At the core of biblical teaching is the idea of the vicarious atonement—that is, Jesus, the Son of God, took our place of guilt before God (2Co 5.21) and thus took our penalty of death (Rom 6.23).
The reason we’re not constantly overwhelmed with the significance of this is that, unfortunately, we’ve gotten used to it. Most of us have been told since age 3 that “Jesus died for my sins!” and now it’s just part of our ordinary universe.
That’s too bad.
We’ve lost the sense of marvel, of wonder, at what that means.
That means …
- That God created us knowing that we’d rebel against him.
- That he determined to rescue us when we were not only not calling for help, but were actively fighting him off, cursing and spitting in his face, determined to drown in our sin.
- That he knew that his nature required a perfect, infinite payment for our sin, a payment that only he could make.
- That he knew that making that payment—the death penalty—was something he could not do without himself becoming a mortal. Cur Deus Homo?
- That he thus knew that by making even one of these creatures, he was committing himself to becoming one of them—to fundamentally altering the very fabric of the cosmos, or rather, the fabric of whatever there was before there even was a cosmos.
In the beginning, indeed.
We must confess that this is mystery. It’s a place where we tread with respect, with reverence, with awe. It’s holy ground.
But it is no mystery what are the results of this magnificent plan. The Scripture reveals them to us with light and delight.
He was made sin for us, the Scripture says, that we might be made the righteousness of God. And because he stood in our place, he has paid the full price for all of our sins (Isa 53.6). All of them.
What does that mean?
- He has paid for our original sin—our complicity in the sin of Adam, our first father (Rom 5.12).
- Wait! You say. I’m guilty of Adam’s sin? That’s not fair!
- We’ll talk about that next time.
- He has paid for our sin nature—the fact that we’re inclined to sin, left to our own devices. Our sinfulness is not primarily because the devil made us do it; it’s primarily because we tempt ourselves (Jam 1.13-15). You’re your own tempter.
- Wait! Are you saying it’s a sin to be tempted?!
- In our case, yes, I’m saying that. We’ll talk about that the time after next.
- He has paid for every sin you have ever committed. The accidental ones. The momentary flares of evil that we didn’t see coming. And even the ones we planned, hardening our hearts even as we moved purposefully toward some great evil that we recognized as evil and wanted anyway. Every bitter thought. Every evil deed. All of it.
- And get this. He has paid for all the sins of tomorrow—all the sins you haven’t committed yet but assuredly will. He’s paid for those too. Yes, you’ll need to confess them when they come, and he will forgive you at that time (1Jn 1.9), restoring the relationship and fellowship that your sin will have damaged, but you will never be in peril of eternal torment for that sin, even before you have confessed it. It’s paid for. All of it.
Now, perhaps a handful of you have had a thought on reading this.
My future sins are paid for?! So what’s the problem with committing them? Why not have a little sin party, since those sins won’t count anyway?
Oh, my friend, there are two great problems with that thought. First, those sins do damage your fellowship with your God—see just above—and that is a price far too high. You can’t treat as trivial the love of one who has done all this for you.
And the second problem derives from the first. Since it’s unnatural for God’s children to trivialize his grace, then your thought calls into question whether you know his grace at all. God’s people don’t think like that.
Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?!
May it never be!
How shall we, who are dead to sin, live in it any longer?! (Rom 6.1-2)
So revel in God’s grace and forgiveness. Drink it all up to the last drop. It’s an infinite gift.
For the next 2 posts we’ll probe some further related thoughts—
- Why were we born guilty of Adam’s sin? How is that fair?
- How can I say it’s a sin to be tempted? Jesus was tempted without any sin (Heb 4.15), right?
See you then.
Ron Bean says
Thank you for this blessed reminder!!! I remember a conversation a friend and I had with a Roman Catholic priest who told just that “Jesus did “most” of the work of our salvation——about 991/2%!”