We are all familiar with the facts of the Gospel (Good News):
Jesus died on a cross and rose again on the third day.
This is by far the most important thing anyone can possibly know. But what does the cross mean?
“For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:19
I love telling people they are already reconciled by the finished work of Jesus Christ. I love sharing that God is love (1 John 4) and love holds no records of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13).
I love sharing that we can now rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God as his dear friend… thank you Jesus!
“So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” Romans 5:11 NLT
I am reading right now a writing by C. Baxter Kruger called God in the Hands of Angry Sinners.
In this article Baxter tackles the long held theory of penal substitution.
Here is an excerpt from page one:
The theory contends that, as the Father placed
the sin of the world upon Jesus, he then poured out his wrath
upon Jesus instead of upon us who deserved it, hiding his face
from Jesus, abandoning his own Son in utter rejection.
The doctrine of penal substitution states that God gave himself
in the person of his Son to suffer instead of us the death,
punishment and curse due to fallen humanity as the penalty of
sin… That the Lord Jesus Christ died for us — a shameful
death, bearing our curse, enduring our pain, suffering the wrath
of his own Father in our place — has been the wellspring of the
hope of countless Christians throughout the ages.
Well, that sounds like what most of us believe, right?
He then quotes George MacDonald:
“Good souls many will one day be horrified at the things they now believe of God.”
He is saying I should be horrified by believing this? I have to admit, as I am researching the Atonement, I am coming across several theologians and Bible teachers who do abhor the view of penal substitution. I am nervous about where this conversation is going but want to investigate and compare whatever the alternative is with the Holy Scriptures. (Because, as Einstein once said, “Condemnation without Investigation is the height of ignorance”.)
After reading several pages of the article, I came upon this following quote:
“Yet how is Jesus to make contact with us in our fallen
humanity? How is he to bring his union with us in his humanity
into our alienation? How is he to unite sinners with the Holy
Spirit, and lost sons and daughters with his Father? How does
Jesus Christ reach us, and deliver us from evil? Not by suffering
the wrath of his Father, but by…” (Read the article here)
Aren’t you curious where he is going with this? Do the ideas have biblical merit? I’ll let you read it straight from the source on your own and find out for yourself.
So what are we to believe about the Atonement?
Could it possibly be something more like this?
I have already examined the evidence for the Trinity being on the cross together in my post Papa With Scars. Please read it and cross examine it. Please correct me if I’m wrong!
I love to think of the atonement as our “At-One-Ment” with God, because this is exactly what was at the heart of what Jesus was pulling off at the cross. As I noted in a recent post Mystical Union With God I have come to see the point of the cross as to bring us into union with Himself (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit):
“When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” John 14:20
At the cross is where Jesus removed every barrier between us and God. He was the last Adam, and even more our representative before God than Adam himself was. He gives righteousness to all. See Romans 5-6
It seems we have a great deal of faith in what Adam pulled off but far less faith in what Jesus pulled off? Do we not believe him when he said, “It is finished”?
Well the Trinity knew we would not believe him. Check this out:
“Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” Isaiah 53:1
And by the way, the arm refers to Jesus. I just learned that in a Bible study.
And here is the following quote from page 8 Baxter highlights the greatest lie of Satan of all:
“Jesus loved us. Jesus found us, embraced us, accepted us as
we had become in the dastardly schemes of evil. How did Jesus
Christ reach us? How did he penetrate the terror of our souls?
How did the Son of the highest unite himself with us at our
lowest? How did the one who was rich become poor (2Cor 8:9),
and he who knew no sin become sin on our behalf? (2Cor 5:21).
Here, we can agree with the penal theory that that key was
Jesus’ submission to the will of his Father. Yet we refuse to
accept the perverse notion that…” (Read it here)
Am I getting annoying yet? The whole article is a journey of thought through Scripture, so you just gotta read it for yourself!
It reminds me of one of my breakthrough moments of my life I had an open vision on Easter Sunday years ago of punching Jesus on the cross, over and over and over. He was just taking it and loving me all the while. I wept and then went to my friends house and played worship songs for a couple hours with a group of amazing brothers and sisters.
The Great Exchange!
I love the illustration from the Bible (and I share it often) about how the Israelite worshippers would bring a lamb every year to the temple. The lamb was an object lesson and a tangible tool and expression of faith so that worshippers could actually believe in their right relationship with God (by faith).
The worshiper would place their hands on the lamb and symbolically their sins would pass to the lamb. The lambs innocence would pass to the worshiper. The lamb would then be killed as the just penalty for those sins. The worshiper walks away innocent. An exchange was made. Sins for innocence.
The book of Hebrews explains in detail how Jesus is the once for all Passover lamb, just as John (whose name means Grace) introduces Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
When Jesus died, all of humanity was placing our hands on Jesus. All our sin passed to him, all of his innocence and right relationship with the Father (righteousness) is passed to us. Your belief activates the blessing and joyful experience of this forgiveness and your already reconciled relationship with God who is love.
“He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
I heard a recent definition of sin that I really liked from someone who examined the Greek word for sin and said something like this: sin is everything that we focus on or cling to or adopt into our lives or that the enemy puts there and we allow that are not into alignment with our true core self which is love.
I actually believe this and here is why: We are created in the image of God who is love. We are made in the very likeness and image of Love itself. Every sin you can possibly imagine is anti-love in some way and the entire law is summed up in love, Jesus says.
“This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” 1 John 4:10
That same chapter tells us that we love (God redeems our core which is love) because he first loved us. We love God and others because he loved the “sin” out of us on the cross. That’s what the cross means to me.
But, we must submit to his love. We must receive his love. We must believe his love. Or his love will become our torment. God, who is love, is a consuming fire! I think if we search the matter out we will find that his wrath is the fiery extension of his love! That it is his very Presence that becomes a tormenting fire for the unbeliever. (I first noticed this in Bible college 20 some years ago).
This is why we are commanded to Repent (start thinking rightly) and Believe (come to trust in his love)! I am reminded of this Scripture from Romans 2:
“Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. 3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.”
So, what do you think? Where has your journey in searching out the meaning of the cross led you? Any insights? Corrections? Comments?
Teachers take a contrarian view to traditional doctrines walk a thin line. I don’t consider them apostates, but heretics. Their teachings are what we within “orthodoxy” consider “heterodoxy.” That is to say “different teaching” outside of the creeds to which we subscribe.
Using the same Bible, the church in the 4th century was divided by the nature of Christ. The side that produced the creeds won that fight. The substitutionary atonement taught throughout the Old Testament was fulfilled in Jesus. The sprinkling by blood from the sacrifices was a way of identifying the people with sacrifice, the very one that had symbolically taken upon itself the sin of the congregant.
We are not in control, God is. He does not accept us because we repent, but rather, because he has loved us from the beginning of time. If God, in suffering at our collective hands, forgave his tormenters (representatives of mankind) then universalism must be assumed. I don’t accept universalism. I don’t see it in Scripture. He loves us, in that while we were still sinners, he died for us (Rom 5:8). We know that not all are saved (John 3:18-19). In fact, Jesus saves those who God has given to him, and none other. There are sheep and goats, wheat and tares.