Humanity in the Hands of a Happy God

humanity in hands of happy god

(Another unorganized post…)

Mercy, wrath, love, justice, etc. are all the same attribute of God (divine simplicity); it’s just that humans use different words to describe our experience of God’s attributes.
But love isn’t just an attribute. John writes that God is love. This is not true of the others. God is not anger. God is not justice. God is not wrath.
This means that all other attributes of God are simply manifestations of his love.
God is pure love. So everything that comes from him is an expression of love. So if wrath comes from God, it is an expression of love.
But this isn’t an attempt to distort what we mean by love.
“Even the wrath of God is simply an extension of His love. It is a big, fat “No!” to sinfulness, because of how it destroys and molests His children. God’s wrath has nothing to do with hating us. It has to do with hating the sinfulness that was destroying us. Even God’s wrath is for you, not against you.” – John Crowder
God’s wrath is against sin, not people (Romans 1:18); He loves people!
The cross didn’t satisfy God’s wrath; it changed our view of God. It revealed that humanity was the violent one, not God. It wasn’t God’s wrath that Jesus drank; it was ours! As Andre Rabe puts it, “we were the angry deities that needed to be satisfied.”

“It is on the cross that Jesus put to death the violent portrayal of God in the Old Testament and revealed once and for all that God is not like that.” – Jeremy Myers

“Wrath designates God’s fervent reaction to human wickedness. God’s refusal to tolerate, compromise with, or indulge evil…wrath is not a chronic case of ill temper on God’s part but a measured commitment to act against evil and injustice in order to contain it and destroy it…it is not so much a matter of direct, individually tailored punitive intervention as it is a matter of measured withdrawal of his protective influence and control, a refusal to intervene to stem the deleterious effects of human rebellion.” – Christ Marshall

“The cross was the place of Divine Agape not divine anger! The only anger there that day was the anger of sinful humanity unleashed on Pure Love. … The cross of Jesus Christ is the most pure expression of love that has ever or will ever exist. In that place of propitiation, Pure Agape submitted Himself to the ferocity of sinful humanity while at the same time absorbing our sin into Himself so that we would be delivered from its consequence.” – Steve McVey

Meaning of Greek word often translated “wrath”:
http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/orge.html
Take a look at the second definition and you’ll see that wrath can be “any violent emotion.”
The word “wrath” doesn’t have to mean anger at all. It actually can refer to ANY intense excitement – including love. Of course, if our view is that our God is a Judge who is obsessed with right & wrong in our lives, we will automatically think His wrath is an expression of anger.
Experience of the intensity of love

“God’s wrath and judgment is against anything that brings separation, against anything that tries to reduce the pure and intimate relationship He designed, to something less. It is exactly because He loves man that He judges sin. His judgment is not against true man as such, but against anything that would reduce man to less than His original design. God will not settle for an inferior relationship.” (unknown)

“The cross did nothing about the wrath of God. The wrath of God was connected to the Old Covenant system, which existed and continued until its final destruction in 70AD (Hebrew 8:13). God judged the Old Covenant and those that clung to the sinking ship drowned with it. Those that turned to the New Covenant of Christ were saved from the Day of Wrath.” – Jonathan Welton

Even the destruction of Jerusalem was a passive form of judgment. God didn’t say “I want to destroy Jerusalem so I’m going to make the Romans attack it!” Rather, God knew that if the Jews refused to believe in Jesus, stuck with their false and violent idea of messiahship (in which the Messiah would beat up the Romans and make the Jews the strongest nation) and continued in their rebellion against Rome, they would be destroyed.

*****

Also see:

Judgment of Light
http://pathux.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/judgment-of-light

Bible Threatenings Explained
http://www.tentmaker.org/books/BibleThreateningsExplained.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lzTySVpe2Y

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ADZwg9qQf8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zov0RJLSTuU

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Unconditional Salvation (Part 2)

Part 1

Everyone is saved

When I say everyone is saved, I basically mean that no one needs to worry about their eternal destiny; only love lasts forever, most importantly the everlasting love of God.

