By David Dann
Shortly after his resurrection, we are told that Jesus explained to his disciples that, “it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day” (Luke 24:46). Unquestionably, the death of Jesus stands out as the single most important event in all of human his- tory since the creation of the world. There is no escaping the great impact that his death has had, and continues to have on the human race. However, such a statement of Jesus as that recorded above causes us to carefully ponder the necessity of the death of Christ on the cross. Why did Christ die? What purpose did his death serve? According to the Bible, Christ died in order to:
1. Save the world. Before Jesus was even born, an angel told Mary and Joseph that “he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). With reference to his own mission, Jesus said, “the Son of man is come to save that which was lost” (Matt. 18:11). Nothing could be clearer from the New Testament than the fact that Jesus died in order to bring salvation to the world. As John put it, “We have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).
2. Pay the debt for our sins. While briefly recounting the facts of the gospel to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). The Scriptures present the idea that “Christ died for our sins” in the sense that he was the perfect sacrifice given to pay the debt for our sins. As he was instituting the Lord’s supper just before his death, Jesus “took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins’” (Matt. 26:27-28). The death of Jesus was necessary because, “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). Through his own death Jesus paid the debt we could not pay.
3. Fulfill prophecy. The Bible teaches that the death of Christ was part of God’s plan even before creation. Peter writes that Christ “was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Pet. 1:20). Isaiah, as well as the other prophets of the Old Testament, prophesied that Christ would die in order to bear the sins of the world several hundred years before Jesus was even born (Isa. 53:12). Jesus referred to these prophecies after his resurrection as he explained their fulfillment to his disciples saying, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (Luke 24:44). The death of Christ was the culmination of God’s plan for man’s redemption as revealed throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. As Paul put it, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3).
4. Abolish the Old Law. Speaking of the Law of Moses, Paul writes that Christ’s death accomplished the work of “blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14). Similarly, in his letter to the Ephesians Paul writes of Christ “having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:15-16). In order to bring salvation to the entire world, it was necessary for Christ to remove the Old Covenant, and replace it with the New Covenant at his death (Heb. 8:7-13; 9:16-17).
Bible teaches that sin is the transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4). As we have already noted, Christ died for the purpose of paying the debt for our sins. We ought to arrive at a good understanding of how seriously God looks at sin as we reflect on the fact that God the Son suffered a horrible death in order to bear the punishment for our sins and bring us back into fellowship with God. We also gain a better understanding of God’s love through the death of Christ as we realize that, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). Have you died with Christ (Rom. 6:3-5)?