Monthly Archives: April 2012

Circumcision by Crucifixion, and its Universal Benefits

New Testament baptism or immersion is an allusion to the Exodus crossing of the Red (or Reed) Sea.  But it is so in a much more fiducially articulated sense than usually interpreted.  The Resurrection of Jesus Christ placed Christianity beyond the pale of Judaism.  Through this demonstration of Covenant justice/righteousness God shattered the old paradigm of the Law of Moses, and all things became new.  Even as the older generation that had refused to enter the promised land perished in the wilderness over a 40 year span, likewise those Jews who remained stubborn to Jesus Christ perished during the 40 years between his Resurrection and the divine wrathful conclusion of the Old Covenant when its curses were poured out wholesale on Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

The Book of Revelation unpacks the fuller meaning of this concluding period of Old Covenant history.  God pours out his indignation upon this earthly Jerusalem that had persecuted the prophets, crucified their Messiah and Lord, and continued to persecute the people of the Prince–Christians.  God’s flaming indignation beat them to the punch, destroying them instead before they were able to totally destroy His faithful people (1 Th. 2:14-16, 2 Th. 1-2).

Thus Christianity universalized all that was truly essential in Judaism while stripping off the mere culturally relative form and dispelling the shadows.  The Old Testament cannot ever again bind the consciences of those who believe the New Testament and are immersed into the New Creation in Christ:  he, the Explanation of God, is our law. [7/28/95]

At the Cross, Jesus’ entire Jewish flesh was stripped off him.  That man was circumcised!  He was circumcised with a circumcision “not made with hands.”  He was circumcised enough for the whole human race!  Such a “circumcision” flaunted the racism that Judaistic circumcision had become by Jesus’ time.  There on the Cross, the Son of God was circumcised by his own Father in heaven, at the unknowing hands of the wicked, under the inspiration of Satan, yet under the transvaluing supervision of the Almighty.  (Phil. 3, Heb. 8-10, Eph. 2, Col. 2:8-3:17, Gal., Rom 6-8)  [08/04/95]

The Crucifixion of Jesus by the Judaeans of his generation was a heinous crime in God’s eyes inasmuch as Jesus was God’s Chosen and Anointed Son and Israel’s King…yet it was overwhelmingly reversed by God’s display of heaven’s justice in raising him from the dead.  By reversing the consequences of their crime, God in effect reversed the crimejustifying Him in giving Jesus all the blessings of the Old Covenant–and more!–but also by transferring or imputing them to anyone else who trusted him, and that gratuitously!

However, what remained unforgivable was their continued stubbornness and distrust of Jesus, the Christened of God, now so evidently and graciously confirmed as Israel’s true King.  Their rejection of their resurrected Messiah is supremely the “Transgression” (Dan. 9:24, Mt. 23:29-38) that won for their viciousness “the abomination of desolation”–the total destruction of their temple and city in 70 A.D.  For mercy had been proclaimed in the Gospel for some forty years following the “anointing of the Holy One,” his suffering, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension.  But that wicked generation was stubborn, “stiff-necked,” and callous as to the voice of God in His Son and the wideness of His mercy, especially in view of their great Sin of executing their own King.

What they meant for evil, however, God meant for good, if only they would trust Him and His Son as His authorized representative.  Yet that generation refused to enter into the “promised land” through the Father’s appointed portal, but like thieves and robbers (Jn 10), sought another way to establish their own “righteousness” (Rom 9:14-10:21) and even prevent others from entering (Mt. 23:13-15, Lk. 11:52) the Kingdom of the heavens, by taking away the key of knowledge, which is trust in Christ via credible testimony (Jn 5:39-40, 17:3), and forbidding the proclamation of Christ lest the nations may be saved (1 Thess. 2:14-16), all because of envy (Mt. 27:18, Mk. 15:10) and misplaced zeal (Rom. 9:2), that is, jealousy (Gal. 4:17) that would lockout anyone who was not jealous of them, their vaunted “knowledge” (which puffed them up, 1 Cor. 8:1-3) and status.  Yet God even used their jealousy to try to win them back (Rom 10:19-11:15), thus locking up everyone together in stubbornness that He might be merciful to all (Rom. 11:28-32).  [10/22/95]

Yet throughout the history of the early church, it was the jealousy of the Judaeans/Jews that fired persecution and affliction of those who followed Jesus as the Messiah/Christ (Acts 5:17-19, [7:9], 13:45, 17:5+, 21:20, 22:3, Gal. 1:13, Phil. 3:6).  This is why God forcibly and decisively, even with the proofs of signs, wonders, dreams, visions, and angelic visitations, cleared the deck of Jewish customs–so that all nations might enter the Covenant with Abraham and, on a par with Jews “after the flesh,” and might enjoy the inheritance of his blessings in God’s Kingdom of justice/righteousness.  Indeed, it was precisely because Stephen so eloquently demonstrated the Jewish stubbornness to change customs that he was stoned to death (Acts 6:11-ch. 7).  [10/26/95]

