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Monday, September 16, 2013 | Comments (6)

by John MacArthur

One of the most frequently perverted and abused aspects of the life of Christ is His death. The world can tolerate Him as a human martyr, but that view undermines and ignores the real significance of His death.

Even in the church, we often tend to think of the cross only in terms of what it accomplished for us. We begin to see ourselves as the focus of Jesus’ death, assuming He died for our salvation and our eternal glory—to rescue us from judgment and hell.

And while all of that is accomplished by the death of Christ, it’s only a by-product. It’s all secondary to the fact that in the end, Christ died for God. And to understand the full meaning and purpose of Christ’s death, we need to look at His cross from heaven’s perspective.

To begin with, Christ’s death was a sacrifice.

A look at the Old Testament reveals the specific system of sacrifices the Lord put in place to deal with the sins of His people. In those sacrifices, God provided a way through which the sinner could come before Him and temporarily have his sin dealt with. The guilty party would bring an animal to the priest at the tabernacle, and later, the temple. The sinner would lay his hands on the animal as a symbol of transferring his sin and guilt onto the animal. The animal would then be killed and its blood poured out over the altar.

The purpose of the sacrificial system was to emphasize that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and that God’s wrath can be satisfied through a sacrifice (Hebrews 9:22). But animal sacrifices only provided temporary covering for sin (Hebrews 10:4), so they had to be repeated again and again. Instead of providing permanent forgiveness, the sacrificial system pointed forward to God’s final sacrifice: His Son.

Christ was the only completely acceptable sacrifice to God, the only truly spotless Lamb who could be offered for the cleansing of sins. The author of Hebrews points out that Christ served as both sacrifice and priest in His death.

For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. (Hebrews 7:26-27)

And unlike all the ineffective and incomplete sacrifices that preceded Him, Christ was able to fully satisfy the wrath of God.

Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (Hebrews 9:26-28)

And to whom was Christ offered? Hebrews 9:14 tells us the answer. It says Christ “offered Himself without blemish to God” (emphasis added).

It’s true that we reap the eternal benefits of Jesus’ sacrifice, but it was ultimately a sacrifice to God. We can’t mistake the death of Christ for something less.


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#1  Posted by Jim Barone  |  Monday, September 16, 2013 at 9:35 AM

Jesus is the propitiation of our sins - the following is from First John.

1 John 2

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

I don't have my MacArthur Study Bible handy, but I believe propitiation is defined in one of the footnotes as - "the appeasement of divine wrath by a sacrificial offering."

Thank you Lord for your sacrifice!

#2  Posted by Lazar Lazarovski  |  Monday, September 16, 2013 at 10:04 AM

Pastor MacArthur,

Truth certainly has a way of stirring up joy and excitement not just in my life but any true believers life. Thank you for this post. It really puts the cross and everything else into perspective; soli Deo gloria.

When I came to understand that this life is not about us and that it is all about God, it helped me answer difficult questions that were in my own heart to which I did not understand and it also has been a great help in evangelizing the lost.

After sharing the Gospel with a man at work for a few hours (we were working together in the same area). I took him through John 3:1-10 and explained to him sovereign election and how he isn't in charge of his salvation. He finally said to me, "Look, I didn't choose to be born. I think it's pretty unfair that God would send me to hell if I didn't even choose to my own existance. Why would He do that?" My answer to him was, "because this life is not about us, it's about God and His glory. I'm not sure how hell fits into all of that but here's the thing; although hell is deserved by each and every person, God by His grace alone, offered us His Son, that whoever places their faith alone in Him alone, will not perish but have eternal life. The cost was His Son, your responsibility is to simply ask for the free gift that God offers you. To question God and say that the death of His Son is not enough or unfair because somehow you think you can make it on your own is arrogant. His redemptive plan is not about us, it's about Him."

You don't always know the fruit of that but I approach evangelism in a way that if they understood what I just told them, then I've sowed the seed, God will take care of the rest. And His Word never returns void, but always fulfills His purpose (Isaiah 55). Even if that purpose is to turn people away; may we be faithful to His purpose and for His glory, because it's all about our Creator.

your servant and brother in Christ,


#3  Posted by Jim Brazel  |  Monday, September 16, 2013 at 2:02 PM

and thank you Lord Jesus for your perfect obedience to the will of our Father....

#4  Posted by Daniel Wilson  |  Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 5:46 PM

Without Christ, we would be still in our sins... Praise God, it isn't so!

#5  Posted by Tumi Makhalane  |  Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 9:40 PM

Thank you pastor John for that reminder and this blog that we benefit from. I was wondering if you could do a blog post about the extent to which the atoning work of Christ reaches. I have recently encountered people who believe that we sustain our own salvation and that Eternal Security is false teaching. They claim Hebrews 6 supports their view.

Others believe that if a christian sins, they are no longer christians. They base this reasoning on the verse in 1John.

Thank you again for your commitment to the Lord and His word :)

#6  Posted by Manu R Manu R  |  Friday, September 20, 2013 at 3:17 AM

Thank you Lord for thy infinite grace on me and on us. let this ministry spread like a wildfire in all over the world and preach the gospel. All the power is given unto you, go ye into all the world and preach the gospel. AMEN