Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God

Sometimes, when we read the Bible, if we come across a verse that stands out to us or seems to be saying something important, it is often a good idea to take some time and reflect deeper on what is being said. It can be good from time to time to camp out on a verse and take some time to think it through and understand its implications. The second half of John 1:29 is one of those verses.

“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

In this post I want to focus on mainly verse 29 where John the Baptist declares to his disciples and those passing by: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

Let’s read together John 1:29-34.

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

Perhaps you have heard or read this verse before, probably you’ve read it lots of times and even heard the song with the words, ‘Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.’ Even though we may have heard this verse before I want to take some time and reflect on what this statement means and what it means for our lives, why it is important. It is important we understand the greatness of John’s declaration about Jesus. It is an amazing statement, if not a bold one.

As the Lamb of God, Jesus brought to fulfillment the long awaited prophecies about the Messiah who would bring deliverance and set up God’s kingdom in the world.

I wonder what kind of an effect it had on those who first heard them? John the Baptist declared to those who would listen that this Jesus from Nazareth, a local and a mere carpenter, was someone of worldwide and infinite significance.

Things were tense in first century Israel and the people were at a near frenzy with anticipation of a coming messiah deliverer who would set them free from a long and tough Roman oppression. They had just come out of the troubled Hasmonean Dynasty and were still picking up the pieces following the Maccabean Revolt not too many years prior. The people of Israel just wanted to be left alone to live their lives and worship their God and be Jewish. Tensions were mounting. Various rebel leaders and self-proclaimed messiah deliverers had come and gone such as Judas the Galilean mentioned in Acts 5:37 who lead a revolt among the people and yet was killed. Israel was tired of Roman oppression and was crying out to God for deliverance. Sound familiar? Then along comes John the Baptist, an obscure unknown prophet-like man in weird clothes who ate locusts. He showed up declaring in effect, that all the prophecies and revelations of the Old Testament that looked forward to a Savior and a deliverer had finally been fulfilled in another relatively obscure fellow Jesus of Nazareth — whom John prophesied was “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” I can imagine this was somewhat shocking to the people of Israel and can explain why the Jewish leadership sent some emissaries out to interrogate John about his claims. He probably was not helping calm the expectations of the people but only served to build on the anticipation.

God heard their cry and knew their situation. It is true the people of Israel needed deliverance and that God would bring it. However, the deliverance God was bringing to his people was a different kind of deliverance than what they were expecting or hoping for.

What did John the Baptist mean by calling Jesus the LAMB of God?

What did John the Baptist mean by calling Jesus the LAMB of God? Was he talking about his gentle, meek disposition? Was he referring to the fact that he was innocent and pure? Perhaps. More likely, however, while Jesus does have his moments as a meek and gentle man, John’s reason for calling him the Lamb of God goes much deeper than a mere description of his personal disposition.

In this strong declarative statement about Jesus by John the Baptist we are going to see that John, the author of the Fourth Gospel, was certain portions of the Old Testament in the light of Jesus’ work on the cross and his resurrection from the dead.

As the Lamb of God Jesus fulfilled the role of the suffering servant who was led like a lamb to the slaughter as a sin-offering (Isaiah 53:7, 10). As the Lamb of God Jesus bore our sins on the cross.

There are different things that come to mind when one hears the phrase “lamb of God.” One of the first is the reference to the lamb in Isaiah 53. This is often a debated point between Jews and Christians. The Jews and even those who spend a lot of time studying the Old Testament argue that within Judaism the prophecy in Isaiah 53 was not interpreted messianically. So, some are quick to not want this passage to necessarily refer to Jesus’ work on the cross but I think it is impossible not to and rather appropriate to do so. When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead everything about how the Hebrew Scriptures were understood was radically changed.

