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Grace:  The Truth that Transforms  -  Part 8 of 36

Romans 3:25

Rick Warren

In our study of Romans we now come to one of the most significant verses in the Bible.  This verse is the heart of the Gospel - Christ's death on the cross for us.  Because this is the most important doctrine in the Bible, we will pause in our verse-by‑ verse study to look at other passages that explain the atonement.

No single explanation can adequately explain the full meaning of Christ's death.  Throughout history, great men have emphasized different aspects of it.  To better understand Christ's death, we must look at it from several viewpoints.





       1.  The _______________ Explanation

               Key words:

               Main Idea:

               Scriptures:  Mark 10:45, John 8:34-36, Rom. 8:2, Eph. 1:7, Titus 2:14, Revelation 5:9, 1 Cor. 6;20, Isaiah 61:1


       2.  The _______________ Explanation

               Key words:

               Main Idea:

               Scriptures: 1 Peter 2:21-23, 1 Peter 4:1-2, Eph. 5:2, Phil. 2:3-8


       3.  The _______________ Explanation

               Key words:

               Main idea:

               Scriptures: Hebrews 2:14-15, John 16:33, John 19:30, Col. 1:13, 2:14-15, 1 John 3:8, Rev. 17:14, Gal. 1:4



Grace:  The Truth that Transforms  -  Part 8 of 36

Romans 3:25

Rick Warren

We've been studying through this book verse by verse.  Tonight we're in our eighth week of study and all the way to chapter 3!

Tonight we're going to look at simply one verse.

Romans 3:21-26 is a description of salvation.  Donald Grey Barnhouse says this is the most important paragraph in the entire Bible.  I agree.  It describes your salvation.  If you don't understand what this passage is about, you don't understand your salvation.  It get technical.  There is more ounce for ounce theology and hard core basic truth in this passage than almost any other passage in the Bible.  That's why we're going to spend a couple weeks just on v. 25. 

NIV "God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in His blood."  This is talking about the heart of the Gospel -- why Jesus Christ died on the cross.  In our last session we talked about nine wonderful facts of salvation that are covered in this verse:  It's designed by God, it's unearned, it's unhidden, it's through faith, it's available to all who believe, it's free, it's undeserved, it's through the person of Christ, and it's very expensive. 

In this passage tonight I want us to look at the meaning of the atonement -- why Jesus Christ had to die.  It is the heart of the Gospel.  We'll pull in some verses from other parts of Scripture and camp on this verse for a week because it's the most important doctrine in the Bible.  It's the heart of Christianity.  If you don't understand why Jesus Christ died for you, you don't understand Christianity.


There are some false explanations of the Gospel.  A couple of things that Jesus Christ did not die for:

1.  Jesus Christ did not die by accident.  Some people believe that, that it was an unforeseen experience, unplanned, that He was the victim of circumstances.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Scripture states very clearly that Jesus even predicted His own death.  Many time He said "I'm going to die" and He quoted Old Testament scriptures.  It was planned by God. John 10:17-18 "No man takes My life from Me but I lay it down." It wasn't an accident.  Jesus Christ died, not because He was forced to die. 

The Romans may have thought that.  There's the interesting story when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane and a battalion of soldiers had come to get Him.  They asked where Jesus was.  Jesus walked up to them and said, "I am He" and they all fell backwards.  A battalion consisted at least of 120 men.  They came to take Him captive and they were so in awe, that these men, trained in combat and with their weapons on, fell over backwards in almost a faint.  There was so much power in Jesus' life. 

Nobody took His life from Him.  He gave it voluntarily. 

2.  Jesus Christ died as a martyr.  He was a good man and He died for His cause.  He was a victim of a corrupt world.  He basically died for His principles.  He wasn't God but just a good martyr -- like Martin Luther King or Kennedy... any person you name to be a martyr. 

The facts are very clear in Scripture that Jesus was actually God, not man.  His death was for a divine purpose.  Acts 2:23 Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost.  "This man who was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge.  And you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him on the cross."  It wasn't any surprise to God or to Jesus that He came to die on the cross.  He was not just a martyr.

Why did Jesus have to die?  It was a necessity.  Jesus said many times, "I must go to Jerusalem... The Son of man must suffer... The Son of man must die... He must be lifted up."  If there could have been any other way for the salvation of the world, don't you think God would have used it?  Sure and saved His Son the suffering on the cross.  There was no other way.  How do you explain that?

