What a bible-believing preacher preaches is called “the word of God”. Hence, it goes without saying, preachers must love words, be careful with them, and choose their words with extreme care. After all, it is God's word that does the converting, the quickening, the comforting and the building up. The more purely God's word is preached, the more deeply it pierces and the more kindly it works. The apostle Paul is one such preacher.
On this Good Friday, let me take what Paul said in Roman 5:6 to meditate on with you. He said: “Christ died for the ungodly.”
“For” is a preposition of distance, a word that indicates exchange or favour, it implies function or purpose. I do something for you; you do something for me. Notice: someone does something on behalf of or in another’s place.
“For” is a contract (covenant if you like the biblical term). Jesus died for us—means that Jesus did something on our behalf; he acted on behalf of a purpose, in place of someone else. “For” always separates the actor and recipient, distancing a sacrificial Jesus from those for whom he died. At the Cross, Jesus is the subject; we are objects.
When we come to the Cross on Good Friday, we see the “for.” We understand the exchange, that God died for me, so I get baptized or confirmed or serve the church. Jesus sacrificed his life so that I might exchange Hell for Heaven. Indeed, thinking that Jesus died for salvation may give pause, cause us to raise a prayer of thanks, feel sadness or relief; but ultimately, the idea that someone dies for something is theologically and spiritually uncomplicated.
The Cross isn’t a contract between God and sinners; the Cross is God’s definitive expression of kinship and love—that everything, everywhere, through all time, is connected in and through pain and suffering.
We are with Jesus on the Cross, not at a distance from it, standing by, watching safely from afar. The hands that were pierced and the feet that were nailed are ours. The blood that he shed is our blood. When he died we too must die in him. How else can you be “baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3)
Unless you are “planted together in the likeness of his death” you cannot be raised “in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:5).
Now, will you response to Jesus’ invitation to take up your cross and follow him?
Rev. Robert Chew