New City Catechism – Week 24

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Read our weekly blog below. Here are other resources related to this week’s question:

Worship Guide
“I Will Glory in My Redeemer”
(Hymn #196 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q24: Why was it necessary for Christ, the Redeemer, to die?

A24: Since death is the punishment for sin, Christ died willingly in our place to deliver us from the power and penalty of sin and bring us back to God. By his substitutionary atoning death, he alone redeems us from hell and gains for us forgiveness of sin, righteousness, and everlasting life.

Why did Jesus have to die? Many people have asked that question over the last two thousand years. Some people try to explain away the resurrection by saying Jesus only appeared to die (often called the “swoon theory,”) but the evidence is clear: Jesus Christ was executed by the Romans by crucifixion, and before they took him off the cross, he was dead.

But why? Was he simply caught up in political circumstances? Was he misunderstood as a revolutionary and executed by mistake? No, the Bible is clear that the Messiah would suffer and die. Paul explained this to the Thessalonians (Acts 17:1-3), Philip tied Jesus’ suffering to Isaiah 53 with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-35). And the resurrected Jesus himself explained the necessity of his death to his disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:26).

The reason for all of this can be summed up in a good theological phrase: “penal substitutionary atonement”. Our catechism this week unpacks the meaning of that phrase. First of all: penal means that his death was punishment for sin. Romans 6:23 reminds us that the “wages of sin is death,” and Christ bore that punishment through his own death.

Secondly, the word substitutionary means that Christ’s death was in our place. The death that he received was the death that we deserve because of our sin. Because he satisfied that penalty and paid for our sins completely, we are no longer under God’s wrath. The word “atonement” means that because of Christ’s work, we are now reconciled to God—we are no longer his enemies.

All these big theological concepts may be hard to grasp, but at their root they bring good news to us. It’s news of forgiveness, righteousness and everlasting life. Jesus has set us free. We are no longer slaves to sin, we are saved from the righteous wrath of God (Romans 5:9). Let that truth sink into your heart, and your heart will sing the truth of this week’s hymn: “I will glory in my Redeemer!”

-Pastor Jonathan