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Posts Tagged ‘Penal Substitutionary View

Defining the Gospel

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

– 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (NASB)

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).  But what is the gospel?  I have attended many churches over the years but few ever spent much time actually breaking down what the gospel is or is not.  Some say they preach the gospel each and every week but all they mean by this is that they offer “the sinner’s prayer” for salvation at the end of their sermons.  Few really grasp the gospel.

Asking people what is the gospel is also difficult.  People just don’t know.  Depending on their church, they might define the gospel as Jesus dying for our sins, good works for people, or a host of other statements.  The gospel, biblically defined, is often not taught in many churches.

Over the past few years we have seen an influx of “gospel centered” ministries.  We now view everything as “a gospel issue.”  Whether it be work, sex, marriage, sports, entertainment, etc. everything is now said to be a “gospel issue.”  We have groups such as “The Gospel Coalition” or “Together For The Gospel” but is the gospel the main focus?  Are we really together for the gospel?  How many people even grasp what the gospel is?

In 1 Corinthians 15 we have Paul the Apostle defining the gospel.  He states in verse 1 that he wants to remind the Corinthians of the gospel which he preached to them and which they received.  He states in verse 2  that this gospel is what saved them.  In verse 3 Paul states that this gospel is of first importance meaning that this message takes preeminence above everything else that could be taught.  This gospel came not from men but from God (Galatians 1:11-12).

What then is the essence of the gospel?  Paul tells us in verses 3-5:

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

Notice Paul’s movements here.  First, Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.  This is important.  Paul is not moving beyond what has been written beforehand in the Old Testament.  The Old Testament prophesied that Christ would die.  Jesus Himself taught His disciples from the Old Testament about Himself after His resurrection (Luke 24:44-48).  The Apostles were eye-witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection and they took not just His resurrection but the Old Testament texts and began to preach the gospel.  The Book of Acts records the Apostles preaching of the work of the Lord Jesus and it is clear that they took the Master’s teaching from the Old Testament and taught about Him to the lost.

All of this, the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus is based on the Old Testament.  The foundation for solid gospel preaching is not rooted in experience but in the Scriptures.  This was the apostolic authority and is ours as well (2 Timothy 3:15-17).  Peter the Apostle states we have a more sure word (2 Peter 1:16-21) because of the Scriptures.

So our preaching should be based on the apostolic authority of the Bible.  The gospel flows from Scripture and is focused on the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The gospel focuses on the fact that Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  He was buried and He was raised for our justification (Romans 4:24-25).

Sadly this gospel is often lacking in many churches.  I download a local seeker sensitive church to hear what they are preaching these days.  Each week my iPhone downloads their Sunday service.  What do I get to hear?  The gospel?  Sadly no.  I hear positive twists on texts and I hear a lot of talk about how God wants to bless us, use us, and work through us to touch our neighbors but I don’t hear the gospel.  Sometimes sin is mentioned or repentance but little is said about the gospel.  Sometimes the “sinner’s prayer” is offered and I assume they think that is the gospel but I don’t hear anything of 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.

We must see how the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 and all through the Bible impacts our lives.  I could write for days on this one issue but on a surface level, the gospel daily reveals to me that it was my sins that Christ died for.  This is clear in verse 3.  My sins.  I see my sins all the time.  My sins scream at me like demons hiding in the shadows.  My sins torment me in my dreams.  My sins are easy to find and easy to see.  But the gospel shouts to me that Christ died for my sins (Galatians 1:4).  My sins are not erased by good works (Ephesians 2:8-9).   My sins are not washed away by penance.  My sins are not taken away by my own self-reformation.  My sins are only washed away through the blood of Jesus that He shed on the cross for my salvation (Matthew 26:28; Acts 13:38-39; Romans 3:24-25; 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:22, 27-28; 10:4; 1 John 1:7).  The death of Jesus on the cross speaks to my sins and while my sins condemn me, the Lord Jesus saves me not because of what I have done but because of His grace alone (Titus 3:5-7).

The gospel is not just Jesus’ death for my sins.  Without the resurrection, we are still dead in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:16-17).  Paul wrote in Romans 4:24-25:

24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.