(Keep in mind, however, that this kind of “salvation” is not what the scriptures speak of when they use the same word (as I explained in the previous post). I am just speaking in terms of how the word “salvation” is currently used among most people who call themselves christians.)

Some people think that when I say that God saved everyone I am saying that God forces everyone to have a relationship with him and is thus a control freak that removes our freedom. (I would say quite the opposite, actually.)

Let me give an analogy. It’s like humanity was drowning in an ocean, some were asking God to save them, some weren’t. But God saved them all! He didn’t refuse to save some just because they didn’t ask him. But the one’s who did not ask for help now have a choice as to whether they will accept the reality that they have been saved. They can continue acting as if they are drowning (although that would be a very poor choice!), but in reality they have been brought onto the ship of his love.

Nevertheless, those who refuse to accept reality cannot remain in their delusional strike forever. Eventually, they will be brought to their senses because they will become hungry. In the same way, all people, created in the image of God, were designed with a natural desire for the ultimate pleasure, God, and a repulsion to everything opposite. Their disgust for the false and their attraction to God will eventually pull them out of their insanity and bring them to recognize things as they really are.

This analogy falls short, however, because nobody was ever really “drowning.” We never needed to be saved from an angry god. God was never required by his nature to punish people for eternity for naughty things they do or forced to give up his loving pursuit of them because, in their ignorance of what God is truly like, they “rejected God,” which, more accurately, was merely a rejection of a certain idea of God.

Not everyone is saved

Speaking in the sense that the scriptures do, however, not everyone is saved. That is, not everyone has experienced deliverance from all negativity in life.

A particularly notable topic concerning salvation in the New Testament is being saved from the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. If you have never looked into this and its relation to the scriptures, I would encourage you to do your homework. It will significantly alter the way you read the scriptures. The ignorance among christians concerning this historical event is likely the foremost reason why many confuse passages where this destruction is spoken of as a reference to being saved from eternal damnation.

There’s a difference between being saved and becoming saved. No one needs to become saved. Salvation is freely available for all to live in. But some need to be saved. That is, it would do them well to live in that salvation that is theirs already and act like who they truly are.

People can become something but not act like it. For example, if a prince thinks he is a beggar, he will go around asking people for food and money simply because he is unaware of the reality that those things are already abundantly available to him.

This is why you will read scriptures passages like the following: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). “[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Notice how both connect the experience of salvation to consciousness – repenting (changing your mind) and knowing.

God’s desire is that everyone live in and experience the salvation he created for them. This happens by believing the truth that they already have been saved.

True salvation

Ultimately, salvation is not even a status of whether someone is saved or not.

Salvation is a person. 

In the Old Testament people call God their salvation (Psalm 27:1 & Isaiah 12:2) and say that salvation is in God (Jeremiah 3:23) (where everyone happens to be). The name Jesus means “Jehovah is salvation,” and Jesus himself says that eternal life is to know him (John 17:3).

Salvation is about experiencing freedom from every negative thing and enjoying relationship with Jesus here and now.

And all humanity is saved – is able to live in the abundant life in Christ.

If you find this post hard to swallow, I think I might know why. Stay tuned for the final post!

Part 3

*****

Also see:

Humanity in Wonderland – Christ in All, All in Christ

Nee Inclusion

Who is in Christ? And Who is Christ in?

Many people consider the description “in Christ” or having “Christ in you” to be synonymous with having been “saved” or being a “believer” or a “christian.”

I believe this kind of reading of the New Testament comes from a dualistic mindset that divides humanity into “them” and “us”; those who are in Christ and those who are not; those who have Christ in them and those who don’t.

Is this really the case?

Before you stone me for even daring to question such a distinction, let me say that I understand that there are those who believe and those who do not. That’s not what I’m questioning.

What I’m questioning is the following. Was it really our believing that put ourselves in Christ? Was it really our asking Jesus to “come into our heart” that caused him to do so? Was is really dependent on our initiative?

It’s not difficult to find statements in bibles that seem to assert that some people are not in Christ or do not have Christ in them. Knowing that many of us have come to the scriptures with the dualistic perspective that we have been taught, however, it is not surprising that many have interpreted such passages in a divisive way. I’m willing to bet that most people haven’t even considered whether there is another way to understand them.

