Jesus Died for Us…Not for God



Jesus Died for Us…Not for God
Brian Zahnd

“You killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.” –The Apostle Peter, Acts 3:15

Golgotha is where the great crimes of humanity — pride, rivalry, blame, violence, domination, war, and empire — are dragged into the searing light of divine judgment. At Golgotha we see the system of human organization that we blithely call “civilization” for what it is: an axis of power enforced by violence so corrupt that it is capable of murdering God in the name of what we call truth, justice, and liberty.

Golgotha is also the place where the love of God achieves its greatest expression. As Jesus is lynched in the name of religious truth and imperial justice he expresses the heart of God as he pleads for the pardon of his executioners. At the cross we discover that the God revealed in Christ would rather die in the name of love than kill in the name of freedom. Our savior is Jesus Christ, not William Wallace.

The cross is both hideous and glorious, simultaneously ugly and beautiful. It’s as hideous as human sin and as glorious as divine love. It is a collision of sin and grace. But it is not a contest of equals. In the end love and beauty win. We call it Easter.

What the cross is not is a quid pro quo where God agrees to forgive upon receipt of his Son’s murder. What the cross is not is an economic transaction whereby God gains the capital to forgive. These legal and fiscal models for understanding the cross simply will not do.

Jesus does not save us from God, Jesus reveals God as savior. What is revealed on Good Friday is not a monstrous deity requiring a virgin to be thrown into a volcano or a firstborn son to be nailed to a tree. What is revealed on Good Friday is the depths of human depravity and the greater depths of God’s love.

Before the cross is anything else, it is a catastrophe. It is the unjust and violent lynching of an innocent man. It is the murder of God. Jesus is sacrificed by the Father only in this sense: The Father sent his Son into our system of violent power (civilization) to reveal how utterly sinful it is — so sinful that it will murder the Innocent One. God did not will the murder of his Son, he simply knew it would occur. But even Plato knew that. In imagining what would happen to a perfectly just man in our unjust world, Plato said, “our just man will be scourged, racked, fettered…and at last, after all manner of suffering, will be crucified.” (The Republic, Book II, p. 37) Plato wrote that three centuries before Christ. God knew what Plato knew. For Jesus to proclaim and inaugurate the kingdom of God in the midst of our unjust and violent world would require a supreme sacrifice.

The death of Jesus was a sacrifice. But it was a sacrifice to end sacrificing, not a sacrifice to appease an angry god. It was not God who required the sacrifice of Jesus, it was human civilization. A system built upon violent power cannot tolerate the presence of one who owes it nothing. The sacrifice of Jesus was necessary to convince us to quit producing sacrificial victims; it was not necessary to convince God to forgive. When Jesus prays for forgiveness on the cross he was not acting contrary to the nature of God, he was revealing the nature of God as forgiving love.

Think of it this way: Where do we find God on Good Friday? Is God found in Caiaphas seeking a sacrificial scapegoat? Is God found in Pilate requiring a punitive execution? Or is God found in Jesus, absorbing sin and responding with forgiveness?

The Apostle Paul says God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. (2 Corinthians 5:19) And this should not be misread as God reconciling himself to the world…as some mistaken atonement theories do! Jesus died for us…not for God.

The crucifixion is not what God inflicts upon Jesus in order to forgive, the crucifixion is what God in Christ endures as he forgives. The cross is where God absorbs sin and recycles it into forgiveness.

The crucifixion is not the ultimate attempt to change God’s mind about us — the cross is the ultimate attempt to change our mind about God. God is not like Caiaphas seeking a sacrifice. God is not like Pilate requiring an execution. God is like Jesus, absorbing sin and forgiving sinners.

The cross is not about payment, the cross is about forgiveness.

Good Friday is not about divine wrath, Good Friday is about divine love.

Calvary is not where we see how just God is, Calvary is where we see how unjust civilization is.

As long as we think Jesus died for God instead of dying for us, we will never see the sinfulness of human civilization and the beauty of the divine alternative: the kingdom of God.

The justice of God is not retributive justice. In the end retributive justice changes nothing. The justice of God is entirely restorative. The only thing God will call justice is setting the world right, not punishing the innocent. (Our sense of retributive justice is derived from the fact that we are more punished by our sins than for our sins.)

The bottom line is this: God did not kill Jesus, human civilization did. We did. Jesus absorbed the blow in love and forgave us. The Father vindicated his Son on Easter. Now Jesus calls us to follow him into the kingdom of grace, the kingdom of love, the kingdom of God.

Let us follow the Lamb.


(The artwork is Golgotha by Edvard Munch, 1900.)

  • Great point at the end. The Bible is replete with “recompense” and “repayment” analogies for God’s perfect justice, but in the Book of Job, we’re taught that there’s two distinct ways of taking this: The “pure karmic retribution” route of the rebuked “three stooges” (Eliphaz/Zophar/Bildad; “If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes, how much less a mortal, who is but a maggot — a human being, who is only a worm!”) vs. the restorative, “Open Tomb” polemic of unrebuked Elihu (“God is mighty, but despises nobody. God is mighty, and firm in purpose”).

  • Paula Champion Jones


  • Insightful comment, Stan. Thank you.

  • I don’t want to be over-dramatic, but this post was, in some ways, healing, especially reading right before Easter. Growing up — I’m not sure if I got this from the church I grew up in or what — but I saw God as this blood-thirsty, all-powerful being that was clawing to get at me and destroy me…and Jesus was the only one holding him back. I was (and am) incredibly drawn to Jesus, but God was always another story. Not sure if I’m alone in that perception of God, but your writing, Brian, has helped me a great deal. So, thank you. Good Friday, indeed!

  • Blessings to you, Josh. No more monster god.

  • John

    So basically your god is just a really really really nice guy, and we’re a bunch of a-holes?

  • Alexis

    Hey, Brian! Would you be able to address each text individually? But only when you get a chance…not a second sooner! 🙂 Here’s my original tweet:

    “Brother, what about Acts 4:28, John 10:18, Rom. 8:32, Acts 2:23, Isaiah 53:6-10, Gal. 3:10-14, Rom. 3:21-26, or Hebrews 9:11-28?”

    I still can’t believe I fit it into 140 characters lol.

    Hope you’re doing well, and God bless!

  • Alexis

    And by “text” I meant verse and important word as thoroughly as possible…if you’d be so kind lol. I really can’t tell you how much it means to me that you’re willing to engage with me about these things! Take care! Hope to hear from you soon! 🙂

  • Alexis

    You’ll also be glad to know I’m watching the video right now! I was literally just gonna read my Bible anyway, but that can wait, right? Haha

  • Sean Allan Bell

    I think you just summed up the doctrine of original sin 🙂

  • Mama Kay

    Wow, when I read your comment I reali that I was thinking along the same line, I just hadn’t verbalized it!! Thank you for doing so in such a thoughtful way.

  • Andrew Buchheit

    Unfortunately, this is a version of the “example” theory of Christ’s sacrifice, where Jesus died merely to demonstrate something for us, in this case to “convince us to quit producing sacrificial victims.” In this model, salvation isn’t accomplished because man’s sin isn’t dealt with.

    The book of Hebrews paints a very different version our salvation. 9:22 says: “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” and in 9:25-26 says “Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” So you see, Christ’s sacrifice to God was essential to fulfill the Law and cleanse us of our sins.

