"Mr. Nice" and the Death of Jesus
March 1, 2002 - Consider the puzzling problem of "Mr. Nice"—the pleasant, thoughtful, helpful, generous non-Christian. It is at times difficult to think of this type of person as sinful and in need of regeneration. How can such a person be a desperately wicked, selfish, rebellious sinner?
by Millard J. Erickson
Sin is not defined in terms of what other human beings may regard as unpleasant. It is, rather, a matter of a failure to love, honor and serve God. Thus, even the likable and kindly person is in need of the Gospel of new life, as much as is any obnoxious, crude and thoughtless person.
Sinners are completely unable to extricate themselves from their sinful conditions. Sinners cannot alter their lives by a process of determination, will power or reformation. Sin is inescapable.
This does not mean that sinners are absolutely insensitive and unresponsive to spiritual stimuli but rather that they are unable to do what they ought. The unregenerate person is incapable of genuinely good, redeeming works; whatever he does is dead or ineffective in relationship to God. Salvation by works is absolutely impossible (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Jesus' death, however, is of sufficient value to atone for the entire human race.
Our understanding of Christ's nature is crucial here. He is God in the same sense and to the same degree as is the Father, a sense in which no other human has ever been or will ever be divine. To His deity He added humanity. He did not subtract from His deity in any respect, but only the independent exercise of His divine attributes.
Because Jesus was like one of us, He was able to redeem us. He was not an outsider attempting to do something for us. He was a genuine human being representing the rest of us. Not only is Jesus human, He is completely human. He took not merely the physical nature of a human being, but the full psychological equipment of humanity as well. He felt the full gamut of human emotions. Thus He was able to redeem all of human nature, for He assumed all of what it means to be human.
The death of an ordinary human could scarcely have sufficient value to cover his own sins, let alone those of the entire race. But Jesus' death is of infinite worth. As God, Jesus did not have to die. In dying He did something that God would never have to do. He did not have to die in payment for His own sins because He was sinless. Inasmuch as He is an infinite being who did not have to die, His death can serve to atone for the sins of all mankind.