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April 06, 2012

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Beautifully written, Greg. Amid the distraction of eggs and bunnies and chocolates that somehow manage to hijack this season, the solemn conviction of the Truth of the crucifixion can set our thoughts aright. Praise God for His unfathomable mercy and grace to us sinners.

I had the privilege of hearing your presentation live at Dayspring Christian Center in Gardens Ca. It was such a blessing thanks for your presentation here in print now I can share it with others


This is very moving. The true meaning of this Eastern season, the price paid on the cross and the resurrection on Sunday. But I always have the question which I never understood ... what does it mean to "trust in Jesus", "rely on Jesus"? It is not clear to me what we are supposed to actually be doing.

What is the meaning of these verses:

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." - Acts 4:15

""For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16

Does this mean that if we simply believe that Jesus is the Messiah and accept his gift of paying for our sins, then we will go to heaven? But if we do not then we won't go to heaven?

I ask this because when I start to think of it logically, things don't really make sense or click for me. For example, would the following people get saved:

a) An ancient Israelite who was called Righteous in the Bible, but did not know the name of Jesus?

b) A Chinese man living in 200 AD, after the resurrection but before missionaries reached China, who heard nothing about Jesus?

c) A native American living in the year 1500?

d) A man who heard the gospel, believed but then started doubting?

e) A man who heard the gospel but never found the answers to his questions and wasn't convinced that the theology found in the doctrines of the proselytizers was correct?

It just seems to me that there has to be another way to get saved and go to heaven, besides through Jesus, from the examples of a, b, and c. And if there is, then what do we know of that way? Can we have the same chance as a Chinese man in 200 AD or a righteous Israelite?

This is how the passing away of righteous men is described in the Old Testament:

"Therefore I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.'" So they took her answer back to the king." 2 Kings 22:20

"Then he gave them these instructions: "I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite" - Genesis 49:29

"Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel." - Judges 2:10

The most I can try and understand is the Catholic idea of the harrowing of hades:

http://www.gotquestions.org/Old-Testament-believers.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrowing_of_Hell

In this idea, Hades (Sheol) was a place where souls resided until the crucifixion took place, and for three days (really it was two days though) Jesus saved the believers from Hades.

1 Peter 4:6
"For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does."

I honestly do not understand these matters, and I wonder who does. I think that they are a part of the whole overview though, because I simply do not understand what the central message of Christianity means in specific ready-to-understand terms.

Greg

Greg - I believe we can answer those questions with a definitive "We don't know." Christians do not like ambiguity, generally, and feel the need to answer a through e above with some sort of certainty.

I contend that the best we can do is to live our lives as faithfully as we can, according to our beliefs, and leave the "saving" issues to God. Christ did not ask us to bear His cross, nor should we even attempt it.

We try to make sense of these life after death issues, but the fact is that we do not know. Who is saved? What is Heaven like? Theology develops in an attempt to explain it, but even theology is inadequate (as is the Bible, because the written word can never adequately explain spiritual things).

I am guided by a principle I see throughout the Gospels: Whenever people thought they had Jesus figured out, he made a sharp turn that derailed their expectations. We see this over and over. Even today, many American Evangelical Protestant Christians are fixated on a literal return of Christ to set up His kingdom, an expectation held by the disciples that was not met in the way they expected. Likewise, we overlook the current presence of Jesus as if it's inadequate in light of a "literal" return.

A joke:--
A Skeptic says, "What about the Heathen?"

A ProT. retorts, "What about you?"
(--Robert A. Morey *)

``... is there un-right-eous-ness with God? _ Certainly not!" -- by definition (-Romans 9:14).

``I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, ..." (verse 15 & Exodus 33:19, regarding the Egyptian King).

"What if God, wanting to show his wrath & make his power known, endured with much longsuffeing the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, ...?" (-Romans 9:22).
___________________
* -- His Doctorate of Ministry in Comparative Religion/ Apologetics was conferred by Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia, PA.).

He's the Head of Faith Defenders @
www.FaceBook.com/faithdefenders
www.Faithdefenders.com
---> 5 Articles about Natural Theology @
www.faithdefenders.com/articles-naturaltheology.html

Melinda:

I am curious if you are aware that the satisfaction model of the Atonement was an innovation that came in with the Catholic archbishop of Canterbury, Anselm, and that no one ever taught such a view, a view taken from Pagan Chivalry & the attitudes of the Pagan Nobility, before him?

