the Spirit Watch

Unification Theology And The Cross of Christ

PART 4: An Evangelical Response

by Bryce Pettit, Centers For Apologetic Research

The Gospel of Belief

In this final section, I would like to bring to the reader's attention verses that are quite incongruous to the Unification Church's position but which strongly support the Evangelical understanding of the cross.  John 6:29 is the most often used prooftext of the UC in this context: "Jesus answered.  'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'"   According to their interpretation, John the Baptist should have fulfilled his role as the forerunner of the Messiah, making it possible for the Jews to believe in Jesus.  He failed and Jesus spent over three frustrating years scrounging around the Judean countryside trying to convince people he was the Messiah (139).

A study of those who did believe in Jesus in the Gospel of John will demonstrate the weakness of the Unification position. 

  Below are listed some of the more relevant texts relating to this question.  Commentary on specific ones will follow.

John 2:23-25         many in Jerusalem believe in his name

3:10 21                 everyone who believes in Jesus has eternal life

4:39-42                 many Samaritans believe because of the testimony of the woman at the well

4:53                      a royal official and his household believe

6:1-5-59.              he who believes has everlasting life

7:31                      many at the Feast of Tabernacles put their faith in Jesus

8:30                      as he spoke, many put their faith in Jesus

10:42                    many believe in Jesus because of the testimony of John the Baptist

11:45-46              many Jews put their faith in Jesus, while some report to the Pharisees about Lazarus

12:11                   because of Lazarus many Jews "were going over to Jesus"

12:17 19              the "whole world" was going after Jesus because of the raising of Lazarus

12:37-43             although many were stubbornly refusing to believe in Jesus, many leaders did believe

20:30-31             the Gospel of John was written that people would believe in Jesus

John 3:16 is a pivotal verse for our purposes and the entire Gospel. Leon Morris says,

In typical Johannine fashion, "gave" is used in two senses.  God gave the Son by sending him into the world, but God also gave the Son on the cross.  Notice that the cross is not said to show us the love of the Son (as in Gal. 2:20), but that of the Father.  The atonement proceeds from the loving heart of God.  It is not something wrung out of him (140).

This is even more apparent at 6:51, where Jesus says he will give his flesh for the life of the world.  "Flesh" is a striking picture.  It is not "body." which might be interpreted sacramentally, but flesh, his physical body, which he would give for the sins of the world (141). The preposition "for" is most often used by John in his gospel in this sacrificial sense (142).

Much more could be said about these verses, but as a final observation, note how just before the Passover Jesus is attracting even leaders among the people (143).  Many Jews did not believe in Jesus, and their judgment was already coming on them. (144) but many did believe, fulfilling John 1:12, "Yet to all who received him, to all who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."

Jesus and the Jewish People

A strong evidence against the Unification understanding of the ministry of Jesus consists in the fact that from the very beginning of his ministry until his Triumphal Entry, Jesus was practically overwhelmed by crowds.  The following list contains some of the more important references.

Matt. 5:1, 8:1         large crowds follow Jesus

Matt. 12:15           after John's "failure," many still follow

Matt. 13:2             large crowds listen to Jesus

Matt. 14:13-14     crowds follow Jesus (Jn. 6:2 says "great crowds")

Matt. 14:21           feeding of the 5,000

Matt. 15:10           a crowd with Jesus

Matt.15:30            great crowds came to see Jesus

Matt.15:35, 38      the feeding of the  4,000

Matt 17:14            a crowd is waiting for Jesus

Matt.19:12            large crowds follow Jesus

Matt.20:29            a large crowd is with Jesus at Jericho

Matt. 21:8            "a very large" crowd welcomes Jesus into Jerusalem

Matt. 21:9             crowds (plural) both precede and follow Jesus into Jerusalem

Matt. 21:10-11      all of Jerusalem is stirred by Jesus

Matt. 21:46           the religious leaders feared a riot from the people if they arrested Jesus

Mk. 12:37             large crowds listened to Jesus with delight

Lk. 12:1                a crowd of many thousands came to Jesus

Lk. 13:17              Jesus delighted the crowds

Lk. 19:37              "the whole crowd of disciples" (cf. v. 39)