Throughout history, great men have offered evidences or examples, illustrations of why Jesus actually had to die on the cross. These explanations are technically called the theories of atonement.  They are true, each of them in their own way, but none of them are complete in themselves.  To understand why Jesus had to die, you have to look at all the explanations that the Bible gives, not just one or the other.  You've got to get the rest of the story.  The death of Christ is so significant and so complex you can't describe it in one phrase.  There are many different explanations.  We're going to look at five major explanations.  There are others besides this -- some almost unworthy to be mentioned and some just variations of these. 


1.  The ransom explanation

The key words are the words "ransom" and "payment".  The main idea is that Jesus Christ paid a ransom to set us free.  To have the hostages released in a hostage situation you have to do something to get them released.  You pay a ransom.  There was a ransom paid for Patty Hearst.  This is what the Bible is talking about; Jesus Christ paid for our sin. 

The very first person who proposed this idea was a man named Origin, back in the 3rd century.  He said, Satan is in a war with God.  He has taken all of humanity captive.  We are his prisoners of war.  We're slaves to sin.  We're hostages.  We're stolen from God.  Jesus Christ came to earth to exchange Himself for us as a hostage.  So, Satan got Jesus and he thought he had won.  But little did he know the power of Jesus.  Jesus exploded through death and came back to life.  And the trick was on the devil. And the penalty had been paid. 

Verses that deal with this: 

Mark 10:45 "For even the Son of man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many."  Jesus said, I came to give my life to pay so that you could be free from death, slavery, the law, the devil.  We were set free.

John 8:34-36 "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin."  Have you known anybody who has a habit that they can't break?  That's being a slave to sin.  Or a thought they could not get control of?  That's being a slave to sin.  "A slave has no permanent place in the family but a son belongs forever.  So if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed."  Jesus set us free.  This is the ransom idea. 

Ephesians 1:7  "In Him we have redemption through His blood the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God's grace."  Remember talking about the Blue Stamp Redemption Center and how you could take all the stamps in and redeem something. You were giving something for something else.  The Bible says that's what Jesus did.  When He died on the cross He paid the price.  Paid in full. 

Who did He pay the ransom to?  One theory is that He paid the ransom to the devil because the devil is the one who had people hostage. 

It could be a ransom paid in another way.  For example if I said, "She paid a great price in bearing that child" -- talking about labor pains.  Wouldn't it be absurd to say, Who did she pay the price to?  It's immaterial.  It just means it was at great expense.  Don't get hung up on who the ransom was paid to.  This is simply a word picture that says it cost a lot for your salvation.  It cost a lot.  Don't try to push the analogy.  It simply means it cost Jesus a lot. 

Don't try to make it be a payment to Satan.  Because what happened to Satan, if that's true, he got ripped off.  Because Jesus paid and then Jesus broke free from the bonds of sin and hell and death and sprung free.  It just means God paid a price for our salvation.

That's one of the ways we can explain the death of Christ.

2.  The moral influence explanation.

The key words are "love" and "example".  This way of looking at why Jesus had to die is like this:  Jesus Christ died to demonstrate God's love.  Jesus Christ died as an example of God's graciousness.  Jesus Christ died to show us how much God loves people and that He really cares.  Jesus Christ died on the cross (this idea says) in order to soften people's hearts and when you look at the cross you're move to compassion and you want to say, "Lord, forgive me!"  It helps us to be more loving and more grateful.

Example:  This idea comes from two incidences of two people watching Jesus on the cross.  Luke 23:42.  Jesus is on the cross and one of the two thieves rejected Christ and made fun of Him. The other became a believer on the cross.  He was converted there.  "Then he said, `Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.'  And Jesus answered him, `I tell you the truth: Today you will be with Me in paradise.'"  Jesus never preached a sermon to this guy.  For all we know this was his first encounter.  But just by looking at Jesus Christ on the cross, that man was moved to realize, Here was a man different from me and he asked him to save him - right from the cross.  He was influenced right on the cross. 

Another example in v. 47 "Then the centurion seeing what had happened, praised God and said, `Surely this was a righteous man'"  Here is a guy who looks at Jesus from the foot of the cross and he says there's something different about this guy. 

That's where this explanation comes from.  God sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross as an example of His love.  This example motivates us and causes us to change. 

Is He an example?  Sure.  But it's a partial truth.

1 Peter 2:21-23 is talking about Jesus Christ "To this you were called because Christ suffered for you leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps.  He committed no sin and no deceit was found in His mouth.  When they hurled insults at Him He didn't retaliate.  When He suffered He made no threats. Instead He intrusted Himself to Him who judges justly."  Jesus didn't defend Himself.  Peter says, Here is an example for you.

1 Peter 4:1ff "Therefore since Christ suffered in this body, arm yourselves with the same attitude.  Because He who has suffered in His body is done with sin as a result He does not live His earthly life for evil human desires but rather for the will of God."  Jesus Christ died on the cross as an example. 

