What a Glorious Day!

This is from a post I wrote back in 2016 because I thought it would be good followup to my last post. We’ve been been looking at how we see the atonement and what that view says about God. It was in response to this statement: “the word propitiation refers to the fist of the Father, striking the Son….” While this view is extreme, what does it say about our atonement paradigm?

Perhaps we need a paradigm shift in our thinking about this whole thing. As I said last time, the following view of the atonement is not well understood in Western Christianity, but it is a more ancient one. In my opinion, what we’ve been led to believe is typical Adamic scapegoating; we blamed God for something we’ve done.

Warning: once you see this you can’t unsee it.

From Scripture, we can see restorative justice demonstrated beautifully in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Restorative justice is a higher form of justice than retributive justice because it’s not about punishing the perpetrator; it’s about restoring both the perpetrator and the victim.

In this retelling of God’s redemptive story, we’re the perpetrators and Jesus is the victim…and the victor! It was Christ on the cross, taking all of our insults, abuses…taking on our darkness…our vitriolic poison…all of our sin upon Himself.

And contrary to popular opinion, the Father NEVER abandoned Jesus! He’s not an absentee Dad! At this most critical moment in human history, the Father was working in His Son, reconciling us to Himself.

19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them… (2 Cor. 5:19 NLT*)

So, let’s be clear about the roles here. We were God’s enemies in our minds, abandoning Jesus, pouring out our wrath, not God:

21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled. (Col.1:21 NKJV*)

So, here’s how we can interpret what’s going on at the crucifixion.

We were the perpetrators of a heinous crime against God by unjustly killing the innocent Son of His love. WE were the ones with the angry murderous hearts, saying “Crucify Him!” We were the ones with the enmity (Rom.8:7; Eph.2:14-16), God’s children full of wrath and enemies in our minds (Rom.5:10; Eph.2:3; Col.1:21), separated in our hearts from the Father’s love and life (John 17:3).

And the Father—BECAUSE OF HIS GREAT LOVE—was working IN His incarnate Son, allowing us to crush Jesus, fusing all of our iniquities with the Divine Nature, so that we could be healed and brought back into perfect union with Him as Christ is in perfect union with Him.

For further study, you can read my series, “Did God Kill Jesus?”

So, we actually see God restoring the victim—Jesus—in Isaiah 53:10. Unfortunately, we (in the Latin West) have misread this passage for centuries because of the way it was translated. When looking at the oldest account [Septuagint (LXX): the Scriptures used by Jesus and the apostles], it’s actually telling us that it pleased the Father to heal Jesus of His wounds that we inflicted! As Jesus took our disease and healed us, the Father cleansed the Son of His Love.

And the Lord desires to cleanse him from his blow.
If you give an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived offspring. (Isaiah 53:10 LXX, translated into English – NETS*)

You can read more about this understanding of Isaiah 53:10 in my post, “Saving Easter – Part five.”

The word, “reconciled” means to restore, or bring into harmony by exchanging something of equal value. Beloved, not only did God restore you to Himself, He loved you SO MUCH that He gave Jesus (John 3:16), which means you have equal value to Him.

5:10  Our hostility and indifference towards God did not reduce his love for us; he saw equal value in us when he exchanged the life of his son for ours. Now that the act of reconciliation is complete, his life in us saves us from the gutter-most to the uttermost. (Rom.5:10 MIRROR*)

Let that percolate in your brain for a while!

This simpler and earlier idea of the atonement sees Jesus going to the cross to rescue humanity and destroy the works of the devil who held sin and death over us.

The Father, who had enjoyed unbroken fellowship and self-giving love with His Son from eternity would not leave Him as a victim, wounded because of our transgressions, in the grave (Hades) where all souls had gone before Him. For, as the Father was in Christ during the crucifixion, His Spirit was working mightily in Jesus when He raised Him from the grave!

27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’
(Acts 2:27; cf. Psalm 16:10-11)

To summarize, in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we see God’s restorative justice beautifully on display.

First, God heals, forgives, and restores the perpetrator—us—by fusing our human nature to His divinity (by His hypostatic union). He healed our diseased human condition by fusing it to Himself and burying it in the grave forever (Rom.5:18-19; 6:4-6; 2 Cor.5:14).

Second, we see God restoring the victim—Jesus—by cleansing Him of our blow.

