"THE GOSPEL INVITATION"
(Why Jesus Died)
By Larry White
(Originally delivered in Baker City, OR. December 6, 1987)
Why did Jesus die?
There are many reasons for the death of Christ and many ways of looking at what he did when he gave his life. When we view his death as it relates to our sin - several points strike me as important.
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God has set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, [I say], at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus.
The forbearance of God is the idea that before Christ, men sinned, but God tolerated their sin for a time without punishing it. God is a being against whom no creature can revolt without meriting death. His nature is the absolute love of the good, which is his holiness; absolutely separate from sin and evil. Like the Seraphim in Isaiah 6 cried before his throne "Holy, Holy, Holy." In the book of Revelation they are seen to do this night and day without ceasing. When words are doubled in the original languages, it means "very much so". Like the temple's "Holy of Holies" (the most holy place) or like Jesus' "Truly, truly" (most assuredly true). When things are tripled, they may be trying to convey an absolute. There is none other holier than God.
To maintain the good and holiness in the universe, there is God's response to sin of justice and wrath. But before Christ came, you had for about 4,000 years, the spectacle of man in the earth sinning and God forbearing to punish. It was like a scandal to the whole moral universe. With the exception of some great examples of judgment, divine righteousness seemed to be sleeping. Men sinned and yet went right on living and finally coming to a ripe old age.
But God had in his plan a time when he would demonstrate his righteousness and his justice. Paul uses the words "whom God set forth [beforehand] to be a propitiation." John says in Rev.13:8 that he is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." So it was always in God's plan to deal with the sin of man and not to forebear forever.
Jesus is given as the propitiation through faith in his blood. Propitiation is the idea that by Christ's death the wrath and justice of God was appeased; that now, God can respond to sinful man, not out of a position of wrath, but out of the higher attribute of compassion and love - which was in him and from which he wanted to respond all along.
This propitiation demonstrates the justice or righteousness of God. But how?
1.) By the fact of Christ's violent and bloody death. God took the deserved punishment of sinful man, and took it out on his innocent son.
(2Cor.5:21) "God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin."
(Gal.3:13) "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us."
(1Pet.2:24) "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree."
God's justice is demonstrated because he did to Jesus what he should have done to me, and every other sinful man. By one striking and solemn manifestation of his justice, he has burned into the hearts and consciences of mankind, forever, the weight of punishment that sin carries. This is what God thinks of sin !
2.) Another way the cross demonstrated God's justice was by the mute resignation and calm with which Jesus allowed himself to be led to the slaughter. He showed what idea or view that Jesus himself had of God's majesty and the judgment that he was passing on the sin of the world. He was saying in effect, "You are right Holy Father to do this."
The cross of Christ was his perfect homage given to the righteousness of God. His death put each in his rightful place; the Holy God on his throne and rebellious man in the dust.
→! Now, to those who get the point, Christ is our propitiation through faith in his blood. We render homage personally to the right God has over us. We see in our own selves the malefactor, worthy of death, who should have undergone and accepted all that Jesus underwent and accepted. I realize in my own moral conscience that the cross is my place; that Jesus died for me.
Therefore, sin is judged (condemned) in our conscience, just as it was in the dying of Jesus.
When we appropriate to ourselves the sacrifice for sin that Jesus effected to God's outraged majesty and justice, then we ourselves are crucified along with Jesus in the eyes of God. Moral order is then reestablished - we are reconciled to God and God can forgive all our sins. Moral order is reestablished, because we are agreeing with the justice of God, just like Jesus agreed with it.
In giving the invitation of Christ over and over again, there is a danger in losing sight of the significance of what we are saying. You can hear some preachers say we must hear/believe/repent/confess/and be baptized for the remission of sins (all in one breath) and if there is any significance at all in these things, it's just stated in the fact that these things MUST be done. The cross of Christ in the gospel invitation is most times not referred to or even alluded to.
While I was in the service, I lived in Florida for a while and I was introduced to a young lady at a member's house. I quickly learned that she was a Baptist and she invited me to explain the difference between our churches. Well, I immediately told her everything I knew about Immersion. When I had finished with the plan of salvation - she said, "But you haven't said anything about Jesus." To that I responded, "Well, I've been quoting him."
