The New Law: The Law of The Spirit

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series The Law and The Believer

As was noted in the last post, according to Galatians 3, the law served as a tutor to point God’s people to Christ.  As youth, we were all required the continual tutelage of parents, teachers and godly adults to properly lead us toward a path of righteousness.  Indeed many of us wonder where our lives would have led us without such counsel.  Yet, maturity gradually developed and we all eventually found ourselves grown and removed from such supervision.  As adults we have now moved beyond the former restrictions of parental oversight and have assumed responsibility for our life choices.  In some cases, we deeply understand the sentiment of certain rules of our parents, yet we may choose different rules for our own households.

Continue reading

The Elements of the Gospel: Faith

This entry is part 13 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

(This post is a continuation of the Pastoral Soteriology Series.  It assumes pre-requisite reading of earlier posts, and will be followed by additional posts.)

While grace is the overriding precondition of the gospel, scripture unyieldingly asserts that faith is the necessary component by which salvation is applied to the sinner’s account.  Ephesians 2:8 notes both elements quite clearly, asserting, “it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith.”  Likewise, Hebrews 11:6 notes that “without faith it is impossible to please God,” demanding that God’s acceptance of man in some way hinges on the existence of essential faith.  While faith in no way trumps grace – nor can it exist outside of grace – it is nonetheless a required component of the gospel which cannot be subverted.  One simply cannot be saved without faith. Continue reading

The Elements of the Gospel: Grace

This entry is part 12 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

(This post is a continuation of the Pastoral Soteriology Series)

Grace:  The Overriding Condition of Salvation

Understanding the nature of the atonement expressed thus far – that Christ fulfilled the substitutionary blood atonement system of the Old Testament – leads one to next evaluate the elements of the gospel which bring one along the path into fellowship with Christ.  The mere knowledge of such glorious principles alone does not transform one automatically into conversion (James 2:19).  Rather, a transformational process which far supersedes intellect takes place to usher one into regeneration.  The next several posts will examine the “elements” which come into play during one’s conversion process.  These elements are each taught by scripture to be a part of the conversion experience. Continue reading

Jesus: The Fulfillment of the Law

This entry is part 11 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

Understanding the substitutionary nature of Old Testament atonement is perhaps the single most important revelation concerning the work Christ accomplished on the cross on our behalf.  While such knowledge of the Old Testament system is certainly not a prerequisite for one’s salvation, it is the very foundation by which one may truly comprehend the work of the cross.  Jesus took great care to present the manner of his work as something which built upon that which God had already revealed.  He continually quoted the Law and the Prophets.  He made examples of the men of faith who had forged the work of the Kingdom in the Old Testament.  Salvation by grace through faith is not something new, but rather something which utterly permeated the scriptures prior to the time of Christ.  What became new was that the substance of such faith was finally revealed and fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus explained, Continue reading

Obama? Nobel Prize? Peace?

I have to admit that the last piece of news I expected to wake up to this morning was that Obama would be receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.  This shock has nothing to do with my personal feelings for Obama, but rather with my obviously incorrect assumptions that the prize was actually somewhat difficult to win.  Clearly, nothing about this award could be hailed an actual “accomplishment” by Barack Obama.

The first and most ridiculous indication of this fact is that Obama was president of the US only two weeks before the deadline for the nomination of this year’s prize.  It is my understanding that his accomplishments up to that moment were the consideration for his winning of the prize.  Perhaps this explains some things.

One of the noted “accomplishments” of the then two-week-term president was his “pledge” to reduce the world stock of nuclear arms.  While I have no reason to doubt that Obama’s pledge is one of sincerity, it has thus far been little more than political speak.  Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to “work out” a reduction limit on nuclear warheads.  They even discussed the numbers of such future reductions.  What they have not done, however, is to have stipulated nor spoken further about the actual dates at which such reductions should take place.  Their “talks” have remained precisely that.  The world’s nuclear arsenal is not dwindling.  In fact, all evidence suggests, it is instead most likely soon to be growing; right into the hands of murderous mad-men like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a man Obama “talks” about regularly.  (Ahmadinejad, once enabled, will not talk about his position; he will act.)  But, apparently “talk” is the substance of reward in the eyes of the Nobel committee.

