Why Did Jesus Die on the Cross?

We talked last time about three atonement theories that I believe are woefully misguided and miss the point of Jesus’ death completely: The Ransom Theory, the Satisfaction Theory, and the Substitutionary Atonement Theory (Penal Substitution). All three are inadequate to explain what happened at Jesus’ death, and they all lead to deep misunderstandings about God and his relationship to us.

But, if all these theories are mistaken, how can we better understand what happened at Jesus’ death and how it impacts us? Increasing numbers of believers now embrace a better explanation—Christus Victor.

The Cross by Yahn

By Yann (Own work) [GFDL or CC

Jesus the Victor (Christus Victor)

The Christus Victor Theory departs from the other three theories of atonement. Some might see some similarity with the Ransom Theory in that Jesus becomes a victor, but he is not a victor over Satan’s claim over us as sinners against God. He is victor in another way; he is victor over sin, evil, and death!

His death is not a ransom either to Satan or to God. I doubt Satan even exists, he is just a personification of evil in our lives, but the victory of Jesus includes victory over all that he personifies—including victory over the worldly powers as represented by Rome in Jesus’ day. Jesus’ death was not an appeasement to God but victory over sin, evil, and death in a sacrifice of love.

Jesus came to offer us eternal life. The most famous passage in the Bible says: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

But many people read other stuff into it. John 3:16 doesn’t say, as many assume, that God sent his son to die on the cross to pay for our sins (no place in the New Testament says Jesus paid for our sins). There is no mention in John 3:16 of being saved from hell or God’s wrath. Jesus came that we might have eternal life instead of permanent death. Death is not the end of our story.

However, Jesus’ death is not what confirms our eternal life. Jesus was human and humans die; it was his resurrection that accomplished victory over death and guaranteed our resurrection and eternal life.

The Resurrection Factor

The pivotal incident in Jesus’ death is not the crucifixion but the  resurrection, though he did have to die in order for there to be a resurrection so his death was very important. But his resurrection demonstrated his ability to give us eternal life.

In his resurrection, Jesus:

  • Broke the power of death
  • Broke the power of sin in our lives
  • Broke the power of the world system that dominated the world and killed Jesus

I believe the resurrection is the point of primary importance in what Jesus does for us. But, in addition to breaking the power of death, sin, and the world system, the resurrection also:

  • Validates Jesus’ uniqueness; he is not just another wise teacher
  • Makes us pay attention to what he teaches about the loving Father
  • Gives us confidence of our own eventual resurrection and eternal life

The resurrection required Jesus’ death, but why did it have to be a cruel, public death on the cross?

His resurrection was a victory over the world system that attempted to defeat him. But had his death had not been a very public one, his resurrection would not have been publicly noticed. Otherwise, when told of the resurrection of Jesus people could say, ‘Jesus is resurrected? Who is Jesus?’ or ‘What? I didn’t even know he was dead.’ The public execution led to public awareness of his resurrection; it was visible and memorable.

But this is Not All that was Going On

Jesus could have lived and taught his followers for decades, but instead he submitted to an unjust death he could have avoided had he wanted to. In fact, by cooperation, he could have built his movement throughout the religious and political systems of the world, but he allowed them to kill him instead.

He purposefully provoked the powers of the day while there was an enormous crowd in Jerusalem for Passover and a strong Roman presence to respond to any disturbance during the feast. According to the Synoptics the provocation was the cleansing of the Temple, while John says it was the shocking, and threatening, raising of Lazarus that created great excitement among the people.

Jesus caught the attention of the powers when he didn’t have to. And then he didn’t resist his arrest, or his trial, or try to do anything to avoid execution. Jesus offered no political resistance but he did impact political thinking among his followers. His submission to death demonstrated:

  • The seriousness of his teaching and commitment against using power to achieve the kingdom
  • Willingness to die for the kingdom if necessary, and
  • That the proper response to violence is forgiveness

It was (and is) a potent lesson for his followers. It illustrates the rejection of political approaches to bringing in God’s new order. His mission was not to build a power force; the kingdom of God is not to be advanced by violence, power, or politics.

