September 19, 2018: The Day of Atonement
Welcome to Art Prize #10, Grand Rapids, Michigan! Coincidentally and significantly, it commenced on September 19th, which is The Day of Atonement on the Jewish calendar. I hope you find the SURPRIZES which follow to be happy ones, even life changing!
(This piece is dedicated to a local professor of theology for challenging me to summarize in two pages the Atonement achieved for all by God’s awarding justice to the Lord Jesus Christ.)
What if it was not the suffering of Christ on the Cross per se, but his obedience of sinless endurance that was of such great worth in God’s sight that he won the PRIZE of God’s extraordinary graciousness, overflowing for free to others in the Gift of the Holy Spirit?
What if the New Testament records that Jesus and his emissaries heralded and proclaimed: “God,” “the Kingdom of God,” “the graciousness of God,” “the acceptable year of the Lord,” “His Son,” “Christ,” “Christ crucified,” “Jesus Christ,” “the name of Jesus Christ,” “the Word,” “the Gospel,” “your salvation,” “repentance,” “faith,” “the declaration of faith,” “peace,” and “good,” but never the Cross, per se? Hmmm
What if the original words translated ‘atone/atonement’ in the Bible are not used for appeasing, pacifying, placating, or propitiating God, but rather for protectively covering/sheltering/shielding humans from His indignation on account of their accumulated sins?
What if the Cross of Christ was a transcendent injustice perpetrated by officials of Israel and Rome alike, under Satanic inspiration, calling for God’s own just avenging of his sinless blood to make an atoning cover around the appalling crime lest the people perish?
What if the Gospel announces the revelation, manifestation, setting forth, and display of God’s SURPRIZING justice that raised Jesus from the dead after this suicide mission?
What if God’s love didn’t actually need to accomplish our salvation by resorting to His Son’s crucifixion, so long as He could find some other means of public, official, priestly, conspiratorial, treasonous, terrorizing, degrading, agonizing, inescapably fatal execution?
“Wait!” you respond with SURPRIZE, “Why did Jesus have to be killed at all?” Okay. So how would you stage a rescue operation better designed to prove God’s benign saving prowess than to face Him, let’s say, with His own dear Son’s treacherous criminalization and brutally violent death to exercise it on? What am I missing?
Is it really SO SURPRIZING that God should strategically surrender His beloved Son (with his full agreement) to diabolical forces of envy, jealousy, and hatred with a centuries-long criminal record of murdering prophets, so that He might have a golden opportunity of showing His love and power to avenge such vicious atrocities by more than reversing the already executed fatal sentence, thus justifying immortal life and compensating royal exaltation to the divine throne for the Victim, without so much as a slap for the guilty offenders, but instead a full pardon and generous terms of peace, plus adoption into a vast inheritance, all in return for repentance and faith?
Ponder the following “resuppositions” that reinforce this premial Atonement in the Bible:
- Sacrificial blood represented not death but life-from-the-dead, that is, resurrection.
- “The righteousness of God” (as commonly translated) refers to God’s justness—in particular, His restorative or rewarding justice to Jesus Christ, the sinless Victim, instead of His immediate penal justice to the now reprieved offenders who assailed him.
- In Paul’s epistles, “the faith of Christ” refers to Christ’s own faith/faithfulness to God’s will, outlined in His covenanted directives and promises in the Law and Prophets, even through the shuddering enormity of undeserved torments and cruel death by crucifixion.
- God’s “surrendering” and “forsaking” His precious Son to his malicious but clueless foes, who hung him on timber in order to render him a curse according to the Law of Moses, worked to facilitate the spectacle of God’s supervening rescuing justice directly to Christ himself, and thereupon offer all nations the more ancient precedent of blessings sworn to Abraham and his Seed by oath and covenant, in view of his faith.
- On account of Christ’s own faith, God deems human faith as justness apart from works of Moses’ Law, since faith is not a work, so accords with God’s pure graciousness.
- God awarded His Son directly with the justice of resurrection from the dead, in other words, with what he personally deserved for bearing sins themselves (not their guilt, nor penalty, but their injury) from those he came to save, instead of taking revenge on them.
- Therefore, God did not need to unleash His rightful wrathfulness upon His Son’s slayers, since He had already conveyed overcompensating graciousness to Jesus by raising him out of the death they caused and exalting him over them to His throne above.
- Furthermore, God did not need to satisfy His penal justice toward sinners indirectly on Christ, because He already satisfied the demands of restorative justice directly to him via resurrection and great glory, thence effecting atonement, conciliation, and real peace.
- The superabundance of God’s just award to Christ on account of his deserts, Christ further graciously dispenses to all who exert faith in him, freely redistributing his promised Holy Spirit, which in turn cleanses sin from believers and empowers them to proclaim that God raised the Lord from the dead and extends forgiveness to all who trust.
- The point of Christ’s humiliation, suffering, and execution was not to ‘pay for’ sin in any sense but to get rid of the damned stuff. For by worthily winning a cosmic outpour of Holy Spirit from on high in return for surrendering and submitting to outrageously wrongful damnation himself, Christ turned the tables and damned sin instead, justifying an inheritance of everlasting life for all those enslaved to sin and Satan by fear of death, endowing them with God’s Spirit of wholesomeness to pour His love into their hearts and develop disciples zealous for justice and good works to herald His kingdom worldwide.
By Ronald Lee Roper for Art Prize #10, Grand Rapids, MI, Sept. 19 (Day of Atonement)-Oct. 7, 2018.