Thursday, 21 April 2011

Thank God it's (Good) Friday

You know the verse- for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish. It’s an amazing fact, yet I wonder why few people seem moved by it (unfortunately, I can say this from experience). Perhaps we’ve heard it once too many, but if that’s the case, we really ought to be careful not to slide down the slippery slope of apathy- apathy toward God.


Consider what we gained, and what it cost:

Forgiveness means giving up the right to seek repayment from the one who harmed you. But it must be recognized that forgiveness is a form of voluntary suffering. What does that mean?

Think about how monetary debts work. If a friend breaks my lamp, and if the lamp costs fifty dollars to replace, then the act of lamp-breaking incurs a debt of fifty dollars. If I let him pay for and replace the lamp, I get my lamp back and he’s out fifty dollars. But if I forgive him for what he did, the debt does not somehow vanish into thin air. When I forgive him, I absorb the cost and payment for the lamp: either I will pay the fifty dollars to replace it or I will lose the lighting in that room. To forgive is to cancel a debt by paying it or absorbing it yourself. Someone always pays every debt.

And then consider this:

We strongly reject, therefore, every explanation of the death of Christ which does not have at its centre the principle of ‘satisfaction through substitution’, indeed divine self-satisfaction through divine self-substitution.

The cross was not:

a commercial bargain with the devil, let alone one which tricked and trapped him;
nor an exact equivalent, a quid pro quo to satisfy a code of honour or technical point of law;
nor a compulsory submission by God to some moral authority above him from which he could not otherwise escape;
nor a punishment of a meek Christ by a harsh and punitive Father;
nor a procurement of salvation by a loving Christ from a mean and reluctant Father;
nor an action of the Father which bypassed Christ as Mediator.

Instead, the righteous, loving Father humbled himself to become in and through his only Son flesh, sin and a curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising his own character.

The theological words ‘satisfaction’ and ‘substitution’ need to be carefully defined and safeguarded, but they cannot in any circumstance be given up. The biblical gospel of atonement is of God satisfying himself by substituting himself for us.

- Excerpts from John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 159-160.

In other words: there is a debt that we can never pay. The debt isn’t cancelled by God. It is paid by God at a heavy price. He’s the only one who can. And He does it because he wants to. The question that comes to mind then is: why?

You know the verse. Let’s not be apathetic toward God as we celebrate Good Friday and Easter.

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