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Why did the Father will the death of his only beloved Son, and in so painful and shameful a form? Because the Father had “laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). Jesus’ death was vicarious (undergone in our place) and atoning (securing remission of sins for us and reconciliation to God). It was a sacrificial death, fulfilling the principle of atonement taught in connection with the Old Testament sacrifices: “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22; Lev. 17:11).

As the “last Adam,” the second man in history to act on mankind’s behalf, Jesus died a representative death. As a sacrificial victim who put away our sins by undergoing the death penalty that was our due, Jesus died as our substitute. By removing God’s wrath against us for sin, his death was an act of propitiation (Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10—“expiation,” signifying that which puts away sin, is only half the meaning). By saving us from slavery to ungodliness and divine retribution for sin, Jesus’ death was an act of redemption (Gal. 3:13; Eph. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). By mediating and making peace between us and God, it was an act of reconciliation (Rom. 5:10-11). It opened the door to our justification (pardon and acceptance) and our adoption (becoming God’s sons and heirs—Rom.5: 1, 9; Gal. 4:4-5).

This happy relationship with our Maker, based on and sealed by blood atonement, is the “New Covenant” of which Jesus spoke in the Upper Room (1 Cor. 11:25; Matt. 26:28).


James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.

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