Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Doctrines of the Christian Faith 5: The Nature of the Atoning Sacrifice

A man in Israel has sinned. He requires atonement for his sins. Thus, he goes out to his flock of and finds his choicest sheep, one without blemish. He brings it to the priest. The man puts his hand on the sheep and in that instance, the sin from the man is transferred to the lamb. The priest will then slit the throat of the lamb, and sprinkle the blood of the dead lamb upon the altar. The man has now been cleansed of his sin, at least until he sins again.

This substitutionary sacrifice is the same that we see in Jesus' life. We have seen in our last two posts in this series, that we, like this Israelite have sinned and need atonement, and that Jesus like this lamb was without blemish. 

We all remember that the punishment for sin was death, or a separation from the Lord God the Father. We know that the Lord has such a wrath for this sin that he must punish it. His holiness demands it. Yet we know that despite our filth, the Lord desires us to be blessed and to be with him and not undergo the punishment. 

That's where the Lamb comes in. Jesus the Lamb of God came down and made the substitutionary sacrifice. 2 Corinthians 5:21 explains, 
"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

Jesus became the substitutionary sacrifice that is able to atone for all sins. He was made sin for us, and then the Lord's wrath and punishment for sin was redirected onto him. Jesus went through torture and hell to provide a bridge between the holy God and sinful man.

The love demonstrated in this sacrifice is unheard of today. Think of the most wonderful person you're ever known, would you die for him? Maybe, but would you be willing to die for the annoying people that you've met? As seen in Romans 5:6-8, this is analogous to what the Lord is doing here.
"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

Here we see that not only was Jesus without blemish, but he also had a transfer of sins onto him, and died as a substitutionary sacrifice, just as the lamb in the Old Testament. It's no wonder that John the Baptist proclaimed in John 1:29,
"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."

However, there are two primary differences between the lamb of the Old Testament and the Lamb of God. The first is the permanence of the solution. In the Old Testament, the lamb was insufficient to solve for all past transgression and all future transgressions. Thus, every time an Israelite sinned, he required a new sacrifice. However, Jesus' sacrifice was once and for all. No new sacrifice would ever be needed.

The second difference is the permanence of the death. When the Old Testament lambs were killed, they stayed dead. They didn't have any zombie action going on. Now Jesus did not have any zombie action either, but three days after he died, he rose again. As I Corinthians 15:3-6 states,
"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas (Peter), then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep."

Indeed, Christ died for our sins and was resurrected to be a living Saviour. He is not the Saviour of the whole world, just over those in the world who will accept him. As the great hymn He Lives proclaims,
"I serve a risen Savior
  He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living,
  Whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy;
  I hear His voice of cheer;
And just the time I need Him
  He’s always near.
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
    He lives within my heart."

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