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DID JESUS REALLY HAVE TO DIE?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, December 29, 2002


Someone asked me the following question not long ago:

God makes the rules. So why did Jesus have to die on the Cross? I know it was prophesied. But God could have given man a second chance instead of making Jesus pay for it.

This is such an important question that I preached a sermon on it on Christmas Eve. I pointed out in that sermon that sending Jesus to die on the Cross was the only way God could be "just, and the justifier" at the same time (cf. Romans 3:24-26). This is the very heart of Protestant and Baptist theology concerning the doctrine of justification.

Now, this morning I will go more deeply into this subject. Here are the basic ideas in the question again:

Why did Jesus have to die on the Cross? God could have given man a second chance instead of making Jesus pay for it.

I will deal with that question by asking two questions of my own, and answering them.

1. Who is Jesus?

2. What did He pay for on the Cross?

I. First, who is Jesus?

We really cannot deal with the question of why Jesus had to die on the Cross until we first know who Jesus is. Turn with me in your Bible to John, chapter one, verse one:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1).

That verse makes it plain, "the Word was God."

Now look at verse fourteen:

"And the Word was made flesh,and dwelt among us…"
    (John 1:14).

Those two verses make it very plain. "The Word was God" and "the Word was made flesh." This can only mean that God became flesh in the manger at Bethlehem.

Now turn to Luke, chapter one, verse thirty-five:

"And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

This verse shows us that God is a Trinity. It speaks of God the Father as "the Highest." It speaks of the Holy Spirit, "the Holy Ghost" in the King James translation. The verse also speaks of Jesus, calling Jesus "that holy thing" and "the Son of God."

Now, this does not mean that Jesus is less than God. In modern, Western thinking, a son is less than his father, or different from his father. But the Jews in the time of Christ were not modern Westerners. They knew that the term "Son of God" meant that Jesus was equal with God. Please turn to John, chapter five, verse eighteen:

"Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God" (John 5:18).

To the Eastern mind in the time of Christ, saying that God was His Father made Jesus equal to God.

Now drop down to John, chapter five, verse twenty-six:

"For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself" (John 5:26).

This verse shows that Jesus has the same life in Himself that is in God the Father. They both have the same life in themselves. Theologians call this the same "essence." The life or "essence" of the Father is in the Son. Jesus "said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God" (John 5:18).

This is basic Christianity. The baby Jesus who was born in a manger in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago is God Himself, the Second Person of the Trinity, true God and true man. This Jesus existed co-equal with the Father for all eternity past. Jesus is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, equal with the Father in every sense. Even after Jesus became flesh in the womb of Mary, He was, and still is, and always will be, the true God. Jesus is God.

Christians believe that there is only one God. Muslims slanderously claim that Christians believe in three Gods. But we do not. We believe in only one God:

"Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord"
    (Deuteronomy 6:4).

But the Christian New Testament teaches that this one God exists in three Persons, in the Godhead, the Trinity. Not three Gods, but one God in three Persons. Jesus said:

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"
    (Matthew 28:19).

The Apostle Paul wrote:

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen"
    (II Corinthians 13:14).

It is true that mankind cannot fully comprehend the Trinity. How could we fully understand God? Remember that God said:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Even a born again Christian does not fully understand all there is to know about God. God is above us and beyond our full comprehension, "For now we see through a glass, darkly" (I Corinthians 13:12). No wonder we still have questions about the Trinity! Someday, in Heaven, we will understand more than we do now:

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (I Corinthians 13:12).

Who, then, is Jesus? He is God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, fully God and fully man. Jesus is the God-man. Jesus is God.

But Jesus is not all of God. The New Testament teaches that the Father is also God. The Holy Spirit is also God. Not three gods, but one God, in three Persons. As we often sing in the Doxology:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
    (by Thomas Ken, 1637-1711).

Furthermore, we must also realize that each Person in the Trinity has a function. Please turn in your Bible to I Timothy, chapter two, verse five:

"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5).

I Timothy 2:5 shows us that God the Son mediates, or is a "go-between" - between man and God the Father. Jesus became our mediator on the Cross.

Who is Jesus? Jesus is God in the flesh. As Charles Wesley put it in his famous Christmas carol:

Christ, by highest heavens adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord.
Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of the virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.
Hark! The herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King."
  ("Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

"Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate deity." That sums it up - Jesus is God in human flesh. That's who Jesus is.

II. Second, what did Jesus pay for?

What was it that Jesus paid for when He died on the Cross? Remember the question that person asked me:

So why did Jesus have to die on the Cross? God could have given man a second chance instead of making Jesus pay for it.

The only mention of what Jesus paid for is "it." I looked over that question very carefully and I found that the word "sin" is never mentioned, and is only referred to once - as "it." "God could have given man a second chance instead of making Jesus pay for it." If you think of sin in such glib, light terms, no wonder you think little about Jesus paying the price. After all, to you, sin is only "it" - something small that could easily be overlooked by God - in your view. But sin is not a little thing, an insignificant "it." Sin has ruined the world and sin has doomed vast billions of human souls to the everlasting torments of Hell fire! No, sin is not just a little "it."

