theology

 

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The English word “atonement” “is derived from Anglo-Saxon words meaning, “making at one,” hence “at-one-ment.” It presupposes a separation or alienation that needs to be overcome if human beings are to know God and have fellowship with him. As a term expressing relationship, atonement is tied closely to such terms as reconciliation and forgiveness.”[1] The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible goes on to add “The word “atonement” occurs many times in the OT but only once in the NT (Rom 5:11 KJV). Modern translations generally, and more correctly, render the word “reconciliation.” The idea of atonement is ever present in the NT, however, and is one of the fundamental concepts of Scripture.”[2] Biblically, it is referring to the covering of sins. On this Norman L. Geisler writes,

One of the most important expressions of salvation is the word atonement, translated from the Hebrew kaphar. Literally, kaphar means “to cover,” but it also carries a broader meaning of “expiation,” “condoning,” “wiping away,” “placating,” or “canceling.” The Authorized Version translates kaphar as “to appease,” “to disannul,” “to forgive,” “to be merciful,” “to pacify,” “to pardon,” “to purge,” “to put off,” and “to reconcile.” The key thoughts are “to cover over in God’s eyes” and/or “to wipe away.” Kaphar is used around one hundred times in the Old Testament (in verbal form).

The Greek term for atonement is hiloskomai, meaning “to propitiate,” “to expiate,” or “to conciliate.” It is used twice; once in Luke 18:13, when the penitent sinner asks God to “be merciful” to him,[3] and once in Hebrews 2:17, where again we read:

Therefore, he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people, (RSV)[4]

The Need for Atonement

Humanity is in need of atonement or the covering over of their sins because as Paul put it, “sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) Earlier on in the same letter, he had written of our imperfect condition, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) Wise King Solomon was inspired to pen the same, saying, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” (Eccl. 7:20) King Dabid under inspiration penned, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity [sin], and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Ps 51:5) Jeremiah in 1 Kings 8:46 wrote similarly, saying, “there is no man who does not sin.” (1 Ki 8:46) As we can see from Paul’s words at Romans 5:12, it is man’s fault that he finds himself in need of an atonement, not God. (Deut. 32:4-5) Adam rebelled, evidencing more love for himself and his newly created wife. Thus, he threw away perfection and the possibility of eternal life, giving sin and death to all of his descendants, placing each of us under the condemnation of death. How God chose to handle this based on perfect justice (the principle of equivalence, or balance, in matters of justice)[5] is also laid out in Romans chapter 5,

Romans 5:16-19 English Standard Version (ESV)

16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Thus, we can see that the word and concept of atonement in the Bible carry the essential meaning of “cover over” or “exchange.” Therefore, that, which is given in exchange for, or as a “cover” for something else, it must be its equal. Hence, if something is to satisfy justly for something that has been lost, it has to be “at one,” or equal with whatever was lost, completely satisfying because it is an exact equivalent. In other words, the replacement cannot be worth more or less, than what had been lost. Thus, no imperfect human life could cover over or be used as an exchange for, i.e., atone for the perfect life that was lost. (Ps. 49:7-8) Therefore, if God were going to atone for what the one perfect man Adam had lost, he was going to need a sin offering that carried the same equal value of a perfect human life. Paul tells us this at 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

However, before God offered his Son, He had established a procedure for atonement among the Israelites in the 16th century B.C.E., which symbolized this greater atonement that would be provided some 1600 years later in 33 C.E. Therefore, it is God himself and not man who is to be recognized for providing the perfect sacrifice, later revealing this means of atoning for or covering over Adamic sin,[6] removing the consequential condemnation to death.

Atonement Sacrifices

At the direction of God, the Israelites were commanded to offer a sacrifice as a sin offering for atonement. (Ex. 29:36; Lev. 4:20) Atonement Day was of special importance, when the high priest of Israel had to offer an animal sacrifice for the sin offering which was for himself, in order that he may make atonement for himself and his household, as well as the other Levites and the non-priestly tribes of Israel. (Lev. 16) The animals used in these sacrifices were to be a perfect and complete specimen, just as was to be true of the later antitype.

