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Frontline Ministries - What is the Actual Purpose of the Cross?

What is the Actual Purpose of the Cross?

by Jay Wegter

 

INTRODUCTION:

 

EX. W.W.J.D.?  versus W.D.J.D.? (What Did Jesus Do?)

Yes, Scripture commands us to follow His example, but the power to do so is from His cross! (Phil 2:5ff; 1 Pet 2:21; 1 Jn 2:6).

 

Scripture always describes Christ’s work as effectual.  Hebrews 9:28 – By His death as sin-bearer, there was an effectual removal of the sins that were laid upon Him.  John 10:27-30 – By His death, Christ secured the eternal safety of those given to Him by the Father. “They shall never perish.”  Isaiah 53:10, 11 – By giving Himself as a guilt offering, Christ would justify the many by bearing their iniquities.  He would be satisfied as a result of seeing “His seed.”  Seed refers to the spiritual “offspring” purchased by His death.  (See also Heb 10:10, 14; Rev 5:9, 10.)

 

Because Christ’s death is effectual, one must not confuse the offer of the cross with God’s purpose in the cross.  The offer is to be taken to every creature (Mark 16:15).  The good news is to be preached to every person, “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). When men reject the Substitute who suffered for sinners, and prefer to stay in their unbelief, it does not mean that one bit of Christ’s work was in vain.  God’s sovereign purpose in the cross is not made to depend upon man’s fickle will (man’s will is enslaved and corrupted).  Mankind, by sinful self-determination, does not mold God’s purpose in the cross.

 

God’s revealed will (or command) is that all men everywhere believe and repent (Acts 17:30).  God expresses His love, stating that it is His desire for all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9).  The legitimacy of this universal offer of salvation is NOT nullified by the fact that God has a sovereign plan to save the elect.

 

Eph 5:25-27

I. Christ’s death was motivated by His love for the church.

1. Why is His church referred to as His Bride or Wife? (The church is the Father’s gift to Christ.  God chose a Bride for His Son.  Marriage is the most intimate relationship we know of.  It show Christ’s loving headship over His redeemed.)

 

2. What is Christ’s motivation for laying down His life for His Bride? (It is His love for her.)

 

3. Does the laying down of His life produce the possibility of some outcome OR does it effectually produce the outcome itself? (The language in the Greek involves the subjunctive mood used in a purpose or intent clause.  This means that the laying down of His life was to bring about a particular effect.  See the list of things guaranteed in question #4.)

 

4. What does His death for His Bride accomplish? (Sanctification, cleansing, holiness, blamelessness and glory.)

 

5. What does the metaphor, “Without spot or wrinkle” mean? (It pictures the spiritual perfection of the glorified church.)

 

6. As you look at Eph 5:25-27, would you say that Christ is laying down His life for specific individuals previously known and loved? (Or) That He is laying down His life without a specific people in mind?  (Another way to phrase this question is as follows: “Can God legitimately offer His redeeming love universally to sinners IF He has a sovereign plan behind it that guarantees it will sanctify those chosen to make up the Church? 

Our passage in Eph 5 joins God’s electing love to His redeeming love.  

NOTE: There are a number of passages that place the universality of the offer of salvation next to a passage that teaches God’s sovereignty over salvation: See – Matt 11:27-30; Jn 6:37ff.)

 

7. Why must salvation have God’s sovereignty behind it? (Because of man’s lost, rebellious, spiritually dead condition – Eph 2:1-3.  Is the natural man simply spiritually unconscious, OR, is he more accurately described as “dead at the bottom of the sea with his heart eaten out by a shark?”  Only a spiritual “resurrection” can avail to restore him to life.

The granting of spiritual life is likened to a resurrection in which God takes the initiative (Eph 2:5, 6; Col 2:11-14).

 

John 17:1,2, 6, 9, 17-20ff.

II. Christ’s death secures eternal life for those given to Him by the Father.

 

1. (v. 1, 2) What is the purpose for which Christ has authority over all mankind? (That He might give eternal life to all those given Him by the Father.  Are these specific individuals that are given to Him?)

 

2. (v. 6) What does this phrase mean, “Thine they were. . .?”  (By reason of election, they belonged to the Father.  Remember the decree of election is behind the gift of the Church to the Son – the Father gave them to Christ.  It is impossible for an elect person over the age of accountability to die before he finds Christ as Savior.  Consider that angels protect those who will inherit salvation – Heb 1:14.)

 

3. (v. 9) What does it mean, “I do not ask on behalf of the world?”  (Remember that this is Christ’s “high priestly” prayer.  He is not simply praying for the welfare of people, He is asking for their eternal life based upon His soon to come sacrifice.  Note that Christ’s intercession is always PRIESTLY, that is He pleads the merits of His blood, and He does so for the elect – Rom 8:33, 34.

