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Communion and the Spiritual Death of Christ

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Question #1: 

What do you think about communion? I have seen anywhere from every Sunday communion up to once every three months to twice a year. I see Jesus tell us do it as often as you can. Some tell me too much and people start to abuse it. What's your opinion?

Response #1: 

Good to make your acquaintance. The first communion took place among Jesus and His disciples gathered together as they ate a Passover meal in an upper room. That is to say, it didn't look anything at all like "church" or "church communion". Jesus' explanation of communion and Paul's explication of it to the Corinthians (1Cor.11:20-34) make it clear that this is a ceremony of remembering Jesus, His Person (represented by the bread) and His work (represented by the cup). "Communion" didn't look like we imagine it from our experiences until the Reformation at the earliest. Before that, it had been ritualized into "mass" as the Roman Catholics still practice it. But it seems pretty clear from Paul and the gospel accounts that believers "coming together" and "remembering Jesus" through eating and drinking is the heart of the sacrament. Most of what we associate with communion is not essential – or at least it is not essential to do things in the particular ways that have become traditional. Anywhere "two or three are gathered" in the Name of Jesus, eating and drinking in memory of Him, they fulfill the command of our Lord to "keep on doing this in remembrance of Me" (Lk.22:19), as long as the abuses noted in 1st Corinthians 11:20-34 are avoided.

Indeed, as Paul reports, Jesus also said "This cup is the new covenant [made] by my blood. Keep on doing this as often as you drink [it] in order to remember Me" (1Cor.11:26). The "it" is not there in the Greek, and while it is fair to say from the verses which follow that what is meant is a ceremony where believers have gathered, the whole thrust of these passages seem to me to indicate that we should remember our Lord whenever we eat and drink, and, further, that we should do so on a regular basis in a formalized, ceremonial way when in the company of other believers. The purpose of this is first and foremost to remember Him, who Jesus is and what He has done for us – and surely that should be something we do individually at least as often as we eat and drink. The secondary purpose noted by Paul is seen in 1st Corinthians 11:26: "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (NIV). When we do eat and drink communally in a ceremony of remembrance of the Lord and His work on the cross for us, we "proclaim [Him and] His death [for us]", and that is both a powerful witness to the world and a very emphatic presentation of the gospel – provided we are doing it right, explaining when we hold a communion ceremony precisely what we mean by the bread and cup, namely, that we have accepted Jesus' Person (the bread) and work (the cup, representing His "blood" or work on the cross in expiating sin) by faith (represented by eating). That is also why Paul in the verses which follow upbraids the Corinthians for failing in their communion practice by not sanctifying Jesus' memory and thus missing the whole point of the sacrament.

Present day Protestant communion services generally avoid the types of abuses of which the Corinthian congregation was guilty, but to the extent that they do not explain the essence of the gospel and the essence of faith in Christ which the ceremony is designed to proclaim, reminding us of our Lord, His work, and our new birth through faith in Him and His blood in the process, to that extent they are failing and would be better off not holding communion (especially if they are endowing it with some kind of mystical significance in the manner of R.C. mass).

So as to frequency I would say, the more the better, provided the meaning is always correctly explained so that true remembrance and proclamation of Jesus Christ is the result. And I would also say that believers really ought to think about having their own, private remembrance of our Lord whenever they eat and drink, even if alone.

You may find these links on the subject helpful as well:

The Communion Ceremony outside of the Local Church

The Meaning of the Communion Ceremony: To Remember Christ

Communal Worship in Acts

Communion and the Blood of Christ

The Last Supper

The Leftover Baskets of Bread and Fish in John 6

The Lord's Supper and Confession of Sin

In the One who died for us that we might have eternal life in Him, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #2: 

Thanks for your response. My point is that I currently go to a assemblies of God church. My spouse doesn't agree anymore with the tongues that go on in church they say it's a private language and he disagrees. He wanted to start attending a Baptist church. I have heard there are so many different types of Baptist so that it kind of confuses me in what I should do anymore. We are gypsy and its really hard to go to a church different than we rose up in. He found a gypsy Baptist preacher finally, but I asked how often do they take communion they said every 3 mo. I don't know what doctrine is right anymore. I'm pretty sure there is no perfect church or doctrine but I don't want to be mislead. Can you give me your opinion? And if you don't mind me asking what doctrine are you?