In the New Testament, “the Cross” refers not to the literal beam(s) of wood (except in the Gospels) but to the event of Christ’s Crucifixion (although bear in mind that such a noun form, built on the verb, does not occur in the N.T.).  This means it is connected diachronically, in other words, to the whole of Christ’s unjust condemnation, abuse, burial, but especially Resurrection and Ascension, i.e., to his entire Exaltation!  A gross literalism leads to the manufacture of crucifixes, the collection (and invention) of relics, pilgrimages, the adoration of crosses, and to other corruptions.  Much rather, according to the apostolic testimony of Scripture, it was the Events surrounding the Crucifixion/Cross that spotlighted the justice/righteousness and power of God.  And it is the heralding of this “Explanation of the Cross” that supremely has power to save.  [10/24/95]

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The Resurrectionary Lifestyle of Self-sacrifice

For the believer in the resurrected Christ, every step closer to death is a step nearer to our Father.  Our own death may be welcomed as a “payment” for our own sins.  But if we trust in the Proclamation of God about the identity of Jesus as Messiah/Christ, we may know for certain that God honors our death as blessed in His sight and will superabundantly “repay” our trust with life agelong.  This confidence should liberate every mature believer to become a follower of the Lamb…who was slain.  We may be martyrs/witnesses who need not love our existences even as far as death, since we know they will be returned to us by the power of the Resurrection, multifold!  Such a consciousness leads, in the meantime, to a self-sacrificial lifestyle, a taking up one’s cross of abuse-taking daily, if imperfectly.  We can become more prodigal givers, donors, benefactors, contributors, in a word, lovers.  [04/22/05]

Our dread of death, as Christians, is more linked to a love of life and the good things to be enjoyed in it, than with a fear of what lies beyond it.  This is why martyrdom, or simply the self-sacrificing deed, is never sheer suicide.  It is not done out of self-hatred, spite, personal glory, fear of life, fear of the future, fear of old age, fear of degenerative disease, escape from pain, despair, frustration, or grief.  It is chosen or accepted as a conscious exchange of temporal existence for agelong existence, for the sake of Christ’s reputation and proclamation.  Or it may be to save the temporal existence of another person, perhaps even to ensure them the option of hearing and trusting God’s Proclamation.  In any case, it is done for love.

What fuels wars and insurrections is a view of property, sovereignty, authority, rights, etc., that insufficiently reckons with the conciliating power of self-sacrifice or love.  And, indeed, it is barely possible to properly estimate the magnitude of this power without the light of Christ’s Resurrection.  For this grand historic event supremely demonstrates that a just God undergirds the visible universe, and will faithfully recompense such sacrifices made in His name.  In the deepest sense, there is no such thing as “the supreme sacrifice” since God has the Divine habit of overcompensating whatever we release into His faithful hands.  For underneath–the Resurrection proves it!–lie the Everlasting Arms.  [04/24/95]

The life and death of Rachel Joy Scott, Columbine martyr, touchingly and grippingly illustrates this profound truth. This Friday, April 20th, I will post my atonement essay commemorating the 9th anniversary of that tragic event.

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Toward Resurrectionary Transition

“EASTER SUNDAY”  Continued…

As you may know, a constant refrain in my communiques has been, “There’s nothing that can’t be improved!”  As one wag has quipped, “Let your words be sweet, you may have to eat them.”  Here’s where I eat them.  Perhaps my greatest model for this amenable attitude is Philip Mauro (1859-1952), the eminent American lawyer who became, all unintentionally, though after conscientious and deeply studied consideration, the “Champion of the Kingdom” that cannot be shaken.  (I have just added links, at the right, to his most important writings that contribute to our topic.)  He repented of previously published positions and carefully explained why, so that others would be able to follow in due course.  I am grateful to be one of those.  In that spirit, what I am posting today contains elements of my earlier transitional position on the matter of “payment” as a category commonly applied to the Atonement.  Here you will hear strong echoes of Anselm’s famous medieval position.  However, you will also observe a struggle to pass from pecuniary economic metaphors to those of gift and gratuity.  So I am thinking out loud, with a tentative touch.  I include these reflections because they illustrate how difficult it is to jettison ingrained habits of thought.  Here I have a foot in both camps.  However, if this “bridging” effort should happen to facilitate the passage of yet more students of the Atonement to a more adequate grasp of the premial truth–especially if the alteration would otherwise be too great a stretch–I will feel sufficiently “rewarded.”  Caveat lector!

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In Biblical thought, sacrifice is an image of paying back (shalam/apodo-) to God what we wrongfully took from Him by our sins (“debts”), thus making or reestablishing peace (shalom).  Fire on the altar imaged God’s acceptance of the repayment, whereby he took the sacrifice to Himself by consuming it whole, only the blood of the innocent victim dripping down below the altar.  The whole image is one of restitution of existence for existence (“life for life,” “soul for soul”).  But since in fact it is actually impossible for a creature to repay the Creator, God could not possibly have given the sacrificial system with a view to benefiting Himself.  He could only have designed it to be symbolic for its human recipients until such time as the actual, once-for-all sacrifice could be made and understood for what it really was.  Thus God gave the entire typical system of sacrifice out of love for his helpless creatures!  It did Him no good, but it did us some good as a reminder, pointer, or testimony of God’s coming way of salvation on our behalf.  Anything which we might have given as currency or collateral or credit was first of all a gift from the Creator, so is His already, by right of origination.  The creation itself is God’s primal gift.  Its very existence, not to mention the testimony of good things evidently intended for our pleasurable enjoyment and use, should raise human expectations concerning the nature of salvation as pure gift as well!  It should seem perfectly natural that if the universe–startling in its design, both at first blush as well as at our deepest probing–came into being without our help, then its salvation should exhibit a parallel structure of origination independent of our assistance!  [04/15/95]

