Utopian Dreams

I was attracted to Cheryl Chumley’s book on socialism because of the subtitle: Christians Must Rise or America Will Fall. She dedicated her work to “Jesus, the hope of humanity.” Okay, to my liberal friends, it sounds like so much more right-wing political propaganda. But sometimes, it’s good to read outside our comfort zone, if we can stomach it.

What interested me is one tenet of the DSA’s ideology. [Democratic Socialists of America] to realize a “world without oppression.” [Chumley, 34 ] This is a notable idea, but this is also why I introduced on my FB wall a look at the Beatitudes of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. The disconnect between the  DSA credo and reality is the simple fact that “civic virtue,” to use the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s words [Chumley, 60], like any form of justice or righteousness, cannot be legislated or imposed in law. [Galatians 5:23] I get it, the poor are, indeed, oppressed. Even our Bible says that! [Isaiah 1:17]

Chumley prefers the word “collectivism.” It supports the idea of equality. (If everyone has the same rights and economic status, poverty no longer exists?) According to the Democratic platform of 2016, “..use government resources against inequality of all kinds.” [Chumley, 33] But  we live in a time when the hope for such a utopia is sadly, irretrievably, lost:   “postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races.”

To use a Biblical  idea, it has to be written “on the heart.” [Ezekiel 18:31; 36:26]  Jesus’ words must be heeded by His followers if the Church is serious about a heaven that is reachable. And that’s the Beatitudes! [Matthew 5:3-12]

History has been kind to FDR’s “New Deal” even if, as some historians reevaluate, it didn’t work to bring the nation out of “the” great depression. LBJ’s Great Society didn’t work, either—perhaps, the Vietnam war was a distraction. (And now, we are told that things are worse!?) As Jesus said, “… you always have the poor with you.” And then He added this caveat, “but you do not always have me.” [John 12:8]

Hidden in the stories of childhood are some serious truths. [a parody of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”]

As unforgivingly harsh as it sounds, we need to redirect the conversation away from utopian impossibilities to the biblical message of how best we can follow Christ. That’s what the Beatitudes are all about, even though, as Jesus recognized, they would be unpopular in a world that still carries the false hope of an evolutionary progress toward “equality for all.”

We need a humble realization of our utter need for God if oppression is to end. A humble heart cares about the poor because we equally need to be loved. When we learn to care enough we develop a passion for service which begins to realize heaven’s definition of justice (love).  Our merciful heart begins to grows. Mercy is God’s idea.  He shared His definition of it on Calvary.  You get the idea.

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Extending Our Lord’s Ministry

Forty years ago a thought crossed my mind that at the time seemed out of sync with the religious world. I felt it would only stand to scold good people who only wanted to serve our Lord but who were already reeling from the new responsibilities imposed upon them as christians experiencing cultural change.  I felt the timing was wrong; so, I pondered it in silence until in 2016 I wrote this:

The church is not an organization as much as it is an organism.⁠1 The church does not need to be incorporated as much as it needs to be empowered.⁠2 The church does not follow a constitution; it follows a commission.⁠3 The church’s success was never dependent on finance as much as faith, not planning as much as prayer, not ritual but righteousness for its identity, not size but the Spirit, not government but God, not our vision but His. It is this church that will survive through a postmodern age as a witness. It is this church that can adjust to a new normal without compromising its witness and without losing its own identity in a confused world of unanticipated change.

Whether or not you agree is not important because this, I firmly believe, becomes the church’s only recourse when persecuted if it is to survive …and the church in America is on the threshold of that persecution. The church will survive!

Early this morning I awoke meditating on Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” (we are going over this in our Saturday Zoom Bible study)  and it “hit” me what Jesus was doing then that we should consider now. Beside the content of the sermon, itself,  Jesus was preparing a dozen men not just to minister to others but to extend His ministry.  They would not be following an academic education or a doctoral thesis or the science behind demographic studies of church growth—as much as these might appear to address the need for harvesting souls.  They were to allow His ministry in Israel and beyond to continue, after His ascension, through His church.

