Jesus Died on the Cross. It Matters.


Bell tower of a white church with a white cross at the top



I recently heard about heretical teaching from an evangelical pulpit. The preacher taught that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross. He declared that God took Jesus’ place on the cross at the moment of death. So, God the Son didn’t die. God died instead, for Jesus and God are one in the same. Or so it was preached.

My dad listened from the pews in unwelcome surprise. In horror, really, because all hope and life hangs on the fact that God’s Son died on the cross to satisfy the penalty of sin – to satisfy His Father’s righteousness. Jesus asked His Father if there was any other way to pay the penalty of sin, but He submitted to His Father’s plan.


For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish
but have eternal life.

John 3:16



I was as shocked as my dad as he shared about this errancy. We both listed biblical truths that depend on the fact that Jesus, Himself, was crucified on that fateful cross.

The following is an interview with my father. He has been teaching, preaching, and leading for as long as I can remember. His specialty is Greek and Hebrew.


Simple picture of a microphone


So, Dad, what is the gist of the preacher’s message about Jesus’ crucifixion?

The preacher said that Jesus didn’t die on the cross – that God took His place. He said Jesus and God are one in the same. So, it was actually God who died on the cross.

The preacher told the story of Abraham who was about to sacrifice his son Isaac. As he raised the knife to kill his son, God stopped him and provided a ram to take his place. Similarly, as the preacher claimed, God’s son didn’t actually die, but God Himself died instead.

This “Replacement Theology” may have roots in false teaching by the United Pentecostal Church, also known as the Pentecost Holiness Church, also known as Oneness Faith. It is monotheism and it renders the Old Testament obsolete and irrelevant.


Is this a modern teaching or was it taught in other settings, e.g., biblical times, during the early church, or in other religions?

In the Bible we see the denial of Jesus Christ, but not this more modernistic false doctrine. This is different – this monotheistic idea that Jesus and God are one in the same. It started a while ago, but it seems this preacher mixed in the new concept that Jesus didn’t die on the cross.


What is the error in this teaching?

If you believe this false teaching, you deny all the teachings of the New Testament that involve the cross of Jesus Christ. You also deny all of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah and the birth of a Savior. When you remove the cross of Jesus, you push aside eternal redemption, and if this is true, our belief in the cross of Jesus is in vain. We forfeit the practical, relational aspects of the gospel.


What is the danger in believing that Jesus did not actually die on the cross?

We would be eternally lost. Technically, there is no salvation or personal relationship with Christ. We’d speak only of doctrine, and not hope or forgiveness. We would be lost and everyone who heard the gospel from us would also be lost.

There is no joy or excitement when Jesus is not in the picture. Our learning would become more philosophical and less practical.


Why is it critical that Jesus Himself died and not God His Father?

This is God’s design. The Father planned it. The Son paid for it. The Holy Spirit applies it. This is His plan throughout the Bible beginning in Genesis and into the New Testament.  The Apostles, including Stephen, Peter, and Paul, affirm it. The gospels affirm it. You can’t remove the Son because He’s part of the program. There is nothing in the Bible that suggests that God the Father died in His place.

Also, the Jews today call Jesus “Yeshua Messiah.” If they refer to Him as Yeshua Messiah, then they know He is Jesus – the Jesus who died on the cross. Long ago the Jews looked forward to the coming of the Son and Messiah, and today they look back at Jesus as the Son and Messiah prophesied.


What Bible verses explain that Jesus undoubtedly died on the cross? What is the message of these verses?
John3:16-18 tops the list of many Bible references and it is the one quoted by evangelists. Jesus is the Son of God who died as payment for our sins. He died to give us life. In John 1:14 and 18 we read that Jesus is God, but He is distinguished from His Father:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son,
who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father,
has made him known.
John 1:14 and 18

In Acts 6 and 7, Stephen acknowledged the three members of the Godhead while he listed significant events in Israel’s history. And Paul repeatedly explained the gospel – that Jesus came, died, and rose from His grave – throughout his epistles, including Galatians 4 that describes how and why Jesus came to earth. Paul in his epistles assures us that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for our sins.