When we sin, we are not only committing a crime against the Owner of all, but are simultaneously injuring ourselves.  For to victimize the Life-giver is necessarily to victimize the life-needer.  Our own existences are dependent on the life flowing from our Creator.  When we disturb our peace with Him, we risk our life.  This is the archetypical “biting the Hand that feeds us.”  In terms of this unique predicament, no amount of “repayment” by us could ever really restore the peace, because everything/anything we might use as currency belongs to Him in the first place.  This places humans in a cosmic conundrum insoluble by human means.  This is why the sacrificial system of the Old Testament could only serve as an object lesson.  It only images what needed to be done, so there could be no final animal sacrifice that would ever halt its perpetuity.  The ancient world waited for an ultimate sacrifice to finally “repay” human infraction and put an end to the futile rigamarole of religion.

When a conspiracy of sinful races offered up their own rightful King and Sovereign as a sacrifice (ironically!), shedding his innocent bloodGod Himself answered from heaven with a thundering, and ever since resounding, verdict of “life agelong and superabounding.”  And that was the end of the matter.  Our ‘work’ is to believe!  [04/15/95]

Jesus paid with his life (psuche) for coming into a sinful world as a sinless human.  He knew the risk he was running, yet he volunteered for the mission that would inevitably entail the supreme sacrifice.  This was an extremely well-calculated risk.  He had been given by his Father the right to lay down his existence and, as the sinless Son, the right to take it up again (Jn.  10:17-18).  No one could inadvertently take it from him.  For a sinless human–with all the Divine powers attendant thereto–to invade a planet of sinners, must inevitably incur warfare between the light and the darkness.  For our sakes, he sacrificed his rightful prerogatives as the Anointed King, the Son of the Highest, and suffered unjustly at the ‘mercy’ of a sinful and darkened planet.  And for this the Creator, virtually “overnight” overturned the crime that stole his rights, overwhelmingly overcompensating Jesus by Resurrection from among the dead and exaltation to the right hand of His own throne!  This just and rightful award (dikaioma) accomplished in one cosmic moment the justification of God for allowing sin and evil (the final theodicy!), of Christ, thus proving his messiahship and the truth of all he taught, and even of every person who dares to believe this explanation of the atoning Events.  [04/15/95]

For Christ to make peace or make restitution (shalam) for our sins, he must have sacrificed to God from his own rightful wealth.  What was that wealth?  It must have included the right to be King of Israel, the right to be married, the right to have children and heirs, the right to live forever without dying.  As the sinless Son of God and son of mankind, he possessed the wealth of the Wholesome Spirit of God, poured out at his baptism, conspicuously displayed in signs and miracles of healing of every description.  He would have been known as a wealthy man but for the fact that he gave it all away as soon as he got it!  He was downright ‘prodigal‘ with his wealth, prodigious in its expenditure for the enriching of others.  He came to his own people and nation, yet they did not receive or accept him, disregarding his generosity of favoritism toward them.  Under the direction of Satan, their rejection of their own rightful king, leading to his sacrifice by crucifixion–his carrying of their cursing of him by putting him on a tree to hang–was, in the overruling hand of God the very means of invoking His judgment from heaven to save, justify, and glorify His obediently self-sacrificing Son!

Thus we behold the cosmically staggering exhibit of God’s accepting His Son’s sacrifice and then trumping it by superabundantly overcompensating that offering with one of his own, namely:  Resurrection from among the dead, exaltation to the throne of the whole created universe ( and not just to the throne of Israel anymore), life evermore, and the outpouring of the promised Wholesome Spirit upon all who will trust this Proclamation, making us sons and thus heirs of His Kingdom, a new creation in Christ Jesus!

Thus did a Son of Adam “pay back” (if that’s what you call giving a gift!) “a God Who had everything,” for Adam’s suicidal act of sin that plunged his offspring into death along with himself.  And thus did God promptly repay that “payment” with interest to the “Nth” power!  Here is more than the old payment theory with a new twist.  Here is a revelation of the true proportions of the mutual regard of the Father and Son for each other before the ages began to roll.  The covenant between the Father and Son before the ages, and well before the disruption by sin in Genesis 3, contained the secret of the created universe:  those who humble themselves will be exalted by God...it’s  only a matter of time.  [04/15/95]

This old creation is the seed of a brand new creation.  But the fallen creation must die before the new can germinate and spring up.  The Old Covenant must be sacrificed for the exisence of the new.  Life from death.  Not gradual evolution; not even cataclysmic evolution.  An eruption.  Moreover, a 30-, 60-, 100-fold life, far exceeding the first!  [04/16/95; 06/18/06]

When a seed dies, it comes back to life with much fruit.  This clear image of the Resurrection, indeed, the Regeneration (palingenesia), needs to be more well-articulated with all the other Biblical teachings concerning sacrifice and peace/restitution.  By sacrificing all his rightful blessings of the Old Covenant as God’s Messiah, Christ’s acceptance of its curses and cruel death won for him the transcending blessings of a New Covenant, which he, in turn, pays to us if we will accept and assimilate them.

