50. Wasn’t the Cross necessary so God could forgive sins?
Only indirectly. The problem lay in our own hard-hearted estrangement from God, so that we neither recognize our fatal sins nor change our minds and turn back to Him, much less beg for pardon! Yet notwithstanding, no amount of divine forgiveness would pre-empt our destruction, which would result anyway as the fruit of our sins. By itself, such forgiveness would be little better than tokenism. In upright forbearance, God often passes over the penalties due to human sin, but regardless He still seeks to woo us back to Himself so He can lavish His Spirit on us with continuous fresh waves of life and love. The refusal of people to turn back to Him and stay in His regenerative Explanation provokes His indignation and, sadly, can lead to premature and even final destruction. The real problem requiring an efficacious atonement, therefore, is not how to get God to forgive our sins but rather how we can possibly outlive death in spite of His kind remission, since we all pay the same penalty for our sins that Adam did for his and die regardless of every temporal pardon. Or hadn’t you noticed? That conundrum necessitates that we get drawn back to our Maker to acquire some elixir of life yet more potent than daily release from our accumulating debt of offenses, dwindling though they should be. God unseated Sin by dethroning Death, not the other way around. Only a Sinless One could conquer Death, of course, according to the equity of God’s justice. Consequently, the ‘sin problem’ had already been solved (mostly) in Christ’s own person before he ever took up his ultimate weapon—the Cross. Yet had he not stayed sinless through this greatest of all Satan’s fiery trials and temptations to revile his tormentors, blaspheme God, and fend for himself, all would have been lost. There could have been no display of God’s righteousness in raising him from the dead. Absence of Resurrection = absence of Holy Spirit = absence of the life-giving power of the Lord “Our Righteousness” for us = the presence of Sin in us = the continuing reign of Death over us = no hope for us.
49. Weren’t our sins forgiven at the Cross?
By no means. Our sins are released as we trust the Savior—officially appointed so by Resurrection from the dead—and declare him Lord. The Cross, in connection with its resurrectionary sequel, proves to humanity God’s willingness to pardon even our most heinous wrongs, and to lay aside punishment, provided we change our minds and turn back to Him in order to be legitimated as His daughters and sons. Without learning about this Cross-Resurrection-Pentecost history, we would scarcely have the courage to approach the Almighty for the heartfelt forgiveness He has perennially been so eager to extend us. We had not because we asked not, in our dark ignorance of the Most High.
48. Didn’t the Cross render God gracious toward sinners?
Not exactly. The Cross provoked God’s swift reversal in stupendous resurrectionary power, simultaneously demonstrating His rescuing justice toward this perfectly innocent Victim as well as giving him, as part of his rightful award, the Gift stemming from that fair judicial decision and proceeding from the Father—an unprecedented degree of the very Spirit of graciousness for him to extend graciously to whomever he wishes. Besides that, we observe a further historic display of graciousness precisely in His not breaking out in well-deserved penal justice toward His treasonous people. Of course God had all along been merciful, kind, patient, and tolerant toward sinners, but this new superabundance of graciousness went over the top because it stemmed from well-deserved restorative justice to the wrongly Crucified One. A new age had dawned!
47. How did the Cross of Christ make peace?
By surrendering to the authority of his malicious foes and allowing them to abuse him and deprive him of his rightful due as the heir to David’s throne over Israel, in fact by absorbing their every blow instead of retaliating, reviling, or exercising his Messianic rights and divine authority to fight them and avenge himself, Jesus resolutely gave up his prerogative to condemn his enemies and without complaint permitted them to exhaust their hatred on him. In strategic reinforcement of that disposition, God Himself, for His part, likewise refused to retaliate for what was being done to His dearest Loved One. This grand historic exhibit of longsuffering showed just how far the Son and the Father alike were willing to go in order to reclaim sinners and bitter foes, even though They would have been fully within Their rights to consign them to Gehenna. By thus laying to rest Their own rights not to be sinned against (all sin is ultimately against God), Father and Son in perfect alliance made peace, brought shalom—a state of prosperity where there are negligible outstanding grievances or unmet obligations to incite hostilities…or where they have been pardoned outright! In effect, Father and Son jointly pacified and propitiated mankind in a strategic coup, overturning infernally inspired and ingrained myths about Deity. They extended mercy to the perpetrators by not demanding their punishment forthwith. This gave force and credibility to apostolic appeals for conciliation with God since He had dramatically intervened in an unmistakably superhuman and totally unexpected manner on his own behalf. This certified, as nothing else possibly could, that if they accepted his terms of unconditional surrender, nonstop refreshment from on high would be their legacy from that moment on; having melted under the warmth of God’s graciousness, they need never burn under the heat of His wrathfulness. They could now enjoy not merely mercy, not only peace, but also graciousness in Christ! For having been conciliated through the very death they caused him while being his enemies, much rather, as friends now, they will all the more be saved from the coming judgment through the overflowing life God paid him back, now operating graciously in them, too, by His Spirit.
