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Dying Instead of Someone Else

Romans 5:6-8
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NIVUK)

Heroic self-sacrifice is rarely seen in peacetime, and when it happens it becomes a media event.  We love to read a story of bravery.  Paul's argument about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is different.  The death of Jesus was no accident or regrettable consequence of saving another's life: it was planned.  Jesus clearly understood that His life's work was to die (Matthew 16:21-23).

The sacrifice was not a reward for good people but for sinners who richly deserved to be punished - but Jesus volunteered to be punished instead of them (Isaiah 53:4-6).  He did not wait until they had repented and confessed their sin - He died when they were ungodly people who were powerless to live a holy life.  At just the right time, Christ came and died.  Why was it the ‘right time’?  We cannot tell but we do know that it was the time when the Roman Empire had reached it zenith of power and that communications throughout the empire were the fastest to date – the message of the gospel could travel large distances over good transport links.  But it was the right time because God planned it (Galatians 4:4).  Our times are always in His hands (Psalm 31:15).

Paul echoes Jesus’ words in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  God’s love was the motivator.  He gave all He had to meet our need, even before we knew we were hell-bound without His sacrifice.  The cross demonstrates love because Jesus took away what we deserved in His mercy and gave us what we never deserved by his grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The grace of God is wonderful.  His love is always ahead of us, waiting for us to walk into.  Many like to blame God for the disasters in their lives.  But the truth is quite the opposite.  Disasters are the result of our fallen world and sinful humanity. What God has done is to love us so much that He has provided a remedy for our corruption, by allowing the sinless Christ to bear our sin in His own body and be punished for it (1 Peter 2:24).  That is love with a capital 'L'!  So never again blame God for Your faults ... firstly, it slanders His character and, secondly, Jesus has already been punished for your faults even though He never committed any sin (1 Peter 2:22).  The right thing to do is to thank Him for His love and praise Him for His grace.

Dear Lord. I am amazed at how You have demonstrated Your love towards me in planning the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for my sin. I repent of blaming You for what is not Your fault, and for failing to praise You for Your mercy and Your grace. Help me to live in gratitude to You. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams