Is the law a punishment for our sins?

Died for us

The meaning of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. A basic text of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) Gütersloher Verlagshaus 2015

II.3. Unfolding

3.1 Bringing the incomprehensible to the concept, confessing the unknown

What historically followed within a few years after Jesus' cross and resurrection was the intellectual penetration and conceptual development of the event on the cross with the help of diverse traditions and motifs - especially from the Old Testament Jewish environment. With what should one compare the incomparable and how should one bring the incomprehensible to the term? None of the existing traditions were, in and of themselves, sufficient to fully bring out what is unique and new. But with the help of multiple motifs and various predefined terms and ideas, the word of the cross quickly gained its linguistic form. The New Testament writings already presuppose firmly coined formulations and confessions in the early Christian communities from Jerusalem to Antioch to Greece and Rome, which must have spread in the first twenty years after the Christ event.

Even the earliest early Christian writings cite the confessions used in worship to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, "who was given up for the sake of our transgressions and was raised for the sake of our justification" (Rom. 4:25), "who gave himself up for our sins, that he will deliver us from this present wicked world ”(Gal 1: 4). Unsurpassed is the pre-Pauline confession of 1Cor 15: 3-5, already carried out in four parts, in which Jesus' death "for our sins" and his being buried, his resurrection on the third day and his appearance before the witnesses as documented in accordance with the Scriptures and handed down in a binding manner becomes: "That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures ..." (1 Cor. 15: 3).

3.2 Liberation Experiences

The event on the cross is described in many ways as the experience of liberation and redemption: as “ransom” and “liberation” from slavery (1Cor 6:20; 7:23) or as Jesus' substitute entry into slavery for the benefit of the redeemed: “Christ has redeemed us of the curse of the law, when it became a curse for us "(Gal 3:13; cf. 4,4f.). The »legal force«, the validity and binding nature of the exemption can even be illustrated with terms of business language: »You are expensive / against cash / legally purchased ...« (1 Cor. 6:20). The believers also recognize their "redemption" in the cross in analogy and surpassing the redemption of Israel from the slavery of Egypt and from the Babylonian exile: "We are justified without merit by his grace through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3 , 24; cf.Eph 1,7; Col 1,14; Heb 9:15). The joy that Christ, as the Son of God, became what men are, so that they can partake of what he is, are impressively expressed in descriptions of the "sweet exchange" and "blessed exchange", such as the Incarnation and the Jesus' gift of life for the benefit of the people since Diognetbrief 9,5 (2nd or 3rd century AD) can be mentioned. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that, although he was rich, he became poor for your sake, that you might become rich through his poverty" (2 Cor 8: 9). "When the time was fulfilled, God sent his Son, born of a woman and subject to the law, to buy those who are under the law, that we might be sonship" (Gal 4: 4f .; cf. 3, 13). "He who did not know sin he made sin for us, that we might become God's righteousness in him" (2 Cor. 5:21).

3.3 “See, that is the Lamb of God

Whether Jesus himself celebrated Passover night with his disciples and was then captured and crucified, or whether he died at the same time as the Passover lambs, is narrated differently in the Gospels. According to the Gospel of Mark (Mk 14,12ff.) And the other synoptic gospels (cf.Lk 22:15), Jesus and his disciples still hold the Passover meal together with his disciples on the night of the 14th to the 15th of Nisan 15. Nisan, crucified. According to the presentation of the Gospel of John, however, Jesus dies on the day of preparation for the Passover in the hour in which the Passover lambs are slaughtered (on Nisan 14 "towards evening"; cf. Exodus 12: 6; Numbers 9: 2f.). The connection of the event on the cross with the redemption experience of the Passover night is as obvious as it was early testified: "For we too have a Passover lamb, that is Christ who is sacrificed" (1 Cor. 5: 7). Just as Israel was once saved in Egypt through God's preservation, so the early Christians know themselves to be freed from threatening death and redeemed to life through Christ's selfless gift of life. The fourth Gospel is then full of references to the experience of redemption on the background of the Passat tradition - beginning with the testimony of John the Baptist: "Behold, this is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn 1:29; cf. 1.36; 2.13; 6.4; 11.55; 12.1; 18.28; 19.14, 33-36). The designation of the crucified as "lamb" - with multiple possible references to the Old Testament tradition - is often found in the New Testament (e.g. Acts 8:32; 1 Peter 1:19; Rev 5: 6-14; 21:22 ff).

