Monday, July 24, 2006

Mercy, Love, Grace

There is a beautiful statement Paul makes in his letter to the Ephesians:

Ephesians 2:4 but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Ephesians 2:5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved),

I find Ephesians to be such a masterful use of language in how much is taught and communicated in just a few simple words. Leading up to this wonderful characterization of God, Paul comments on the horrible, detestable, and rebellious condition that we were all in. We were “children of wrath” and “dead through our trespasses and sins”. Then he connects our hopelessness with two simple words that convey the greatest power in the universe: but God.

Paul provides commentary of three key traits of God that delivers us from being dead in trespasses and sins: Mercy, Love and Grace. It is the combination of these three traits that provided us salvation through Jesus.

Most discussions concerning salvation will give ample study to God’s love and the grace he has extended but what about His mercy? For a moment I would like to consider how great a part God’s mercy plays in our salvation. Paul begins this transition in Eph 2:4 to life in Christ with “but God” by first describing God as “being rich in mercy”. Simply stated, having mercy showed to us is to not be given what we deserve. What we deserved was to remain dead in our trespasses and then have final, everlasting condemnation pronounced on us. This stands in contrast to having grace shown to us and be given what we don’t deserve. And the bridge between the two is God’s love. These three traits are inseparable in describing who God is and what He has done.

God’s mercy is extremely important for us and is the first way in which God has shown us His love. His mercy allows us to avoid receiving what we should be given. As a Christian I believe that we all share a common and very heartfelt understanding of how important God’s mercy is to us, personally and individually. We’ve all experienced those restless nights with the dread and fear of what our sin has done to us, separating us from God. There are other synonymous words to mercy such as forgiveness. We have the saying “forgive and forget” and truly that is what God does when he shows mercy to us and forgives us our trespasses. This is seen in passages such as Heb 8:12

Heb 8:12 For I will be merciful to their iniquities, And their sins will I remember no more.

I want to connect this thought with something that is central to both the Substitution and Satisfaction views and the emphasis on God’s need to punish, which is asserted to be what God did to Jesus on the cross in our place. If God must punish all sin, then that is not mercy and that is not the God that Paul describes in Eph 2:4,5. This would be like telling someone that I'll forgive you only after I extract all that is due from this other person. That does not fit the basic definition of mercy or forgiveness. I recall the wise words of a good friend, a preacher of many years, that we must maintain the right “spiritual balance” and composure in our understanding of God and scripture. Over-emphasis of a trait or quality is like a body builder spending too much time exercising his biceps and ending up a distorted and grotesque mess. Over-emphasis on God’s need to punish sin, without fitting in His capacity for mercy, creates a distortion in our minds of God. This creates a picture of God that is not accurate to who He really is, what He has done, and how He did it.

To add even more to this point, consider the word that Paul uses in amplifying God’s mercy: rich. It’s not as if God showed a little bit of mercy but reserved part of it in order to satisfy His punishment of sin at the same time. No! The word “rich” conveys the idea of an over-abundance, a lavishing of God’s mercy upon us. That is not to say that there are no conditions to receive His mercy but that there are no limits to His mercy when granted. My dear brethren, the Substitution and Satisfaction views distort God into something that He is not. I pray that we open the scriptures and our hearts and minds and view God as he has revealed Himself to us, a God that is rich in mercy, love, and grace. He knows even more than us that we need all three and His magnificent capacity to give them to us!

--Stephen Ledford

Monday, March 13, 2006

Suffered and died

Think about this basic but important observation: Jesus did not just die on the cross, he suffered and died. A suffering Messiah is prophesied in scripture such as Ps 22 and Isa 53. So, Jesus’ suffering is no coincidence or passing matter but establishes who he is, his unique qualifications, and capabilities. It is Jesus’ suffering that provides key insight into what happened in the events leading up to and involving the cross.

Consider the Old Testament sacrifices for a moment. When a lamb, bull or other living animal was offered as a sacrifice, none of them suffered. It was performed as a “clean kill”. The priest would take the animal and kill it quickly by slitting its throat or some other means but suffering was minimized. Why then did Jesus have to suffer? Recall the introduction by John for Jesus:

John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

Here John establishes an important parallel between Jesus and the sacrifices of old. Recalling the exegesis of Isa 53 and the use of the word “bear” to be a carrying away, we can see the continuation of the idea that John identifies that Jesus would carry away the sins of the world.

