Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Friday, September 26, 2014


"... a time for war and a time for peace." Ecclesiastes 3:8

I'm not a huge fan of war in real life.  I pray I never have to participate in one. The ideal world would be one where there is no war, always peace. But I recognize dreaming of our world without war may be just a dream. I also recognize that many of the freedoms we enjoy today are a result of battles fought by others before my time.

The same applies to the wars in Christ's church that have divided and reformed over the years. I also dream of a day when the Church would recognize that it is one, and that there would be peace. The prayer for Christian unity was the starting point of my journey that got me blogging 6 years ago.  However throughout the history of the church many battles have been fought.  I recognize that some of those battles have brought new understandings of the freedom and life Christ is offering us.

But I'm not a huge fan of war.

I believe aspects of my blog has been more than pushing forward different fronts in different battles.  For myself it has largely been a tool I have used to process different beliefs.  Sorting through beliefs and traditions that have been handed down to me, testing them against Scripture, and looking at alternative ways of interpreting Scripture related to that topic.  I enjoy theological dialogues. I enjoy gaining fresh perspectives of how Scripture can be interpreted.  I enjoy grappling through issues that have polarized the church, and trying to find balance within the tensions.  I enjoy the teaching one another that can sometimes occur in on-line discussions.

But I understand I am in the minority here.  I get that most people do not welcome questions that challenge beliefs they hold to.  So my pushing and questioning here naturally creates an equal and opposite reaction from others.

I still believe the Church is entering another reformation. Some of the changes I feel are taking place:
  • A fresh awareness what the priesthood of all believers under Christ is
  • An increased desire to follow the person of Jesus (less desire to follow a religion about Jesus)
  • An increased understanding that there is only one Church even though it meets in different places
  • A new emphasis on relational and participatory gatherings
I pray that at the end of the day Christ's people reflect more of the love and grace of Christ's that we all proclaim.

However at this point I am questioning if my little contributions to the cause are worth it.

My default is for the way of peace.   I do not enjoy tension. I do not like mis-trust. I do not enjoy causing pain, or receiving pain.  These all come in varying degrees whenever we engage in any sort of conflict or debate.  I've known and accepted this all along.  But I sense it may be time to wave the white flag of truce.

I've likely written enough here on this blog.  If someone wants to openly dialogue or discuss any of these topics they can contact me or find others who are also engaged in such discussions.

Related Posts:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Literal Hell

Valley of Hinnom, c. 1900
I was accused recently of not believing in a literal hell.  I find it interesting that I could be so misunderstood.

When Jesus spoke about hell, the word he used was Gehenna (Matthew 5:22, Matthew 5:29-30, Matthew 10:28, Matthew 18:9, Matthew 23:15, Matthew 23:33, Mark 9:43, Mark 9:45, Mark 9:47, Luke 12:5).

Gehenna's meaning literally means  the "Valley of the son of Hinnom". Some believe that in Jesus' day it was the location of a garbage dump that had fires continually burning to consume the filth and cadavers thrown in it (others question the burning garbage dump explanation).

Some Jews of Jesus' day held some spiritual beliefs about this literal place called Gehenna as well. Gehenna was viewed as the place of punishment or destruction of the wicked. Gehenna was considered a Purgatory-like place where the wicked go to suffer until they had atoned for their sins. It was stated that the maximum amount of time a sinner could spend in Gehenna was one year, with the exception of five people who are there for all of eternity.

I believe Jesus believed in a literal place called Gehenna.  He spoke about fires of Gehenna, and spoke about bodies being thrown into it.  The way he talked about Gehenna makes it sound like it was a bad place that nobody wanted to end up in.

I don't know if Jesus' had similar spiritual views about Gehenna as some other Jews of his day held.

But I do assume that Jesus believed in the literal Gehenna, and he possibly held some of the non-literal views other Jews of that time held.

Other New Testament passages frequently contrasts eternal life for some with death, destruction, and perishing for others.  It seems to me that most Christians believe in literal 'eternal life', but don't accept that death, destruction, or perishing in those same verses should be taken as literally.

So I believe there was a literal place called Gehenna, and tend to lean towards an understanding of a literal 'eternal life' for some, and literally not eternal life for others.

So feel free to accuse me of believing in a literal reading of Scripture in this case. :)

See also:

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Gospel of Christ The Anointed King and Saviour

Over the past few years I have taken interest in how the term gospel or good news is used in Scripture.  I've posted a six part series on how the term gospel is used in the 4 books we call the Gospels. I've noticed that Jesus and His disciples preached the gospel or good news of the kingdom/reign/rule/authority of God.  I've also noticed a number of passages where Paul proclaimed the kingdom of God.

This week another combination of terms caught my eye.  In many of the books attributed to Paul we see the words "gospel of Christ".

The term 'Christ' means Messiah or anointed one.  The Jews were waiting for a Messiah to be their King and Saviour.

If we substitute the term Christ with its meaning "anointed King and Saviour", it helps clarify that Paul and Jesus were proclaiming the same good news.

Romans 15:19
"in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem even as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of the anointed King and Saviour."

