Saturday, January 22, 2011

Atonement: Offering and Trinity

Celsus said, "Christianity is founded on four absurdities."  One of them is:
Absurdity #2: The notion that in order to forgive sins, God had to sacrifice Himself to Himself. (see prior posting)
This includes three claims:

    1.  had
    2.  sacrifice
    3.  Himself to Himself

Absurdity #2 is compounded of three claimed absurdities. It is absurd that God was under compulsion to do the atonement the way He did. It is absurd that, for sin to be forgiven, there must be sacrifice. It is absurd that a sacrifice is from a person to himself.

This posting addresses two of the claims and leaves the third (sacrifice) for another time.

Speculation is Absurd and Unimportant

Whether God had to do the atonement the way He did, I don’t know. Some people claim God as a matter of absolute power could have forgiven without the cross, without Christ crucified. I don’t even know whether it would be a matter of power or something else. Answers to those questions are not revealed. Trying to answer beyond what is revealed is speculation.

Besides, gratitude has a way of changing what is important. "In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them." (1 Cor. 5:19)  The cross speaks. It says, never mind whether God had to do it this way, God did do it this way. Contained in this news is the announcement that He did do it instead of not doing it, never mind how. Gratitude to Him because He did do it saps the speculative questions of any importance for me. My sins, which are many and enormous, are forgiven because God reconciled the world to himself. I do not care how else He might have been able to do it, but I am very interested in how He did do it.

Christ Offered Himself through the Spirit to the Father

Celsus says Christianity is absurd because God sacrificed himself to himself. But the cross speaks. The cross says God is triune.

In the innocent suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the atonement for our sin was worked.  But the atonement was not worked by Christ in solitude.  Christ offered Himself through the Spirit to the Father.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.  (Heb. 9:11-14)
Before the earthly tabernacle (tent in the ESV above) was made, the heavenly tabernacle existed as a divine and spiritual reality. God revealed to Moses that an earthly shadow of the heavenly tabernacle should be made. God wanted to portray to us in a form we could see an unseen reality of the spiritual realm.

With the tabernacle, God instituted the priesthood. The priests offered sacrifices. The greatest sacrifice was offered once a year by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. (Lev. 16)  Like the tabernacle, those sacrifices were shadows, physical realities, but only shadows of the spiritual reality that would come to pass later in the purpose of God.

That purpose was accomplished when Christ, in the true heavenly tabernacle, entered the Holy of Holies and offered the true sacrifice, Himself, His blood, the sacrifice to end all sacrifice.  When Jesus had died and had been buried, the Spirit raised him to life (1 Pet. 3:19), he was resurrected, and when he ascended into heaven, he entered the true tabernacle to offer sacrifice to God on our behalf.

Christ offered Himself through the Spirit to the Father. The atonement was a Trinity event. The Trinity is the gospel. The Trinity is your salvation.

Dr. Pieper says:

The Christian knowledge of God, however, calms the troubled conscience.  In fact, it is our salvation.  Scripture does not propose the doctrine of the Trinity as an academic question or a metaphysical problem.  With the proclamation that in the one eternal God there are three Persons of one and the same divine essence Scripture combines the further gracious message that God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son into death as the Savior from the guilt of sin and death; that in the fullness of time, the eternal Son became incarnate and by His vicarious satisfaction reconciled the world to God and that the Holy Ghost engenders faith and thus applies to man the salvation gained by Christ.  When the Christian confesses, "I believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost," he is saying "I believe in that God who is gracious to me, a sinner.
(Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, vol. I, p. 378 (Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis 1950)

In the most familiar verse of the Bible we see it again, the Trinity saves: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."  (John 3:16)  The Father gave the Son. This is the Trinity event of the cross.

The cross on the world's terms appears to be absurd. It appears to be a person offering a sacrifice to himself. The world likes monisim and unitarianism. The world did not think of the Trinity. The cross speaks it. The cross on its own terms -- the cross on trinitarian terms -- while foolishness to the world is the wisdom of God, and the power of God to save. I Corinthians 1:18-25

No comments:

Post a Comment