Isa 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

But Isa 53:7 gives more information about what would happen to the lamb and that he would endure affliction and suffering. Just as a lamb is helpless before the shearer our Savior as a lamb will not reply to the affliction, but instead endure it.

There is a repeated pattern in scripture as it relates to suffering: God takes dire circumstances of individuals in their suffering, pain, and anguish, and works in the person’s life to produce victory and glory to Him. This can be seen in Bible characters such as Joseph from the time when he was sold into slavery by his brothers to becoming the second in command over all of Egypt. It can be seen in the sufferings of Job and how he endured and was blessed two-fold more than before. It can also be seen in the death and resurrection of Lazarus in John 11, which also provides some direct insights into what God achieves through suffering.

The narrative of John 11 begins when Lazarus’ sisters send to Jesus telling him that his friend is sick. Jesus’ response to hearing this reflects the objective of using suffering to glorify God:

John 11:4 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.

You would expect that Jesus would heal Lazarus after this statement but we see something unexpected just two verses later: “he abode two days still in the same place where he was” (v 6). Why would Jesus stay after hearing that a dear friend was sick? His disciples even ask him why he hasn’t gone to Lazarus yet. They don’t understand what is going on and Jesus finally tells them that Lazarus is dead but with a very unusual response again from Jesus:

John 11:15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.

He just announced that Lazarus is dead and Jesus is glad for his disciples? How can this be? He provides a glimpse into these events with his statement “to the intent ye may believe.” Jesus concern, and that as direct insight into the mind of God, is the condition of the soul of the person and thus, Jesus is more concerned with their belief than a dear friend has died. But this is not the end of the matter.

Jesus and the disciples go to Bethany and here we see that Martha and Mary are distraught at the death of their brother and likely are confused and possibly resentful that Jesus had not come immediately to heal him. They also need to be instructed in how God takes difficult circumstances of suffering and accomplishes victory through them. Jesus arrives at the tomb with many people following him: Martha, Mary, his disciples, and a throng of Jews. Jesus tells them to remove the stone from the tomb and even now they don’t fully comprehend what Jesus can accomplish. His final response to them and a prayer to God give the final insight into what is being done:

John 11:40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
John 11:41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
John 11:42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.

Jesus continues to point them to the glory of God through belief in Him. What is it that they needed to believe? It is exactly what he told Mary:

John 11:25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
John 11:26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

God’s glory is that as seen in His son that through suffering, agony, pain, loss, and even death that God will always, and I repeat always, have the victory for those that believe and serve Him. We see the great extent and expanse of God’s glory and power as stated by Paul:

Eph 1:19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
Epj 1:20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

It is God working through the suffering Savior that we can see his glory and power. We can see there were those that sought to destroy the Messiah but it is those very actions that brought about his victory. We can see that when things look the worst that can possibly be, that a Savior hanging from a tree being crucified, suffering beyond comprehension, and dying there, that God uses this as the means to victory for not only His son but for us all. Praise be to God for His exceeding wisdom and grace!

In conclusion, think back to how righteous men such as Job have suffered in the past and the true origins of that suffering. The story of Job provides unique insight into how Satan seeks to devour and destroy and to the great extent he will go to achieve our destruction. But Satan was restrained in that he could not take Job’s life. In seeing a suffering Savior, a perfectly righteous man, who was obedient to God even to the point of a death on a cross, can we not see Satan, unrestrained, throwing everything at him to deter him from his mission? Recall the prophecy given by God as Adam and Eve were cast from the Garden speaking to the serpent:

Gen 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Comparatively speaking what Satan will do to the Savior will be a minor wound compared to the destruction brought upon Satan. And that is exactly what the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus accomplished.

I submit to you that the focus has been on the wrong question. We see suffering and commonly will ask "Why is God doing this? What wrong did they commit to deserve this?" In a suffering Savior, a perfectly righteous man, you cannot find an answer to this by assuming God is behind it. Instead, we should be asking how God can take the wicked works of Satan against His son and achieve total and complete spiritual victory. It is through this that brings glory to His son and Himself throughout all eternity and will save unto eternal life those that believe and serve Him.

---Stephen Ledford

Friday, March 10, 2006

Punish the Righteous?

