I Corinthians 1–2. Explaining the Crucifixion.
Key Notes: The Basics of the atonement begin simply, end in complexity. The Seven-fold Mystery.
Paul declares that the crucifixion is folly to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews. But we have been given the mind of Christ. We who believe in the Cross, should be able to make it understandable to Jews and Greeks—and Muslims and Buddhists. Let us try to explain the Cross to a Buddhist. The basic argument is well known.
1.God is the One who created all that we see. Gen. 1
2. God is the ruler. His first regime was simple (Gen.2), but as time passed, the rules became more detailed. Gen.9, Ex.20, Lev.-Deut., Matt.5–7
3. Rules are broken. We break rules out of ignorance, pride and rebellion. Breaking rules is an offense to God. The rebels (Adam and Eve) who broke a simple rule were kicked out of Eden destroying harmony and fellowship with God.
We are guilty of rule-breaking. Our lifves are futile and self-destructive. Rebellion separates us from God. (Isa.59:2). We are spiritual exiles.
“The soul that sins must die....” (Ezek.18:20). Separation from God is spiritual death. Our lives are forfeited.
4. Animals were ordered to be sacrificed instead of people. In the Old testament rite, people transferred their guilt to the animal which was then slaughtered. (Lev.4) Sacrifice is well understood in all religions--Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Animism, as well as Judaism.
5. But sin is horrible—humans kill, torture, hate, steal, curse God and use His name as a joke. No small animal sacrifice can finally atone for these evils. The sacrifices were a temporary expedient. Rom.3:25
6. God in His wisdom provided the ultimate sacrifice no one could pay for. Christ, the Only Son of the Father, came into the world to provide an infinite sacrifice. “…Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sin….” (Heb.10:14)
7. Christ allowed Himself up to be killed by His enemies. He died unjustly, the death of the despised criminal.
8. God accepted His death as the payment of sins of all mankind in all ages. God exchanges His life for my life, His righteousness for my guilt.
9. There is a proviso: the sinner must accept the sacrifice Christ made and turn to God and away from sin.
10. Once I was a servant of sin. Now I am a servant of God, and a friend of God. I am welcomed back into His family.
There are many objections.
•People are basically good but ignorant and in need of education.
•God forgives freely without conditions.
•God cannot become human.
•God cannot die.
•No one can wash away the guilt of another soul. We must bear our own karma.
•Nothing that happened 2000 years ago is relevant for today.
We must realize that the case we have made is a series of declarations, not tight explanations. Words fail us when it comes to the Cross. It is unfathomable. Nevertheless, we are advised to be able to make a defense of our faith (IPet.3:15) using the many available tools.
Paul has the opportunity to explain the Cross. He does not. He simply proclaims it.
“When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony (mystery) of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (2:1–2)
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery….” (2:7)
“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (4:1)
Three times Pal uses the word mystery. The crucifixion is a mystery. It is a part of a larger mystery, a series of mysteries that make up one large picture. Paul defines “mystery” for us in Rom.16:25–26 “According to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages, but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made know to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God….”
“Mystery” is revelation that was hidden or not fully understood but now is widely proclaimed. It is contained in the prophecies of the Old Testament. It is not secret knowledge for an elite group. Each of the references below contains the word mystery. None of these truths is mysterious, and all are well-known although they may not have been thought of in this way. Together they give us an outline of our faith.
1.The master plan. “For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will, according to His purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. “ (Eph.1:9–10)
2. The incarnation. “Great indeed , we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up into glory.” (ITim.3:16)
3, The crucifixion. “When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony (or mystery) of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” ( ICor.2:1)
4. The world-wide kingdom. “According to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages, but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith…..” (Rom.16:26)
5. Christ iindwelling. “…the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col. 1:27)
6. The Church. “…you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ…that. the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” (Eph.3:4–6) Jew and Gentiles will be together in the Church.
“…to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” (Eph.3:9–10)
“This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph.5:32) Human marriage is a model of Christ and the church.
“As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand and the seven golden lamp stands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the seven lamp stands are the seven churches." (Rev.1:20) Christ holds the angels of the churches in His hand.
7. The Resurrection—ours. “Behold I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” (ICor.15:51–52 .KJV)
The counter-mystery—of rebellion / sin / lawlessness.
“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work.” (IIThes.2:7)
“On her forehead was written a name of mystery: ‘Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth’s abominations.’” (Rev.17:5)
The mystery of God is huge and complex and singular: God will unite nature, humans, nations and powers under Christ. Christ came as a human (The Incarnation), went through death and Resurrection. The products of His Work are a world-wide Kingdom, the Church, and Christ indwelling individual people. The future promises us a resurrected body like His. Christ is the center and the circumference of the mystery. This too is unexplained, but instead, simply declared. Amazingly, the Holy Spirit takes the Word and with it transforms people so that they understand, even if they cannot explain.
At the heart of our faith is God. If we could explain Him, He would not be God.
“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!
'For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been His counselor?’
‘Or who has given a gift to Him
That He should be repaid.’
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be glory for ever. AMEN." (Rom.11:33–36)