    If Christ’s sacrifice was not to God, than who was it to? Sacrifice to anyone other than God is declared blasphemy by the law. Therefore, the type of “sacrifice” the author presents is not a sacrifice at all. In that case, why did Christ die at all? Surely he could have given us an example that didn’t require Christ’s horrific death. In the model the author describes, Christ’s death was for no real reason, making God to be even more of a moral monster than any of the straw man versions of sacrifice the author described.

    Do I like that Christ’s sacrifice for my sin was a necessary part of my salvation? No. However, we are forced by scripture to accept that it was. This does not make God a monster. Rather, it makes Him the merciful King who instead of making me bear the penalty for my sin (as I deserved), took the just punishment for my sin on himself.

  • Hebrews 9:22 says, “Under the Law (Torah)…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” in order to set up the whole argument of the passage which is found in 10:5f: “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘sacrifice and offerings you have NOT desired, in burnt offerings and you have taken NO pleasure…you have neither desired nor taken pleasure in blood sacrifices and burnt offerings and sin offerings’ which are offered according to the Torah, then he added, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will.’ He does away with the first [blood sacrifice] in order to to establish the second [obedience].” This is related to what Jesus claimed (twice) expressed the will of his Father : “I desire mercy and NOT sacrifice.”

  • Paul Jennings

    Was it the Father’s plan or not? Was it propitiation? What do you believe propitiation to be?

  • TigerJungleResort MD

    Satan questioned the Fatherhood and love of God for Adam and Eve and all humans and acted as if he is giving something better.

    God on the cross proved the infinite of Love where he forgive his children to killed God’s human body.

  • kent

    I’ve never understood why we want to believe that punishment is the way god deals with sin. Is it because that’s the world’s way of dealing with it? Is it because that’s our takeaway from what we think the bible teaches? Or, could it possibly be the result of shame’s affect of blinding us from seeing god’s heart?

  • Jeremy Weart

    I would recommend John Stott’s book, The Cross of Christ. I don’t see how you can interpret Isaiah 53 without seeing rather clearly that God the Father was certainly behind all of Christ’s suffering. “It pleased the Lord to bruise him” (53:10). Hard to get around Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28 as well. That language is even more specific!

    Jesus was our guilt offering which made restitution for damage done against God (Lev 5:14-6:7; 7:1-7; 19:21).

    The answer is that Christ died for us AND God. I see nothing wrong with sin being an offense to a holy God who requires payment for such sin. The entire Old Testament demonstrates the need for a sacrificial system in order to deal with Isarael’s sins. All of that foreshadowing the need for a Savoir who would satisfy the righteous requirements of God.

    The book of Hebrews is ALL about this. The old covenant must give way to the new. Jesus is superior to the old order of priests, temple and sacrifices. 1 Pet 3:18 is very precise – “Christ suffered…that he might bring us to God…”

    Your article Is in line with the moral-example theory formulated by Abelard in the 11th century and also Ritschl’s declaratory theory. Both fail the litmus test of Scripture.

  • Mark Fitzgerald

    Just recently have I learned that the way most look at the paschal event is not the only way Christians have looked at the event through the centuries…or now. Good post. I will be thinking about this tomorrow on Good Friday.

  • Awesome

  • Jeff

    This author is totally wrong and his arguments are completely incompatible with the Bible. God gave his Son because He loves us, specifically to pay the penalty for Son, which is death.

  • Jeff

    *for sin

  • Dear Jeremy,

    I’ve read about ten feet of books on Atonement theory in the past seven years. It’s been a primary emphasis in my theological reading. The book I would recommend is “Stricken By God?” edited by my friends and crack theologians Dr. Brad Jersak and Michael Hardin. It has something like 18 contributors to it. It’s available on Amazon, etc.

    By the way, my position is closer to Christus Victor (the position of the early church fathers) than Moral Influence.



  • Outstanding post today, Brian. This summarises and encapsulates so much of what I now believe about the death of Jesus and the nature of salvation. And to think that only a few short years ago, I would have thrown up my hands in horror and branded you a heretic.

    Grace and peace to you this Easter weekend.

  • Leigh copeland

    There’s two points I’d like you to address. 1) wouldnt “by us” be preferred to “for us”? It would simplify the rather indirect and complicated task of explaining that it was for us because we did it; just re-translate the ‘for us’ language into ‘by us’ and you’re there. 2) could you tell us how you you handle the textual problems with his prayer of forgiveness from the cross? It shouldn’t happen that someone first hears of its later addition by someone arguing against God’s unconditional love. If such a foundational text is still usable after acknowlging it as not in the original knowing how would be equally crucial.

  • Danny Britzke

    I think, and it’s only my opinion, the blood of Jesus was required in order to do away with the blood sacrifice. The perfect lamb of God for everybody. God’s covenant with Israel had to be honored. I don’t think he took pleasure in any of it. He was looking for the personal relationship with us all along. Jesus was his sacrifice for us to have that relationship. The father knew all along what when and how it would happen. He also needed to pull the power of the enemy by conquering death. I’m not a pastor or theologian, it’s just how it’s been revealed to me where im at. God’s restoration process has been going on b since the fall.

  • Salvador Santiago

    I agree, in Christ alone we are saved of the coming wrath of God 1 Thes 1:9-10

  • Brad Cloutier

    your answer is in acts 2:23 my friend. you are very much on the right track with your questioning. Also, give a read to isa 53. Also, ask yourself what this means: “without the shedding of bled there is no remission of sin”. Don’t be afraid to question and disagree with any man.

  • Garrick Peterson

    This is what we have been saying for some time. Hymns like “Jesus paid it all,” made me think, “Paid to whom?” We’ve been asking what God meant when He told Adam and Eve, “In the day thou eatest of it (the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) thou shalt surely die.” Did God mean sin would kill them, or that God Himself would kill them? The majority of the Christian world has what I call a “merchantile” view of the atonement. Sin created a debt on the record books of heaven (never mind that Scripture tells us “God is Love,” and Paul tells us “Love never keeps a record of being wronged.”). Now God sits as a cashier waiting for payment. Christians produce their gift card, the crucifixion of Christ. Ching-ching rings the cash register. What does that do to the Christian’s view of God? When Adam and Eve sinned, and when they heard their Lord a’coming, rather than be joyful they ran and hid! They were afraid because they thought God was like they were- that He was angered at His rules being broken, God was no longer their Friend, and they were about to be punished. If they only knew what emotions God felt as He called out for them. Then they would be brought out of darkness and into the light. How can we bring the Christian world out of the darkness and into the light? They’ll call us heretics.

  • Garrick Peterson

    You’re half right. He created us in His really, really, really nice image. Through sin, we re-created ourselves and Him. What we need is for our Creator to re-create the original image in us. But we won’t come to Him for that until we see Him for what He really is and trust Him.

  • To whatever degree the Father was actively involved in the crucifixion per Isaiah 53, it simply does not follow that the “punishment” was “payment” in the form of pain and suffering. It’s reading into what simply is not there.