I highly recommend that you get a copy of David W. Bercot's 3 CD teaching on the Atonement from Scroll Publishing.

One of the key differences between the satisfaction model and the classical model of the atonement has to do with the way in which each describes the nature of Jesus' sacrifice & to whom the price was paid. Pagans made sacrifices to appease their god's, but Jesus wasn't sacrificed by God to Himself. Jesus' sacrifice was not a ritualistic sacrifice; rather, it was a heroic sacrifice: He gave himself as a ransom in exchange for our lives. God does not need payment; He doesn't need anything from us, but we sold ourselves into bondage and needed to be redeemed from Satan, not from an angry Father. The Father sent Jesus because He and Jesus "loved us so much."

Mankind suffers the consequences of Adam's sin; it doesn't inherit his guilt. Everyone is judged for his own sin.

Jesus took away our sin; He did not merely cover it over. However, He cleanses those who walk in the light; He does not cleanse people first so that they will walk in the light. (I John 1: 7) As Paul says, "Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." It is never Christ shines on you; therefore, you will arise. What did John the Baptist say? He said, "Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight! ...Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance." We all know John 3: 16, but we all give lip-service to 3: 19 - 21 which says, in effect, 'those who do good deeds come to Jesus, the Light, but those who do evil deeds will not come to the Light.' Peter says that God is not partial, but "the man who "fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him.” (Acts 10: 34, 35) The Psalms say, "to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God." (Ps.50: 23) "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean...Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow...if you consent and obey." (Is.1: 16 - 19) "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Is.55: 7) "Preserve justice, and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come and My righteousness to be revealed. How blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who takes hold of it; who keeps from profaning the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from any evil." (Is.56: 1, 2) "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. ...Humble yourselves...and He will exalt you." (Jam.4: 6 - 10) "Beloved...The Lord...is patient towards you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. ...Since all these things are to be destroyed..., what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God? Beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless, and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation." (II Pet.3: 8 - 15)

God does not need payment; He doesn't need anything from us

Sebastian, I wouldn’t exactly characterize it that way--as God needing something from us. Rather, as it says in Romans 1, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness,” and in 2:5, “you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to His deeds.” Not just death, but wrath. Ephesians says again, “We were by nature children of wrath.”

According to Romans, the wrath that is coming to us is from God, not from Satan. And there is wrath because He is just. Justice demands that sin be punished. To not punish it is to compromise His righteousness, goodness, and justice. It’s not that God needs something from us, it’s that God’s righteousness rightfully demands punishment for evil.

Paul follows this up this line of argument by explaining that Jesus is “a propitiation” for us--that what happened on the cross was to demonstrate God’s righteousness so that God would be “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” The cross happened so that God would be just as well as justifier. Where did His wrath go that Paul described in the first two chapters? It certainly seems that Jesus was the propitiation of that wrath (as that is what the text explicitly says).

This is also the case in Isaiah 53, which says, “The Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him,” etc. He’s compared to the sacrificial lamb. We know from the sacrificial system that guilt was removed from the people, and God’s wrath was turned away by the sacrifice. All of the Old Testament was preparing the people to understand and recognize Christ. The pagans may have also made their own propitiations for sins, but that doesn’t change the fact that this was a very Jewish concept, and all the first Christians came out of Judaism.

God chose to love those who deserved His wrath and “make them alive together with Christ” by His grace, but He didn’t deny the reality of justice to do so.

Regardless of what has been said over the years about the atonement, what I’ve said above isn’t drawn from Anselm, it’s from the Bible.

He does not cleanse people first so that they will walk in the light.

Actually, Ephesians says the exact opposite! After Paul speaks of how we were made alive together with Christ, even while we were dead (and here, he interjects the phrase, “by grace you have been saved,” to emphasize that it truly was nothing we had done, since we were dead beforehand), he goes on with this:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

In other words, it’s not our works that saved us. Rather we are God’s work. He recreates us out of our death, completely by His undeserved grace. And then it’s when we’re in Christ Jesus that we do our good works because “it is God who is at work in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians).

What do you mean by "it" & by "finished?"

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