Monthly Archives: February 2014

ROMANS 4:25…in context!

Romans 4:25 is easily understood when we notice that Paul is simply trying to apply the benefits already enjoyed by Abraham to all the rest of us who believe.  Verse 23 reads:  “Now it was not written because (δια) of him only, that [faith] is accounted to him, but because (δια) of us also, to whom [faith] is about to be getting accounted, who are believing on Him Who raises Jesus our Master from among the dead, who was surrendered because (δια) of our offenses [too!] and was raised because (δια) of our justifying [too!]” (Romans 4:23-25).  So Paul is pressing into service the most general preposition he had access to in order to make a rather pedestrian point!  All the fumbling over whether δια is “retrospective” or “prospective” becomes pedantic when we grasp the simple (and syntactically rather obvious—almost embarrassingly so) point of including everyone else who has faith in the same boat with father Abraham.

I said “almost” embarrassingly so.  Because what trips up our thinking so that we get honestly distracted from the plain grammatical structure that would clue us in to Paul’s rhetorical point is the striking association of resurrection with justification.  On the assumptions of Anselmian “vicarious satisfaction” theory of the Atonement, this doesn’t make sense.  Even less so does it compute if “penal substitution” is presupposed.  So even though Paul is not engaged in making a precise technical thrust in this particular passage about how the two are related, they jolly well are!  And the clues are replete throughout the book of Romans, starting with 1:1-5!  Then comes 1:16-17For the “righteousness of God” which “is getting unveiled(1:17) orhas gotten manifested(3:21) in the proclamation is the resurrection of the surrendered and treacherously executed Messiah Jesus!  Now if this unveiling or manifestation (as in the usual interpretation) actually transpired at Golgotha instead of the garden tomb—on “Good” Friday rather than “Easter” Sunday—isn’t it kinda funny that the term “cross/crucify is only found ONCE in the whole long book of Romans, and then only as a compound, “crucified together” (6:6), referring more to our immersion than to Messiah’s ordeal?  GO FIGURE!

Whereas on the assumption that God’s righteousness only became clear at our Master’s resurrection, the entire argument of Paul in Romans becomes luminous with fresh glory, and the epistle opens up anew like ripe fruit.  The high point of this connection is the whole chapter immediately following the climax of the Abraham illustration in 4:25a verse whose puzzling locutions, as so many others of Paul’s (think only of II Corinthians 5:21!), solve themselves with a flourish on the grounds of the empty garden tomb.  [10/20/06]

Jesus’ “battle” on the cross was, as ever, to live up to his name, to become the Savior of the world instead of its destroyer, to which Satan was then tempting him on behalf of self preservation.  Had he caved in to that fleshly impulse instead of enduring the pain by the power of the agelong Spirit, there would never have been the justly overcompensating proliferation of Holy Spirit that—praise God to all ages!—we actually did start to enjoy at Pentecost.  Jesus made good as the Sponsor and Mediator of a fresh, New Covenant!  [12/20/06]

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“It is the BLOOD that PROTECTS, because of the SOUL that is in it.”

We should not speak of “death” of Messiah, in the usual unqualified way, as “atoning.  It is his blood that is the active ingredient in the atonement.  This is perfectly clear from the ancient sacrificial rituals of Moses’ Law, which even goes the “philosophical” length (unusual for Hebraic thought generally) of explaining why the bloodatones”:  “because of the life/soul” that is in it.  So this leads us to ask, “What kind or quality of life/soul is in the blood of Jesus?”  The answer is, a sinless, flawless, unblemished, faithful, perfect, obedient quality.  So that when it was extracted from him unjustly, God’s justice demanded overcompensation, AND IT IS THIS THAT ACTUALLY “COVERS,” “PROTECTS,” ATONES,” OR “INDEMNIFIES” CONCERNING THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, BECAUSE WHEN IT GETS “APPLIED” TO THEIR HEARTS (WHICH FAITH, BY GOD’S GRACIOUSNESS, IS PRIVILEGED TO DO) IT BRINGS TO THEM THE VERY SAME POWER OF AGELONG LIFE AND WHOLESOMENESS THAT JUSTIFIED THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS FROM THE DEATH TO WHICH HE WAS UNJUSTLY SENTENCED.  [10/19/06]