The payment/restitution (shalam) that Christ “paid” was his own existence in this old creation.  And he paid it to us.  That is why he directed us to “take, eat…drink.”  For we must accept this payment, taking it into ourselves.  We are the payees!  “He is our peace[-offering] (shalom/eirene), who makes both [Jew and Gentile] one” (Eph 2:14).  “[M]aking a peace[-offering] in the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20).  Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, is the public symbol/sign of accepting payment.  (The O.T. peace-offering was to be eaten.)  This “payment” was symbolized in the form of a sacrifice so that it could be eaten.  The fire on the altar imaged God’s consumption of the sacrifice.  But often the very sacrifice that was thus “eaten” by God was also thereafter to be eaten by humans.  Thus both God and human must accept the payment that restores peace.

The Son “paid” his soul/existence; the Father reimbursed with Resurrection!  His investment “paid” overwhelming dividends, a veritable bonanza!  A windfall!

“…[A]nd gave his soul/existence a ransom for many.”  “You must eat my flesh and drink my blood (soul/existence)” “or you have no life…”  [04/18/95]  The ransom is “paid” to us so we can get liberated from Satan’s slavery to fear of death, for the ransom is life itself!  [06/18/06]

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What’s GOOD about “Good Friday”?

“GOOD FRIDAY”  Continued…

Okay.  So what’s good about “Good Friday”?  Haven’t we all asked that at one time or another?  Here’s a link to one of the best brief reflections I’ve seen on the subject:  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/news/2003/apr18.html.  However, if you have been reading my blogs, you’ve been introduced to additional categories of thought to explain the genuine significance of the unique Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth in relation to the Resurrection that overtook it!

The Old Testament teaching concerning making restitution (shalam) lies at the very heart of the entire Biblical view of justice.  This Hebrew word family must be grasped in its integrality before we can understand and fully appreciate Divine justice.  The multi-fold restitution or restoration of what is stolen or injured (found seminally in Exodus 22:1-17) lies behind the restoration of Job (although this has seldom been noticed) which was a matter of Divine justice, and not only of “grace” (as, e.g., C. Vanderwaal maintains in Search the Scriptures Vol. 4:  Job-Song of Songs [St. Catharines, Ontario:  Paideia Press, 1979], pp. 31-33).  Job was, in this, pre-eminently a type of Christ.  The Resurrection and Exaltation of Jesus Christ were the manifestation of God’s transcendent justice/righteousness (Hebrew:  tsedeq; Greek:  dikaiosune) to reverse the Satanic injustice of his abuse and Crucifixion.  Although, as for Job, so for Jesus, this humiliation was under God’s control and within bounds–yes, not even Death was out of bounds for the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Hallelujah!  Multi-fold restoration for injuries was repeatedly illustrated and clearly assumed in the Old Testament as a chief element of justice.  It is only to be expected that the aggravated enormity of injury against the sinless Son of God–the “Lamb” of God–should be vastly overcompensated by his Resurrection and Exaltation–as the “Lion” of Judah– “up over every sovereignty and authority and power and lordship and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the impending one, and subordinates all under his feet, and gives him as head over all, to the church” (Eph. 1:21-22).  [04/13/95]   “Extreme” you say?  Then you don’t quite get it yet.

Jesus’ abandonment by his disciples, his closest comrades, was doubtless his greatest sorrow save one–that of his Father’s brief withdrawal (not abandonment, as I explained in a previous posting).  For the disciples had seen and heard and known more of Jesus than anyone else had.  Yet most were still disloyal to him in the hour of his trial.  They had seen him lavish the wealth his Father had given him upon an undeserving and often ungrateful nation.  They knew he was God’s Chosen and Anointed One.  Yet they left him, that is except for John who, be it noted, did not die a martyr’s death…  [04/15/95; 05/31/04]

Why did the Father hide His face from the Son in his hour of greatest agony?  Among other reasons, we should not discount the observation that the Father could not bear to watch the suffering of His own beloved Son.  What father could?  The notion that God “cannot suffer” is beyond belief.  He suffered much over Israel’s vicious behavior through the centuries.  Isn’t this borne out by the language of Scripture?  [04/15/95]