Response #2: 

Hello again,

Ichthys is an independent Bible-teaching ministry not associated with any denomination (see the link: About Ichthys). As to doctrine, while it is fair to say that these teachings are consistent with a conservative, evangelical tradition, I prefer to let the materials at the site speak for themselves: there are thousands of pages of Bible teaching here, and it is all very much up front about what is taught and why.

As to communion, as you know from my response I do not see any particular biblical mandate as to how often it should be held, but my preference is for more rather than less (and for all believers to remember Jesus whenever they eat and drink). I don't think it is possible to judge a church right or wrong on how frequently they have communion – rather, the test is what they mean by it and what they teach when they hold it. In that respect, I would find many churches wanting.

As to the groups you speak of, this ministry is independent so as to be free to follow the scriptures and Jesus Christ rather than any particular tradition. It is in the nature of tradition and so also of denominations to place form over truth, to put traditional interpretation of scriptures over what the scriptures actually teach, and to emphasize matters which are of small account, rather than trying to draw closer to Jesus through the teaching of the truth of the Word of God.

To be honest, while I disagree with the notion that tongues are still being given or that water-baptism is still necessary (and that would disqualify both of these groups in my personal view; see the links), there are very few churches out there today which are really at all concerned with teaching the Bible – and that is what a church is supposed to do.

Please know that you and yours are very much welcome to all the material at Ichthys, a site dedicated to Christian spiritual growth through the study and teaching of the Word of God, free of charge.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

There is another thing when I went back into a big church - they have literal sharing of bread and wine. The people I was with before didn't celebrate it like that and said it is a Spiritual thing and never did it physically. I saw that communion is still a symbolic thing to do as well as Spiritual - what do you think ? I also have not celebrated Christmas for 30 years - but they still have it! I can't bring myself to celebrate it and can only go with the One who was born to die, although I had lunch with my son and his family is all I will be able to do! I am up in years too and the amount of people together make too much noise for me! I am used to only a few people but realise a person must not neglect fellowship. I have been reading Watchman Nee's writings and really agree with the deep walk in the Spirit of God and the dying to self for the purpose of the Body.

Thanks for being a listening ear for me.

Response #3: 

Hello again,

I have a similar perspective. Christmas is, of course, not biblical, but I don't like to ruin other people's holidays, especially since it's non-essential on the one hand and important to them on the other in many cases (see the link: "Is it valid to celebrate Christmas?"). As to communion, it is indeed the spiritual aspect of the ceremony which is important, and, in my view, all Christians should make a point of "remembering" Jesus and what He has done for us whenever they eat and drink, not only during the formal celebration of communion. That is what it says in Luke 22:19: "keep on doing this in remembrance of Me" (cf. 1Cor.11:24-25). Whether or not there is any actual bread and juice/wine, and whether or not this takes place in a formal "church" setting, the remembering of our Lord and His sacrifice for us is what the ceremony is all about (see the links: "The Meaning of Communion" and "The Communion Ceremony outside of the Local Church").

Yes, fellowship is important, but for the purpose of mutual encouragement for spiritual growth (that is what Hebrews 10:25 in its context means; see the link: "The Meaning and Purpose of True Christian Assembly"). The purpose of Christian assembly is the Word of God, its reading, its study, and the encouragement that comes from learning, understanding and contemplating God's truth – everything else is a distraction.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord who is the Word of God,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Dear Professor,

Another set of questions:

Could you please clarify 1st Corinthians 11:27-33? Firstly, what does Paul mean by 'unworthy manner' and what does 'examining' oneself involve? Secondly, why does Paul say that 'Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment'? Does it mean that we should satisfy our bodily hunger before eating food and drink in remembrance of the body and blood of Our Lord?

In Jesus and with constant prayer,

Response #4: 