1 Corinthians 9:12
"If others receive this right from you, are we not more deserving? But we have not made use of this right. Instead we endure everything so that we may not be a hindrance to the  gospel of the anointed King and Saviour."

2 Corinthians 2:12
"Now when I arrived in Troas to proclaim the gospel of the anointed King and Saviour, even though the Lord had opened a door of opportunity for me,"

2 Corinthians 4:4
 "among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious  gospel of the anointed King and Saviour, who is the image of God."

2 Corinthians 9:13
"Through the evidence of this service they will glorify God because of your obedience to your confession in the  gospel of the anointed King and Saviour and the generosity of your sharing with them and with everyone."

Galatians 1:7
"not that there really is another gospel, but there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the  gospel of the anointed King and Saviour."

Philippians 1:27
"Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the  gospel of the anointed King and Saviour so that..."

1 Thessalonians 3:2
 "We sent Timothy, our brother and fellow worker for  gospel of the anointed King and Saviour, ..."
I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Related Posts:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Free Will

I've been thinking about free will lately.  Do humans have the ability to make their own choices? Should we be held accountable for the choices we make? Or is everything in our world pre-determined. Has God pre-planned everything, and is absolutely everything going to happen the way that God has planned it.

Many Christians have been influenced by the Calvinist beliefs in total depravity, unconditional election, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.  They believe in predestination, that all events have been willed by God. John Calvin interpreted biblical predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others.

On the other hand, does a belief in free will limit God's sovereignty?

This is a complex question for my mind to grapple with.

Has God planned how I am going to sort this question out?  Is it worth even trying to sort out?

The debate of whether or not free will exists goes beyond the spiritual implications.  Determinism is the philosophical position that for every event, including human action, there exist conditions that could cause no other event.   Think science and cause and effect.  Is who we are, what we think, and what we do simply a product of our environment.  When people make poor choices, should we place all the blame on the poor inputs?

I should go outside and cut the grass.  The grass is tall. My yard would look better if I did.  The neighbours likely think I should have cut it yesterday. Will I cut it today, or will I wait for tomorrow?  Will when I cut the grass be determined by my free will, or am I simply a robot that responds automatically to specific prompts and inputs?

For now I'll choose to continue with this blog post...  because that's the way I'm wired.

There are some Bible verses that support the idea of predestination

Romans 8:29-30 (NET Bible)
because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.
Ephesians 1:5 (NET Bible)
He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will—
Ephesians 1:11 (NET Bible)
In Christ we too have been claimed as God’s own possession, since we were predestined according to the one purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will

There are other Bible verses that support the idea of free will

Proverbs 16:9 ESV
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Joshua 24:15 ESV
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, ...
John 7:17 ESV
If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.
Revelation 3:20 ESV
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV / 43 helpful votes
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Galatians 5:16-17 ESV
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
Psalm 37:23 ESV
The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;
Romans 10:9-10 ESV
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Mark 8:34 ESV
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
 Matthew 6:33 NIV
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
John 3:16 ESV
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

There are also Bible verses that speak about free life, and how Jesus has made us free  (Galatians 5:1, 1 Peter 2:16, John 8:32, 2 Corinthians 3:17, Romans 8:1-4, Isaiah 61:1). Can freedom exist if there is no free will?

Do we have free will? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Or should I say: I'd love to see how your mind processes this topic based on the the way it has been programmed and the inputs it has received.

Related Post: Calvanism

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Different Gospel Definitions

Trevin Wax over at The Gospel Coalition has organized a great collection of different definitions of "the gospel" by different Christians both present and past. I appreciated reading summaries from some names I recognize like Martin Luther, Pope Benedict XVI, William Tyndale, Tim Keller, and many others.

Click here or here for a pdf version to see full list and where the following quotes came from.

I appreciate Gilbert Beebe's emphasis on "It is finished" or "finished redemption".

I appreciate W.A. Criswell's brief summary:
"The message from our Lord Himself is that Christ suffered and was raised from the dead and that remission of sins should be preached in His name to all people. That is the good news. That is the message. That is the gospel!"
I appreciate Robert A. Guelich's summary:
"The “gospel” then is the message that God acted in and through Jesus Messiah, God’s anointed one, to effect God’s promise of shalom, salvation, God’s reign.’"
I appreciate Martin Luther's summary:
"The gospel is a story about Christ, God’s and David’s son, who died and was raised, and is established as Lord. This is the gospel in a nutshell."
I appreciate how M.F. Sadler sees the term gospel being used in Scripture to announce different good news events, and that he does not see Scripture using the term to support a list of preferred doctrines or teachings, for example to summarize preferred views on things like individual election, calling, justification, and sanctification.