The Beatitudes are universal attitudes which Christ sinlessly exemplified. The secret to their endurance and influence in empowering God’s people for service is that they transcend cultural change. The application of them and the many principles outlined by the Savior recorded in Matthew 5-8 are key to our identity as being like Christ—extending His ministry—as we hope to in a cultural setting so much at odds. They profile the followers of the Savior who are passionate about extending His ministry in their own.

The ultimate test of our commitment and dedication to the Lord is to what degree we represent the Savior’s heart to our world displaying an undying hope (Mt. 5:4), an enduring peace (Mt. 5:9), an unconquerable love (Mt. 5:7), an unquestioning faith (Mt. 5:3), and an unquenchable joy (Mt. 5:12). These are the testimony that overcomes.

 

 

 


1 I Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
2 Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.
3 Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
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Divine Simplicity & The Atonement

Our knowledge of God is on a pre-heaven level —theologically speaking. So, we speak of His divine simplicity. The doctrine of simplicity, is a way of saying that (1) God is unlike any other being; “ (Psalm 145:3) and that (2) God is perfect, that is, God’s actions do not share in the limitations of human actions. God’s intentions, what He purposes to do, He does.⁠1 There is no “space” between what He intends to do and what He accomplishes. It is only in “time” we see these two ideas as distinct. (God’s predestination and His omniscience continues to raise theological discussions among the scholars.) But His Word declares: “my word…will not return to me empty” (Isaiah 55:11)  

Looking at God, then, through a single lens (and that of divine love), interpreting His actions in terms of His love for us, not only inspires our understanding of God’s Word (it is biblical) but it explains everything about our relationship with Him as believers. (Jeremiah 29:11) It is our limited reasoning, limited by how we experience life and what we have learned about our own humanity that we, in error, compare our thoughts with God’s and asks questions about Calvary that may not be answerable—for now. When we talk about justice, we picture a courtroom and a jurist but not necessarily what the Bible means by righteousness. (1 Corinthians 1:30) When we talk about “the Law,” Mosaic or criminal or whatever, there is much we do not know about God’s judgment seat. What is the “law of Christ”? (Galatians 6:2) Or the “Law of the Spirit” (Romans 8:2)

This much we do know: “…the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin’s power so that the promise might be given on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ to those who believe..” (Galatians 3:22) God’s love was not going to let this matter go. He created us for His glory and that desire of His, His intention in this matter, remains unchanged and unchanging. (Isaiah 43:7)

Simplicity teaches that He does all things as an expression of His love. “The doctrine of simplicity, then,” Prof. Vidu explains, “must be defined such that mercy and justice are two different names for God’s only moral attribute: his love. Mercy and justice are therefore synonymous.”⁠2 (Ps. 33: 5; 89:14)

Perceiving God in this way, simplifies explanations.

So what exactly is the atoning work of Christ all about? Does it provide a punishment to satisfy injustice against the holiness of God or does it provide for our restoration to fellowship with a holy God. We can affirm: both because they are one and the same divine act by the one and only God whom we sinned against.

“The history of atonement theories,” Vidu asserts, “is really a debate about the nature of God,3 …that is to say, the nature of Divine Love.


1 The doctrine of divine simplicity is not intended as an apophatic sublation of all talk of divine nature.” … That is to say, we are not trying to minimize a conflict of interest between mercy and justice, or forgiveness and punishment, by arguing that justice is not justice, punishment is not really punishment. As Adonis Vidu points out, ““It is precisely such capriciousness, on the one hand, or impotence, on the other, that the concept of simplicity expressly denies.” -Vidu. 29, 31
2 Ibid. 29
3 Ibid. 236
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Happy Easter

It is basic to Christian thought to herald the Savior’s death as a substitute for ours. He died in our stead. Had He not died, there would have been no eternal life for you and I. This much we can accept as an irrefutable and basic truth. Jesus’s death was a requisite for our salvation—a necessary part of the divine plan to provide for that salvation.  Mark records, “Then he began to teach them that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and rise after three days.” (Mark 8:31)

