Newsstands and bookstalls are full of it — murder is big business. Books, short stories and articles are filled with bloody accounts. The Boston strangler, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, the Manson murders — the public just can't read enough about murder. Homicide provides a strange fascination for man — so long as it is someone else who is doing the murdering, or someone else who is being murdered. So many wallow vicariously in the crime of murder. But few realize that they are actually, in a very real sense, guilty of it themselves! Here is how.
I could never kill anyone," you say. But you already have! Chances are you stand (or sit) guilty of the crime of homicide even as you read this article! No, I don't mean murder in the sense of merely hating someone. Yes, hatred is indeed a murderous attitude (I John 3:15). But that's not what I'm talking about here. You and I are every bit as guilty of murder as if we had plunged a knife into someone's back or shot another human being through the head with a .38 magnum. And just who is your victim — my victim — you ask? Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the victim.
We Killed Christ
"But Christ was killed centuries ago by a mob of Roman soldiers," you say. "How could I be guilty of that?" That's probably what the people listening to a sermon delivered by the apostle Peter thought back then, too. But notice what Peter said to this mixed multitude of visitors to Jerusalem: "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know — this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, YOU nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put him to death" (Acts 2:22-23, New American Standard Bible). Here were Israelites visiting Jerusalem from all over the Roman Empire (verses 9-11), and Peter was accusing them of the murder of Jesus Christ! How could he get away with such a preposterous charge? It wasn't just a slip of the tongue, either. He said it again in verse 36: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ — this Jesus whom you crucified." Later, on another occasion, Peter and John were taking part in the formal prayers of the Temple about three in the afternoon. They encountered a lame man who was carried each day to the Temple to beg for alms (Acts 3:1-2). The man asked the two apostles for a contribution but they had none to give. Instead, in the name of Jesus Christ they commanded the cripple to get up and walk (verses 3-6). The man was so elated by his good fortune that he began leaping and jumping and praising God (verse 8). Naturally, this attracted a lot of attention. The people at the temple gathered, awestruck, around the two apostles. Peter immediately sensed that the people were attributing the man's healing to them instead of God. He spoke out strongly and said: "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His Servant Jesus; the one whom you delivered up, and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him" (verse 13). Peter was not blaming his generation people alone, but all of mankind (Acts 2:8-11). He was saying that the whole human race stands guilty of the death of the Son of God. How is this possible? Did everyone knowingly participate in the death of Jesus Christ? Not at all. "And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also" (Acts 3:17). Yet how can we, in this modern twentieth century, so far removed in space and in time from the crucifixion event, be responsible for the murder of Jesus Christ?
As in Adam...
The story of Adam sheds light on that most important question. Adam was the first man created. He was the prototype of the entire human race. As Adam went so would go mankind. Adam was the pacesetter for all who would follow. When God initially created Adam and his wife Eve, He gave them certain very explicit instructions: "Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man saying, 'From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die'" (Genesis 2:15-16). The command was simple and the penalty for violating it was clear. Adam would qualify for the death penalty if he violated the divine edict. Nearly everyone is familiar with the story of the serpent who tempted Eve. The account is found in Genesis 3. The serpent, actually Satan (Revelation 12:9) using a serpentine creature as a medium, beguiled Eve into eating of the forbidden fruit. (Incidentally, the Bible does not say it was an apple!) Immediately they found themselves with a sense of gnawing guilt. The newly created couple hid from the presence of God in the foliage of the garden (Genesis 3:7-8). God next demanded an accounting by the three guilty parties. First He asked Adam (verse 9), "Where are you?" Not that God didn't already know. It was a formal facing of the music. Adam was being called to account first of all because he was the primary responsible party. God had given the original commandment directly to Adam. It was his duty to see that both he and the woman kept it. Adam failed to do his duty. God next addressed the woman (verse 13). She passed the buck (or peso, or ruble, or pound, or franc) to the serpent. God then confronted the serpent (verses 14-15). Each was found to be guilty. Each was cursed in some way.
Cut Off from God
After the formalities of judgment were completed, God expelled Adam and Eve from His presence: "Therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out..." (verses 23-24). There is much more to this account than meets the eye. It is no mere childish fable. This entire account is a definitive statement of man's spiritual state before his Creator. Adam had been in communion with God in the garden. He had existed in a state of innocence with God in close fellowship — they had walked together in the lush beauty of the garden of Eden (verse 8). Then sin entered, and with it death. Adam was now cut off from God by his disobedience. He and his equally guilty wife were expelled from the garden and thus from fellowship with God. The idyllic relationship of Eden was ended by sin. Now man was on his own, cut off from his Creator, existing in a state of guilt and waiting for the ultimate penalty of eternal death. Adam was spiritually "lost." Adam was the typical man.
