The central way Christ functions as the perfect image and exact representation of God is by dying on the cross. While Christ’s entire life manifests the true God, Christ came primarily to die. It was his death that defeated the devil and freed us from bondage.
The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:8).
It was the death that atoned for our sin and reconciled us to God.
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith (Rom 3:25).
It was his death that manifested the wisdom of God.
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph 3:10-11).
The cross is the absolute center of God’s revelation to humanity and his purpose for creation. It is the paradox around which the world revolves. The cross is the mystery that explains, accomplishes and redeems everything. The fullness of God is most perfectly revealed in his becoming the Godforsaken man dying on a cursed tree.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole” (Gal 3:13).
God’s holiness is most perfectly displayed in his becoming sin for our sake.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21)
God’s righteousness is most perfectly revealed when he himself becomes a judged criminal.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed (Is 53:5).
God’s power is most perfectly displayed in his allowing himself to be crucified at the hands of sinners.
This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross (Acts 2:23).
God’s glory is most perfectly revealed in the utter shame of the crucified Messiah. God’s beauty is most perfectly revealed in the horror of his executed Son.
The cross is the central way Christ images God. Christ was not an innocent third party who was punished against his will to appease the Father’s wrath. Christ is himself God, and he voluntarily took our sin and its just punishment upon himself. Hence his sacrifice does not appease God’s wrath; it reveals God’s love. Even in—especially in—his agonizing death on the cross, Jesus is the exact imprint and perfect revelation of God. In the crucified Christ the truth about God, about us and about the world is most perfectly revealed. For the cross is where reconciliation between God and the world is accomplished.
—Adapted from Is God to Blame? pages 34-35