The cross of Christ was no accident. God sent him to the cross for a purpose. There was divine design behind the execution of the Son of God at Calvary. In fact, we might say that God had many purposes for the cross.
John Piper has written a book in which he explores fifty different reasons why Jesus came to die (The book is entitled 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die and may be found by performing a title search at www.desiringgod.org). But is there a main reason, an ultimate reason? Is there a purpose in the cross that is deeper than all other purposes? In this lesson, John Piper explores what one writer has called “the innermost meaning of the cross.” As you read and answer the questions, evaluate your own views on why Christ came to die. Pray that God would reveal himself to you in deep and fresh new ways as you search the Scriptures.
whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26)
According to this passage, why did God put Christ forward as a sacrifice of atonement?
One of the reasons it is hard to communicate biblical reality to modern, secular people is that the biblical mindset and the secular mindset move from radically different starting points. What I mean by the secular mindset is not necessarily a mindset that rules God out or denies in principle that the Bible is true. It’s a mindset that begins with man as the basic given reality in the universe. All of its thinking starts with the assumption that man has basic rights and basic needs and basic expectations. Then the secular mind moves out from this center and interprets the world, with man and his rights and needs as the measure of all things.
What the secular mindset sees as problems are seen as problems because of how things fit or don’t fit with the center – man and his rights and needs and expectations. And what this mindset sees as successes are seen as successes because they fit with man and his rights and needs and expectations.
This is the mindset we were born with and that our secular society reinforces virtually every hour of the day in our lives. The Apostle Paul calls this mindset “the mind that is set on the flesh” (Romans. 8:6-7), and says that it is the way the “natural person” thinks (1 Corinthians 2:14, literal ranslation). It is so much a part of us that we hardly even know it’s there. We just take it for granted – until it collides with another mindset, namely the one in the Bible.
The biblical mindset is not simply one that includes God somewhere in the universe and says that the Bible is true. The biblical mindset begins with a radically different starting point, namely, God. God is the basic given reality in the universe. He was there before we were in existence – or before anything was in existence. He is simply the most absolute reality.
And so the biblical mindset starts with the assumption that God is the center of reality. All thinking starts with the assumption that God has basic rights as the Creator of all things. He has goals that fit with His nature and perfect character. Then the biblical mindset moves out from this center and interprets the world, with God and His rights and goals as the measure of all things.
What the biblical mindset sees as basic problems in the universe are usually not the same problems that the secular mindset sees. The reason for this is that what makes a problem is not, first, that something doesn’t fit the rights and needs of man, but that it doesn’t fit the rights and goals of God. If you start with man and his rights and wants, rather than starting with the Creator and His rights and goals, the problems you see in the universe will be very different.
Is the basic riddle of the universe how to preserve man’s rights and solve his problems (say, the right of self-determination, and the problem of suffering)? Or is the basic riddle of the universe how an infinitely worthy God in complete freedom can display the full range of His perfections – what Paul calls the “riches of His glory” (Romans 9:23) – His holiness and power and wisdom and justice and wrath and goodness and truth and
Make a chart listing the basic characteristics of the secular mindset and the basic characteristics of the biblical mindset. In light of John Piper’s summary, add your own additional characteristics to each list. How do you think the secular mindset would define “sin”?
In light of John Piper’s introduction and your summary, answer the following question from both the viewpoint of the secular mindset and the viewpoint of the biblical mindset: what is the ultimate reason why Jesus came to die on the cross?
How you answer that question will profoundly affect the way you understand the central event of human history – the death of Jesus, the Son of God
DG Topical Studies: The Cross By John Piper. ©2012 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org