The Crucifixion of Jesus: Myths? Beliefs?

3 Truths Unlock The Crucifixion’s Meaning

The crucifixion of Jesus creates controversy:

  • martyr?;
  • myth?;
  • scapegoat?
  • substitute?
ID-10013955
Image courtesy of bela_kiefer at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Since the first century, the Christian Church has faced challenges to the crucifixion of Jesus. It began when the guards of His tomb lied about the resurrection.  In short order, false doctrines and fictitious conclusions developed.

Since the 1600s, challenges persist against the meaning of Christ’s death. In recent times, speculation calls the crucifixion:

  • a replica of other religious leaders;
  • its universal application to all humanity; and
  • divine child abuse.

According to most popular position, Christ did not die for any one in particular, but all mankind in general.  In the crucifixion, Jesus merely provided the means for salvation, which made it possible for all mankind to secure salvation.  In short, Jesus’ death did not actually secure the salvation of any one; it only made it possible.

To many, these statements appear Biblically correct.  Yet, they contain subtle deviations from true Biblical doctrine.  To err on the meaning of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the central doctrine of Scripture, carries serious implications upon virtually all other doctrines.

Note Charles Spurgeon’s warning on this very issue:

“The doctrine of redemption is one of the most important doctrines of the system of faith.  A mistake on this point will inevitably lead to a mistake through the entire system of our belief.” (Hayden 108)

In contrast, the Biblical truth concerning Jesus’ death contradicts these popular, but false, ideas.  It presents a death that actually saves sinners. It explains that the crucifixion accomplished its purpose:  to provide payment for sin in full for the sins of God’s chosen people.

Again, Charles Spurgeon spoke to this question:

“We hold that Christ, when He died, had an object in view, and that object will most assuredly and beyond a doubt, be accomplished.  We measure the design of Christ’s death by the effect of it.” (Hayden 109)

Numerous Scriptural references describe the crucifixion in exactly these terms.  In particular, Galatians 1.3-4 sets forth this Biblical truth:

“Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.”

Jesus Christ gave His life as a Substitute for the sins of God’s people to deliver them from sin.

The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Selfless Death

To all mankind, death is a certainty.  It takes many forms:

  • sometimes by accident;
  • sometimes by mistake;
  • sometimes by disease.

It has one common thread.  Death comes upon all mankind. It happens to all of us.

The death of Jesus Christ has no equal in history. No one took His life from Him, nor did it occur by accident.  As stated in Galatians 1.4, “(He) gave Himself…”

In an entirely selfless act, Jesus laid down His life: freely, lovingly, completely, voluntarily. In His own words, Jesus described His death this way in John 10:17-18:

“Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. {18} No man taketh 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 commandment have I received of my Father.”

No precious thing like gold, silver, or precious stones could meet God’s demands for sinful mankind. The Apostle Peter described it in 1 Peter 1.18-19:

“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:”

In short, Jesus died a selfless death.  No one took His life from Him.  He gave Himself, freely, completely, and voluntarily.

The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Substitutionary Death

By definition, a substitute takes the place of another person, place, thing, or concept.  It contains two key elements:  replacement and a specific object that the substitute replaces. Otherwise, substitution does not occur.

A universal application of Jesus’ death does not save any one.  If it provided salvation for any one, then it would by definition provide it for all mankind. However, we know by the Scriptures and by practical observation, that not all mankind is saved.  So from a logical point of view, Jesus’ death could not provide a universal atonement.

With particular emphasis, the Bible makes clear in Galatians 1.3-4 the substitutionary death of Jesus: “…(Jesus) gave himself for our sins…”  Jesus did not just die.  He died on behalf of and in the place of others.

This truth strikes at the very heart of the fallacy of universal application of Jesus’ death. As noted earlier, a universal application of the crucifixion of Jesus states that He did not die for any particular person.

Yet the Scripture says, “(He) gave Himself for our sins…”  It shows the death of Jesus as a substitutionary death on behalf of specific people for a specific purpose.

In fact, Jesus Himself described His death as a substitutionary death for particular people.  The following two references confirm it:

“Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

In addition, Jesus described His death this way in His explanation of Communion, the Lord’s Table.  With clarity, He revealed that He came to give His body and blood for others.  He had in mind particular people, “His Sheep,” God’s chosen people, for whom He died as their Substitute.

