What was it that actually happened at the cross? What was it that God was accomplishing by having His Son die at Calvary? Well I believe that are a number of things that God made clear through the substitutionary death of Jesus, and these, of course, have amazing ramifications for our spiritual wellbeing.
In Romans 5:8 we read, “But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Now look at John 14:7-10 and notice Jesus’ words, “ ‘If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know Him and have seen Him.’ Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.’ “
At the cross through Jesus, the second person of the Godhead, the Father was revealing truth about Himself. He loves us unconditionally and manifested that love for us by giving His Son to carry the weight of our sins into death that we might have life. It is only at the cross that we see the fullness of the lengths, depths, and widths God was willing to go in order to reconcile us to Himself.
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
“And through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.” Colossians 1:20
At the cross we see that God loves us and reveals that truth to us in such a manner that we should never doubt that love again. Also the cross reveals the depths to which God goes to manifest that love so that we might be reconciled to Him.
The love of God that allows and brings about reconciliation of the Father and us sinners is the wonder of His gracious forgiveness of our sins through the substitutionary death of Jesus. Acts 13:38-39 reveals, “Let it be known to you therefore, brethren, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you and by Him every one that believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”
Everyone who is still clinging to the law method of salvation needs to sit down and contemplate these two texts for the next week. Ephesians 1:7 makes it clear that the forgiveness of sins through Jesus was accomplished at the cross. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us.”
We are beginning to see the importance of the cross in practical terms and not just as a doctrine of the church. The cross is central to all we believe, our spiritual maturity and our daily living as followers of Jesus. Another reason the cross is central to us is because it was the focal point that brought about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in power into the lives of His followers. When Jesus died and returned to Heaven the Spirit came in power and indwelled amongst His followers giving them power and wisdom and desire to proclaim the risen Christ to the world. (See Romans 8:1-16)
Now there is another reason Jesus died on the cross and is a little more controversial in Christian circles. Craig Boyd a Christian teacher, pastor, author, and speaker has been at the forefront of advocating that the major reason Jesus died on Calvary’s cross was to defeat the devil and his supporters. Remember, the major view of the atonement for evangelicals is based upon the belief that the wrath of God against sin was born by Jesus that we did not have to face it. The law demands death to satisfy its requirement for rebellion against it and therefore Jesus became the sacrificial lamb that appeased God.
Boyd argues that the substitutionary death of Jesus was necessary for the reasons we have just shown but His death was not to thwart the anger of God. Instead it was to reveal the demise of Satan who ruled this world since usurping humanities rightful place as God’s trustees. Hebrews 2:14,15 reveals, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.”
The author of Hebrews has made it clear that through the death of Jesus the power of the fear of death that Satan holds over us is broken and we are delivered. Also 1 John 3:8 makes this abundantly clear, “He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
Jesus came to earth and died for us that His love would be proven and that evil would be seen for what it is. In Christ love has overcome sin. Salvation in the New Testament is not so much about going to heaven, but about being delivered from the devil’s power. Luke records the core value of Paul’s ministry was, “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.” Acts 26:17-18
It is at the cross where love flows down covering us with forgiveness and peace. Our sins forgiven and the power of Satan’ hold over our lives destroyed we are free to be the children of God that we were destined. At the cross love came down not to appease an angry God but to reunite us with the love of God through the freeing of our hearts and minds from the power of Satan.
We are loved!