For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
for sin, in respect of sin, in gracious Divine relations to the pardon and removal of sin. It will be necessary to discuss fully the conceptions that are possible under this term for - for sin. Our preference for either one of the conceptions will depend on the school of theology to which we belong. For may mean in place of, or in respect of, or on account of, or with a view to the removal of. Scripture teachings should be appealed to, to fix what is the proper and precise meaning. The following may be consulted: - Old Testament. Genesis 22., Deuteronomy 9:24-26; Psalm 22.; Isaiah 53; Zechariah 12:10. New Testament: Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; Romans 5:8-10; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Corinthians 8:11; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 Peter 1:19. The subject may be fully treated under three headings, and, as it should be a scriptural rather than a theological study, the statement of the headings should suffice.
I. OLD TESTAMENT ANTICIPATIONS OF THE DOCTRINE OF DEATH FOR SINS.
II. OUR LORD'S OWN TEACHINGS RESPECTING HIS DEATH FOR SINS.
III. APOSTOLIC VIEWS CONCERNING THE DEATH FOR SINS. If the Scripture passages be fully and fairly considered, it will be felt that the commonly accepted theological notions of our Lord's atonement for sin, need to be broadened and widened, and made inclusive of various possible relations. No one aspect of the death for sins need be conceived of as antagonistic to another. In the many sidedness of the relation lies the depth and the glory of the truth. - R.T.
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins.
(W. Brock, D.D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)1. In these verses we have the earliest specimen of a Christian creed; the compendious form which Paul habitually used in order that, whatever else they forgot, they might not forget this, and to supply a test of the claims of those who assumed to speak in the name of Christ. Note how in 1 Corinthians 11:23, St. Paul introduces the form of words to be used at the Supper in precisely the same way he introduces the creed before us. The phrase seems to have been that by which St. Paul habitually introduced settled and formal statements of Divine truth.
2. But if this creed were already familiar, why repeat it here? Simply because the Corinthians needed to hear it again and again. There were those who held that matter was the root of all evil, that only as the spirit was redeemed from its thraldom to the body could men hope to rise into a happy spiritual life. And when Paul taught that the death and resurrection of Christ were virtually the death and resurrection of all who believed on Him, they concluded that "the resurrection was past already." Nay, as they reflected on the dignity of Him who had achieved this great spiritual redemption for them, they began to doubt whether the pure Son of God had ever been brought into immediate contact with aught so vile and corrupt as matter; whether all that pertains to His physical life was not a series of illusions. It was in this mood that St. Paul met them.
I. THE APOSTLE'S CREED INCLUDES THE THREE FOLLOWING FACTS.
1. That Christ really died — that His death was a genuine historical event, the date, manner, and place of which were all perfectly well known.
2. That Christ was buried — a real human body being laid in an actual grave, a grave familiar to those who dwelt in Jerusalem.
3. That Christ has been raised, as could be proved by hundreds of witnesses still alive. These three facts are. the cardinal facts of Christian history. To believe in these is, so far forth, to hold the catholic Christian faith.
II. FROM THESE THREE FACTS THE APOSTLE DRAWS TWO DOCTRINAL SEQUENCES.
1. Christ died; but to believe that will do no more for us than to believe that Lazarus died, unless we also believe that "Christ died for our sins."(1) The death of Christ was not a mere natural event. For in Him was no sin, and death is the natural consequence and proper wage of sin: in Him was "the power of an endless life" over which death had no claim or sway. His death, therefore, unlike ours, was a willing sacrifice. He died for the sins of those who were dead in sin, that, coming into their death, He might give them His life.(2) But St. Paul does not embarrass his affirmation with any theory of the mode in which the death of Christ takes away sin. He is content to leave men to theorise as they will, if only they receive the cardinal fact.