The necessity of Jesus’s crucifixion was tied to prophecy, as we know, “He was pierced because of our rebellion,” (Isaiah 53:5) but atonement theory proffers a judicial necessity in postulating His death as a penal substitution, i.e. The penalty for our sins in our place. Luther called it a wondrous exchange: “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin[offering] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

But the question, did Jesus have to die for our sins, remained an open one throughout church history. Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033/4–1109) in particular has argued that if God is to save, that He has to choose between satisfaction or punishment. Due to His justice. But what does it take to appease an offended God or satisfy His justice when the crime was our sinning and the penalty should be death?

According to the theologians, it becomes a debate within God, Himself, between His attributes and His nature. Between His love and his holiness, between a need for mercy and retribution. Even John Calvin argued for what scholars call, God’s “inner necessity.” Calvin argued that Jesus could not die just any death (disease, a street assassination) It had to be the Cross because He had to be sentenced and executed by a criminal court. His death was a “penal substitution” to satisfy the justice inherent in divine law.

Nor can He die in secret, in a quiet and peaceful death in old age in His own bed.  When God gave His Son, He offered Him to a depraved and hateful creation. His death became a public event burned into our memories forever.  The fact that dozens of prophesies foretold it only discloses the Divine heart while He, hanging there, proclaimed to fallen man what must inevitably come to pass because He couldn’t “unlove” them.  (John 3:16)

Two disciples were meandering down a country road to Emmaus, two disciples despondent beyond words for He was the promise of Israel now thought buried and forgotten.  But here He comes along side, though, their grief did not allow them to see Him.  Ever so slowly as He spoke He ignited once again that eternal hope that excites pure joy in the soul.  So when they reached Emmaus, they could not sleep but had to return to Jerusalem with the news.

He’s alive!!

How can the Day of Pentecost top this!!??

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It Is Finished

When Jesus cried, “It is finished!” What was finished?  What did He mean by these words just before He expired on the cross?

  1.  Paid in full: “[Financial] receipts  are often introduced by this phrase,” according to Moulton & Milligan’s Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament. In general the word means: to fulfill obligations, to pay.” Charles Swindol expanded:

 “It was a Greek expression most everyone present would have understood. It was an accounting term. Archaeologists have found papyrus tax receipts with “Tetelestai” written across them, meaning “paid in full.” With Jesus’ last breath on the cross, He declared the debt of sin cancelled, completely satisfied. Nothing else required. Not good deeds. Not generous donations. Not penance or confession or baptism or…or…or…nothing. The penalty for sin is death, and we were all born hopelessly in debt. He paid our debt in full by giving His life so that we might live forever.”


  1. The simplest meaning of “finished” in the form He spoke it on the Cross is “All is fulfilled, All is accomplished!”  This, to me, fits better in the context since Jesus was not talking about an unpaid bill but the fulfillment of all prophecy.

Everything God commissioned Jesus to do has been “completed,” the saving work whose earthly completion according to J[oh]n is at the cross. [Kittell vol VIII 59]

This might explain what Jesus meant in Luke 12:50 since He spoke these words in reference to the Cross:

“But I have a baptism to undergo, and how it consumes me until it is finished!” [CSB]


Let me suggest why I lean toward the second meaning but not to exclusion of the first.

The first meaning suggests a propitiatory substitution. (Jesus bore our sins. Colossians 2:14; I Peter 2:24) The doctrine of a propitiatory atonement is based on the belief that God required a penal justice (Justice required a punishment. He bore ours, Isaiah 53:5) which idea became established theology during the Reformation.  The early church fathers did not formalize in doctrinal creed any theory of the atonement, leaving us to wonder why Jesus had to die.

The second meaning does not attempt a reasonable explanation as to why God in the form of His son volunteered to die on the Cross for our sins.  It asks us to accept it by faith but He did provide through His death and resurrection a new way of life for us to walk in (Romans 6:4).  If justice (retributive and/or reformative) is a theological concern: Paul wrote to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:16) that though this remains a mystery to us, why Jesus had to die,  He was justified—vindicated—in so doing.  He was judged just, He satisfied justice, in rescuing you and me from our sinfulness.


