By Akash Sant Singh
Associate Pastor of Community Bible Church (Reno, NV)
What were we saved from?
The sting of death?
But those pale in comparison with this profound reality: on the cross, God through Christ saved us from Himself. That’s right – God through Christ saved us from Himself. From His wrath, His holiness, His justice. And Because Jesus Christ fully satisfied God (propitiation) on the cross as our Divine Substitute, we need to never fear of eternal judgment, condemnation, wrath or punishment for our sins. The penalty of our sins have been fully quenched in the once for all vicarious penal substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the Good News of the gospel beloved.
God treated Christ on the cross as if He lived our life, so that we by grace through faith in Him, can be treated as if we lived His life (2 Cor. 5:21). He was clothed with our sin (thought sinless and holy); so that we might be clothed with His righteousness (though are sinners and sinful). That is the great doctrine of imputation.
When the fullness of that wrath was embraced by Jesus on the cross He cried out, "My God, My God, why has thou forsaken Me?" Some commentators think that at this point on the cross that God simply turned His back on His Son in shame for He could not look on sin. That that was the forsaking. That represents a very shallow, sentimental view of what our Lord endured on the cross - but I submit to you, is thoroughly unbiblical.
Where does this view come from? This belief stems from inaccurate rendering of a verse in Habakkuk 1:13 where the prophet says,
“Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil, And Thou canst not look on wickedness with favor. Why dost Thou look with favor On those who deal treacherously? Why art Thou silent when the wicked swallow up Those more righteous than they?” (NASB).
Notice, it isn’t that God cannot look on sin; but He cannot look on sin with favor. Consider these verses:
Jeremiah 16:17 "For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes."
Proverbs 15:3 "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good."
The Lord “sees” all things continually – including our sin. Nothing is hidden from His sight (Heb. 4:12-16). So the forsaking of Jesus on the cross by the Father couldn’t have been a simple turning away of the eyes of God from His Son because He cannot look on sin.
His holiness demanded a sacrifice; His justice demanded satisfaction; His righteousness required perfection. God had to be satisfied before we as sinners could be justified!
Therefore, Jesus was, as Hebrews 2:17 says,
"that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (emphasis mine).
That phrase "in things pertaining to God" in the Greek is: pros ton theon. It means "face to face with God"; and this occured on the cross. Don't miss this amazing picture of redemption: the Son faced the Father from the cross; and the Father faced His Son on the cross; and He poured out upon Him the eternal wrath that we deserve in hell forever. "Amazing love how can it be..."
Christ was absolutely forsaken; He bore our sin, its guilt, penalty, and shame. And He bore the wrath of God that burns against us. He drank the cup of wrath; He became the curse for us; he endured the shame of the cross for the joy set before Him; He was bruised, crushed, chastined for our iniquities. Once again beloved... hear this today: the Father faced the Son on the cross; and the Son faced the Father from the cross; and He “bore God’s wrath—all of it” as our divine Substitute in His once for all propitiatory sacrifice on the cross for His own.
The death of Christ was both a propitiation AND an expiation of sin. Propitiation refers to the turning away of wrath by an offering. God's wrath was satisfied and His justice meted out by Jesus’ once for all sacrifice on the cross. Expiation refers to covering sins and in specific, the guilt of sin. By the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Christ Jesus on the cross, our sins and their penalty are removed from us. The atonement satisfies both the demands of the Father and the needs of Christ's people (1 Pet. 1:2).
As C.H. Spurgeon can only say:
"When Jesus gave himself for us, he gave us all the rights and privileges which went with himself; so that now, although as eternal God, he has essential rights to which no creature may venture to pretend, yet as Jesus, the Mediator, the federal head of the covenant of grace, he has no heritage apart from us. All the glorious consequences of his obedience unto death are the joint riches of all who are in him, and on whose behalf he accomplished the divine will. See, he enters into glory, but not for himself alone, for it is written, "Whither the Forerunner is for us entered." Heb. 6:20. Does he stand in the presence of God?-"He appears in the presence of God for us." Heb. 9:24.
Can we now say with confidence this day with Paul himself: "If God be for us... who can be against us?"
Aren't we grateful to the Lord this day that He has not "rewarded us according to our sin, nor dealt with us according to our iniquity?" (Psalm 103:10). In Christ all our "sins are forgiven for His name's sake" (1 John 2:12); He has "forgiven us all our transgressions" (Col. 2:13). And if all our sins are forgiven by Him, can we not forgive the purposed wrongs that others do against us?
Christian, God for Christ's sake forgave us; we for Christ's sake must forgive each other. Remember, the measure of our love is the extent of our ability to forgive! (1 Jn. 2:12; Col. 2:12ff)