The primary purpose of the cross of the Christ was to make God righteous. How can a righteous God justify sinful man and retain His righteousness? How can the justice of God be true if He justifies a sinful man?
The apostle Paul writes, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now, righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe . . . and are justified (made just) freely through his grace by the redemption that came by Jesus Christ“.
“God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, SO AS TO BE JUST AND THE ONE WHO JUSTIFIES THOSE WHO HAVE FAITH IN JESUS”. (Romans 3: 20-26 – NIV)
The price is paid, the debt is erased, and the atonement has been made. The suffering of Jesus and his death on the cross made God just in justifying (forgiving) sinful man. He died for sin and we die to sin. He paid a price he did not owe for a debt we could not pay. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Jesus told Nicodemus “Except a man be born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Two elements, Water and Spirit- yet only one birth.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter answered the question posed by the multitude after hearing him preach Christ’s resurrection. They cried “Men and brethren what shall we do? “And Peter said to them, repent and be baptized (immersed) every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:36-38).
This New Birth helps us understand the act of immersion when Paul wrote, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection . . . In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:1-14).
There was never meant to be a Jew church and a Gentile church, a free church and a slave church, a male church and a female church. The scriptures teach “You are all the sons (children) of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-27) Paul compared the church to a body. “The body is a unit, though it is made of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – we were all given the one Spirit to drink” ( I Corinthians 12: 12-13).
There was a revival going on down at the river. It was a small town in Alabama and the crowd under the tent was captivated when the town’s local drunk came forward, tears streaming down his face confessing his sins and begging for forgiveness. It wasn’t far to the river bank; silence held the audience that night as he moved into the water to be baptized.
The preacher was a rank beginner, but his message of the cross was powerful yet simple. He really didn’t know the ‘formula’ or what to say over John. He just blurted out, “In the name of God I kill you and by his grace raise you up alive in the body of Christ.”
Some years passed and a former resident of the town came home for a reunion. His memories were stirred as he walked through his home town. “Hey, wait a minute, don’t I know you”, he said as he caught John’s eye. “I remember you now. You’re ‘Ole John, the town’s drunk.”
The man turned with a smile and said, “I think you are mistaken sir. There was a man name John who wasted much of his life with whiskey, but a young preacher came to town, spread his tent near the river and proclaimed the Cross of Christ. John died that night and was buried in the river. John doesn’t live anymore. It is the Christ that lives in him.”
Paul wrote, “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, HIS FAITH IS CREDITED AS RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Romans 4:4-5).