N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 55 (Jesus died once for all)


N. T. “Tom” Wright has just released another paradigm-shifting book suggesting a new, more scriptural way of understanding the atonement, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion. Wright delves deeply into how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus accomplish our salvation.

Romans 6:8-10

(Rom. 6:8-10 NET)  8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  9 We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him.  10 For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God.

Verse 9 is, of course, central to the Christian message. Jesus was not merely resuscitated to die again. Rather, a resurrection defeats death. Jesus, by being resurrected, has overcome the “mastery” of Death and Sin. “Mastery” could also be translated “dominion” (as in the NIV, ESV, and NASB), which likely is closer to Paul’s thought. Although, if we were to think in terms of “master” and slave, the “mastery” would work very well. It’s just that that word has lost most of its slavemaster flavor in contemporary English.

V. 10 asserts that Jesus died “to sin once for all,” a phrase that is a major theme of Hebrews (Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 26; 10:2, 10). Jesus’s death is a singular event in cosmological history, never to be repeated and yet in no need of repetition (and hence re-baptism is an absurdity and insult to the grace of God). It’s singular occurrence was entirely sufficient.

In Hebrews, the single death of Jesus is contrasted to the constantly repeated animal sacrifices under the Law of Moses, showing its superiority. Paul’s point here is likely more in line with the singular Exodus. The Israelites were freed just once from Egyptian overlords. That one event in history makes them and their descendants free people forever — so long as they remain faithful to the covenant (which didn’t happen).

Jesus’ death was sufficient for all of humankind. He defeated Sin and Death on the cross. They never need to be defeated again. Like Pharaoh’s army at the bottom of the Red Sea, they’re going to stay dead — but having crossed the Red Sea into safety, the Israelites were required to live to God.

Just so, while Jesus has defeated Sin and Death — our versions of Pharaoh — once for all, now that we’ve crossed into the wilderness, we must live to God. We can’t accept God’s salvation from Pharaoh and then worship a golden calf at the foot of Mt. Sinai.

A note on re-baptism [JFG]

I say again: re-baptism is an absurdity and insult to the grace of God. In almost every case I’ve witnessed, re-baptism was requested because the believer did not believe the grace of God received after baptism would be powerful enough to expunge his later sins.

The other most common ground for re-baptism is doubt as to whether the believer adequately understood the meaning of baptism. Well, none of us adequately understands the meaning of baptism. Not a one. And we are not saved by our theological expertise. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus. The thing the believer needs to have understood is that Jesus is our resurrected Lord (Rom 10:9), the Son of God. We need to know enough to call upon the name of Jesus as Lord.

In fact, I’d make a list of baptismal truths here that most Church of Christ members don’t know — except I’m afraid that as soon as I point out our imperfect knowledge of baptism, some readers would go out and ask to be re-baptized — just to be sure.

Well, our assurance is not in our knowledge of baptismal theology or our punctilious performance of the rite according to all the rule, but the righteousness of God — which assures us that he’ll be true to his covenant promise to reckon our faith as righteousness.

When “gospel” preachers ask people to come forward to be re-baptized “just to be sure,” they’re casting doubt on the righteousness of God and faithfulness of Jesus, for the sake of appearing to have preached the gospel — and at the cost of teaching our members that God cannot be trusted to keep his promises. It creates a mindset of fear and self-reliance — that I must study and read until I know for sure everything that I have to know to earn my salvation. It destroys Christians. Stop it.

If you’re an elder, discourage the practice. Teach the true gospel and never, ever build an argument on “just to be sure” — because that creates a self-help, self-created salvation. Rather, preach, “I”m sure because God keeps his promises.” If you erode trust in God’s promises, then you erode faith (which includes trust), and pretty soon, your members will all doubt their salvation and be miserable, uncertain, worried sheep — making you a bad shepherd. Stop it. 

Romans 6:11-14

(Rom. 6:11-14 NET)  11 So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires,  13 and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness.  14 For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.

Paul now draws the natural conclusion from his premises. If Sin and Death no longer rule over us, we should stop acting as though they do. We should stop murmuring and asking to return to Egypt because the desert is, well, desert — hot, dry, and inhospitable. After all, God himself is in the desert with us, leading us to the Promised Land. We should live accordingly.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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5 Responses to N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 55 (Jesus died once for all)

  1. Larry Cheek says:

    I believe that you know that there is no message in scripture that announces this statement.
    “Like Pharaoh’s army at the bottom of the Red Sea, they’re going to stay dead —”. This is only a theory produced by some men. These men have theories which depend upon the validity of this claim. But, these two verses are not compatible with the theory.

    Rev 1:7 ESV Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
    In this verse every eye and all tribes of the earth, is none short of all who have ever lived. Then those who pierced him (Jesus), what makes them any different than Pharaoh’s army or the Philistines that the Israelite Nation battled against?

    Rev 20:13 ESV And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.
    Would anyone imagine that only people who had served God would have died at sea or that Death and Hades (where are those places, would we find any of the servants of God there)? Does the term (each one) allow for exceptions? All of mankind who have ever lived will be accountable to God!

  2. Dwight says:

    Jay, I think that it would change our thinking and our debate topics if we approached salvation from getting to be being given upon baptism. We often approach baptism from what we do will get us something instead of who we are baptized into will place us before the giver of forgiveness.
    Now there were those who were re-baptized in the NT, but only because they weren’t baptized into Christ, but John. Other than not being baptized into the right person, in this case the savior, there is no other reason for a re-baptism. But then again sometimes people realized that they didn’t approach their first baptism with faith in Jesus and need a spiritual/mental reboot, so we shouldn’t discourage this. After all the second baptism isn’t going to nullify the first.
    But on the other hand we shouldn’t encourage baptism just to go through the physical motions based on technicalities either.
    While I have heard that Baptist baptized into their church, do the people not understand that they are being baptized into Christ no matter what?
    And then I have heard that we in the coC don’t baptized into our church, but then again what happens when a person goes to another congregation that is not coC, do we not often consider them as falling from grace? This is especially true in the conservative branches.

