Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘The Cross of Christ

The Salvation of the Thief on the Cross

One of the most amazing stories in the midst of the mockery of the trials of Jesus Christ before and His crucifixion is the salvation of the thief on the cross.  Here is Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of the world and the Jews and the Roman guards are mocking Him and beating Him and laughing at Him.  Yet in the midst of this, Jesus saves the very man who is hanging next to Him on the cross.  We read this account in Luke 23:32-43:

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

What is amazing to me about this story is that Jesus’ work on the cross shows us that this was not in vain.  Jesus was not dying hoping to bring people to salvation but this event would ensure that millions would be saved through the cross.  Even at this dark moment, the Spirit of God was working on the very criminal who is hanging next to Jesus to bring Him to salvation.  There are so many pictures of God’s salvation in the crucifixion of Jesus.  We read in Matthew 27:15-23 that the Jews chose Barabbas over Jesus, a guilty sinner over the perfect Son of God.  This is all of us!  We are Barabbas!  We are guilty before God Almighty of sinning yet He sent His one and only Son to die for our sins (1 Peter 3:18).  Jesus faithfully obeyed the Father to save sinners like us, like Barabbas, like the thief on the cross.

Matthew 27:44 tells us that the thieves on the cross mocked Jesus along with the Jews and Romans.  Yet here in Luke 23 we now find a broken man.  What happened?  What moved this thief to come to see that he needed to be saved?  What was it about Jesus that caused him to come to repentance.  We know that he repented because of his statement in Luke 23:41.  He even recognized in Luke 23:40 that Jesus’ death was a vicarious death.  Jesus was dying as an innocent man and this thief knew this, he knew that Jesus was dying for others.  He begs Jesus for forgiveness in Luke 23:42 and Jesus gives him the assurance of heaven in Luke 23:43.

I use to read this passage and while I acknowledged the forgiveness of the sins of the thief, I use to mock those who would use this passage for salvation today.  After all, Jesus had the power on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:10) and this event took place before the final death of Jesus and His resurrection.  Yet I see in this story the beauty of justification by faith.  This thief is hanging on a cross, he is nearly dead and there is nothing he can do to earn God’s forgiveness nor the favor Jesus.  He simply must come to Jesus.  Jesus alone, hanging on the cross next to Him, is his only hope.  Is that not us?  Is that not me?  I am dead without Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-3).  I cannot live without Jesus (John 15:1-11).  I can live but I cannot live forever with the Son of God.  I am sinful before God.  My entire being is tainted by sin (Romans 3:10-18) yet Jesus, the perfect Son of God who never sinned, took my place and He reconciled me to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  It was His work and not my works that saved me (John 19:30; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

I pray that this day we would rejoice in knowing that Jesus died for our sins (Galatians 1:4).  His death was necessary so that we could be forgiven and through faith in Him, we are forgiven (Acts 13:38-39; 15:11).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/29/2013 at 9:42 PM

The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul

I highly recommend you to get a free copy of The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul for the Kindle.  This book is a wonderful book that explores the depths of the cross.  It is a book that each disciple should read in preparing for Resurrection Sunday as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  However, before we can celebrate the empty tomb, we should tremble at the cross as we recognize what our Savior did for our salvation (Galatians 1:4).

This deal will not last long.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/26/2013 at 10:05 AM

Four Aspects of Christ’s Atonement

Dr. Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology text, offers four aspects of Christ’s atonement based on four needs we have as sinners before God:

1.  We deserve to die as the penalty for sin.
2.  We deserve to bear God’s wrath against sin.
3.  We are separated from God by our sins.
4.  We are in bondage to sin and to the kingdom of Satan.

Grudem then gives us the four aspects of Christ’s vicarious atonement that helped with the above needs in us sinners.

1.  Sacrifice (Hebrews 9:26).  Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins.  He is our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7).

2.  Propitiation (1 John 4:10).  Christ removes the wrath of God from us by being our propitiation for our sins before God.

3.  Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).  Christ has reconciled us to God by dying for our sins that had separated us from God.

4.  Redemption (Mark 10:45; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 2:15).  While I reject the idea that a price was paid by Christ to Satan or to our sins, it is biblical to say that Jesus redeemed us and brought us to God.  We are saved from Satan and sin!