JESUS’ SORROW OVER THE CROSS

Jesus obviously suffered the abuse of pain from the cruel, inhumane cross, but what of sorrow?  The only inkling we have, however, is sufficient to unlock the answer.  Luke documents that, “there followed him [on the way to ‘the place called “skull”,’ Luke 23:33] a vast multitude of the people and of women who grieved and wailed over him.  Now being turned toward them, Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem!  Do not lament over me!  However, over yourselves lament, and over your children, for lo!  Coming are days in which they will be declaring, ‘Happy are the barren, and the wombs which bear not, and the breasts which do not nourish!’  Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if they are doing these things in the wet wood, what may be occurring in the withered?”  (Luke 23:27-31)

Jesus had no sorrow for himself.  He sorrowed over all those who would refuse to repent and turn to God in response to his being crucified.  He could see their own cruel destruction from the bitter internecine warfare that befell Jerusalem forty years later because of this crime.  [10/19/06]  (Responding to John McLeod Campbell and R. C. Moberly.)

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The Cross-cum-Resurrection showed us what to expect…both from the world and from God

[T]he sprinkling with the blood of Jesus means that the self-giving of Jesus in his death and rising again is the power that is able to cleanse us from sin by replacing sin in us by the spirit of Christ’s own self-offering. —Michael A. Ramsey (Anglican Archbishop of York), Glory Descending: Michael Ramsey and His Writings (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005), p. 51, emphasis added. Quoted from Michael Ramsey, The Christian Concept of Sacrifice (Oxford: SLG Press, 1974), pp. 7-8.

The cross of Jesus was not ancillary or incidental to his work of salvation, and was certainly not superfluous. It was ineradicably necessary both to elicit God’s magnificent act of justification in raising him from the dead, thus reversing his unjust sentence, and also for showing us how to walk the way of righteousness and what to expect when we do it faithfully—both from the world and, at last, from God. [10/19/06]

Justification” and reconciliation—the social dimension of salvation;

Sanctification”—the personal or dimension of salvation.

These are why Paul’s letters to the Romans and Galatians are saturated with legal language: because of the Jew-Gentile conflicts (although priestly terms are also used to fill out the total picture for Paul’s readers).

But the Book of Hebrews has no comparable concern with the Jew-Gentile problem, so legal categories are at a minimum. [10/19/06]

The distinction between “justification” (so-called) and “sanctification” (so-called) is not so much profound or deep, in the New Testament, as it is pragmatic, derived from discrete sitz im leben (institutional life contexts). Legal and jural categories have reference primarily to the social dimensions of salvation, while priestly discourse refers primarily to the individual or personal. It is therefore well to observe that the Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, dealing likewise with the Jew-Gentile issue, likewise employs relational or social terminology, but in this case that of unilateral “conciliation” (καταλλα-) with God and bilateral “reconciliation” (αποκαταλλα-) between human beings rather than “justification.”  So Paul isn’t overly picky, but he is particular to use the language of human relations when addressing inter-human issues. [10/19/06] Nevertheless, simple inspection of their usage in the New Testament shows that all of the above metaphors have so-called “vertical” in addition to “horizontal” applications.  God is drawing on visible terrestrial realities to elaborate invisible divine truths…meant to radically alter our earthly behavior and environments.