Before some things were unclear in their meaning and hard to understand, but now they are made clear and known to all – that much of the Hebrew Scriptures were fulfilled in the person Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Much of the Old Testament is now understood through this revelation. I once heard a story about some Jewish parents being upset a teacher was teaching about Christianity in one of their children’s classes. I can’t remember the context and do not know if this is real or not but to defend herself the teacher read from the passage she read in class. The parents immediately got upset and maintained their accusation against the teacher. Well, it turned out she was reading from Isaiah 53. The parents were in shock and they were silenced. It is hard to dispute that Isaiah prophecy is speaking of anyone other than Jesus Christ and his work on the cross.

Let’s look at the passage briefly. Lets read Isaiah 53:4-7 (NIV).

Surely he took up our pain

and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

This part of the prophecy really begins at 52:13 and carries over. It comes in a series of prophecies about a person scholars call the Servant of the Lord that begins at Isaiah 42. This person was to come and bring salvation to Israel and the nations by overthrowing oppression and injustice and destroying evil. In the process he would free Israel from their oppressors and restore the glory of God to the nation of Israel so that the nations would not want to destroy them but come rather to the mountain of the Lord in Jerusalem and worship God or YHWH, the God of Israel.

One thing was overlooked however, this section of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Servant of the Lord, who is the Messiah. Somehow it had been overlooked that Israel needed a spiritual deliverance as well as a physical one. This prophecy seems to be so misunderstood that even today, some 2000 years later, many Jews are still angry at Jesus and feel that he abandoned them and Judaism. In fact, many are so upset at him they can hardly say his name. I think the Jews of the day knew Jesus was the Messiah but they were too full of their own pride and heritage to see the depths of their own sin and need for forgiveness and deliverance. So when he died on the cross their hopes of physical deliverance were shattered.

The Bible makes it plain. All people have sinned and in that sin separates us from God. We need salvation and deliverance from our sins and failures to live up to God’s expectations and purposes for our lives. When John called Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world he is telling us that Jesus was and is the means of our forgiveness and reconciliation with God.

In the person of Jesus Christ we see this prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled and brought to fruition. Though Jesus came to bring deliverance to the people of Israel and the nations we esteemed him not and we despised him – yet willingly and intently he bore our sins for us. He carried the weight of them upon his body and took the to the cross.

2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us

“God made him who had no sin to be sin offering for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

God laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all. Imagine how hard this must have been – one who knew no sin bore the sins of the world on his body. What a burden to carry. But he carried them nonetheless and he will help us carry ours if we let him.

In preparing this sermon I found one person who wrote:

“Our sin was laid on Him as a heavy burden. The heaviest thing in the universe is sin. Neither angels nor men can stand under the load of sin—it sinks them lower than the lowest hell. When sin was laid upon the Son of God, He bore it, but He sweat as it were great drops of blood, and He was exceeding sorrowful even unto death. To have born up the WEIGHT of the world would have been nothing compared with bearing THE SIN of the world.”

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

He not only bore our sins but he also took them away! 1 John 1:7 says the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. He took them away and washed us clean and made us new. As the Lamb of God Jesus fulfilled the role of the suffering servant who was led like a lamb to the slaughter as a sin-offering.

As the Lamb of God Jesus fulfilled the role of the paschal or suffering lamb, whose blood saved Israel from the Egyptians (Exodus 12). As the Lamb of God, Jesus saved us from our sins that plague us. Like the plagues that nearly destroyed Egypt and Israel altogether – the blood of the lamb saved us from our sins. This is another understanding of John’s statement about Jesus. It brings up images of the exodus from Egypt and the institution of Passover. Because Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go he brought on Egypt many devastating and painful plagues the nearly destroyed Egypt altogether. Even so, Pharaoh would not relent. So God said he would kill every firstborn son in Egypt from Pharaoh on down to the lowest servant. But God knew that Israel would need a covering to protect them from what was about to happen.

Let’s read briefly Exodus 12:5-13.

The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.

12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

The blood of the Passover lamb protected the people of Israel from the plague that took all Egypt’s firstborn sons. In Jesus coming as the lamb of God, he fulfills the role of the Passover Lamb in that his blood saves us from the effects of our sins before God and allows us to experience his mercy and forgiveness. Here I want to note the Exodus nature of Jesus’ deliverance on the cross.

