1 Peter 1:18-19, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot”
Ephesians 1:7, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace”
Our theme – Our salvation is provided only by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
What are you planning to leave your heirs when you die? When Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, died, he left his family a fortune that made them, collectively, the second wealthiest people in the world. If Sam Walton had an heir who didn’t want his inheritance, no one could force that person to accept it. The provision would have been there, but the heir would have had to accept it to benefit from it. Over 2,000 years ago on a rough and rugged cross at a place called Calvary, God the Father allowed His “only begotten Son” to become the sacrifice for the sin of all mankind. John 12:32 states, “I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.
I will begin with an example everyone should be able to relate to concerning freedom. Towering above the New York Harbor is the Statue of Liberty. For more than 100 years, that stately lady, with freedom’s torch held high, has beckoned millions of people who are choking from the stifling air of tyranny and oppression. They have been drawn to what that monument symbolizes – freedom. Inscribed on Lady Liberty’s pedestal are the deeply moving words by Emma Lazarus, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift up my lamp beside the golden door.”
However, a different monument towers over history, offering spiritual freedom to enslaved people throughout the world. It’s the Roman cross where Jesus Christ hung over 2,000 years ago. At first the scene repels us, and then we see the sinless Son of God, dying in our place, to pay the penalty for our sins. From the cross we hear the words “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34) and “It is finished” (John 19:30). Like the heir of Sam Walton, who had to accept his fortune, we too must accept God’s gift, and as we trust in Christ as our Savior, the heavy burden of guilt rolls from our sin-weary souls and we are free for all eternity.
To begin this study, we will need to look into the Scriptures regarding the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and why He is the only provision for salvation of mankind. Thus, His uniqueness is found in the following areas:
(1) His Uniqueness in Birth
Is the doctrine of His virgin birth a myth effectually disposed of by criticism, and completely unhistorical? Whatever modern criticism may say or think, the record of the birth of Jesus as catalogued in the Gospels presents the Eternal Word Who “was with God” and “was God” (John 1:1), and became flesh (John 1:14). Isaiah 7:14 tells us, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”. Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38 also tell of His Virgin Birth.
Thus, the Virgin Birth was a special miracle of God whereby Jesus Christ was born of a normal human mother who was a virgin in the strictest sense of the word until after the birth of her child. Then, when He was born, shepherds came to honor Him (Luke 2:15-16). Later, wise men brought Him gifts (Matthew 2:8-12). These people had no idea what Christ would eventually accomplish; however, they were right in doing what they did, because Jesus’ birth is the most remarkable event in all of human history.
Let’s go back in time to July 20, 1969, when the eleven astronauts of Apollo 11 landed on the moon. It was an unprecedented human achievement. Millions remember the words of Neil Armstrong, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” However, two thousand years earlier, the Creator of the moon made a giant leap of a vastly different kind. He descended from heaven to earth (Philippians 2:5-8). God the Son, the Eternal Word, stepped down from heaven to become fully human, while remaining fully God. It was an amazing “leap,” which showed us God’s heart of love.
We can’t but help marvel at His incarnation, and stand in awe of a wiggly baby who had created His worshippers. Then step back in wonder, for the story gets even better. He voluntarily came to Bethlehem, entered into our suffering and sorrow, and personally experienced our trials and temptations (Hebrews 4:15). He lovingly became one of us to pay the penalty for our sins and to conquer death, once and for all. Because He suffered, He is able to assist us now. Hebrews 2:17, “He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest.”
(2) His Uniqueness in Life
Whatever modern criticism might conclude concerning the interpretation of the life of Jesus Christ, it is foolproof that He is presented in the Gospels as sinless in life. A unique life is indicated as subsequent to a unique birth. With wonderful clarity the evangelists present a sinless Savior against the backdrop of a sinful world. He is portrayed as a Savior who came to save sinners and was able to save them because He Himself was sinless. John, the disciple closest to His affection, declared, “In Him is no sin” (1 John 3:5); Peter said He “did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth” (Peter 2:22); Paul pens the fact that “He knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). His enemies were constrained to confess the same fact. Pilate confessed Him to be a righteous person (Matthew 27:24) and declared “I find in Him no fault at all “ (John 18:38. The pages of the Gospels are filled with the fascination of a sinless and selfless Christ who cultivated unbroken fellowship with the Father in full obedience to His divine will, even to the death of the cross.
