Reinterpreting the Cross

mad godThe crucifixion of Jesus is hugely significant to christian theological thought. The way you view the cross will largely determine the way you view God. Yeah. It’s kinda important.

The lamb was slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). I understand that to mean that, ontologically speaking, the cross didn’t change anything; all of its “effects” took place before the world was made. It did, however, change our perception of who God is and what he is like.

Reconciliation and similar language in the scriptures that speak of mending our relationship with God are metaphors that were culturally relevant to the recipients of the writings (especially to Jews), ultimately pointing to our experiences of realization of the reality we never knew.

God didn’t bring about the crucifixion. Sure, God saw it coming, but it wasn’t the Father who predestined his Son to get tortured on the cross (knowledge and foresight do not necessarily imply predestination or causation). God didn’t decided to have Jesus crucified and make people act accordingly to make sure it happened. Rather, God saw that people would crucify Jesus when he sent him, so he acted accordingly prior to that, predicting it through prophets and scheming a revelation of himself through it.

God saved the world through his Incarnate Word in Jesus by the historical accident of a judicial murder. – Robert Capon

It was people who crucified Jesus, not God. God didn’t kill his own son so he could finally bring himself to forgive humanity. God watched humanity murderously unite against him, but he still did not retaliate.

God went to show that no matter what people did to him, his love for them would never change.

God wasn’t angry with Jesus or even with people. People were angry with Jesus, and that’s why they decided to crucify him.

[God] is not a schizophrenic deity bouncing between love and hatred. The point of the cross was to redeem mankind from his own self-destruction … not to pay off an ill-tempered, narcissistic God who was spitting mad at you for sinning against Him. – John Crowder

The cross was man’s doing, but the incarnation was God’s doing; it was God’s way of showing the reality already in place. Through Christ’s incarnation the union of all of humanity with the Godhead was revealed.

Jesus wasn’t sent to die but rather to reveal God’s heart toward us. His death wasn’t necessary for us to be reconciled to God (we already were in God’s mind), but it was the greatest manifestation of the fact that God never had a problem with us.

God surely anticipated that a person like Jesus would be killed by an order established on violence, but God did not kill Jesus, or require his death, or manipulate others into sacrificing him. God may have found a way to triumph over this crime, but God did not cause it. – Walter Wink

It was humanity who caused Jesus to be crucified, not God. And yet, God used our act of violence for good, through it revealing to us what he is really like. God presented the sacrifice, not people (Romans 3:25). He sacrificed his option to respond with violence toward us to our act of violence toward him.

Christ is a divine offering to humankind, not a human offering to God. – Robert Hamerton-Kelly

Instead of us bringing a sacrifice to God to appease him, through the cross God brings a sacrifice to us to reconcile us. – Derek Flood

The cross was and is the ultimate revelation of who God is. The cross is enlightenment, not payment. It enables us to believe the truth about God that we couldn’t believe without it. The cross went to demonstrate, not effect, that not even killing the one who loves us could separate us from him!

Jesus didn’t make God graceful towards you. He didn’t satisfy some blood lust against sinful man in order to change His nature into a forgiving nature. That isn’t even real forgiveness. God has always been a God of grace. He has always forgiven you, and been kind to you. The cross just demonstrated that fact. The cross is the expression of the Lord’s forgiveness of mankind, not the prerequisite for it. – Christian Erickson

The authentic Creator, the true light that enlightens every man was coming into this world. His mission was nothing less than shattering our illusions, exposing the unreal, unoriginal and fake identity that we embraced outside of Him. – Andre Rabe

Jesus didn’t come to change God’s mind about us but to change our minds about God. This is why he went around telling people to “repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” The kingdom was already there, fully available. People just needed to change their minds (i.e. repent) about that reality.

[In a retributive view of the cross,] our problem is God’s offense. The cross comes to bring God to repentance. The cross is the means by which he gets rid of his anger and frustration so that he can be kind to us again. God has never been our problem. Jesus doesn’t come to change God’s mind about us; he came to change our minds about God and one another. We are the ones who needed to change our thinking. We are the ones who needed to be converted. It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. It isn’t our repentance that leads God to goodness. God was good long before we repented. – Andre Rabe


Also see:

The Contradiction of the Cross (by Andre Rabe)

The Revelation of the Cross (by Andre Rabe)


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

Quotes on the inclusion of all humanity in Christ

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