More on the Cross

In addition to his message against political violence, Jesus’ death demonstrates the level of alienation of humanity from God. God sent his son and they killed him. The cross represents both sinfulness and forgiveness; we demonstrated the sinfulness of humanity by killing an innocent one, and Jesus demonstrated forgiveness. One thing we can say with great confidence that what Jesus did on the cross was to forgive: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’

What a lesson for us! Jesus responded to his murderers by forgiving them all, which should really catch our attention and strengthen our desire to love others—even to the point of loving our own enemies. This act of forgiveness underscores the love of God Jesus shared with us all along.

Forgiveness is the thing; we accept that forgiveness and forgive others in the same way.

Articles in this series: Sin and Forgiveness

The Story of Sin and Salvation—Common Baggage Version (CBV)
What is Sin but Pain and Alienation?
Addressing Sin in the Old Testament
The Prophets Begin to Talk about Sin in a New Way
What Does Jesus Say about Sin? Not Much!
The Misguided Concept of ‘Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin’
What does Jesus’ Death on the Cross Do for Us?
How Substitutionary Atonement Fails
Why Did Jesus Die on the Cross?
Does Jesus Tell Us to Judge People in Matthew 18?
Are Sins Primarily Sins against God?
“If There’s No Hell then I Will Sin All I Want!”
Problems with the Sinner’s Prayer
What does the Story of Eden Tell Us? Is it about Sin?
We Do Not Inherit Original Sin from Adam
Original Sin or Original Self-Centeredness?
Who Does God Refuse to Forgive?

See also
What Does Jesus Think of Sinners Today?

*****

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74 Responses to Why Did Jesus Die on the Cross?

  1. This is brilliant stuff Tim.

    For me, there are many ways of understanding the cross and in the end no one way covers it completely – there will always remain some element of mystery. But what you’ve said gives a very clear and compassionate take on what we can understand of the cross, and how we can live in response to it.

    One similar way that I’ve thought about the cross and Easter is as the triumph of love over the evil and hate that have tried to destroy it:
    https://evangelicaliberal.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/good-friday-the-death-and-triumph-of-love/

    And another is as an act of ultimate rebellion that disarms the worldly powers-that-be:
    https://evangelicaliberal.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/the-resurrection-insurrection/

    Liked by 2 people

  2. tonycutty says:

    This is interesting stuff, Tim, and I like it. I love particularly how you point out that in John 3:16 it does not mention Hell. It’s an even more beautiful verse because of that.

    I’d be interested to read what you think about the death of Jesus also being the means by which our sinful nature was put to death, and also about everything bad that humanity could cook up like sin/sickness/disease and all that. It’s more interesting aspects about the Crucifixion that might be a fruitful path to tread. Having said that, knowing the way you work, you’ve probably thought of that already! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Tony, you give me too much credit. Though I mention here that Jesus’ death and resurrection are a victory over sin and death, I had not planned to elaborate on the impact on our ‘sinful nature’. I thought of a possible post on ‘original sin’ that might include some reference to Jesus’ victory over sin–I am not yet sure. Thanks for the suggestion!

      Like

  3. cmgatlin53 says:

    Good posting! I will say that, to my ears, your discussion of the public nature of the Crucifixion makes Jesus sound a little like a publicity seeker or political strategist, which is probably not what you intended. It doesn’t seem to me that Jesus sought the attention of the authorities so that they would have to take notice. We see earlier examples in the Gospels of Jesus attempting to keep from drawing attention. The sorts of things he was doing and saying would have attracted the attention of the powers of the day by the very nature of those sayings and deeds. He quits trying to keep things low key because he knows that it has become time to let events play out.
    In other words, Jesus didn’t scheme to get his message and sacrifice played out before the public; he did his Father’s will and when it was time, the events played out.
    There’s a lesson for us in this. Be ready, pay attention, and recognize the moment when it comes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      CMG, I can agree with that. It was Jesus’ growing popularity that grabbed the attention of the powers. I don’t know that he purposely intended to be publicly tried and crucified in order for his death to be known, but I think that the public nature of the process did increase the public awareness of his work and death.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Justin says:

        I know this is way after the original post, but how can you say you don’t know if Jesus intended to be publicly tried and crucified? Are you saying you don’t know if God would be able to control how the situation went down?

