Thursday, June 24, 2010

question

the other day i received a message on facebook from someone who is a friend of a friend on there. i was glad to see someone genuinely interested in understanding the Christian faith. this person must have seen my religious views because their question was directly related to it. i figured i'd share the question and my response while keeping the person anonymous--

Question:
What do you mean by Christ is your strength? And why do you think you should have died the death that Jesus died? I am a curious person trying to better understand the Christian philosophy/thinking. Your response is truly appreciated. Thank you

--
Answer:
Hello,

I’m sorry it took me a while to respond to you. You ask two good questions, and I am glad to answer them. Actually, the answers to both of them are related.

(In my response I reference the Bible a lot. If you do not have a copy you can read the verses by going to this website: http://www.biblegateway.com/ and typing in the references I give.)

Most importantly is the idea of “Substitutionary Atonement.” This is the idea I’m trying to communicate when I say that Christ died the death I should have died. Substitutionary Atonement is essential to the Christian faith.

The idea of Substitution is a familiar one in American culture--we have substitute teachers who take the place of our normal teacher. We have substitute sugars and even substitute for salt. These all take the place of something else. Jesus Christ was our substitute in death. But, unlike teachers, sugar, and salt substitutes, Jesus was a better substitute--He was the perfect substitute.

A verse that communicates this idea of substitutionary atonement is 1 Peter 2:24 in the Bible which says, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

But why did Jesus have to die? Why did He have to be our substitute in death? This verse has told us that He died so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. We are healed by His wounds--by the event where He got His wounds--the cross. It says that He died so that we might do two things: die and live. Die to sin, and live to righteousness. This dying and living are spiritual death and life. Throughout the Bible, when it talks about spiritual life and spiritual death it speaks of them in the sense of “what is controlling you”. When sin and unrighteousness are controlling you, you are said to be “dead.” But when you are said to be “alive”, you have been given life through Jesus‘ work. Another way to put this is that a person who is spiritually dead is separated from God spiritually. But a person who has spiritual life is united with God spiritually (and, in the end, physically in Heaven as well.) From the Bible we can see this: Spiritually, all people are dead (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12) unless they have received life from Jesus Christ (John 11:25-26).

Ephesians 2:1-5 says this:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).

This idea of being separated from God is because of mankind’s nature. The Bible tells us that God created the Heavens and the Earth (everything that exists). We believe in a triune God--the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. These are not three Gods, but three different persons, all equal and all so unified that they are actually one.

Colossians 1:13-23 is a good passage that explains the idea of sin separating us from the God who created us, and Jesus reconciling that separation. You can read the passage here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=colossians+1%3A13-23&version=NASB

Notice at the end of verse 16 (speaking of Jesus) it says “all things have been created through Him and for Him.” See, we were created for Jesus. But we have all sinned--we have rebelled against our creator, we have all turned to our own ways and not lived for Him. The first part of Isaiah 53:6 says, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” Here the Bible tells us that we all have not followed God’s way, instead we follow our own ways. Because of this God, who created us for Himself, has the right to (actually, He must) punish us. The Bible teaches that God is a just God and a good God. If He were to let rebellion go without punishing it, this means He is not perfectly good and perfectly just. He would not be a good judge. (Exodus 34:7 says that God will, by no means, leave the guilty unpunished). Well, all of mankind is guilty because all have sinned and turned to their own ways instead of His ways (Isaiah 53:6 and Romans 3:23).

But the second half of Isaiah 53:6 says this: “but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him [Jesus].”

This is what I mean by Jesus died the death I should have died. I am a sinner. I have turned to my own ways and therefore I am guilty. God will not let the guilty go unpunished. Not only am I guilty before a smaller power (like the government). I am guilty before the God who created me and the rest of the universe (Col. 1:16). Because I am guilty before the infinite God, I deserve to be punished by Him--I deserve death. BUT, as it says in Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

I hope that makes sense. All of us deserve punishment by God because we have sinned against Him (we deserve death). But, God is so rich in His mercy and His love, that He bore our sins Himself in His body on the cross (that’s 1 Peter 2:24 again). So that when we believe in Him...when we trust in Him and what He did...then He doesn’t count our sins against us, but, as Isaiah 53:6 says, He caused our iniquity (our sin) to fall on Jesus.

So...you also asked what I mean by saying that Jesus is my strength. If you go to Romans 8, this is a good passage to use to explain what I mean. (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+8&version=NASB )

In verse 18 it says that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Verse 28 says that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. In other words, no matter what we go through, it will all be worth it in the end, because God is the one working it all for His purposes. Verse 37 says that in all these things (all the things that were listed in verses 35 and 36...any trouble that life can bring us)...in all those things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Who is it that loved us? Verse 32 has told us. It is God. Verse 32 says that God Himself, who did not even spare His own Son…(that’s how much He loved us)...He will also freely give us all things--He will help us through any situation.

This is what I mean when I say that Christ is my strength. It brings such great encouragement no matter what happens in life when I know that the God of the universe loves me so much that, in order to redeem me and save me so that I might have a relationship with Him, in order to do that He spared no expense--He did not even spare His one and only Son. A God who will do that, will He not also freely give us all things?

I hope this was helpful for you.

If you have any further questions, feel free to ask.

Elias

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3 Comments:

Blogger hebxii said...

Dear Elias,
Great answer to a serious question. I am glad that you get visitors who are open and willing to hear the truth. I wish you well in your desire to know God better and to serve him.
In Christ,
Elaine

28 June, 2010 14:36  
Anonymous Andrey said...

Elias,

Don't take the below as discoragement of what you've done. But I've noticed many people making such statements, without understanding the implications of such statements.

