Tag Archives: death

What did Jesus’ death accomplish?

1. Propitiation: Jesus died and took God’s wrath stored up for us because of our sin.

2. Expiation: Jesus died to cleanse us.

3. Sacrifice: Jesus died as our sacrifice for sin before God.

4. Victor: Jesus died to crush our enemies.

5. Redemption: Jesus died for our freedom.

6. Justification: Jesus died to forgive us.

7. Ransom: Jesus died to pay our debt and free us the enslavement of sin.

8. Example: Jesus died as the example of God’s wondrous love.

9. Reconciliation: Jesus died to restore the relationship between God and man becoming our mediator.

10. Revelation: Jesus died to reveal God.

* This was all adapted from Mark Driscoll’s Sermon series,Christ and the Cross, and Doctrine: What Christians should believe.

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Righteousness not camouflage.

Christ blood is not some divine act of camouflage so that we can continue to sin unpunished.

Christ blood does not only cover our sin, but it cleanses us. We are WASHED in the blood of our crucified lord. Our sins are not just masked with a big red ink splat. It is by his blood we are welcomed as sons and daughters of God. The Holy Spirit comes to live and reside with us, teaching us to walk with him and be like him.

We cannot continue to treat the spilt blood of Christ as if it were something that little red light flasher in the movie Men in Black that makes people forget what just happened. Christ blood does not make God forget our sins, his blood cleanses us from them, it allows us to enter a new life were we are to live righteously.

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Wonderful cross or place of death?

We often sing of the wonderful beautiful cross. And because our mind cannot handle the intensity or cruelty of the cross we grow numb to the brutality of the cross. Yet, we have to remember the cross was torture leading to death. Jesus experienced pain at the highest levels of the human experience.

The cross was not just some uncomfortable experience, like the awkwardness of telling a stranger on the plain you’re a Christian, or the embarrassment of getting to front of the line at the grocery store with a cart full of items and realizing you forgot your wallet.

Jesus died on the cross. He bled, and breathed his last breath on the cross.

When we sing of the cross it should be in the sober reality of what happened, why it happened, who it was that died for us.

The cross is the anchor point of our faith, not some pithy poppy featurette of the Sunday lineup. Our God died at the hands of his creation; the creation he loved and formed. Our God suffered and was humiliated by the very people he gave life to.

The cross is not wonderful, it the shame of humanity, and the glory of God. The cross does not represent the best in man, but the worst. The cross is the premiere exhibit in our museum of disgrace.

I understand why people wish to forget the cross, and down play its reality. As a humanitarian why would I want to highlight the cross any more than I would want to highlight the holocaust as an act of human civility and love?

All one should do at the cross is fall down before it and cry out, “I will never deny you again. With my heart and with my actions I too crucified you, but never again. I will serve the King whom I killed. He will be my God.”

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Must death preceed recreation and renewal? Is creation lost?

There is this conflict within the christian community as how the recreation of the world will take place.

One side believes that all of creation will be destroyed. Then God will form again from nothing a new created world.

The other side believes that this created world will not be destroyed merely recreated. God created this world “good,” loves this world, and does not and will not ever destroy it.

Side one:

2Peter 3:10-13

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The interpretation:

  • Sin has completely corrupted the world, beyond saving.
  • Both mankind, and all of creations was changed beyond return because of mans sin.
  • Therefore God, must destroy the old to bring forth the new.
  • There must be death before recreation.

*This would seem true, but not all believers will die before receiving their resurrection bodies. Those who are alive at the time of Jesus’ return will just be transformed.

Side two:

Genesis 8:21

“Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”

Romans 8:20&21

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

The interpretation:

  • Sin has not completely corrupted creation
  • Creation was distorted and pulled down because of man’s fall into sin.
  • God does not need to destroy creation to restore it.
  • He knew man was wicked, yet when man is restored then creation will be freed from the effects on sin.
  • Man’s sin is what is keeping creation from being how God has intended it, paradise.
  • Once sin is removed creation will be restored.
  • Man’s corruption is the issue not creation.
  • Creation is only a tool that God uses to both bless and punish.
    • Blessings: fruit of the land, provision, beauty.
    • Punishment: Toil the land, natural disasters, sickness.

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The Richness of Atonement Theories

As a Disclaimer this post is long. But well worth the read if you interesting in Atonement theology.

