Thoughts on Paul's epistles, Day 38, Lent 2013

Today's Lenten Bible reading covered 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians. Since it is Holy Week, my eyes and ears are tuned into the topic of the cross. Theological topics abound in the dense writing of Paul, so I am picking one topic, Good Friday and Resurrection Day. Here are some clips on that topic.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
I can see how people who are universalists find support for their theological position in this section. Here is what I've been taught. Jesus did die for the sins of the world. Everything has been forgiven. There is only one thing to do, believe in Jesus. By analogy, a check has been made out to everyone to get into heaven for free, you just need to sign your name to it.
Galatians 1:3-5 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.  Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.  All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.
Who did Jesus give his life to, for our sins? Hebrews tells us that he offered himself to God his father for us. According to Mark 10:45 and 1 Timothy 2:5-6, he ransomed himself. The ransom theory of the atonement is an interesting one.

Ephesians 2:4-7 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much,  that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)  For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
Our resurrection hope is tied up with Jesus' resurrection fact.
Philippians 2:5-11 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This is, more than likely, an early church hymn with heavy duty Christology. Jesus is God, yet he took on flesh, "incarnate" in Latin, so he could die.
Colossians 1:19-22 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.
There's another one of those universalist verses. In the context of other passages, hell seems pretty real. The previous explanation still holds water for me.
1 Thessalonians 1:10 And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.
This does not make a universalist happy. Nevertheless, being rescued by Jesus from the coming judgment makes me happy.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth. He called you to salvation when we told you the Good News; now you can share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I looked in vain for a reference to the cross in 2 Thess. I settled for a trinity passage instead.
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