Third, we see God vindicating Jesus by raising Him up on the third day and making Him Lord over all! (Phil.2:8-11)

Precious sought out one, can you see this? Open your heart and mind to this glorious reality. This is what Easter means. The good news that brings great joy. By His stripes you were healed (Matt.8:16-17; 1 Pet. 2:24). You died and rose again with Christ, and now your life is hidden in Christ in God…forever!

O Happy Day! What a glorious Day!

* Emphasis added.
Advertisements

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 38 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
This entry was posted in Father Heart of God, Freedom, Identity, Love, Worship and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to What a Glorious Day!

  1. grabaspine says:

    What I guess might be construed as a rhetorical question, but I’d like your response.
    Is there a difference in your mind between a debt Forgiven and one simply Paid by someone else for you? Why or why not? Thx

    • Mel Wild says:

      The issue comes in when we take the “paid” metaphor too far. Forgiveness, itself, does not require payment. Jesus simply forgave people of their sins during His earthly ministry. To forgive simply means to let an offense go, which is what God requires of us.

      As far as “paid” goes, we were certainly “bought” with a price (1 Cor.6:23). The word “bought” here (agorazō) means that we were redeemed or ransomed. But then we have to ask, who is paid, and that’s where the problem lies. Historically, it’s come down to either God, the devil, death, or no one. I’ve covered those options in detail in “Christ, the Passover Lamb (Part Two). I believe the best answer is that God didn’t have to pay anyone. He just ransomed us. For instance, God ransomed Israel from Egypt without any payment (Exod.6:6, LXX uses the same Greek word for “ransom.”) In fact, you could say that the Egyptians were the ones making payment. And God delivering Israel from Egypt is the archetype of our salvation.

      I hope that helps.

      • grabaspine says:

        Isn’t ransom just another term for payment though?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Of course, that’s what I said.

        • grabaspine says:

          So when we say “God forgives sin” it’s not really accurate. More like “God paid for your sins” or even better “God paid for the consequences”?

        • Mel Wild says:

          No, it is accurate to say that God forgives sins. God is not counting our sins against us anymore (2 Cor.5:19). I know this may be a bit confusing but you seem to be conflating the two terms here. Forgiving and paying are two different things. You don’t necessarily pay for forgiveness. The two main ways we use the word, “pay” in the English language are: You pay for a debt owed or someone pays a price for your freedom (like soldiers fighting a war to purchase your freedom). It seems clear to me from Scripture that Jesus “paid” in the latter sense. We were redeemed by Him sacrificing Himself and taking our sins upon Himself on the cross.

          “…or even better “God paid for the consequences”?”

          I would agree with this point. Jesus took upon Himself our sins on the cross so that we could be brought back into union with God. That’s called reconciliation.

        • grabaspine says:

          Could God have forgiven in the sense that you say Jesus did during his time on earth, and how we are encouraged to as well… with out the “payment” or “ransom” of the death of Christ?
          If Jesus did, and we are encouraged to, could God have?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Yes, absolutely. And God did forgive all our sins, past, present, and future (2 Cor.5:19). But forgiving our sins, by itself, doesn’t solve our problem. We would’ve been no better than pardoned criminals. Forgiven but still stuck in our old nature, still enemies with God in our own mind (Col.1:21), still acting like spiritual orphans. Pardoned but not reconciled.

          You see, it wasn’t just what Jesus did for us on the cross, or as us, but also what He did TO us. For Scripture states that when He died, we (Adam) died, our sins (tragic flaw, disease) were put in the grave. But it doesn’t end there. When He rose from the grave He took us with Him. We are reconciled and put in Christ with God (Eph.2:6; Gal.2:20; Col.3:3). And He gave us His Holy Spirit to put us in direct communion with God. We have Jesus’ relationship with God because we are in Him. Forgiveness, by itself, would not do this. We’re not just pardoned criminals, we’re a new creation altogether (2 Cor.5:17; Gal.6:15).

        • grabaspine says:

          So you answered Yes. God could have Forgiven without the Payment or Ransom, which you’ve acknowledged are two completely different concepts. The you say the work on the Cross effected a change TO us. My next question follows from the same thought as the first:
          Could God have changed our natures, made us “New creatures in christ”, as you say He provided for on the cross, without the Blood and Death of Christ? Could He have done that as easily as He could have Forgiven sins without the Payment or Ransom?

