The Bold Claims of Christianity

boldness

 

First Word

We Christians make bold-faced claims which rankle both anti-theists and people of other faith systems.  We claim that salvation from God’s judgment is a necessity because, all of mankind has sinned and that sin carries with it a penalty (Rom 3:23; Rom 6:23).  And if these statements weren’t audacious enough, we further claim that Jesus is the only One who can save us (Acts 4:11,12).  The unbelieving world asks “What gives you the right to make such brazen claims and work to persuade the entire world to agree with you?”  We can respond to this question with questions of our own.  Should not all of humankind be at liberty to proclaim that which they know to be true?  Are we not morally bound to share that which we believe are imperative truths?

Those who oppose Christ often say, “Oh, but you can’t possibly prove your claims!”  Well, as long as a person insists on thinking this way, we are indeed powerless to convince them of what we believe.  That is, it is beyond our human ability to rewrite another person’s world view against their contrary will.  Yet God’s word enjoins us to “ . . . be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Pet 3:15) In this piece, we will work to briefly express why we are convinced of Christian doctrine, but focus mainly on what it is we believe regarding the ruin and redemption of mankind.

The reason for our hope

We do want to affirm the legitimacy of Christian doctrine, but for the sake of conciseness, we will forego a lengthy apologetic treatise in this section.  Regarding our origin, suffice it to say that we reject the notion that we inhabit an accidental universe.  Likewise, abiogenesis theory has been considered and found wanting.  We look at the design and beauty of all that appears before our senses and intuitively detect the fingerprints of a creator God (Psa 19:1-4; Rom 1:20).

This explains our theism, but why do we also believe the claims of the Bible?

We believe there are both spiritual and intellectual reasons for making the jump from mere belief in a creator God to becoming a Christian.  The spiritual reason we follow Christ is that we are drawn by God to do so.  In John 6:44 Jesus declares, “no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  While we indeed respond to God’s drawing, He alone initiates this act.  We believe that all of humankind is drawn to the one true God by a general call, but many reject Him (John 12:48; Matt 22:14; Acts 7:51).

As for intellectual reasoning, it logically follows that we ought to take monotheistic claims seriously once we’ve ceded that a divine Designer must exist.  Is it not reasonable to conclude that a creator God would most assuredly reveal Himself to us?  Surely, no Being of this unfathomable magnitude would create the Universe and sentient beings without appending a significant purpose to His actions.  Finally, we see Father God being shown to us in the Personhood of Christ Jesus.  His appearance and acts were all prophesied in ancient times and He perfectly fulfilled each and every one.  Many are the compelling evidences for those who seek logical explanations for both the existence of God and the veracity of Christian doctrine.

The claims we make are not our own

The bold claims that Christians make are legitimate, but not simply because we say they are true.  We have the words of Christ Himself as our authority.  For example, why do we say that Jesus is the only way to salvation?  We say this because, He first said it Himself.

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” – John 14:6

God’s undeniable expectations

Those who are to be reconciled to God, must come to realize that the following words are true.  The eternal, triune God of the Holy Bible is both the supreme being and creator God of the entire Universe (Gen 1:1; Neh 9:6; Isa 66:2; Rev 4;11).  He is the sovereign authority over all things (Isa 43:13; Psa 135:6; Job 42:2) and perfectly holy (set apart; perfectly sinless) (Lev 19:2; Isaiah 57:15; Rev 4:8).  Yet there is more to becoming a true believer.  Believing that God exists is only a starting point.  In James 2:19 we read, “ Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”  God is not happy with a mere nod of acknowledgment.

As supreme authority, God requires sinless perfection from mankind (Lev 11:44; Matt 5:48; 1 Pet 1:15, 16).  God has a set a behavioral standard for all beings endowed with feeling and unstructured consciousness.  We are free to make moral choices, but God will not fellowship with those who desire sin over His standard (Isaiah 59:2).  As sentient creatures, we are expected to abide by this standard.  God’s own nature is one of pure holiness.  He is not a God who delights in sinfulness and is perfect in all His ways. God is sovereign and can do as He wills, but His nature is to be holy and undefiled by sin.  He is free from all sin and wants us to be as well.  Psalm 25:8 says, “Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.”  This scripture demonstrates God’s desire for us to choose to be like Him.

Sin places a wedge between us and God

In a very real sense, sin makes us enemies of God. This enmity is unrelenting and places us on a path to eternal separation from God.  This is known as damnation and it is a fate inescapable unless we are somehow delivered from it.  Our delivery, our salvation comes from a plan conceived in the mind of Father God and was brought to fruition by Christ Jesus upon the Cross of Calvary. Observe: “For just as all die in Adam, so also shall all be made alive in Christ.” (1Corinthians 15:22)

What is sin?