What Jesus, the Messiah/Christ, the King of the Jews, gave up and surrendered that dark day on the God-forsaken hill of Golgotha (“Skull”) were all of his messianic rights stipulated in the Old Covenant.  But by sacrificing into the loving hands of his Father, in loyal trust persevering to the very bitter end, all the blessings of that Old, Israelitish Covenant, and instead voluntarily, unjustly carrying one of its earthly curses (for getting lynched on a tree!), he thereby won from God all of the transcendently greater promises of a brand New Covenant that eclipsed by far any of the blessings of the old Mosaic, Sinaitic one!  In his body on the tree Christ effected a grand and cosmic exchange of covenants!  He gave up the Old to gain the New.   The Jews did indeed execute their own Old Covenant king by the brutal hands of Gentiles!  But they thereby actuated the avenging judgment of God’s justice/ righteousness decisively and forever irreversibly to exalt him with the rightful award of the New Covenant that outstripped the old one in its absolutely universal prerogatives.  Jesus became thereby not just another earthly king, albeit a good Jewish one at last (after a grim succession of unworthy, oppressive, corrupt, and cruel ones).  No!  Such a reward would hardly be worthy of all that Jesus went through.  His Father reached far beyond the paltry treasuries of this creation into uncreated vaults of His own being to fulfill the primal Covenant, cut before our temporal eons were even a twinkle in God’s eye.  Hence this Son of David, according to the flesh, is now “designated Son of God with power, according to a spirit of holiness, by resurrection of the dead” (Rom. 1:4) and is thus now King of kings and Lord of lords, accorded universal sovereignty!

By sundering the curtain of his Jewish flesh in “a circumcision not made by hands” (Col. 2:11) at the Cross, and by that baptism into the depths of a death of such hideously wrong and exaggerated proportions, Jesus Christ, through the blood it drew, opened up a fresh new way into “the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not of this creation” (Heb. 9:11), which “he dedicates for us, through the curtain, that is, his flesh” (Heb. 10:20), even the inheritance of God’s unimagined and even unimaginable Kingdom–one without ethnic, linguistic, geographic, or political boundaries!  We await “the city of the living God, the celestial Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22), “having foundations, whose Artificer and Architect is God” (Heb. 11:10).

Here we behold some larger issues behind the insufficiency of the Old Covenant and drink in a bit of the grandeur and magnitude of what we really have in Christ.  In bold relief we gaze at the agelong principle etched into the cornerstone of the created order:  surrender the lesser to gain the greater; humble yourself and God will raise you up against all the odds!–above all the gods!!  [04/16/95]

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The Ultimate Theodicy

“MAUNDY THURSDAY” Continued…

That’s right.  This is Easter week for the Eastern Orthodox tradition, so today is a second “Maundy Thursday”!  I love those years when the liturgical calendars of the two great Christian traditions don’t coincide, ’cause then we get to celebrate the most potent event in world history TWICE!  TWICE!  (Did I say that already?)  You get the point.  So keep yer helmet on, ’cause HERE WE GOOOOOooo…

The word “maundy” comes from the Latin for “commandment” that appears in the Vulgate version of John 13:34, “Mandatum novum do vobis….” “A new commandment am I giving you, that you be loving one another; just as I love you, that you also be loving one another.”  Jesus declared these words during the intimate talk he had with his disciples on that last evening he shared with them before his death.

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus, being aware that his hour came that he may be proceeding out of this world toward the Father, loving his own who are in the world, he loves them to the consummation.  And at the occurrence of dinner, the Adversary already having cast into the heart of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, that he may be surrendering him, Jesus being aware that the Father has given all into his hands, and that he came out from God and is going away toward God, is rising from dinner and is laying down his garments, and, getting a cloth, he girds himself.  (Jn 13:1-4)

What transpires thereafter is the Lord’s foot washing of his disciples that many Christian traditions celebrate on this Thursday evening.  Jesus concludes,

Do you know what I have done to you?  You are shouting to me ‘Teacher!’ and ‘Lord’!’ and you are saying ideally, for I am.  If, then, I, the Lord and the Teacher, wash your feet, you also ought to be washing one another’s feet.  For an example have I given you, that, just as I do to you, you also may be doing.  Verily, verily, I am saying to you, A slave is not greater than his lord, neither is an apostle greater than he who sends him.  If you are aware of these things, happy are you if you should be doing them!  Not concerning all of you am I speaking, for I am aware whom I choose, but that the scripture may be fulfilled, “He who is chewing bread with me lifts up his heel against me”  [Ps. 41:9].  Henceforth I am speaking to you before it is occurring that you should be believing, whenever it may be occuring, that I am.”  (Jn. 13:12b-19)

“If anyone is wanting to be first, he will be last of all and servant of all.”  “But whosoever may be wanting to become great among you will be your servant.  And whosoever may be wanting to be foremost among you will be the slave of all.  For even the Son of Mankind came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his existence a ransom in exchange for many.”  (Mk. 9:35, 10:44-45)  In addition to the above episode, the logic of this teaching of Christ is clear from the entirety of Scripture…not to mention common experience.  It is the life and career of Jesus that supremely exhibits this truth.  For persons who humble themselves will be exalted by God.  Jesus accepted humbly every humiliation his Father appointed for him.  But we must keep in mind that this amounted to an acceptance of personal injustices, the ultimate of which was his unjust execution on trumped-up charges.  (Okay, and one correct one–admitting God was his Father.  Alas, for him!  For it was all too true.)  God led him thus to bear a covenant curse appointed originally for sin.  But for a sinless one— “Lamb of God” –to experience the curse upon sin was clearly unjust.  It was this Divine appointment, therefore, which evoked the overcompensating “vengeance” of the Resurrection–the reversal of the injustice of the Cross.  Christ’s heroic acceptance of profound humiliations was rewarded by God’s superabundant, overwhelming grace and exaltation above every sovereignty, authority, power, glory, and throne!

