What Saith the Scripture?
from the series
What the Bible Says About...
What the Bible Says About
Why Did Jesus Have to Suffer?
"Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust,
that He might bring us to God,
being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit"
by Tom Stewart
Jesus had to Suffer because the intrinsic value of the Atonement
for our sins is both in His Death and Suffering that culminated on the Cross, but
especially in His Suffering. "4 Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we
did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our
iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are
healed. 6 All
we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the
LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah
53:4-6). After the Resurrection, Jesus reasoned with
Cleopas and another disciple on the Road to Emmaus that it was necessary for the
Messiah to have suffered in the fashion He did. "25 Then He said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all
that the prophets have spoken: 26 ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into
His Glory?" (Luke 24:25-26). Paul later reasoned with the Jews of Thessalonica concerning the
necessity of Christ's Sufferings. "2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath
days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, 3 opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and
risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, Whom I preach unto you, is Christ"
The word atonement in the Hebrew is cofer, which means cover, i.e., the cover of
the Ark of the Covenant, which was the Mercy Seat. "And it came to pass on the
morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will
go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an Atonement [Hebrew, cofer] for your
sin" (Exodus 32:30).
Scripture gives us to understand that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is a reconciliation
to favor (Greek, katallaga) of the Sinner to God by means of a substitution, change,
or exchange (Greek, katallasso). "And not only so, but we also Joy in God through
our LORD Jesus Christ, by Whom we have now received the Atonement [Greek, katallaga]"
"The Atonement is the governmental substitution of the sufferings of Christ
for the punishment of sinners. It is the covering of their sins by his sufferings"
(from Lecture 34 "Atonement"
-- http://whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/Systematic.Theology.4.html#LECTURE 34 -- of Lectures on Systematic Theology 
-- http://whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/Systematic.Theology.html -- by Charles G. Finney -- http://whatsaiththescripture.com/Fellowship/Charles.G.Finney.html
-). "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins,
the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to Death in the
flesh, but quickened by the Spirit" (1Peter
Suffering is the portion of the Godly. "Yea, and all that will live godly
in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2Timothy
3:12). Christ Jesus, being at the same time very God
and very Man, suffered in the flesh that His Humanity would learn Obedience to the
Moral Law of Love. "Though He were a Son, yet learned He Obedience by the things
which He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). This process of suffering to learn obedience is the Practical Sanctification
that all Christians must learn, as well. "4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is One LORD: 5 and thou shalt love the LORD thy God
with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). However,
Christ's Suffering on the Cross was more than Practical Sanctification, for it was
through the "Once For All" (Hebrews
10:10) Atonement of Christ "Our Lawgiver"
that "we are sanctified through the Offering of the Body of Jesus Christ"
In the Counsels of God, it was deemed that the "Sufferings of Christ" (1Peter 1:11) on the Cross
of Calvary could most wisely be substituted for the Eternal Damnation of sinners,
thus preventing an infinite amount of suffering in those who would repent. "Christ
also suffered for us... Who His Own Self bare our sins in His Own Body on the Tree,
that we, being dead to sins, should live unto Righteousness: by Whose Stripes ye
were healed" (1Peter 2:21, 24). The Sufferings of Christ Jesus in the Atonement demonstrated the
determination of Christ the King not to yield the Authority of His Law, but at the
same time manifested the "Love of Christ" (Ephesians
3:19) towards His undeserving, Hellbound, and rebellious
Greater Love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14 Ye are My friends,
if ye do whatsoever I command you" (John
The Natural Love that we have for ourselves is a Universal Truth, for "no man
ever yet hated his own flesh" (Ephesians
5:29); and, Jesus the Son of Man was no different. "For
we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities;
but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). He had no special
enjoyment of suffering, just as we do not enjoy suffering. "Wherefore in all
things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a Merciful
and Faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make Reconciliation for
the sins of the people" (Hebrews 2:17). It is difficult for the Righteous to watch the Guiltless and Innocent
suffer, because their suffering is our suffering. "Remember them that are in
bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also
in the body" (Hebrews 13:3). Further, we have been advised by the Scriptures to remain "simple"
concerning the specifics of the sufferings that evil men inflict. "For your
Obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet
I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple [Greek, akeraion, harmless]
concerning evil" (Romans 16:19). It was only the Providence of God that allowed the human mother
of Jesus to be at the scene of Christ's Crucifixion, and one can only imagine the
impression upon Mary as she beheld the Agony of her Son upon the Cross! Perhaps it
was at that moment that Mary recalled the prophetic words of Simeon from the dedication
of Jesus. "34
And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary His mother, Behold, this Child is set
for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a Sign which shall be spoken
against; 35 (Yea,
a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts
may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35). For those we love, suffering and even death for ourselves would
be more desirable than to watch them suffer. But, Jesus willingly set His
face like flint to suffer the Cruel Death of the Cross for friend and foe
alike, e.g., the Roman centurion in charge of His Crucifixion exclaimed about the
events and manner of Christ's Death on the Cross, "Truly this was the Son of
God" (Matthew 27:54).
