Friday, August 25, 2017

Reading A More Christlike God, by Bradley Jersak #6

JersakThis post continues looking at the third and final part of A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, by Bradley Jersak. In this section, Jersak discusses the New Testament metaphors for what the death of Christ accomplished and how it was applied to humanity. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Kindle version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In Chapter 12, Unwrathing the Cross part I The Gospel Metaphors, looks at 7 different metaphors that are used by the 4 Gospel writers to describe the "how" of the application of salvation to us. He cautions us that there is a great element of mystery in this and we do not know exactly how God did it. Thus, the different atonement theories derived from these metaphors should be "held lightly" and one should not be considered superior to the others. All the biblical metaphors must be considered in a full biblical view. In these metaphors the problem, sin and death, is seen as being lost, sickness, snake venom, alienation from covenant, the enslaving destroyer, debt, and bondage to death. Jesus/God is seen as the seeker and finder, the Great Physician, the "lifted up" antidote, the sacrificial goat and scapegoat, the Passover lamb, the kinsman-redeemer and ransom payer. All of these should make us thankful and full of praise for what Jesus has done for us. 

God’s saving work through Jesus is so multi-faceted that Christ and the apostles found it necessary and helpful to use a constellation of metaphors to describe its benefits. Each metaphor serves to clarify, but can also obscure. Every metaphor can extend our understanding, but can also be over-extended such that we corner ourselves into error. So our theories about the metaphors need to be held very lightly— no theory holds a monopoly on the gospel, nor should it lay claim to actually being the gospel. 229

Christ is the sacrificial gift of grace for all. All who receive him by faith (including those sinners and enemies whose judgment God had forestalled) are forgiven and reconciled to God. God did not need to be reconciled to us—he was never our enemy. It is we who had fled and were lost, we who were hostile and rebellious, we who needed reconciliation and atonement. God did not need a sacrificial Lamb, we did. And so God sent his Son for us so that, like the scapegoat, he could carry away our sin, guilt and punishment forever. 238

When Jesus gave his life for ours, to whom did he give it? The life of Christ was given over to death itself. But, as in the case of Satan, Christ did not ‘owe’ death anything. He did not ‘owe’ Hades (the Greek god of death) a life. Instead, death is the gate by which Jesus entered hades (death) and plundered its captives.  247  

In Chapter 13, Unwrathing the Cross part II The Pauline Metaphors, Jersak unpacks Paul's two favorite metaphors to interpret the cross: victory and justification. The victory of the cross over sin, death, and the evil supernatural powers was the most popular way to describe the atonement for the first 1000+ years of church history. At the cross Christ provides forgiveness and his resurrection overcomes the forces of evil for all of us. Justification can refer to "moral purity" or "legal innocence." Jesus sacrifices himself to rescue us from sin and death, absorbs them into Himself and then overcomes them. Christ identifies himself with us in all of our sinful mess and offers Himself as substitute. Thus, he can offer His Divine nature for our human nature which was always the Father's loving plan.

The Cross, especially as it symbolizes forgiveness, is what defeats the enemy, because without those charges, those laws and those debts, the accuser’s got nothing on us. When on the Cross, Jesus Christ asks the Father to forgive us, for complete pardon, and he does! And the enemy’s armaments and arguments dissolve in his hands. 251

The meaning Christ attributes to sacrifice is simply this: laying one’s life down for someone else (1 John 3:16). Anyone who gives their life to rescue another—whether it’s a fireman dying while pulling someone from a flaming building; a policeman who’s fatally wounded while rescuing a hostage; or a martyr stoned to death for preaching the good news—is ‘paying the ultimate price.’ Here, the metaphors are off the table. Here, sacrifice (laying down your life) is raw actuality—the events as they really happened. 256

In the one person of Jesus Christ, God identifies with a man and a man identifies with God. Fully God and fully man, in Christ, humanity and divinity come together to restore humanity. 259

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