Ephesians 5:1-2  NIV "Be imitators of God therefore as dearly loved children and live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Jesus Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice and an example.  Be an imitator. 

Philippians 2:4ff  "Each of you should look not only to your own interest but also to the interest of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus who, being in the very nature of God did not consider equality as something to be grasped but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on the cross."  We ought to have the same attitude. 

So there is a legitimate reason for this approach.  Jesus did die as an example of God's love.  But there are some real weaknesses with this.  Some cautions about this interpretation of the death on the cross:

       (1)  Jesus' death was much more than an example.  Liberals love to emphasize this viewpoint.  They like to say, "Jesus was a great example of sacrificial love" and that's it.  But that does not take sin seriously enough.  What that comes across as:  All we need is an example and that is enough to make us do better.  I need more than an example to do better.  I know what I ought to do; it's the power to do it!  I don't find a problem with knowing what to do; my problem is getting the power to do what I know I ought to do.  This is not enough. 

       Reality shows also that a lot of people know about Christ but it doesn't affect them at all.  This view says, If you just talk about Jesus dying on the cross it will naturally make people want to live godly, loving lives.  A lot of people know that Jesus died on the cross but it has no affect on their lives. There is a weakness there.

       (2)  Another fact is that God has already shown His love many ways.  He had already shown it in the Old Testament.  If all Jesus' death did was to show that God loved us, that was a waste. Because He had already shown in many ways that God loves us.  He could have done it without such an expensive way of His own Son dying on the cross. 

But Jesus is an example.

3.  The victory explanation.

This is often called the military viewpoint.  The key words are "power", "triumph" and "victory".  The victory explanation of why Jesus had to die is this:  History is a battleground.  It's a battle between the forces of good and evil.  It's very similar to the ransom theory that God paid Satan, He broke away from the devil's power.  But it goes further than that.  The victory explanation basically says Jesus, when He died on the cross, guaranteed the defeat of Satan.  Destruction and doom is guaranteed for the devil.  He neutralized the devil's power in our lives if we believe. 

This is a viewpoint that's shared by a lot of famous people. Martin Luther among them.  Where does this viewpoint come from? 

Hebrews 2:14, 15 "Since the children have flesh and blood He too shared in their humanity.  He's talking about Jesus Christ actually becoming a human being.  Was Jesus half God and half man?  No.  He was 100% God and 100% man.  You can't explain it. It's a miracle.  It's like the Trinity.  [The person who denies the Trinity will lose his soul; the person who explains the Trinity will lose his mind!]  So that by His death He might destroy him who has the power of death.  That is the devil and free all those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death."  This is talking about the battle between the devil and the Lord.  Jesus came to destroy the power of the devil and set people free.  He didn't just pay a ransom but He came to devastate the devil.  The devil is living on borrowed time.  He already knows his time is over.  He's read the book of Revelation too.  When you start getting up tight read the book of Revelation.  What is the theme of Revelation?  The whole book of Revelation teaches one thing -- we win!  We win in the end! That's why it was such a comfort when John wrote it to the Christians who were being persecuted by Nero.  They thought that Nero was the devil in the flesh.  They thought Nero was the antichrist. 

Colossians 1:13 "For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us in to the kingdom of the Son He loves in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin."  We have been transferred from one kingdom to another.  That's the victory them -- triumph!  Easter!  God has devastated the enemy -- Satan -- and delivered men from death to life.  From darkness to light. Jesus has destroyed our ultimate enemy.

Colossians 2:14 "God has made you alive in Christ.  He forgave us all our sins having canceled the written code with its regulations that was against us and that stood opposed to us and took it away nailing it to the cross."  The written code and it's regulations was the Law.  All of the Law of the Old Testament. That Law that we saw in the first five weeks as we looked at Romans.  The Law that condemned us.  The Law has never saved anybody.  It only points out that we can't make it on our own. Jesus took that Law that condemned everybody and He nailed it to the cross so that we are free from that law. 

v. 15 "And having disarmed the powers and authorities He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." He's talking about spiritual beings.  Satan, his legions, his demons.  He made a public spectacle of them.  The early Christians made fun of the devil; they laughed at death.  They thought Easter was a big joke on the devil.  Can you imagine being a Pharisee, putting Jesus Christ to death on the cross and then a week later somebody coming up to you and saying, "Remember that guy you killed last week end?  He's alive!  He wants to see you!"        

John 16:33 "Be of good cheer.  I have overcome the world." 