This had been an area of theology that I have spent considerable time investigating.  Atonement theology is at the core of Christian Theology, and depending how you view the work of Christ on the Cross will be reflected in all the other aspect of both the practical and impractical side of theology.

atonement

Atonement Theology

The Importance of Integrated Theology.
Theology is an integrated area of study, and it works to our disadvantage by compartmentalizing its many different facets. To study atonement without the understanding of its relationship to the rest of theology would be detrimental to its significance. The atonement would be meaningless without the depravity of man; it would be powerless to display the love of God without the incarnation, and it would be hopeless without the promise of a resurrection.

The Importance of Identification in Atonement Theories.

Yet atonement theology remains one of the most vital areas of study in Christian theology. And the fact that the church has not ratified a single view of the atonement speaks to the imperative value of identification between the sacrifice and the sinner. As one commentator writes, “The use of animal sacrifice relied heavily on the idea of identification between the sinner and the animal.1” The gravity of the human need is vast, and no single theory can bridge the gap. Therefore, each individual has the opportunity to identify with Christ in a different way. To some Christ is their liberator, to others the reconciler, or purifier, and yet still to others, their ransom, victor, or vicarious substitution.
Furthermore, this concept of identification is also what helps defend unlimited atonement against both limited and universalism. The debate between these three views is one of the classic controversies over atonement. Because if Christ died for all, why are some still judged for their sin? Shouldn’t all be saved? And to defend this idea a limited view of the atonement arose that states, Christ only died for those who would be saved. However, the concept of sacrificial identification settles this dispute. It is not simply enough that a sacrifice was given, but the sinner also had to identify with that which was being sacrificed.

The Importance of the Atonement and its Many Faces.

Traditionally there are five main possible views of the atonement; ransom to Satan, recapitulation, example/moral influence, governmental, concluding with the prominent view of modern atonement theology satisfaction/penal substitution. Yet by limiting the atonement to Penal Substitution, one is left with an incomplete humanity. The human need is greater than the provision of Penal Substitution. So to understand the atonement one must re-examine the doctrine of depravity.
Dwight Pentecost describes the depravity of man saying that, “men have slipped past the point of no return. They have gone over the cataract of sin, and have been swept into the state of sin. They are slaves of a sin-nature. They are producing the fruits of sin. They are spiritually dead; they are under judgment; they are under Satan’s power. That is what it means to be depraved. Man is not as bad as he can be, but man is as bad off as he can be. He is lost.2” This is a rather comprehensive definition. Although when discussing the work of the atonement one must not forget about the falls destructive effects on creation, and the provision which was also included in the atonement. This is why the atonement is the culminating theological event that not only reshaped history, but also redefines salvation theology. As Martin Hengel writes, “No human death has influenced and shaped the world of late antiquity, and indeed the history of mankind as a whole down to the present day, more than that of the Galilean craftsman and itinerant preacher who was crucified before the gates of Jerusalem in AD 30 as a rebel and messianic pretender.3”

Therefore this paper will defend six different atonement views. The six views are Sacrifice, Justification by Grace, Penal Substitution, Liberation from Sin, Death, and Demonic Powers, the Renewal of Creation, and the Wondrous Love of God 4.
Each of these six different atonement theories were developed under unique circumstances, and those circumstances are reflected by the need that each theory addresses. Walter Rauschenbusch expresses this very idea as he writes, “It is important to note that every theory of the atonement necessarily used terms and analogies taken from the social life of that age. And that the spirit and problems of contemporary life are always silent factors in the construction of theory.5”

This is also why atonement theories circulate over time, rising and falling in popularity. The different atonement theories concentrate on a specific set of spiritual needs and their adherents identify with a particular atonement narrative as it relates most closely with their life. “Theories connect the story of Jesus with the believers in a new time and place. By identifying the needs of their context, the authors portray the saving power of Jesus in ways that draw a new generation into the believing community.6”

Another way of viewing all of these six different theories as a part of one larger united theology is by defining them by their object 7. The objects of the different atonement views are the law, sin & powers, creation, or mankind. It’s like four witnesses who testified about the same car accident. Each testimony is true but different. Likewise, the different atonement theologies are valid and correct, but different in their aim, and scope. This is possible because they have, as their foundation, the narrative theology of the Gospels, and the contextualized Epistles of the New Testament. This is why there is not one single view, but a melding of different views because each time it was written to address a different group of people, experiencing a different set of circumstances. In fact, Paul is the earliest pioneer of reshaping the purpose of the atonement to tackle the needs of his audience.  In Romans and Galatians he speaks of the atonement as Justification for both the Jews and the Gentiles. And later, in Corinthians he uses the atonement to address the needs of reconciliation within the body of Christ.
Moreover, upholding these six theories is not a defense of religious tolerance or an invitation for religious syncretism. Instead it is allowing the rich multitude of Scriptures, doctrine, and Christian traditions to bless the understanding of Christ’s work that was accomplished on the cross.

