Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Theological Hairsplitting

It is interesting to look at John 3:16 and I John 2:2 together.  In the well known gospel word we read, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son..."    What sounds a bit universal in its direction is tempered by the limiting words, " that everyone who believes may not perish, but have eternal life."  While Jesus may be for the world, John 3:16 really speaks of a salvation limited by human choice.  On the other hand, in the epistle there is this word which says, "...He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."  In one place there is a word about limited salvation and in another unlimited atonement.
Now all this is not just theological hairsplitting.  It is an important distinction.  The cross is something God has done which has meaning for every single person even if every single person does not choose to see it that way.  What God has done on the cross is done.  It is the gift of atonement for all of humankind.  It is available.  Not accepting that Jesus died on the cross does not alter what God has done.  It is complete without any human response.  On the other hand, the salvation made possible through that act of atonement is dependent on our individual human response.  We cannot make the atoning act of Christ null and void, but we can make the gift of salvation null and void by not choosing it.  Atonement and salvation differ in that salvation is dependent on free will.

The cross is God's answer to the predicament our free will has created.  We are free to choose what God has planned for us, or reject it.  It is because our choice is bound up in our decision to do life our own way that the atoning act of the cross became necessary.   But, as has always been the case, what we do with it is our choice.  Not even something as good as God's love is forced on us.

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