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The Atonement

posted Apr 11, 2017, 10:51 AM by First Baptist


This week, as we commemorate the death of Christ and celebrate His resurrection, it is good for us to reflect on the doctrine of the atonement. The atonement is considered the central doctrine of the Christian faith. As with all doctrines, but especially this one, we want to be precise in our thinking.



Theories of the Atonement


Perhaps unsurprisingly, different views exist as to the purpose & meaning of the atonement. Here are several:


1.      The Example view – maintains that the real value of the death of Jesus lies in the beautiful and perfect example which it supplies us, epitomizing the type of dedication and sacrificial love which we ourselves are to practice.

2.      The Moral-Influence view – sees Christ’s death as the ultimate demonstration of God’s love for us.

3.      The Governmental view – Christ’s death is a demonstration of God’s hatred of sin, intended to induce in us a hatred of sin as well.

4.      The Ransom view – this was the dominant view of the early church. The idea is that Christ’s death was the “ransom” Satan required for humans to be set free from bondage to him.


The Moral-Influence view is probably the dominant view today (i.e., the view most talked about) and it certainly contains an element of truth (even more than an element). For example, Romans 5:8 clearly states:


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


And yet, the Moral-Influence view doesn’t quite capture the full essence of the atonement as revealed in Scripture.



The Penal-Substitution View


The view of the atonement that best reflects the teaching of Scripture AND is the view deemed orthodox by Christians for the vast majority of the Church’s history is called the Penal-Substitution view.


According to this view, Christ died to satisfy the justice of God’s nature. He rendered satisfaction to the Father (not to Satan!) so that we might be spared from the just deserts of our sins.


There are 4 key ideas or motifs in the Penal-Substitution view:


1.      Sacrifice – Christ gave His life as an offering to the Father.

2.      Propitiation – Christ died to appease God’s wrath over our sin.

3.      Substitution – Christ died for our sins, not His own.

4.      Reconciliation – Christ’s death brings to an end the enmity and estrangement which exist between God and humankind.


We must never take lightly our salvation. Although it is free, it is also costly, for it cost God the ultimate sacrifice.


This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (I John 4:10)



Pastor Dan