It is appropriate to meditate on the person and work of Christ, the relationship between God and man, the resolution to the problem of sin and the overarching story of redemptive history. At the heart of our worship stands the nature of the atonement, what Christ came to accomplish, what he actually accomplished, and why the atonement is necessary. If we get the atonement wrong, we cannot get the gospel right because the cross is at the center of this good news. Misunderstanding the cross leads to a false doctrine of God, man, sin, salvation, and the overarching message of the Bible.
It is only by the means of a sacrifice that sin can be dealt with fully and finally. Because of Adam’s sin, all are separated from God and remain under the curse of sin, i.e., all are “in Adam.” God the Son incarnate comes as the new Adam, perfectly obedient to the Father in all things, providing and securing, by his obedience, a perfect sacrifice for the propitiation of our sins as our substitute. In this way, Christ has purchased redemption by his own blood, bringing reconciliation between God and man as the new Adam, satisfying the divine justice of God, achieving victory in the divine conquest over sin, death, Satan, and the powers of darkness and providing for us an example of image-bearing as one who is the exact imprint of the divine nature. This is what we celebrate, not only on Good Friday, but especially on Good Friday.
The truth of Christ’s glorious conquest is revealed in Scripture from the very beginning. In the very first utterance of good news in Genesis 3:15, we are told of one who would come to defeat the serpent but not without suffering harm. This protoevangelium sets the tone for redemptive history. From this point on, the people who called upon the name of the Lord also looked for the promised seed who would crush the serpent’s head and deal fully and finally with that great enemy. What was hidden from their eyes is how this victory would come through sacrifice.
All throughout the pages of Scripture, God’s people long for the promised seed and call upon the name of the Lord to fulfill his promise of redemption and deliverance. Early on in this history, we read of a figure that is later associated with Christ in a way that typifies his work as priest-king. That figure is Melchizadek and he first appears in the story of Abraham in Genesis 14. He then disappears until David, under divine inspiration, ascribes the same role to the coming messiah-king in Psalm 110. It is in reference to this passage that the author of Hebrews writes of the priest-king function of Christ as well (Heb 5:6-10, 6:19-7:22).
Parallel to this thread of Melchizadek and more dominant in redemptive history is the Davidic covenant recorded in 2 Samuel 7. It is here that we are told that through David a king would be given whose rule and reign would never end (7:13). What is clear in the Davidic covenant is that Christ would come as king and victor, securing rest for God’s people. What is not explicit in this passage is the sacrifice that secures his reign. The messianic kingdom, unlike kingdoms of the world, would be established by victory through sacrifice. In fact, the theme of victory through sacrifice can be seen in more passages than can be considered here.[i]
In John 12:31, Jesus speaks of his “judgment of this world [in which] the ruler of this world is cast out.” We are then told this judgement is directly related to his death in 12:33. The author of Hebrews states that Jesus took on flesh so that “through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (2:14-15). Paul says in Colossians 2:15 that Christ, through his death on the cross, “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”
So, as we celebrate the sacrifice of Christ, remember that Christ came to offer himself as a sacrifice for sin. In so doing, He made war on death, “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15). This is our Priest who became the sacrifice for us, and this is our Warrior King who conquered sin, death, and the evil one.
[i] Gen 3:15-16; Isa 52:13-53:12; John 12:31; Col 1:15-20,2:13-15; Heb 2:5-18; 1 John 3:4-9; Rev 5:5-10,12:9-11, 22:1
This article was originally posted at The Gospel Forum and is used here with the Author’s permission.