What do you make of the atonement? It seems clear to me that much of the NT implies that Jesus was sacrificed to God in order to save us from sin, being killed in place of sinners. It seems clear to me that there is vestiges of Judaism in the theology behind Christ’s death - without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. How do you make sense of these passages?
The prodigal son tells me all I need to know about the atonement.
Did the father have to kill an innocent sheep before forgiving his son? Did he have to beat up his innocent wife in order to pacify his wrath? Of course not. However, a price did have to paid, and the father himself paid it. He took all the insult, pain, rejection and loss into his own heart and buried them there forever. He suffered in the son’s place. Blood was shed. An innocent victim was slain. The blood was the blood of the father himself. He was the victim who suffered without uttering a word of complaint.
When the son came home, full of schemes to worm his way back into the family home, he sees his old dad running to meet him, tears streaming down his face. This is the moment the son is transformed forever. The revelation of his father’s love changes a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. The son thought he knew his father. He was wrong. Not long before, he had hated him enough to destroy him, enough to leave his home forever. But now he sees his father as if for the very first time.
Jesus is the revelation of the suffering of God at the hands of sinful man. Jesus declares God’s boundless love and unconditional forgiveness. This word faithfully proclaimed has the power to raise the spiritually dead to life. This is the good news, the means by which God saves all who believe by adding his divine life to the biological life of man.
In a word, Jesus didn’t come to change the mind of God. He came to reveal it.
Allen, that was so beautiful!
Amazing vision into the heart of the Father who loves ALL His children and never will consent to stop.
I do find it remarkable (and slightly unsettling) that Paul chooses not to refer to Jesus’ parables or sayings when building his theology.
Amen Brother!! Good stuff there.
Yes, thank you Allan!!
I wonder how many of Jesus’ parables Paul had heard/read? I never thought about that. Would he have had access? He doesn’t appear to disagree with anything Jesus said, and does seem to be going along in the same vein, but you’re right. He doesn’t mention Jesus’ sayings so far as I can recall. He does say that he got his theology straight from Jesus via vision. Any light on that?
To those who are under the Law He freed them from the Law by fulfilling it’s requirements. To those who were not under the Law, He saved them by grafting them to Himself.
So to those under the Law (The Jews), without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin, but for myself (A gentile) who has never been under the Law, such requirement was not needed.
[In fact] under the Law almost everything is purified by means of blood, and without the shedding of blood there is neither release from sin and its guilt nor the remission of the due and merited punishment for sins.
The scriptures tell you this very clearly.
And I will sow her for Myself anew in the land, and I will have love, pity, and mercy for her who had not obtained love, pity, and mercy; and I will say to those who were not My people, You are My people, and they shall say, You are my God!
Even including ourselves whom He has called, not only from among the Jews but also from among the Gentiles (heathen)?
Just as He says in Hosea, Those who were not My people I will call My people, and her who was not beloved * My beloved. And it shall be that in the very place where it was said to them, You are not My people, they shall be called sons of the living God.
There is indeed forgiveness without shedding of blood, in fact there was nothing needed but His own decision to include us.
And when He saw [their confidence in Him, springing from] their faith, He said, Man, your sins are forgiven you! And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason and question and argue, saying, Who is this [Man] Who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?*
I have a very high View of Scripure. It’s a subject I am studying. I currently see scripture as fully divine and fully human much like the Incarnation. But even as fully human I see it fully exactly what God has intended it to be.
Regarding the subject of the atonement I think this is difficult to see without Humility and God’s perspective. When we try to understand the Trancendent with our 21st Century Western Mind and carnal pride, I think the beauty and meaning of it is unseen.
The Fact that God in all his wisdom and foreknowledge created a world in which everyone Dies and experiences great pain in varying ways is self evident. It’s a reality he allowed so us finite know it alls should accept it and seek to understand why he planned it this way vs questioning if he planned it this way.
Just my opinion. Subject to change.
Although I can’t point to solid proof yet, I strongly suspect (on various circumstantial grounds dug up by scholars) that in the first generation the only people who were allowed to reference Jesus’ parables and sayings in an authoritative manner were eyewitnesses, who were expected to follow agreed-upon ways of presenting the parables (leading eventually to the Synoptic traditions). Paul insists on apostolic authority, and on having received teaching from Jesus personally as such just like the other apostles, but also knew it was important to make sure he agreed with the other apostles.
So Paul actually isn’t allowed to use that material in his apostolic preaching (despite being recognized by the other apostles as a valid apostle); and since what he received from the Lord wasn’t publicly historical he doesn’t pass along sayings of Jesus that he himself alone heard from Jesus (although he obliquely refers to them on occasion. And obliquely refers to sayings from Jesus found in the Gospel material, too!)
Once the written notes for the apostles start being widely published, due to the final apostles dying off, everyone could in theory start using the material for their authoritative preaching, BUT even in the 2nd century (and in the early 2nd century there is evidence that the evangelists didn’t much like the written accounts in comparison with the living word of preaching) there is a reluctance to authoritatively use the material on the same ground: that stuff was for the sanctioned apostles to proclaim, and we’re only their successors. This reluctance steadily breaks down over the 2nd century, especially as competing supposedly authoritative texts (many with “secret teachings”) start to appear, and by the end of the 2nd century evangelists are quoting with increasing frequency from texts they didn’t think they had the right to actually quote from previously.
