There are many things I have learned as a “Newtheran” (a term a friend coined for us who are new Lutherans, but none is more poignant than this:
God means what He says and says what He means.
In the discussion on the Lord’s Supper the line is drawn on the very words of Jesus, “This is my Body…This is my Blood.” He did not use the greek word for “symbol” or “picture” but simply stated what the Bread and Wine are, His True Body and True Blood.
So it is in the text “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus, whom John is pointing to the day after he baptized Him states emphatically that Jesus takes away the sins of the world. John is saying “Here is Jesus the one “bearing off”, “getting rid of” and or “carrying away” you sins. This is John pointing to the scapegoat in Leviticus 167:21-22). In my Lutheran Study Bible it quotes Martin Luther in the notes,
“The Son of God says to me: You are no longer a sinner, but I am. I am your substitute…All your sins are to rest on Me and not on you.” (AE 22:167)
Jesus, the Sin-Bearer, who became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. In His baptism, Jesus picked up our sins in the water. In our baptisms our sins are washed away by Water and the Word.
As a former Dutch Reformed Gal I can remember not believing that in Baptism our sins are forgiven. However, there was something else that kept sticking in my brain; Did Jesus really die for the sins of the world? For the Reformed, if Jesus died for everyone, well then, everyone gets saved. However, the Bible tells us the following:
Jesus died for the world.
Here are a few verses (follow verses sited in a study bible and you’ll see this theme throughout:
i. Behold, the Lam of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)
ii. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them… (2 Cor. 5:19)
iii. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
iv. But we see him (Jesus) who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Heb 2:9)
What words are used?
World, world, whole world and everyone.
As a Dutch Reformed gal you were taught that Jesus did not die for the whole world. Often, those who argued for “Limited Atonement” (that’s what it was called officially after the Canons of Dordt), argued that “world” did not really mean “world” as in the whole entire world. Well, I pulled up my trusty Logos Bible Software to look at these verses in the Greek and there is one thing that is consistent: In none of these verses, or any of the others I looked up, is there a contingent term such as “believing” before the word world. That argument falls flat on its face.
The expected results of thinking that Jesus did not die for the entire world, for me, was this: Why evangelize? Why don’t I just wait until the Holy Spirit (apart from Baptism) has given the person a new heart and then answer their questions and share the Gospel? What if they’re one whom Jesus didn’t die for?
Ah, those were frustrating days. You see, when I was converted, as an adult, the desire to tell others this fantastic news, Jesus died for you, was like fire in my bones. But, you see, as I studied Reformed theology, that fire was continually doused with ice cold theology. It even came down to that if they were reprobates (that means God passed over them for salvation) then if I shared the Gospel it would only pile more judgment on them. Hmph. I often would scratch my head and wonder why bother with evangelism. How could I ever tell them, honestly, “Jesus died for you” if reformed theology was right and Jesus did not die for everyone. Technically, I’d have no way of knowing if Jesus died for them. Actually, I’d have no way of knowing Jesus died even for me. What a mess! What a struggle was going on in my heart and mind.
Enter the Biblical (aka Lutheran) way of reading the Scriptures:
God says what He means and means what He says.
If God says that Jesus takes away the sins of the world, then He carries off, bears away the sins of every single person in the entire world throughout human history.
If God says He was reconciling the world to Himself in the life and death of Jesus, then He was bringing/reconciling every single human back to Himself
If God says Jesus is the propitiation (atoning sacrifice) for the whole world, then one person is left out of that atoning sacrifice.
If God says Jesus tasted death for everyone, well then He means EVERYONE.
This is who we Behold! This is the One we are to look at with gratitude, faith, trust, thankfulness, joy, exuberance because it is then guaranteed that Jesus did all this for you. If you are human, if you are part of this world, if you are part of everyone, which you are, then Jesus died for you.
I wrote last week:
John says, “Behold” Look outside yourself for salvation. Jesus has taken away the sins of the world…We don’t have to look inside for assurance; to our good works or fruit. Instead, we should do as John the Baptist says and look outside of us or Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
You are part of “the world”. No doubt we all belong to this world because we are His creation. No doubt we all belong to this world because we are sinners because we are children of Adam and Eve and their sin, it’s called Original Sin, is put on us and we are as guilty as they. So, if Jesus took away the sins of the world, that includes your own sins. If believing you are baptized and believe these promises His mark of forgiveness is already upon you.
I know some of my Reformed/Presbyterian/Calvinists friends read my blog and so I emplore you to read the Scriptures without the grid of Limited Atonement. Read them for what God says to us plain and simple. No additions. No subtractions.