The phrase “It is finished” is one word in the original Greek in a nuanced form which may carry three meanings (I want all of them):

  • Jesus finished the Work FINALLY (Galatians 4:4)
  • Jesus finished the work COMPLETELY (Luke 24:26-27)
  • Jesus finished the work once FOR ALL TIME. (Hebrews 10:10)

Then he led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. And while he was blessing them, he left them and was carried up into heaven. After worshiping him, they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they were continually in the temple praising God. — Luke 24:50-53 [CSB]

Their joy on seeing the resurrected Savior was all they cared to know! And now we await His return.

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Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It!

He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people for his own possession, eager to do good works. (Titus 2:14)

No scripture more clearly, simply, and emphatically explains redemption, freedom from the bondage to sin to serve the Lord. A closer examination of this verse, perhaps, shares all we really need to know for now about the efficacy of Jesus’s death. But like children, always eager to learn, we shall continue to seek deeper truths. But we must begin here.

Jesus gave Himself, His crucifixion was voluntary. As He said, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” (John 10:18) And He did this “for us.” This is not only voluntary but vicarious.

Some interpret the word “for” to mean “for our benefit” or “for our good,” a meaning worthy of the word, but an interpretation which cannot stand alone here because in so doing He has redeemed us. Redemption is first and foremost the purchasing of our salvation (ransoming us) by His blood (Acts 20:28) which is a vicarious substitution. Yes, indeed, for our benefit; because He did this (the translation simply reads “to”) in order that He might redeem us, (set us free via a ransom in His blood.)

“In order that” shows “purpose or end.” 1 Jesus’s death did not provide our freedom from sin’s bondage as an unintended consequence of a unfortunate death of a good prophet. Jesus, God’s Son, submitted to the Father’s plan and gave Himself willingly to the lash and the cross knowing that this was the means to our freedom from sin’s grasp!

Redeem, redemption, is a term that comes from the word meaning “to set free.” The truth could not be clearer. It is correctly understood as our “ransom” after the analogy of the Old Testament sacrifice, and some believers like to reference Hosea 3:1-2 where the prophet purchased his wife, Gomer, back off the slave auction block.

Freed us from what? Lawlessness. 2 This word supports Prof Craig’s contention that our Savior’s death was a penal substitution. 3 Martin Luther allegorically wrote, “The Law growls, ‘All right. If Your Son is taking the sin of the world, I see no sins anywhere else but in Him. He shall die on the Cross.’ And the Law kills Christ. But we go free. 4

I am using a human analogy,” Paul employed the slavery motif to explain that now instead of enslaved to sin, we should be our Lord’s life-long indentured servant. (Exodus 21:5-6) “because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification.” (Romans 6:19)

But not just a servant to God, but a “pure” or cleansed (from sinful thoughts and motives) servant of God; we serve no other lord. There is implied here no other motive or personal interest other than pleasing our Lord.

Because we are ransomed, He bought us with His blood, we are His, His own, His own possession! And the purity of our service is evident in an expressed zeal or passion to live for Him, to do “good works.” (We are reminded that one of the Fruit of the Spirit is goodness. Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9)

Proclaim these things; encourage and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard[despise] you. Titus 2:15

Preach it!  Teach it!  Live it! And let no one’s hate shut you up!


1 Thayer. 302
2 “It is characteristic, of course, that [lawlessness] should become one of the chief terms for sin.” Kittell, vol IV. 1085
3 “Paul’s exposition of the way in which Christ’s death achieves reconciliation with God is suffused with forensic terminology rooted in Jewish notions of law and justice.” Craig. 51
4 Martin Luther, Epistle to the  Galatians. 54-55
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Where Did I Go Wrong?

