Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Many Purposes of God in the Work of Christ

When a person comes into a relationship with Christ, it is an amazing, wonderful and important event. Some people may find it more dramatic than others. My own experience of coming to Christ was realizing that God created me and actually loved me and had good plans for me that I not go to hell which I surely deserved. This in itself was revolutionary, I, having been inundated with the irrelevance of my life as presented by the evolutionary philosophy dancing around in my head. Looking at others around me, they all became more “precious” in my eyes... as I realized they had significance to our Creator as well.

Reading the Scriptures, we see so much about this subject of individual salvation. I do recognize it is front-and-center in a lot of the writings of the Scripture. I think it is easy to start to imagine this as the subject of almost every scripture. However, to do this is a mistake. The Bible is about a lot of things, not just the salvation of individual sinners. The Bible is about the Glory of God. God may glorify Himself in many ways. The creation of the world brought glory to God... and this was before man was on the scene. The worldwide flood glorified God… and it brought condemnation to man, not salvation. We need to find what the authors of the Scripture (and the Lord who moved their hands) were saying in each instance that we read God’s Word... and not jump to our own perception of how it might relate to us or other individuals. It could relate specifically to other purposes of God besides those regarding the salvation of "the elect" (to use my Reformed friends' phraseology). What is the author talking about, what is he trying to say? I believe this is called looking for the authorial intent.

Let's jar ourselves out of our limited view of God’s purposes.

Christ’s death on the cross and what it accomplished is so much more vast in significance than what we imagine.

50And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. (Matthew 27)
I can think of at least four things that Christ’s death did. If you continue to read this post, you will want to refer back to this numbered list:

1. Made the way for the whole creation to be redeemed and eventually restored.
2. Made the way for Israel, as a nation, to receive the promises that God had made to them. Christ’s death removed their corporate sin and fulfilled God’s justice.
3. Made the way for all people to be able to come to Him by faith and receive the life of God within them, by removing sin as a barrier between God and man. This life makes it so we can be compatible with God and not burn up in His presence. It would not be possible to receive eternal life if sin were still an issue.
4. Made the way for those who receive that life to become conformed to the image of Him who died and was raised in a) sanctification and b) glorification.

Let's hone in on #2 for the rest of this post.

I have been camping on Isaiah 53 for a few days and I think that the main point of that passage has to do with this particular aspect of the work of Christ. He laid down his life and made Himself an offering for the corporate sins of the people of Israel. His death is part of His covenantal promise to this nation. He will make a New Covenant with them, based on His shed blood.

Isaiah 53 says of Israel: 3He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

The bolded portions of that scripture are obviously about Israel, the nation, and I believe the non-bolded areas where the plural pronoun is used are also speaking of the nation Israel. He was despised by the nation of Israel; they said He was crazy (smitten of God), yet He took the penalty that made it OK for God to be at peace with them, eventually (the chastisement of our peace). As a nation, the people of Israel rejected the Messiah, but He removed this sin from their account. The nation has been reaping the consequences of the sin of rejecting their Messiah, but that sin will not prohibit God from doing what He says by bringing them to their land and setting up His earthly Kingdom there with them. He is able to do this because “he was stricken for the transgression of my people…” Isaiah 53:8. the Messaih fulfilled the justice of God for the nation as the high priest said (and didn't even realize it) in John 11:50.

Have a look at Isaiah 52-54 and see for yourselves if God is not specifically talking about the nation of Israel and the provision that He is making for them. Some say that ‘my people’ in Isaiah 53:8 is talking about the elect of all time, all the redeemed. They proffer that when the passage says that He was smitten for the transgression of “my people” that somehow this means he wasn’t smitten for the transgression of any other people. Therefore, for this view, “my people” has to be a larger group than just the nation of Israel, because they know that He, at least, also died for the Gentiles who are saved.

I propose that when the passage says He was smitten for the transgression of “my people” that He is talking about #2 above.
(God refers to the nation of Israel as His people in many places. Here are just two samples: Joel 2:18 and John 1:11.)

God will be just in opening the floodgates of His mercy and the fountain spoken of in Zech 12:9- 13:1. This is just one aspect of what Christ did on the cross, dying for the nation of Israel (not every individual in the nation, but as a corporate nation. In order to be individually saved, each Isarelite has to receive eternal life, and we know this is only done by individual faith in the Messiah.)

Lest I be misunderstood, I am not trying to take Isaiah 53 away from the Gentiles who love the Messiah. We are beneficiaries of what Christ has done as well. Isaiah 53 describes the Suffering Servant. As He suffered, He did many things. What He did for us, is similar to what He did for the corporate nation of Israel – he took away our sins!!! He was bruised for our iniquities as individuals as well. He took away of the sin of the world, and made available the gift of eternal life!!

Christ's death for purpose #2, I believe, is the main emphasis of Isaiah 53. However, He died for purpose #3 as well, which I, as a person, am a beneficiary of, and so are you. I pray that you are also a beneficiary of #4, having received the free gift of eternal life that the Messiah, Jesus, the only Savior, offers.

(upcoming posts will be about #3) :~)


Monday, February 02, 2009

Who is "OUR"??

The post below this one got me to thinking about sins a lot and Christ's death for sin. I was talking about it to a friend on the phone and it occurred to me that a lot of our ponderings would be answered -and issues settled- if we could all just grasp clearly who the OUR is in 1 John 2.

1My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2And he is the propitiation for OUR sins: and not for OURS only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2)
Is "OUR" all the Christians reading the book throughout time?
Is "OUR" a specific group of Christians only?
Is "OUR" the Jewish believers?
Is "OUR" Jewish people in general?
Is "OUR" the apostle and those with whom he ministered?

Who is John writing to? If we look at chapter one, he doesn't really say exactly who he is writing to. It seems to me that he is writing to believers. I know others don't hold that as necessarily true, though!

But if we do hold that he is writing to believers, then who are the other people for whom Christ is the propitiation? In my view, I think John is speaking of the believers when he says that Christ is the proppitiation for our sins, and he goes on to say that he is also the propitiation for the sins of everybody else in the world. In unlimited atonement, this is not a problem.

In order for that sentence to say something else, then I would think you would have to hold to an idea that the "OUR" in that verse is some smaller group of believers, like middle-eastern believers only. Then it could be saying "Christ is not the propitiation for our sins, those of us who live in the middle east, but for the sins of those who will come to believe all over the world. Am I getting that? What say you?

Side note: regarding the view that holds to point 3 and 5 of TULIP, if Chapter 1 is a warning to pretenders or a test of salvation, written to the unbeliever in the church, then how does it gel with looking at "OUR" in chapter 2 as a specific group consisting of believers only? Either the book is to a mixed multitude or it isn't. Just some food for thought. Please share your thoughts.


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