Posts tagged ‘crucifixion’

A Tale of Two Trees

The poet, Joyce Kilmer once wrote that “only God can make a tree” and she was right. Many important events in the Bible happened on or around trees. But I would like to consider what are arguably two of the most significant events in history that involved trees.

To look at the first event, we need to go back to the Garden of Eden. From the beginning, Adam lived in complete freedom to partake from any tree in the garden, except for one.

The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:16, 17 NASB)

Pretty simple, right? But as we all know, Adam and Eve both ate from the tree after satan convinced them that Jehovah was trying to withhold something from them. Once they stopped trusting what God had told them, they were setup to fall.

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4, 5)

After the Fall in the garden, they were kicked out of paradise and sin, or a sinful nature that predisposes us to sinfulness, passed to all. It was like someone dented the bread pan and from then on every loaf had a defect.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned- (Romans 5:12)

But that was not to be the end. Even though death and sin entered the world because of what happened on a tree, the remedy for our situation would come from a “Second Adam”, at it would also happen at a tree.
The early church father, Irenaeus, put it this way:

“Through a tree we were made debtors to God; so through a tree we have our debt canceled.”

And he was right! The death that came through the sin at a tree was atoned for by the perfect sacrifice of the Son of God on a tree. Paul, by inspiration, described it like this:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree “- (Galatians 3:13 NASB)

Jesus took the cross, a tree of death, and turned it into the new tree of life for us. An implement of torture and cruel punishment for sin, is now a source of life and forgiveness of sin.

who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness— by whose stripes you were healed. (I Peter 2:24 NKJV)

Yes, Joyce Kilmer was right when she wrote that “that only God can make a tree”, but even more significantly, only God can take a tree of death, and make it a tree of life! Where the first Adam fell and brought death, the second Adam has paid for life and immortality for all who would receive it!

but now made visible through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus. He has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel! (2 Timothy 1:10 NET)

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Our Prognosis

Whenever there is a patient with a newly discovered medical condition, one of the first questions families ask the physician is, “what’s the prognosis?”. They do this because they want to know what the eventual outcome will be for their friend or family member. There is a measure of comfort in knowing what to expect, for we generally fear the unknown. As nearly as possible, the doctor gives the expected outcome so that people can make intelligent decisions about medical care. With that in mind, doctors are very careful about the prognosis they give, since life and death decisions are often made based on their professional opinion. If they are wrong, the results can be tragic.

We serve a God who also makes a prognosis. And when He does, it is always accurate and we can make decisions of eternal significance based on what he says. We can do that because Jehovah has foreknowledge. The Greek word used in the New Testament that is translated as “foreknowledge” is the word “prognosis”. Unlike with humans, when God gives a prognosis based on His omniscient foreknowledge, it is never wrong. Let’s see a few times this word is used and look at what it tells us about our Heavenly Father.

During the apostle Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, he made the following statement about Jesus Christ:

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. (Acts 2:22, 23 NIV)

The crucifixion of Jesus was not an unforeseen hiccup in the plan of God. One of the things that made it “the fulness of time” for Jesus to come was that Jehovah knew that if Jesus came in the flesh at this point in history He would be crucified. That was the point, since Jesus was coming to seek and save the lost. Does that mean God manipulated those responsible and somehow forced them to crucify Jesus? Of course not! Fore knowing something and foreordaining something are two very different things. God foreknew what evil men would do and simply accommodated it into His plan.

But why would The Father allow that and even plan for it? Out of love for us and for our salvation. God had planned that all who would come to Christ for salvation would be saved. He didn’t foreordain some to come and others not to come. Our election was based on foreknowledge that we would come to Him(1 Peter 1:2). And knowing that, He made provision for all who would come to make it from justification to glorification. What was necessary was for us was to be “in Christ”.

But this says something more profound about his love for us. Paul, in the letter to the Christians at Ephesus, says that our election (which we already saw was according to foreknowledge) occurred before the foundation of the world.

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love (Ephesians 1:4 NASB)

He chose us by choosing Christ as our Savior. In doing so, He was choosing all who are “in Christ” as well. That means, before the world existed, Jehovah God knew what would happen to His creation and looked down through time. In His foreknowledge He knew each of us individually who would respond to the Gospel. He looked at each of us, knowing how we would blow it, and how we would be helpless, but also that we would come to Him someday, and said “yes, I will go to the cross for every one of them that come to Him in faith.” He looked down the corridors of time and saw John, Tom, Susan, Whit, Cory, Hannah, (your name here), and even me, and said “they are worth it. I will go and suffer and give my life, because if I do, they will come to me and I can save them.” Stop and contemplate that for a minute, or an hour, or a day. Jesus’ prognosis for each one of us was that if He would bleed and die and pay the debt for our sins, we would respond. And based on that, He had compassion on us, emptied Himself, and took the form of a servant, being obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2). There is something to dwell on the next time you take Communion.

