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Christ Died for God

For whom did Christ die? If you’re a Christian, your first thought is probably “for me,” or, if you’re thinking more theologically, “for his people” (Matthew 1:21). Neither of those answers are wrong, but neither is ultimate.


Viewing the cross from the perspective of God is not the usual way of thinking about it. We almost exclusively think of the cross in regard to our own lives—focusing on what it means for those who believe. “Christ died for the ungodly, we say (Rom. 5:6). “Christ died for us” (v. 8). “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3). He died for our salvation. He died for our eternal benefit. He died to rescue us from judgment and hell. All of those statements are absolutely true, and certainly we should celebrate what the cross means for us.

But looking at the atonement from heaven’s perspective, we also need to recognize and confess that Christ died for God. And all those other truisms hinge on this fact. “[Christ] gave Himself for our sins . . . according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal. 1:4). “What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin” (Rom. 8:3). The Father “did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (v. 32).

Jesus Himself said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (6:38). “My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father” (10:17–18). God sent Christ to earth to die.

. . .

Everything points to God. Again, that was Jesus’ clear perspective throughout His earthly life. On the last night before He died, He prayed to His Father, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4). He never sought anything other than the glory of the One who sent Him” (John 7:18). He said this about the Father’s will: “I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29). “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge, and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30). Everything Jesus ever did was for God. Including His death.

. . .

We tend to think too much of what the cross means to us and too little of what it meant to God. In order for the cross to mean anything to us, it must mean everything to God. The better we understand this, the more clearly we understand the cross.

—John MacArthur, The Gospel according to Paul (Thomas Nelson, 2017), 154–156.

Posted 2018·07·26 by David Kjos
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Posted in: John MacArthur · Propitiation · The Gospel according to Paul

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