Lk. 19:48              the people "hung on his "words"

Lk.  21:38             all the people" came to hear Jesus  

Lk.  22:2-6           the religious leaders looked for a chance to arrest Jesus "when no crowd was present"

Jn.   2:23               many believe  in   Jesus

Jn.   4:39, 41         many believe  in   Jesus

Jn.   7:31               many believe  in   Jesus

Jn.   8:30               many believe  in   Jesus

Jn.   10:41             many come  to Jesus

Jn.   10:42             many believe in  Jesus

Jn.   12:42             many leaders believe in  Jesus

But why did anyone at all turn from Jesus? The rich young ruler did, (145)  and as John 6:60-66 shows, it was not the failure of John the Baptist that was the problem, it was Jesus and his teachings (146). The disbelief of those hardened by their sin was also prophesied (147). Sadly. many love darkness rather than light, and they refuse to come to Jesus, that they might have life and have it to the fullest (148).

The Testimony of Jesus and the Apostles

In Luke 24:13-49 Jesus gives a number of instructions to his disciples after his resurrection.  In Unification language, Jesus may be said to be speaking from the "spirit world." If Rev.  Moon has received any message from the spirit world, it must be in harmony with what Jesus has already taught on the subject (149). In Luke 24:25-27, he says to two of these disciples,

"'How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?' And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself."(150)

Notice that the Christ, the Messiah, had to suffer and then enter his glory.  This interpretation by Jesus was based on the Scriptures themselves.  Once Jesus explained what was said about him in all the Scriptures, if there had been a plan other than the cross, surely Jesus would have instructed his disciples about it at this point.

A short time later, Jesus appeared to his disciples again.

He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will he preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem"(151).

Jesus opened the minds of his disciples so they could understand the message of the Bible concerning his mission, that the Christ will suffer, not that he might suffer if the people proved faithless.  This message is consistent with everything the apostles later taught about him.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said, Jesus "was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge" (152).  All the believers prayed together in Acts 4:28 concerning the death of Jesus at the hands of the religious and political leaders, concluding that "They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen."

Leon Morris makes an important observation about this aspect of early apostolic preaching:

This means more than that God knew beforehand what would happen.  He determined beforehand what would happen.  He planned that the Messiah should be given over to death.  The purpose of God was wrought out in that death.  No way of viewing Calvary which regards it primarily as a tragedy, a martyrdom, or the like, is adequate to these words (155).

Paul was instructed by Jesus himself about the Messiah (154).  He testified before Agrippa,

But I have had God's help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike.  I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen - that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead. would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles (155).

According to Acts 17, it was Paul's custom in his early missionary work to go to the synagogues, "explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead" (156).  Notice again that it was the Christ, the Messiah, who had to suffer. not Jesus who did suffer because of the failure of John the Baptist, etc.  Paul always argued from the Scriptures concerning the prophecies of the Messiah.  In Romans 1:1-4 he makes this especially clear:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God - the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord (157).

The suffering of the Messiah (implied here by the reference to the resurrection from the dead) was promised beforehand by the prophets in Scripture.  No reference is given to the broken heart of God who wanted to bring salvation by another route.  No other plan was conceivable.

Ephesians 1:1-4 brings together many of the issues which Evangelicals and Unificationists have in common.  Paul argues there that Christians were chosen in Christ Jesus before creation.  "in accordance with his pleasure and will." He further argues,

In him we have redemption through his blood. the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.  And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment - to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ (158).

This is a strikingly different picture of God and his purposes than the one the UC presents.  Rather than having everything hinge on human response, the God of the Bible works out everything according to his pleasure and will. Regarding our salvation, he purposed our redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ, which he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.  The final consummation of salvation will occur when everything is placed under Jesus Christ himself, all things in heaven and on earth.  Do we need to make the obvious point that there is no room for a second Messiah, since all things will be under one head, that of Jesus? (159) Peter also says the saints were chosen according, to the foreknowledge of God (160).  He also combines our themes of mutual interest a few verses later:

Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow (161).

The sufferings of Christ were predicted by the prophets and the glories of Christ that would follow.  Notice that the glories would follow Christ's sufferings.  This was God's only plan and the UC has yet to demonstrate a consistent portrayal of their understanding of Scripture from the Scriptures themselves.  On the words of the prophets, see 2 Peter 1: 12-21.