    That God may have been actively involved in another way and for a different purpose – for the purpose of revealing the character, love, and forgiveness of God and exposing the “principalities and powers”, to defeat death, etc. – is a better reading than a view which didn’t appear until 1000 years later that is founded on, IMO, a bad understanding of the OT sacrificial system. Christ’s sacrifice isn’t a confirmation that God demanded pain and blood all along but that we just didn’t have the “right sacrifice”, it’s instead about the utter futility and error of thinking that sacrifice changes God from angry to happy – that any sacrifice manipulates God in to being “for us”. It eliminates sacrifice all together, not confirms it. This is not the same thing as moral influence theory.

    Per your Acts references to “predetermined foreknowledge”, again it simply doesn’t follow that the purpose of this predetermined plan is “blood payment”. Indeed if “payment” is the purpose, “forgiveness” is redundant and unnecessary. There is no need to be forgiven for a debt that has been “paid”.

    And BZs post is completely compatible with 1 Peter 3:18. Note that it doesn’t say that Christ died to “pay the price”. It says “to bring us to God”. The question is, how does it bring us to God? What problem does address and how?

    I admit that it’s difficult to get away from readings that we’ve been preconditioned to see. I struggle with it very much. Read “Healing the Gospel” by Derek Flood.

  • KentonS

    Yours is the second comment to bring up Acts 2:23. How do you think that verse negates anything BZ is saying here??? It’s so plain there that the executioner wasn’t God. The executioners were the ones in Peter’s audience. And the response (or “judgment”) there by God is not retaliation for killing his son, but resurrecting his son to reconcile the world to himself.

    BZ has already addressed the Heb 9 reference in his response to Andrew Buchheit.

    As far as Isa 53 goes, it says the “WE ESTEEMED HIM stricken by God” (emphasis added). In other words, we see the victim as one whom God has cursed, but what is revealed in Jesus’ fulfillment is that the victim is not stricken by God, but rather that the God revealed in Jesus stands in solidarity with the ones we curse, suffers alongside them and forgives us for sacrificing them.

  • Brad Cloutier

    Before Jesus is your example he is your savior. what is he saving us from? The wrath of God! also you need to read all of Isaiah 53 for it pleased the Father to crush him. do you not understand propitiation? based on this man’s the ology it wasn’t necessary that Jesus even died. but you have to throw out the whole Bible in order to agree with him. And please do not tell me bz already dealt with it because he hasnt. Instead of referencing Easter he needs to go back and look at the Passover which is actually in the Bible. please tell me what qualifications had to be met in order for the Angel of Death to pass over you?

  • Peter Bylen

    Pretty good and contains some important thoughts especially in light of the fact that Jesus was crucified on Passover not the Day of Atonement.

  • kent

    If you are comparing Jesus’ sacrifice to the passover sacrifice through the lens of penal substitution to derive your meaning of propitiation, are you sure the passover sacrifice was a sin offering?

  • Missing the point here, I think. To say that God demands payment IN ORDER TO forgive, makes God a monster. To say that the problem is God, he’s so angry and vengeful, he can only be placated by the innocent blood of his own son, is to make God a monster. To make salvation a matter of payment, a transaction of this kind, is to make God a monster.

    It is true that blood had to be spilled in order for mankind to live, for that is the law. But this law is not an arbitrary – imposed from outside – rule which God must enforce. No, God is the source and maintainer of Life. To turn away from him, to separate ourselves from him by declaring ourselves independent when we are not, in other words to sin, is to separate ourselves from life.

    The law being built into the very fabric of existence, being inherent in the very nature of life itself, to break it is to die. Death is the inevitable and unavoidable consequence of sin. And having broken the eternal (in time and space) law, we are subject to its penalty. That penalty is not imposed by God; on the contrary, God upholds our existence in the face of the law in order to demonstrate the propriety of his law to all creation. (One problem we have when discussing this subject is we constantly make it all about us, whereas the conflict goes far wider and deeper than that, and it is not all about us. We are merely the demonstration of the principles involved, taken to their uttermost ends, so that all creation might witness those ends, and choose between those principles.)

    To forgive means that the forgiver pays the price owed by the forgiven. Since you plainly apprehend the transactional metaphor used by Paul, let me explain it in those terms. As a sinner, a breaker of the eternal law, I owe it a debt, my eternal death. Since the law is operative in every time and place, there is no place or time I can go to escape its claim on me. I must be eternally dead to pay my eternal debt.

    If you owe me money, and I forgive you, then I accept voluntarily the loss of the amount you owe me. In all cases, in order to forgive, the forgiver must bear the loss of the debt owed by the forgiven. If I lend you 10,000 dollars, and you refuse to pay it back, I must bear the loss of the 10,000 in order to forgive you the debt. This is unavoidable.

    Thus we see in the example of Jacob, the supplanter, the cheater, after his long years of service to his father-in-law, the beginnings of the character of Christ, when he tells him: “when one your lambs was taken, I bore the loss of it.” That is what forgiveness is. It is not merely the forbearance of the debt, the refusal to exact payment, but it is also and necessarily the concomitant willingness to bear that loss ourselves.

    Only Christ, as one who is eternal in and of himself, is able to forgive me because only he is able to pay this debt. Only he alone, among all humanity, has a life “without spot or blemish” to offer. No others among us are worthy. Since Christ is God in the flesh, the death of Christ cannot be to placate God, to change his mind. No, it is to demonstrate God, to change our minds.

    Does this negate the legal ramifications of the event? No. That is a false dichotomy constructed by people who do not perceive the many layered depths of scripture. Both are true, equally. There is no conflict between them, rightly understood. Jesus’ sacrifice demonstrates the mercy of God AND it resolves our debt to his law. Both, simultaneously.

  • KentonS

    What kent said. I think we’re talking past each other because our frames of reference are so different. I’m not throwing out the whole bible, I’m just not reading it through the same understanding you are.

  • I think there are some important semantics here. If a debt is “paid” why is “forgiveness” necessary? If I’m going to forgive a debt, it doesn’t mean that I “make someone else pay it”. I don’t go collect $10,000 from someone else and then come back and say “I forgive you” – there is no debt to forgive! No, forgiveness means that a debt is gone, forgiven, forgotten, cancelled.

    Nor is the problem a legal transactional one – it’s an ontological one. The “legal” terminology used in our world and its association with “justice” as retributive punishment – a “balancing of the scales” as it were – is flat out not the same way that “justice” is presented in the Bible.

    Ultimately I think that disagreements over the nature and meanings of “justice” and “forgiveness” along with the the perception of the gospel as a legal transaction are usually at the root of differences in how the cross is understood.

  • Paul Jennings

    What do we make of Romans 3:25 in context: “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. “

  • Paul Jennings

    Brian Zahnd, please answer this question. Was Christ’s death on the cross God’s plan from the beginning or not?

  • “God put forth Jesus as the place of mercy, though faithfulness by means of his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he did not punish those who sinned in times past.” -Romans 3:25

  • Yes. But God did not kill Jesus. We did. God simply knew (as did Plato!) that a just man would be crucified in our civilization. Through his death (our work) and his resurrection (the Father’s work) Jesus leads humanity beyond death the works of death.

