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The Significance of Christ’s Death:
Matthew 27:45-49; Mark 15:33-36; Luke 23:44-45a; John 19:25-30a
Matthew Lesson #188
February 18, 2018
“Father, we’re thankful for this time that we have to study Your Word and to reflect upon what You have revealed to us—especially today, as we look into what happened at the Cross with the death of our Lord. Last time we looked at His spiritual, substitutionary death; today we look at the physical death itself—its significance, its implications, and its meaning for us.
“Father, we thank You for the fact that we have the Scripture—the whole of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation—to teach us about the prophecies, the types, the foreshadowing, and the announcements of the coming Savior that precede their precise fulfillment in the New Testament.
“We pray that our faith might be strengthened and encouraged as we study these things.
“In Christ’s name. Amen.”
This morning we’re looking at “The Significance of Christ’s Death: Prophecy Fulfilled.” This is only the beginning; it’s not an in-depth study. I want to hit it in more of a survey fashion to help us understand what transpired at the Cross on Golgotha.
We have already covered the period of Christ’s first arrest and His six subsequent trials. Now I’ve begun to take us through a step-by-step examination of all the things that happened between the taking of Jesus from Pilate’s presence to Golgotha. I’m putting together all of the Gospel accounts so that we have a full picture of what transpired.
We looked at the first five stages that covered the procession to Golgotha as Jesus was led away, carrying His cross.
Following that, we looked at the first three hours on the Cross, where the wrath of man was directed toward Jesus as He was reviled, ridiculed, and mocked by those who passed by.
Last time we looked at the second three hours-—the time period during which the sin payment was made. Again and again in Scripture there is a depiction of sin as a debt, and an assurance that that debt has been paid. We will probably get into the implications of that next time.
In my opinion, it is a point that is not probed enough today: the debt has been paid; it’s been canceled. The word for cancellation has to do with forgiveness; it’s the same word. It was an economic term, and it meant that at the Cross, a financial-type transaction took place that canceled the debt.
That’s what Colossians 2:12–14 tells us: Jesus canceled the debt on the Cross. There was forgiveness of the debt—a real forgiveness for all, which lays the foundation for our salvation. It is not that sin is forgiven—although it is in a second type of forgiveness at the time that we trust Christ as Savior—but there is a genuine cancellation of the sin penalty at the Cross. And that is why Jesus said, “It is finished.” Again, this was a term that was used in a financial transaction to state that the debt or the payment was made in full. It was completed. Nothing could be added to it.
That doesn’t mean that people are automatically saved. It means that the sin problem has been truly dealt with for everyone. Consequently, the issue in salvation is not sin; it is Christ. It’s a matter of Who He is and what He did for us. As we studied last time, the payment was made during those three hours of darkness when God the Father judicially imputed to Christ the sins of the world.
At the end of the previous lesson, we saw that this point is emphasized most by the Gospel of John. In John 19:30, we have the statement Jesus made on the Cross, “It is finished.” But prior to that in John 19:28 John said, “After this …”—that is, after He had completed the payment for sin—“… Jesus, knowing …”—and that should be translated as a causal participle—“because He knew that all things were now accomplished …”
That’s the same phrase in the Greek, the same identical term. It’s a perfect participle, which means it’s completed action. It is done at that point. It’s not still going on; it is completed, finished. John 19:28 says, “… Jesus, because He knew that all things were completely finished ...”
He was silent, remember? We just read that in Isaiah 53:7, “… as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” He didn’t open His mouth until it was finished. Once it was finished, then He said, “I thirst.” The emphasis there is on that completed payment that we can’t add to, that we can’t take away from. It’s done, and it provides forgiveness; it cancels the debt of sin.
The 24th stage is when Jesus dies physically. He makes His seventh statement from the Cross, given to us in Luke 23:46, “And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.”
This is His final statement. Luke emphasizes that He does this with a loud voice. He screams out with this loud voice. When it says “Jesus cried out” and “He said,” this is probably not two different things. This is more of a Hebrew idiom that indicates this is what He said when He cried out; this is the content of the cry. In the Greek it says, “He cried out with a loud voice.” He is screaming this out, shouting it out. He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”
Now what does that mean? Some translations use the word “commend,” other translations use the word “commit,” so we have to look at the word that is used here in the Greek. It’s PARATITHEMI, which has the idea of depositing something.
So if you were to go to the bank, because you trust the institution to take care of your money, you deposit your money into an account there. You entrust it to them. That’s the idea here. And so He is committing Himself, the God-Man, His immaterial Spirit, to God. He says, “Into Your hands I commit My spirit.”
This is again a fulfillment of part of a Messianic Psalm. The verse is Psalm 31:5, and He is reciting that “Into your hand I commit my spirit,” indicating that this prophecy is being fulfilled ultimately by the Messiah. It’s a Hebrew word that is in the hiphil stem. None of you know Hebrew—one or two may have heard a little bit here or there—but Hebrew’s kind of different from Indo-European languages. It has these different stems for verbs, so you can have a verb in what they call the qal, niphal, piel, pual, or the hiphil stem. The hiphil stem is causative, so Jesus is indicating that He’s causing this to happen because it’s finished.
Again, we see that He is in control. Throughout this whole process, man in his rebellion against God hates God and seeks to kill Him—through the instrumentality of the religious leaders of Israel, the Roman soldiers, and the Roman governor. They have tortured Him, beaten Him, and flogged Him. They’ve ridiculed Him, mocked Him, and spit upon Him. But He’s the One in control.
There’s a great lesson in this for us: although we live in the devil’s world, although we live in a sinful, chaotic world, God is still in control. It may not appear as such to us, but He’s in control. So we are to relax and trust Him. We are to continue the mission that God has given us in our spiritual lives, which is to continue to grow and mature, as well as to fulfill all of the mandates given us in Scripture in terms of our spiritual growth and our ministry and our service to the body of Christ (e.g., all the “one another” admonitions—to pray for one another, to encourage one another, to love one another, etc.).
We continue to do all of these things, not being distracted by the chaos around us, but focusing on the mission God has given us. There is also the aspect of being witnesses through our lives and with our lips, when we tell people the gospel. All of that is part of it. We don’t get distracted. God is in control. We trust Him and we move forward with the mission He has given us.
Jesus has completed the foundational mission. That’s why He said it’s finished: it’s paid in full. Now that He has done the work, He lowers His head and utters His last cry: “I commit My spirit.” I entrust it. The Hebrew word has the same idea. It has a number of meanings, including “to appoint”,
“You have redeemed Me, O LORD God of truth.” There the word “redeem” has to do with the fact that God is rescuing Him from this earthly life after the payment for sin is completed. In other words, God the Father is going to be taking God the Son to Himself at the time of physical death.
Jesus says He commits His spirit. In the Gospel accounts that emphasize this aspect, they use the term PNEUMA or Spirit—it is used here in Luke 23:46 and in Matthew 27:50.
I believe firmly in the view that a human being is composed of three parts. Technically, this is called trichotomy. Man has a physical body, he has a soul, and he has a human spirit. When we’re born spiritually dead, we’re not born with a human spirit. But when we trust in Christ, we are regenerated or born again. At that point, we receive the human spirit. It’s an aspect of our immaterial makeup that allows us to have a relationship with God.
But these terms-—PNEUMA for spirit and PSUCHE for soul-—are not always used in a technical sense. Sometimes PSUCHE simply means life, and it refers to anyone. Sometimes it is just talking about the immaterial part of man and emphasizing that soul. Sometimes PNEUMA is a term that doesn’t just describe the human spirit, but describes the immaterial part of man.
I believe that is what it is being said here. It was idiomatic. You can go back and find various passages related to this in the Old Testament, where the word “spirit” is used (e.g., God “taking a spirit” is used as an idiom for death).
That is what Jesus is saying here. He is dying physically and His immaterial being—His soul and spirit—will be separated from His physical body and go into the presence of God, as His body will be taken from the Cross and then buried.
Matthew 27:50 doesn’t say what Jesus cried out, but simply says “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.”
When Matthew uses the word “yielded,” he uses the verb APHIEMI, which is usually translated to cancel or to forgive. But the root meaning of both of those ideas is to let something go, to release it. So Matthew is using this word to indicate that Jesus is releasing His spirit. The work is done, Jesus has completed the mission, so in His final act (i.e., the releasing of His spirit), Matthew shows that Jesus is in control to the very end. He picks the exact time when He dies physically. At that point, His spirit goes to be with the Lord.
John 19:30 reads, “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His Head, He gave up His spirit.” Again, that same word APHIEMI is used. So you don’t have the word PSUCHE (soul) in any of the passages. It just talks about His spirit, the immaterial part of His being.
