“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, ESV)

The Cross

Toplady’s hymn expresses it well:

“Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling;
Naked turn to you for dress;
Helpless look to you for grace;
Foul I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.”

By dying on that cross, Jesus won our salvation.

To do so, Jesus had to live a perfect life with no taint of sin, even his enemies had nothing of which they could accuse him, except that he ate with the wrong types of people. He had no sin of His own for which to die. Our sin was laid on him,

“we all like sheep have gone astray
Each of us has turned to his own way
And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

Alasdair Paine wrote recently,

“For God to accept a substitute is merciful, to provide a substitute, is amazing grace, to be the substitute, is grace beyond words.”

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19), the one without sin, had our sin laid on Him, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The cross was the place where Jesus laid down a perfect life in sacrifice to God, the substitute theme of the Passover lamb culminates in the sacrifice of the lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Thus at the cross, we see God’s loving provision of a perfect sacrifice to fulfil his just demand.

Jesus did it all, without any help from his disciples, they were saved without any contribution of their own. Neither is our salvation an award for services rendered, we make no contribution. The curtain in the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom, only God could do that and this means that we now have access to God, because of the work of Jesus.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews apparently had never heard that, “comparisons are odious”, because of the nineteen times the comparative word “better” is used in the New Testament, thirteen of those times it is found in Hebrews.

Here is a better covenant than the old, a better sacrifice, a better priest, so the writer urges his readers not to drift from Christ, not to go back to their old covenant ways, for Christ’s sacrifice is perfect, it is superlative! There is no need for it to be repeated, this is no animal blood which is ineffective, “because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14).

Jesus’ death was unique, He did not die inevitably, as we will, He had no sin which gives death its power, He died voluntarily, He decided the moment and the word with which to die (Luke 23:46).

And don’t forget that God raised Him from the dead, Jesus made no concession to death, the resurrection is God’s guarantee, his warranty of the acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin (Acts 2:24, Romans 4:25).

Charles Wesley said, that of all the hymns he had written, he wished that he had written Isaac Watts’, “When I survey”.

Watts sums up our response wonderfully:

“My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.”

Rt Rev David Cook

Posted 22 March 2016