A sin is any action considered wrong according to God’s commands or moral law.  From a ‘generally’ religious perspective, sin (v.) can be viewed simply as the breaking of Divine commandments or directives, but there is much more to the matter.  For example, no action is sin in and of itself.  What makes a thing sinful is when it is at variance with God commands.  That is, if God has forbidden something, that something is then sinful by default.

“Sin is a riddle, a mystery, a reality that eludes definition and comprehension. Perhaps we most often think of sin as wrongdoing or transgression of God’s law. Sin includes a failure to do what is right. But sin also offends people; it is violence and lovelessness toward other people, and ultimately, rebellion against God. Further, the Bible teaches that sin involves a condition in which the heart is corrupted and inclined toward evil. The concept of sin is complex, and the terminology large and varied so that it may be best to look at the reality of sin in the Pentateuch first, then reflect theologically.” – Elwell, Walter A. “Entry for ‘Sin'”. “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology”. . 1997

God has identified what is sin for us (1 John 3:4; 1 John 5:17) and we see it manifestly displayed in the hearts and deeds of men.  Denying its existence to escape one’s own guilt, is a fool’s errand and does nothing to change the hurtful truth that we all must face (1 John 1:8-10).  Sin is real, a very real problem for the souls of men.

Original Sin

The first humans were created perfect (sinless), but chose to sin by disobeying God’s one command to them (Gen 3:6).  They chose not to be perfect as God is perfect and thereby brought division between themselves and God Almighty (Isa 59:2).

In the simplest terms possible, “Original Sin” can be defined as the innate inclination toward evil and sinfulness in mankind as a result of Adam’s original transgression. Yet it is known in another sense as well; “Original Sin” refers also to “The Fall” of mankind through Adam’s original transgression; that is, there was a resulting judicial imputation of guilt upon all of humanity.  There is much dispute about ‘imputed guilt’ but who can deny the fact of native depravity?

Next, ‘Original Sin’, as a Christian doctrine, does not refer to the first sin ever committed, but instead refers to man’s fall resulting from his own first sin.  The Bible teaches that sin predates mankind and scriptural evidence supports our belief that Satan was the original transgressor.  We read in 1 John 3:8, “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”

In Ezekiel 28:14 -15 we read, “You are the anointed cherub that covers; and I have set you so: you were upon the holy mountain of God; you have walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, till iniquity was found in thee.”

In Ezekiel 28, the text begins as a prophetic narrative about the King of Tyre, but later transitions into what is obviously an allusion to Satan’s former glory and subsequent fall.  This chapter is widely thought to refer to both an earthly King and Satan.  That is, the King of Tyre is herein thought to be compared to Satan who, because of immense pride and rebellion, fell from a glorious existence to damnation.

An alternative view, is that the King of Tyre was actually possessed by Satan. While this idea is arguably conjectural, it is not easily dismissed.  This would explain why the same text refers to them both.  Yet a comparison of the two separate entities is also a valid explanation. At any rate, Satan’s glorious state of existence was bestowed, not manifested of his own power.  This fact apparently eluded Satan as we see in Isaiah 14.

Observe:

In Isaiah 14:12–15 we read, “How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations! For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet you shall be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.”

So, scripture does tell us that Satan sinned prior to Adam and also tells of how he came to be a powerful enemy of God.  From these facts, we can gain an understanding of Satan’s malignant hatred of mankind.  He hates us and seeks to bring all of mankind down with him as he did with the angels who unwittingly followed him in his rebellion against God (Rev 12:3-9).  Pride goes before a fall and we ignore this ancient truth at our own peril (Pr 16:18).

Is the Biblical account of Eden and the Fall of Man a metaphor?

This is an important question because, the doctrine of Original Sin asserts that the nature of all mankind was adversely affected by the actions of one man.  We read in Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” Therefore, if Adam and Eve weren’t real persons, if the Biblical narrative regarding Eden was a mere poet’s abstraction, ‘Original Sin’ loses its doctrinal credibility and potency.  This is quickly answered by pointing to that fact that Jesus Himself referred to Adam and Eve as actual persons. (Matthew 19:3-6) Also, we see this repeated throughout the New Testament. (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 11:2-12; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:8-15)

Man’s ability to fall – How could sin be conceived in the heart and subsequently carried out in the actions of a creature who began his existence as a sinless being?

