Saturday, May 03, 2008

Easter Message 2008: Mystery of the Death of Christ

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 23rd March 2008 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Scriptures Passage: Rom.5:6-8, 10; Acts.3:12-16

When Christ died, was it a normal person who died? Was it a common person who resurrected? It was not. It was the Lord of Life. He is the Second Person of Trinity. If Christ is God but not man, there can be no mediation between God and man. But if Christ is man but not God, He cannot bring men to God. Christianity is about Christ. He is the intermediary between God and man, the Holy One and sinner, Eternity and temporal world.

There is a representation between the visible and invisible. No culture can reach this understanding. All other religions cannot have this essence. Because He who is from heaven has come to earth, we can go to heaven. The Christian faith is not imaginary. The Eternal God came in flesh in history as intermediary between God and men. Christians ought to understand how precious their faith is. They need to surpass the constraint of contradictions in their life by faith.

There is enlightenment by many religions. But like us, they struggle in sin. They try to find their way out. Five similar elements that religions believe in:

1. Sin is undeniable.
2. There must be a way out.
3. It is important to do good.
4. Death is not the end.
5. There is supernatural strength to rely on.

There is a lot of contradiction in religions. On one hand, they believe in the supernatural power, on the other hand they continue to rely on themselves. Religion starts from human beings looking for God’s grace, blessings and prosperity. Men make the first move. But Christianity starts from God. God seeks the lost, reveal grace to those who do not know Him. God is the Initiator. There is a difference in essence.

The content of Christian faith is not based on doctrines, but on a Person. For many religions, they can survive on doctrines alone. All doctrines of other faith are results of fallen men’s thoughts. But Christianity finds all promises in One Man, Christ. If Christ is taken away, the content means nothing.

In 1 Cor.15 the Apostle Paul said that the gospel is the Jesus Christ died, was buried, resurrected based on the Word of God. So His death, burial and resurrection were set and revealed by God. When the time came, He truly died for us, was buried for us, and resurrected for us. The eternal plan was manifested in history. When Jesus Christ was born, the eternal Word entered history. He is the only One who can link us to God. All other religious leaders could not.

Salvation truth is different from scientific truth. No matter how well you feed a person, he cannot have eternal life. Christ came to the world to become the Son of Man. But if we were to treat him just as the Son of Man, we will never know Him. We need to see Him from another angle. Jesus told Nicodemus that unless he was born again he could not see the kingdom of God. It is impossible for a person on earth to understand the things in heaven. John the Baptist said the One from heaven is above all things and speak of heaven. The one from earth see things on earth and speak earthly things. A person needs first to be born again from above to understand the things from heaven. People born from earth can only understand the things on earth.

The Jews always saw Jesus only from the earthly point of view. Jesus told them, “If you are brought to where the Son of Man come from, what would you do?”

Jesus was the Eternal One so He could not die. He came to earth so that it was possible for Him to die. This became salvation. In contrast, those who are in the flesh want eternal life. Those who should die are not willing to die. This is religion. The One who should not die is willing to die. This is salvation.

When Jesus died on the cross, with what identity did He die? As a son of man, or the Son of God? If He simply died as a human being, He could not accomplish salvation for the entire human race. But if He died as the Son of God, how could we understand that God died? The book of Romans said Christ died, not Jesus died. In Rom.5:10, it said, the death of God’s Son.

The 7 words of Jesus on the cross:

- Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
- I tell you the truth, today you will be in paradise with Me.
- Woman, behold your son. Behold your mother.
- My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
- I am thirsty.
- It is finished.
- Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.

The first, forth and the last words were addressed to God. The first and last addressed God as His Father. Only on the forth statement, Jesus called God as God. When Jesus called His Father, He was calling as the Son of God towards His Father. The Son of God had the right to die for sinners. As the Son of God He finished the task given by His Father. He died as the Son of God.

In the middle, He called “My God, My God.” He could not be addressing as the Son of God as He was God Himself. Here He spoke to God as the Son of Man.

