Book: The Murder of Jesus by John MacArthur


#1

I was at the local library today and I saw a book by popular Reformed author and pastor John MacArthur called, “The Murder of Jesus.”

I did not have time to read the book, it was around 300 pages long, but the table of contents had every chapter devoted to how Jesus was unjustly accused, unjustly tried by a kangaroo court, unjustly tortured, and unjustly killed. The book appeared to be entirely devoted to how the Jewish and Roman plot to murder Jesus unfolded according to the Biblical accounts.

One section in the table of contents caught my eye, it was regarding the words of Jesus on the Cross when Jesus said “My God, why have you abandoned me.” Of course, Catholics have always said Jesus was quoting Ps 22 and applying that to himself, but that not acceptable to MacArthur. MacArthur spent about 2-3 pages talking about this verse, and what he said was so stunning that I pulled out my camera phone and took pictures of some quotes. Commenting on the “My God” passage MacArthur says:To [Jesus] was imputed the guilt of their sins, and He was suffering the punishment for those sins on their behalf. And the very essence of that punishment was the outpouring of God’s wrath against sinners. In some mysterious way during those awful hours on the cross, the Father poured out the full measure of His wrath against sin, and the recipient of that wrath was God’s own beloved Son.
In this lies the true meaning of the cross.
(page 219, emphasis mine)

Christ died in our place and in our stead - and He received the very same outpouring of divine wrath in all its fury that we deserved for our sin. It was a punishment so severe that a mortal could spend all eternity in the torments of hell, and still he would not have begun to exhaust the divine wrath that was heaped on Christ at the cross.
This was the true measure of Christ’s sufferings on the cross. The physical pains of crucifixion - dreadful as they were - were nothing compared to the wrath of the Father against Him. The anticipation of this was what had caused Him to sweat blood in the garden. This is why He looked ahead to the cross with such horror. We cannot begin to fathom all that was involved in paying the price of our sin. It’s sufficient to understand that all our worst fears about the horrors of hell - and more - were realized by Him as He received the due penalty of others’ wrongdoing.
And in that awful, sacred hour, it was as if the Father abandoned Him. Though there was surely no interruption in the Father’s love for Him as a Son, God nonetheless turned away from Him and forsook Him as our substitute.
(page 220-221, emphasis mine)
What struck me about these comments* was that out of a 300 page book, what he says in the span of less than a full page, regarding God’s wrath, eclipses the other 299 pages dealing with the injustice received at the hands of men. In other words, for MacArthur, the REAL pain came from the Father, which made the physical sufferings a very distant second. What is even more interesting, and even more relevant, is that the Scriptures certainly don’t paint the picture MacArthur does, especially the Four Gospel accounts of the crucifixion (which are silent on such a thing). One would think that if this understanding were true, that would be not only much more clear, but that would be the main emphasis of the Apostles.

In case you were wondering, Catholics would reject MacArthur’s (and Protestantism’s) understanding of the crucifixion not only on the grounds it is unBiblical, but that it is downright blasphemy to even suggest such a thing.

*Apart from the fact these comments are utterly blasphemous, heretical and twisting of the Scriptures (akin to the way a JW interprets the passage, “The Father is greater than I”).


#2

Interesting quotes from MacArthur. Although I haven’t studied this subject in much depth, this appears to be a form of the “penal substitution” theory of Reformed Protestants. All Christians would hold to the “substitutionary atonement” of Christ (i.e. Christ died in our place for our sins, e.g. 1 Cor 15:1-4) but Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox have different explanations on what this means.

