Posts Tagged ‘Atonement’

Why the Cross (Part 1)

March 23rd, 2016
Comments Off

There stands in the middle of Christianity a rather controversial and stark reality: the crucifixion in Jerusalem, with the horrors of the cross.

One writer wrote:

Girls and women – just imagine you are with the bloke of your dreams: handsome, charming, strong, considerate (I did say in your dreams). He’s hired a box at the theatre and during the interval he presents you with an ornate jewellery box. You open it and pull out a long, delicate gold chain – on the end of which you notice is a replica electric chair.

You’d think he was a sicko – someone from a Stephen King novel.

But romantic men have been buying their girlfriends little gold crosses forever . Yet the cross is a symbol of the most ghastly form of public execution ever devised.

The Cross is a means of Roman torture and bloody execution

But the overwhelming question you are left with is “Why?”

Why did Jesus so deliberately co-operate with a series of events that took him to a place of torture and bloody execution?

As we quoted from Gary Deddo last year, Jesus was not a victim but a willing sacrifice. He did say to the daughters of Jerusalem “Do not cry for me.”

So why did Jesus die and in the manner he did? And who was responsible for the manner of his death?

 And yet as we will see the real question is who is Jesus for us, and what that reveals about the Father.

But a lot of arguments polarise people about the why.

Lets hear some typical explanations. As you read them do you see the primary metaphor being used?

 John Piper:

 The atonement is the work of God in Christ on the cross whereby he cancelled the debt of our sin, appeased his holy wrath against us, and won for us all the benefits of salvation. The death of Christ was necessary because God would not show a just regard for his glory if he swept sins under the rug with no recompense.

Romans 3:24-26

24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished 26  – he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

In other words the death of Christ was necessary to vindicate the righteousness of God in justifying the ungodly by faith. It would be unrighteous to forgive sinners as though their sin were insignificant, when in fact it is an infinite insult against the value of God’s glory. Therefore Jesus bears the curse, which was due to our sin, so that we can be justified and the righteousness of God can be vindicated.

Basically we can agree that we all deserve to die because of our sins. Jesus dies in our place. He dies by the shedding of blood. This takes care of the problem of sin which has held us in death. There are a lot of discussions on what some of these terms means but that is not my purpose today.

Whether God needs to vindicate his righteousness is an assumption of the writer: it does say it demonstrates his righteousness.

But if we are not careful the cross and its torture becomes a necessity. This begins to see the Father requiring the torture and suffering on the cross to satisfy his anger at sinners (or appease his holy wrath against us).

Another writer addressing what in his mind is the trivializing of sin in Christian circles wrote:

Misconception: Our sin doesn’t present any danger to us

This misconception is to underestimate the significance of our sin and the danger we are in. That’s why the death of Jesus looks like gratuitous violence.

The Bible is crystal clear on our predicament: ever since humans rebelled against God, we forfeited the right to eternal life. God cannot permit sinful, proud, selfish humans to live forever – we would only ruin the new paradise he has created.

I think we would agree with that.

It’s as if God was saying: “I made you. I made a world for you to live in and yet you live without any reference to me. You are self-centred, proud, aloof and ungrateful – yet you have little to be proud of since everything you have is a gift from me.”

It’s not very flattering but you have to wake up to the fact (as I had to some years ago) that your rebellion and cold-heartedness constitute a great offence to God.

This needs some reflection. God is not shocked by us. He hates what we have become because it is so far from what he wants for us. So I would wonder about the word offence:

hurt someone’s feelings,, affront, upset, displease, distress, hurt, wound, pain, injure, be an affront to, get/put someone’s back up, disgruntle, put out, annoy, anger, exasperate, irritate, vex, pique, gall, irk, provoke, rankle with, nettle, needle, peeve, tread on someone’s toes, ruffle, ruffle someone’s feathers, rub up the wrong way, make someone’s hackles rise, insult, humiliate, embarrass, mortify, scandalize, shock, outrage, spite.

That is how we are –not how God is. He is not reactive and he definitely does not respond like us.

