The Cross Stands at the Center of the Gospel – Holy Week #1

It’s holy week. I’ve decided to do a brief meditation or quote everyday this week on the ‘ole blog. The following comes from Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics:

The suffering of Christ, which begins with his incarnation and is completed in his ‘great passion,’ is the will and command of the Father (Matt. 26:39, 42; John 10:17-18), proof of his absolute obedience (Phil. 2:8; Heb. 5:8), an example to be followed by his disciples (1 Pet. 2:21), a ransom for their sins (Matt. 20:28; 26:28), a victory over the world (John 16:33; Col. 2:15). The purpose of his condemnation, not only by the [Jewish] Sanhedrin but also by the secular Roman judge Pontius Pilate, was that he would not die in secret as a result of an assassination or in an insurrection but that he would be publicly and legally killed, after being properly examined, in accordance with a verdict from the then best and most thorough system of justice, and that in the process his personal innocence (Matt. 27:18-24) as well as the basis for his condemnation, namely, his confession that he was the Son of God and Israel’s Messiah (Matt. 26:63; 27:11), as well as the will of God (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28) and the character of his death as a dying for others (Matt. 20:28) would be clearly and incontrovertibly made manifest before the eyes of all. The death by crucifixion, ‘a most savage and monstrous punishment,’ and usually inflicted only on slaves and dangerous criminals, meant that Christ, having been condemned in the name of the law to the most terrible and disgraceful punishment, satisfied the most rigorous demand of the law, as one hanged, became a curse to God but thereby also removed the curse of the law from us (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13), and completely delivered us from all evil to which the law condemns us on account of our sins. The cross, therefore, stands at the center of the gospel (1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2; Gal. 6:14). The blood that Christ shed demonstrates that he voluntarily consecrated his life to God, that he gave it as an offering, and by it brought about atonement and peace (Matt. 26:27; Acts 20:28; Rom. 3:25; 5:9; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:20; Heb. 9:12, 22). Finally, Christ’s burial has special significance as well. It is mentioned repeatedly (Isa. 53:9; Matt. 12:40; 27:59-60; Luke 11:29; 23:53; John 19:40-42; Acts 13:29; 1 Cor. 15:3-4). It is not only proof that he really died and hence rose again from the dead but particularly means that Christ, though committing his spirit into the hands of his Father, who took him up into paradise (Luke 23:43, 46), nevertheless spent three days in the state of death, belonged to the realm of the dead, and thus fully bore the punishment for sin (Gen. 3:19). To that state of death, Hades, he was not abandoned; his flesh saw no corruption, for he was raised the third day; yet from the time of his death to the moment of  his resurrection, he belonged to the dead and therefore spent a period of time in Hades (Matt. 12:40; Acts 2:27, 31). [Reformed Dogmatics, Volume III, Sin and Salvation in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 409-410]

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