For Whom Did Jesus Die?
Great piece from Erik in Omaha (Go Big Red!):
This post is not concerned with the nature of the atonement, but rather the nature of the recipients of the atonement. There are various and often times divergent voices in the contemporary religious grandstands chanting for their team’s supremacy, in terms of who is the recipient of divine benevolence in Christ. However, God narrows the focus for those who are the object of the Son’s atonement to four very specific characteristics. And may I boldly, and I believe biblically, say if you are not finding yourself in each of these four spiritual character descriptions then you are not finding yourself in Christ Jesus. These are the types of people that Jesus died for.
Romans 5 characterizes the sinner saved by grace as having a characteristic of helplessness. Verse 6 says, “while we were still helpless”. This indicates that as rebels outside of Christ we as unbelievers stand in a constant posture of helplessness. We willfully marched into the parade of sin and are unable to remove our self from the procession. Our heart is the drumbeat that produces our sinful cadence. We indeed are helplessly enslaved to ourselves and our sin. If one contends that he can help himself then Christ will be of now help to him. For Christ died for the helpless.
Romans 5 goes on to say, in the same context, that the object of Christ’s substitutionary death are the “ungodly”. He died specifically for those who were “alienated, hostile in mind, and engaged in evil deeds” as Colossians 1 says. Even as Jesus would announce, he did not come “to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:32).
If you do not see yourself as one who is ungodly then you do not see yourself as one who is need of salvation from ungodliness. Jesus Christ died for those who’s life may be defined by ungodliness. Someone may rightly answer the question posed, “Why are you Christ’s?” with the biblical answer, “Because he is gracious and I am one who was ungodly.” It is those who agree with God and see their lives as flowing streams of ungodliness from that great ocean of filth known as the human heart that find themselves, by divine grace, able to claim Jesus as their substitute.
This goes along with the second but with specific and dramatic amplification. Romans 5:8 says that “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This is the pattern of the life of all sons of Adam. We are known by our sin. Earlier in Romans we read that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23). The idea in the original is that we have all sinned and keep falling short of the divine standard.
How does this amplify the divine love? Well for starters we are not lovely! We see in the context that people are not apt to sacrifice for others, even if they are good upstanding people, unless there is a chance that it might give them some type of personal advantage, praise, or renown. However, God demonstrates his love not in sacrificing for good, righteous or upstanding men, but for filthy, stinking, persistent rebels. If you do not see yourself as a sinner than you do not see Jesus as a Savior; for he may be an example to you if you think that you are moral, but he is no Savior to you if you think that you persist in denying your utter sinfulness.
Romans 5:10 says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son..” Many people do not like this phrase. Being an enemy means that you are engaged in a battle, attempting a victory, and cognizant of retaliation. One may wrongly conclude that they should be pitied for their helplessness, sinful condition, or ungodliness, as if they came from some outside forces. However, being an enemy is all you. You are in the army and at war. Further, God has recognized you as a vassal. It is not just some hypothetical position of opposition, but rather an intense and venomous Jihad against the glory and honor of the King of heaven. Our posture of being an enemy is characterized by our desire to charge the King with our swords of rebellion, aiming at the assassination of God and the deification of self. Indeed we are enemies. If you do not find yourself as an enemy of God then you do not find Jesus as the one who has reconciled you to God through his blood (Rom. 5:10).
If your praise is flat perhaps it is because you have forgotten who you were and who Jesus is. This truth will ignite praise like no other. And if you do not agree with the divine perspective of the former lifestyle of the unregenerate then you are not in Christ at all. Jesus Christ is nothing to you but an example and a historical figure if you do not see him as mighty to save you from your helplessness, ungodliness, sinfulness and rebellion.