It is because Jesus is not God that he can save us from our sins. Jesus was a mortal man who faced the same temptations and weaknesses we face. He was able to relate to what we go through, although unlike us, Jesus never gave in to temptation. Hebrews vividly makes this point. Heb 2:14-18 NKJV:

” Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

Notice from the passage above, that it is through death that Jesus destroyed the power of death (the devil). What is the devil? A supernatural monster who rivals God? No, not literally. The devil is a sustained parable in Scripture of the power of sin – a very powerful fleshly force, but not a supernatural force. (See Rom 6:23; 1 Cor 15:56; Heb 2:14; Rom 5:12)

How did Jesus destroy the devil by dying? The answer is that Jesus never submitted to temptation – he was sinless – therefore, it was impossible for the grave to hold him. Acts 2:24. When God resurrected Jesus and made him immortal, he was no longer subject to death and dying. By dying, the power of death was destroyed in Jesus and by extension, for those who belong to Jesus. Paul says in Romans that those who belong to Jesus are set free from the law of sin and death. Rom 8:2-11:

“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (3) For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, (4) in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (5) For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (6) For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (7) For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. (8) Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (9) You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (10) But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (11) If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

So, although we will die, at the return of our Lord, we will be resurrected as He was. We will be given eternal life and no longer be subject to the mortal frailties we now experience.

The ransom Jesus paid for us, is often misunderstood as a substitution, ie. Jesus died instead of us. This makes no sense for several reasons – firstly, we still die and secondly, why did Jesus get his life back again if it was paid for a substitutionary ransom? More importantly, this idea of Jesus dying as a substitute for us, takes away from the deep significance of what our Lord has done for us. Jesus was not our substitute, he was our leader/head, showing us how we have to follow Him in our lives.

The ransom Jesus paid, was the loving sacrifice of his life made to redeem from sin and death, those who would follow him. This sacrifice was not easily made from Jesus’ point of view. He knew that God wanted him to die on the cross. Matt 20:19:

“and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

Luke 12:50:

“I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!”

We see Jesus’ great distress at what he had to face, in the verse above. We see more of Jesus’ distress in the garden of Gethsemane, when his sweat became as great drops of blood for the horror of what he had to endure. He didn’t want to go through with it and pleaded with God for the cup to pass from him. But there was no other way. Jesus subjected His will to God’s will and overcame the great temptation. He subjected himself to crucifixion for us, graphically and personally demonstrating that we must crucify the flesh and live to God. 1 Peter 2:21-25

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (22) He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. (23) When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (24) He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (25) For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Jesus identified with us, bearing on the cross what we deserve. We must recognise that we are sinners who deserve to die. Without this recognition, we cannot be saved. We must identify with Jesus – dying to serving sin so that we can live to serve God and eventually be raised to reign with Jesus Christ. Romans 6:4-11:

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (6) We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (7) For one who has died has been set free from sin. (8) Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (9) We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. (10) For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. (11) So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

We must heed the call of Jesus and die with him that we might live with him. Luke 9:23-24:

“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.   For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

To briefly summarise how Jesus saves us – Jesus shed his blood (laid down his life) for us. By looking to Jesus and

  • acknowledging our sin and inability to save ourselves
  • by having faith in His ability to save us
  • by volunteering for crucifixion and taking up our cross daily and following Jesus

then the blood of Jesus will cleanse us from our sins. He will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness and raise us up at the last day. 1 John 1:7-9

For a more comprehensive explanation of this subject, check out these 2 booklets:

The Crisis of the Cross

The Cross of Christ


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