Do You Have More Questions than Answers?
Was the death of Jesus part of His divine plan? Why was Jesus Christ’s death the ultimate and perfect sacrifice?
Let’s start at the beginning.
First, Is There Really a God?
Genesis 1:1 starts, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Notice the first four words of Scripture, “In the beginning God…” Scripture makes no attempt here to defend God’s existence. It just assumes it. While arguments exist for believing that God exists, others may argue that God does not exist. Either position you take on the matter ultimately requires a presupposition on your part. It takes faith to believe in God. However, it also takes faith to live your life as though no God exists and that you will face no judgment after death. Do you really believe that man’s design, features and life-sustaining environment are all the result of biological chance and good fortune? No authority exists to support such a conclusion. Even science cannot test the existence or non-existence of the supernatural.
When Adam and Eve Sinned Against God, Did They Clearly Understand God’s Commandment?
God created man for fellowship and gave man His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). Man was created as a sinless being. The world was perfect and undefiled by sin. God’s communication to man was perfect as well. There was no misunderstanding God’s command to not eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Genesis 2:16 says, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” It is also interesting to note that there were a variety of trees – an abundance of them – in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8-9).
Why Would God Put a Temptation Before Adam and Eve?
God created mankind with a choice. In matters of life, such as love and obedience, there is no choice if there is no alternative. Obedience becomes meaningless if there is no possibility of disobedience. For His own purposes and glory, God created Adam and Eve with a free will and the opportunity to love and obey their Creator.
What REALLY Motivated Adam and Eve to Taste the Fruit?
In inviting them to eat the forbidden fruit, Satan had tempted Adam and Eve to overthrow God as the supreme Creator of the universe. Though God had shown Himself faithful and true to Adam, Adam believed a lie. Satan said in Genesis 3:4-5, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Did you notice the motivation behind this sin? “You will be like God!” Mankind took the position of distrusting God. Perhaps, Adam might have thought, God wasn’t as good as He made Himself out to be: creating a perfect world, creating a perfect mate in Eve, providing a wonderful variety of foods and walking with man in fellowship and communication in the cool of each evening. Perhaps God was holding man back from being a god as well. Rather than accepting God as his supreme creator, Adam rebelled and attempted to oust God from this position. Mankind ate the forbidden fruit and sought to overthrow God.
The Results of Adam and Eve’s Sin: Knowledge and Death!
Satan’s lie contained some truth in it when he said they would be “knowing good and evil.” Adam and Eve knew God, therefore they already knew “good.” By participating in this rebellious effort to become equal to God, they would now know “evil.” Man was cursed to a sentence of death. This death had three aspects to it:
1. Physical death – separation of the soul from the body
2. Spiritual death – mankind’s separation from God
3. Eternal death – unreconciled man’s eternal separation from God. Jesus referred to this place as “Hell” or the “Lake of Fire.” The punishment in hell results in constant conscious anguish and are described as “eternal fire” (Jude 5) and a place of torments where the “worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44).
The Result? “…Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you…” (Isaiah 59:2).
So Adam Sinned… How Does That Make Me a Sinner?
In God’s created order, like begets like. God created apple trees to bring forth apples. He created cattle to bring forth cattle. Genesis 1:24 says, “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind’; and it was so.”
When Adam sinned, a death sentence was passed upon him. The process of death entered into the human race and continues to this day. God’s created order, as found in Romans 5:12, describes the process of Adam bearing “seed” in his likeness, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
Could God Accept Me if I’m Just a Little Bit Sinful?
When viewing sinfulness, think of it as defilement. Habakkuk 1:13 says of God, “[His] eyes are too pure to look on evil; [he] cannot tolerate wrong.” God is spirit. Sin is spiritual defilement. To help us understand his need for spiritual purity, consider an example of physical defilement.
Your family pet…
Imagine that, tragically, your pet wandered off one summer day and was missing for two weeks. Then you happen upon its dead carcass. By this time, the body has become slightly “defiled” with the smell decomposition, bloating and a few maggots crawling in and out of a wound in its side. Though you are saddened in the extreme and fondly love your pet, you probably will not scoop it up into your arms and lovingly squeeze it close to your chest as you frequently did during its life. Even in handling the body for disposal, you are likely to use protective gloves or a shovel. At this point, you must maintain some separation between you and the defiled carcass.
Such is God’s relationship with sinful man. God loves man. At the same time, God cannot tolerate sin in His presence. Mankind was created perfect in the garden of Eden. Mankind was defiled in Adam who then brought forth seed of his own kind. God must remain separated from sinful man.