Whereas the first Exodus led Israel out of Egypt, the house of slavery, the house of bondage, the second exodus is a spiritual deliverance from the slavery and bondage to sin leading God’s people into a new kind of freedom, a life of freedom from the power and effects of sin and its hold on the human heart. By Jesus coming into the world as the Lamb of God he finished what Moses was ultimately unable to do: lead Israel into true and lasting freedom.

The completion of this second Exodus (or as some call it, a new Exodus) took place when Jesus gave his life on the cross and then three days later rose from the dead. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, delivered us from a different and more powerful kind of bondage – bondage to sin and its enslaving power over hearts and lives. It is the shed blood of Christ on the cross and his resurrection from the dead that sets us free from sin and its control over hearts and lives. With this second exodus Jesus brought a different and altogether more important form of deliverance than what Israel had been expecting.

He brought spiritual deliverance that as it said in Isaiah 53:5 brings us peace, peace in our hearts and if we apply it properly peace in our relationships with others. This is the effect of the cross – it brings us peace vertically and horizontally, it brings peace with God and with others.

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

As the Lamb of God Jesus fulfilled the role of the suffering servant who was led like a lamb to the slaughter as a sin-offering (Isaiah 53:7, 10). As the Lamb of God Jesus took away our sins on the cross and has delivered us from the power and hold of sin and death. In so doing he also will fulfill the role of the victorious apocalyptic Lamb who in the end, will destroy evil in the world and firmly establish the Kingdom of God.

As the Lamb of God Jesus will fulfill the role of the victorious apocalyptic lamb who will destroy evil in the world (Rev 5-7; 17:14). Through the cross and resurrection Jesus overcame the powers of sin and death in the world and set in process his efforts to overthrow evil and injustice.

In Revelation 5, we Jesus portrayed as the Lion of Judah who has conquered, then as a Lamb with seven horns who has won the right to open the scroll, and call forth the redeemed and bring them into the Kingdom. Here we see the Lamb who leads the flock of God, who delivers them from their foes and rules them in the Kingdom of God. These portrayals of Christ as Lion and as Lamb are not paradoxical but parallel, since seven horns signify immense strength – the Lamb is a powerful Ram! But he is presented as a Lamb because he “stands as one that has been slain.” He stands for he is the Living one who died and is alive forever (Rev 1:18); and he was slain in sacrifice, specifically as God’s Passover Lamb, to bring about the new Exodus for the liberty and life of the kingdom of God. He is the slain yet victorious Lamb whose blood ‘ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people’ (Rev. 5:6,9). What we are seeing here an apocalyptic representation of the Christ adapted to the Christian doctrine of redemption; the all-powerful Christ wins salvation for the world through his sacrificial death.

It is the exact opposite of what Israel expected of the Messiah. Whereas they expected a kingly ruler to come and overthrow Roman oppression through victorious battle – Jesus waged a different kind of battle through giving his life on the cross. This was the true victory that he accomplished for us.

Through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead Jesus has delivered us from that which plagues us and will also protect us from the coming end-time plagues God will use to finally destroy the wicked and establish his kingdom rule. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God brought us spiritual deliverance through submission to death as the Passover Lamb and his resurrection from the dead and ascension to the Father in Heaven.

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

As the Lamb of God Jesus will fulfill the role of the victorious apocalyptic lamb who will destroy evil in the world (Rev 5-7; 17:14). He will protect us from the end-time judgment of the world and lead us into his eternal kingdom. Will we follow? John the Baptist made this declaration about Jesus and then his disciples followed after Jesus. Will we? Will we come after him and be his disciples following him as the Lamb of God, following him into a different way of living than what many often expect? Many want a victorious life free from any difficulty – but Jesus doesn’t lead us down that road. He calls us to a different way of living. He calls us a life centered on the cross and resurrection.

Will we follow?

the blood of Jesus explained

Facts about blood:

If you’re a kid, your heart is about the same size as your fist, and if you’re an adult, it’s about the same size as two fists.

In one day, your blood travels nearly 12,000 miles.

Your heart beats about 100,000 times in one day and about 35 million times in a year.

