This week in the Ladies Bible Study we were studying Luke’s “Lost and Found Chapter” (Luke 15) and the accompanying readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Here was Jesus teaching the people that God loves all the lost and works to seek out and find them and reconcile them to Himself.
In the Epistle reading, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, the focus in those verses is clearly “reconciliation” with variations of that word repeated five (5) times.
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself…
…and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…
God was reconciling the world to Himself…
…entrusting to us the message of reconciliation…
…We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God…” (2 Cor. 5:18-20)
The author of the lesson reminded us that “Reconciliation is a decisive act that repairs a rift that had previously seemed unhealable…” That, my friends, is what Christ Jesus did for the world.
The world? I thought Jesus only died for the elect? Afterall, if Jesus died and reconciled the world then that would lead to universalism. Such was the accusation made to me on Twitter when I posted that “world means world” and Jesus died as a propitiation for the world (1 John 2:2).
Now, you might have noticed that I quoted a verse from God’s Word here. It is so true, Jesus is the propitiation for the world and God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. God offers the world Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. This is what the Bible teaches and is, therefore, most certainly true.
Theologians of the reformed style try to tell us that God is giving us just the “scope” of salvation, meaning people all over the world will repent and believe the Gospel. But once again, they are adding to the term that God Himself chose to use, cosmos (Greek) which literally means the whole entire world and everyone in it.
Then we came to two new terms for me:
A while back I wrote that sometimes a teaching is so deeply set that it seems to be chiseled into stone. Well, this was one of them.
See, in the Reformed view there is only one justification: that of believing sinners who repent. They are declared righteous. However, how do you know, if God chose only some to be justified, that you are truly among the justified? You might have a fake faith that looks really real but isn’t. You might just be fooling yourself, or as Calvin stated (see Befuddled much?) that God may let you think you have true faith and you don’t really and are therefore one of His that He reprobated and chose to send to Hell.
With this type of salvation system you have to ask the question, How can you possibly know you’re one of the few?
You tell me, Look at your fruit. Well, I know a lot of folks who are not believing in Jesus who have good fruit in their lives (kind, helpful, generous, gentle, etc) and I’ve known believers who did have great fruit but then walked away from Christ at the end. So, again I ask, how do you know you’re one whom God chose?
Quick answer is: You don’t…and…you can’t.
You say you believe, but do you have true faith? How do you know? Oh, you look at your profession and fruit? But you might just have fake fruit and false faith. What a conundrum! What a boggle you’ve landed in. Here, let me help you out of that quagmire of befuddled faith.
So, here’s the thing:
Jesus is the propitiation for the world and God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.
Justification has already happened. We don’t add one single thing to it but receive it like paupers holding out our hands. We don’t grab it from the generous one; we don’t tackle them and say, Aha! It’s mine.
We sit there, beggars all, receiving what Jesus has already done for the world.
My Reformed friends are now yelling, “What?!? You’re telling me God justified the world?” Well, actually I’m not, the Bible is.
In Matthew 13, Jesus is teaching in various parables about salvation and the Kingdom of God. The Disciples are wondering both why Jesus speaks in parables and what they really mean. Jesus condescends to us and explains the imagery He is using to teach. In vs. 36 Matthew writes that the disciples ask, “Explain to us the parable of the weeks of the field.” He (Jesus) answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom…”
I will stop here and focus on this phrase, “the field is the world…” The next parable on the Hidden Treasure is that a man finds a treasure in a field and purchase the whole entire field. He didn’t buy the treasure only but bought and paid for the entire field. Let’s change field to the term Jesus explains it means:
He goes and sells all that he has and buys the world. Oh look! Objective justification: Jesus is the Savior of the world.
When I was discussing this with my husband, Bobby, he used this analogy:
It’s like Gold Rush. They tested some ground, found some gold, then go to the owner and buy the whole entire field in order to get the treasure. They then break up the “fallow ground” and then put the dirt through the wash plant but they had to buy the whole entire field to get to the treasure. So, God purchased, propitiated for and reconciled the entire world just to get to you and me and all who will believe the Gospel.
