Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Who Nailed Christ To The Cross?

One of the popular worship songs in the past 20 years called "Our God Reigns" states the following in the third verse.

It was our sin and guilt that bruised and wounded Him
It was our sin that brought Him down
When we like sheep had gone astray our Shepherd came
And on His shoulders bore our shame

According to the doctrine of Limited Atonement, Christ died only for the elect and only their sins were paid for on the cross. If that is the case would it not make sense that those who will go to hell are not guilty of Christ's death since their sins were not laid upon His shoulders? They cannot be held liable for His death since it was only the sins of the elect He bore? Does that make sense?


Daniel said...

Jim, a Roman soldier likely nailed Christ to the cross. He was no doubt commanded to do so by the Roman Centurion who would have been overseeing the crucifixion. That same centurion would have received his orders directly or perhaps indirectly from Pilate. Pilate tried Christ and found him innocent - but ordered the crucifixion in order to pacify the Jews. These same Jews - the ones who were there, cried that the blood of Christ could be on their heads, and on the heads of their children.

The answer therefore seems to be that it was the Jew who rejected their Messiah, and had him put to death by the hands of the Gentiles - all of which is in accord with the prophesy concerning the Messiah.

God sent Jesus to earth to redeem His people. So in the grandest sense, it was God who put Christ on the cross.

Notwithstanding, I sense your question is not so much about who physically put Christ on the cross, but rather who we should "blame" for Him being there.

Our answer to that question is going to be a reflection of how we would answer another question ("What happened on the cross?").

If our understanding of the cross is that it is the place where Jesus hung and died, and in that death bore the disembodied sins of all of humanity - our answer to the first question is going to be that it was every sin ever sinned that put Jesus on the cross - or something similar. We might conclude that God put Jesus on the cross to punish these sins - and in that sense we could argue that God's wrath directed at the sins of the world put Jesus on the cross.

If our understanding of the cross is that it is the place where Jesus offered himself to God as the ark to carry some (those who turn to Christ in faith) through the death penalty of God's wrath, into the grave, and to be raised with Christ as the only means of overcoming death - then we will probably say that God was to "blame" for putting Christ on the cross, and in that sense we could argue that God's love for us put Jesus on the cross.

Of course in the first scenario, God would have to punish some sins twice - once on Calvary (for those who are saved), and for everyone else, their sins would be punished yet again in hell.

I am persuaded that God put Christ on the cross as an act of love.

Jim said...

Daniel, I may have to read this a couple of times to fully understand what you are saying, and I'm sure there are a lot of people that would not be able to grasp the technicalities except to understand that Christ took their place.

Forgive me for my laziness; would you be able to show any verses that expressly say Christ 'paid' for our sins on the cross?

It seems to me the notion is not so much about Christ actually paying for the sins of certain people on the cross but rather that He provided a way for us to stand before God blameless, because of our standing in Christ.

I still have a hard time getting my head around this whole concept.

Daniel said...

Jim, you will note that in my comment I do not allude to the idea that Christ "paid" for our sin, if anything I allude to the notion that Christ provided a way for sinners to pass through death and into life (in Christ).

Jim said...

I see, does this mean you do not hold to the idea of penal substitution?

If you don't believe in the idea that Christ "paid" for our sins, how exactly do you understand the teaching of LA?

From what I can understand you seem to be emphasizing the atonement of Christ in the terminology of Romans 6 and our association with Christ. Would that be a fair assumption?

Daniel said...

... does this mean you do not hold to the idea of penal substitution?

That's what it means.

Penal substitution says that in order for God to be just He must punish sin consistently. I agree with that premise.

The problem comes when we reason that sinners will go to hell for their sins, and believers will not. The atonement model must answer therefore how it is that God can be consistent in His judgment, and at the same time forgive guilty sinners.

Penal substitution paints our transgressions against God in terms of a debt that we owe to God. In this model, in order to escape our debt, Christ offers to pay it. God, in this model, is concerned only that the debt is paid, and Christ's death in our stead pays our debt in full.

That model has God slaying an innocent person (Jesus) in order to allow guilty people (sinners) to escape God's wrath.

