The Jesus nobody likes is the Jesus nobody wants. The Lord willing, this is the title of a book I desire to write. Many have encouraged me to write a book about my “testimony.” But my wish is to write a book about my Lord before I write one about how He has delivered me. A problem that has always plagued the Church is this tendency to tone down or water down, if not completely rewrite, who Christ is and what He accomplished in His death on the cross. Many today feel the need to apologize for, and deny, the strong teachings of the Word of God. They place more of a Ghandi like figure on the cross with the name Jesus tacked on. It is a figure that does not save because God is not holy and therefore not offended and angry with sinners and need not be satisfied in His justice. It is a figure that has the silhouette of Jesus but not of essence. It is a figure far more concerned with the example of Christ than with what He accomplished. So that when Christ uttered “it is finished” ( John 19:30) He did not mean what He said. Rather He meant that it was partially finished and the rest is up to us to “follow His example.” The cross is not propitiatory (a removal or satisfaction of God’s wrath against sinners) but a mere demonstration of God’s “love” and displeasure, in the sense of sadness and grief, over the helpless victims of “sin” and liberates them from this state of the victim-hood of “sin.” This figure that was on the cross is a mixture of the Christus Victor theory mixed with the Socinian theory. Quite frankly, this departure from Christianity, which is erroneously labeled Christianity, I have no desire for. I care not to hear it and wish not to be irenic with those that promote it. This revision of Christianity all stems from the Jesus that nobody likes.
This is the Jesus that is sovereign. The sovereign Lord is the Creator and will do all the He pleases and will save as many as He desires (Ps 1115:3, Jn. 6:37,44). The Jesus that loves sinners and hates sinners ( John 3:16, 1 John 4:7-12, Ro. 5:8, 8:39; Ps. 5:5-6, 11:5-7, Ro. 9:13). The Christ that is both full of wrath and mercy and will extend His mercy to whomever He desires (Rev. 6:16-17, Ex. 33:19, Ro. 9:14-18), The Lord that warned of divine judgment and salvation from that judgment ( Lk. 13:5, Lk. 12:4-5, Mt. 10:28, Jn. 3:16, Mt. 7:12-23, Lk 17:20-37, Lk. 19:10, Mt. 25:31-46). A Jesus that unites and divides ( Jn 10:1-5;16;27-29, Jn. 17:20-2, Mt. 13:36-50, Mt. 25:31-46, Mt. 10:34-39). A Christ that actually propitiated, for his people, on the cross ( Ro. 3:25, 1 Jn. 2:2, He. 2:17). This is the Jesus nobody likes. But His sheep hear His voice and love Him. It is Him we proclaim.
The Jesus that nobody likes is the only one that saves. A Christ that does not satisfy the justice of God, in both His prefect law-keeping life and penal substitutionary death, offers no hope for anyone. A Christ that did not bear the full brunt of God’s wrath, for sinners, on the cross and grant His righteousness to their account is not the historical Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible. It is the fictitious Jesus that some atheists claim didn’t exist. The Christ that is the Lamb of God “who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29) is the same Lamb that became a curse for us (Ga. 3:13), then rose victoriously from the grave on the third day defeating both sin and death (1 Cor. 15:50-58), is the Jesus nobody likes. Many would tone back and even deny penal substitutionary atonement becuase they think it would drive people away from God rather than to Him. But to deny it is to deny Christ and Christianity. Some are so uncomfortable with it, though they believe it true, they also believe it to be non essential. They feel it too divisive to make an issue with those that, vehemently, oppose it. They wish to be irenic. They, too, seem to be almost embarrassed about the saving work of Christ. But “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Co 5:21). That is the Jesus nobody likes.
I stand in line with all the men that have boldly claimed that the penal substitutionary work of Christ stands at the heart of the Gospel. Is it all? No, but without it all the others aspects crumble. Furthermore, I have no desire to have an irenic attitude with those that blatantly deny it or mock it. I, do however pray that God would grant them repentance and faith. I say a very loud amen to Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
There is no real fellowship and unity in a group of people where some believe in the ‘wrath of god against sin’ and that it has already been ‘revealed from heaven’ (Romans 1:18), and others not only do not believe in the wrath of God at all, but say that it is almost blasphemous to teach such a thing, and that they cannot believe in a God who is capable of wrath. Fellowship exists only among those who believe, as the result of the operation of the Holy Spirit, these essential truths concerning man’s lost estate-that we are all ‘by nature the children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3)- and the action of God in Christ Jesus for our salvation and restoration. There is no fellowship between people who believe that and those who believe something else, which they may call a gospel but which as, Paul tells the Galatians, ‘is not a gospel’ (Galatians 1:6-7).*
The Jesus that nobody likes is the Jesus that is loved, by His sheep, because He calls us by name. It is Him we proclaim. We do not desire to make Jesus palatable to the natural man like the Socinians and the quasi Socinians who believe:
that Christ saves sinners by revealing to them the way of faith and obedience as the way to eternal life; by giving them an example of true obedience both in his life and in his death and by inspiring them to a similar life; by giving a concrete representation of obedience as the way of life in an obedience unto death followed by the resurrection; and by bestowing eternal life, by virtue of the power received at the resurrection, on all those that attach themselves to Him in faith. God gave Him this power as a reward for His obedience.
And to this Louis Berkhof notes:
This theory establishes no direct connection between the death of Christ and the salvation of sinners. The death of Christ did not atone for our sin, neither did it move God to pardon sin. The forgiveness of sins depends exclusively on the mercy of God. But because Christ received the power to bestow eternal life on believers immediately after His death, Socinus considers it possible to maintain that this death expiated our sins.
The Socinian doctrine is really nothing but a concoction of several heresies condemned by the early Church; a revival of ancient Pelagianism with its belief in the inherent goodness and spiritual ability of man; of the old Adoptionist doctrine, making Christ as to His human nature a Son of God by adoption; of the Moral Influence theory of the atonement with its emphasis on the exemplary life of Christ; and of the Scotist doctrine of an arbitrary will in God. It found little favor even among those who opposed the penal substitutionary doctrine of the atonement. And this is no wonder in view of the fact that it is thoroughly rationalistic, a mere abstract play of human logic that fails altogether to do justice to the facts revealed in the Word of God and experienced in the lives of the redeemed.*
But all God’s people say, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Co 1:18). Soli Deo Gloria!
For His Glory,
*Murray, Iain. The Fight of Faith. Illinois: Banner of Truth, 2009. Print. P.428-429
*Berkhof, L. (1949). The history of Christian doctrines (190). Grand Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Ibid. P. 191