So far we’ve examined two serious flaws in the idea that Jesus died on the cross in my place to be punished by God. The first flaw relates to the accountability of sin, the bearing of it, is that of the individual who committed the sin and is not transferable (Ez 18:20). The second flaw is that the direct consequence of my sin is a spiritual death (Ez 18:20, Rom 6:23) but Jesus died a physical death which would put punishment in the wrong realm, physical instead of spiritual. There is a third critical flaw, one that represents a great jeopardy to everyone’s soul that asserts this view: Did God bring punishment on Jesus of any kind? There is a variation of Penal Substitution that instead of having Jesus become accountable for my sin in punishment has Jesus receive my punishment from God and still is perfect and sinless. This is expressed in statements such as, "He paid my debt." Generally this is referred to as the "Satisfaction Theory", reflecting the root point of view that all sin must be punished.

It is also without doubt that Jesus was perfectly righteous as established in scripture:

Heb 4:15 For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus committed no sin which uniquely qualifies him to serve as our spiritual high priest before God. But let us consider for a moment the case of another righteous man, Job. Job was not perfect in that he did sin, but still God called him perfect and upright:

Job 1:8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

Recall that this introduction to the book of Job is setting the stage for Satan to bring all manner of suffering on Job. Satan was granted the power to destroy Job’s possessions and family and then Job himself was given into the hand of Satan but only to the point before taking his life. Why was this allowed by God? In order to show the character of Job as being a perfect and upright man that feared God reglardless of his physical state of being.

The rest of the book of Job is an account of the interaction with his wife and friends. They all came to Job telling him that he is being punished by God for something that he had done, some sin. Repeatedly Job tells them that he has done nothing wrong but it is clear that not even Job understands who is really causing these things to happen to him. He cries out seeking an answer to a question of why God is doing these things to him. However, as is common to man, Job is asking the wrong question. It was not God bringing the loss and suffering on Job, it was Satan. Asking the wrong question about the cause of suffering was even done by Jesus’ disciples:

John 9:2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind
John 9:3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

Jesus corrects their perspective and re-aligns the events with the true objective with suffering: God working to overcome and glorify Himself through the lives of those serving Him. However, we have a tendency to ask what sin someone has committed when we see them suffer thinking it is God punishing the person for it, which can be the wrong question.

Returning to Job, we see in the conclusion when God speaks to Job and his friends, He corrects their understanding:

Job 42:7 And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.
Job 42:8 Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.

It is God’s rebuking of Eliphaz that strikes fear in my heart in asserting the view that God punished Jesus in my place on the cross. Eliphaz spoke wrongly of God in assigning responsibility for Job’s suffering to God and God tells him His wrath is kindled against Eliphaz and his friends. Why was Eliphaz wrong? Job was a righteous man and there was no reason for God to punish Job. If God was punishing Job while being righteous then that makes God capricious and unjust. If God were indeed punishing Jesus on the cross in our place, Jesus the perfect and sinless man, then somehow Jesus must be made responsible for my sin for God to maintain His justness in only punishing the unrighteous. But as we’ve already examined, Ez 18:20 leaves no room for assignment of accountability of my sin to Jesus. Which leaves Penal Substitution with a third flaw if true, God is punishing a perfect, sinless, and righteous Jesus on the cross.

At this point I will present to you that just as Eliphaz and his friends and Jesus’ disciples asked the wrong question so it is to look at Jesus on the cross and ask why God is punishing him. Even worse, by completing the answer as a conclusion that God did punish Jesus, we are not speaking of God rightly and risk kindling His wrath. It is for this reason that I am most compelled to properly harmonize scripture concerning this matter. We must speak rightly of God, and for all that I can see in scripture, Penal Substitution speaks wrongly of God. There is no such thing as “punishing the righteous” by God. The next few topics will furhter examine closely the events of the cross as we seek to continue the harmonization of scripture.

---Stephen Ledford

Death or Death?

I at times accept thoughts and ideas without serious consideration if it is true or not. This happens because an idea may be so pervasive and “accepted” that it is never even thought to challenge it. For example, until the mid 1400’s and the arrival of Christopher Columbus, the idea that the world was flat was pervasive and broadly accepted as true. The same thing occurred with the idea that the Earth was the center of the universe until Galileo came along. People just did not consider if the world really was flat or if the Earth really was the center of the universe. I fear that the idea of Jesus becoming accountable for my sin on the cross has fallen into the same trap and it is so pervasive in most Christian denominations that considering if it is true is rarely done. A brother referred to this type of issue as a “spiritual blind spot”, an area of our understanding that may be flawed and simply not seen.