I can't believe that a just God would slay an innocent, nor can I believe that a just God would allow a guilty person to go unpunished. So I do not ascribe to penal substitution.

I see it this way. I am a guilty sinner, and as such, in order for God to be just, He -must- punish me in full. God cannot avoid punishing me, so in order to save me, he has to find a just way to raise me (a guilty sinner) from the dead. This is where Jesus comes in.

When I come to saving faith in Christ, I am inseparably joined to Christ. God sees His innocent Son Jesus, but He also sees my guilty life of sin because we are truly united together. God cannot ignore my sin even though I am joined to Christ, thus God slays us both.

This is of course the whole purpose for Christ having come.

Because the moment God put Christ to death, he put me to death - not my disembodied sins, but me, the sinner. I died just as surely as Christ did -- because we were united together in that death, and again in the burial.

But God, because Christ was innocent could not allow that Holy One to see corruption in the grave, and just as Christ received the wrath that God poured out on my account - that is - just as Christ partook of my death through that union He had with me - in the same way, when God raised Christ from the dead, that same union provided the means by which I was raised with Christ.

Jesus wasn't my substitute. God didn't put the gun to His head, then look at me and in a fit of wrath pull the trigger and suddenly become satisfied that someone was dead. No, God slew -me- in Christ, and because Christ was innocent, God was just in raising Him from the dead, and because I was in Christ, and God's wrath entirely spent, He was just to allow me to be raised in Christ through that union.

That is how I understand the atonement to work - and if that is how it works, then only those who died with Christ and were raised with Christ are atoned for - no more, no less, and since not everyone was in Christ it stands to reason that the atonement was "limited" to those who were actually atoned for - that is, only those who were in Christ were actually on the cross.

let me know if that explains it.

Jim said...

Thanks Daniel, I have had some concerns fully understanding penal substitution and your explanation here makes the Limited Atonement concept a bit more comprehendable.

Daniel said...

Jim, I want us to be clear on this.

What I beleive is -not- penal substitution, it doesn't involve substitution. I wouls hazard labeling what I believe as penal unity or something like that.

Penal unity ends up proving that the atonement was particular (limited), but it does not have God slaying His innocent Son in order to set guilty sinners at liberty (either act is entirely out of character for a just God), but rather has God slaying guilty sinners who are -in- Christ on the cross through that union that scripture describes - such that both die. This is done so that the sinner receives his due in full directly. The union with Christ is necessary because it serves this purpose, God, being just, cannot take away the life of an innocent man - he must restore it. If our life is bound to Christ's, then in order to punish us, Christ must also be punished, but in order to raise Christ, we must also be raised. Thus Christ becomes the means by which we pass through judgment. Noah's family was placed in the ark, and thereby passed through God's judgment - we are placed into Christ, and through this union we partake of, but pass through, death, when Christ dies, and is raised. That is how the atonement works (as far as I can see), and because I think it works that way, I am at odds with the notion of "substitution".

The atonement is the one doctrine that most affects our presentation of the gospel.

Even in the previous post Mr. Comfort, in his presentation of the gospel, begins to outline God's righteousness - He cannot allow guilty sinners to go free; (that is why we all need the gospel) - but how does God set a guilty sinner free? Ray immediately uses the penal substitution example: law broken, fine incurred, and someone must pay. Just as the judge is happy to accept someone else's money to pay your fine, God will accept Christ's life in your stead, because, like the judge, God is only interested in payment, not justice.

That picture teaches us that God is pacified by receiving His due; or said another way, God is angry and must be pacified.

Whether it is easier to motivate sinners to repent of their sins with an angry God or not is not really the point. The point is that when people imagine sin as a debt that is paid, they tend to imagine the life Christ gave as a kind of currency, and since currency comes in large amounts or small amounts, and since Christ died for more than one person - it stands that the amount of currency ought to be as infinite as the worth of our Savior.