3.4 The life commitment for his own

A special variety of perspectives of Jesus 'death on the cross can be found in the Gospel of John: Jesus' gift of life can be made clear in the parable of the dying grain of wheat that is bearing fruit (Jn 12:24) or with the life of the Good Shepherd for his sheep: »I am The Good Shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep ”(Jn 10:11; see 10:15, 17:18; cf. Heb 13:20). The aspect of Jesus' willingness to devote himself to his own people is particularly emphasized as the ultimate show of love: "Nobody has greater love than that he gives up his life for his friends" (Jn 15:13). In his life and death "for" people and "to benefit" people (Jn 6:51; 10: 11-15; 15:13), both the passionate care and devotion of Jesus can be recognized (Jn 13: 1, 34; 15: 9, 12) ; 1Joh 3,16) as well as the love of his father who sent him (Joh 3,16; 17,23; 1Joh 4,9f-): “As he loved his own who were in the world, so loved he she to the end ”(Jn 13: 1).

3.5 "Who is the Prophet talking about?"

The suffering of Jesus as a righteous man and speaking in the name of God, which at first seemed incomprehensible, could be more easily understood in the light of the fate of the prophets who, according to the testimony of the Jewish and Christian Bible, were sent to Israel: “Because it is not appropriate for a prophet perish outside Jerusalem "(Lk35 13: 33f .; cf. Lk 7:16, 39; 24:19). The inclusion of the tradition of the prophets or the "just suffering man" does not serve to reduce the Christological creed to a human figure. Rather, the visualization of the work and fate of the prophets helped to understand the context more thoroughly and to be able to understand what happened, which was unexpected in every respect.

This better understanding of what was initially shocking also serve - for the early Christian communities familiar with the Holy Scriptures - the numerous references to scriptural conformity and the advance notice of the event through God's promises (Rom 1: 2; 3: 21; 1 Cor. 15: 3f.). For those who are insecure, it is stated that the disturbing events of the killing of Jesus Christ are not an expression of madness and chaos, but that human rejection and enmity have been foreseen and announced - that means that God remains Lord of the event: »Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures«(1 Cor. 15: 3). Luke also reports that the risen One himself gave his initially incomprehensible disciples detailed information on the necessity of his path of suffering on the basis of the written testimony on the Easter journey to Emmaus: »O you fools, too sluggish of heart to believe all that the prophets have talked! ... And he began with Moses and all the prophets and explained to them what was said about him in all the scriptures "(Lk 24: 25-27; cf. 24: 32, 44-45).

The perception of the innocent and initially misunderstood suffering of Jesus in the light of the fourth of the "God's servant songs" in the book of the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 52: 13-53, 12), which not only for Luke in his presentation of the teaching of the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip (Acts 8.26-39), but also for the early confessional formulas (Rom.4.25; 1Cor 15.3-5) and the Gospels as the core texts of the Old Testament (see Mt 8.16f .; 12, 17-21; Mk 1.11; 9.31; 10.45; 14.22-24 parr .; Acts 8.2639; cf. Heb 9.28; 1Petr 2.21-25; 3.18). The one rejected in our place already proves here to be the one who was in truth accepted and confirmed by God: “Truly, he bore our sickness and inflicted our pains on himself. But we thought he was the one who had been plagued and beaten and tortured by God. But he is wounded because of our iniquity, and smitten because of our sin "(Isa. 53: 4, 5).

3.6 Sense instead of futility, wisdom instead of folly

Anyone who has accompanied people in a crisis of suffering, loss or transience knows that for those who mourn and suffer, not only the meaning and context of an individual experience is in question, but also the context of meaning and the overall structure of history and the world as a whole . What shakes up in drastic crises is the hopelessness and threat of madness and chaos. The increasing loss of orientation and control threatens to pull the ground away from under one's feet.

In this context, it was of the greatest importance for the men and women who had accompanied Jesus from Galilee to his suffering in Jerusalem that they were allowed to recognize the deeper meaning of what appeared to be nonsensical through the appearances of the resurrection. From the retrospective of the resurrection of Jesus by God, they sensed a "necessity" from the higher perspective of God, precisely because the whole event could turn the need around. With the realization of “It had to be!” And “It was necessary!” A higher wisdom instead of folly, a deeper meaning instead of nonsense and a higher order instead of chaos: “The Son of Man must suffer a lot and be rejected by them Elders and high priests and scribes and be killed and rise after three days ... ”(Mk 8:31). »Had to not Christ suffer this and enter into his glory? "(Lk 24.26; cf. Lk 9.22; 17.25; 22.37; 24.6f .; 24.25-27; 24.44; Acts 2, 23). The answer to the "why" of Jesus' death did not leave the desperate questioner alone with the madness of human guilt. Rather, it revealed a deeper meaning in the light of the resurrection of the crucified Christ by God, which can only be explained through divine mercy and reconciling action. In the humanly offensive and senseless event, which contradicted all human wisdom, a higher divine wisdom and a greater salutary reality were in truth revealed to the believers: “But we preach Christ crucified, an offense to the Jews and folly to the Greeks; but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks, we preach Christ as God's power and God's wisdom. For the folly of God is wiser than men are, and the weakness of God is stronger than men are "(1 Cor. 1: 23-25; cf. 1: 18-31).