2. The death and resurrection of Jesus are parts of an ordered scheme of a Divine economy. "Christ died, has been raised again according to the Scriptures," the law, the will of God. Now that the Hebrew Scriptures did foretell this (Isaiah 53:8, 9; Psalm 16:10) is obvious.(1) Mark the value of this fact. It demonstrates that the sacrifice for our sins has found acceptance in heaven. The plan of the work wrought by Christ was designed by God. All the lines of His life were drawn by the hand of God before Christ took our flesh to atone our sin. And therefore to accept the redemption of Christ is to accept the redemption of God. We believe in Christ; we also believe in God.(2) But here again St. Paul quietly passes by all the subtleties of speculative minds. He simply declares the simple fact that the redeeming work of Christ was in accordance with the will of God. He neither affirms anything nor requires us to believe anything as to the mode in which God accepts the righteousness of Christ on behalf of guilty men. All he demands is, that we should find here an expression of the good-will of God; and he demands this because to believe that Jesus died for our sins will be no "gospel" to us, unless we also believe that "God sent His Son to be the propitiation of our sins." Conclusion:
1. The creed is brief enough, and simple enough when compared with the creeds of the Church, and yet, in the judgment of an inspired apostle, it contains all that is essential to the Christian faith. Nay, St. Paul goes even farther than this. There were those at Corinth who, as yet, could not adopt even this succinct and simple creed in its integrity. But instead of expelling them from the Church, or dooming them to everlasting perdition, he sets himself to teach them more perfectly the way of life.
2. The lessons of St. Paul's wise, gracious conduct are —(1) The more accurate and full a man's knowledge of Christian doctrine, the greater will be his help, of an intellectual sort, to Christian obedience. And therefore we should spare no pains to get and to give him rounded and complete views of the truth as it is in Jesus. But we must not be impatient with him if he is slow to learn.(2) If we hold St. Paul's creed in St. Paul's spirit, we shall be very willing to hold as much more as we can. He delivered his creed "first of all." He delivered it first, because the fact that Christ died for our sins was of all facts the most momentous to sinful men — the very first thing they needed to learn. But if he taught this first, he also taught a good deal more than this. Having taught the simple lesson of the Cross, he was for ever urging men to go on to perfection.
(S. Cox, D.D.)I. ITS GREAT FACTS.
1. The death.
2. The burial.
3. The resurrection of Christ.
II. THEIR PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE.
1. Sin expiated.
2. Death conquered.
3. Heaven opened.
III. THEIR ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY.
3. Delivered to us on the authority of the Scriptures.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)I. THE FACTS OF PAUL'S GOSPEL. "First of all... I delivered" these things. And the "first" not only points to the order of time, but to the order of importance.
1. The system unfolded in the New Testament is a simple record of historical fact. It becomes a philosophy and a religions system; but it is first of all a story of something that took place in the world. If that be so, let preachers never forget that their business is to insist upon the truth of these fundamental facts. They must evolve all the deep meanings which are wrapped up in the facts; but they will not be faithful to their Lord unless there be the unfaltering proclamation — "first of all," etc.
2. This character of the gospel makes short work of a great deal that calls itself "liberal Christianity." We are told that it is quite possible to be a very good Christian, and reject the supernatural. It may be so, but I cannot understand how, if the fundamental character of Christian teaching be the proclamation of certain facts, a man who does not believe those facts has the right to call himself a Christian.
3. There is an explanation which turns the facts into a gospel.(1) Mark how "that Christ died," not Jesus. Christ is the name of an office, into which is condensed a whole system of truth, declaring that it is He who is the Apex, the Seal, and the ultimate Word of all Divine revelation.(2) "He died for our sins." Now, if the apostle had only said "He died for us," that might conceivably have meant that, in a multitude of different ways of example, etc., His death was of use to mankind. But when he says "He died for our sins," that expression has no meaning, unless it means that He died as the expiation for men's sins.(3) "He died and rose... according to the Scriptures," fulfilling the Divine purposes revealed from of old. These three things turn the narrative into a gospel, and without all three, the death of Christ is nothing to us, any more than the death of thousands of saintly men has been. Do you think that these twelve fishermen would ever have shaken the world if they bad gone out with the story of the Cross unless they had carried along with it the commentary? And do you suppose that the type of Christianity which slurs over the explanation, and so does not know what to do with the facts, will ever do much in the world, or will ever touch men? Let us liberalise our Christianity by all means, but do not let us evaporate it.