There is an interesting word for “sin” found in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, used over 62 times, that never made it into the Gospels or the Epistles of the New. And even if the Hebrew has no equivalent term, the concept it embodies is, nonetheless, very Jewish. The question to ask is not “What was my sin” as if a single misstep or a single act of indiscretion needs forgiveness. The question with this Old Testament Greek word is not “what” but “where.

Where did I go wrong?

In the New Testament we see sin either as the expression of fallen nature (sinfulness) or we reference our individual misdeeds, misplaced passions, and abusive words; but in the Old Testament—and this is, as I said, very Jewish—sin means being out of harmony with nature. I found a relevant Einstein quote, Even though he was known to be  an atheist, he didn’t denigrate believers.: Douglas Leblanc said, “He heard the music of the spheres.

‘What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos.’

 

To sin, to use a Classic Greek metaphor, is to be “out of tune.” When we are as we should be, as God ordained, we are making music. But when a false note is hit, when we “sin,” the discordant sound causes all nature to jump in offense  The Ancient Greeks would say, “He made a false note!” A false note is another way of saying “a mistake or error” in judgment was made.

All sin is out of tune, out of harmony,  first and foremost, with our relationship with God, then each other, and finally with our own person, our own dreams, desires, and happiness—with our own world.

The Hebrew Bible meets us with a full acknowledgement of these manifold aspects of human suffering, and blends wrong doing and suffering to a remarkable degree, setting forth sin in its relation to God, to society, and to a man’s own self. [Robert Girdlestone. Synonyms of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Grand Rapids Book Manufacturers, Inc. 1974), 76 ]

Moses hinted at this idea when he cautioned God’s people about carefully following God’s precepts, , “Listen, Israel, and be careful to follow them, so that you may prosper...” [Deuteronomy 6:3]  It is a loving Creator who knows the science behind proper living that encouraged Ancient Israel to follow the rules—follow the laws that kept them in harmony with His world.  Wish they had!!!

The Greek for Psalm 34:22, which is in the Septuagint Psalms 33:22 is encouraging, “those who hope in Him shall not go wrong” [οὐ μὴ πλημμελήσωσιν πάντες οἱ ἐλπίζοντες ἐπ᾽ αὐτόν].

But let’s not toss the Hebrew to the curb!  It reads, “The LORD redeems  (will rescue) …  His servants, and all who take refuge in Him will not be punished.”

We “kind-of” get the message that God’s Eden is still on His mind where—before that fatal bite—all was in harmony…..

What a beautiful description of heaven, the place of total, absolute, and eternal harmony…..

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He Bore My Sin

Isaiah  prophesied, “he [God’s Suffering Servant, I.e. Jesus] will carry their iniquities…⁠1   Peter referenced this text ( Isaiah 53:11 & 12). 

I Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree

The word “carry” in Isaiah is a word in the original which described a “heavy load,”⁠2 In Isaiah 53:4 God’s suffering servant carries a burden of pain⁠3 and sin that He took off our backs and put on His own, i.e. vicariously! Isaiah went on to prophecy, “…he bore the sin of many…”⁠4 where it means He was “accepting of suffering of the guilt of others⁠5 to which Peter added—clarifying who God’s suffering servant was and when Isaiah’s prophecy was finally fulfilled,  in His body on the cross.” Peter then pulls back the curtain revealing God’s plan. “So that,…. we might live for righteousness.⁠6  In Paul’s words,⁠7…in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. 

There is only one kind of life in Christ, eternal life.  Removing sin from our lives as believers has no temporal significance although it starts in this life.⁠8 Jesus called it a “well of water springing up into everlasting life.⁠9  It is a life in the Son which makes our  salvation⁠10 more than a condition or a hope but a way of life, a new way of life, that we begin to experience the moment we accept Him and appropriate Calvary. It could not reasonable be anything less.  Jesus made that point emphatic in our favorite childhood verse, John 3:16. We know this already as believers but here our focus is solely on this truth—He took our sins and sinfulness⁠11 and took them as far from us as the rising sun is from the setting sun (the east is from the west).⁠12  There is much more to discover about our Lord’s suffering on Calvary but this one provision alone is the offer of eternal life in its scope and importance.

