Paul and the Death of Christ

For Paul, the cross stood at the center of the Christian faith, and it had a certain self-evidencing power. It was something to show men in its stark simplicity.

  1. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void. (1 Corinthians 1:17)
  2. And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1)
  3. You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed [as] crucified? (Galatians 3:1)

It was not something to argue about, but something to be shown to men: The story tore down the barriers of separation. It is clear that Paul understood that Christ died “on behalf of” men, and not “instead of” men. The Greek preposition is huper, and not anti.

  1. Who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him. (1 Thessalonians 5:10)
  2. For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. (1 Corinthians 8:11)
  3. For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. (Romans 14:15)
  4. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; (Ephesians 5:25)

Reconciliation: the gulf is bridged, enmity is taken away.

  1. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:10)
  2. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)
  3. And through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, [I say], whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:20)
  4. This does not in itself imply or necessitate a substitutionary, or even a sacrificial view of the death of Christ. Paul could argue that this was a compelling demonstration of the love of God that men are now compelled to see God as the lover of men’s souls and not Law-giver, Task-master and Judge they had always believed Him to be.
  5. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; (2 Corinthians 5:14)

Redemption: the word Savior implies something from which man had to be saved.

  1. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; (Philippians 3:20)
  2. In order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:5)
    1. God sent Jesus to rescue from the bondage of the law
    2. God did it to save men from the penalty under the law
  3. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, (Ephesians 1:7)
  4. In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:14)
  5. Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us [and] which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Colossians 2:14)

Paul connects the death of Christ with sin:

  1. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:3)
  2. Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, (Galatians 1:4)
  3. [He] who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4:25)
  4. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)
  5. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Paul connects the death of Christ with sacrifice:

  1. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the [life] which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)
  2. And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor. (Ephesians 5:2)
  3. Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are [in fact] unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. (1 Corinthians 5:7)
    1. Deliverance from bondage of Egypt – general
    2. Deliverance from bondage of sin – specific
  4. And you shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning. For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite [you.] (Exodus 12:22-23)
  5. That you shall say, “It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.” And the people bowed low and worshiped. (Exodus 12:27)

Paul stresses the cost of salvation: what ought to have happened to us, happened to Jesus.

  1. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”– (Galatians 3:13)
  2. He made Him who knew no sin [to be] sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The pictures in light of the sacrifice of the cross:

  1. Justification – courts
  2. Reconciliation – friendships
  3. Redemption – slavery
  4. Adoption – family
  5. Propitiation – sacrifice
  6. Reckon, impute – accounting

This material is from William Barclay, the Mind of St. Paul, 1975.

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