II. WHAT ESTABLISHES THE FACTS.
1. This Epistle is one of the four letters of Paul which nobody disputes, and was written before the Gospels, probably within twenty-five years of the Crucifixion.(1) And what do we find alleged by it as the state of things at its date? That the belief in the Resurrection of Christ was universally taught in and accepted by all the Christian communities. And if that be so, there is not, between the moment when Paul penned these words and the day of Pentecost, a single chink in the history where you can insert such a tremendous innovation as the full-fledged belief in a resurrection coming in as something new.(2) Unless the belief that Christ had risen originated at the time of His death, there would never have been a Church at all. Take the nave out of the wheel and what becomes of the spokes? A dead Christ could never have been the basis of a living Church.
2. The contemporaneousness of the evidence is sufficiently established. What about its good faith? Anybody that knows an honest man when he sees him, anybody that has the least ear for the tone of sincerity and the accent of conviction, must say they may have been fanatics, but one thing is clear, they were not false witnesses for God.
3. What, then, about their competency? Their simplicity; their ignorance; their slowness to believe; their surprise when the fact first dawned upon them, all tend to make us certain that there was no hysterical turning of a wish into a fact, on the part of these men. Fancy five hundred people all at once smitten with the same mistake, imagining that they saw what they did not see!
4. "He was buried." Why does Paul introduce that amongst his facts? Because, if the grave was there, why did not the rulers put an end to the heresy by saying, "Let us go and see if the body is there"? If His body was not in the grave, what had become of it? If His friends stole it away, then they were deceivers of the worst type. If His enemies took it away, for which they had no motive, why did they not produce it and say, "There is an answer to your nonsense"?
III. WHAT THE FACTS ESTABLISH.
1. Christ has risen from the dead; and that opens a door wide enough to admit all the rest of the gospel miracles.
2. The resurrection casts back a light upon the Cross, and we understand that His death is the life of the world, and that "by His stripes we are healed."
3. But, further, remember how He claimed to be the Son of God; how He demanded absolute obedience, trust, and love — and consider the resurrection as bearing on the reception or rejection of these tremendous claims. We are brought sharp up to this alternative — Christ rose from the dead, and was declared by the resurrection to be the Son of God with power; or Christ has not risen from the dead — and what then? Then He was either deceiver or deceived, and in either case has no right to my reverence and love.
4. The resurrection of Christ teaches us that life has nothing to do with organisation but exists apart from the body; that a man may pass from death and be unaltered in the substance of his being: and that the earthly house of our tabernacle may be fashioned like unto the glorious house in which He dwells now at the right hand of God. There is no other absolute proof of immortality but the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
(A. Maclaren, D.D.)I. THE PRIMARY TRUTHS WHICH ST PAUL DELIVERED TO THE CORINTHIANS.
1. Here is a solitary Jew visiting a great heathen city for the first time, to preach an entirely new religion. His bodily presence is weak, and his speech, compared to that of Greek rhetoricians, contemptible. He stands almost alone in a city, famous all over the world for luxury, immorality, and idolatry. A more remarkable conjuncture it is hard to conceive. And what did he say about the Founder of the new faith which he wanted them to receive in place of their ancient religion?(1) That He died, and died as a malefactor on the Cross. Why did St. Paul lay so much stress upon this? Because "He died for our sins."(2) That He rose from the dead. By this amazing miracle He proved, as He had frequently said He would, that He was the Saviour foretold in prophecy; that the satisfaction for sin He had made by His death was accepted by God the Father; that the work of our redemption was completed, and that death, as well as sin, was a conquered enemy.
2. Learn —(1) What were the leading principles of that religion which, eighteen centuries ago, came forth from Palestine, and turned the world upside down. Christianity starved idolatry, and emptied the heathen temples, stopped gladiatorial combats, elevated the position of women, raised the whole tone of morality, and improved the condition of children and the poor. These are facts which we may safely challenge all the enemies of revealed religion to gainsay. What did it all? Not the mere publication of a higher code of duty, but the simple story of the Cross and the sepulchre.(2) What the foundation of our own personal religion must be, if we really want inward spiritual comfort. That the early Christians possessed such comfort is plain. These men had a firm grasp of the two great facts which St. Paul proclaimed "first and foremost" to the Corinthians.