Though sinless on the day of his creation, man had the ability to sin because, he had/has a free will.  We know this because, Adam did indeed sin thereby making this a foregone conclusion (Gen 3:6) . Man’s original nature was given (bestowed) to him by God, but not maintained by God; his sinlessness was handed to him, but not protected from his freewill.  So, man was therefore subject to losing his created nature.  Now, he was not created to sin, but he was created with a freewill and therefore ‘could’ sin if he so chose.

Man’s original transgression

The structure of Genesis 3 is as follows: The Temptation (3:1-5); the Fall (3:6-13); and the Judgment (3:14-24).  Herein, we read the Biblical account of how sin and even death entered into a formerly perfect world.  Nothing has been the same since this ruinous event.  Upon Man’s creation, both the man and woman were commanded not to eat of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil.” (Gen 2:17) Man was given an opportunity to be a master of temptation, but instead became a slave to sin because of the Fall.

The Temptation – Genesis 3:1-5

Let’s begin with: “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made” (Gen 3:1a; cf. Rev 20:2).  How long man flourished in innocence and felicity is not known.  The narrative seemingly takes us from the glory of creation to the Fall in but an instant. It is beyond the scope of this work to focus upon what is not said and wrestle with unanswered questions that arise from such musings.

While it is Satan himself at work behind the Temptation, we have him represented as an actual serpent in the text.  He is referred to as the most subtle (crafty, cunning) beast of the field thereby letting us know this is no ordinary reptile. Many are the commentator’s suppositions regarding the exact form and substance of the ‘serpent’.  Likewise, commentators have attempted to deal with Eve’s seeming casual regard for a mere serpent’s capacity for speech.

To summarize this matter, many questions are left unanswered in this regard, but the Word is not at all remiss in speaking to that which is important.  That said, let’s remember that, the safety of our souls is not jeopardized by anything formed of flesh and blood. It is “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph 6:12).  To be clear, it was Satan himself who spoke to Eve by whatever means and it was Satan who beguiles mankind til this day.

Next, let’s focus on: “And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Gen 3:1 b) Here, Satan pretends to misunderstand God’s command by asking whether any and all threes were prohibited.  This feigned ignorance opened the dialogue with Eve by provoking her to correct the Serpent.  She answered the Serpent with: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:” (Gen 3:2b).

It is interesting to note that Satan’s method of temptation has not changed.  He is as effective as ever in causing us to question whether an act is ‘truly’ sinful.  He was too crafty to have directly denied God’s directive.  So, he chose instead to plant the seed of doubt.  God’s commands are not subject to our judgements or up for debate.

He managed to convince Eve that she would receive a magnificent intellectual endowment and power that God was selfishly withholding from man.  It is doubtful that Satan quickly succeeded, but it’s not certain how long this interaction between Satan and Eve lasted.  Whatever the case, his effort to persuade Eve ultimately overcame her resistance and she disobeyed God as did Adam.

The Fall – Genesis 3:6-13

A great deal of ground is covered in Gen 3:6; this one compact verse speaks of an array of events.  Therefore, we need to look closely at what is said to gain an understanding of what transpired.  Genesis 3:6 tells us, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”

“And when the woman saw . . .”  The Hebrew word for ‘saw’ here is ‘ra’ah’ and means: to see, look at, inspect, perceive, consider.   Satan’s deception hinged upon selling an assertion; he had to persuade Eve to adopt a new perception of the tree.  To clarify, Satan had to cause her to ‘see’ the fruit with an awakened desire.  Until this point, uninviting and injurious plants hadn’t yet been created (Gen 3:17, 18).  So, Satan didn’t have to persuade Eve regarding the beauty of the tree, but on the promise of a desirable intellectual gift.  Eve was duped into seeing the tree as, “and a tree to be desired to make one wise” It was not true wisdom (beneficial prudence) Adam and Eve received, but a forbidden insight.  The beauty and sensual appeal of the tree, coupled with Satan’s deceptive arguments, proved to be more than Eve could resist.

In the final words of the verse we have: “. . . and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”  Some assume Adam was not present for Eve’s deception and struggle with temptation.  This is highly unlikely as the verse indicates otherwise.  The text clearly conveys that she ‘at once’ shared the fruit with her Husband.  This being the case, Adam’s passivity throughout this entire scenario was quite remarkable.  Why did he opt to simply stand by and watch this unfold?  While Eve was more curious and vulnerable (1 Tim 2:14) than Adam, one is hard pressed to convince us she was any more distrustful of God or rebellious.

