Christianity 201

March 25, 2016

The Theme of the Day

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

But he was pierced for our rebellion,
    crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
  He was whipped so we could be healed.

Isaiah 53:5, NKJV and NLT

Note: The story in the opening section of this first appeared here at Christianity 201 five years ago.

Three Crosses

In the little town east of Toronto, Canada where we find ourselves, the local churches come together for a Good Friday service that has grown to the point where it’s now held in the ballroom of a local hotel, and even at that we have to split into multiple service times.

I never miss this event.

It’s distracting however that we all come together. The “Christian unity” theme tends to interfere. Sometimes, it’s apparently rather difficult for worship leaders to choose pieces that stay tightly focused on the theme of Good Friday, especially when most of our best worship choruses are based on the resurrection we will celebrate on Sunday.

So although absolutely nobody heard me, as the soloist was singing his second song after the message, I put my head in my hands and internally screamed out loud:

God, what are we supposed to be thinking of today?

And that’s when it hit me: Sin. We’re supposed to be thinking about our sin. Our propensity to sin. Our sin condition. Our individual sins. The sin that necessitated the cross. Yes, we should think about the price that was paid for our redemption, but we should also think in terms of how we must appear in contrast to a holy God; mindful of our sin nature

…Usually our Good Friday services are rather somber. I’ve always felt that was appropriate, but on Thursday, I drove home listening to a Christian radio station where the announcer was proposing that Good Friday can be just as celebratory as Easter Sunday. He said that we can be ecstatic about all that Christ accomplished there that day, and then quoted a hymn lyric:

My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more

For him this was a cause for rejoicing and I certainly sense the triumph and the power of that lyric. But not all callers agreed with him. One woman suggested something to the effect that we need to own our sin. I believe this is the perspective of most Christian writers down through the centuries: We need to remember the pain and suffering that Christ endured because of our trespasses. We recognize that this was the completion of God’s plan; that the crucifixion of Christ is the central element in the incarnation; that this is why Christ came; but we don’t minimize the agony of the cross even if our minds sometimes fast-forward to Resurrection Sunday.

It was our sin and guilt that put Him there.

That’s another song lyric, taken from the previous chapter in Isaiah to our opening verses,

How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!

Isaiah 52:7 NASB

and one that is repeated in the New Testament:

14 How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them? 15 And how can anyone tell them without being sent by the Lord? The Scriptures say it is a beautiful sight to see even the feet of someone coming to preach the good news.

Romans 10:15 CEV

So also says a line from the classic worship chorus “Our God Reigns” reproduced in full below.

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him,
Who brings good news, good news;
Announcing peace, proclaiming news of happiness.
Our God Reigns! Our God Reigns!

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!…

He had no stately form, He had no majesty
That we should be drawn to Him.
He was despised and we took no account of Him.
Yet now He reigns, with the Most High.

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!…

It was our sin and guilt that bruised and wounded Him.
It was our sin that brought Him down.
When we like sheep had gone astray our Shepherd came,
And on His shoulders He bore our shame.

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!…

Meek as a lamb, that’s led out to the slaughterhouse,
Dumb as a sheep, before it’s shearer;
His life ran down upon the ground like pouring rain,
That we might be born-again!

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!…

Out from the tomb He came with grace and majesty;
He is alive, He is alive!
God loves us so, see here His hands, His feet, His side;
And yes, we know, He is alive!

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!

I hesitated to post the last verse because again, it takes us into Easter Sunday when I feel we need to spend a few more moments with the women and friends who stayed at the cross. (Luke 23:49)

I do recognize however that the full message of the cross is God’s triumph over sin and death. So I couldn’t post the lyrics to Our God Reigns without posting the alternative set of lyrics from Isaiah which are also available. The first verse of both versions is the same. Here is a song that takes us more to the element of celebration that perhaps my radio announcer on Thursday was envisioning. In the end, both elements are part of the big story.

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him
Who brings good news, good news
Proclaiming peace, announcing news of happiness
Our God reigns, our God reigns

Our God reigns, our God reigns…

You watchmen lift your voices joyfully as one
Shout for your King, your King
See eye to eye the Lord restoring Zion
Your God reigns, your God reigns!

Our God reigns, our God reigns…

Waste places of Jerusalem break forth with joy
We are redeemed, redeemed
The Lord has saved and comforted His people
Your God reigns, your God reigns!

Our God reigns, our God reigns…

Ends of the earth, see the salvation of your God
Jesus is Lord, is Lord
Before the nations He has bared His holy arm
Your God reigns, your God reigns!