So now we have the idea that Jesus' death paid provided an "amount" of currency by which this sin debt can be paid - and we start saying things like - his death was "sufficient" to save everyone - meaning, it is of such a magnitude that it can pay any debt, etc. etc. because we have adopted the debtor model. Thus we conclude that Jesus didn't come to save anyone in particular - He just came to provide the means by which anyone and everyone can be saved.

Yet such a notion would be utterly contrary to the pattern found everywhere in the old testament. God did not save everyone from the flood, He saved only Noah and his family. Was Noah righteous because of his works or because of His faith? His faith, certainly. God did choose to enter into a covenant with everyone on the earth - He came to Abraham only - a man counted righteous by faith. Shouldn't God have entered into a covenant with everyone? Why only Abraham? Shouldn't God have saved everyone from the flood? Why only Noah's family? If Christ's death provided enough currency for everyone's sin debt to be paid - and God knew that - why would He withold that currency from everyone on the world except Noah and his family? Why just Abraham? Why Isaac and not Ishmael? Why Jacob and not Esau? the list is of course endless.

We see that in the old testament God was particular about whom He redeemed. The penal unity model preserves this particular redemption - in fact it demands it. The penal substitution model preserves but awkwardly - like a shirt that doesn't fit well. It has sleeves, a place for your head to stick out, but it's sloppy, too big, and itches.

When one understand the atonement in the way I do, the gospel presentation doesn't have God killing Jesus because he is angry at our sins, it has Jesus providing a "way" through death and into life. When Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except by me" I see that as a literal statement - He is "the way" He is the Door we must pass through if we are to pass through death and into life. He is the truth, not that He knows it, but that He is it. He is the life - for all who pass through death with Him - and no one can come to God who isn't united with Christ in death, because they will by no means be raised with Him into life if they aren't.

I hope that clears it up further.

Jim said...

Thanks Daniel, I fully discerned that you did not hold to the penal substitution model by your last comment.

I have to agree with your overall comments quite much. This is how I have understood the role of Christ's death and resurrection but could never really describe it in such words.

jazzycat said...

Jim and Daniel,
How can Leveticus atonement rituals that pre-figured Christ and the explanation given in Hebrews mean anything other than penal substitution? In Hebrews 9 we read:
But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (27) And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, (28) so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Jim said...

Jazzy, I won't attempt to speak for Daniel. I do see a difference between the OT atonement model however and Christ as the lamb of God. The OT sacrifices could only "cover" the sins of the guilty, not remove them forever.

I will ask you the same question I asked Daniel; can you show me a verse or verses that say that Christ "paid" for our sins?

God bless,

jazzycat said...

pre-figure Christ....
Numbers 29:5 Include one male goat as a sin offering to make atonement for you.

Christ sacifice of atonement foretold....
Isaiah 53:5-6 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Paid for sins....
Romans 3:25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-

Hebrews 2:17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

1 Peter 1:18-19 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Daniel said...

Wayne, you asked, "How can Leviticus atonement rituals that pre-figured Christ and the explanation given in Hebrews mean anything other than penal substitution?"

I will start with Hebrews 9. Christ bore our sins in himself by becoming our curse and our sin. How did this happen? It happened when we were crucified with him. That is how our sin was placed on Christ. There is nothing in anything I have said, implied or or believe that denies that our sins were placed on Christ. The point where we seem to be at odds with one another is that I see Christ bearing our sin in Himself through the union of himself with the sinner (as Romans six plainly states), and you seem to see Christ bearing our sins apart from that union, that is, you seem to be suggesting that our sins were taken out of us, and placed upon him.

If we are of the opinion that Christ took our sins to the cross without us, then we really -must- conclude that Christ was a substitution, and the point of his death was to take the hit for us. The problem with that model is that it has God punishing an innocent man (Jesus), and failing to punish guilty sinners (us) and we must maintain that God is justified in doing so simply because Jesus offered himself in our stead.

If on the other hand we do not insist that our sins were removed from us and placed on Christ, but that we were in fact placed into Christ ourselves, then we have God being forced to punish Christ in order to punish us, and we have God being forced to raise us up in order to raise Christ - that is, then we have God's own righteousness, without contradiction, driving the whole thing. Not to mention it meshes perfectly with all ways in which we are pictured as being in Christ.