Imagine the situation from God's point of view. He created Humankind as Moral
Agents, whose necessity is to always obey the Moral Law of Love, e.g., "35 Then one of them, which
was a lawyer, asked Him a question, tempting Him, and saying, 36 Master, which is the great Commandment
in the Law? 37
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with
all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the First and Great Commandment. 39 And the Second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself. 40 On
these two Commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:35-40). But, man has characteristically
disobeyed God's Law. "For all have sinned, and come short of the Glory of God"
The problem: How can God preserve respect for His Law of Love, which requires that
all lawbreakers must be punished, i.e., "The soul that sinneth, it shall die"
while manifesting Love to the same lawbreakers? Unless there was an Atonement, God
could not pardon Sinners without announcing to the world that His Law was worthless,
since a law without a commensurate penalty is only advice. "6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices
for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. 7 Then said I [Christ], Lo, I come (in the volume of the Book it is
written of Me,) to do Thy [the Father's] Will, O God. 8 Above when He [Christ] said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings
and offering for sin Thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are
offered by the Law; 9
then said He [Christ], Lo, I come to do Thy Will, O God. He taketh away the first,
that He may establish the second. 10 By the which Will we are Sanctified through the Offering of the
Body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews
10:6-10). An Atonement was necessary to Justify God
in His Pardoning of Penitent Sinners, if the object is to save the Sinner and return
the ex-Rebel to a continual Obedience to the Moral Law of Love. "24 Being justified freely by
His Grace through the Redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a Propitiation through Faith in His
Blood, to declare His Righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through
the forbearance of God; 26
to declare, I say, at this time His Righteousness: that He might be Just, and the
Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Romans
The value of the Suffering of Jesus Christ the Son of God is primarily in
the subduing effect that it has upon the Rebellious, when they understand that it
was for them that He suffered and bled and died. "He will turn again, He will
have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt cast all their
sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah
G. Finney [1792-1875] --
in his Lectures
on Systematic Theology -- http://whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/Systematic.Theology.html
-, enumerated twenty-four reasons "why an atonement
in the case of the inhabitants of this world was preferable to punishment, or to
the execution of the divine law."
- First, "God's great and disinterested love [love given
by God to all without regard to their moral character] to sinners themselves was
a prime reason for the atonement." "God so loved the world, that He gave
His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have
Everlasting Life" (John 3:16).
- Second, "His great love to the universe at large must
have been another reason, inasmuch as it was impossible that the atonement should
not exert an amazing influence over moral beings [e.g., angels], in whatever world
they might exist, and where the fact of atonement should be known." "10 Of which Salvation the prophets
have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the Grace that should come
unto you: 11 searching
what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify,
when It testified beforehand the Sufferings of Christ, and the Glory that should
follow. 12 Unto
whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the
things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto
you with the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven; which things the angels desire to
look into" (1Peter 1:10-12).
- Third, "Another reason for substituting the sufferings
of Christ in the place of the eternal damnation of sinners, is, that an infinite
amount of suffering might be prevented. The relation of Christ to the universe rendered
his sufferings so infinitely valuable and influential, as an expression of God's
abhorrence of sin on the one hand, and his great love to his subjects on the other,
that an infinitely less amount of suffering in him than must have been inflicted
on sinners, would be equally, and no doubt vastly more, influential in supporting
the government of God, than the execution of the law upon them would have been. Be
it borne in mind, that Christ was the lawgiver, and his suffering in behalf of sinners
is to be regarded as the lawgiver and executive magistrate suffering in the behalf
and stead of a rebellious province of his empire. As a governmental expedient it
is easy to see the great value of such a substitute; that on the one hand it fully
evinced the determination of the ruler not to yield the authority of his law, and
on the other, to evince his great and disinterested love for his rebellious subjects."
"Which in His times He shall shew, Who is the Blessed and Only Potentate, the
KING of kings, and LORD of lords" (1Timothy
- Fourth, "By this substitution, an immense good might
be gained, the eternal happiness of all that can be reclaimed from sin, together
with all the augmented happiness of those who have never sinned, that must result
from this glorious revelation of God." "In Thy Presence is fulness of Joy;
at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm
- Fifth, "Another reason for preferring the atonement
to the punishment of sinners must have been, that sin had afforded an opportunity
for the highest manifestation of virtue in God: the manifestation of forbearance,
mercy, self-denial, and suffering for enemies that were within his own power, and
for those from whom he could expect no equivalent in return. It is impossible to
conceive of a higher order of virtues than are exhibited in the atonement of Christ.