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        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Hi Justin, this is a good question. I think God has the ability to control anything, but most of the time I think God lets things develop on their own. I doubt that Jesus’ goal was to be crucified, but that’s what happened due to his pursuing his actual goal of confronting the religious and political power systems of the time–and Jesus likely knew it would happen because of his actions.

          I think the crucifixion of Jesus was important in that it was very public, so that it made some key points about Jesus’ teaching and work. His public death was also important as a precursor to his resurrection a few days later so that people would realize that he had overcome the evil that tried to destroy him and his movement, and that he had also destroyed the power of death.

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  4. rogerwolsey says:

    Good stuff. Important stuff. How people understand Jesus’ death matters – big time. Here are my thoughts on “Why they killed Jesus” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerwolsey/2015/06/why-they-killed-jesus-2/

    Roger Wolsey, author, “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity”

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  5. I am pleased that someone these days is thinking and writing about the Atonement. I remember what a professor once said about the doctrine of the Trinity. “If you spend too much time trying to analyze it you will end up being a heretic.” The same can be said about a number of Christian truths: heaven, for example. Or even eternal salvation. I have appreciated and affirmed all of the theories of the Atonement. I believe that none of them explain the whole truth. Together they form a rich mosaic. This includes the Substitutionary Theory by the way. Behind this theory is the relationship truth that the person who forgives pays the cost of the sin. The Articles of Religion makes an important statement: Christ died and rose “to reconcile the Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.” The offense in this affirmation is not just with liberals but also with some conservatives who believe that God is unchanging and doesn’t need to be reconciled. To deny this affirmation, however, is to deny what Wesley understood to be the catholic interpretation of the faith. The best way to do Atonement is with hymns and one could illustration this with hymns that affirm all of the “theories,” even the otherwise bankrupt Moral Influence theory (“When I survey the wondrous cross…”) According to older English dictionaries the word “evangelical” is defined (at least one of the definitions) as the truth taught by Methodists and Baptists that the essence of faith is in the affirmation of Original Sin, Atonement, and Salvation by Faith.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Riley, I agree that none of the atonement theories explain the whole truth. They are incomplete and do not fully address the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But I must say that I don’t see any value in the Substitutionary theory; it terribly distorts the character of God who loves us without condition.

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    • robstanback says:

      Riley, you wrote:
      “The Articles of Religion makes an important statement: Christ died and rose “to reconcile the Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.”

      Reconcile the Father to us, or reconcile us to the Father?

      Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (NIV): All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

      In my view, Jesus by way of his crucifixion, teaches us that God’s forgiveness is unconditional. Our acceptance of it is optional, depending on our free will (and willfulness!), and is the means by which we make peace with God. When we accept God’s forgiveness, we are reconciled to God, and so we become indentured to carry out the ministry of reconciliation to all the world.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Rob, I think your question is key: “Reconcile the Father to us, or reconcile us to the Father?” I think reconciliation is what Jesus came to do, but we make an error of great consequence if we misunderstand it to be reconciling the Father to us.

        Thanks for raising this question!

        Like

        • Like I say, I appreciate it that someone is willing to talk about the Atonement these days. It is true we are reconciled to the Father, but it is because, first of all, the Father is reconciled to us. This is catholic faith. This is the Articles of Religion. This is John Wesley. (vs. 5 of “Arise, My Soul Arise…”My God is reconciled, His pardoning voice I hear…”) This is the message of the Methodist evangelists through the years. “Arise My Soul Arise” has been in every single Methodist hymnal until the present one and was one of the most-sung of Wesley’s hymns in early 1800s America. I served as a consultant on the Hymnal Revision Committee and this became a major discussion. One professor said frankly: “Wesley was sometimes wrong.” Perhaps, but not on this. The hymn was scheduled to be included in the hymnal and Carlton Young assured me it was, but when the hymnal came out it was missing (conspiracy theories). The hymnal, however, did add more “blood hymns” and included more blood than any other hymnal (including the EUB hymnal) in the 20th century. The blood imagery does not work with any of the other theories of the Atonement. I used to ask persons in classes I taught who or what changed in the Atonement. Possible answers are: God, us, Satan. I would argue that everything changed. In Christus Victor Satan (or sin or evil) changes because its hold is broken. In Moral Influence we change. In Substitution God changes. This is what Romans is all about (remember expiation)?

          Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Riley, I like a whole lot of what you say but am not clear what you mean in that the Father is reconciled to us. Reconciliation is the healing of alienation. We felt alienated from God but we are now reconciled to him.

            When was the Father alienated from us? And why?

            Like

  6. Chas says:

    This responds to several of the above posts.
    Firstly, forgiving prevents there being any further suffering coming from an action that has caused someone to suffer.

    Secondly, Tim has made an important point in regard to John 3:16. It does not mention death, let alone resurrection. To believe that Jesus was the Son of God is enough to cause changes to our lives.

    Thirdly, the question about whether the death of Jesus was a prominent event is a good one. Did Jesus seek publicity, or did he ‘operate under the radar’? Was he killed in a very public event, or was he killed covertly (and illegally) with few witnesses? I agree with cmg that Jesus obeyed God and everything played out as God expected it to do. It therefore follows that, although God placed Jesus in the circumstances that provoked his death, it was the person who ordered his death who caused the suffering. So are we really disobeying God if we do something that we know will cause suffering?

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Good points, Chas. Can you elaborate on whether we should feel comfortable causing suffering. What examples might you have in mind?

      Like

      • Chas says:

        Tim, I think that, if we do something that we know might lead to someone, or an animal, suffering, we ought to feel that we are doing something ‘wrong’. It might be that what we usually know as conscience is that feeling. However, psychopaths might not experience that feeling at all, but they seem to have been grievously damaged by the lack of love as a baby. If our attention is solely on gratification of some desire, then the feeling might be pushed to the back of our mind – a type of tunnel vision. If we were to do this frequently, then we might become immune to it, so that we do not register it at all. We might call this a hardening of our heart.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          I see what you mean. Perhaps an attitude of empathy and compassion is what we need.

          Like

          • Chas says:

            Having given some more thought to your question, there are two quite glaring examples where people knowingly do things that potentially hazard others and themselves. These are to drive under the influence of alcohol, or to drive while using a mobile phone to text or speak to someone. However, both of these are an indicator of a degree of obsessive or addictive behavior, and these can also be linked to insecurity resulting from a lack of love during childhood. I find it disturbing when I see people wheeling a baby in a pram, or a child in a pushchair, but ignoring the child in favor of talking to someone else on a mobile phone. They are potentially harming the child, but their behavior might indicate that they themselves were not given enough attention as a child. We can begin to see that to cause suffering potentially harms future generations too.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            These are good examples; they are all irresponsible in their own way in ignoring the safety or wellbeing of others. I really think we should take seriously the need to consider our actions as they impact others positively or negatively. People matter.

            Like

  7. Christopher says:

    Jesus the teacher who reveals and is the foundation to creation: sacrificial focus upon others creates, sustains, restores.
    Jesus did not come, so muc, to show us how we can be saved but rather how we can spend… for others.
    A life of saving ends in disappointment, despair, destruction. A life of spending for the least of these extends, apprehends and comprehends creations purpose.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Christopher, I agree with you that the main thing we learn from Jesus is that God loves us and we should love each other.

      Like

  8. Christopher says:

    For God SO loved THE WORLD that he gave his SON so that EVERYONE, believing!! WILL have eternal life.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Why Did Jesus Die on the Cross? - Jesus is Lord

  10. Chris says:

    One thing I disagree with, why was Jesus’s crucifixion so public? I think the answer is simple. He was causing trouble in the eyes of the establishment. They killed him for insurrection and needed to make an example of him. Same answer when people ask me why did Jesus have to die? Because the government and religious establishment deemed him dangerous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • robstanback says:

      Your response to the second of your questions, “why did Jesus have to die?” explains why he was killed, but does not answer why he allowed himself to be killed. The short answer to that question is because it was God’s will, but that only begs the question, “What was the higher purpose?” Was it a sacrifice made to pay our sin-debt? or was it something else? Biblical tradition says the former, but I am not so sure…

      Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chris, I agree with that; Jesus was killed by the Romans, and it was public. But I think his death and resurrection had a lot of influences and consequences. Perhaps the better question is, ‘What happened when Jesus died.’