II. THE REASONS WHY HE WAS LED TO ASSIGN TO THESE TRUTHS SUCH A PROMINENT POSITION. There are three great facts which stare us in the face everywhere.
1. Sin. When the sense of this is really awakened, what can cure it? Nothing has ever been found to do good to a sin-stricken soul but the sight of a Divine Mediator.
2. Sorrow. What shall best help man to meet and bear this? The cold lessons of Stoicism have no power in them. Just here, the Pauline doctrine of a risen Christ comes in with a marvellous power, and exactly meets our necessities.
3. Death. At no point do human religions and philosophies break down so completely as in the article of death. At the point where all man-made systems are weakest, there the gospel is strongest.Conclusion:
1. Do not be ashamed of holding decided views about the first things — the foundation truths of religion.
2. The only way to do good is to walk in St. Paul's steps, and to tell men first, foremost, continually, that Jesus Christ died for their sins, and rose again for their justification.
(Bp. Ryle.)I. The expediency of Christ's interposition for our salvation may be inferred from THE GUILT AND DEGRADATION OF MANKIND. Once, indeed, there was, as it has been called, a golden age; but the same persons who have described it, also delineate the degeneracy of our race. Good men, according to one ancient writer, were scarce as the gates of Thebes, or the mouths of the Nile. Another tells us, that peace had left the earth, truth taken her departure, and fidelity fled far away. In consulting the records of ages that are past, amiable qualities, no doubt, occasionally appear which attract our esteem, and splendid virtues are displayed which excite admiration; still, however, misconduct and crime are the prominent features. Yes, crimes follow in close succession, while virtues are rare like those beautiful flowers which spring up here and there among the weeds of the wilderness. They who contemplate the wandering idolaters in the wilds of Tartary, not to mention the ancient votaries of superstition in Greece and Rome; they who behold the Indian on the banks of the Ganges, or the Samoeide situated on the frozen ocean, must discern, in a striking point of view, the degraded state of humanity, and the expediency of that plan of salvation which the gospel unfolds. The degraded state of humanity, on account of the numberless violations of duty, is productive of many apprehensions and alarms. In the presence of a Being of infinite perfection man has trembled to appear, being timorous and dismayed, like the progenitor of our race, when he "hid himself from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden." If he would still hope for happiness, after his manifold provocations, he suspects that he cannot demand it from the inflexible justice of the Almighty, but that he must intreat it from the tender mercy of his God. And how astonishing the display of the Divine mercy to the children of men!
II. The expediency of His interposition may be deduced from THE INEFFICACY OF EVERY OTHER KNOWN MODE OF ATONEMENT FOR TRANSGRESSION. Much efficacy has been ascribed to repentance; but it is doubtful how far mere repentance is a reparation for wrong. Is not guilt often attended with punishment which repentance alone cannot remove? Has not the murderer been tortured with remorse, after sincerely deploring his crime, and firmly resolving to shed no more innocent blood? True penitence implies a complete change of life: but who ceases entirely to do evil? Erring man sins, repents, and sins again. Even his best resolutions are at times fallacious, and as the stream of brooks they pass away. Hence he is full of anxious disquietude, apprehensive that, while the corruptions of his nature continue, the Divine displeasure will also remain. Distrusting the efficacy of repentance for appeasing His anger, he naturally fears, as a great philosopher has justly remarked, lest the wisdom of God should not, like the weakness of man, be prevailed on to spare the crime by the most importunate lamentations of the criminal. Some other intercession, some other sacrifice, some other atonement, he imagines, must be made for him beyond what he himself is capable of making, before the purity of the Divine justice can be reconciled to his manifold offences. But legal oblations were deficient in efficacy. It was not possible, according to the declaration of an apostle, that these should take away sin. A superior sacrifice was requisite, and a better atonement than these. On the Saviour's merits the believer reflects with hope and trust, gratitude and transport, in his last moments.