Another noted reason for Obama’s nomination and win is his work to ease conflict between America and Muslim nations.  Of course, Obama pledged to end the Iraqi and Afghani conflicts.  Since his pledge, ironically, an actual increase in US presence in those nations has occurred, including 21,000 additional troops in Afghanistan alone.

Personally, I’m not in favor of reducing America’s nuclear arms or of getting out of Afghanistan and Iraq before the work in those regions which we began has been completed.  Yet I am swooning from the presumption that Obama has actually done anything concerning his promises – however ill-advised – on those matters. 

The Nobel Peace Prize, it seems, is about intentions rather than accomplishments.

A quote from the prize committee’s announcement describes, “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.”  Since when is the “capture (of the) world’s attention” tantamount to actual success as it relates to the acquiring of peace?

Clearly, the Nobel Peace Prize fails to meet its charter, which was noted in the will of founder, Alfred Nobel.  In his last testament he specified that the peace prize should be awarded “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.”  

Clearly, no distinction is being made between one who “shall have done the most or best work” and one who shall “expressed the best intentions.”

In all fairness, the Nobel Peace Prize committee has historically demonstrated an aptitude for “lack of forward vision.”  Among former nominees are Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, while Yasser Arafat actually won the award in 1994.  Ironically, Mahatma Gandhi, though nominated five times, never won an award.

Perhaps it all makes more sense than we are admitting.

Rob Bell’s “Nooma 019 Open” – (Review)

I recently had the opportunity to view Rob Bell’s “Nooma 019 Open” video.  As I’ve taken several opportunities to write about Bell and his Emergent movement, it will come as no surprise that there is no love lost between myself and Bell’s movement (or Zondervan Publishers, for that matter, in so eagerly supporting it.)  Yet, I have determined to do my level-best at giving a fair and biblical review of this product which will reveal the very best and worst which this evolving “conversation” has to offer via Bell’s contribution of Nooma 019. 

The first and most obvious impression of Nooma 019, as with all of Bell’s Nooma videos, is the exceptional production quality with which it was prepared.  The use of music, mood and the seemingly extemporaneous narration delivery are truly artful and impressive.  Of all possible issues which one may take with Bell’s Nooma productions, quality of craftsmanship is certainly not one of them.  In fact, the overall sensitivity of expression is so compelling that it is quite possible for one to be enraptured by the sentiments and completely miss the subtle theological nuances which underlie the premise. 

Almost as impressive is Bell’s apparent understanding of the underlying human uncertainty which permeates our post-modern culture.  As he frequently does so well, Bell addresses very real and valid issues which tear at the heart of human confidence in God’s sovereignty.  He opens the video by introducing a true story of a friend who had lost a baby in the neonatal unit of a local hospital, despite extensive and passionate appeals in prayer.  In his buildup of the issue at hand, he very compassionately poses questions we all have asked at one time or another.  Essentially, he appeals to know why God seems not to answer our prayers at times.  Why does a bona-fide miracle follow prayer on one occasion while utter silence seems to be God’s response at others?  He asks,

“What do you do with that?  I mean, does God answer prayers some, but not all?  Sometimes but not all of the time?  Or does God always answer prayers – it’s just that sometimes God says ‘no’”

These are great questions that appeal to the heart and soul of everyone who has ever experienced personal loss in the midst of intensive prayer.  Bell sincerely gets an “A” for asking solid questions which saturate the conscience.  He obviously has his finger of the pulse of our culture.  He clearly understands the dynamic of suffering and asks good questions about such in light of God’s permissive will. 

At this point, Bell had the bases loaded with a high and outside slow pitch just waiting for a competent swing.  I personally envy Bell’s ability to prepare a difficult subject for its suitable teachable moment.  Invariably, however, his perfectly grand-slammable pitch produces a dinked foul over the left field line.  (He runs the bases anyway.)

After an exceptional introduction, he manages to equally impressively misrepresent the nature of prayer and suffering respectively as he attaches a culturally-discernable relevance and man-centric intention to them both. Bell, it seems, has a knack for high quality production of poorly constructed theology.

