By Gregg Bing
(Continued from last month)
We saw last month that “grace” is often best defined by looking at an example from the Scriptures. The best example is that of our Lord Jesus Christ, as stated in 2 Corinthians 8:9.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor; that you through His poverty might become rich.”
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ centers on this fact, that “He became poor” for our sakes. What does this mean? In one sense, Jesus’ poverty speaks of His physical poverty as He lived here on this earth, but it goes beyond this. We see also that “He became flesh.” The God of glory emptied Himself of the glorious form and position He had with His Father in heaven to become a Man and to live on this sin-cursed earth. (Phil. 2:5-8).
Yet, this was not the full extent of Jesus’ poverty. We could never become rich just because the Lord Jesus Christ “became flesh” and lived a life of material poverty here on this earth. Why did the Lord Jesus “become flesh?” The writer to the Hebrews tells us:
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” (Heb. 2:9)
The Lord Jesus Christ became a Man so that He, “by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” Philippians 2:8 tells us that He “became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Jesus “became flesh” so that He could die; not just an ordinary death, but “the death of the cross.” What does this expression mean, “even, the death of the cross?”
Jesus’ death on the cross was painful for Him in several different ways. The physical sufferings Jesus went through were terrible. He was slapped, beaten, crowned with thorns, scourged (whipped), and then crucified. Crucifixion was one of the cruelest forms of capital punishment ever devised by men. It was a slow, agonizing death (Jesus Himself was on the cross for six hours), the physical effects of which are described in vivid detail in Psalm 22:14-17.
The public shame, the humiliation of Jesus’ death, was horribly degrading (Heb. 12:2).
Crucifixion was a punishment reserved for the vilest of criminals: thieves, murderers, leaders of political insurrection; men such as Barabbas. Our Lord was spit upon, mocked, marched through the crowded streets as a common criminal, stripped of His clothing, and then taunted by the crowds who stared at Him there on the cross.
The personal sorrow Jesus experienced must have been excruciating for Him as well. He was “rejected” by His own creation, His own people (John 1:11)—those whom He dearly loved (Eph. 5:2). Even the twelve apostles, who were closer to Jesus than His earthly family, “forsook Him and fled” when He was arrested in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:56).
Yet, all of these sufferings were nothing in comparison to the period of silence that Jesus endured on the cross of Calvary. We read in Matthew 27:45-46:
“Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
For three hours, from noon until 3:00 P.M., there was darkness over all the land. I believe that it was during this three hours that Jesus “bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24). This was the third and most difficult aspect of the poverty of our Lord Jesus Christ, that
He Became Sin
“For He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)
During those three hours, as Jesus bore our sins, He also bore the full wrath and judgment of God, all “for us” (Rom. 8:3). This is why we hear Jesus’ cry out, “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?” The word “forsaken” means “completely and utterly forsaken.” The Son of God, who, up to this point, had close, continual fellowship with His Father, endured three hours of painful silence, being separated from God the Father, and His cry was, “Why?” The answer to this anguished cry is found in the prophecy of Psalm 22.
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning? O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent. But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them. They cried to You, and were delivered; They trusted in You, and were not ashamed. But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people.” (Psalm 22:1-6)
The reason the Father had to completely forsake His Son is found in verses 3 and 6 of this Psalm. Verse 3 says, “You (God) are holy,” and verse 6 declares, “But I (Christ) am a worm and no man.”
Here is the ultimate step of Christ’s poverty. During those three hours on the cross, Jesus was destitute, empty, completely alone. He had nothing. He had no one. He was rejected by His own, deserted by His closest friends, and completely and utterly forsaken by His Father. All that the Lord Jesus had on that cross was our sins! He went through all this “for our sakes.”
Why would Jesus do this for us? Love!
“As Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” (Eph. 5:2)
He loved us unconditionally, while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8), and gave Himself “for us” an offering and sacrifice to God; an offering which was, to God, “a sweet smelling aroma.” Jesus willingly went through these terrible sufferings for us, “that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18).
Having endured these three hours of darkness, Jesus then cried out, in a loud voice (Matt. 26:50), “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Our debt to God was “paid in full” there on that cross. The payment we owed to God, “the wages of sin,” was death (Rom. 6:23). When Jesus died for our sins, God was satisfied with His payment. He was pleased with the offering of His Son. God’s holy and righteous requirements were fully met, thus God’s gift of eternal life (Rom. 6:23b) was now available to all who would simply believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior (John 3:16).
Did you deserve this? Did I? Did anyone? No! This is grace! The “grace” of our Lord Jesus Christ is that “He became poor, that you, through His poverty, might become rich;” that you might become “the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Yes, grace is “a gift we don’t deserve,” but now we see the terrible sufferings Jesus Christ went through to provide that gift for us. Yes, grace is “unmerited favor,” but now we see the extent of the favor that God bestowed upon us. Yes, grace is “God doing for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves,” but now we see why He alone could do this work.
Do you, personally, “know” the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? Have you trusted in Him and the finished work He accomplished for you on the cross of Calvary? Have you received His wonderful gift of eternal life? If you have not, you can do so, today, this very moment. You don’t have to join a church, go through any ordinances, go down front and shake a preacher’s hand. You don’t have to “do” anything, except “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31); believe that He “died for your sins … and that He was buried … and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). If you simply trust in Him to save you from your sins, He will, the very moment you believe. This is grace!