So, Jesus here teaches that He had to purchase the entire field to get to the treasure, what I would call the Church, or believers. Jesus is the propitiation for the world and God was in Christ reconciling the whole entire world to Himself. Here we read of the work of God, by grace, making “Christ’s redemption effectively true in people, thus leading them to subjective justification.”
This is when that objective justification becomes subjective. As the lesson said, it turns “Jesus is the Savior of all” into “Jesus is my Savior”. You see, if Jesus died for ALL then you are included, without exception. But, if Jesus died only for the elect then you can never truly, with absolute assurance, possibly know you are among that small group.
But that is not what God did because He was in Jesus, the propitiation for the world, in the world reconciling us (the entire world) to Himself. Since this is true we can then know that He is not just the savior of the world but of us as well.
He is the propitiation for our sins (John is writing to believers), and NOT for ours ONLY but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2).
The notes in the Lutheran Study Bible on this text says,
“Jesus made complete satisfaction ofr the sins of all mankind from the beginning of the world to the Lat Day (Objective justification). Jesus came that “He might tase death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9)—even for those who reject Him, ‘denying the Master who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1). These verses repudiate the false teaching of a ‘limited atonement’ (That Christ did not atone for all mankdin, but only for the elect.) Luther wrote, He does nto sit at the right hand of the Father to terrify us, but He is the expiation…Christ, who does not spurn a contrite and humble heart, want to be the Lord and Author of life, not of sin” (AE 30:236-37)
Back to the parable of the treasure in the field we go. The field, as Jesus tells us, is the world. Therefore He purchased the world (objective justification). Are YOU in this world? Then He purchase YOU, the treasure (subjective justification). Jesus is the man in this parable, who gave up everything He owned to purchase, propitiate and expiate and reconcile the world, making it His own so that He would have YOU, the hearer.
Do you struggle with whether you are truly His? Take comfort that because Jesus is the Savior of the world, He is also YOUR Savior.
I look to Christ upon the tree,
His body broken there for ME
I lay before Him all my sin,
My darkest secrets from within.
From Your own mouth comes forth a word;
You shepherd speaks, but You are heard;
Through him Your hand now stretches out,
Forgiving sin, destroying doubt.
(Baptismal Waters Cover Me, LSB 616)
I have shared that sometimes bad theology can be so deeply engraved into our heart and mind that it is hard to get it out. It’s often not like chalk on a board that simply takes water to wash off, or an ink stain on a white blouse that may need bleach to remove it. Sometimes it needs to be blasted to smithereens. Sometimes you need dynamite to blast through it and turn it into rubble.
This is what Scripture did to the teaching of “limited atonement” for me this week. I’ve been working through this particular part of the Reformed TULIP (Total Depravity, Undeserved Favor, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Preservation of the Saints) for months now. The “L” from TULIP was so deeply engraved that my own thinking through it, though I knew it was wrong because of all the texts in the Bible that speak of Jesus dying for the world, it took a simple parable, a story Jesus told, to blow it up and destroy it. Jesus bought the field, the world, so that He could have His treasure, you and me, forever with Him.
As I sit here, tears well up again because I am overwhelmed with the love of God. No longer is he the harsh Lord picking and choosing some to love and others to hate. No longer is he the mean Master who only gives some sinners grace. Now, He is Love, Mercy and Grace to all who call upon Him because He was in Christ reconciling the WORLD to Himself. Since He has shown such great love, I emplore you to be reconciled to Him today, for Today is the Day of Salvation.
One of my favorite hymns is By Grace I’m Saved. The final verse is where I will close this:
By grace! On this I’ll rest when dying;
In Jesus’ promise I rejoice;
For though I know my heart’s condition
I also know my Savior’s voice.
My heart is glad, all grief has flown
Since I am saved by grace alone.