John (Part 28): Revelation of Messiah – OT Covenant Background (cont’d)

08/19/2014 14:57

In John 5 through 10 we find a section of major debate in which Jesus distinguishes himself from the Jews. At the center is the idea that Jesus (and he alone) has a covenant relationship of life with God. The Jews are confused. They believed they had a covenant of life with God based on the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. They pointed to circumcision and the Law to prove their connection with God. But, as we have discussed, those covenants were not new covenants of life, but rather covenants of the Redemption Plan that would lead to the Messiah and the New Covenant of Life. That very point is the focus of discussion in our section concerning the Messiah coming from and going to the Father. The coming proves his covenant relationship with God. The going back proves that his mission was in line with God’s covenant plan (otherwise God would not accept him back).

This covenantal understanding is essential to understanding the Gospel. And it is the heart of Kinship Theology. Kinship Theology is the theological interpretive framework that focuses on love relationship as the purpose for God’s interaction with humankind. This love relationship purpose provides foundation for the three major pinnacle points of existence—creation, redemption, and the eschaton—that, in turn, function as bellwethers to inform and guide life toward the love relationship purpose. So then Kinship Theology views God (1) as having created humankind as image bearers for the love relationship purpose and (2) as pursuing his image bearers for love relationship through covenantal bond. We see, then, that the image is identified as those qualities necessary for love relationship. And the covenantal bond is the type of communion, defined by promise, obligation, and benefit, that God uses in his pursuit. Thus, all communication by God to his created image bearers in speech, activity, and/or other revelation derives from, relates to, and moves toward his purpose of everlasting love relationship.

This is why we took the time to review the covenants. It is by these that God pursues; it is then necessary to understand them in order to understand Jesus’ point in John. That covenantal understanding is also necessary, I think, to understand our relationship with God today. This is the point of distinguishing Kinship Theology from Reformed Theology. Reformed Theology presents a legal framework of viewing interaction with God. Kinship Theology focuses on relationship. We have already discussed the differences between Kinship Theology (KT) and Reformed Theology (RT) regarding God’s first covenant with Adam. KT views this covenant as the first Covenant of Life, emphasizing relationship: growth with God, the necessity of trust in God as he provides care for his creation, and God’s resultant withdrawal from relationship because of sin while still engaging in development of the redemption plan to ensure relationship in the end.

While most of the same elements are there in the Reformed view, RT focuses not on relationship but on the legal points of this first covenant. Thus, Reformed theologians refer to it as the Covenant of Works in which God’s purpose is to test obedience.

In KT, after the fall, God immediately begins his redemptive plan, looking ahead to a New Covenant of Life that would be established by the New Adam—Jesus. RT also sees God at work, but regards his immediate action as a new covenant called the Covenant of Grace in which the other covenants (Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and the New Covenant) are parts of that Covenant of Grace.

So, it is not the number of covenants that marks the difference between KT and RT. Rather it is in how these covenants are regarded. RT focuses on the legal framework for paying for sin. KT sees an urgency by God to recapture relationship. The perspective is important because it affects how we understand the covenantal activity. The following list sets up the differences.

Kinship Theology


Reformed Theology




     Love Relationship


     Test of Obedience

     Removing Trust from God



     Death (God withdraws)


     Penalties imposed (death,

     condemnation, depravity)

     Redemption Plan



Covenant of Prophecy (Abe)


Abrahamic Covenant

     Kinsman Redeemer


     Land, Offspring, Blessing

Covenant of Priesthood (Moses)


Mosaic Covenant

     Revelation of Relationship


     Obedience gains Blessings

Covenant of Kingship (David)


Davidic Covenant

     Jesus is Lord


     Messiah from Davidic line



New Covenant

     Reborn in Messiah


     Elect forgiven through deal


The difference of emphasis between KT and RT regarding New Covenant purpose needs additional comment. Because of the legal focus of RT, the New Covenant is seen as a transaction completed in order to remove sin from a person. The “deal” is an exchange of guilt for righteousness. In other words, Jesus took upon himself the guilt for the sins of those he would save, paying for the guilt, and in exchange he gives to the elect his righteousness to wear—or, to be clothed in. While there are several passages that are used as possible interpretative support for this idea, the most prominent is 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This verse is claimed to have the two parts of the exchange: Jesus becomes sin, and we receive righteousness. We will examine both sides of this exchange separately.

