Brothers and Sisters,
Yesterday I prompted us with this question: What is God’s ultimate goal in saving human beings from sin and death? In other words, why did Jesus come to die on a cross? We’re prone to answer that question somewhat glibly – “Jesus died on a cross to save me (or us) from my (our) sins.” We follow that statement with something like John 3:16 (ESV), “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Now, it’s not that speaking like this is in any sense wrong. In fact, it’s wonderfully correct. But, it’s correct without being sufficient. It’s correct without going far enough. To say that Jesus died on a cross to save us from our sins is true, it’s just not true enough.
Why did Jesus die? What is God’s ultimate goal in saving human beings from his own wrath and our own enslavement to sin? Let Psalm 79:9 (NASB) give us the answer: “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.” Do you see the answers here? God works salvation for the glory of his name! He forgives sin for his name’s sake! The bottom of the cross is not us, but God. The decisive reason for the cross is not our salvation, but God’s glory. Read John 17 and consider how Jesus’ language right before the cross reflects this truth.
Now, I must immediately caveat myself. And the fact that I must do so is the stunning beauty of the gospel message! My last sentence above suggests a dichotomy, or a distinction, between God’s work to glorify himself and his work to save us; as if one could be without the other. In fact, there is such a dichotomy; one does exist without the other. God’s glory is not dependent on his work to save me or anyone else. He exists apart from, and independent of, anything in all the cosmos, and I add nothing to his essence. But in practice (if I can speak like this) God has chosen something mind-bogglingly different than holy aloofness. He determined, in eternity past, to link the experience (the manifestation, the appearance, the enjoyment) of his glory in creation with the life of human beings he would choose to save from their sin against him; people he would rescue from wrath and bondage. Thus, in practice the God of the universe has so allied himself to me that his glory is at stake in my rescue from sin and death. The bottom of the cross is God’s glory, but God’s glory involves my rescue. I cannot truly explain the cross without reference to the glory of God, but I should not presume to consider God’s glory without remembering that Jesus died for me.
What love is this that God should condescend to be merciful to me? I cannot, I do not, deserve such favor. No, it is all of grace! No wonder that David exclaims with such amazement in Psalm 8:4-9 (ESV):
“…what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
Dear Christian, may you wonder and rejoice at the mystery of your salvation tonight.