Category Archives: The Atonement

SURPRIZE! SURPRIZE!

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!

(To the memory of Prof. Kenneth J. Reid, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, for challenging me to summarize in two pages the Atonement achieved for all by God’s awarding justice to Christ Jesus.  R.I.P.)

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 graciousness of God,” “the Kingdom 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 sinners from His indignation on account of their accumulated sins?

What if the crucifixion of Christ was a transcendent injustice perpetrated by complicit officials of Israel and Rome alike, calling for God’s own avenging justice to rectify it and usher tangible reconciliation, peace, and joy into the earth to bless all lands and peoples?

What if the Gospel reports the revelation, manifestation, setting forth, and display of God’s SURPRIZING justice that raised Jesus from the dead after his 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 official, priestly, conspiratorial, treasonous, public, degrading, terrifying, agonizing, inescapable, indisputably 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 brutal 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:

  1. Sacrificial blood represented not death but life-from-the-dead, that is, resurrection.
  1. “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.
  1. 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 to the shuddering enormity of undeserved torments and cruel death by crucifixion.
  1. God’s surrendering and forsaking His precious Son to his sinister but clueless foes, who hung him on timbers 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Therefore, God did not need to unleash His rightful wrathfulness upon His Son’s slayers, since He had already expressed overcompensating graciousness toward Jesus by raising him out of the death they caused and exalting him over them to His throne above.
  1. 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, thereby achieving atonement, conciliation, and real peace.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 advance His kingdom worldwide.

By Ronald Lee Roper for Art Prize #10, Grand Rapids, MI, Sept. 19 (Day of Atonement)-Oct. 7, 2018.

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What If

April 1, 2018 — Easter Sunday

            What if God was only giving the Devil enough rope to hang himself, on that dark April day when he hung up God’s Son to torment and shame?  I may be wrong, but what if the only wrath shown against Jesus at the cross was the fury of Satan, who was about to get his head crushed by heavy fallout from his own diabolical deeds of terrorism—the prelude to God’s turning the ancient world upside-down?

                What if the heinousness of human sin was sufficiently portrayed at the cross by the savagery of the malevolent who trumped up defamatory charges and brutally whipped, hit, mocked and pierced the Just and Holy One of God, without any alleged downpour of divine wrath on him (as if he were bearing God’s punishment for sins instead of suffering from their actual wrongs, which fatally took him down)?

                What if sin was wrongly imputed to him by false witnesses and popular conjecture, not by God?  What if that false condemnation justified the display of the true justice of God in reversing his death?  What if Jesus, by surrender to death, was really paying his soul to ransom mortals from slavery to Sin (due to fear of death) without paying one thin drachma to God for sin’s penalties, much less to the Devil!

                What if the only satisfaction God received from His Son’s death—far, far from any satisfaction for our debt of sins!—was in observing his faithful obedience in the face of grisly assaults, staying sinless and non-retaliatory even to the bitter, bludgeoned, bloody end, so as to win immortality for humankind?

                What if the love of God was demonstrated by His not avenging the malicious execution of His beloved Son with immediate wholesale slaughter by angelic hosts (after all, such displays of divine anger against the vicious do fill grim pages of the Old Testament), but letting this crime slip by in forbearance?

                What if God was simply letting a day or two pass to let tears dry before unveiling His real, unimaginable justice by raising up His mangled Boy from such an indecent yet indubitable death to the pinnacle of honor, thus unleashing a flood of joyful tears from his loved ones in exchange?  I wonder.

                What if the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice signifies not his death but his life from the dead?  Could it possibly be that the ancient sacrificial blood had all along depicted the restorative power of Christ’s own resurrected life?  Is that why it could serve for making atonement, sanctifying, healing, cleansing, etc.?

                And what if Christ’s well-deserved award for his heroic ordeal was God’s whopping reparation to make up for such tragic loss of innocent life and Spirit-powered career—teaching all he was instructed and doing all he was directed by God—to become a life-making Spirit, crowned at God’s side, peaceably drawing foes to conciliate with God and share in his promised inheritance of all, with plenty of siblings?

                So, what if the graciousness we enjoy from God is simply the surplus of favor that God in His restorative or premial justice—not merely His indulgent tolerance or measured patience, kindness, or mercy—bequeathed to Jesus for voluntarily suffering such abuse from evildoers yet responding with resolute forgiveness, as attested by the wonders of Pentecost and shower of gifts from the Holy Spirit?

