Well done for persevering through our Nettie’s Bookclub study of “The Gospel According to Satan” by Jared C. Wilson. We are entering week 7 and the lie we are addressing this week is probably one of the most dangerous and significant lies discussed in this book. The fact that Jesus Christ had to die on the cross to satisfy the wrath of God against sin, is being disputed in philosophical debates and theological circles around the world and even challenged from progressive church pulpits by well-known pastors. Why did Jesus really have to die on the cross? Why does it matter?
To understand our place in the story of the Cross we must understand the wrath of God and his perfect need for justice. All of mankind is sinful in nature (Romans 3:23) and all sin needs to be punished by death (Romans 6:23) because sin is a personal rebellion against God. While animal sacrifices took on the guilt of God’s people in the Old Testament, these sacrifices could never atone for all their sins. Instead, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, had to shed his holy blood and die for our sins (substitution) taking upon himself the punishment we deserve (penal). Through propitiation, the wrath of God is then satisfied and we are reconciled to him through pardon of our sin.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.Isaiah 53:5-6
Read more about Penal Substitutional Atonement (PSA) here.
Read more about propitiation here.
To many of us, these ideas seem obvious even if we didn’t know the technical terms until now, but the devil is sneaking doubt into our conversations with clever-sounding debates regarding the death of Jesus. PSA deniers argue that Jesus was our substitute on the cross but he did not bear the wrath of God. This begs the question: who did bear the wrath of God? If you deny the atonement of the sacrifice of Jesus, you deny that sin offends God. This reasoning can be taken further to argue that if God does not require atonement then he is not holy and that we don’t need salvation.
Can you see why this lie is so dangerous?
Does God commit divine child abuse?
This argument is rife in progressive circles. By definition child abuse is malice against an unwilling party that does not understand what is being done to them. Jesus Christ willingly went to the cross by his own accord. He had full knowledge of what his death would entail and he suffered through his love for us.
The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father commanded.John 10:17-18
God is not some short-tempered malicious dictator. Quite the opposite. The cross was the triune God’s idea from the beginning to redeem all mankind. If God just wanted justice for our sin he could have let us as sinners pay the price ourselves with eternal death. But God wanted to save sinners and justify those who have faith in Jesus Christ.
This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.1 John 4:10
The Cross demonstrates God’s perfect love for us – not sentimental human love. In his holy, perfect love he is compassionate, kind and gracious, but he also hates evil and injustice. If he ignored all sin he would not be a perfect, holy God. The cross is an offensive scandal – foolish to those who are headed for destruction (1 Corinthians 1:18) and offensive to those who want to work for their own salvation through obedience to the law (Galatians 5:11).
“In effect, the Son willingly received what was owed to us – the wrath of God – that we might willingly receive what was owed to him – righteousness.“Page 148, The Gospel According to Satan, Jared C. Wilson
Why does it matter if God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus Christ on the cross? Jared Wilson reminds us that what the Bible teaches about salvation matters because if we stray from the truth of salvation, we risk our own salvation. If you don’t know the truth, how can you be sure to live the truth and reach the goal that the truth points to?
The devil wants to distract you from the truth about the Cross because he does not want you to be saved.
“We should guard against any theory of atonement that promises fulfilment, beauty and enlightenment apart from the death of Jesus Christ.”Page 142, The Gospel According to Satan, Jared C. Wilson
Your life depends on it.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of the books studied by Nettie’s Book Club. I am not profiting from the sale of these books. I will carefully select books that have had a significant impact on my faith. My goal is simply to share the wisdom in these books with others so we can assess and apply the wisdom of these authors to grow in understanding of our faith together.