There is nothing in scripture that demands we conclude that the only way Christ could have taken our sins into himself would be if he took them out of us and put them in himself. What we see, contrary to that notion, and we see this everywhere, is that we are hid in Christ, that we are united to Christ. etc. etc.

If I put my money in a wallet, and my wife puts the money in her purse, I can say she bore my money, or I can say she bore my wallet - and both are just as right. Likewise if Christ bore me and I bore my sins, then Christ bore my sins in Himself when he bore me. No contradiction, just a more precise description.

Now, onto Levitical pictures.

On Yom Kippur the High Priest offered up two goats. One died, the other lived. Guess which one got the sins confessed over it:

And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. - Leviticus 16:21

In verses 9 and 10 of the same passage we learn that it is the goat that lives that makes atonement, not the one who dies -- the goat that dies is a sin offering that atones for the temple.

Consider therefore how difficult it is for me to read Leviticus 16 and compare it to the idea you are suggesting is the only lucid way of understanding the atonement (i.e. "penal substitution") The atonement is specifically pictured in Leviticus 16 - please explain to me how God punished both goats, or even one of them?

jazzycat said...

Isn’t the scapegoat a picture of sins being imputed to Christ? It seems that 2 Cor. 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. also points to Christ having our sins imputed to him. Christ was no longer an innocent man due to this imputation of our sin and due to his infinite worth the punishment (atonement) was satisfactory.

You mention that God had to punish Christ to punish us, but we are not fit to be an acceptable sacrifice for our own sins. Our acceptance is based on his infinite worth and atonement for our sins. It takes a lamb without blemish to be an acceptable sacrifice. Christ was that lamb without blemish and provided the righteousness that is also imputed from him to us. He took the sins of the elect and the elect took his righteousness by imputation through faith and God poured out his wrath on our scapegoat.

Hebrews 9:23-28 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

1) On our behalf or (KJV- now to appear in the presence of God for us) indicates he was an advocate acting without our presence.

2) bear the sins of many …… sins of many (elect) were borne by him.

Daniel said...

Wayne, no one is suggesting that our sins are not imputed to Christ, or that He did not bear them, what is being suggested is that this imputation - this bearing of sins is not forensic, but is achieved by our union with Christ, as clearly described in Romans 6. We are united together with him.

Where is Christ? He is seated at God's right hand in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:20)

Where are we? God raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6)

That is although Christ appears before God on our behalf, this does not negate the fact that we are present in Him, in fact to suggest so is to contradict what scripture says in the verses I quoted.

It isn't a question of "what", it is a question of "how" - and when we understand the "how" the what becomes quite clear.

jazzycat said...

O.K. Perhaps the views are actually pretty close.
Thanks for your explanation.

J. Wendell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel said...

John, He hasn't emailed my wife, but then, my wife is neither a blogger, nor are her theological opinions a matter of public record.

I hope that Lou understand where the line between zeal and harrassment lies.

Jim said...

John, likewise I have not really had any interaction with Lou.

I would think it should be a fairly simple thing to block his emails from coming in?

God bless,

Lou Martuneac said...

To All:

This morning I sent an apology via e-mail to Rose and John. The apology was NOT for having included Rose in a bulk e-mail. My apology was in regard to how I reacted to John’s two paragraph comment that I find disingenuous on several levels.

Never-the-less, my reaction was not right, the Holy Spirit convicted me of it, and I responded to Him. I immediately deleted my reply, posted both a public apology and the e-mail to Rose and John I mentioned above.

Furthermore, in the e-mail apology I also asked for their forgiveness.

Even though both Rose and John have been active in the blogs today, neither of them have acknowledged nor accepted my apology. Neither one has indicated or written to forgive me as I requested.

And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any: that your Father also which is in Heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in Heaven forgive your trespasses,” (Mark 11:25-26).

I did my best following my conscience and the leading of the Holy Spirit to make this right and bring closure. Unless I hear otherwise, it appears Rose and John are not willing to bring closure.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9).

