Homiletical Idea: It is good for us to have a basic understanding of the primary tenets of our faith. We can become so educated that we begin to water down or re-work those basics. This has happened with the cross of Christ. The Bible makes it clear that God will destroy sinners because death is the end-game for sin. Some in the church today promote a medieval Catholic teaching that Christ died to simply influence us to make the right decisions and turn to God. The Bible does not teach this. Sin requires payment through sacrifice. We either accept Christ’s on our behalf or we pay for it ourselves through the second death.
Illustration: Dying for the Cause-billboard
When I think of how people have given their lives for what they believe in, I cannot help but think of what Jesus has done for us and how so many in years past and even some around the world today have given their lives for what they believed or believe in.
I have had the opportunity to study under what I hold as the most Biblically solid, Seventh-day Adventist, undergraduate theology program in the world at Southern Adventist University. And through my studies I have come to realize that there is a danger in too much education. What could I mean by that?
I mean that sometimes we can get so wrapped up in the so-called deeper things of theological thought that we fail to maintain the most basic and fundamental principles that guide the faith of all Christians regardless of denominational moniker. I have seen example after example of how great thinkers have allowed their minds to cast off the very basics of Biblical teaching to chase after radical and too often heretical ideas that ultimately undermine the very plan that God has put in place to reconcile sinners to Himself.
I wish I could tell you that this has not happened inside the Adventist church, but sadly it has. There is a movement within our beloved church that wants us to believe that Christ did not have to die for our sins. They say that God did not demand Calvary’s sacrifice, men did. They would go even further to say that Christ’s death is merely an act to influence our behavior and that once men and women are aware of the story of Christ’s suffering we will be so moved by His love for us that we will turn away from sin and thereby rescue ourselves from the penalty of sin.
The second side of this heretical coin says that if we do not turn from sin that we will ultimately destroy ourselves.
I cry foul to this line of thinking and turn your mind to the Bible. I cry foul and ask the question did Christ really die for nothing? Did the God of heaven really leave everything and come to this sin-filled planet merely to influence our thinking? Did Christ fulfill every prophecy of the Old Testament so that the heavenly host could be amused by some cosmic game that God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit decided to play? I cry foul and say decidedly to you all this morning that Christ did not die for nothing. He did not die to simply influence our thinking to turn away from sin. I submit to you all this morning that Christ died because He had to do so. Christ died to pay the ransom for us that we are not able to pay ourselves. Yes, we can pay the penalty and die for our sins along with the wicked of all the ages after the 1,000 years, but you and I cannot be that perfect sacrifice that Christ was that met the requirement of the law of God.
In the Beginning
If we were to take our minds back to when sin entered the picture in Genesis we can quickly see that death was a part of the picture nearly immediately. When Adam and Eve were met by God in the Garden of Eden they had clothed themselves with fig leaves to cover their nakedness, but God covered them with animal skins (Genesis 3:21). Cain and Able were asked to bring sacrifices to God in Genesis 4 because God had put a system in place that would point all believers forward to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ.
Throughout the Old Testament we find story after story of God’s people offering sacrifices to God. Was it because they, like the heathen nations around them, wanted simply to appease God and keep Him from pouring out wrath on them? No they engaged in the system of sacrifice and offering because they needed to understand that there is a penalty for sin and payment must be made to take away that sin.
That same mindset of sacrifice was present during the time of Christ’s life and ministry. John the baptizer, Christ’s predecessor in the wilderness outside Jerusalem, knew that a spotless lamb was required to take away the blight and blot of sin permanently. While John was calling for repentance and baptizing in the Jordan River he looked up and saw Jesus approaching the water.
John knew the prophecies that foretold of the “anointed One” coming. He had read of how one must come and pay the penalty for sins, and John knew that the one who was to pay that penalty had to be the spotless Lamb of God. That is why we have record of John saying, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
John knew that if the Messiah did not come then there was no hope for mankind. He knew that none of us had lived perfect lives before God, and because we were not perfect we could not and cannot redeem ourselves.
Can we have that same knowledge today? Can we know today whether or not Christ had to die for us? Can we know if Christ died for nothing? Yes, yes, and yes.
Why Did He Have to Die for Us?
First, we should ask if it is clear that sin entered the picture of human existence through Adam and Eve. Yes, it is clear. It was because of their sin that they were cast from the garden. God even went so far as to say that they had to leave the garden lest they eat of the tree of life and live forever (Genesis 3:22), and He posted an angelic sentry at the gate with a flaming sword to ensure they did not attempt to go back inside. Also, God would not allow sin to endure forever. He had a plan to eliminate it. What is that plan?