(3) His Uniqueness in Death
Nothing speaks more clearly of God’s love than the cross of Jesus. The sufferings of Calvary are more than the excruciating pain of crucifixion or body-racking thirst. Other men have endured as much or more. The cross of Christ is a sham unless He who hung there knew no sin but was made a sacrifice for sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:31). In many paintings of the crucifixion of Jesus, the center cross on which He hung is taller or higher on a hill than the other two. We can appreciate an artist’s desire to give Christ a place of preeminence, but we have no reason to believe that Jesus was given an elevated or exalted position, higher than that of the two thieves. Those who crucified Jesus considered Him a common criminal, so the crosses were most likely on the same level.
As I thought about this, I realized Jesus was not out of reach, way above the poor sinners on the other two crosses. I also think it is likely that the three crosses were very close together. The two thieves could carry on a conversation with each other above the shouting and tumult of the mob around them. In fact, if the repentant thief’s hand had not been nailed to the cross, he might very well have been able to reach over and put his hand on Jesus’ hand. This I believe is significant. Jesus is within reach of all who will look to Him and touch Him with the hand of faith! Yes, anyone can come to Him and receive forgiveness and a new life. The sinless one encountering the sin of the world and enduring the wrath of God against sin are the only sensible explanations of the unique sufferings of Christ. Without a sinless life and a virgin birth as credentials such a death is impossible and meaningless.
(4) His Uniqueness in Resurrection
The prevailing problem in modern thinking today is the difficulty of the resurrection fitting into the scientific atmosphere of our day, which assumes that the universe is shut up to the rigid and indisputable rule of natural law. Many individuals hold the absurd position that Jesus did not really die but merely fainted, then revived in the tomb and rescued by His disciples. The present spiritually adrift age dazzled by man’s scientific progress and ensnared by the towering intellectual pride of our times, must realize that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a great experienced reality which makes comprehensible all the other realities of the Person and work of Christ.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the keystone of the arch of salvation. Remove it and the whole structure of the plan of salvation crumbles in the dust. The good news of the gospel is that Christ died for our sins and that He rose again. The resurrection of Christ is the proof that His death atoned for sin. When Jesus arose, it was proof that He had completely met redemption’s price. When He cried, it is finished; the work was fully done. God was satisfied and then proved the completeness of the work by raising Christ from the dead.
(5) His Uniqueness in His Redemptive Touch
“I have come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Down through the ages those who have put their faith in a crucified and risen Redeemer have experienced the regenerating touch of God upon their lives. No change is quite as wonderful as that which takes place in any person who puts their faith and trust in the one who shed his blood, so that we could have life eternal. Those who do not exercise faith cannot hope to understand or interpret the life of Jesus, or appreciate His work nor have any knowledge of the life or fullness of life He can bring to an individual. Thomas believed because he saw, but millions since his day and because of Christ’s redemptive touch have been “blessed” who have not seen and yet believed (John 20:29).
Because Jesus was unique in His birth, in His life, in His sufferings, in His death, in His resurrection, and in His redemptive touch, thus Jesus Christ, is the only basis of salvation, which Christians have received and which we proclaim, and by which the apostle Paul said “you stand, by which ye are saved … for I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-3). It is therefore apparent that apart from the many-sided uniqueness of the Person and work of Christ there can be no Christian gospel because the gospel centers in Christ … the Gospel is Jesus Christ.
Redemption – The Price Paid
Those men who carried out the brutal business at Calvary didn’t know, was that somehow, in spite of the sin they were then committing, God through Jesus Christ had completed the final and perfect sacrifice for sin. The Son of God was announcing that the eternal plan of the Father for the salvation of men had become a historical fact and that its fruits would extend into eternity future. That is, the work that was finished then at Calvary will remain finished forever and ever. Three great themes of the Old and New Testaments summarize the work Jesus Christ completed by His death on the cross, which are:
It means “freedom by the payment of a price”. We are ransomed from our sin and condemnation. The death of Christ also means we have been bought out of bondage to sin and Satan. The ransom price for our sin has been paid in full (Matthew 20:28; Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Galatians 3:13; 4:4, 5; Ephesian 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Titus 2:14; Hebrew 9:12; 1 Peter 1:18, 19). Thus, the word redemption is a comprehensive term used in the Bible to refer to the special intervention of God for the salvation of mankind. This use of the word deals with the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross in which He paid the price to “purchase” human beings and set them free from their slavery to sin.
Because of Christ’s substitutionary atonement, He is called the Redeemer. More than a century ago, an evangelist preached a stirring sermon on the theme of the blood of Christ as the only means of salvation. After the service, a refined and fashionably dressed woman said something like this to the evangelist. “I wish you would not speak so much about the blood of Christ. It nauseates ladies and gentlemen.” To this the preacher replied, “But Christ did not die for ladies and gentlemen; He died for sinners.”