  • Paul Jennings

    Thank you, Brad. I agree with you. It’s seems clear to me that propitiation on the cross was the Father’s plan all along. I don’t see why we have to separate the two things. Yes, it was because of OUR sins that Christ was killed. Yes, it was at the hands of wicked, hateful men. BUT…. it was to atone for the sins of everyone, once and forever. It was to atone for sins committed against God. Here’s the confusing part of this for our minds: Jesus IS God. God put HIMSELF in our place on the cross. It was an act of LOVE, first and foremost. Amen! But it WAS propitiation. Jesus had to die in our place. It was the plan all along. To this point, I haven’t been able to get Brian to comment on this.

  • And what are the ramifications of the sacrifice of the lamb? (who takes away the sin of the world) … Is the problem with God? Is it HE that needs to change – to be changed – or is it us? Jesus certainly is the propitiation for our sin, but if the Father is the one being propitiated then it is the Father who must change, who must be reconciled to us. But we’re sinful, fallen, wicked, lawless creatures. Reconciling God to us makes him doubly monstrous, for now God is sinful, fallen, wicked, and lawless, as well as being so angry he has to kill his own innocent Son.

    No, WE killed God, he did not commit suicide.

    God (the father) was in Christ, reconciling the world (i.e. us) TO himself. In other words, changing us, changing our minds, changing our character, changing our destiny.

    The act of sacrificing the lamb was an act of faith in the mercy and justice of God, aspects grounded in his love. The necessity for the spilling of blood is a reflection of the unbreakable nature of the inherent law, which is that life comes from God alone and to separate from Him is to separate from Life itself. To die. it is not a reflection of God’s need to kill or to punish. He needs do neither. On the contrary, we need him to keep us alive in spite of the fact that, according to the law, we should be dead.

    And God does this even for his enemies, even for those hammering in the nails and ramming the spear in his side, for those clamouring for his blood, and for those simply standing idly by, for those running away in panic, and for those utterly ignorant of his existence.

  • Jeremy Weart

    So what do you do with Romans 3:21-26? A passage about the redemption God has provided in Jesus. This is the culmination of a process of reasoning that began with the pronouncement of God’s wrath against sin: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Rom 1:18). God’s holiness requires that there be atonement if the condemned condition of sinners is to be overcome. THe love of God provides that atonement.

    In the past, God had left sins unpunished. GOd has put forth JEsus as our hilaterion (propitiation). This proves both that God is just (his wrath required the sacrifice) and that he is the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus (his love provided the sacrifice for them).

    Romans 8:32 – God “did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all.” Rom 5:8 – “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ became a “curse for us” (Gal 3:13).

    Paul saw Christ’s death as propitiatory: Romans 1:18; 2:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19; 13:4-5; Ephesians 2:3; 5:6; Colossians 3:6; and 1 Thess 1:10; 2:16: 5:9. For Paul, the work of Christ on the cross not only covers our sin and cleanses us from its corruption, but that the sacrifice also appeases a God who hates sin and is radically opposed to it.

    Jesus himself saw his coming as one thing: atonement, and the Father was involved in that work. Look at John 6:38 – “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” Then look at JOhn 3:18 – “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

    Jesus quotes from Isaiah 53 at the Lord’s Supper – He saw himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah 53. Jesus tells his disciples that there is no “greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). When John the Baptist sees Jesus for the first time he says, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:28).

    I simply don’t understand why one would deny SO much Scripture in order to arrive at position that is more palatable or popular at the moment. It seems Christ gets far more glory from a penal-substitutionary atonement than any other. It clearly makes more of Him and less of me. And that is always a win imo.

  • Paul Jennings

    You can’t just change the words of scripture like that. The King James and ESV both say “propitiation” and the NIV says “as a sacrifice of atonement.”

  • rludders

    I would also recommend the book, “Servant God”, edited by Brad and Dorthy Cole. There are also 18 contributors including Greg Boyd. Also available on Amazon.

  • This is N.T. Wright’s translation of the text. The leading New Testament scholar of our era.

  • I wrote an endorsement for that book. It’s on the back cover. 🙂

  • Of course this won’t be resolved in a blog comment. Volumes have been written on this. But I appreciate the dialogue which helps me clarify my own thoughts.

    Not one verse that you quote requires a penal substitutionary atonement approach. Only what you’ve put in (parentheses) does – and I don’t agree with those interpretations. I don’t agree that “hilasterion” means “propitiation”, at least not in the pagan sense of the word. Does God change? It means “mercy” or “mercy seat”. “Atonement” and the cross isn’t a legal loophole – it’s about union and restoration – at-one-ment.

    Re: Romans 3, passing over previous sins isn’t presented as God’s righteousness/justice because – well God is just going to kill someone else LATER. Far from it – it’s because justice itself is not retributive punishment but is the restorative “making saints out of sinners” (making just or making righteous). God is “righteous and just” to break down barriers to restore his creation. And this has happened APART from the law – not because humanity did something right to earn it. It’s just who God is.

    Wrath is removed not because of a legal fiction or some metaphysical imputation of a legal status, but because the cause of that wrath (sin) has been removed. Remove sin and make whole (what Christ is doing and will complete) and you remove wrath. It’s not a legal problem but an ontological one. Don’t deal with the actual sin problem – our darkness, hatred, violence – and no amount of “appeasement” will make a lick of difference.

  • There is a fundamentally different view of what divine righteousness/justice even is and what the human problem is that God has come to fix. Justice = God setting things right in Jesus, not “getting God to change his mind about humanity through pain and suffering because the law has him in a bind”. PSA sees “taking away sin” which really means “removing and cleansing from sin” as identical to “paying for sin in a legal sense”. It’s not.

    Yes, God gave Christ up for us all. Yes, Christ is the lamb that takes away the sin of the world. Yes, Christ came to do the will of the Father. But in none of these statements do you see ONE word about penal substitutionary atonement – you have to read that into them. Isaiah 53 – the suffering servant – while perhaps indicating the active role of God (who is in Christ), doesn’t indicate that “atonement” is “wrath appeased through suffering” in the way that you’re using it. “By his wounds we are healed” doesn’t mean “by his wounds God’s wrath is appeased or “by his wounds God is allowed to forgive”. It doesn’t say that!

    Nor is there any real “forgiveness” at all if a “debt” has been “paid”. If someone owed me $10 and someone else paid it, I wouldn’t need to “forgive” the debt at all. Forgiveness means just that – it’s forgiven, gone, no more. God is just to forgive freely.

    “SO much scripture” isn’t being avoided – we just see it fundamentally differently. You should read “salvation from sin” by George MacDonald.

  • It’s really the definition of hilasterion that’s in question. The New English Translation – done by a team of scholars (though any translation requires theological interpretation).

    God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. (‭Romans‬ ‭3‬:‭25‬ NET)

  • Well done, Mike.

  • Jesse

    So basically what you are saying is that God dealt with the problem, namely us, by giving us a new identity through the death and resurrection of Christ, that identity being His.

  • Paul Jennings

    Ok. 🙂 I had never heard the word “hilasterion” before today. I looked it up. It means “that which makes expiation” or “propitiation.” It’s referring to the Mercy Seat in the OT temple where blood was sprinkled to cover the sins of the people. God showed us mercy BY shedding his blood to cover our sin. Christ’s death on the cross was purposeful. It wasn’t just an unfortunate event at the hands of wicked men (it WAS that…. but much more.) It was the plan of God all along to bring redemption to mankind. Christ shed His blood to cover all our sin.