For example, Reformed apologist Greg Bahnsen on the “penal substitution” :

" The doctrine of penal substitution could be expunged from the Biblical witness only by a perverse and criminal mistreatment of the sacred text or a tendentious distortion of its meaning. What else could Peter have meant by writing to believers in the church that ‘Christ suffered for you’? … We see from the above that Christ’s atoning death was intended to have an objective effect upon a wrathful Judge (God) and not simply a subjective reverberation in the heart of believers…The theological perspective of the Biblical writers, prophets and apostles both being witness, is that one who was perfectly righteous stood in the place of those who are unrighteous in God’s sight, bearing the curse or penalty of their sin by dying in their place, in order to set them free from condemnation and secure their eternal benefit. There is no other way, as Peter indicates, for sinners to be ‘brought back to God.’ "

And you’re right there isn’t a whole lot in the Bible about the precise meaning of Christ’s atonement, except for texts like 2 Cor 5:21 (“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin”) or 1 Peter 2:24 (“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree”) or 1 John 2:2 (“He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world”) or various texts in Hebrews or Romans or the Isaiah 53 passage about the Messiah. All interpreted differently depending on your Christian tradition or theology.

Phil P


#3

As addendum to above, here are various theories on the atonement:

The Ransom Theory: The earliest of all, originating with the Early Church Fathers, this theory claims that Christ offered himself as a ransom (Mark 10:45). Where it was not clear was in its understanding of exactly to whom the ransom was paid. Many early church fathers viewed the ransom as paid to Satan.

The Satisfaction (or Commercial) Theory: The formulator of this theory was the medieval theologian Anselm of Canterbury (1034-1109), in his book, Cur Deus Homo (lit. Why the God Man). In his view, God’s offended honor and dignity could only be satisfied by the sacrifice of the God-man, Jesus Christ. Anselm offered compelling biblical evidence that the atonement was not a ransom paid by God to the devil but rather a debt paid to God on behalf of sinners.

The Penal-Substitution Theory: This view was formulated by the 16th century Reformers as an extension of Anselm’s Satisfaction theory. Anselm’s theory was correct in introducing the satisfaction aspect of Christ’s work and its necessity, however the Reformers saw it as insufficient because it was referenced to God’s honor rather than his justice and holiness and was couched more in terms of a commercial transaction than a penal substitution. This Reformed view says simply that Christ died for man, in man’s place, taking his sins and bearing them for him. The bearing of man’s sins takes the punishment for them and sets the believer free from the penal demands of the law: The righteousness of the law and the holiness of God are satisfied by this substitution.

The Moral-Example Theory (or Moral-Influence Theory): Christ died to influence mankind toward moral improvement. This theory denies that Christ died to satisfy any principle of divine justice, but teaches instead that His death was designed to greatly impress mankind with a sense of God’s love, resulting in softening their hearts and leading them to repentance. Thus, the Atonement is not directed towards God with the purpose of maintaining His justice, but towards man with the purpose of persuading him to right action. Formulated by Peter Abelard (1079-1142) partially in reaction against Anselm’s Satisfaction theory, this view was held by the 16th century Socinians. Versions of it can be found later in F. D. E. Schleiermacher (1768-1834) and Horace Bushnell (1802-1876).

The Governmental Theory: God made Christ an example of suffering to exhibit to erring man that sin is displeasing to him. God’s moral government of the world made it necessary for him to evince his wrath against sin in Christ. Christ died as a token of God’s displeasure toward sin and it was accepted by God as sufficient; but actually God does not exact strict justice. This view was formulated by Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) and is subsequently found in Arminianism, Charles Finney, the New England Theology of Jonathan Edwards (the younger), and Methodism.

According to Ludwig Ott, the orthodox Catholic understanding of the atonement includes:

Christ offered Himself on the Cross as a true and proper sacrifice. (De fide)

Christ by His Sacrifice on the Cross has ransomed us and reconciled us with God. (De fide)

Christ, through His Suffering and Death rendered vicarious atonement to God for the sins of man. (Sent fidei proxima)

Christ’s Vicarious Atonement is adequate or of full value, by reason of its intrinsic merit. (Sent communior)

Christ’s Vicarious Atonement is superabundant, that is, the positive value of the expiation is greater than the negative value of the sin. (Sent communis)

Christ did not die for the predestined only. (De fide)
Christ died not for the Faithful only, but for all mankind without exception. (Sent fidei proxima)
Christ’s Atonement does not extend to the fallen angels.

