The Centrality of Atonement - RR274B3b
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|This transcript is unedited. It was:|
|Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library|
|Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules|
|Posted by with permission.|
Let us worship God. Put on the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand againt the wiles of the devil for we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all, to stand. Let us pray.
Our Father we give thanks unto Thee that Thou art the Lord. That the government is not upon our shoulders but upon Thine. That Thou hast called us to serve Thee and given us the power to do that which Thou woulds’t have us to do. We thank Thee that by Thy grace and mercy our faith is for time and eternity, that we have an eternal security in Jesus Christ. Grant our Father that in this holy confidence we may serve Thee with all our heart, mind and being. Knowing that in all things that we are more than conquerors, knowing that we have been called to victory not to defeat. How great and marvelous are Thy ways oh Lord and we praise Thee, in Christ’s name, Amen.
Our scripture this morning is First Corinthians 1:22-25 and our subject: The Centrality of the Atonement. The Centrality of the Atonement, First Corinthians 1:22-25.
“For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
The enemies of Christianity have at times charged the faith as something that was invented by Saint Paul. This is said in order to undermine the historicity, but also to pay an unwilling compliment to Paul, Paul is these critics say, the inventor of Christianity, we don’t know who Jesus was, we have only second and third and fourth accounts of him, and Paul was the real inventor of Christianity. [00:04:25]
If Paul is right, then no man can escape this faith...
If Paul is right, then no man can escape this faith because it is clearly the revelation of God. Therefore the verdict of the liberals is: Paul must be wrong. So over the past generations Paul has been the target of an unceasing attack, one would think everything in the Gospel was his invention. That really even the writers of the gospel were (I’ve encountered this opinion) individuals who were influenced by Paul. So Christianity was the invention of this renegade heresy. Well, if all this is true Paul was a remarkable man. But of course it is nonsense. Paul in verse twenty two says for the Jews require a sign and the Greeks seek after wisdom’. The word ‘require’ has in the Greek the meaning of demand. So you have two groups, the Jews and the Greeks and they both make demands of religious faith. They don’t come to the facing, here is God’s gift to us, they come with expectations. No matter what Jesus said or did the Jewish religious leaders demanded more. It was impossible for Jesus to satisfy the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, because they were totally opposed to him. They wanted a Messiah who would meet their expectations whereas Jesus expected them to meet the requirements of God. [00:07:11]
The Greeks, that is the Greek philosophers, where he...
The Greeks, that is the Greek philosophers, where he is speaking on the one hand of the religious leaders of Judaism and on the other hand of the intellectual leaders in Greco-Roman thought. These philosophers Paul says seek after wisdom but only wisdom as they define it. It is defined in terms of Greek philosophy. Greek philosophy had already decided on the nature of reality and the God of scripture did not fit in to their prescription of reality nor did Jesus Christ. Their predetermined definition of wisdom excluded everything which was not already acceptable to them. This reminds one of what Job said to his comforters: “no doubt wisdom was born with you and will die with you.” So it was with the Greek thinkers. They knew what reality was and they had defined wisdom and no one was to introduce anything to the argument which upset their predetermined definition. Thus we see in Acts 17:15-33 of the Greek philosophers as soon as Paul spoke of something which by definition they had ruled out they turned from hearing him. As against the expectation of the Jews and the Greeks or acceptable religion and philosophy Paul preached Christ crucified unto the Jews a stumbling block and unto the Greeks foolishness. [00:09:38]
For the Jews a crucified Messiah was a stumbling block...
For the Jews a crucified Messiah was a stumbling block because their requirement was that he would be a world conqueror and ruler. Their messianic expectation was nationalistic and humanistic, not theological. It was Israel oriented, it did not see the Kingdom of God as basic and central, it was Israel’s, not God’s kingdom they wanted. For the Greeks the God Paul preached was foolishness. The God of the Greeks was not a living God but limiting concept. Now this is something we must recognize. When people talk about God in various religions and especially in various philosophies they do not mean by god what we do. Paul Tillich who is regarded by many as one of the greatest philosophers of religion of this century who talked in Universities and seminaries said God did not have existence. He neither was nor was He not. How can you find something between being and non-being? Well an idea! A limiting concept. Now why did the Greeks use God as a limiting concept in their philosophy? Because they believed that an infinite regress is impossible. If you said the universe came from God’s fiat word then where did God come from? And where did whatever brought forth God come from? And so on, infinite regress. For them there had to be a beginning. But they didn’t want God as the beginning. So they had an idea of an infinite regress and they simply said God is the first cause, that’s how things started. [00:12:32]
But God was not nor was He...
