The Paradox of the Cross

Good Friday bids us reflect on what T.F. Torrance calls, "the paradox of the cross." Following are comments from Torrance in Atonement, the Person and Work of Christ:
"In the cross of Christ we have humanity's final rejection of God, and in that cross we have God's final rejection of humanity's sin. But in the cross we have behind it all the holy will of God to take upon himself human sin in rejecting God, and to take upon himself his own rejection of humanity, so that he makes the cross the most positive act of the divine love. The cross not only opposes the human will to isolate itself from God and so to reject God, but so takes that rejection, that sinful refusal by humanity upon himself, that God directs toward humanity the amazing act of assumption in which, in pure grace, he gathers men and women in spite of their awful wickedness into fellowship with himself and refuses to let them go.
"The cross means that God does not let any positive decision to reject man fall upon man at all, for that positive act of rejection he takes entirely upon himself and directs toward humanity only the positive act of acceptance. Now this positive act of acceptance, of free forgiveness, of gratuitous justification, on the grounds of God's vicarious act and not in the slightest on the ground of human worth, is also the complete condemnation of humanity. It tells men and women that in themselves they have no worth, that they are not accepted at all for what they are in themselves, but are accepted only on the ground of the overflowing love of God poured out unstintingly upon them, and on the ground of the fact that God in his love chooses to take their judgement and rejection upon himself, in order that they may be gathered into the fellowship of the divine life. That if you like is the paradox of the cross: that the divine assumption of our judgement is our most complete judgement, and yet it is in no sense a rejection of humanity, but its very reverse, an entire acceptance of man for Christ's sake, in the blood of Christ.
"Let us be clear what this means. It means negatively, that there is no positive act of rejection or judgement extended toward any human being, but only the act of acceptance. It is an act of pure, incredibly loving acceptance, through God's taking upon himself entirely our rejection. Therefore if a sinner is reprobated, if a sinner goes to hell, it is not because God rejected them, for God has only chosen to love them, and has only accepted them in Christ who died for them and on the cross consummated the divine act of love in accepting them and in taking their rejection upon himself. If anyone goes to hell they go to hell, only because, inconceivably, they refuse the positive act of the divine acceptance of them, and refuse to acknowledge that God has taken their rejection of him upon himself, so acknowledging that they deserve to be rejected" (pp. 156-157).

Comments

  1. This is indeed a compelling post, and it reminds me of the testimony that both Paul and John give about the far reaching effect of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross in regard to sin. As Paul says:

    Romans 8:3--For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, (NIV)

    Or as the New Century Version translates Paul's words:

    Romans 8:3--The law was without power, because the law was made weak by our sinful selves. But God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son to earth with the same human life that others use for sin. By sending his Son to be an offering for sin, God used a human life to destroy sin. (NCV)

    Yes! Sin was condemned and destroyed by Jesus Christ at the cross. Therefore, we now live in a sin free zone with God, and we see this when we step into belief in the name of Jesus.

    Now, I know that this concept can seem quite strange to our minds. Yet it is the message that the New Covenant writers, like Paul and John, proclaim about sin and our relation to it. John even goes so far as to say, as translated in the King James Version:

    1 John 3:9--Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (KJV)

    Quite fantastic, isn't it? Well, it sure is. Furthermore, this realization brings into question all of those "how to avoid sin" regimens and admonitions that are so common in Christianity. I guess the point is that the unrelenting righteousness of Jesus Christ and His saving work took care of the sin problem for us all a long time ago.

    All the best!

    J. Richard Parker

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  2. Thanks for your comment Richard.

    The Message paraphrase of 1John 3.9 is instructive: "People conceived and brought into life by God don’t make a practice of sin. How could they? God’s seed is deep within them, making them who they are. It’s not in the nature of the God-begotten to practice and parade sin."

    John's focus here seems to be the *personal* experiencing (living and believing into) of the *universal* reality that all humanity has been reconciled by Jesus to the Father. All humans are now God's dearly loved, forgiven and accepted children. But not all "know" it or "see it" and thus believe and live into it.

    However, those who have come to know and see, walk in this light, by the Spirit, who unites them to the new life that is theirs in Christ.

    Such people do not "practice sin" (see NASB), for, indeed, "God's seed" (Spirit) lives in them. The Spirit and not the Law is now the guiding principal and reality of their lives.

    Note v6 John where John says that, "No one who lives in him [Jesus] keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him" (NIV).

    Jesus knows and sees everyone. He has reconciled all people to the Father. And now he sends the Spirit to move in the lives of individuals at the opportune time, to illuminate their understanding so that they may personally come to "know" and "see" (believe into and thus embrace) the union they have with God, in Christ. Those who respond in repentance and faith do not continue to "practice" sin as a dominant lifestyle. The force of sin has been broken in their lives and now they are believing and living into who they truly are - dearly loved children of God.

    This responsive belief and living does not make them God's children. But it is consistent (albeit imperfectly) with their true identity. This is the basis of Christian ethics: "Be who you truly are!"

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  3. I like this comment on this post. I do have a question however. In this latest post the term is used, "if anyone GOES to hell.." My question is WHERE does one go if one GOES to hell? Going anywhere demands a PLACE, a LOCATION, real estate, etc.

    In Plato's concept of hell, it is a place or location. My question is again, Where is it?

    The biblical hell seems to me is an 'experience' one suffers in by not believing and accepting who they are IN Jesus.

    I think we need to quit using the term of 'going to' in referring to hell and replace it with "experiencing" continued suffering at one's own expense, or some similar terminology.

    Just a thought.

    Paul Kurts

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  4. Hi Paul,

    It's Torrance who refers to "going to hell." I can't say for sure what he had in his mind. I don't think he was intending to make a point about hell as a *location.*

    As you suggest, perhaps it's best to think of hell as a *condition.* However, I would note that all people will be resurrected in the body (in the general resurrection when Jesus returns bodily), and one might surmise that they will spend eternity in that resurrection body, whether in the new heaven and earth, or in hell.

    Bodies, by definition, have location in time and space. Something to think about, though as the Apostle John reminds us, we don't know much about the nature of glorified (resurrection) bodies, including that of the human Jesus. And so all we can do is speculate (and one always must be very reserved in making speculations).

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