I maintain that, in general, such passages are referring to people’s understanding, experiences, and ways of living rather than their being.

Objectively (ontologically), all are in Christ; subjectively (experientially), not all are.

Do people know and believe that they have been redeemed? Have they realized that they were included in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, that they have been put in Christ and Christ in them? If not, even if it is true, it will not benefit them; they will keep operating under their false perceptions of reality that they have always believed in. They will not experience relationship with God because they are not aware of his presence with them.

Some might object: if everyone really is in Christ, why is the phrase used so often in the New Testament? What’s the use of pointing out something that is true of everyone? That’s like telling a group of people that they are all humans. Useless!

There’s another way of looking at it.

Imagine speaking to a room full of parents and saying, “if you have children, you know that feeling when you held your first newborn baby in your arms.” Here, the purpose in saying “if you have children” isn’t to distinguish between those that do and don’t have children but to emphasize that because you indeed do have children, you know the feeling.

In like manner, the “if” in “if you are in Christ” is not a conditional if but a conclusive if, as in “if it is true that you are in Christ (which it is), then [insert awesome thing that results from being in Christ].” The phrase is not used to communicate something believers have but unbelievers don’t. Drawing such distinctions is useless. The point in including such a phrase is to remind the reader of their source; it is because they are in Christ that all these amazing things are true about them. Further, this phrase is used to communicate what should be obvious to the readers. It’s like saying, “how could you not  be such and such…I mean, you’re in Christ. Come on!”

Does this sound too good to be true?

If so, good! Because the Good News indeed is.

You were put in Christ when you were created. The entire universe was created in Christ (Ephesians 2:10, Colossians 1:16).

The entire universe exists in Christ and is held together by him (Colossians 1:17).

That is why Paul tells pagans that they live and move and have their being in God (Acts 17:28).

We don’t get into Christ by anything we do.  It is by God’s doing that we are in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Thus could Paul write that God was pleased to reveal Christ in Paul so that Paul could preach Christ among (same Greek word as the “in” of “in Paul” just before it) the Gentiles (Galatians 1:16). Christ was already in Paul as well as in the Gentiles; it was simply a matter of God revealing it and Paul realizing it.

“God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among (in) the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, emphasis mine).

There are no longer any significant dividing lines between people. What matters is the common denominator of Christ in all.

“There is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, uncivilized, slave or free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

When God comes to humanity in the history of Jesus Christ, humanity at the same time is brought to God in that history objectively. It is not faith which incorporates humanity into Jesus Christ. Faith is rather the acknowledgment of a mysterious incorporation already objectively accomplished on humanity’s behalf. “One had died for all; therefore all have died” (2 Cor. 5:14). That all have died in Christ (and been raised with him) is the hidden truth of humanity as revealed to faith. Our true humanity is to be found not in ourselves but objectively in him. – George Hunsinger

I can no longer look at anyone from a merely human perspective anymore (2 Corinthians 5:16). God reconciled the entire cosmos, including all humanity, to himself (v. 19). The same people on whose behalf Jesus became sin became the righteousness of God in Christ (v. 21).

The Father of all is in all (Ephesians 4:6).

“When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:28, emphasis mine).

“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22, emphasis mine).

And I could on. But I think you get the point.

There are no outsiders.

All humanity is exploring the wonderland of Christ.

We are not magically brought into Christ by fulfilling some condition such as confessing, repenting, or believing. These things have their place, but they are not prerequisites for inclusion.

Do you see Christ in everyone? Or are you only looking at the outward appearance?

*****

Also see:

Steve McVey on humanity’s inclusion
http://gracewalkministries.blogspot.jp/2013/06/from-secret-of-grace.html

Quotes on the inclusion of all humanity in Christ
http://thesurprisinggodblog.gci.org/p/relevant-quotes.html

The Substitute for Humanity

In Punished For Us? I wrote about how Jesus was not substitutionally punished on our behalf by the Father, yet that the theme of substitution is frequently seen in the writings of the early church fathers and is clear within the scriptures as well.

