Letters to the Family of God
by Joe Franzone | April 14, 2022 | Pastor's Blog
April 14, 2022
I am so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without Him.
John Gresham Machen (1881-1937)
John Gresham Machen was one of those rare jewels of a person who seemed to carry much of what was wrong in the church of his day on his shoulders. He died on January 1, 1937, in a Bismarck, North Dakota Hospital of pneumonia. Before he died, he sent a telegram to his best friend and colleague in the ministry, his final recorded words in the quote above.
The active obedience of Christ he referred to is the doctrine of Penal Substitution, which is the heart of Good Friday. Penal Substitution says the penalty that is due to us for our sin is paid by a substitute Jesus Christ. He put himself forward, as, the Father said to (active obedience), and was punished (penal) instead of us (substitute).
What was taking place in Machen’s day was, in essence, this: the spirit of the age said the old facts of Christianity didn’t correspond to anything of value in this modern age. The west was coming of age, and Jesus was more and more viewed as nice but not necessary.
“Christ died"—that is history; "Christ died for our sins"—that is doctrine. Without these two elements, joined in an absolutely indissoluble union, there is no Christianity.”
John Gresham Machen
Maybe one of the most important words in the entire Greek New Testament is the tiny word huper. This small word is translated by the English phrase, on behalf of. Which was, in so many ways, the entire ministry of Jesus. He goes to the cross on behalf of humanity.
Jesus died a violent, substitutionary death to be a sacrifice of atonement on behalf of sinful men and women. In His death, Jesus took upon Himself God’s righteous judgment and wrath against our sins. By dying as our penal substitute, Jesus paid the penalty for sins, and therefore, He both satisfied God’s wrath against sins and expiated sins so our sins would be forgiven, and we would be justified by faith, forgiven, reconciled to God, reconciled to each other, participate in the future resurrection, saved from God’s wrath, and satisfy God’s justice.
All people have a sense of guilt for their transgressions, no matter how hard they try to suppress it. The only way to lose the weight of guilt is to have it removed is resting in the active obedience of Christ. If you have trusted in Christ alone for salvation, you need not feel guilty before God this day, for He has paid for your sin. If you have not trusted Christ, your guilt can be removed when you rest in Him alone.
Our age, like every age, would say the gospel is good but not good enough. Then plug in all kinds of substitutes and addition, be it religious, scientific, economic, or personal advancement. But what we need first is not exhortation or inspiration, but a gospel, not directions for saving myself but knowledge of how God has saved me.
Have you any good news? That is the question that I ask of you. I know your exhortations will not help me. But if anything has been done to save me, will you not tell me the facts?” For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.
Machen on John 3:17
We are so well-loved. Swim in this truth in every moment of every day we are given.
God bless you with uncountable beautiful moments this Easter season.