That’s why the suffering of Christ was so terrible – it was commensurate with the seriousness of our sin. That sin will disqualify us from the presence of God’s love and care and beauty and goodness forever. And that is an appalling prospect.

That would imply that sin death are more powerful than God’s love for us.

Read more…

Message for the Day

Holiness and Purity

September 17th, 2013
Comments Off

Whenever we read any of the NT letters, we are conscious of the teaching on avoiding impure behaviour and being holy.

 An example of this is in 1 Thessalonians 4:7

For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

 And the reason is given in 1 Thessalonians 3:13

 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

 Because we will be in the presence of our God and Father. We are meant to dwell intimately with a Holy God. This is something we depend totally on God to work in us.

 What is the OT background to these instructions from Paul?

 I am assuming  a knowledge of Leviticus –especially Leviticus 16—The Day of Atonement.

 I will use material from:

Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)

Lecture 9 – The Priestly Legacy: Cult and Sacrifice, Purity and Holiness in Leviticus and Numbers [October 9, 2006]

Chapter 1. Introduction to the Israelite Sanctuary

 Degrees of accessibility:

 And within those precincts, within that enclosure, there’s a large, open courtyard. That was accessible to all Israelites. The main sacrificial altar with a large ramp stood in that courtyard as well as a basin that was there for ablutions

 And then halfway across the courtyard, there was a screen that marked the entrance to another little enclosure, which is the shrine proper, the sanctuary proper; and only priests have access to that area. The shrine or sanctuary housed an incense altar. And then on one side a seven-branched lampstand or menorah. And on the other, a table, which held loaves of bread that were changed on a weekly basis.

 The backmost square-shaped chamber of that inner shrine was the inner sanctum or the holy of holies. And that was accessible only to the high priest and only on the Day of Atonement following a series of heightened purity observances. Inside that holy of holies was the ark. It was about four feet by two-and-a-half feet. It was a wooden ark covered in gold. On top was a kind of covering.

 It’s referred to as a kapporeth: we don’t really know what this word means, it’s traditionally translated “mercy seat,” … The ark itself contained the tablets of the covenant. And so it was a testament to the covenant between God and Israel.

 Unlike most ancient sanctuaries, the Israelite sanctuary did not contain a statue of the deity. … Nevertheless, God was believed to be present in the sanctuary. Often in the form of a cloud, that will descend to fill the tabernacle, particularly as it’s assembled in a new encampment, and then God will descend down and the cloud will fill the tabernacle.

 So it is God’s presence there that sanctifies, which simply means “makes holy, makes sacred,” to sanctify, to make holy, the tabernacle. And to understand this, we need to understand the Priestly conception of holiness.

 Chapter 2. The Priestly Conceptions of Holiness and Time

 And the Hebrew word “holy” has a root meaning of separate. That which is holy is separate. It’s withdrawn from common, everyday use. In the Priestly view, only God is intrinsically holy. God can impart holiness to, he can sanctify, persons and places and things when they’re brought into a specific kind of relationship with him, a relationship that’s best described as a relationship of ownership.

 Holy is what is in God’s realm, something that’s separated to him.

 That which is outside God’s realm is common. …. This table is just profane. It’s common. It’s available for everyday use. It’s not separated or marked off for special kind of treatment because it’s holy. For a common object to become holy, you need a special act of dedication to God, an act of sanctification to transfer the thing to God or God’s realm or God’s service.

 So holiness entails necessarily separation in both its positive and negative aspects. It entails separation of an object to that which sanctifies it, which is God; …

 Holy things are holy because they are removed from the realm of the common by means of rules or safeguards that demarcate them as different and separate and determine that we use them differently. The preservation of holy status therefore depends on those rules and safeguards. Their observance protects the holy object from profanation, from being profaned, reverting from holy status back to common status.

 Now, it’s evident from the schematic representation or the way I’ve described the sanctuary that holiness increases as you move deeper into the sanctuary. And the principle here that holiness increases as proximity to God increases. The principle is graphically demonstrated in spatial terms.

