A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities (cont’d.)
What if there was no need for any payment for sin’s debt at the cross, because there was more than ample repayment for its injuries at the resurrection, and that made all the difference?
What if the finite terrestrial crime of the cross was repaid to Jesus at a super-compensatory rate in accord with the celestial appraisal of God’s fully restorative premial justice?
What if the New Testament teaches that Christ “bought” and paid for sinners with a “price” (Luke 1:68, 2:38, 24:20-21; Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 6:20, 7:23; 1 Tim. 2:6; 2 Tim. 2:20-21; Tit. 2:14; Heb. 9:12; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 4; Rev. 5:9, 6:10, 14:3-4), yet never that he “paid the penalty” or “satisfied the debt” of their sins, but instead simply forgives them like his Father does (and like all God’s children who are maturing in love should be learning to do)?
What if God’s entire ethic of forgiveness is founded not on His Son’s paying Him back for his losses from infractions against His honor, rights, or property, but much rather on His own letting go of His honor, rights, and property…including surrendering even His own precious Son to the tender mercies of maliciously envious rivals, precisely so He could prove to the wondering universe His persistent tough love and genuine mercy against the worst odds imaginable, and thereby even win the additional love and praise of former enemies?
What if the Gospel simultaneously teaches, demonstrates, and empowers the ethic of Jesus?
What if it seems more in Character for our Father in heaven to forgive without payment than to “forgive” after payment, or is He obliged by a postulated “eternal moral order” to somehow, somewhere, somewhen receive payment before He can forgive “justly”?
After all, what if God is “faithful and just that He may be pardoning us our sins and should be cleansing us from all injustice” (1 John 1:9; Rom. 3:25-26)—how exactly does that work…?
What if in Jesus’ parable of the king and the indebted slave (Matt. 18:23-35) the king actually had it right the first time, when he was merciful and forgave the slave who merely entreated him for patience to allow him to repay (whereas the king graciously decided to absorb the cost personally and simply remit the loan in its entirety…), or did the king have a relative handy who could subsidize, indemnify, or pay him back for his losses to the debtor, and yet (by some intra-trinitarian abara c’ dabara) still allow him to claim extra credit for pardoning him as well?
What if the only necessity urged in the parable is that “it was binding [edei] to be merciful [eleesai]” to others if you have been shown mercy, even if to do so entails some loss to yourself, yet without any hint of some necessity to get paid back fully, come Hell or global warming?
What if Jesus taught that to become perfect and holy like our Father in heaven is perfect and holy, we must learn to pardon outright those who ask our forgiveness rather than demanding them to pay us back for the loss first, because after all, children of God are “not simply loving, but also holy” like our heavenly Father is holy, and therefore pardons in such a manner?
What if being “not only loving but also holy” does not mean that we are bound to demand repayment or punishment for every debt or injury, as we have been taught a “holy” God does, but that we are bound to show mercy to those who repent and entreat us to forgive them?
What if the only wrath (orgistheis) in the parable (Matt. 18:34) is actually expressed by the king toward the debtor’s unmercifulness to other debtors, not toward his indebtedness per se?
Hence, what if it is morally incoherent to conceive that God’s holiness requires free forgiveness, yet in the same breath insist that God’s holiness requires that He somehow punish every last sin?
What if a penal atonement spoils the true spirit of Christian personal and social ethics, for it showcases a Savior who not only was not requited (komizo) with wages (misthos) or reward (misapodocia), nor recompensed (antapodidomi) or paid (apodidomi) by God for his superior service, but instead was consigned to a cross in order to suffer God’s wrath in order to pay back God the Creator by himself (were it even possible, Rom. 11:33-36) for the cosmic sin-debt incurred by human beings, so God gets off the hook without having to forgive anything at all?
What if downplaying the fact that the Lord Jesus himself was rewarded for doing good actually undermines our own human incentive to do the good works God intends us to “walk in”?
What if God—His entire contents—was in Christ on the cross (2 Cor. 5:19, cf. Col. 1:19-20), Himself absorbing the cost that released the world from debt, not accounting their offenses to them, self-sacrificially conciliating the universe—He simply “ate the loss” (to get all technical), thus Christ wasn’t paying God to do it, he was demonstrating God doing it?
But since God can be two places at once, what if He was also outside of Christ, doling out wrath on…Them Both—you know, to pay for sin and all that? On second thought…
That is to say, what if the cross did not somehow “bring,” “effect,” “secure,” “achieve [complete],” “enable [final],” or “provide [full]” forgiveness of sins—instead, these words are linguistic substitutes, decoys, red meat thrown around to distract us from all the clues pointing to the cross as an actual bona fide revelation, manifestation, display, or demonstration of God actually forgiving His embittered enemies, and not merely a penal substitutionary mechanism, instrumentality, or expedient to “get there from here”?
~~ To be continued ~~