        • Mel Wild says:

          My answer would be, no. First, the Covenant with Israel had to be fulfilled (which is a different subject), and second, because our old Adamic nature had to die. Humanity needed a re-boot, so to speak. So,this ransom is not a payment to someone, it’s about deliverance from something. Our human condition had been damaged beyond repair and we could not fix ourselves. Third, there is no way for us as humans to be in direct relationship with God without there being a human in the Godhead, which is why the incarnation of Christ, and why we were placed in Him. With Christ’s resurrection, we were raised with Him. The new creation is not possible without this transformation. This is central the the Christian faith.

          We’ll need to leave it there for now. I have to go…

        • grabaspine says:

          So… no, God could not have just changed our natures without the blood and cross of Christ?
          Interesting.

        • Mel Wild says:

          No, it’s not blood itself. It’s because Jesus HAS flesh and blood, and on His body, took our sins, our old nature, to the grave and put them to death with His death, and God resurrected us with Him in our new nature and brought us into communion with Him through Christ. The full dynamics of that exchange goes far beyond a comment thread.

          Okay, you don’t seem to just be asking questions here, but are trying to find a “gotcha.” So, you are free to disagree. I don’t have the time to go over and over this with you. I wish you the best.

        • grabaspine says:

          What I found interesting was that you seem to have confined or limited God’s capacity from “did not” change our natures without the blood and cross of Christ to “Could not”, when clearly you previously agreed that He could have Forgiven our sins without it. Interesting

        • Mel Wild says:

          Okay, you’re talking semantics here. God can do anything He wants, and He can also NOT do something a certain way if He wants. So, He is not limited in the sense you suggest, nor is He beholding to some “law” higher than Himself. He did it the way He did it for OUR welfare, but it goes much deeper than a simplistic answer here. Again, we’ll have to leave it at that.

        • grabaspine says:

          It’s not really semantics. First you said “no” He couldn’t have changed our nature’s without the blood and cross of Christ. Now… Now you’re saying He could have, but He didn’t. Interesting

        • Mel Wild says:

          Okay, now you’ve made it obvious that you’re just trying to twist my words. Good-bye.

        • grabaspine says:

          The problem we have is… The God of the OT/NT/Christianity ‘could’ have both redeemed and forgiven without the sacrifice of Christ. But He chose to do the human blood sacrifice anyway.
          Barbaric, brutal and bloody ritual having more in common with men and pagan religious rites than an eternal, loving, and gracious God. Have a great week.

        • Mel Wild says:

          If you think that the cross is about a human blood sacrifice to appease God, you have a very superficial, even wrong understanding of what was actually happening. Ironically, it was we who scapegoated God. It was our punishment that He endured. But since you clearly don’t care to understand what I’m saying I won’t talk much further with you, but for the benefit of my other readers, they can go to the links I’ve provided here for my answer.

          I wrote about the idea of appeasement and scapegoating, and how is NOT what God was after at all, in the following posts:

          Christianity: The Founding Murder in Reverse
          “Religion, Politics, and Scapegoating – part one and part two.

          You are also confusing what was actually going on under the sacrificial system in the OT, confusing anthropocentric understanding of God in that culture and what God was actually like. I wrote a whole series of posts about this:

          Saving Easter“(seven parts)
          How Jesus Takes Away Our Sin

          Again, for the benefit of my other readers, they can read my posts on the atonement in general here.

        • grabaspine says:

          My questions, that you answered thank you, were more in the line of forgiveness vs payment for sins. And whether you thought the two were different.
          Forgiveness of a debt requires no payment, from you or anyone else on your behalf. It’s a completely different concept.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Forgiveness does not require a payment. That’s exactly what I said from the beginning.

  2. Salvageable says:

    Mel, I appreciate the fact that you’ve thought deeply about this for a long time and have carefully researched it. I agree with much of what you say, and I understand your repugnance at the thought that God the Father would punish his innocent Son. Certainly the “fist” metaphor on another blog is badly stated. But what else could Paul have meant when he wrote, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”? The Bible often describes God as turning his face away from sin.
    The wages of sin is death. Adam and Eve experienced spiritual death when they ate the forbidden fruit, but God restored them by calling them to repentance and then promising a Savior who would crush the serpent’s head. Those who refuse this gift of redemption must receive their wages, described in II Thessalonians 1:9-10 as separation from God. So how could Jesus not experience that separation on the cross? While the divine nature of Christ is always in fellowship with the Father, the human nature of Christ surely felt that separation because Christ was bearing the sins of the world. In short, Jesus was not merely praying Psalm 22; he was fulfilling the Psalm which prophesies his suffering and his victory.
    Granted, the other aspects of atonement matter too: his victory over evil and death, for example, is a very important theme and should not be neglected. But it troubles me that faithful Christians would discard one doctrine about the atonement because it has been badly stated by some Christians and has been distorted by mockers. J.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Salvageable. I think we’re mostly on the same page about what you said. A few of your points I will respond to… 🙂

      “But what else could Paul have meant when he wrote, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”?”

