Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Why does God need a sacrifice?

Richard Dawkins has asked the question, “If God wanted to forgive our sins, why not just forgive them without having Himself tortured and executed in payment...?” Now Richard Dawkins was voted one of the top three intellectuals in the world, and although I am not one of the other two I think the answer is fairly simple and can be stated in three words, “God is righteous.”

We all recognise that righteousness demands that crimes be punished. Whenever a judge lets a criminal go free there is an outcry of outrage and a chorus of complaints that justice has not been done.
God is a good judge, and He can never act towards evil in anyway other than in perfect justice. This means that all wrong-doing – including yours and mine must be answered for. If we have broken God’s law, the penalty must be paid. So what hope is there? None apart from the sacrifice of Christ.
Imagine you’ve been caught speeding. Forget about penalty points and just think about fines. The police officer has two options – he can either be righteous and give you the ticket or he can be merciful and let you go. If he’s being righteous he’s not being merciful and if he’s being merciful he’s not being righteous. Do you is there any way he could be righteous and merciful at the same time? I think there is. He could write you the ticket, then he could reach into his own pocket and pay it. Justice has been done, the law has been upheld and the penalty has been paid, but mercy has been shown because you don’t pay it.
Well, God looked down on this world and saw us all as law-breakers. There was a fine that we could never pay because we had offended infinite justice. God didn’t reach into His pocket to pay it. He couldn’t reach into the ranks of humanity or even the realms of angels to pay it, because no creature could make the payment demanded. He reached into His own heart. The Bible says God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
And that is why Christ died. On the cross He wasn’t just suffering the pains of crucifixion, as Dawkins seems to think, but He was willingly suffering the wrath of God against sin. So God is not fudging on justice or compromising with sin. Sin’s penalty has been fully paid by the sacrifice of Christ – as proof of that God raised Him from the dead, and now God offers you a choice. You can either take the punishment you deserve, or you can admit your guilt and claim Christ as your substitute. If you do that then you go free. A righteous God can write over your whole record of sin, “Paid in full.”

In the Old Testament God instituted a system of animal sacrifices to illustrate the way of salvation and anticipate what Jesus Christ was going to do for us. When an Israelite was conscious of his sin he would take his sacrifice along to the priest. Now the priest didn’t examine the man to see if the man was good enough. The priest examined the sacrifice to see if the sacrifice was good enough, and if the sacrifice was good enough then the sinner went free. Similarly, God isn’t looking at you to see if you’re good enough – He has already told us we aren’t – He says that none of us is good enough to earn His favour. He is looking at the sacrifice you are depending on to see if it is good enough. What sacrifice are you depending on for your acceptance with God? Many people are depending on the sacrifice of their time, effort, energy and money. God says these sacrifices are not good enough. If you ask me what sacrifice am I depending on, my answer is the sacrifice of Christ. The question then is, is that sacrifice good enough? And the answer is, of course! This is the eternal Son of God. God raised Him from the dead to show that it is good enough. And that means I go free. The gods portrayed in religion demand sacrifices from you. The God of the gospel has made the ultimate sacrifice for you. Abandon hope in your sacrifices, and place your hope for salvation in His sacrifice and you go free.