First, what is it to “be sin” for us? Sin, of course, is an action. Lying, for example, is a sin. But Jesus doesn’t become lying. The phrase “to be sin,” then, is a metonymy—a figure of speech that uses the name of one object or concept for that of another to which it is related. What does “to be sin” relate to? RT’s proponents say it is the guilt of the sin. Therefore, Jesus was made to be guilty of our sin. Another possibility does exist. That other possibility was that Jesus was made to be a sin offering.

The idea that Paul meant Jesus became a sin offering when he stated that Jesus was made “to be sin” has linguistic support. In the OT, the Hebrew minchah is often used when the idea of gift or offering is meant, as in Genesis 4:3 when Cain and Abel each brought their offerings to God. Another word, ‘olah, is often translated as burnt offering, as is used in the discussion of Abraham’s offering of Isaac as a burnt offering in Genesis 22:8. But the Hebrew word commonly translated as sin offering is chatta’ath. This is interesting because the word can mean simply sin as in Genesis 4:7, and it can mean sin offering as in Leviticus 4:3. In translating the Hebrew OT into Greek (creating the Septuagint), this word is translated simply as harmartia, which is the Greek word for sin. Thus, even though the context may indicate sin offering, as in Leviticus 4:3, the Septuagint reads only sin (harmartia). Paul often quotes from the Septuagint in his epistles. It is therefore as likely as not that in this example of 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul wrote the Greek “to be harmartia (sin)” meaning, as the Septuagint does, “to be a sin offering.”

Which, then, makes better sense: Jesus was made to be guilty of our sin or Jesus was made to be a sin offering? Here are some considerations regarding being made guilty of our sin. First, if Jesus becomes guilty of sin, there is an inconsistent treatment in resurrection. Here is what I mean. If I die guilty of my sin, I am forever separated from God. He will not resurrect me. I am guilty. The guilt doesn’t fall away simply because I died physically. It remains forever. But if our guilt transfers to Jesus so that he actually becomes guilty for my sin, why is it that God resurrects him? My guilt is on him. My guilt that lasts forever and is not wiped away by physical death is on him. It is inconsistent for God to resurrect Jesus the man with my guilt on him but refuse to resurrect me if the guilt remains on me. We cannot simply say that Jesus is God. It is Jesus the man that takes my place in sacrifice. This is a huge problem for those who believe that Jesus actually becomes guilty of sin.

Secondly, let’s suppose there is some way for Jesus to pay for the guilt of sin with his physical death. The result is that sin is paid for. But the Bible speaks of God forgiving us for our sin. How can we be forgiven if there is no guilt of sin to be forgiven? The guilt is paid for. The transaction is completed. God demanded full payment, and he received full payment. Forgiveness is lost in this scenario.

Third, if Jesus becomes guilty of sin, how could we then receive his righteous life in exchange? If he becomes guilty during his life, his life is not righteous. Are we to assume we receive only part of his life—the righteous part? That is not only inconsistent, it is also incoherent.

But now consider that Jesus is made a sin offering for us. Understanding it this way, we have a consistent treatment in resurrection. Jesus is resurrected precisely because he is NOT guilty.

We also have true forgiveness by God. Jesus is a sin offering satisfying the death curse of human sin. But God still forgives my individual sin based on my inheritance of life from Christ.

And that righteous life that I inherit is, in fact, truly righteous. Jesus was unblemished as he went to his death as an offering.