At this point you may be asking the question, “Why is this use of the word ‘bear’ for Jesus on the cross important?” To address that requires us to back up in the thought chain of Jesus literally bearing my sin as in becoming accountable for it on the cross. There is an idea referred to as “Penal Substitution” and is common to most Christian denominations. My understanding of this idea starts with God being a perfect and just God must punish all sin. In order to save us from our sin, God must find someone to punish in order to maintain his justness. That someone was Jesus on the cross and that God punished him there by placing on him all the sins of the world, as in he became literally accountable for my sin and that of the world on the cross. It is the punishment aspect for the use of the word “penal” and the replacement of Jesus being punished instead of me for the use of the word “substitution”. This idea can be called various things but is commonly expressed in statements such as, “Jesus died in my place on the cross.” You may chose to call this idea by some other name and it is the idea that needs to be the focus but for the sake of clarity I will refer to this idea in the remainder of this study as Penal Substitution.

Hopefully it is becoming clear why the definition of the word “bear” is so critical in building a solid foundation for our understanding and harmonization of scripture concerning Jesus and the events surrounding the cross. There is a very different understanding of Jesus bearing on the cross as “To be accountable for; assume” or “To carry from one place to another” as in removal. There is already a serious flaw in the Penal Substitution idea based on the previous analysis of “bear” in harmonization of very clear passages such as Ez 18:20 which state sin is not, and cannot, be transferred from person to person. The word “bear” has several possible meanings as demonstrated in the harmonization of Isa 53:4,11 and Mat 8:16,17, a case where Divine inspiration establishes the definition of “bear” to mean removal. But there is more to examining the idea of Penal Substitution and the next link to consider is the word “death”. Subtitution views Jesus’ physical death on the cross as punishment for sin by God and forms the next critical element of this idea.

It is without doubt that Jesus physically died on the cross. His death was prophesied in scripture, he spoke of it himself, and is necessary for God to show power over death through his resurrection which gives us all hope and faith in Jesus. The question is not did he die but did Jesus die in my place? In scripture when the word “death” is used it can refer to one of two possibilities: physical death or spiritual death. Our physical death is a direct consequence of Adam’s sin by being cast from the Garden as established in scripture:

Gen 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever:
Gen 3:23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

And as stated by Paul in Romans, physical death had reigned over everyone as a consequence of Adam’s sin:

Rom 5:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
Rom 5:15 But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

We can see a reference to a spiritual death in a passage we looked at before:

Eze 18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

This passage connects the “soul” and “death” and therefore, refers to the spiritual death of the individual committing sin as a direct result of their sin. We have other passages establishing this connection between sin and a spiritual death:

Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This context is spiritual established by the contrast between “eternal life” and “death”. Although the word “eternal” is not placed before death, the equality of the contrast between the two establishes that this is an “eternal death”, and there is only one death that is eternal which is a spiritual death. The punishment, the wage I have earned, for my sin is spiritual, eternal death. As Gen 3:22 and Rom 5:14 described, I, and all people after Adam, are going to die physically as a result of Adam’s sin and separation from the Tree of Life. The critical flaw with the idea that Jesus physically died in my place on the cross to be punished and satisfy God’s justness is that I, and all others, need salvation from a certain and eternal spiritual death as a result of our own sin. As seen in Ez 18:20, I am the one that dies spiritually and only me and that accountability cannot be transferred or shifted. Jesus’ death on the cross as if dying in my place a physical death places punishment for sin in the wrong realm, the physical realm, when scripture is quite clear that sin brings about a spiritual death.

At this point you may be asking, “What then did Jesus’ death on the cross do for me and my sin?” Recall again the study of Isa 53 and the Divine commentary established for it by Mat 8:16,17. The bearing of iniquity that Jesus performed on the cross was the removal of my sin, the carrying away of my sin from me. Again, that does not mean he was accountable for my sin, nor does it mean he was punished for my sin by God. What it demonstrates is that a perfect, unblemished, sinless, and willing sacrifice for sin is necessary and capable of carrying away my sin to be remembered no more by God, full and complete forgiveness of my sin. I understand you may be skeptically reading this exegesis at this point but there are more things that must be examined to fully frame the flaws and issues with this idea that Jesus died in my place on the cross. The next study will examine a very serious issue with asserting a perfectly righteous man, Jesus, was punished by God. I pray you give me the patience to consider this next step in the harmonization of this subject with scripture.