                In short, what if—just what if!—God flat out ransomed Jesus from the grave as a sample of what He was preparing to do for any who would dare like fools to believe such a topsy-turvy story about His unfathomable graciousness and then respond accordingly by lifelong loyalty to His ethic and example…

 

APRIL FOOLS?

 

April 1, 2011

 

 

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INTRODUCTION TO REFORMATION DAY BLOG SERIES

[What follows is my inbox introduction to the preceding 15-part series, which I have been sending out as a PDF attachment, along with a one-third length abbreviated version, to friends, pastors, ministry workers, and theologians around the world since November 11th.  It explains my rationale for the project along with the circumstantial background.]

Dear Reader,

In honor of the 500th Anniversary of Reformation Day, October 31st, 1517, I have attached complete and abbreviated versions of a “premial” (the flip side of penal) or “resurrectionary” re-centering of the Atonement, Justification, Reconciliation, Peacemaking, etc.  I started posting these “theses” on October 31st, 2017, taking a fortnight to wrap up.  So I’m getting a late start distributing them electronically in a more traditional and perhaps more readable PDF format.  This is only the first of a series of milestone “anniversaries” that will commemorate Luther’s early and rapid development into the full-on Protestant Reformer.  My findings after a decades-long critical re-inspection of our Protestant foundations may not meet wide acceptance.  But the undertaking seems worthwhile and certainly long past due.  I’ll be happy to receive correction and adjust accordingly when shown the error of my ways.  But I do think I smell a New Reformation brewing.  Yet who would have guessed the extent of repairs now necessary on the very foundations of the Protestant Reformation?  Infrastructure can be such a pain to keep up, much less improve, as our nation is learning.  But if the foundations are actually destroyed….  Shucks.  And I was led to believe we had all this stuff nailed down…

I’m starting to tell folks that I’ve been suffering a chronic mental breakthrough since the early 1980’s when my attention was drawn to the doctrine of the Atonement with increasing focus.  My blog site (see below), which launched on March 11, 2012, simply unreels my backlog of Atonement notes chronologically, interspersed with occasional current projects.  However, I stopped posting in early July.  I’ll explain.

One day while biking to the Cornerstone University Library, I thought to drop by the adjacent Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.  I learned that an Assistant Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology had been newly hired and would start teaching in the fall.  Kenneth J. Reid is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, well known for its 4-year Th.M. degree requiring classes covering every book of the Bible in the original languages.  He then pursued a second Th.M. at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY)—reputed to be the most Calvinistic seminary of the denomination—before completing a Ph.D. there in 2015.

The new GRTS catalog lists Ken’s research interests: “Atonement Theology, Trinity, Pneumatology, Hermeneutics and Biblical Theology, Racial Reconciliation, Justice Theology”–overlapping many of my own theological interests.    An African-American, Ken will play a valuable role in nurturing young and working adults, including quite diverse learners and leaders within church and society.

Since the Atonement was his first interest, I suspected he wrote his dissertation on that topic.  Sure enough:  Penal Substitutionary Atonement as the Basis for New Covenant and New Creation  http://hdl.handle.net/10392/4964

I printed off the 370-page volume and commenced plowing through it, hoping to finish by the time he arrived in town and was settled in at home and office.  I’ve been yearning for a qualified, friendly interlocutor who might give steady push-back on my rethinking of the Atonement.

Some five weeks later I wrapped up my reading and marginal notes on the worthy tome, which, as expected, faithfully defended the traditional orthodox Protestant doctrine of penal substitution.  Such stalwarts as R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Tom Schreiner, Mark Seifrid (now at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, as of 2015), Bruce Ware, and Jarvis Williams, among others, anchored that position among the vast SBTS faculty of like-minded scholars during Ken’s years there.  Ware had been a Systematic Theology professor of mine at Bethel Seminary (St. Paul) in the early 1980’s, and I have high respect for his integrity and intelligence.  He was a fresh Fuller Seminary graduate at that time and now is at the other end of his teaching career.

However, I was surprised to learn that Ware chaired Ken’s dissertation committee; the other members were Stephen J. Wellum and Shawn D. Wright.  Ten years ago, I sent Bruce a copy of my “77 Questions on the Atonement” (May 2007; still at the top of my blog site after several revisions) for comment.  He begged off at the time, explaining that his focus was more on the doctrine of the Trinity, but that I might consider passing it by his colleague, Tom Schreiner, whose focus is the Atonement.  However, I was mainly looking for those who might cast a friendly eye on an attempt to reframe the Atonement in terms of the neglected premial (non-penal) side of God’s justice, and Tom was certainly not one of those, so I demurred.