      Like

  11. robstanback says:

    What happened when Jesus died is that people who learned of it came to know that God forgives us. On this much I hope we can all agree. If that is the result, then perhaps that was the purpose!

    My belief is that Jesus died as a symbol of God’s forgiveness, so that a world which believed that every debt must be repaid and every sin atoned might know that we are forgiven by grace. The Good News that Jesus brought is that God is infinitely forgiving and infinitely loving, from which it flows that we should aspire to these qualities in ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chas says:

      Perhaps an important factor in God allowing Jesus to be killed was his willingness to be killed, which meant that he trusted God and so expected to be with God after his death. For the message to be relayed on to other people, it was also important that those who witnessed his death should also have trusted God in the same way.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This is in response to the question, how is it the Father is reconciled to us? Also the comment, we felt alienated from God but now are reconciled. The first response is, not only did we feel alienated from God, we were alienated. What I am wanting to uphold is the classical Protestant understanding of sin, reconciliation, and salvation (there is more than just one classical understanding by the way). Basic book of Romans: The problem: Rom 1:18, “For the wrath of God….” I served for eight years on the Curriculum Resources Committee. We were working on course descriptions and came to the study of Romans. We were identify key ideas and words. I mentioned “wrath of God.” This did not set well with the committee. Of course, We (that is liberal UMs for the past 100 years) are uncomfortable with basic Christian truth. We want a religion without judgement, or wrath, or hell. This is why we rebel against the idea of substitution. Our problem is not sin per se. We might be very happy living in sin. The problem is God’s attitude toward sin. He may be the grandfatherly old man who says, “boys, boys, that is not nice,” or he may be the holy God in whose presence no sin can exist. So Romans is what Luther and Calvin and Wesley, to say nothing of C.S. Lewis, and all of the great theologians have understood to be the best exposition of justification. Both Greeks and Jews are sinners. It is not just that we may have guilty feelings. We are indeed guilty. All have sinned but we can be justified through the redemption which is in Jesus Christ, whom God put forward as a propitiation (KJV) or expiation. In seminary the Greek professor asked which was the best English translation. One student replied, “I don’t even understand the English, let alone the Greek.” Rom 5:9 “Since we are now justified by his blood much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” Thus, Rom 8:1, “There is therefore no condemnation….”
    This is basic Christian truth. Why is it so hard for many United Methodists?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chas says:

      What wrath of God? The God with whom I am familiar is loving, kind and gentle, so how could He be wrathful?

      Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Riley, thank you for your pointed comment.

      You say, ‘The problem is God’s attitude toward sin. He may be the grandfatherly old man who says, “boys, boys, that is not nice,” or he may be the holy God in whose presence no sin can exist.’

      I see caricatures of two kinds of grandfathers here–the indulgent and the stern. I don’t think either is a good model for God. You speak of the classical understanding of sin, but what is sin, really, when it is boiled down to practical life. I think the best practical definition of sin is ‘messed up’. We are messed up–all of us re messed up.

      God knows we are messed up, but I think he neither coddles us nor beats us up over it. Of course he/she doesn’t like sin; I don’t like sin. But rather than looking away in disgust or burning with anger, the Father works to heal the messed up people he loves make them better. It is a process.

      Regarding Romans 1. Does Paul speak for God? Is Paul spinning theology? What is the context of Paul’s mention of God’s wrath? What is Paul’s main point in this passage?

      It seems to me that Paul, beginning with verse 18, is repeating the view of self-righteous believers about non-believers. But he doesn’t make his intended point until chapter 2:

      ‘You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.’

      He goes on to say. ‘So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?’

