The Importance of Our Picture of God

But there was a third question that needed to be answered. Gethsemane by itself would not have been enough. The third question is this: Why is it so important to understand that God does not execute his sinful children? This question had to be answered, too. And so an angel came to strengthen Jesus in Gethsemane so he could continue on out to Calvary. And there, once again, He answered the first two questions. But He was also this time tortured and crucified. By whom? By the Father? Or by most devout group of Sabbath-keeping, tithe-paying, health-reforming, Bible-quoting “Adventists” the world has ever known? Before they tortured him to death, they even said He had a devil (John 8:44). They obeyed God out of fear because they did not really know God. Look at John 19:31:

Then the Jewish authorities asked Pilate to allow them to break the legs of the men who had been crucified, and to take the bodies down from the crosses. They requested this because it was Friday, and they did not want the bodies to stay on the crosses on the Sabbath, since the coming Sabbath was especially holy (GNB).

You see, they nailed their Savior to the cross and then rushed home to keep that Sabbath especially holy. They did it to prove they were God’s true people. That’s the awful result of serving God from fear because you do not know the truth about God. Now the three questions were fully answered. Does sin result in death? Indeed, it does! But is it torture and execution at the hands of our gracious God? Indeed, it is not! What’s so dangerous about misunderstanding this and serving God from fear? The service of fear produces the character of a rebel. Fear turns people who are dedicated to obedience into harsh rebels, and they become God’s worst enemies!

Jesus did not die to win over His Father. Paul is extremely clear about this. 2 Corinthians 5:19: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (RSV). Nowhere does the Bible suggest that God had to be reconciled to us. Never once! Instead God paid the price to reconcile us to Himself! Jesus did not die to pay a mere legal penalty. He died to reveal the truth about God and the falsity of Satan’s charges. And even the angels had to learn this. Look at Colossians 1:20: “. . . And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (RSV).

John 12:32 agrees with this: “When I am lifted up from the earth I will draw everyone to me” (GNB). The “everyone” here is not limited to the human race, it is everyone in the whole family of the universe. These texts point us to the larger setting of the Great Controversy in order to understand the cross. The way in which Jesus suffered and died is the greatest revelation of the truth about God and His government that the universe will ever see or ever need. Correctly understood, the message of the cross is final defeat for the adversary. No wonder Satan has worked so hard to obscure, misrepresent, and even pervert the meaning of the cross.

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