Always a pleasure

1st Corinthians 11:27ff. is a much debated passage. To me it is clear that this particular abuse of the Corinthian congregation (and Paul's first epistle to them is filled with similar corrective stipulations) is not something we see today much in the west. Christians of that early era apparently got together for communal meals (we do the same) but in doing so celebrated the communion ceremony as part of the communal meal. The problem in Corinth was that some members were wealthy and others poor, but they did not share the food: each ate what he/she brought. This resulted in the obvious abuse of some rich persons of little self control carrying on in an excessive way even as other poor persons didn't even have enough to eat. The modern church for all of its other faults has avoided this particular abuse by 1) separating communal meals from the communion ceremony entirely (and engaging in sharing of food in those communal meals; in this country we call it "Potluck"); 2) having a communion ceremony as part of the worship service wherein here is no "eating and drinking" at all, merely the taking of a small bit of bread or wafer and a small thimble of wine or grape juice. One of the problems I have with the way things are done now is that it seems to me that in spite of the Corinthian abuse of the ceremony they were in some respects closer to the mark of what it should resemble. The "Lord's supper" (1Cor.11:20) is modeled on the Passover which was in fact a meal of remembrance (and that of course is the purpose of the ceremony: remembering our Lord and what He has done for us). So while I have no wish to overturn thousands of years of subsequent tradition when it is at least focused on the main points of the truth (remembering Jesus' Person in the bread and His work of the cross in dying spiritually for our sins in the cup which represents His "blood"), it seems to me that remembering Him and His death on our behalf is entirely appropriate whenever we eat or drink (the custom of "saying grace" while giving thanks often does not recall the Person of Christ and His death on the cross for us). Please see the links:

Communion and the Blood of Christ

The Communion Ceremony outside of the Local Church

Communal Worship in Acts

The Last Supper

The Meaning of the Communion Memorial

In the context of these verses of which you ask, the "unworthy manner" is the specific scurrilous behavior of the haves vis-a-vis the have-nots, but it also includes any disrespectful conduct during the one ceremony given to the Church to honor the memory of our dear Lord. This includes, we also find out here, partaking of the communion ritual without self-examination, namely, without examining one's prior conduct and confessing all as yet unconfessed sins. Confession of sin restores us to fellowship with the Lord (1Jn.1:9). Failing to confess or being unwilling to confess results in being "out of fellowship". Since sin is a very devious adversary, it is certainly a good idea to make a confession about sins of ignorance before partaking of communion – and to stay away from communion if for whatever reason a person is unwilling to admit to him/herself or to confess to the Lord sins known to have been committed. Therefore taking communion when involved in a pattern of sinfulness is a very bad idea, because it proclaims fellowship with the Lord when the person in question is really not in fellowship with Him at all:

If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.
1st John 1:6 NIV

This failure to examine, repent and confess before communion is what brings on the Lord's examination and, in the case of the Corinthian congregation we can say for certain, results in the situation reported that "many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep". But "if we judged ourselves (i.e., repented of our sins and confessed them), we would not come under judgment". This judgment from the Lord is designed as all divine discipline is to turn those afflicted by it around so as to be restored and kept from falling away.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.
Revelation 3:19 NIV

See the link: Confession of sin before partaking of the Lords supper

Question #5: 

I found your postings on communion very helpful. Like many other people, whose questions you addressed, I also didn't know how we could partake in communion outside of the church. Having gained that understanding, I would very much appreciate some more guidance on this matter. If these matters, or some of them, are in your view personal and up to us to decide, or simply irrelevant - please let me know. I would like to know more about it and not 'eat and drink judgment for myself' - this is obviously a critical part of our Christian life and, like you said, the only formal ritual left.

a) Firstly, should we use every meal we have as an opportunity for communion, thus making sure that everything we eat and drink we do in remembrance of Our Lord? Or would you say this should be done less frequently (once a day, once a week?) in order to mark the occasion and make it more formal (even if we do it ourselves, which is the case with me)?

If it shouldn't be done every time we eat, would you say we should just say a short grace, thanking our Lord for our 'daily bread' whenever the meal is not a communion?

b)Secondly, regarding the confession of our sins, which is the prerequisite, should this be done before every meal we have (assuming every meal is, or should be, a communion), or simply performed when we sin, so that later on, during the communion, we don't go through the examination of ourselves again?

c) Finally, with full awareness that it's our spirit and inside that is critical when partaking in the communion, would you say it's good to mark the occasion with any 'outside' features - type of food (any specific type of bread?), type of drink (does it have to be wine? any specific type?), official character of the communion expressed in what we're wearing, so that this ritual is performed in what we understand as an 'official setting'?

Again, please don't take offence in the personal and technical nature of these questions - I ask them with full cognizance of the fact that it's the spiritual dimension of this act (and any other, for that matter) that really matters. The reason I would like to know more is that having left the RC church I don't attend any group worship (and don't feel the need to do so either - I'm immersed in the study of the Word of God and feel that this is the path for me) and I just want to make sure that this very important ritual is given all the attention it requires.