That brings us to the physical death of Christ on the Cross.
What I want to do is pause here before we go further into what transpires—what the Roman centurion says after His death, what happens in terms of His body being pierced by the spear, taken down, and prepared for burial—all of those things. Let’s pause and think about what has happened and why it has happened.
We’ve looked at the historical record: Jesus came to this earth. He entered into a human body by the miraculous means of a virgin birth. His soul and spirit entered into that human body so He could go to the Cross and die. Why did He do that? What is the significance of that spiritual and physical death of Christ?
To begin, I want to look at the Old Testament preparation. We’re not going to make this an exhaustive study. This is just for us to be reminded. I think every one of us needs to have under our control 3, 4, 5 solid prophecies from the Old Testament—prophecies we can go to and use when we are witnessing or talking to somebody about the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have “near prophecies.” By “near prophecies” I mean that Jesus demonstrated that He was a prophet in fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:15. It was there Moses prophesied that a prophet “like me” would come. That is fulfilled in Jesus. Three times He made prophecies in the synoptic Gospels related to His death in Jerusalem. We’ve studied through each of them
Matthew 16:21, “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”
That is one of His first predictions to His disciples of what would happen.
He is prophesying the fact that the Son of Man would be coming, and that there would be those who would live to see it.
Earlier in Matthew 16, He predicts that He will go to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man would be betrayed and would be crucified by the religious leaders.
Matthew 17:22, “Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men …’ ”
Then in Matthew 17:22–23, He repeats it: “And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.’ And they were deeply grieved.”
But they still didn’t grasp it. They did, however, understand that He was predicting His own death.
Matthew 20:17–19, “Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.’ ”
As we have progressed through Matthew, we’ve seen that each of these predictions comes true, demonstrating that Jesus is a true prophet. He accurately predicted His death, the exact details surrounding His death, and His resurrection.
When we look at the Gospel of John, we see how his Gospel differs significantly from the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. So I want to look at three specific prophecies, or types, that are alluded to in the Gospel of John.
The first one is in John 1:29. This occurred as Jesus is inaugurating His earthly ministry. Before this He has not been known. He has been living in obscurity in Nazareth. Now, after John the Baptist has been announcing the coming kingdom and urging repentance because the kingdom of Heaven is at hand, Jesus comes to John (His cousin) to be baptized. This will inaugurate His earthly ministry.
When John saw Jesus coming down to the Jordan, he announced, “… Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
What exactly does He mean by this announcement? Well, there were several types of sacrifices in the Old Testament. Think, for example, of the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. That sacrifice was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ and taught something about His death on the Cross. But the sacrificial animals used on the Day of Atonement were goats, not sheep.
We might think of other types of sacrifices—those involving bulls and goats, for instance. Or those involving birds. But John is focusing on this idea of a lamb. Where does that idea of a lamb come from?
We can go back to other sacrifices in the Old Testament, but I think in terms of a Jewish audience, the most significant reference to a lamb is at the Passover. So let’s turn in our Bibles to Exodus 12—a passage, an episode that is not unfamiliar to us, as I allude to this every time we celebrate the Lord’s Table.
But I think it’s important for us to stop and just go back and reread the Scriptures on this episode. I don’t think anything beats just reading the Scripture. This is at the time of the tenth plague. The Israelites have been enslaved for over 400 years in Egypt, and now God, true to His promise to Abraham, is going to free them. He has sent a deliverer, Moses.
Moses, as the deliverer, is also a type of Christ. The word “type,” is an antiquated word, but it’s a word that is embedded in theology. In Greek the word is TUPOS, which means an example. It’s the idea of something that depicts an aspect of a future event or person—especially the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ and His work.
The Old Testament uses many things to depict, or prefigure, the future. It uses people—Moses, for example. It uses objects—the ark of the covenant, for example. And it uses animals—in particular the sacrificial animals.
Exodus 12:1, “Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt …” The tenth plague has been announced: God would take the life of the firstborn throughout Egypt—the firstborn in every family and the firstborn of their herds and flocks. But there would be one way to survive, and that is this provision of a blood sacrifice—that is the Passover lamb.
The Lord instructs Moses and Aaron in Exodus 12:2, “This month shall be your beginning of months; it is to be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of their father, a lamb for each household.’ ”
They are going to take a lamb on the tenth of the month, and this lamb has to be inspected. It has to be evaluated, it has to fit certain criteria. Not just any lamb will do; it has to be a lamb that is without spot or blemish. That is to depict the fact that the Savior has to be without sin. So this lamb that is without spot or blemish is evaluated.