Thus also our willingness to bear our own cross of unjust suffering of abuse also evokes God’s marvelous favor and eventual exaltationThis temporal delay is designedly a stimulus to our faith, expectancy, patience, and endurance.  And we are to accept the experience joyfully.  Our true happiness lies in knowing for a certainty that our expectation of glory is as inalienable as was Jesus’ own.  [03/27/95]

Jesus Christ did indeed suffer a curse for our sins, but since he was ever obedient to his Father, he kept the covenant sinlessly and therefore suffered unjustly.  It is this irrepressible truth that, after three days, exploded upon created-but-disrupted reality in the triumphant form of a Resurrection from among the deadFor Christ’s Resurrection was God’s own verdict from heaven, reversing his unjust condemnation by a lower court, and accordingly ransoming the Savior himself from Sheol/Hades!  (Hos. 13:14, Ps. 49:15, 16:8-11, Acts 2:25-28)  In this wildly unexpected action, God pulled off the ultimate theodicy, justifying in one fell swoop Himself, His Son, and all who simply trust this joyous proclamation, who are, in turn, ransomed from death by the Savior who was ransomed by the justice, power, and glory of God!  That amounted to a class action…and a class act!  Moreover, God did so without at once destroying Christ’s unjust executioners, but instead proclaiming in the most unimaginably gracious way possible His mercy, forgiveness, patience, and longsuffering toward all his enemies.  Thus does God’s kindness lead us to repentance and, beyond that, to love.  [03/23/95]

This is serious business!  Yet when was the last time you heard a pastor, radio preacher, much less a public figure, protest that “the real meaning of the season” has been muffled and eclipsed by a commercial holiday, festooned with decorated eggs, and branded with a bunny rabbit?  How has the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God and Creator of heaven and earth, been marginalized, his anthems seasonalized, the season trivialized without any sustained outcry?  [04/03/95]  Okay, Christmas, now that we get!  But Easter?  But lest I belabor the point, I simply wish to highlight that there is something missing in the prevalent theological status of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead.  But this is nothing new.

Anselm of Canterbury, the great innovator of medieval atonement theology, had virtually no use for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I put the matter this crassly to emphasize precisely the point at issue.  Anselm, of course, would never have denied the actual occurrence of that grand event (as so many theologians of today would).  It was, for him, merely useless theologically speaking, and most certainly soteriologically speaking.  This is the crucial (ironically!) point.  [04/12/95]  A theologia crucis (“theology of the cross”) has fatefully upstaged his Resurrection from the dead!  That theological miscalculation, in turn, has seriously compromised the potency of the Lord’s Resurrection to serve as the supreme theodicy for us, that is, to provide a palpable, tangible, sensible rationale for the temporary continued existence of palpable, tangible, sensible evils in the world even after Jesus ascended the throne and assumed sovereignty nearly 2000 years ago, now.  But more on that later.

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The outpouring of Christ’s LIFEBLOOD evokes the outpouring of the Spirit’s LIFEFLOOD

What is the fiducial (i.e., with respect to faith, not literal) significance of the blood of Christ?  Why is it the most centrally articulated of all soteriological (i.e., related to salvation) terms in the Bible?  How does it work on our consciences?  The answer comes quickly if we remember that blood, used fiducially, signifies life poured out in death.  Blood is the vital sap of earthly, bodily existence (psuche); “the existence (nephesh) of the flesh is in the blood” (Lev. 17:11).  So the “active ingredient,” so to speak, in blood is “bodily existence” (traditionally construed somewhat askew as “disembodied soul,” due to the influence of ancient Greek philosophy and religion).  Hence the words of Jesus:  “For even the Son of Mankind came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his existence a ransom in exchange for (anti) many” (Mk 10:45; cf. Mt. 20:28).  This term is virtually synonymous with blood in all those many passages that speak of the shedding of Christ’s blood for us and our sins.

This connection must be linked, in turn, to those historic moments in the history of redemption where the criminal shedding of blood is said to evoke avenging.  The Old Covenant allowed for an “avenger of blood” in the case of murder.  But more primally, Genesis sets the conceptual precedent in the narrative about Cain and Abel.  “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground, which opens its mouth wide to take your brother’s blood from your hand.  As you are serving the ground, it will not continue to give its vigor to you” (Gen. 4:10-12).  But Jesus is “the Mediator of a fresh covenant,” whose “blood of sprinkling” is “speaking better than Abel” (Heb 12:24).  That is, Jesus’ blood called to God for just avenging better than that of the just Abel (Mt. 23:35; cf. Lk 11:51).  And we know of Abel’s uprightness:  “By trust Abel offers to God more of a sacrifice than Cain, through which he was testified to that he is just at God’s testifying [by fire from heaven?] to his approach present [of a slain lamb?], and through it, dying, he is still speaking [for vindication, justification!].