It was vastly desirable that God should take advantage of such an opportunity to
exhibit his true character, and show to the universe what was in his heart. The strength
and stability of any government must depend upon the estimation in which the sovereign
is held by his subjects. It was therefore indispensable, that God should improve
the opportunity, which sin had afforded, to manifest and make known his true character,
and thus secure the highest confidence of his subjects." "Who is like unto
Thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like Thee, Glorious in Holiness, Fearful in
Praises, doing Wonders?" (Exodus 15:11).
- Sixth, "Another reason for preferring atonement was,
God's desire to lay open his heart to the inspection and imitation of moral beings."
"Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children" (Ephesians 5:1).
- Seventh, "Another reason is, because God is love,
and prefers mercy when it can be safely exercised. The Bible represents him as delighting
in mercy, and affirms that 'judgment is his strange work. Because he so much prefers
mercy to judgment as to be willing to suffer as the sinner's substitute, to afford
himself the opportunity to exercise pardon, on principles that are consistent with
a due administration of justice." "Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth
iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His Heritage? He retaineth
not His Anger for ever, because He delighteth in Mercy" (Micah 7:18).
- Eighth, "In the atonement God consulted his own happiness
and his own glory. To deny himself for the salvation of sinners, was a part of his
own infinite happiness, always intended by him, and therefore always enjoyed. This
was not selfishness in him, as his own well-being is of infinitely greater value
than that of all the universe besides, he ought so to regard and treat it, because
of its supreme and intrinsic value." "Thus will I magnify Myself, and sanctify
Myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that
I am the LORD" (Ezekiel 38:23).
- Ninth, "In making the atonement, God complied with
the laws of his own intelligence, and did just that, all things considered, in the
highest degree promotive of the universal good." "For as the Heavens are
higher than the Earth, so are My Ways higher than your ways, and My Thoughts than
your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).
- Tenth, "The atonement would present to creatures the
highest possible motives to virtue. Example is the highest moral influence that can
be exerted. If God, or any other being, would make others benevolent, he must manifest
benevolence himself. If the benevolence manifested in the atonement does not subdue
the selfishness of sinners, their case is hopeless." "Who shall change
our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His Glorious Body, according to
the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (Philippians 3:21).
- Eleventh, "It would produce among creatures the highest
kind and degree of happiness, by leading them to contemplate and imitate his love."
"If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (John 13:17).
- Twelfth, "The circumstances of his government rendered
an atonement necessary; as the execution of law was not, as a matter of fact, a sufficient
preventive of sin. The annihilation of the wicked would not answer the purposes of
government. A full revelation of mercy, blended with such an exhibition of justice,
was called for by the circumstances of the universe." "Justice and Judgment
are the habitation of Thy Throne: Mercy and Truth shall go before Thy face"
- Thirteenth, "To confirm holy beings. Nothing could
be more highly calculated to establish and confirm the confidence, love, and obedience
of holy beings, than this disinterested manifestation of love to sinners and rebels."
"According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that
we should be Holy and without blame before Him in Love" (Ephesians 1:4).
- Fourteenth, "To confound his enemies. How could anything
be more directly calculated to silence all cavils, and to shut every mouth, and for
ever close up all opposing lips, than such an exhibition of love and willingness
to make sacrifices for sinners?" "8 And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became
obedient unto death, even the Death of the Cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name
which is above every name: 10
that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven, and things
in Earth, and things under the Earth; 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is LORD,
to the Glory of God the Father" (Philippians
- Fifteenth, "A just and necessary regard to his own
reputation made him prefer atonement to the punishment of sinners. A desire to sustain
his own reputation, as the only moral power that could support his own moral government,
must have been a leading reason for the atonement. The atonement was preferred as
the best, and perhaps only way to inspire an affectionate confidence in God. It must
have been the most agreeable to God, and the most beneficial to the universe."
"Thou art worthy, O LORD, to receive Glory and Honour and Power" (Revelation 4:11).
- Sixteenth, "Atonement would afford him an opportunity
always to gratify his love in his kindness to sinners, in using means for their salvation,
in forgiving and saving them when they repent, without the danger of its being inferred
in the universe, that he had not a sufficient abhorrence for their sin." "Wherefore
[Jesus] is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing
He ever liveth to make Intercession for them" (Hebrews
- Seventeenth, "Another reason for the atonement was,
to counteract the influence of the devil, which was so extensively and powerfully
exerted in this world for the promotion of selfishness." "He that committeth
sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from The Beginning. For this purpose the
Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1John 3:8).