Now this is fulfilled literally when Jesus enters into Jerusalem on the tenth of Nisan. He is, as it were, evaluated or tested by the religious leaders. Each group comes and asks Him various questions. They are opposed to Him, of course, and we see how He responds to each of those interrogations.
During these tests, Jesus demonstrates who He is: the qualified Savior. He doesn’t lose His temper. He doesn’t get angry with them or commit any personal sin. In fact, He committed no personal sin at any time during His life. He is qualified to go to the Cross. So, the picture, or type, here is that of the sacrificial lamb being evaluated between the tenth and the fourteenth of Nisan.
Then when this lamb has been evaluated, has met the qualifying criteria … just think about that. You have about 3 million Jews. Let’s say there are 10 individuals in every family. That means about 300,000 lambs were required for sacrifice. That’s a lot of lambs!
But God the Father not only provided 300,000 lambs, He provided 300,000 lambs without spot or blemish. Nobody was going to say, “Well, we ran out of qualified lambs.” That’s a fascinating way to think about God providing a perfect salvation for everyone.
They take the lamb on the fourteenth of the month. Now the lamb, as specified in Exodus 12:5, must be a male of the first year. So that must indicate—I’m just thinking about the size of the flocks they had to have had! Three hundred thousand lambs that were year-old males. That’s a tremendous provision—a supernatural provision—of God.
Exodus 12:6, “Now you keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.”
Think about the logistics of that. There are going to be 300,000 lambs that are all sacrificed at the same time.
Exodus 12:7, Then they were to “… take the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel …”—that’s the upper crosspiece on the doorframe—“… of the houses where they eat it.”
If you think about that and connect the dots, blood put on each side and at the top would create the form of a cross.
Then they were to roast it. Exodus 12:8, “They shall eat the flesh that same night roasted with fire. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.”
What’s the significance of eating? There are three things we should emphasize. First of all, anyone can eat. It is available to anyone. Second, when you eat something, you are taking it and making it a part of yourself. That picture of ingesting or taking something in is used throughout Scripture to signify belief, the act of trusting. When we trust Christ, we are accepting Him as our Savior. We are believing in Him. We are making Him a part of ourselves. We’ll see an example of that later this morning.
So, they’re going to eat. And that brings us to the third aspect of eating that is significant: fellowship. In the ancient Near East, and still today, sitting down to a meal together is a picture of fellowship. It is a picture of community, a picture of relationship among those who are eating. In the same way, when we accept the salvation provided by Jesus Christ through His work on the Cross, we enter into eternal fellowship with God.
God prohibits the consumption of raw or boiled lamb. It must be roasted with fire. Fire is a picture of judgment in Scripture, and here it points to the fact that Jesus will be judged on the Cross. He had to be judged to satisfy God’s perfect justice. He couldn’t die any other way.
Exodus 12:10, “You shall not leave any of it over until morning. Whatever is left until morning you shall burn with fire. Then you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, ...” That has to do with the logistics involved in the Exodus: they’re getting ready to leave. Later on, after this initial Passover, they will eat lying down, which indicates that that they rest in God’s provision.
So, this is the image that would come to a Jew when John the Baptist says, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
That word for “taking away” is a word that would be parallel to, or synonymous with, the word “redemption”—the redemption the Israelites experienced when they were released from slavery in Egypt. They were “taken away” from slavery in Egypt, just as we are “taken away” from slavery to sin when we trust in Christ. So that is the first example of a lamb.
The second example is from Isaiah 53:7. Sometime when you are reading through Isaiah 53, you should circle each time the concept of substitution appears. We will be talking about that next time, when we continue to examine the significance of the Cross. The substitutionary nature of Christ’s sacrifice is crucial.
But for now, I want to begin in Isaiah 53:6–8. Isaiah 53:6, refers, once again, to sheep and likens us—all of us— to lost sheep. “All of us like sheep have gone astray.” The “all of us” is a universal term indicating every human being. “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”
That’s the picture of substitution. In a sacrifice, when you are bringing a burnt offering, a guilt offering, or a trespass offering, the one who brings the sacrifice puts his hand on the sacrificial animal. By doing so, he is symbolically transferring his sins to that animal, then the animal is killed along with his sins. It is a perfect picture of substitution.