      Notice that in contrast to God’s ‘wrath’ Paul speaks of God’s ‘kindness, forbearance, and patience’. This is the God I believe in. Sure there will be a time of judgment (evaluation), perhaps to determine who enters the eternal kingdom, but I don’t think it will include wrath, retribution, or hell. God is not an angry God.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good grief! I am no sure why historic Christianity is so difficult. Well, I am sure. ‘The preaching of the cross is folly to those who are perishing…” Definition of sin as “messed up”? That implies that sin is something we get caught in. There are a number of better definitions (and the Greek and Hebrew words give us a number of possible definitions. “Missing the mark” is easy to understand. Rom 3:23 all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. Falling short of the glory of God clarifies sin. Does Paul speak for God? Yes, though it may be better to speak of the Holy Spirit. Is Paul spinning theology? What is that about? Paul is speaking God-truth. What is the context of Paul’s mention of God’s wrath? How about the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation? Although from the perspective of Paul’s time it would be the Old Testament. What is Paul’s main point? The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men (humanity). The Jews are no better off than the Gentiles. That point should be clear. So we have a problem. We are apart from God, alienated. God did not cause the alienation but we did so the relationship is broken. But God has interceded on our behalf. That is “gospel.” That is good news. The good news is not that God is working with us to make us better so that what we need is to try harder and do better, a prescription destined to lead us to despair. The good news is that even in our lost estate God comes to our rescue (“While we were yet sinners Christ died for us….(All from Romans). Mention of kindness and patience is not in contrast with wrath but rather the exact opposite. The Jews here are presuming (a false presumption from the context) when in fact by their hard and impenitent heart they are storing up wrath for themselves on the day of wrath. The point of Romans is not to talk about an angry God but to lift up the radical gospel which (where the whole discussion got started) includes God bearing himself the punishment (substitution) so that we might be forgiven. It is this truth from Romans 1-8 that has led persons like Chuck Colson and C.S. Lewis and Martin Luther and John Calvin and John Wesley as well as others I have worked with through the years, to Christ.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Chas says:

          The most useful definition of sin is to do something that you know will lead to somebody, or an animal, suffering. Can you improve on that?

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, I think that is a really good definition. But I would add that the damage is done whether we know about it or not. Part of the growth in loving others is to better recognize how we are hurting others so we can fix it.

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, I agree with you, but if we are unaware that suffering might result from an action of ours, it cannot be a sin. (e.g if we say something that we believe is true, but actually it is not, it is not a lie, but an untruth. Having said that, you are quite right that we need to be more aware of the potential for the things we do, or say, to cause suffering.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, I understand what your are saying, and it makes sense. A person can’t be accountable for what they don’t know. I can agree on that.

            But I guess I think hurting people is not something where we keep score in terms of ‘sins’ committed, as legalists do. Rather what matters is the harm done, so what I try to do is avoid hurting people intentionally or by neglect but also discover how I hurt people in ways I am not aware so I can correct my behavior. It is more dynamic and evolving than they way many people think about sin.

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          • Chas says:

            I agree Tim. The field in which it is easy to hurt people is in things said without thinking. It is important to think before we speak; although to think ahead through everything we are about to say, while still speaking, would involve having multi-tasking capabilities that I do not possess, though I wish I did!

            Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Riley, I think part of our difference is over the idea that the Bible is essentially the voice of God. I think the books of the Bible were written by people who felt strongly about God, but they wrote from the limitations of their time, culture, and comprehension. Some of them had a lot of good insight, but their writings are not the voice of God.

          I can accept that sin is missing the mark or falling short of God’s glory; that’s part of what I mean by ‘messed up’. We do feel alienated from God, but God wants to heal that alienation and Jesus came to facilitate that. God does come to our rescue in our messed-up condition, but he does it out of love and not by having Jesus die as a substitute in our place.

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  13. Chas says:

    Tim, in what way do you consider that the resurrection broke the power of the world system that dominated the world and killed Jesus? The Romans remained in power in Judea, and the Judaic priests remained in power over the Jewish people. There was no world system as such. The use of the term is reminiscent of a single world government in Revelation.

    The resurrection would have been a very major miracle. Why would God need to demonstrate His power in that way? If we believe that God is the God who created the universe, we already have a demonstration of His power. We can be confident that His power can take our self-awareness into His Presence when we die, and that it can help us not do do things that cause suffering in this life. We are not required to believe in the resurrection in John 3:16.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      This is a very good question, Chas. What I mean by the world system is similar to the experience of the Jews: they were harassed by the Assyrians (and lost their brothers of the Northern Kingdom), they were conquered by Babylon, passed on to the Persians, and then to the Syrian Greeks. After a short period of self-rule they were controlled by the Romans. To the Jews, it was all the same but different. The world system, under whatever name, dominated.

