IT IS FINISHED - Did Jesus really mean it?
By Marc Lawson
Could it be
we are deluded by popular (even bestselling) but powerless beliefs about the Christian life that keep us hobbled in our walk, "babes in our thinking"? Do we doggedly hold to beliefs that actually KEEP us immature and unfruitful? If
we look at the FRUIT it's obvious the American church is losing the battle to be the salt and light in our nation. WHAT we believe affects HOW we live-either a life of power and victory or one of conformity to the culture.
Like it or not, the typical North American Christian (charismatic or not) has beliefs about the Christian life that not only perpetuate fear and immaturity in the minds of long-believing Christians, but also prevents them from
walking in the power and authority the average believer experienced in the New Testament- where the gospel spread like a wildfire; without computers, phone, television or tapes! Why?
False but popular
I believe we
only need look at one popularly held teaching concerning the Christian life a vast majority of Christians hold on to that prevents them from receiving the grace and power of the Spirit and living free of shame. This teaching has
been around for centuries but surfaced and was spread by intercessors in the Hebrides revival (1947) and most recently popularized with the "Brownsville Revival" and the teachings of Steve Hill and Michael Brown. It is based
primarily on one passage in 1John 8&9- If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from
The teaching goes something like this: 1) As Christians we have communion with God until or unless we sin, walk after the flesh or stumble in thought or deed. According to this teaching our fellowship
with God is dependent on "staying clean" by daily, weekly, even hourly repentance for any sin or unclean thoughts whether known or unknown. When a believer sins, knowingly or unknowingly they are "cut off from fellowship with God"
(The "lite" version of this doesn't teach fellowship is cut off but God is "grieved"). 2) We must then: "go back to God", repent, ask forgiveness and receive cleansing. 3) After this we now "have a clean slate" again and are
"restored to fellowship". 4) Whenever we sin, miss the mark or fail, we must come back to God AGAIN, repent AGAIN, receive forgiveness again and be restored AGAIN.
Fervent, sincere, well meaning leaders and believers all
hold to this for the following reasons: 1) This teaching is based on ONE New Testament Passage; 1 John 1:8-9;and numerous Old Testament passages that speak of Israel's relationship with God-Jeremiah 17:9:"The heart is more
deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? 2) A lack of understanding about the differences between Old and New Covenant; 3) A lack of proper biblical understanding and exegesis of the book of Hebrews;
and finally: 4) Large amounts of shame, guilt, emotionalism and reliance on feelings due to personal insecurities in their own relationship with God.
What's wrong with the teaching
Besides being one of the number #1
reasons the Church is so pitifully ineffective and immature, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to easily dismantle this sincerely motivated but erroneous teaching.
1) Wrong Context
-To begin with, 1John 1:8&9 is written in the context of addressing Gnostic influences already in the church, the number one enemy of the gospel in the 1st and 2nd century church. While addressing those in their midst who needed conversion, it was preached in the context of a church gathering with believers present. John addresses so-called "believers" still following Gnostic teachings. It was like talking to New-Age folks attending the meetings, but who hadn't broken off fully with their old beliefs. Antinomianism (the belief that moral law is not valid for a person or group) had to be addressed because Gnostics didn't see a need to submit to law or see themselves as sinners. John doesn't reject or segregate them while preaching (because that was another Gnostic teachingseparation of secular and spiritual) but instead declares a desire to share the gospel and have fellowship with them once converted (v.3), that they (believers) can't fellowship with them(Gnostic believers) if they remain in darkness (v5-7), but if any person confesses their sins and repents they can be cleansed (v8-9). Bottom line, John is addressing those who professed Christ, but hadn't been converted. He is not speaking to sinful believers.
Without an understanding of Gnosticism and its infiltration of the early church, it's easy to see why 1John1:8-9 could lead one to conclude it's directed to believers. Believers were in attendance but not being addressed IN
THAT SPECIFIC PASSAGE. Anyway, it's just one passage and to build a whole case on that is bogus.