      I would totally agree with that statement. I don’t think there’s any theory of atonement that doesn’t believe in this vicarious exchange. I’m not sure what you’re asking.

      “The Bible often describes God as turning his face away from sin.”

      It actually only seems to directly say this in one place (Hab.1:3-13),and when we read it in context it’s actually Habakkuk complaining to God because, in Habakkuk’s mind, God shouldn’t even be countenancing sinful people at all but God apparently does. And we have to deal with Jesus, who is the same as God, not only hanging around sinful people but befriending them.

      “So how could Jesus not experience that separation on the cross? While the divine nature of Christ is always in fellowship with the Father, the human nature of Christ surely felt that separation because Christ was bearing the sins of the world. In short, Jesus was not merely praying Psalm 22; he was fulfilling the Psalm which prophesies his suffering and his victory.”

      I agree that Jesus was fully identifying with humanity by feeling OUR separation. But as I think you’re alluding, that does not mean that He was actually separated. In fact, Psalm 22 go on to say, “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him…“(vs.24), and Jesus said that WE would leave Him but His father would never leave Him (John 16:32; 18:28-29). So, we have to be careful when we say “separation.” What Jesus was feeling was OUR orphan-hearted abandonment because we, like Adam, hid from God. But God was IN CHRIST reconciling the world to Himself(2 Cor.5:19). He never once left Jesus or turned away from Him in actuality.

      “But it troubles me that faithful Christians would discard one doctrine about the atonement because it has been badly stated by some Christians and has been distorted by mockers.”

      I agree with you in principle and, as I said in the previous post, there’s a lot I agree with in Penal Substitutionary Atonement(PSA) theory. But my question is, why should we not consider that there may be a better explanation that doesn’t pit God against Jesus, dividing the Trinity, and is not as susceptible to mockers? Furthermore, understand that, historically speaking, PSA theory is a major departure from classic Christian atonement theories. It’s primarily a relatively recent Western theory. But, I agree, we shouldn’t just embrace the theory that makes people feel better. That is not at all what I’m doing. I want a theory that provides the best explanatory power and scope. And I’m not dogmatic about it and have great respect for those who embrace PSA. So I’m not disregarding the good things about PSA. I’m just saying there is a better explanation (in my view, of course) that doesn’t require defending questions that, in my mind, are unnecessary.

      Anyway, thanks for your great questions. I wrote A LOT about these very things on this blog because I know it’s not easy to hear something unfamiliar to what we’ve been taught. But, in the end, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and He is good at straightening us all out. 🙂

      • Mel Wild says:

        Sorry, I had to make a couple typo corrections (corrected above). Especially to say that I’m *NOT* dogmatic about these things… 🙂

      • Salvageable says:

        Yes, I also see that we are mostly in agreement. I did some reading over the weekend and found that the first complete description of the PSA was by Anselm of Canterbury, more than four centuries before the beginning of the Reformation. That doesn’t make it true or false, just older than you are suggesting. I still see it as consistent with the entire message of the Bible, from the events in Eden to the Law of Moses and the requirement for animal sacrifice (including the scapegoat released into the wilderness) through the prophets and apostles. Paul’s discussion of a curse in Galatians 3:10-14 is relevant here, as is much of the letter to the Hebrews.
        I do think that a significant reason for our difference of opinion relates to the two natures of Christ, that the Son of God could continue in unchanging oneness with the Father while the Son of Man could experience the barrier of sin coming between himself and the Father. Therefore the one Christ, both divine and human, can know how that separation feels and the human nature can respond in a human way. Also, I wonder if our approach to prophecy and fulfillment might be different.
        Thank you for your kind and thoughtful response. J.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Thanks for your comments here, Salvageable. I don’t want to get too technical here, but while Anselm (11th century) did postulate Satisfaction theory, which is the first time in church history that it was thought that God needed satisfaction for our offenses, this is not the same thing as PSA. Anselm was using the idea that an offense against a king requires satisfaction. So, you could rightly say that this atonement paradigm started here. But this is not exactly the same thing as PSA. The Reformers, specifically, Calvin, took satisfaction theory and added a lot more to what Anselm was proffering. Now, atonement is about our guilt, it became forensic, using a jurisprudence-type paradigm. So, technically, PSA was a 16th century innovation. And with these two innovations, the paradigm is that God is now the one punishing Jesus, whereas, for over a thousands years before this, it was God rescuing us from sin and death. That all said, there are parts that I can agree with and are common with other atonement theories.