Christ, through His Passion and Death, merited reward from God. (De fide)

Christ merited for Himself the condition of exaltation (Resurrection, Transfiguration of the body, Ascension into Heaven). (Sent certa)

Christ merited all supernatural graces received by fallen mankind. (Sent certa)

Phil P


#4

I have to state this:

Why would the cental focus of our Faith be ambiguous?

Imagine the non-Christian asking the question: “So, you believe what might be viewed as the origin of the Christian faith to be that Christ was crucified on a cross as part of a plan of God. But why?”

answer: Oh, we don’t know.

This is one reason evangelizing comes so difficult to me.


#5

What makes no sense to me is how Mr. MacArthur knows that Jesus was unjustly accused, unjustly tried by a kangaroo court, unjustly tortured, and unjustly killed but then turns around and claims the He was justly punished by the Father? Why can’t he see that Jesus, along with all the other unjustly things mentioned, was also unjustly punished by wicked men? Jesus was innocent and God does not punish innocence.


#6

Amen. He and Protestants say this illogical stuff because of Sola Fide. Justification by Faith Alone requires all sorts of rediculous and unbiblical reasoning to support it. Sola Fide rests on what is popularly called by Protestants as “the Great Exchange” where Jesus gave us His righteousness and we gave Jesus our sins and punishments.

Justification by Faith Alone, in its essence, means the sinner beleves by faith that the Great Exchange took place for him.


#7

Here is a post I showed to a Protestant that shows an innocent person doesn’t have to get punished by God to turn away His wrath against sin.

Turning away God’s wrath the Biblical and Just way:
DEUT 9: 13 And the LORD said to me [MOSES], "I have seen this people, and they are a stiff-necked people indeed! 14 Let me alone, so that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make you [Moses] into a nation stronger and more numerous than they."
15 So I [Moses] turned and went down from the mountain while it was ablaze with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my hands. 16 When I looked, I saw that you had sinned against the LORD your God; you had made for yourselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. You had turned aside quickly from the way that the LORD had commanded you.
18 Then once again I fell prostrate before the LORD for forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water, because of all the sin you had committed, doing what was evil in the LORD’s sight and so provoking him to anger. 19 I feared the anger and wrath of the LORD, for he was angry enough with you to destroy you. But again the LORD listened to me [MOSES]. 20 And the LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him, but at that time I prayed for Aaron too.

NUM 25: 1 While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods. 3 S**o Israel joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor. And the LORD’s anger burned against them. **
4 The LORD said to Moses, "Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the LORD, so that the LORD’s fierce anger may turn away from Israel."
5 So Moses said to Israel’s judges, "Each of you must put to death those of your men who have joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor.“
6 Then an Israelite man brought to his family a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand 8 and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear through both of them—through the Israelite and into the woman’s body. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; 9 but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.
10 The LORD said to Moses, 11 "Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them. 12 Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. 13 He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.”

Moses & Phinehas were foreshadowings of Christ. Righteous men performing righteous acts pleasing in God’s sight which turn away His wrath on sinners. No innocent man being punished or the object of wrath.
Eph 5: 1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Phil 2: 5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant
,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death

even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
The life of total love and humility that Christ lived was offered up to the praise and Glory of God, and this display of obedience and self sacrifice was a “fragrant aroma” greatly pleasing God and turning away His wrath.

NO twisting of Scripture, NO redefining justice, NO turning God into a monster. The Catholic way.


#8

Then how do you interpret this Scripture: 2 Cor 5:21: "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. " In your frame of view, where’s the justice?

And this (Isaiah 53:5-6): “But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.” Sounds like penal substitution all the way.


#9

[quote="Taliesin, post:8, topic:124853"]
Then how do you interpret this Scripture: 2 Cor 5:21: "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. " In your frame of view, where's the justice?

[/quote]

Justice would be if He had not come at all to save us and the effects of the fall would lead us to the death we deserve from our waywardness. But He loves us so much that He conquered death so that we may live.


