Monthly Archives: December 2013

God indeed “paid a ransom” to Satan, but not because of any “bargain” with him.

Even though Satan be but a brigand and a pirate with no legitimate rights from heaven for his treachery, yet Jesus paid him the ransom price of his own soul to release us from Satan’s slaveholding that resulted from our lifelong fear of death, over which Satan had control. For through his own death, Jesus summoned heaven to vindicate his own obedient faithfulness to God, for which he deserved a verdict of “innocent” and the rightful award of life. Accordingly, God happily complied by raising him back to life—this time an immortal existence—far in excess of his own need (imagine that!). So when that life came to earth at Pentecost and we got to participate in its earth-shaking power, too, the reality of death, which had previously held us in such dread and terror that we remained captives to wrongdoing and misdeeds by default, was substantially reduced in the credible expectation that Satan would now be ultimately discarded (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Satan, however, we must immediately add, was certainly COMPLETELY CLUELESS THAT BY EXACTING JESUS’ DEATH AND EXTRACTING HIS BLOOD HE WAS, IN EFFECT, SEALING OUR RANSOM. Therefore we need allege no conjectural “agreement” between God and Satan whatever. No deal was cut!  The problem to be overcome was NOT THE LEGITIMACY OF SATAN’S AUTHORITY BUT THE MORTAL FEAR OF HIS OBSEQUIOUS HUMAN SLAVES. With that fear decisively shattered, his “legitimacy” toppled to earth.

Further, the Adversary had no “right” to any “ransom price” whatsoever. That would be to force the analogy to walk on all fours! That Messiah’s death would somehow (via resurrection and the consequently guaranteed arrival of the mighty Spirit of wholesomeness that was promised) ransom human subjects out of Satan’s dark realm came as a shockingly unpleasant surprise! Satan was, in a word, DISCOMFITED. HE’D BEEN TRICKED! But seeing, now, exactly how this happened historically, our only wonder should be how Christian theologians could be scandalized by this happy revelation, comical though it may be! The Book of Proverbs is replete with clarifying explanations. HIS OWN CAREER-LONG VICIOUSNESS SEALED HIS DOOM. [8/21/06]

The Protestant Reformation, in its earnestness to keep the operation of the Holy Spirit out of “the article of justification” altogether, never quite came to understand or really appreciate that EVERYTHING ACQUIRED BY MESSIAH’S BLOOD, IN PRINCIPLE, IS EFFECTED BY THE WHOLESOME SPIRIT IN ACTUALITY, whether justification, sanctification, cleansing, forgiveness, conciliation, etc., etc., in immersion and communion, by faith. [8/21/06]

Jesus HAD TO DIE ON THE CROSS BECAUSE THERE HAD TO BE A GLORIOUS RESURRECTION FOR A DISPLAY OF GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE CURRENT ERA (Romans 3:25-26)…FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE! It was an iron-clad necessity! We would be hopeless without it because there could have been no gift of Wholesome Spirit for us any other way. [8/21/06]


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“Jehovah…Himself shall ransom Israel from all its depravities.”

A well known radio preacher keeps reiterating the monotonous refrain of “substitutionary atonement” in his book on grace. And why? Because he well knew if he left it to the Bible, his readers would never “see” it! INDEED NOT! IT’S NOT THERE! In effect, he was trying to make up for the Bible’s theological “deficiency” by his repetitious emphasis. This should be our clue that something is not quite right. [8/20/06; 12/30/13]


If, then, the Old Covenant sin-offering (hamartia in the Septuagint) is truly to be construed as a sin (hamartia), to whom was it depicting it as a sin against? THE SIN WAS AGAINST THE FLAWLESS LAMB, for Heaven’s sake! The slaying of a harmless, “spotless” lamb prefigured the UNJUSTIFIED SLAUGHTER OF GOD’S OWN SON AT THE CROSS. [8/20/06]

