Monday, April 20, 2020

Cross and Resurrection As Singular Event

The Cross and Resurrection are not two different events but two different views of the same event.Yet many Christians have thought of it as a two-step plan. They have been taught that the Cross was about “paying” for sin, like a debt that was owed, in order to assuage the wrath of an angry deity. Solving the sin problem is step one, and with that neatly handled, step two is solving the problem of death.

With that kind of thinking, many have not known how to adequately think of the Resurrection in relation to the Cross. Some have supposed that the Resurrection is the assurance or proof that the so-called “payment for sin” was accepted by God and his wrath was appeased. But that is not how the Scriptures speak of  either the Cross or the Resurrection. It is not how they present the problem, nor  how they announce the resolution.

The real problem was not sin but death. In Romans 5:12, Paul tells us, “Therefore, just as sin entered into the cosmos through one man, and death through sin, so also death pervaded all humanity, whereupon all sinned” (The New Testament translation by David Bentley Hart).

Death did not come upon all because all sinned. The Greek words eph ho in that verse simply do not mean “because,” though that it is how they have often been translated in this verse. Yet, of all the other places in the New Testament where eph ho is used, it is never translated as “because,” or as having that meaning. (See Whereupon All Sinned.)

The problem was not that death came upon all because all sin but that all sin because death came upon all. The early Church understood the true problem to be that of our mortality; that is, we all die.

We do not die because we sin; we sin because we die. The answer, then, was not to treat the symptom, sin — sin could be and has been forgiven. God demonstrated “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God did not need to be appeased in order to forgive us; God was already kindly disposed toward us, and forgiving of us. “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). The Cross was not the purchase price of God’s forgiveness but the manifestation of it.

The Cross and Resurrection do not merely address the symptom (sin) but gets at the root of the problem: human mortality. The only way death can be overcome is by life, more particularly, by the One who is Life. It is through the Cross and Resurrection that death is defeated, by the life of the One who could not be defeated by death — because he is life, the source of all life from the creation of the world.

At the Cross, Christ did not go down to defeat, waiting to see if there would be victory, that is, the Resurrection. The Resurrection reveals that the Cross is the victory, that Christ disarmed the principalities and powers (Colossians 2:15), cast out the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31), destroyed the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), and through death destroyed the one who held the power of death (that is, the devil), and set free those who were held in bondage all their lives by the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

That is how the power of sin was broken, by breaking the power of death, and the power of the one who held death, thus breaking the bondage of the fear of death. (See Trampling the Fear of Death.)

In the Cross and Resurrection, Christ fully experienced death and death was overcome, inevitably, by Life. It is one event, but we see it in two different ways — and both of those ways are beautiful.

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