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Summary: The atonement and the cross of Jesus.

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The cross of Jesus (Part1)

As we start the period of Lent we shall be focusing on the cross of Jesus It is universally known that the standard symbol of Christianity is the cross.. Now there are many other symbols that the church could have chosen as a sign of the Christian Faith. But the Church has selected the Cross - why is this? The cross has chosen because the early Christians wished to make known that the main emphasis of the ministry of Jesus was not His birth, His teaching, His miracles, or even His Deity but .His death and crucifixion.

There is no gospel without the cross neither would we be reconciled to God. The gospels portrays Christ not as a baby in the manager, a worker of miracles. a preacher and teacher of distinction, but as the crucified Savior. The good news of the gospel is that through our Lord's atoning death we have been given a new life.

People wear a cross as a piece of jewellery even though they do not have any interest in what the cross stands for. So what does the cross signify? We will look into this issue in depth in this study, but consider this idea now - the cross made possible reconciliation between a holy and righteous God and a sinful man. The word "reconciliation " signifies a restoration of relationships between two parties. In Romans 5:8-11 Paul makes clear that our sin made us enemies of God. But the death of Christ made it possible for us to have fellowship with Him.

Rom 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Rom 5:9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

Rom 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Rom 5:11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (KJV)

Reconciliation is the meaning of the 'atonement' and shows what God has done for us in making us 'at one' with Himself. Now what does the word 'atonement' mean.

The word "atonement" occurs frequently in the Old Testament and represents a key concept of OT theology. Many Christians think atonement in the OT originated with the Mosaic law, but in reality we recognized our need for atonement long before the time of Moses. When Adam and Eve committed the first sin, they hid from God because they were ashamed (Gn 3:8). Rather than giving them up as hopeless, God initiated a plan of atonement whereby the ruptured fellowship between Himself and humanity could be restored. Our English word "atonement" (at-one-ment) explains well the theology behind such restoration, for it suggests that God and humanity can relationally be "at one" again.

How does atonement work? The first OT reference to atonement occurs when God provided animal skins to cover Adam and Eve's nakedness, an act necessitating the death of a sinless animal and hence the shedding of its blood on their behalf (Gn 3:21). This introduces a theme that runs throughout the Bible: atonement involves an innocent party taking the punishment that was due to a guilty party.

The Hebrew word translated "atonement" is kaphar, meaning "to cover." This suggests that through the act of atonement sin is covered so that God no longer sees it. Throughout the OT the covering is achieved with the blood of an innocent animal whose innocence renders the repentant sinner innocent as well (Lev 1:4-5; 17:11). The New Testament term hilasterion, "propitiation," continues this OT concept, again in contexts of blood sacrifice (Rm 3:25).

What does any of this have to do with Jesus? While animals served as provisional sacrifices for human sins during the OT era, they could not ultimately atone for people (Heb 4:10). Humanity needed one of their own, one who knew no sin, to stand in and take the punishment that is due to all sinners.

Genesis 3:15 gives the first prophetic glimpse at God's final solution to this need and hints at the central role Jesus plays in that solution. Speaking ultimately of Jesus and His role in redemption, it asserts that the seed of the woman would be crushed, but that He would in turn crush the head of the serpent (the Devil), achieving victory over sin and death. The crushing mentioned here is reminiscent of the crushing experienced by the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52:13-53:12, a passage that has atonement as its central theme.

Jesus Christ is both the subject and fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. In the events that unfolded during His trial and crucifixion, Jesus was the Suffering Servant on our behalf. Though innocent of all sin, Jesus stood in our place to take our punishment, shedding His blood to atone for us. "He entered the most holy place once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb 9:12). "By the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb 9:26) Jesus satisfied God's wrath against sin.

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