Adam the Prototype
Adam was the father of all living — both physically and morally. He set the pace in the matter of sin. The apostle Paul, writing millennia later, said of Adam: "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12). All have sinned! Therefore all are guilty of the death of Jesus Christ who gave up His life to pay for sin. Each of us has followed the example of Adam. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). John wrote: "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us... If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" (I John 1:8, 10). The Word of God, the Bible, convicts all mankind of sin. If you believe the Bible, then you have to believe that statement. Anyone who denies his own guilt before God is calling God Himself a liar, for it is He who accuses us of sin. Even the ancient writer of Ecclesiastes said: "Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins" (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Everyone does good from time to time, but no one is consistently good all of the time. (Be sure to read our free reprint article "Human Nature Did God Create It?") Each one of us fails to live up to the divine standard of righteousness at some point. Those who say they are not guilty of moral and spiritual failure are themselves guilty of self-righteousness which is, in itself, a sin! Once you realize that you are a sinner, then you must also accept the fact that you are guilty of the blood of Jesus Christ. Your sin — even if no one else had ever sinned — would have necessitated the death of Jesus Christ. You are convicted of murder by the Word of God! Why so? "... Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22). Remember, God had told Adam that in the day he violated the divine command he was as good as dead. To sin is to incur upon oneself the penalty of death — eternal death. And every human being who has ever drawn breath has sinned. Therefore all of mankind, in Adam, is hopelessly lost. We are all on "death row," spiritually speaking: "For as in Adam all die..." (I Corinthians 15:22). This is true both physically and spiritually. As was Adam, we are all mortal, physical beings. Our bodies were designed to run down and terminate: "It is appointed to men to die once..." (Hebrews 9:27). But man, in Adam, is also slated to die a second time — spiritually. This "second death" is final. From it there is no resurrection. It is eternal death in a lake of fire (Revelation 20:14). Yet God did not create man for eternal destruction. Man was created in the very image of his Creator (Genesis 1:27) for a great purpose. Man has a destiny so dazzling, so transcendent that it is impossible for man to comprehend it now. Thus we read "But, as it is written, 'What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him'" (I Corinthians 2:9, RSV). Mankind by nature cannot comprehend what God intends to do with man, but we could know one thing: God did not create us to be destroyed! "For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" (Romans 11:32-33.) God intends that man should be saved — saved from eternal death and saved for a brilliant, unfathomable destiny!
How Man Is Saved
Man is separated from God by his own sins. God says through Isaiah: "But your iniquities have made a separation between you and • your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, so that He does not hear" (Isaiah 59:2). A great gulf exists between the natural man and his Creator. Alienation has occurred. Man is at odds with his Maker through sin. "Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so" (Romans 8:7). Yet apart from God man cannot have eternal life. He must ultimately pay that final penalty for sin — eternal death, for "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Man, cut off from God, is utterly, and finally, lost. In Adam, man is terminal. But God, in Christ, has provided a way out. Through Christ man can be saved. Man does not have to pay that ultimate penalty because Christ has paid it for him! Christ is called in the Bible the "Lamb of God" (John 1:29, 36). He became a "guilt offering" for us (Isaiah 53:10). Because of your sins and mine, He "poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12). Christ, as the sacrificial Lamb of God, took upon Himself our guilt and paid the penalty of death in our stead. It had to be done, and only His life was worth more than the sum of all of human life past, present and future. Only He could have performed this incredible sacrificial act. When Jesus Christ of Nazareth — the very Son of God, the Savior, the Messiah, the Lamb of God — hung on that wooden death instrument, bleeding and hurting from His many wounds, He did so because you and I have sinned. Jesus Christ performed that most noble and loving act, once in time and in space, for all of mankind. It was the greatest act of love in history, the noblest sacrifice. When Jesus was spat upon, beaten about the head and body with a — vicious scourge, beaten with rods, cursed, ridiculed, mocked and laughed at, it was because you and I imitated our ancestor Adam and sinned. When the humble carpenter of Nazareth experienced the searing pain of rough-hewn nails burning through the flesh of His hands and feet, affixing Him to that hideous instrument of death, the crucifix, it was because you and. I put Him there. Your sins crucified Jesus. Mine did. As the Roman soldiers gambled for possession of Christ's garments, and the flies buzzed around His tortured body, feeding on His many wounds as He hung above the earth, His thoughts were not of Himself but of you and me: "... Jesus was saying, 'Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing'" (Luke 23:34). We did it unknowingly. We are, however, no less guilty. We killed Christ. Each of us. We are all responsible for His death. We each made it necessary. We are all guilty of murder.
But even that guilt can be removed in Christ! All who come to Christ in faith can be forgiven. God did not intend for man to be lost in the final analysis: "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Paul himself said to the young evangelist Timothy: "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all" (I Timothy 1:15). That magnificent sacrificial act performed by Jesus Christ is sufficient to erase all of the collective human guilt of the centuries. Even the accusations of that old serpent who tempted mother Eve in the garden of Eden are rendered null and void by the sacrificial blood of Christ (Revelation 12:10-11). As in Adam all of us die, "so also in Christ all shall be made alive" (I Corinthians 15:22). What a wonderful assurance! What a magnificent gift from God! In Adam we are all sinners, guilty of the murder of our Savior. But in our Savior — in Christ — we are rendered guiltless. Through Him we can be reconciled to God. We can once again enter into a relationship with God in which we are free from guilt. "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). In Christ, and in His sacrifice, our guilt is re. moved. God has exercised mercy in order to fulfill His purpose in creating mankind. Through Christ every human being who is willing to make a move in the direction of God may be reconciled to his Creator. Yet "no man can come to me, except the Father draw him..." (John 6:44). We can. hardly therefore escape the conclusion that if individuals are exposed to the knowledge of the truth, and if they are convicted by that knowledge, that God is, indeed, drawing them.
The Ministry of Reconciliation
God is even now beginning the process of reconciling the world to Himself in Christ. And it is very much a part of the message of the Worldwide Church of God to proclaim that God is so doing. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us..." (II Corinthians 5:18-20). God draws us, calls us by His Spirit, exposes us to truth, and then waits for our response. That's why Paul said in the rest of the above quoted passage: "...we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf..." (verses 20-21). Reconciliation, and the salvation which follows, is not automatic. God expects those few who are now called to respond by positive action. Those who are called must answer that call. Each of us has been convicted of sin by the Word of God. Each of us is guilty of the death of Jesus Christ — of His murder. But each of us can be reconciled to God and saved from the penalty of eternal death through Jesus Christ.