Christ’s death removed our sin and thus enabled the grace of God.

This is the fourth article in the Gospel in Galatians series:

The first article dealt with the apparent contradiction that:
a man is not justified by the works of the Law” (Gal. 2:16)
but “the doers of the Law will be justified” (Rom 2:13)

The second article asks, if people are justified through faith, why will they be judged by their deeds?

The third article concludes that Justification is not a legal process through which the sinner is merely forgiven but a substantive process through which the sinner is changed.

This fourth article, consequently, asks, if we will be judged by whether we are changed people, where does grace fit in God’s plan of salvation?

SUMMARY

The word “grace,” when used in the context of salvation, appears only twice in Galatians, namely in two very similar phrases (Gal 2:21 and Gal 5:2-4). These verses imply a close connection between Christ’s death and God’s grace. Therefore, when Paul refers to “grace,” he specifically thought of Christ’s death. 

Three passages in Galatians use the phrases “in order that” and “so that” to explain why Christ had to die (Gal 1:3-4, 3:13-14 and 4:4-5). These passages explain the connection between Christ’s death and God’s grace:

Christ died “for our sins.” We are all sinners and we all deserve to die. However, somehow, through His death, Christ did something to solve the problem of our sin.  If He did not overcome, we would all have been eternally lost.

Secondly, because Christ removed the problem of our sin, we are justified by faith. Christ’s death alone, for that reason, is insufficient for salvation: Faith is also required.

Thirdly and consequently, if Christ did not remove the problem of sin through His death, God would have been forced to judge us by our deeds, and we would all have been lost. But since Christ has removed the problem of our sin, God is able to judge us by our faith.  To be judged by faith is grace. Therefore, Christ’s death enabled God’s grace

Why Christ’s death enabled God’s grace is a topic of huge debate. Romans 3:25-26 explains why Christ’s death enabled God to be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith.” 

– END OF SUMMARY – 

GRACE OF GOD 

The word “grace,” when used in the context of salvation, appears only twice in Galatians:

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly” Gal 2:21).

If you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 … 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Gal 5:2-4).

These verses are very similar. The following phrases are parallel:

Gal 2:21 Gal 5:2-4
To receive “righteousness To be “justified
Nullify the grace of God Fallen from grace
Through the Law By law
Christ died needlessly Christ will be of no benefit to you

Furthermore, both passages contrast how people are justified according to the Jews and according to Paul:

In Jewish thinking, people are justified “through the Law” (Gal 2:21; 5:4).

In these verses, Paul, in response, argued that people are justified through Christ’s death and God’s grace.

GRACE – CONNECTED TO CHRIST’S DEATH.

Allen correctly aligns the grace of God to Christ's deathHowever, what is important for our question where grace fits, is that both these verses imply a close connection between Christ’s death and God’s grace:

According to Galatians 2:21, if people can receive righteousness “through the Law,” then “the grace of God” is not required and “Christ died needlessly.” 

Galatians 5:2-4 similarly states that, if the Galatians receive circumcision, then, “Christ will be of no benefit to you” and “you have fallen from grace.” “Christ” implies Christ’s death (Gal 3:13).

The point is that, in Galatians, we find “grace of God” associated with Christ’s death.  God is grace. He does not desire any person to die.  He wants every person to come to Him to become “a new creation.”  However, when Paul refers to “grace,” he thought specifically of Christ’s death. 

WHY JESUS HAD TO DIE

The following passages have been selected from Galatians to investigate, in more depth, the connection between Christ’s death and God’s grace. These passages explain why Christ had to die. Note, in particular, the phrases “in order that,” “so that” and “that” in these verses.  Christ’s death is described before those phrases.  What follows after these phrases describes the consequences or benefits of His death:

CHRIST’S DEATH   CONSEQUENCES
The Lord Jesus Christ … gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal 1:3-4).
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law … 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles” (Gal 3:13-14).
God sent forth His Son… 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons“ (Gal 4:4-5).

CHRIST’S DEATH

First, consider the column on the left: Christ’s death. He died “for our sins” (Gal 1:4) and “redeemed us from the curse of the Law” (Gal 3:13; cf. 4:5). The “curse” refers to the consequences of our sins (see Gal 3:10).

We all are sinners and we all deserve to die: “the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin” (Gal 3:22) and the wages of sin is death (Rom 7:23). Our sins prevented us from receiving eternal life. However, somehow, through His death, Christ did something to deal with “the curse of the Law.” Through His death, He solved the problem of our sin. As is also stated in Romans 8:3:

God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.