 Accessibility determined by degrees of holiness

 So in the biblical view, the area or the land outside the Israelite camp is just common, profane land. The Israelite camp bears a certain degree of holiness. Then as you move in, the outer courtyard, the outer enclosure of the sanctuary, bears a slightly higher degree of holiness. It’s accessible to Israelites who are pure. The sanctuary proper, which is in closer proximity to God, bears a still higher degree of holiness: it’s accessible only to the priests, who are said to be the holy ones within Israel. And then the inner shrine is the holiest area: it’s accessible only to the holiest member of the nation, the high priest.

 You have similar concentric circles of holiness characterizing the priestly conception of time. There are ordinary, common, profane days, work days. Then there are certain holy days: for example, the New Year or the Passover holidays — that’s where our word “holiday” comes from, holy day — and they are separated and demarcated from common time by special rules that mark them as different. Holier than these days is the Sabbath, which is demarcated by even further rules and observances. And the holiest day is Yom Kippur, known as the Sabbath of Sabbaths. This day is separated from all other days by additional rules and observances in keeping with its profound holiness.

 The holiness of persons, of objects, of time and of space all converge on Yom Kippur, because it’s only on this most holy day that the most holy person, high priest, enters the most holy of holies, the innermost shrine, and performs a ritual upon the most holy of objects, the mercy seat and ark itself once a year.

 Leviticus 16:1-3, 32-34

 1 The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the Lord. 2 The Lord said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.

3 “This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering[a] and a ram for a burnt offering.

32 The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments 33 and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community.

34 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”

And it was done, as the Lord commanded Moses.

In the second half we will look at the deep connection between holiness and purity.

Remember at the beginning we heard Paul say:

 1 Thessalonians 4:7

 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

  Keith Green – Create in me a clean heart . To watch please click here

Read more…

Message for the Day

Atonement (14)

October 27th, 2012
Comments Off

Scripture of the Day: Luke 15:25-32

 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

 31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”(NIV)

 So, what is God’s attitude in the midst of this entire situation? “God is not willing that any should perish” (II Pet. 3:9). “God desires all men to be saved” (I Tim. 2:4). If we are to participate in the heart of God, and “have the attitude in ourselves which was in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:4), we, too, must desire that all men might be saved, ever recognizing that “Christ Jesus is our hope” (I Tim. 1:1).

 We should never take an “elder brother” attitude (cf. Lk. 15:25-32) that feels cheated, disappointed or angry when God saves those who have rejected him, and then have repented and come to the Father through the Son, Jesus Christ.

 We do preach the universality of gospel availability and redemptive efficacy. It will be preached to all and all will have the opportunity to respond .

 We do not teach all men universally, without exception, will be included among the saved forever. We hope so but we have to allow for the possibility of not being so.

You may remember Mike Feazell’s discussion with Trevor Hart:

 TH: Thomas Erskine, the Scots theologian from the 19th century, says somewhere that you can’t frighten people into love. Even if we’re not forcing them to confess something with the use of pain, it seems to me that another version of that over Christian history has been to extract confession from people by frightening them into making that confession.

 Again, that seems to have very little to do with the true nature of faith and response to the gospel. That seems to me to be the thing that’s the most wrong with it, is that it misunderstands completely the nature of faith as a response to the good news.

 The other thing to say, I think, is that the good news for Christians is not simply good news for Christians, it’s good news for all. That’s the message, that this is who God is.

 It’s not simply who God is for some, it’s not simply who God chooses to be on certain days of the week, it’s who God is. That has to set the boundaries and the context in which we reflect on what it means to bring others into a saving knowledge of this God.

 Until they discover that that’s who God is, they can’t respond in an appropriate way. Getting them to tick boxes or make verbal confessions of one sort or another has got nothing at all to do with it. It’s a fundamental shift of disposition, to discovering that this is who God is, this is the sort of place, therefore, that the universe is as God’s creation, and this is who I am as God’s creature, and I’m responding joyfully to that. That’s in God’s hands, not ours.

 It is better to have a knowledge of God that wrestles with why would anyone reject the good news, than have a theology that wonders why God has destined so many to hell.


Message for the Day