the ways in which the Old Testament Scriptures
lay out the way the ancient sacrifices pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus.
Whatever passages Paul was thinking of,
the death of Jesus is well-defined in a way which is biblical.
Jesus death had a meaningful, defined purpose.
Jesus came to deal with our problem with sin.
How? Substitution.
Jesus came to deal with our problem with sin. How? Substitution.
This little word for in v.3 is not very revealing to us,
because our English word for covers such an enormous range of meanings.
You actually have to sit and think and reflect before you know in what way something is for something else.
There are all sorts of usage in our English language.
Fortunately, Greek had more prepositions that served this purpose that Paul’s on about.
The preposition used here in v.3 is huper, which means “on behalf of”, or “in the place of, as a substitute”.
This is Paul saying Jesus died on behalf of us ...as a substitute for us.
He died instead of us.
He took what we deserve.
In other words, Jesus took our place, the place we deserve to be:
cast out from God’s presence and under judgement…..as He was on the cross.
If we believe in Him, then we get the place He deserved:
at the table, in the family – as the much loved child of God.
: “God made Him who knew no sin,
[to become] sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
There are a lot of different pictures the Bible uses to try to describe what happened on the cross on our behalf.
There’s the language of the marketplace. Sometimes it talks about how Jesus Christ, on the cross, paid a price. Why? Because sin is a debt. In the Israel’s olden days, if you had a debt you couldn’t pay, you went into indentured service slavery until you could work enough to pay it off.
The problem with this debt to God? We could never pay it off!
Jesus Christ, we’re told in the Bible, is our ransom.
He redeems us out of slavery. He pays the price, so we’re liberated.
Another kind of language that’s used to deal with the cross is the language of the battlefield. Do you know why? Because sin is not just a legal debt, it’s also a powerful evil force. It’s in you and me. It makes us do things that even we hate. That’s the reason Paul in says, “Very often I find I’m doing the very thing I hate.”
It absorbs us with ourselves and fills us with fears and all sorts of things, and we do things we don’t like to do. So it’s a force inside us. But of course it’s also a force outside of us as well. Other people and other beings can wrong us, harm us, deceive us. Jesus comes, and the Bible in some places talks about Jesus going to the cross to defeat the powers of evil, sin, and death. It’s a terrible struggle and He suffers horribly, but in the end, He fights and wins for God’s glory and for our freedom.
There’s also the language of the law court. The language of the law court says sin is also a violation of a standard. If there is a God, you want him to be against evil and injustice, don’t you? You don’t want God to be passive. You don’t want God just to perpetually look on. You want Him, in the end, to do something about it. You want Him to be staunchly, judicially opposed to all evil and injustice. But then if we have any evil and sin in us, that judicial wrath, that condemnation, comes upon us. Well, Jesus Christ comes and takes all the appropriate consequences we deserve.
And there are other pictures to HOW Jesus worked for us at the cross by His death.
All of these illustrations are wonderful because they show different aspects of our human problem with sin and the comprehensive aspects of the salvation we have. But do you notice there’s a thread running through every single one of these illustrations? Substitution. Jesus fights for us. Jesus pays for us. Jesus bears what we couldn’t bearinstead of us.
John Stott, the British Anglican minister used to say that the concept of substitution is crucial in order to understand both sin and salvation. If you want to understand the gospel, you have to understand substitution, because on the one hand, what is sin? It’s you, he says, substituting yourself for God, putting yourself where only God deserves to be: in charge of your own life as if you were God!
But you didn’t make yourself. When you say, “I’m going to call the shots in my own life,” what are you saying? “I’m my own maker. I’m my own creator. I’m my own boss.” When you act as if you’re your own maker and your own creator and you’re not, it’s kind of cosmic plagiarism ..spiritual theft. It’s a shameful corruption. When you put yourself in that place … where you’re wonderfully under-qualified for the job of being lord …you are a mess.
So, says Stott, sin is you substituting yourself for God.
And, by gracious contrast, salvation has got to be God substituting Himself for you, putting Himself where you deserve to be. It’s God going to the cross and taking His own punishment. So sin and salvation involve substitution. Therefore, the very first thing out of Paul’s mouth when he’s summarizing the gospel, at the core of all Christian beliefs … is Jesus dying for us, in our place.
The problem is that this gospel idea flies right in the face of our culture.
The idea that all people are sinners, that the consequence of sin is death is alien to modern people…
The idea that Jesus Christ had to go to the cross to take our punishment, to assuage (propitiate is the old word) the wrath of God, to satisfy the fierce, passionate opposition of God …that just rankles people in our culture.
Why should anyone need to die? Why should Jesus need to die?!
Sounds barbaric! Sound like overkill! they say.
What’s death got to do with sin, they object!?
The idea that Jesus Christ had to go to the cross to take our punishment, to assuage (propitiate is the old word) the wrath of God, to satisfy the fierce, passionate opposition of God …that just rankles people in our culture.
I would like to briefly, therefore, deal with a couple of issues, kind of loose ends. First, I would like to respond to the objection that this is a primitive, bloodthirsty idea, this idea of Jesus Christ going to the cross and substituting himself, and I’d also like to show you this is the most democratic, egalitarian possible doctrine.
