Sunday, April 21, 2013

God Says NO To Our NO To Reinforce His YES!

I am currently studying a Bachelor of Ministry at Tabor College and this semester has me on a theological journey of discovery about Jesus Christ.  While Jesus is clearly my Saviour, my Lord and my Friend who knows me intimately, this subject has allowed me to get to know Jesus a little more intimately.  And because Jesus tells us that we must know Him to know God, God's eternal plan for humankind through Jesus Christ has become clearer than ever before.

There are two significant theological terms that are prominent in any study of Jesus Christ:
  • Incarnation
  • Atonement
For some of you these words are very familiar, for others, you may have heard of them but are unsure what they really mean and their may be a few of you who will wonder what language I am speaking.

Simply put...

The INCARNATION is God taking on human flesh to become one of us in the person of Jesus Christ.
The ATONEMENT is God's gracious act to restore the broken relationship with humankind through the person of Jesus Christ.

The incarnation has been traditionally understood to be about who Jesus is, whereas the atonement has been traditionally understood to be about what Jesus did.  However, the two need to be understood together because Jesus person and His actions are inseparable.

While catching up on some lectures last week I was interested in a discussion about the motivation of the atonement.  Why did God do it?  What is the purpose of the atonement?  What problem for humankind did the atonement deal with?

Ever since the Reformation of the Church, the atonement has been spoken of in legal or forensic terms in the Evangelical movement!

Let me illustrate:  The commonly used "4 Spiritual Laws" evangelism tract says...
  1. God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.
  2. Man is sinful and separated from God.
  3. Jesus Christ is God's only provision for man's sin.
  4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
The problem identified by the "4 Spiritual Laws" is...SIN
Therefore the motivation of the atonement is... SIN

Right?  No!!

Is SIN really the primary motivation of God?  Is SIN the main theme of the Bible?

Not according to Jesus!

"For God so loved the world..." (John 3:16)

Nor according to John!

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sends his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:10)

The atonement certainly does deal with the book of Romans to see that!  The motivation, however, is not sin, but relationship - God loves us and sin is a barrier to relationship with God, so He deals with sin, not as an ends in itself, but as a means to restore broken relationship.

From the Creation story to the Cross...RELATIONSHIP has been God's only motivation for His interaction with humankind.  No matter what people have done to sever that relationship by saying NO to God, He has relentlessly said NO to our NO, reinforcing His YES for the salvation of all people!

God says NO to our NO to reinforce His YES!

The word "Atonement" broken down means at-one-ment:  that is, to be at one with God.

To be at one means to be in relationship.  God said YES to relationship at the beginning of time and reinforced His YES by sending Jesus (incarnation) to reconcile broken relationship with God (atonement).

God says NO to our NO to reinforce His YES!

No matter how hard you try to say NO to God, you cannot escape God's YES because it is His eternal plan to be in relationship with His creation.  It is the motivation of the atonement for you to be at one with God.

Therefore, the atonement fully satisfied God's love for humankind.

This motivation of the atonement challenges the way the gospel has been traditionally presented through modern evangelism and even sung about in worship.  Take Stuart Townend's song "In Christ Alone" for example, a powerful worship song that I love to sing.  In the second verse it presents the motivation of atonement to appease the wrath of God.  However, based on a relational motivation of the atonement, I think we need to correct the 2nd verse of the song...

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

This line infers that the motivation of the atonement was sin, but because we have established that the motivation is relationship expressed through God's love, the line would better read...

The love of God was satisfied!

Jesus satisfies God's love for His creation by providing a way for reconciliation between fallen humanity and Creator God.  God refused to accept our rejection of His love, because His YES for relationship was greater than our NO.

God says NO to our NO to reinforce His YES!

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