What areas of Christian living should be influenced by the fact that Jesus died on the cross?

The flesh. I am crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). Our daily walk and relationship with people. We need to reflect the character of Christ. And it should affect our relationships at church. We are commanded to walk in unity. When we trust Jesus as Savior, we are a new creation. Now we walk in the Spirit.

What affect has this had in your Christian circles and in your geographical community in general?

It has made me a better person. My emotions. My conversations. My private and social life. Jesus is my power.

In my Christians circles, it strengthened the teaching, the gospel presentation – that God has a Son and gave Him on the cross. We have joy.

At the church where this was taught, it seems that something is missing. There used to be joy. With Jesus out of the picture, there is no joy. I’ve gone back to preach and it’s not the same. But the pastor continues to promote this false doctrine, so I don’t preach there anymore.

And this false doctrine can creep into megachurches because they need to accept all kinds of teaching. They can’t just preach the Bible. There’s a very famous one here in town. They don’t ask, “Are you born again? Do you know Christ as your Savior?,” like we did when I was growing up. Now it’s, “Do you need a healing? Do you need to be prayed for?” I’ve been around them. They’ve tried that with me and I thought, “How come you don’t want to talk about Jesus Christ and the cross and the resurrection?” They don’t do that. And I don’t want them to pray for me. I don’t want them coming around because that’s all they do. What I’m trying to say is: It’s not the life of Christ. It’s about a fix, a bandage, a band-aid. Don’t heal my problem. Just give me a band-aid. They don’t want a full deliverance of healing for the whole life – body, soul, and spirit. They just want a little touch. Give me an aspirin. Give me a religious aspirin and that’ll take care of my problem.


Is there anything else you would like to add?

One thing I’m so thankful for, and this is because of the relationship with Christ – I’m so thankful for all of you who have Christ in your heart. And it’s not only you. It’s your children, and now I’m hearing about the grandchildren of family members. (Lord, I thank you.) That’s what makes the gospel real. We’re not preaching a figment of our imagination. We’re preaching a real, genuine gospel, supported by the Bible, based on the Bible, and we’re seeing the fruits of it. You’re seeing the fruits of it. Look at your children. If the power of Jesus Christ is not real, then it wouldn’t affect our children, our grandchildren; it wouldn’t affect our relatives, our uncles, our aunts. People around us are affected by this gospel. It’s the power of the Holy Spirit working through the gospel of Christ. That’s really an excitement in my spirit when I know what’s happening in you, Steve. I know what’s happening with my children. We’re still praying for some. But I’m excited.


I love how you bring it back to what’s important and praiseworthy, despite the erroneous teaching. Jesus affects people. We see it. It’s so logical.

Right. And just look what it’s done to your family. You can look at your whole family: your dad, your uncles, your aunts, you know. If this gospel is not real, then how come they’re excited? But it’s real, and you know it’s real, and now your children know. I’m thinking, “Wow. This is marvelous!” Uncle Ralph calls me a lot and that’s what keeps us excited. We look at our families and we think, “Wow.” My mother was the only candle in our family, but then she lit up 4 boys. And now 4 boys have candles. And 4 boys lit up how many families now, children and grandchildren. So, all of you have a candle, the light of Jesus. And I can rest secure. Joyous.

I’m always saying now when I go to preach, “Lord, it’s exciting to serve you. Lord, it’s a joy to serve you.” Some people serve the Lord and say, “Well, I have to go preach, or I have to go do this.” No, no, no. When it comes to the Lord, we ought to be excited. The Holy Spirit’s going to be upon us. He’s going to work through us to help people. So, I’m excited.
  


Simple picture of a microphone


  
Dear readers. Jesus is God’s one and only Son. He came to us in human flesh and died on the cross to pay the penalty of our sins so that we can be reconciled to God the Father. Jesus’ love is intentional and it led Him to the cross. His love is not reckless.