The cost for us to atone for our sins is evidenced in that the animal sacrifice is that of a life, meaning that the animal must give its life. Leviticus 17:11, reads, “The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” With all that went into the sin offerings and the various features of the Day of Atonement, it must have made very clear to the Israelite minds the significance of their sinful condition and their great need of a thorough and complete atonement. Nevertheless, the need to do this from year after year also made it clear that the animal sacrifices would never completely atone for Adamic inherited sin because of their being inferior to humans (dominion over the animals), it could never satisfy justice. – Genesis 1:28; Psalm 8:4-8; Hebrews 10:1-4.

Atonement for Sin in Christ Jesus

It is not until we get to the Greek New Testament of the first century C.E., where we find complete atonement for the death that had spread to all men by the inherited Adamic sin, complete atonement coming only with the ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus. It is in him that the New Testament authors convey that we find the types and shadows formerly of the Mosaic Law. The constant and continual animal sacrifices for the Israelite nation over a 1,500-year period pointed to Jesus. The apostle Paul writes, “He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor. 5:21) Yes, Christ, “when he had offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12), and he is categorically “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, 36; 1 Cor. 5:7; Rev. 5:12; 13:8; Isa 53:7) Without Jesus, having ‘shed his blood there is no forgiveness of sins’ (Heb. 4:12), and if “we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” – 1 John 1:7; Hebrews 9:13-14; Revelation 1:5.

Jesus’ perfect human life offered in sacrifice is the antitypical sin offering, (i.e., foreshadowed by earlier animal sacrifices). His life purchased humankind from condemnation to death because of Adam’s rebellious rejection of God’s sovereignty, namely, we were freed from sin and death. (Tit 2:13-14; Heb. 2:9) Christ himself stated, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his soul a ransom [Gr., lutron][7] for many.” Jesus’ ransom sacrifice atoned or covered over exactly what was given up by Adam when he chose to sin of his own free will. Adam was a perfect human and Jesus was a perfect human. Paul told Timothy that ‘Christ Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all.’ (1 Tim 2:5) To the Ephesian congregation, Paul stated, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.” – Ephesians 1:7.

Reconciliation

The sin of Adam marred man’s relationship with God, causing a separation between humanity and God, for sin, is contrary to God’s personality and standards. Isaiah makes this separation all too clear when he writes, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Isa 59:2, ESV) This was true of the sins of the imperfect Israelites, how much more so of Adam when he was in perfection. Habakkuk wrote of God, “Your eyes are too pure to see evil, and you are not able to look at wrongdoing. …” (Hab. 1:13, LEB) The apostle Paul says of the imperfect human condition, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” (Eph. 2:3, NASB)

However, God took action the moment Adam sinned, stating that he would provide a means to reconcile imperfect, sinful humanity back into a righteous standing before him, through the perfect man, Christ Jesus. (Gen. 3:15, ESV) Therefore, the apostle Paul wrote, “And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” (Rom. 5:11, NASB; see the chapter Explaining Reconciliation) Nevertheless, if we are to be reconciled, we must accept the provision that God has made for reconciliation through Jesus Christ. It is only through this that we may be declared righteous in the eyes of God while still in imperfection, regaining the relationship that Adam forfeited prior to his willful sin. God is love, and it is that love, which is evidence in his making such reconciliation possible. (1 John 4; Rom. 5:6-10) In discussing how sinners are reconciled to God Boyd and Eddy write,

The penal substitution view of the atonement is the only view that takes at face value and with full seriousness; the Bible’s teaching that Jesus died in our place. For this reason, it is the only view that makes clear how an all-holy God could reconcile sinners with himself. Neither the Christus Victor[8] nor the moral government view[9] of the atonement addresses this issue adequately.[10]

God Put forward a Propitiation that Satisfied Justice

God is a God of love; nevertheless, one of his other major attributes is justice, which needed to be satisfied. Although Adam began life in perfection, he fell from that state through willful and knowing sin and thus he was condemned to death, along with all of his future descendants. (Gen. 2:17; 3:6)

It is the principles of righteousness (i.e., justice and fidelity), which necessitated that God; carry out the sentence of death that he stated at 2:17, applying it to disobedient Adam. However, his love for humanity moved him to offer a substitutional arrangement so that justice would still be satisfied. As a result, of this substitution, any offspring of Adam, who repentantly accepted this substitution, would be forgiven, removing the division that has been brought about by Adam’s sin, restoring peace between God and man. (Col. 1:19-23) Therefore, the Father “sent his Son to be the propitiation[11] (i.e., “to appease”) for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) In other words, Jesus’ death “appeased” God’s wrath toward the sin that had entered the world because Christ received the punishment that God’s justice required. Paul spells out this truth, when he said although “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23, ESV), we are declared righteous by God “by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” – Romans 3:24-25, ESV.