During an average lifetime, the human heart will beat more than 2.5 billion times.

Your body has about 5.6 liters (6 quarts) of blood.

This 5.6 liters of blood circulates through the body three times every minute.

In one day, your blood travels a total of 19,000 km (12,000 miles)–that’s four times the distance across the US from coast to coast.

Your heart pumps roughly 1 million barrels of blood during the average lifetime – enough to fill three supertankers.

Without blood you can’t live. Blood is essential for bodily life; as long as it flows in the body, the body is alive, but blood outside the body, indicates a threat to life, even the possibility of loss of life. Often the loss of blood in the human body can be a reference to a violent death.

Many people don’t like talking about blood. It’s kind of shocking and for many, they get queasy or sick when they see it. It can be a challenging topic to talk about but in the Bible, Blood plays a significant role throughout both the Old and New Testaments and in the life of God’s people. From Genesis chapter 3 on, blood is shed because of sin. Because life is in the blood – when life is taken blood is required to make restitution for the life taken. Blood is used to establish a covenant between God and man. In this case, it becomes the blood of the covenant. In Leviticus 14 God ordained that blood be used for ritual cleansing. Blood is used to purify parts of the tabernacle in the book of Exodus to designate them holy to the Lord. Blood is required for the payment of sin – in a sin offering an animal’s blood is shed and it is offered up as a sacrifice. In this sense the life of the animal is offered up in substitution for the person making the sacrifice. When blood is shed it does not mean simply cutting a hand so one bleeds. When blood is shed it often refers to a violent death or taking of life. Blood is needed to pay for sin. It’s either our blood or the blood of another, usually an animal. In Old Testament times, animal sacrifices were sufficient for a person’s sin offering. But in the New Testament, we find out that in reality, it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Our own blood was needed to pay for our own sins but we could not do that and God knew it. So, Jesus Christ came to give his life in our place so that we might live.

What do we mean by the shed blood of Jesus? While he did bleed and shed blood was needed for the forgiveness of sins, the term “the blood of Jesus” is a reference to the violent sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross for the sins of humanity (that’s you and me and everybody else). It is not the blood itself that saves because Jesus had normal human blood as we all do. There is no magical power in the blood itself but rather it plays a symbolic role in that by Jesus shedding his blood, as a sinless man, through his violent sacrificial death on the cross, the wrath of God towards sin and sinful man is both averted and the penalty for our sin is wiped out. We are set free from sin and its hold on our lives, our sins are forgiven, we are reconciled to God and given access to him because of the blood of Christ, or his death on the cross.

The background on this is found in several places in the Old Testament. In Exodus 12 God gave the people of Israel specific instructions on what they needed to do to protect themselves from the Angel who would strike down the first born of Egypt due to Pharaoh’s refusal to let Israel come out of slavery. For Israel to protect themselves they had to sacrifice a lamb and put its blood on the head and side post so that the Angel would Passover them. This is what the blood of Jesus does for us in relation to our sin – it protects us from the wrath of God judgment toward sin and sinful humanity.

Later after the giving of the Law God instituted specific rituals and sacrifices the people of Israel needed to perform to deal with their sins. Hebrews 9:22 tells us, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” So some of the sacrifices people needed to perform involved sacrificing an animal as a payment for sin. In Leviticus 17:11 God tells Moses “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” Here God is saying that blood is needed to pay for sin. If we back up just a bit Leviticus 4 describes the parts of the sin offering. (Read Lev 4:1-3). Here we see an animal’s life had to be sacrificed as a payment for sin. This makes me wonder if the first animal sacrifice for sin was in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned and God had to kill an animal to make clothing for them? (Gen 3:21 “garments of skins”).  When the tabernacle was being built and the priesthood was being established everything was purified with the blood of bulls and goats – for things to be purified they had to be “cleansed” with sacrificial blood. All of these things were what are called types – a foreshadowing of what Jesus Christ would do as the Messiah. He fulfilled all these things in his ministry in the world and through his sacrificial death on the cross.