III. The atonement was expedient TO VINDICATE THE HONOUR OF THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT. Mercy to the guilty without suitable expiation might produce ruinous effects. Were breach of order not punished, all would become anarchy and confusion. When the genius of justice seems to slumber for ages, she is scorned like the threatenings of Noah. Never will that Omnipotent Being, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity but with abhorrence, allow guilty mortals to trample on the majesty of His laws, and with impunity to set examples of crimes the most atrocious. That obnoxiousness to punishment which results from the violation of the Divine laws was transferred to Christ when He offered Himself as a substitute for sinners. And this substitution, completely voluntary on His part, and consequently highly meritorious, exalted in every point of view, instead of debasing the doctrine of "the natural placability of the Divine Being."
IV. Our Saviour's interposition was expedient as being A SUBJECT OF PROPHECY, and the Divine veracity interested of consequence in its accomplishment. Many hundred years before His appearance on earth, the interposition of our Redeemer was predicted with the utmost perspicuity. The whole scene of His sufferings passed before the prophets, and they describe them as circumstantially as if they had been spectators of the crucifixion on Mount Calvary. Without controversy, it was a great and mysterious sacrifice. But mystery is merely a relative term. To infinite intelligence all is plain in the whole economy of grace, the arrangement of providence, and the system of nature. Let us, who are children of the dust, receive with reverence every doctrine which is revealed from heaven, rather availing ourselves of the light of the sun, so to speak, than attempting to gaze on his glory.
(T. Laurie, D.D.)I. It was violent and ignominious — A DEATH BY CRUCIFIXION. Christians living at this remote age of the Church, are, in some sense, disqualified to conceive of that extremity of pain and shame which attended an execution by the cross. We have been accustomed to associate with the cross whatever is stupendous in history, whatever is dear, and sacred, and sublime in truth. But it was far otherwise in that age, and with those nations among whom the apostles went forth to proclaim their crucified Lord. They knew the cross in no other character than as the instrument of the most horrible and most infamous of punishments. We cannot, therefore, but admire, that in the face of this strong and universal detestation, the apostles should so explicitly affirm and so earnestly iterate the fact of their Master's crucifixion. Far from drawing an oblivious veil over the Cross, far from attempting, by partial or enigmatical statements, to conceal the offensive fact, they assert it, they appeal to it, they rejoice and glory in it!
1. The sincerity of the apostles, and their conviction that Jesus is the Saviour of the world. Had they been insincere, or had they been of doubtful mind, as to the Christ of God, the mode of their Master's death they might well have kept back.
2. We ourselves may take a lesson not to stumble at the scandal of the Cross. Happy they who, feeling it to be the power of God and the wisdom of God, are raised above the contempt of unbelieving men, and can glory in the Cross of Christ!
II. The death of Christ was POSITIVE AND REAL — not fictitious, not visionary: "Christ died for our sins." The importance of this part of apostolic instruction we should have much more distinctly perceived had we lived nearer the times of the apostles. Very early in the Christian Church, yea, even in the days of the apostles themselves, there arose a sect of people who denied the reality of the sufferings and death of the Holy Jesus, maintaining that the Jews spent their fury on a phantom sent from heaven to delude them, and that the real Christ was far removed above the reach of their malignant and cruel hands. Some of these persons had witnessed the miracles which the apostles wrought, and probably some of them those of the Saviour Himself; and we may readily conceive how the witnesses of such wonders should find it difficult to credit, that He who wrought them could ever fall a victim to wicked and impotent men! Be this as it may, the apostles, those wise master builders, were careful to guard against the fatal mistake we have mentioned. With what particularity of circumstance did the sacred historians narrate the manner of Messiah's death!
III. These sufferings, and this death, were a vicarious, sacrificial OFFERING TO GOD, for the sins of the world.
2. This view of the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus is no less forced upon us by the narrative of the event. I will not ask where was the goodness, the compassion of the Divine nature? but I will ask where was its justice, its equity, its righteousness if the immaculate Jesus could bear all this weight of woe, and yet not sacrificially, not as a substitute, not as the Lamb of God, dying for the sins of the world?
3. It is when the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus are regarded in this light that they become, what the sacred Scriptures represent them, the highest display of the love of God to man.Conclusion:
1. This vital, all-momentous Christian doctrine may serve to guide us in our behaviour towards those who deny the Lord that bought them. As men, and as men for whom Christ died, they are entitled to our respect, our pity, and our prayers; but never let us be found lending ourselves to countenance their fatal errors.
