The most important event recorded in Scripture is the coming of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as the Savior of those who trust Him. The most important event in the life of a Christian is when he comes to faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior. In the introduction to the gospel of John, Jesus is given the title of “the Word,” meaning that He is the precise expression of who God is. Hebrews 1:2-3 expresses it this way:
In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
John’s gospel goes on to speak of Christ as the Creator, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3). John continues to refer to Christ not only as the Creator but one who has life in Himself and whose life constitutes a divine revelation of the light of men, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4). When a believer in Christ is saved, he receives eternal life and at the same time he sees the light, and God’s truth becomes understandable to him.
As John unfolds the place of Jesus Christ and His purpose in coming into the world, he is concerned that the world has not received Him, especially when receiving Him is so important. John writes, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:10-14).
In this tremendous statement John points out how Jesus came to His own world, which He had created, but His own people did not receive Him; on the other hand, there were those who did receive Him, and they had the right to become children of God. He points out how their new birth is not of human design or will, but that they are born of God. Then he summarizes the fact that the “Word,” referring to Jesus Christ, “became flesh,” that is, He became incarnate and “made his dwelling among us,” meaning that He lived on earth. John speaks of the fact that he had seen the glory of Christ even though the glory was normally veiled. He was referring to the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36). Though His full glory was not seen by most people, nevertheless, it is true that Jesus Christ came from the Father and that His whole purpose was full of grace and truth, that is, He was the supreme manifestation, both in His ministry in truth and as the One who died on the cross for our sins. He is “full of grace and truth” for the world to behold (John 1:14).
Jesus Christ’s main purpose in coming to the world, however, was to provide salvation for those who put their trust in Him. Jesus expressed this in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
In His public ministry Jesus spoke of many truths, and His teachings were so comprehensive that a systematic theology could be written based on what He said and taught. However, this was a background to His dying on the cross for our sins. In this supreme act of dying, He fulfilled His main purpose in becoming incarnate, of being “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
In His resurrection from the dead, He also manifested His deity and His power to fulfill His own word in that He had power to lay down His life and He had power to take it up again (John 10:18). In connection with the death of Christ, three important theological terms are used to express what Christ did when He died on the cross for our sins: redemption, propitiation, and reconciliation.
The doctrine of redemption declares that Christ bought us and paid the price for our deliverance from sin. The concept of redemption comes from the Greek word agorazo which means to go into the marketplace to buy. Six times in the Bible Christians are said to be “bought,” or “redeemed,” in regard to the death of Christ (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; 2 Peter 2:1; Rev. 5:9; 14:3-4). In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 it states, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” The idea of a slave being bought is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 7:23, “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.”
In 2 Peter 2:1 a very important Scripture is recorded, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” This passage is quite important because it indicates that redemption does not only extend to those who are saved but also is God’s provision for those who are lost. In this passage in 2 Peter even the false teachers who were contradicting the gospel are said to have been “bought” (Gr. agorazo), but they did not avail themselves of salvation and continue to be lost. This is part of the important evidence in Scripture that when Christ died He did not die just for the elect, as some have taught, but He died for the whole world, making the world saveable, even if it is also true that only the elect are saved.
In Revelation 5:8-9 the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders sing a new song of redemption:
When he had taken [the scroll], the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
This passage teaches that Christ had a right to save those who were desperately lost because He had died for them and paid the price for their sins. In Revelation 14:3 the 144,000 were those “who had been redeemed from the earth.”
Another Greek verb used to express the intensive character of the redemption in Christ is the Greek word exagorazo. This is found four times in the New Testament (Gal. 3:13; 4:5; Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5). In Galatians 3:13 we are said to be redeemed and delivered from the law which condemned us. The same thought is given in Galatians 4:5. The point is that we were not only “bought” by the redemption in Christ but we were taken out of the marketplace, that is, we were bought out of the market, and given security and set free as those who were formerly slaves. Colossians 4:5 and Ephesians 5:16 refer to redeeming the time or making the most of time in regard to the Lord’s return.
Another expression is used to indicate redemption, and this is the Greek word peripoieo, which occurs three times in the New Testament (Luke 17:33; Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 3:13). This verb means “to be acquired,” or “possessed,” by the Lord. Accordingly, in Luke 17:33 it conveys the meaning of preserving life or acquiring it. In Acts 20:28 it carries the thought of being bought and possessed by the Lord, “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” In 1 Timothy 3:13 the thought again is that of being possessed by the Lord. Because we are redeemed and bought with the blood of Christ, we no longer belong to ourselves, but we belong to the Lord and are His possession.
Another important concept related to redemption is the idea of being freed from the burden and slavery of sin. This thought is brought out in numerous passages in the New Testament (Luke 21:28; Rom. 3:24; 8:23; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:7, 14; 4:30; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:15). Of these, Romans 3:24 is a good illustration of this concept of being freed, “Justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Christ not only paid the price for our sins but freed us from the condemnation and slavery that is involved. This is the ultimate end of God’s plan of redemption for those who put their trust in Christ.
The doctrine of redemption, therefore, speaks of (1) the purchase of our salvation by Christ, (2) being bought off the market and not subject to resale, (3) being a possession that is precious in the sight of the Lord, and (4) being set free, pardoned, and released from the burden of sin.