      Jesus inaugurated a new citizenship in the kingdom of God which, though not political, operated apart from the world system wherever it was. When the world system, represented by the Romans, killed Jesus, he came back to life. The world system failed; it couldn’t make Jesus’ execution stick. It had no control of him. It was a sign to believers that the world system had no control over them either. Even if they were killed it wasn’t permanent.

      And it is the same for us today. Even if the world system in its political and religious power remains, it does not have control over us, and eventually the system will be brought down for good. So while the system does not consider the kingdom of God an issue the kingdom continues to grow silently. It is not the system that realized it has lost control of us; it is we who realize that.

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      • Chas says:

        I see what you mean Tim, the powerful will always trample on those who are not able to resist them, and there are always rulers who wish to create empires over which they can exert power, by forcing their people to do what the rulers want them to do. It has always seemed to me that it is the ‘little’ people in such countries/empires who just carry on with their lives, keeping a low profile, who survive. When a despot is in power, it is those who are powerful at a lower level who are at risk for their lives, because the insecurity of the ruler causes him to kill those whom he feels might want to depose him. Since Christians are guided toward humility, they are likely to be among those most likely to survive, even in the physical world. However, Jesus held no power and so would not be a threat to the Romans, so they are unlikely to have killed him, but the Judaic authority would have had reason to kill him, because he was a threat to their rule, by undermining what they stood for. How many Christians truly feel safe, in the present, by relying on their faith in the life to come? For those whose faith is fragile, the path of humility offers a more concrete way to peace in this life.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Chas, I think you are right that those in the kingdom movement were to be politically unthreatening while they expanded God’s movement, very much unlike Christians today who are aggressively vocal in politics. However, this still exposed early believers to danger from Rome because they held that Jesus is Lord (and Caesar is not). This led to lots of martyrs.

          I do think the Romans were interested in Jesus’ execution because he seemed to be, perhaps, building and leading a group of political insurrectionists, though he was not. Josephus mentions a number of actual insurrectionists from that period, and Rome executed them the same way. I don’t think there is much doubt, though, that the Jewish establishment helped and were glad to see him go.

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, my feeling is that the Roman prefect of Iudaea would not have allowed himself to be embroiled in a purely religious matter such as that between the Sanhedrin and Jesus. He would have insisted on Roman law being followed, even if the members of the Sanhedrin had demanded that Jesus be tried according to the Judaic law that had held sway in that area before it became part of the Roman province of Syria. It is my view that the writer of the pre-Gospel wanted the Jews to blame the Romans for Jesus’ death and the Romans to blame the Jews, so both groups would remain open to his evangelism.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            You could be right. But I think Rome was interested in anything that looked like trouble for the peace. I don’t know if we will ever know the details.

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  14. Darryl Ward says:

    I have had issues with penal substitutionary atonement for a long time.

    The best I had been able to come up with to date to describe the reasons for the the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ had been that humankind had become estranged from God, but we were given a way to be reconciled. And that was for God to become fully human in Jesus the Christ, experiencing the joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, and high hopes and broken dreams that are part of human life. Including death. But Jesus triumphed over death with his Resurrection, which brings hope for us all.

    That didn’t quite cover everything though. But your article has introduced me to an atonement theory I can relate to and agree with. Thank you very much!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Darryl, I am glad you have already questioned penal substitution and that I have been helpful in some small way. Thank you for your nice comment.

      Like

    • Chas says:

      Darryl, hasn’t mankind always been estranged from God? God has always known all our feelings of joy, sorrow, pleasure, pain, hopes and broken dreams, so why would He have needed to become human in Jesus? He has given us a way out of separation from Him: by believing that Jesus was His Son – no more, no less.

      Liked by 1 person

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  24. tallen11111 says:

    As you write, “…Jesus came that we might have eternal life instead of permanent death. Death is not the end of our story.” What is eternal life? To KNOW the Father. How do we KNOW the Father(become one with)? Through the allegory that was his life. His teachings, life experiences, miracles performed, and most importantly, His death. We do not need to be as He was, we need to be as He is, within us. That can only be accomplished by throwing off the “old man” and putting on the new. It is death to ourselves, our will.

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