If Jesus Hadn't: How the Gospel is More Than the Historical Cross.
When Christians speak of the passion of Christ, they speak of His suffering. The whole climactic event, which takes place during the last week before His death, is often bundled up underneath that title. The events of the week are placed as highest importance in the life and minds of Christians, and they should since our faith rests on the atoning work of Christ on the cross. However, we are prone to carry the mindset that certain events in the life of Christ are more necessary than others.
If Jesus hadn't done everything He did, salvation would not be possible. Every aspect of His life played a part in Him securing salvation for sinners. Truly God and truly man, Jesus was born of a virgin conceived by the Holy Spirit. He kept the law in its entirety, died on the cross, resurrected on the third day, and ascended into heaven after appearing to many. If just one of those where to be taken out, our salvation would not be secured.
Truly God and Truly Man
In the year 325 AD, a church council was held in Nicaea. The reason for this meeting was to correct false doctrine and erroneous beliefs present and increasing in the Church. Among these was a rejection of the deity of Christ - that Jesus was not God. This council produced a creed for the Church now recognized as the Nicene Creed.
Today, while it is uncommon for Christians to reject the deity of Christ outright, a reductionist teaching of Christ is perpetrated by many Christian teachers. They make Him out to be nothing more than a moral teacher, inspiration to follow, friend, or buddy to hang out with. While this is not explicitly rejecting Christ's deity, it is rejecting it implicitly.
Why must Jesus be both God and man? The simple answer is this: only man could die, but only God could pay for the sins of His people. We must cling to the truth that Jesus is truly God and truly man. Our salvation depends on it.
Born Of a Virgin
That Christ was born of a virgin has caused many to question the validity of the gospel. On the other hand, for many Christians, it has become commonplace; even the wonder of its miraculous nature has worn off. However the virgin birth is perceived, it is vital to the gospel handed down to us by the apostles.
The reason for its importance has to do with the idea of a federal head. For all who have ever lived, Adam is our federal head. We inherit that which belonged to Adam. As Paul makes clear in Romans 5, sin and death have been passed down by Adam to all who have lived.
Because of the virgin birth, Adam was not Christ's federal head, meaning Christ was not born in sin. For Christ to take our sin upon himself, He had to be sinless. Otherwise He would be an imperfect sacrifice. The Old Testament clearly displays in the sacrificial system the need for the sacrificial lamb to be without blemish.
Kept the Law
For Christ to be the perfect sacrifice, He had to remain sinless throughout his life. He could not be a transgressor of the law.
Christ's death was just as much an act to secure salvation for those who believe as it was an act to appease God. In fact, both are so intertwined that to place prominence on one and not the other is to miss the message of the gospel. For in the act of appeasing God, Christ saves sinners. We are naturally opposed to God and deserve judgement and punishment. Christ appeased God and saved us in one act. Only a righteous person could accomplish this task.
Furthermore, this righteousness of Christ is given to us who believe. Not only did Christ retain perfect righteousness to appease God, but retained it so we could stand before God blameless. As our sin is put into Christ's account, His righteousness is put into our account. God is now pleased with us because He is pleased with Christ. God now sees us as keeping the entirety of the law because He looks not to our record, but to Christ's.
If this were not the case, Christ could not have borne our sin, and we would have no hope of God being pleased with us.
It is Christ's death that seems to be most celebrated among His entire passion. We should not be surprised at this because it is in His death we see both the extent and the death of our sinfulness. There is a reason why the torturous death machine, the cross, has become the most known symbol throughout the world. It is the symbol of our sin, and it is the symbol of a punishment delivered once for all time.
According to the law, death is the punishment for sin (Rom. 6:23). Since Adam is our federal head, his sin is our inheritance and death is our punishment (Rom. 5:12). Immediately after Adam and Eve sinned, God promised to deliver humanity from their sin. This was displayed time and time again as Israel would sacrifice animals to atone for their sin. The reason this sacrifice had to be repeated was because the blood of bulls and goats could not atone (Heb. 10:4). Before we accuse God of making sport of his own people, telling them to do something that didn’t work, we must be reminded that the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was a picture of the promise yet to be fulfilled.
Christ had to die for our atonement to fulfill the law: "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin" (Heb. 9:22). The entire sacrificial system pointed to Christ. Christ, our High Priest, made Himself our sacrifice so we could have communion with God. Earthly high priests came and went, but none could sacrifice such a pleasing sacrifice so that all the people of God could enter into the Holy of Holies.
“If Christ has not been raised,” Paul said, “your faith is in vain.” Faith for salvation depends fully upon a resurrected Saviour. When God saves us in Christ, He saves us from death to life. Now, if the means by which we are to be saved, namely faith in Christ, has no life, what fools we are to believe that we will have life.
Life is what we are after, for death comes to us all and we fear it. How many inventions have been created in the hope of preserving life? How many things are marketed to us so that we feel young again? We want life, yet we know death is inevitable. This is why the doctrine of the resurrection matters.
There is a sharp contrast between the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and the resurrection of Jesus. With Lazarus, his grave clothes still bound him. With Christ, they were folded neatly in the tomb. Lazarus's resurrection was temporary while Jesus' is permanent. Christ, in rising from the dead to never die again, secures an eternal resurrection for those who believe in Him.
Ascended Into Heaven
Jesus' ascension is important for our life in Him. He told His disciples it was better for them that He went away because He would send the Holy Spirit to help them (John 16:7). Christ's ascension inaugurated the presence of God within us to convict us of sin by writing the Law on our hearts, open our eyes of faith to behold Christ, apply the blood to our sinful hearts, and seal us for Christ to the end.
As our great High Priest, Jesus intercedes for us, mediating our relationship with the Father. John Bunyan spoke of the comfort Jesus at God's right hand brought him when he realized God didn’t need to look down to the earth to see how righteous Bunyan was, but only to His right hand where Christ sat. Bunyan could walk free of guilt and condemnation, certain God heard every prayer. The same is true for us.
Because Jesus was truly God and truly man, born of a virgin under the Law, keeping the Law perfectly, dying a substitutionary death, defeating death by His resurrection, and ascended to heaven to the right hand of the Father now interceding for us, we have salvation. If Jesus hadn't been or done any one of these, we would still be lost in darkness as enemies of God. Praise God for His Son, Jesus Christ!