- Eighteenth, "To make the final punishment of the wicked
more impressive in the light of the infinite love, manifest in the atonement."
"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers,
and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which
burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the Second Death" (Revelation 21:8).
- Nineteenth, "The atonement is the highest testimony
that God can bear against selfishness. It is the testimony of his own example."
"6 For when
we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous
man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth His Love
toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:6-8).
- Twentieth, "The atonement is a higher expression of
his regard for the public interest than the execution of law. It is, therefore, a
fuller satisfaction to public justice [justice concerned with the well-being of the
public good, not retributive]." "15 But not as the offence, so also is the Free Gift. For if through
the offence of one many be dead, much more the Grace of God, and The Gift by Grace,
which is by One Man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16 And not as it was by one that sinned,
so is The Gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the Free Gift is
of many offences unto Justification. 17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they
which receive abundance of Grace and of the Gift of Righteousness shall reign in
Life by One, Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:15-17).
- Twenty-first, "The atonement so reveals all the attributes
of God, as to complete the whole circle of motives needed to influence the minds
of moral beings." "But let him that glorieth Glory in this, that he understandeth
and knoweth Me, that I Am the LORD which exercise Lovingkindness, Judgment, and Righteousness,
in the Earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD" (Jeremiah 9:24).
- Twenty-second, "By dying in human nature, Christ exhibited
his heart to both worlds." "14 I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine.
15 As the Father
knoweth Me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down My Life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have,
which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My Voice;
and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. 17 Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My Life, that
I might take it again. 18
No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have Power to lay it down,
and I have Power to take it again. This Commandment have I received of My Father"
- Twenty-third, "The fact, that the execution of the
law of God on rebel angels had not arrested, and could not arrest, the progress of
rebellion in the universe, proves that something more needed to be done, in support
of the authority of law, than would be done in the execution of its penalty upon
rebels. While the execution of law may have a strong tendency to prevent the beginning
of rebellion among loyal subjects, and to restrain rebels themselves; yet penal inflictions
do not, in fact, subdue the heart, under any government, whether human or divine."
"Mercy rejoiceth against judgment" (James
2:13). "As a matter of fact, the law was only exasperating
rebels, without confirming holy beings. Paul affirmed, that the action of the law
upon his own mind, while in impenitence, was to beget in him all manner of concupiscence.
One grand reason for giving the law was, to develop the nature of sin, and to show
that the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. The
law was therefore given that the offence might abound, that thereby it might be demonstrated,
that without an atonement there could be no salvation for rebels under the government
of God." "Moreover the Law entered, that the offence might abound. But
where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound" (Romans
- Twenty-fourth, "The nature, degree, and execution
of the penalty of the law, made the holiness and the justice of God so prominent,
as to absorb too much of public attention to be safe. Those features of his character
were so fully revealed, by the execution of his law upon the rebel angels, that to
have pursued the same course with the inhabitants of this world, without the offer
of mercy, might have had, and doubtless would have had, an injurious influence upon
the universe, by creating more of fear than of love to God and his government. Hence,
a fuller revelation of the love and compassion of God was necessary, to guard against
the influence of slavish fear." "16 And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there
were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the Voice of
the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.
17 And Moses brought
forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part
of the mount. 18
And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in
fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount
quaked greatly. 19
And when the Voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses
spake, and God answered him by a Voice. 20 And the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mount:
and the LORD called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up. 21 And the LORD said unto Moses,
Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many
of them perish. 22
And let the priests also, which come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest
the LORD break forth upon them" (Exodus
As distasteful as Suffering is to our Natural Love of ourselves, we ought certainly
to be grateful that the All Wise God felt that our Salvation was worth the Suffering
of His Only Begotten Son. "For when we were yet without strength, in due time
Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6). How can we not love Him, serve Him, obey Him, and worship Him for
now and forever, as we gaze upon the face of Him Who loved us so? "We love Him,
because He first loved us" (1John 4:19). Until He comes for us, may we walk worthy of Him. "Watch ye
therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to Escape all these things
that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36).
[Read Charles G. Finney's Lecture 34 on the "Atonement"
-- http://whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/Systematic.Theology.4.html#LECTURE 34 --
from his Lectures on Systematic Theology
-- http://whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/Systematic.Theology.html -- for a better
appreciation of the suffering of Jesus Christ in the Atonement for our sins.]
in the Series "What the Bible Says About..."