The Guilty Counted Righteous Because of the Cross
For today’s blog post I wanted to share with you all an excerpt from the study guide for the upcoming animation, “It Is Finished.” I create these guides as a way of helping people understand some of the theological underpinnings to the imagery that they see in the animations. My hope and prayer is that the guides would serve small group leaders and anyone else who would like to facilitate a bit of a deeper discussion concerning the things covered in each video. So, here is the fifth part of the seven part study guide:
V. The Guilty Counted Righteous Because of The Cross
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.
– Exodus 34:6-7
In Exodus 34:6-7, we read God’s own declaration of His Name (“Name” can also be understood to mean God’s “character” or His “glory”). These verses explain to us the essence of who God is in relation to sinful humanity.
- Pastor and theologian John Piper has defined God’s righteousness as His “unswerving commitment always to bring his actions into accord with the reality of his infinitely worthy glory.” In other words, God is righteous when He acts according to His nature/ His character/ His glory/ His With that in mind, what element of God’s name – as He declares it in Exodus 34:6-7 – seems to make it impossible for Him to withhold punishment from guilty sinners?
If part of God’s Name is that He “will by no means clear the guilty” then we must ask ourselves how it is that anyone can stand “cleared” and holy in His presence. Every one of us has preferred something more than God, which means every one of us is guilty of sin. And since God’s righteousness (His commitment to act according to His Name) means that He will not clear the guilty – we seem to be without hope.
- Read 2 Corinthians 5:21 and 1 Peter 2:24. How do these verses explain the way that God is able to declare a guilty person to be righteous, even while remaining true to His Name?
- When God justifies a guilty sinner like you or me (that is to say, when He counts us righteous), He does not simply “clear” us of our guilt – that would be acting against His Name (Exodus 34:6-7). Rather, He perfectly and fully punishes us for our guilt. How can He both punish us for our guilt and declare us free of guilt? Only through Jesus Christ. The Christian is fully punished in Christ since He Himself bears our sins in our place. Keeping in mind that the color red represents sin in this animation, how does the picture above reflect the verses that you’ve read so far? In your own words, why do you think Jesus is drawn with red outlines on the cross?
Christian, because He took our sin and guilt, Jesus death was our death. Our punishment has been paid. What’s more, as you read in 2 Corinthians 5:21, the righteousness of God the Son Himself has been counted to us by faith. By this “Great Exchange,” Christ has done all that needs to be done, wrath is passed and there is only Life ahead for us now. However, if you have not yet trusted in Jesus as Lord, your guilt is still on your own head…God would be unjust (that is, unfaithful to His name) to clear you of it in any way other than faith in the sin-bearing death and resurrection of Jesus in your place.
- In what other ways did you see a representation of Jesus sin-bearing, wrath-absorbing work in this animation? No one forced Jesus to do these things. What do you think His sufferings and death tell us about the heart and character of God?
But being justified by God is only the entrance into the garden of Life. The Christian’s righteousness through Christ is like a bride’s spotless white wedding dress, and no bride is satisfied with her dress alone; she wants the groom.
(It Is Finished along with its companion study guide, is planned for release next Wednesday, March 16th)