He wants to restore them. Save them. Re-birth them.
In the light of that, what was the point of Calvary? Why did Jesus have to die? Why couldn’t there have been some other way?
Those of you who know your Bibles well will probably answer, “Because without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins” (Heb. 9:22). And of course you’d be right.
But WHY is there no remission without the shedding of blood? God makes the rules, right? He’s not bound by anything higher than Himself, because there is nothing higher than Him. He could have come up with any plan He wanted to to save us. He didn’t have to make the Gospel so bloody, did He?
So why was there a Calvary?
It’s my belief that God’s work at Calvary is the only thing that can restore what we lost in Eden. And what we lost in Eden was our God-centeredness.
Sin is, by nature, a turning away from God and toward idols (including the huge idol of Self). To make things right again, God had to bring us back to Himself! (Titus 2:14, 1 Pet. 3:18, 2 Co. 5:19). Any “gospel” that tries to get us off the hook without bringing us to God is a false gospel.
Adam and Eve decided to find their lives and their joy outside of God, and from that dreadful day onward, mankind has suffered from a warped view of God and of himself. He has invented religions which make God vindictive and in need of placation, or else portray Him as easy-going and unconcerned about sin. He has imagined God displaced and humanity enthroned.
Calvary shatters those notions.
Jesus was not the only member of the Trinity present at Calvary…but He’s the one we most like to see. The Forgiver. The Savior. But if He is the only one we see there, we’ve missed much of the point of the drama on Golgotha. Because it was not primarily human treachery which inflicted the wounds and brought death to Jesus.
It pleased the Lord to bruise Him, He has put Him to grief (Isa. 53:10).
God the Father bruised God the Son on our behalf. Calvary had to be bloody. Why?
- So we would know how horrible and how deadly sin is. Sometimes we can’t know the awfulness of a thing until we see its terrible consequences. Sin naturally brings about death (Eze. 18:4, Rom. 5:12, Rom. 6:23, Jas. 1:15), and Calvary shows us that truth in vivid detail. (Think about it…how would you feel about sin and about God Himself, if God had sent Jesus to “time-out” to save us?)
- So we would know how holy God is, and how much He hates sin. (It’s vitally important that we know who God is! See John 17:3)
- So we would know that God’s justice must be satisfied. What kind of God would He be if He were to allow injustice to continue?
And why did Jesus take that punishment for us? Was it because we would have been destroyed without remedy if it had fallen on us? Was it so that He could be our substitute?
Of course it was, and those are magnificent truths, but they alone don’t give us the full Gospel. Remember, the Gospel isn’t just a gift from God, it’s the gift of God. Somehow, in the Gospel, God gives us Himself.
At the very least, Jesus took God’s wrath:
- To spare us
- To be our substitute
- To show God’s love and shatter our notions of a vindictive God
- To restore us to God-centeredness
Every false religion is man-centered…either expecting man to atone for his own sins, or honoring man as too good to deserve God’s wrath. Only Calvary shows us that salvation is a work of God alone: necessary because of His holiness, initiated by Him, carried out by Him, honoring of Him, satisfying to Him. Calvary is the place where God brings us to Himself, to find all that we need concentrated in Him. After all, humanity’s only contribution to Calvary was the sin that nailed Jesus there.
The Gospel must be God-centered because our salvation can be nothing less than an act of God that restores us to a proper relationship with Him. Because He is God, the only way to relate properly to Him is to center on Him. Saving ourselves by our own merits would shift the focus to ourselves. Calvary sets it straight.
When humanity fell into sin, we chose our own life. In so doing, we also chose our own death.
When we believe in God through His Gospel, we die to that self-life, and to the death that comes with it. We receive Christ’s death instead of ours, and His life in place of ours (Rom. 6). We receive His righteousness instead of our sin. We feast on Him, quench our thirst with Him.
Saving faith is not quantitative. We needn’t worry about whether we “believe hard enough.” Saving faith is qualitative. It restores the natural, proper relationship of man to God, with God as center and source, and man as joyful worshiper and partaker by way of God the Son (John 14:6).
No mere repetition of a “Sinner’s prayer” will save anyone. Any gospel which places its faith in an act of man is, by definition, man-centered. That’s why we can only be saved by His grace (something that He does) through our faith. Our faith is not a work we perform. God is concerned with our belief, and insists on it, because our faith is simply our empty-handed acceptance of the truth of who He is, and the work which He performed. It is submitting to the way things truly are (with God as our life, our joy, our salvation, our all), and delighting in it. It’s a relationship thing. A love thing. And so this Gospel is immensely practical and relevant to our needs, because it brings us to the One we need most.
The God-centered Gospel is spelled out with beautiful clarity in a marvelous Old Testament passage:
I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me forth to the light; I will see His righteousness.
Who is the judge in that passage? God. Who is the lawyer who pleads the sinner’s case? God. Who executes justice in a way which brings the sinner forth to the light? God. Whose righteousness in highlighted in this wonderful salvation? God’s.
Is this the salvation you know?
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. (Rom 11:36)