John, in his first epistle also made this point, saying, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10, ESV) Paul further wrote, “[Jesus] had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Heb. 2:17, ESV) Numerous times, the New Testament authors make it clear that humanity had the punishment of condemnation of death coming, and God took that punishment and place it on his Son in our place, as justice required satisfaction by propitiation, “appeasing” God.

Propitiation is the atoning, the reconciling, the covering over Adamic sin, our human weaknesses, restoring us to a favorable relationship with God. Jesus propitiatory sacrifice removed the charge of Adamic sin from his case against us, removing any reason that we be condemned to death, we now have the choice of a restored relationship because of God’s mercy. Again, this propitiation expunges the charge of sin, which had us condemned to death, but only if we avail ourselves to it. – 1 John 2:1-2; Romans 6:23.

The idea of substitution is found in the Old Testament sacrificial practices and is declared throughout the New Testament. For instance, Jesus himself said that his death would be a substitution for others. He said to his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, ESV) In another example, Paul stated, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Cor. 15:3, ESV, NASB) Elsewhere Paul wrote, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us [i.e., Jews]—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’” (Gal. 3:13; Deut. 21:23, ASV, NASB) Paul also said, “For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21, ESV) This is how “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.” (2 Cor. 5:19, ESV) Think of it, God placed our sin on Jesus Christ, so that he might place Jesus righteousness on us. In other words, Jesus became our sin. Peter stated, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Pet. 2:24; Isa. 53:5, ESV) Peter also wrote, Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” – 1 Peter 3:18.

God’s Provision Requires Faith

God has offered all of humankind the provision of complete atonement, reconciliation for our inherited sin. (John 3:16; Rom. 8:32; 1 John 3:16) However, if this is to be applied to us, we must truly be repentant and trusting[12] in Jesus, so as to not be destroyed but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, UASV) God was not pleased with the sacrifices of Judah, as they were carried out with the wrong attitude. (Isa. 1:10-17) The Father sent for his Son, Jesus Christ “as a propitiation in His blood through faith.” (Rom. 3:21-26, NASB) It is only those alone, who accept this provision for atonement through Jesus Christ, perhaps they may gain salvation; however, those who reject it cannot. (Ac 4:12, NASB) Moreover, any who “go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment …” – Hebrews 10:26-31.

The Penal Substitution View

When Jesus offered his life as a ransom for us, the Father placed Adamic sin, our inherited sin, and our human weakness sin, even our practice of sin (if we truly repent before our death or the return of Christ), upon Jesus Christ and accepted him in our place. The Father Accepted Jesus in the place of us as he provided for our atonement, redeeming us from inherited sin and death. (Tit 2:13, 14; Heb. 2:9, ESV) Paul wrote, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21, ESV). Paul also told the Christians in Rome, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8, ESV) The Bible is clear that Jesus’ sacrifice atoned for the whole of all of humanity, which was a ransom price paid in our behalf. (Matt.20:28) This is known as the Penal Substitution View. On this Boyd and Eddy write, “In the sixteenth century, John Calvin and Martin Luther advocated a view of the atonement that was somewhat different from all these. They believed that Jesus bore the punishment humanity deserved. Only in this way, they argued, could humanity be reconciled to an all-holy God. This view has similarities to Anselm’s view, but it differs in stressing that Jesus actually bore the sin of humanity and actually took the punishment humanity deserved.”[13]

We arrive at the Penal Substitution View by our going back to the original language Greek words that are rendered in English as “for,” because they are found in the phrase “Christ died for our sins.” We begin with the Greek word “anti,” which indicates, “that one person or thing is, or is to be, replaced by another, instead of, in place of.”[14] Another Greek-English lexicon offers, “a marker of a participant who is benefited by an event, usually with the implication of some type of exchange or substitution involved–‘for, on behalf of.’”[15] In other words, “Christ died instead of us for our sins.” The other Greek word is “huper,” which is “a marker indicating that an activity or event is in some entity’s interest, for, in behalf of, for the sake of someone.”[16] Another Greek-English lexicon offers, a marker of a participant who is benefited by an event or on whose behalf an event takes place–‘for, on behalf of, for the sake of.’”[17] Thus, we would say, “Christ died in behalf of us for our sins.”