In Who Are the Elect? I explained how Jesus is the person elected on behalf of humanity as the representative (substitute) for all.

In this post I want to elaborate on what is means for Jesus to be the substitute for humanity. Summed up, it is the following:

Jesus took on everything that is human and thereby redeemed it.

This is why the concept of Jesus being fully, 100% human is significant. The early church father Gregory of Nazianzus wrote, “For that which [Jesus] has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved.” (Also see the quotes at the end by Irenaeus of Lyon and Athanasius of Alexandria.)

Jesus became the substitute for all humanity on the cross, taking our curse, sin, corruption, condemnation, death, etc. upon himself in order to destroy them.

For example, let’s take a look at what the scriptures say about substitution as it relates to death.

Paul wrote that, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Although here the experience of death is personalized to an individual (“I”), Paul knew that its effects reached further.

In Romans 6:6 he writes, “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.” Notice it says our old self, not our old selves. Paul is speaking of humanity’s corporate old existence. We all had the same old self. And it was destroyed.

In the preceding chapter, Jesus is paralleled with Adam: “Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people” (Romans 5:18). Just as Adam affected all of humanity, so did Christ. Redemption is not about a select group of individuals but the whole of humanity.

The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! – Pope Francis

Back to the theme of death, Paul elsewhere states it plainly: “One died for all, therefore all died” (2 Corinthians 5:14). Hebrews 2:9 also testifies to this reality: “Jesus suffered death so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

In essence, what is being communicated is that what happened to Jesus happened to us also. Thus could John write, “as he is so also are we in this world” (1 John 4:17).

In our Western culture, which I’m guessing most of my readers have grown up in, we’ve been conditioned to think of the work of the cross in terms of individuals. Of course, there is a personal element in which we enter into an experience of relationship with God. But it’s important that we don’t lose sight of its universal scope.

Jesus is the savior of all people and of the whole cosmos (1 Timothy 4:10, 1 John 4:14).

I’m not keen on including a bunch of long quotes, but these are so good that I didn’t feel justified in shortening or excluding them.

[Jesus] caused humanity to cleave to and to become, one with God. For unless a human had overcome the enemy of humanity, the enemy would not have been legitimately vanquished. And again: unless it had been God who had freely given salvation, we could never have possessed it securely. And unless humanity had been joined to God, we could never have become partakers of incorruptibility. – Irenaeus of Lyon

Naturally also, through this union of the immortal Son of God with our human nature, all people were clothed with incorruption in the promise of the resurrection. For the solidarity of humanity is such that, by virtue of the Word’s indwelling in a single human body, the corruption which goes with death has lost its power over all. You know how it is when some great king enters a large city and dwells in one of its houses; because of his dwelling in that single house, the whole city is honored, and enemies and robbers cease to molest it. Even so is it with the King of all; He has come into our country and dwelt in one body amidst the many, and in consequence the designs of the enemy against humanity have been foiled and the corruption of death, which formerly held them in its power, has simply ceased to be. For the human race would have perished utterly had not the Lord and Savior of all, the Son of God, come among us to put an end to death. – Athanasius of Alexandria

God became man in the fullest sense possible – He embraced humanity in this act of incarnation to such an extent that all of humanity would be represented in His person. The extent to which He became man, is the extent to which this salvation is reality to us. We were in His life, His death, His resurrection and His ascension. He took humanity upon Himself within Himself, with such intensity that God would consider His every act as the act of man. His accomplishments would be credited to the account of mankind. He represents man more completely, truly and fully than any other man. – Andre Rabe

You were represented in Him. He embraced your humanity. His death was your death; His judgment was your judgment; His resurrection was your resurrection; His glorification is yours; His blameless innocence is yours. His faith is a gift to you so that you no longer have to live by your own convictions, but by his convictions, but by the faith of the son of God – live from His point of view! His life is now your life – you no longer have to live yourself, live Him! (Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 5:15)…He is both God’s act of salvation and man’s response of perfect faith…Jesus Christ is simultaneously God’s invitation, and man’s acceptance; He is God’s call and man’s answer; He is God’s revelation and man’s response of faith…Jesus is so fully man that what He does, man does, and what happens to Him, happens to man. – Andre Rabe

