|Volume 20 Number 8 August 2018||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 recorded one of Jesus’ statements on the cross not long before He died. The account in the Gospel According to Mark reads, “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (NKJV). These words are a quotation of Psalm 22:1, where we find, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?” David’s Psalm 22 is noted for being Messianic and prophetic about the sufferings of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Through all the adversity described therein, nevertheless, an unfailing confidence in Almighty God concludes Psalm 22.
The questions arise, “Why did Jesus on the cross utter, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’”; “What did Jesus’ statement mean?” and “In what sense did God the Father ‘forsake’ Christ on the cross?” Scripture does not answer these questions for us specifically. Hence, commentators are perplexed and provide varying explanations. Like some similarly difficult biblical passages, it is easier to declare what the passage does not mean than it is to confidently affirm what it does mean. As such, for instance, the notion is rejected that the divine side of our Lord separated from the human side, leaving only the abandoned, suffering and confused human on the cross.
Instead, following are some of the best observations from commentators that offer plausible and biblically compatible insight to our Lord’s utterance on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
To my mind, the best explanation of Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34—“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”—is summed up by comparing Isaiah 59:1-2 with 2 Corinthians 5:21. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2). “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). For a time, God the Father was “separated…from” ‘hid His face from’ and did “not hear” (acknowledge) Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross because our Lord was bearing all the sins of humanity. Our Holy God can have no association with sin. Therefore, while Jesus bore mankind’s burden of sin, God the Father could have no fellowship with Him. The agonizing expression of Jesus in Matthew 27:46 highlights the additional torture of a ruptured fellowship with God atop the excruciatingly painful death that He was experiencing. That breach of fellowship was something that the Second Person of the Godhead had never experienced throughout eternity. Likewise, one of the punishments for the ungodly at the end of time is separation from the presence of God (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
Afterward, the fellowship between God the Father and God the Son was restored as Jesus Christ ascended and took His place on “the right hand of God” (Romans 8:34; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22). “…Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him” (1 Peter 3:21-22).
Bible Exposition Commentary. CD-ROM. Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1989.
Bible Knowledge Commentary. CD-ROM. Colorado Springs: Cook Communications Ministries, 2000.
Cook, Wirt. “Prayers of Christ on the Cross.” Living in Trust. Curtis A. Cates, ed. Memphis: Memphis School of Preaching, 1993, 51-63.
Pulpit Commentary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.
Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.
Thus Saith the Lord
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
Churches of Christ (not a “brand name” but a designation) have long been known for having Bible authority for all we teach and practice. Of course, this concept originated with God, not the church (Colossians 3:16-17). In fact, no true doctrine ever originates with the church, but rather the church becomes and remains the true church as it upholds and supports biblical teaching (1 Timothy 3:15). If we fail to uphold and hold fast to “sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1), then we cease to be the Lord’s church (Hebrews 3:6)! Just claiming to be the Lord’s does not make it so (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46). Often when we speak of the preceding passages, we refer to those in the denominational world. While it is true that these passages would apply to denominations, it certainly has application to us!
When Jesus spoke these words and the inspired penman recorded them, denominations were not yet in existence. Therefore, to whom originally were these passages directed? They were directed to disciples and followers of Jesus—those who would become the church. Brethren, we need to make personal application here. Just because we claim allegiance to Christ does not make it so. Our teaching and practice must be the same as that of the apostles and of Christ (Acts 2:42). We must make certain we have Bible authority for what we teach and practice. Do we?
What about doctrinally? It is quite heart-breaking to see the doctrinal differences among those claiming to be the New Testament church. From music, the qualifications and work of elders, the work of preachers, head-coverings, women’s role, marriage-divorce-and-remarriage, and on and on we could go. Is the Bible that difficult to understand? Is God the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33)? Or, do we attempt to fit the Bible into our preconceived notions? The restoration plea was “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent,” but among some brethren that philosophy is outdated. Is it with us as well? However, we must remember that concept did not originate with Thomas Campbell, but rather with God Almighty (Matthew 15:9; 28:18-20; Hebrews 8:5; 1 Peter 4:11; 2 John 9-11; Revelation 22:18-19, et al.). There is but one doctrine that is pleasing to God!
What about financially? Have we left the original pattern for the use of our Lord’s money? All we can ever know about how to spend the Lord’s money is what the Bible has said regarding that subject. Sadly, today, God’s treasury in many places has become used to purchase things for the entertainment of our young people, older people and everyone in between. What saith the Scripture in regard to the Lord’s money? Evangelism is one place we must spend God’s money (Romans 10:13ff; 1 Corinthians 9:14; Galatians 6:6). We know that Paul was supported on some occasions to travel and preach God’s Word (2 Corinthians 11:9; Philippians 4:15). Benevolence is another area wherein we have Bible authority to use God’s money (Acts 4:32; 1 Corinthians 16:1ff; 2 Corinthians 8, 9; Galatians 6:10). Notice carefully, this money was used to supply a need, not entertainment or a want! Edification is another Scriptural use for the Lord’s money (Ephesians 4:11-16). Now we must be careful here, as “edification” is often the justification for gymnasiums, pizza parties, basketball courts, etc. Scriptural edification is spiritual in nature. Edification means “building up,” and it refers to building up spiritually. How do we do that? Bible class materials, tracts, DVD’s and other spiritual things contribute to edification. Financially, we cannot spend the Lord’s money in any other area and please God, for He has spoken in regard to how He wants His money spent.
What about evangelistically? The apostles and the church were given the task of evangelizing the world. Since there are no longer apostles living on earth, the church is the sole institution for spreading the message of salvation (Matthew 28:18-20). There were no “evangelism centers,” “missionary societies” or any other group in the first century to do God’s bidding. The church of Christ is solely charged with the propagation of truth. We need nothing larger than the church to do our work! Did Paul belong to a society for missionaries? Was Titus linked with some organization other than the Lord’s church? Never! These things were all foreign to the New Testament, and therefore, they did not and do not have scriptural authority!
I understand the things I write are not popular. I know that brethren all over this world are involved in such things. Yet, my plea is “Thus saith the Lord”! I want to please God, not the brotherhood. I want to seek the old paths (Jeremiah 6:16), not the status quo. Several years ago, I remember speaking with a brother in Christ regarding the preceding subject. I was told that my thinking was “too narrow.” However, I read in a book one time that “…strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life…” (Matthew 7:14), and spiritual life is all I seek. Brethren, let’s make sure we have Bible authority for all we teach and practice. “Thus saith the Lord” as our guide, Heaven will be our eternal home!
[Editor’s Note: Handling aright or rightly dividing the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15) is the challenge that the children of God must meet and continue to review. God made mankind, and He gave to us His Holy Word, which He also devised. Hence, we humans ought to be able to understand it, for after all, God expects us both to understand and to apply His Word to our lives—individually as Christians and collectively as congregations of the Lord’s church. May we ever march as pilgrims in the way the very oracles of God stipulate (1 Peter 4:11). ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]