May 24, 2004

The Necessity of the Cross

Genesis 18:16–33

“For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice” (Gen. 18:19).

Jesus made His once-for-all sacrifice when He made atonement for our sin on the cross (Heb. 7:27). In order to understand better this central act of redemptive history, we will spend the next week studying the Atonement through the use of the audio series The Atonement of Jesus by Dr. R.C. Sproul.

We begin today by looking at Genesis 18:16–33. Abraham has just received three visitors from God who have come down in order to investigate the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the course of deciding whether or not to tell Abraham about His intent for these cities, God mentions His purpose in calling Abraham. God has called Abraham to walk in the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice (v. 19).

This verse tells us that God called Abraham for a specific purpose. Abraham was to father a nation that would be righteous as God Himself is righteous. In this, we see that a central concern of God is the manifestation of His own righteousness. This concern, which is echoed throughout the Bible, is affirmed later by Abraham as he tries to get God to relent from judging the cities — if God could find ten righteous men. In verse 25, Abraham asks “shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just?” To ask this question is to answer it. God is the Judge of the earth, and He is just.

Nevertheless, God’s justice also means that He will never let the guilty go unpunished. Ten righteous men were never found, and, thus, the cities were destroyed. God’s justice demanded that their sin be punished.

God’s justice still demands the same today. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Our sin is a crime against God. It is cosmic treason asserting that God’s authority really belongs to us. Our sin incurs a debt. We owe God something for disobeying His Law. Moreover, our sin destroys the relationship between man and God. There is enmity between the Creator and His creation.

God would be perfectly just to leave us in our sin and punish us eternally in hell. But God is gracious, desiring out of His great love and mercy to save some of us. So, in order to show mercy to us without compromising His justice, the Father sent His Son so that in Him our crime would be punished, our debt paid, and our relationship restored. At the Cross, God satisfied His justice and demonstrated His mercy.

Coram Deo

The modern church’s emphasis on God’s love at the expense of His other attributes has led many of us to forget that God’s justice was a primary motivating factor for the Cross. But if we forget God’s demands, we will never understand His mercy. Remember that God’s attribute of justice is just as important as His attribute of love.

For Further Study