Response #5: 

On communion per se, the only things we have are church tradition (which will likely only lead us astray), the descriptions of the last supper in the gospels, and Paul's treatment of the issue in 1st Corinthians chapter 11. I make it my personal policy to try to remember the Lord and what He has done for me whenever I have a meal. I try not to be legalistic about this (i.e., not every time I take a swig of water or grab a handful of chips left over on the department common table etc.), but for me it is important to remember Him regularly. I certainly would not wish to lay that burden on anyone else – especially if it is a burden. It is something I enjoy and find helpful to my own Christian walk. I also do not do this in any sort of formal way but only in prayer before a meal, remembering that while "real" bread and drink may keep me alive for a few days, the Body and blood of Jesus have given me life eternal, so that nothing in this world is anywhere near as important. Since the Bible boils down all human effort in this temporary world to procuring food (Eccl.6:7), remembering that we Christians are all about the next life, eternal life, and how it is we have it, through Jesus Christ our Lord, is important however one wishes to remember this blessed truth. Jesus said, "keep on doing this in order to remember Me", and I am very clear that the "this" is not nearly as important as the "remember Me" part; that is the objective of the exercise. Paul lists abuses on behalf of the Corinthians which are to my way of thinking abuses because they detracted from the point of the ceremony. Remembering Jesus is what counts. Providing some small portion of food and drink for the process is for reasons explained to contrast the eternal to the temporal and to remember the latter. The bread represents His body, His Person, who He is (Matt.26:26; Mk.14:22; Lk.22:19; 1Cor.11:24); the wine represents His blood, His work on the cross in bearing all of our sins and being judged for them (Matt.26:28; Mk.14:27; Lk.22:20; 1Cor.11:25).

Over-focusing on the ritual itself instead of what it means as almost all churches seem to me to do to a large extent defeats the point of the ceremony. Were I conducting a communion service, these are the points I would wish to stress: the reality of Him and what He has done for us. Without making these things clear, there is no point to the ritual. So if it is just me or whomever, we do know and we do remember when we say our prayer of thanks that recalls wonderful things about our Savior in advance of our meal. If we have a small congregation, it may also be possible to do more with less assuming that we have explained these matters many times in the past. If there are many present who do not understand precisely who Jesus is, human and divine, and what His death on the cross really entailed and means, His spiritual death in the darkness before His physical death in particular, then more explanation will be necessary. As in all things, it is difficult to reduce the really important matters to a mere formula. The best that may be said for the formulae that many churches have come up with (they are all pretty similar in the Protestant realm) is that they generally avoid the specific abuses Paul mentions where a communal meal (which really would be more like the last supper) was not conducted in a sanctified way (nevertheless to the extent that by not explaining things they make communion "mysterious" or worse deliberately endow it with some sort of mysterious properties in the manner of Roman Catholicism, they certainly are in error).

So rather than committing to a preferred formula, I would rather say that if Jesus is proclaimed, if He and what He did for us is remembered, if what we have as a result is made clear, then the true purpose of "do this in remembrance of Me" has been accomplished. As to confession of sin, this is another very good question, especially since as I have no doubt remarked before sin is a very insidious and ubiquitous problem, and when we consider that our thoughts may be sinful, that what we allow ourselves to emote may be sinful, and that even the attitudes we allow ourselves to fall into may be sinful, it is very difficult for even the most introspective among us to be absolutely certain that "we have not sinned" (cf. 1Jn.1:8-10). So while some sins are very obvious and so should be studiously avoided – and immediately repented of and confessed when and if we do fall into them – we also have to keep in mind, especially before something like communion, that we are all prone to "sins of ignorance", so that a prayer of confession which includes anything in our thinking which may have been a sin along with a prayer for whatever we may have missed is a sound practice. If we do so, God is faithful to forgive us all of our sins and to cleanse us from all of our unrighteousness so that our remembrance of His dear Son our Lord will be honored and not a cause for discipline.

Question #6: 

What is your opinion on Christians doing the sign of the Cross, for example before or after prayer? I see no instance of it in the Bible and wanted to know if it should be done at all. If so, would you say there are any specific circumstances when this sign could be performed?