John 19:30 "It is finished."  Jesus' last words from the cross. He did not say, "I am finished."  Big difference!  He wasn't finished.  It is finished"  -- the battle has been won.  Victory assured.  Satan's powers smashed.  He is a lion still roaring but his teeth are pulled out.  One day he's going to be totally destroyed.  He's on limited access now and the power of Satan over your life is ineffective if you're a believer living for God.  That's what this victory is all about. 

I John 3:8 "He who does what is sinful is of the devil because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's works."  This is the victory explanation.  The cross.

Revelation 17:14.  There was war between God and the devil and God won.

4.  Relationship

2 Cor. 5:17 "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has gone, the new has come.  All this is from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.  That God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ and not counting men's sin against them and He has committed to us the message of reconciliation."  Once you're right with God your duty is to go tell everybody else. God's not mad at you!  Get the message out.  God wants to be your friend.  He wants to love you.  He wants to be in a relationship with you.  He doesn't want to have a barrier.  He doesn't want to judge and condemn you.  Jesus Christ took the condemnation on the cross.  He wants to be in harmony with you.  He reconciles us and He has given us the ministry of reconciliation.  That means not only sharing the message but helping people get along with people.

This principle concept is taught through Scripture.  Ephesians 2:12-16 says we were separated from God but Jesus brought us together.  Colossians 1:20-22 says God was in Christ reconciling us.  The Bible also teaches that Jews and Christians are reconciled together.  This concept tells us that Jesus Christ died to bring us back together. 

What is the caution here?  It's true.  He did bring us together. But, like the others, it's incomplete.  It doesn't explain how God can forgive sin and still be holy.  That's why we have to come to the last of the five major explanations.  This is the explanation taught most throughout scripture.  It is the number one and the primary explanation of why Jesus died. 

5.  The substitution explanation.

The key words are "sacrifice" and "atonement".  v.25:  "God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in His blood."  This is often called the legal explanation, penal explanation or judicial explanation.  It's a courtroom concept. It's probably the most easy to understand and probably the one you're most familiar with. 

God is a judge.  All have sinned.  The wages of sin is death.  We deserve punishment.  We've broken the law.  Jesus Christ comes before the bar as our advocate and says, "They are guilty.  They deserve to be punished.  But I will take the punishment for them. I will be the substitute.  I will take their place.  I will serve their term."  The Bible says that's what Jesus Christ did. 

There are many proponents of this.  It's the dominant theme of the New Testament. 

Hebrews 9:28 (NIV) "So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people and He will appear a second time not to bear sin but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him."  He came the first time to die for our sins.  He died for many.  One was the substitute for everybody else.  Jesus was nailed to the cross so you can stop nailing yourself to the cross.  Jesus was hung on the cross so you can stop hanging yourself.  Jesus was condemned so you can stop condemning yourself.  He was the substitute.

2 Cor. 5:21 "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."  One who deserves to die gets set free, another who does not deserve to die takes the place. 

Galatians 3:13 "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.  For it is written, `Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'"  He took our condemnation.  He is a substitute.  Every time you see the phrase "for us" that's this concept of substitution. 

Romans 5:8 "But God showed His love toward us that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." 

1 Peter 3:18 "Christ died for our sins, the righteous for the unrighteous."

1 John 2:2 "He is the atoning sacrifice."

1 Cor. 5:7 "Get rid of the old yeast so that you may be a new batch without yeast as you really are."  Yeast, in the Bible, is always referring to sin.  It infects.  It puffs up.  The Bible says that knowledge puffs up, pride puffs up, sin puffs up. Yeast is always an example of sin.  "For Christ, our passover lamb, has been sacrificed."  Remember in Leviticus, on the Day of Atonement two goats were selected.  One goat was sacrificed for the entire nation.  The other goat, they would lay hands on that goat, the priest would symbolically confess all the sins of the nation on that goat.  That's literally where we get the term scapegoat.  That one goat takes all the sin of a nation.  That goat was taken out into the wilderness and set free to represent gone for evermore.  Here it says, Jesus Christ is that lamb. 

John 1:21 John saw Jesus coming and said "Behold the Lamb of God."  Jesus Christ is our substitute.

What is the caution on this one?  Don't make it seem that God gets angry and Jesus intervenes.  Some people would teach this in a way that would make you want to love Jesus but hate God. 