---Stephen Ledford

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What a "bear"!

I’ve struggled recently to harmonize some comments and thoughts regarding the bearing of sin by Jesus on the cross. As odd as it may sound for my +20 years as a Christian the idea of Jesus literal sin bearing on the cross never entered my mind. I say odd because only recently have I become aware that the view of Jesus becoming responsible for my sin, and that of the entire world, on the cross is very pervasive amongst Christian brethren and the religious world at large. This will be the first in a series to lay out as precisely as possible a harmonization of scripture on the topic.

In my discussions and reading of various writers I have found that one of the foundational items to a view of Jesus literal sin bearing as becoming accountable for my sin on the cross is the word “bear” in scripture speaking of Jesus. In English the word “bear” has several possible definitions. This is not a complete list but presents a few of the commonly used meanings.

1. To hold up; support.
2. To carry from one place to another; transport.
3. To be accountable for; assume:
4. To have a tolerance for; endure:

In application of these definitions to the subject of Jesus on the cross, the definition commonly applied to passages such as 1 Peter 2:24, Isaiah 53, and others is option (3): "To be accountable for; assume." Application of this definition of “bear” is how the concept of Jesus literally being accountable for my sin, and all other sinners, on the cross is reached.

It is at this point that I begin having difficulty in harmonization of scripture and using the definition of “bear” as direct accountability by Jesus. We have very clear statements concerning the accountability of sin in passages such as:

Eze 18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

This context states in four different ways that the accountability and responsibility of a sin is that of the individual, and that person only, that committed it. The only reasonable definition for “bear” in this context that fits is “To be accountable for; assume.” How then can one passage of scripture say very explicitly that sin responsibility is not transferable while concluding that is what happened to Jesus on the cross? For the moment, let’s leave this question to look at some additional scripture.

To add some more dimension to this word “bear”, let’s consider a passage from Lamentations:

Lam 5:7 Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities.

Applying the definition of “borne” here as to mean “To be accountable for; assume” would conflict with Ez 18:20. So, how is this harmonized? Given that the word “bear” has several possible definitions, this passage must be using one of the other definitions of “bear”. Examination of the broader context of Lam 5 reveals that the writer is describing how they were under affliction from outside forces. However, the actions and events that brought about the affliction occurred many years earlier. Therefore, the definition of “bear” in this case is either option (1) or (4), the idea of endurance or bearing under a load. Their fathers had sinned, were dead, and now the current generation was reaping the consequence of their sins. They were not accountable for their father’s sins but were bearing under the load created by them and their sin.

Then we have the context of Isaiah 53:

Isa 53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

Also, in Isa 53:11 our word “bear” is used again concerning iniquities. The unique thing about this context is that we have a case of scripture commenting on the meaning of another scripture in this passage:

Mat 8:16 When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:
Mat 8:17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.

Now we have Divine inspiration giving us the definition for “bear” found in Isaiah 53. Jesus did not literally transfer these diseases to his own body in healing the people and casting out demons. Jesus removed these things, similar to the meaning of option (2) presented earlier: "To carry from one place to another; transport."

In the original Hebrew language, the words used for "borne" and "carried" found in Isa 53:4 are respectively nasa and sabal. In Isa 53:11 speaking of Jesus, “for he shall bear their iniquities”, "bear" is the same Hebrew word sabal. This Hebrew word sabal is also the root word used in Eze 18:20 and Lam 5:7 translated as “bear” or “borne”. One of the Laws of Language is once a definition is established in context it remains the same until the context changes or the author explicitly changes it. This is a universal principle since all languages have words with multiple meanings and without it there could never be a consistent understanding by the reader. Therefore, with the establishment of the specific definition of “bear” in Isa 53:4 by the commentary provided by Mat 8:16,17 what is being spoken of in Isa 53:11 of the Messiah is the carrying away, the removal of their iniquities.

