If the death of Christ on the cross is the true meaning of the Incarnation, then there is no gospel without the cross. Christmas by itself is no gospel. The life of Christ is no gospel. Even the resurrection, important as it is in the total scheme of things, is no gospel by itself. For the good news is not just that God became man, nor that God has spoken to reveal a proper way of life for us, or even that death, the great enemy, is conquered. Rather, the good news is that sin has been dealt with (of which the resurrection is a proof); that Jesus has suffered its penalty for us as our representative, so that we might never have to suffer it; and that therefore all who believe in Him can look forward to heaven.
The extent of God’s love at Calvary is seen in both the infinite cost to Him of giving His one and only Son, and in the wretched and miserable condition of those He loved. God could not remove our sins without an infinite cost to both Himself and His Son. And because of their great love for us, both were willing—yes more than merely willing—to pay that great cost, the Father in giving His one and only Son, and the Son in laying down His life for us. One of the essential characteristics of love is the element of self-sacrifice, and this was demonstrated for us to its ultimate in God’s love at Calvary.
We trample the blood of the Son of God if we think we are forgiven because we are sorry for our sins. The only explanation for the forgiveness of God and for the unfathomable depth of His forgetting is the death of Jesus Christ. Our repentance is merely the outcome of our personal realization of the atonement which He has worked out for us. It does not matter who or what we are; there is absolute reinstatement into God by the death of Jesus Christ and by no other way, not because Jesus Christ pleads, but because He died. It is not earned, but accepted. All the pleading which deliberately refuses to recognize the Cross is of no avail; it is battering at a door other than the one that Jesus has opened. Our Lord does not pretend we are all right when we are all wrong. The atonement is a propitiation whereby God, through the death of Jesus, makes an unholy man holy.
All the ideas of Christianity might be discovered in some other religion, yet there would be in that other religion no Christianity. For Christianity depends, not upon a complex of ideas, but upon the narration of an event. Without that event, the world, in the Christian view, is altogether dark, and humanity is lost under the guilt of sin. There can be no salvation by the discovery of eternal truth, for eternal truth brings naught but despair, because of sin. But a new face has been put upon life by the blessed thing that God did when He offered up His only begotten Son.
In His divine essence, God cannot die; He is immortal. But because the God the Son assumed humanity, He is capable of suffering and death as a part of His atoning work. He assumed the likeness of sinful flesh in order to condemn sin in His own body through death (Rom 8:3–4). He was legally reckoned to be a sinner, though He himself was without sin, so that He might pay the penalty for sin (2 Cor 5:21) (Luke Stamps).
If Christ had not gone to the cross and suffered in our stead, the just for the unjust, there would not have been a spark of hope for us. There would have been a mighty gulf between ourselves and God, which no man ever could have passed.
Our Lord would have us regard the crucifixion as the central truth of Christianity. Right views of His vicarious death, and the benefits resulting from it, lie at the very foundation of Bible-religion. Never let us forget this… If we are wrong here, we are ruined forever. Error on many other points is only a skin disease. Error about Christ’s death is a disease at the heart. Here let us take our stand. Let nothing move us from this ground. The sum of all our hopes must be, that “Christ has died for us.” (1 Thess. 5:10.) Give up that doctrine, and we have no solid hope at all.
All are not saved by Christ’s death, but all which are saved, are saved by Christ’s death; His death is sufficient to save all, as the sun is sufficient to lighten all; but if any man wink, the sun will not give him light.
Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy, cast off that I might be brought in, trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend, surrendered to hell’s worst that I might attain heaven’s best, stripped that I might be clothed, wounded that I might be healed, athirst that I might drink, tormented that I might be comforted, made a shame that I might inherit glory, entered darkness that I might have eternal light. My Savior wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes, groaned that I might have endless song, endured all pain that I might have unfading health, bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem, bowed his head that I might uplift mine, experienced reproach that I might receive welcome, closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness, expired that I might for ever live.
Everyone is born a slave of sin. Jesus Christ said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). We cannot free ourselves from this oppressive master, for no one can live without sinning against God. But the sinless Jesus – not for His own sake, but for others – came from Heaven to deliver His people. Jesus allowed godless men to nail Him to a Roman cross, and three days later rose from the dead so that “we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Romans 6:6). And all those who trust in His work (and not their own) as the way to freedom will find emancipation from sin. “Therefore,” declared Jesus, “if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).