Chapter 25 The Necessity Of The Atonement

Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:46, 47).

In these words our Lord was alleviating the fears of His disciples, showing them that nothing had taken place but what was foretold in the Scriptures, and decreed by God in eternal counsels. Behind all the on-going of evil men and the powers of darkness was “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” This must have been a very great comfort and consolation to these men at this time. Everything had moved, and henceforth would move, according to God’s plan. There is an absence in these words of any mention of His ascension and future glory. He was merely clearing in their minds the necessity for His death and resurrection and so not complicating their minds with too many issues.

The Necessity of the Cross

What the Lord said here was the essence and substance of what was written in the Old Testament Scriptures rather than a quotation of specific verses. The Cross was necessary because it was decreed in the eternal counsels of the Godhead as the only means of man’s redemption, and also because of prophecies and predictions of the Old Testament (vv. 25, 26). He was to suffer unto death and there was a Divine necessity for this. It was something more than dying for a cause as a martyr might do. In one sense He did that, but it was far more than that! He did suffer because He bore witness to the truth (John 18:37). But there was something deeper than that! The vital necessity rose out of the fact of sin and to make possible a redemption based on righteousness. The principal cause, therefore, was to die for our sins—a Substitute for all who would afterward believe, but a Sacrifice whose meritorious virtue could cover the sins of the whole world. He died for all to make salvation possible for all. The hardest and most agonizing part of those sufferings was not what evil men did to Him, dreadful though that was, but what He suffered by the withdrawal of His Father’s presence. He bore God’s displeasure and wrath against all man’s sins—the ultimate of which was banishment from the presence of the Lord. None can fully understand what it meant for the holy Son of God to become a curse that we might be redeemed from the curse of the law. When He spoke these words of the text He was already risen and was opening their eyes and understanding to understand the Scriptures which spoke of His death and resurrection.

The Message of the Cross

The substance of its message is salvation. This salvation is based on two things. First, repentance. A sinner must become a penitent sinner. We must understand, too, that repentance is not a human effort or else it would take us along the road to justification by the works of the law which is folly to suppose possible. Repentance is preached “in His name” and therefore is a gift of God as part of the Gospel of His grace. Nor is repentance an independent exercise. It is joined to the remission of sins and the two are one act. As soon as a person repents, so soon is remission granted. It does not read, “repentance for the remission of sins,” but “repentance and the remission of sins.” Repentance itself makes no satisfaction for sins. It is not our “tears, or repentance, or prayers” which procures redemption, but the death and resurrection of our Saviour. It is the shedding of His precious blood which cleanses all sin away. The moment a person repents that same moment the merits of the Saviour’s sacrifice are applied to the soul.

The Propriety of the Cross

There were sound reasons why our Lord must suffer and die and be raised again. First, because, “It is written.” The Old Testament Scriptures declared it so and the Scriptures cannot be broken. We see it in all three parts. In the part called The Law it is clear in The Seed of the Woman in Genesis 3:15 and in Abraham’s lamb of sacrifice, Genesis 22. It is clear in the part called The Prophets as in Isaiah 53. It is clear in the part called The Psalms as in Psalms 22 and 69. As His death was foretold, so also was His resurrection in the same Scriptures.

He also said, “it behooved Him to suffer.” This means there was no other way to accomplish man’s redemption. This does not mean He was obligated to do so. It would have been a righteous thing for God to have swept the whole race into hell. But having agreed, as it were, to redeem us, then the eternal Son was obligated to become incarnate, suffer, die, and rise again. God could not spare His Son if this was to be done. And as it behooved Him to suffer so also it behooved Him to rise again from the dead. For “if Christ be not raised … ye are yet in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). He must be raised for our justification (Romans 4:25).

Both the truths of repentance and remission of sins are to be preached in His name. Since He is the Saviour of the world it is right and proper that this Gospel should be preached among all nations and that this witness should begin at Jerusalem as Paul said—“to the Jew first.”

I once was a stranger to grace and to God;
I knew not my danger, I felt not my load;
Tho’ friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree,
“Jehovah Tsidkenu” was nothing to me.

When free grace awoke me by light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me,—I trembled to die;
No refuge, no safety, in self could I see:
“Jehovah Tsidkenu” my Saviour must be.

My terrors all vanished before the sweet name;
My guilty fears banished, with boldness I came
To drink at the fountain, life-giving and free:
“Jehovah Tsidkenu” is all things to me.

“Jehovah Tsidkenu!” My treasure and boast;
“Jehovah Tsidkenu!” I ne’er can be lost;
In Thee I shall conquer by flood and by field,
My cable, my anchor, my breastplate and shield!

—Robert M. Mc Cheyne

P.S. “Jehovah Tsidkenu” means “The Lord our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6).