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The Truth of the Cross - Chapter 8
Benjamin Yim  2016-07-08 13:09:22, 조회 : 875, 추천 : 281

The Truth of the Cross
R. C. Sproul
Chapter 8 - The Blessing and the Curse

        Hello to another beautiful day that has been given to us by God! Today we will continue our book, The Truth of the Cross, by the author R. C. Sproul. We will be looking chapter 8, The Blessing and the Curse.

        The author begins the chapter by speaking of his ministry in 1965. And during this ministry, he had the opportunity to pick the hymn of his choice, which he picked the hymn “Tis Midnight and on Olive’s Brow.” He chose this hymn because the text follows the passion of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. While the most of us may not be familiar with this hymn, the point that author wants to make is a claim the song makes, “Yet he that hath in anguish knelt is not forsaken by his God.”

        This claim should make us pause and wonder, “Was Jesus really forsaken on the Cross or not?” While there are many to claim that Jesus wasn’t forsaken at all, even at the time of the cross, such a belief would make Jesus appear as a liar. This is because Jesus specifically says, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” However, the truth of the matter is that during His execution, if Christ wasn’t truly forsaken, then there would be no atonement. This is to be realized because even in the Old Testament, the penalty for sin was forsakenness. And so, to fully cover the penalty of sin, he had to receive the full force of that penalty on the cross.

        To fully understand this aspect of the atonement, we are to look at the work Christ did on the cross in relation to the covenant. It would be impossible to truly understand the death of Christ if we did not understand the whole process of the covenant that is worked out in both the Old and New Testament.

        There were many studies conducted concerning the elements of covenants in the ancient world. While there were differences with each individual covenant, they have shared some elements.

        In one case, when a legal agreement was made, the sovereign one in the covenant would identify himself and give a prologue of the relationship that he shared with the subordinates of the covenant. This is why, when God made a covenant with His people, he began by saying, in Exodus 20:2, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”

        And after the prologue, he brought forth the terms of the covenant, which are called stipulations. All covenants contain stipulations. Even in the case of marriage, you enter into a covenant and promise to do certain things. Or even for an employment contract, you are agreeing to adhere to certain terms from both sides of the party.

        However, in the ancient world, there were also sanctions incorporated. This can be seen as the rewards and penalties. Rewards are given if the stipulations are carried out, however there will also be penalties for those that violate the stipulations. God’s covenant with Israel also included sanctions, but it didn’t use the words rewards and penalties. Under the old covenant, the reward for obedience was called a blessing while the penalty was called a curse.

        When we look at Deuteronomy 28, the whole chapter, we see God explaining to the Israelites that, if they were to be faithful to Him and only Him, as well as show true obedience, then He would bless them tremendously. Everything they touch and everything they do would be blessed by Him. This sounds like an absolutely incredible deal! But, with any and all agreements, there isn’t only the promise of a reward, but also a penalty. In Deuteronomy 28:15-19, God tells them and if they disobey and do not honor Him, the consequence will be curses. Everything they do and have will certainly be cursed.

        Now, in order for us to fully understand these sanctions, we have to understand what it means to be blessed and cursed. As you should know, these words are very important. For the Jews, blessedness meant being favorable in the eyes of God. We can see an example of this in Numbers 6:24-26, “The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD makes His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lifts up His countenance upon you, and gives you peace.” Immediately we learn that being blessed is God shining his face upon us as well as Him lifting up the light of His countenance upon us. For those that don’t know what countenance means, it means support as well as approval or acceptance.

        For the Jews, then, it was of supreme blessing for God to be closer to them. And this is well supported within the Scriptures. You guys remember even in the time of David, when he prayed to go out to fight against his enemies, often times God would tell King David, “I am with you.” And so, the closer one gets to the immediate presence of God, the greater the blessings. The opposite is also true. That if a person was to be farther removed from the presence of God, the less blessings the person would feel and be given.

        And so, from the definition of blessing, we can almost guess the biblical definition of a curse. It is, in fact, when God has turned His back on you and brings judgment upon you. The greatest curse would be, in fact, if the person would be cut off from the presence of God, never to see the light of His countenance, and to be casted into the outer darkness. This is how the Jews understood the curse.

        There is even greater proof for such a definition in the Jew’s Old Testament events and rituals! When we look at the time Israel was wandering in the wilderness, the people set camp in a very specific way. They pitched their tents according to a pattern that God gave to them for the arrangement of the tribes. And the tents were all arrange around a center point. At the center, there were the tabernacles, which God pitched His tent right in the middle. His presence was with the Israelites. This is probably why the Jews developed an image of Gentiles being called “outsiders,” for they lived outside the camp of the covenant people.