But God was not nor was He. He was a limiting concept, an idea which avoided the philosophical problem. Modern philosophy now accepts an infinite regress and so it has dropped the concept of a first cause as unnecessary. And so it has the idea of the eternal recurrence of things. Everything begins with some kind of spark, it evolves and finally everything breaks down into nothingness and then it starts all over again. That is as pessimistic a philosophy as have ever been devised. Of course it’s the essential philosophy of the Far East, of orientalism. But for some moderns the use of God as a limiting concept continues. He is for them not a person but an idea or an ideal or a future point in the evolution of the cosmos, as Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit thinker, suggested. The Greek concept still survives but out of both Jewish and Greek communities Paul says some are called by God into his kingdom; unto all such Jesus Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because they seek their definition not from religion nor philosophy: but from God’s revelation of himself. And we can only know God truly if he chooses to make himself known because sin blinds us. Sin prevents us from seeing the most obvious things. God cannot be defined nor known on man’s terms but only on His own. For man to require God to meet the measures of man’s reason is arrogance of the most presumptuous kind. In Matthew 12:38 and 16:1 and John 6:30 among other passages, we are told that the religious leaders demanded a sign from Jesus. When Jesus gave them a sign in the resurrection of Lazarus they at once decided on his death. To the Jews and the Greeks alike Paul tells us the cross was offensive in every way. Instead of an omnipotent God or very logical reason manifested the cross seemed to represent a defeated God and a defeated Messiah, a loser in the battle of history. Instead of a sublime power and wisdom the cross seemed to reveal God as loser, something offensive to both the thinkers among the Jews and the Greeks. [00:17:05]
In their religious and philosophical intellectualism...
In their religious and philosophical intellectualism they refused to see man’s problem and histories problem as original sin, as man’s depravity. Because of their unwillingness to recognize the noetic effect of sin, that is the destructive effect sin has upon our knowledge, their expectation of the Messiah was a false one. Christ’s focus was on the atonement, the cross, not on answering the intellectual problems of the leaders of either Judean or Greco-Roman culture. The religious leaders more than the disciples saw very quickly that Jesus was not in line with their view of the Messiah. The signs he gave in John’s gospel centers on those signs were alien to their view of the Messiah and were thus no signs at all for them. The atonement, the foolishness of God centers on man’s problem, his fall, his sin, his need of atonement, of a savior. Men in their sin refuse to see sin as their problem. They reject the idea that sin has warped their mind and falsified their judgment. I saw a very fine Christian thinker challenge the men on this question. Are you a sinner and not has sin warped your entire perspective. And their answers were about the same, oh yes they admitted they had done wrong but at heart they were a good guy and who should know better than they? So they expected no problems and if there were a heaven they saw no reason why they should be excluded. [00:19:58]
But God’s foolishness, the atonement or the cross,...
But God’s foolishness, the atonement or the cross, does manifest more wisdom than all men’s religions and philosophies are capable of. And the weakness of God is stronger than men. Not all men’s philosophies have been able to cope with the problem of man’s fall. Man’s sin. Man’s depravity. Rather they studiously avoid it, this weakness of God, the cross, the atonement, is stronger than men. The atonement, however much despised and rejected of men together with the atoner is the only force in all of history that can truly redirect history morally. R.C. H. Lenski translated to the Jews a stumbling block as to Jews a death trap. History without the atonement would be an endless tale of horror, a repetition of Towers of Babal and a cycle of tyranny and slavery without end. There would then be no way of escaping in and out of history without death. Even now in many churches because of faulty views of God’s law and the atonement the only way of escape is by death or by rapture. There is no victory for them in history. It is God’s law that declares men to be a sinner. And it is the atonement and Christ’s regenerating power that makes us a new creation in Him. A new power is unleashed in history. Because the weakness of God is stronger than men, the atonement frees men from the burden of sin and death and guilt. To make them more than conquerors in Jesus Christ. Without the centrality of the atonement Christianity always recedes into impotence. Only God’s way leads to victory. Let us pray. [00:23:19]
Our father we give thanks unto Thee for this Thy word...
