If I had a dollar for every time I’d heard, “Jesus died to forgive my sins!” I’d be rich! But that isn’t directly why He came; it shouldn’t be our focus! He died to bring us back to His Father, the Creator, not specifically to forgive personal sins: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God . . .” (1 Peter 3:18).
Our heavenly Father has worked to reconcile with us since the rebellion in Eden. Forgiveness of sin has been just one step in the process. It was, and is, an ongoing benefit of Jesus’ work at the cross done solely for making a way back to God, but it wasn’t the prime directive.
Why die? According to the Lord-servant covenant that God struck with Abram, death was the consequence of breaking it. We owed God, but Jesus paid our debt that began way back in Eden (“Don’t eat or else!”). Why is it important to understand that personal sin forgiveness wasn’t the priority? If we believe Jesus died explicitly to forgive individual sins instead of humanity’s rebellion, then we may feel, as we tend to in the West, that there’s nothing left to do; we owe God nothing.
On the other hand, if we understand that Jesus died to bring us back to the Father, even though the benefits can include personal forgiveness and transformation now, and salvation from His wrath to come, the focus is redirected to Him, not us. It becomes easier to understand that we must discover what He desires in return and then do that! But what do we who belong to God get in return besides forgiveness, transformation, and salvation? The gifts of His righteousness (standard), the Holy Spirit, and life in the coming age. (Acts 2:38; Romans 5:17; John 3:15-16)
Anyway, here’s a brief history of our reconciliation and Jesus’ mission from beginning to end:
- Our rebellion.
- Our sacrifices for sporadic forgiveness.
- Jesus’ permanent satisfaction of our debt through the cross for ALL! (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2).
- Our hope through His resurrection.
- Our choosing God through Jesus (making Him ‘Lord’) brings righteousness and the Spirit.
- Our ongoing repentance brings ongoing forgiveness.
- Our renewed mind and the Spirit bring transformation and obedience for salvation.
- Our outcome (if God knows us) will be a resurrection and eternal existence with Father and Son.
In summary, Jesus died to bring us back to God, and all that entails. Death paid off our debt, and resurrection gives us hope. Father raised the Son; He’ll raise the rest of us who are His! In the meantime, righteousness, the Spirit, and ongoing sin forgiveness are rewards for devotion. Personal sin forgiveness wasn’t the objective; transformation is. Since we’re on the topic of Jesus, let’s explore His genealogy and legacy in the next article.
Blessings and peace,
Dr. Ron Braley, MDiv, DMin.