        Another proof can be seen on the ceremony of the Day of Atonement. On that day, each year, a lamb was sacrificed on the altar as the blood offering for the sins of the people, but there was also a goat involved. This goat was considered as a scapegoat, where the sins of the nation were transferred to the head of the goat, and then a significant thing happened. Instead of killing the goat, as I bet much of you presumed to occur, the goat was sent outside the camp, driving into the wilderness, into a place of darkness.

        When we move forward to the New Testament, we see this in the letter Apostle Paul sends to the Galatians. Quoting Deuteronomy 27:26, in Galatians 3:10, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” It is in this letter that Paul shows that anyone who relies on observing the Law to achieve a relationship with God, who trusts in his own good works and his own performance, is bound to experience cursedness. Why? Because God’s standard is perfection, which no fallen human being can ever achieve. This is why Paul writes in Galatians 3:13, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.” Exactly as Paul is saying, Christ became a curse for us on the cross, and it was He who bore all of the sanctions of the covenant.

        Now, what’s more amazing is the fact of how closely the climax to Jesus’ crucifixion took place so that Old Testament prophecies were followed. In the first instance, it is said in the Old Testament that the Messiah will be delivered to the Gentiles, who were referred as “dogs” or “congregation of the wicked,” for judgment. This can be seen in Psalms 22:16. Don’t see the connection yet? It must have been total coincidence that Jesus came about during a time of Roman occupation of Palestine. The Romans allowed a certain amount of home rules, but they did not permit the death penalty to be imposed by the local rulers, so the Jews had no authority to put Christ to death. Which we know Jesus’ death only came about through the authority of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.

        Secondly, something else you may not know, is the fact that Jesus was crucified OUTSIDE of Jerusalem. He was judged by the Gentile and condemned to be executed. Just as the scapegoat was led out of the camp, Jesus was led out of the fortress, taken outside Zion, and was sent into utter darkness.

        More astonishing is the fact that Jews did their execution, not by crucifixion, but by stoning. It was the Romans who did their executions by crucifixion. This was to be fulfilled by what was said in Deuteronomy 21:22-23, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” Whereas the Bible never says, “Cursed is everyone who is stoned.” Jesus’ death came about by hanging on a tree -  a cross made of wood.

        Something else to be mentioned is the fact that Jesus’ crucifixion came about in the afternoon. As you guys know, usually, the afternoon has daylight. However, when we read of the event of Jesus’ crucifixion, in the middle of the afternoon, it became dark. Darkness descended on the land. Perhaps it could have been an eclipse, where the sun is blotted out by the moon. If that were the case, it makes the timing even more exceptional. It was as if God had covered the light of His countenance.

        While there are many interpretations of this event, it is clear from Jesus’ executioners, the place of His execution, the manner of His execution, as well as the darkness that fell, that when Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?,” that He was truly being forsaken.

        If you take it into consideration, at the very moment that Christ took on Himself the sin of the world, it was at that exact location where sin was most concentrated. God is too holy to look on such high concentration of sin, so when Christ hung on the cross, the Father turned His back. He looked away and cut off His Son. Jesus, in his full human nature, had been in a perfect, blessed relationship with God throughout His ministry, but at that moment He bore the sin of God’s people, and so He was forsaken by God, just as everyone before Him and after Him were.

        While Jesus Christ wasn’t the only person on the cross, as well as not been the only person to ever have been crucified, the moment must have been the most agonizing. If we look at it in the whole context, Jesus had been in a perfect intimate union with God, up until that point. The world was plunged into darkness, and Christ was exposed to the curse of the wrath of God. That moment was the furthest Christ has ever been from God. And to experience the curse was to experience what it means to be forsaken.

        And what we must learn is the fact that Jesus Christ became a curse for us. He did this so that we may one day be able to see the face of God. God turned his back on His Son so that the light of His countenance may fall upon us. It’s no wonder that Jesus screamed from the depths of His soul. Do you guys remember? John 19:30, Jesus screams, “It is finished!” Do you think Jesus was glad that the pain was over? That he screamed because he would no longer feel the pain of the thorns and nails? Rather, he was screaming because he knew that the light had come back on, that God’s countenance had turned back. So Jesus could say, in Luke 23:46, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”

        This concludes chapter 8, The Blessing and the Curse, in which I hope you learned that, at that moment, Jesus was certainly forsaken. If Jesus wasn’t forsaken on the cross, that means we are still in our sins. That means that there is no salvation and no redemption. In order for Jesus to provide us with ultimate blessedness, he had to be forsaken and had to endure the curse.

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