It is through the blood of Christ that we have redemption from sin, the forgiveness of sins and access to God through reconciliation. Christ’s work on the cross redeems us from our sins and reconciles us to God giving us access to him because of Jesus’ sacrificial offering on our behalf. When Jesus died on the cross his shed blood set us from slavery to sin and its hold on our lives. The cross reconciled us to God and gave us access to a relationship with God because of Christ shed blood.

In talking about the blood of Christ I want to show that through the blood of Christ have redemption the forgiveness of sins. In light of our redemption I want to show that through the blood of Christ we have reconciliation with God and we have access to a relationship with God.

Through the blood of Christ, we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Redemption means to “buy back” or “buy out of” in order to set free by the payment of a ransom price. For example one may go to the store to redeem a coupon and get a lower price on a product. Through the blood of Christ our sin has been paid for. Through this payment for our sins on our behalf Jesus bought us out of our slavery to sin and its hold on our lives. Romans 3:23 states that,

“all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.”

Because of our sin, we live in slavery to that sin and by our own efforts are not able to break free from its grip on our lives. In essence, we are sinners not just by what we do but by who we are. Apart from Christ, it defines who we are: sinners. Because of this, it make things difficult for us. We live in slavery to sin. We do what it tells us to do. For example, let’s look at Romans 7:14-21.  I believe this is a good description of a person’s life in slavery to sin. We want to do good but often we can’t or at least not for long. We do the things we don’t want to do. The things we want to do we can’t because of our slavery to sin. So what do we do? We can’t do much can we? Not apart from Christ. The only way we can be free from slavery from sin is to trust Jesus’ work on the cross on our behalf. It is only because of Christ’s work on the cross that we are able to be free from sin – in this sense, we have redemption and forgiveness of sins. Ephesians 1:7 tells us that

“in Christ, we have redemption through his blood the forgiveness of sins.”

As I noted, redemption means to “buy back” or “buy out of” in order to set free by the payment of a ransom price. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:20 and 7:23,

“you were bought at a price.”

Through our redemption we have what is called justification. Justification means that because Jesus gave his life on the cross on our behalf we are made right with God. (By the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross we are declared righteous and made righteous) (Romans 5:9) through which he are sanctified or made holy in God’s sight. Heb 13:12 tells us that Jesus gave his life to make us holy and acceptable to God.

To further my case, let my share just a few other significant verses: Acts 20:28 Paul tells the Ephesian elders in his farewell speech

“Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”

1 Pet 1:18-19 states,

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the emptyway of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

Revelation 1:5; John starts out his letter to the seven churches, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,

“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever!” Revelation 5:9; “And they sang a new song, saying:

Revelation 5:9; “And they sang a new song, saying:

“And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God members of every tribe and language and people and nation.’”

Through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross at Calvary, we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins which allows God’s wrath to be averted and sin to be atoned for so that we could be reconciled to God and be at peace with him who loves us and bought us with his own blood.

Through the blood of Christ, we have been reconciled to God (Eph 2:13). Because of our sin, we are separated from God and at enmity with him. God is a holy God and cannot and will not allow sin or sinful beings in his presence. Our sin makes us God’s enemies. But through the Christ’s shed blood on the cross we are reconciled to God and made right with him. It is the blood of Christ alone that makes is acceptable to God not anything we do. It is the shed blood of Christ that bridges the gap and reconciles us to God in a right relationship with him. In essence the effort of reconciliation this is the work of God himself. God sent his son into the world that he might reconcile the world to himself through Christ and his sacrificial death on the cross.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” Colossians 1:21 and 22 read, “Once you were alienated from God and were

Colossians 1:21 and 22 read, “Once you were alienated from God and were

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” We’ve been reconciled to God through Christ shed blood on the

We’ve been reconciled to God through Christ shed blood on the Cross – when we trust in Christ we are no longer seen as God’s enemies. Our own sin alienates us from God and mars our conscience so that not only sin alienates us from God but we ourselves run from him. But through the blood of Christ our consciences are made clean and we no longer keep running from God but towards him. Read with me Romans 5:9-11. Christ blood makes us right with God and through that justification we are reconciled to God. Let’s look at Hebrews 9:11-14. Remember I mentioned that the blood of bulls and goats wasn’t good enough? Only the blood of Christ is sufficient to cleanse us our consciences and sinful deeds that lead to death. What is going on here is what we refer to as the cleansing power of the blood. Through the shed blood of Jesus our consciences are cleansed and we are reconciled to God!

This alienation however does not just affect us and God, it also affects our relationships with fellow humans. When we are not right with God we are often in a problem with other people. But the blood of Christ breaks the separation and brings reconciliation between but man and God and man and man! This was the case between Jews and Gentiles in New Testament times. Paul wrote to the Ephesian church that the separation between Jew and Gentile has been bridged by the by the blood of Christ. (Look at Ephesians 2:11-18). Those who were near and those who were far off have been brought near to God by the blood of Christ. Through the blood of Christ we have been made right with God and reconciled to God so that we can be in a relationship with him. It is through the blood of Christ that we can have a right relationship with both God and man.

Through the blood of Christ, we have access to a relationship with God (Eph 2:18; Heb 4:14-16; 10:19-22; 12:2). It is only because of what Jesus did for us on the cross that we can have a relationship with God. Jesus made the way possible through the shedding of his own blood. Through Christ we have access to God. Without him there is no way but Jesus made a way. As we read in Ephesians 2:18, through Christ we have access to God by the Holy Spirit. This work of Christ justifies us and allows us to have peace with God. Romans 5:1-2 read,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we [a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”

Let’s look at Hebrews 4:14-16. Jesus has gone through the heavens and made it possible for us to approach God and obtain mercy and grace. Look at Hebrews 10:19- 22. By the blood of Jesus a new and living way has been made for us to approach God and be in relationship with him. We can confidently draw near to God with sincere hearts and a clean conscience. When Jesus bore our sins, he made a way to God. Bearing the sins of many Jesus, our new Moses and new Joshua, has gone ahead to provide perfect access to the Father through the blood of his covenant (Heb 13:20; 12:24; Ex 24:8).

It is through the blood of Christ that we have redemption from sin, the forgiveness of sins and access to God through reconciliation. Christ’s work on the cross redeems us from our sins and reconciles us to God giving us access to him because of Jesus’ sacrificial offering on our behalf. When Jesus died on the cross his shed blood set us from slavery to sin and its hold on our lives. The cross reconciled us to God and gave us access to a relationship with God because of Christ shed blood.

Hebrews 13:20-21

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you witheverything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.


Book Review: Aspects of the Atonement

atonementOkay – I realize this is a post-resurrection discussion of the atonement but I personally think that is a good time to discuss these kinds of things, after the fact (well, in relation to the Christian calendar at least).

My copy of I. Howard Marshall’s Aspects of the Atonement: Cross and Resurection int he reconciling of God and Humanity (Posternoster, 2007) is not a review copy.  I purchased it as part of a birthday amazon gift card last year – so I am not necessarily obligated to review it -but I’d like anyways to put it out there as a pretty good articulation of penal-substitutionary theory of the atonement.  It’s not the typical “God got angry and took it out on his kid” view, and Marshall takes issue with Steve Chalke and his “cosmic child abuse” arguments.

The book itself is based on a series of lectures Marshall gave in different settings over a period from October 2004 to Feburary 2006.  In his preface he writes:

Although the various parts of the book thus arise from different occassions, it seemed to me that there was sufficient unity between them to consitute a coherent set of essays.  Between them they discuss the state of human kind from which deliverance is needed, the way in which the death of Christ functions to bring about deliverance from sin and its consequence, the (often neglected) place of the resurrection of Christ in the saving action, and the resulting offer of reconciliation with God that carries with it the obligation to bring about reconciliation among the different people for whom Christ died (viii).

There are four chapters and they have a progression about them from discussing the penalty of sin (1-24), the substitutionary death of Jesus (34-64), “raised for our justification” (role of resurrection in salvation) (68-96) and finally, the centrality and relevance of reconciliation (98-137).

