Responding Wrongly To The Cross
In the Philipines, there are annual ceremonies on Good Friday in which people are nailed to crosses and are whipped (With caution you can watch a homemade video of the ceremony). The ceremony is not only a commemoration of the suffering that Jesus underwent, but it is described as “a flagellation rite meant to atone for sins.”This is a tragedy! On a day set aside to remember the cross, in a rite commemorating the cross, what was accomplished on the cross is forgotten and declared insufficient. Christ died in order to atone for sins so that we don’t have to.
Atonement can simply be defined as payment, specifically payment to God for the debt owed because of sins so that God’s eternal damning wrath against sin no longer remains on our heads. Romans 3:25 declares the God put Christ forward as payment for our sins. So praise God that these religious masochists recognize that their sins have earned pain. Their sins, and mine and yours, have earned death, eternal death and torment in hell. The debt is so large that even an eternity of suffering worse than hanging on a cross or being beaten by bamboo rods could not atone for it or pay it back.
But God put Christ forward in our place and poured His wrath out on Him. Christ who was God and man, perfect without any sin, who had experienced perfect unity and fellowship within the Trinity from eternity past, was beaten and nailed to a cross, was forsaken by God (Matthew 27:46), crushed by God for my sins (Isaiah 52:5), and made sin so that I might be made righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The message of the cross is not that we must submit ourselves to similar tortures as Christ received. The message of the cross is that Jesus paid it all to rid of us our sins and bring us to God. If we even try to add to the work that Jesus already accomplished, then we are declaring that Jesus’ work was insufficient (c.f. Galatians 2:21).
So now that Christ has paid it all, what are we to do? Recognizing our sin, we trust Christ and Christ alone to atone for those sins and reconcile us to God. We eagerly await Christ’s return, proclaiming this message and living in obedience. Seeing that our sin has already been paid for and that our salvation is secure (Hebrews 9:27-28), we live by faith that we will be saved. But we do not, we must not, in any way attempt to pay our own debt…it has already been paid. That is why the Filipino flagellations are so tragic: On a day set aside to remember the cross, in a rite commemorating the cross, what was accomplished on the cross is forgotten and declared insufficient. Christ died in order to atone for sins so that we don’t have to.
Do you ever respond to the cross by thinking most of what you must do? The cross is ever to be a reminder to the Christian that our sins have been completed atoned for and sins power done away with. May recalling the Jesus’ death on the cross this Easter drive us to cling to Jesus and him alone for our salvation, not trying to earn it, add to it, or make up for it!