But what exactly does Peter mean by saying, that He “carried away” our sins? We use a theologically inspired term: expiation.⁠13 Not only the sin and sinfulness but the guilt is gone and replaced with a peace that confirms the totality of God’s forgiveness.  He didn’t forgive in words⁠14 but in action thru His death. 

One undeniable characteristic of God’s, now within a believer and later on Christ’s return in His eternal presence, is that Heaven is a sinless place because it is a holy place.  For this reason, John could make an amazing proclamation, “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not sin, but the one who is born of God keeps him, [himself] and the evil one does not touch him⁠15

    • There is: The Kingdom within:⁠16 Hebrews 9:26 the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself.  
    • There is: The Kingdom to Come:⁠17 Hebrews 9:28 so also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but [without sin] to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
    • As Daniel saw it,⁠18 
      • to bring the rebellion to an end,
      • to put a stop to sin,
      • to atone for iniquity,
      • to bring in everlasting righteousness,

Non-believers question the logic behind a purposeful God requiring the crucifixion of His Son.  We are not prepared yet to address this query. But our faith recognizes God’s authority over sin in our lives thanks to what Jesus did on the Cross.  It is more than forgiveness.  And “sin” needs to be further defined. But there was a dynamic at work in those hours of darkness on Golgotha’s hill:  The Temple veil was torn away and what had been a once a year appointment in the Holy of Holies for the Jewish High Priest became a doorway to prayer for all who would enter into communion with God!  There can be no communion between God and sinfulness.⁠19 Explanations aside as to how this all works in God’s heart and in our lives, we, nonetheless, now know as believers that it is all very real.   

 


1 Isaiah 53:11
2 BDB, p. 687
3 Isaiah 53:4 “..he carried our pains…”  Most English translations use the word “sorrows” which might not be an adequate description.
4 Isaiah 53:12 הוּא חֵטְא־רַבִּים נָשָׂא
5 Gerhard Kittell. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids , MI: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), vol IX. pg. 60. 
cp. Numbers 14:33 ““Your children will be shepherds in the wilderness for forty years and bear the penalty for your acts of unfaithfulness until all your corpses lie scattered in the wilderness.
6 1 Peter 2:24
7 Romans 6:4
8 Romans 6:4 Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life.
9 John 4:11 & 14
10 1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers and sisters
11 Both ideas are in the words used for sin.
12 Psalm 103:12.  This distance is infinite and no matter how fast or slow the earth turns, the east and west are never closer.
13 the act of extinguishing the guilt incurred by something
14 Luke 23:34 records Jesus pronouncing forgiveness from the cross but this portion of the verse might be added later.  It was rated a C by the textual critics in the NA27 edition of the Greek text.
15 1 John 5:18
16 Luke 17:21 YLT t…he reign of God is within you.’
17 Matthew 8:11 “ tell you that many will come from east and west to share the banquet[fn] with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
18 Daniel 9:24
19 Psalm 66:18 NIV If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

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Why Did Jesus Die On The Cross?

Jesus’s death is not allegorical, since, His death is not a story told to explain truth. It IS the truth that needs to be explained. Jesus’s death was an historical fact which Dorothy Sayers referred to as “the only thing that ever really happened,⁠1miraculous and unfathomable.⁠2 Steve Hindalong & Derald E. Daugherty picturesquely used words like mysterious and scandolous:

At the wonderful, tragic, mysterious tree
On a beautiful scandalous night, you and me
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white
On a beautiful scandalous night

We have used the word motif to explain what happened on Calvary, but is this best? A motif, I am told, is “a distinctive feature or dominant idea with symbolic significance” but what is that dominant idea we are hoping to describe? That’s the quest. We know Jesus dealt effectively, completely, resolutely with the sin issue that separated us from a Holy God.⁠3 We know we are forgiven.⁠4 We know, thanks to Jesus’s death and resurrection, we have newness of life,⁠5 a new birth,⁠6 a new beginning in our relationship with God⁠7 (and one another). We know that had Jesus not bleed and died on Calvary, none of these would have been true.⁠8 We know if there had not been a Calvary, we would have died in sin⁠9 and been relegated to a “lost” eternity.⁠10