Now, coming back to the question asked earlier: how then can one passage of scripture say very explicitly that sin is not transferable while concluding that is what happened to Jesus on the cross? Simply put, using the definition of “bear” for Jesus on the cross to mean “To be accountable for; assume” is not correct. Scripture itself uses the word "bear" in different ways depending on the context (Lam 5:7, Isa 53:4,11) and does not universally mean “To be accountable for; assume”, as I have heard some state. Jesus didn’t literally become accountable or assume responsibility for my sin or anyone else’s on the cross (Ez 18:20) since scrpiture explicitly states that this does not and cannot occur. Considering the Divine commentary established for Isaiah 53 by Mat 8:16,17 reinforces that the “bearing” that is described of Jesus on the cross is the removal of my sin and in removing my sin He did not become accountable for it.

Future studies will consider other dimensions for the action of Jesus bearing on the cross. Understanding of the word “bear” is just the first step in proper harmonization of scripture concerning this subject.

---Stephen Ledford

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Handling Adveristy - Examples for us: Jesus

Examples for us

Jesus is the ultimate example of handling adversity of every kind. It is noteworthy that the Old Testament is full of prophesies that a Savior would come and that he would suffer. We have old and familiar scriptures such as Isaiah 53 and Psalms 22 that speak of a man in pain and agony, ridiculed and rejected. Jesus himself in his own testimony after his resurrection told of the need for him to suffer (Luke 24:25-26). Jesus’ suffering becomes the center point of a life as a Christian as found in the writings of Paul and Peter (Acts 17:2-3, 1 Peter 3:18).

Recall again the events of John 11 and the death of Lazarus. Jesus pointed out several times that the events were going to take place in order to bring glory to God. Throughout the Bible God takes an event or circumstance that seems as though it will be utter failure, and turns it into complete and total victory. Jesus’ life follows this same pattern in order for it to be clear that the victory is the Lord’s. Jesus, the perfectly righteous man, conquers death and sin in the circumstances and event that would seem to the world to be complete failure: his death on the cross.

So, it is with this background that we consider Jesus and his life on this earth.


1. Read Genesis 3:14,15.
a. Who is the serpent?
b. What is the pronouncement by God on the serpent?
c. What is said will occur between the serpent and the Seed?
d. Who is the Seed?
e. When is this fulfilled and how?

2. Read Psalms 22. What is said of the man prophesied and his life?

3. Read Isaiah 53. What is said of the man prophesied and his life?

4. It is important to bear in mind that Jesus suffered many terrible things before the events of the cross. What did Jesus have to say about himself and the kind of life he had during his 3 year ministry leading up to the cross? Provide scripture.

5. Recalling the events of his temptation by Satan, what was Jesus’ response in each case?

6. What does Jesus’ suffering provide for us as Christians? Provide scripture.

7. What did his suffering qualify him for and to be? Why is this necessary?

8. What did his suffering accomplish in and of itself? Provide scripture.

9. Why did Jesus have to suffer and not just die?

10. Who caused Jesus, the perfectly righteous man, to suffer? Reflecting on the book of Job and what is revealed in chapters 1 and 2, what can be concluded about ultimate responsibility?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Handling Adveristy - Examples for us: Job and Joseph

Examples for us
Job and Joseph

When simply surveying or reading through the Bible, there is an enormous amount of suffering and trouble that follow the various characters. You could simply mark it as random events if it was a few of them but virtually every one has some major event of suffering, trial, or problem that occurs. There are times when it is clear that the suffering is a result of sin but quite often the problems arise while they are trying to do what is right and follow God.

We now turn our attention to two notable characters in the Bible that dealt with extreme challenges in their lives: Job and Joseph. As we examine their actions, thoughts, and attitudes, keep in mind the past lessons regarding dealing with suffering, trials, and problems.


1. What kind of person is Job?

2. What is revealed in the first 2 chapters of Job as to why he is suffering?

3. What is the response of his wife and friends as to why he is suffering?

4. What is Job’s attitude during these events?

5. Finally, God speaks to Job as recorded at the end of the book. Summarize what God says and why.

6. The story of Joseph extends over many years. What are the various trials, temptations, and problems he had to face?

7. During his imprisonment he interprets a set of dreams and one of the men is released. What does Joseph ask of him? How long is it before there is a response?

8. Joseph meets his brothers again. What is his attitude towards them?

9. What is the initial response of his brothers when Joseph reveals himself? What does Joseph do in response?