in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them (2 Cor 5:19 NET)
Christianity rests on the essential truth that Jesus came, suffered, died, was buried, and rose on the third day. But why did Jesus have to die on the cross? Richard Watson (1781-1833) tackles that question in chapter 20 of the 2nd Volume of his Theological Institutes.
The first thing which strikes every attentive, and, indeed, every cursory reader of the New Testament, must be, that the pardon of our sin, and our entire salvation, is ascribed to the death of Christ. … our salvation is expressly and emphatically connected with that event. …
The reconciliation of God to man is, throughout, a conditional one, and, as in all concessional processes of this kind, it has three stages.
- The first is when the party offended is disposed to admit of terms of agreement, which, in God, is matter of pure grace and favour;
- the second is when he declares his acceptance of the mediation of a third person, and that he is so satisfied with what he hath done in order to it, that he appoints it to be announced to the offender, that if the breach continues, the fault lies wholly upon himself;
- the third is when the offender accepts of the terms of agreement which are offered to him, submits, and is received into favour.
“Thus, upon the death and sufferings of Christ, God declares that he is so satisfied with what Christ hath done and suffered in order to the reconciliation between himself and us, that he now publishes remission of sins to the world, upon those terms which the Mediator hath declared by his own doctrine and the apostles he sent to preach it.
But because remission of sins doth not immediately follow upon the death of Christ, without any supposition of any act on our part, therefore the state of favour doth commence from the performance of the conditions which are required of us.”
Thus, then, for us to be reconciled to God is to avail ourselves of the means by which the anger of God toward us is to be appeased, which the New Testament expressly declares to be generally “the sin offering” of him “who knew no sin,” and instrumentally, as to each individual personally, “faith in his blood.”