He begins the discovery phase of his “answer” with a great scenario; the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Who better to illuminate the nature of suffering than the Lord himself?  Who better to explain how prayers are heard and answered than Christ, who prayed,

Matthew 26:39 (NIV)
39 … “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Before getting to Bell’s weird expose’ on this text, let it first be noted what Jesus prayed.  First, he prayed that if it be possible, may this cup be taken from me.  This is the logical prayer of a subordinate to his master, for Jesus had subordinated himself to God (Phil 2) that he may be “obedient unto death.”  “If it be possible” was the preparatory attitude of Jesus’ request.  He desired not to die, yet only if such “be possible” under God’s plan; thus, his second request, “yet not as I will, but as you will.”  In Jesus’ prayer, he expressed his own desire while yielding to God’s wishes with no self-interest at all.  While he desired not to endure the horrific experience of substitutionary atonement on a cross, he desired more to be obedient unto death.  In short, it was God’s plan, God’s will and God’s glory that he sought in his prayer, all-the-while knowing that he would suffer and die on that cross.

Bell gets some of this right, noting that Jesus did not desire to endure the pain of the cross if it were not essential.  Surely Jesus shared everyone else’s aversion to nail punctures and a slow, painful death.  He even got it right that Jesus put God’s will ahead of his own.  Yet, Bell fails utterly when he attempts to answer the “why” of Jesus’ prayer.  Bell notes,

“Now to understand why Jesus prays like this we have to understand that Jesus took very seriously the creation poem of Genesis; that the Bible begins with.  And in this creation poem God creates – God creates things that are capable of creating more.”

Here we go.

First of all, how do you even say, “Jesus took very seriously the creation poem” with a straight face?  In Bell’s non-literal view of Genesis, the creation is always relegated to the status of “poetry,” which of course, expresses an idea rather than a historical account.  What an incongruity to note Jesus as one who takes seriously the creation account when you deny it’s literality yourself.  Yes, Jesus did take the creation account seriously.  Jesus stated in Mark 10:6 (NIV), 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’  (God made man at the beginning of creation, not a billion years afterward as Bell professes)  Jesus also took literally the account of Noah, stating, Luke 17:26 (NIV), 26 “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.  (Bell claims the flood is another part of a strange “poetic discussion” on “the humanity project” – but not a literal event)  And, most eerily, Jesus claimed judgment on those who did not take seriously such accounts, stating, John 5:46-47 (NIV), 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

But, I digress.  Bell was, after all, correct (on this part):  Jesus did take very seriously the creation poem narrative.  And, it is in this creation poem narrative that Bell presumes to find the reason why Jesus prayed the way he did.

Prepare yourselves.  Weirdness approaching…

Bell claims that the creation account was about a continuing process of creation (in spite of Genesis 2:2 noting that “God had finished” his work).  Going off of his quote (above) that “God creates things that are capable of creating more,” God, in Bell’s words, “leaves the world unfinished and invites people to take part in the ongoing creation of the world.”  He notes that this creative process is endless, “bringing design, order and beauty” to God’s unfinished creation. 

As difficult as this train of thought is to follow, Bell immediately explains his “creation poem” rabbit chase with these words:  “And so, when Jesus prayed, he’s tapping into this divine creative energy that made everything.”  “Tapping into?”  “The divine creative energy?”  Bell’s Emergent mind must be what it would be like for Shirley McClain to cross with Benny Hinn!  It’s clear that Bell at least considers this “creative energy” to be one and the same as God himself.  He notes that, “Jesus’ assumption is that there is some role for him to play in this creative, ongoing work of God in the world.”  So, the question must be raised, “what is Bell teaching about who God is?” 

Is God a “creative energy” that formed the world (and left it unfinished), or is he an infinitely powerful being with personality, purpose and sovereignty?  Does God not have intellect, emotion and will?  Bell seems to attempt to marry the two ideas of “personhood” and “energy” in his language.  On one hand, God is the worker of this unfinished creation; an “energy” by which creation was made and on the other, he obviously has a will, as he notes the “ongoing work of God” in the world.  

A second, and equally alarming question is, “what is Bell’s understanding of the nature of Jesus?”  He claims that Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane was about Jesus’ finding his role in God’s ongoing creative process?  This is utter nonsense.  Jesus knew his role well in advance.  He knew the prophecies of Isaiah 53.  He stated on numerous occasions to his disciples,

Luke 9:22 (NIV)
22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

 Jesus already knew what his role was in God’s plan.  He was not confused by it.  His prayer in no wise illustrated some existential search for his place in the world [Michael W. Smith playing quietly in the background].  Rather, his prayer was an intentional assent for God’s will to be done, all the while acknowledging his own desire that another way were to be possible.  Jesus’ expression was one of intimacy and trust in God, who had called him to the darkest and most difficult hour of his life.  It was not a quest for his own enlightenment of the future, but a submission to God’s will concerning the certain future he already knew. 