    Larry, I don’t know, but I didn’t read “Like Pharaoh’s army at the bottom of the Red Sea, they’re going to stay dead —”. to reflect the resurrection, but rather that they could not go onto anything else since they didn’t follow God, but Pharaoh, while the Israelites lived, because they followed God. “but having crossed the Red Sea into safety, the Israelites were required to live to God.”
    God delivered the Israelites, but not the Egyptians, because the Israelites were followers of God and the Israelites were expected to live to God upon their deliverance. In our baptism, we are buried and raised again, just as Jesus was, and are expected to live to God, just as Jesus lives.

  3. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    My thinking — admittedly tentative but based on several passages we’ve previously covered — is that the rules changed with the coming of the gospel. Post-gospel, all nations will of course worship God because the ability to be saved by faith was extended to the Gentile nations because of Jesus. This is said in Acts quite plainly. For example,

    (Acts 11:18 ESV) 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

    (Acts 17:30-31 ESV) 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

    These verses announce a CHANGE. In particular the extension of the gospel to include Gentiles was a new thing.

    Paul says the same thing in Romans but also in Eph 3 —

    (Eph. 3:1-10 ESV) 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

    So what was the fate of Gentiles who died before the announcement of the gospel and the coming of Jesus? Well, according to Paul in Acts 17, God overlooked their ignorance. Does that mean they received eternal life? Well, no. Acts 11:18 announces that the Gentiles were granted repentance unto (eternal) life only because of Jesus. So they weren’t punished and they weren’t saved. That is, when they died, they stayed dead. (We covered this in the posts on Rom 5 and some in Rom 3.)

    But this is no longer true. Now Gentiles are being saved and so people from every tribe and nation will worship God. And those who die in the sea will be resurrected, just the same as those given a proper burial. That is as a result of the gospel, but it hasn’t always been true. In my opinion. There are many who disagree, but few have actually worked their way through the relevant texts.

  4. Larry Cheek says:

    I see answers to you questions in Acts chapter 17 with your quoted verse among the answers.
    I am will provide the concepts that I see, anyone can go back and read the text to observe the application. But, first we need to understand Paul’s message in these verses.

    Rom 1:17-25 ESV For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (18) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (19) For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. (20) For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (21) For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (22) Claiming to be wise, they became fools, (23) and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (24) Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, (25) because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
    (LC) The period of time that is identified here is [ever since the creation of the world]. This would be from Adam through the end of mankind, this is binding upon all humanity, even though there were no laws given. Verse 19 explains that God had shown to them. Verse 20 explains exactly what he had shown them and that they (are without excuse), this would be a judgment of guilty. Verse 21 confirms again that they knew God and that It was the lack of obeying the objects in verse 20 that serves to condemn them. Remember these passages are not just addressing the Gentiles who are parallel to the Jews, this message starts at Adam.

    (LC) The message from Acts is still a continuation from the creation. Abraham being picked out from among these people did not change the rules they lived by when Abraham was separated to become a Nation through which his ancestors were intended to see the light of the Nation’s example of God.

    Act 17:16 ESV Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.
    (LC) City full of idols.
    Act 17:22-23 ESV So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. (23) For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.
    (LC) Worshiping a god, they did not know. Paul attempts to give them a knowledge of this God they did not know. Even without the knowledge of the Gospel would they have died the death of the physical body, but because they lived after the Gospel was created they would be resurrected to face the judgement and second death?

    Act 17:24-31 ESV The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, (25) nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (26) And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, (27) that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, (28) for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ (29) Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. (30) The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, (31) because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

    (LC) It appears that many desire to believe that mankind who lived from creation to the presentation of the Gospel did not have a law given to them to obey therefore, they will not be held accountable. Not being held accountable they will not be resurrected to answer to judgement. This allows that when they died the physical death they will have completed their life cycle. Dead like Rover! If that be true then, upon what we identify that men who never had the Gospel presented to them would fit that exact same justice today? I mean anyone totally alienated from men being able to present the Gospel to them would just die and be dead like Rover. This would apply the responsibility to God’s people of being guilty of the blood (the condemned death of any whom we have not delivered the Gospel to) anywhere in the world today.
    As I see the concept that you are presenting [law being the dividing line between accountability]. All who lived from the flood to the time of the giving of the law on Mt Sinai, would fit the death of Rover. That would be Noah, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Joseph and etc: would also be in this Rover death syndrome, they did not live under (law).

    (LC) It is my opinion that the message of (overlooked) is being misapplied, the true meaning is there but suppressed.

  5. Dwight says:

    I think we have to be careful that we don’t read “Torah” into every instance of where the word “law” is mentioned, after all God telling Adam not to eat of the tree of good and evil was law. And when Cain killed Able he transgressed God’s law and Cain knew it, because he felt guilt.
    In Rom.7:23 “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” which could read as law of the flesh.
    Rom.7:5 “For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.” could easily just be the law of God, as opposed to specifically the Torah.
    Or it could be the law, which when we recognize (good and evil), that convicts us.
    After all we are told in James 4:17, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” so we convict ourselves.
    Even Rom.14:23 “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.”
    So if we convict ourselves, even when not condemned by God, we still sin.
    This would probably account for why Jesus, who was not doing a particular Godly thing by fasting for 40 days, would have been sinning if he would have eaten and fallen to temptation, after all eating wasn’t unGodly.

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