#10

Sounds like love for us to me.


#11

MacArthur's view of God is the type that drives people to atheism.


#12

[quote="jam070406, post:10, topic:124853"]
Sounds like love for us to me.

[/quote]

Yes, Love, too. Christ's work is multifaceted.


#13

[quote="jam070406, post:9, topic:124853"]
Justice would be if He had not come at all to save us and the effects of the fall would lead us to the death we deserve from our waywardness. But He loves us so much that He conquered death so that we may live.

[/quote]

So was it just or unjust of the Father to make "Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf"?
Was it just or unjust of the Father to lay on Jesus "the iniquity of us all"?


#14

[quote="Taliesin, post:13, topic:124853"]
So was it just or unjust of the Father to make "Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf"?
Was it just or unjust of the Father to lay on Jesus "the iniquity of us all"?

[/quote]

You believe God's love is conditional?


#15

I think you miss the point.

All Christians agree that there are several things going on in Jesus’ death, and that Jesus’ death was part of God’s redemptive plan even though it was also a horrible miscarriage of justice.

Penal Substitution teaches that God imputed our sins to Jesus. Jesus was innocent in Himself and was punished by humans unjustly, but in that very act He was bearing our sins.

I agree that there are better ways to talk about the atonement that make Jesus’ saving action more continuous with what was going on on the “human” level. So, for instance, a Christus Victor interpretation understands Jesus to be defeating the forces of evil (and at the same time, at least in the original patristic version of Christus Victor taking on Himself the just consequences of our voluntary enslavement to those forces).

Edwin


#16

[quote="Taliesin, post:8, topic:124853"]
Then how do you interpret this Scripture: 2 Cor 5:21: "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. " In your frame of view, where's the justice?

And this (Isaiah 53:5-6): "But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him." Sounds like penal substitution all the way.

[/quote]

Because you've been taught to read it that way.

Jesus bore the consequences of our sin, yes.
Jesus was fully identified with sinful humanity, yes.

But there's no legal imputation necessary to describe these things.

At some point we have to say "it's a mystery."

The problem with the Calvinist view--which many non-Calvinist Protestants also accept--is that here as with predestination they go a step too far, coming up with an ingenious explanation of the mystery that raises huge moral problems, and then calling "mystery" when you point out the moral problems.

Edwin


#17

[quote="jam070406, post:14, topic:124853"]
You believe God's love is conditional?

[/quote]

??

No.


#18

[quote="Contarini, post:16, topic:124853"]
Because you've been taught to read it that way.

[/quote]

In grammar school I was taught that chastisement means punishment

Jesus bore the consequences of our sin, yes.
Jesus was fully identified with sinful humanity, yes.

But there's no legal imputation necessary to describe these things.

At some point we have to say "it's a mystery."

Edwin

As long as you accept what the text says at face value, and part (of course the are other glorious facets) of the message is that Jesus bore the punishment we deserved


#19

"Hamartia" is Greek for "offense" as well as "sin." A sin is an offense against God, of course, though you can also sin against people. But.

The literal translation is something like "He made Him, Who did not [experientially] know offense [to God], into offense for us, so that in Him we might become God's righteousness."

And what do we see in the Gospel, but humans constantly taking offense at Jesus, until He becomes just one big walking blasphemous offense in the eyes of most of the Sanhedrin?

Jesus takes away our sin, yes, and He and the Father allow this and plan for His Crucifixion to replace our punishment. But it's humans who see Jesus as having become nothing but sin, not God the Father (or objective reality).


#20

[quote="Taliesin, post:17, topic:124853"]
??

No.

[/quote]

You're saying a condition had to be met. That someone had to pay.
You turn the object of God's displeasure, from sin, to man.
We are created in the image and likeness of God, to which He said was very good.
Man became sick from the fall and Jesus came to heal, by conquering death.
The crucifixion, death & resurrection was about God conquering sin & death and freeing us from sickness. Not to be a target of wrath.


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