So, while Bell introduces his video with exceptionally good leading questions, in the quest for answers he creates additional uncertainty; primarily, “what on earth does this guy believe, anyway?”

Such is the nature of the Emergent movement which Bell represents.  In this movement, questions without answers are common.  In fact, they are embraced.  It is preferable to have an unanswered question rather than an answered one for fear of sounding too “modern” in one’s certainty.  Knowledge is the root of all evil in this system where all claim to be engaging in a cosmic conversation, yet none will commit to a discernable postulate.  Instead, Bell adds a new dimension to prayer altogether, complete with a new purpose for praying which has nothing at all to do with either calling on God’s response nor receiving his instructions.  Instead, his deduction is,

“So prayer is being still, it’s meditating, it’s reflecting, it’s listening, it’s waking up and it’s when you never stop asking the question, ‘what is God up to right here, right now, and how can I be a part of it.’”

Ironically, what begins as one of the greatest preludes to an unanswered question ends with no answer at all.  Instead of answering his introductory questions, he concludes that prayer itself is an unending quest of one to “never stop asking the question, ‘what is God up right here, right now, and how can I be a part of it.’”  Admittedly, it is a good question to ask “what is God up to” and “how can I be a part of it.”  But, is this the end of the matter?  What happened to the thesis question of why God answers “yes,” or “no” or if he even hears us at all?  Was this not the rhetorical introductory thesis of his work?  Is there no answer in scripture as to why God says “no” at times?  Is there no revelation in scripture as to why God at times does not answer?  Of course there is.  But, you will not find the answers to Rob Bell’s questions about prayer in Rob Bell’s video on prayer.  Instead, you find a completely different frame of reference from the thesis – according to Bell – as to what prayer is all about. 

“God’s desire is that the divine energy that made the world would flow between us, and in the process draw us closer together.  Prayer is tapping into the same energy that formed the universe.  That’s why people say that they can feel prayer; it’s because we can.  Praying connects us to the people and things we are praying for.” 

God’s desire is that the divine energy that made the world would flow between us?  Can we have a chapter and verse on that, Rob?  And the purpose of prayer is found in that while this “divine energy” does its thing it will “in the process draw us closer together?”  Does prayer draw us closer to each other or closer to God?  What book of the Bible teaches this nonsense?  And, once again we’re “tapping into the energy that formed the universe?”  The universe was formed at God’s command.  It was not some random “energy” but the power of the Word of almighty God.  One does not “tap into” God’s power as he might chug back a Red Bull for that extra burst of energy when needed.  Prayer is calling on the personal GOD who owns Bell’s cosmic “energy”- that HE may make HIS WILL known to HIS SUBJECTS! 

Bell, who so eloquently asks good questions concerning God’s answers to prayer, ends his diatribe of inconsistency and uncertainty exactly the way you would expect – if you knew Rob Bell at all – with a big fat, “I don’t know.”

“So when people ask all sorts of questions: ‘why didn’t God do this,’ ‘why did God do this,’ ‘why did God show up then,’ ‘why’d God make a miracle happen there,’ ‘why’s God say “yes” to this prayer and “no” to that prayer,’  I    DON’T    KNOW.”

Now THAT is an answer I trust.  Ironically, THAT is also the answer to the very question Bell indicated in his thesis that he would be pursuing in this video.  Once again, one of the chief leaders of this leader-less movement had deduced that “not knowing” is better than knowing.  The mysteries of God are somehow more comforting than His clearly declared truths.

In conclusion, the apple does not far fall from the tree.  Rob Bell produced another Nooma video which accurately represents the touchy-feely, perplexed and incapable-of-a-straight-answer perspective of the Emergent movement. 