The Judgment – 3:14-24

The misdeeds are done and Man has fallen.  The consequence of sin is deadly and Man is about to have this shown to him (Rom 6:23).  Satan likely believes he has succeeded on the Earth though he failed in Heaven (Luke 10:18), but God’s hand is not frustrated or impeded by anything or anyone.  Original sin began with Satan, therefore, he was the first to receive judgment by God’s malediction.

Verse 14 – And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

Some propose that God’s judgement fell wholly upon both Satan and the Serpent (Satan’s instrument).  Consider the Serpent’s possible form prior to the curse.  If the Serpent was cursed to crawl thereafter, was it not somehow standing and walking about prior to the curse?  The usefulness of this consideration lies in the realization that God has provided a present day physical proof of this ancient event.  Snakes exist til this day and do crawl about on their bellies.

Verse 15: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (cf. Deuteronomy 32:5, Matthew 13:38, John 6:70, 8:44, 13:2, 13:27, 17:12, Acts 13:10, Ephesians 2:2-3, 2 Timothy 2:26, 1 John 3-12, 5:19, Revelation 12:9, 13:8, 17:8)

The serpent was now cursed to be hated by both the woman and her descendants.  Few creatures are considered more detestable than the serpent.  Whether it’s a harmless garden snake or a deadly viper, the vast majority of humans fear all serpents and even find them utterly loathsome.  The curse upon the earthly serpent is visible and easily examined.  Yet there is a spiritual dimension to this particular curse which fell upon Satan alone. To clarify, the enmity between women and snakes is very real, but the real hostilities are spiritual.  In this verse, we see a literal declaration of war and Satan’s ultimate defeat being foretold by God Himself.  The combatants in this war were to be the seed of the woman and the seed of Satan.

We can take note here of how partners in rebellion against God are turned upon each other.  No good can come to those who join forces against the Almighty.  Eve and the Serpent were on congenial terms as they discussed the forbidden tree, but God’s judgement swiftly halted their friendly discourse and replaced it with bitter warring.
Who is the seed of the Woman?

No sooner than death by sin is upon us, God’s grace is promised to deliver us.  How could we conclude such from the words of God’s judgement?  First, let’s consider Satan’s intent.  He was not playing a silly, mischievous  prank by seducing our first parents to rebel.  His fate was sealed and he intended for every one of us to join him on the road to perdition (John 10:10).  Yet God promises that, from the ‘seed of the woman’, Satan’s head would be struck; here, God promises us that Satan will be defeated and his diabolical plan undone.  Eve was confident in this inference as is evidenced in her proclamation at the birth of Cain (Gen 4:1).
Are we correct in assuming ‘the seed of the woman’ refers to the sum total of humanity?  While we see Biblical instances of the mankind’s dominion over the Serpent, the ‘woman’s seed’ doesn’t merely refer to her descendants in general (Psa 91:13; Mar 16:18; Act 28:3-6).  The truth is that Satan was to be overthrown though a particular bloodline.  The first descendants mentioned were Cain and Abel.  Abel’s bloodline was cut short by his untimely demise at the hand of Cain.  And it hardly seems likely that God would overthrow Satan from the descendants of Cain.  In Genesis 4:25 we read, “And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.”” This time, Eve is correct (cf. Lu 3:1-38).

And so, the bloodline referred to in Gen 3:15 is established beginning with Seth, but it was ultimately Christ who would bring about Satan’s utter defeat.  In Gen 3:15 we have the first mention of a promised Redeemer; this is the first of many prophesies regarding the One who will one day lead His own from the grave.  The foremost, quintessential seed of the woman is Christ Jesus (Luke 3:23-38).  This prophetic truth is why Genesis 3:15 is known as “Protevangelium”  That is, it’s considered the first gospel proclamation; it is the Gospel message expressed in an abbreviated form (cf. Gal. 3:8).

Who is the seed of the Serpent?

