Sunday, June 12, 2016

This week's lesson (June 11-17): Jesus' Last Days

"It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. . . . Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." -- Acts 4:10-12, NIV.
If Jesus could have avoided the crucifixion, then he would have done so.
  • Yes, if "the blood of bulls and goats" could take away sins, then there'd be no need for the cross.
  • If virtuous pagans could be saved "by living up to the light they have" (as if anyone ever does this), then there'd be no need for Christ's death.
  • And if God says to the last generation of humanity that "everyone else was saved by grace -- but you must achieve perfection," then you have to wonder why He doesn't just require this of everyone and be done with it.
No, somehow God's love for all humanity is enabled, revealed, and mediated through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
To be sure, we don't know exactly how God saves us -- and the fact that two theories of the atonement have existed side-by-side for the past thousand years suggests we're not likely to figure out the answer anytime soon.
Then too, we don't know exactly who God has saved; as Augustine of Hippo points out, "we don't know how grace has been offered to someone else; we don't know how graced has been received by someone else -- and that is why we dare not judge anyone else this side of Heaven."
But if you want to know what salvation means, then look at the cross.
If you want to know what salvation costs, then look at the cross.
And if you want to know how salvation is possible, then you can speculate, contemplate, meditate, cogitate, and even celebrate . . . 
But one way or another, you'll always end up at the cross.
- This first appeared  on December 20, 2014

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