3.7 What does atonement mean?

With the multitude of facets of the "Word of the Cross" there are also many approaches to understanding the mysterious death of Jesus. But if we ask about the deepest meaning and the inevitable "necessity" of the New Testament basic creed: "Christ died for us!" (Rom. 5: 6,8; 2 Cor. 5:14; 1 Thess 5,10), then we do not come to one last deepening around. This applies above all to the statements handed down by Paul, some of which were already traditionally shaped, about Jesus' gift of life "for us", "for our benefit" (Rom. 5,8; 14,15; 1Cor 1,13; 8,11; 11, 23-26; 2Cor 5,14f.21; 3,13; 1Thess 5,9f.) - especially in connection with "giving statements" (Rom 8,32; Gal 2,19f. [1st Pers. Sg.] ): God “who did not spare his own son either, but gave him up for us all; how should he not give us everything with him? ”The most complete understanding of the event on the cross can be seen in the tradition that is most controversial in today's debate: the description of the death of Jesus as Atonement. The main problem lies in our use of the term »atonement« today, where we primarily think of reparation in the sense of »compensation«, »punishment« and »atonement«. In contrast, the biblical - i.e. also the Old Testament - talk of "atonement" means the event of forgiveness and reconciliation, of sanctification and new creation of man by God himself. Atonement describes the wholesome restoration of community and the reopening of the relationship with God. Atonement, understood in this way, is not punitive suffering, but the gift of new life beyond the deadly separation. In Christ, i.e. because of his representation and in his community, those who believe in him can be certain that nothing and no one can separate them from God's love (Romans 8: 31-39).

The talk of the "blood" of Christ, which is irritating to many, is also explained not by the way of death of the crucifixion, but against the background of the Old Testament cultic tradition of atonement, as it is developed in the description of the great day of Atonement in Leviticus 16. In surpassing, universal expansion and effectiveness once and for all, God brought about their reconciliation through the human-induced death of his Son: “God made him a place of atonement in his blood as a place of atonement in his blood as a proof of his righteousness by forgiving sins «(Rom 3:25).

"Blood" here stands for that devoted livesbecause - according to the understanding of Old Testament anthropology - life is contained in the blood. This is shown in the central statements about the blood of Christ in Rom 3:25; 5.9; Eph 1.7; 1Joh 1,7 presupposed in the inclusion of the Old Testament tradition (see Exodus 25:22; Leviticus 10:17; 17:11, 14). When the first Christians remembered the "body" and the "blood" of Jesus at the Lord's Supper and, with bread and wine, accepted his body and blood, that is, himself, into their lives, then they were not determined by gloomy thoughts but by joy God's physical affection and devotion - in life and in death. Because during the communal “breaking of bread” and the Sunday “Lord's Supper” they remembered in grateful remembrance, confident certainty and joyful expectation the promise of their Lord, who had died and risen for them: “The Lord Jesus, on the night when he was given up, He took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and said: This is my body, which is given for you; do this in memory of me. 'In the same way he also took the cup after the meal and said:' This cup is the new covenant in my blood; Do this as often as you drink from it, in remembrance of me. "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Cor. 11: 23-26).

3.8 Atonement as a gift of life

The tradition, which presupposes the gift of the Lord's Supper and the theology of the cross of Paul in those who are familiar with the biblical tradition, is thus the context of the Old Testament ritual atonement as it characterizes central passages of the Holy Scriptures of Judaism, the Christian Old Testament. There it is only mentioned of the forgiveness of sins committed inadvertently (Numbers 15: 22-31); and on the "great day of atonement" (Leviticus 16) the atonement benefits the people of Israel alone - and not yet the whole world. Nevertheless, the understanding of sacrifice in these texts illustrates that the word from the cross is "good news" - a "gospel". In contrast to many pagan notions of sacrifice, it is assumed here for the offering of the "sin offering" that it is God himself who, in his willingness to forgive, gave the sacrifice to Israel (Leviticus 10:17; 17:11).So it is not man here that takes the initiative to change God’s mind and reconcile him again, but God gives man in the situation of self-inflicted misery the possibility of new life and new community by, God, in atonement through the priests has his name carried out and forgives the guilty. Now one could look for the central and essential idea of ​​the event of forgiveness in the fact that man is separated from his sin by eliminating his guilt and the damage associated with it. So once a year all debts of the people of Israel should be pronounced over the "scapegoat" and thus, as it were, placed on his head, so that the animal takes the whole burden of sin from the community carries away - out into the uninhabited desert (Leviticus 16: 20-22). Yet God's forgiveness is about much more than just removing an evil and separating it from a burden. Correspondingly, this "sending into the desert" of the guilt of sin - as a rite of several - is embedded in the comprehensive overall event of the great day of atonement, including, above all, the Sin offering belong.

