Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Why In Fact Did Jesus Die?

 This article shared by one of the members of the Facebook group is interesting enough, so far as it goes, and I hope everyone will take a few moments to read it. Unfortunately, it does not actually mention an answer to its own question. Why did Jesus die on a cross? It holds a theory known to me as the "New Perspective on Paul," which holds that the death of Jesus Christ was not substitutionary (ironically, the author of the piece calls the older view "relatively recent"). The New Perspective is an example of eisegesis, reading the right answer into the text. A number of verses in the Bible, such as Matthew 20:28, Romans 5:1-11, and Colossians 2:11-16 as a very limited sample, go to show that Christ's death actually accomplished something. The book of Hebrews even goes to great lengths to explain this, particularly in Chapters 9 and 10. 

Sadly, the author of this article has missed this point, marginalizing it as though it is a new theory, saying there are few verses to support it (as though those many which do are unimportant), and dismissing the idea as a belief in "some mystical magic show from above." And as I said, he offers no alternative. In New Perspective thinking, Jesus' death does nothing. It merely shows what love looks like. But this begs the question: how does dying by crucifixion showcase love, if it does nothing? Why was it necessary? If it was not a sacrifice, why do it at all? And why would God institute the substitutionary system of the Old Testament, with all its meaning, just to send His Son to die in a way that was completely unrelated, completely unnecessary? How does that actually show love? Does not love need a result? And more than anything else as we consider this week, why then would Christ rise from the grave? If His work was done and some ill-defined concept of love was shown, what was the resurrection for? If the risen life of Christ was not the entryway to heaven (as many verses also attest, such as those from Romans 5 and Hebrews 9, 10 I have already listed), it would serve no purpose.

Why, then, does the New Perspective ignore all this and attempt to call the crucifixion something it is not? Because it is not really all that new, after all. Its reading of Scripture is, but not its philosophy. No, the philosophy goes right back to the Garden of Eden and the propensity of fallen human beings to believe we can make our own way into paradise. The author says, "Jesus’ death showed us how far love will go, what love looks like when it is played out to its fullest. And it showed us that, if we truly choose to follow, it can save us from our sins." So in his view, it is not faith in Jesus, but living out love that saves us. But what does it mean to live out love if not to have faith in Jesus Christ, as He commands? And how can we live out love, if not by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us when we repent of our sins and accept the grace offered through the sacrifice of Christ? The author, by not saying this (in fact by actively denying this) is calling for a works righteousness, the belief that we can do enough to please God.

We can understand this even better by looking at an earlier comment from the article: "When we act in unloving ways, we distance ourselves from God – and that is the one and only sin: actions that separate us from God. At the heart of considering whether or not an action separates us from God (and at the core of the Law) is the question of love. Does this action come from a place of love?" It sounds good enough, until you realize how empty it actually is. For you see, love is never actually defined here, for how often the author talks about it. And when you do not define love, you leave it open for everyone's personal interpretation. It allows people to call whatever they feel "love," and then do whatever they want. This theory would seem to suggest that as long as you do not feel guilt about something, then you have no sin. How misleading. How heartbreaking.

In closing my comments, let me recount what the Scripture says about God, sin, love, and the sacrifice of Jesus. God is love (1 John 4: 8). And God is perfect (Matthew 5:48), meaning He has no sin and cannot have sin in his presence. Human beings are sinful (Romans 4:23), and our sin separates us from God (Romans 6:23a). We can never do anything to wash that sin away (Ephesians 2:8, 9). But fortunately, we do not have to do anything of ourselves. By faith in Jesus and what He did for us, we can be saved (Galatians 2:16: Romans 3:24-26). We have hope thanks to Christ. That is the message of Easter, the promise we have when we give our lives to Jesus, and the reason we are called to share this Gospel. May we never tire of doing so, and may the name of Jesus be glorified forever for the love He has shown in dying for our sins and rising for our salvation.


My thanks to Cheryl for bringing this article to our attention. It is good to make ourselves aware of false doctrines, so we can know how to respond to them.

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