A few days ago, I (John Alexander) wrote how much I love Christmas. I really do. The number one reason I love Christmas is because of the GOSPEL! Man, what a STORY! The true GOSPEL is the difference maker. It is what separates Christ-followers from all other religions. It is an incredible, incredible message.
The problem? We don’t talk about it enough in churches and with others. We focus much more on “pop psychology,” minor issues, and “ways to get your best life now,” to name a few. In comparison, the Gospel message doesn’t compare. If presented every week, people would be so full of this rich and abundant food they couldn’t help but share it.
Today, Pastor Michael Stoops joins “At The Garage” with a post on justification and the “possible” problem of saying Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins.
Theologian Paul Tillich on Justification and the possible problem of saying that Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins: “Men [and women] forgive particular sins, for example, offenses against themselves or the trespass of concrete commands and laws. In relation to God, is is not the particular sin as such that is forgiven but the act of separation from God and the resistance to reunion with him…The symbol of forgiveness of sins has proven dangerous because it has concentrated the mind on particular sins and their moral quality rather than on the estrangement from God and its religious quality. Nevertheless, the plural ‘sins’ can stand for the singular ‘Sin’ and point to the situation of man before God, and a particular trespass can even be experienced as a manifestation of Sin, the power of estrangement from our true being.” (3:225)
This passage jumped out at me this morning because it articulates well something that I had already formulated. Some deny that Jesus died for sins on the cross because he forgave sins during his earthly ministry (Mark 2:10). They ask, “How could Jesus forgive sins if he hadn’t died for them yet?” Therefore, they conclude that Jesus did not die for sins and are forced to find some sort of imaginary rationale for Good Friday.
A few problems with this: 1) This is far too linear a way of thinking; the Cross is an eschatological moment where God’s future in-breaks into this fallen world held under the power of Sin and Death and, hence, redefines our past and our future. 2) To deny that Jesus died for sins is unbiblical (1 Cor 15:3, note how Paul says that this is of “first importance”). 3) Jesus could have literally gone to every person and forgiven them of his sins and he still would have had to die in order to take on Sin, that is our “estrangement” from God–our state of separation from God, so that we might be reconciled to God and adopted as his sons and daughters. 4) Tillich points out in the last sentence of the above quote, that we can say the Jesus died for sins, since sins (note the lower-case), both of omission and commission, are manifestations of the gap between us and God. By dying for Sin, for our fallen nature, for the distance between us and God, Jesus forgave sins that originated from that estranged state.
This is the Gospel at its core: that Jesus died and rose for the forgiveness of Sin and sins so that we might be in a right relationship with him. That we would no longer be aliens and strangers to God, but are now his beloved children, adopted by means of the Holy Spirit.
Worship your heavenly Father today, thank him for his grace and mercy, meditate upon the Cross, which is foolishness to the world, as our sole hope.