  • Jeremy Weart

    Let me first say that I am open to learning along with anyone in the faith. I always want to be a theologian (which, by the way, we all are!) that is open to new ideas. The downside of course is that we have limited communication happening with just the reading of words. That being said, I still think that penal substitutionary atonement best encapsulates what Scripture teaches. It isn’t perfect – no doctrine is – but it seems most logical, rational and Biblical to me.

    Interestingly enough, George Ladd wrote a refutation against C.H. Dodd on the very word you speak of – Hilaskomai. Dodd thought it was better translated expiation. Here is Ladd’s argument:

    In nonbiblical Hellenistic Greek authors such as Josephus and Philo, the word uniformly means “to propiate.” This is also true of its use in the apostolic fathers. Leon Morris has said, “If the translators and the New Testament writers evolved an entirely new meaning of the word group, it perished with them and was not resurrected until our own day.”

    WHile the word is seldom used in the Septuagint with “God” as its direct object, it must also be noted that it is never used in the OT with the word sin as its direct object.

    The word does appear in the OT in the context in which the wrath of God is in view.

  • Jeremy Weart

    I think we can all agree that Packer is a solid theologian. Maybe we could all read his lecture on the subject and discuss it? Just an idea.

  • Jeremy Weart

    There are a few key things I am not sure we are both on the same page about.

    1. The Holiness of GOd. R.C. Sproul’s book on that subject forever changed me. Once I understood more about God’s holiness the more I saw how our sin really does affect Him and needs to be deal with.

    2. Salvation – you may be getting your lines crossed up here. There are three primary aspects to the salvation we receive from Christ: Justification (the legal side), Sanctification (the process side), and Glorification (our final state). All are needed and part of God’s work to make us in the image of the Son (Romans 8:28; 2 Cor 3:18, etc.).

  • Hilaskomai (verb) = to look with favor upon, to show mercy

    Luke 18:13
    13″But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

    The “have mercy” is the word you’re using. It seems the meaning is theologically interpreted.

  • He’s certainly prolific and well respected in many circles. I’m familiar with his work but think aspects of his Calvinist theology are way off.

  • Paul Jennings

    Jesus IS God. He gave himself over to death. Obviously men did the actual act with their own hands. And it was necessary BECAUSE of the sins of men.
    I’m still not sure exactly what our disagreement is. From the info I’ve gathered so far, it seems that you are trying to avoid us viewing God, the Father, as a wrathful, justice-demanding deity. I agree with you that we shouldn’t see him this way. BUT He is a holy God who hates sin. And sin must be punished because he hates what it does do His children. I view the propititaion on the cross as the act of a LOVING deity. God gave Himself (Jesus IS God) in our place. We deserved the penalty of sin because we are sinners who continually sin. I still do. You still do. We’re humans and can’t keep from it.
    If what I’m saying is not true, then what was the whole point of the temple in the OT. Was it a mistake?
    I think you are saying that Christ’s death was not necessary. Am I correct?

  • Well, I’m not sure that I’m crossing up my terms but I’m quite sure that we see those terms differently.

    Justification in particular is a massive topic that there is a lot of discussion on – and a great many read it much differently than Sproul and Packer.

  • rludders

    Sin is serious with God. Why? Because He is offended or because sin is destructive and destroys us. But God does not deal with sin by executing retributive justice, but by healing and restoration.

    One of the false premises about our relationship with God, is that it is legal. This is the source of penal substitution and its ramifications that Christ had to die a legal death to adjudicate our legal standing with Him. Our relationship with God is as a parent child or spouse with spouse. Nothing legal. Or another analogy would be a physician patient relationship. If we refuse or don’t take the remedy, the physician does not punish us on his office lawn, but lets use go to reap the natural consequence which would be death. Same with the Great Physician. If we don’t respond to Him there is nothing more He can do but let us go to reap the natural consequence of sin which is death. This is his wrath according to Romans 1; Hosea 11; Romans 4:25. Justification is not some legal transaction with God but a setting right as in justifying a margin on a document. Something is done in me, not in God.

  • John S.

    Could it be that the Father sent his Son to die and have the full sin of humanity placed on him (absorbed in him, as I’ve heard BZ say elsewhere) because the Father knew the Son was the only person who could bear that burden and still come out loving and having compassion for the perpetrators?

  • rludders

    It was Satan at the tree that distorted the character of God. By believing these lies about God, Adam and Eve broke their trust with Him. Thus they sinned. God had said that if they ate of the tree they would die. But notice He did not say He would have to kill them.

    It was necessary that Christ died to demonstrate the nature of this death. And what we see is that God did not kill His Son on the cross. It was mankind’s sin. And this is made clear in Isaiah 53. It was considered or thought that God was doing the punishing and execution of His Son. Christ was not punished for our sins but was punished by our sins. The Hebrew can and should be translated by or because of rather than for. The wrath of God was on His Son but this wrath was a hiding of His face allowing evil forces to do the work of murdering Christ on the cross. So the cross demonstrates that God did not touch His Son on the cross, but revealed that it is the wages of sin that leads to death but not at the hand of God. Satan was disclosed as the murderer, not God.

    Christ came to show us by demonstration that God can be trusted and is trustworthy as opposed to the allegations of Satan made at the tree. It is the demonstration of the cross that draws all to Him.

  • Amen.

  • John

    Trouble is that the God of the Hebrew Bible is not a theological God. Rather he is a human personality, fierce and jealous, and by no mean benign or really really nice. He has far more in common with the characters in Shakespeare’s plays than with the theological God that Christianity inherited from the Greeks. The trouble that has always faced Christianity is how to reconcile a theological God with the profoundly un-theological God of the Hebrew Bible. Reducing Yahweh to “God the Father” just will not do.

  • Deborah Henry

    Best part….The Father vindicated his Son on Easter! 🙂

  • rludders

    Jean Sheldon, who wrote one of the chapters in “Servant God”, has also written a great book, “No Longer Naked and Ashamed”, Discovering that God is not an abuser. This is well worth reading if you have not already read it.

  • kent

    Maybe the sacrifices were done for man’s sake (to clean his conscience) instead of appeasing god. Isn’t this what Hebrews 9 is suggesting?

  • Leighton Tebay

    There is a profoundly easy to resolve this tension. Believe Jesus. The tension you have is between the words and character of Jesus with a modernist interpretive lens you interpret scripture with.

  • Leighton Tebay

    Where in scripture does it clearly say that Jesus’ death was a propitiation?

  • Leighton Tebay

    The definition of that word is a huge hinge point in this discussion. I believe that in one sense Jesus’ death was an appeasement and a covering, but not in the retributive sense.

    We don’t talk about it much but a lot of what was a accomplished in the atonement was to sanctify us. To heal us, make us alive, cleanse our consciences, and defeat the powers of death, sin and the devil in our lives. One of the problems Jesus came to solve was that we were in bondage to all these things making it very difficult to live righteously. Like a drug addict we are in bondage but we are still responsible for our actions.