In the introductory chapter discussing the penalty of sin Marshall raises two key questions, which it sees as the two most important questions for scholars and theologians today and, ones which he will seek to answer: how are we to understand the significance of the work Jesus Christ that is the basis of salvation for sinners? And how are we to explain it in our presentations of the gospel to our contemporaries?   He sets the chapter up identifying himself as an evangelical and why – then working to explain how the doctrine of the work of Christ as the basis of salvation is central to evangelical theology.  Two aspects of the doctrine seek to address the human situation: our situation as sinners in relationship to the God against whom we have sinned and our situation as sinners in relation to the sin that masters us (2-3).

One other key question Marshall wants to address is “in what way is death of Jesus Christ the grounds for our salvation? (4)  One answer to this is the (more or less) traditional understanding of the atonement that is typically labeled the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement.  This theory has come under some criticism in recent years and is fastly being abandoned by many for other views especially after Steve Chalke (who in collaboration with Alan Mann wrote the book, The Lost Message of Jesus) assaulted this view claiming it makes God out to be a “cosmic child abuser” (a gross misunderstanding) but who wants to be connected to such a view as that?    This work has in some fashion contributed to a mass exodus of sorts where quite a number of significant theologians have come to”reject the concept of penal substitution as the principal means, or even a subordinate means, of understanding the significance of the death of Christ” (5).

In contrast, Marshall argues in this set of essays that the doctrine is well founded in Scripture, and that it is defensible against the objection brought against it.  He writes: “I hope it may in such away that, whatever may be the problems with the terminology, all of us may be able to recognize the validity, and indeed, the centrality of what is known by the term “penal-substitution” instead of repudiating the concept” (7).   Marshall is primarily concerned with the biblical and theological foundations that underlie the preaching of the gospel and not with the evangelistic edifice built on these foundations (8).  While not all like using the terms “penal suffering” or “appeasing God” in preaching it still needs to be asked if there is a place for them and what is meant by these terms.  Also, Marhsall argues we cannot evade the problem of how we communicate biblical theology to unbelievers with a different world-view from ours.

Through the chapter Marshall discusses the use of metaphor to explain the atonement and in this recognizes that no one theory of the atonement can bear the whole weight of explaining the significance of the work of Christ on the cross.

Well, it’s a very good book – well worth the read.


on knowing and understanding the Bible

I am not going to claim I have the corner on this market – but I was thinking about why biblical illiteracy is such an issue in the good ‘ol USofA today.  Many claim they can’t understand the Bible, or they can read it but don’t know what it means or how it can apply to real life.  Even fewer have actually read through the Bible cover to cover, ever, let alone even once, so on and so forth.

Now all I have to offer are speculations and possiblities not certain answers (and I know the Bible says to stay away from specualtions so I am taking a risk here).  But I was watching some movies with my wife a while ago and the time in the movies was back in the time of old west, particularly when folks were going out west to stake a claim.  One thing I noticed about the setting was that things took time to get done and the people had the time to get it done.  In other words, there was a lot of time.

I began to realize why so many of us have trouble getting into the Bible, be it reading it, studying it, memorizing it and so on – for many of us, we’re just too busy.   We’ve got our TV’s, our Cable, our Internets, and every other thing under the sun.  Not that these things are bad in and of themselves, but I think a lot of them prove distracting enough that tempt us to misplace our priorities.  In additon, these things also can tend to minimize interaction and thinking skills such that when it comes time to actually think, it hurts our heads or it exhausts us – or we just aren’t that interested.

If you want to know and understand the Bible for your self it will take time and effort to so that – and it will be well worth the effort.


