“Did God really say…..?”.
Some years ago a symposium was held in London to consider the great doctrine of penal substitution, the classic view of the atonement that on the cross Jesus bore the wrath of God against sin, for us, as our substitute. At the time, some had been rejecting that teaching, calling it ‘cosmic child abuse’ and so on. That is one example among others that have emerged in recent times of it being deemed desirable, by some, to modify or re-interpret understandings of doctrinal and moral teachings that have been held for centuries as being the clear teaching of Scripture.
From time to time we are told by somebody that we’ve got it all wrong, and have done so for most of the past two thousand years! Sometimes the arguments put forward for these novel notions sound plausible and look attractive, at least to the unwary, and especially if one fails to take into account the whole testimony of Scripture. What should our reaction be?
It seems to me that there is nothing new in all this. It goes back beyond the disillusionment arising out of the First World War, back beyond the Enlightenment of the 17th/18th centuries, it precedes the controversies surrounding the Reformation in the 16th century. It fact, I would suggest it goes right back to the very beginning, to the Garden of Eden and to the doubt-inducing whisper of the serpent to the woman: “Did God really say…?” (Gen 1:3). How subtly the serpent twisted the words of God! God had said: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” It was all about freedom! I don’t know how many trees there were in the garden but there was only one that was forbidden! ‘Eat that one and you’ll die’, so disobedience will hardly bring freedom. But what was the lie the serpent put forward? “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” No! He didn’t say that at all! The serpent falsified the words to sound like a huge prohibition. Subtly today the devil still likes to suggest that God’s offer of freedom is some kind of imprisonment.
Next time we are faced with a ‘revision’ of classic doctrine or morality let’s be sure to ask: “Did God really say that?” And let’s turn the question from doubt to delight: when we next read a glorious truth, let’s say: “Did God really say that….and to me?!”
Did God really say: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”? Yes, he did!
Did God really say: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”? Yes, he did!
May you discover even more of what God has really said throughout 2021.
Your brother in Christ,