In this article, I often refer to Christ’s death, but if He sinned in any way during His life, His death would have been of no value.  His entire life was a test, but His death was His highest test as well as the end of His test. His death, therefore, represents His entire life.

Incidentally, notice the word “redeem” in Gal 3:13 and 4:5.  These are the only instances of this word in Galatians and in both instances this word describes what Christ did through His death.

CONSEQUENCES OF CHRIST’S DEATH

After the phrases “in order that” and “so that,” Paul lists the consequences of the fact that Christ solved the problem of our sin:

“… rescue us from this present evil age” (Gal 1:4).

… the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles … through faith” (Gal 3:13-14).

…we might receive the adoption as sons“ (Gal 4:4-5).

ABRAHAM’S BLESSINGS

Just a quick word to explain “the blessing of Abraham.

It was important for Paul to write that Abraham was “reckoned … as righteousness” based on his FAITH (Gal 3:6) and that believers receive the blessings which God promised to Abraham “through FAITH” (Gal 3:14; cf. 3:8, 9, 11, 29). Paul’s point was that people were also justified by their faith in the Old Testament. Therefore, Paul argued, his claim that people are justified by their faith, rather than by the legal requirements of the Law, is a continuation of the gospel from the Old Testament; not a break from it.

According to Galatians 3:21, those promises are “able to impart life.” This means that Paul understood Abraham’s blessings as promises of eternal life.

Because they become the recipients of Abraham’s blessings, Paul referred to Gentile believers as “sons of Abraham” (Gal 3:7), as “Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Gal 3:29), and as an “heir through God” (Gal 4:7).

CONCLUSIONS

From the consequences of Christ’s death, we draw the following conclusions:

Firstly, people can only be saved because of Christ’s death.  If He did not overcome (Rev 3:21), we would all have been eternally lost.

Secondly, the Gentiles receive “the blessing of Abraham … through faith” (Gal 3:13-14) and they are adopted as sons “through faith” (Gal 3:26). Christ’s death alone, consequently, is insufficient for salvation: Faith is also required.

Thirdly, and consequently, Christ’s death enabled the grace of God.  If Christ did not solve the problem of sin, God would not have been able to forgive our sins. He would have been forced to judge us by our literal deeds, and we would have been eternally lost. But now that Christ has removed the problem of our sin, God is able to judge us by our faith.  To be judged by faith, rather than by our deeds, is grace. 

In this section, we try to understand where grace fits into God’s plan of salvation. Above, we have established that grace is closely connected to Christ’s death. We have now also discovered that the connection between Christ’s death and God’s grace is that Christ’s death enabled God’s grace. Salvation by faith would have been impossible without Christ’s sacrifice. In fact, no salvation would have been possible at all, for only sinless beings would have been allowed to live.

CONFIRMATION FROM ROMANS

To confirm this understanding, I selected from Romans the first occurrences of the word “grace” when used in the context of salvation.  The first is Romans 3:24:

Justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

Compared to the quotes above from Galatians, this verse is reversed, for it first mentions the consequences of Christ’s death and ends with Christ’s death. Since the sentence has been reversed, the “so that” in Galatians has here been replaced with “through.”  But the message is the same:

      • This verse links the word “redemption” to Christ’s death.
      • Grace is “through” (the consequence of) Christ’s death.

The second occurrence of “grace” is in Romans 4:16:

It is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace.” (Romans 4:16).

In other words, the fact that God judges by faith, and overlooks our sins, is grace. 

EXPLANATION BY ROMANS 3:25-26

These few examples, therefore, confirm that Christ’s death enabled God’s grace.  Why this is so, is a subject of huge debate. Romans 3:25-26 helps to explain why Christ’s death enabled God to be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith.”  I quote:

Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be JUST AND THE JUSTIFIER of the one who has faith in Jesus.

In other words, without Christ’s death, it would not have been “just” for God to justify people simply based on faith. To explain this, please refer to Why did Jesus have to die or Christ’s death demonstrated the rightness of God’s judgments. That goes into the area of the Atonement Theories, which we will not attempt to explain here.

IN CHRIST

Because of the fundamental role which the Cross has in the salvation process, Paul often states that salvation is “in Christ:”

      • Our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus“ (Gal 2:4)
      • Seeking to be justified in Christ” (Gal 2:17)
      • In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but …” (Gal 5:6; cf. 3:14, 22, 26).