Our God reigns, our God reigns…


For more Easter-themed reading, check out Delivered From Death at Thinking Out Loud

June 11, 2014

Without the Shedding of Blood

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Hebrews 9:16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Leviticus 17:11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

I John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

John 6:54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.

Without the Shedding of BloodYesterday I shared in a conversation with a regular reader here about how “the blood of Christ” is one of several themes in Christian music and preaching that is not heard as often as it once was. So it was suggested we delve into this.

The Reformation Study Bible indicates that while “blood” is synonymous with “life,” it is also the case that the phrase, “blood of Christ” is usually paired with usage of “death of Christ.”

The justification achieved by the blood of Christ (Rom 5:9) is paralleled by the statements which speak of the sinner being reconciled to God “by the death of his Son” and being “saved by his life” (Rom 5:10). Other references to men being redeemed by the blood of Christ clearly indicate atonement through the death of a victim (cf. Acts 20:28; Eph 1:7, etc.). Since the death of Christ is sometimes considered in terms of a sacrifice (cf. Rom 3:25; 1 Pet 1:2), where the “sprinkling of blood” indicates a sacrificial ritual and continues the OT concept of the “blood of the covenant,” the emphasis is still upon the death of the victim that secured atonement for the sinner. The sacrificial blood is associated with the death of the Savior (Heb 9:14), and the author of Hebrews makes it plain that the blood is associated with death rather than life (12:24).  (Notes on Leviticus 17 passage above.)

At the blog LogosWalk:

It stuns my sensibilities when the same Christian parents who allow their children to own over-the-top, violent video games and to go to movies with excessive violence and gore, object to Sunday School lessons and sermons concerning the “gruesome” topic of crucifixion and Christ’s blood. The one is leading the pack down the wide path to hell, the other the narrow path to heaven. What we need are far more discussions concerning the blood. It’s the whole point.

Just as physical bodies cannot exist without blood, neither can spiritual without the blood of Christ. In the course of explaining the true purpose of the Old Testament system of sacrifices, that every offering was a substitute sentence of execution for the offender, God points forward to the substitutional death of Christ for each of us. The value of the life of a sacrifice is measured by its blood as repeatedly taught in the difference between those who can offer the more valuable offerings of oxen and sheep versus the poorer through doves and pigeons. But it is not the blood coursing through the veins of the offering that is of any use, but only when it is poured out in sacrifice on the altar. How incalculable the value of Christ’s blood that was shed in place of our own!

Brother Philip writes:

…The Lord declared that not only is the life in the blood but blood is also the form of “currency” to use in the matter of atonement.  Therefore, when considering what God would require to atone for sins, blood is the only suitable form of currency to make that payment.  Payment is required for atonement since God has been offended by sin and the disgusting nature of man’s depravity.  When considering all the “solutions” that people posit to “get man right with God,” it is always amazing to me how counterfeits are substituted for the only suitable currency payment.

Consider all the ways in which man has been told he can do this or do that to earn God’s favor and blessing to enter heaven’s pure world.  How many of them require blood?  Unless I am mistaken, the overwhelming majority of ideas are bloodless solutions.  Whether the answer given is baptism, belief, repentance, confession, acceptance, etc. they are all bloodless.  How can atonement possibly come without the right currency?  If God has required blood for atonement, He will not change His mind later and accept something else. (Malachi 3:6) Furthermore, only the right kind of blood would suffice to make the transfusion of life acceptable…

The doctrine salvation with respect to Christ’s blood is a thorny issue for Jewish apologists. I thought I would share a few lines from the blog Defending Torah in order for you to see what all this looks like from their perspective:

One cannot apply this verse to Jesus’ blood in any event, because it specifies blood on the altar, and Jesus did not die on any altar, let alone the altar in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem which is clearly the altar Leviticus is referring to…

…In other words, the verse has nothing to do with salvation. It is about the dietary laws — specifically, the comments about the life being in the blood are an explanation for the prohibition against eating blood.

There is no doubt equal objection by Jewish apologists to taking the Passover story and mapping it on to the idea of Christ as our passover lamb; but scripture tells us that in many cases the eyes of people are blinded to this truth. What is plain, simple and obvious to some of us is unacceptable to others.

In our conversation yesterday, I voiced something I have long held as key to understanding this, “Only the one who designs to automobile gets to write the Owner’s Manual.” The one who “created the heavens and the earth” exercised his prerogative to choose this way or this system to bring about atonement. If we challenge this, we are challenging the cross itself, and challenging the entire foundation or underpinnings of our faith. On the other hand, if we accept that this is God’s plan and God’s system, then we see clearly the efficacy of the cross for salvation and the sufficiency of the cross for covering our sin.