Although we have covered the Gospel of John in some detail. other references in John's writings are important.  1 John 4:10 says, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."  This should be compared with Revelation 13:8, which speaks of "the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world." The love of God expressed through the cross is an affront to the UC,  just as it was to other unbelievers in Paul's day (162).  Any view that doesn't see the cross as an extension of the love of God completely misses John's point in 1 John 4 (163)  Leon Morris quotes James Denney to good effect on this point:

T'hat God is love is in the New Testament a conclusion from the fact that He has provided in Christ and in His death a propitiation for sins: but for this, the apostles would never have known that God is love; apart from this, they could never have found meaning for the phrase, God is love.  The whole proof, the whole meaning, contents, substance, and spirit of that expression, are contained in propitiation, and in nothing else.  What, then, are we to say of those who appeal to love against propitiation, and argue that because God is love the very thought of propitiation is an insult to him?  We can say this, at least, that they have fundamentally misunderstood the New Testament (164).

Has Rev. Moon and the UC totally misunderstood the New Testament?  Our conclusion must be a resounding "Yes!" For all their talk of God's Heart, and of love, the very foundation of love is missing from their theology.  Their identification of Jesus' work on the cross as "spiritual" salvation does not do justice to the.New Testament witness.  Both Jesus and his apostles view salvation in a completely different light.

It is the heartfelt prayer of every Evangelical that the whole world know the loving graciousness of God expressed in the sacrifice of his Son.  There is no other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved (165). Rather than making us exclusive, the death of Christ makes us the most inclusive people on earth, for God's salvation in Christ Jesus is a free gift to all, Jew or Gentile, man or woman, rich or poor (166). Jesus' words say it best, "But when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men [mankind] to myself " (167). 

Unification theology is guilty of pointing to the necessity of another.  The Scriptures know nothing of him.


139)   Young Oon Kim.  Divine Principle and Its Application (Washington: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity,
1969), 60, says Jesus could only attract "a few" followers.  Guerra, "Will of God," 97, says Jesus was not accepted by the Jews.  The Divine 
Principle Study Guide, 19, says only "a few," or "some" followed Jesus.
140)  Morris, John, 28.
141)  Cf. Heb. 10:10, I Pet. 2:24.
142)   See 10: 11, 15; 11:50-52; 13:37-38; 15:13; 17:19; 18:14.  Morris, John, 376.
143)   12:37 43.
144)   9:39.
145)   Lk. 18:18-23.
146)   Cf. Lk. 9:57-62.
147)   Matt. 13:11-15.
148)   Jn. 5:40; 10:10.
149)   Cf. Acts 17:10 12; Matt. 24:23-25; 1 Jn. 4:1-3.
150)   Emphasis mine.
151)    Lk. 24:44-47, emphasis mine.
152)   Acts 2:23; cf. 3: 18.
153)   Leon Morris, The Cross In The New Testament,  (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerd mans Publishing Co., 1965), 123.  This was 
written specifically concerning Acts 2:23, but obviously applies to the entire family of texts that make this same point.
154)   Gal. 1: 11-12.
155)    Acts 26:22-23;  cf. 13:23-32.
156)    Acts 17:1-4.
157)    Emphasis mine
158)    Eph. 1:7 10.
159)    Cf. Jn. 3:31; Rom. 14:9;  Eph. 1:22-23;  Col. 1:18;  Heb. 1:4: 3:3: 8:6.
160)   1 Pet.  1:2.
161)   1 Pet. 1:10-11.
162)   1 Cor. 1:18.
163)    Morris, The Cross In The New Testament, 340; cf.  Rom. 5:8.
164)    Ibid, 340-341.
165)    Acts 4: 12
166)   Gal. 3:28;  Eph. 2:8- 10; Titus 2: 11: etc.
167)    Jn. 12:32.

        Our thanks again to Bryce Pettit and EMNR for their permission to web Bryce's outstanding essay first published in 1992. In light of the Unification movement's new advances as of late,  Bryce hopes to update and revise this original version of his talk in the near future. Please bookmark us and return.

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