“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Galatians 5:13-14 (NIV)
“Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.” Ephesians 5:3-7 (NIV1984)
The Apostle Paul seems to be saying in theses verses that faith is not enough to be saved — that we also have to turn from sin and live righteously. Many of us have had it drilled into us that we are saved (from future punishment and condemnation by God) if we believe in Jesus and love Him. Even Paul wrote three chapters earlier that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV1984). So how do we resolve the tension in these two ideas?
I think the answer lies in what we mean by the word “faith” (or a closely related word, “believe”). James wrote on this extensively. In James 2:14, he writes, “What good is it… if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” (NIV). Then he points out in verse 19 that even demons believe in God.
I wanted to put all of these verses in one place for those who want to study this, and also those who already have the position that we are to walk with the Spirit and not by the Law, that they might have a handy source for Scriptures.
Under the New Covenant, Live by the Spirit, Not by the Law
“The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:6 (ESV)
“The law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives… You… died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another… in order that we might bear fruit for God.” Romans 7:1,4 (NIV)
“When we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” Romans 7:5-6 (NIV)
“People who don’t believe that the blood of Jesus altered Heaven’s perspective towards this planet scare me! They create a schizophrenic culture because they bring the cold steel values of the Old Covenant into their grace-filled life in Christ. This usually results in a strange mixture of judgment and mercy that is not only confusing but is also self-mutilating, faultfinding, and often downright heartless. The Cross of Christ quenched the fires of judgment — unlocking the heart of God.”
— Kris Vallotton, “Developing a Supernatural Lifestyle”, Kindle location 698-700
Because of the way I share about God, emphasizing His love and His desire for a deep, intimate relationship with each of us, I sometimes do not share in detail about why it was necessary for God to send His one and only Son, Jesus, into the world, and why it was necessary for Jesus to die on the cross. Instead, I explain that Jesus died so that through faith in Him, we may be reconciled to God, leaving out the fuller understanding from the many Bible verses related to this point.
The standard presentation of the Gospel — the Good News of Jesus the Messiah — tends to include many of these verses, since it involves trying to get people to see that they are sinners, why they are worthy of eternal punishment by God, and why they need to stop sinning and ask Jesus to be their Savior. While there is much truth in that approach, I still believe that of primary importance (from God’s perspective) is God’s desire for relationship with us, and of secondary importance is the role of our selfishness (living for self instead of living for God). I prefer to use the term “selfishness” instead of “sin” because I think it is more to the point and less confusing.
Nonetheless, Jesus coming into the world and dying on the cross for us — so that we could be reconciled to God and have an intimate relationship with Him — is the essence of the Good News, regardless of which approach one takes in explaining the Gospel to someone else. In what follows, I list Bible verses under headings so that the reader can better understand the question I posed in the title, “Why did Jesus have to die?” If you prefer, I have made both a Powerpoint presentation and a PDF file for use.
“Holiness is a dangerous thing to preach when its relationship to grace and the real presence of God is not understood… Knowing and preaching the law of God does not enable one to keep it. Only grace does that… God keeps us in His holiness (John 17:15) as we remain in obedient subjection to Him (Romans 6:22). We must remain in union with Christ (John 15:4-5, 17:9)… When holiness is preached apart from understanding and walking in this union — in incarnational reality — legalism is the result… Where there is legalism, there is always pride… We can teach holiness without placing ourselves in jeopardy only so long as we realize that the godlessness of the wicked is set over and against the goodness of God and never the righteousness or holiness of the godly. Only in union with Him, listening to Him and carrying out His orders, are we holy.”
— Leanne Payne, “Listening Prayer”, pp 230-231
“Lord Jesus, I submit to You. I declare, according to the Word of God, that because of Your power to subject all things unto Yourself, the weapons of my warfare are mighty to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Cor. 10:3-4). I repent for using the lie, ‘I will never be like Jesus,’ as an excuse to sin and compromise my convictions. In Jesus’ name, I renounce my flawed, sinful old nature and by the grace of God and the power of Your Spirit I pull down the stronghold of unbelief that exists in my mind. Because of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, I am a new creation. And I believe that I will go from glory to glory, being continually transformed into Christ’s image as I walk with Him in His grace.”
— Francis Frangipane, “The Three Battlegrounds”
As I have tried to figure out the war of words over the “grace movement”, it seems that one of the issues is that of confession and repentance. Do we need to ask God for forgiveness when we sin? Do we need to confess our sins to God, even if we are already part of His family? Many in the grace movement say “no”. We are already forgiven. They say that verses that people use to support these ideas are for those who are not yet following Jesus.
As for me, I would say that I do not believe in dwelling on my sin, because it is a poor strategy for walking victoriously over sin. Yet this is what I know: intimacy with God is like intimacy in any relationship. If I do something to hurt the other person, I need to take steps to restore the relationship. God doesn’t stop being my Father if I sin, BUT, sometimes my sin makes the relationship awkward. Perhaps it is just me that feels awkward, but I think that sometimes God is offended, and He does want me to acknowledge how my actions have affected Him and our relationship. Confession and repentance seem to deal with that awkwardness and offense, and restores the relationship to normal.
“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV)
“Jesus offered mercy to people who needed mercy. He brought good news about God’s heart for people who felt condemned, judged, thinking God saw no hope for them. He offered people relationship that restored. As followers of Jesus, do we first bring something ‘good’ relationally to people in need of good news, or do we bring a gospel of mud management that says, ‘Until they see the mud, they won’t see their need for God? Until I help them see the “bad news” about how wrong their sin is, they won’t see their need for forgiveness’? Jesus didn’t do this, but the Pharisees did. This doesn’t mean Jesus ignored or denied the seriousness of our sins against God or our wrongs against each other. Jesus didn’t deny the truth about sin… Instead, he put the spotlight of grace on the Masterpiece, so people could see why the mud needed removing.”
— John Burke, “Mud and the Masterpiece”, Kindle location 586