It is very easy to quote scripture metaphors without underlying explanation of what metaphors really refer to... thus the reason Christ came and died was merely to die for our sins and "carry our iniquity by becoming curse for us".

A couple questions for you to understand what I'm talking about, and to untangle the traditional Catholic interpretation that we tend to fall for.

1) What is sin? Is it an object that one can take up and place it elsewhere? Can one substitute teacher literally pick up the mistakes of another and place it upon himself?

2) If God legally demands the payment from us, and Christ had to pay it instead of us... then what exactly is grace? If the Father had to send someone to die on our behalf to satisfy His just wrath, would that pass for justice in our court system. Can one legally impute righteousness?

3) Who killed Christ? And what was sacrifice? In which way was it similar to OT sacrifice, and in which way was it different?

4) Can perfection of one man legally justify the wrongdoings of billions ... to the point that they are considered righteous? Does God accept human sacrifices?

Here's a simpler explanation for you... something that does not require our convoluted legal terminology that does not even relate to the ideas of God's justice.


It all started before God even created the universe. God exists outside of time, and He is able to know things before these take place. He would create intelligent beings in such a way that would allow them to make their own choices... good or bad. The concept of the bad choice was not merely to reject God, but also reject the purpose and natural function of the universal laws that were created to reflect His character.

The angelic being who we call Satan (or opponent in Hewbrew) was the first one to reject God. God knew that this would happen, and He did not desire to gain the trust of the universe by overwhelming power and commanding force. That would not reflect His character, and in fact would play into rebellious mind the idea that God is in fact a tyrant.

Got created human beings, knowing they they will fall. For better symbolic demonstration, He placed the test of choice for humanity. They were to choose between God's guidance and knowledge, or Satan's mentality by choosing to believe that God merely say's things because He keeps something from His creation... I.E. He is a tyrant.

Thus God would partially withdraw His divine protection and life, which in turn resulted in spiritual separation. Yet, God worked out a plan for atonement (at-one-ment or reconciliation) that He himself would provide for humanity that would not have to find truth on their own... apart from God's physical pretense and guidance.

First, the legal idea of the law was instituted, but it was merely a reflection of the natural law. If one jumps from the mountain claiming to fly, the consequence is death. Likewise, going against the moral principles eventually results in death of humanity through self-destruction... as almost happened before the flood. Thus to give any chance to humanity, God had to sterilize the Earth by giving the few righteous a chance to start over, knowing that such thing would happen again.

10 July, 2010 07:14  
Anonymous Andrey said...

To keep the few people on the earth pure for His purpose, he took perhaps the weakest nation on the planet, and make it His by giving them necessary guidelines to live by. They would later reject Him... so God would use the last resort He would have for the entire humanity. He himself would come down in human form, and choose and would not use His power to harm anyone while in human body. He would experience the same temptations as humans would, the same pain, and to demonstrate the ultimate expression of love... by forgiving people while they were hating Him and torturing Him, and killing Him. He would do that so the few who understood that He is not a tyrant... would believe THROUGH THIS ACT OF WILLINGLY LETTING HIMSELF DIE at hands of His creation... as a sign to those who are willing to believe that He is not a tyrant and is willing to forgive those who believe and repent (turn back).

There are two words in Biblical Greek that are used as "instead"...- ANTI , and HUPER. Anti - almost in every case carries the meaning of substitution, as in substitution teacher example you were using. HUPER - does carry the surface meaning of substitution, but the underlying meaning is FOR... meaning "For our benefit".

90% of texts dealing with at-one-ment deal with the idea of benefit. Israel understood (many did not) that blood of the animals did not take away the sin. God did not merely desire blood as exchange, you can read most OT prophets like Ezekiel and Isaiah and you'll see that God desired fellowship through understanding and following the purpose of creation.

In that sense, the death of Christ is our last resort, but not in a sense of Christ giving himself to satisfy God's wrath. God is one with Christ... they are same entity so to speak. Christ is a manifestation of God (word became flesh). They created it all together as one entity.

Thus the idea of Christ paying the penalty instead of us is merely the idea of God's forgiveness. If Christ is a part of God as right hand is a part of our body... would it be reasonable to think that our right hand paid the debt owed to us? The underlying context would be that you forgave the debt by "eating the damages".

God is willing to do that for anyone who turns back... read Ezekiel 18.

The point of NT substitution analogies is to demonstrate God's love and willingness to forgive... as well as our need for turning back (repentance), and alignment with the original purpose.

It is not however to paint God as as someone who demands blood that innocent has to pay for us to avoid the stove.

God let's people to choose. They can choose death (just like Adam did), or they can choose life. The fruit of the tree symbolized choice of death, the sacrifice (not merely death) or Christ symbolizes life (as in ancient idea that blood carries life, thus through His blood...). It's all about choice, just like it was in the beginning.

When we begin to explain to other people "the legal demands", you have to understand that people can think logically.

Where's justice in innocent dying in place of guilty?

Where's is grace, if one merely pays off the debt of God. God merely gets what He wants by means of innocent suffering.

Thus, I don't believe that you literal using the OT idea of blood, and the NT metaphors of substitution literally would paint a consistent picture of God.

I took me quite a bit of swallowing my pride to digest this information, and I certainly hope that you could do the same.

God is gracious, and God is loving, and God is just.

10 July, 2010 07:14  

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