How did Ken snag Bruce for his committee?  Simple.  Ken was pursuing his dissertation in the Systematic Theology Department, whereas Schreiner was in the New Testament Department.  Not that the results would have turned out any different, however.

 Ken’s labors triggered my consolidate-and-summarize response.  As I filled the margins with seven colors of ballpoint glosses to remark, refute, revise, or repair what I was reading, I contemplated what sort of format would be appropriate and effective by way of response, without being offensive.  Moreover, Ken was indebted to Ware for a brief formulation of “a rationale for the necessity of Christ’s suffering being penal.”  I knew I needed to tackle my old mentor on this point if I hoped to persuade Ken.

I hit on the idea of asking conjectural questions about what actually might be happening historically, spiritually, and “theologically” at Christ’s Cross and Resurrection in particular, along with other key events of the Gospels/Acts narratives.  I settled on dubbing them resuppositions, in other words, replacement presuppositions.  Which is to say, I’m systematically unraveling penal presuppositions about atonement, justification, and reconciliation, while simultaneously re-knitting stitch-by-stitch the premial suppositions that better accord with my findings after decades of reexamining Scripture and the history of theology.  This process of reparatively reconstructing our all-too-hallowed traditions nearer to the apostolic original has been tricky.  As you know, retro-engineering has often been misused, and the current undertaking runs similar risks.

That novel format swelled in a couple of months from a dozen or two questions to a hundred or two!  Clearly, I had touched a nerve…my own!   In reflecting on what was happening, I saw that, for all my output of articles, papers, occasional pieces, “tracts,” etc., I had never simply sat down and listed my definitive findings from 35 years of theological and historical research, restudy of Scripture, and hard, prayerful rethinking.  Consequently, this increasingly urgent agenda (which I had expected would emerge in a book by this date) actually commandeered the initial plan to pose only a few probing questions about the relation of the Cross to the Resurrection and vice versa and etc.  Sorry for the explosion!

The result is a bit-by-bit deconstruction of the gospel of the Protestant Reformation by way of introducing the premial formulation of the Gospel that steadily emerged as more evident and authentic from long-term concordant engagement with the biblical vocabulary and phraseology.  I have expounded that alternative at length in more normal prose throughout my blog.  The papers at the top of the site encompass several genres and formats, but never anything quite this “driving.”  This may feel like a “jackhammer” or “tommy-gun” treatment.  There’s little cushion, and normal sentence structure gets stretched to the max.  I do apologize.

But consider the advantages of a rapid assault.  Any single statement may evoke the normal thoughtful comeback, “But how about…?” or “But what do you do with such-and-such a Scripture?”  Fair enough.  I’ve asked most of those questions myself.  After perusing the broad history of the subject and many individual theologians, I saw patterns of misunderstanding emerge.  The traditional orthodox evangelical Protestant arguments predictably fell into ditches.  They were compelled to swerve around the truth under the influence of intoxicating presuppositions.  Those assumptions (whether explicitly acknowledged or deliberately hidden or unconsciously suppressed) slowly became more manifest.  Finally, it simply became a matter of how to address these many interlocking assumptions in some comprehensive yet compact manner.  One-by-one?  Aggregately?  Class action?  Question/Answer?   Theses?

I had used the “What if?” sequence once before, in the one-pager for April Fools’ Day and Easter (see “What If” at the top of my blog site).  It allowed successively mounting quick strokes that challenged penal atonement theory in a reader-friendly way.  And even if my current elaboration cannot claim to be so friendly, at least it deals with most of the usual but-what-abouts.

In “A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities,” I have let the resuppositions proliferate wildly (240-something by last count).  I might have (probably should have) rearranged them into subtitled sections, and perhaps even numbered them for easy reference.  I may yet do that; blogs are wonderful that way!  But for now, without further ado, I request your own comments and criticisms.  I hope that slicing the subject into these small (sometimes sharp-edged) chunks makes critiquing easier.  This way you can take issue with discrete resuppositions without necessarily agreeing or disagreeing with others.  These unhewn stones could use some knocking around a bit to knock off the rough edges so they can be refitted into a harmonious mosaic.  This is a work in progress, and progress takes time.

