Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Question and Answer Panel with a 5-point Calvinist, Classic Dispensationalist, and a Grace Evangelical Society Supporter: The Atonement of Christ

****New content as of 1:45pm PST, March 28, 2012****

Question and Answer Panel with a 5-point Calvinist, Classic Dispensationalist, and a Free Grace Theology Advocate: The Atonement of Christ

Followed by

A Treatise on the Error of Importing a Theological Construct into Scripture


Introduction by the Author

Clear statements of Scripture are often made to bear the burdens of theological systems. When this happens, the plain, literal sense of these passages is lost in a sea of assumptions and necessary qualifications.

This is the mode of Christian interpretation in our day due to the glorification of systematic theology over accurate biblical theology. Aggressive and permeating doctrinal consistency is preferred over precise and nuanced theological articulations arrived at through careful exegesis. The sacred creeds of our respective doctrinal affiliations have become the grid through which all Scripture must conform. These creeds alone remain the arbiters of proper biblical understanding; and apart from the assenting nod of their highly-esteemed divines, any conclusion independently arrived at must be considered illegitimate.

The transcription that is to follow is offered as evidence of this unfortunate tendency in Christianity. It consists of a question and answer time at a local church considering passages relating to the Atonement of Christ. The questioners are to first reference a Scripture and then ask a question relating to it. On our esteemed panel is a 5-point Calvinist, a Classic Dispensationalist, and a Free Grace Theology Advocate. Let us now listen in:


Questioner #1:

The Prophet Isaiah, speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, said:

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Is 53:6)



Question: If God the Father laid upon Jesus the “iniquity of us all,” why would anyone have to go to hell as a punitive consequence for their sins?

Calvinist: The word “all” in this passage does not refer indiscriminately to everyone who has or will ever live. It does not signify everyone in the world, but to God’s elect alone. Only the sins of those who God has chosen for eternal salvation were laid on Jesus Christ.

[Objection to this answer by the questioner: The designation “all we” is the antecedent of “us all”. Everyone in the world has gone astray, and consequently the iniquity of the “all we” has been “laid on Him.”]

Classic Dispensationalist: The “iniquity of us all” was not actually laid upon Jesus. If it were, no one would wind up in hell for the simple reason that the people consigned to hell are paying the penalty for their sins. No actual transfer of our sin to Jesus occurred. Jesus only potentially took our sins. Our sins will only be laid upon Him under the provision that we meet the conditions of eternal salvation. Otherwise, He couldn't have borne the sins of those who don’t have salvation. They will be going to hell to bear their own sins.

[Objection to this answer by questioner: The “iniquity of us all” was “laid on Him”. The terminology used here cannot be escaped. As clear as words can say it, our iniquity, the sin possessed by “us” has been transferred to Jesus. This is an actuality that cannot be explained by your provisional scheme, which has Jesus’ death doing absolutely nothing until it is actuated by the believer.]

Free Grace Theology Advocate: I will make no qualified statement addressing this verse. I will submit to you the same assertion that Isaiah does: the Father laid upon Jesus the iniquity of every person in the world. Therefore, it follows that people do not go to hell as a punitive consequence for their sins. Damage to plain interpretation would be done if we qualified this statement in any way, as the two previous gentlemen have done. The sense is crystal clear. Christ bore the iniquity of us all.


{{{{{Attention participants! Due to the limited time we have at this forum tonight, no more objections will be heard to the Panel’s answers. Thank you in advance. That is all. You may continue.}}}}}


Questioner #2:

Peter the Apostle, speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, said:

…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree. (1 Pet 2:24)


Question: For what reason are the unregenerate consigned to hell to bear the penalty for their sins if Jesus Christ is described here as already having “bore” them?

Calvinist: The “our” in this context cannot be indicative of all the people in the world, as a proper study of the rest of the Bible will conclude. This ministry pertains to none other than the elect only.

Classic Dispensationalist: Jesus Christ's death was sufficient to bear the sins of the entire world; but it is only efficient, becoming an actuality, in those who meet God's provisions. This benefit of Christ's death does not apply to anyone until they obtain eternal salvation. Otherwise, the unregenerate will bear the penalty for their sins in hell.

Free Grace Theology Advocate: We must conclude, because of the clear passages produced thus far, that those who will be relegated to hell will not be bearing their own sins. As is declared in this verse using no uncertain language, Christ fully bore our sins and theirs in His own body on the tree. The people bound to experience hell are simply reaping the natural consequences of their actions. In their earthly life, they sowed to their flesh; therefore they will, of the flesh, reap corruption (Gal 6:8). Much like a gangster, suffering death in a drive-by shooting, reaps the natural consequence of his behaviors and actions, so, too, the unregenerate sinner, suffering the second-death, reaps what he has sown.


Questioner #3:

The Apostle Paul, speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, said:

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5:21)



Question: If the Father made Jesus Christ to be sin for us, wouldn’t it be double payment for the unsaved to suffer hell as judicial payment for their sins?

Calvinist: Quite frankly, there can be no legitimate charge of double payment precisely for the reason that Christ was not made to be sin on behalf of the non-elect.

Classic Dispensationalist: Christ wasn’t, in actuality, made to be sin for anyone in particular. In His death there resides the awesome potential to be made sin on behalf of the world. If the lost don’t fulfill God’s provisions, where the benefit of Christ's cross is applied, then we must be clear. Jesus could not have been made sin for them, or else you would be right. It would be a double-payment.

Free Grace Theology Advocate: Double payment is the only way that a situation could be characterized where two people paid the penalty for the same sins. According to this verse, Jesus was actually made to be sin for all of us. There is no qualification in Paul’s declaration. His statement remains clear. We, therefore, must conclude that hell is not the judicial consequence for an unbeliever’s sins.


Questioner #4:

John the Baptist, speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, said:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29)



Question: If Jesus was the Lamb of God, the sacrifice of God, taking away the sin of the world, why do Christians maintain that sin still remains the barrier eternally separating man from God?

Calvinist: The term “world” here is a euphemism for “the elect.” If Jesus would have taken the sin of the whole world away, then everyone would be going to heaven… and according to the Bible everyone isn’t.

Classical Dispensationalist: Christ’s sacrifice as the Lamb of God didn’t take away the sin of the world. His sacrifice only made it possible for the whole world to have its sins taken away if they meet the provisions stipulated by God.

Free Grace Theology Advocate: Quite frankly, in response to your question, it is erroneous for them to assert that, my friend. This passage directly contradicts the notion! The meaning of this text is no different than precisely how it is stated. Jesus has taken sin out of the way by His sacrifice. Accordingly, sin must no longer be proclaimed to be the eternal issue between God and man. The only legitimate issue between God and man in the matter of one's eternal destiny is the question of life. Only those who possess God’s divinely imparted life, made available through the death of Christ, and received through faith in His name, are uniquely prepared, and possess the right and privilege to live with God forever.


Questioner #5:

The Apostle John, speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, said:

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 Jn 2:2)



Question: Why do you suppose that it is the common understanding in Christianity that God convicts the unregenerate of their sins and consigns them to hell as their just penalty if what this verse is saying is true? I do not believe that we can extract ourselves from the plain and simple sense being offered here. Apparently, in whatever sense that Jesus is the Propitiation for the sins of Christians, He is the Propitiation for the sins of the world!

Calvinist: Jesus is not the Propitiation for the sins of the world, according to this verse. In whatever sense Jesus is the Propitiation for the sins of John’s regenerate readers, Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of like-regenerate Christians of the world. He is only the Propitiation for the sins of the elect.

Classic Dispensationalist: Jesus is not the Propitiation for the sins of the entire world. There can be no real case made for it. His ministry as the Propitiation for sins is applied only to those who follow to His provisions for salvation. It does not extend its benefits to the unregenerate. This standing of Christ only possesses the potential to satisfy God’s just demands for the sins of the world.

Free Grace Theology Advocate: I believe the reason for the common misunderstanding you so articulated is due to the wide-spread depreciation of the efficiency of Christ’s death. In most doctrinal schemes, the benefits of the cross of Christ are either limited to a small few, or are withheld until provisions are individually met. In either case, the Cross of Jesus Christ has absolutely neither benefit nor effect in the largest majority of the world’s population. I believe that these understandings do great harm to the Scriptures thus far provided by our questioners this evening. As far as your understanding of this verse goes, I believe that you are right on. According to John’s grammar and syntax, Jesus is the Propitiation for the sins of the world precisely in the same way Jesus is for his regenerate readers.


{{{{{Well, that is all the time that we have tonight! I want to thank our guests and esteemed panel! **garble, garble…** Ahem! Attention, attention!}}}}}

..........

{{{{{Hold on a minute! It seems that we have one last questioner to end the evening for us with a question that apparently has been floating around on everyone’s mind! Go ahead sir, please ask your question!}}}}}


Questioner #6:

Jesus, speaking to the unbelieving Jewish leaders in the Temple, said:

You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins. (Jn 8:23-24)



Question: If Jesus bore their sins on the tree, why does He say that they will die in them?

Calvinist: Jesus did not bear their sins on the tree. Dying “in their sins” means that they will bear their own sins by being punished in hell for them.

Classic Dispensationalist: Jesus only potentially bore their sins. His sacrifice is only effectual in those people who follow the provisions for eternal salvation. Dying “in their sins” means that they will bear their own sins by being punished in hell for eternity. Jesus' death didn't actually do anything. Its power rests in its potentiality.

Free Grace Theology Advocate: Thanks for bringing up this verse. I believe that there are some wide-spread mis-applications of it. The question you ask contains the underlying assumption that to “die in your sins” means to pay for one's sins in hell. This is a begging of the question. It assumes the conclusion in the argument's premise. It assumes what has not been proven.

Tonight, we had the opportunity to review some of these statements by biblical authors and characters:

“the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all
“who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree”
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us
“The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world
He Himself is the propitiation for [the] sins... [of] the whole world”
“Christ died for the ungodly
“while we were still sinners, Christ died for us
“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them”
“Christ Jesus... gave Himself a ransom for all
“Jesus... taste[d] death for everyone

The above statements represent clear affirmations on the purpose and benefits of Christ's death on the cross. Notice how they are easily understood by the clear and simple language used. It is impossible, if someone approaches these texts impartially, to come to any other meaning but the one which they so clearly and simply submit. One of the cardinal principles of hermeneutics (just a fancy word denoting the art and science of literary interpretation) is the idea of interpreting more difficult passages by an analogy of faith that has been formulated by the simple, milk statements of the Word.

These passages ought to form the basis of our understanding of Christ's death. There is no word in them denoting a limited scope for it, either in limiting it to only a small segment of the world's population, or limiting it to merely a potentiality. Taken together, they provide an analogy of faith for this particular theological subject.

When we view the pronouncement of Jesus in the verse you provide, we are not met with anything that contradicts the clear statements of Scripture, just examined above, that must be employed to form the basis of our understanding of the Atonement of Christ. The phrase “die in your sins” is not a clear statement. It must be interpreted before we can determine its meaning. It does not provide an unambiguous proposition that is immediately discernable to us. On any reading of this verse, it does not say:

“If you do not believe that I am He, you will bear your own sins in hell.”

or

“If you do not believe that I am He, you will pay the debt for your sins in hell.”

The Christian public at large assumes that Jesus says this. The way that this verse is read by them is an example of the tragic error of importing one’s theology into the text of Scripture. This passage simply states to the Jewish leaders that they “will die in [their] sins.” That they will die is clear, but the phrase “in your sins” is not so clear. Without greater study and research, the most we can say is that they will die in the sphere of their sins, in some sense, hitherto unknown.

Let’s go back to the text. According to it, Christ was “from above”; the Jews were “from beneath.” The Jews were “of this world,” but Christ was “not of this world.” The next statement in the verse logically follows these assertions. “Therefore,” Jesus claims, they will “die in their sins.” In John 15:19, Jesus submits the proposition that His disciples, too, are “not of this world.” Does this suggest that being “of this world” is the basis upon which people die in their sins? and being “not of this world” the condition for the privilege to go where He goes? (Notice in the context, Jesus tells the Jews in vs. 21, “Where I go you cannot come.”) This conclusion is inescapable. Take a look for a moment at John 13:36. Jesus announces to His regenerate disciples, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” Those who are “of this world” “cannot” go where Jesus goes; but those “not of this world” “shall follow” Him afterward! Contextually, dying in one's sins is related to being “of this world,” being “from beneath,” and for not believing that Jesus is the Christ. Dying in one's sins is therefore the natural result of these things.

The fact that Jesus died for the sins of the world, all the sins of the world being transferred to Him in His death, does not automatically confer upon anyone God's life, God's imputation of righteousness, or even forgiveness. Christ's death had the purpose of satisfying God's Holy demands for the sins of all mankind so that God could unconditionally accept them. Through Christ's sacrifice, sin has been taken away as the barrier that prevented man from free access to God. It satisfied God's just demands for sins; therefore, no one goes to hell as a punitive consequence for their sins (in other words, to pay for their sins). But all this is an entirely different consideration than Christ’s pronouncement that the unregenerate will “die in” their sins. These concepts are mutually exclusive areas of doctrine. The assertion of the one does not deny or negate the other.

To illustrate, from the example I gave earlier in my answer to the second question, we could say the gangster who was killed in a drive-by shooting “died in his sins”. His death was the natural consequence of his sinful behavior. The same is true for the Jews. The natural consequence for being “of this world,” being “from beneath,” and not believing that Jesus is the Christ, is to die in the sphere of their sins.

Regeneration imparts God's divine life to the believer. This nature comes “from above.” Being “born-again” (Gk: genethe onothen, from Jn 3:3) has the equally attested meaning of being “born from above”! Regeneration alone prepares and befits one to go where Jesus goes, and privileges one to experience eternal life.

The Jews that Jesus is speaking to, being “from beneath” and “of this world,” are trapped in the sphere of their sins. The unregenerate, who are able only to sow to the flesh, “will of [their] flesh reap corruption” (Gal 6:8). Corruption is the present experience of death by the unregenerate culminating in their physical death “in their sins” where they will reap an eternal existence of death, the second-death, hell itself. Hell is the only appropriate place for those who do not have life. It is an existence of eternal death and corruption. But, hell is not the judicial punishment for sins. Jesus, as we have already discovered, completely took sins out of the way. He bore them in His body, God laid them on Him, He became them for us, He took them away!

I am afraid that Christianity is in need of several major paradigm shifts. One of them is needed in this area. I realize that, to many, this understanding will be foreign, to say the least. But no other position of this doctrine more faithfully conforms to the text of Scripture, for all others, rather, conform the text of Scripture to the position of their doctrine.

Thanks again for your question. I would be happy to respond to any follow ups.


{{{{{That’s it, folks! You have heard these three men discuss the Scriptures. It is now up for you to go out and be like the Bereans! Study, and rightly divide the Word of Truth! Drive safe!}}}}}



…”the world” isn’t “the world”…
…there really was no transfer… these only relate the potential transfer…

Both the Calvinist’s doctrine and the Classic Dispensationalist’s meet in strange and sad ways. In either case, the benefits of Christ’s cross are significantly decreased and/or removed. The honest Classic Dispensationalist must admit, in the face of all the above Scriptures, that his view is essentially that of the Calvinist. “Christ couldn't have had the sins of us all laid on Him, He couldn't have borne the sins of the world, He simply cannot be the Propitiation for the sins of the world,” they must reason. Why? Precisely because if He was the Propitiation for the sins of the world, had actually borne those sins having them all laid on Him, then in the light of their deep conviction that men and women go to hell to bear the penalty of their sins, the result following would be that everyone ever born would be admitted to heaven – but their theology does not allow for that.

Such examples of scriptural gymnastics are the case when theology is consulted to interpret the Scriptures for us.


Theology Should Not Be Our Rule for Interpretation!

Questions and objections to theology are often mothers of invention. When a theology is posed with the prima facie testimony of certain “problem passages,” creating insurmountable difficulties and objections that question its soundness, theologians, rather than modifying (or discarding!) their theology to make it consistent to the Scriptures, tend to respond with creative and often fanciful solutions in order to retain their complete doctrinal system. These ‘solutions’ are in fact, more often than not, the ad-hoc importation of secondary assumptions not found in the texts. Providing his assumptions to his interpretation of the passages, yes, answer the objections… but at what cost? What can be stated clearly, and without controversy, is this: a price being paid for this illegitimate practice is nothing less than the loss of the indispensable, hermeneutical principle of plain, literal interpretation!

It is human nature to prefer continuing to justify ones convictions using any means at his disposal rather than, through struggling with the mental dissonance, to face the challenges head on, sort everything out in an objective manner, work through the problems, and adjust his belief system accordingly. The former is the simple route often of pride and elitism, while the latter is the road left untraveled by most. The tendency to regard one’s theology over the Scriptures has been a common practiced error in the Christian faith over the centuries that has caused more than one church crisis! More often than not, allegiance to one’s theological “system” is stronger than fidelity to the Word of God. This tendency has done incalculable damage to Christianity! The Bible is thus not allowed to speak for itself, but rather has been made to accommodate the doctrinal systems of man. This has tragically stunted the ability of the Bible to be understood. Moreover, this is the method of biblical interpretation employed by the ‘Christian’ cults. It is should be a shame and embarrassment for those who claim orthodoxy, being guilty of the same thing!

There are several legitimate reasons why the Bible has a bad reputation of being un-perspicuous. Matters issuing from: the study of the cultural contexts governing the language and customs found in the different books, the translations from dead languages into current, the question of textual variants, and those themes in the Bible only discernible by mature Christians (i.e. ’meat’), are a few of the reasons why there has been difficulties with scriptural comprehension.

But there is one reason, possibly the major reason, why the Scriptures are maligned; a reason that we Christians will have to answer for: the clear propositions in the Word are warped and twisted by Bible scholars to conform to their doctrinal system. This happens so often, as a matter of fact, that it is difficult to extract even one clear affirmation from the Bible! This practice results in the wide-spread perception that the Bible does not mean what it actually seems to clearly state, but is a body of literature only discernable by ivory-tower divines, or no one at all.

When arguing for a particular interpretation, the partisan theologue will forward the idea that governing each problem passage is an array of underlying assumptions that must be considered in order for proper understanding to take place. Now unless you are a member of one of those elite doctrinal “systems”, those guardians of the faith, who alone possess the keys to the Scriptures, or you subscribe to one, you have no hope of understanding the “true” meanings of biblical passages.

The Scriptures have been interpreted in so many different ways as a result of the imposition of man-made doctrines, that it is viewed as a book whose value is not properly estimated by those who we seek to evangelize. “If the Christians cannot agree upon an interpretation, rather they have dozens of them, all disagreeing with the other, how on earth could the Bible be a benefit for me?” some may question. I am convinced that the majority of false interpretations today come as the direct result of the reckless imposition of man-derived theology on the Scriptures.


Example in the Gospel of John
For example, when the greatest majority of Christians are posed with the simple guarantee of Jesus that, “whoever believes in Me has everlasting life” (Jn 6:47), the notion doesn’t line up with their theology. Added to simply entrusting one’s eternal destiny to Christ, in their estimation it is believed that one must be pre-qualified to receive His gift by an imposed assent to various doctrinal statements, and/or by full-surrender to His lordship, and/or by holding no misconceptions of the “essentials,” and/or by repentance, etc., etc. – you get the picture! The various soteriologies of modern-day Christianity teach a multitude of additional provisos, codicils, and caveats to faith alone in Christ alone, even most Free Grace people!

How do the Lordship Salvation advocates and the Free Grace doctrinal legalists (only to name a couple of systems) deal with verses like this in the light of their inflexible doctrine? Answer: the astute theologians of their ranks must argue that the passage in question really can't be teaching what it actually says, for that would be tantamount to admitting error in their convictions. No, to salvage their systems, they must provide the passages a framework consisting of various ad-hoc assumptions nowhere to be found in the text that upholds their system.

Imagine a bible study consisting of new Christians and a few enlightened, mature theologues. During the course of the study, the defenders of doctrinal integrity provide an interpretation of a particular text that seems to contradict the plain sense of the passage within its context. The neophyte, not knowing doctrine or any better, asks the question, “How did you guys come up with that understanding? I am a bit confused.” In response we may hear something like:

“You see, found in a wealth of other scriptures reside a multitude of other, more specific revelation on the topic this passage addresses which must govern our understanding of this particular passage; considerations that this passage does not explicitly address nor even mention. These collected and systematized tenets underlie this text. The author of this passage surely wrote his epistle with these considerations in mind (because He knew doctrine at least as well as we do, ha!), and operated under the assumption that his readers would understand this passage in that ‘fuller’ context as well. In order to discover the proper meaning of this passage today, these considerations, only gleaned in time by those committed to the Word, must be taken into account. These considerations must therefore inform our reading of this passage if we are to understand it in the context in which it was originally given!”

Thus the life-giving and sustaining milk of the Word is turned into toxic waters by those thinking that they are actually preserving and defending it!


Example from an Epistle of John
When Christians read that Jesus is not only the Propitiation for their sins, “but also for the whole world” (1 Jn 2:2), it doesn’t jive with their well-ordered creedal statements. Our Reformed brothers can be heard saying, “This can’t be true of the non-elect and therefore, the assumption underlying this text is that ‘the whole world’ is merely ‘the elect.’” Classic Dispensationalism must in kind retort, “Christ is the Propitiation for the sins of the whole world, but this statement must be modified by qualification. He is not actually the Propitiation for the sins of the whole world; He is only potentially the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. We must modify this statement by assuming that it is provisional. Our insistence that people go to hell because of a punitive condemnation for sin precludes us from taking this statement at face value.” The Scriptures are thus held hostage by the doctrines of man!


Doctrinal Elitism
It is a tragedy enough that the Bible is considered valueless due in large part to an awareness that commonly held understandings of passages contradict each other and the plain sense of the passage itself. But there are more. Another casualty of doctrinal elitism is the practicality of doctrine. Without the proper understanding and application of doctrine, the Christian life is impossible. When the Bible is conformed to man-made systems rather than our systems of doctrine being shaped by the Bible, the conventions of men are taught and propagated as the oracles of God! Growth is thus prevented to the degree to which doctrine is unbiblical.

Theological systems can only continue enjoying the benefits of their prominence so long as they are able to defend their credos in the face of bitter challenges and problem passages. As has already been noted, this is done by clever assertion that questionable passages cannot be taken as is, but in whose understanding resides unstated assumptions arrived at through biblical synthesis. The base reaction employing this defense mechanism serves to make every aspect of one’s theology un-falsifiable, impervious to most attempts at discredit, which results in yet another opportunity for those who enjoy the honor, pride, superiority of their theological society to glory.

What can be more frustrating than conversing with someone who is a “know-it-all”? Not much! Every time you try to get in a word edgewise, you are confronted with his sharp and rehearsed answers. Any time you challenge the positions he holds, you are met with ten different things you hadn’t considered that make you wrong. Unfortunately, many theologians come off this very same way! It is an issue of pride and elitism. I am not saying that every Christian who practices defending their system by importing it into Scripture is guilty of such elitism. Many are only emulating what they were taught. But this problem facilitates and encourages an elite class of super-theologues whose adherence to a particular system is their high and mighty badge of honor. The “Club” alone is in the know, and those unfortunate enough to be non-members of the “Club” don’t really know what’s crackin’!

What say you?

7 Comments:

Blogger ChapB said...

Jesus, speaking to the unbelieving Jewish leadership in the Temple, said:
John 8:24 "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."
If Jesus bore their sins on the tree, why does He say they will die in them?

March 26, 2012 5:15 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Hi, ChapB.

It is a pleasure to make your acquantence. I am so glad that you brought that verse up. Let us take this question of yours to the panel, shall we?

{{{{{Hold on a minute there, we have one last questioner to end the evening for us! Please ask your question!}}}}}

Questioner #6

Jesus, speaking to the unbelieving Jewish leaders in the Temple, said:

"You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." (Jn 8:23-24)

Question: If Jesus bore their sins on the tree, why does He say that they will die in them?

Calvinist: Jesus did not bear their sins on the tree. Dying in their sins meand that they will bear their own sins by being punished in hell for them.

Classic Dispensationalist: Jesus only potentially bore their sins. His sacrifice is only effectual in those people who follow the provisions for eternal salvation. Dying in their sins means that they will bear their own sins by being punished in hell for eterrnity. Jesus' death didn't actually do anything. Its power rests in its potentiality.

GES Supporter: Thanks for bringing up this verse. I believe that there are some wide-spread mis-applications of it.

One of the cardinal principles of hermeneutics (just a fancy word denoting the art and science of literary interpretation) is the idea of interpreting more difficult passages by an analogy of faith that has been formulated by the simple milk statements of the Word.

The question you ask contains the underlying assumption that "dying in one's sins" means paying for one's sins in hell. This is a begging of the question. It assumes the conclusion in the argument's premise. It assumes what has not been proven.

Tonight, we had the opportunity to review these statements by biblical authors and characters:

"the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all"
"who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree"
"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us"
"The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world"
"He Himself is the propitiation for [the] sins... [of] the whole world"
"Christ died for the ungodly"
"while we were still sinners, Christ died for us"
"God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them"
"Christ Jesus... gave Himself a ransom for all"
"Jesus... taste[d] death for everyone"

The above statements are clear affirmations on the purpose and benefits of Christ's death on the cross. Notice how they are easily understood by the clear and simple language used. It is impossible, if someone comes to these texts impartially, to come to any other meaning but the one which they so clearly and simply submit.

March 26, 2012 7:31 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...

GES Supporter: These passages form the basis of our understanding of Christ's death. There is no word in them denoting a limited scope for it, either in limiting it to only a small segment of the world's population, or limiting it to merely a potentiality.

Taken together, they provide an analogy of faith.

When we view the statement of Jesus in the verse you provide, we are not met with anything that contradicts the clear statements already provided.

The phrase "die in your sins" is not a clear statement. It must be interpreted before we can determine its meaning. It does not provide an unambiguous proposition that is immediately discernable to us.

On any reading of this verse, it does not say:

"If you do not believe that I am He, you will bear your own sins in hell."

or "you will pay the debt for your sins"

It says "you will die in your sins"

That they will die is clear, but the phrase "in your sins" is not so clear. Without greater study and research, the most we can say is that they will die in the sphere of there sins, in some sense, hitherto unknown.

March 26, 2012 8:48 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Lets go back to the text.

According to it, Christ was from above, the Jews were from beneath. The Jews were of this world, but Christ was not of this world. THEREFORE, they will die in their sins, the context states.

In John 15:19, Jesus states that His disciples, too, are "not of this world". Does this suggest that being of this world is the basis or condition for someone to die in their sins, and being "not of this world" the basis or condition for the privilege to go where He goes? (Notice in the context, He tells the Jews in vs 21, "Where I go you cannot come.")

Well, we read in John 13:36, Jesus saying to His regenerate disciples, "Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward." Those who are "of this world" "cannot" go where Jesus goes. But those "not of this world" "shall follow" Him afterward.

Contextually, dying in one's sins is related to being "of this world", being "from beneath", and for not believeing that Jesus is the Christ. Dying in one's sins is therefore the natural result of these things.

The fact that Jesus died for the sins of the world, all the sins of the world being transferred to Him in His death, does not automatically confer upon anyone God's life, God's imputation of righteousness, or even forgiveness.

What Christ's death did was satisfy God's Holy demands for the sins of the world. Through Christ's sacrifice, sin has been taken away as the barrier that prevented God from unconditionally accepting man. It satisfied God's just demands for sins, therefore no one goes to hell as a punitive consequence for their sins.

But that is different than saying that the unregenerate will "die in" in their sins. They are both mutually exclusive ideas. The assertion of the one does not deny or negate the other.

The gangster who was killed in a drive-by shooting "died in his sins". His death was the natural consequence of his sinful behavior. The same is true for the Jews. The natural consequence for being of this world, being from beneath, and not believing that Jesus is the Christ, is to die in the sphere of their sins.

Regeneration imparts God's divine life to the believer. This nature "comes from above". Being "born-again" has the equally attested meaning of being "born from above"! Regeneration alone prepares and befits one to go where Jesus goes, and privileges one to experience eternal life.

Being from beneath and of the world, one is trapped in the sphere of his sins. The unregenerate, who only sows to the flesh, will of his flesh reap corruption (Gal 6:8). Corruption is the present experience of death by the unregenerate (and some regenerate!) culminating in their (the unregenerate only) physical death "in their sins" where, for eternity, they will reap an eternal existence of death, the second-death, hell, itself.

Hell is the appropriate place for those who do not have life. It is a place of eternal death and corruption. Hell is not the judicial punishment for sins. Jesus, as we have already discovered, completely took sins out of the way. He bore them in His body, God laid them on Him, He became them for us, He took them away!

I am afraid that Christianity is in need of several major paradigm shifts. One of them is needed in this area. I realize that, to many, this understanding will be foriegn, to say the least. But no other position in this area more faithfully conforms to the text of Scripture.

Thanks again for your question. I would be happy to respond to any follow ups.

March 26, 2012 9:02 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Antonio, I love the way you are only using the text to look for the meaning. Thank you~!!! Thank you~!!! Thank you~!!!
That's the only place we can go if we really want to see the truth.

Praying for you.

Diane
:-)

March 26, 2012 6:16 PM  
Blogger Trent said...

Excellent and a fun read. Thanks for posting!

April 03, 2012 11:50 AM  
Blogger Trent said...

I posted a link to you on Facebook and I got this response from our good friend Jon Case.

Acts 10:42 “And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.
43 “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”
about an hour ago · Like
Romans 8:10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

Galatians 3:22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
about an hour ago · Like

So, everyone it seems - without exception is a "dead man walking". We are dead "because of sin".

The only antidote is faith in the One who gives the gift of eternal life. (Note that Jesus Christ is the antidote.) Now if we die without the antidote - since we are already dead in our sins - we will experience what the bible appropriately calls "the second death".

Paul says in Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The Jewish leadership in your reference above (John 8:24) did not believe (have faith or trust) in Jesus so he was accurately telling them that unless they placed their faith in Him they would die without the antidote - the gift which is eternal life. Peter clearly says in Acts 10:43 (quoted above) that the "forgiveness of sins" is something which "through His name everyone who believes in Him receives...". So even though Jesus "bore" everyone's sins on the tree it appears that forgiveness of sins is a benefit which He has chosen to appropriate at the moment of faith in Him.



My first thoughts are that we gain forgiveness at the moment of faith which puts us in a close relationship God that then if we sin again causes separation until we confess. thoughts?

April 03, 2012 9:39 PM  

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