When He was forsaken by God, He represented human beings who were in sin, abandoned and forsaken by God. But how could He call upon God to forgive sinners as a finite human being? God cannot die, surely He must have died as the Son of Man. But human beings are finite, so He cannot

All these mysteries are found in Him. In Christ, He is God and not Man. It is not possible for Him to die. In order to die, He came in the flesh. If Christ is man but not God, He can die a great death but this would not be sufficient to wipe away the sin of humanity.

The Apostle Paul said while we were still sinners, Christ died for our sins. In verse 10, it said we were reconciled to God through Christ’s death. It was the death of the Son of God.

There are 4 important mysteries in His death:

1. It is substitutionary death.

It is a death that takes our place that fulfil God’s demand for justice. It is not something that anyone can do. If a person will die himself, he is not worthy to die for sin. He cannot fix his own problem of death, how can he help others? Hence no religious leaders can stand in the stead of others. This is the problem of religion. How can a person in sin saved others who are in sin? Only the sinless Christ can do that.

2. It is a saving/redemptive death.

It is an exchange of value. He bought us with a heavy price, through His blood and His life. So we ought to glorify God with our lives. With what do we measure our value? Before we are saved, where were we? We were in the hands of Satan. But to whom did He pay His blood and His life to? The church did not understand it in the first few centuries. Why is there a need to pay this price? This is related to justice. When we sin against God, there is a price to pay. We have fallen short of God’s glory. We owe God His glory. Jesus Christ paid the price to God. We did not owe the devil, but to God. Jesus Christ paid to God. When God abandoned us, He did not throw us to the devil, but the devil took this temporal opportunity to capture us. The devil is not the legal owner of my soul. So Jesus Christ paid the price to God and snatched us from the devil’s hand. We now belong to Him.

3. It is a propitiative death.

We should have been punished. Nothing could stop His anger. Only the holiness of Christ could satisfy the justice of God. He stopped the wrath of God. He is no longer angry with us. Because of Christ, He forgives us.

4. It is a reconciliatory death.

Not only have our debts been paid, not only have we become God’s, not only have God’s wrath stopped, even our relationship with God is reconciled. This is even more proactive. Paul said we should be reconciled to God. Only we reconcile to God, not God reconcile to us. It is because it is human being who first damaged the relationship.

Salvation came because Christ died for us. In His physical body, He suffered and died for us. But because He was divine, when He died, the power of God is manifested. He purchased us by His own blood. His blood is divine and becomes the medium for the New Testament. The Old Testament was based on the blood of lamb, but the New Testament was based on the blood of the lamb of God.

The Jews crucified Christ because He was seen as a threat to their culture. Christ had declared two things that were most offensive to them. First, He said it was because He told them the truth they wanted to kill Him. Immediately Jesus told them their greatest weakness. They prided themselves for having the law the God above other people, yet they resisted the truth. Not only did they not repent, they were against others who were seeking the truth. People who are self-righteous are those who are most daring in commiting sin. The second most offensive statement Jesus said to them was that their father was not God nor Abraham, but the devil. In the entire world, only these people had the law of God. They were not aware of their errors. They thought they were worshiping God. It was the irony of religion.

They hated Him so much that they killed Him on the cross. But the Bible said they killed the Lord of Life, not a life. The Lord of Life is the Source of Life. This is a very frightening thing. Can we kill the Master of Life? The Master of Life cannot be murdered. We can use a knife to cut all kinds of things, but we cannot cut water. No matter how sharp the knife is, the water is still one. The Lord of Life is not a receiver of life, He is Eternal Life Himself, the Creator of all life. Hence He resurrected from the dead. When He resurrected men, He did not need to pray for God’s help. When Elijah, Elisha and Paul raised the dead, they need to pray first. But Jesus Christ immediately commanded the son of the widow, the daughter of Jairus and Lazarus to come to life. He is the Author of Life. He cannot be killed. His resurrection proved that He had power over death.

May our faith be re-established on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. May His sovereign will be done in our lives.


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