John 8:44 – Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (cf. Jhn 8:38,41; Jhn 6:70; Gen 3:15; Mat 13:38; Act 13:10; 1Jo 3:8-10,12)

Gen 3:16 says, “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children;” (cf. Gen 35:16-18; 1Sa 4:19-21; Psa 48:6; Isa 13:8; Isa 21:3; Isa 26:17,18; Isa 53:11; Jer 4:31; Jer 6:24; Jer 13:21; Jer 22:23; Jer 49:24; Mic 4:9,10; Jhn 16:21; 1Th 5:3; 1Ti 2:15) “and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (cf. Num 30:7,8,13; Est 1:20; 1Co 7:4; 1Co 11:3; 1Co 14:34; Eph 5:22-24; Col 3:18; 1Ti 2:11,12; Tit 2:5; 1Pe 3:1-6)

The curse upon Eve was twofold.  First, we see that sorrow and suffering will now be added to the experience of motherhood.  While there are many joys associated with motherhood, a woman is beset with afflictions as well.  The irritating discomforts of pregnancy, the painful suffering of labor, and the emotional suffering from postpartum depression are all examples of what was brought upon women by the Original Sin. (Note: the author does not assert that postpartum depression is a symptom of all pregnancies)

Second, she is also now subject to the authority of her husband.  We can infer from the text that, the complete equality that many women seek, existed with Eve until the Fall.  While some are comforted by the controlling embrace of governance, many are not.  Much of female liberty and personal autonomy was lost.

Wives who despise the authority of their husband and act accordingly, are in violation of both God’s  marital precept regarding such and His divine sentence.  Those who chafe at this sentence, ought to consider how harsh it could have been.  God did not subject wives to all men, but to their own husbands, who are commanded to love them as Christ loved the Church (Eph 5:25).  This divine mandate was not intended to bring ruin and perpetual misery, but repentance.

God now passes sentence upon the man saying “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;” (Gen 3:17).

While the woman’s sentence was great, the man’s sentence was much broader in its scope. God declared saying, “cursed is the ground for thy sake; . . . ” The man was originally assigned dominion over a fruitful, friendly environment.  The very world from which He must gain a living is now cursed and will behave as would an enemy.  God declared further, “in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; . . .”  One can only imagine the man’s sorrow.  We, who grow up in the cursed world, have never known a better place.  Adam was now forced to face a ghastly transition from comparatively abundant and carefree living to a life of toil, pain, and adversity.

The man forfeited a golden opportunity to protect his Wife from the Serpent’s deception.  Instead of defending her, he passively stood by and even joined her in disobedience.  As a result, the ground would no longer readily produce.  God continues with, “Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;” (Gen 3:18) Where easy fruit once flourished, ‘thorns’ and ‘thistles’ would now take over.  Now, the man must continually toil to produce food which paled in comparison to Eden’s bounty.  Finally, God says to the man “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen 3:19) The man must now toil and eat of the “bread of sorrows” until the life has gone out of him (Psa 127:2).

Original sin brought about, not only curses, but separation from the Tree of Life and expulsion from the paradise that was the Garden (Gen 3:22,23).  Yet this was only the beginning of mankind’s sorrow.  Soon, the first murder would take place and more curses would come upon mankind and nature because of many egregious and inescapable sins.  We say ‘inescapable’ here because, Original Sin is not simply a story of how Sin came into the world.

Our sin nature – beyond Eden

This division between God and mankind persists till this day as humans cannot be perfectly sinlessness of their own volition (Isa 64:62; Thes 1:9; Rom 8:3).  On the other side of the story, we must now look at the doctrine of Original Sin.  This doctrine asserts, among other things, that man is born with a desire to sin and that desire is imparted to man from Adam. To state it another way; as a result of Adam’s sin we all enter the world with a fallen nature. There is no denying the tangible lure of sin (Jam 1:14).  All humans have an innate inclination to commit sinful acts and long to satisfy fleshly appetites.  There is no disputation regarding this as it’s a self-evident truth.  The doctrine of Original Sin, however, takes the matter further by purporting that this sin nature was passed on to us from Adam (Rom 5:17 cf. Rom 5:19; Gen 3:6).

Federal Headship is broadly understood to mean that a male is the representative of all his descendants.  Adam is, therefore, considered the Federal Head of Mankind; he was the first created human being.  So, Adam didn’t simply fall upon committing sin, he passed the sin nature on to all humanity (Rom 5:12-19).  Fortunately, we aren’t left with only the corrupt inheritance of Adam.  From Adam, sin comes into the world, but through Christ Jesus we have grace unto eternal life (Rom 5:17).  As Christians, we are happy to receive Christ as our representative on Calvary’s cross, but chafe at the notion of Adam representing us in the Fall.  Nevertheless, we cannot have one without the other. To be clear, all of mankind is exposed to eternal damnation by Adam’s offence.  Yet God’s grace and mercy, freely delivered to us through Jesus Christ, brings believers to the safety of salvation.

How did Adam’s sin endanger his descendants?