2) To equate Old Testament Passages
concerning Israel's hard-heartedness and God's rejection of them with New Covenant believers today shows ignorance of the "new and living way" we have IN CHRIST. The New Covenant in Christ is for all those who believe. As far as the hearts' wickedness, Jesus used much harsher language (Matthew 15:19) to expose evil in men's hearts,yet pointed them to believing in Him.(John 6:35). Anyway, don't believers have a "new heart"(Ezekiel 36:26) in Christ?
3) OLD COVENANT PARADIGM-
We've either had our sins taken away or we haven't; we now have fellowship with God or we don't; we are either cleansed of ALL our sins or none of them. We can't abide by the LAW and expect to understand grace. God's grace is revealed by our inability and His power revealed by our weakness! We can't use our failure to walk sinless as an excuse for our difficulties.
4) UNBELIEF, unbelief, unbelief, unbelief! We would rather make up religious stuff than humbly admit WE DON'T BELIEVE THE GOOD NEWS of the New Covenant. Jesus Himself said concerning the Holy Spirit: "And He,
when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me ;(John 16:8&9) The Good News that Jesus put away sin in a believers life through
conversion is hard to grasp, but true.(Hebrews 9:26)
Just look at how inefficient this is as a system of atonement supposedly developed by a perfect, all intelligent God? No, this betrays a lack of
Biblical scholarship and reveals unbelief in God's FORGIVING power in Christ to free us! The Bible has much evidence to back up the fact that asking forgiveness daily, weekly, monthly or even at each occurrence not only suggests
unbelief towards the efficacy of Christ's all-sufficient sacrifice, but goes even beyond the requirements of the Law: a once a year sin offering for priest and people. (Hebrews 7:22-28)
This passage also explains why He is a priest perpetually; "to save forever, not forgive forever. It's extremely likely we've become confused about the true purpose of Christ being our High Priest. He is the One who interceded once on our behalf before the Father as a propitiation for all our sins.
Instead, we go to Him whenever we walk after the flesh and give in to our fleshly, lusts and appetites and see Him as a guy to punch our "get-out-of- hell-free" card. God chooses to not only forget our past, but also our
present fleshly weaknesses. Yet we still feel the need to remind Him each and every time we fail. Scripture tell us to "walk after the Spirit and we will not fulfill fleshly desires", but instead we regress back to the "sinner's
prayer" and ask forgiveness again and repent again and turn to God again. This religious see- saw keeps us in a state of perpetual immaturity, never growing beyond being "a sinner". Yes, we were all sinners but we've been made the
righteousness of God in Jesus Christ!
Hebrews 8:10-12 says: "I (GOD) will remember their sins NO MORE. Psalms 103:12 also says something similar: By God's own choosing, He's removed our sins from us "as far as the east is to the west"
. That analogy is for US, not HIM!
Something that helped me understand this better was remembering how we learn to ride a bicycle. When we first get on, Dad helps us keep our balance and when we fall He's always there to
pick us up, hug us and kiss our boo-boos. Sometimes we had training wheels to help us. Surely as our fathers rejoiced when that day finally came where we were able to ride the bike without help, God also desires for us to "walk in
the Spirit". Even a child is excited about the day he no longer needs help but can "ride it myself". What if instead of learning to ride the bike we were to continually come and ask Dad to help us get back on the bike and ride,
over and over and over? "Always learning, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth." (2 Timothy 3:7). God loves us to come to Him but HE doesn't want us to become spiritually retarded. He desires for us to grow up
and learn. In the same way He doesn't expect us to ask forgiveness over and over and over and over. To ask His forgiveness over and over to somehow assure our "standing" with Him expresses unbelief and distrust in His ability to
forgive and cleanse.
A Clean Conscience
Hebrews 9:11-12 says "He (Jesus) entered the Holy Place once for all. (future) Then 2 verses later(vs.14) it speaks of the awesome power of Christ's blood: "how much
more…will the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"
The conscience is the issue here. It's a clean, clear conscience that allows us to move out in serving the Lord. On the other hand, a confused, guiltridden conscience stops our progress.