The fact that “Christ died instead of us [anti] for our sins,” is found in Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45. The fact that “Christ died in behalf of [huper] us for our sins,” is found John 10:11, 15; 11:50; Romans 5:8; 8:32; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Galatians 2:20; 3:13; Titus 2:4. William Greenough Thayer Shedd in his Dogmatic Theology makes an important observation:

The … preposition [anti] excludes the idea of benefit or advantage and specifies only the idea of substitution. The former [huper] may include both ideas. Whenever, therefore, the sacred writer would express both together and at once, he selects the preposition hyper.[18] In so doing, he teaches both that Christ died in the sinner’s place and for the sinner’s benefit.[19]

If someone says,

The Penal Substitution View limits God.

They argue this view takes away God’s freedom to forgive sin freely, but rather God must punish all sin, which dictates that God had to sacrifice his Son if humans were to be reconciled. First, we need to make the point that nothing or no one can limit God. The only way God could be “limited” is if that limitation came outside of himself. In other words, if someone or something outside of God required that God forgive all sin for the sake of justice being satisfied when God actually wanted to forgive all sin freely, this would limit God. However, this is not the case, but rather it is God’s own character, which moves him to satisfy his own attribute, justice, appeasing himself. There is the common misconception that nothing is impossible for God. This actually is not true. God cannot lie. Paul tells us, “It is impossible for God to lie.” (Heb. 6:13-18 See Num. 23:19, ESV) Moreover, God “cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13, ESV) It is not limiting God by our admitting “God cannot lie,” because we are not making that stipulation about him, he is telling us about his own character, his own attributes. We are not placing the requirement that he does not lie on him; this is God informing us that it is impossible for him to lie. The same is true of God not being able to forgive sin freely because his own justice must be satisfied. It is God telling us about himself, not us placing this stipulation, this requirement on him. Therefore, nothing is limiting him.

If someone says,

The Penal Substitution View conflicts with texts that state God forgives sin based on the repentance of the person. (e.g., Lu 15:11-32, ESV)

There is no doubt that God forgives all who repent, which is clear from Scripture. Repentance alone is not what covers over the sin, nor is it alone what moves God to cover the sin, but rather it is informing us how, on what basis God will forgive sin, still satisfying justice. It is specifically said, “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) We are also told in the book of Revelation that Jesus “loosed us from our sins by means of his own blood.”[20] (Rev. 1:5) The apostle Paul wrote, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.” (Eph. 1:7, ESV) He also wrote, “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Heb. 9:14) The apostle Peter wrote, “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.” Again, God forgives all who repent, but it is based on the blood of Jesus Christ. Thus, repentance is but one aspect of the blood of Christ, just as faith is also required if we are to be forgiven. If one repents from a sin, turns around and changes his ways, his sin will be forgiven based on the blood of Christ.

If someone says,

The Penal Substitution View encourages sinful living.

Remember, it is specifically said, “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”  (1 John 1:7) John actually qualifies this point by stating, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not commit a sin.[21] But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1) In other words, the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all sin is applied to commissions of sin based on human weakness, and does not cover the practice of sin, or living in sin. John went on to say, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” (3:6) John also said a few verses later, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (3:9-10) Therefore, the idea that the Penal Substitution View encourages sinful living is just false. More will be said about this under the heading below, God’s Propitiation Requires Faith.

If someone says,

The Penal Substitution View cannot work because guilt cannot be transferred.

The argument here is that it seems to be an injustice that Jesus would receive our guilt when he is sinless, and we would be sinful, yet handing off our guilt to him, seeming to sidestep our liability. Guilt in the modern day western world appears to be associated only with the person responsible for it. We will not attempt to argue away the entirety of this argument against the Penal Substitution View because as Boyd and Eddy put it, “there is an element of mystery to the penal substitution view of the atonement, but it is a mystery we must accept because it is rooted in Scripture.”[22]

We would first begin with the concept that somehow humans are avoiding their accountability for their individual guilt, which is not entirely accurate. Humanity has suffered diseases, crimes, old age and death of self, not to mention of loved ones. Maybe up to twenty billion humans have lived on earth at this point, who have lived very difficult lives, grown old and died. We must remember, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) While our death is not enough alone to pay for Adam’s sin, we certainly would not view the human condition as not being accountable for what Adam had done. Moreover, the idea of Adam sinning, so that he could choose for himself what is good and bad, in essence, rejecting the sovereignty of God, is an act of total independence from his Creator. We live in a world where individuals have always sought their freedom as opposed to community accountability, viewing guilt as an individualistic matter, not a community thing, not a family (humanity) matter.