Christ was on the one hand so one with God that what he did, God did, for he was none other than God himself acting thus in our humanity. And therefore there is no other god for us than this God, and no other action of God toward us than this action in which he stood in our place and acted on our behalf. On the other hand, he was so one with us that when he died we died, for he did not die for himself but for us, and he did not died alone, but we died in him as those whom he had bound to himself inseparably by his incarnation. Therefore when he rose again, we rose in him and with him, and when he presented himself before the  face of the Father, he presented us also before God, so that we are already accepted of God in him one and for all. – Thomas F. Torrance

Christ as Man represents all mankind… all who belong to human nature are involved and represented – all human beings without exception. – Thomas F. Torrance

Jesus is the one in whom all the fullness of the Trinity exists (Col. 2:9), and He is also the one in whom all humanity exists (Col. 1:16-17). Jesus is the meeting place between God and man. When Jesus took on flesh, He united all of the Trinity with all of humanity. Because both are in Christ (the Trinity and Humanity) both are in union together in Jesus. Jesus did not just come as His own. And what I mean by that is because all humanity exists in Him, Jesus didn’t just live His own life and die His own death and resurrect His own existence. Jesus lived our lives and died our death and resurrected us. He didn’t just live and die for us, He lived and died as us! This is why Romans 6 is all about how we died with Jesus! This is why Paul says in Galatians 2 that he had been crucified with Christ! Jesus was not just 100% God and in union with 100% of God; He was also 100% man and in union with 100% of humanity. When Jesus became man, He became all men! When Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected, all humanity was involved in some mystical way! This is why 2nd Corinthians 5 speaks of “all” humanity dying with Christ! What happened to Jesus happened to humanity! It happened to all humanity because all humanity is included in Him! Colossians 1 speaks of all things being created in Him and all things being held together in Him. Paul told Pagans in Acts 17 that in Christ they lived and moved and had their being. Because Jesus became man, all humanity became included “in Him.” When Jesus took on flesh, He swept up the whole of mankind into Himself. And because all mankind was and is in Him, whatever happened to Jesus happened to us. Jesus is what connected humanity to the Trinity. He was the meeting place of God and man. Through His incarnation, all of the Trinity was connected to all of humanity, and all of humanity was adopted into the life of the great dance. This is why Jesus is called the mediator between us and God. That is also why the great early church father Athanasius said, “The Son of God became man so that man might become God.” He didn’t mean that when Jesus became man that we were literally made God, but rather that because of the incarnation of Christ we were included into the relationship of the Trinity—that we’d be in union with God Himself! The Apostle Peter says something similar in one of his writings. Peter says that we have become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1, NASB). Truly when Christ became man, man came into union with God. But do not think that man was not already in union with God even before the revealing of Christ. For in a great mystery Christ is also the lamb “slain before the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13), and in Him all things were created and have always existed (Col. 1). So in a mystical way, because Christ is outside of time and in eternity, Christ has always been united with man. If it was any other way then man would not be alive. He is the very thing that holds us together and gives us life. As God, He has also been omnipresent within all things since they were created. When Jesus came onto the scene 2000 years ago, He was simply manifesting the truth that had been there all along—the truth that all things are in union with Him. Though this is a great paradox and mystery and is as easy to understand as eternity itself, so there is no need to try to figure out such things for it is impossible for our finite minds to comprehend. It’s best to just enjoy the mystery of it, and to hold these two paradoxical truths in tension. Christ has always been united to man, and when Christ became man He united Himself with man. They are both true. – Christian Erickson

*****

Also see:

The Vicarious Man – John Crowder
http://www.thenewmystics.com/Articles/1000129597/Home_Page_of/Articles/The_Vicarious_Man.aspx

 

Who Are the Elect?

In A Simple Solution to the Predestination vs. Free Will Debate/”Paradox” I wrote about how every bible verse that speaks of predestination does not mean God is individually choosing who is going to heaven or hell but rather that God corporately chose the church.

In this post I want write about a related concept, that of election. The question is, who are God’s elect (chosen ones)?