Response #6: 

In my tradition(s), all various flavors of Protestantism, such rituals are completely out of favor. The Bible, as you note, says nothing about it one way or the other. When it comes to rituals, we are in the age of grace so that less is always more. However when it does come to rituals as in communion, the one authorized ritual of the Church age, what we mean by it and what those watching us and listening to us are given to understand by it are the most important points (and I note as per our previous conversations about communion that even in conservative Protestant circles these two points are often woefully overlooked). I have never felt the need to make that sign, although of course I have often seen it. I always assumed that it had something to do with conferring blessing (and no human being today can confer a blessing on another – all we can do is ask for God's blessing through prayer). So I suppose to answer the last part of your question I would have to know what the person in question means by making the sign of the cross.

Question #7: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I wanted to ask a question regarding Jesus' atoning death. John MacArthur said that Jesus died spiritually on the cross when He cried out, "why hast thou forsaken me?". He explained that since He took our punishment (spiritual separation from God), He died for us spiritually when He was on the cross. I've also heard several preachers saying that Jesus didn't die spiritually and that is a false teaching. Which is the correct biblical view on this?

God Bless!

Response #7:

On your question, I also use the terminology "spiritual death" to describe what our Lord did for us in dying for our sins – in order to distinguish His expiation of our sins from His later, physical death. This is an important distinction, because many Christians wrongly believe that it was by dying physically that Christ atoned for our sins. However, He said "it has been accomplished" before He died physically, and when He did die physically He did so of His own accord by dismissing His human spirit (i.e., not by bleeding to death). The sacrifice of Christ is the most important thing that happens in history and is so by orders of magnitude we cannot yet comprehend. Christ has to be God and man to accomplish it, because only a perfect human being was qualified to bear our sins, and only someone who was also God could possibly stand being punished for all the sins of the entire world from the beginning of human history to the end. This all happened in the three hours of darkness on Calvary. When Jesus says, "my God, my God", this is after the atonement has taken place, and Jesus says this in order to fulfill the prophecy of that passage and also to explain to the world why it was He had to be forsaken and die on the cross (and suffer in the darkness): He had to be forsaken so that we could be forgiven. There is much to say on this topic too, so rather than give it short-shrift let me point you to the link where this is talked about in detail in part 4A of Basics: Christology, namely, "The Spiritual Death of Christ".

In Jesus, the One who died for us that we might live eternally with Him,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Could you please characterize Our Lord's death? It definitely had the corporal dimension, as his human body was put to death. How about the spiritual dimension? Jesus is God and hence it seems He could not die 'completely', but if that is not possible, then I would like to know how it happened specifically.

On one hand He is the greatest and most complete sacrifice there could ever be, on the other hand His divine nature makes it difficult for me to understand how he could die. I'm sure you have clarified this issue somewhere already and if that is the case you can just direct me to a particular reading.

Response #8: 

Yes, this is a very important issue and one which is imperfectly understood by most. Jesus suffered "spiritual death" on the cross while still physically alive. This happened during the three hours of darkness and was the purpose for His coming into the world. He was judged for every human sin every human being ever committed or would in what was no doubt a supernatural compacting of time (not unprecedented: our judgment for reward in the early days of the Millennium will likewise be supernaturally telescoped; see the link). What this spiritual death entailed is difficult to say precisely but we do have analogies to help us: Jesus is the burning bush which burns with fire and yet is not consumed. This is one important reason why Jesus had to be both man and God. He had to be a perfect and sinless human being to bear and to be qualified to bear our sins. And He had to be God, otherwise He could not have endured this terrible punishment. We sinful human beings are not qualified to bear the smallest of the sins we commit, and would be unable to even if we were qualified. But Jesus bore them all "in His body on that tree" (1Pet.2:24). This spiritual death in standing judgment for our sins when the Father had to sacrifice the Son, judge the Son, and stand aloof from His sufferings, is bigger than the universe and more important than everything else that has or will ever happen in time-space put together.

These are woefully insufficient words to describe the magnitude of what our Lord did in suffering the punishment for all sin, but we have to start somewhere. Scripture often calls this sacrifice "the blood of Christ", but that is an analogy. For we know with certainty that Jesus did not bleed to death (when pierced with the lance after His physical death the "blood and serum" came out then). The crucifixion also did not kill Him physically: He voluntarily exhaled His human spirit and departed this life once the work of salvation had been accomplished ("It has been accomplished": Jn.19:30). In the "blood" analogy, the violent death of the sacrificial lamb and the burning of its flesh on the altar of judgment are meant to graphically portray for us what it was that the Messiah would do (and now has done) in standing as our Substitute and being punished in the darkness until He had expiated every single sin. The above is merely an overview. This is an important doctrine and it is hard to imagine a more important one because our salvation depends upon Christ's spiritual death – indeed, it is the cornerstone of the Plan of God and the sine qua non of God's initiation of creation. A more detailed treatment may be found primarily at the following links:

BB 4A: The Blood of Christ (introduction)

BB 4A: The Blood of Christ

BB 4A: The Spiritual Death of Christ

Question #9: 

I have a question about Luke 13:31-33

31 Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, "Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You." 32 And He said to them, "Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.’ 33 Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem.

