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Sunday, June 4, 2017



The ultimate goal of this article is to dissect and analyze the Penal-Substitution Theory of the atonement which is popular among many confessing Christians although most would be unable to verbalize the theory.  To get down to the heart of the issue requires an attempt to understand various words associated with the atonement.  The problem lies in the various definitions of these words by English dictionaries, Greek dictionaries, and theologians, past and present, all of whom are influenced by their own particular theology which is not necessarily the same from source to source.

A dictionary definition of the word “Atonement”.

1. satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury; amends.
2. the doctrine concerning the reconciliation of God and humankind, especially as accomplished through the life, suffering, and death of Christ.

The word atonement, is almost the only theological term with an English origin. It was likely first used in Tyndale's English translation as derived from the phrase atonen, meaning "in accord," or literally, at one.  In the English Bible, it is mainly used to translate the Hebrew word kipur, although it is used once in the King James New Testament to translate the Greek word katallage (see Romans 5:11). Most modern translations render this word "reconciliation" in its other occurrences throughout the N.T.

The Day of Atonement was an annual day of repentance for the Old Testament people of Israel.  The rites or guidelines are set forth in Leviticus chapter 16 (also see Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 23:27-31, 25:9; Numbers 29:7-11).  It is described as a solemn fast, or a Sabbath on which no food or drink could be consumed, and on which all work was forbidden.  Sacrifices were offered by the high priest as an atonement for himself and for the people.  It was a day of national mourning and repentance. This was a Sabbath day celebration, which meant that no work could be done. Anyone who did not observe this Sabbath was to be cut off from his people, which is a euphemism for being put to death. This was a day when the people were to “humble their souls”

Notice that repentance was the necessary ingredient for the Day of Atonement in the Old Covenant.  In the NT Gospels John the Baptist requested that people repent of their sins and be baptized for the Kingdom of God was at hand.  Baptism is the metaphorical representation of death and resurrection which was finalized both physically and spiritually by Jesus Christ at His crucifixion and resurrection.

A dictionary definition of the word “Reconciliation”.              

1. an act of reconciling , as when former enemies agree to an amicable truce.
2. the state of being reconciled, as when someone becomes resigned to something not desired
3. the process of making consistent or compatible.

The words “Atonement”, “Reconciliation”, and “Propitiation appear to be used interchangeably within various versions of the New Testament as can be seen in the Appendix located at the end of this post. 

Then we come to the word Propitiate which is defined by a dictionary as:  to make favorably inclined; appease; conciliate (to overcome the distrust or hostility of; placate)

Romans 3:25 KJV  Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

1 John 2:2 KJV  And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10 KJV  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

According to most Greek dictionaries, the word propitiate means to appease.

A dictionary definition of the word “Appease”.

1. to bring to a state of peace, quiet, ease, calm, or contentment; pacify; soothe: to appease an angry king.
2. to satisfy, allay, or relieve; assuage: The fruit appeased his hunger.

Definitions and enhancements of propitiation from Theopedia, keeping in mind, whether correct or incorrect, this is a personal statement of the Theopedia writer often biased by the writer’s beliefs, understandings, and theology.

"The language of propitiation specifically implies God's hatred of sin and emphasizes the gracious work of Christ as sin-bearer (Rom. 3:25). The Bible further includes the forensic, legal language of justification (Rom. 3:20-26, 4:25, 5:16-18). These images make clear the reality of our guilt and the required penalty."

"Propitiation means the turning away of wrath by an offering. In relation to soteriology, propitiation means placating or satisfying the wrath of God by the atoning sacrifice of Christ."

A definition by Charles C. Ryrie (1999-01-11) from Basic Theology:

"The word propitiation carries the basic idea of appeasement, or satisfaction, specifically towards God. Propitiation is a two-part act that involves appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to them. Propitiation is that "by which it becomes consistent with his character and government to pardon and bless the sinner. The propitiation does not procure his love or make him loving; it only renders it consistent for him to exercise his love towards sinners."

The Penal-Substitution Theory as described by Theopedia:

The Penal-Substitution Theory of the atonement was formulated by the 16th century Reformers as an extension of Anselm's Satisfaction theory (see below). Anselm's theory was correct in introducing the satisfaction aspect of Christ's work and its necessity; however the Reformers saw it as insufficient because it was referenced to God's honor rather than his justice and holiness and was couched more in terms of a commercial transaction than a penal substitution. This Reformed view says simply that Christ died for man, in man's place, taking his sins and bearing them for him. The bearing of man's sins takes the punishment for them and sets the believer free from the penal demands of the law: The righteousness of the law and the holiness of God are satisfied by this substitution.

Relevant Scripture for the Penal-Substitution Theory
·  Isaiah 53:6 - "the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."
·  Isaiah 53:12 - "yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors."
·  Romans 3:25 - Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 
·  2 Corinthians 5:21 - "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
·  Galatians 3:13 - "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us -- for it is written, Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree."
·  Hebrews 10:1-4  For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.  (2)  For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.  (3)  But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.  (4)  For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

The Satisfaction theory formulated by Anselm

The Satisfaction (or Commercial) theory of the atonement was formulated by the medieval theologian Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) in his book, Cur Deus Homo (lit. ‘Why the God Man’). In his view, God’s offended honor and dignity could only be satisfied by the sacrifice of the God-man, Jesus Christ.

