Thursday, August 29, 2013


Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

When Christians say that Jesus is the atonement for sin, they usually mean that his death paid the penalty for man's transgression of God's holy standard.2 Indeed, that is the primary English definition of the word: To atone is to make amends or reparation. It is as if man pawned his life as collateral for the pleasure of sin and then discovered that he could not pay the high interest to redeem it. Jesus' death pays the inflated ticket price to get man out of 'hock.' While atonement does involve the satisfaction of a debt, there is more to the biblical definition than remuneration (expiation).

I. The meaning of atonement 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Rewarded in Heaven

Recompense According to Deeds—Are You Ready?1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2007

In Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth, he describes a potentially uncomfortable review that every believer will face.
2 Cor 5:10 ...we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
The apostle is not addressing a person's entry to heaven but his status in heaven, whether ruling a city or pushing a broom. So, are you ready for your review?

God is not indifferent to people's behavior. While He may not respond positively or negatively in this life, He will certainly respond in the next life, and in a manner that is entirely appropriate.2

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Circumcision and salvation

Circumcision of the Heart1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2001

Perhaps more than any other aspect of Torah, circumcision has negative connotations in Christian circles. It is the ultimate expression of legalism and the antithesis of grace. Indeed, some of Paul's statements appear to support this evaluation, or at least the conclusion that circumcision has lost whatever significance it once had.
Rom 3:1 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? ...30 [T]here is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.
1 Cor 7:18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19a Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing.
Gal 5:6a For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.
Gal 6:15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything;
Col 3:11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
In fact, circumcision can actually be detrimental to one's relationship with God.
Gal 5:2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.
Is Paul countermanding divine instruction in the Old Testament concerning circumcision, or is he rather concerned with a misunderstanding of the practice? To answer that question, one must first establish what the Old Testament teaches about circumcision.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Put not your faith in these things

Inadequate Means of Salvation1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2012

During the Second Temple Period, as foreign rule led to worsening conditions among many in the Jewish community, people turned their attention from the difficulties of this life to the ideal state of the next life, which led naturally to the question: How can one enter the blissful realm of God? There were several erroneous theories that claimed credence as the answer, but all of them were Inadequate Means of Salvation.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Healing in the atonement?

Healing in the Atonement1
Dr. Paul Manuel—1995

Some Christians claim the benefits of Jesus' atonement go beyond forgiveness of sin to include healing of disease.2 To support this notion, proponents appeal primarily to Isaiah's statement about the messiah: "by his wounds we are healed" (Isa 53:5b). They also say that Jesus illustrated this element in his earthly ministry, as one of the gospel writers observes.
Matt 8:16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: "He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases."
According to this view, believers can lay claim to this additional provision through prayer and through faith in the efficacy of Jesus' work.

However attractive this idea seems, it suffers from several deficiencies, one of which is to assume a far more specific meaning of the relevant biblical passages than their contexts indicate.3 Isaiah is not talking about physical maladies but about spiritual malaise, as a review of the entire verse makes clear.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Unpardonable sin

Unpardonable Sin1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2012

If a person commits a crime—be it shoplifting, selling drugs, even murder—our society has determined the appropriate consequence or penalty for such a crime—be it a fine, jail time, even execution. That penalty is the temporal payment society demands from an individual who breaks the law, a payment he must make to absolve his guilt before society. (In Israelite society, animal sacrifices were also a means of temporal payment.) The demands of society, the penalties its courts exact, apply only in this life. Beyond that point, a person falls exclusively under God's jurisdiction and answers to Him alone.

When human law corresponds to God's law, there is an eternal payment He demands from the transgressor, a payment that individual must make to absolve his guilt before God. That eternal payment, however, is beyond anything the offender can afford—no fine he can pay, no time he can serve, no animal sacrifice he can make, not even offering his own life. The only payment sufficient to absolve his guilt before God, and the only payment God accepts, is what Jesus made on the cross. Understanding this distinction between what is temporal, affecting only this life, and what is eternal, affecting also the next life, is essential to understanding the nature and consequence of unpardonable sin.

When the biblical authors talk about specific sins,2 they make some careful distinctions. Certain offenses are more serious than others, and the penalty God demands for disobedience is appropriate to their gravity. One of the main tenets of Israel's faith, a declaration appearing repeatedly in scripture, is that "the LORD [is a] gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness... and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin" (Exod 34:6-7a).3 Were this not an accurate description of His character, we would surely perish. Nevertheless, we also read in scripture about unpardonable sin, iniquity beyond God's power to forgive.4 What could be so heinous that it renders the offender unredeemable?5

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Book of Life

When does God write a person's name in the Book of Life?1
Dr. Paul Manuel—1995

The biblical authors speak about more than one heavenly record!2 In describing the final judgment, Daniel and John write that God refers to several documents.3
Dan 7: 10c The court was seated, and the books were opened.
Rev. 20:12a And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.
The volume that appears most often in scripture is the Book of Life (8x), which is a list of all God has delivered from death.4 It does not include the name of every human being,5 only of the righteous, those God redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (note the association in two verses below). The unrighteous do not become part of this ledger, as John repeatedly makes clear in his Revelation.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What must one believe?

The Fate of the Unevangelized1
Dr. Paul Manuel—2009

After the Day of Pentecost, Peter and John are in the temple proclaiming the gospel. When the religious authorities attempt to dissuade them from preaching about Jesus, Peter responds,
Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
From this passage, it would seem that God determines people's final destiny according to their acceptance or rejection of Jesus.2 Indeed, Jesus, himself, says that the future disposition of men's souls is dependent upon their relationship to him.3
John 14:6 ...I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Moreover, the biblical authors indicate that rejecting Jesus is tantamount to rejecting God and that the result is eternal condemnation.4 John states,
John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.
The assurance of eternal life is comforting for us who have accepted the gospel, but what about those who have not had this opportunity? What is the fate of the unevangelized, of those who never heard about Jesus (or who heard a distorted message)? The question is statistically significant, because it concerns the vast majority of people who have ever lived (Fudge 1994:615). It is also theologically significant, because it reflects (or affects) our understanding of God's character.

Christian theologians have generally taken one of three positions across a broad spectrum. I will outline them briefly, then treat in more detail the position that has the strongest biblical support. The two extreme positions are restrictivism and universalism.