I appreciate Craig Bartholomew's summary:
“Gospel (from the Old English godspel, ‘good tale’) means ‘good news,’ and this is the best news there can be: in Jesus, the kingdom of God has come!”
I appreciate Jim Belcher's summary:
“The ‘gospel’ is the good news that through Jesus, the Messiah, the power of God’s kingdom has entered history to renew the whole world. Through the Savior God has established his reign. When we believe and rely on Jesus’ work and record (rather than ours) for our relationship to God, that kingdom power comes upon us and begins to work through us. We witness this radical new way of living by our renewed lives, beautiful community, social justice, and cultural transformation. The good news brings new life. The gospel motivates, guides, and empowers every aspect of our living and worship.”
I appreciate Pope Benedict XVI's summary:
“The term has recently been translated as ‘good news.’ That sounds attractive, but it falls far short of the order of magnitude of what is actually meant by the word evangelion. This term figures in the vocabulary of the Roman emperors, who understood themselves as lords, saviors, and redeemers of the world…. The idea was that what comes from the emperor is a saving message, that it is not just a piece of news, but a changing of the world for the better.“When the Evangelists adopt this word, and it thereby becomes the generic name for their writings, what they mean to tell us is this: What the emperors, who pretend to be gods, illegitimately claim, really occurs here – a message endowed with plenary authority, a message that is not just talk but reality…. the Gospel is not just informative speech, but performative speech – not just the imparting of information, but action, efficacious power that enters into the world to save and transform. Mark speaks of the ‘Gospel of God,’ the point being that it is not the emperors who can save the world, but God. And it is here that God’s word, which is at once word and deed, appears; it is here that what the emperors merely assert, but cannot actually perform, truly takes place. For here it is the real Lord of the world – the Living God – who goes into action.“The core of the Gospel is this: The Kingdom of God is at hand.”
I appreciate C.C. Broyles summary:
"Gospel, or “good news,” designates Jesus’ message of the appearance of God’s kingdom, a message entailing liberty for those held captive to any form of affliction and demonstrated most dramatically in acts of healing. In some instances the term encompasses the whole story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus…"
I appreciate Robert F. Capon emphasis:
“Christianity is NOT a religion; it is the proclamation of the end of religion. Religion is a human activity dedicated to the job of reconciling God to humanity and humanity to itself. The Gospel, however – the Good News of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is the astonishing announcement that God has done the whole work of reconciliation without a scrap of human assistance. It is the bizarre proclamation that religion is over – period.”
I appreciate Andy Crouch's summary:
“The gospel is the proclamation of Jesus, in [two] senses. It is the proclamation announced by Jesus – the arrival of God’s realm of possibility (his “kingdom”) in the midst of human structures of possibility. But it is also the proclamation about Jesus – the good news that in dying and rising, Jesus has made the kingdom he proclaimed available to us.”
I appreciate Tim Keller's summary:
The ‘gospel’ is the good news that through Christ the power of God’s kingdom has entered history to renew the whole world. When we believe and rely on Jesus’ work and record (rather than ours) for our relationship to God, that kingdom power comes upon us and begins to work through us.”
“Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.”
I appreicate Rick McKinley's point that some may emphasize two different gospels. Some emphasize the gospel of the kingdom that they see Jesus and His disciples preaching, and others emphasize a gospel about how Jesus saves that they see Paul teaching.  I agree that Jesus is both Lord and Saviour, and both aspects should be emphasized.

I appreciate Chris Seay's summary:
The gospel is the good news that God is calling out all people to be redeemed by the power residing in the life, death, and ultimate resurrection of Jesus the Liberating King. These “called-out ones” are rescued from a life of slavery, sin, and failure to become emissaries in a new kingdom set to join the redemption of the entire creation, groaning and longing to be redeemed.
I appreciate Tullian Tchividjian's summary:
”The Gospel is the the good news that in and through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, God makes all things new.”
I appreciate N.T. Wright's summary:
“The gospel is the royal announcement that the crucified and risen Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again according to the Scriptures, has been enthroned as the true Lord of the world. When this gospel is preached, God calls people to salvation, out of sheer grace, leading them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord.”

Personally I feel any definition of the gospel should be broad enough to fit in the majority of passages that reference the term gospel. For example when we look at passages where Jesus and His disciples are seen preaching the gospel, does the way we define the gospel make sense in that context? See Matthew 4:23, Matthew 9:35, Matthew 10:7, Matthew 24:14, Mark 1:14-15, Luke 4:43, Luke 8:1, Luke 9:6 or my Gospel in the Gospels 6 part series. I believe there is value in understanding what Scripture has to say on the importance of the cross, but I don't see Scripture defining the gospel consistently in terms of solving the mystery of what the cross means to us.

Anyways, I appreciated reading through these different gospel definitions. I see many great truths in them. It is interesting that these men have all came away with different ways to emphasize things after studying the same Scriptures. A good reminder to give each other grace as we seek to be faithful to Scripture as we share with others.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. How would you define the gospel?

Related Posts:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Christian Unity Observations

About 8 years ago this passage of John 17:20-23 got me going on a journey. This is the only recorded prayer from Jesus for us, those who believe in Him through the testimony of the first disciples. Yet here we are now with over 30,000 denominations, sects, and divisions. Unity can seem hard to imagine. Over the past 8 years I have enjoyed studying some Church history, the reasons behind some of the divisions, and we have tried to visit and dialogue with Christians from a number of different denominations.