Without the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, there is no forgiveness of our sins.  That Christ died would prove nothing.  If Jesus is not raised from the dead then He died just like we will die.  But the Bible says that Jesus is risen from the dead.  A cursory reading of the Book of Acts shows not just the fact that Jesus died on the cross but that He was raised from the dead.  All four Gospels record the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  This is the main focus of the Christian message:  Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.

How does this impact me?  Why is this part of the gospel?  Well again if Jesus is not risen, we are still dead in our sins.  But if Jesus is alive (and He is!) then we can be saved through faith in Him just as He said (John 5:24-25).  The focal point of John 20:31 is true:  Jesus is worthy of worship and praise as the One who shed His blood for our salvation and was raised for our justification.  Because of Christ, my sins are forgiven and I have peace with God through Him (Romans 5:1).  I have One who sits at God’s mighty right hand for my salvation (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).  Jesus is now my faithful high priest who prays for me before the Father as my intercessor, my advocate (Hebrews 4:14; 1 John 2:1-2).  1 Timothy 2:5 states that Jesus is our mediator before our holy God.

This is the gospel.  The gospel is not self-reformation.  The gospel is not about trying harder.  The gospel is about the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus all according to the Scriptures.  Jesus is the One who was prophesied about in Isaiah 53:

Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.

3 He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.

5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.

6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.

8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

9 His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

10 But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.

11 As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.

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Barabbas Instead of Jesus

I can’t get away from the account in the Gospels about Barabbas.  This story intrigues me because I see in it the beauty of the substitutionary atonement that Jesus provides for our salvation.   This is a pivotal point of Christianity that runs across the board.  Christians have always held that Jesus died for us, that He died for our sins.  Paul the Apostle states it clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:3 that Christ died for our sins.  He repeats this in Galatians 1:4.  Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:24 that Christ bore our sins in His body on the tree.

The Lord Jesus died for our sins.  We can debate the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and His obedience to the Father but we cannot debate that Christ shed His blood for our forgiveness and that He died in our place.  He was condemned so that we might be saved by the grace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-9).  Paul states that we redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses (Ephesians 1:7).  Hebrews 9:22 states that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness.  Our salvation is based on the Lord Jesus and what He did on the cross by dying for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

In Matthew 27 we see a  beautiful picture of this substitutionary work of Christ.  Here we find Pilate asking the Jews which they want him to release to them: Barabbas (an insurrectionists and murderer) or Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 27:17).  The crowd cries for Barabbas (Matthew 27:20).  Pilate asks them again and they again want Barabbas (Matthew 27:21) to which the crowd asks for Jesus to be crucified (Matthew 27:22-23).  Pilate washes his hands of this murder of Jesus (Matthew 27:24) and the people cry that they want His blood to be upon them (Matthew 27:25) to which Pilate releases Jesus to be crucified (Matthew 27:26).

What I find amazing about this account is that the crowd asks for Barabbas instead of Jesus.  They even want His blood to be upon them and their children.  They were speaking prophetically.  They were simply asking for what the Jews had asked for when they offered up the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:21-27).  Paul the Apostle wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:7 that Christ is our Passover Lamb.  Jesus is the Lamb of God (John 1:29) who is without blemish or spot (1 Peter 1:19).  Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for our sins because He was perfect and He died in our place, condemned for our sins but bore our sins on the cross.  The guilty sinner (Romans 3:23) can now look to the Lamb of God to be saved (Isaiah 45:22).

This salvation is based not on our works but upon the work of Christ alone (Titus 3:5-7).  What could be do to appease the wrath of God?  What works could be possibly do to merit eternal life?  Can we keep the law of God perfectly?  Can we live our entire lives free from sin, completely obedient to the will of a holy and perfect God?  If someone says they can they are lying.  None can (Proverbs 20:9).

I have met people before who claim to never sin.  They will even tell me the date the last time they sinned and claim that they have not sinned since in word, thought, or deed.  I find that alarming.  I confess my weaknesses.  I am not perfect by far.  Ask my wife and she could name hundreds of my sins.  No I don’t wake up going out looking to sin or looking to disobey the Lord but I confess that I have not walked perfectly with the Lord.  I have fallen short many times.  I have not loved God perfectly nor have I obeyed Him perfectly.

