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The Cross Justifies the Existence of All Life
by Paul E. Penno

Let’s look at the Scriptural evidence beginning with the teaching of Christ Himself. We might introduce this by asking the question, Why did Christ teach Nicodemus the truth of the most well-beloved and memorized verse in all of the Bible, John 3:16? It must have been because of a deep theological misunderstanding which Nicodemus had regarding God’s dealings with the world. Jesus told him, “For God so loved the world.”

Nicodemus believed, as did all the religious leaders and elite of Judaism, that God’s covenant with Israel meant that only they were the elect ones for salvation. Nicodemus was the Calvinist of his day. Only the Jews were predestined for eternal life. All the Gentiles were predestined for damnation and destruction.

This theology continues to this day in the great systems of religion including Catholicism and Protestantism. Its Protestant representatives are Presbyterians, Reformed Baptists, Reformed Church, etc.

The other evangelical counterpoint to this is Arminianism which arose during the seventeenth century in Europe which saw the universal dimensions of Christ’s death for the world. It teaches that Christ’s death was sufficient to embrace every one, but it is not effective until faith is exercised by the recipient. In other words, Christ offers salvation to all. The atoning sacrifice is an atonement for sin provided one believes. So there is prevenient grace and means by which God has of reaching mankind with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but man must choose to believe the provisional gift. This might be expressed in terms of showing some genuine proffer of building a relationship with God.

However, Jesus taught the pure truth to Nicodemus when He said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Christ is God’s gift to the world. This gift has a legal basis in that Christ has been constituted Head of the race; and this gift is voluntary in that Christ of His own volition, motivated by love, pledged Himself as Surety for sinners.

Christ uses a legal term to indicate what this means for the world. “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:17. If the world was condemned by God in sending His Son, then it would be instantly destroyed for its sin. But it does not stand in a judicial state of condemnation for it is not condemned. The extent of this Divine judicial action embraces the totality of the world.

Jesus went on to teach, however, that the present, individual choices with respect to God’s gift of Christ, short-circuits God’s pardon. “He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:18. Thus the future day of judgment for the unbeliever becomes a present reality of condemnation. Nevertheless, the probationer continues to live briefly by the gracious life of God given to him or her; and at any time prior to death or the coming of Christ one may choose life in the Son. John 3:36.
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