Sometimes it seems a little hard to grasp just what Jesus' death has to do with me. I mean it is well documented that this man's death was a tragedy, but just what does the death of one man over two thousand years ago have to do with me?!
We can find the answer to our question in the last eleven verses of chapter three of Paul's letter to the Christians at Rome. Paul has spent the first two and two-thirds chapters of his letter arguing that every single one of us has rebelled against God and chosen sin over Him. Every single one of us deserves God's wrath and is under His wrath. He has explained that if God were to judge us based on righteousness established by keeping the letter of the law, that we would all fall far short. Then in the last eleven verses of chapter three Paul begins to share the best news the world has ever known.
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known. Paul says that God has revealed a new type of righteousness, one that is not dependent on keeping the law perfectly. How does one get this righteousness? This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ. To whom?! To all who believe. So then those who do not believe are not counted righteous and are still under the wrath of God. But is this all you have to do? Simply believe in Jesus!? You don't have to be from a certain group of people or meet any other requirements? There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are all sinners. We all have the same disease so we all need the same cure.
But this righteousness is costly. Our sin has racked up a great debt on our accounts, and that debt must be paid. God's wrath must be satisfied. There must be due punishment. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) But why must there be punishment? He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just. John Piper has said that because God is just, He demands a sacrifice for our sin. Because He is loving, He is willing to make that sacrifice Himself (Fifty Reasons p.20). If God were to let the terrible sins which we have all committed go unanswered, He would no longer be just. A just God must punish sin.
That is why Jesus died that terrible death. Once again Piper is helpful. He notes that Jesus did not merely remove God's wrath from us, but He absorbed God's wrath onto Himself (Fifty Reasons p.21). While we were still God's enemies (Romans 5:8-10) in order to show His great love for us the wrath of God toward you and I was poured out on Jesus. And because of His death now all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. In other words a holy trade took place. Jesus took our sin upon Himself. The great debt of sin that we had all accrued was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). But Jesus did much more than simply cancel our debt. He credited to our account His own righteousness. So when God looks at those who believe on Jesus, He no longer sees an enemy lost in sin, but He sees one of His children covered in the pure righteousness of Christ.
But be careful to note, although this sacrifice of Christ is sufficient to cover the sin of all and is freely offered to all, it is only applied to the accounts of those who believe on His name and confess Him as Lord of their lives. One day we will all stand before God, and on that day there will be no neutral ground. There will be no agnosticism. God will look on us all and will see either an enemy who has incurred His wrath, or a loyal servant and adopted child made righteous by Jesus' blood. What will God see when He looks at you on that day? What will He see when He looks at your friends and family?
For further reading...
- Romans 1-3: Read the first three chapters in their entirety.
- Hebrews 9-10: Read why Christ's sacrifice is different than and superior to any and all other sacrifices.
*John Piper's Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die is one of my favorite all time devotional books. I highly recommend it.