This makes me so thankful for the crowd asking for Barabbas instead of Jesus.  I am Barabbas.  My heart has been wicked before God.  I have not been perfect as He requires (Matthew 5:48).  I have sinned (Romans 3:10-18).  But thanks be to God for the gift of His Son (John 3:16).  Jesus died for my sins.  Barabbas could not save for he was guilty of great sins.  Yet the Lord in His sovereignty allowed the hardened Jews to choose Barabbas (who is me) instead of Christ.  Jesus thus died in my place and in the place of Barabbas.  Jesus bore the sins of Barabbas as well as the sins of sins of the world (1 John 2:1-2).

My heart now longs to please God.  Not out of legalism.  Not out of bondage.  But my heart longs now to worship and please the Lord because of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Because of what Jesus did for me by dying in my place and taking my condemnation, I now rejoice in this great salvation, this great grace!  I pray because I am so thankful for what Jesus has done.  I long to see others saved because of what Jesus has done.  I long to praise my God because of what Jesus has done.  This salvation is all of Jesus and my boasting is only in the Lord Jesus who died for my sins (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

I often have read the story of Barabbas and wonder what happened to him.  Church tradition is that Barabbas did get saved and became a great preacher of the gospel.  How could he not?  He watched with his own eyes as the people chose him (and he knew he was guilty) for the Lord Jesus who had never sinned.  I am sure Barabbas had heard of Jesus maybe even heard Him preach.  I tend to believe tradition at this point and believe that Barabbas became a great preacher of the gospel.  His testimony would have been powerful as he told how Jesus took His place and was crucified on the cross where he should have died.

The story use to make me weep at the crowds choosing Barabbas.  I would talk to my Bible and say, “No, let Jesus go free.”  Yet I know that without the cross, I have no salvation (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  The gospel rises and falls on Jesus taking our place.  Jesus fulfilled the words of Isaiah the prophet in Isaiah 53 and He suffered in our place.

Thanks be to God!

Arminianism and the Penal Substitutionary View of the Atonement

Here is a great article written by Dr. James Leonard on the subject of the atonement of Jesus Christ and the penal substitutionary view.  Some Calvinists contend that not only is the penal view the only view of the atonement that is truly biblically based but also one cannot hold to the penal view and not hold to definite atonement (or limited atonement).  I know this has confused some Arminians to the point that they now reject the penal view in favor of the moral governmental view.

Dr. Leonard’s piece is well written and draws upon Arminianism to show that an Arminian can safely hold to the penal view while rejecting limited atonement.

The Assemblies of God and the Atonement

I read recently a Calvinist speaker who stated that the Assemblies of God held to moral government view regarding the atonement of Christ.  In reality, this is not true.  Granted, the Assemblies of God can be diverse in their views since the Sixteen Fundamental Truths of the Assemblies of God simply states that Christ is our substitute.  It does not define what is meant by that.  Yet in the official Assemblies of God theology text, Systematic Theology edited by Dr. Stanley Horton, the text clearly lays out why the Assemblies of God holds to a penal substitutionary view regarding the atonement.

In fact, the text states that the moral government view has its problems and lists them (p. 341).  To be fair, the text also states three main objections to the penal view (pp. 342-343).

I do wish the text-book spent more time on the atonement (and other theological issues) but the statement it makes regarding the atonement, no Arminian nor even Calvinists would have an issue.

The text then gives three aspects of Christ’s saving work.  They are:

  • Sacrifice for our sins.  In this is included propitiation.
  • Reconciliation (Romans 5:11).
  • Redemption (Mark 10:45; Romans 3:24).

The text then looks at the extent of the atonement.  In this, the Assemblies of God are Arminian.  The text, after examining various passages of Scripture showing the atonement to be for all people, concludes: “We conclude that the atonement is unlimited in the sense that it is available for all; it is limited in that it is effective only for those who believe.  It is available for all, but efficient only for the elect” (p. 354).

No Arminian should disagree with the above.  Clearly the Assemblies of God, from their theology text at least, are not to be associated with moral government theology.  While it might be true that some Assemblies of God pastors have taught the atonement from a moral government view, the stance of the official systematic theology text would stand for the penal substitutionary view while still recognizing that not all Christians even agree with that view.