Our father we give thanks unto Thee for this Thy word. We thank Thee that Thou hast in Jesus Christ made us a new creation. That we are saved from the burden of sin and guilt and from death, that we have eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Make us strong champions of the cross, of the atonement. Of the new life that is ours in the last Adam, Jesus Christ, the head of our new humanity. And teach us to look forward triumphantly to His victory and in due time not only the power of sin but death itself shall be eternally broken. Our God we thank Thee, in Christ’s Name, Amen.
Are there any questions now about our lesson? Yes?
[Man speaking] In many churches you seem to see a trend where there are fewer and fewer crosses. There are some churches where there are no crosses visible in the sanctuary. And it seems more than coincidental that they also don’t preach the atonement and the necessity of the cross.
[Rushdoony answers] A very good observation, now some of these people use the excuse that the cross falls under the definition of a graven image and therefore they cannot have one. Well that’s not true. The commandment says that those things which qualify as such according to the commandment are those which you bow down and worship them. Moreover we find that there are graven images in abundance in the sanctuary, in the tabernacle and in the temple, required by God. Not objects of worship. That argument doesn’t carry much weight with them but it’s very true, the cross is disappearing both because too many Christians, so called, will not have them and the ungodly are abolishing them, that they are making them illegal to have, for example one city had the cross on its state seal and on the side of police cars. That sort of thing is now being steadily abolished because the central offense of the gospel is the cross. [00:27:12]
And people give in to that kind of destruction of the...
And people give in to that kind of destruction of the symbol of our faith and we meet with a cross very early in the history of our faith. We very early meet with people crossing themselves, a public way of witnessing when they are in trouble or facing a crisis. I belong to Jesus Christ; I am under the power of the cross. We’ve abandoned all that. Today not even the Catholics are much given to crossing themselves in too many areas. Any other questions?
Now one of the things that needs to be pointed out: Paul has in choosing the two major religious groups of the day, the Greeks or Greco-Roman faith and the Jewish faith, really summed up the greatest as well as the most revealing of the none-Christian faiths. Elsewhere in the New Testament we have quite a bit against Gnosticism. Well it is interesting that today there is a great deal of research going on with respect to Gnosticism, trying to determine what it was, or where it came from. Clearly there’s a great deal of far eastern thinking in Gnosticism. It was comparable to new age thinking today which is a descendent of Gnosticism. But they find that there was also a great deal of Greek religious thinking and a great deal of Judaism. In other words these and the mystery religions, all these groups came together and contributed to the making of Gnosticism. So that today new age thinking or whatever you want to name it that is opposed to the faith really sums up what existed in Saint Paul’s day. [00:30:24]
The various faiths of the world united in one thing...
The various faiths of the world united in one thing, in saying ‘we oppose Jesus Christ and salvation through his atonement’. Salvation has to be something we do and therefore you have the problem of our day. Yes?
[Man speaking] Why did the sign of the cross come to be associated with Catholicism, were any of the Reformers against it?
[Rushdoony answers] Well it was once universal! All the churches had it. In Protestantism they dropped it because of their anti-Catholic views but the eastern churches had it, the Church of Armenia had it, every religious group at one time used the sign of the cross. They did it when they prayed, they did it when they faced a crisis, it was a way of identifying themselves. Of course they differed in how they did it, from left to right, with two fingers as with the Greek Orthodox or three fingers, lots of silly variations. But it very early became a sign used especially by Christians under persecution. They publically identified themselves. Now identification is almost gone, I know not too many years ago, a lot of Christians wore a little lapel cross, they don’t anymore. Why? Because it leads very often to public incidence, people angry at seeing you wear a cross. That’s the hatred that is all around us today. Any other questions or comments? [00:33:06]
Well if not let us conclude with prayer...
Well if not let us conclude with prayer.
Our Father we give thanks unto Thee for this day, we thank Thee that we live, breath and have our being in Thee. That we are not alone. Thou art closer to us than we are to ourselves. And underneath all the experiences of life are Thine everlasting arms. And so our God we come to Thee. Give us each grace, strength and faith, teach us to cast our burdens upon Thee, to know that Thy love for us exceeds our understanding. How great Thou art, oh God and we praise Thee. And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. Bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, Amen.