To recap our previous statements, the very natures of Adam’s descendants were corrupted by the fall.  That is, sinful inclinations are an innate part of us as beings.  It is our position that, original sin is the inborn, native depravity of all mankind brought upon by Adam’s fall.  We are all born in this wretched state whether we like that idea or not; despite how good we ‘think’ we are, God sees unregenerate sinners quite differently (Psa 51:5 cf. Psa 58:3; Rom 3:23).  Who among us can say that we’ve never committed any sin(s)?  We are born, not only with an inability to obey God perfectly, but also with a penchant for evil acts and disobedience.

Now, this does not mean that the Fall took away our will or ability to reason; neither did mankind lose a knowledge of right and wrong (Rom 2:14,15).  Without these attributes of consciousness, we could hardly be held accountable for our sins.  Yet our possession of knowledge, free will, and conscience has no moral value while we are yet unbelievers.  The Fall corrupted the unity of these attributes in that we exercise them as we ourselves see fit. Unregenerate man leans unto his own understanding and is led astray by pervasive carnal influences. He has no innate ability to utilize his faculties to achieve true holiness.  Apart from Christ, we remain lost regardless of how good we try to be under our own power (Isa 64:6).

Without Christ, a penalty must be paid

As a result of sin, not only is man’s fellowship with God broken, man is fated for eternal damnation unless saved from God’s righteous judgement (Eze 18:20; Matt 25:46; Rom 6:23). God’s judgements upon all those present at the fall were most grievous and we ought to gain proper perspective from this event.  Yet humans have a tendency toward a distorted view of God’s grace. We unwisely tell ourselves, “Surely, God loves me enough that He will overlook the little sins.  Certainly none of my mere peccadillos invite divine wrath!”  This is an outworking of carnal thinking (Rom 8:7).  Remember the Serpent’s words, “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen 3:4).  Just as Eve was deceived on that day, we’ve all been likewise deceived.  While all sin can be forgiven, as we will later cover, levels of sin ought not be our concern.  The theological imperative is for us to realize that all sin is sinful; all sin is damning.  God doesn’t look favorably upon evil and does not tolerate it (Hab 1:13).  God hates, not only the commission of sin (Psa 5:5; Pro 6:18), but even the planning of it (Pro 6:18; Zec 8:17).

Sin does not take place in a vacuum

God does not ignore sin and we can be sure that our sins come to light  (Num 32:23) .  When we assume that God can’t possibly see or remember all human activity, we deceive our own selves, but cannot deceive God.  God is not subject to human derision or trickery; if we sow evil, evil shall we reap (Gal 6:7).  The unregenerate person, who indulges themselves in sinful behavior, reaps destruction (Gal 6:8).  Just as our first parents in the Garden could not hide themselves from God, neither can modern man be so crafty as to sin in secrecy.

Final Judgement  

Only Christ can be Savior and only He can be the only judge all mankind.  All judgment is committed to Him (Acts 17:31; John 5:22, 27; Rev. 1:7).  Jesus will be the judge of the entire human race (Matt. 25:31-46; 1 Cor. 15:51, 52; Rev. 20:11-15).  He will even be the judge of fallen angels (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6).  Jesus Christ is God the Son who visited earth in human form and now sits at the right hand of Father God.  Only Jesus is given the authority to judge us.  Jesus is our Lord and there will come a day when all will kneel before Him and confess to God (Rom 14:11).

Damned souls must stand before the Great White Throne of Judgment

The Great White Throne Judgment is an eventual trial for all who have rejected Christ.  To be clear, every condemned person will stand before this terrible judgement seat; no unrepentant rejecter of Christ shall escape this event.  In Revelation 20:12 we read, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”  All of mankind’s deeds are recorded.  God is omniscient (all knowing); nothing we’ve done escapes God’s attention and we are to be judged by our deeds and misdeeds as God sees fit.  Even death itself cannot hide us from this day of judgement; the sea will give up the dead, even death and hell will be delivered up. Every person will be judged according to their works (Rev 20:13).  Finally, Death and Hell will be cast into the lake of fire and all those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will accompany them (Rev 20:14,15).  Believers needn’t fear this particular judgement, but we will be judged according to our works as believers (2 Cor 5:10).

God’s provision for our salvation

The Prophet Isaiah penned “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2) Yet how could one be separated from an omnipresent God?  If God has turned His back on us, what hope do we have of reconciliation?  Again we cannot interpret God’s Word wooden-mindedly.  Certainly, many verses are to be taken literally, but this is not one of them.  Sin causes a relational separation between God and man.  God is holy “set apart, separate” from all sinfulness.  He is perfect and has no fellowship with the darkness of iniquity.  Therefore, the unrepentant sinner can have no fellowship with God until such time as he/she is saved.