Here are some of the things I have discovered:
  • Unity is an essential of the faith. Some people create different lists of essential beliefs, and then find a level of unity with people who agree to the same items on their lists.  However we can not ignore the volume of Scripture on the topic of unity (see link for some verses).  Unity with all Christians should be near the top of those lists, even if there is disagreement around some of the other items. 
  • Before creating or maintaining a division on a specific topic we should ask this question: "is there more clear Scriptural teaching backing my position than there is clear Scriptural teaching on unity and love?"
  • We can respond to disagreements with love and humility.
  • Unity doesn't always mean we agree on everything, but it may mean we bear with one another in love. Consider how family dynamics often work. Being part of a family doesn't usually hinge on agreement on everything.
  • Pushing conformity often results in the opposite of unity. Some people may conform to your way of thinking, but divisions and walls will be created with others.
  • Insisting you are right can be wrong if it is not done in love.
  • I find recognizing church unity easiest when I recognize that church is people gathering together.  We don't have to pray that denominations all merge into one. We can recognize and live out church unity whenever we get together with other believers.
  • There is one church, and it meets in many different places and times.
Unity isn't achieved with our own effort:
"so that the love you have loved me with may be in them, and I may be in them.”

I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Graduation and Catechism Thoughts

Institutional forms of education hold a ceremony when students have completed their studies. The institution gives a certificate and sends the students on into the world hoping they have given them the knowledge and skills needed to function and contribute wherever life leads.  Or at least enough for them to take the next few steps.

Some students go on from one institution to another, making a career out of learning more and more information.

Other students find employment in the institutions and help teach the following generations.

But as a society we don't want everyone to stay in school forever.

I'm wondering if some of this can apply to church institutions.

Some Christians from some traditions emphasize classes where systems of information are taught and learned.  That may be what institutions do best.  Some traditions call these classes catechism classes.

Some Christians prioritize attending these catechism classes, and then decrease their attendance after they have completed these classes.  Then years later they prioritize attendance for their children in these classes.

Other traditions encourage staying in school forever.

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV) does speak of not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing. However there are a few clues that the writer of Hebrews wasn't talking about sitting in a pew listening to sermons every week forever:
  • pews were not invented yet
  • institutional church was not invented yet
  • This verse is sandwiched between two "one another" commands. Meeting together can become more about the "one anothers" when we meet together in regular life.

Educational institutions hope that everyone become life-long learners, but that doesn't mean we want them to attend an academic institution forever.

"In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson." Tom Bodett

Can we make a connection between how we approach educational institutions and Christian education? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Why I Don't Judge You

Although my natural self often desires to point out the flaws in others, I trust God is changing me. I do have a critical mind. I tend to think things through, sometimes over-think things. I will often come to different conclusions and will naturally believe I have found a better way.

But I choose not to Judge you.  Here are a few reasons why:

I would have to judge myself

I currently believe different things than I did say 10 or 20 years ago.  I do some things now that I didn't do before, and I did things before that I don't do today.   I don't really want to judge my former self for being wrong, and I hope my former self doesn't judge my current self - although he probably would.

I am not a very good judge

Although I think I'm pretty smart, I am smart enough to know I do not have it all figured out.  At times I think the more I learn about God, the less I know with 100% certainty. If I were to judge others, I am not sure if I would be correct 80% of the time, 50% of the time, or less.

Jesus seemed to judge those who judged others

The Pharisees and experts of religious law were the rule keepers and enforcers of that day.  They frequently judged others by the rules and standards they held to.  The harshest words Jesus spoke were against these men. There may be a lesson for us here.

The Bible says do not judge

Matt 7:1-5, Rom 14:1-8, Luke 6:37-38, 1 Cor 4:4-5

Blasphemy against Holy Spirit

The way I read Mark 3:22-30, Matt 12:25-30  and Luke 11:17, it can be risky if we mistakenly judge someone who God is working through.  Click here for more on these blasphemy verses.

Jesus will Judge

I trust Jesus will do a good enough job judging. (James 5:9, Acts 10:42, 2 Corinthians 5:10, John 5:22)

What Judging can I do?

1 Corinthians 5 gives some room for some judging of others. This was an unusual situation where a believer was doing something shameful in the eyes of both the gentile world and the community, and the community of believers seemed to be proud of it.   I'm not sure if this passage should be applied when we disagree over doctrines, and I'm not sure if it should be applied whenever someone does something wrong. There may be situations where believers are in close fellowship with someone they shouldn't be with, and this may apply. But I think we need to be careful not to take this approach of judging others whenever we disagree with someone's beliefs or practices (see reasons given above).

I believe there is also a sense where we are to judge things for ourselves.  I will naturally judge a practice to be harmful or beneficial, or a belief to be right or wrong.  I may even speak (or blog) about what I believe.  I may try to teach others with the hopes that they see things the way I see them.

Is there a fine line here? 

Is it possible to believe something, and speak what you believe without judging others?

I think the fine line is humility. Recognizing along the way that we are each given the freedom to think and live as individuals, all equal under a sovereign Lord and judge above.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Playdough Scripture 1 John 4

I haven't done one of these for awhile.  I hope you find this playdough version as offensive as I do.  It does sound wrong when put together this way.   Yes God is described as both loving and as the judge.  We are commanded to do one and commanded not to do the other. Unfortunately we sometimes get confused about which one we are supposed to do.

1 John 4 (Playdough Version)

7 Dear friends, let us love judge one another, because love judging is from God, and everyone who loves judges has been fathered by God and knows God. 8 The person who does not love judge does not know God, because God is love judgemental. 9 By this the love judgements of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. 10 This is love judging: not that we have loved judged God, but that he loved judged us and sent his Son to be the mercy seat offering for our sins.

11 Dear friends, if God so loved judged us, then we also ought to love judge one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love judge one another, God resides in us, and his love judging is perfected in us.


16 And we have come to know and to believe the love judgemental nature that God has in us. God is love judgmental, and the one who resides in love judging others resides in God, and God resides in him. 17 By this love judging is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because just as Jesus is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love judging, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love judging. 19 We love judge because he loved judged us first.

20 If anyone says “I love God” and yet hates his fellow Christian, he is a liar, because the one who does not love his fellow Christian whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And the commandment we have from him is this: that the one who loves God should love judge his fellow Christian too.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Some Blog Stats - Did Jesus Pay Our Debt

I just noticed a blog post I wrote exactly 5 years ago today is the most viewed post of mine this month. For some reason 92 people have read that post this month, which is likely more views than when I wrote it 5 years ago.  It seems some people are asking similar questions that I had.  They are searching for:
  • "Jesus paid our debt verse"
  • "where in Bible does Jesus paid our sin debt"

During these searches they come to my post: Did Jesus pay our debt?

Back then I was searching the Bible for verses that said things like:
  • "Jesus paid our debt"
  • "Jesus paid a debt that he did not owe"
  • "Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay!"
  • "Jesus paid the penalty of man's sin"
Five years later, I still haven't found any verses that clearly say this, and I still have difficulty accepting these ideas as a major theme of Scripture.

If you know of a verse I've missed please let me know.

This search for answers that I started years ago has caused me some grief in my personal life.  But I believe the freedom and fresh perspective of God that has grown has been worth it. I don't know the people who are landing on this post this month. I don't know what their relationship with God is like. I wish them God's blessings as they search to understand what Scripture say about how God works.  I pray that grace would exist between believers who see things differently. Overall I pray their relationships with God and others grow, wherever they land on their understanding of this topic.

Related Posts:

Friday, April 18, 2014

Jesus Saves From Religion

Has Jesus saved you from religion? This weekend as many consider the death and resurrection of Jesus you may hear the message that Jesus saves.   There are different verses that speak about Jesus saving us from sin, selfishness, and the powers of death, destruction, darkness, etc. However the message that Jesus can save you from religion doesn't get as much air time.

For this post to make sense you need to understand the definition of religion I am working with. For some people religion may simply mean caring for the needs of others as James puts it, or your personal connection with God. But religion often includes more than that.

When I use the word religion, I am talking about a commitment to systems of beliefs, rules, or rituals, and the institutions that maintain them.

If the idea that Jesus can save you from religion sounds shocking, take a minute to consider the life of Jesus. In the stories of the New Testament, if Jesus is the protagonist, who where the antagonists?  The main opponents Jesus faced during His life, and death were the religious leaders of the day.  The Jewish people were looking for a Messiah to save them from Roman political powers.  But that is not what Jesus primarily delivered. At the end of the day what powers were broken when Jesus died on the cross?  What was the significance of the temple curtain being torn in two?

Consider this quote in Bruxy Cavey's book "End of Religion":
"The Jesus described in the Bible never uses the word religion to refer to what he came to establish, nor does he invite people to join a particular institution or organization. When he speaks of "church", he is talking about people who gather in his name, not the structure they meet in or the organization they belong to (see Matthew 18:15-20). And when he talks about connecting with God, he consistently speaks not of religion but of "faith" (Luke 7:50; John 3:14-16). Jesus never commands his followers to embrace detailed creeds or codes of conduct, and he never instructs his followers to participate in exhaustive religious rituals. His life's work was about undoing the knots that bound people to ritual and empty tradition."

If you are still with me, here are some scripture passages to consider.

Galatians 2:15-21 (NET)   - The context for the "I have been crucified with Christ" seams to be that the old self that was mastered by the old religious law is now put to death.  If we continue to live under the control of religion, "Christ died for nothing!"

"We are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, 16 yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if while seeking to be justified in Christ we ourselves have also been found to be sinners, is Christ then one who encourages sin? Absolutely not! 18 But if I build up again those things I once destroyed, I demonstrate that I am one who breaks God’s law. 19 For through the law I died to the law so that I may live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!" 
Galatians 3:11-14 (NET) - Jesus freed us from the old religious laws
 "Now it is clear no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous one will live by faith. 12 But the law is not based on faith, but the one who does the works of the law will live by them. 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”) 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles, so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit by faith.
Galatians 3:23 - 29 (NET)  - We used to be in bondage to religion.  Prisoners under the control of religion. Now we are 'in Christ Jesus' adopted as His sons. Our trust and submission is no longer directed towards religion, but towards the person of Jesus.

23 Now before faith came we were held in custody under the law, being kept as prisoners until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 Thus the law had become our guardian until Christ, so that we could be declared righteous by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. 26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 4:5 (NET)  "to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights."

Galatians 5:1 (NET) "For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery. "

Galatians 6:12-16 (NET) - The context of this passage is speaking about the old religious laws. When Paul says that the "world has been crucified to me" he is speaking about the hold that religion had on him is now dead.
12 Those who want to make a good showing in external matters are trying to force you to be circumcised. They do so only to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For those who are circumcised do not obey the law themselves, but they want you to be circumcised so that they can boast about your flesh. 14 But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that matters is a new creation! 16 And all who will behave in accordance with this rule, peace and mercy be on them, and on the Israel of God.
1 Corinthians 15:50 - 57 - The power of sin is religious laws.
“Now this is what I am saying, brothers and sisters: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
Colossians 2:13-14 (NIV)  - canceled the written code with it's regulations
"He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. "

So what has Jesus saved us from?  I believe a case can be made that trusting in Jesus saves us from the control of religion.   Life under God's rule free's us from bondage to our own selfish ways, as well as the grip of religion and other powers of the world.

"You were bought with a price. Do not become slaves of men." 1 Corinthians 7:23 (NET)

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

Friday, April 4, 2014

Some Bible Gateway Definitions

I came across some definitions from Bible Gateway that I appreciate (by Dictionary of Bible Themes Scripture index copyright Martin H. Manser, 2009)

2423 gospel, essence of
"The chief characteristic and fundamental doctrine of the gospel is that Jesus Christ is both Lord and Saviour."

2375 kingdom of God

"Or, less frequently, “kingdom of heaven”, the kingly rule of God in the lives of people and nations. It refers to the recognition of the authority of God, rather than a definite geographical area, and begins with the ministry of Jesus Christ."

2376 kingdom of God, coming of

"The kingdom of God comes into being wherever the kingly authority of God is acknowledged. Although God is always sovereign, Scripture looks to a future “realm” or “reign” of salvation. This has come in Christ and yet will come in its fulness only when Jesus Christ returns."

The above links have many subheadings with links to related verses.  For example... 

"The kingdom of God was central in the preaching of Jesus Christ and the apostles"

Mt 24:14; Lk 8:1; Ac 28:31 See also Mt 4:17,23; Mt 9:35; Mt 10:7 Jesus Christ’s instructions to the Twelve; Mk 1:13-14; Lk 4:43; Lk 9:2,11; Lk 10:9; Ac 1:3,6-8; Ac 8:12; Ac 19:8; Ac 20:25; Ac 28:23

"The kingdom of God has come in Christ: it is present"

Mt 11:12 Following the Jewish convention of avoiding the use of the divine name, Matthew usually speaks of “the kingdom of heaven”. See also Mt 3:1-2; Mt 4:17; Mt 13:31-32 pp Mk 4:30-32 pp Lk 13:18-19; Mt 13:33 pp Lk 13:20-21; Mt 16:28 pp Mk 9:1 pp Lk 9:27; Lk 11:20;Lk 16:16; Lk 17:20-21
"The kingdom of God will come in its fulness only when Jesus Christ returns: it is future"
Lk 22:18 pp Mt 26:29 pp Mk 14:25 See also Mt 6:10 pp Lk 11:2; Mt 25:31,34; Lk 22:16; 1Co 15:24; 2Ti 4:18; Rev 11:15; Rev 12:10

I just thought I'd share links to this resource.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Two Types of Legalism

From http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Scales_of_Justice_(PSF).png

"Legalism, in Christian theology, is a usually pejorative term referring to an over-emphasis on discipline of conduct, or legal ideas, usually implying an allegation of misguided rigour, pride, superficiality, the neglect of mercy, and ignorance of the grace of God or emphasizing the letter of law at the expense of the spirit."

I think it is worth thinking through different types of legalism that exists in various degrees in different Christian circles.

Common Conditions 

For a legalistic system to exist there needs to be a leader, or group of leaders who define the rules or laws, and enforce compliance in some way.  When people break the rules or laws of the system, some form of shame, guilt, or exclusion from the group is applied.

Legalism of Actions

Many religious systems will have a written or unwritten list of actions you must do, and others you must avoid.  Some actions increase your inclusion with the group, other actions will bring on you some level of shame, guilt, and exclusion.

Examples of external action rules can be around

  • what food, beverages, or other substances to consume
  • what words should be spoken, and what words should not be spoken
  • where to be on certain days and where not to be on other days
  • where, how, and frequency of prayer
  • what to read, and what not to read
  • where to give and how much money to give
  • sexuality
  • what clothing to wear
  • music
  • entertainment

Legalism of Thought

Religious systems will also have a set way of thinking. The leaders of the system will promote certain schools of thought. There will be some common beliefs that hold the group together.  Questioning these beliefs publicly will bring some level of accusations, conflict, and exclusion.

I won't try to create a list of examples for this.  The list would be too long. Different religions and their leaders have compiled enormous  lists of things they believe. Beliefs around who God is, what He has done, what our response should be, authority of certain books, authority of certain people, and what the future will hold for different sets of people.  Included in this list would also be questioning any of the action rules listed above. Publicly re-thinking any of external rules in some cases may be considered worse than simply breaking the rules.

Degrees of Legalism

I think the degrees of legalism can be measured by the severity of response by those ruling the religious system.  Throughout history there have been different responses by those in power.

When we study church history we note when religious leaders have also held enough political power, many people who publicly broke the rules of acceptable thought were publicly executed.  In other cases breaking the rules resulted in public shunning. In other cases more grace and compassion may be applied when the rules of action or though are broken.

I find it interesting to note that some of the harshest religious suppressions in history were around legalism of though more than around legalism of actions.  I think religious leaders have killed more people for differences in beliefs than they have for differences in behaviors.

Some Scripture to Consider

In Jesus' day the Pharasees, Sadducees, and other teachers of the law played a role in the legalism that Jesus frequently opposed.  The religious leaders succeeded in having Jesus killed, thinking this would be the best way to preserve their legalistic system. However we believe Jesus came out victorious.

In Mark 7:1-16 we see that some of Jesus' disciples broke the rules regarding how to wash your hands before eating.  The Pharasees and teachers of the law question Jesus about this, and Jesus goes on a lengthy rant related to their legalism.

In Mark 2:23-27 we see Jesus' disciples  picking and eating some grain on the Sabbath. This story again highlights the difference between the way of legalism and the way of Jesus.

Romans 7:6  (NET)
"But now we have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code."

Galatians 4:5 (NET)
to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights.

1 Corinthians 15:56-57 (NET)
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

2 Corinthians 3:6 (NET)
who made us adequate to be servants of a new covenant not based on the letter but on the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

2 Corinthians 3:17 (NET)
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom.

Luke 6:37-38 (NET)

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use will be the measure you receive.”
(Similar in Matthew 7:1-5)

1 Corinthians 4:4-5 (NET)
For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not acquitted because of this. The one who judges me is the Lord. So then, do not judge anything before the time. Wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts. Then each will receive recognition from God.

I wanted to highlight that there are different types of legalism.  If we look at church history we see both types at play.  The degree of legalistic suppression can be viewed by the degree of authority a group of leaders has had over others, and the degree they feel responsible to be the judge and jury over those under them.

I am not suggesting that having rules is all bad. Jesus said he didn't come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. Having rules in society is good. It is also good to work towards correct thinking. There is just something we see in the example of the Pharisees we want to avoid.  I think it is clear we need to be careful when we assume the role of judge or jury.  I recognize this is as much of a challenge for myself as it is for others.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Related Posts:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Importance of The Cross


I want to highlight the importance of Jesus' death and resurrection. I may define the gospel differently than some, and I may prefer different atonement theories, but the work of the cross is still very meaningful to me.

I'll start with what Jesus said about the meaning of his death.

A Promise for Forgiveness

Matthew 26:27-29 (NET)
And after taking the cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, from now on I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Throughout history some different cultures have had some sort of blood covenant ritual. In our culture we have a handshake covenant ritual. The roots of the handshake includes a form where the people would cut their hands and shake with bloody hands. Other ancient rituals included cutting animals in half and walking through them. I see Jesus saying that His blood would be a new handshake, a new promise, that our sins are forgiven. With His blood He is showing His dedication of His love and commitment to us.

A Different Kind of Victory

John 12: 23-26, 31-32 (NIV)
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine.
Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
The religous and political rulers of the world thought they were defeating Jesus by killing him.  But what looked like defeat to some was actually somehow a victory. The powers of this world would be driven out, and Jesus would draw everyone to himself.

An Example For Us To Follow

Matt 16:24-26 (NIV)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
This point is repeated in Matt 10:38-39, Mark 8:34-38 and Luke 9:23-27. There is something to this passage that the gospel writers agreed was important.

So what could Jesus be asking of us here? In what way are we to follow Jesus' example of taking up the cross? It is difficult to fit this passage into some of the atonement theories that explain how God saves us. There is something about Christ's work on the cross that we are to duplicate in our lives to gain the life He wants for us.

These next verses may help..

Our Selfish Self Is Crucified with Christ

Galatians 6:14 (NET)
But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (anointed King), through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Galatians 2:20 (NET)
I have been crucified with Christ (the anointed King), and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Gal 5:24 (NIV)
"Those who belong to Christ (the anointed King) Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires."
Rom 6:11 (NIV)
"In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ (the anointed King) Jesus."
1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)
"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."

Victory Over Sin and Death

Romans 6:9-11 (NIV)
"For we know that since Christ (the anointed King) was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ (the anointed King) Jesus."
2 Timothy 1:10 (NET)
but now made visible through the appearing of our Savior Christ (the anointed King) Jesus. He has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel!
Hebrews 2:14-15 (NET)
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death.
Colossians 1:13 (NET)
He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves,
Rom 4:25 (NIV)
"He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. "
Rom 6:23 (NIV)
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ (the anointed King) Jesus our Lord."
1 Peter 3:18 (NIV)
"For Christ (the anointed King) died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,"

A Ransom Freeing Us From The Power Of Darkness

The ransom analogy paints a picture of something bad holding us captive, and God through Jesus' sacrifice bought us out from captivity. (This is different than the idea that Jesus' death was a payment made to appease God's wrath towards us as some theories suggest.)

1 Timothy 2:6 (NIV)
"who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time."
Titus 2:14 (NIV)
"who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."
Matthew 20:28 (NIV)
"just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Mark 10:45 (NET)
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Romans 3:23-26 (NET)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ (the anointed King) Jesus. God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness.
Galatians 3:13(NET)
Christ (the anointed King) redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)
Galatians 4:5 (NET)
to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights.
Ephesians 1:7-8 (NET)
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight.
1 Peter 1:18-19 (NET)
You know that from your empty way of life inherited from your ancestors you were ransomed—not by perishable things like silver or gold, but by precious blood like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, namely Christ.
Revelation 5:9 (NET)
They were singing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals
because you were killed, and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation.
1 Corinthians 7:23 (NET)
You were bought with a price. Do not become slaves of men.
1 Corinthians 6:20 (NET)
For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.

Last Sacrificial Lamb

The Jewish religious requirements of killing animals to offer as sacrifices to God is completed.

John 1:29 (NET)
On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
Hebrews 10:12-18 (NET)
But when this priest had offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, he sat down at the right hand of God, where he is now waiting until his enemies are made a footstool for his feet. For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy. And the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us, for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will establish with them after those days, says the Lord. I will put my laws on their hearts and I will inscribe them on their minds,” then he says, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no longer.” Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Revelation 5:12 (NET)
all of whom were singing in a loud voice: “Worthy is the lamb who was killed to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and praise!”

New Birth, New Life

1 Peter 1:3 (NET)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (the anointed King) from the dead,
Ephesians 2:4-6 (NET)
But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you are saved!— and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ (the anointed King) Jesus,

Colossians 2:12-15 (NET)
Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead. And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions.  He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.  Disarming the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Demonstration of Love towards sinners

Romans 5:6-8 (NET)
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The Kingship of Jesus and the message of the cross were top priorities of Paul

1 Corinthians 2:2 (NET)
For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ (the anointed king), and him crucified.
(See Paul Proclaiming the Kingdom of God for more on Paul's Kingdom emphasis.)

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NET)
“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
1 Corinthians 15 (NET)
Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ (the anointed King) died for our sins according to the scriptures,  and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also.....
We see in this gospel explanation Paul makes a proclamation of the Kingship of Jesus, His death, and His resurrection.  Paul talks about the significance of the resurrection for this entire chapter ending with this. He describes how the resurrection of Jesus gives us hope in a future resurrection, as well as currently defeating sin and the religious law.

1 Corinthians 15:50 - 57
“Now this is what I am saying, brothers and sisters: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

What I don't see:

  1. I don't see the gospel being defined consistently in terms of the cross. I believe a more balanced view of the gospel takes into account the 23 verses in the gospels that reference the gospel or good news. It would acknowledge that Jesus and His disciples are recorded as preaching the gospel and explore what that may have sounded like. It would recognize a reason given by Jesus for why He came: "Jesus, however, said to them: “I must take the good news (gospel) of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, for that was why I was sent.” Luke 4:43. Here is a link to my study on the gospels according to the gospels.
  2. I don't see the penal substitutionary atonement theory. I don't see Jesus' death as a payment made to God for the debt of sin. I see the ransom verses making a case that Jesus bought us out from the powers of darkness. I see more evidence of Jesus bringing us to God, and less that Jesus saved us from God. For more on this see: Overview of Different Atonement Theories and 10 Reasons Why I'm Not a Fan of Penal Substitution...
  3. I don't see anything like “you must believe the following about the cross to be saved”. I see the New Testament consistently addressing the questions “What must I do to be saved?” with “Place your trust in the person of Jesus”. I do not see lists of essential beliefs attached to passages that address this question. Placing our faith or trust in the person of Jesus is more than believing specific information about him, no matter how correct or important the information is (James 2:19). For more on this see: What Must I Believe Part 1

Summary of what the cross does mean to me:

  1. Jesus said that His blood would be a new handshake, a new promise, that our sins are forgiven. With His blood He is showing His dedication of His love and commitment to us.
  2. It was an act of death to the things of the world, and this brought true life
  3. We are to follow His example of putting our selfish ways to death. We are to count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God
  4. A place of victory over sin and death that we can participate in. Jesus broke for us the power of death and brought for us life and immortality.
  5. A source of healing
  6. A source of freedom from slavery
  7. A ransom freeing us from the power of darkness
  8. A ransom that justifies freely by his grace
  9. A ransom that frees us from bondage to old religious laws
  10. A place of adoption as children with full rights.
  11. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to His kingdom
  12. The last sacrificial Lamb
  13. A new birth for us into a living hope through His resurrection
  14. A demonstration and example for us of extreme love for sinners
  15. A hope for a future resurrection. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is old religious laws.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus the anointed King!
  16. The message about the cross is a message of the power of God.

I find a lot of meaning in these verses. Some of these meanings hold a bit of mystery that is hard to comprehend.  It has been good for me to put these thoughts together. I recognize many will see things differently, and I am OK with that too.

I welcome any feedback.