If we look at the Scriptures and the history of some cultures, they do not view accountability of guilt in this way. Before addressing that difference, let us ask the all-important question. If we cannot all be saved by one man’s righteous act (Jesus), how could we ever all be condemned by the sinful act of one man (Adam)? (Rom. 5:12-14) Looking through the Bible history, at times, God held all of Israel accountable for the sin of a leader, such as King David, or a few, such as in the time where Saul violated a treaty with the Gibeonites, which had been in place for over four hundred years, since the time of Joshua. Yet, Saul and his family paid for his actions. Then, there was Achan, who kept some spoils of war, robbing God, who had commanded them to keep none of the spoils for themselves, when the Israelites were taking Jericho after forty years in the wilderness. Achan, his family, and even his livestock were put to death because Achan chose to ignore God and keep some of the spoils for himself. – 1 Chronicles 21:1-17; 2 Samuel 21:1-9; Joshua 6:17-7:26

Jesus became a perfect human, one who could account for Adamic sin, which is inherited sin from Adam. It also includes any sins that we may commit due to our human weakness in this imperfect state. An imperfect being could not pay the price for Adam’s sin, who was a perfect person. In Scripture, Adam is referred to as though he is a representative of humanity as a whole while all humans who accept the ransom sacrifice of Christ, as though they were individuals. Boyd and Eddy sum it up this way, “We were all one “in Adam.” Now we are all one “in Christ” (Rom. 5: 12– 21).”[23]

If we look at 1 Timothy 2:5-6, it says in part, “the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom [antilytron] for all.” The Greek word antilytron appears nowhere else in the Bible. It is related to the word that Jesus used for ransom (lytron) at Mark 10:45. The Greek antilytron broken down from anti means “against; in correspondence to; “instead of;” “in place of,” and lytron means “ransom [i.e., price paid]”) “The Greek implies not merely ransom, but a substituted or equivalent ransom: the Greek preposition, ‘anti,’ implying reciprocity and vicarious substitution.”[24] The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology points out that antilytron ‘accentuates the notion of exchange.’ The reason this is the case is that we are talking about the equivalent price of one perfect human for another perfect human. Thus, this was a means for God’s principal attribute justice to be satisfied.

If someone says,

The Penal Substitution View sets the Father against the Son.

Some would argue that the Penal Substitution View does away with the unity between the Father and the Son, as they say; it created a rift between the Father and the Son when the Father had to judge the Son. Not at all, this view puts forward a basis of an argument for a most deeper and weighty unity between the Father and the Son as they work out the salvation of humanity together. This is no clearer than at the time the Father judges the Son.

If we look at the Scriptures, we see the love of the Father for the Son at every turn, knowing the sacrifice is coming. At Jesus’ birth, the Father sends Gabriel, a very high-ranking angel, to announce the newborn king. (Lu 1:18-33) At Jesus baptism, out of the heavens, the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt 3:17) A few months later, we have Jesus telling us, “For God [i.e., the Father] so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NASB) However, we learn three very important points from Nisan 13th 33 C.E. (Thursday afternoon), just one day before Jesus’ death. In prayer to his Father, in anguish in the garden, where some manuscripts say he actually sweated blood.[25] “And going a little farther he [Jesus] fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.'” However, before delving into that, we must discuss a comment from Boyd and Eddy, whom we have been quoting. On this, they close out by saying,

It declares that the Father and Son were both willing to experience a temporary severance in their eternal relationship for the sake of acquiring eternal unity with humanity. Their unified love for lost humanity and their unified will to save humanity led them to experience willingly a loss of unity in their own relationship. Hence, as paradoxical as it sounds, the perfect unity of heart and purpose between the Father and the Son was manifested precisely at the moment Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). This constitutes one of the most profound teachings of the entire Bible.[26]

This author would wholeheartedly disagree that “the Father and Son were both willing to experience a temporary severance in their eternal relationship for the sake of acquiring eternal unity with humanity.” The evidence for my disagreement is found in the three important points mentioned above. But first, let it be said that a person can have a different desire for something and yet do the will of another out of love, which does not necessitate a severance in a relationship. This is especially true if that different desire is predicated on the fact that they do not want reproach to come on the other, which is why they have a different desire. Consider the entirety of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, there is a complete unity with the Father and Son on the redemption of humanity, Jesus doing the will of the Father in order to carry this out. Jesus knows exactly what is to take place with his death and exactly what he will be accused of, what he will be convicted of and what he will be executed for, and yet he prays this to his Father one day before his execution,

John 17:20-23 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word; 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as you have loved me.”