2. The exhibition of this great truth may serve to make known the aggravated guilt, the awful danger of an impenitent life.
3. This blessed doctrine ought especially to bring encouragement to every one who sincerely mourns on account of sin.
4. Finally, standing on this bright and eternal truth, I have a right to require that you unite with me in ascriptions of praise to the adorable Fountain of all this love to man.
I. AN UNANSWERABLE PROOF OF THE HUMANITY OF OUR LORD. It declares Him "Son of Man," and therefore not a phantom too high for fellowship and following. A conviction of this ought to be grasped by us, "first of all," because it is essential to our regarding Him —
1. As Redeemer.
2. As Friend.
3. As Example.
II. THE STRONGEST UTTERANCE OF DIVINE LOVE. In following the life of Jesus we gaze on God's love in unwearied toil, in patient endurance, in keenest sympathy, in bitter tears. But gazing on Christ's death we see Divine love in agony, humiliation, shame. Man's highest love to God was when Abram offered his only son Isaac; God's deepest love to man is seen in giving His only begotten Son in sacrifice on Calvary.
III. THE MIGHTIEST FORCE IN THE SALVATION OF THE WORLD.
1. He Himself relied on it: "I, if I be lifted up, wilt draw all men."
2. The influence of His death on many at the crucifixion illustrates it.
3. The history of Christianity testifies to it.
(U. R. Thomas.)
I. IT WAS MOST STRUCK AT BY ENEMIES. Though not a blind zealot who courted opposition, and though he knew how to become all things to all men, he was no trimmer; and when any known doctrine of his Master was impugned, that was the doctrine to which he devoted himself in affectionate defence.
II. IT IS THE DISTINGUISHING DOCTRINE OF CHRISTIANITY. In Christianity there are many things common to it with Judaism, Mohammedanism, and even pure Theism; but here is a discriminative mark.
III. IT BRINGS MEN DOWN TO THE EARTH, IN A SENSE OF SIN, WEAKNESS, SHAME, AND DANGER. The gospel is a remedy. It seeks, not to improve what is sound, but to cure what is dying. It is a remedy which none accept but such as despair of other help. All who ever received the doctrine, received it on their knees. He that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
IV. IT IS OF ALL DOCTRINES THAT WHICH LIES NEAREST THE HEART OF CHRISTIAN AFFECTION. It was uppermost in the heart of Paul; it throbbed in its inmost pulses. It reminds him of what he was, it makes him what he is.
V. IT IS THE PRECISE OBJECT OF SAVING FAITH. To be saved is the one thing needful. But to be saved one thing is necessary — faith. But in what? In this crucified but risen Redeemer. The man who believes in Him, with a spiritual apprehension of what he believes, is a saved man.
VI. IT IS THE KEY TO ALL OTHER DOCTRINES. The symbol of Christianity is not the all-seeing eye, the creative hand, the sepulchre, the sceptre — but the Cross. With this you can explain all; but denying this, you go on till to be consistent you must deny all.
VI. IT IS THE GREAT INSTRUMENT OF CONVERSION. This is the very event the recital of which, even before the end of the generation then born, filled the Roman Empire with converts. It is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Conclusion:
1. These things enable us to come to a judgment with regard to Churches and religious communities. The criterion is the relative place which they give to the doctrine of Christ's death.
2. In like manner, we may judge of books, preaching, and systems of theology. Try them by this question, What think ye of Christ?
3. We may here judge of our own personal religion.
(J. W. Alexander, D.D.)I. ITS NATURE. We must affirm and believe that it was a true and proper death, such as that to which all mortals are by the law of our nature subjected. Such is expressed by all the terms appropriated to it, and by the ordinary signs of death.
II. ITS PECULIAR ADJUNCTS ANN RESPECTS OF OUR LORD'S DEATH, WHICH COMMEND IT TO OUR REGARD, AND AMPLIFY ITS WORTH.
1. Its being a result of God's eternal counsel and decree by which our Saviour was "a Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world."
2. Its being a matter of free consent and compact between God and His Son. It was pre-ordained by God; and our Saviour's reply was: "Lo! I come to do Thy will, O God."
