Given for the Saints of the World, on 3/21/10.
"And we can see that it was at the very time that we were powerless to help ourselves that Christ died for sinful men" (Rom. 5:6, Phillips).
One of the on-line discussion group participants shared a quotation he had read and asked the group's opinion about it. The quote from an unknown author was this: "Although God is omnipotent, he is also holy and just, so he could not simply erase all people's sins by a decree." This is a recurring theme among those Christians who believe God could not possibly save everyone because to do so would violate His ethics. They say men sinned; so God must demand retribution to satisfy His justice. "The Sin Eraser" is a strange title, to be sure, but the Lord does what He does and we just follow along to see where the road takes us.
Accordingly, the Lord arranged an interesting encounter as Lenny and I were leaving Walmart one day last week. A Mormon friend hailed us and said he had heard a slogan that he really liked. It was something on the order of "Life is what you make of it." Of course, that's as old as the hills and walking on crutches, as we used to say in our youth, but he was jazzed over it. I commented that I prefer, "Life is what the Lord gives us."
He was having none of that saying, "No, what we get is the result of our actions." One thing led to another and I said, "God loves everyone." That agitated him even more because, he demanded, "Do you mean that if I went out and raped a girl and then murdered her, God would still love me?" I stifled the urge to ask him, "Do you WANT to rape and murder someone?" Instead, I stated the obvious: "Christ died for all men." He argued, "No, He only died for those who obey Him." The weather was horrible that day, and I'm not inclined to debate theology with folks on the Walmart steps, so I just smiled and said, "You'll find out."
The encounter stayed with me as I thought of this piece, "The Sin Eraser." How can it be that our Father's love has been watered down and diluted so much that only those who obey Him are thought to be loved by God? What of Paul's statements that Christ died for us when we were yet sinful, and John's assertion quoted by many: "For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him should not be lost, but should have eternal life." John didn't leave it there, but added, "God has not sent his Son into the world to pass sentence upon it, but to save it, through him" (John 3:16-17, Phil.). Christ was "the one who made personal atonement for our sins (and for those of the rest of the world as well)" (I John 2:2). I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but the question still remains, How does Christ erase our sins?
Remember, when we were in school, the teacher wrote the lesson on the blackboard, and when she was through, one of us got to go up and erase it. Probably, the FBI could figure out how to recreate what was written, but for the most part, the words on the blackboard were gone, wiped off.
Scripture attests that Christ did that with our sins. His blood erased them from the debit side of our ledger page. How can that be? Isaiah used a powerful, though mind boggling metaphor to explain it: "Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;" though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool" (Isa. 1:18, RSV). It is typical Hebrew thinking to explain spiritual matters in symbolism, but how can blood, which is scarlet in color, make our scarlet sins white? It's a mystery made plain to our hurting hearts only by the Spirit, but it is based on an ancient covenant which the Bible references in Genesis, Chapter 15.
The set up is that Abraham was questioning God about how he could know for sure, that he would have an heir. God's answer to him was to tell him to bring "a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon" (Vs. 9). Abraham did as he was told. He then cut the animals (but not the birds) in half, arranging the halves opposite each other on either side of a ditch, into which the blood drained. The two making the covenant would then walk through the pieces. This covenant ritual was a standard way to seal a contract in the ancient world. The more important person walked through the blood first and the lesser walked last. By the terms of the covenant, the person who broke the contract agreed that his blood would be spilled in the same way the animals' blood was.
God, the greater, walked through first: "a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces" (Vs. 17). Abraham felt a great dread pass over him (Vs. 12), and who could blame him? God could not fail, but Abraham knew very well that he certainly could and probably would fail. However, Abraham did believe God's word to him, and in fact, the text says that God "credited his belief to him as righteousness" (Gen. 15:6). Paul added that our faith is likewise credited to us for righteousness (Rom. 4:9-11).
If you never heard about this covenant or its explanation, you're not alone, but once I knew what it meant, so many things became plain. Jeremiah references it regarding the Babylonian captivity: "And the men who transgressed my covenant and did not keep the terms of the covenant which they made before me, I will make like the calf which they cut in two and passed between its parts, the princes of Judah, the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf; and I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their lives. Their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth" (Jer. 34:18-20). Under the Old Covenant, then, men's blood was shed when they broke the Covenant they had made with God.
