The Greatest Lie of All

What is the greatest truth of all, the foundation of our Christian faith? Is it not the cross of Jesus Christ: the precious fact that the Son of God atoned for our sins on Calvary and through His sacrifice we have all been forgiven?

What then would be the greatest lie of all? Wouldn't that be the outrageous claim that Jesus did not atone for our sins on Calvary, and that we have not been forgiven through His sacrifice?

And yet, even if it may sound unthinkable, this is what most Christians and non-Christians have been told to believe since the beginning of the fifth century. It was the highly esteemed Church Father Augustine who presented a whole new approach to the cross: Jesus died for all men but still no-one was redeemed, not at the time of crucifixion. Sure, sins were to be forgiven because of Jesus, but only later on — by repentance and faith, and through the holy sacraments administered by the Church. Thus, without a single theologian realizing what had happened, the forgiveness of sins became detached from the historical events on Calvary.

This revolutionary change — the time-shifting of the atonement — remained unnoticed throughout the centuries. And eventually it was adopted into all of the western theology: Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and Reformed alike. Not that we can blame any one theologian for this error, for it must be the father of lies who is behind all this. After all, who benefits the most if the true meaning of the cross is clouded? Who reaps the harvest if the Christians are too occupied with their own sins to proclaim the Good News to the world?

I believe we will not see another great revival in the western countries until we return to the original gospel. We need to stop lying to people. We have absolutely no right to give anyone the impression that his sins have not yet been forgiven through the one-time sacrifice of Jesus. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:19)

On the other hand, we must understand as well that it is not this universal grace of forgiveness that saves any of us. "But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God's children, to those who believe in his name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13) Due to the complete forgiveness on the cross, we are now saved by faith alone as we receive Jesus into our heart and life.

- Markku Sarento