Sacrificial Atonement.
The Sacrificial View of Atonement draws heavily upon Old Testament imagery and law. The two primary sacrificial treaties that are related to the death of Christ, are Passover and Yom Kippur (or the Day of Atonement). It is interesting to note that these two sacrifices accomplished strikingly different results.  The Passover was done in remembrance of the 10th plague of Egypt, in which the angel of the Lord would pass over and spare the households that were covered by the blood of a lamb. On the other hand, Yom Kippur was instituted as the purification sacrifice for the tabernacle and the people. A lamb’s blood was sprinkled to symbolize the washing and cleansing of sins.
The New Testament authors fuse the imagery of the Passover lamb and the Atonement lamb. Jesus as the Atonement lamb is proclaimed by John the baptizer, saying, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)!”  Yet, the imagery of the Passover lamb is self-attributed by Jesus.  During the last supper Jesus initiates a new ordinance as he replaces the blood and flesh of the Passover lamb for His blood and body. This theme is even expressed in Paul’s writings as he labels Jesus the Passover lamb in 1 Corinthians 5:7.

Justification by Grace Atonement.
The Justification by Grace View of atonement (and the following view, Penal Substitution), both make light use of Biblical imagery and extensive use of the legal language of justification 8. The basic outline of the Justification by Grace Theory is that sin is a violation of covenant law, which results in the separation of man and God, and heralds the judgment of God upon man. It is impossible for man to ever bridge this gap of separation, or to make peace with God. So God, in his love, sent his son to die on the cross, so that by faith (and not by works) man could be justified before God, united and spared from wrath.

Penal Substitution Atonement.
Penal Substitutionary atonement parallels this basic legal outline. The major differences being (as its title makes reference), the focus is on the divine requirements of the law. The penal law required that, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22).” Death was required from all men as their punishment for transgressing the law of God (Romans 6:23). However, God in his love not wanting to be eternal separated from man, provided his son as the vicarious substitution for all of mankind.  Therefore in his death men are released from the payment of sin because Jesus paid for it on the cross.
Wayne Grudem defend that the Penal Substitutionary view is the heart of the atonement. For he writes “there is an eternal, unchangeable requirement in the holiness and justice of God that sin be paid for, “ adding, “Before the atonement could have an effect on our subjective conscious, it first hand an effect on God and his relationship to the sinner. 9” Paul Enns also labels this theory the “emphasis of the New Testament, 10” and the fulfillment of the Isaiah 53:5 prophecy that states, “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him.”

Liberation Atonement.
However, turning the page one discovers the Liberation of Sin, Death, and Demonic Powers Theory of atonement. It is said that “the New Testament overflows with references to two aspects of the saving work of Christ: forgiveness of sins and liberation. 11” The Liberation view gained ground in the wake of World War I and II, and with the rise of liberal, neo-orthodoxy, and social gospel theologies.  Men like Walter Rauschenbusch argue against a cosmic or divine accounting and transference of sins to the cross of Christ. Instead he writes, “he [Jesus] did in a very real sense bear the weight of the public sins of organized society, and they in turn are causally connected with all private sins. 12” Moreover, men like John Howard Yoder write, “The cross of Calvary was not a difficult family situation, not a frustration of visions of personal fulfillment, a crushing debt or a nagging in-law, it was the political, legally to be expected result of a moral clash with the powers ruling his society. 13”

Liberation Theology operates under the general assumption adopted from Immanuel Kant, “that we have it within our powers to reform ourselves. 14” Yet, it should be noted that power within stems from the theological assertion that we have been liberated by Christ to live for him. And unlike the previous theories which divide and bicker over the nature of justification verses sanctification, liberation atonement expresses that salvation occurs by the incarnation of the Word of God, and sanctification, or the ability to live out God’s will, was provided in the liberating work of the cross. The Liberation view of atonement stresses the call to social action as well as personal reform. Unlike justification and Penal Substitution advocates who might have a tendency to become comfortable resting on justification by grace through faith, liberation advocates actively seek to be a force that emancipates man from evil powers.