I heard the illustration one time of a guy trying to teach the substitution concept.  He had a piece of glass and a hammer.  The glass represented us and our sin.  God represents the hammer. He's getting ready to strike us in judgement.  Just as He's getting ready to come down and smash the glass, Jesus Christ -- a big hard pot -- jumps over us, covers us up, so that the full force of that blow lands on Jesus.  The pot gets banged up, but we're still OK.  There is the concept of substitution there.  But if you take that to its logical conclusion it's like the little boy who said, "I love Jesus but I don't like God."  It makes God look all vengeful and wrathful but Christ trying to convince God to not hurt us.  You have to remember that God is God ...  Jesus was God.  It wasn't a matter of God saying, "I'm going to beat you up and somebody coming in from the outside -- a third party. It's more like God saying, "Somebody has to pay for this sin -- I will!"  No third party involved.  When the substitution came, God said "I'll be the substitute."

What should be our response to this:

The five concepts:  Jesus Christ set us free -- He paid the ransom.  Moral influence -- The Bible teaches that God demonstrates His love by dying for us.  Victory -- Jesus Christ on the cross smashed the power of the devil.  Relationship -- God brought Himself to us by sending His own son to be the mediator, to bring us together, to be the bridge.  Substitution -- He took our place.  You can't explain the cross without understanding all five of those concepts. 


Once we understand why Jesus died what should be our response?

1.  We ought to hate sin. 

1 Peter 1:15 "Be ye holy even as I am holy."  God wants us to live pure lives, holy lives.  Living as best we can in the power of the Spirit without sinning.  Why should we hate sin?  Look what it did to Jesus.  If you want to know how bad sin is, look at the cross. 

Society teaches us to laugh at sin.  The way society tries to get something to be acceptable is to get us to laugh about it.  I don't think it was any accident that a number of years ago, adultery started creeping into sitcoms before they were in dramas.  You start laughing at it.  Homosexuality first appeared on TV in situation comedies before they started having movies come out on AIDS victims.  If you laugh at something your resistance is lowered.  Sin is not a laughing manner.  Look what it did to Jesus Christ. 

2.  We ought to love Christ.

When we look at what Jesus has done for us, it ought to break our hearts.  We ought to say, "Jesus Christ, You deserve our entire devotion."  1 John 4:9-10 talks about "We love because He first loved us."  He gave Himself for us.  And because He loves us we love Him in return.  If He loved us enough to leave heaven, come to earth, die on the cross then we surely owe him our devotion. God has never met a person He didn't love.

Romans 8:32 "If God loved us enough to send Jesus to die for us don't you think He loves you enough to care for all your other needs?"  Jesus solved your biggest problem when He died for your sin.  Any other problem you have is minor in comparison.  If He loved you enough to take care of your sin, He loves you enough to take care of your needs.  We ought to hate sin and love Christ.

3.  We ought to make the message known.

2 Cor. 5:14 "The love of Christ compels us to share the good news."  Can you imagine an event as important as the cross yet it was kept a secret?  If somebody died for you wouldn't you want to know about it?  If I had the cure for cancer don't you think I'd be obligated to share it with others? 

This is the bottom line.  This is why we do what we do. Everybody deserves to hear what we're talking about tonight. That Jesus Christ died for every single person here.  We are commanded to share.  The love of Christ compels us -- that's the motive.  If that person lives and dies without knowing Christ, then for that person the death on the cross was a waste.  Because it never got to him. 

When we talk about church growth, we're not talking about bringing in a bunch of other Christians who are already believers, from other churches.  That's not church growth at all. We're talking about winning people to Christ who have never heard this.  If you were a believer before you came to Saddleback that's not the purpose of this church.  It was not designed for you!  It was designed for the thousands of people in the Saddleback Valley that Jesus Christ died for and they deserve to hear every single word that we talked about.  It is the ultimate selfishness to say, "We don't want to grow as a church."  That's saying, "We're saved!"  But what about everybody else?  They need it just as much as we do.  Those people, if we don't reach them, who will?  If nobody reaches them, they'll go to hell.  That's the bottom line.

That's why the love of Christ compels us.  That's the motive. The Bible says, "The Lord is not willing that any should perish."

What is our response to the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross for us?  We hate sin because we see what it did to Jesus, we see what it does to people.  We love Christ.  We share that message.  Outreach is the top priority of the church.  Evangelism is the number one priority.  That's what God says.  Luke 15:3 "Then Jesus told the parable, `Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and looses one of them.  Does he not leave the 99 in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it.  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.  Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, "Rejoice with me.  I've found my lost sheep."  I tell you, there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than ninety nine persons who don't need repentance.'"  God is more happy when one person becomes a believer than seeing 99 persons in fellowship.

Outreach is so important that the Bible says a shepherd leaves 99 safe sheep to go look for one lost one.  That's how important it is.  Even if we've got 99% of the Saddleback Valley saved, if there is one lost sheep you've got to reach them!  This church can never stop growing as long as there is one person who doesn't know Christ.  We've got to care because God cares.  Love leaves no choice at all.

**End of tape**

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