Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Now, to come back to the topic of the cross of Jesus, Morris introduces some great picture words that the New Testament writers used to bring out what the death of Christ has done. Our loss however, stands in the fact that we may miss their exact significance because we do not share their thought world. I will be almost quoting Morris in the following:

We no longer have this process now and therefore it is easy for us to miss what the New Testament writers meant when they used the term. It originally refers to prisoners of war, where a ransom price is paid for them to be set free. The word then came to be used for the release of slaves by a payment of a price. Sinners are slaves to sins (John 8:34) and under a sentence of death (Rom 6:23). The cross is a payment of the price that brings us liberty. Our salvation is at a cost and now we are free.

It means the turning away of anger, usually by the offering of a gift. Whether we like it or not, the bible is very clear that God's wrath is exercised towards all evil (Ps 7:11; Col 3:6) - as sinners, we face a dismal future. Through Christ's death, God's wrath was turned away or propitiated, and we are freed from a dreadful fate.

This is a homely word that gives a picture of making up after a quarrel. Reconciliation is brought about by the removal of the cause of the quarrel. The hostility between God and sinners (Rom 5:10) the root cause, sin, was put away by the death of Christ, making the way clear for reconciliation.

This word means a lot to the first century Jews. They saw themselves and themselves only as the covenantal people of God. Unfortunately, they persistently broke the covenant by their sin. Jesus spoke of his blood as inaugurating the new covenant (Luke 22:20). This implies that the church was the true covenant people of God.

This is a legal concept. Its meaning is in the instruction that in the settlement of legal disputes the judges are to "justify" those in the right and "condemn" the wicked (Deut 25:1). Paul makes extensive use of this imagery. He sees sinners as facing condemnation when we stand before God. But he also sees God as taking action in the person of his Son whereby all legal claims on those sinners who are in Christ are fully met by his death. There is no further claim. They go free.

This represents a term that had a universal appeal in the first century but obviously not to us anymore. We now exist in a religious system that finds no place for animal sacrifice. But real people stood by their altars in solemn awe before the religious ritual that saw animal slaughtered in their stead and watched as the offering went up in the fires of the altars to the gods they worshipped. For the Christians such sacrifices could never put away sins (Heb 10:4), but they form a vivid picture of what Jesus did when he offered himself as a sacrifice (Eph 5:2).

These vivid word pictures show that the first Christians saw the cross as many-sided. We therefore must not to view the cross from one standpoint only.

The human predicament is complex, but while it is so, God has in a correspondingly complex way dealt with that predicament in the most glorious saving act of the cross.


Leon Morris, The Cross of Christ, (Grand Rapids: Eerdsmann, 1988): 5-8
Picture by Robert Aichinger

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