Is it not exciting to know that Christ is our salvation and He takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29)?  He is our peace, our satisfaction, our righteousness, our Lord, our Master, and our King!  He is the One that is worthy to be praised for saving us from sin and its power.  Jesus alone is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2 NIV).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/26/2013 at 12:06 PM

Good Friday

My little boys struggle with calling Good Friday as that, “Good” Friday.  Why is it good?  If Jesus died on the cross this day then surely that is not a “good” Friday but a “bad” and even “horrible” Friday that the only perfect person, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, the Lord Himself come down in the form of human flesh was nailed to the cross by wicked people is not a “good” Friday.

But it is!

Without the cross, there is no resurrection.  Without the cross, there is no forgiveness of our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17).  Without the cross, there is no way that we could come boldly into the presence of God in prayer (Hebrews 4:14-16).  Without the cross, our hope would be built on the Law of Moses and seeking to please God through the rituals of animal sacrifice that could never fully take away sin (Hebrews 10:4).  Without the cross, we could not celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and see the glory of God someday (John 14:1-6).

This is good Friday because of the joy that comes from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  His blood now cleanses and sanctifies us (Ephesians 1:7; 5:25; Hebrews 10:14).  The blood of Jesus allows me to confess my sins to the Father and know that He forgives me (1 John 1:7-9).  The blood of Jesus appeases the just wrath of God against our sins (1 John 2:1-2).  The blood of Jesus is sufficient to wash all our sins away (Hebrews 8:12).  The blood of Jesus purifies our hearts from dead works so that we can serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14).  The blood of Jesus was shed to establish this blood covenant with our holy God so that through His grace and His mercy we can be saved (Matthew 26:28).  His blood frees us from the curse of sin under the Law (Acts 13:38-39; Galatians 3:13-14).

But what I believe is so wonderful about Good Friday is that it pleased God to crush His Son for our sins (Isaiah 53:11-12).  Jesus died for us but even more, He died for God.  2 Corinthians 5:18-19 says, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that it, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”  God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself by the giving of Himself for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-6).  The wonder of it all!  The wonder that God came down as man (John 1:1, 14; Philippians 2:5-11) so that we could be saved from the wrath of God through Him (Romans 5:1-11).  What wonder is the cross!  What wonder is this Lamb that was slain!  What joy we receive from His great sacrifice for our sins.

So this is a good Friday because of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He gave His all for us.  How can I not give Him any less (Luke 14:25-35)?

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/06/2012 at 9:38 AM

Justification and the Resurrection

Who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
– Romans 4:25

The importance of the resurrection can never be understated in Christianity.  Unlike Islam which bases its foundation the teachings of their prophet Mohammad and somewhat on the teachings of the Quran, Christianity bases its foundation on the person and work of Jesus Christ and in particular His resurrection from the dead.  The book of Acts demonstrates this reality, that the resurrection was central to the teachings of the Apostles.  The Apostles understood that if Jesus was not risen from the dead, they had no faith.  Even in Acts 1:22 Peter states that the replacement of Judas as an Apostle would have to be one who was an eye-witness to the resurrection of Christ.  On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:23-24).  In Acts 3:15 Peter and John declare again that Jesus is risen from the dead.  In Acts 4:10 Peter preached before the very Jews whom he had been afraid of several weeks earlier and now he is preaching boldly that Jesus is risen from the dead.  And it goes on and on the same throughout the book of Acts.

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul the Apostle spends nearly the entire chapter dealing with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He builds his case that if Jesus is not risen from the dead then we are still dead in our sins before God (1 Corinthians 15:17).  Paul ends his arguments on the resurrection of Christ by pointing out that if Christ is rinse from the dead then this guarantees our resurrection as well (1 Corinthians 15:5-58).  The resurrection of Christ is our foundation.

What is amazing is how Paul, in Romans 4:25, builds the fact that Jesus’ resurrection brings our justification.  We often speak of the cross of Christ and we speak of the importance of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins as does Paul at the beginning of verse 25 but the reality is that without the resurrection of Jesus, we are still dead in our sins.  If Christ is not risen, our sins were not atoned for.  If Christ is not risen, God passed over the sacrifice of Christ.  If Christ is not risen, He would not be our sinless Savior who gave Himself as a propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:1-2).  The death of Jesus cannot be overlooked for it was on the cross that our sins were nailed and forgiven (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7).  Isaiah the prophet made it clear in Isaiah 53:5 that Jesus would pay for the sins of others.  He would be the Lamb of God who takes away our sins (John 1:29), the Savior of the world (John 4:42).

