Tuesday, May 18

Purposes of Christ's Death

Over the weekend I was going through some papers I had filed away looking for some notes I took while doing my first inductive Bible study a few years ago. I had thought I might post a few them as a demonstration of one way to do inductive Bible study. I couldn't find them, but I did find a chart I made a while ago from all the passages of scripture that mention Christ's death and what it accomplished. That gave me an idea for a series of posts that I'm going to try to do over the next while.

I thought I might look at the purpose statements that some verses that mention Christ's death have in them--you know, statements that includes the words, "so that" or "for this reason" or "to this end" or similar wording. I'll take one verse per day, or perhaps a couple if their purpose statements are similar, and look just at what that statement of purpose means.

I'm going to start with Romans 3:24 and 25:
....whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (ESV)

There are two purpose statements here. They are similar, but stated slightly differently: "This was to show God's righteousness" and "It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." These both say that one of the purposes of Christ's death was to demonstrate God's righteousness in some way. The word translated just in the second statement could also just as well be translated "righteous", so the last part of that purpose statement is reinforcing the first--Christ's propitiatory death means that God can be righteous and at the same time, count as righteous the person of faith.

So how does Christ's death show God's righteousness (or that God is just)? The problem, as the verse lays it out, is that passing over previously committed sins out of His forbearance in some way calls into question the righteousness of God. The former sins that are being referred to here are the sins God passed over in the times before Christ's death. It seems that it would be just as unrighteous (or unjust) for God as Judge to simply shove a wrongdoing under the rug as it would be for Him to condemn the innocent.

Christ's propitiatory death, then, somehow makes God's forbearance in previous times right. It means that sin was never just shoved under the rug, but that there was a righteous way for it to be overlooked, and this righteous way was the means of propitiation that now comes through Christ's sacrificial death on the cross--a way to take care of the righteous wrath of God against sin, a way that is recieved through faith. So, because of Christ's propitiatory death, God can withhold His righteous wrath against sin and count those of faith righteous, and still be completely righteous Himself. Christ's death absorbs the righteous judgment of God that is made necessary by human sin, and in this way demonstrates to all people that God is still righteous even when He mercifully forgives sin and counts sinners as righteous.

Showing us God's righteousness (or justice) is one of the purposes of Christ's death.