If “apart from bloodshedding no pardon occurs” (Hebrews 9:22), then who is the phlebotomist in the case of Jesus? The immediate bloodletters are “the chiefs of this age” (I Corinthians 2:6-8), but behind them is the instigation and inspiration of Satan. This means that they extract by injustice the price of his blood in a capital crime passed off as an “execution.” But by paying this EXTRAVAGANT sum, Messiah RANSOMED THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE, for “with Jehovah is ABUNDANT RANSOM and HE HIMSELF shall ransom Israel from all its depravities (Psalm 130:7b-8). That’s no contradiction. For the unexpected accomplishment of the Cross was to AMPLIFY and MAGNIFY Old Covenant expectations to encompass and embrace all nations in the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Thus what even the Adversary meant for evil, GOD MEANT FOR LAVISH GOOD! [8/20/06]

Peter entreats us to walk in the FOOTPRINTS OF THE PRINCE (I Peter 2:21-25) [8/20/06], who himself was fulfilling the prophecy of the Servant of Jehovah in Isaiah 53. [12/30/13]

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 Let’s say treacherous pirates were holding some valued citizens of a certain ancient city for ransom and wanted the prince in exchange.  And let’s say, because of the number and worth of these subjects, the prince agreed with his father the king, to be surrendered to them in exchange for his compatriots, even though he knew it would mean certain death for himself.  And let’s say after the exchange was indeed concluded and the others returned safely the prince was then tortured and hung from the mast to die…and finally expired without getting rescued.  Could we say his suffering of abuse and death was “PUNISHMENT” from his father, the king?  Was the ransom a “penal substitution”?  [8/19/06]

To take this scenario a step further, let’s say the prince’s father had magical powers and was able to somehow bring his son back to life after his mangling and exposure and ultimate death.  WOULD WE ACCUSE THE SOVEREIGN OF “INJUSTICE” FOR “GOING BACK ON THE DEAL”?  WOULD WE IMPUGN HIM FOR “BREAKING” HIS “AGREEMENT” WITH THE PIRATES?  HOW UTTERLY ABSURD, you say?  Yet this is arguably what orthodox theologians do in their arguments against a conjectured “TRANSACTION” or “PACT WITH THE DEVIL” (which, curiously, the patristic theologians, starting with Ignatius of Antioch, then as fully developed by Rufinus of Aquileia, never hinted at).

Therefore, it is fair to say that neither in the original versions of this interesting illustration, nor even in my “pirated” version, is their any implied obligation of the Father to “play square” with the wicked assassins.  Indeed, in the New Testament “version” of the “ur-narrative,” God WAS “NICE” ENOUGH TO LET THE WOULD-BE MURDERERS DO “ALL THEIR WILL” WITHOUT HINDRANCE OR OBSTRUCTION!  WHAT MORE COULD ANY CRIMINAL OR DEVIL ASK?  God certainly did His part to let this crime go all the way!  Let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth…  Who, now, can continue to harbor any objections to RAISING the Lord Jesus from a premeditated, treacherous, unjustified, humiliating, and excruciating death after leaving the offenders alone to do everything their little hearts desired?  [6/04/08]

If Jesus became sin, then his blood would have been sin too!  That would never do!  [Carol Tillotson, 8/19/06]

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The 19th Century Revivals and Sustainable Justice

The substantial shortfall of so much 19th century Protestant theology in Europe (Germany and the Netherlands in particular) and England (though not so much in Scotland) is that it never broke through to a realization that what Messiah’s faithful obedience to all of God’s directives and desire acquired via his final combat on the cross was the Holy Spirit!  Furthermore, no one seemed to recognize that the realization of the Kingdom of God that Jesus and the apostles proclaimed was entirely dependent on the governing influence of that Spirit in human affairs.  Without the miraculous powers and messianic virtues of the promised gift of Holy Spirit to lead the citizens of God’s Kingdom into new conquests over their own fleshly impulses as well as over the vast corporate evils that result from their outworking in the culture, all that remains is just so many ethical good intentions and feckless big ideas.

