Today, November 1, 2017, is the 500th Anniversary of the All Saints Day (commemorating all the martyrs who had died for the Christian faith over the centuries) for which Martin intended his 95 Theses on indulgences, and when many people read it for the first time. It has been said that they spread throughout Germany in fourteen days, and throughout Europe in thirty days. It swept Western civilization in moments, historically speaking. Imagine if Luther had been able to post his Theses on a blog site. Following is part two of my “umpteen conjectures” that challenge many of the assumptions that dictated especially the doctrines of Atonement and Justification at that time, but which still reign lo, these five centuries later. Were those presuppositions in accord with the “pattern of sound words” laid out in the Biblical Scriptures? You be the judge.
A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities (cont’d.)
What if the Old Covenant required victims to be overcompensated in order to satisfy justice (Ex. 21:34-22:15; Lev. 5:16, 6:5; Num. 5:7; 2 Sam. 12:6; Prov. 6:30-31; Is. 61:7; Zech. 9:12)?
What if the vengefulness exhibited by Lamech: “Since avenging is seven times for Cain, for Lamech it shall be seventy-seven times [hebdomekontakis hepta]” (Gen. 4:23-24, LXX), was flipped by Jesus, who was evidently alluding to him in his reply: “I am not saying [to forgive] ‘Till seven times,’ but ‘Till seventy-seven times [hebdomekontakis hepta]’” (Matt. 18:22)?
What if Christ’s “blood of sprinkling…is speaking better than [the righteous (dikaion)] Abel” (Heb. 11:4, 12:24; Matt. 23:35, cf. Luke 11:51) because it was perfectly righteous, hence his shed blood cried out for a more perfect avenging (ekdikesis) than Abel’s—an immediate and total reversal of death, plus life superabundant enough for all takers?
And what if God’s avenging of that innocent blood on Christ’s own behalf (i.e., premially) is, more than coincidentally, what inaugurated the New Covenant in that blood (Matt. 26:27-28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25-32), by glorifying him and awarding him the restitution of abundant life in the Holy Spirit to pass along, out of love, to our mortal race (John 5:21-29, 6:47-63, 7:37-39; Gal. 2:29-6:18; Rom. 8; 2 Cor. 3:1-18, 13:4; 2 Tim. 1:1; 1 John 4:1-5:13)?
That is, what if the New Covenant was inaugurated by the power of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, not at his cross, and that’s why his blood may be said to “avail”?
And what if that blood, the cup of New Covenant blessings (1 Cor. 10:16-22) along with its varied powers, is appropriated by us when we simply drink it worthily, by faith, in the risen Lord’s Supper, for a recollection of him, announcing his wrongful (not penal) death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26) by his blood getting shed criminally (not penally) (Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20-22), for the sake of many, for the pardon of sins?
What if minimizing the seriousness of the crime of the Jews in crucifying their Messiah at Roman hands trivializes the magnitude of the premial justice of God in resurrecting him from the dead?
What if by “the righteousness of God,” as commonly but one-sidedly translated, the apostle Paul was not referring so much to the character quality as to an historic event—the event of Christ’s resurrection, which singularly, publicly exhibited God’s restorative premial justice?
What if, somewhat ironically, only the Roman Catholic Douay-Rheims Version of the Bible (1582/1609) translated from Jerome’s Latin Vulgate (as compared with the Hebrew and Greek), consistently renders dikaiosune/justitia as “justice,” which, although likewise one-sided (but the opposite side, reflecting Roman legal predilections), yet just so happens to make far better sense in many of Paul’s key passages as well as elsewhere in the New Testament?
What if the “righteousness of God” fell on the Third Day as rightful justice for Jesus and has no reference to the Cross at all?
That is, what if Paul’s famous phrase “the righteousness of God” refers to God’s justice in action (dikaiosune includes both personal and social—I suggest the composite rendering ‘justness’) revealed (Rom. 1:17), manifested (Rom. 3:21), and displayed (Rom. 3:25, 26) by His raising Jesus from the dead, executed on the Third Day as restorative justice for His Son?
In brief, what if “the justness of God” refers first of all to the Event that made it most famous: His raising Christ from the dead?
What if Martin Luther would have been an order of magnitude more overjoyed to discover that “the righteousness of God” was full-on premial to Christ and not in the least penal?
What if the following instances of dikaiosune probably refer to God’s justice as epitomized by Christ’s resurrection, encompassing the just due He awarded to Christ: Rom. 1:17, 3:5,21,22,25,26, 5:17,21, 8:10, 10:3a,3c; 2 Cor. 3:9, 5:21, 9:9; Phil. 1:11, 3:9b?
Thereupon, what if such phrases as “justness of/for faith” (Rom. 1:17, 4:11,13, 9:30,32, 10:4,5,10; Gal. 5:5), “faith accounted for justness [apart from works/acts]” (Rom. [2:26,] 4:3,5,6,8,9,10,11,22,23,24, 9:8; [2 Cor. 5:19;] Gal. 3:6; Phil. 3:9; [Heb. 11:17-19]), the justness which accords with faith (Heb. 11:7), justifying faith (Rom. 3:24,), etc., all refer to Christ’s just-award, the Gift of the vital power of God’s resurrectionary public justice—the Holy Spirit—now graciously poured out upon us, encompassing every spiritual gift and blessing of the New Covenant, as promised by God “to [eis]” and “on [epi]” our faith (Rom. 1:17, 3:22; Phil. 3:9)?
What if the Gospel (euaggelion) of “the righteousness/justice of God,” from another perspective, is simply the proclamation of His righteous fulfillment of His ancient covenanted promises (epaggelia), first to Abraham regarding descendants and a Promised Land (Acts 7:5,17; Gal. 3:8, 14-29; Rom. 4:13-21, 9:4-9; Heb. 7:6, 11:9-19), then to David regarding Seed Royal who would save Israel (Acts 13:23,32-39, 26:6-8), and ultimately to everyone who has the faith of Abraham, concerning the Gift of the Holy Spirit of adoption, the down payment of an inheritance of everlasting life in the Messiah (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 2:33,38-39; Gal. 4:23,28; Rom. 15:8-12; 2 Cor. 1:18-20, 6:14-7:1; Eph. 1:13-14, 2:11-13, 3:1-12; 2 Tim. 1:1; Tit. 1:2-3; Heb. 4:1-2, 6:11-20, 8:6-7, 9:15, 10:23,35-39, 11:39-40; 12:25-28; James 1:12, 2:5; 2 Pet. 3:4,9,13; 1 John 2:25), which all nations could now access by faith and immersion into Christ’s faithfulness and divine favor (Rom. 5:1-2), divine power, indeed, even participation in divine nature (2 Pet. 1:1-4)?
What if when we beg God for justice, like the Psalmists, we aren’t asking for punishment but for restoration of plundered wealth, health, safety, and peace of mind (or is that asking too much)?
What if Jesus never asked God for mercy, but his sinless blood did cry out for just avenging?
What if the only thing that could really satisfy God’s justice was to welcome His Son alive and well back Home, restore his fortunes, exalt him over his enemies, and then kindly show them mercy so they could repent and be saved…and even share his good fortune?
So what if God’s justice fell on the Third Day, not on a hill far away?
~~ To be continued ~~