    Imagine being a father and your youngest son was a drug addict and your oldest son was healthy successful business person. The youngest son periodically comes home, he lies, he steals in order to feed his habit and then disappears for months at a time. He mistreats and hurts the rest of your family. You love your addict son but you are legitimately angry at being treated so poorly and the suffering of the rest of your family. You finally report your youngest son to the police and he gets arrested and is very likely to be found guilty. The oldest son comes to you and says “Father, it doesn’t have to go this way. I will pay for rehab, my brother will live with me, I will walk with him, mentor him, and I will stick with him for as long as it takes until he is healed enough to be reconciled with his whole family.”

    What would you choose? Jail and retribution for your youngest son? Would you wipe out all charges and allow your oldest son to make a sacrifice to heal and restore your wayward son? Would not the condition of your forgiveness and reconciliation merely be that the hurt stops, there is sincere and genuine change and that the problem is solved so you can have your son back? Is that not what Jesus taught us?

    How would you feel if the oldest son volunteered to take the youngest son’s place and go to jail for him? Would it make more sense for your oldest son to go to jail for your youngest son? How would that satisfy your anger and desire for justice? If your son wanted to do that wouldn’t that merely to be add one injustice upon another?

    What I discovered is that by following Jesus’s instructions that I became a better father than the g.o.d. of my theology. I needed to discover the real God, and in my experience he looks at lot like Jesus.

  • Paul Jennings

    Romans 3:21-26, *vs 25
    1 John 4:10
    Romans 5:8,9
    These are just a few. Scripture is swimming in propitiation. 🙂

  • Leighton Tebay

    Not really, propiation is a english word which some translations (NASB/ESV) use to render a couple of greek words. The greek words hilasterion (Rom 3:25) /hilasmos (1John 4:10) have a range of meanings. For hilasterion BDAG lists Expiation first and Propiation second. In the TDNT defintion we see “a. Whether Paul has the kappōreṯ in view in Rom. 3:25 is not wholly certain, but he undoubtedly means “that which expiates sin” and thus reveals God’s righteousness and brings redemption. God himself is the subject of the action, so that divine expiation rather than human propitiation is the point.”

    My point, the meaning of the word is debatable and it certainly isn’t clear. Most translations don’t render hilasterion propitiation. NIV uses “atoning sacrifice” which is much more honest and less speculative. I think the logic in the Louw Nida lexicon defintion for hilasmos is sound

    “Though some traditional translations render ἱλαστήριον as ‘propitiation,’ this involves a wrong interpretation of the term in question. Propitiation is essentially a process by which one does a favor to a person in order to make him or her favorably disposed, but in the NT God is never the object of propitiation since he is already on the side of people. ἱλασμός and ἱλαστήριονa denote the means of forgiveness and not propitiation.”

    The ESV might be swimming in propitiation, but that doesn’t mean the scriptures are.

  • Paul Jennings

    I appreciate your example, but you can’t make Jesus’ surrogate sacrifice into a human example. The reason Jesus died in our place is because he was the only One worthy to pay the price. Only His blood- His holy, sinless blood – could atone for all sin.
    I’m not God. I don’t make the rules or approve the rules based on my limited human understanding and logic. God is holy. You have to deny scripture to deny that God demanded a blood sacrifice for the covering of sin. The temple is how Israel operated all through the OT. I think He did this because he understands (even more than us) how devastating sin and it’s effects are. He loves us and doesn’t want us to be hurt by sin. (I attached a link to a pretty cool article by Richard Stearns of World Vision on this subject.)

    I don’t know why God did things the way He did. All we have is scripture.
    I don’t think the focal point of Christ’s death was God’s anger (although He DOES hate sin.) He destroyed the power of sin and death forever on the cross. But He didn’t do this by just being an example of love (I’m speaking of God as Christ.) If that’s what was accomplished, then we’re all still screwed because we still sin. We still don’t and can’t live up to the holy standard of a holy God. But Christ covered our sin by shedding His blood. You cannot deny this according to scripture. He destroyed the power of sin and death by covering it with the only worthy blood: His.
    I think one thing that trips us up on this is that we forget that the holy trinity is ONE God. God, the Father, did not kill His Son out of anger. Jesus IS god. God gave himself in our place. Even as I write this it doesn’t make sense to my human mind because I can’t conceive of the perfect union of the holy trinity. The Father, the Son, the Spirit are ONE God. He gave Himself to forgive us.
    Propitiation (of Christ for us) is not a horrific, angry, morbid event. It’s a beautiful, loving, true story of a loving God. The atonement on the cross and the resurrection 3 days later are the very foundation of our faith.

  • Leighton Tebay

    This is where things get interesting. One cannot stress that Christ’s death is a propitiation and say anger is not the focal point of Christ’s death. The very definition of the word infers that.

    For the first 1000 years the church believed that Jesus Christ was a ransom paid to the devil, not an offering to appease God. There is clear scriptural evidence for this as well. Clearer than our reformed notions of appeased anger. We don’t like to give the devil that much credit or authority. It doesn’t make sense to us. One cannot play the “it doesn’t make sense to use, but that is what scripture says” card and pretend that we don’t do the same with a much older and once universally accepted position on Christ’s death and resurrection.

    Now we have a theology that made much more sense to a lawyer (Calvin) and someone studying to become a lawyer (Luther) who in fact innovated on Anselm’s theories which were heavily influenced by the conventions of feudal justice.

    In some ways I don’t understand the church’s first position, but it fits the weight of biblical evidence much better than Penal Substitutionary Atonement and it doesn’t turn the Father in to someone less loving than the son.

  • John

    I’m afraid it’s not so simple. Jesus is himself a literary figure. The only way of ever getting Yahweh and Jesus together is by reducing Yahweh to “God the Father” and creating a “Trinitarian” dance of metaphors.

  • This is all true.

  • Paulo Ans

    Hello, I’ve took the liberty to translate this post into portuguese, with some cultural cross-reference to portuguese and brazilian characters
    If you wish to see it removed, or have any note do add, please let me know. (we do not make any revenue from our blog).

  • Tom White

    As I have read thru the many comments previously, a question came to me.v Why do we suppose that God, in His infinite wisdom, would make this an issue that would stray away from the simplicity of the gospel to a point where we base our discussions upon the definition of one word. Is it really so difficult for us that Christ died for us because it was the will of the Father? This does not make God a monster but rather it shows the depth of His love for us. Such an act of reconciliation could only be accomplished by a righteous, holy God who IS LOVE. Our understanding should be like a child’s simple understanding of his father’s love. God loves us + His motive of reconciliation + He gave His son(Himself) + We trust, believe in this = we shall not perish but have everlasting life. We should not become embroiled in vain agreements regarding God’s motives outside of what He has already said.

  • Paul Jennings

    One of my points of emphasis is what you said at the end there. The Father isn’t someone less loving than the son. They are the same God. They are equally loving. They are One.
    The anger was towards sin and it’s effects, not towards us or the Son.
    I’m not sure if we’re actually closer to each other’s views in regards to God being a God of love. Maybe we are.
    What concerns me about what you and Brian are saying is that it seems you treat the cross as an unfortunate event rather than a necessary event (in fact, the plan all along) to bring ultimate reconciliation between fallen man and God.
    Can you and/or Brian comment on that point? I believe that Christ’s death on cross was necessary and in fact the plan of redemption all along. I believe we are saved by faith in Christ AND His shed blood which covers (atones for) our sin.
    And….. one more. 🙂 Could you also comment on what was acccomplished with the OT sacrifice? Was Christ’s shed blood the final sacrifice and did it cover sins in the same way as in OT sacrifices?
    I guess I’m not seeing how Christ as our ransom and His shed blood as a substitute in our place are two completely different and unrelated things.
    Thanks for taking to time to engage me. 🙂

  • rludders

    Don’t you think it was also the will of the Son as well as the Father to die for us?

