Author: Ron Graham
There are three words that we can easily commit to memory: perfection, punishment, price; which outline the wonderful things that Jesus accomplished by dying on the cross. These are necessary things which we could not possibly have done for ourselves...
Jesus offered to God his perfect life for us because we could not offer a perfect life of our own.
We are all born perfect, because God created our inmost being (Psalm 139:13). The "spirit returns to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7). All God's gifts are "good and perfect" (James 1:17).
But we are born into an imperfect world, and we have all allowed our perfect selves to be spoiled by the world. "Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12). All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
One man, however, made himself an exception. He said, "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48) and he practised what he preached. He lived a perfect life. He was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Unlike the rest of us, he remained "holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26).
Jesus was tempted in a special way by the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1). However that was not the end of his temptations. The devil left him only "until an opportune time" (Luke 4:13). All through life, Jesus was tempted. Looking back on his life, he said to his disciples, "You stood by me in my temptations" (Luke 22:28). Jesus never yielded, and came to the cross with a perfect life behind him.
As he came to his death, he was sorely tempted still. "His sweat became like great drops of blood" (Luke 22:44). He could have called more than twelve legions of angels to rescue him from death (Matthew 26:53). Even in his agony on the cross he was tempted and taunted, "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!" (Matthew 27:40). Yet Jesus yielded to nothing, except the will of his Father (Luke 22:42).
When we compare ourselves to Jesus, how imperfect we are! We cannot bring to God a perfect life. So we face rejection. Perhaps we could offer some substitute? Find another creature that is perfect, a lovely bird, an unblemished lamb? God did accept such offerings for a while, but he was never satisfied (Leviticus 22:21 Hebrews 10:6).
We can find but one substitute: the perfect life of Christ. When he "offered himself without blemish to God" (Hebrews 9:14) then God accepted him as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29 1Peter 1:19). He was manifested to take away our sins, and in him there is no sin (1John 3:5). We can claim the perfection of Christ Jesus to be accounted to us, as if it were our own, and God will accept that claim.
This covering of our own imperfection by the perfection of Christ, is called "sanctification". Christ is our "justification, sanctification, and redemption" (1Corinthians 1:30). Sanctification (or holiness) is ours by virtue of the perfect life which Jesus Christ offered to God on the cross.
Jesus was punished instead of us because our own punishment would have to be everlasting.
God's severity (Romans 11:22) demands not only perfection. God also demands extreme punishment for every imperfection.
In theory, we could expiate our sins by suffering the just punishment for them. But in practice that is impossible, because the just punishment is nothing less that the everlasting punishment prepared and reserved for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41, 46). We can hardly expiate our own sins by a never-ending destruction from the presence of the Lord (2Thessalonians 1:9).
God gives every human being in the womb a perfect spirit destined for eternal life with God in glory. The punishment for spoiling that perfection is not merely that this destiny is delayed, or that its glory is lessened, but that it is utterly lost. Since the punishment is eternal, it excludes eternal life.
But there is a solution. We recall that when Jesus offered his perfect life to God, he suffered punishment, which the Holy Spirit calls "the agony of death" (Acts 2:24). Why would God allow his only begotten Son, who did no sin, to be punished? Since he had no sin, he was not being punished for his own sin. Why then was he punished?
There can be only one reasonable answer to the question just asked. Christ must have been punished for the sins of someone else, and punished in their stead. That is why the gospel says, "The chastening for our well being fell upon him" (Isaiah 53:5) and "Christ suffered for you... the just for the unjust" (1Peter 2:21, 3:18).
The high priest himself had prophesied, "It is better for one to die... than all to perish" (John 11:50-51).
This punishment of the just for the unjust, is marvelous: Jesus, being perfect, was able to be "freed from the agony of death" (Acts 2:24) yet his agony for a season could still replace everyone else's agony for eternity!
This acceptance of Christ's punishment on the cross as a substitute for our own eternal punishment, is called "justification". Christ is our "justification, sanctification, and redemption" (1Corinthians 1:30). Justification (or being counted as righteous) is ours by virtue of the vicarious suffering which Jesus Christ endured on the cross.
Jesus paid the price for us which we could not give in exchange for our own souls..
God demands even more than perfection and punishment. He also demands a price be paid. When we look at our ruined lives we can see that we no longer belong to God, we belong to Satan. We must say with Paul, "I am carnal, sold under sin" (Romans 7:14). Of course, God did not sell us, we sold ourselves like the people of old who "sold themselves to do evil" (2Kings 17:17, 1Kings 21:20).
Only those who belong to Satan face the eternal punishment prepared for Satan! Why should we share Satan's destiny if he does not own us? We became his possession when we sinned, and God recognises that.
God will not fight injustice with injustice. God will not steal from Satan what belongs to Satan, no matter how deceptively Satan engineered that ownership. We can be transferred from Satan's ownership to God's ownership only upon payment of the proper price.
We sold ourselves for a price --the pleasures of sin for a season (Hebrews 11:25). But we cannot buy back our freedom, There is no realistic answer to the question, "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26).
That is our predicament: We sold ourselves for a fool's price. To buy ourselves back requires an impossible price. We cannot blame God for this mess. We are the offenders, and God is the offended.
Our only hope would be to find someone able to pay a price in exchange for our souls. That is not so hopeless as it sounds, because there is such a one. It is Jesus, and the price is his blood. Jesus does not have to give anything in exchange for his soul, because he is perfect. So when he gave his own precious blood, God deemed that a suitable price to cancel Satan’s claim upon us —if we wish.
Thus the severity of God falls upon Jesus, and the goodness of God falls upon us. (John 3:16). Therefore the gospel says, "You have been bought with a price" (1Corinthians 6:20, 7:23) and "God purchased the church with his own blood" (Acts 20:28).
The heavenly song praises Jesus, "You purchased for God with your blood men from every nation" (Revelation 5:9). As Jesus faced his own death, he spoke of his "blood... shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28).
This paying of our purchase price, is called "redemption". He is our "justification, sanctification, and redemption" (1Corinthians 1:30). This redemption (or buying of freedom) is ours by virtue of the "precious blood" of Jesus Christ shed on the cross (1Peter 1:19).