Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 4/5/09.
"Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42, RSV).
God moved us here to Neosho, MO, in May, 1998, at which time I learned how to build websites (Gary Sigler had done that for us prior to that time). We were excited to be sharing what God had given us and eager to respond to readers who often wrote with questions or comments. While that is still true, we no longer assume that everyone is a sincere seeker of truth. Some really are; some merely want to complain; and some want to agitate and irritate. It took a while to realize that the one who wrote today's topic question in 1999, probably fell into the latter category. Here's his first e-mail:
"I took a look at your essay 'Saved By His Life,' (See Link at End) 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. The answer to 1 + 1 is 2. Simple and direct. What letter comes after B? The answer is C, simple and direct. What is the capitol city of Canada? The answer is Ottawa. 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. If you have the answer, e-mail me at most one short paragraph (and never minding citing other people or writings)." End Quote
In my eagerness to do a better job (and get my "A," no doubt), I wrote pages and pages including many scriptures in an essay entitled "If all men are going to be saved, why did Christ have to die" (See Link at End). Realizing my own inadequacies theologically, I also asked John Gavazzoni and Harry Fox to respond. Both did, but Tomas was not only unimpressed, but also convinced they didn't know either. He dismissed us all with disdain after our third trip round the mountain saying,
"You write, 'I expect that God will use your question to be a blessing to a number of people.' How? since you did not provide an adequate answer at any time? I just didn't bother going any further since I felt you were floundering. I don't think that either you or Preston Eby or Gary Amirault (or any in the circle of Universalism) can answer that question. All of you are at a dead end, a cul-de-sac with respect to that question. Don't kid yourself, you don't have it but I don't intend to pursue the matter any further because the theological framework within which you operate; its presuppositions or underpinnings, will [not] allow you to see both question and answer clearly." End Quote.
Somewhere along in there, it began to dawn on me that the guy was "yanking my chain" as they say. I turned him over to the tender mercies of the Holy Spirit and moved on. His question "Why did Christ have to die if God is going to save everyone anyway?" revealed his basic ignorance of scripture, for without the death of Christ, no one at all could be saved!
Harry Fox gave a masterful and SHORT answer which went to the heart of the matter. He wrote, "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. Note, there's a link to Harry's writing at the end.
Here's a snippet from John's answer, which is rich and deep: "Simply stated, Christ had to die because we were dead; and we were dead because we were appointed to die (Heb. 9:27), and we were appointed to die because paradoxically, our ultimate destiny is life and life abundant. The very life of God is to be our life, and only the experience of death can prepare us for this life. The extremity of need, which is death, is the only worthy complement to the bounty of His life. Death is a spiritual vacuum that, when exposed to the life of Christ, whose life is perfect union with God, causes us to fill our lungs like a man underwater who has run out of air and breaks the surface gasping for breath.
"Death is the compression of the human spirit like the compression of the bulb on a syringe, the result being that when the compression is released, we suck in the water of life. Christ was named Emmanuel (God with us) and He joined us in our death that we might join Him in His life. He was subjected to death so that in the flesh, as one of us and as our forerunner, the firstfruits (I Cor. 15:20, 23) of all mankind, He would be "raised from the dead by the glory of the Father [so that] we too may live a new life" (Rom. 6:4). The last enemy, Death is defeated by being forced to be an instrument for life, and then it is vanquished forever.
"Death is not the result of the abuse of man's free will. God planned for it to be the temporal, all-pervasive condition of humanity to prepare us to experience His life in all its fulness. Nothing but sin and death can bring out the best in God. They bring out a quality of His love which reveals the passion in God to be with us, even though it means He became flesh in order to participate in the slime pits of our human condition. So Jesus, Emmanuel, joined us and died on the cross bearing spiritually, soulically and physically our sin and all its consequence. Without sin and death, God's love would be experienced as merely benign, but when that love comes to us bearing our sin and death and all the effects on spirit, soul and body, it is revealed in all its depth, brilliance and fire." End Quote. Note, article is listed at end.
A. P. Adams wrote this about Christ's death: "This (the cross) is God's way of life; through trial, suffering, corruption and death; and the symbol of this way is the Cross. To "bear the cross" is to follow Christ's footsteps in this way of life through death, "knowing the fellowship of his sufferings" and being "made conformable unto his death" (Phil. 3:10), "that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body" (Rom. 8:11). Our various trials, afflictions, persecutions, etc., are not so many crosses that we must bear, but all parts of one cross; that is to say, all these are part and parcel of the one and only way to life, through self-crucifixion and death, to the same life that Jesus won in this same way. Surely it ought to enable us to endure our trials and afflictions with patience and composure, and even with joy, when we know that thereby we are bearing Christ's cross after him in just as real a sense as did Simon the Cyrenean, bear the literal timber upon which the Savior was crucified; if we are "partakers of his sufferings," we shall also be "partakers of the glory that shall be revealed" (Rom. 8:18).
"....The cross is the striking and suggestive symbol of the death to which all must become conformed, if they would ever know the power of Christ's resurrection life; ...it is also characteristic of that mystic crucifixion (Gal. 5:24), that every Christian is called upon to endure if he follows Jesus, and which is the price of and the only way to, that life which is "life indeed" (1 Tim. 6:19). End Quote.
In this article, posted on the website (Link at end), Adams brings out an important point, which is that the death of Christ was not limited to what happened on the cross. When He left the portals of glory and took on flesh to dwell among men, He entered the death realm. He joined the rank and file of humanity who were born to die, with no way out. He provided our way home to our Father by means of His death, burial, and resurrection.