  • It asks great questions but refuses to answer them. 
  • It presents speculative theology solutions based on Rob’s uniquely metaphorical understanding of those great “poems” of scripture. 
  • It casts Jesus in a light of confusion; even concerning the certainty of his own self-prophesied crucifixion. 
  • It reduces Jesus’ atoning work on the cross to “some role for him to play in this creative, ongoing work of God in the world.” 
  • It reduces prayer to “the divine energy that made the world (flowing) between us, and in the process draw(ing) us closer together.”  He must be doing that “centering prayer” thing again.  (His version – based in TM)

Not only do I fail to see any merit of this video for any forum, I seriously doubt the salvation of its creator.  Overall (beyond this single work), I have yet to hear Bell present an articulate (and scripturally accurate) sentence dealing with the purpose Christ played in history as it relates to his own salvation.  Instead, Bell continually teaches contrary to the substitutionary atonement of Christ.  I have heard him decry that “God is not angry” for man’s sin.  I have read his works which come exceptionally close to preaching universalism and clearly denying the existence of a literal Hell

I should have expected no less confusion in his poetic exegesis concerning man’s relationship to God through prayer.

Yom Kippur – The Foreshadowing of Christ

This entry is part 10 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

(This is a continuation of the series entitled, “A Pastoral Soteriology.”  It assumes the reading of eariler posts.)

The culmination of the sacrificial system of atonement in the Old Testament Law was demonstrated and applied in the yearly observation of “Yom Kippur,” or, “The Day of Atonement.”  While the sacrificial system tirelessly went about its business of providing blood offerings – literally twenty four hours a day – this special holy day provided the principle application of the sin offering for the entire nation.  As such, Yom Kippur demonstrated more articulately the nature of Christ’s later work of redemption than perhaps any other requirement of the sacrificial system.  Continue reading

Atonement in the Old Testament Law

This entry is part 9 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

Atonement in the Old Testament Law

As noted in the last post, the Penal Substitution Theory of the atonement is by far the best and most accurate understanding of the work Jesus provided on the cross according to the scriptures.  While the nature of the atonement has been observed, a true understanding of penal substitution requires a comprehension of the underlying principles which had been put into effect by God prior to Jesus’ work on the cross.  Continue reading

“Return of the King” Study Course



“The Return of the King” Study Course

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Dates:  September 15, 2009 – November 17, 2009

Location:  First Baptist Church, Old Ocean, Texas

Phone: 979-647-4609
Website: http://www.fbcoo.org

Duration:  6:30 PM – 8:30 PM (with break each week) 

Jeff Kluttz, the author of “The Return of the King: a Prophetic Timeline of End-Time Events” will be presenting “The Return of the King” study course at First Baptist Church in Old Ocean Texas. 

The study course is a roughly 20 hour instructional course which follows “The Return of the King” Teacher/Student Workbook set.  The course will run weekly for 10 weeks.

The first class will be Tuesday, September 15, 2009 and will meet weekly until course completion on Tuesday, November 17, 2009.  Class will meet from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. each week, with a short break mid-class.  A question and answer time will follow each class meeting.  Questions will be limited during course sessions due to time constraints.

The Return of The King (ROTK) is a detailed timeline of end-time events as prophesied in the Bible.  Unlike some studies of this nature, ROTK will be presented for a non-technical audience, providing full definitions of all theological terms used in the course.  This course is based on “The Return of the King” book, written by a minister of over 20 years who is accustomed to breaking complicated theological content down for its simplest digestion. 

ROTK is written, and the course presented, from a premillennial perspective, which understands scripture to be literal in nature, and prophecy to be interpreted via normal and customary interpretational methods rather than being relegated to symbolic in its nature. 

The Penal Substitution Theory: On the Mark

This entry is part 8 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

The Penal Substitution Theory

While all atonement theories examined thus far have failed at producing a biblically-based portrayal of the doctrine of salvation, Anselm had at least gotten close with his Necessary-Satisfaction Theory.  Building upon some of those very principles, the Penal Substitution Theory, proposed by John Calvin (1509-1564), rightly aligned the missing theological puzzle pieces to present an accurate depiction of the work Christ completed on the cross. 

Primarily, atonement theories are intended to illustrate how atonement was produced from Christ’s death on the cross.  As such, a sound theory must not only make some valid assertions concerning the nature of Christ’s work, but must illustrate the entire historical revelation of the atonement as defined in scripture.  Calvin’s Penal Substitution Theory does that with great skill.