One answer given is that God elects some individuals to heaven and damns the rest to hell. This is the same concept that I refuted in the post that I linked to above. Here I want to dismantle this false picture of an unfair God who arbitrarily favors certain people over others.

To answer the question, let’s first look at the concept of election in the Old Testament.

electMany individuals were chosen in the OT as types and shadows of the true elect. The most pertinent example is Abraham, who was chosen from among all the people in the earth. What is important to notice is why God chooses an individual out of everyone else in the first place? The scriptures say that Abraham was chosen so that “all nations would be blessed through [him]” (Galatians 3:16). Thus, as the OT conceives it, election is God selecting an individual (or a group; Israel in the OT) for the benefit of all others.

The reason that the non-elect can have hope for the future is precisely because of God’s election of Israel…Divine election is, strange as it may seem, a message of hope for the whole world. – Robin Parry

We can see this theme continued in the New Testament. In the gospel narratives, Jesus chooses disciples who will later take the Good News around the world; Jesus said to his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (John 15:16, emphasis mine). In Acts, God says that Paul “is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (9:15, emphasis mine).

The elect in the NT refers to the believing community. God chose the church as the means by which to bless the whole world. It’s not about who’s in and who’s out. Whenever election is mentioned in the scriptures it is completely unrelated to all of our modern notions of the afterlife. God did not make choices for each individual but rather he made a single corporate choice for the benefit of all.

Ultimately, however, we must think Christocentrically. The true elect one, who preceded the birth of the church, is Christ. Just as Israel was elected so that all nations would be blessed, so Christ was elected so that in him all humanity would be blessed.

Jesus represents Israel in himself, hence he embodied Israel’s election in himself (e.g. read Matthew, which portrays the life of Christ as parallel to the history of Israel). In a similar fashion, the church is representative of Jesus (read how closely Jesus identifies himself with the church in Who is the Light of the World?). This is why the church is called the body of Christ.

Jesus is God’s elect, and since all are included in the work of Christ, all are included in the benefits of his election (just as all nations were to be blessed by the election of Abraham).

Israel (Jacob) himself was chosen (over Esau; Gen. 25:23) but individual Israelites are not chosen to be in the nation of Israel. Rather, as descendants of Israel they share in God’s election of him. They are elect in Israel, not elect to be in Israel…our election is actually a participation in Christ’s election. Notice how Paul puts it in Eph. 1:4: “evan as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Not “chose to be in him” but “chose us in him.” Similarly in Rom 16:13: “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord…” Chosen “in the Lord” not “chosen to be in the Lord.” Christ is the Elect One and those who are united to Christ share in his election. – Robin Parry

So how has humanity benefited by Christ’s election on its behalf? By Jesus becoming its substitute. This will be the topic of my next post.

*****

Also see:

The Abolition of Sacrifice

grumpy

Some people view sacrifice as an inherently good thing because God instituted animal sacrifices in the Law or because of the sacrificial death of Jesus. The general concept is carried over into the New Covenant by claiming that we are to live sacrificial lives for God, giving up the things of this world for the things of God (Romans 12:1 is cited often to make this point).

Methinks this is a misconception.

Let’s take a look at the role of sacrifice in human history.

The concepts of sacrifice (or scapegoating) existed in every known culture and society. A historical study (see the works of René Girard) reveals that there were generally two reasons why communities practiced sacrifice – because the gods required it and to keep social order. People viewed sacrifice as necessary because otherwise the gods would unleash their anger on them, and also because it was an outlet for their (the people’s) violence. People didn’t know how to deal with their anger and frustration, so they decided to systematically take it out on something else. Thus, social order is maintained because instead of civil war breaking out, one person (the scapegoat) died for the rest. This mindset can even be seen in the scriptures, where the high priest Caiaphas advises the Pharisees that it is better for one man to die for the people (referring to Jesus) than for the whole nation to be destroyed (John 11:50). Of course, this never gets to the root problem, which is losing sight of who God really is, and thus losing sight of every person’s true desire, which is God himself (Haggai 2:7). Sacrifice emerged from not understanding God’s heart toward people.

