This is part 6 of a 10 part series on the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. This reformed systematic theology for children was prepared for my own family. Much of the content is based on Bruce Ware’s Big Truths for Small Hearts. This article reviews the works of Jesus Christ as described in the Bible.
Jesus’ Death Shows God’s Justice and Mercy Toward Our Sin
Jesus did have to die. There was no other way.
“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
Three ideas to explain why the cross of Christ was needed.
- We are sinners, we deserve eternal death, and we can’t do anything about it. (Romans 3:23; 5:12; 6:23; Galatians 2:16-17; Ephesians 2:1)
- God is just, we are sinners, and as a result God must and will bring judgment on our sin. (Galatians 6:7-8)
- God is full of grace and mercy, abounding in love to sinners who deserve eternal condemnation.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
The Problem of Mercy: How can a holy, just, and righteous God show mercy and kindness to sinners who deserve the judgment that he, as God, is obligated to execute?
God made a plan by which our sin and its full guilt would be charged against God’s own Son. The Son bore our sin and its guilt in himself. The judgment that we deserved was directed at him, not at us. On the cross, Jesus bore our sin and paid the punishment for our guilt, and this did two things at once.
- Jesus’ payment for our sin satisfied the full demands of God’s justice against our sin.
- Jesus’ payment for our sin provided everything God’s mercy and love sought to accomplish in bringing forgiveness to sinners.
“Whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:25-26)
Jesus Paid the Full Penalty for Sin
Jesus died in our place, taking our sin upon himself, and paying the penalty we deserved to pay for our sin.
This is the cross as penal substitution. The word substitution refers to the fact that Christ took our place and died instead of us having to die. And the word penal refers to the fact that as Christ died as a substitute sacrifice in our place, he paid the penalty that we deserved to pay. Penal substitution means that Christ paid the penalty of our sin (penal) as he died in our place on the cross (substitution).
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 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 53:4-6)
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Galatians 3:13)
Jesus satisfied the demands of God’s just judgment against our sin through his death on the cross.
The word often used here is propitiation, a word that refers to the Father’s just wrath being satisfied since Christ, by his death, paid the penalty for our sin fully.
“Whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” (Romans 3:25)
“When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.”
(second verse of Before the Throne of God Above by Charitie L. Bancroft in 1863)
Jesus’ Victory over Satan by His Payment for Sin
Satan is the greatest villain, the worst enemy, the most powerful opponent who has ever existed or will ever exist.
“In which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:2)
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
“And they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:26)
“We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19)
Christ has conquered Satan and all of the powers of darkness.
Christ, by his death and resurrection, won the victory over Satan who had the power of death. Christ’s victorious work brings this same victory over Satan to Christ’s followers.
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)
“Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8)
The victory of Christ over Satan happens only as Christ pays the penalty of our sin. The way that Christ “disarmed” Satan and the forces of darkness was through his removal of our sin and its debt. Satan’s power over sinners is tied directly to their guilt through sin. His hold on them is because of their sinful rebellion against God. But remove the guilt through Christ’s payment for their sin, and you remove the basis for Satan’s hold on them.
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:13-15)
The legal requirement that we had before our holy God to pay off our debt is removed since that debt was paid fully in Christ. This is sometimes called expiation. The liability we owed before a holy God to pay the penalty for breaking his Law is now removed and forgiven. Forgiveness of sin’s penalty and freedom from Satan’s prison go together.
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)
Jesus’ Resurrection: the Proof that Christ’s Death for Sin Worked
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the basis of hope for Christians.
“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” (Acts 2:32)
“But God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” (Acts 10:40-41)
“Because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)
“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:16-19)
Sin comes to us as a penalty we cannot pay and as a power we cannot overcome.
- Sin’s penalty is death. (Romans 6:23)
- Sin’s power is death. (1 Corinthians 15:53-56)
Christ, by his death on the cross, has fully paid sin’s penalty. The only way it could be shown that Christ’s payment for sin has truly worked is for Christ to be raised from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is necessary to prove that his payment for sin was full and final.
The only way it could be shown that Christ’s victory over sin’s power has truly worked is for Christ to be raised from the dead. If Christ really conquered sin’s power completely, since sin’s greatest power is death, then the only way this could be shown is for Christ to be raised alive from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is necessary to prove and show that his victory over sin’s power was full and final.
Jesus is King over All
God has appointed Jesus to be the King who will reign over all of creation forever and ever.
“He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Samuel 7:13)
“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Psalm 2:6-9)
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
“My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” (Ezekiel 37:24-28)
In Jesus’ first coming, he came as the Suffering Servant to take away the sin of the world. Some of the promises connected with the Messiah were fulfilled. Many were left unfulfilled.
In Jesus’ second coming, he will fulfill all the rest of what has been prophesied, from judgment on the nations (Revelation 19:11–21) to righteousness on the earth and the restoration of the people of God (Revelation 20–22).
Is Jesus Really the Only Savior?
Jesus alone qualifies, in his person and work, as the only one capable of actually bringing about forgiveness of sin for anyone in all of the world. Of all the people who have lived and ever will live, there will be no one qualified to complete the work of salvation except Jesus alone.
Jesus alone qualifies as Savior, and Jesus alone is Savior.
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
1. Jesus alone was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38)
In order for Jesus to be a Savior, to bring about forgiveness of sin, he must be both God and man. But in order for Jesus to be both fully God and fully man, he must be conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a human virgin.
2. Jesus alone is God incarnate. (John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 1:1-3; 2:14-18)
Our Savior must be fully man in order to substitute himself for men and die in their place. He must be fully God in order for the value of his life’s payment to satisfy the demands of our infinitely holy God.
3. Jesus alone lived a sinless life. (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 7:23-28; 9:13-14; 1 Peter 2:21-24)
The sacrifice of Christ who, sinless, was able to die for the sins of others because he did not have to die for any sin of his own.
4. Jesus alone died a substitutionary death as payment for the sins of others. (Isaiah 53:4-6; Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:10-14)
Jesus lived a sinless life; so he did not deserve to die. The cause of his death was entirely because the Father placed our sin upon him as he hung on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). The death that he died was in our place paying the full penalty for our sin.
5. Jesus alone rose from the dead triumphant over sin. (Acts 2:22-24; Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, 16-23)
A few people other than Christ have been raised from the dead (1 Kings 17:17–24; John 11:38–44), but only Christ has been raised from the dead never to die again, having defeated all sin. Christ’s resurrection from the dead shows that his atoning death for sin brought about both the full payment of sin’s penalty and full victory over sin’s greatest power.
Basic Christian Beliefs Series
|Part 1||Who Is God?|
|Part 2||What Is the Trinity?|
|Part 3||God the Sovereign Creator|
|Part 4||Our Human Nature and Sin|
|Part 5||Person of Jesus Christ|
|Part 6||Works of Jesus Christ|
|Part 7||Holy Spirit|
|Part 8||Our Salvation|
|Part 9||Church of Jesus Christ|
|Part 10||Second Coming of Jesus Christ|