Christ Suffered and Died: To Absorb the Wrath of God

FOR THE NEXT SEVEN days I will present seven distinct reasons why Christ suffered and died, culminating on Easter Sunday with To Reconcile Us to God. Today we look at Christ suffering and dying to absorb the wrath of God that should rightly have been poured out upon all of mankind.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'” (Gal. 3:13).

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IF GOD WERE NOT JUST, there would be no demand for His Son to suffer and die. And if God were not loving, there would be no willingness for His Son to suffer and die. But God is both just and loving. Therefore his love is willing to meet the demands of His justice. God’s law demanded, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). But we have all loved other things more. This is what sin is—dishonoring God by preferring other things over Him, and acting on those preferences. Therefore, the Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We glorify what we enjoy most. And it isn’t God.

Since God is just, He does not sweep our sins and offenses under the rug of the universe. He feels a holy wrath against them. They deserve to be punished, and He has made this clear: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). There is a holy curse hanging over all sin. Not to punish would be unjust. The demeaning of God would be endorsed. A lie would reign at the core of reality. Therefore, God says, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them” (Galatians 3:10; Deuteronomy 27:26).

But the love of God does not rest with the curse that hangs over all sinful humanity. He is not content to show wrath, no matter how holy it is. Therefore God sends His own Son to absorb His wrath and bear the curse for all who trust Him. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). This is the meaning of the word propitiation in the text quoted above (Romans 3:25). It refers to the removal of God’s wrath by providing a substitute. The substitute is provided by God Himself. The substitute, Jesus Christ, does not just cancel the wrath; He absorbs it and diverts it from us to Himself. God’s wrath is just, and it was spent, not withdrawn.

Let us not trifle with God or trivialize His love. We will never stand in awe of being loved by God until we reckon with the seriousness of our sin and the justice of His wrath against us. But when, by grace, we waken to our unworthiness, then we may look at the suffering and death of Christ and say, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the [wrath-absorbing] propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Join me tomorrow for “Christ Suffered and Died: To Cancel the Legal Demands of the Law Against Us.

 

We, Too, Are Risen

Easter marks an important date for Christians. Christ promised us that even though He was to be crucified, He would raise from the dead on the third day. His ministry included teachings from the Scriptures, preaching, and healing. He was doing the Father’s will. God wants us to be set free from the bondage of sin and death. He wants us to walk in His will. He desires that we be healed from sickness. Jesus said He came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. Certainly, being sick in our bodies does not make for an abundant life. Living in bondage to our fleshly desires does not make us free.

Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42) Once Jesus realized dying was the will of His heavenly Father, He assented to going to the cross. Jesus didn’t just die for us. Jesus wasn’t looking at mere death and pleading, “Father, don’t let me die!” That’s not what his agony and consternation were about. Death would have been easy. It’s not that Jesus was trying to avoid a torturous death; He was trying to avoid something else—something far worse.  We can see what He is trying to avoid in His words, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.” Jesus wasn’t trying to avoid death. He was trying to avoid “the cup.”

What was the cup?  It was the cup of God’s wrath, as describe in Psalms 75:8, “For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and He pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.”  Jesus asked for the cup of God’s wrath to be removed. The cup of God’s wrath is His infinite punishment of and hatred toward evil. The cup is His fiery wrath, destined for sinners. The cup is meant to wipe out sin and make the world clean. It is God’s vile of ferocious purging.

Jesus didn’t just die for us. He bore the full judgment of God for us. He didn’t just get beat up by some run-of-the-mill Roman soldiers. He was crushed under the omnipotent fist of God. He received infinite punishment, which was supposed to go to sinners, had He not intercepted it first. Mere death is a walk in the park, a gentle sleep, compared with absorbing the eternal wrath of God against sin.

But there’s more. This prayer wasn’t just supposed to show us the humanity of Jesus.  It was mainly to show us the victorious obedience of the Second Adam, the world’s first Perfect Human, who did not capitulate beneath the weight of life and temptation. We’re meant to see that there is no other way. The perfect obedience of Jesus is our only hope. We’re meant to hold our breath in this moment, for if Jesus had backed out, then we were lost forever, and would forever drink the cup of God’s wrath ourselves.

Easter is not the time of year to ponder Jesus for a few days, before returning to life as usual.  Easter is our opportunity to be saved from our sins. To cross over from death to life. Jesus didn’t drink the cup of God’s wrath so that we could continue to sit on the fence, quietly meditating on the existential cries of Jesus’ humanity.  Or to continue in sin because we are saved by grace. Jesus bore the wrath of God so that we could be saved. Jesus wanted to die for us. He said, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:18).

Romans 6:2 tells us that we died to sin when we accepted the death of Christ. How can we live in it any longer? If we want to escape death, then we should also want to escape the cause of death – sin. But more importantly, when we believe in Christ, we become new people. In the language of Romans 5, we are no longer people of Adam, but now we are people of Jesus Christ. We are to live in Him. Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? Absolutely not.

Paul explains in Romans 6:3, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” We are baptized not just in the name of Jesus Christ [such as at the time of our water baptism] – we are baptized into Him and united with Him. When we are identified with Adam, we get the death that Adam brought. When we identify with Christ, we get the righteousness and life He brought. When He died, we died. When He was buried, we were buried. And when He rose, we rose also. We were with Him because He represented all of us.

Our abundant life was bought with a huge price. The only way we can thank God for this new life is to practice living in His will.