As far as I am concerned this is a closed issue and under the blood, whether or not Rose and John will respond appropriately.


Rose~ said...

Sorry for this ruckus :~(

Only Look said...

Good point Jim.

Lou, a peace that is made with God is all that is needed. This is typical when dealing with them. God sees what is going on and that is sufficient. In time all things secret will be manifested and all you need is to walk in intimacy with our forgiving shepherd.

Grace upon grace,


Only Look said...

The suggestive comment toward Lou looking for American girls was a very unfair stone to throw.

A man confessed to me awhile back that he had fallen in love with another mans wife from blogging and even told her via a long telephone conversation about very intimate subjects over the phone and if I were her husband would be truly grieved to find out about; yet the dialogue is still allowed between them and at times seems encouraged over the blogisphere.

I know I have privately shared the participating parties with you Jim and still hope that they will all seek out marital counseling.

The man contacted me because he felt victimized by her and asked me if I had fallen prey to this and I told him that I was never attracted to her and so it wasnt a problem for me, but that my wife still had concern about her and encouraged me to put up hegdes to protect our marraige. I honored my wifes wishes considering that the Lord puts that there in our wives to keep our waters of intimacy within the marital bond even though I was not attracted her.

He then went back to that woman and confessed other things perhaps feeling guilty for disscussing this with me and begging me not to let his wife know when I had advised him to break all contact.... He kept saying he was repentent yet to this day maintains contact in spite of the advise and another brothers advise. He was even back online a couple days later speaking very sweetly to her. Has anyone put themselves in his wifes shoes? I wonder how she feels about this violation in her marraige by both of these participants?

A while back I tried to make amends with the couple over issues from the past during that time and then later as well with the the propositioner, but even having talked with them my wife still said she didnt have peace and was not encouraged with me even dialoguing with the couple and it is at this point that I wished I would have listened more to her than to this couple. She has since told me I should have listened and I am now listening.She was right.

I have often wondered if this is one of the reasons God stated that a woman must keep silent in church and to ask her husband if she has questions. I wonder if God was trying to encourage us to place a hedge there in honor of our marraiges. I dont think God was saying that a woman shouldnt talk, but perhaps the exhoneration is there so that a woman does not walk outside of the role God has placed her in within the bonds of her marraige.

In this day and age this may seem chavenistic, but as I look back at what has occurred her as well as in this incident I am describing and the confession this brother made who has fallen in love with this mans wife since dialoguing over theology with her...well It should concern us. Once this desire has been awakened in a man it is best for him to break off all contact with this person and keep the sweet waters of intimacy within the bond of marraige to his own wife and to stand by his wife instead of another mans wife.

I hope these words are considered.


There is a book called "Loving Your Marraige Enough to Protect It" by Jerry Jenkins

He talks much about how we in modern America as Christians are ignoring these hegdes God saved us so as to make known in our lives. He wants to make Himself known in our marraiges and manifest the beauty of His salvific work in how we love our wives and so this must be safegaurde with all of our hearts as we seek to be conformed and transformed into his image.

Jim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim said...


I sincerely appreciate your concern and desire for appropriate conduct in all manners of our life.

God bless,

Only Look said...

I appreciate your encouragement in the faith over the last couple of years brother. God is good and so willing to forgive and he will definately help us out of the greatest darknesses we either get ourselves into or are ensnared into and especially we will be helped I believe if we consider an honest assesment of where he wants us to change. I know that when I first started blogging I was rightly corrected for some of my inappropriate rash manners out here by many of you and God has been faithful in helping this believer that still has evil present with him in his flesh. I prayed and considered long and hard before I posted that comment and believe with all my heart that the Spirit of God was leading me to make it and it was not done rashly having slept on it and calling out to God for what to say, having already slept on this issue for months struggling with what the Lord was trying to tell me to do. I really believe he has a purpose here and wants to work in these marraiges and in all of ours really to make himself known. I regret that the comment was needed to be made. I heard on BBN today that whenever a broken bone is healed it is even stronger than it was ever before. May God help his children in this manner today as we call out to Him to continue changing us.

Grace upon grace,