Jesus suffered abuse from the sins of the world his whole life, manger to sepulcher, cradle to grave, womb to tomb. At every point he was obedient to his Father in Heaven, regardless the cost, and it must often have been high. Doubtless he was hated as a child, as a youth, as a young man. His righteousness and wholesomeness must have aroused jealousies, resentments, and indignation. His physiognomy is never so much as mentioned by any contemporary document within the New Testament or without. Only the Hebrew Scriptures (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) hint at his impression—unattractive, even repellant. He suffered abuse from that too, we can be sure. No, he was not deserving of such treatment; no one is. But he least of all since he would never have retaliated. All of these episodes figured into God’s eventual overcompensation at his resurrectionary justification on our behalf. Such graciousness! It defies human description! The cross was only the final and worst trial he faced—the culmination in a climax of all the previous. [10/19/06]

 

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Only the Acquitting Justice “Fell” on Jesus…but on the Third Day!

The unexpected fact that made Martin Luther so exultant and jubilant over God’s righteousness, way back in 1517, is when he finally understood that it was a positive, a saving, an acquitting righteousness.  Before that historic turning point he hated it because he felt it as only condemning.

This luminous insight must be preserved.  However, Luther, Calvin, and the whole mainstream Reformation was still encumbered by the Anselmian theory of atonement, with variations that rendered it even more severe.  It is this theory that continuously mitigated the cheering force of Luther’s central insight.  For him, God was still viewed as venting His wrath against our sins on Jesus as an innocent “substitute” on our behalf.  Then, by a mechanism of “forensic imputation’, we receive his righteousness by faith in exchange for his taking our guilt and penalty upon himself.

But the actual mechanism is far different, although preserving the acquitting side of God’s righteous judgment.  God’s condemning judgment in fact did not fall on the Messiah, His beloved Son, at any point whatsoever in his life, much less his cross!  The latter was the grisly scene of the “tender mercies of the wicked” vented against the Holy One of Israel!  It was premeditated, official, public murder, executed with a high hand, stiff neck, and hard, calloused heart, in benighted ignorance of the treasonous magnitude of their crime.  It revealed sin as an unspeakably heinous sinner.

This opportunity to slay God’s own Son, who was intent on hiding his Messianic identity (and, contrary to accusations at his trial, never publically flaunted any such claims), was simply too “good” for Satan to pass up.  He took the bait and thus TRIPPED THE TRIGGER that caught him in his own trap.  For he thereby initiated the judicial proceedings of the Father to save His condemned, violated, desecrated, and mangled Son.  God’s own judgment on the whole miserable tragedy was executed “on the third day” by raising him from the dead, thereby justifying, i.e., acquitting and vindicating him.  We, in turn, who believe this News, are justified by God’s accounting that faith for righteousness (rather than “imputing Christ’s own righteousness to our account”) and thereafter become “enslaved to righteousnessby the power of the Wholesome Spirit—the just award won for us at the bar of God’s just judgment by the Master’s faithful obedience to Him throughout his entire life and career.

In this magnificent way of righteousness, ATONEMENT AND JUSTIFICATION speak with one voice and in perfect harmony.  This is our true and integral legacy of apostolic proclamation.  The vital link between them is the blood of Jesus.  Atonement is effected exclusively by the unjust shedding, the just avenging, and the gratuitous distributing of the sinless faithfulness of the soul represented by this blood.  This is literally effected in us by the operation of God’s own Spirit of wholesomeness starting when we are baptized (when this is done with understanding and faith).  For this is the same Spirit that anointed Jesus, now magnified manifold as compensation for his endurance as our champion against Satan, temptation, sin, evil, and death.  The spoils of his representative victory hereby get passed around so we can participate in the conquest by mere faith!  What favor!  [10/18/06]

Unless we grasp that the expression, “righteousness of God” in the book of Romans refers to the positive performance of just avenging on behalf of His covenanted possession, we will always be nagged by the specter of His negative, condemning justice vented upon His enemies who despise His preferential Covenant and its ‘propitiatoryprotection of His partners.  Therefore, we must understand that when God finally, in His righteous (!) longsuffering, gets around to doing justice, He both saves the faithful and destroys thr perfidious.  [10/18/06]

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The Assertive Holiness of Jesus Reversed Mortal Corruptions around Him

The depth and intensity of Jesus’ wholesomeness was such that it reversed and cancelled the corruption of the dead and deadly things he touched.  The horribleness of decay and putrefaction met their match in the wholesome One sent by God to save us.  Thus he “bore our diseases,” neglecting whatever other vocation he, as “King of the Jews” might have pursued, and occupied himself with miserable human beings instead!  He sacrificed his own glory to furnish often thankless uplift to humbled and humiliated offspring of Adam’s degenerating race.  [10/17/06]

We propose now an answer to the classic and perennial question concerning what effect the work of Messiah, especially the final episode on the cross, had on deity and humanity.

From God, Jesus’ willing self-sacrifice at the hands of his vicious foes drew swift justice in the totally unexpected guise of his RESURRECTION, along with a forty year reprieve from avenging against those who remained unrepentant at such unprecedented kindness from Above.

From the human race, the Cross, now in indissoluble conjunction with its resurrectionary aftermath, evokes a change of mind, turnabout, and belief in the existence of a God of authenticated GRACIOUSNESS who gave up his legal rights to avenge our gross sinfulness so that we could and would conciliate and draw near to Him, reciprocating His love.

Herewith, the “objective” and “subjective” in the Atonement have “met and kissed“…and made up.  [10/17/06]

The doom of demons was sealed by the cross of Jesus both ultimately, because it absolutely assured his resurrection to deathlessness and irrevocable exaltation to the throne of the universe, from which he could sovereignly dispose of them at a command, but also the cross, by way of God’s overcompensating righteousness and just award, brought the additional proliferation of Wholesome Spirit by which God’s liberating power became multiplied and vastly disseminated throughout Satan’s dark domain immediately, in the present age, through the words and deeds of every wholesome one who walks in the Spirit and testifies thereby to the coming victorious Kingdom of God.  [10/17/06]  For the Spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus and his resurrectionary conquest over death—the final enemy!  [06/08/08]

Proof for the Resurrectionary Explanation of the Cross can and, for completeness’ sake, must be drawn also from what the apostolic Scriptures teach about other matters, especially the intrinsic links to Pentecost, the Destruction of Jerusalem, the Final Judgment, and the ultimate destiny of both saved and lost.  In all this there is plenty of room for offending those who, but for silence on these oft contentious topics, might otherwise accept the truth of the resurrectionary atonement.  Yet we must not hesitate to supply such offenses (though we should avoid doing so offensively) lest people adopt the truth just in part, only later to overreact by rejecting it so vigorously as to prevent others from even considering it who might well have become solid advocates and eloquent proclaimers of such precious and priceless treasures.  Truth is of a piece, so let’s not hide the parts we guess may bring offense simply to secure a quick acceptance out of mere proselyting motives.  [10/17/06]

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RECONCILITION: BY MAKING GENEROUS CONCESSIONS

How did/does the cross of Jesus effect conciliation?  If we are not to indulge in strained explanations of diverse sorts (which abound!), it would probably help to know how political diplomacy goes about doing it.  Can it be denied that the process works by the making of generous concessions, at national cost, to win back an aggrieved enemy?  It requires sacrificing something of agreed value in the hopes of quelling a complaint before its aggravation becomes cause for reprisals of some sort, or even war.