Four Aspects of Christ’s Atonement

Dr. Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology text, offers four aspects of Christ’s atonement based on four needs we have as sinners before God:

1.  We deserve to die as the penalty for sin.
2.  We deserve to bear God’s wrath against sin.
3.  We are separated from God by our sins.
4.  We are in bondage to sin and to the kingdom of Satan.

Grudem then gives us the four aspects of Christ’s vicarious atonement that helped with the above needs in us sinners.

1.  Sacrifice (Hebrews 9:26).  Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins.  He is our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7).

2.  Propitiation (1 John 4:10).  Christ removes the wrath of God from us by being our propitiation for our sins before God.

3.  Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).  Christ has reconciled us to God by dying for our sins that had separated us from God.

4.  Redemption (Mark 10:45; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 2:15).  While I reject the idea that a price was paid by Christ to Satan or to our sins, it is biblical to say that Jesus redeemed us and brought us to God.  We are saved from Satan and sin!

Is it not exciting to know that Christ is our salvation and He takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29)?  He is our peace, our satisfaction, our righteousness, our Lord, our Master, and our King!  He is the One that is worthy to be praised for saving us from sin and its power.  Jesus alone is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2 NIV).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/26/2013 at 12:06 PM

John Miley on the Penal Substitutionary Theory

I hold to the penal view but here is a PDF file from John Miley on why he rejected the penal view.  I think its well worth reading even if you do not hold to the moral government view.  One can at least see that Miley was not ignorant in his views and sought to be biblical.

You can find the article here.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/04/2012 at 11:24 AM

The Riches of HIs Glorious Inheritance

In Ephesians 1:16 Paul the Apostle states that he prays for the Ephesians and he states that he prays for four things specifically for them:

1.  The Father would give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.
2.  Their eyes would be enlightened to know the hope to which they were called.
3.  What are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints.
4.  The immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe that He demonstrated in Christ.

I want to focus specifically upon number 3.  I believe that all four of these things that Paul prayed flow directly from knowing God.  The deeper we go in a our understanding of the Word of God, the more we will know God.  The heart of the disciple of Jesus is not to just knowledge about God or facts about Christianity but to actually know God.  Bear in mind that Jesus said that He will cast away those who never knew Him in Matthew 7:21-23.  Only those who know God will seek to obey God.  Obedience flows from knowing and loving God (John 14:15) and not blind submission to His laws.

When we begin to understand our God, the greatness of His salvation, the depth of His love for us (1 John 4:10), the greatness of the cross in light of our utter sinfulness (Ephesians 2:6) – we begin to see the glorious inheritance we have in Christ.  We see just what it is that He did in securing our eternal salvation.  All the glory, all the honor, all the praise goes to Jesus alone when we begin to see the biblical teaching about our God.  We recognize that we don’t deserve this salvation.  We recognize that we didn’t earn this salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  We recognize that what we deserve is His just wrath against our sins (Romans 1:18-32; 3:10-18).  We see that we deserve to be cast into hell (Matthew 25:46).  We did not love God.  We did not seek God.  He came seeking us (John 10:14-17).  Jesus came to bear our sins and die in our place (Isaiah 53:4-6).  We see that Jesus doesn’t deserve our punishment for He was perfect in word, thought, and deed (1 Peter 2:22) yet He took our place (1 Peter 2:24).

All of this, this understanding of our sins, the wrath of God against sin, the depth of Christ’s love on the cross – all of this leads us to worshiping this great and mighty God!  We see how wonderful He is.  We see how great is His love for us (Romans 5:8-9). We see His mercy (James 2:13).  We see His grace (Romans 3:22-25).  We see His power given to us in His Son (John 1:12-13). We see the fact that the reason for rejoicing is because our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Luke 10:19-20).  We rejoice that the wrath of God is complete in His Son (John 19:30).

What a glorious inheritance we have in Christ!  What joy comes when we see that our sins are forgiven because of the work of Christ (Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:7)!  To know that Christ is our salvation, our sanctification, our glorification (1 Corinthians 1:30).  To know that He came to die for us (John 3:16)!  This all leads to worship of this great God.  How can it not?  Let us bow down and give Him the highest praise!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/10/2012 at 9:40 AM

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