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"

(1Peter 3:18).

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" (Acts 17:2-3). 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]" (Romans 5:11). "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 [1851] -- 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 3:18).

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" (Isaiah 33:22) that "we are sanctified through the Offering of the Body of Jesus Christ" (Hebrews 10:10). 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 subjects. "13 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 15:13-14).

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" (Romans 3:23). 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" (Ezekiel 18:20), 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 3:24-26).

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 7:19). Charles G. Finney [1792-1875] -- http://whatsaiththescripture.com/Fellowship/Charles.G.Finney.html -, 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."


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.]

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