Quote of the day: A.W. Tozer

From Dave Black’s blog:

I think unlovely orthodoxy, unbeautiful Christianity is a tragedy. We have pugilistic Christians; we have acrobatic Christians; we have athletic Christians; we have big-domed, learned Christians. We have all kinds of Christians, but where are the beautiful ones, those who shine with inner beauty? I am looking for them, and I pray that God will send us a revival, not of noise and nonsense, but of beauty with God dwelling in us.

a thought on the book of Philippians

This is going to be an intentionally vague post but in the light of certain recent events both local and global within the church and from without – it would seem to me that the message of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one in particular that needs to be preached in the church local and global.  The Philippian church was a suffering church – Philippi had been established as a town for the veterans of the Roman Army and had been named after King Philip (Alexander the Great’s father) – it received many privileges and especially when it paid tribute to the Caesars, especially as “kurios” (Lord).  For the Christians this was a problem.  A big problem.  They could not and would not call Caesar “kurios.”  That term they reserved for Jesus Christ alone.  The problem for the Christians living in Philippi then was that this brought on much persecution and suffering – be it loss of work or removal from the various guilds, higher taxes and so on.  Their refusal to call Caesar “Lord” jepordized the special status and standing of the city in the eyes of Rome.  The citizens of Philippi were not going to put up with that.  No way.  So this caused many problems for the Philippian church.  Strife arose among them.  Conflict, struggle, finger pointing, murmuring, grumbling, complaining which also probably led to minimized acceptance of and or fellowship with one another and the like.  and ’round and ’round the mulberry bush it went.  It was tearing the church apart.

Paul urged them not to give in to the stress and the pressure both from within and from without.  It would undermine two things: the unity of the church and progress of the gospel.

With regard to the unity of the church – I think it’s the true theme and purpose of the letter.  I know may think joy is the main theme, especially since the word joy or rejoice occurs frequently throughout the letter, but in my opinion, which has been heavily influenced by the work of Dave Black (his blog, some of his papers and his Linguistics book) and also from Gordon Fee’s commentary on the letter, is that unity is the major theme of the letter and that, for the sake of the gospel.

For Paul, I am not sure much else mattered.  If ever there was a truly gospel-centered person, it was the apostle Paul.  He lived and died (literally) for the sake of the progress of the gospel (yeah, that’s probably too many uses of “of.”  lol).

I think we might see this most strongly in Philippians 1:27-28:

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one FOR the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God (NIV). (capitalized “for” is mine) 

In his estimation, despite whatever happened, all that mattered in life was that the church maintained its unity and that the gospel went forth – and in someways I’ll aver that for Paul the two were in tandem with each other.  Anytime unity in the church was broken or under duress – it affected the progress of the gospel.   As proof, while he was in prison, in chains, others took advantage of the situation and went about promoting themselves and or criticizing Paul (1:15-18).  You would think, “goodness, he got thrown in jail, is chained to a wall, and others are out there mocking him and or promoting themselves, supposedly “preaching the gospel.” That’s gotta be rough.  So discouraging too.”  And yet, what brought Paul true joy?  Nothing other than the progress of the gospel.  It may not have been going forth in the best ways, but nevertheless, it was going forth.

I share this because I know the church local and global is in the midst of conflict.  There is strife about certain preachers locally.  The church in the Middle East is being systematically murdered.  The church is facing new levels of conflict both from within and from without.

I think Paul’s prophetic and pastoral word here is most pertinent for our times – I mean I could be over-reaching but it seems to me that if ever there was a time the church needed to be “striving together as one FOR the faith of the gospel,” it is now.  I could be wrong but I see a lot of finger pointing going on (not that I haven’t been guiltless of this myself) and some complaining going on, a ton of “folding of the arms” so to speak (a resistant defensive posture), all kinds of line drawing in the sand and the like.  The church abroad is facing much suffering.  I am not on the ground over there but I know from personal experience that hardship can either build up or break down.

In the midst of conflict in the world around us, it’s important that we “keep the main thing the main thing” – and for us as Christians, the main thing should be unity in the body for the sake of/progress of the gospel.  Any infighting, whining, complaining and so on will only hinder the progress of the gospel, not help it (IMO).  Now, unity is not uniformity (as an example, the NFL is in unity about how to play football, though the various teams within wear different uniforms).  We, the church (that is, all Christians), can have differences about some things and that’s all part of being human – and still have the same end goal in mind – the progress of the gospel.

I pray this message be the message to the modern church – that “he who has an ear will hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”