Hence the whole liberal development of “ethical” Christianity fell flat for the power of the Spirit was not sufficiently invoked and walked in.  However, the Evangelical Revivals in England and America in the 18th century, along with the Second Great Awakening that kicked off the 19th century in America immediately after the founding Era closed with the death of George Washington, were the heralds of radically new developments along just the lines regained to make Christianity more fruitful.  But after the unprecedented successes of Methodism in England throughout John Wesley’s long lifetime, although there were periodic waves of revival and even new denominations raised up on its premises, sustained revival–a sustained presence of the Kingdom of God in power and multi-faceted wholesomeness and justice–did not make a start (was barely valued) until the opening decade of the 20th century.  With the Pentecostal outpourings in Topeka, Kansas and Azusa, California as well as Wales (all “Nazareths”!), God moved in ways that started getting conserved (although the Welsh revival was disappointingly short lived).  John G. Lake’s labors in America and South Africa at this time were also auspicious, as well as Alexander Dowie’s founding of Zion, Illinois.  Flawed as all these new starts were, they laid the foundations for sustained advancement of God’s Kingdom into world culture.

Needed now, at the opening of the 21st century, is a convergence of diverse and heretofore divergent traditions of Christianity with the fresh and humble recognition that the work of Messiah Jesus was intended to inaugurate God’s Kingdom in the governing power of Holy Spirit.  [8/18/06]


Many of the ancient ordinances of Israel given through Moses were ways for God to “salt their oats” to keep them thirsty for God’s salvation.  He was always a God of “benignity…and…abundant ransom.  And He Himself shall ransom Israel from all its depravities.”  For if He should “keep account of depravities…who should stand?  For with You is pardon that You may be devoutly feared”  Psalm 130:7-8,3-4.  Thus it was no “problem” for Him to remit [the “penalty” of] sins for His disciplines are remedial, not woodenly penal or vindictive.  The problem was to keep His people supple so they would reflexively [re]turn to Him for His necessary forgiveness before they became hardened in their sinful practices.  Pardon goes hand in hand with prodding toward maturity.  God’s forgiveness stems…streams from His native kindness that “leads to repentance (Romans 2:4).  But when that doesn’t do the job, then severer measures are called for:  “Whenever He killed them, then they sought after him.  And they returned and sought early for God.  Then they remembered that God is their rock, and God, the Supreme is their redeemer” (Psalm 78:34-35).  For their big problem was that “their heart, it was not established with Him, and they were not faithful to His covenant” (v.37).  That’s what had to be fixed in this arrangement.  AND THAT GOT FIXED IN THE NEW COVENANT.  NOW THE VERY POWER OF WHOLESOMENESS GOT “POURED OUT RICHLY (Titus 3:4-7) BECAUSE OF GOD’S “KINDNESS AND FONDNESS FOR HUMANITY (v.4).  Thus the Savior’s afflictions on the cross won God’s diametric reversal via resurrection, with further exaltation and award!  THIS IS HOW GOD GOT SO GENEROUS AFTER THE BLOODY CROSS!  IT PIQUED GOD TO SHOW HIS HAND OF TRUE JUSTICE WITHIN OUR HISTORY!


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The “fillFULLment” of God’s pledge of blessings to Abraham

That Jesus’ endurance in obedience to his Father throughout his ordeal-to-the-death brought vast volumes of fresh graciousness from heaven to earth can hardly be denied by any Bible-reading Christian. But that this outflow necessitated Messiah’s suffering “the punishment of God’s wrath” and “judgment(in the sense of condemnation) for our sins can claim no support from Scripture whatever. The very idea that Jesus’ sacrifice moved his Father—whose every trait he was commissioned to reveal—from wrath to graciousness is a slur…a dishonoring of God’s reputation. [8/18/06]

It’s a terrible thing to see the cross of Christ for what it actually is and yet to back away. The authorities that crucified Messiah are in this number. [8/18/06]