This same concept is also expressed in other ways:

      • Crucified with Christ” (Gal 2:20);
      • Baptized into Christ” (Gal 3:27);
      • Clothed … with Christ” (Gal 3:27);
      • Belong to Christ” (Gal 3:29 and 5:24); and
      • Severed from Christ” (Gal 5:4).

Sometimes the phrase “through faith” is added to “in Christ:”

      • A man is … justified … through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal 2:16).
      • The promise by faith in Jesus Christ
        might be given to those who believe
        ” (Gal 3:22)
      • For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26)

However, as explained in the article In Christ, “through faith in Christ Jesus” does not only mean to believe in Jesus. The phrases “through faith” and “in Christ” are two different concepts. This is shown by the fact that one finds the phrase “in Christ” several times without the words “through faith,” for example Gal 2:17, 3:14 and 5:6.

The main point remains that Christ’s death enabled God’s grace. Because of Christ’s death, God able to judge our inner man, rather than our literal, horrible and sinful deeds.

ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES

1. “The doers of the Law will be justified” (Rom 2:13).
2.
Justified through faith
3.
Justification
4. Christ’s death enabled the grace of God.
Table of Contents for the articles on Galatians

Perhaps the reader will benefit from listening to Graham Maxwell, a talented but somewhat controversial Adventist preacher, as he explains his view of God’s use of the law from the letter to the Galatians.

 

Christ’s death atoned for our sin by proving that God judges rightly.

Making amendsExcerpt: To understand the meaning of Christ’s death, we have to consider the bigger picture. Evil began in heaven and was transplanted to the earth. God did not reject mankind and sent prophets to earth to turn people to Him. But God did reject Satan. Satan responded by accusing God of unfair judgment, pointing to the sins of God’s people.  Satan is extremely talented, and the angels were unable to determine whether Satan is telling the truth. The Theory of the Atonement proposed by this website is that Christ’s sacrifice cleared up the confusion in heaven and showed the rightness of God’s judgments.

SUMMARY

How Christ’s death reconciles people to God is explained in this article as follows:

GOD IS THE UNCAUSED CAUSE.

1. For creatures to live eternally, they must live in God’s presence.  If we become separated from God, who is the Source of Life, we will become corrupted and eventually die.

2. Worship is the blood vessel that conveys life from the Source to His creatures, but worship must be an act of free will.  Forced worship is no worship at all.  Love cannot be forced; it always must be voluntary.

ORIGIN OF EVIL

3. A large number of the intelligent beings in the heavens (many of the angels), under the leadership of Satan, in free will rebelled against God and withdrew their worship from Him.

4. When Satan deceived our first parents, this ‘heavenly’ rebellion was expanded to earth. Since that event, we lived outside God’s presence.  This caused sin, degeneration, and death.

GOD DID NOT REJECT MANKIND.

5. God continually sent prophets to earth to turn people to Him.

6. While He accepted repentant people back in His kingdom, God rejected Satan. Satan’s character was permanently changed and he cannot return to God.

SATAN ACCUSED GOD

7. Satan responded by accusing God of unfair judgment, pointing to the sins of God’s people.

8. Satan is extremely talented, and the angels were unable to determine who is telling the truth; God or Satan. A lingering doubt remained even in the hearts of God’s loyal angels.

CHRIST DIED ALSO FOR HEAVENLY BEINGS

9. God would not force the sinless beings of the universe to accept His judgment. However, Christ’s sacrifice convinced God’s loyal heavenly beings of the rightness of God’s judgment when He accepts people into His kingdom simply based on their faith. The Cross also convinced the universe that Satan was fairly rejected.

10. In this way, even heavenly beings were reconciled to God “through the blood of His cross”. By providing proof of His justness—through the Cross—also when He rejects the most beautiful and loved angel of all time, namely Satan, allowed the heavenly beings to fully return to a trust- (faith) relationship with God.

IN THE END-TIME, GOD WILL DESTROY EVIL.

In the end-time, God will subject all hostile beings to His will, but to subject His enemies to His will, while the loyal beings are not fully convinced of the rightness of God’s judgment, will eventually result in another rebellion. God is resolving the conflict in such a way that rebellion will never again arise. God will subject all hostile beings to His will, but only when all the issues in the universe-wide conflict have been made clear. Then He will be able to subject His enemies to His will with the full support of all of His loyal subjects.

– END OF SUMMARY –

THEORY OF THE ATONEMENT

How Christ’s death reconciled people to God is explained here as follows:

GOD IS THE SOURCE OF ETERNAL LIFE.