Renewal of Creation Atonement.
The Renewal of Creation view of atonement may sound like it was created just in time for earth day, but its roots branch back to the Fourth Century, to a theologian named Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria. Contrasting the four previous views of atonement, the Renewal of Creation Theory takes a completely new and different approach to viewing God’s work through Christ on the cross.  The outline of this theory is that through Jesus all things were created but in the fall all had been lost, even the knowledge of God. However because of the love of God and the divine purpose of creation, God sent Jesus into the world to “renew creation” in his life, “restore life in the face of death,” forgive sins and “restore the true knowledge of God. 15”

Wondrous Love Atonement.
The Wondrous Love view of atonement affirms that the primary reason for Jesus’ life and death, and in fact all of God’s interactions with mankind, has been to demonstrate the love of God. 1 John 4:16b-17 supports the concept that love is the fundamental characteristic of God, saying, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.” And although, “some of the legal concepts of the atonement have obscured the love of God in the death of Christ. 16 ” Love still remains as one of the chief expressions of God throughout the different atonement theories. It is the common thread that intertwines all the atonement views together.
The outline of the Wondrous Love Theory of atonement is that God’s reason for creating the world was love, and the relationship between God and man is regulated by the love of God and it’s result: obedience. This unity in love that was present in the original relationship of mankind and God was corrupted by the sins of pride and self-centeredness.  Therefore, in the incarnation God came to demonstrate his love and obedience, which were completed in atonement. In the resurrection, God vindicates Jesus and “makes him Lord, thereby establishing a new community of Love for the sake of the world’s redemption. 17”  The basic principle of this atonement view, and the very reason for its universality, is that as God demonstrates his love, man will respond by loving God.

The Importance of Love in the Atonement: the Thread that Binds.
Today evangelicals pronouncement of the gospel is, “Jesus loves you and died for your sins.” Theologically many would affirm that the significance of this phrase is the forgiveness of sins. Yet, what stirs the heart and creates the change in people’s lives is the response to the love of God.  1 John 4:19 decrees “We love because he first loved us.” Not only did God take on the likeness of a man, dwell as a servant among his creation for 33 years, but he also submitted his life to death in the ultimate revelation of humility and love. This is one of the strongest attracting forces of the cross. The symbol of God dying for mankind (in every atonement theory) has an irresistible moral influence of the heart of man. Skeptics accuse the Old Testament to depict a God of Wrath and the New Testament a God of Love. And their criticism is not completely unmerited. The epicenter of the New Testament is the life and death of Christ, which is the greatest revelation of God’s love in all of history. Theologians want to see a systematic God that displays all of his attributes in equal proportion throughout all of his actions. Yet, God does not do this. Instead he tends to highlight only one of his many characteristics at any given time in history. And the atonement without a doubt is the demonstration of God’s love.

Footnotes

  1. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power: Theories of Atonemnt and Forms of the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishng Company, 2005). Pg 21.
  2. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things Which Become Sound Doctrine (Gand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1965). Pg 16.
  3. Martin Hengel, The Atonement: The Origins of the Doctrine in the New Testament (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1981). Pg 1.
  4. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 11.
  5. Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock).
  6. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 7.
  7. J. Denny Weaver, The Nonviolent Atonement (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001). Pg 70.
  8. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 56
  9. Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrines: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999). Pg 254
  10. Paul Enns, Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989). Pg 232.
  11. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 123.
  12. Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock). Pg 247.
  13. John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Willaim B. Eerdmas Publishing Company, 1972). Pg 132.
  14. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 124.
  15. Ibid. 170, 171.
  16. Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel. Pg 272.
  17. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 290.

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Love & Faith

Faith is the organ of knowledge, and love an organ of experience. God came to us in the incarnation; in the atonement He reconciled us to himself, and by faith and love we enter and lay hold on Him.

A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

love faith

Love is not a static word, it is a verb and so by definition expresses action. The action love expresses is displayed through selflessness, & service. Jesus said that our love for God would be seen in our love for the least of these. (I have already written much on this point.)

Faith, likewise, is also a action word. However Faith is either continual tense, or past tense. You either had faith, or you continue to still have faith. We best understand faith by the words we use to substitute it with like trust, and belief. I trust in God, I believe in God, I have faith in God.  Yet, we use the word belief or believe to talk about faith a problem arises. Because when when many of us talk about belief or believing in something we can do  it without effecting our present reality. Belief has become nothing more than a statement or agreement. A common point to gather, but leave separate when its over. Trust on the other hand is a good substitute. Because when we trust we are moved to a place of reliance, beyond mere belief. Yes we believe in God, but we also trust in God. As Tozer wrote, Faith is that organ of knowledge, but it does not stop there, it moves past belief to trust and in trust we are required to act. If your faith is alive and well it will be displayed through your life and deeds. You faith is in a state of continual use, or it is in past tense…dead.

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