The good that REBOUNDED off the Cross is so stupendous that it must be viewed as an INAUGURAL event, not as a SUBSTITUTIONARY one. Accordingly, the ensuing good was actually CHANNELED through it to us, not merely ACCOUNTED to us. [8/18/06]

Is the cross of Messiah Jesus so much the “ground” of forgiveness (and other benefits) as it is the occasion for its vastly increased extension to all nations, families, tongues, and lands? The promise to Abraham was that he was to become a blessing to all nations; was this not the fulfillment…or “fillFULLment” of that divine pledge? This would demand… “necessitate” a grand EXPANSION of blessing beyond the nation of Israel. And for this, Israel ironically, inadvertently, but providentially sacrificed its own Messiah. What they meant for ill God meant for Good. God worked it all together for the good of all! Hallelujah!

Yet it was not simply and blandly and rather arbitrarily that God just happened to land on the Cross as His method of forgiveness (etc.). This gruesome method MAGNIFIED His GRACIOUSNESS in an unequalled manner…by way of superexcessive overcompensation. The consequence is the grand reality that apostolic Scripture calls “the Kingdom of God.” This, then, is the fruit of Messiah’s obedience to all the desire of the Father, even to his horrific demise: GOD’S KINGDOM SPRANG TO LIFE AND PROLIFERATED MANYFOLD. [8/18/06; 6/3/08]

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“The faithfulness in his blood” is our protective shelter

God the Father’s own righteousness got manifested in history, finally, through Messiah Jesus’ faithfulness in his entire life, career, and especially his trial and cruel death. For this perfect faithfulness to God by enduring in love toward a sinful, indeed, bloodthirsty and savage people, justified God’s rescuing him from the death he had publicly undergone via an attested display of resurrecting power (Rom. 3:21-22).

Furthermore, this faithfulness of Jesus’ whole earthly, embodied existence figured (by metonymy) “in his blood,” got proposed by God as a protective shelter around our sins (Rom. 3:25), rendered effective by the display of God’s rectitude in overwhelmingly answering the entreaty (I John 2:1-2) and pleading (Rom. 8:26-27) and petitions and supplications with strong clamor and tears (Heb. 5:7), praying earnestly, in a struggle, his sweat becoming as if clots of blood (Luke 22:40-46, Mark 14:32-39, Matt. 26:37-44), by RESURRECTION!

This beginning of Messiah’s full restitution was followed by the sending of the Holy Spirit from heaven so that we too could participate with our Head in the enjoyment of his awarded inheritance. This outpouring solved the problem of sin by decisively ending its tyranny, supplying “the medicine of agelong life” to assuage the fear of death that enslaved us to wrongdoing.

Thus Jesus’ own faithful obedience became our protection since it justified God in giving us gratuitously the Spirit of wholesomeness, power, and life that cleanses, erases, releases, and washes away our sins while empowering us simultaneously to walk in love, which fulfills the Law and enlivens us to burst forth in virtues against which there is no Law! This is the way of freedom, peace, and prosperity as Messiah’s body, the assembly of his wholesome ones who are trusting him. [8/17/06]

For Jesus’ suffering of abuse and death, God made it up to him.  God made it worth his while.  God ATONED for it.  [8/17/06; 6/03/08]

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The Son of God didn’t come to be our “substitute”; he came to be our Head. As Head of the body he was not, nor could he be, its “substitute.” Here, then, is the proper image and language by which to comprehend the Messianic achievement of Jesus. This position includes his being first or pre-eminent, sovereign, the forerunner, leader, Master, etc. AND ALL FOR US, BUT NOT INSTEAD OF” OR “IN PLACE OF” US, i.e., “VICARIOUSLY” OR “SUBSTITUTIONALLY.” [8/16/06]

The transvaluation of all historic theories of the Atonement by the Biblical principle of overcompensatory awarding justice entails an embracing of the germs of truth scattered among them and a transcending of their individual potencies by way of recombinant enhancement. Thus the “exemplary” theory becomes corrected, recontextualized, and greatly heightened and ennobled in the bargain. The “moral influence” theory becomes rehabilitated and taken to an extraordinary new level when the linear logic of the Crossurrection is used catalytically to represent its vital elements. Even the often rightly excoriated errors of “penal substitution” can be “atoned for” when its emphasis on “strict justice” is construed in its positive side and supercharged! [8/16/06]

In C. S. Lewis’s famous Narnia series of children’s novels, was Aslan ever said to be suffering “punishment” from anyone but the White Witch? [8/16/06] Of course not! Lewis had learned profoundly and thoroughly from his revered mentor George MacDonald. [6/04/08]  Lewis depicted the messianic lion as suffering exclusively at the hands of an enemy who was overthrown by what surprisingly ensued from that lethal injustice when death started working backwards.

Jesus did not “fulfill the Law [of Moses]” as our “substitute,” either ‘so that we would not have to’ (i.e., the Antinomian construal) or to point us back to that Law as a “Christian way of life” (minus the condemnation and curse as well as the so-called “ceremonial law”–the Reformers’ version). He fulfilled the Mosaic Law as our Head, routinely transcending the letter by following the Spirit of love. Such loving is the only proper and adequate fulfilling of the Law of Moses. It is characterized by the fruits of the Wholesome Spirit, “against which there is no [valid] law.” YET FOR THIS KIND AND QUALITY OF FULFILLMENT OUR MASTER WAS CRUCIFIED! FOR GOD ENDORSED IT WITH POWER FROM ON HIGH AND, ACCORDINGLY, MANY MIRACULOUS DEEDS THAT WON JESUS A FOLLOWING (fickle though it was at the time) AND THAT PROVOKED ENVY IN THE ESTABLISHMENT. It can hardly be otherwise for us, his followers…if we are faithful to his directives and example. [8/16/06]

The doctrine of “original sin” was only original with Augustine; thereafter it amounts to parroting. But it led to an eventual chain reaction of novelties, including “vicarious satisfaction,” “penal substitution,” and “forensic righteousness.” ALL THESE “ORIGINAL” DOCTRINES ORIGINATED TOO LATE TO BE AUTHENTIC AND APOSTOLIC. Moreover, they stand or fall together. They must be seen as linked together and mutually reinforcing. They therefore must be dismantled as a unity—parts of a single afflicting syndrome, segments of a single tapeworm, with an inner logic all its own, like a disease. And, like a disease, it has sickened the body of Messiah. It’s time to GET OVER IT! [8/16/06]


[T]hat the death of Christ was not exacted as a penalty for sin is shown by the fact that a reward was given to him. Moreover, if his death had been penal, it could not have been an example for us. IT IS THEN TO BE VIEWED, NOT AS PUNISHMENT, BUT AS AFFLICTION.” Robert S. Franks, The Work of Christ: A Historical Study of Christian Doctrine. (N.Y., etc.: Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd., 1962 [1918]), p. 371, all emphases added. [8/16/06]

The truth value of any theological position is not to be esteemed/estimated by invoking the past or present reputations of those who may have held all or part of the position. The fortunes of truth in a world of viciousness are hardly such that popular conceptions and assessments can be trusted as safe guides. And scholarly evaluations are hardly better fit to pass judgment since its chair-holders more often value “glory from one another,” not to mention keeping their job or tenure, more than they cherish the accreditationthat comes from the only God.”

Rather, we are to disregard such estimates beyond the threshold of clarification of the Scriptures themselves, speaking in their own terms and idioms. When the “joy of the Master” wells up within over a reading or a recognition or a comparison; when praise and thanks explode from our lips involuntarily at an exposition; when tears burst forth spontaneously from an apt illustration, the Spirit is nudging us forward, casting light along a path to true understanding. [8/16/06]

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