3. Its great excellency and efficacy, appearing from manifold types foreshadowed, and in divers prophecies foretold.
4. Its being compassed by God's especial providence directing and disposing it, though not without the active concurrence of men; so that although as a work of Divine Providence it was most admirable, yet as an act of human pravity it was the most heinous ever committed.
5. Its great commendation in the quality of our blessed Saviour's person: how valuable must be the death of one so incomparably transcendent in glory!
III. THE CAUSES AND PRINCIPLES WHENCE IT PROCEEDED; which moved God to determine it, and our Lord to undertake it. There is in Scripture a threefold love of God towards men intimated.
1. A general love to mankind antecedent to the sending of our Lord and His performances, being the ground of God's designing them.
2. A love, consequent on these, and procured by them.
3. A peculiar love of friendship and complacence, which God bears to all who repent of their sins and embrace the gospel. The like principles are said to move our Lord to undergo death for us. To these may be added our sins, as the meritorious causes of our Saviour's death: "He was bruised for our iniquities." He died for us, not only as men, but as sinful and wretched men.
IV. THE ENDS WHICH IT AIMS AT.
1. The illustration of God's glory, by displaying His most glorious perfections.
2. The dignifying and exaltation of our Lord Himself, which is what He Himself foresaw and foretold.
3. The salvation of mankind; which He procured by appeasing that wrath which God bears towards iniquity, and reconciling Him to men, who by sin were alienated from Him.
4. Other subordinate designs and effects are the reparation of God's honour; the ratification of the new covenant; the reconciliation of all in heaven and earth; the defeat of death, and of the powers of darkness; the engaging us to the practice of all righteousness and obedience; for attestation to, and confirmation of Divine truth.
V. THE PRACTICAL INFLUENCES WHICH A CONSIDERATION OF THIS POINT SHOULD HAVE ON US.
1. It should beget in us the highest degree of love and gratitude towards God and our Saviour.
2. It should raise in us great faith and hope in God, excluding all distrust or despair.
3. It should comfort and satisfy us in regard to our sins. supposing that we heartily repent of them.
4. It discovers to us their heinousness, and thereby should move our detestation of them.
5. It should work in us a kindly contrition and remorse for them.
6. And engage us carefully to avoid them, as "crucifying Him afresh."
7. It should engage us to patience and resignation to the will of God.
8. It obliges us to the deepest mortification, in conformity with Christ's death, "being with Him crucified" to the lusts of the flesh.
9. It is also a strong engagement to the fullest measure of charity towards our brethren.
10. We are hence obliged to yield ourselves wholly up to the service of our Saviour, to the promoting of His interest and glory; since "we are not our own; being bought with a price," etc.
(I. Barrow, D.D.)I. WHY DID CHRIST DIE?
1. Christ has bequeathed to us the invaluable legacy of a true ideal. We desire to know how to conduct ourselves, and our desire is satisfied by the ideal left by Christ.(1) There was in Him a sincerity and simple-mindedness which were yoked with restrained and yet unmeasured power. It is needless to say that whenever this is realised in life its effect is overwhelming.(2) There was in Him a noble-mindedness, a loftiness of tone which struck and moved. He touched the commonest things; whatever He touched He raised; He carried contentedly the atmosphere of eternity into the work and trials of time.(3) And what rendered, what renders, such an one so entirely approachable? His extraordinary devotion to the human race.
2. Now to complete the picture was needed the tragedy of death. Given absolute human perfection in a world death-stricken, then not merely, as Plato said, must the good man suffer at the hands of sinners, but the ideal must be perfected by submission to the common doom of death.(1) Why did He die? The deepest mystery of revelation is the mystery of atonement. Something within us tells us of the chasm between our personal acts and the fulfilment of a righteous law. That fulfilment is in the atoning sacrifice.(2) Wily did He die? Certainly to complete that sympathetic tie that binds Him to us all.
II. WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF DEATH?
1. Well, clearly death is a fact; a fact of intimate and universal interest. In a world of infinite possibilities, and therefore of immeasurable uncertainties, one fact is certain, we shall die. Death is the consummation of the tragedy of change. All is changing — we ourselves among the many that people this mysterious life. Now, death is the crown of change. All other changes are as nothing compared with this. There is a tragic strain in every life when, taking account of so much that has been full of love, and joy, and happiness, we say, "It can never be again." That tragic strain is heard in its deepest chords, in its fullest, most heart-rending music, in the mystery of death.