The iniquity of us all will fall on Him. That is again a universal term. “All of us,” in the opening phrase, means everyone without exception. At the end, “the iniquity of us all” is the same phrase; it’s universal. It refers to every single human being. This is one of the great passages for refuting the idea of a limited atonement, the assertion that Christ died only for the elect.
Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter …” This is where we see the imagery again—the work of the Messiah is likened to that of a sacrificial lamb. “… He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”
Isaiah 53:8 goes on to say that He was judged. “He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.”
Again, we have that idea of substitution. It was not for any transgression on the part of Jesus, but “… for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.” Next time we will come back and talk about that.
We saw John introduce the typology in the first chapter of his Gospel: “Behold! The Lamb of God …” In John 3, John returns to the idea in verse 14. Everyone is familiar with John 3:16. We see people who have banners with John 3:16 on them at various sports events, and people will put it on their license plates, but very few people will put John 3:14 on their license plate.
John 3:14 refers to an Old Testament incident and its relation to salvation. John 3:14–15 reads, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
I’ve always thought this is a verse that really helps us to understand what faith is. There is a lot of discussion that goes on about what faith is. Some people think faith is commitment. Some people think that faith in Christ differs from all other kinds of faith.
What we see in this illustration is that faith is just trusting in something. It is the something that’s trusted in that has the efficacy. It’s what’s trusted in that’s significant. It’s not the faith as faith that saves you. It’s what you believe in. It’s the object of your faith.
Let’s go back and look at the original episode in Numbers 21. Numbers 21 describes an incident of rebellion that takes place among the Israelites as they’re traveling through the wilderness after their release from slavery in Egypt. They are complaining about their food, so God is going to bring some judgment on them.
Numbers 21:4–5, “Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses.” They’re cursing God; they’re cursing Moses. They’re tired of traveling and walking, and they want to go back to Egypt. “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?”
This is always the trend of human beings. They want somebody to provide everything for them, and they would rather be in slavery than really live on the basis of individual freedom. That was self-destructive for this generation. They complain that there’s no food or water; and “… we loathe this worthless bread.”
God has provided manna for them and they are angry with God for His provision. He gives them everything they need. So God judges them.
Numbers 21:6, “So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.” There’s been a lot of discussion about what kind of serpents they were, and whether the word “fiery” describes the serpents or the burning sensation of their venomous bites. Those are issues to be studied at another time.
The fact is that many people died. This is a picture of spiritual death; this is a picture of a problem: sin. And God is going to provide the solution. Numbers 21:7–8, “So the people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned because we’ve spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD that He may remove the serpents from us.’ So Moses interceded for the people. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent …’ ”
He is going to make a bronze serpent that depicts this viper and put it on a pole and raise it up high enough so everyone can see it, everyone in the camp. Again, it is a universal solution. It’s not a limited solution. It’s not a matter of God choosing some to be delivered, and only the chosen ones are able to look at the serpent.
“Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard and it shall come about that everyone who is bitten, when He looks at it …” The people didn’t have to do anything; the act of looking is faith. They look at it because God said, “Look at it and you will live,” and they’re believing that to be true.
They’re simply assenting to the fact that that is true. That’s what assent means. They’re assenting to the right thing. They’re agreeing with God by saying, “Well, this is true, and if I do it, I will be delivered.” And that is exactly what takes place. It’s simple; there’s no commitment.
There is no inviting the bronze serpent into their lives; there is no inviting the bronze serpent into their hearts. There’s none of this silliness that often accompanies the way the gospel is explained today. It is simply faith. The only biblically acceptable terms are “believe” or “accept” or “receive” Jesus as your Savior. The gospel doesn’t say, “Receive Jesus into your life.” That is a result.
Now do I think that people who invite Jesus into their hearts, or invite Jesus into their lives, are not saved? No. I think that they are believing in Him; they’re just being told the wrong terminology to use. That doesn’t excuse sloppiness in gospel presentations, because a person doesn’t get saved by praying a prayer.
People get saved because they believe Jesus died for their sins. What they do subsequent to that (in terms of praying a prayer, inviting Jesus into their life, or whatever) is something that simply reflects what happened internally.
Salvation is when we believe Jesus died on the Cross for our sins, and we understand the gospel and believe it. It’s a mental act. It’s an act of our soul. It’s a decision, and at the instant we make that mental decision, we’re saved. Speaking is always subsequent to an act that has occurred in the mind, and it is that act of belief, of trust, that saves. We think, “Yes, that is true; Jesus died for my sins.”