A proper understanding of the Penal Substitution Theory requires a holistic approach to God’s revelation of atonement throughout scripture.  Jesus did not merely show up on the playing field and create something new.  Rather, he realized and fulfilled what God had already established; a substitutionary system of atonement.  As Jesus noted,

Matthew 5:17-18 (NIV)
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Clearly, Jesus himself understood his work to be complimentary to what had already been established.  His work was to be that which would fulfill the law and the prophets rather something entirely new and unrelated.  No system examined in this series thus far has expressed atonement in terms that related it as a fulfillment of the Law and the prophets.  The Recapitulation Theory disregards the Law almost entirely.  The Ransom Theory has God paying off Satan, which is dramatically opposed to the Old Testament Law in which God himself receives (or rejects) man’s sin offering(s).  The Moral Example Theory completely disregards the punitive nature of the Law; attempting to implement a works oriented salvation which disregards the penalty of former sins.  The Mystical Theory, in addition to being just plain weird, offers absolutely no hint of vicarious atonement as outlined in the Law.  And, the Necessary-Satisfaction Theory, while working off of good principles, still misappropriates certain legal aspects of atonement as depicted in the Law. 

A good atonement theory must adequately illustrate how God’s program of redemption in the Law was systematically fulfilled and completed by the work of Christ!  Otherwise, Christ cannot be understood as having fulfilled the Law. 

Calvin’s theory connected the proper dots.

Details of Christ’s fulfillment of the Law will be examined over the next several posts, yet at this point it should at least be noted that what Jesus “fulfilled” was a substitutionary system of atonement: the sacrificial system of the Old Testament Law.  

Overall, the Penal Substitution Theory can be understood as a more comprehensive fleshing-out of Anselm’s Satisfaction Theory.  Anselm had the basic idea, but missed key points which Calvin properly illuminated.

The Essence of the Penal Substitution Theory

The Satisfaction Theory rightly articulated that a debt was owed to God by mankind.  This debt required that satisfaction be attained by God.  Yet, it incorrectly defined man’s offense as the defilement of God’s honor.  While surely God’s honor became diminished in man’s eyes because of sin, it is not God’s honor which is in need of satisfaction according to the scriptures.  Rather, it is God’s wrath for sin which is in need of satisfaction, as has already been illustrated.  Jesus noted,

John 3:36 (NIV)
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

And Paul exclaimed,

Ephesians 2:3 (NIV)
3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

Understanding the problem of sin properly- that it invokes God’s wrath- is key to understanding the nature of the satisfaction Jesus secured in the atonement.  It was God’s wrath over sin which was in need of satisfaction.  The atonement is oriented toward the securing of justice rather than honor.  God’s law had been broken, invoking his wrath.  And, being a just God, he demanded that payment be rendered for the broken Law.  Such payment is not a mystery in the biblical narrative.  God prescribed his punitive decision prior to the offense, clearly noting in the Garden of Eden that,

Genesis 2:17 (NIV)
17 … you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

With justice as a defining attribute of His nature, God cannot simply overlook one’s sin.  Sin is an offense to his Law; an illegal (penal) action requiring a just sentence, which God prescribed to be death to the offender.  What Jesus did on the cross was to quite literally apply the payment to God for the crimes of humanity.

Romans 6:23 (NIV)
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God had always upheld the wages of sin.  They have never – nor will they ever change.  And, God’s sense of justice demands that wrongdoing be punished and that the offended party (himself) be compensated.  Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished both.  The sins of man were paid vicariously (more on that in coming posts) and God’s justice was upheld.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 The atonement was penal in nature, because it provided the means of payment for the breaking of God’s Law which man had engaged.  It was substitutionary in nature, because the payment was obtained vicariously by another: Christ.

Romans 3:22-26 (NIV)
22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished– 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

The substitutionary nature of Christ’s death will be examined in more detail in the following weeks.  One cannot truly understand how Jesus fulfilled the Law without first understanding the nature of the Law itself.  Suffice it to say at this point, however, that the Law provided a means of restitution for man’s sin through vicarious (substitutionary) means.  God, in his graciousness, offered a system of atonement by which an acceptable animal could be sacrificed on man’s behalf, thus paying the required death sentence.  Such is the nature of the Law; as it details the processes and requirements of such penal substitutions to be made.  When Christ fulfilled the Law, he became the final perfect sacrifice for sin; rendering the Law utterly completed.  Thus, “not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

The Penal Substitution Theory of atonement rightly identifies the critical components of redemption by faith in Christ Jesus.  God’s wrath was invoked by man’s sin.  His justice demanded restitution.  In grace, he provided a substitutionary system of atonement, which Christ completed – once and for all.

Isaiah 53:5-6 (NIV)
5 … he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

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