This past Sunday in worship, in my pastoral prayer to our Father in heaven, I said,
“You laid the strap to Jesus’ back. There’s not one lash left for me.”
For those who are in Christ, our Father in heaven wants his children to know how deeply they were loved when he sent his son to make a full, actual, particular, and definite atonement for us. I love children that are not my own, as our Father in heaven does. But no one faults me for having a particular and special love for my own three, as we should not fault God for having the same, since we are only acting and feeling what image we were made in.
The angel told Joseph, “Call his name Jesus, for he will save (that’s definite and actual) his people (that’s particular) from their sin” (a real ransom paid in full) – Matt. 1:21.
In John’s gospel, Jesus said that he will lay down his life for his sheep only (John 10:11,14). He said that the Pharisees were not his sheep (10:26). He said that they do not belong to his Father, but to their father the devil (8:44). Jesus said that since he lays down his life for his sheep, they will hear his voice and follow him, meaning, Jesus’ death purchases and secures their faith and faithfulness (6:37; 10:16, 26). Jesus also said that for all those that he dies for, he will not lose one but raise them up (6:39). He said he would do all of this only for those his Father gave him out of the world (17:2, 6, 9). Jesus said that the Pharisees do not believe because they are not his sheep (10:26) – and the only way you can become a sheep is if the Father freely gives you to his Son (10:29). It is not that you believe, then become a sheep, but that the Father chooses you to be his sheep, and that is the cause of faith in Christ.
Jesus died for his sheep, of whom the Father gave to him. The Pharisees are not his sheep, says Jesus. The sheep are sheep even before they are saved because of the Father’s love gift to his Son. They alone will be given eternal life and therefore, believe. They will all come into the sheep-pen and will hear Jesus’ voice and follow him, and not one will be lost.
When Jesus died on the cross for me:
Jesus did not die on the cross to make me savable – he died to save me. Jesus did not come to merely provide salvation, he came to actually save me. Jesus’ work on the cross was not a possibility for salvation, it was my salvation. For me, Jesus really did take my place on the cross so that I would never be punished for my sins. He died for me – he really did! I can’t be punished for my sins, not because I had faith, but because Jesus paid for my sin of unbelief, too. The Father will not punish Jesus, then punish the same sins again in me.
Jesus died for the church, not an idea or concept or possibility of a church (Acts. 20:28; Eph. 1 and 5; Rev. 5:9-10). Just as the atonement was provided for Israel alone, and not Egypt, the Father has provided an atonement for his people alone. His people are from every tribe, tongue, people and nation.
For the same reason that God set his love on Israel only, and on no other people (Deut. 7:6-8; Psalm 147:20), likewise, he sets his love on his people and sends his son to die for them so that there is no possibility of losing them (Rom. 5:8; 8:32, 39). The Son did not die with the possibility that his death would benefit no one. But rather, for all those that Jesus died for, they will absolutely receive every good thing that there is to have in Christ, because, no one will be able to charge the elect with injustice. Why not? Because it is God who predestines, who calls – and all the called are justified and all the justified are glorified – it is God who justifies based upon his free will to do so to his elect. God’s loving choice is the ground of my faith and flows from it. Faith is the condition for which Christ has secured because all the called (which produces faith) are justified (the consequence of being called – Rom. 8:29-33).
When Jesus died for me, I was successfully reconciled to God while I was an enemy (Rom. 5:10). That’s how loving and powerful the cross is without my faith. It is not my faith that unleashes the benefits of a dormant and impotent cross, but rather the power of the cross secured my faith in my dead, dormant, hard and impotent heart (Jer. 32:38-41; Ezek. 36: 26-29; Luke 22:20; Heb. 8:8-12, 13:20-21; Eph. 1:3; Phil. 1:29). Jesus was wounded for my transgressions and the application of his death brought me peace and healing (Isa. 53:5), and it secured my righteous standing (vs. 11). Why? Because when the LORD laid on Christ our iniquity, he made many to be righteous, because he bore the sins of many (Isa. 53:6, 11-12; Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:48).
If you are in Christ, Jesus wants you to know that his death on the cross was not a general ransom, with no real eye on you in particular, with only a potential benefit to you, provided you do your part. No, he wants you to know that he died for you. And that dying for you, you could never be held captive and in debt to your sins, even your sin of unbelief – which he paid for, since unbelief too is a sin. You do believe that unbelief is a sin, don’t you? You do believe that “Jesus Paid it All” don’t you? Then hesitate no longer in believing this: There was not a chance that for those for whom Jesus died would ever suffer for their sins. Now that is the kind of love that the children of God are supposed to feel.