the other day i received a message on facebook from someone who is a friend of a friend on there. i was glad to see someone genuinely interested in understanding the Christian faith. this person must have seen my religious views because their question was directly related to it. i figured i'd share the question and my response while keeping the person anonymous--Question
What do you mean by Christ is your strength? And why do you think you should have died the death that Jesus died? I am a curious person trying to better understand the Christian philosophy/thinking. Your response is truly appreciated. Thank you
I’m sorry it took me a while to respond to you. You ask two good questions, and I am glad to answer them. Actually, the answers to both of them are related.
(In my response I reference the Bible a lot. If you do not have a copy you can read the verses by going to this website: http://www.biblegateway.com/
and typing in the references I give.)
Most importantly is the idea of “Substitutionary Atonement.” This is the idea I’m trying to communicate when I say that Christ died the death I should have died. Substitutionary Atonement is essential to the Christian faith.
The idea of Substitution is a familiar one in American culture--we have substitute teachers who take the place of our normal teacher. We have substitute sugars and even substitute for salt. These all take the place of something else. Jesus Christ was our substitute in death. But, unlike teachers, sugar, and salt substitutes, Jesus was a better substitute--He was the perfect substitute.
A verse that communicates this idea of substitutionary atonement is 1 Peter 2:24 in the Bible which says, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”
But why did Jesus have to die? Why did He have to be our substitute in death? This verse has told us that He died so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. We are healed by His wounds--by the event where He got His wounds--the cross. It says that He died so that we might do two things: die and live. Die to sin, and live to righteousness. This dying and living are spiritual death and life. Throughout the Bible, when it talks about spiritual life and spiritual death it speaks of them in the sense of “what is controlling you”. When sin and unrighteousness are controlling you, you are said to be “dead.” But when you are said to be “alive”, you have been given life through Jesus‘ work. Another way to put this is that a person who is spiritually dead is separated from God spiritually. But a person who has spiritual life is united with God spiritually (and, in the end, physically in Heaven as well.) From the Bible we can see this: Spiritually, all people are dead (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12) unless they have received life from Jesus Christ (John 11:25-26).
Ephesians 2:1-5 says this:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).
This idea of being separated from God is because of mankind’s nature. The Bible tells us that God created the Heavens and the Earth (everything that exists). We believe in a triune God--the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. These are not three Gods, but three different persons, all equal and all so unified that they are actually one.
Colossians 1:13-23 is a good passage that explains the idea of sin separating us from the God who created us, and Jesus reconciling that separation. You can read the passage here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=colossians+1%3A13-23&version=NASB
Notice at the end of verse 16 (speaking of Jesus) it says “all things have been created through Him and for Him.” See, we were created for Jesus. But we have all sinned--we have rebelled against our creator, we have all turned to our own ways and not lived for Him. The first part of Isaiah 53:6 says, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” Here the Bible tells us that we all have not followed God’s way, instead we follow our own ways. Because of this God, who created us for Himself, has the right to (actually, He must) punish us. The Bible teaches that God is a just God and a good God. If He were to let rebellion go without punishing it, this means He is not perfectly good and perfectly just. He would not be a good judge. (Exodus 34:7 says that God will, by no means, leave the guilty unpunished). Well, all of mankind is guilty because all have sinned and turned to their own ways instead of His ways (Isaiah 53:6 and Romans 3:23).
But the second half of Isaiah 53:6 says this: “but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him [Jesus].”
This is what I mean by Jesus died the death I should have died. I am a sinner. I have turned to my own ways and therefore I am guilty. God will not let the guilty go unpunished. Not only am I guilty before a smaller power (like the government). I am guilty before the God who created me and the rest of the universe (Col. 1:16). Because I am guilty before the infinite God, I deserve to be punished by Him--I deserve death. BUT, as it says in Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”
I hope that makes sense. All of us deserve punishment by God because we have sinned against Him (we deserve death). But, God is so rich in His mercy and His love, that He bore our sins Himself in His body on the cross (that’s 1 Peter 2:24 again). So that when we believe in Him...when we trust in Him and what He did...then He doesn’t count our sins against us, but, as Isaiah 53:6 says, He caused our iniquity (our sin) to fall on Jesus.
So...you also asked what I mean by saying that Jesus is my strength. If you go to Romans 8, this is a good passage to use to explain what I mean. (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+8&version=NASB
In verse 18 it says that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Verse 28 says that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. In other words, no matter what we go through, it will all be worth it in the end, because God is the one working it all for His purposes. Verse 37 says that in all these things (all the things that were listed in verses 35 and 36...any trouble that life can bring us)...in all those things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Who is it that loved us? Verse 32 has told us. It is God. Verse 32 says that God Himself, who did not even spare His own Son…(that’s how much He loved us)...He will also freely give us all things--He will help us through any situation.
This is what I mean when I say that Christ is my strength. It brings such great encouragement no matter what happens in life when I know that the God of the universe loves me so much that, in order to redeem me and save me so that I might have a relationship with Him, in order to do that He spared no expense--He did not even spare His one and only Son. A God who will do that, will He not also freely give us all things?
I hope this was helpful for you.
If you have any further questions, feel free to ask.
Labels: Christ, evangelism, scripture