Why the Sacrifice of the Son of God? (Part 4)

As Murray has shown us this week, not only was the sacrifice of the Son of God necessary for our forgiveness and justification, and not only was it necessary as the supreme demonstration of the love of God, but, as Murray goes on to explain, this costly sacrifice was necessary on account of the vindicatory justice of God. The incomprehensible gravity and atrociousness of our sin necessitated it.

He writes, “Sin is the contradiction of God and he must react against it with holy indignation (cf. Deut. 27:26; Nahum 1:2; Rom. 1:17; 3:21-26; Gal 3:10, 13). It is this inviolable sanctity of God’s law, the immutable dictate of holiness and the unflinching demand for justice, that makes mandatory the conclusion that salvation from sin without expiation and propitiation is inconceivable. It is this principle that explains the sacrifice of the Lord of glory, the agony of Gethsemane, and the abandonment of the accursed tree. It is this principle that undergirds the great truth that God is just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. For in the work of Christ the dictates of holiness and the demands of justice have been fully vindicated. God set him forth to be a propitiation to declare his [own] righteousness(18).

No judge who lets a guilty man go free could ever be considered just. But Christ, in bearing our penalty in his body, provided the only way by which God could be both just and our justifer. The balance of these two truths is crucial, friend. For if God were only just, but not merciful, we would be without hope and forever condemned. But if God were only merciful in our justification, but not interested in justice, then grace would be cheap, and the precious Son of God will have died for no reason.


2 thoughts on “Why the Sacrifice of the Son of God? (Part 4)”

  1. Mook,

    Do you think that the following scenario would go over well in our society? –

    A man is tried for murder. He is found guilty – a unamimous decision by the jury. The law requires capital punishment. But, instead of sentencing the man to death, he sentences another person, an innocent person, in his place – the man’s lawyer. The lawyer has lived an upright life and chooses to bear the penelty for his client’s evils. The judge agrees to the exhange. The “guilty” man is set free and instructed to seek a more noble life.

    Would this judge be counted “just” by today’s society? I don’t think so. I think there would be an uproar of popular protest.

    God’s being both just and our justifier is beautiful in our eyes. It makes sense to us because we understand that this was/is God’s system, his way of things. But, I think it still sounds unjust to a great many souls in the world today. If I commit a crime, I need to pay the penalty for MY OWN failings. A judge can’t simply apply my deserved penalty to another! I need to do penance! I need to pay the price. This is justice! The guilty are punished. The innocent live free. Yes – this is jusitce!

    Just thinking,

  2. Thomas, I think you’ve put your finger right on the spot where this (overly used) illustration breaks down. There’s no way the judge would be counted “just.” In fact, he would be disbarred and removed from the bench.

    Isn’t it ironic that Rom. 3:21-26 decribes this sort of “punishment-receiver swap” as a means to show that God is just?

    Probably the main problem with this illustration, though I find that it can be helpful in many cases, which gives rise to the rest of its problems is that Jesus’ substitutionary atonement is not viewed, in the New Testament, primarily in terms that recall the justice system – neither ours nor Second Temple Judaism’s. The most frequent depiction of Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice is in terms set forth in OT animal sacrifice (i.e. hands placed on the head of a lamb, thus transferring one’s sins to it, and then slaughtering it). This is, no doubt, the imagery that would have come immediately to mind when a Jew read “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood” (Rom. 3:25).

    But, then again, most people in our day and age can’t really wrap their head around animal sacrifice as a means to deal with sin! So, where do we go from here?

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