The question, then, is why did God command animal sacrifices to be performed under the Law?

The Israelites wanted to be like the nations around them. They wanted laws, not relationship. They wanted human kings, not a heavenly Father. And they wanted sacrificial systems, not unmerited forgiveness. They couldn’t conceive of any other way of dealing with guilt and violence, and, in their minds, that was the only way to satisfy their angry God, Jehovah. But God isn’t like every other ancient god that required sacrifice in order to be nice to people.The truth, the mystery that had been kept hidden for ages, was that God was never angry with them and had forgiven them even before they had asked to be forgiven!

God never wanted our sacrifices, even under the Old Covenant. “Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired…Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required” (Psalm 40:6). “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; And the knowledge of God, more than burnt offering” (Hosea 6:6). (Also see Micah 6:6-8, Isaiah 1:11-14, and Jeremiah 7:21-23.)

morphiusGod instituted the Old Covenant sacrificial system for people, not for himself. It is no different than how Jesus explained that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Its introduction in the Law wasn’t to alleviate God’s anger or satisfy a need to punish sin, both of which God has no need for. Rather, it was a concession to man’s guilt and bloodlust (in fact, the entire system of Law was a concession to Israel since it refused to relate intimately with God; see Exodus 20:18-21). Sacrifice under the Old Covenant was to provide an outlet for human violence and to fulfill the human need to feel free of guilt and have a clear conscience (although according to Hebrews 10:4 it never permanently fixed anything – “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”).

God never wanted to use violence, but mankind did; so God worked within mankind’s violence to achieve His purposes, and to slowly wean His people off of the need for blood punishment. – Christian Erickson

This is why even though the Law contained retributive ordinances with concepts such as equal retaliation (someone who causes harm is repaid with the same harm to themselves), Jesus pointed to a better way. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:38-39). Indeed, Jesus demonstrated this principle himself as he did not retaliate against his accusers and executioners.

The Law is good (Romans 7:12), but it is not good in the sense that it would be good for us to try and follow it. It is good because it served its purpose, which was to reveal our sinfulness and bring us to our senses (Romans 7:7). When we try our best to follow the Law, we find that our efforts are futile. Thus God administrates his grace to us through the Law because it reveals our need for a savior. God imposed an impossibility on us to make evident the insufficiency of our independent selves (which is only an illusion, because we are never separated from God). It sheds light on the fundamental error made at the fall – thinking that we could do life alone if only we had the knowledge of good and evil.

Thus, just because something is in the Law doesn’t automatically make it good. Sacrifice is a case in point.

The cross didn’t deal with God’s sin consciousness, as if he was hindered from relating with us because of sin. It dealt with our sin consciousness (Hebrews 10:1-3). It doesn’t free God from a need to punish; it frees us from a guilty conscience.

The cross reveals that even when humanity is at its worst, united against God to murder him, God’s love for humanity and how he relates to them does not change. Even when God seems most justified in violently retaliating against humanity (and had the power to do so), he chooses not to. The heart of the Father is revealed.

The cross unmasks the practice of sacrifice (and more generally the concept of retributive punishment) for what it is and rescues humanity from its insanity.

It is simply human violence.

Let me get back to how this relates to sacrifice in our New Covenant lives.

God doesn’t want sacrifice unless he’s providing the sacrifice (think Abraham and Isaac). But from our perspective this isn’t sacrifice at all! Jesus meant it when he said it is more blessed (happy) to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), and he applies it in his dealings with us. God’s not looking for us to do something for him; God derives the greatest pleasure from continually providing for us all that we need. He doesn’t need our help. His joy is rooted in our enjoyment of his provision, not our provision for his non-existent needs.

Missionary to China Hudson Taylor, at the end of a life full of suffering and trial, said, “I never made a sacrifice.” When the motivating factor of service to Christ is love, it doesn’t feel like you’re working at all. It is effortless. There is no sacrifice.

And that’s just the kind of life that Jesus has made available to all.

*****

Also see:

Glimpses Into a Mystery (Andre Rabe)
http://hearhim.net/wordpress/2012/12/27/glimpses-into-a-mystery/