But we were both right. I was right because I was giving her what she lacked, telling her where the Baptists go wrong about immersion - and she was right because she gave me what I lacked; I really had not said anything about Jesus.
When we give the invitation of Christ, what significance do the conditions have? Everything must relate to the sacrifice of Christ or it is meaningless.
HEAR What are they to hear? They can hear a lot of things from a teacher or preacher. But to be saved, the one important thing they must hear is that Jesus is the son of God and he came and died for their sins. That even though we are ungodly, disobedient sinners, who have outraged the majesty of God and fallen short of his glory, Jesus laid down his life as a substitute sacrifice for us. That it should have been us on the cross.
Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he [was] wounded for our transgressions, [he was] bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace [was] upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
This is the same passage that Philip started with when he spoke to the Ethiopian Eunuch and preached to him Jesus.
BELIEVE: What are they to believe? The average sermon has a multitude of things that can and should be believed. But to be saved, the need of the moment is to trust in the sacrifice of Jesus for their sins. Paul used the phrase, "through faith in his blood." (Rom.3:25) When we ask them to believe - believe and put their trust in the fact that the blood of Jesus, God's only son, can wash their life clean of sin. To believe that Jesus' sacrifice took care of their sin - Jesus took their place and because of his sacrifice, they can be right with God. This is what we believe. Jesus died for me.
REPENT: To repent is to have a change of heart, literally a change of mind. When we by faith view the death of Jesus and account it to ourselves, then we judge sin as God judged it on the cross, and we agree with him. We concur with the death of Christ and agree, it should have been us. Now, how can we go on living in sin? There must be a break from it. We die with Christ.
To repent: It's a change of mind that instead of living my life my way, I'm going to live my life to please Jesus Christ.
For the love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then all died: And [that] he died for all, that they which live should not from now on, live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
So it still relates to faith in the sacrifice of Christ. Since Jesus died for me, that causes me to change my mind about my life. Now I see it the way Jesus sees it. And since he gave his life for me, I'm giving my life to him.
CONFESSION: Why do we ask for a confession before people are immersed? Why did Philip ask the Eunuch? (Acts 8) "If you believe with all your heart you may." Like Philip, we make sure they believe - because if they do not have faith in Christ, they are just going to get wet.
There is also something about a public confession that seals that belief in our hearts and contributes to our new identity. It's really a profession. If the faith is really there, we profess it. We align ourselves with God. We take our stand publicly with Christ and we make the profession that he is Lord and we are his subjects.
That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
IMMERSION: What significance does immersion have in the Gospel invitation? What significance could it have, if it is not in the death of Jesus for our sins, his burial and his resurrection - and our faith in that sacrifice?
We are still agreeing with what Jesus did on the cross. We say, in effect, "I am dying with Jesus. I am being crucified to the sin that separates me from God, the sin for which Christ died, and I am trusting him to forgive me and wash me in the blood of Jesus and raise me up by his power to a new life in Christ."
This faith at immersion can be seen in:
Col.2:11-13 (a very important passage).
In whom also you are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in immersion, wherein also you are risen with [him] through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has he made alive together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
When we are immersed, we are trusting in Christ to bury that old life we had - with him in the grave, washing us clean, and raise us up by the power and the working of God, to a new spiritual life.
The significance of immersion then is that, "I believe in Jesus Christ, and that he died for my sins, and because of his sacrifice, I'm dying with him and trusting in him to save me."
Everything relates to the cross of Jesus Christ and our faith in him and the propitiation or appeasement given to God there in that sacrifice.
To the person who refuses this propitiation and continues to outrage God's majesty and justice, the cross of Christ is a continual proof that the wrath and the justice displayed there is waiting for him if he fails to take advantage of what Jesus did. The wrath of God abides on him.
So, by the cross, God can remain just and at the same time be the justifier of the person who believes in Jesus.
By Faith, you can apply what Jesus did on the cross to your own life and condition.
THAT'S THE GOSPEL INVITATION
God's grace in the cross of Christ can save you from the wrath that is coming on sinful and rebellious man. If you are outside of Christ and want to come to him for salvation - we, the church, and God himself invite you to step to the front and make that known.