46. Wasn’t God reconciled to mankind by the Cross?
God has never been an enemy of mankind but only desires our best. That’s why He warned Adam and Eve about the fatal danger of eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. After their trespass, enfeebled minds became incrementally darkened and came to imagine that God hated them instead of their fateful wrongs. That’s also why conciliation is entirely a unilateral invitation for human beings to return to their Maker and become obedient to His desire. It’s grounded in the solid historic demonstration of God non-violently appeasing and pacifying humanity at awesome personal expense. May God be blessed for His extravagantly costly peacemaking!
45. Wasn’t reconciliation of the whole world objectively accomplished at the Cross?
Certainly not. The new era of wide scale conciliation to God had not even commenced at the historic moment of the Jewish Messiah’s crucifixion. That was an out-and-out victory for his enemies, short lived though it proved. That was the triumph of darkness. Be that as it may, the event of his Cross, properly viewed from the revolutionary perspective of his Resurrection, can and does bring about the conciliation of hosts of estranged people. Yet nobody was conciliated the day Jesus died except a single criminal crucified along with him. And that, it so happens, is the proper pattern. We are conciliated to God one by one as we accept the old, old Story about how Israel’s Messiah, in the power of God’s Spirit, graciously behaved in the face of unprovoked assaults from a few sinners like us, even though he had done nothing but good at great personal cost throughout his life and possessed full authority to destroy them on the spot if he had desired. The Resurrection was proof positive from God Himself that Jesus was indeed His only-born Son and true Messiah and therefore could indeed have used his judicial powers to condemn his enemies if that were his intention. These are the grounds for our authoritative appeals for people to change their minds about God and be conciliated to Him instead of staying alienated from their only hope of lasting life.
44. Didn’t the atonement occur at the Cross?
Protective shelter concerning sin was accomplished when the rescued and glorified Jesus, the Lamb of God slain at the Cross, ascended to heaven and offered his more-than-restored existence alive from the dead in the sanctuary made without hands, before the very face of his Father—the most wholesome place in the universe—and sat down on the throne with Him to intercede forgivingly on behalf of all mankind for their safekeeping and flourishing. He thereupon sent in the promised Holy Spirit to do the honors of passing out the presents that constitute our startup capital to invest in order to increase our Savior’s credit for all he’s done for us so that he receives a manifold return on his passionate investment in such often unpromising material. Thus he can view with deep satisfaction his reward for suffering wrongful abuse: the inheritance of a people as his very own, molded by his own Spirit—us! All of this was ritually depicted under the Old Covenant on the Day of Atonement by the chief priest when entering the Holy of Holies and spattering the blood on the protective cover over the Ark of the Covenant and all its contents. Thus the Son now actually presides over all that was only symbolically contained in the Ark—God’s miraculously delivered directives for abundant life, His miraculous sustenance, and His miraculous rod of power for rescue, provision, healing, and more. Stripped of his mortal flesh, along with its genetic corruption, in the “circumcision” of the Cross, and now glorified with a vivifying Spiritual body, he therewith made a cleansing of all things in heaven, having displaced sin by the same anti-decay power that raised him from the dead, before assuming the throne with his Father. That cleanup proceeds on earth as people believe God’s News and exert the recreative power of His Kingdom in their surroundings. Thus atonement continues so long as Christ intercedes for, and supplies the flow of his power to those in communion with him by faith.