Some people say, “Well, assenting to the truth just doesn’t sound right.” But see, what they get confused about is that often people assent to the wrong truth, and they are not saved. I can say “I agree that the Bible teaches that Jesus died for my sins.” Am I saved? No.
I believe that Charles Darwin taught that man evolved from simple forms to complex forms, from amoeba to man, but I don’t believe in evolution. I believe that’s what Darwin said, but that doesn’t mean I believe what Darwin said.
See, a lot of people think, “I believe that’s what the Bible teaches.” But that doesn’t mean that they believe what the Bible teaches. You have to believe in the right proposition, and the right proposition is Jesus died for my sins. You put your name in there, and you believe that. You are agreeing that that’s true.
A good illustration of the concept of assenting to a truth is doing your income taxes. I quit doing mine years ago because I don’t like numbers. But at one time, I did my own tax returns. I would fill out the form, put in all of the numbers, and then double, triple, and quadruple check it. When I concluded that my computations were accurate, I assented to the truth of that conclusion, and I quit working on it. I stopped. I rested in it.
See, that’s what faith is. You agree that something is true, and then you just stop. You’re done. You have faith in the computation. That is what happens here in the fiery serpent episode; John is illustrating the saving nature of faith. Then in John 3:16, he states that it is belief in Christ alone that changes us from those who are perishing to those who have eternal life.
When we come to John 3:18, it is reinforced once again. “He who believes in Him is not condemned …” It’s not “believe and” anything. It is simply believe, period. “He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who believes not is condemned already…” You’re born into condemnation, and you’re still there. “… he who believeth not is condemned already.”
Why? Because he has committed sins? It doesn’t say that, does it? Because he’s committed certain sins? It doesn’t say that either. Why? Because a transaction occurred at the Cross and sins were wiped out. They’re paid for. So, the issue isn’t what sins a person has committed. The issue is whether or not that person believes on Jesus. John 3:18 ends, “… he is condemned (or judged) already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
See, that is the salvific proposition: Do you believe in the name of the Jesus who died on the Cross for your sins or not? That’s it. If you agree that Jesus died on the Cross for your sins, if you assent to it, if you say, “Yes, that’s true,” in your heart, God knows what you’re thinking in your mind, and if you believe it in your mind, you’re saved. If not, then you’re not saved; you’re still condemned.
In John 6:51, Jesus said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven.” He is comparing Himself to the manna God provided to nourish and sustain the Israelites in the wilderness. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; …”
Again, what does eating picture? Eating is another way of illustrating faith-—the concept of accepting something, of taking it into oneself. Anyone can eat; anyone can believe. It is God’s universal provision for salvation.
Jesus then describes what this bread is. We think about it in reference to the Lord’s Table, in the matzah. “… the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” Jesus is talking about His death on the Cross.
Next time we will come back and continue to study the implications and the significance of Christ’s death. We must understand what was accomplished at the Cross and what wasn’t. We must understand why Christ’s death paid the penalty for sin, but didn’t save us, apart from our own decision to trust in Him for salvation.
“Father, we thank You for the opportunity to study this morning and to reflect upon the gospel, to reflect upon what Christ did on the Cross, to think about how that was a fulfillment of 4,000 years of prophecy going back to the Garden, to consider how You planned everything. Every dimension of Christ’s death was significant, because it was designed to solve the world’s greatest problems and our greatest problem.
“Father, we pray that if anyone here today, or anyone listening to this lesson in the future, has never trusted Christ as Savior, they would now have a clear understanding of what You have provided. You gave us Jesus—the perfect God-Man, who entered into human history and lived a sinless life, thereby qualifying Him to go to the Cross—so that on the Cross He could pay for our sins.
“The issue now is not what we’ve done. The issue is what Christ did and whether we trust Him and Him alone, or whether we’re trusting in something else. Paul made it very clear to the Philippian jailer what one thing was necessary. Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
Father, we pray for each of us who are saved, that we might realize that our belief in the Lord Jesus is only the beginning. It’s not the end. Our belief in Him begins a time of spiritual growth. Once we are born again, we must be nourished, we must grow. We must mature as believers so that we can experience the abundant life that our Lord has promised us.
“Father, we pray that we would all be challenged by what we studied today. In Christ’s name. Amen.”