3. Death in one sense is an unparalleled catastrophe. The ancients when they thought of it at all, they gazed shuddering at a world of gloom. The philosophic thinkers, the tragic poets of the ancient world, tell the same story by their unvarying strain of sadness; do what they would, it was an unparalleled catastrophe. We Christians feel, in a sense, the same. Did you ever take from your shelves a long-closed volume, and shake out from its pages unawares a letter, written by a dear dead hand? Why for a moment are you all unmanned? "Littera scripta manet," yes, "remains" but only to mock you. "Where is he?" "How does he feel to me?" "Shall we meet again?" Whatever answer comes, this is certain; what once was is not. Think one moment more. On your table you have the portrait of your wife, your child, your friend. Are they near you? You scarcely care to look at it. Why? Because that sweet presence is about the house. Absence comes, you love the portrait better, for absence is the first, faint, saddening image of the great "farewell" Let the grave divide. You cannot bear to part with that portrait now. It is all that you have left you of what was once so dear, so fair.
III. IF OUR CHRISTIANITY BE A GRAND REALITY, WE MUST VIEW EVEN THIS SADDENING SPECTACLE IN THE LIGHT" AND ATMOSPHERE OF THE NEW CREATION.
1. We are "in Christ," and Christ has died. Remembering this, I ask in an altogether happier temper, "What is the significance of death?"(1) Certainly death even "in Christ" is a punishment for sin. But as surely also, "in Christ," it takes a touch from the Passion, a power from the Precious Brood. "Right dear in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."(2) Death "in Christ" is an escape from a world of trouble. We weep, and who can blame us? But for the dear one gone, we know it is blessed, "taken away from the evil to come."(3) Death in Christ is an accident in immortality. The great unity of life lasts on. And further, one of the bitterest pangs of life is the pang of the parting of friends. Now, death "in Christ" is the entrance to a land where partings are no more.
2. There always is, there always must be, something awful in the thought that I must die. For death has had a fatal affinity to the Prince of Darkness. True: but the Passion of Christ conquers by transforming all. "In Christ" it is still certainly awful, but it is blessed to die. If Christianity has made death more serious by revealing hidden facts of another life, has it not also — for this, too, we must remember — much to offer of compensating strength? To live in faith is to prepare to die. Christ by His death has given us a ground of confidence in His unflagging tenderness, and it is devotion to a person, it is faith in Jesus Christ which, as it conquers the world, so it subdues the grave.
And that He was buried, and that He rose again
1. Since our dear Lord is the Eternal Word, every act of that most sacred life and death has its special significance.
2. It is one of that store of mortal experiences laid up, not by omniscient power, but by personal trial, in the heart of God.
3. It stands in direct relation to that strange borderland, at the memory of whose twilight indistinctness voices are hushed, and dreams of ambition die. The question is, Why was He buried?
I. DEATH IS AN ACT OF SOLEMN SEPARATION, BUT HENCEFORTH THE GRAVE TO THE CHRISTIAN IS A WITNESS TO —
1. Its meaning. Well, the souls of the dead are robed in mystery; but this at least is clear, there is some special force in the separation for the ennobling of the body; some peculiar power for developing the energy of the soul.
2. Its limits. It cannot last. The strange dark sleep of death is the prelude to a resurrection morning.
II. THE BURIAL NIGHT OF THE REDEEMER GIVES A TENDER TOUCH OF SENTIMENT TO THE GRAVE. Nor is this wrong. False sentiment is never so detestable as in religion. But Christianity, because it is a religion of Divine everlasting realities, rouses the deepest feeling and expresses them in sentiments of beauty, as the deep and massive energy of the ocean flings up the sun-bespangled spray. There is a sweet touch of the real truth of things expressed in a pure poetic sentiment, in the Christian certainty that death is sleep. Now the calm majestic rest of the Redeemer is the evident witness that there is this mystery in the grave. It is the sleeping-place of the weary. "They rest from their labours." Their graves are symbols of faithful service. Ah! as you love them you would not call them back again.
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