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Saturday, 21 November 2009

The Uniqueness of Christianity (3)

Having looked at love, and briefly mentioned the Trinity (with link), I want to suggest that the most unique aspect of the Christian Faith is the doctrine of the Atonement. And if the doctrine of the Trinity is a follow-on from the concept that God is love, then it could be argued that the doctrine of the Atonement follows on from both of them.

Basically, the Atonement has to do with the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus, on the cross at Calvary. It is, as Paul states, the most important aspect of the Christian Faith - "I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me - that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said." (I Cor.15:3). Writing to the believers in the city of Rome, he expands on this idea: "For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God's anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us." (3:25)

Over the centuries, many theologians have produced many theories as to exactly how all of this works. However, this blog is not the place in which to discuss all of them. Suffice it to say that, because Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life, His willing sacrifice of Himself satisfies the demands of the law. When God the Father looks at me, He sees, not my failure to keep His law, but "... the blood of Jesus, His Son, [that] cleanses us from every sin." (I Jn.1:7)

Of course, that sacrificial blood is not effective until I have acknowledged my own sinfulness; confessed it before God; and accepted the offer of full forgiveness and total salvation, that are made available to me. It is in, and through, Him, that I am reconciled to Father God. (cf. Rom.5:10; II Cor. 5:18).

Over my teaching career, I had to study all of the world's major religious belief-systems. But, while there are a number of ideas that are common to some or all of them, the Christian Faith is the only one that teaches that my eternal salvation depends, not on my own works - however good they may be - but on the completed work of the Lord Jesus. When, on the cross, He shouted out the one word "Tetelestai!" , (which may be translated "Completed!"), that was exactly what He meant. The price had been paid; the law had been satisfied; His work was finished.

All of that (and the so-much-more that I have omitted!) is because of His great love for you and for me. In the Persona of the Son, God did for you and me what we could never have done for ourselves. Such love - totally unique.

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