Reflection #41 – Primitive and Obscene

During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection from Tuesday through Friday.

Primitive and Obscene

The Cross of Jesus Christ is the Good News that saves every sinner who believes in Him. But this Good News is offensive to the unbelieving mind, and impossible to accept. The Bible says that the world views the message of the cross as a stumbling-block, as scandalous. (see 1 Corinthians 1:23)

Today I read the terribly sad story of Jonathan Steingard, frontman of the Christian rock band Hawk Nelson. He declares he no longer believes in God. Raised in a Christian home, son of a Christian pastor, surrounded by everything Christian in his life, Jonathan now disavows the religion he grew up with. He no longer believes the Bible, or in God, or in any truths of the Christian faith.

He lists several reasons as to why he can no longer accept the Bible or the existence of God. But at the heart of his objections lies the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as a payment for sin. Why does Jesus have to die for our sins? That’s just more killing again. What kind of God appeases His anger toward us by taking it out on His Son? That’s an angry, vengeful and primitive God. What a terrible model for a Father!

More and more we encounter professing Christians who cannot tolerate the heart of the Christian faith – the so-called ‘blood theology’ of substitutionary atonement.  This is the teaching that the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

God our Creator is holy. Sin is highly offensive to him and merits his eternal wrath toward us in the form of endless punishment of body and soul. Sinning against the infinite Majesty of Almighty God deserves the infinite penalty of eternal punishment.

But God in His great love for us, while we were yet sinners under His wrath, sent His Son to take the place of the sinner and suffer the punishment of God’s infinite anger in our place, as our Substitute. The suffering and death of Jesus Christ under God’s wrath in our place are the heart of the Bible’s message and the essence of the Christian faith.

It is the Good News that saves us and sets us free forever.

R. C. Sproul once told the story of being invited to speak at a gathering of the Society of Friends, the Quakers. They asked him to speak on the relationship between the Old and New Covenants.

He spoke about the day of the atonement in the Old Testament where animals were slaughtered and their blood was spilled as a picture of the way God forgives sins. This picture was fulfilled many years later in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ became a curse for us to redeem us from the curse.

Suddenly a man in the back couldn’t handle it anymore. He stood up and interrupted the speaker, “That’s primitive, and obscene!”

R.C. Sproul responded,

You’re right. And I love the words you used to describe this. What could be more primitive than killing animals and sprinkling their blood over the throne of God? What could be more primitive than taking an innocent human being and pouring out his blood as a human sacrifice? That is primitive. This is what I love about the Gospel. It wasn’t written merely for a gnostic elite group of scholars who had to have their PhD in theology to understand.

Not only is it primitive, it is obscene too. Sproul wrote:

If there ever was an obscenity that violates contemporary community standards, it was Jesus on the cross. After he became the scapegoat and the Father had imputed to him every sin of every one of his people, the most intense, dense concentration of evil ever experienced on this planet was exhibited. Jesus was the ultimate obscenity.

So what happened? God is too holy to look at sin. He could not bear to look at that concentrated monumental condensation of evil, so he averted his eyes from his Son. The light of his countenance was turned off. All blessedness was removed from his Son, whom he loved, and in its place was the full measure of the divine curse.

R. C. Sproul, “Forsaken – Jesus Became a Curse.”

This, dear friends, is the Good News. Jesus in your place. God’s wrath placed on Jesus instead of you. Jesus was cursed so you may be blessed. Jesus was forsaken by God so you may be accepted by God. This is all yours if you repent of your sins and believe in Him.

Rejecting this primitive and obscene Good News cuts you off from any hope of salvation and will lead to your damnation.

So do not be offended at God’s Good News. Don’t turn away from God’s salvation which is primitive and obscene to the world, but for everyone who believes it is the source of eternal hope and blessing!