But some question why did He have to die—and specifically on a Roman cross—to provide all this.  Does not God have the power and authority to provide our salvation another, less painful, way? When we consider God’s love for His Son, [Luke 3:22] it is not reasonable to assume that there was another way. His love for His Son would have provided that other way without blood. But the Scripture suggests there was no other way. As the writer of Hebrews confirmed “never without blood.” [Hebrews 9:7]

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me  —  nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”⁠11

Calvary is not a parable. It is not a story to teach a moral truth. Jesus death was an historical reality that made possible God’s gift of eternal life. Calvary was not symbolic. Calvary was the execution of a Divine plan,⁠12 a plan God carefully and thoughtfully drew up in eternity⁠13 and executed through His obedient Son.⁠14 Trying to understand the reasoning behind the Divine plan in story form is not what faith is about. Faith is accepting or recognizing that, through His death, Jesus offered us eternal life.⁠15 [Acts 16:31]

A better question to ask might be: What really took place on Calvary? What happened when Jesus suffered and died? Or better still: What did Jesus’s death provide for us? (Leaving the “why” question to God, for now.)

The task of inspiration through the writing of the apostles and prophets was to share with us the event that God, in the person of His son, was going to die on a Roman cross and this single event would have eternal significance, It would become the moment by which all history would hereafter be interpreted and judged.

Our theology would have to present a new concept: Grace, a word unknown in ancient times. And, like the love that proclaimed it, requiring a faith that was open to comprehending the otherwise incomprehensible. Paul clarified, “the person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated [discerned] spiritually.”⁠16

The title of this work asks “Why;” why did Jesus died on the Cross? But “why” is the endless question small children ask when they are caught doing something that mom and dad  called “bad.” We don’t need to keep asking “why,” going deeper and deeper into a line of reasoning, hoping to spiral down into some mysterious eternal truth. [Deuteronomy 29:29] We’ll take a look at this central Truth, since, there are still mysteries associated with what Jesus accomplished on Calvary that sound the depths of a divine love for us that will require our glorification to grasp. John 3:16 reads “God so loved…” What kind of love is that? How big is His heart? Much of God’s provision through Christ remains to be experienced by us who only know now “in part,”⁠17 a “downpayment”⁠18 if you will, of a guaranteed heavenly experience yet to be fully embraced.

But instead of asking why let us study Jesus’s death from the perspective of the spiritual provisions which we can begin, in this life, to appropriate and appreciate. John in his epistle declared, “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers and sisters.⁠19 Let’s start there.


1 Dorothy Sayers. The Man Born to be King. (San Francisco CA: Ignatius Press. 1990) Page 290.
2 Dorothy Sayers. Creed or Chaos (Manchester,NH: Sophia Institute Press, 1974), Page. 8ff.
3 Colossians 1:22 But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him
4 Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace
5 Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.
6 John 3:3 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
7 1 John 1:2-3 that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us  what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
8 Romans 5:9 How much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by his blood, will we be saved through him from wrath.
9 1 Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.
10 John 3:16 For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
11 Luke 22:42
12 Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed what we have heard? [believed our report] And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
13 Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
14 Hebrews 5:8-9 Although he was the Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. After he was perfected, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,
15 John 14:1 Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
16 1 Corinthians 2:14
17 1 Corinthians 13:12 Now I know in part, but then I will know fully
18 1 Corinthians 5:5 Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.
19 1 John 3:14
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How Do You Read It?

Click to enlarge

The verse under discussion. Notice the word kai in brackets

Recently in a men’s Bible study Philippians 2:4 was presented for discussion.1 The leader read from the English Standard Version while I read along in the New International. They were not the same!

English Standard: Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

New International: not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

The Problem

The ESV added the words “only” and “also” interpreting the Greek word, “kai,” most often translated, “and.” But should it be in this verse? I looked at 13 other versions all translating the word “kai” with: also, as well, not only, but also, or too. 2 One of the translations, “The Christian Standard” translation for Philippians 2:4 in the Blueletter Bible app read differently than what I read in the Bible Gateway app.3 Same version!!