This (combined with an increasing parallel pressure from the Empire to find and destroy copies of the texts) results in a confusing modern picture of the development of the data, though: there are strong indications of the canonical texts being written 1st century, and even pre70, and some evidence of increasing public use of the texts in the 2nd century (despite Imperial persecution); but surprisingly little indication from surviving texts (even canonical ones) until late in the 2nd century of quotation from the Gospel material. One portion of the data strongly indicates the texts weren’t invented mid-2nd century, but another portion seems to point to them only coming into existence solidly by then. But the problem is the assumption–as a very reasonable inference from how the texts have been constantly used after the late 2nd century–that the texts, and the material from the texts, would have been used the same way prior to the late 2nd century if they had been available.
But if that material was regarded as ambassadorial messages originally, then by the cultural standards of that time and place only the ambassadors who received that material could deliver that material!
Well, I don’t know how high a view of the scriptures I have (some people would say not nearly high enough, others would regard me as practically a fundamentalist); but from a grammatic perspective I would reply that the NT indicates Jesus was sacrificed to us (and voluntarily died along with sinners).
I have a couple of terminology analysis threads around here somewhere on that topic; I’ll try to find the links after lunch.
Very interesting, Jason – thanks for sharing that.
Okay, here was my thread examining the grammatic characteristics of all the uses of “atone”/“reconcile” I could find in the NT.
It’s by far the simpler thread, so I’m putting it first.
And here was my thread examining the grammatic characteristics of all the uses of “propitiate” I could find in the NT.
This one is a lot tougher for various reasons, but the concluding gist is that God (and/or Christ) is the doer of propitiation and we are the object of God’s propitiation. Similarly, and rather more easily obvious, God atones us (the subject verbs the object) to Himself. Not once does any New Testament author ever say we are atoned to God (by Jesus or by anyone else); nor that God (the Father) is the one being propitiated (by us or by Jesus or anyone else) in our salvation–although the precise usage of the term is usually less evidently clear. (Partly because God’s throne was sometimes called the propitiatory or the propitiation seat, and the natural religious expectation would be that we go to the throne to convince the king somehow to smile on us or lean in our direction.)
Luke tells us that “many” had written accounts of Jesus words and deeds.
It may be that Paul simply didn’t like thinking in pictures, but preferred abstractions.
That doesn’t mean people were using them as source quotes in non-Gospel compilations yet. In terms of the theory, they don’t even have to be more than official worksheets for the authorities to present agreed-upon information to the congregations, who then are free to talk and evangelize how they feel led, with the material, but not to write official documents quoting the material. That’s the salient difference. It’s perfectly okay for people to talk about what an ambassador has brought as news from the king; they shouldn’t be acting as ambassadors like that themselves, though! (Maybe Paul was addressing this issue, perhaps as a problem he wanted to alleviate, when he speaks of us being ambassadors of the reconciliation in 2 Cor. But even then, what he says is being “heralded” is not Gospel material per se, but “Be reconciled to God”. Which is certainly the gist of the Gospels, but isn’t specific material.)
Even Luke’s Gospel (and Acts) doesn’t start being quoted authoritatively as a source for the words of Jesus (or the apostles, from Acts) until sometime after mid 2nd century. And its form, unlike the other three canonicals (or the extra/non-canonicals for that matter), looks like a privately commissioned project for a wealthy patron. The other three Gospels are sources for community usage with direct apostolic backing (although this isn’t overly obvious in GosMark–but GosMark was kind of sniffed at in the early 2nd century. Not rejected, but treated with ambivalence.)
I’m reading a good book now “Healing the Gospel” by Derek Flood. It’s very good. The atonement was not meant to appease the wrath of God, but meant as expression of the love of God for us. It did not enable God to forgive us for “love keeps no record of wrongs”, but it helps enable us to recieve the forgiveness of God. He took upon himself our sins, embracing sin, becoming sin, so that we might be, are, will be freed from sin.
Your question reminds me that water baptism is “for the forgiveness of sins”. We are baptized because God forgives us of sins and to help us embrace the forgiveness of sins and help us make a fresh start.
I have that book – I think it’s buried in my Kindle. I’ll have to dig it up.
I like that though. The baptism thing. It makes sense.
I would highly recommend J. Denny Weaver’s “A Non-Violent Atonement”.
Jesus was so committed to his mission, that he continued faithful to that mission even in the face of a violent, unjust conviction and capital punishment.
Sacrifice was a COMMON ritual among ALL PEOPLES of ancient times. It makes perfect sense for the apostles to use the metaphor of sacrifice to explain to the peoples the kind of significant, monumental action God took by sending His Son to make reconciliation.
If someone participates in a “save the whales” campaign, puts their own life at risk on the high seas, and dies while carrying out his mission, then we might say “he died for the whales”.
Everyone is missing the point.
Jesus died at the hands of those who were under the Law. God did not kill Jesus, the Law killed Jesus (and those who were under it).
Do not think that I have come to do away with or undo the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to do away with or undo but to complete and fulfill them.
Atonement is only for those who are under the Law, and though He never had to die, He said He would so that there would be no excuse for those under the Law.
Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that [the murmurs and excuses of] every mouth may be hushed and all the world may be held accountable to God.
Ironically, because the Law crucified Christ it in turn caused the Law lost it’s power and now everyone is free including those who were under the Law from the Law.
But when the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born subject to [the regulations of] the Law, to purchase the freedom of (to ransom, to redeem, to [a]atone for) those who were subject to the Law.
Likewise, my brethren, you have undergone death as to the Law through the [crucified] body of Christ, so that now you may belong to Another, to Him Who was raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.
Again, all speaking to those who are under the Law.
I have never been under the Law neither have you. Since that day, there is neither Jew or Gentile, only Children of God.