During this encounter, God repeated to Abraham, the Unilateral Promise He had made: "..a son coming from your own body will be your heir. He took him outside and said, 'Look up at the heavens and count the stars, if indeed you can count them.' Then he said to him, 'so shall your offspring be'" (Gen. 15:6).
Paul declared in Gal. 3:8, that "God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: 'All nations will be blessed through you." In Verse 16 of that chapter, Paul identifies the seed of Abraham as Christ. We are in Christ, and thus, we are Abraham's seed as well.
Christ therefore is the fulfillment of the unilateral and unconditional promise God made to Abraham that in his seed would all nations be blessed. Now we come to the glorious twist to this walking through the blood covenant. Instead of our blood being spilled, which we all deserved because we did not keep the covenant, Paul revealed that GOD was in Christ on the cross reconciling "the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them" (II Cor. 5:19). Instead of spilling our blood, He allowed us to spill His! God's love is for the world, not limited to the righteous, nor to those who have always obeyed Him. He loved and died for the world, the unrepentant, rotten sinners who spit in His face countless times a day. These are the ones Christ died for and of course, it includes us all for "None is righteous, no, not one" (Ps. 14:3; 53:3; Rom. 3:10).
Kenneth Greatorex's commented in our on-line discussion: "The idea that God could simply "erase" sins by a decree, brings to mind annihilation which in theory has God simply going, "Pouf!" and one never existed. It is not that God cannot do such things, it rather has to do with the principles of sowing and reaping, cause and effect. More importantly, this whole business is part of our Father's plans to bring us all to glory by taking us the route of negative-glory." End Quote.
The Bible itself is the best explanation of scripture there is. My personal conviction, for what it's worth is that you cannot possibly understand the New Testament unless you study the Old, which is full of types and symbols and patterns of God's dealings with mankind.
It is unheard of, outrageous, mind boggling, and to many people, like our Mormon friend, just impossible to consider that Jesus loves sinners the same way He loves the righteous. On the other hand, it is the kind of Good News that wipes the frowns from our brow and puts a spring in our steps as we consider that the burdens we've borne and the consequences we've paid as a result of our sins have been lifted; the sins have been paid for. We were held captive by Adam's sin followed by our own, but the ransom for all was paid by Christ. "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Rom. 5:20b).
Harry Fox shared a profound conclusion reached by his youngest son about the wonder of God's love for us. His son said he spent most of his teen years and young adulthood wrestling with God about how He could allow the world and his own life to get into such a mess. He came to this: "God won the wrestling match, not by pinning me to the mat, but by allowing me to nail HIM to the cross."
God is not "up there" somewhere keeping score about who is naughty and nice. God is "in here" with us. The incarnation is God's love manifested to men in the flesh! Christ left the portals of glory to be born into this world of sin, sickness and woe, not to show us the way, because we are incapable of following it. He came to BE the WAY, so that, in Him, we may fellowship with God. We no longer have to slug it out alone, always failing and getting down on ourselves. Now, we have an Advocate with the Father pleading our case for us.
When by faith, we look at our "sin ledger," we see to our amazement that our sins were erased by God's love through the blood of the Lamb. Love is the "Sin Eraser" which blots out the sins of the world and reconciles the hardest heart to God. As Harry Fox puts it, "When we did our worst to God, He did His best for us." Christians fear the Judgment Day because they think they'll be punished for their sins. On that day, we will hear the Great Judge say, "Not Guilty! Someone else did your time and paid your ransom. You are free!"
Thus, the question, if you believe Christ nailed your sins to the cross, why are you still feeling guilty? Do you think that wallowing in guilt and self loathing long after you've asked for forgiveness brings glory to the Father? Is any man's righteousness enough to please God? Weymouth's translation is one of the few which addresses the guilt issue. Here are a few verses which deal with the result of the "Sin Erasers" actions: "for all alike have sinned, and all consciously come short of the glory of God, gaining acquittal from guilt by His free unpurchased grace through the deliverance which is found in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:23-24, Wey.). And, "If therefore we have now been pronounced free from guilt through His blood, much more shall we be delivered from God's anger through Him" (Rom. 5:9). Christ died for our sins and the guilt thereof! Hallelujah!
Father, Thank You for erasing our sins and transmuting us into heavenly places with you by Your amazing grace. Make us instruments of your peace, light bearers and blessing bringers to a sin darkened world. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Lenny and Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Perfection Process
Kenneth Greatorex's Writings
The Glory Road
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This site was created on 03/14/10
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister