Friday I continued a personal tradition. I sat through
the three-hour Good Friday service at a local church.
The experience involves listening to seven pastors trying
to explain of significance of the seven words that Jesus
spoke on the cross. I must admit, I enjoy watching the
host pastor struggle to keep seven preachers in line
and make the whole thing come out even at the end of
three hours. He lost the battle that day. The service
ran a half hour long. I left at 3:00 anyway.
That night, I got a letter from one of our website visitors
in England asking me to explain just exactly how Jesus'
death on the cross resulted in the forgiveness of our
sins. I wrote back, detailing the standard Christian
* We are all sinners, and the wages of sin is death,
so we all have to die. (Rom. 6:23)
* Jesus wasn't a sinner so he didn't have to die as
punishment for his sins. (Heb. 4:15)
* Jesus died anyway, and therefore his death, which
was not required for his own sins, became a free-floating
gift which could be used to pay for the sins of others.
* Thus, our faith in Christ allows God to accept Jesus'
death, rather than our own, to pay the price for our
sinfulness. (Rom. 5:10)
this is a great theory, until you start examining it.
First, everyone dies, sinner and saint alike. It's the
nature of our humanity. So our physical death cannot
be a punishment for sin. Therefore, the death Paul talks
about must be a spiritual death. Second, the death that
Jesus voluntarily gave God as a ransom for our sins
was a physical death. So you have a physical
death substituting for the spiritual deaths which we
owe God as a result of our sinfulness.
makes no sense at all. If Jesus were going to save us
from our physical death, his death on the cross might
make the difference. But this is not the case. There
is no connection between his physical death and our
spiritual destiny. His death was not a solution for
sin. It was the result of first century politics, and
only later was it used as an explanation for how a holy
God could love and forgive sinful human beings.
any event, this need for a savior was based on a false
teaching - that God judges his creation and demands
perfection from us, even though he created us as imperfect
beings. The church claims to teach grace - undeserved
love on the part of God - but it doesn't believe in
its own teaching. God created us in love, and he accepts
us in love, in spite of our imperfection, simply because
we are part of himself, and God cannot reject himself.
church's teaching that faith in Christ saves us is a
metaphor for God's perfect acceptance of us all. According
to the church's teaching, we aren't changed by our faith
in Christ: we are still sinners - God merely chooses
to see us in a different light. The fact is, God chose
to see us in that light long before there was organized
good news is that we are saved because of God's perfect
love for all of us, not because of some ancient religious
John W. Sloat 2006