First of all, one of the charges is this whole idea that Jesus Christ goes and has to shed his blood in order to satisfy the punishment and wrath of God … Many people say, “That’s just incredible. That’s just like the ancient, primitive, pagan, terrible religions. They were all bloody with all that sacrifice stuff.” J.I. Packer, in his great book Knowing God, has a chapter in which he deals with this subject.
He brings out a perfect example of what people mean when they think about primitive, pagan, bloodthirsty religion. He talks about Homer’s Iliad. In The Iliad, as some of you know, probably from sixth grade, the Greek army has taken ship to go to Troy because Prince Paris has taken Helen away. The general of the Greek army, who was Agamemnon, finds that they can’t sail. Why? Because of contrary winds, because the gods, for some reason, are angry at them.
So Agamemnon sends for his daughter and ceremonially slaughters her as a sacrifice, mollifying the hostile gods. The old word was propitiation. He propitiates the wrath of the gods, and then they can sail to Troy. By the way, if you learned this in sixth grade, they probably left that part out. They left it out for me. When I actually started reading it, I said, “Why didn’t they tell me the best stuff?”
“Well,” people say, “there we go. Oh my word. Here’s a father who sacrifices his child to mollify the gods to propitiate their wrath. This is terrible. Christianity is just like that. It’s primitive and bloodthirsty just like that.” J.I. Packer says, “No, no. Not only is it not like that; it’s utterly different.” Why?
He says in paganism, man propitiates his gods, and religion becomes a form of commercialism and, indeed, of bribery. In Christianity, however, God propitiates his own wrath through his own sacrificial action of love. God comes in Jesus Christ and takes his own punishment. It’s utterly different. It’s the reverse of ancient, primitive, bloodthirsty religion. So don’t say that.
Secondly, I’d like to say something on the contrary about this doctrine of substitution and sin. It’s radically egalitarian and democratic. If you say, “Boy, that’s kind of weird,” I want you to look at the little word right at the beginning of the gospel presentation, where Paul says Christ died for our sins. Do you know what’s so interesting about that? There’s a world of meaning in that.
Paul did not say for your sins. Paul was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. Paul tells us about what an incredibly fastidious, godly, religious person he was. He pored over the Bible. He tried to find anything the Bible says we should do, and he did everything he possibly could in order to comply with every single aspect of God’s law. Yet here he is saying Jesus Christ substituted himself and died for our sins, meaning, “I deserve to die too. My record deserves death.”
If that seems absolutely inexplicable to you, you need to read the book of . In a very top-level summary of that, he spends one chapter talking about the pagans, the Gentiles, the people who didn’t believe the Bible and didn’t follow the biblical rules of chastity and purity and integrity and so on.
But then he turns to people who believe the Bible, and he shows that though externally they’re obeying the Bible, inside their motivation is not for love of God but for love of self. Inside there’s self-righteousness and pride. He gets to chapter 3 and says, “Therefore, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” He says, “No one is righteous, no, not one. No one is really even seeking for God.”
It’s an amazing statement. Paul is saying, “The people who all of my life I was taught to despise, the Gentiles, the people I wouldn’t even want to eat with because they’re unclean and don’t follow the Bible, the people I’ve always despised, now I’m spending my whole life with them. Why? Because we’re not really any different.” He says, “I’m really no better than a criminal who slits people’s throats and takes their money.”
In the end, we’re lost in different ways, we violate the law of God in different ways, we all fail to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind and our neighbors as ourselves in different ways, and therefore, we’re all equally sinners. We’re all equally lost, and we’re all equally in need of God’s grace. That is the most radically egalitarian, humanizing doctrine there is.
Look at Paul. What turned him from a self-righteous racist into a person who embraces all people as his equals? I’ll tell you what. It was the gospel. It humanized him. Every other religion and philosophy says, “This is what you must do to get saved. This is what you must do to find God. This is what you must do to save the world. This is what you must do in order to be a good person or moral person.”
In which case, there are always a bunch of people over here not doing what you think should be done. Therefore, you have to say, “Oh look, they’re not doing this.” Paul says it doesn’t matter. Liberal, conservative, moral, immoral, avant-garde, respectable, this race or that race … it doesn’t matter. We’re all sinners. We’re all in need of grace.
How radically humanizing that is. How radically egalitarian that is. Do you know why? Because we’re all the problem with this world. I think every other philosophy I know, every other political platform I know, every other religion I know, basically says, “We know what we should be doing, and these people over here are the problem with the world.” Paul says, “No, no, no. We’re all the problem.”
In Agatha Christie’s novel, Murder on the Orient Express, her detective, Poirot, is stuck on a train in a snowdrift, and a man is murdered, and he’s trying to figure out who the murderer is. He’s on the train with 12 other passengers, so which of the 12 has done the murder? He’s trying to figure it out. This is the hardest one he has ever seen, because all of the clues are pointing in different ways. He realizes he’s missing something.
What is the key insight that will make sense of everything? Well, the surprise answer … I’m going to tell you, and if anybody complains about spoilers, I want you to know this book has been out for 80 years. If you haven’t read it or seen it, I don’t want to hear it. Do you know what the key insight is? Everybody “done it.” All 12 people murdered the man together.
Suddenly, everything makes sense. They’re all the villains. They’re all the murderers. They’re all in it. This is the clue the gospel gives you without which your life won’t make sense, society won’t make sense, and history won’t make sense: we’re all in it. No one is righteous, no, not one. It’s the most democratic, egalitarian doctrine.
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