Truth matters. Many cry that legalism is bad, but maybe it’s because they don’t want to pay attention to the truth. We need more than just a band-aid. As my dad said, we need healing for our whole lives – body, soul, and spirit. And God expects obedience in return. We shouldn’t have a flippant or as-needed relationship with Jesus. Our service and obedience to Him is our logical response to His intentional love and sacrifice. You can read more about this in my next post.


If you want to read more about the meaning of the cross, see J. Warner Wallace’s post called What is the Meaning of the Cross?


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Did this interview speak to you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
  
Do you have questions about the fact that Jesus was both man and God? Do you have questions about the fact that, while He is 100% God, He is part of a Godhead (“the Trinity”) that consists of God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son? Do you want to know more about why He died on the cross? Do you want to know how you can have a personal relationship with the true, living, compassionate God? If so, please email me at authordlv@att.net.


Read more blog posts here.

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Comments

  1. We must be alert and remember there are false teachings. We must not listen to those teachings. Thank you for sharing this conversation. God bless you and your Dad.

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    1. Yes, Melissa. We read God's Word to know the truth and we will know false teaching when it arises. Thank you for standing firm in the truth.

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  2. Thank you for sharing this story. I think this kind of teaching is sneaking into our churches more and more. We must stay alert and guard our hearts.

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    1. This is an unfortunate situation, Yvonne, because we are not all reading the Bible for ourselves, yet the false teachers are in our midst as 1 John tells us. Thank you for reading.

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  3. Stephen, this is a wonderful post. I'm so glad that you and your father are speaking truth. We have to be 'Berean' Christians today, truly studying and knowing our Bible, for there are many false teachers in the pulpits these days. Thank you for being a light in a dark world! Thank Jesus, he did die for our sins on a cross and rose again three days later. Glory to him!

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    1. Thank you also, Marcie, for being a light, especially for our families. Truly, we worship and serve a sacrificial Savior. Praise God for His intentional love.

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  4. Yes, we must be on guard. Thanks. "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies" 2 Peter 2:1

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    1. That is a good reminder for us (2 Peter 2:1). Many, as 2 Peter says, will follow the false teachers because they appeal to them in some personal way. This is very dangerous.

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  5. This is excellent! We are called to be Bereans, to not just accept everything that comes from the pulpit as biblical. The cross matters! I appreciated hearing your father's take and wisdom; what a blessing to have a dad who loves Jesus!

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    1. Thank you, Candice. I appreciate how practical my father's responses are. Biblical details and truths are not just informative, they matter for everyday life. Jesus gives us a very personal relationship with God and His truth.

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  6. SO true. This really did happen. Jesus, the Son of God, really did die on the cross. He is the way, truth and life, the path to God, and He died for us as a sacrifice for our sins. Thank God for the opportunity for a savior and for the forgiveness of our sins!

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    1. Yes, Jessica. And when we let Jesus be a part of our lives, we truly see how real He is and how liberating His sacrifice is! And He lives!

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  7. It matters that Christ died for us because he became one of us. He was the only sinless human--the only one worthy to open the scroll. The Lamb. The Lion.

    Wow.

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    1. Wow is right. Sinless, human, and worthy. And truly God's Son who died on our behalf. Praise God.

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  8. Solid doctrinal teaching - thank you!
    I especially liked the reminder, "This is God’s design. The Father planned it. The Son paid for it. The Holy Spirit applies it."
    Amen!

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    1. I love that reminder, Ava. I was not expecting that answer when I asked why it matters that Jesus died and not His Father, but how very relevant that is. Who are we to meddle with God's design? Amen is right.

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  9. Truth matters!!! Because it is true. I am so grateful for this post and how you have taught foundational truths to our Christian faith through this. One thing I can't quite grasp is why did this preacher feel the need to twist this? Very odd to me. Praying now for more eyes to be opened in these churches, for there are so many false teachers. We must read the Bible for ourselves!

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    1. Yes, Melissa. We can't ignore the truth, and we have no place in teaching anything contrary to it. But many are deceived, including the false teachers. Thank you for your prayers for the body of Christ.

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  10. That's a shocking teaching. I love the answers you have provided here.

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    1. I was very shocked, Stephanie, and grateful that my father is brave and committed enough to God's truth to step away from the error.

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