Why did Christ die?

To answer the question posed by our title, we must go back to the first three chapters of the book of Genesis where we have the account of man’s fall from God’s grace. Many have supposed this to be part of Jewish folklore rather than an account of things which actually happened. But Jesus and his apostles quoted from these early records and appealed to them as authoritative.

“Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female?” Matthew 19:4

The fall with all its consequences, is woven inextricably into the fabric of Bible teaching, and to regard it as folklore or myth is to make nonsense of the Bible’s great theme - which is the redemption of mankind from the consequences of that first act of disobedience in Eden.

THE FIRST SIN

The simple facts are these. God created Adam and Eve and provided ideal conditions for them to live in. They were, however, placed under law. They were forbidden to eat of a certain tree and the penalty for disobedience was made quite clear to them - they would DIE. This law was intended to test their allegiance to their Maker. The apostle John says,

SIN is the transgression of the (God’s) law” 1 John 3:4

Adam and Eve transgressed God’s law and their SIN resulted in DEATH, for God had said that if they disobeyed his law, “Thou shalt surely die”. The serpent, who was an animal endowed with the power of speech for the purpose of the test, said to Eve, “Thou shalt NOT surely die” - a direct contradiction of the words of God. Eve believed the serpent rather than her Maker and drew Adam into the disobedient act. God wanted His creatures to love and obey him. Love is a voluntary act which cannot be forced upon humans. God could have made mere robots incapable of acting contrary to his will, but where would be the pleasure for God in the obedience of such creatures? Just as surely the disobedience of his creatures causes God pain, for He is

“of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” Habakkuk 1.13

They had sinned, and had thus alienated themselves from God. What was to be done?

THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN

God is just and must fulfil his word so Adam and Eve were condemned to die, returning to the dust from which they were created. Commenting on this situation, the Apostle Paul says,

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12)

Yes, just as surely as cats produce kittens, so Adam’s sons would be like him, possessed now of a nature with a tendency to behave as he had done - a SINFUL nature. So all mankind suffer the consequences of that first sin - which is death.

A COVERING FOR SIN

But wait! Adam and Eve covered their newly realised nakedness with fig leaves, but God provided a different covering. They were judged unable to cover their own guilt and the fig leaves were replaced by coats of skins (Genesis 3:21). If we think about this we can see that animals had to be killed to provide the covering acceptable to God - there was a SACRIFICE OF ANIMAL LIFE. This teaches us a lesson. Sin merits death and can only be expiated by the shedding of blood, a truth which is stated clearly in the New Testament,

”…..without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22)

The animals skins that were used to cover Adam’s sin represented God’s plan to undo the disaster caused by sin whilst still adhering to his stated sentence, “thou shalt surely die”.

There was an enigmatic promise of salvation to come, in a man of Adam’s race who should succeed just where Adam failed - in obedience under trial Christ never sinned, though as the letter to the Hebrews says, he

“was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15)

The shedding of his blood as a sacrifice for sin was God’s grand plan to redeem some of his creatures from the consequences of Adam’s disobedience,

“that he (God) might be just (we must all die), and the JUSTIFIER OF HIM WHICH BELIEVETH in Jesus” (Romans 3:26)

Reading through the book of Genesis we find animal sacrifices being offered by righteous men who desired reconciliation with their God. Noah, Abraham, Jacob and many others - they understood that the animal was not guilty of any sin for it was not under any law. The animal was a figure of the coming “Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). God was pleased to accept these men, for they acknowledged that they were sinners and fit only to die, but for the time being God would accept the sacrificed animal if the man who offered it realised that it pointed forward to the coming of Christ, the Lamb provided by God.

GOD’S PROMISE IN EDEN

There are two verses in Genesis 3 which may be easily overlooked - verses 14-15.

“And the Lord God said unto the serpent… I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel”.

A conflict is here predicted with a profound allegorical meaning. The serpent, is used as the symbol for sin in other parts of the Bible, and evil men are spoken of as his descendants, or seed (Matthew 23:33). With this class of people the seed of the woman was to be at enmity and the conflict could only be ended by the destruction of the seed of the serpent or sin. Christ’s victory over sin (he was uniquely the seed of the woman for God was his Father), was not gained without a fight, in the course of which he suffered, as Genesis 3:15 would lead us to expect. The outcome was a wound on the heel for Christ. The serpent’s seed was dealt a head wound which is always fatal. Christ, though crucified as a sacrifice for sin, had never submitted to it during the days when it rankled in his flesh. Consequently, God raised him from the dead, thus dealing a deathblow to sin. This was the triumphant climax of God’s plan of redemption - and this was why Christ died - read Hebrews 2:14-18. We hope you will agree that this is the scriptural answer to our question.

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