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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Obedience (5) | Main | The Hidden Treasure (7 -- Wearing the Gold) »

    Good Friday: Life in the Blood

    The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. [Leviticus 17:11]

    Today is the Day of the Cross. I've never heard anyone contest the historicity of the death of Jesus on a cross—the historicity of his resurrection, yes, but not his death. The crucial question is not whether it happened. Rather, it is whether his death had any unique significance. Is Good Friday simply a memorial day for the loss of another good man? Or does it mean something more?

    The original application of Leviticus 17:11 was in ancient Israel, with regard to animal sacrifices. People sinned, and, in order to be received by a Holy God, they had to make atonement for their sins. So they slaughtered dumb animals like bulls and goats as substitutes for themselves so they could survive God's presence.

    Now, there's a problem with this. And it's not the kind of problem where you feel like you should call the Audobon Society because they practiced cruelty to animals.

    People cause infinite offense against their All-Glorious Creator. We owe him everything—humble thanksgiving, complete obedience, and joyous praise. Yet we withhold everything that is due him. Instead of offering our lives to him, we wrestle our lives away from him.

    You tell me: How are dumb animals any kind of substitute for people like us?

    Ancient Hebrews had to be aware of this obvious problem. Hebrews 10:4 says that "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." Why? The atonement must at least equal the offense. The offering given must at least match the offering withheld. And we, the greatest of God's creation, made in God's very image, have withheld every part of our lives from God. Giving the life of an animal in our place just doesn't cut it.

    So this practice was insufficient to atone for people. At best, it was symbolic of real atonement. Which begs the question, then: Is there a real atonement for the sins of the people of God?

    All the Scriptures point to the answer being a resounding, Yes!! This is where we find the answer to the crucial question, Did the death of Jesus Christ have any unique significance? Absolutely… And not just because he died, but because he really and truly lived. What do I mean by this?

    "The blood makes atonement by the life." The life in the blood makes atonement—not just the ending of the life. Atonement is making up for life wasted, life withheld from God. You don't do that simply by killing, as if death were a substitute for life. You do it by pouring out life perfectly lived as an offering to God, by pouring out that life to the very last drop.

    Jesus Christ poured out such life at the cross. He offered to God in our place a life of humble thanksgiving, complete obedience, and joyous praise. He poured out his faithful, good, abundant, eternal life to the very last drop.

    In the highest conception of offering, death has no place. Had man never fallen it would still have been his duty to offer himself together with all he possessed to the God in whom he lived, and moved, and had his being.... Life, not death, is the essence of atonement, is that by which sin is covered. [William Milligan]

    So, yes, the death of Jesus Christ had (and still has) tremendous significance. It was the offering of ultimate life in the place of the ruined lives of the people of God. And if you believe that, you are not only forgiven for your lack of thanksgiving, obedience and praise, but now you can become truly thankful, obedient and worshipful. The atonement not only makes up for your sins, it wins you away from sin as you appreciate the glory and grace of the God who gave the life of his beloved Son for your life.

    Posted by Eric Costa on March 21, 2008 06:17 PM

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