Prime Minister Winston Churchill was honoring member of the Royal Air Force who had defended Britain during World War II. Recounting their brave service, he declared, “Never in the history of mankind has so many owed so much too so few.” A similar sentiment appears on a memorial plaque in Bastogne, Belgium, where raged the famous Battle of the Bulge, one of the bloodiest conflicts of the Second World War. The inscription, in honor of the United States 101st Airborne Division, reads: “Seldom has so much American blood been shed in the course of a single action. Oh, Lord, help us to remember!” Those are fitting and well-deserved tributes to the courageous men and women who sacrificed so much for their country.
As I think about them, I also remember the One whose selfless sacrifice resulted in benefits for people of all nations. Jesus Christ, the sinless One died on a cross and shed His blood to pay the penalty for our sins. In so doing, He guaranteed our freedom … freedom from the penalty, power, and someday even the presence of sin. Of Jesus it can be said: Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to one Man. His was the greatest sacrifice, and through His death we have Salvation, the only way to have forgiveness of sin and the promise of heaven – John 3:15, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
It is only through the death of Jesus Christ that we have purpose. We are to give all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength to following Jesus – Mark 8:34, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”; Through His death we have comfort in trial or sorrow; the God of all comfort … comforts us in all our tribulation. Through His death we have wisdom, we need wisdom beyond our own for making decisions – James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, and it will be given to him; and, through His death we have strength, when we’re weary, “the LORD will give strength to His people – Psalm 29:11.” Through His death we can have an abundant life, the fullest life is found in a relationship with Jesus – John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
Although Christ lived an absolutely sinless life, it was His death, not His life that atoned for our sin. His sufferings in life were real and unfathomable. What agony of soul He must have endured as His holy Person was confronted with sin and sinners. What grief was surely His as He was ridiculed, mocked, scoffed, reviled, spat upon, and blasphemed! His compassion was infinite even for those who rejected Him. His suffering involved these and many more things, but it was non-substitutionary suffering; it did not atone for sin. Scripture teaches that the only means of redemption from sin is through the shed blood of Christ. Redemption is therefore related to His death. Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out – John 6:37.”
Propitiation – The Father Satisfied
Is an atoning sacrifice; we are free from God’s wrath. This is possible because an acceptable offering has been made on our behalf. The offering has been made to appease God, to turn His wrath from us (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).
1 John 4:10 says, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Thus, propitiation is the divine side of the work of Christ on the cross and carries the basic idea of appeasement, or satisfaction – specifically towards God the Father. Propitiation is a two-part act that involves appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to them. The word propitiation is used in several key verses to explain what Jesus accomplished through His death on the cross. For example in Romans 3:24-25 we see that believers in Christ have been “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.”
These verses are a key point in Paul’s argument in the Book of Romans and are really at the heart of the Gospel message. The necessity of appeasing God is something many religions have in common. In ancient pagan religions as well as in many religions today, the idea is taught that man appeases God by offering various gifts or sacrifices. However, the Bible teaches us that God Himself has provided the means through which His wrath can be appeased and sinful man can be reconciled to Him. In the New Testament the act of propitiation always refers to the work of God and not the sacrifices or gifts offered by man. The reason for this is that man is totally incapable of satisfying God’s justice except by spending eternity in hell. There is no service, sacrifice, or gift that man can offer that will appease the wrath of God or satisfy His perfect justice. The only satisfaction, or propitiation, that could be acceptable to God and that could reconcile man to Him had to be made by God. For this reason God the Son, Jesus Christ came into the world in human flesh to be the perfect sacrifice for sin and make atonement or “propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).
Jesus Christ in John 14:6 said that he was the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. To illustrate a point concerning knowing the way, Dwight Slater, was a retired missionary doctor who told the story that while serving in Africa he had trained a brilliant but unschooled man to serve as his surgical assistant. Kolo was a quick learner, and soon he was able to perform surgeries. A team of doctors from the United States was in Africa to provide some short-term help. They were performing operations when they came across a condition rare in the US but common in Africa. When they weren’t sure what to do, Kolo took the surgical instruments, cut through layers of tissue and ligaments, and corrected the problem. When the amazed doctors began quizzing Kolo on the specifics of the complicated procedure, he answered simply, “I do not know the terms; I just know the way.”
My brethren, today there are many believers in Christ who may not be able to define complex theological terms like redemption, justification, and propitiation, but they can still be effective witnesses because they know Jesus, who is the way to God (John. 14:6). Unbelievers need the simple gospel, that Jesus died for their sin and that they must accept Him by faith. You don’t need to be afraid to witness. If you know the way, you can show others the way through Jesus Christ! Only one road leads to heaven, and my friend Jesus Christ is that road.
