We live in a consumerist culture at large. Everything in life is based on our personal preferences. Naturally, we go shopping at the stores that cater to our individual sense of fashion. We go to the restaurants that provide that food choices that tantalize our taste buds. And your vacation of choice depends on whether or not you’re a beach or a mountain person. Our personal preferences determine our path in life.
Unfortunately, this social norm even extends into how culture relates to God. It is not that our nation is hardened to the Gospel so much as it is that it is ignorant to the true Gospel. And during the Easter season, false teachers begin to unapologetically wave their flags. In attempts to “recruit” and appeal to the consumerist nature of the masses, these wolves in sheep’s clothing begin to preach a Gospel that is appealing to the flesh. They twist the Word of God in order to tickle the ears of their hearers, but they do not preach truth.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Matthew 7:15.
Here are a few very common statements that I have heard from the mouths of certain pastors during the Easter season. These statements are appealing to the ears, but absolutely detrimental to the heart of their listeners.
1.) The Cross is About Forgiveness and Love, Not Wrath
It amazes me how many preachers in our day will so easily preach on the love of God and blatantly deny the wrath of God. They will say that Jesus death on the cross was all about forgiveness and it has nothing to do with wrath.
But if that is true, what were we saved from? Some would answer by saying, “We were saved from sin.” But sin was never out to get us. Rather, sin is who we are. And because of our sin nature inherited from Adam, we are criminals against a Holy God. In our sins, we are all under what Paul described in Galatians 3 as being a curse. And in Galatians 3, Paul goes on to say that every person under a curse deserves to hang on a tree. This was a first century description of crucifixion.
We are under the curse of the law. It was not merely forgiveness that we needed. We needed a savior.
“But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Galatians 3:13.
If you have sinned even once in your life, according to Paul, the law of God brings to light our right condemnation before God. And we deserve nothing more than a criminal’s death. It’s ironic how so many people have the Ten Commandments hanging in their homes in the hopes of portraying to others that they are Godly people. When in all actuality, the law is a mirror that shows our total depravity. I believe it to be a good thing to have the commandments in our homes in order to remind us of our total dependence on Christ.
So the question is, “What were we saved from.” Again, some pastors will say God saved us from sin. But why would we need saving from sin? Because the wrath of God abides on all of the unrighteous. God saved us from Himself.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Romans 1:18.
Yes, the cross was the ultimate display of love and forgiveness. But there cannot be forgiveness without an offense. And every offense must be punished. God cannot let sin go unpunished or He would prove Himself to be unjust.
Imagine someone had murdered one of your loved ones. The police catch this criminal and place him before a judge for his sentencing. But instead of rightly punishing him, the judge just decides to forgive and let him go free. Would you feel like justice had been served? Would you see that judge as being righteous and fair? No. Rather, that judge would be seen as evil and corrupt.
We serve a God who is both just and Holy. God could not simply forgive sinners without a price being paid for the crime.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4-5.
God sent His Son, born of a woman and made in the likeness of men to be the substitute of sinful man. The sins of the world were then imputed to Christ, and His perfect record was placed upon us who now believe. Isaiah says that it pleased God to crush the Son in our place. It was God who killed Jesus, His only son, for us. The crucifixion was necessary to save us from the wrath of God that once was upon us.
Without acknowledging the wrath of God, it is impossible to understand forgiveness, and the love of God. Without the acknowledgement of the wrath of God, we down play the death of Jesus, and leave the question of why we need forgiveness without an answer. Without understanding that we were once children of wrath paints God as unjust as us as entitled creatures.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.
2.) There Was No Need For Blood Atonement
This is another false statement that I have heard made during Easter. The sacrifice of Christ brings to mind imagery of old testament animal sacrifice for sins. Particularly on the Day of Atonement, the priest would sacrifice a sheep, symbolically placing the sins of the nation upon the animal.
One pastor recently said to his congregation on Easter weekend, “Blood sacrifices in the Old Testament were never required from God, they were designed by fallen man.” Now it is true that Moses wrote the books of the law, specifically those like Leviticus and Numbers which speak into how the sacrifices of the Old Testament were to be prepared. But who told Moses how to do the sacrifices? For example, in Numbers 28 it gives a list of how to prepare certain animal sacrifices, and the chapter begins with “The Lord said…” It was God who commanded animal sacrifice.
“For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Hebrews 10:4.
God’s command for sacrifice was never in order for man to take away His own sin, but rather to point to the true sacrifice for all sin that was coming in Christ. The Lord even said this through Isaiah.
“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.” Isaiah 1:11.
God is saying through Isaiah that it’s not about merely bulls and goats and external actions. But rather, the sacrificial system was pointing towards a day when all sins would truly be washed away and be made white as snow through the death of Christ.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Isaiah 1:18.
The sacrificial system was created and ordained by God, not man. And it pointed to Jesus. To say that the sacrificial laws were not of God is to deny the divine aspect of God’s infallible word as well as His providence over all things.
3.) God Can Have Fellowship With Sin
This is another heretical doctrine that many preachers will proclaim. One pastor said to his congregation that to say that God cannot tolerate wrong doing is a misinterpretation of scripture. And he drew his conclusion from the book of Habakkuk.
“Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?” Habakkuk 1:13.
This preacher claimed that although the scripture begins by saying that the Lord cannot look on evil, Habakkuk asks the question, “Yet why do you do it?” Therefore, this preacher deducted that God can indeed tolerate evil because of Habakkuk’s question. However, Habakkuk, much like this preacher, was confused. Habakkuk saw all of this rebellion towards God going on in His day and mistook it for God tolerating wrong doing. But context is everything.
If you continue to read Habakkuk, you will see God’s response. God says to Habakkuk that he is not tolerating sin. In fact, God is actually sending the Babylonians, who were know to be a cruel and violent people, to slaughter all of those in the nation that were rebelling against God. God was never tolerating or having fellowship with sin. He was unleashing His wrath. Only those who trusted in the Messiah to come, the Christ, were spared from the wrath of God.
Jesus death was necessary for this Holy God to have fellowship with sinful man. For the redeemed, God does not look upon them and see their right decision to follow Him, or their works to serve Him. Because all of their right decisions and works are as filthy rags, tainted by their sin. But in Christ, the Lord now sees the blood of His perfect Son covering us. God sees His Son in us. Jesus is our only redeeming quality before God. Because God cannot fellowship with sin. We desperately need the blood of Christ.
Sadly, this denial of the Holiness of God is rampant in our world today as man attempts to make God more like himself, and deny his depraved state. Moses could not look upon the Holiness of God lest he die. Isaiah wailed upon seeing the train of the Lord in a vision and thought he was going to die. These are the Biblical images of those who only glimpsed the fringes of our Holy God. And Christ is our mediator.
Easter is not a time to feel sorry for Jesus, but rather it is a time to feel sorry over our sin. It is a time to celebrate the freedom only He could bring through His death on the cross. It is a time to exalt Him as we are humbled in His presence. In Christ alone, our hope is found.