Sunday April 15, 1979 I was preaching an Easter sermon at Bethany Baptist Church where I had been appointed as the interim pastor. Our son was born in October of 1978. As I spoke on the sacrificial death of Jesus upon a Roman Cross, I happened to look up into the balcony. The church was set up so that the nursery was a glass enclosed room located in the balcony, soundproof, but set up with speakers so that mothers could care for their children without being a disruption to the church service, but still participate in the service.
As I glanced up to the balcony, I saw my young wife standing in the window looking down on me with our baby cradled in her arms. I will never forget that scene nor my reaction to it. I came off-notes and said to my listening congregation, “You know I would do anything for you, but I would not sacrifice my son for one of you reprobates!” Then, moved by the realization for the first time in my life, it struck me that the ultimate sacrifice of a father is not to give his own life, but to give the life of his child for another! “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NIV).
I for one can’t imagine the agony of The Father, observing from His Throne in heaven, the agony of His only Son on the cross! I can perhaps somewhat feel the agony in His heart when the Son cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). That is the ultimate sacrifice of love! Not that the Father came and gave, but that the Son willingly came and gave Himself as a ransom for us.
Think about this. I am a Creationist (which means I believe Genesis 1-3 is actual history not religious myth). Now God, who knows all things actual and possible, knew that His creature in the garden, Adam, would sin and plunge the whole world into sin which would bring along with it sorrow, suffering and death. He knew that. Salvation, the sacrificial death of His Son on the cross, was not plan B. The Apostle John in Revelations 13:8 tells us that “the Lamb (Jesus) was slain before the foundation of the world.” That is, before the God-head (Father, Son and Spirit) uttered the first words of Creation they, the three in one, knew what it would cost them to redeem the world we would destroy! Why then would He create us? By definition God is “self-sufficient”, which means He needs nothing from anyone. He wasn’t lonely and needed our company. He doesn’t need our worship or adulations. He needs nothing from us. Why then would He create us knowing full well we would rebel and the high price He would pay on our behalf to satisfy His justice—a requirement necessary for peace? I can only think of one reason: He wanted to share His great love for us!
Isaiah, an Old Testament prophet, warned about sin-sick people who mistake good for evil or evil for good and do so thinking they are enlightened (see Isaiah 5:20-21). These are the people today who claim that the loving sacrifice of the Son portrays for us a God who is vengeful and spiteful and unworthy of our now enlightened views.
Whether you agree or not, one day (perhaps sooner than we think), we will all stand before God. Those who have accepted the pardon of Christ made possible by His payment for our sin, will receive mercy. Those who insist on standing on their own two feet will receive the justice they insist upon. But be sure of this, no one will be treated unjustly! God is described as “the righteous judge” and may I add He is the final judge. Nothing is hidden from His sight (see Hebrews 4:13) and despite what you think, there is no appeal once His judgment is rendered. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, NIV). You can accept it or you can reject it, but you can’t change it.