A few years ago, a song was recorded by Hillsongs Australia called, “So You Would Come” and I think the words are an appropriate way to conclude this post.

Before the world began
You were on His mind
And every tear you cry
Is precious in His eyes
Because of His great love
He gave His only Son
Everything was done
So you would come

Nothing you can do
Could make Him love you more
And nothing that you’ve done
Could make Him close the door
Because of His great love
He gave His only Son
Everything was done
So you would come

Come to the Father
Though your gift is small
Broken hearts, broken lives
He will take them all
The power of the Word
The power of His blood
Everything was done
So you would come

(Copyright 1997, Hillsongs United)

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Our Pains and Diseases

Healing is a popular subject these days. From medical advances that boggle the mind, to seeking out alternative cures and dietary solutions, it seems there is a universal desire to be healed. Better yet, we want to walk in health so we won’t need to be healed! It is no different in the religious world. A quick survey of religious broadcasting reveals numerous teachers preaching to packed arenas about divine healing. Prominent among such teaching is the idea that Jesus did not just pay for our spiritual healing on the cross, but that his suffering, specifically his stripes, paid for our physical healing as well. “Our healing has already been accomplished” they say. All we have to do is to have faith and not doubt, and receive the healing that is rightfully ours. But is this accurate teaching? Let’s see what the Bible says.

In the faith healing teaching, Isaiah 53 is a foundational passage. Let’s take a look at it and see if it is being properly applied or not.

But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain;
even though we thought he was being punished,
attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done.
He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins;
he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed. (Isaiah 53:4, 5 NET)

On the face of it, there seem to be two very compelling statements here about healing. In verse 4, The Suffering Servant (Jesus) is said to have lifted up our illnesses and carried our pain. And if one goes with the assumption that this verse is talking exclusively about the crucifixion, it looks like a reasonable interpretation of the verse. Fortunately, this verse is quoted in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 8 verses 16-17, so we don’t have to guess at when this verse was fulfilled. Matthew records the following incident.

“When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.” (Matthew 8:16, 17 NASB)

As anyone can see, this verse is not applied to all disease for all time being paid for at the cross. Through inspiration, the Apostle Matthew says that the miraculous ability Jesus had to heal the sick and drive out demons from those who were possessed was a sign that he was the Suffering Servant who would be our Messiah. In other words, they could recognize who Jesus was by his ability to heal the sick!

But what about Isaiah’s statement that by his wounds we have been healed? It is true that this portion of the verse could still be talking about our healing being paid for on the cross. True, that is, unless the New Testament apostles applied it to something else instead. Let’s see how this verse is applied by the Apostle Peter.

“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:23-25 ESV)

At first this passage looks more promising because Peter is talking about what happened at the crucifixion of Jesus here. But again, how is the quote from Isaiah applied? To the bearing of our sins in his body on the cross, which would enable us to die to sin and live to righteousness (kind of sounds like baptism here). The result of this healing from the wounds he endured was verse 25. We are no longer like sheep who were astray, but have returned to God. His wounds purchased for us, not physical healing, but spiritual healing of our souls and our reconciliation to God! Once again, after careful examination, we find that the faith healers have misapplied this verse.

So can God heal today? According to Psalm 103, all healing of any kind is a gift from God. And surely God would not command us to pray for one another when we are sick if there were no benefit from it, or if said healing was not his will. In fact, during his earthly ministry, there is no record of Jesus ever declining to heal anyone who asked. But that was during his earthly ministry, and during the time of the apostles, who confirmed the validity of their message as being from God by signs and wonders (Hebrews 2:4) And one day, those of us who will spend eternity in his glorious presence will be freed from every disease and pain.
Until that time, enough of television and radio preachers who tell the sick that their healing is now, and they just have to receive it by faith. And if they are not healed, it is because they lacked that faith. To heap such guilt and condemnation on one who is suffering is beyond cruel, and only adds a deeper layer of suffering to the physical pain they are enduring. This is especially true of those who, like Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8, tell desperate people that God is holding their healing but will pour it out upon them if they send in money.

No, the ultimate healing will take place in the dwelling place of God, not on this fallen earth.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3, 4 ESV)

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20 ESV)

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