God originally created man in His own image, in knowledge of Him, in righteousness, and holiness. When God created man, He entered into a covenant of life with him. The conditions of the covenant were simple: (1) man was forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17); and (2) man was to eat of the tree of life and live forever (cf. Genesis 3:22). Man was forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death.

Our first parents were left to the freedom of their own will. They sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit, and thus fell from the state wherein they were originally created. Instead of being righteous and holy, they became ruined sinners, "for sin is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4).

All mankind fell in the transgression of Adam. All of mankind descended from him by ordinary generation, and so all mankind sinned in him, and fell with him in his first transgression. For "in Adam all die" (I Corinthians 15:22). And "by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin" (Romans 5:12). The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery, because "by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation" (Romans 5:18). Man became a guilty sinner. Man lost original righteousness. Man became totally depraved, dead in sin. Man's whole nature became corrupted, dead spiritually, and antagonistic toward God, in what is commonly called original sin.

As a result, mankind today is dead spiritually, cut off from God totally, and antagonistic toward God inwardly - in their hearts. That's why the Bible says:

"There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God" (Romans 3:11).

Notice that I have not yet dealt with personal sins. I have only described original sin, which each of us have inherited from our first parents. In the light of that, think of the question again,

Why did Jesus have to die on the Cross? God could have given man a second chance instead of making Jesus pay for it.

The person who asked this question has not yet felt the reality of his own depravity. He has not realized his deadness toward God, his inner antagonism toward Christ, his alienation from a thrice holy God! He cannot honestly sing with Newton,

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
     ("Amazing Grace" by John Newton, 1725-1807).

He does not see himself as a ruined, spiritually dead, wretch!

How could God give a dead man a second chance? Once a man is dead, he's dead! There is no way that a dead man can reverse his own deadness. The rich man in Hell could pray, "repent," plead for second chances, but none of it would help him - because he is dead. And you are dead, right now - "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). It wouldn't do any good for God to give man a second chance apart from Christ - simply because man is dead. Second chances don't help dead people!

Jesus Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for original sin. Jesus Christ arose from the dead to set man free from his state of death and misery! Jesus died to pay for original sin! Jesus rose from the dead to set us free from original death! That is the heart of the gospel!

But, then, think of your own personal sins. The person who asked me the question said:

Why did Jesus have to die on the Cross? God could have given man a second chance instead of making Jesus pay for it.

Really? What about the sins you have already committed, which are recorded in the books, up in Heaven? Please turn in your Bible to Revelation, chapter twenty, verse twelve:

"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works" (Revelation 20:12).

This is the last judgment of the unsaved dead. Each unsaved person will stand before God's throne while each and every sin he has committed throughout his life is read, one by one, out of God's record. Every sin you commit is recorded. It's like God's computer. Then the computer will be played, and every sin you have ever committed will be read out. Then you will be "cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15).

Now you tell me, how could God cancel those sins out of the books without someone paying the penalty for them? How could a just God justify guilty man? Somebody had to die to pay for those soul-damning sins. Either you pay - or Jesus pays. It's as simple as that.

But one thing is certain: a God of perfect justice could not simply overlook those sins. The person who sent me the question thinks God could just overlook those sins if He wanted to. But that isn't true. Since God is perfectly just, He cannot simply overlook or forget about your sins. Someone has to pay the penalty. That's why God Himself came down, became a human being, and died to pay for your sins Himself. What a marvelous gift! What benevolence! What love!

Amazing love, how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!
      ("And Can It Be?" by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

Why did Jesus have to die on the Cross? Because there was no other way to get rid of original sin and its curse on mankind. Because there was no other way for a just God to pay the penalty for your personal sins.

Then the person said, in his question to me:

God could have given man a second chance instead of making Jesus pay for it.

Well, that's wrong because what the person is really asking for is a third chance. Why do I say that? Why, simply because Jesus is the second chance!

Jesus is God. God the Son paid the penalty for sin on the Cross. "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (I Corinthians 15:3).

Why are these rather simple concepts so difficult for people to grasp? Mainly because they refuse to think seriously about their sins and their depraved natures. You must think about how little you pray to God, and how you really don't love Him at all. You must think about the fact that you are inwardly rebellious against God. And then you must take a long, hard look at your personal sins. Only then will these words become important to you:

"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (I Corinthians 15:3).

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: John 1:1-14. 
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"
    (by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788)

THE OUTLINE OF

DID JESUS REALLY HAVE TO DIE?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

(Romans 3:24-26)

I.   Who is Jesus? John 1:1, 14; Luke 1:35; John 5:18, 26;
Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 28:19; II Corinthians 13:14;
Isaiah 55:8-9; I Corinthians 13:12; I Timothy 2:5.

II.  What did Jesus pay for? Genesis 2:17; 3:22; I John 3:4;
I Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:12, 18; Romans 3:11;
Ephesians 2:1; Revelation 20:12, 15; I Corinthians 15:3.

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