          And you do have a good point about having to consider the dual nature of Christ. And maybe it’s just semantics when we are talking about the nature of separation. I DO agree that Jesus felt our separation as a human being. He was tempted in every point, but without sin. We just have to be careful when we say that God turned His back on Jesus. That would not be accurate.

          Anyway, great discussion! Again, thanks for your thoughtful comments. Blessings to you.

        • Salvageable says:

          Thank you again, Mel. We can probably discuss this until the cows come home and never quite see it the same. It matters most that we agree that Jesus Christ is fully God and is fully human and that he reconciled sinners (including you and me) to his Father by the atonement accomplished on the cross. Beyond that, the differences are small indeed. I would suggest, though, that forensic language is Biblical, both Old and New Testaments. Even the term “justification” is forensic. Now Calvin and those who followed his line of thought may have gone overboard in describing justification and atonement, as did the blogger who called propitiation the fist of the Father. I haven’t read enough Calvin to know if that is so. But I do believe strongly that Christ felt everything expressed in Psalm 22, including the sense of being abandoned, which is why I say that he not only prayed the Psalm but fulfilled the Psalm.
          The peace of the Lord be with you on this holiest of weeks. J.

        • Mel Wild says:

          “We can probably discuss this until the cows come home and never quite see it the same.”

          And we would be in reall good company! Atonement theories have been argued for the last 2,000 years by people who know a lot more than we do! I’m in total agreement with you on the essentials here, as you put it so well.

          We can certainly see “justification” in a forensic light, but it’s not necessary. The Greek word(dikaioō)simply means to be put back in proper relationship, to be restored, made right, vindicated by God’s grace (instead of trying to justify ourselves).

          And I think we’re pretty much saying the same thing about Jesus and Psalm 22. My only contention there was that there was no actual abandonment. Just perceived abandonment. God was clearly at work in Christ reconciling the world…(2 Cor.5:19)

          Blessings to you as well. 🙂

  3. hawk2017 says:

    Amen.:)

  4. This is a wonderful post, Mel. I really appreciate it and the discussion going on here and around the blogging world.

    Language can be hard, semantics, individual perceptions, translations. I just think we really need to be careful of saying things like “God turned His back on Jesus” or “God abandoned Him” or He was rejected by His Father.” There’s simply too much fatherlessness in our culture, and that also is really not the message or the concept the bible is conveying to us in those passages.

    Something I find curious, the vast majority of pastors would never say any such thing, and yet quite a few people I run into really do have struggles with it.

    • Mel Wild says:

      “I just think we really need to be careful of saying things like “God turned His back on Jesus” or “God abandoned Him” or He was rejected by His Father.” There’s simply too much fatherlessness in our culture, and that also is really not the message or the concept the bible is conveying to us in those passages.”

      Exactly, IB. Amen and amen. I couldn’t have said it better myself. That’s my main contention. These expressions and metaphors did not actually come from Scripture but from preachers over the years who have tried to drive home what Jesus went through on the cross. Good intentions but with some very harmful side effects. And you’re right, too much fatherlessness in our culture already, but also in the minds of many Christians, partly because of these powerful word pictures. It’s the wrong paradigm to begin with, in my view, but then some make it worse by how they emphasize it. No wonder so many Christians have problems with this when they start to get challenged by skeptics and unbelievers.

      “Something I find curious, the vast majority of pastors would never say any such thing, and yet quite a few people I run into really do have struggles with it.”

      Well, I’ve heard some very well-known, high-profile preachers that have said pretty much the same thing, just not as violent as a father taking His fist to his son, but the message was the same. I don’t think they realize how damaging that is to how we understand the nature of God and the unbroken fellowship within the Trinity.

      What I’ve tried to do here with my many posts on the atonement over the last 3-4 years is to help Christians see that PSA is not the only atonement theory and that I believe there are better ones that don’t create these problems. In fact, I believe they paint a better picture of what God was doing. But, again, all of them are saying the same essentials that all Christians agree on.

  5. “Forgiveness does not require a payment.”

    One of my favorite “atonement theories,” actually comes from CS Lewis in Narnia, in the way Aslan offers his own self in an exchange, in this kind of hostage negotiation. “Let the kid go and take me instead.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.