These resuppositions or “dialectical queries” will raise many an inconvenient doubt.  I realize that.  But hopefully you’re gonna laugh before this is all over.  One friend observed that whatever humor I interjected helped keep him going through the overly compact and annoyingly obscure litany (and here I thought I was clarifying!).  Another friend said it was like drinking concentrated lemon juice straight up!  He mollified that by adding, “But suppose I’m suffering from scurvy….”  I do hope others find the treatment a healing dose for whatever ills the theory of penal substitution has ushered into history!  I hope after investigating for yourself, you too get “caught in a Truth.”

It seems to me we need to jettison false doctrines as soon as possible in order to loosen up cargo space in our brains for more truth.  The price of learning new truth is the sacrifice of the comfortable falsehoods to which we all are prey, from whatever traditions we may hail.  If my logic does not always seem iron-clad, that’s no worse than I suspected.  But I wager it beats the competition by several lengths.  Judge for yourself.

A vast debacle of Atonement doctrine is underway, and as in politics, sides are being drawn, attitudes are getting calloused, and unseemly animosity is rising.  This cannot be the divine way.  Surely God is saddened by our prickly dismissiveness toward one another.  I have gleaned an immense lore from minority voices down through the centuries who seldom get cited in new publications on the topic.  Our selective neglect may reveal an unscholarly narrowing of interest and a perilous hardening of heart even more than a scarcity of time.  Self-criticism may be grievous toil, but it bears worthy fruit.  We don’t bear that yoke in vain.

While formulating this array of resuppositions, I realized they would be perfect to start posting on October 31st, the 500th Anniversary of Reformation Day.  For years I kept this date in mind for publishing a more detailed challenge to our creaky Protestant assumptions.  I hoped it would appear as a book on the Atonement.  Yet I sensed more groundwork was needed.  Here is much of that groundwork, in primal form.  And now to start refining the raw material into a normal piece of scholarship.   Your “heated” comments would greatly assist the refining process.  As fraught as the topic may be, I hope you find this approach mostly friendly, reasonable, and agreeably Biblical.

I have also attached a 10-page “summary” of the 30-page version.  It was my failed attempt to get it all down to a two-pager I could print off as a single-sheet handout for priming discussions.  But I got too late a start on condensing it by my target date.  Perhaps this stripped-down version will serve as a handy teaser for busy folks who can’t dive into the complete document.  In any case, I’m not seeking agreement, only a fair hearing and honest objections.  There’s no human labor under the sun that can’t be improved.  No one’s perfect…and I’m a perfect example!

May your thoughtful attention be well rewarded.  I quite understand how busy you must be with personal research and academic duties.  So no worries if this does not overlap your particular expertise or interests.  But feel free to forward this missive and attachments if you know of someone else who might find them worthwhile.  This is a one-time mailing, so there will be no follow-up from my end.  Any communication from you, however, is most welcome, and I will try to respond in a timely fashion.

Respectfully yours in Christ

Ronald Roper

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Calling All Saints! Calling All Saints! — Part 15

A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities (“concluded”)

INCONCLUSIONS

What if the greatest impediment to achieving the noblest goals of the Protestant Reformation is the “orthodox” doctrine of the Atonement itself:  Penal Satisfaction/Substitution—having evoked immense opposition, spawned wearisome irresolvable theological difficulties that waste the precious time of God’s people, provoked divisive debates that have decimated the ranks, created ethical dilemmas, fostered scandalous behaviors and monstrous practices, brought on needless reproaches from unbelievers, aroused alienating misunderstandings that promote sectarianism, destroyed faith in the Bible, unsettled young believers, fostered arrogance, compromised intellectual integrity, etc.—but otherwise, no harm done?

What if penal substitution is like putting the emphásis on the wrong sylláble, only, uh…worse?

What if hymn writers have all too often been as guilty of obscuring the New Testament message as so many preachers and theologians have (see my compilation:  “‘Penal Satisfaction / Substitution’ in English Hymns,” above)?

What if 500 years is a disgracefully long time for God to be misrepresented by His loved ones, who have defamed his reputation by laboring vigorously to defend the indefensible instead of thinking through opponents’ conscientious objections with fairness—thinking outside the box?

However, what if even the defamation of God’s character and justice that penal substitution has spread far, deep, and wide has been kindly indemnified by God’s authentically apostolic premial Atonement—yet will its mighty men admit confusion, repent of misrepresentations, jettison their toxic substitute, switch loyalties, and humbly avail themselves of the genuine article?

