Understanding Christianity: Jesus

What do Christians believe? Why is the cross the symbol of their faith? In this series Pastor Tim Schouten of the Prince George Canadian Reformed Church explains some of the fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith. Questions? Email [email protected]

We’ve finally arrived at Jesus.

You may have wondered why the name of Jesus was not mentioned in the first six parts of a series about Christianity.

The reason is that it’s only when we understand something of the basic teachings of the Bible about God and humanity that we will be able to understand who Jesus is, and what he came to do.

It must be admitted that many Christians have an incomplete or false understanding of Jesus’ identity and mission. Some see Jesus as a great moral teacher and an example of love. These things are true but incomplete. Others see Jesus as their ticket to good health and financial success. This is false and contrary to the teaching of the Bible.

Why did Jesus come? And why did he die on a cross? The biblical answer is that Jesus came into this world to satisfy the justice of God on our behalf. Yes, he came to heal and to teach, and through these things to show us the nature of the new life that he intends to bring. However, he came in the first place with a specific objective: to give up his life on a cross.

Why a cross? To die on a cross was to be cursed. This manner of death was a powerful symbol that Jesus was taking on himself God’s curse upon sin. The Bible teaches that every person has sinned and has rightfully earned the penalty of death, that is, eternal separation from God. Yet God, although perfectly just, is also supremely merciful: “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love . . . As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him” (Psalm 103).

How could this compassion of God be carried out without compromising his justice? The answer is found at the cross. Jesus Christ, the divine son of God, willingly suffered the penalty for our sins. He experienced complete abandonment by his divine Father. The punishment that belonged to us fell upon him. He cried out those agonizing and heart-wrenching words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus received the justice of God so that we might receive God’s mercy.

Christians believe that after Jesus died he rose again. He lived a sinless life and therefore death could not hold him, since the cause of death is sin. Jesus’ resurrection is therefore a testimony of his victory over sin. Not only that, it is a promise of resurrection for all who are forgiven (made sinless) by God.

This is the heart of the Christian faith. Through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God rightfully offers us the complete forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

Author Rev. Tim Schouten

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