The work of Christ in salvation has still another major aspect of what is called in the Bible “propitiation,” “the sacrifice of atonement,” or satisfying God’s righteous demands or judgment upon a sinner. Illustrations of this can be found in Romans 3:25 and 1 John 2:2; 4:10. The idea of propitiation is that God as a righteous God must demand punishment for those who sin against Him. Christ in His death on the cross provided propitiation, atonement, or satisfaction of that claim, so that God is fully satisfied now in saving a person who does not deserve to be saved. Following immediately the statement concerning redemption in Romans 3:24, verses 25 and 26 say, “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” The expression, “sacrifice of atonement,” literally means a sacrifice of propitiation, or a sacrifice of satisfaction. In Christ’s death on the cross, as this passage states, God is justified in having forgiven sins in the Old Testament even before the sacrifice was made. Christ’s dying on the cross now demonstrates God’s justice in forgiving sins of the past as well as sins to be committed in the future. Accordingly, God is both just Himself and able to justify, or declare righteous, those who have faith in Jesus.
The doctrine of propitiation is an important doctrine relating to our salvation. The New Testament frequently speaks of the wrath of God. In Christ’s death on the cross He satisfied God’s judicial wrath and His righteous indignation concerning sin and makes it possible for a righteous God to justly declare a sinner righteous.
Important results of this doctrine include the following: (1) God is declared justified or righteous in forgiving sin; (2) God is justified in bestowing righteousness on the believer; (3) God is justified in bestowing all grace on sinners because He is completely satisfied by the death of Christ. The central concept is that God has been satisfied concerning our sins and can freely give believers what they do not deserve. This is a great blessing to Christians who sense their inadequacy and imperfections and yet want to have close fellowship with the Lord.
A third major truth of the death of Christ is in the doctrine of reconciliation, addressing the fact that a sinner is estranged from God and in Christ he is reconciled to God. Scholars have differed in their interpretation of reconciliation. A careful study, however, will support the view that reconciliation is toward the sinner just as propitiation is toward God and redemption is toward sin. The point is that man in his natural, sinful state is far below God and hopeless as far as fellowship with God is concerned. In the death of Christ reconciliation is provided, that is, a believer is so changed that he is made a son of God and has reckoned to his account the perfect righteousness of God in justification. This makes it possible for a Christian to be reconciled to God because he is lifted up to God’s high standard.
This truth is discussed in several important passages (2 Cor. 5:17-21; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20-22). In 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 Paul articulates the doctrine of reconciliation:
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The central thought of this passage is stated in verse 19, “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” This is the marvelous message of God’s salvation that He can take a sinner, however bad, and give him the transformed life as well as a transformed position of being in Christ, reconciled to God.
On the basis of this wonderful truth, Christians have committed to them the message of reconciliation, that is, they are to preach this word. As Paul expresses it, “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). The doctrine of reconciliation is summarized in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This passage, like others in the New Testament, states the fact that Christ died for the world, that is, He died for all and provisionally provided for their reconciliation to God. The sad fact of the unsaved is that Christ died for them and that they are lost, not because God did not love them or provide for them, but because they did not avail themselves of what was offered to them by faith in Christ.
Earlier in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 Paul says, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” The three mentions of the word “all” make clear that Christ died for the entire world when He died. By contrast, however, those who put their faith in Christ are a portion of the world referred to as “those who live.” The benefit of the death of Christ is limited to those who put their trust in Christ and become saved.
The doctrine of reconciliation makes possible all the other works of God for those who are in Christ, including their regeneration, their baptism into the body of Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, their justification, their new position in Christ, and their ultimate sanctification. Only a God of infinite grace and infinite wisdom could have devised such a wonderful plan of salvation for those who put their trust in Christ.
1. Why is the coming of Christ so important?
2. Why is the most important event in the life of a Christian when he comes to faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior?
3. How is the revelation of Jesus Christ, mentioned in Hebrews 1:2-3, summarized?
4. To what extent is Jesus Christ the Creator according to John?
5. When does a believer receive the life that is in Christ?
6. When does a believer receive Christ as the light of men?
7. How does John record the rejection of Jesus by his generation?
8. When a person receives Christ, what does he have a right to become?
9. How is the new birth contrasted to natural birth?
10. When did the apostle John see Christ in His glory?
11. How is the truth expressed relative to the main purpose of Christ in coming into the world?
12. What was accomplished by Christ in dying on the cross?
13. What was accomplished by His resurrection from the dead?
14. What is the meaning of redemption? Did Christ die for everyone? Does this mean that everyone is saved?
15. How is redemption related to security of the believer and his salvation?
16. To what extent is the believer freed from the burden and slavery of sin?
17. What is the meaning of propitiation?
18. What completely satisfies divine justice in regard to the sinner?
19. How does propitiation relate to the fact that God is freely able to save and to bestow grace upon sinners?
20. What is meant by a sinner being reconciled to God?
21. What is our message of reconciliation?
22. How does regeneration, baptism of the Spirit, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, justification, the Christian’s new position, and his ultimate sanctification relate to reconciliation?