Similarly, the cross of the Master Jesus, the Messiah (for Heaven’s sake!) stands as stark proof of God’s basically non-retaliatory intentions toward mankind.  Once it actually dawns on us what Jesus might have done—had the authority and rightful power to do—on his own behalf, to protect himself and ensure that his regime (such as it was…or seemed to his Jewish enemies) would enjoy steady advances and ultimate success, then we can start to see what he was sacrificing during every agonized second he suffered (more than 2,000 of them on the Cross alone, not to add his trial, scourging, mocking, and via dolorosa).  Until his final heartbeat, he never lost his right to send in celestial storm troopers…call down an angelic blitzkrieg.  Yet he refused.  To the very last tormented ounce of determination, Jesus would not save himself…and GOD WAS IN CHRIST!  IT WAS THE FATHER WHO WAS DRAWING ALL HUMANITY TO GET CONCILIATED TO HIMSELF BY VIEWING HIS LOVED ONE, NAKED AND BLOODIED ON A CROSS, NEVER BREATHING “A MUMBLIN’ WORD” OF COMPLAINT OR REPRISAL, MAKING THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE BY WAY OF CONCESSION TO ENEMIES WHO WERE NOT AWARE WHAT THEY WERE DOING!  (Luke 23:34, Acts 3:17, 13:27, Romans 10:3, 1Corinthians 2:6-8, 1Timothy 1:13THAT WAS LOVE!  BOUNDLESS AND FREE!  THE GRANDEST GIVEAWAY PROGRAM IN PLANETARY HISTORY!  [10/17/06]

In order for the Cross actually to conciliate a person, it must trigger and facilitate a change of mind—repentance.  How does the Explanation of Messiah’s cross do that?  By unfolding the whole Story behind that grim scenario—the Backstory.  Only in this way can the full abhorrent injustice of the Deed come clear, along with the astounding magnitude of God’s beckoning love in the event, never for a moment making a lethal move to avenge a crime of such magnitude.  To the bitter end, Jesus was resisting non-stop the termination of his mockers and torturers.  For Messiah’s sake be conciliated to God!  (2 Corinthians 5:20)  [10/17/06]

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The Reciprocal Faithfulness of Father and Son

Messiah’s faithfulness (πιστις) to the human requirements of the Old Covenant elicited God’s own faithfulness (πιστις) to the divine promises of that Covenant relating to a faithful (πιστον) human partner.  This mutual troth or covenantal loyalty was exhibited in its most concentrated form—in “critical mass”—at the Messianic climax:  The “crossurrection,” which was the “quiet” beginning that signalled the NUCLEAR BLAST at PENTECOST!

The mutual faithfulness of the Father and the Son precipitated the whole wonderful sequence of spiritual events effecting our salvation.  Theirobjective” achievements made possible our “subjective” enjoyment of Their Kingdom!  Their respective faith[fullness] was the substance of Their respective righteousness and explains why our faith is likewise our righteousness and is so regarded by God (and, because of its intrinsic invisibility to human observers, needs the reinforcement of God’s explicit reckoning, accounting, and declaring it to be so, realized in the blessed empirical phenomena triggered by the immersion in the Wholesome Spirit).  Our faith rides into the Kingdom on the tails of Jesus Christ’s faith[fulness]!  And why shouldn’t it be this way?  God evidently counted Jesus’ faith[fulness] for righteousness and, accordingly, judged him righteous by raising him from the dead to immortal life (thus reversing the evil judgment issued by the “lower court”) and thereby justifying him visibly and irreversibly.

Jesus’ faith[fulness] to his Father was the font of every stunning word and every staggering deed he manifested in the world.  And such faith, generated within our own hearts by the amazing Message relating all the mighty things God worked through our Master, also opens the heart valve through which that same uncreated Life can surge into us as if by continuous divine transfusion.  This faith pleases God because it means the salvaging and vivifying of yet another casualty of Adam’s offense, which deprived us of the ancient Tree of Life. [10/17/06]

We see everywhere in the strained and tortured explanations of Messiah’s cross and resurrection a decrepit old dogma, straining at its leash, tortured by its limitations.  Until we come to see Messiah’s resurrection as his salvation, which he was justified in being awarded, the dogmatic torment will only be prolonged.  The old dogma needs to be put out of its misery…put to sleep and laid to rest.  [10/17/06]

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