For the offering of the Sin offering is not the destination as a destination desert but the area of ​​the Saints In the temple in the city of Jerusalem: the altar of burnt offerings (Leviticus 4: 22-31), the curtain in front of the saint (4: 1-21) and once a year even the otherwise inaccessible "mercy seat" or "mercy seat" - this biblical term refers to the place of atonement in the most holy place of the Jerusalem temple, an area above the ark (and later in its place) as the place of a special presence of God (I6: 1ff.). When the high priest sprinkles the blood of the beast on this "atonement", it is brought into contact with the place where God himself wants to appear (16: 2) in order to meet Israel in his representative and to talk to him (Exodus 25 , 22). But it comes in the form of blood Life of the beast in contact with the place of God's presence and revelation. The deep meaning of this unrestricted contact with the sacred and this Surrender of life to God becomes apparent when we consider the other element of the act of sacrifice. Before the beast is slaughtered, the one who offers the sacrifice because of his sin places his hand on the head of the beast (Leviticus 4: 22-31). Through this laying on of hands not only - as with the scapegoat - something is dumped on the animal, but the sacrificer transfers himself. For what is done on the animal on behalf of - that is, in favor of humans and in their place - does not only affect individual aspects of their person but himself in his whole being. It's not just supposed to something to be changed in his situation, but rather he self is to be substantially renewed through atonement. So it is already within the framework of the Old Testament tradition the secret of the atonement given by God that the guilty man is allowed to identify with the animal and his fate, so that the dying of the animal as be Death counts and the surrender of life to the sacred himself brings into "contact" with God.

In the mystery of the "sin sacrifice" takes place what actually seems impossible: the one who has gambled away his own life through his separation from life and love and has excluded himself from living communion with God and with other people, is taken into a through "his" death new Life, he is "sinned" and reconciled with God.

3.9 Crucified with Christ?

If we recognize that the early Christians recognized the significance of the event on the cross against the background of this special atonement in their Holy Scriptures, our Old Testament, then the context of the New Testament theology of the cross will become easier for us to understand and its conclusions understandable. "In Christ" God made the final atonement by not only calling his people but the whole world (2 Cor. 5:19; Rom. 1:16; 3:30; Gal. 3:28), not just the accidental transgressors of the law but all human beings as "ungodly" (Rom 4: 5; 5: 6), d. H. as willful "sinners" (Rom. 3: 9, 19, 23; 5: 8), has reconciled with himself.

Long before the believers could "identify" with their representative, that is, long before they recognized Christ as their representative and recognized him as Lord through faith, Jesus Christ on his part already laid his hand on this world, and so did with them in everything to become completely one - just as the victim and the victim become identical in the cult of atonement. Because of this identification he became like sinners on the cross - he became "a sin" for them (2 Cor. 5:21), "a curse" (Gal 3:13). He died for her, the result of her separation from life. But with this, his fate has also become hers, because what is performed on the victim on behalf of the victim applies accordingly to the person to be reconciled. In this sense, when Christ died for them and in their place, they all "died with him" (2 Cor. 5:14) and were "crucified with him" on his cross (Gal. 2:19 f .; Rom. 6, 1 ff.).

But much more happened in the event on the cross. Even with the ritual atonement, the process of sacrifice with vicarious death was by no means ended and concluded. Rather, the actual atonement was carried out by the fact that the blood - as the life given as a substitute - came into contact with the realm of the sacred and thus man himself - beyond "his" death - came to a new life in God's presence. Just as the cultic atonement was not just about eliminating individual sins, but about overcoming sin - namely, separation from God - so Christ's vicarious gift of life should not end in death as the final separation from life.

Accordingly, it is precisely this that is the decisive basis of the Christian belief that God took this Jesus crucified "for us" through "our" death into the community of his life (Rom. 4:24; 10.9). For Christ was not only "given up for our sins" but also "raised for the sake of our justification" (Rom 4:25); He died and rose for us so that we "no longer live for ourselves" but for him who has won us through his love for himself and for fellowship with the Father (2 Cor. 5: 14f .; Gal. 2:20; Rom. 7 , 4; 14.7-9). "In Christ" - through his representation and in his community - the believers already have a part in his life (Rom. 6.4ff .; Gal.2.20) and are already part of the "new creation" in him (2 Cor. 5 , 17). In Christ, even through their bodily death, they will not lose the community he has opened up, but in their resurrection will partake in God's eternal life like him (IThess 4:14; Rom 8:11; 14: 7-9).

3.10 Not necessary for thought, but "died for us" necessary for salvation?

To come back to the initial distinction: Does the Christian theology of the cross claim to be "necessary for thought" in accordance with human reason and general historical plausibility? It will certainly be difficult today Need