In the Shadow of the Cross

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John 1:1, 15In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NIV 1984)

Isaiah 59:2 – Your iniquities have separated you from your God. (NIV 1984)

Hebrews 9:22The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (NIV 1984)

Leviticus 17:11For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement…it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. (NIV 1984)

Incarnation – This is the Christian doctrine that the second person of the Trinity assumed human form (“the Word became flesh”) in the person of Jesus Christ and became completely man, while still being completely God. Without the Incarnation we would have no Savior. Sin requires death for its payment (“without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness“). God does not die. So, the Savior must be human in order to be able to die. But the death of an ordinary man would not pay for sin eternally, so the Savior must also be God. We must have a God-man Savior, and we do in our Lord. (Ryrie, Basic Theology, 1999)

Atonement – In Christian thought, the act by which God and man are brought together (reconciled) in personal relationship. The term is derived from Anglo-Saxon words meaning “making at one,” hence “at-one-ment.” It presupposes a separation or alienation that needs to be overcome if human beings are to know God and have fellowship with him. (Lyon & Toon (1988). Atonement, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1988)

Reconciliation – Reconciliation comes from the Greek family of words meaning “change” or “exchange.” Reconciliation involves a change in the relationship between God and man or man and man. It assumes there has been a breakdown in the relationship, but now there has been a change from a state of enmity and separation to one of harmony and fellowship. (Woodruff, Reconciliation,  Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 1996)

Redemption – English words derived from a Latin root meaning “to buy back,” thus meaning the liberation of any possession, object, or person, usually by payment of a ransom. In Greek the root word means “to loose” and so to free. In the theological context, the term “redemption” indicates a freeing from the slavery of sin, the ransom or price paid for freedom. This thought is indicated in the Gospels, which speak of Christ who came “to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Elwell & Beitzel, Redemption,  Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1988)

Justification – The judicial act of God, by which he pardons all the sins of those who believe in Christ, and accounts, accepts, and treats them as righteous in the eye of the law, i.e., as conformed to all its demands. In addition to the pardon of sin, justification declares that all the claims of the law are satisfied in respect of the justified. The law is not relaxed or set aside, but is declared to be fulfilled in the strictest sense; and so, the person justified is declared to be entitled to all the advantages and rewards arising from perfect obedience to the law – “just as if I’d” never sinned. (Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, 1893).

My Musings – The cross casts its shadow across the babe in the manger.  God became man so He could shed His blood to atone for our sins.  Without His death (which first required His birth), man’s separation from God would have been permanent – irreconcilable differences.  God’s mercy and justice intersected at the cross, where He redeemed us, making our justification possible.

If He had ignored our sins, giving us a free pass, He would have been merciful but no longer just.  On the other hand, He could have merely judged us according to our sins, providing no remedy at all.  This would have been giving us what we deserved, what we earned.  This would have been justice without mercy.  This would not have compromised His holy nature, as He was under no obligation to extend mercy to us all.  Mercy is a gift.  It is never obligatory.  If it were, it would no longer be mercy.  It would no longer be a gift.

For man, justice and mercy are an “either or” proposition.  But God devised a way to satisfy justice and mercy, something only He could do.

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Man is terribly sinful, while God is fearfully holy. Man can do nothing to change this situation. He is lost, helpless, standing under the awful judgment of God. He cannot justify himself before God and cannot merit God’s concern. The possibility of atonement, then, rests entirely with God.  (Lyon & Toon (1988). Atonement, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1988)

My Advice – God took the first step of reconciliation.  It was no small matter.  The next step is ours to take.  Won’t you take it?

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