God the Father, because of His perfect love for us, provided for our salvation.   Before sinners had sinned, even before Adam’s creation, Father God had a plan and a purpose for all things.  We know nothing of God attributes, we sell Him far short, if we think for a moment that anything has caught Him unaware.  We call God’s redemptive decree eternal because, it was conceived before time began.  And since man did not exist, the original work of redemption was wrought in accordance with God’s plan only.  No human thought was involved and no human cooperation or consent was necessary.  Furthermore, God’s plan of redemption was not a reactionary process worked out as time and circumstance availed God opportunities to respond.  He is sovereign, all-knowing, all-powerful, and omnipresent.  His divine fore-knowledge of all things and limitless power prevent His being able to fail by any means.  Again, what God has decreed from eternity past will always come to pass.

How then are we saved?

Salvation can be defined as the saving of the human soul from the penalty of sin.  The penalty for our sin, among other things, is eternal separation from God.  God never lost His love for us and, therefore, wanted to reestablish the original relationship He enjoyed with mankind.  However, His sense of justice had to be satisfied before His forgiveness could reach fruition.  Human beings could never atone for themselves.  So, a perfect sacrifice was necessary for atonement.

So, Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah and that He came, not only to sojourn with us for a season, but ultimately to serve as the perfect sacrifice for our sins and thereby reconcile humanity to God the Father. That is, He was punished in our stead for our sins and provided absolution for all believers. We believe that Jesus was perfect and untouched by sin. Therefore, He alone could be the perfect sacrifice and that only He could be an offering worthy for sin’s remission.

Defining sacrifice and offering

First, the nature and meaning of the term ‘sacrifice’, as it pertains to God’s requirement to atone for sin, is bound to the parameters set by God, not manmade definitions. In this section, we’ll attempt to understand the term more fully.

1. Sacrifice as a verb

The term ‘sacrifice’ as a verb relates, of course, to the act of sacrifice itself. When a sacrifice is made, one gives up something they want to keep for themselves. A sacrifice of this nature is usually associated with the giving up of one thing to obtain something else.

2. Sacrifice as a noun

A good way of understanding ‘sacrifice’ as a noun is to view it in relation to the term ‘offering’. So, a sacrifice in this sense, would be an offering; something offered that bears great significance because a sacrifice was made to provide said ‘offering’. Christ’s crucifixion is referenced as both a sacrifice in (I Cor 5.7; Eph 5.2; Heb 9.28; 10.12) and also as an offering in (Eph 5.2; Heb 8.3; 10.14).

3. Sacrifices as referenced in the Old Testament

Sin quickly led to bloodshed and death upon the Earth. Even after the Original Sin, God immediately killed animals and made clothing for Adam and Eve, for example. Observe: Gen 3:21 – “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” We mention this here because, we want it understood that we are building to an ‘ultimate point’ regarding blood atonement. Bloodshed and sacrifice of this type would never had been necessary if not for sin.

When we think of ‘sacrifice’ in this sense, we picture ancient Hebrew people slaying animals from their flocks on an alter as an offering to God to atone for sin. And this is not an inaccurate perception, provided that we understand it’s not the ‘only’ type offering one could provide. Pertaining to Old Testament offerings, there were: 1. Burnt Offerings (Lev 1; 6:8-13; 8:18-21; 16:24) 2. Grain Offering (Lev 2; 6:14-23) 3. Peace Offering (Lev 3; 7:11-34) 4. Sin Offering (Lev 4; 5:1-13; 6:24-30; 8:14-17; 16:3-22) 5. Trespass Offering (Lev 5:14-19; 6:1-7; 7:1-6)

These offerings were made, not only for atonement, but for other purposes. Worship, cleansing from defilement, unintentional sin, paying restitution etc. were all purposes for these offerings. We would also like to point out that, in all instances, the common denominator is a ‘giving up’ of something of value, not a permanent destruction of the thing offered.

