“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-5
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep….”Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” John 10:11, 17, 18
“Believing that the Lord’s suffering on the cross was redemption itself is a fundamental error on the part of the church. That error, along with the error about three divine Persons from eternity, has ruined the whole church to the point that there is nothing spiritual left in it anymore. There is no topic more frequently preached than the following: God the Father was angry at the human race, so he not only moved us all away from himself but locked us into a universal damnation and cut off communication with us. Nevertheless, because he is gracious, he either convinced or goaded his Son to come down to take a limited damnation on himself and ritually purge the Father’s anger. This was the only way the Father could look on the human race with any favor. So this was in fact done by the Son….After that happened the Father was appeased, and out of love for his Son he retracted the damnation, but only from those for whom the Son would intercede. Therefore the Son became a Mediator to the Father for all time….Surely, though, everyone with decent reasoning enlightened by the Word can see that God is compassion and mercy itself. He is absolute love and absolute goodness--these qualities are his essence. It is a contradiction to say that compassion itself or absolute goodness could look at the human race with anger and lock us all into damnation, and still keep its divine essence. Attitudes and actions of that kind belong to a wicked person, not a virtuous one. They belong to a spirit from hell, not an angel of heaven. It is horrendous to attribute them to God. If you investigate what caused these ideas, you find this: People have taken the suffering on the cross to be redemption itself.” True Christianity n.137
Here is the challenge: Can we make the Easter story a wonderful introduction to Jesus Christ? Of course I mean can the Easter story bring me into a relationship with the glorified Jesus Christ, introduced to us through the Writings for the New Church?
I regularly have conversations with long time students of the Writings who say their teachings are hard to explain. Often I try to counter a doctrine commonly held by Christians, rather than sharing the New Church understanding. It is a well-known, winning debate tactic to force your opponent to spend all their time trying to counter your point instead of speaking of their own! So, I encourage you to consider the following easy to understand and explain points about Jesus Christ’s suffering and the old doctrine that Christ died for our sins.
By way of background, here is an excellent explanation of what the Bible actually says by the New Church pastor John Odhner: “We say that He died for us, because it was for our sakes that He overcame evil and perfected Himself through His suffering. Jesus said, “For their sakes I sanctify myself: that they also may be sanctified through the truth.” (John 17:19) Christ was our sacrifice because He reconciled us with Himself. He made it possible for us to have love, mercy, justice and humility by following His example and letting Him live within us. The New Testament throughout gives the same picture of sacrifice. It is never connected with punishment. For Christ and for us, sacrifice means “doing God’s will,” (Hebrews 10:7,9) and having “His law written on our hearts.” (Hebrews 8; 10:16) It means avoiding sin, (Hebrews 10:26; John 1:29) and keeping a pure conscience.” (Hebrews 10:22; 9:14) Sacrifice means loving others, (Ephesians 5:2) serving God, (Romans 12:1) praising God, (Hebrews 13:15) and supplying the needs of others. (Philemon 2:17) As Paul said, “Do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16)” (From John Odhner’s “What the Bible Says About…” series. See http://members.aol.com/johnodhner/Introduction.html)
So, with that introduction, here are six ideas that I hope are easy to hold in mind, and on the tip of yor tonfue!
1. Jesus Christ suffered. This means He did what was good by not giving in to the taunts of the evil people, and this actually pleased the Father.
2. The one place in all the Bible that says “Christ died for our sins,” (see quote above), focuses on the point that Jesus was fulfilling all that the Scriptures said about Him, which is that He would glorify Himself (by dying and rising) to redeem us from the effects of sin.
3. Jesus Christ is the Divine Truth: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). And: “We know that the Son of God came and gave us understanding so that we would know the truth. And we are in the truth in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). See True Christianity n.85. The Divine Truth was attacked and suffered, but could not be killed. He was glorified by the process of His suffering and physical death.
4. Jesus Christ redeemed us by separating the evil from the good: “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Matthew 25:32-34
5. Jesus Christ gained a great benefit through His suffering. “When any citizens or subjects obey the commands and orders of their king, they are united to him. If they endure oppressive circumstances for him, they are more deeply united to him. If they suffer death for him, as happens in battles and wars, they are still more deeply united to him. In the same way, doing the other person’s will is how a friend is united to a friend, a child to a parent, or a servant to the head of the household. If the friend, child, and servant defend their superiors against enemies they are more deeply united to them. If they fight for their superiors’ honor they are even more deeply united to them….The Lord says, ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. For this reason the Father loves me’ (John 10:11, 17).” True Christianity n.131
6. Jesus Christ ALSO glorified Himself: “The union itself [between the Lord’s divine and human natures] was completed by the suffering on the cross, because this suffering was the final spiritual test that the Lord went through in the world. Spiritual tests lead to a partnership [with God]. During our spiritual tests, we are apparently left completely alone, although in fact we are not alone--at those times God is most intimately present at our deepest level giving us support. Because of that inner presence, when any of us have success in a spiritual test we form a partnership with God at the deepest level. In the Lord’s case, he was then united to God, his Father, at the deepest level…. ‘Was it not fitting for Christ to suffer and enter into his glory?’ (Luke 24:26). In the Word when ‘glory’ is related to the Lord it means the divine truth united to divine goodness.” True Christianity n.126 “The Divine meant by ‘the Father’ came closer to him, helped him, and cooperated with him. At last they forged so close a partnership that they were not two but one….” True Christianity n.97
“Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.’” John 17:1-3 “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” John 17:5
Therefore, Jesus Christ did die for our sins, which means that He suffered the attacks of the hells, separated the evil, freed us to love Him. He suffered the agonies of temptation, never gave in and so was able to glorify Himself, providing us a visible, knowable, saving God whom we can actually, freely love! This is what the Scripture clearly and consistently teaches.
Precursor April 2007