The first important point is that Jesus completely trusted the Father to accomplish his will and purposes. This trust is evidenced here in the Garden of Gethsemane. The second important point is that Jesus’ love for the Father was so great, while, in the most difficult time of his existence, his thoughts were for his Father. We see the reason for his great anguish was that he knew that he was going to be executed as a blasphemer of his Father, and even then, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) This is not a case of Jesus backing out of the execution, the ransom that is, but rather he wanted to be executed for another reason, other than a blasphemer. Jesus was an integrity keeper, which brought great joy to the Father. (Pro. 27:11) The third important point is that Jesus’s will was to have to not go down as a convicted blasphemer against the Father, even though it was not true, but his love for the Father, his complete trust in the Father came first, as he said, “not as I will, but as you will.” Therefore, there was no willingness “to experience a temporary severance in their eternal relationship.”

Two years earlier in 31, C.E. Jesus attends a feast, where he heals a man and rebukes the Pharisees. Here he also says of himself and the Father. “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” While this does not mean that Jesus’ will was different from the Father on judging, it does make it clear that Jesus’ will can be different from the Father, which clearly has never done anything to shake the unity that has existed, nor ever will, but goes to refute the mistaken notion from Boyd and Eddy. Remember, they suggested that the Father and the Son were willing “to experience a temporary severance in their eternal relationship for the sake of acquiring eternal unity with humanity.” As great a Bible scholar as Boyd and Eddy may be, they are just missing the mark here in trying to provide an answer for the critics of the Penal Substitution View.

Did Jesus’ words found at Matthew 27:46 (ESV), “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” point to having a lack of faith? No. While there is no comment within any New Testament book that will specifically tell us what Jesus’ motives for saying this were, his words do suggest that Jesus now knew the Father had removed all protection so that his Son could experience the full test of his integrity. In addition, Jesus likely used this opportunity because he was fulfilling the prophetic words of Psalm 22:1, which were a reference to him. It reads,

Psalm 22:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

God’s Propitiation Requires Faith

One insight that should be added is that Jesus ransom covers the Adamic inherited sin of every person and all that it entails. Everyone has the opportunity of choosing life over death, the ransom is made available, but it can be rejected.

Hebrews 10:26 English Standard Version (ESV)

26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,

Those who have accepted that “Christ died instead of us [anti] for our sins,” or that “Christ died in behalf of [huper] us for our sins,” “know that we have passed over from death into life.” (1 John 3:14) However, it is also just as possible to pass over from life to death, if we stray too far from the truth. Every Christian has the obligation, not just the elders, to help a brother back to the path of the truth. The apostle Paul tells us, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1) When we think of James informing us of our obligation of helping those who have stumbled in the truth, we think back on the power of prayer. Remember, James had just written, “the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick.” (5:15) For there to be success, one must diligently apply God’s Word and deep prayer to achieve the regaining of the one who has stumbled from the path of the truth. If the erring one does not receive the needed help, he can go beyond repentance. Being beyond repentance refers being beyond the desire to repent, to return to the truth. In some cases, he will be lost to Satan’s world, and no one will be able to reawaken his former desire. (Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26-29)

Review Questions

  • What do we know about the word atonement?
  • Why was there a need for the atonement?
  • What did the atonement sacrifices under the Mosaic Law teach us?
  • How was the atonement for sin in Christ Jesus different?
  • What is reconciliation?
  • Why must god be appeased [propitiation] in order to satisfy justice?
  • Why does God’s provision require faith?
  • What is the Penal Substitution View and why is it the biblically correct view?
  • How should we respond if someone said, “The Penal Substitution View limits God?”
  • How should we respond if someone said, “The Penal Substitution View conflicts with texts that state God forgives sin based on the repentance of the person? (e.g., Lu 15:11-32, ESV)”
  • How should we respond if someone said, “The Penal Substitution View encourages sinful living?”
  • How should we respond if some said, “The Penal Substitution View cannot work because guilt cannot be transferred?”
  • How should we respond if someone said, “The Penal Substitution View sets the Father against the Son?”