Note this emphasis in Luke 22:19-20:

“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”

The substitutionary death of Jesus Christ is a crucial Biblical doctrine.  Without question, Scripture confirms that Jesus died as a substitute for God’s people, and for them alone.

The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Specific Death For a Specific Purpose

The Bible confirms that not only did Jesus die for a specific people. He died for a specific purpose. He died to put away the sins of those for whom He died. Our passage plainly declares that Jesus’ death accomplished its purpose.

Note what it says in Galatians 1:4:

“Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:”

“Who (Jesus) gave Himself for our sins…”

As a Substitute, Jesus endured sin’s penalty, death, in the place of specific people. He gave up His life to pay for their sin. His death atoned for the sins of those for whom He died. It did away with their sins, every sin and every kind of sin. Sin would never again condemn those for whom Christ died.

“…that he might deliver us from this present evil world…”

In Jesus’ death, He rescued those for whom He died from the course of life corrupted by sin. Jesus plucked them out of the affairs of life that sin had corrupted. This completed work of Christ resulted not according to any one’s merit. It resulted from the counsel, purpose, mind, and intention of God.

The crucifixion of Christ fulfilled God’s intention to recover lost sinners, not to make it possible for sinners to be saved.  The Bible says in Matthew 18:11:

“For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.”

Therefore, unless Jesus actually recovered what He came to save, He failed.

Scripture states that Jesus came to save His people from their sins, not make salvation possible.  The description of Jesus regarding His birth from Matthew 1.21 declares:

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”

Thus, unless Jesus completed what was required to save them, He failed.

Jesus fulfilled His intention and completed all the requirements to save those He came to save.  Any other doctrine opposes Biblical truth and dishonors God.

Nothing can summarize nor more clearly say it than a statement from the London Baptist Confession Of Faith of 1689:

“The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of God, procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him.” (London 21)

The Crucifixion of Jesus: Summary

It is important to identify false doctrine and areas of incomplete knowledge of the truth.  Whether it comes from ignorance, self-righteousness, or outright rebellion, such unbelief glorifies mankind and robs God of His proper glory.  It denies the death of Jesus of its effects and abases it.

It is especially significant to know and understand the Biblical doctrine of the particular substitutionary death of Jesus Christ for God’s chosen people. It details knowledge about the character of God:  His love, grace, mercy, and faithfulness.  It also shows His relationship with mankind and mankind’s relationship with God.

This, then, explains the truths about the death of Jesus Christ. They will mold our judgment by giving us instruction to believe. These truths comfort us in doubt and uncertainty, ground us in faith, and give rest to our consciences.

If you trust upon Jesus Christ as your Savior, the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to you the truth about the death of Jesus on your behalf.  He longs to bring you to fully praise and honor God for what He has done for you. He wants His children to glorify Him.

It I pray that the Holy Spirit has clarified these truths for you and opened your eyes to understand them.

It is possible, that in reading this article, you realize that you have no part in Christ. These truths have no application in your life. You realize that you have no personal trust in God or in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Perhaps today, you know for the first time your need of a Savior. Your sinfulness makes you helpless before God with no inherent ability to save yourself. Perhaps today the Holy Spirit has opened your eyes to see God’s provision in Jesus Christ. He died to pay the penalty of sin for sinners like you.

I pray that you will experience the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit in your life.  I pray that God by His Spirit will come to you in grace and bring a spiritual transformation in your life today.

References

  1. Hayden, Eric W. Spurgeon On Revival. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI. 1962.
  2. The London Baptist Confession Of Faith Of 1689.

© Thomas P Hill. Website: www.masterministries.org.

Personal Information: Thomas P. Hill, M. A. in Ministry, Luther Rice Seminary; author of 3 books: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing; Homosexuality, Christians, and the Church; and Keys To A Revolutionary Life (available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Tom’s web site). To invite Tom to speak at your college, church, or group, contact him by email at hill_tom@att.net.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format, in whole or in part, provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, whether in whole or in part, a link to this document on our website is preferred but not necessary. Please obtain permission from Tom Hill for all exceptions to the above request.