And then we come to Romans 4:25.  Here Paul clearly states that the resurrection is where we were justified.  Why?  Because if Jesus was not raised from the dead, He died for His own sins.  The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  God said in Ezekiel 18:4 that the soul that sins shall die.  Jesus never sinned.  He lived a perfect life of obedience unto the Father (1 Peter 2:22; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5) so that His death was for our sins.  His very purpose was to come and die (Matthew 1:21).  And yet the resurrection guarantees that the Father has accepted the sacrifice of the Son for our sins.  Jesus’ resurrection proves that His blood was (and is) sufficient for our sins (1 John 1:7).

As we enter into the Passover season, let us, as disciples of Jesus Christ, make every ambition to exalt Jesus as the risen one.  His death was vital for our forgiveness but His resurrection guarantees that we are truly forgiven and justified before God.  The resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith, the cornerstone of our salvation, and it is the basis for our assurance of our salvation.  We have ample proof given to us in the Gospels that Jesus is alive and He will return (Hebrews 9:27-28).  I long to see Him face to face (1 John 3:1-4) and behold the One who died for me and was raised for my justification.    

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/27/2012 at 10:28 AM

The Cross

For the first time ever I received an e-mail asking why I would speak so highly of the cross.  The writer accused me (and Christians in general) of idolatry by saying that we worship the cross above God.  They claimed that the cross was a pagan symbol that was introduced into Christianity by Constantine in the 4th century but is not found in the New Testament.  They appealed to the Greek word, stauros, as proof that Jesus was not crucified on a cross but a stake.

I have heard such teaching before from Jehovah’s Witnesses but this person claims not to be JW.  The JW’s have long fought against the cross and have no crosses in their meeting halls or homes and the New World Translation always translate the word as “stake” instead of “cross.”  Are they correct?

There are many problems with their view.  First, the word stauros can be translated a stake but a specific stake is in mind, a stake for execution.  In this case, the death of a human being.  Nearly every major Lexicon will show that the Greek word was associated with the Roman form of execution, crucifixion.  I don’t know of any major lexicons that do not associate the Greek word with the cross.

Secondly, biblical archeology shows that the normal way that the Romans crucified someone was upright on a beamed pole.  We know this from drawings from the era and from bodies found with spikes still intact in the dead person.  It was clear from the human remains that the person was nailed into a pole (or cross) in an upright manner with their feet and arms nailed through.

Lastly, the point of doing away with the cross is nothing more than the working of Satan.  The JW’s want to deny the cross because of the many problems it brings to their false theology.  Jesus truly was nailed to the cross for our sins and He died there.  He rose again and yet He still had the marks to prove His own death in John 20:27.

The New Testament is likewise full of references to the cross.  The cross serves as a reminder of the One who we worship, who gave His life for our lives (2 Corinthians 5:21).  The cross serves as a reminder for ourselves to die to this world and to ourselves (Matthew 10:38; 16:24; Mark 10:21; Luke 9:23-25).  The cross signifies that our salvation is finished (John 19:30).  The cross calls us to the true gospel of God’s grace given to us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:16).  It is the gospel that Paul preached (1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:1-5) and that he took glory in (Galatians 6:14).  Paul spoke of enemies of the cross (Philippians 3:18).  He spoke of the peace we have with God through the cross (Colossians 1:20).

The cross stands for the suffering our Savior endured for our sins (Hebrews 12:2).  We don’t worship the cross.  We do praise God for the cross of Christ because it was there that our sins were nailed (Colossians 2:14-15).  Because of Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection, we took can now walk in the newness of life in Him (Romans 6:1-4).

I praise God for the cross.  I find no power in a charm that hangs around someones neck nor is there power by a cross hanging above a building.  The true power of the cross is found in the Holy Spirit who lives in disciples (Romans 8:9).  He empowers us to live godly lives (Titus 2:11-12).  The power of the cross is not in just two boards put together.  The cross is only powerful when it points us to the risen Savior who lives forever.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/04/2012 at 5:56 PM

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