So, it is true that bloodshed was caused by sin and it is true that animal sacrifice was given to us a means to offer something of value up to God for our sins. We see this confirmed here: Leviticus 17:11 -For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

Again, the sacrifices made during this time were about the relinquishment of ownership unto God and not about the death or destruction of that which was sacrificed. And not only this, the OT animal sacrifices were a mere foreshadow of the ‘only’ sacrifice that would truly provide Salvation for mankind. In Hebrews 10:4 we read, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” For mankind’s full redemption, something of much greater value had to be offered. And Christ was that offering as well as the giver of it. (Matt 20:28)

The events of Christ’s sacrifice

We now concern ourselves with the arrest and pre-crucifixion maltreatment of Jesus because, it speaks to the fact that He offered Himself willingly. He knew of Judas’ treachery and was in no way caught off guard when they came to arrest Him (John 13:27). The fact that He didn’t simply vanish away proves this. Jesus made Himself an offering. Be aware that this is part of why His sacrifice was sufficient.

The plan to accuse and arrest Jesus was patently illegal and nefarious. It was an indefensible and unjust action taken against the most innocent of all men. Subsequent to His arrest, He was treated abusively and withstood the rigors of six separate trials. He faced false accusations and was ultimately convicted and sentenced for the crime of sedition.

Again, Jesus knew what was to come and actually prayed that he could avoid this terrible fate, but submitted to it as He wanted the will of Father God to be done (Matthew 26:39-44). Once the reality of His immediate future was confirmed, He resolved within himself to face it. Let’s not forget the humanity of Christ. He felt pain and shame just we do and obviously did not relish what was to come. Nevertheless, He became both the perfect Sacrifice and the Giver of it for our sakes.

Not only did Jesus not escape, but He actually came to meet them. Amazingly, He also heals a servant’s ear after Peter had cut it off during the short lived fray with a sword. (Luke 22:51) This demonstrates His immense capacity for compassion. Anyone else would have been concerned only with what was to soon become of them.

And now, Jesus suffered the pain of being abandoned and was all alone to face the worst (Mark 14:50). Just as a lamb upon the sacrificial altar faced its fate alone, Jesus had no companions in this ordeal. To summarize what is commonly known, Jesus was brutally treated even before the crucifixion. The following verses describe this and we ought to take time to imagine how we ourselves would feel during such treatment, knowing full well it was undeserved.

Matthew 25:67 – Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,

Matthew 27

26 Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.

28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.

29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!

30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.

31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

And after all of this, Jesus was then crucified. Experts, in diverse fields have examined and pondered the execution that Jesus willingly face for our sakes. He suffered one of the most horrendous, painful deaths mankind has ever conceived.

Do not discount the shame and suffering of the Cross

Observe:

“The cross is placed on the ground and the exhausted man is quickly thrown backwards with his shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flex and movement. The cross is then lifted into place.

The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees flexed. The victim is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain—the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places the full weight on the nail through his feet. Again he feels the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of his feet.

As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward to breathe. Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled. He fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath. Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen. Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins: a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.

It is now almost over—the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level—the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues—the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air.” Adapted from C. Truman Davis, M.D. in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8

God was pleased to accept Christ’s crucifixion as a propitiation for our sin

Jesus didn’t remain dead as did the slain animals of the Old Testament did because, God the Father didn’t require it. That means, God was now the recipient of He who was briefly with us. His birth and residence upon the Earth was an undeserved occurrence in the life of humankind. And the gift of Christ Jesus was now returned to God in a manner that purchased our forgiveness and reconciliation.

The Resurrection of Christ

Finally, the Resurrection of Christ was necessary in that He alone is the One who will show redeemed man the way from the grave.  He is the first fruits of the Resurrection and His failure to rise again would have been a tragedy as well as a victory for Satan. The necessity of the resurrection is so significant that Paul wrote, “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)

Summation

Father God sacrificed His only begotten Son, the only possible perfect sacrifice, for the sins of mankind (2 Cor 5:15; Gal 2:20; 3:13; Eph5:2; 1 Tim 2:5 6; Titus 2:14).  Jesus, who was born of a virgin (Matt 1:18-25), died in our place upon the Cross of Calvary and was resurrected on the third day providing proof of who He was and what He had done for our atonement (Matt 20:17-19; Mark 8:31; Acts 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3; Rev 1:5).  His blood was shed for the remission of our sins and He was punished in our stead.  He paid a price He didn’t owe for sinners who could not pay.  Christ and Him crucified in our place, is our only hope of Salvation (John 14:6; John 1:29; Romans 3:25-26; Rom 4:25; Rom 8:31; Cor 5:7; ).  We must have true abiding faith in Him and His perfect sacrifice to receive Him as Lord and Savior (1 Joh 5:7; 1 Peter 1:5).   Jesus, the Provider of our salvation, commands “ . . . repent ye, and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15)

In Christ,
C. David Ragland, Jr.

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