A PERTINENT QUESTION

BY:  JAN A. ANTONSSON

JULY 19, 2014

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The Glory Road, A Kingdom Highway

 

 “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).

 

“For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam ALL die, so also in Christ shall ALL be made alive” (I Cor. 15:21-22).

 

Fr. Richard Rohr’s meditation today brought to my mind the question, asked by a Glory Road reader in 1999:   “If Everyone is going to be saved, why did Christ have to die?”  (http://thegloryrd.com/1999/Christ.html). The reader whom I called Tomas (not his real name), put me through my paces as I tried to answer his very excellent question.  He wrote:

 

“I took a look at your essay ‘Saved By His Life,’ (Glory Road, 1997), and was interested in the question you pose at the beginning, ‘Why did Christ have to die if all are saved anyway?’  Without wishing to seem harsh, you spend an enormous amount of time NOT addressing that issue. After having read the essay several times, I still don’t see how you answer that question. Surely that question can be answered in 25 words or less. You are evading a direct answer by piling on concept after concept.  If you cannot answer in one simple paragraph, then I doubt that you know the answer to your own question. You really do not know ‘why Christ had to die if everyone is saved.’ You are beating around the bush and fooling people.”  End Quote.  

 

Lenny and I both answered him, but he wasn’t buying any of it. True, I did come at it from the viewpoint of salvation from sin, which is where most Christians I knew were struggling at that time.  Perhaps that’s still true today, but my answer would be slanted differently.  At the time, when Tomas blew me off, I asked Harry Fox and John Gavazzoni to give an answer.  Each of them did, but it didn’t satisfy the fussy Tomas.  Turns out, I found out that he was a trouble maker and had no interest in our answers.  His goal was to discomfort us all, including Gary Sigler and Preston Eby, whom he mentioned several times as having disappointed him with unsatisfactory answers, by which he concluded that none of us knew what we were talking about.  At least we got named in a superior group of thinkers/writers.

 

Though it didn’t satisfy Tomas, I want to include Harry Fox’s answer here, because it comes closer to the heart of the matter than I did.  Harry wrote simply,

 

“Crucifixion,” or its equivalent, is INTRINSIC to the kind of love in which God forgave and continues to forgive us, His enemies, who nailed Jesus to a cross” (cf. Rom. 5:6-10; Col. 1:21-22).

 

“This one sentence answer can be expanded into a short paragraph as follows: To say that the kind of love which forgives ENEMIES “intrinsically” brings “crucifixion” upon the one who practices it, is to say that it is not something imposed arbitrarily from without, but is an inherent consequence of such love; it is a revelation of how COSTLY such love is to the one who practices it. Thus, Christ did not die so that God could forgive us, but rather God’s forgiving love of us is what brought about the death of Christ. In other words, Christ’s death was not the cause of God’s forgiveness, but rather its accompaniment.”  End Quote.

 

This is another example of how our perception changes when the Holy Spirit reveals the Father’s Heart to us.  

 

Intellect, no matter how keen, will not reveal Father God to us; reading the Bible, no matter how diligently, will not satisfy our heart’s desire to know Him; going to church, doing good works, avoiding sin when we can will not bring us to a place of rest in Him.  

 

Only the Holy Spirit can reveal the Father’s heart to our hearts, and this is why Jesus came, not to condemn us, but to love us back into relationship with Father God which was severed by Adam’s sin.  You can’t erase the sin factor in salvation, because it is at the heart of the blood covenant God made with Abraham (Gen. 15).  Abraham slew the animals God specified, cut their bodies in half on either side of a ditch in which the blood pooled, and then in a vision, God, in the form of a flaming fire pot, went through the blood first.  According to the covenant used in that part of the world in ancient times, the greater walked through the blood first, and then the lesser.  

 

The point of the exercise was to say in symbolic form that the punishment for breaching the covenant was that whoever broke it, would have his blood spilled by the other.  The text says that Abraham was terrified, and well he should have been, because God could not fail to keep His side of the covenant, but Abraham, knew how fallible he was.  For that matter, we all know how fallible we are, and how unable we are to keep the commandments.  Sin had mankind by the throat in a choke hold, and something or someone had to step in and break the impasse.  Only blood could repay the price demanded by the blood covenant’s breach.

The Old Testament is a bloody testament to Abraham’s heirs’ inability to keep the covenant, and it is a terrifying record of how God collected His “pound of flesh,” so to speak.  He spilled their blood and their lives over and over again when they failed to comply with His commandments, and it did little good.  They were helpless puppets, following evil kings who led them astray.  The Babylonian captivity was the final episode in God’s collecting His part of the bargain He made with Abraham.  There is silence in the Bible for 400 years between the last prophet, Malachi, and the Gospels, but if history is prologue to future, we can’t believe that the Children of Israel succeeded any better during that time than they did before.

 

Enter Jesus, as a tiny baby born to a virgin, birthed in a manger among the cattle and sheep.  He lived out His life in Nazareth, a village of poor repute, until God called Him to begin His ministry.

 

“Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world,” John the Baptist announced to those he was baptizing in the Jordan.  That had powerful significance to His listeners, and whether they wanted more of the Giver or merely His Gifts, they flocked to Jesus to be fed physically and spiritually.

 

That message has no effect on people like Tomas and on many others who don’t know the scriptural implications, and are so busy rushing about in their busy lives, that they don’t really even think about it, until they need help.

 

Harry Fox started me on this journey back in 1968-1969, and has remained a spiritual light, good friend and mentor from then on; deep fellowship with Lenny my mystic mate, and John Gavazzoni, whose brilliant insights have shed a lot of light for me and others, helped me along.  I was so pleased to see Rohr’s meditation today with echoes of my own journey.  He wrote,

 

“The significance of Jesus’ wounded body is his deliberate and conscious holding of the pain of the world and refusing to send it elsewhere. The wounds were not necessary to convince God that we were lovable; the wounds are to convince us of the path and the price of transformation. They are what will happen to you if you face and hold sin in compassion instead of projecting it in hatred.”

 

Clearly, Jesus changed our perception of God, whom we had created in our own image, which was horrific at times, and Jesus showed us that God didn’t need Christ’s blood to forgive us.  We needed the blood to forgive ourselves and each other.  The blood of Christ, fulfilled the blood covenant which God made with Abraham.  By the terms of this agreement, God could have spilled our blood, and did so over and over in the Old Testament.  Christ came to bring a new and better covenant, one in which God allowed us to spill His blood.  Why?  Because we needed to see how very much He loved us.  Christ settled the sin issue once for all on the cross.  The death He died, He died once for all, for each of us.  Most of us have perceived it exactly backwards all these millenniums.

 

Father, we bless your holy name, for You are worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! Your children call You blessed, now and forever more.  Truly, the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.  In Christ, we worship and adore You, fall on our faces before You, and follow the Lamb wherever He leads.  Amen.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A PERTINENT QUESTION [Jan A. Antonsson] 07-19-14          3

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