Ten years have passed since Tomas asked his question, the answers to which he took such great exception. Since then, God has matured my understanding as the Spirit has faithfully led me into the truth He wants me to share (Isa. 2:3; 9:2). When God brought Tomas's question back to me a few days ago, I looked at what I had written to him. There was nothing wrong with it, but he was right in saying I rambled on and on. I'd like to take another shot at it, drilling deeper into the bedrock upon which our faith rests. Some of my conclusions may shock you, or even seem to be disrespectful to God, but stay with me and we'll sort it out.
The reason Christ had to die, even though God will eventually save everyone is simple. It's the least God could do for us since Paul declared that HE "consigned all men to disobedience" (Rom. 11:32); and it's the most He could do, since Paul asserted we are destined to be "joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). Scripture asserts in Old and New Testaments alike that God is the prime cause for the human condition, which we'll all admit is lamentable (Deut. 32:39; Am. 3:6; Isa. 45:7; I Cor. 11:12). Most put the blame for our situation on Adam because he disobeyed God. "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam, all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (Vs. 21-22). That verse may lead us to believe that man got himself into the soup when Adam sinned, so God in His infinite mercy, had to send Christ to make a way out. Those who believe that, however, conclude that since man brought us into death, man must get himself out by obedience to God.
I grew up believing that, but my heart would turn to jelly when I heard the preachers ranting about eternal hell fire and damnation for those who knew not Christ and obeyed not the gospel. My mind always went to the pitiful folks in Africa who never heard the name of Christ, nor ever could. (I'm old; there was no TV in those days, and very little radio on the "dark continent" either). I remember asking my Sunday School teacher, Brother Floyd, if it was true that they'd burn in hell, and he said sadly, "Well, Jani, we don't understand these things...." His voice would trail off and I got it that he thought it was true.
"But," I protested inwardly, "how could God be that unfair?" I also wondered how I was so lucky to be born in America to Christian parents, rather than in the African bush to idol worshipping pagans. Why? How? Glad as I was to be born in America, nevertheless, I couldn't lose the ache I felt every time I thought about those who weren't so lucky or blessed or maybe cursed by location.
Yes, Paul "fingered" Adam as the culprit who led us all into perdition, but later on, in Romans 9 through 11, he explained the concept of the "elect," those chosen by God to follow Him, those who were selected to receive the gift of grace first, not for themselves alone, but to share with others. Included in that number were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, the original 12 disciples and Paul, who was chosen out of season for the purpose of carrying the gospel to the Gentiles, the unwashed masses who were outside "the camp," beyond the reach of the old covenant, and far from God.
Paul summed up those three chapters by the verse that has never ceased to thrill me: "For God has locked up ALL in the prison of unbelief, that upon ALL alike He may have mercy" (Rom. 11:32, Weymouth). At the very thought, we, with Paul fall on our faces in worship of the One loving Father, the One all powerful God who dared to conceive and execute such a magnificent plan: "Oh, how inexhaustible are God's resources and God's wisdom and God's knowledge! How impossible it is to search into His decrees or trace His footsteps! "Who has ever known the mind of the Lord, or shared His counsels?" "Who has first given God anything, so as to receive payment in return?" For the universe owes its origin to Him, was created by Him, and has its aim and purpose in Him. To Him be the glory throughout the Ages! Amen" (Rom. 11:33-36, Weymouth).
From the Native American living in Arizona, to the aborigine in Australia, from the peasant living in rural China, to the crack addict in the gutter, or the righteous man sitting in the pew, ALL have been born into the death realm of sin and decay. Only the sacrifice of a perfect Savior without spot or blemish could bring us salvation which we all needed desperately.
We did not participate in Adam's sin, nor were we there the day all Jerusalem shouted, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him" (Luke 23:21). Because Christ surrendered His will to His Father's will, becoming a curse for us, we were set free from sin's ancient curse once and for ALL! We had nothing to do with Adam's sin nor had we anything to do with God's plan to save us either. Jesus Himself may have given us the best answer as to why He had to die: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24). As He was, so we are in this world. Our path to life is through death and resurrection with Him! Simple as it sounds, this truth is so wide and deep that only the Spirit of the Living God can make it real for us.
Here's the one paragraph reply Tomas asked for: Christ died to save us from the sin into which we were born. The cross was God's plan from before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8) to save the whole world, which was reconciled to God by the blood of the Lamb (John 1:29; II Cor. 5:19).
Here's Lenny's short answer: "Christ died that we might live."
Father, open our eyes to see You as You are. Let us feel Your love and experience Your glory. Bathe our souls in Your grace that we may worship and praise You forever in Christ. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
Saved By His Life (1997)
If all men are going to be saved, why did Christ have to die? (1999)
Why Did Christ Have To Die by Harry Fox
The Necessity of Christ's Death by John Gavazzoni
Why Did Christ Die? by A.P. Adams
Surrendering to God is harder than giving a cat a pill
Working for Jesus? Surrendering to God, II
Fighting the Good Fight? Surrendering to God, III
A Covenant With Death? Surrendering to God, IV
The Family Fix, Surrendering to God, V
Your Mortal Body, Surrendering to God, VI
Echoes From Sodom, Surrendering to God, VII
Judgment: His or Ours? Surrendering to God, VIII
The Pearl of Great Price,Surrendering to God, X
Tested by Fiery Trials, Surrendering to God, XI
Sibling Rivalry, Surrendering to God, XII
When Parents and Churches Fail, Surrendering to God, XIII
The Blessed Hope of His Appearing, Surrendering to God, XIV
Does God Need Us? Surrendering to God, XV
Does God Need Our Faith? Surrendering to God, XVI
The Glory Road We always enjoy hearing from you!
This site was created on 04/02/09
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister
and last updated on 07/30/09.