Other Translations

So, I dug deeper. I looked at Luther’s translation,4 the Latin Vulgate,5 and even a Hebrew translation.6 And I referenced two commentaries.7 One, J. P. Lange, was more interested in the phrase “each of you” since in the Greek it is a plural, for which we have no English equivalent. He correctly concludes that Paul is referring to “every member of the churchProfessor Lightfoot preferred interpreted this as if the “also” was not there, i.e. “let them look beyond their own interests to those of others.9

We shouldn’t skim over this text. So I inquired of the Textual critics, the guys and gals that decide whether or not the word “and” [also, too, as well as, not only but also, etc.] was in the original. They placed as a critical sign a small circle elevated above the word as a prefix10  (°[kαι]) indicating that “the word following [i.e. ‘and’] is omitted by the witnesses cited.11 The word is also in square brackets since “the textual critics … are not completely convinced of the authenticity of the enclosed words.’12

The Witnesses Cited

Click to enlarge

Notice the little circle beginning this line. The capital letters, the Greek and Hebrew characters as well, represent families of manuscripts. P46 is listed.

Look at the list of manuscripts that represent the absence of this word. [D, F, G, K, P46 א ψ] Included is P46. “P46 is an example of one of the earliest forms of the New Testament.… While P46 was copied more than a century after Paul originally wrote his Epistles, this codex is nevertheless the closest that modern scholars have been able to get to Paul’s original words.”13 [One Textual Critic, who was a friend of mine, Dr. Howard Eshbaugh (we pastored in the same town), did his dissertation on P46 attempting to show its autographic quality.] The word “and” in this verse, is not in P46. We are suggesting that, perhaps, the Greek word “kai” might have been added later. ..that it was not original with Paul!

The Context

And why should we care? Verse 5!  “Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus.” In view of this context, that of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, is it conceivable that any conscientious or deliberate effort would have been spent by Paul on any selfish thought of a private or proudful interest in matters of his ministry? To the contrary: Paul sought to know this Jesus “and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death” [Philippians 3:10],

The word “and” here would water down this sincere and wholehearted devotion to following Jesus that Paul exemplified. Look closely: Let each of you look not only to his own interests….  The word only [ESV] in an effort to translate the Greek word “and” opens the way for believers to condone and justify self-interests unlike the Savior who gave all for you and me.

Can there be such a thing as a selfish believer? See Philippians 2:21.

My Conclusion

I have a textual right to exclude the word “and” putting my brother and sister in Christ above myself without exception.  I have a textual right to read with the NIV: not looking to [my] own interests. I dare say, that was most assuredly Paul’s heart.


1 The Biblical Greek SBL – Society of Biblical Literature & Westcott and Hort: μὴ τὰ ἑαυτῶν ἕκαστοι σκοποῦντες, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ ἑτέρων ἕκαστοι.
2 The Living Bible: Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing.
3 Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers.
4 Luther ... ein jeglicher sehe nicht auf das Seine, sondern auch auf das, was des andern ist.
… each one does not look to his own, but also to what is the other.
5 Vulgate non quae sua sunt singuli considerantes, sed ea quae aliorum.
Look not every man on his own things, but  those of others.
6 The Society for Distributing Hebrew Scriptures: אַל … איש לטובַת … לְבֵדו כי אִמ־גֵמ לְטוֹבֵת ךַעֵהו
not …each to the good of theirs alone but with also to the good of his neighbor.
7 J. P. Lange’s Commentary, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians by Karl Braune, 7th printing,  and
Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians by J.  B. Lightfoot, 15th printing
8 Lange, pg. 82
9 Lightfoot, pg. 110
10 °[kαι]
11 The NA 27 edition, Introduction in English page 56.
12 ibid. page 54.
13 https://apps.lib.umich.edu/reading/Paul/perspective.html
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