Is Our Lord here referring to his resurrection on the third day?

Response #9: 

This is a much discussed passage with virtually all commentators deciding that there is nothing much significant in the three day clearly present in both verses – which almost guarantees that there is something significant in Jesus' words. The verb here translated above "reach my goal" is the Greek teleioo, a key word in the gospels because it is the very same verb Jesus uses to proclaim that His victory is complete just before He gives up His spirit after the three hours of darkness come to an end on the cross: "It has been accomplished"! (see the link: "The Spiritual Death of Christ"). Our Lord also finishes up this passage you quote at the end of verse 33 by speaking of His death in Jerusalem. So I take the third day to refer to the cross and His completion of His work, with the preceding days indicating the time between these words and that event. I also do think that the three days are an allusion to the three days in the grave and the resurrection (as any reader unprejudiced by excessive scholarship would naturally assume).

Question #10: 

Your wrote:

If there were any way to "fine tune" things, the overwhelming and nearly incomprehensible spiritual death of our Lord for all sin would most certainly have been "fine tuned out". The fact that it was not and could not have been shows conclusively that what we have is the perfect creation, notwithstanding unbelievers but not doubt shown also conclusively by the fact of unbelievers.

What do you mean by 'fine tune' with regard to the death of our Lord, and the fact that it wasn't 'fine tuned out'? Do you mean erased at all? Also, I'm trying to understand the inevitability of sin on part of the perfect creation. With regard to human beings, it's not that hard to understand - we have a sin nature. Before we had a sin nature, our parents were tempted by the devil. What I still find hard to understand is that occurrence of the first evil thought by the devil and the fact that he was followed by one third of angels who have not got a sin nature. I remember what you wrote about Satan's rebellion in Angelology and the fact that pride was a big factor there, I'm just trying to understand how was this border of sin first crossed and crossed by being of such wisdom and power, far exceeding ours.

Response #10: 

What I mean is that the spiritual death of Christ is the most imponderable of all the wonders of the universe (see the link). Jesus paid the price for all sin. He was judged for every single human sin, the least of which not a single one of us would be fit to pay for or able to expiate in a thousand eternities in hell. The death of Christ is bigger than the universe and more brilliant than a trillion suns. It is the rock upon which all creation and the entire plan of God is founded. It cost Jesus and it cost our Father in heaven more than we have any idea. If it could have been avoided, then Jesus' prayer to "let this cup pass from Me" would most certainly have been honored. As it is, that very prayer is proof of what I have said: His death was unavoidable if creation were to take place.

Angels and Mankind are the perfect complementary moral creatures in the perfect creation. The one set chooses forever instantaneously, the other set is subject to a process of choice, refinement, and growth. The former have to come first as the latter are the fulfillment and proof of the resolution that giving free will to the former will necessarily bring. What both sets have in common is that, given free will, some of both set will use that free will to seek independence from God instead of responding to Him. The positive response of some of the second set validates God's creation and judgment of the negative response of some of the former set. But to produce the perfect creation, free will is necessary, and free will results in rebellion, and rebellion must be judged and answered, and that answer will result in the need for salvation – and that salvation costs God more than we can know. But in the provision of the solution in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we become one with God in an irrevocable and magnificent way as His Son became a human being and we in faith become one with Him as part of His Bride forever.

To answer the last part of the question, this is another thing that men and angels have in common: Satan and his angels used their free will to become sinful – but so did Adam and Eve when they deliberately violated God's commandment not to eat of the tree of knowing good and evil. Eve did so after having been deceived but Adam was entirely cognizant of what he was doing. Adam is thus the pattern of us all and proves that everyone of us would have done the same or similar sooner or later; indeed, the fact that we sin shows that this is true (Rom.5).