What if the premial atonement turns out to contain no imponderable mystery, no existential dilemma, no dialectical tension, no economic duplicity, no financial cooking of books, no legal double-talk, no moral compromise, no ethical conundrum, no “cosmic child abuse”?

What if the premial explanation, unlike the penal, is not a theory at all but simply a rediscovery of the New Testament doctrine of salvation?

What if, after all, the Bible’s own explanatory system does make more rational sense than all our cherished theological systems put together (all the King’s horses—you can lead ‘em to water but can’t make ‘em think—and all the King’s men couldn’t do it)?

What if the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the paramount theodicy of Biblical Christianity?

What if neglecting to integrate Christ’s resurrection into the atonement disintegrates the Gospel?

What if, as Martin Luther protested, “I am neither so rash as to wish that my sole opinion should be preferred to that of all other men, nor so senseless as to be willing that the Word of God should be made to give place to fables, devised by human reason”?

What if God doesn’t expect us to hold our nose and swallow fables—fur, fins, feathers and all?

What if the wax nose of penal substitution is finally suffering meltdown from over-tweaking—shall we finally pull down our sagging substitute or keep on keeping up appearances?

What if it’s time to jettison the dead weight of penal substitution terms and get back to the Bible?

What if, after reading through these challenges to penal substitution assumptions and implications, you agree we’ve been colossally snookered for roughly 500 years…and the future looks even rougher if we don’t switch courses soon—then who’re you gonna believe?

What if this is the season for judgment to begin from the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17-18; 1 Cor. 5:12-6:7, 11:29-34; Heb. 10:30)?

What if it’s time for a resolute new Protest and a fresh resounding Reform?  What now?

What if you choose to accept this inconvenient truth, this impossible mission?  What then?

Indeed, what if this changes EVERYTHING?

Then again, I may be wrong.

~~ The End ~~

or, just maybe…

A NEW BEGINNING!

And yet the earth does move.  “Neither my thoughts nor the thoughts of all the doctors and priests that live now or ever have lived can the least alter facts.  You have no right, I have no right, to determine what is.  All our determinations must fall before the truth when that is discovered to us.”  — Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

“The truth must dazzle gradually, or every man be blind.”  — Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

“Love The Light Forever”  — Marie Roper

August 24-25, 27-31, September 1-2, 5-30, October 1-21, 24, 26-27, 29-31, November 4-5, 7, 9-10, 12, 14-15, 17, 19-20,23-25,27,28-29, Dec. 2, 2017

 

 

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Calling All Saints! Calling All Saints! — Part 14

A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities (cont’d.)

SUMMARY  SCENARIOS

Now, what if a highly decorated general asks for volunteers for an explicit suicide mission when, with their full understanding and cooperation, they will be placed strategically in harm’s way; is that military officer exhibiting personal, forensic, penal wrath toward them when they actually do get killed as foreseen, or if he exerted no wrath then what good was their sacrifice anyway?

Or what if a king commissions his own son, with his full agreement, as a ransom in exchange for freeing a shipload of kidnapped loyal subjects held captive at cutlass point by wicked pirates?  Is the king indulging personal, forensic, penal wrath against his own son by sending him to his certain death?  Or would this be an act of compassionate, self-sacrificial heroism for which they would both be celebrated for generations by survivors and loved ones?  Is that prince “satisfying” his father’s royal honor?  Is he somehow paying with his own life a penalty for his subjects’ wrongdoings?  Or is he simply surrendering (paying) himself to the pirates to satisfy their thirst for blood in exchange for his people’s life and liberty?  Moreover, if he should somehow survive walking the plank, would he need to press capital charges against the pirates, who, after all, were unsuccessful in their attempted regicide?  Would the prince be compelled by some statutory necessity to prosecute and execute those treacherous pirates, or could he, at his royal discretion, announce a pardon if the culprits repented, promised to change their ways…and submitted to counseling and probation?  And would they maybe be a little grateful or what?