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[1] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 231.

[2] Ibid., 231

[3] NKJV, hearkening back to the Old Testament image of God meeting the sinner at the mercy seat and blood atonement being made for his sins.

[4] Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Three: Sin, Salvation (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2004), 230–231.

[5] See Deuteronomy 19:21

[6] Adamic sin is not a reference to the Calvinistic Total Depravity. Calvin is right in that we have a sin nature, we are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), we are “slaves to sin” (Rom. 6:16, 19-20), we are ‘mentally bent toward evil” (Gen 6:5; 8:210, ‘our heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; which we cannot understand” (J Adamic sin is not a reference to the Calvinistic Total Depravity. Calvin is right in that we have a sin nature, we are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), we are “slaves to sin” (Rom. 6:16, 19-20), we are ‘mentally bent toward evil” (Gen 6:5; 8:210, ‘our heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; which we cannot understand” (Jer. 17:3). John Calvin is right when he says that without the help of God, we are totally lost. However, Calvin is wrong when he says that God picks and chooses winners and losers, and that we are unable to choose God. Calvin is wrong when he says salvation is not a choice, as we with our freewill have the choice of choosing Christ or not. (Deut. 30:19; Josh 24:15; Ac 17:30-31) Repeatedly, we read the call for people to ‘believe in Jesus Christ’ and ‘they will be saved.’ (Ac 16:31; John 3:16) Moreover, the same is said of Jehovah the Father, “call on the name of Jehovah and be delivered.” (Joel 2:32; Ac 2:21; Rom. 10:13) It makes no sense for God to ask everyone to make a decision to call on Jehovah or Jesus to be saved, and then it is God who chooses and we have no real choice. Lastly, why send hundreds of millions of people out to preach and teach God’s Word, if the elect are already chosen?

[7] The means or instrument by which release or deliverance is made possible–‘means of release, ransom. – Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 487.

[8] “The early church emphasized how Jesus’ death and resurrection defeated Satan and thus set humankind free from his oppressive rule.” Boyd and Eddy

[9] “In the seventeenth century, a Reformer named Hugo Grotius found this view objectionable on a number of grounds. He argued that Jesus did not literally take on the sin of the world and suffer God’s punishment on behalf of humanity. Jesus did indeed suffer the wrath of God, in Grotius’s view, but as a demonstration of God’s wrath against sin. This act was done to teach humanity the consquences of sin and to inspire us to holy living. The cross thus preserves God’s moral government of the world.” Boyd and Eddy

[10] Boyd, Gregory A.; Eddy, Paul R. (2002-06-01). Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology (Kindle Locations 2533-2535). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[11] appeasement necessitated by sin, expiation – William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 474.

[12] The grammatical construction of pisteuo “believe” followed by eis “into” plus the accusative causing a different shade of meaning, having faith into Jesus.

[13] Boyd, Gregory A.; Eddy, Paul R. (2002-06-01). Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology (Kindle Locations 2453-2456). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[14] William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 87.

[15] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 802.

[16] William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 1030.

[17] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 801–802.

[18] ὑπέρ

[19] William Greenough Thayer Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, ed. Alan W. Gomes, 3rd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub., 2003), 692.

[20] Leviticus 16:30 American Standard Version (ASV)

for on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before Jehovah.

[21] Gr., hamartete, a verb in the aorist subjunctive. According to A Grammar of New Testament Greek, by James H. Moulton, Vol. I, 1908, p. 109, “the Aorist has a ‘punctiliar’ action, that is, it regards action as a point: it represents the point of entrance . . . or that of completion . . . or it looks at a whole action simply as having occurred, without distinguishing any steps in its progress.”

[22] Boyd, Gregory A.; Eddy, Paul R. (2002-06-01). Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology (Kindle Locations 2567-2568). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[23] Boyd, Gregory A.; Eddy, Paul R. (2002-06-01). Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology (Kindle Locations 2576-2577). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[24] Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 2 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 408.

[25] See Matthew 26:30, 36-56; Mark 14:26, 32-52; Lu 22:39-53 18:1-12

[26] Boyd, Gregory A.; Eddy, Paul R. (2002-06-01). Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology (Kindle Locations 2586-2590). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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