If a man could live a perfect life, he would never be separated from the presence of God. But sin has placed the great gulf of spiritual death between each human being and his Creator. In this lesson, we shall examine the cure for sin that God has made possible through Jesus Christ.
It has never been possible for man to atone (make amends) for his own sins. We cannot by performing a multitude of good deeds erase our transgressions of God’s laws. Because separation from God results from sin, God will not listen to our pleas until atonement has been made for our mistakes. Isaiah declares this in saying, ‘But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.’ Isaiah 59:2
In spite of man’s sin, however, God still loved him and was determined to make possible a means of forgiveness. Since man could not atone for his own sins that required that God provide an atonement for him. This means of salvation was to proceed from God’s grace rather than from man’s merit, so we read, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.’ Ephesians 2:8-9
Let us illustrate this by comparing it to a man brought into court for failure to pay his debts. (Several years ago this was often done.) Just as the judge is about to pass a sentence, a friend comes forth and pays the debts. The prisoner is released, not because he has paid his debts, but because another has paid them for him. Similarly, God has provided a means of paying our debts (sins) because we are unable to discharge them ourselves.
It is God’s will that atonement is made for sins by the shedding of blood. We read, ‘without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.’ Hebrews 9:22
Why does God require a blood sacrifice to atone for sins? We are not told. That He does require it, however, should be reason enough for us to accept the fact.
When God gave the children of Israel the Law of Moses to govern them until the coming of Christ, He provided for animal sacrifices in which blood would be shed for the sins of the people. In these sacrifices (and there were many of them) only the best animals were used. The injured and blemished were rejected.
In spite of this, these sacrifices were imperfect and never actually took away the people’s sins. We might say that they paid the interest on the debt until the crucifixion of Christ when the sins would be forever removed.
This seems to be the idea in Hebrews 10:1, 3, 4 where we read, ‘For the law … can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect … but in those sacrifices, there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins.’
Since animal sacrifices could not remove sins there was but one perfect sacrifice that could be offered, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. God, therefore, sent Him to earth to die on the cross, shedding His blood to atone for the sins of man. This teaching is beautifully expressed in that verse often called the golden text of the Bible, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3:16
For some thirty years during which He was tried in every way, possible Jesus lived on earth. He ‘Was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.’ Hebrews 4:15. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ 1 Peter 2:22
Being without sin He was a perfect sacrifice for the transgressions of man.
When He was arrested by the Jews, tried by Pilate, and crucified by the Roman soldiers to shed His blood upon the cross, He gave His life as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of all mankind, those who had lived before and those who were yet to be born.
That Christ died for us is taught in many places, Romans 5:7-9 / 1 John 1:7 / Ephesians 1:7. The wonderful message of redemption around which the entire Bible centres is found in these verses.
Since Jesus died for our sins, does this mean that all men will be saved by His sacrifice? Indeed, it does not. The prisoner before the bar of justice for failure to pay his debts may reject the offer made on his behalf. Christ died to make it possible for men to be forgiven through Him, but no one is compelled to come to Him for salvation, Hebrews 5:9.
To the man who does not obey Christ, He is not the author of salvation.
Since we must obey Jesus there is something we must do to accept Him. We know, ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.’ Romans 8:1
If we learn how we get into Christ where there is no condemnation we will also learn how we may accept His sacrifice offered on our behalf on the cross. We are therefore told in Romans 6:3, ‘Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?’
Similarly, ‘For as many of you as have been ‘baptised into his death’ have put on Christ.’ Galatians 3:27
Baptism, then, is our means of getting into Christ where there is no condemnation and where there is forgiveness. Since we are ‘baptised into his death’ we are in this way able to reach His blood which was shed when He died and without which we cannot be saved. We should note, however, that baptism is not acceptable to God unless it is preceded and accompanied by faith, John 3:16, and repentance, Acts 2:38, on our part.
Once one is ‘in Christ’ he may as a Christian ask God through prayer to forgive those sins he commits from time to time. Children of God are to strive to keep from sinning, but ‘My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.’ 1 John 2:1-2
God will hear His children so long as they attempt to live in accordance with His will.