  • Leighton Tebay

    Hi Paul

    It is always fulfilling to engage with people honestly grappling with theology and scripture. I am on my own deep journey of understanding atonement. I’m neck deep in Romans 5 after spending a weekend in Col 2:4-5.

    I think you are right in that God planned to rescue us from our own bad choices from the beginning. Rom 5:14 says Death reigned from Adam on. Some early church folks think Adam made a deal with the serpent. That involves some speculation, but what is clear is that humanity was in bondage to death and sin. We sold ourselves in to slavery to sin, death and the devil. We were in every legitimate sense owned by darkness. Jesus offered to absorb this dark influence on our behalf. Why would the devil take that trade? I don’t know, maybe he thought in his twisted scheming that by Jesus absorbing sin of humanity it would open Jesus up to the dark rule the devil had over the rest of humanity. Jesus took all the darkness upon himself from humanity and died and rose again with it breaking the power of the devil, defeating him and humiliating him with his very grievous mistake.

    In some way that is yet beyond my comprehension Jesus absorbed the sin disease that infected humanity through his death. In curing us of the dark influence he satisfied God’s desire for justice and reconciliation. The blood speaks of the cleansing of sin, the breaking of the sin addiction, so that reconciliation can happen. It isn’t God taking his wrath out on an innocent being.

    In short the cross was necessary to fix and free us so we could have relationship.

  • Paul Jennings

    Ok. 🙂 I’m starting to get that feeling I get when I argue with a Calvinist friend (believe it or not, I am not Calvinist…. even though I’m arguing for propitiation) …that we pretty much believe the same thing and our argument is becoming semantics.
    I agree with this : “In curing us of the dark influence he satisfied God’s desire for justice and reconciliation. ”
    I agree with this, but it sounds like propitiation. God WAS angry (and still is)…. but angry about sin. He loves us. He always has loved us…WAY more than you or I could as a father. I am a father; I understand. But He’s angry at sin and it’s effects, not us.

    Anyways…. I must go be with those kids that I love right now. 🙂
    God bless you.

  • You have my blessing, Paulo. Thank you.

  • tom white

    They cannot differ

  • Leighton Tebay


  • Graham Wakeman

    Brian, your heart and writing are inspiring! I have attempted to write something based upon John 20/Luke 24 which was inspired by your words.

  • Awesome! I’ll share it tomorrow.

  • Graham Wakeman

    Wow, Thanks!

  • kent

    If god abhors human sacrifice, why would we ever believe he required one himself?

  • Another year another attempt to rewrite how Christians have typically understood the atonement for the last two thousand years. For someone who claims to have read so much on the atonement it’s a wonder you cannot manage to represent propitiation fairly! I’m sorry ‘BZ’ but you are the reason I now cringe when April comes around!

  • Beautiful! This was the subject around our podcast over here in sunny Malaysia today. Thanks Brian again for such a well written and concise view of our more ‘Christlike God’!

  • Tom White

    I believe that it was what Jesus said. First he told his disciples that the soon came to fulfill the will of the Father and in his prayer the night before when he asked if this cup could be taken from him, he followed up with nevertheless your will not mine be done. So generally he came to do his father’s work. When it came down to his death he choose the father’s will and accepted the suffering because of the joy laid before him. Fellowship with you.

  • If you pay your own debt to sin, you’re dead. Forever. Forgiveness doesn’t enter into it. God doesn’t kill sinners, they commit suicide. Paying your debt IS forgiving your sin. The debt payment story is a metaphor, to tell us about the cost of forgiveness to the forgiver, to teach us to be the same way.

  • exactly. Hence the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world” – the three agreed to this plan before Adam was made. He volunteered, because he and the father “are One” – unified in character and purpose.

  • NO, sin does not need to be punished. Sin pays its own wages. God does not pay them. “the wages of sin is death, BUT (drawing the starkest possible contrasts) the gift of God is eternal life”

    There are TWO contrasts drawn here:

    1. Life and Death

    2. Wages and Gift

    Death is what we earn as sinners. It is OUR act, not God’s.

    Life is what God gives us, Twice. The first a finite life, the second an eternal life.

    In neither case is it possible for us to earn it.

    When scripture speaks of those “destroyed by the brightness of His coming” it is we who translate that into him punishing sin. But that’s not what the wrath of God means. God’s wrath is expressed as the withdrawal of His protection from sin’s consequence. When sinners come before God, they burn and die. But you should read the account of the sons of the high priest who were burned to death for bringing strange fire into the presence of God. Tell us what was the condition of their bodies and clothing after this burning?

    None of these examples are recorded by accident, or without purpose.

  • Paul, there’s a theory that the solemn sacrificial rites of the old temple really are the model for the sacrifice fo Christ. That it should have been a penitent faithful high priest who took the life of “the Lamb of God”.

    The death is thus seen as necessary, not the cross, in this model.

    As someone mentioned above, just because God foresaw how it would actually go, and recorded that in prophecy, doesn’t make it His plan in every detail.

    Our sins are our plan, not his.

  • Does the God of Love keep an Angel of Death on hand? What position does such a being serve in heaven? What relation can death have with life, or Christ with Belial?

    When God says, at the end, that death itself will die in the fire, is he going to kill this faithful obedient angel of death?

    Please tell me that.

  • Well, that’s your story. But since I dont accept your premise, your conclusion is also rejected.

  • Your Jesus is God, saving us from God. Right? And we should love this multiple personality nut case? Grab a brain.

  • But Jesus IS God! Look, why not use your evolution-given brain and embrace humanity. Gods are empty promises for frightened children. Grow up and enjoy the real world.

  • Scott

    I’m with you Brian. I would further add that this all started back in Gen 3:4-6, Satan accused YHWH of abusing his power over us by not allowing us to eat of the tree that would bring us up to his level of power. Humankind agreed and took a bite, if this wasn’t bad enough, insult was added to injury when humankind tried to “transfer” this sin back on to YHWH. Adam blamed YHWH sighting his creation of Eve. Eve blamed YHWH sighting his creation of the beguiling serpent. Often YHWH has given his erring people what they think they need, in this case a system that seeming allows for the “felt need” to transfer guilt off us and back onto to the one who created us (free will’s a b#%ch at times). But the real way to view it is for YHWH’s judgement to stand unquestioned, this accusation of power abuse has to be refuted absolutely! If the officers of the court stand accused of sin themselves who are they to pass judgment on us and our sins! Sure they could wipe us out and start over, or simple wipe our memory and start over but the accusation would come up again and again, our righteous, merciful, patient, kind Father, controls any wrath he might feel at this betrayal and allows God his Son, to enter this now bad neighborhood earth. The true light on the cross is that Y’shua (jesus), fully God, fully a reflection of the Father and the Father himself never use their power to save themselves. The Father could have used his power to save his son from “us”. The Son could have used his power to save himself from “us”. But by allowing humankind, under the influence of satan, to use their own power on the son to the point of murdering Him (Act 2:72), the accusation made back in the garden of Eden has been refuted and the character of YHWH the judge, Y’shua the mediator/judge, cleared. They can now judge the earth unhindered by the accusations on their characters, proven false by the cross. This is the gospel, this is the good news, the cross clears the Almighty’s name so judgement can now proceed.

