Sacrifice, justification, redemption, penal substitution, ransom, healing, victory, example, reconciliation …..
The writers of the New Testament are falling over themselves to explain the saving work of God on the cross. All of these pictures or metaphors are ways to explain what happened at the cross.
And all of them would be meaningless if it were not for the resurrection (1 Cor 15). The resurrection is the seal, the vindication, the visible triumph of God in Christ through the Spirit over sin and death and evil. We celebrate today Resurrection Day.
They are not, however, random pictures. They are creatively and imaginatively chosen in the midst of ‘flesh and blood’ letters and gospels consistently to interpret the cross of Jesus through the lens of the biblical story. In a very real sense, the entire New Testament is a theological reflection on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in terms of fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel. And these fulfilled promises now extend wider than Israel. The astonishing good news of Easter and Pentecost to come, is that this is a victory won by no localised Jewish Messiah, but a saviour for the world.
We can’t understand the depth and wonder of the cross without that OT framework. And even then, we will only scratch the surface. Such is the magnificence of saving work of God, there is no one picture that can possibly capture its scale and beauty.
To change the metaphor to a golfing one (from Scot McKnight in A Community Called Atonement – an excellent book ) we need to play with all the clubs in the bag if we are to play well. Each club is designed to do a particular job. If we play with one club all the time, our game will become one-dimensional and much less effective. And there are a lot of clubs in the Bible’s bag …
All of these pictures of the atonement are different ways of explaining HOW the gospel of Jesus the Messiah is good news (forgiveness, peace with God, right relationship with God, adopted as children into the promise, victory over sin and death etc).
God’s work of salvation is comprehensive and complete; it cannot be bettered.
They point to the COST of salvation. Jesus died for a purpose. The cross is necessary.
They show us WHY we need salvation. Enslaved, under judgement, captives who need releasing, facing death …
They point to the immeasurable LOVE of the triune God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit (1 John 4:9-10)
9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
With best wishes to you for a joyful Resurrection Day