The cross has become a symbol of Christianity, but it’s so much more than a mere piece of jewelry hanging around someone’s neck. The crucifixion of Christ is such an important doctrine because understanding it correctly determines whether or not we have eternal life. This was not simply the execution of a Jewish man by hanging on a cross. What transpired in that event was the solution to mankind’s biggest problem—sin and our resulting alienation from God.
As believers, we must understand what happened as Jesus died on the cross so we too can be thoroughly convinced of its supreme significance. The crucifixion was God’s plan. Although the Jews and the Romans both played a role in putting Jesus on the cross, God was the one who had already planned the death of His Son as an atonement for mankind’s sin. His plan was motivated by three things:
The sinfulness of mankind. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
God’s love. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
God’s justice. The Lord has decreed in Ezekiel 18:4, “The soul who sins will die.” Although He loves us and wants to save us, He is also just. “The wages of sin is death,” and it must be paid (Rom. 6:23). God could not ignore our sin or simply decide to forgive us because this would not be just, and He cannot deny Himself or act contrary to His nature.
The crucifixion was where our sin and God’s love and justice met. Jesus died on the cross as an atonement, which means a payment for sin. In the Old Testament, the animal sacrifices were a shadow of the ultimate sacrifice that would one day atone for sins once and for all. Because of His great love for us, God sent His Son to earth to pay the penalty for our sin with His death on the cross. He alone was qualified because as God in human flesh, He was the only one who ever lived a sinless life. Our sin was laid on Him, and He died in our place, thereby satisfying the Lord’s justice.
This article was originally published on July 8, 2016, and is adapted from the Sermon Notes for Dr. Stanley’s message “Your Convictions About the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ,” which airs this weekend on TV.