More on Substitution

I simply don’t understand those Christian leaders who can’t accept that one of the things going on at the cross is Substitutionary Atonement. Without wanting to be unnecessarily rude, one must be blind to not see that the death of Jesus is a substitution for ourselves. In particular, it seems to me that people like Jeffrey John must have ripped bits out of their Bible in order to deny substitution.

I mean, how does he handle stuff like Isaiah 53:12? If Jesus “bore the sin of many” (put your cursor over the Bible reference to see the full text) then what does that mean? If Jesus simply bore my sin and then handed it back to me, what was the point of it? If he didn’t take my sin onto himself and then deal with it, I’m still stuck with my sin. What should I do about my sin Jeffery? Try harder?

What about Romans 3:23-25? When Jesus was offered as “a propitiation” was St Paul lying Jeffrey? Jeffrey’s not stupid – he learnt Greek at Theological College the same as I did. Blimey – he’s got a Doctorate, so I’m sure he knows the Greek word here is hilasterion. In the LXX the hilasterion is the Mercy Seat where sacrifice is made for sin (Exodus 25 just for starters), it’s the altar (the place where sacrifice for sin happens Jeffrey) in Amos 9:1 and Ezekiel 43:17. If therefore Jesus was NOT the place where a sacrifice for sin took place (i.e. Jesus was the sacrifice AND the place of sacrifice) then why did Paul say he was?

More? 2 Cor 5:21 says of Jesus that the Father “made him to be sin”. So if Jesus became as one who had sinned, where was that sin coming from? The animals? The angels? If Jesus wasn’t being made one carrying our sin, then how did the crucifixion make us mere humans “become the righteousness of God”? I don’t get it if Jesus didn’t take my sin.

Galatians 3:13 Jeffrey? If Christ did become a curse for us, then does that mean that I am no longer cursed? If so how did that curse vanish from me? If Christ didn’t take my sins on the cross then how did I get rid of them myself, because I must have done in order to no longer be a curse. It’s very confusing Jeffrey – you seem to be suggesting that I managed to get rid of the curse of sin on my life through my own efforts.

And don’t even start me on the Letter to the Hebrews Jeffrey. What about Hebrews 9:11-14? If Jesus was sinless, why did he need his own blood to enter the most holy place? Does that mean he shed his blood as an eternal redemption for himself or for us? Did Jesus’ blood redeem me Jeffrey? If so, how?? Why did he need to die if he wasn’t carrying my sin? I just read Hebrews 10:10 and it seems to suggest that I have been sanctified through the offering of Jesus. If he didn’t have to carry my sin on the cross, then how did he sanctify me?

I think Jeffrey’s problem, and frankly the problem of everybody who doesn’t like substitutionary atonement, is that they need to somehow disarm the work of Christ on the cross in order to disarm the power of sin. If your sin is going to kill you eternally unless it’s dealt with, then you need a saviour to deal with it. If however your sin is something that is dealt with on the side, if God didn’t have to do something himself about it, then sin becomes a secondary issue, something that gets handled without my really being involved, instead of me being totally involved, because in reality everything I’ve ever done wrong is causing Jesus pain at Calvary so that I don’t have to pay the price for it.

Here we are then in Tuesday of Holy Week. The Eucharistic Gospel today is John 12:20-36, which includes Jesus saying “when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself”, a clear reference to the Bronze Serpent in Numbers 21:9. Christ was raised up for us so that we, who should rightly die, need only recognise what he was doing on the cross to instead live. And why do we live when we recognise Jesus? Because it is on the cross that Christ is dealing with my sin. And how, pray someone tell me, is he dealing with my sin if he doesn’t take it from me somehow? Anybody? Anybody? Jeffrey?

I guess John 12:32 is another verse Dr John needs to rip out of his Bible together with all the ones above and so many more. Shame.

7 Comments on “More on Substitution

  1. Great post.

    The problem with the position taken by Jeffrey John and others is that it begs the question of how Jesus’ death demonstrates the love of God. If all Jesus is doing is, in effect, impaling himself on his sword to fall beside us – like the Galilean People’s Front! – what does that actually achieve? How does that demonstrate love?

    As John Stott points out in The Cross of Christ, the reason Jesus’ death on the cross is such a powerful demonstration of God’s love for us is precisely because Jesus died as a sacrifice for sins, as our substitute.

    As you hint at in your post, there is more going on at the cross than simply a substitutionary sacrifice for our sins. However, I do think penal substitution lies at the heart of those other motifs. To give another example, the “Christus Victor” theme is an important one to come out of the cross, but then we have to ask how it is that Jesus won his victory (“It is finished!”) over sin, death and the devil. Answer: because he died for our sins.

  2. BTW, your “Spam Karma” thingie keeps going berserk every time I leave a comment on here: says you need to configure it following an upgrade or something…

  3. Apologies for triple-posting: I of course meant the Judean People’s Front’s crack suicide squad.

    “Galilean People’s Front”? Huh! Splitters.

  4. This whole thing blows my mind……! And I think it should do. It isnt neat. It is still a huge mystery one that a modern mind cant grapple with as the mind wants immediate answers and everything sown up. I really dont like the fact that they can dismiss penal substitution so readily as if the scriptures dont matter.
    Also when anything is changed it has consequences. At the moment everyone is debating this that and the other, getting in a mess but surely “true thinkers” will point out where it leads (or dont they have the time for that).

  5. Also am I right in thinking that Steve Chalke hinted that his position on it is a more “authentic christian position”. I accept it. What does that make me. This all makes me very sad at the moment.

  6. Deb: I know what you mean. It is bewildering to see this doctrine paraded as something abhorrent that Christians should reject, when in fact it is the basis for our comfort (as Luther put it, “the cross is our theology”).

    John Stott’s “Cross of Christ” is very helpful on this issue. Stott points out that those who reject penal substitution (PS) as “barbaric” are normally rejecting an oversimplified parody of PS that is indeed barbaric: the image of an angry, vengeful God who is only placated by his own Son throwing himself in front of doomed humanity.

    Instead, PS is about the loving purposes of the whole Trinity: what Stott calls “self-satisfaction by self-substitution”: in other words, God purposes to satisfy his own justice by giving himself (in the Person of his Son) as a substitute for sinners. A long way from the image of “cosmic child-abuse” put forward by Steve Chalke or Jeffrey John.

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