IntroductionI can always count on John Loftus for providing material for posts like these. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. On October 18th, Loftus posted the following:
The first question is What do you mean by that? The second one is How do you know? Now let's apply this to the statement: Jesus died for our sins. What sense can we make of it? How can anyone know it's true?This is a horrendous failed attempt to strike down the Gospel that starts out with two fair questions and then goes no where. Let's take the statement that Jesus died for our sins and see why Loftus is wrong that it can't be understood. I think Paul and the apostles understood it and explained it very well. This is important because it's about what the Gospel is and why is it important. I also think that it's important to address some of the comments on the post because it all goes together.
What do we mean by the statement: Jesus died for our sins?I agree with the comments that what's at issue is the concept of human depravity. The Bible does indeed teach that we are so lost...so enslaved...to sin that we can't help ourselves but to be sinners deserving the wrath of God. Did anyone have to teach you to lie? How about stealing? Did anyone have to teach you how to hate other people? Or how about selfishness? No. You have to teach children not to lie. We have to be taught that we need to respect others. Why? Simple...it's not our default setting. Each and everyone of us, if you are going to be honest, knows that we do things we ought not to do. No one is perfect.
The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. - Genesis 8:21
The fool says in his heart,
"There is no God."
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.
The LORD looks down from heaven
on the sons of men
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
All have turned aside,
they have together become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one. - Psalm 14:1-3
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. - Romans 8:5-8It's a bad news/good news situation. Yes, you deserve to be eternally separated from God and spend an eternity in hell. But the Gospel - good news - is that God has provided salvation through Jesus Christ. I'm amazed that many of the comments found on the post focus on the fact that the Bible teaches we are not good enough to deserve heaven, but ignore the fact that the Bible teaches that we can experience a reconciliation with God through Jesus.
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.I mean don't people see the good news is that although your conscience, unless you have been turned over to a "reprobate mind" - meaning that you have become so hard-hearted you no longer can feel God drawing you to Christ (John 6:44; Romans 1:28), you can be free of that guilt.
Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. - Romans 3:21-31
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.- Romans 8:1-4
How do we know it's true that Jesus died for our sins?I would like to deal with this part in two ways. First, we need to discuss what it means when someone embraces the Gospel. I think the best way to see it is to look at what Paul and Silas told their jailer when he asked them what he must do to be saved.
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"And more importantly what did Jesus tell people?
They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family. - Acts 16:29-33
Once more Jesus said to them, "I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come."Often we describe this as putting your faith in Jesus and believing that Jesus did indeed die for your sins and was raised from the dead for your justification.
This made the Jews ask, "Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, 'Where I go, you cannot come'?"
But he continued, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." - John 8:21-24
"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.Let's be careful at this point. "Faith" is not believing something is true despite contrary evidence or no evidence. No. That's delusion.
"If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! - Galatians 2:15-17
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.Faith is believing something you can't necessarily see but based on trusting the one making the promise. That is why we know our forgiveness of sins is true. God promised. We also have concrete proof in this life.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. - Hebrews 11:1-6
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.- 2 Corinthians5:16-19There should be a change in your life if you truly believe. The things contrary to God you used to do, you don't do anymore. The things you said that were contrary to God you used say you don't say anymore. The things you think that were contrary to God you don't think that way anymore. I'm not saying that you are sinless and perfect from jump but there should be some growth where you and others can see you aren't the same person anymore. When you are saved you no longer practice sin. Instead you start living Romans 12:1,2.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. - Roman 12:1-2In fact you start living out and all of the scriptures - living to please God not yourself. If there is no change in your desires - you might wanna check yourself.
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.So what about Apostasy? Well, the existence of apostasy actually proves that the Gospel is correct. If a person no longer continues to believe the message and turns away, he/she was never a part of the body of Christ. There is no way a person can become unborn after they have been born. There is no way a butterfly can become a caterpillar again. The transformation is so radical and one-way - just like being a born-again believer in Jesus Christ or being born naturally. Once you take the red pill, you can't go back to the "Matrix" of sin and death. Plain and simple.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. - Galatians 5:16-26
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—even eternal life.
I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. - 1 John 2:18-27
ConclusionUnfortunately, we make this way more complicated than it needs to be. It truly is either Holiness or Hell. There is no middle ground. No waffling. You are either on God's side or you aren't. You can only go to God on God's terms not yours. Pure and simple. Believe it or don't. Either way there are consequences - eternal consequences.
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" - John 11:25-16If you can say you believe this you - you are saved. That's it because if you believe this everything else either falls into place or isn't an important enough issue to fight and scrap with other believers over.
Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them." But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) "or 'Who will descend into the deep?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" - Romans 10:5-15Debunking Christianity: Two Important Philosophical Questions and Christian Theology