When we begin to think about the practical and pastoral applications and outworkings of the Gospel in our own lives, it is important to remember how they have been purchased for us through the death of Jesus. For example, many of us are aware that the New Testament teaches that forgiveness is primarily given by God due to the death of Jesus. But this forgiveness was not arbitrary. It wasn’t cheap, or easy, or light. It was immeasurably costly for God! But this forgiveness and reconciliation comes to us as the free gift of grace. As the Stuart Townend hymn says
“Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom.”[i]
The things which we all need forgiveness for are infinitely serious and eternally significant, so much so that the punishment for those sins must be carried out. I’m a father of four. I remember one time one of my daughters came to me to say sorry because they had knocked juice and yoghurt over the floor. I wasn’t that pleased, but I reassured my daughter that it was all fine, she wasn’t in trouble, and that I would fix her mess. A lot of us view our sin in the same way. We say “I’ve made a bit of a mess today.” We lie, steal, hate, watch ungodly television, love pleasure rather than God, and treat those things as nothing more than yoghurt on the floor. Not realising that Jesus died for those sins, and that when we as Christians commit those sins, we forgot that our bodies are actually a part of Christ’s body. I invite you to consider the following words of Paul in his first letter to the Church in Corinth:
“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
– 1 Corinthians 6:15
However, we also know that when heavenly forgiveness has occurred, reconciliation with the Father also occurs. The grace of God has been lavished upon us, and our sins have been forgiven. Then, reconciliation to the Father happens. But this reconciliation is possible when, and only when, sin has been forgiven by God. Without the substitutionary death of Jesus, forgiveness and reconciliation on any level is not possible. Certainly, with God. But also, with our neighbour. Both forgiveness from and reconciliation to God, and forgiveness of and reconciliation with one another is an impossibility outside of the penal substitutionary death of Christ. But, because of penal substitutions central place in the Christian life, every area of Christian living must branch out from it
“On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires”
– John Owen
[i] From the Stuart Townend hymn “How Deep the Fathers Love for us”.