The picture is clear.  A just God must avenge the unjust death of the just.  This is even clearer in Rev. 6:9-11.

“…I perceived underneath the altar the existences of those who have been slain because of the Explanation of God and because of the testimony which they had [i.e., what they had witnessed of God’s salvation through Christ].  And they cry with a loud voice, saying, ‘Till when, O Owner, holy and true, are You not judging and avenging our blood on those dwelling on the earth?  And to each of them was given a white robe and it was declared to them that they should be resting still a little time, till [their number] should be completed by their fellow slaves also, and their brethren, who are about to be killed even as they were.”

Now if we keep in mind that Satan accuses the saints of God for their sins, using also innuendoes (think of Job!), we are prepared for the amazing mechanism whereby our conscience–consciousness of sins–is cleansed by the blood of Christ:

Satan’s arranged murder–publicly!–of God’s beloved and sinless Son, the heir of the universe, i.e. his shedding of Christ’s blood on the Cross, is the agelong witness of Satan’s supreme crime.  The blood of Christ is the standing witness, the unanswerable proof par excellence of Satan’s sin, the token of his complete disqualification to accuse any human being of sin!  In comparison with this heinous enormity of wickedness, nothing we have ever done or can ever do counts in the least!  The ‘sign of the Cross’, Satan’s instrument of choice for execution, accuses the Accuser!  Christ’s blood indicts him!  It is exhibit ‘A’ concerning his own treacherous crime of slaying the heir apparent to the throne of the created universe!  It seals his doom and he knows it!  For when God heard the derelict cry of His beloved Son–obedient even to the undeserved death on a cross–He avenged by the expenditure of a power never before fully demonstrated since the creation of the world:  the power of the Resurrection.  Hereby God exalted His Son not only beyond Satan’s reach forever, but places that old Serpent under his heel irreversibly.

“Now, still my flesh also shall be camped down on expectation,

For You will not be forsaking my existence in the unseen,

Nor will You be giving Your Benign One to be acquainted with decay.

You make known to me the paths of life.

You will be filling me with gladness with Your face.”  [Acts 2:26b-28; Psalm 16:9-11]

Being then inherently a prophet, and having perceived this before, [David] speaks concerning the Resurrection of the Messiah/Christ, that he was neither forsaken in the unseen, nor was his flesh acquainted with decay.  This Jesus God raises, of whom we all are witnesses.  Being, then, to the right hand of God exalted, besides obtaining the promise of the Holy Spirit alongside the Father, he pours out this which you are observing and hearing [i.e., what you are witnessing!] (Acts 2:30-33).

In God’s almighty hand, the treacherous outpouring of Christ’s lifeblood was transformed into the greatest good ever to grace humankind by fully justifying God in raising and exalting His Christ, giving him the promised outpouring of the Spirit’s lifeflood, which he, in turn, gives us gratuitously on the mere condition of faith alone!  “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift [of Wholesome Spirit!]” (2 Cor. 9:15).

And a battle occurred in heaven.  Michael and his messengers battle with the Dragon, and the Dragon battles, and its messengers.  And they are not strong enough for him, neither was their place still found in heaven.

And the great Dragon was cast out, the ancient Serpent called ‘Adversary’ and ‘Satan’, who is deceiving the whole inhabited earth.  It was cast into the earth, and its messengers were cast with it.  And I hear a loud voice in heaven saying, ‘Just now occurred the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and authority of His Christ, for the Accuser of our brethren [Rev. 6:11] was cast out, who was accusing them before our God day and night.  And they conquer him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the explanation of their testimony and they love not their existence until death [Rev. 12:7-11].

The spattering of the blood of the sinless Lamb of God evokes God’s just avenging wherever it happens to land.  When applied to the core (kardia) of a human personality, by faith, it provokes the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit, the promise of the covenant which Christ’s obedience fulfilled.  The fact that God historically, phenomenally, gave this witness of the Holy Spirit to any who would trust Christ is proof positive that God regards faith as righteousness, pure and simple.  For He treats the believer as if he were a flawlessly righteous person, giving him the Holy Spirit that can be obtained only by impeccable covenant obedience.

It was God’s historical deeds, recorded in the Book of Acts, that provided Paul this freedom and authority to argue that righteousness was itself imputed to mere trust.  No “exchange of merits” ever entered Paul’s mind as he put pen to paper.  [02/12/95]

 

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Resurrection-deficiency, East and West

Western and Eastern Christian theologies are alike afflicted by a pervasive Resurrection-deficiency.  Both Roman Catholic and Protestant theologies, on the one hand, tend to be Cross-centered to the obscuring of Christ’s Resurrection.  Many voices will loudly speak of the so-called “work of the Cross,” but what of the “work of the Resurrection“?  Eastern traditions, on the other hand, spotlight the Resurrection in their liturgies, but, alas, the illumination remains spotty and their theologies incline to the mystical, dualistic, and hierarchical, drawing errantly upon Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (late 5th-early 6th century), transmitter of Neo-Platonism from Plotinus to both West and especially East, where he was accorded apostolic status in an astonishingly audacious upstaging of the New Testament.  Thus the Eastern church dramatized the Resurrection liturgically yet marginalized it theologically.  [01/01/95]