We have a glimpse of that plan when we look at Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible says that the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against God (Gen 13:13). We all know that eventually God brought down fire and brimstone on those cities and Jude tells us that their destruction stands as an example of how the wicked will be utterly destroyed in the last days in God’s eternal fire (Jude 7). Of course eternal fire is fire whose consequences are eternal.
With only a few quick looks we can know that sin has been an ongoing problem for the human race and that God has a plan to deal with it in the end. We see the picture of final destruction with Revelation 20 where we find that God brings down fire from heaven and that fire devours the wicked (20:9).
But what about whether or not Christ had to die for us? If we were to look back at the Old Testament again and read over the requirements of sacrifices we see a picture emerge. We must keep in mind that those animal sacrifices were foreshadowing the sacrifice of Christ. They were not merely examples to influence our thoughts.
Take a look at Exodus 12:5. It is here that the children of Israel are reminded of how their sacrifices must meet certain criteria. They had known these things before captivity but they needed a reminder after serving as slaves for so many years in Egypt.
We see that the sacrifice had to be without spot or blemish. It was to be a male that was a year old. Now this passage was in the context of the Passover, but the criteria for the sacrifices did not change. So did Christ have to die for our sins? Someone had to or else a lot of animals died needlessly; pointing to a sacrifice that never needed to happen.
But the answer is a resounding yes. Christ had to die for our sins. Why? Because we, you and I, are not perfect. We are not without blemish. We do not meet the criteria for a sacrifice that pays the penalty for sin. And because we do not meet God’s criteria for sacrificial payment we cannot redeem ourselves from sin’s penalty. Logically, if we cannot meet the standard then we can only look forward to being destroyed by God along with the wicked. The only power that you and I have is in choosing to accept the sacrifice that Jesus paid on our behalf.
Old School Theology
When Paul comes on the scene he was intimately familiar with sinners and what they needed in order to be saved. Paul knew that all have sinned against God (Rom 3:23) and that sin gives wages of death to all who fail to repent (Rom 6:23). Paul’s teaching on atonement was not new and emerging theology. It was simply teaching that tied the sacrifices of the past to the ultimate sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. Paul’s theology agreed with God’s!
Let’s look at Romans 5 together today. In the very first verse of Romans 5 Paul makes the statement, “…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Why would we need peace? We need peace because as sinners we are at odds with God. As sinners, we are in rebellion to God. We cannot live in direct opposition to God and expect to have peace with Him can we? No, it does not work that way.
If you read over the next few verses of Romans 5 you can discover that because Christ has reconciled us to the Father we now have access to grace and His glory (Rom 5:2). Let’s take a quick survey and see this played out in Romans.
He Died For Us
Survey Romans 5:
-5:6 died for the ungodly
-5:8 died for us
-5:10 saved by His life
-5:11 through whom we have received reconciliation
-5:19 many will be made righteous
How will you respond?
Today, you and I have an opportunity to respond to the awesome gift that Christ gave us through His sacrifice. Today, during this communion service we can recount that gift. His blood was not shed just so that you and I can have an example of what happens if we refuse to follow God. Christ’s life could not be that example anyway because His was one that was free from sin completely (Hebrews 4:15).
Christ died for us and His blood was shed because Hebrews 9:22 tells us that unless blood is shed their can be no forgiveness of sin. We gather around this table today to celebrate the fact that His blood was shed to take away our sins. We gather around this table today to celebrate the fact that His body was broken open to pay the penalty for our sins.
If you and I buy into this false teaching that says Christ died to simply morally influence us, then you and I have no need to celebrate communion. Communion is for those who accept Christ’s atoning sacrifice for the remission or taking away of their sins.
As you consider what Jesus has done for you today, I beg of you to not let anyone lessen Christ’s sacrifice for you. Do not let the self-proclaimed intellectuals of our day rob you of knowing that Christ died for you because He had to in order to save us. You and I cannot simply turn away from sin on our own and hope to be saved as we are morally influenced.
As we come to this table today, let us recall the words of Peter where he reminded us that there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved than the name of Christ Jesus (Acts 4:12). It is my prayer that each of us will realize that without Christ we stand no chance of being saved, and that apart from Him we are lost. We only have hope because of His death on our behalf. Let us come to this table today in honor of that fact.
Died for Nothing
Midland SDA Church
July 24, 2010
Written By Pastor Darryl Bentley
Edited By Oyeniyi Olayemi Samuel