Anslem believed that humans could not render to God more than what was due to him. The satisfaction due to God was greater than what all created beings are capable of doing, since they can only do what is already required of them. Therefore, God had to make satisfaction for himself. Yet if this satisfaction was going to avail for humans, it had to be made by a human. Therefore only a being that was both God and man could satisfy God and give him the honor that is due him.

UnGodly Sacrifice Article by William Adriano

Mr. Adriano does not agree with Penal-Substitution.

A Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory perspective, though, will admittedly force us to say that there are two sides to the Father, one that wants to forgive (because it is merciful) and one that needs to punish (because it is just).

·  Jesus is demoted: he’s no longer a gift from God, but a solution to the problem of sin.
·  God is the one who cannot forgive without the death of an innocent.
·  God is the one who needs Jesus to step in and solve the problem if he is to forgive humanity.
·  Without Jesus, the Father can’t be merciful.
·  The Father runs the Son through the sacrificial machinery of the cross, discharges divine wrath, and finally has all conditions to mercy met.

The Church Fathers talked about evil, sin, Satan, and death having been defeated by the cross, but no wrath or blood sacrifices were needed.

Isaiah 53
The 53rd chapter of Isaiah and Psalms 22 are considered the go-to places for Penal-Substitution evidence scriptures.

Does God need to appease his wrath with a blood sacrifice to forgive us?
Was there no possible way for God to forgive our sins without the sacrifice of Jesus?  The OT “eye for an eye” was completely dismissed by Jesus.

Matthew 5:38-39 NET  "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'  (39)  But I say to you, do not resist the evildoer. But whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well.

He also refuted the '”Love your neighbor” and “hate your enemy” teaching by saying:

But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you,  (45)  so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  Matthew 5:44-45 NET 

Jesus even maintains that God the Father loves His enemies and cares for those who persecute Him by sending rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.  However, the PSAT claims that sin will be punished by eternal death in the lake of fire for all unbelievers who do not claim that Jesus paid for their sins on the Cross.

Without quoting the scriptures, any reader of the Gospels should be aware that Jesus forgave the sins of many people without demanding a sacrifice.

When Jesus was asked by Peter if he was required to forgive his brother at least seven times if he sinned against him, Jesus replied, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven.

Matthew 18:21-22 NET  Then Peter came to him and said, "Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother who sins against me? As many as seven times?"  (22)  Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy times seven times!

Does God require a sacrifice prior to fellowshipping with sinners?
All Christians should believe that Jesus and the Father are One because Jesus made that statement:  “The Father and I are one."  John 10:30 NET 

There are several recorded instances of Jesus dining and fellowshipping with various types of sinners.  No sacrifice was performed, required, or asked to be performed.

Mark 2:14-17 NET  As he went along, he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax booth. "Follow me," he said to him. And he got up and followed him.  (15)  As Jesus was having a meal in Levi's home, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.  (16)  When the experts in the law and the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?"  (17)  When Jesus heard this he said to them, "Those who are healthy don't need a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Several of the Old Testament laws required restitution for theft, crop damage, living facilities damage, and bodily damage.  The defendant was required to pay or reimburse double, triple, or quadruple for stolen property and other claims.  Some minor criminal acts required stripes with a whip.  If the defendant or a near kinsman could not pay the cost of the restitution, the wrongdoer was sold as a slave with the proceeds being paid to the plaintiff.  However, the plaintiff could simply forgive the debt or wrongdoing and no further action would be taken.

Although not every professing Christian believes that Adam and Eve were the only two human beings on the planet at one point in time, however, without an Adam of some kind, the atonement theory would fall to pieces as will be shown.  Whether or not one believes that Adam had a glorified body as we are promised to someday have, the storyline hints that Adam purposely sinned (disobeyed God) and lost his glorified body thereby beginning a process of slowly dying until he eventually died.  All the progeny of Adam and Eve were born without a glorified body and all eventually died because all sinned in some manner as stated in Romans 5:12.

Romans 5:12-21 NET  So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned(13)  for before the law was given, sin was in the world, but there is no accounting for sin when there is no law.  (14)  Yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the coming one) transgressed. 

(15)  But the gracious gift is not like the transgression. For if the many died through the transgression of the one man, how much more did the grace (mercy; clemency; pardon) of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ multiply to the many!  (16)  And the gift is not like the one who sinned. For judgment, resulting from the one transgression, led to condemnation, but the gracious gift from the many failures led to justification (the act of God whereby humankind is made or accounted just, or free from guilt or penalty of sin).