Jesus Will Conquer Satan!
Genesis 3:15 records a statement by God to the serpent after tempting Adam and Eve to sin; “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” This statement foreshadows the coming of a Messiah (deliverer) to crush Satan in his effort to destroy mankind through sin. The concept of “bruising His heel” refers to the suffering Christ took upon himself on the Cross to pay for man’s sin. The phrase “bruise your head” refers to Christ’s ultimate defeat of Satan’s plan by proving a way for men to have restored fellowship with God.
God Provided Animal Sacrifices as a Covering for Man’s Sin
God doesn’t abandon mankind. While He is righteous and must execute judgement, God has a plan for making payment or atonement for man’s sin. This atonement would come from the final sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. In years prior to this event, God commanded men to perform various animal sacrifices that would graphically show the sacrifice Jesus Christ would make.
Scripture doesn’t record God’s first instructions to man regarding these sacrifices. Genesis 4:4-5 records Cain and Abel bringing sacrifices to God. Abel brought an animal sacrifice that was acceptable. Cain brought a vegetable and/or grain sacrifice. Cain’s sacrifice was deemed unacceptable. Information given later in Scripture gives insight into the importance of an animal (or blood) sacrifice. Leviticus 17:11 says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” A blood sacrifice would accurately picture the ultimate blood sacrifice made by Jesus Christ – a giving of His life for our eternal salvation.
What Did Sacrifices Teach Men?
First, it taught men the concept of substitution. Because of sin, man was to die. In the sacrificial system, God was saying that he would accept an innocent animal’s death in place of the man himself. This foreshadowed Christ’s death as our substitution.
Second, it taught the concept of atonement. The word atonement means “covering.” Man would still die physically, but man would be “covered” in righteousness and acceptable by God.
So in the Old Testament, Did Sacrifices Save Man from the Penalty of Sin?
It was not the act of sacrificing an animal that saved men. God’s used belief or confidence in God in the individual’s life to bring salvation to them. This faith was not only a vehicle to salvation, but also caused men to obey in the offering of sacrifices. God’s salvation of mankind is an act of His goodness and grace. It is not earned by men.
Take Abraham as an example. What was the source of his righteousness before God, his works or his faith? Romans 4:3 says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” God credited righteousness to Abraham’s account on the basis of his belief in Him.
WHY was Jesus killed?
Had God Lost Control of the Situation?
Was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ the plan of religious leaders or the plan of God Himself? The Bible has answers. Over 700 years before Christ was crucified, Isaiah told of the suffering Savior, and note the last words of this quotation, “For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken… He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief” (Isaiah 53:8ff).
God the Father did. He killed Him to provide a payment for your sins and my sins. Jesus Christ willingly became the perfect, sinless sacrifice. Acceptance of this act provides a way of salvation from the penalty of our sins.
God’s Control is Seen in Both the Rooster and the Resurrection!
The night before He was betrayed Jesus said to Judas, the one who would betray Him, “What you do, do quickly!” Jesus was in control. He told the other disciples what would take place that night and that every one of them would forsake Him. When challenged by Peter, Christ told him there would be three acts of betrayal on his part and that a rooster would crow upon the third betrayal (John 13:38). However, the greatest sign that God was in control was the symbol that would declare or designate Jesus Christ to be God Almighty – His resurrection from the dead. Romans 1:4 says He was, “…declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
How Does the Death of Jesus Christ Save Me Individually?
God has chosen the same method for crediting His righteousness to you as he used for Abraham. Remember the earlier quotation from Romans 4:3. It says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” The Gospel of John says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name”(1:12). Choose today to trust Christ as your Savior.
I Go To Church, So I’m Safe, Right?
Actually, holding up your good works, even works like going to church, serving others and giving money as your basis for entry to heaven opposes God’s grace. It is the exact opposite of trust. Romans 4:16 says that salvation “…is of faith that it might be according to grace.” Ephesians 2:8-9 puts everything in order:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
God’s children are saved by faith, not by works. Good works do not have the power to cancel out your sin. Only the righteousness of Jesus Christ offered as the ultimate sacrifice on the cross of Calvary can remove sin.
I Want to Know More!
Cornerstone has several ongoing opportunities to study the Bible and all it says about salvation in Jesus Christ. These range from our preaching ministry to small-group studies to printed materials that you can review in the privacy of your own home. Please call us at 507-356-4306 or e-mail Pastor Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
God bless you in your search to know more about the salvation available in Jesus Christ. I know that God is doing a work in your heart even now.