Some like to speak of the Person, provision, and promise of Christ. I prefer to refer to the work of Christ rather than the provision of Christ because His work was broader than His death on the cross for our sins.
His work includes His incarnation (John 3:16), His sinless life (2 Cor 5:21), the miracles He did (John 2:23; 7:31; 20:30-31), the teaching He gave (John 3:14-18; 5:24, 39-40; 6:35-57; 11:25-27), the suffering He underwent (Isaiah 53; 1 Pet 3:18), His death on the cross for our sins (John 3:14-15), His burial in a rich man’s tomb (Isa 53:9; John 19:38-42), His three days in Hades (Matt 12:40), His bodily resurrection on the third day (1 Cor 15:18-19), His post-resurrection appearances (1 Cor 15:5-8), and His ascension into heaven (John 14:28; 16:5, 7; Acts 1:9-11).
All of that was essential for our salvation.
As mentioned in part 1, the OT sacrificial system foreshadowed the once and for all death of Messiah. Just as the OT sacrifices had to be unblemished physically, the Messiah had to be unblemished spiritually. He had to be without sin.
All of Jesus’ ministry was pointed toward Calvary. He began by saying, “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). At the end of His public ministry, Jesus again spoke of His hour. But this time, it had come: “But now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name” (John 12:27-28).
His penultimate saying on the cross was “It is finished” (John 19:30). His perfect life, ministry, and finally his substitutionary death on the cross completed the work the Father had sent Him to accomplish.
There are actually five different views on the death of Christ.
Moral influence theory. Essentially Jesus’ death on the cross, along with His entire life, is an example for us on how to live so that we might gain everlasting life. This is essentially a form of works salvation.
Ransom to Satan. In this view God had to pay Satan with the death of His Son in order to set people free from bondage to Satan and sin. This is another form of works salvation since the aim is moral reformation for salvation.
Christus Victor. This means Christ the Victor. In this view, Satan was not paid anything. However, like the previous view, Christ’s death defeated evil and set people free to live righteously. This too is another form of works salvation.
We are not born again by living a righteous life.
Anselm’s Satisfaction Theory. According to this view, the sinfulness of man is an injustice that must be dealt with in order to satisfy God’s justice. The death of Christ serves to satisfy God’s justice.
There are aspects of works salvation here as well, since, according to this argument, one is not born again by believing in Jesus and thereby having God’s justice satisfied. In this view, the death of Christ makes it possible for people to live in such a way as to satisfy God’s justice. In a sense, this view sees Christ’s death as making us savable. But the condition for salvation and the nature of it were wrong.
Anselm believed that salvation began with water baptism and that regularly partaking of the Eucharist, as well as confessing one’s sins and doing acts of penance, was needed in order to maintain salvation.
Penal Substitutionary Atonement. The Reformers developed a different theory, one that was related to Anselm’s view and a modification of it. In this view, Jesus died in our place. The result is that humans are savable. But unlike Anselm’s view on how people were saved, this view teaches that people are saved by faith alone (though how Calvinists define faith varies greatly). Some who hold to substitutionary atonement believe that salvation cannot be lost.
The idea of substitution in found in the words for or in place of, huper and peri in Greek (in “Christ died for our sins,” 1 Cor 15:3; 1 John 3:16) and ransom (“He gave His life a ransom for many,” Mark 10:45).
This last view is the view of most Evangelicals.
Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, fulfilling OT prophecy, and He appeared to many people over the course of forty days (1 Cor 15:3-11). Without His resurrection, His sacrifice would have been ineffective (1 Cor 15:17-19). His post-resurrection appearances were additional proof that God gave mankind.
From His virgin birth in Bethlehem to His bodily resurrection from the dead, the work of Christ was essential for our salvation.
How much of the work of Christ must one believe in order to be born again?
One must believe enough of the work of Christ to be convinced that His guarantee of everlasting life to the believer is true. The apostles believed in Him for everlasting life before they believed He would die on the cross and rise again (Matt 16:21-22). However, they heard Him and saw Him face to face. They saw His miracles.
For those of us on this side of the cross, belief in His perfect life, substitutionary death, and bodily resurrection should lead us to believe His promise of irrevocable salvation. Unfortunately, many in Christianity today have uncoupled Jesus’ life and death and resurrection from His promise of everlasting life. They believe the former, but not the latter.
The bullseye is the message of John 3:16. Whoever believes in Him will not perish. Done deal. Whoever believes in Him has everlasting life. Done deal.
The Person and work of Christ should lead us to believe the promise of Christ. We will consider that promise in more detail in part 3.