Reconciliation – The World Changed
We are at peace with God. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He made it possible for us to be reconciled to God and restored to fellowship with Him by faith in Christ. Enmity is turned to friendship, alienation to son ship, hostility to faith, and hatred to love because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (Rom. 5:1, 10; 2 Cor. 5:18-20; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20-22). At the end of each month, many banks issue statements to all their depositors who have checking accounts. The purpose of such statements is to assure that our own record of deposits, checks, and charges agree with that of the bank. Occasionally a person may find that his figures do not agree with those on the bank’s statement. When this happens, he has made a slight mistake somewhere. Reconciliation takes place when the balance according to his figures is brought to conform to the balance furnished by the bank. And so it is with God … reconciliation removed the barrier that existed between God and man.
There are two categories of reconciliation. The first is what Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross for all mankind in reconciliation and the second is what Jesus Christ provided through the Cross for all believers at salvation. Reconciliation is our Lord’s salvation ministry toward man. In reconciliation, mankind is reconciled to God. God is never reconciled to mankind. This is why you cannot be saved by any other means than faith alone in Jesus Christ. Reconciliation is also an important concept in relationships between persons. The destructiveness of sin causes two people, who were once in fellowship and harmony to become alienated, hostile, estranged from one another. This is the relation between man and God because the sin nature moves every man to disobey, to rebel against, and to deny God.
Thus, to be reconciled means to replace such enmity, hostility, and opposition with a new relationship of peace, acceptance, and goodwill. The definition of reconciliation supplied by John F. Wallwood summarizes this concept; “It is the work of God through the death of Christ by which sinful man is brought to spiritual fellowship and moral harmony with God.” The Old Testament words for reconciliation do not represent a final dealing with sin. Rather, they present sin as being covered temporarily from the sight of God, awaiting final reconciliation through Christ’s death. (Leviticus 6:30; 8:15; 1 Samuel 29:4; Ezekiel 45:15).
It is important to note that every reference to the doctrine of reconciliation in connection with salvation speaks of man as the one reconciled, changed. God is never said to be reconciled to man, for His standards and demands of holiness and righteousness are changeless. Reconciliation is man ward. Through Christ’s work of redemption, the price for sin has been paid. God the Father accepted this sacrifice; His demands have been satisfied. This is propitiation. Because of redemption and propitiation, the relationship of man to God has been changed. Man has been reconciled; he has been made savable. It is now possible for God to bestow salvation upon the believing sinner because of Christ’s finished work on the cross.
Because of Adam’s sin the entire human race is separated from the Creator. God’s work of reconciliation through the death of Christ extended to the entire world in a provisional way (2 Corinthians 5:19) and in a practical and personal way to those who believe (2 Corinthians 5:18). The message of reconciliation for all is stated clearly in 2 Corinthians 5:19. God’s design in His work of reconciliation is that those who accept it be His ambassadors (v. 20), bearing His message to those who don’t know, who have not accepted, what God has done for them through his son, Jesus Christ. As in the case of redemption and propitiation, reconciliation is twofold; its provision is general, but its application is specific.
Reconciliation has been provided for every member of Adam’s race. Before this great work can benefit the individual, however, it must be appropriated by faith. At that time and not before, the individual who does nothing but trust Christ as Savior is reconciled to God and therefore no longer under condemnation but rather at peace (Romans 5:1). The fact that redemption, propitiation, and reconciliation are extended to every person in the world does not mean that God has saved all men or that all men will in the future be saved. The Bible is very clear on this matter. The universal provision of God in Christ means that God the Father has an acceptable basis by which He can reach sinners and bring them to Himself. God’s demands of perfection had to be met, and they were met, in the person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” Let’s take another look at the cross. Look at the One dying there. He never sinned, yet Jesus is on the cross to bear the penalty for the sins of the whole world. He’s dying there on your behalf. That should be you on the cross. It’s an ugly scene, isn’t it? It shows us how terrible sin really is, and what a terrible price had to be paid to set us free from it. If you are a follower and born-again believer in Christ, coming one more time to the cross should fill your heart with gratitude for what He did for you there. As your sacrifice and substitute, He made it possible for you to be forgiven and to be saved from your sin. Why don’t you give Him your thanks right now? Then determine to walk in obedience to God.
However, if you’re not a born-again believer in Christ, won’t you trust Him as your Savior? Your sin is very real. You cannot do anything at all about it, except to trust in Jesus Christ. Don’t wait. Tell Him that you believe in Him as your personal Savior. Ask Him to save you from judgment. He will, because it was for you that he died on that terrible cross. He was your sacrifice. He paid the penalty for your sin. Trust Him now!
Jesus took my place on the cross to give me a place in heaven.