For creatures to live eternally, they must remain sinless, because sin, by definition, is something that destroys.  To remain sinless, intelligent creatures must live in His presence, and the natural response to being in the presence of the infinite One is to love and worship Him.  Worship is the blood vessel that conveys life from the Source of life to His creatures.  If we break that link, we will become corrupted and will eventually die.

Worship and love, to be worship and love, must be an act of free will. God forces no one to worship Him.  Forced worship is no worship.  Love cannot be forced; it always must be voluntary.

ORIGIN OF EVIL

A large number of the intelligent beings in the heavens (many of the angels), under the leadership of Satan, rebelled against God and withdrew from His presence. Why this happened cannot be explained.  To find a reason for it is to excuse it. There was no fault in God’s governance that could justify it.  God created mankind and angels free to make their own decisions, and in their freedom, these angels withdrew from God. Isaiah 14 describes the fall of the king of Babylon (v3), but seems to use words from the fall of Satan:

12 “How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn! …

13 “… you said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’

15 “Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol,
To the recesses of the pit.

This rebellion was expanded to earth when Satan deceived our first parents. Since then we lived outside God’s presence, which caused sin, degeneration, and death.

GOD DID NOT REJECT MANKIND

He did not leave mankind to suffer the natural consequences, but continually sent prophets to turn them to Him: “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb 1:1-2).

GOD REJECTED SATAN.

While God remained willing to accept man back in His kingdom, God rejected Satan. Satan has gone too far to return to God.  Satan’s character was permanently changed and he cannot return.  Therefore God rejected him. 

We must remember that Satan was not just any angel; he was the one that stood in God’s immediate presence.  He was Lucifer, which means Morningstar (Isa 14:12); the one who taught the other angels about God. The only way that God can draw sinful creatures to Himself, is to reveal more of Himself, but already Satan knew everything about God that an angel can know.  He rebelled with full knowledge of God.  Therefore it is impossible for him to return. Therefore God rejected him: “And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the stones of fire” (Ezek 28:16).

EZEKIEL 28

This chapter describes the king of Tyre (v12), but seems to go beyond this king to a description of Satan:

12 “… You had the seal of perfection,
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13 “You were in Eden, the garden of God;
Every precious stone was your covering: …
And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets,
Was in you. …
14 “You were the anointed cherub who covers, …
You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked in the midst of the stones of fire.
15 “You were blameless in your ways
From the day you were created

Until unrighteousness was found in you.
16 … You were internally filled with violence,
And you sinned;
Therefore I have cast you as profane
From the mountain of God.
And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub,
From the midst of the stones of fire.
17 “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty;
You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;

This seems to be more than a description of an earthly king. It describes a “covering cherub” that was “blameless” and had “the seal of perfection;” “perfect in beauty”.

SATAN ACCUSED GOD.

Satan responded by accusing God of unfair judgment. God “passed over the sins previously committed” by His people on earth (Rom 3:25).  Satan, pointing to the sins of God’s people, accused God of unfair judgment (Rev 12:10).

Satan is extremely talented and previously held a very high position. This made it impossible for the other angels to understand who is telling the truth; God or Satan. And according to God’s principle of freedom, God allowed him full access to the heavenly beings to argue his point. The angels were not able to conclude who is right; a lingering doubt remained even in the hearts of God’s loyal angels. This mystery is symbolized by the sealed book of Revelation.  “No one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it” (Rev 5:3).

THEORY OF THE ATONEMENT

But the Cross demonstrated the justness or fairness of God’s judgment (Rom 3:25) “so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:26). God would not force the sinless beings of the universe to accept His judgment. God reigns over a universe where everybody is completely free to form their own opinions and do whatever they want. Christ’s sacrifice convinced God’s loyal heavenly beings of the rightness of God’s judgment when He accepts people into His kingdom simply based on their faith, while Satan was rejected.

The Cross is therefore important for mankind, but even the heavenly beings also needed the Cross. Colossians 1:20 indicates that they also were reconciled to God “through the blood of His cross.”  By providing proof—through the Cross—of His justness, and that in everything He does He is motivated by love; also when He rejects the most loved angel of all time, namely Satan, God reconciled them to Himself.  The Cross has shown that God loves and protects His creatures. We may not able to see this, but the heavenly beings are able to perceive this.  “Reconcile” in Col 1:20 may, therefore, be understood as returning to a trust-relationship; to know for certain that God loves you and will protect you.

According to this theory of the atonement, the influence of the Cross is felt throughout the entire universe. The war that was started in heaven, is concluded on earth. The spiritual war that we are involved in has cosmic consequences.

ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES

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