Finally, what if God Himself intended, carefully planned (bouletai, Is. 53:10,11, LXX; Acts 2:23), and even pre-announced a suicide mission for His Son, with his willing agreement and full cooperation (Ps. 40:6-8, LXX; Heb. 10:7), in order to finally save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21), make known His power over Death (Is. 53:10-11; Rom. 8:31-39, 9:23,17) in a display of His restorative justice (Is. 53:10-12; Rom. 3:25-26), to reward His Son’s faithful, loyal service (Is. 53:11-12), against ferocious opposition from Satan (Rev. 12; John 12:31), with extraordinary spoils and a vast inheritance to freely give away to His needy people (Is. 53:12); moreover, what if He expressed His extreme pleasure (Is. 53:10a) at His Son’s willing subjection to strenuous training (paideia, Is. 53:5 LXX) in conjunction with his sterling execution of the excruciating lethal plan, which entailed extreme disgrace at false accusations and wrongful imputation of sin and guilt (Is. 53:4), including the wickedness of unjust fatal assaults by the very ones he came to save (Is. 53:5-9), in order to achieve success in the peace-making negotiation with those at enmity with God, and also serve as a model for the behavior of those under the New Covenant that was to come (1 Pet. 2, 3:8-4:2,12-5:12)—then would this scenario necessarily—could it conceivably?—entail God’s personal, forensic, penal, eschatological wrath against His faithful Son and suffering Servant?

~~ To be continued ~~

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Calling All Saints! Calling All Saints! — Part 13

A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities (cont’d.)

What if the veil of the Temple was torn (Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45) in order to make way for the Son of God, the Forerunner, to pass into the Holy of Holies (Heb. 6:19-20; 10:19-20), or at least miraculously dramatize before human eyewitnesses on earth the heavenly scene soon to unfold (rather than portraying that access for us, first of all, who will follow later)?

What if the opening of the tombs by the earthquake when Jesus’ expired on the cross, then the subsequent raising of many saints from the dead after Jesus’ own raising (Matt. 27:52-53), both highlight the overwhelming vivifying power released from on high by Jesus’ accomplishing in that moment the final Old Covenant prophecy concerning the Messiah’s saving deeds on behalf of the whole world (Luke 22:37-38; John 4:34, 5:36, 17:4, 19:28-30)?

What if, in fact, atonement was not accomplished on earth at the cross (O.T.—altar) at all, but before the throne of God (O.T.—ark of the Covenant) in the Holy of Holies within the tabernacle made without hands, in Heaven (Heb. 8-10), when His risen Son was brought before and presented to Him after the ascension (Dan. 7:13-14), to receive his inheritance?

What if Christ’s covenanted inheritance for his obedience through suffering includes also “the river of water of life…issuing out of the throne of God” (Rev. 22:1)—symbolized by the O.T. ark of the Covenant containing the miraculously written tables of Law for Israel’s life; Aaron’s rod that miraculously came to life and budded, which brought miraculous rescue of Israel’s life; and the jar of manna from heaven that miraculously sustained Israel’s life forty years, all overseen by fearsome cherubim stationed to guard the way of life (Gen. 3:24, Ex. 37:6-9)—namely, the life-making Holy Spirit?

What if Christ’s “inheritance of all” (Heb. 1:2-4; Rom. 8:17; Eph. 1:18; Matt. 21:38; Mark 12:7; Luke 20:14)—a Kingdom covenanted to him by the Father (Luke 22:29)—was founded squarely on the resurrectionary justice (dikaiosune) of avenging (ekdikesis) the sinless blood of the Lamb of God unjustly slain (Rev. 5:6,8,12, 13:8), as the covenanting Mediator (Heb. 9:15-16), so that his just-award (dikaioma), the promise of the everlasting inheritance, inclusive of every covenant blessing, could now get released from on High—the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit poured out richly (Tit. 3:2-7)—and thus we come full circle from the declaration that in Christ’s blood, that is, in Christ’s living soul,  all the contents of Deity (Col. 1:13-19, 2:9) are dwelling:  all the wealth of a salvation of such proportions, so that God may be all and in all (2 Cor. 8:9; Col. 1:15-20, 3:11; Eph. 1:18-22, 4:4-10; Heb. 2:5-10; 1 Cor. 15:20-28; Ps. 110; Rom. 11:36)?

What if we cannot do without a Lord, a Messiah, a High Priest, a Mediator and Sponsor of a New Covenant, a Just One, a Holy One, a Passover Lamb, a Forerunner into the Holy of Holies, a Protective Shelter, a Savior from sin, a Rescuer out of divine wrath, a Benefactor, a Teacher, an Example—and with all these genuine, full-on Realities, what need do we have of a “Substitute”?

What if just because the ancient sacrificial animals were substitutes for Christ doesn’t mean Christ himself was consequently the “Ultimate Substitute” or “Supreme Substitute,” any more than just because a school may need to occasionally hire a substitute teacher to fill in for a while doesn’t mean that the originally contracted teacher, when she finally returns, is then the “final substitute,” the real, true substitute teacher?