Hebrews 9:24-28 says: For
Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy
place year by year with blood not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of
Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to
those who eagerly await Him." He put away (these 2 Greek words imply: annulment, dissolution, to be set aside, put aside, remove, eliminate;) Verse 28 says: " having been offered once (for all time- past, present and
future) to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin to those who eagerly await Him". Doesn't this mean His ONETIME sacrifice is enough? Jesus made the sacrifice of Himself
ONLY ONCE, not each time we sin and once is enough if we'll just believe it.
Once and for all!
More clear evidence is in Hebrews 10:1-2. It says,
" The Law can never by the same sacrifice, year after year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins". This implies the cleansing removes this sin-consciousness. Other verses in 10 say similar things:
Vs 10-By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Vs 14-For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
Vs17-18-"AND THEIR SINS AND
THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE." Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. Vs29- How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot
the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
Couldn't this mean rejecting the efficacy of Christ's blood sacrifice for our
sins, including future ones? This passage is terrifying because it is directed at the stubborn unbelief of those who reject the power and efficacy of Christ's blood atonement to cleanse, purify and deliver from guilt and shame.
Just a cursory look at these and other passages clearly reveals to anyone who wants to believe, that Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross is a one time, once-for-all atoning event!
To somehow imply that due to our weak
conscience, personal experience, wrong teaching, shame or unbelief that Christ goes before the Father as our high priest each and every time we choose to feel the need to ask for forgiveness is erroneous and emotionally based. To
suggest we need to repent and "get clean" daily, weekly, monthly or yearly severely lowers and humanizes the absolutely supernatural ability to atone included in Jesus Christ's remarkable ONE-TIME, ONCE-FOR-ALL atonement.
A False Understanding of Christ our Intercessor
Could Christians be mixing up the purpose for which Christ was deemed our High Priest and intercessor? Many popular prayer and intercession teachings suggest Christ acts on our
behalf all the time as the one we go before to ask forgiveness daily or hourly. They suggest Jesus is sitting around just waiting to forgive us daily. But this reveals a severe lack of understanding about the priestly office.
The nature of the priestly office was to go into God's presence on behalf of the people and seek atonement for their sins. The purpose and nature of Christ our intercessor was priestly for atonement and once-for-all. Some tend
to see intercession only in the aspect of the one asking for forgiveness. But the accurate definition is: one serving as a "go-between"(intercessor) between Man the sinner and God the Holy. Hebrews 7:25 is the ONLY NEW TESTAMENT
SCRIPTURE THAT EVER MENTIONS INTERCESSION and specifically defines it as saving. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. That word "save"
means: to save, preserve, recover, heal and make whole! This is the absolutely remarkable power that is contained in Christ's supernatural once-for-all atonement. Any time, 24 /7 anyone can draw from this incredible reservoir of
God's grace for salvation, deliverance, healing and empowering!
What about going before God every day in prayer in Jesus name? This is a subtle difference, but must be made clear. Going before Jesus as our High Priest,
Advocate and intercessor is for our atonement and all-inclusive salvation. But going before the Father in Jesus' name is for the purpose of using the authority of Jesus' name to bring about the advancement of the Kingdom. And
this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor
of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12&13) God is completely determined that we bear the authority and power of our birthright in Him because Jesus paid the full price necessary to redeem us. Jesus didn't die needlessly and
we shouldn't let His death, burial and resurrection only allow us to have a get-out-of hell free card. Instead, we must receive in faith, full access to all rights, privileges and authority God has declared is ours. If God is
for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32)
The Good News is mentioned in Hebrews 4:2 but
says that some didn't mix their hearing with faith. What is Good News about a gospel that requires going back to square one each and every time we fall, fail or even stumble? Even Israel didn't deal with all their stuff but once a
year! God's perfect ways and His "new and living way" simply shouldn't be short circuited to accommodate our need to feel better or because of our lack of faith and unbelief. God is big, good and much wiser than we are and we need
to believe it!