    Isaiah 53 actually points this out, when we realize most of it (1-11a) is written from the point of view of lost sheep. The lost sheep are speaking and this is a prophetic note how some lost sheep might view what happened at the cross. But in verse 11b there is a pronoun shift (i’m using the KJV), the lost sheep fall silent and YHWH steps in and pronounces that “by his knowledge (NOT blood) my righteous servant shall justify many (NOT all)” . And his judgement will stand because by bearing their iniquity of murdering him, the accusation against the character of the Godhead has been proven false. YHWH’s quote of “without blood their can be know remission of sin” is not a statement about what He requires but an observation about us. For some of us to see the real horror of sin and where all sin inevitably leads it takes us seeing, sometimes purveying the shedding of innocent blood before we’re shocked at the sight/action enough to hopefully turn (repent) from all sin.

    PSA is hard for anyone to let go of because it seems to provide “assurance of salvation” and this is what people really idolize. Claim jesus as your personal payment to YHWH for the sins you committed and YHWH will not come after you. Since i do not believe in PSA, my faith resides in the fact that YHWH will make the right judgement in my case, he is merciful and his son mediates in the heavenly sanctuary on my behalf. My assurance is in their judgement, not in me personally being saved, either way its the best decision. PSA gets rid of the need to define sin by YHWH’s law (Torah) because whatever the law says it really doesn’t matter YWH’s son paid for your sin long ago. Often people feel relieved enough to repent from some of the more heinous culturally defined sins, but usually this view does not send anyone back to Torah to see how YHWH might define sin. In my view Y’shua came to magnify the the Torah (Isa 42:21), not replace it with LOVE but to show the LOVE that resides in its words and ideas. I study Torah to rightly identify sin, and then DAILY, morning and evening (Dan 8:9-14), pray and confess my sin in recognition of the shed blood of Y’shua, this becomes my sacrifice. A true sacrifice (as opposed to the model sacrifice designated prior to the cross), in a true temple (the one in heaven), thru a true mediator (Y’shua now, not some Levite on this earth).The cross allows Y’shua to stand in this role untainted with the Gen 3:4-6 accusation. This is the Good News, and anyone who tries and usurp this role by playing the intercessor and judge on this earth is polluting the sanctuary and denying the cross of the messiah.

    I believe PSA theory got kicked into high gear before Calvin, as Luther, coming out of the payment mentality of Augustine/Aquinas Catholicism. Catholicism used the payment (indulgences) mentality to grow rich and control its members. Church works of servitude or monetary tender were used to buy forgiveness, pay off God, and the priest would intercede and absolve you of sin. Luther saw the corruption this wrought and this led him to be lose his assurance of salvation as defined by catholic tender. Luther driven to the point of near insanity of thought he was not entirely secure from the fate of burning in hell forever, found solace when he lit upon the theory that God himself paid his own self off with the death of his son, but you had to believe that in order for that divine legal tender to work for you. Now Luther had the “assurance of salvation” he so desperately craved. Catholicism hated it but the people fed up with church corruption and heavy church taxes loved it. Luther changed the payment, and i guess it might be better if the only other payment option is you paying the church. But is it better as you point out Brian the Father’s character takes another hit, in the end he has to be paid off in order to forgive if not by indentured servitude or monetary offering through the church then the murder of his son! Is this better! Perhaps YHWH is able to forgive as he says we should forgive, accept heart felt repentance, mediated via the one we murdered Y’shua, and just forgive. What ? not enough justice for the substitutionist ? read the curses in Gen 3:14-23 all those are still in play today, it may not be the lake of fire eternal death but it is still bad, the result of sin and not in the original plan. YHWH can be just if he so chooses or he can suspend justice and be merciful if he sees fit, its entirely up to Him and the cross says we can trust his judgement, its men and their ideas of judgment that are suspect and the cross points this out as well in that we murdered the innocent lamb of YHWH after a mockery of a trial presided by church men, who perceived themselves of God. The universe beheld YHWH relinquish his power at the cross in order to prove he can be trusted with power and its satan and those influenced by him that can not be trusted with power. And if i loose some “assurance of of me personally being saved” so be it (Mar 8:35).

  • Scott

    1st paragraph 4th line from bottom, scripture reference (Act 7:52) … sorry

  • Scott

    More succinctly … how does murder of the Son of YHWH reconcile us back to a God that commands us NOT to murder? … how does a sin pay for sin? I mean the folks in Acts 2:37-38 missed the perfect opportunity to evade Peter’s chastisement and inform him of the penal substitutionary theory OR Peter missed the same opportunity to inform them of this theory. Like them, our hearts should be pricked by man’s murder of our innocent messiah God, and let this be the impetus to wash ourselves from our abhorrent past in the name of the slain Messiah, realizing where sin leads and has led us to do, and start our journey back to Torah (repent), afresh. Only now with a broken, contrite (psa 51:17), pricked heart, provided by this murder view of the cross. The Father and the Son can forgive what we did, what we still do, only the continued ignoring or rejection of the promptings of the Holy Spirit as confirmed in Scripture can not be forgiven.

  • Jared

    “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. The picture of the atonement reflects the sin sacrifice of the Old Testament.” The killing of the innocent lamb was atonement for the sin of the people. This is a shadow of what Christ has done for us.

  • Rick

    Loved the post. Sounds very similar to Orthodox Christianity’s view of the atonement. It’s not a legal transaction but more analogous to a hospital. It’s a rescue and recovery rather than a quid pro quo transaction. As a side note, I’m not sure I’ve ever read a thread of comments that were more intelligent and thoughtful. Usually the comment section of theological or political posts are comical, in a sad way, because of the rampant stupidity. Glad I found this article posted on Facebook.

  • Thank you, Rick. There’s no doubt that I’ve been influenced by Orthodox theology. I had dinner with an Orthodox archbishop just yesterday.

  • Cassia Lee

    I grew up with this view of God as angry and violent, I could never shake that idea, even when I would tell myself over and over again, “God loves me”. What’s the saddest is that I love Jesus and all that he portrays and teaches, but I run far from God the Father. This article has shifted something in me. Just when I thought I knew every basic theology about God, this comes up! I will have to take a closer looks at it…

    I just have one question, though. I have this picture that I have always looked to to help me calm myself when having a ‘bad God day’. it’s a sketch of an eye, with the Cross as the pupil. I have always interpreted it as that being the way God sees me-through the Cross. Justified,and saved and His. In terms of the theology in this article, however, does this picture still mean that? I mean, if God was just looking at me from his own eye, would he still think of me that same way He did through the Cross? it seems that the Cross was the only way God was able to look at me and love me. Do you get what I’m saying? it’s hard to explain.

    But basically, in terms of this article, what’s your opinion on the cross-pupil?

    Thanks, Cassia

  • What if I tell you that God loves you for yourself? Jesus doesn’t save us from God, but reveals God as savior. Jesus didn’t come to change God’s mind about us, but to change our mind about God.