Friday, June 11

Purposes of Christ's Death, Nos. 14 and 15

Today I'm looking at two texts with two separate purposes, but the verses are found so close together that I've decided to put them in one post. The first text is 2 Corinthians 5:14,15:
For the love of Christ controls us, since we have concluded this, that Christ died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised. (NET)
The second text is found in the same paragraph, just a few verses away from the first. Verse 21:
God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God. (NET)
The REAL reason I wanted to put these two texts together in one post, even though their purpose statements are different, is because I wanted to take a little digression from the discussion of the purposes of Christ's death for a paragraph or two, and venture into the subject of the nature of Christ's death. These two texts, taken together, seem to me to be our strongest scriptural evidence that's Christ's death was substitutional--that His death was not just "for us" in the sense of being in our favor, but was "for us" in the sense of being in our place. Verse 14 tells us that "Christ died for all" and then explains that this means that all have died. Christ died in our place ("for us"), and this vicarious death is counted as our own death ("therefore all died"), and this is the way that His death accomplishes something for us.

Verse 21 explains this whole idea a little more. Christ, who knew no sin was made sin for us, who did know sin. He took our sin upon Himself in His death. Christ wasn't actually sinful--He knew no sin--but He was counted as sinful (or seen as sinful by God) for us. His death accomplishes something for us, because in His death that was counted as our death (v 14), He had our sin counted as His, and our sin was in this way included in His death. He took our sin and stood in our place on the cross.

And the two purposes listed here for all of this? The first is "so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised." The NET notes tell us that this could also be translated "who died and was raised for them", and that's they way I'm going to take it, because we are told elsewhere that being included in Christ's resurrection is the force behind our new way of life. So because Christ died and was raised for us, we no longer live in the old way of live--for ourselves, but in the new way, living for the one who died for us. This is one of the purposes of Christ's death: to have people who live for Him rather than for themselves.

The second purpose, found in verse 21, is "so that in him we would become the righteousness of God". Being included with Christ (or having Him substitute for us) in His death causes us to become righteous in some way. Leon Morris, in The Atonement, describes this righteousness of God like this:
....the expression signifies the righteousness or 'right standing' that God gives....Paul is clearly referring to a legal status, a standing before God. A status can be given, and the apostle says that this status is given.
You will probably recognise the term "right-standing" before God (or the "righteousness of God") as another way of expressing our justification. In a sort of parallel (but of the opposite sort) to Christ being counted as sinful, we are counted as righteous. This is another of the purposes of Christ's death: so that we would be given justification--or a right legal status--before God.

The two purposes for Christ's death found in these texts are so that we would live for Him rather than for ourselves, and so that we would be justified.
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