~~ To be continued ~~

 

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Calling All Saints! Calling All Saints! — Part 12

A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities (cont’d.)

What if Paul, by the “handwriting of the decrees against us, which was hostile to us” (Col. 2:14)—unlike God Himself, who was “getting all our offenses handled graciously” (Col. 2:13), “not accounting their offenses to them” (2 Cor. 5:19), “passing over…the penalties-of-sins which occurred before in the forbearance of God” (Rom. 3:25), “while we are still infirm, still in accord with the era…irreverent…still sinners” (Rom. 5:6,8)—was alluding to “the dispensation of death, by letters chiseled in stones,” “the dispensation of condemnation” (2 Cor. 3:7,9) of the Old Covenant economy, which had seen its better days, “growing old and decrepit…near its disappearance” (Heb. 8:13)?

What if, in context, “the handwriting of the decrees” refers to the decrees for Israel regulating circumcision in particular (Col. 2:8-13; Eph. 2:11-22), but also diet, festivals, and sabbaths (Col. 2:16-23), which caused enmity between Jew and Gentile as well as alienation of humanity from God, so can scarcely refer to some insinuated “bond” (RSV), “written bond of our sins” (Lamsa), “note” (Williams), “certificate of debt” (NAS), “unfavorable record of our debts” (GNFMM), or any conjectured “certificate of indebtedness” (New Geneva Study Bible/Reformation Study Bible, notes), record of debt, IOU, or, in the slanted elaboration of Thayer’s Lexicon, “metaph. applied in Col. ii. 14 [(where R.V. bond)] to the Mosaic law, which shews men to be chargeable with offences for which they must pay the penalty” (final italics added), which in any case God summarily “disappeared” from the record by raising and glorifying Christ, thereby more than restoring his losses from all their crimes and misdemeanors, thus obviating any alleged necessity, whether of direct repayment or substitute penalization?

What if by “the circumcision of Christ” that transpired “in the stripping off (apekdusei) of the body of flesh” at the cross (Col. 2:11), God was ipso facto “getting the sovereignties and authorities stripped off (apekdusamenos) with boldness” themselves (Col. 2:15), who had dared to line up against His Son and abuse their power in order to strip him of the last vestige of his humanity—his body of flesh (Jewish as it so happened, significantly)—and then was graciously turning the tables by raising him back to life and conferring all sovereignty, authority, power, etc. (Dan. 7:14) on him in a fair exchange and triumphant show of premially poetic justice?

What if that Old Covenant handwriting of decrees got disabled from holding us in “debt” who possess the “Spirit of the living God” sent to engrave an epistle of Christ on our hearts of flesh, in fulfillment of the New Covenant, in which God would impart His laws to our comprehensions, inscribe them on our hearts, shield our injustices, and under no circumstances still be reminded of our sins and lawlessnesses (2 Cor. 3:1-6; Heb. 8:8-13; Jer. 31:31-34; Ez. 11:19-20)?

What if, because of the titanic labors of Christ to inaugurate the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit got commissioned to dispense the very life and liberty that the Old Covenant curses claimed to preempt to Covenant-breakers, and thus the Holy Spirit duly supplanted that Old Covenant’s merely parenthetical “in loco Parentis” authority as a pedagogue (2 Cor. 3:17-18; Rom. 8:21; Gal. 2:4, 4:21-5:1; 1 Cor. 10:29; Phm.; Heb. 7:11-19; 1 Pet, 2:16; James 1:25, 2:12)?

And what if that liberty was won not by Christ satisfying any debt of, or paying any penalty for, sins, but by God awarding him the superabundant endowment of life-giving Holy Spirit when he was glorified, for his willing obedience to endure even a hyper-undeserved crucifixion?

What if our Savior died for our sins yet never paid a shekel for them?

In fact, what if “pay”/“payment” never occurs among some thirty Greek word families that the Holy Spirit specifically associated with sin in the New Testament to elaborate upon its remedy?:

  • “to be saving [zosei] his people from their sin” (Matt. 1:21)
  • to be “taking away [airon] the sin of the world” (John 1:29; Heb. 10:4,11; 1 John 3:5)
  • “for the erasure [exaleiphthenai] of your sins” (Acts 3:19)
  • to “bathe off [apolousai] your sins” (Acts 22:16)
  • to assure that “sins were covered over” [epekaluphthesan] (Rom. 4:7)
  • “that the body of sin may be nullified” [katargethe] (Rom. 6:6)
  • that we might “die to [apethan-] sin” (Rom. 6:2,10)
  • that we might “be reckoning [logizesthe] ourselves to be dead [einai/ontas nekrous] to sin(s)” (Rom. 6:11; Eph. 2:1, not “in”), “to offenses” (Eph. 2:1,4, not “in”; Col. 2:13), “to lusts” (Eph. 2:4), and “to the foreskin of your flesh” (Col. 2:13)
  • that we might get “justified [dikaio-] from sin” (Rom. 6:7)
  • that we might “be freed [eleutherothentes] from sin” (Rom. 6:18,22)
  • to “die for [apethanen huper] our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3)
  • so God “makes [epoiesan] him a sin-offering [hamartian] for our sakes” (2 Cor. 5:12)
  • to “give himself [dontos eauton] for our sins so that he might extricate [exeletai] us out of the present wicked age” (Gal. 1:4)
  • to “get a cleansing [katharismon] of sins made” (Heb. 1:3), even “from the penalties-of-sins [hamartematon] of old” (2 Pet. 1:9)
  • “to get a protective cover made for [hilaskesthai] the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17); to be “a protective shelter [hilasmon] around our sins, yet not around ours only, but around the whole world also” (1 John 2:1, 4:10)
  • “for the repudiation [athetesin] of sin through his sacrifice [thusias]” (Heb. 9:26)
  • to be “offering [prosenegkas] one sacrifice [thusian] for sins” (Heb. 10:12)
  • to fulfill the New Covenant by “becoming obedient unto death, even a death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8), so that “of [Israel’s] sins and their lawlessnesses [God] should under no circumstances still be reminded [oume mnestho eti]” (Heb. 8:12, 10:17)
  • to be “offered [prosenechtheis] once for bearing [anenegkein] sins of many” (Heb. 9:28)
  • “who himself carries up [anenegken] our sins in his body on the pole [xulon],
  • that coming away from [apogenomenoi] sins, we should be living to justness,
  • by whose welt [molopi] you were healed [iathete]” (1 Pet. 2:24)
  • to “once suffer [epathen] concerning sins, the Just for the sake of the unjust, that he may be leading [prosagage] us to God” (1 Pet. 2:18)
  • who “looses [lusanti] us from our sins” (Rev. 1:5)
  • to “by no means be accounting [oume logisetai] sin” (Rom. 4:6), or “offenses” (2 Cor. 5:19) to us
  • to “be protective [hileos] to their injustices” (Heb. 8:12/Jer. 31:34)
  • to “be surrendered [paredothe] because of our offenses” (Rom. 4:25), “Surely He Who spares not His own Son, but surrenders [paredoken] him for us all, how shall He not, together with him, also, be graciously granting [charisetai] us all?” (Rom. 8:32)
  • to “become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, dealing graciously [charizomenoi] among yourselves, according as God also, in Christ, deals graciously [echarisato] with you. Become, then, imitators of God, as beloved children, and be walking in love, according as Christ also loves you, and surrenders [paredoken] himself for us, an approach present [prosphoran] and sacrifice [thusian] to God, for a fragrant odor [osmen euodias]” (Eph. 4:32-5:2)
  • to be “dealing graciously [charisamenos] with all our offenses, erasing [exaleipsas] the handwriting of the decrees [of circumcision, etc.] against us, which was hostile to us, and has taken it away [erken] out of the midst, nailing [proselosas] it to the cross, getting the sovereignties and authorities stripped off [apekdusamenos], in boldness he makes an example of them, triumphing over [thriambeusas] them in him” (Col. 2:14-15)
  • to “forgive/pardon [aphiemi] sin(s)” (Matt. 9:2,5,6, 18:21; Mark 2:5,7,9,10, 3:28,29, 4:12; Luke 5:20,21,23,24, 7:47,47,48,49, 11:4,4, 17:3,4, 23:34, 20:23; James 5:16; 1 John 1:7, 2:12), “lawlessnesses” (Rom. 4:7), and “offenses” (Matt. 6:14,14,15,15; Mark 11:25,25,26,26; Eph. 1:7)—more mentions than all the above terms combined!
  • but not to “pay [apodo-]” Not once.  Ever.  Did I say never?  ’Cause I meant never.

Therefore, what if there is no Biblical warrant at all for sins getting paid for at the Cross, thus not only is it not “perfectly harmless to teach anyway,” but, much rather, such words are forbidden by what else the Bible does say?

~~ To be Continued ~~

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