Justification is the act of God whereby humankind is made or accounted just, or free from guilt or penalty of sin.  The penalty of sin is permanent or everlasting death with no resurrection in the future plan – but resurrection from death was made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 (17)  For if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ!  (18)  Consequently, just as condemnation for all people came through one transgression, so too through the one righteous act came righteousness leading to life for all people.  (19)  For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of one man many will be made righteous.  (20)  Now the law came in so that the transgression may increase, but where sin increased, grace multiplied all the more,  (21)  so that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Can God forgive sins without a sacrifice?  Yes I believe so, but Jesus, who did not sin, conquered death, so that all would be able to live again through resurrection and eventually receive a glorified body.  God forgives sins, not because of the death of Jesus, but because those who believe that Jesus died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven desire to be a member of the family of God and desire to be a citizen of the Kingdom of God.  The temple of God is now within each believer with a token of the Holy Spirit of God to guide us and remind us not to sin.

Does God even desire a sacrifice?

Hosea 6:6 KJV  For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

1 Samuel 15:22 KJV  And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

Proverbs 21:3 KJV  To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

The scripture verses presented above demonstrate that God desires mercy, the knowledge of God, obedience to God, justice, and judgment.  To these actions and thoughts sacrifice has no value to God.

The familiar Romans 6:23 sums up the atonement theory.  We are sinners therefore we will die, but Jesus overcame death which allows us to also overcome death and live again.

Romans 6:23 KJV  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jesus was not crucified to pay the penalty for the accumulated sins of the world.  It is my opinion that a million crucifixions would not pay the penalty for the horrendous sins and atrocities committed during the past 6,000 years.  The death of Jesus only paid the penalty of one sin that was committed by Adam which resulted in the death of every living person.  Since the death penalty was defeated by Jesus, although everyone will continue to die, it is now possible for God to resurrect every person for an eternal life in the Kingdom of God.  Through Jesus Christ, death has truly been swallowed up in victory.

1 Corinthians 15:22 KJV  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:54-57 NET  (54)  Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen, "Death has been swallowed up in victory."  (55)  "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"  (56)  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  (57)  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Isaiah 25:7-8 NET  On this mountain he will swallow up the shroud that is over all the peoples, the woven covering that is over all the nations;  (8)  he will swallow up death permanently. The sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from every face, and remove his people's disgrace from all the earth. Indeed, the LORD has announced it!

Hebrews 2:9 NET  but we see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by God's grace he would experience death on behalf of everyone.

Many portions of Scripture completely affirm the deity of Jesus Christ, showing that at no time did He lose His divine nature. Yet the Bible teaches, equally strongly, that Christ became fully human.  The humanity of Jesus most likely required that He die as all humans before Him have died.  Although He was and is without sin, the sins of mankind since Adam resulted in the death of all people including Jesus Christ.  It is in that sense that Jesus bore the sins of many, and not that He died as an appeasement to God as payment for our sins which would allow our sins to be forgiven.  His resurrection from the dead broke the so-called “curse” of Adam which required that all people die because all people sin or are capable of sin.

And for which group of people did Jesus defeat death?  Everyone, of course.

Romans 3:22 KJV  Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

1 Corinthians 15:22 KJV  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 John 2:2 NET  and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world.

All (which means everyone or the whole world) shall be made alive.

Atonement, Reconciliation, Propitiation as used in the New Testament
Atonement  -  Romans 5:11 G2643      Hebrews 2:17 NET

Reconciliation – 2Co 5:18&19 G2643, Hebrew 2:17 G2433

Reconcile – Eph 2:16 G604, Col 1:20 G604

Propitiation – Rom 3:25 G2435, 1Jn 2:2 G2434, 1Jn 4:10 G2434

The definitions of atonement, reconciliation, and propitiation as given in Strong’s
G2643   From G2644; exchange (figuratively adjustment), that is, restoration to (the divine) favor: - atonement, reconciliation (-ing).
G2433   Middle voice from the same as G2436; to conciliate, that is, (transitively) to atone for (sin), or (intransitively) be propitious: - be merciful, make reconciliation for.
G604   From G575 and G2644; to reconcile fully: - reconcile.
G2435   Neuter of a derivative of G2433; an expiatory (place or thing), that is, (concretely) an atoning victim, or (specifically) the lid of the Ark (in the Temple): - mercyseat, propitiation.
G2434  atonement, that is, (concretely) an expiator: - propitiation.

Atonement, Reconciliation, Propitiation and other alternatives used in various translations

Romans 5:11  atonement KJV; reconciliation NET, NIV, YLT, LITV, KJ3 ; conciliation CLV

Hebrews 2:17  atonement NET, NIV; reconciliation KJV; propitiation NKJV, Young’s, CLV, LITV, KJ3;

2Corinthians 5:18-19  reconciliation KJV, MLV, NET, NIV, YLT, ASV, CLV, LITV, KJ3, NKJV

Ephesians 2:16  reconcile KJV, MLV, NET, NIV, YLT, ASV, CLV, LITV, KJ3, NKJV

Colossians 1:20  reconcile  KJV, MLV, NET, NIV, YLT, ASV, CLV, LITV, KJ3, NKJV

Romans 3:25  propitiation KJV, NKJV, ASV, ALT, LITV, KJ3; mercy seat NET, YLT; sacrifice of atonement NIV; propitiatory shelter CLV;

NIV – New International Version
MLV – Modern Literal Version
CLV – Concordant Literal Version
NET – New English Translation
YLT – Young’s Literal Translation
LITV – Green’s Literal Translation

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