The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ triggered the legitimate occasion for an unprecedented intervention of God into human history to justify Jesus as Messiah, acquit Himself of injustice, and legitimize us as sons of God, by our simply trusting Him.  The ultimate theodicy (that is, the justification of God from the charge of wrongdoing for the existence of evil in the world) was thus precipitated:  the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead!  [01/31/95]

“Legalism” must always haunt, like a sinister shadow, every “economic” view of Christ’s “work of atonement.”  This is so because any concept of “paying off”–whether the Devil (as in the early patristic view), or the Law (especially in the Calvinistic penal tradition), or even the Lord God Himself (as Anselm taught, although without penal overtones)–entails the “satisfaction” of some being or entity that would otherwise exact a terrifying cost from guilty sinners.  This invariably breeds insecurity, not to say angst, triggering a sometimes frenzied reflex  to “pay off” our moral debt and “pacify” the offended principalities.

The apostolic Gospel is antithetically OtherWise.  For there we see God’s own Son–the very image of all his Father’s virtues–dying for our sins to “pay” us the “indescribable gift” [2 Cor. 9:15] of the Holy Spirit!  He thereby fulfilled his agelong covenant with the Father, yet not as any sort of “satisfaction,” and most emphatically not to “pay off” God or “appease” his righteous indignation against sin (which not even the Son could have achieved, nor was it necessary), but simply to display the full glory of the Father’s love for mankind!  This accredits His reputation on earth as nothing else could.

Christ surrendered himself to the injustice and dishonor of execution–one as shameful as crucifixion–on our behalf, becoming a sin-offering (hamartia), which both depicted and predicted the sin (hamartia) of the Crucifixion, so that his loving Father could display His own righteousness/justice in reversing that miscarriage of justice by raising him from the dead, exalted with glory, power, and sovereignty above all his–and our–enemies!  Thereby Christ cashed in on all the promises of the agelong covenant, the chief promise being the Wholesome Spirit of God Himself.  All who simply and truly trust God’s choice (“election”) of Jesus as the Messiah/Christ are gratuitously immersed in that Spirit and find themselves headed for a brand new destiny in him!

On the other hand, those who concede to an “economic” rather than this resurrectionary view of Christ’s achievement tend to feel magnetically drawn to “the law,” to which they conceive both Christ and the whole universe to be bound eternally and irreversibly.  They secretly imagine “the law” to be more fundamentally powerful than the Messiah!  For them it “explains” why Jesus “had to” die, i.e., to “satisfy” its “eternal, irrevocable demands.”  But in fact the Lord was always superior to law, itself a mere creature, whereas he himself was its Creator!  His earthly subordination was only to the Law of Moses, which was but a mere letter and shadow, and this only temporarily, in order ultimately to shatter its ethnic hold over his people by the resurrectionary advent of Spirit and Truth!  The Spirit of Truth propels us far beyond the kindergarten level of Mosaic law, and that includes the Decalogue!  An economic view of the atonement backhandedly reinstates Moses in place of Christ and his Spirit as the way of discipleship to Christian maturity.  This is a fairly hideous distortion of the Gospel, and one that must be slain by the sword of God’s own Explanation and its sound patterns of thought.

Legalism, moralism, Phariseeism, “Judaism” (as the apostle Paul used it) arise like a Gorgon-headed specter behind every “satisfaction” theory of Christ’s work.  Anselm, no more than Abelard, had any explanatory use for Christ’s Resurrection!  His medieval accretions were never radically challenged by the Reformers, although, to be sure, they made fateful adjustments to his theory.  Therefore justification before God by faith alone–their supreme and liberating illumination–was not properly contextualized or centered upon the indispensable foundation of Christ’s historic Resurrection from the dead.  The flame subsequently often faltered, flickered, or all but extinguished amid post-Reformation developments.  Sadly, those who retained it most staunchly were often afflicted by a narrowness of world vision or by recurrent Judaizing tendencies, and yet others ironically by so-called “antinomianism.”  Justification by faith, before God unto agelong life must itself, therefore, be liberated from a suffocatingly scholastic, i.e., syncretistic, environs and be transported back into its resurrectionary habitat!  Then we may hope to behold a New Reformation dawning, and an outpouring of God’s Spirit such as this blighted planet has but barely seen.

Assuredly, faith is the victory (1 Jn. 5:4), but it is precisely faith that gets throttled by the Calvinistic spin on “election,” “predestination,” “secret regeneration,” “federal headship,” “imputation of Adam’s sin,” “imputation of Christ’s righteousness,” and more.  Lutheran tradition may choke faith by similar notions of imputation (Philip Melanchthon’s forceful contribution), an improperly spun fabric of “law vs. gospel,” etc.  Both main branches of the Reformation became burdened by notions of penal payment regarding Christ’s accomplishment.  If we are to see a New Reformation on the eve of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, we must gird up our loins to retake the long lost territory of Biblical conceptuality as our only secure fortress against prevalent “orthodox” errors.  [02/08/95]

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