Praise be to God that He has given us a Way back into paradise by entering through the Gate of salvation, the Person of Jesus Christ through faith in Him and His work on the cross for us all!

Question #11: 

Your wrote:

The "He" in the second half of the verse (Heb.2:18) is Jesus: Jesus was tested "in that which He suffered"; as a result He is able to help us. That is to say, without the suffering of the cross, there is no help to be had, since it is only through our Lord's sacrifice for sins (what He accomplished as High Priest in the preceding v.17) that we have access to salvation. Here is how I render the verse:

For in that He Himself has suffered under [all the] testing [of His first advent], He is able to help those who are being tested. Hebrews 2:18

Am I correct to understand then what you wrote that what this passage is about is not the 'empathy' of Our Lord, which He didn't need to gain through experience anyway, but rather a broader context of us receiving the help through the cross?

On the other hand, the 'empathy' interpretation seems to be suggested by the fact that the testing of our Lord is put next to our testing? I am not fully clear why Paul refers to testing, instead of death on the cross, for example.

And finally, we are saved through the cross, but how specifically does the cross help with regard to the testing (i.e., temptation)? Is it to do with being aware of the price at which our sins were paid? Are there any other things to take into consideration?

Response #11: 

I believe that is correct. We find the empathy of Christ for our suffering in chapter four (vv.14-16), but here the emphasis is on the "help" given which can only be given through Jesus having paid the price for our sin. As it says just a little earlier in the context in v.14, "so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death". And it is indeed through His spiritual death that He "put death to death" (2Tim.1:10) – that is how we are helped: to eternal life by grace in the sacrifice of Jesus through faith in His Name, His perfect Person and His perfect work on the cross in dying for our sins.

Question #12: 

Does by sufferings in Hebrews 2:10 Paul means what preceded the cross, the three hours on the cross, or both?

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.
Hebrews 2:10 NASB

Response #12: 

Theologically, I prefer to understand Jesus' death to sin as the primary meaning here (and in all other related verses). In Hebrews, Paul was dealing with an audience which contained many who were spiritually immature either for failure to advance or even also because of spiritual regression (cf. Heb.5:11-14; 6:1-2), with the result that especially in the early chapters he is being as basic as he can on related doctrines in order to emphasize the main points dealing with the superiority of Christ, failure to understand which doctrine was endangering the Jerusalem congregation's spirituality. For this reason, I think he does what under the guidance of the Spirit writers of scripture often do, namely, he encapsulates all of Christ's suffering into one idea, as for example when Old Testament prophets encapsulate all of eschatology into one idea: the Day of the Lord (see the link). But just as "the Day" can be expanded and explained, the same is true of the "suffering of Christ": i.e., the sacrifice of becoming human, His "kenosis" (see the link), His testing before His ministry, the 40 days in the wilderness, the three and a half years of violently opposed ministry, the last of which was especially intense, the gauntlet He ran to get to the cross, the crucifixion itself, and of course most significantly of all His death to sin in the darkness, His spiritual death whereby He atoned for all human sin. And just as the end of the Day of the Lord when New Jerusalem descends and eternity begins is more significant and blessed than all that came before (i.e., the Tribulation, Great Tribulation, the Second Advent, the Millennium, the Last Judgment), so Jesus' suffering for sin when He burned in judgment for all of our transgressions until He had expiated them all that we might be saved is by far the most significant part of the suffering He endured.

Question #13: 

Could you please clarify Romans 5:14:

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

Why does Paul say that death reigned from Adam until Moses, if after Moses, through the Law and until our Lord's sacrifice, death was, in a sense, still reigning?

Response #13: 

Paul's point here is to ensure his readers that the same exact regime of universal spiritual death was in place even before all of the regulations of the Law (which give many stipulations not found earlier in Genesis, for example) were given to Moses. Death reigns the same throughout history; and life comes the same way throughout history: through faith in the Substitute for sins God promised to offer (Old Testament) and has offered (New Testament). Every human being is spiritually dead, Law or no Law, unless and until reborn through faith in Jesus Christ (see the link).

Question #14: 

You wrote:

Jesus, of course, offered up His life, not literally His blood (cf. Heb.8:3: "something to offer").

What to you refer to by quoting 'something to offer'?

Response #14: 

In saying that Jesus as our High Priest had to have "something to offer", Hebrews 8:3 is speaking of Jesus' spiritual death, His "blood", meant figuratively rather than literally (please see the links).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

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