What is unique about Christ’s intercession as a Priest in Jn 17 is that never has a priest in the history of the world interceded based upon His own shed blood – Heb 7:27; 9:14; 10:10-14.

Note that the entire Trinity is active in our salvation (the Father elects, the Son redeems by His blood, the Spirit regenerates, applying the benefits of Christ’s death to the believer).  Also note that some aspects of salvation are timeless (election, foreordination, predestination), and some aspects of our salvation begin in time (justification, regeneration, etc., see Rom 8:29, 30).

4. (v. 19) What does it mean, “For their sakes, I sanctify Myself?”

(Jesus was sinless, impeccable, and immutably holy, why then is He said to “sancify Himself?”.  Remember the context of Jn 17.  This is the prayer just before Gethsemene.  Jesus is “setting Himself apart” for His atoning work on Calvary that is soon to follow.  Note, for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross – Heb 12:1-3).

 

5. (vv. 20-26)  What are the guaranteed results of Jesus “sanctifying Himself on their behalf?”  (NOTE the effects that are brought about as the Son asks the Father to do these things for those given to Him – the Son is asking for these things based upon His atoning work soon to follow His prayer.  The prayed-for effects of His atonement are described in vv. 20-26: sanctification, believing through the Apostles’ word, being unified in Christ, being with Christ in heaven and seeing His eternal glory, knowing the Father, and knowing experientially the love that exists within the trinity.)

 

2 Cor 5:14-17

III. Christ’s death obtained the obedience of all believers.  

1. (v. 15-17)  Did the cross secure anything connected to the believer’s obedience to Christ?  (YES! Note the effect of His death upon the believer’s motivation for living; he no longer lives for himself.)

 

2. (v. (14, 15) Does the Apostle use any “qualifiers” with the word all?

(Yes, the all make up a class of individuals who “died when Christ died.” Additional qualifiers include references to “us” and “we”-- these refer only to those who have been reconciled to God.  Thus the “all” comprises the saved.)

 

3. What does it mean when it says a person DIES WHEN CHRIST DIES?

(Note the other passages that teach “co-crucifixion” – see Rom 6:5, 6; Gal 2:20.  Also note that the effect of dying with Christ is described in 5:15-17.)

 

4. Is it accurate to say that Christ’s death SECURED the death of the believer?  (Yes, we may accurately say that “Christ died for all who died when He died.”  According to John MacArthur, only by hermeneutical gymnastics can a person avoid drawing  this conclusion from the text. 

The “death” of the believer with Christ is defined in verse 15 and the first part of verse 14.  Christ’s love governs and controls every true child of God – there is no exception, this is common to every Christian.)

 

5. (v. 14) Paul says “having concluded” or “thus we judge” because the love of Christ exerts constraining power. The Apostle Paul has concluded that Christ’s death didn’t just place believers under obligation to be Christ’s servants, it secured this devotion!  WHY? Because believers died in Christ when He died on Calvary (Rom 6:4, 5).

 

6. (v. 14) Christ’s death was a wrathful death of condemnation, our death in Him was not, ours was an identification with our Substitute so that we would experience the benefits of His life and death and resurrection.  His death in our place saves us from the second death.  Note that the “all” in verse 14 is a class of individuals characterized by the effects produced in their lives (those effects include consecrated servanthood to Christ – see how many other effects of His death you can identify in vv. 14-21). 

The “all” is necessarily limited by what the Scriptures teach concerning the design of Christ’s death – this entails the actual purpose of the cross. Christ died for all who died when He died. Christ’s death secures our reconciliation to God, and the reconciliation secures a life of devotion to Christ and service to Him.  Christ died that He might be Lord of His people.  His people serve Him as Lord.  They belong to Him and are devoted to Him.  There is no distinction therefore between those for whom Christ dies and those whom He sanctifies (Heb 10:10; 1 Cor 1:30). 

In the mind of God, those whom the Father chose are so united to the Son that His death is their death and His life is their life.  (This is the same argument used by the Apostle in Romans 6:5, 6; Gal 2:20; 1 Pet 2:24).  The ultimate summary verse which encapsulates the exchange is 2 Cor 5:21.  In that verse, the benefits of His life and death are freely given to the believer, because he is in union with Christ. 

According to 2 Cor 5:14, 15, those for whom Christ died REALLY DIE TO SIN and its dominion in their lives.  Those for whom Christ died will have His death take effect in their lives.  It is the genuine Christian who lives for Christ because he has become a partaker of Christ’s death and life (Heb 3:14).

Saving faith and consecration to Christ are inseparably joined.  By union with Christ, believers are transformed – they are “new creations” with new principles, new perspectives, new affections, new motivations.

All of these new things are characteristics of the new creation, the old things have passed away.  “Creation” refers to the greatness of the change wrought in us by Christ’s work – a change that has radically transformed our natures.  The cross of Christ and His love to the saint is truly the source of power for a holy life of service to God.


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