For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; (RSV)
Jesus died once for all and that includes me. I think this is one of the greatest statements in the Bible. It is used six other times to explain that Jesus died only once and that His onetime death was a sacrifice for all of my sins. His onetime shedding of His blood was sufficient to provide me with eternal redemption. His sacrifice has done away with sin once for all meaning that it works forward in time from His death as well as backward. He doesn’t have to die each day to cover my sins committed from one day to the next. His onetime death is able to cleanse my conscience from guilt because that death is able to make me holy. See Romans 6:10, Heb 7:27, 9:12, 9:26, 10:2, and 10:10.
You will note that I used the words “is able” a couple of times. I used those words because not everyone is cleansed from guilt, given eternal life, or made holy. Only those who accept this and turn to Jesus in repentance of their sins will have this. God didn’t automatically forgive everyone on the earth when He accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for sin. Just like the people in the O.T. who had to come before God and lay their hands on the goat or lamb that was about to be slaughtered and confess their sins, so I also had to do that in a symbolic way. I couldn’t physically put my hands on Jesus’ head and transfer my sins to Him in the same symbolic way. So God had to do that. 2 Cor 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV) However, it wasn’t until I confessed my sin and turned from it that I could claim to be forgiven and obtain the righteousness that He provided.
Being made holy or righteous must sound really radical, weird, arrogant, and or cultish to someone who hasn’t turned to Jesus. Yes, Jesus has made me holy. It isn’t as if I’ve achieved perfection or even claim to be perfect though. His declaration that I’m holy simply means I’m forgiven and when I stand before God, Jesus’ holiness will be seen and not mine. It also means that from now on, I’m being made holy – day by day I’m getting cleaned up, one sinful habit and slipup after another. It’s a lifetime endeavor and won’t be completed until I reach heaven.
Before I came to know Jesus, I believed that the whole death and resurrection of Jesus was an elaborate hoax. I knew all the theories that people have used to try to explain why He either didn’t really die or that He didn’t really raise from the dead. A careful reading of the Gospels reprove each of the theories.
He didn’t really die. Hogwash! He was scourged and many people died during that ordeal. He was almost at the point of death and then nailed to the cross. Witnesses saw Him die. The Roman soldiers, who were experts at crucifying people, testified that He was dead. The blood and water that poured from His side proved that He was already dead because it showed that His blood had already separated into components. Joseph and Nicodemus took His body and wrapped it in 75 pounds of spices and cloth. Can you imagine that Jesus could have survived that? Can you imagine two of His followers doing that if He were still alive?
He wasn’t raised but His body was stolen by His disciples. Yeah, sure, if you believe that, I have a bridge I want to sell you. You really expect that His wimpy disciples who ran away when Jesus was arrested would mount an attack on the Roman guards? These guards lost a body; by Roman custom, they should have been executed for failure to carry out a simple mission. Why weren’t they? There is only one explanation. Matt 28:12-15 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. (NIV) By the way, Roman guards don’t fall asleep while on duty – another possible death sentence. The guards had the money to escape punishment and the story is still being told to our generation as well.
Some complain and say that if Jesus was God and God died then how can He raise Himself? The verse today says that He was made alive by the Spirit. So the whole Trinity thing comes into play here. Do I understand how God can be three Persons in one God? No, not really. I simply have to go on the fact that Jesus said He was God, that the Spirit is mentioned throughout the Bible, O.T. and N.T. As early as Gen 1:26 and 11:7, God revealed His triune nature when He said “Let Us.” Since we can’t really understand God, we have to take it on faith that He is triune, that He could empty Himself of His God nature and become a man (Phil 2:6-7.) If He can do that, then Jesus could really die and the Spirit could make Him alive again.