Disgrace To Grace is a series of articles written to debunk doctrines that I believe have hijacked the Good News of God’s outrageous grace. Here’s #2, enjoy!
Saved.. From God?
I want to talk about Penal Substitutionary Atonement today (PSA for short). Chances are you’ve probably never heard that term, but I’m sure you’ve been influenced by it.
PSA sounds like this: “God is a judge, and you are on trial. You’re guilty. You’ve sinned; God sentences you to death. He’s about to slam down the hammer, sending you off to eternal punishment, when suddenly Jesus steps in and offers his life in your place. He suffers the wrath of the judge, and you are forgiven your debt.”
PSA is Penal (to punish) Substitution (in our place) Atonement (to bring about redemption). It is a theory 1 of atonement, held popularly in Christianity, that claims Jesus died in order to appease the wrath of God.
Now, I have several issues with this theory of atonement. I don’t plan to address every issue I see here, but I hope to show you, at the very least, a few of the fundamental flaws in this theory.
I do plan on writing much more about this (both articles and eventually books), so this is definitely not the full scope of what I wish to say. But this will serve as a good introduction to why I have called Penal Substitutionary Atonement a “Disgrace to Grace.”
Problems With PSA
Undermining the Trinity:
This view of atonement, I believe, undermines the Trinity. PSA is a theory that is fundamentally anti-Trinitarian.
The Trinity should be central to our way of thinking about God. At no other place is this more vital then the cross, because the cross is essential to the Gospel story.
Within this model you get a very dualistic vision of the Trinity. On one side there is a holy judge demanding punishment, while on the other side there is a loving Jesus appeasing him.
Essentially, PSA teaches that one Member of the Trinity comes to save you from another Member of the Trinity.
This is not only an inconceivable flaw in logic, but a slap in the face to the early church who fought hard in defending the doctrine of the Trinity.
You can’t separate the inseparable Trinity!
PSA goes against Jesus’ union with His Father: “I and my Father are One.” 2 This union between Father, Son, and Spirit must remain central. The will of God is undivided. PSA splits the Trinity, making the will, and action of Jesus separate from that of His Father’s. Which I believe, is catastrophic.
The Dark Side of Jesus:
Did the fall of Adam change us, or did it change God?
Obviously, the Garden changed us, not God. So who then did the cross seek to fix? Did the cross fix us, or did it fix God?
If PSA is correct, then the cross dealt with God, not us.
PSA flips the Gospel on its head. If Jesus died in order to meet a legal requirement within the heart of God, instead of fixing us, and our sin, the cross becomes about fixing God. 3
In other words, according to PSA, Jesus died in order to deal with the “dark side of God.” Jesus may be loving towards sinners, but His Father is furious and filled with wrath. When Jesus died, He died to appease the wrath of God. (To deal with His “dark side.”)
No wonder so many Christians love Jesus, but fear His Father! We’ve been taught that God has a dark side. Heck, even Martin Luther admitted that, while he loved Jesus, he wasn’t sure about His Father.
Again, Jesus said, “I and my Father are One.” There is no dark side of God for the cross to appease. Jesus came because of His great love for us, not because of His great wrath!
History, and The Church Fathers:
Additionally, this theory of atonement is actually relatively new. Not a single church father held to this belief. 4 It was first attributed to a man named Anselm in the 1100s. A whole century after the life of Christ!
Early church father Athanasius, for example, seemed to have held primarily to the Christus Victor view. 5 Historically, PSA was only taken seriously after the 12th century. Which is not to say that new theories are automatically wrong, and old theories right. Rather, it is to say that there’s something wrong with a theory of atonement that is disconnected from the early church. (Those who witnessed first hand the life of Jesus.)
It’s not just the early church who reject this theory either. Do you like C.S. Lewis? He didn’t align with PSA. 6
Jesus did not come and die in order to appease the wrath of God. He didn’t come to save you from His angry Father.
Remember? Wasn’t it “For God so loved the world that He gave His Son..” not, “For God so hated the world..”?
The Cross is a revelation of love, not wrath!
Jesus did not come to save you from the Father. He came to save you from sin, and undo the fall of Adam.
The Cross was the act of the whole Trinity: Father, Son, and Spirit. “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself..” 7
Now I know this may be a big stretch for some of you, and I understand that, it was for me too. But there are just too many errors in this theory of atonement, and it’s gone unchallenged for long enough. 8
Over the next few weeks I plan on coming back to this topic. Until then, please feel free to leave me any question you may have about this, as well as any objections.
Like this article? Help me expand my reach by sharing:
[shareaholic app=”share_buttons” id=”612658″]
- While many assert that this is not a theory, but rather a undeniable fact, there is not enough scripture written to adequately support this view. Many of the brightest minds in Theology consider this to be only a theory. Many hold that while it may be possibly what happened, there’s no certain way of knowing. Therefore, I insist that this is theory, not fact. ↩
- John 10:30 ↩
- For more on this argument, check out Dr. C. Baxter Kruger’s book God is For Us. ↩
- Some of Augustine’s writing seem to use similar language as PSA does, which has lead some to conclude that he is the origin for this theory of atonement. However, Anselm was the first to say that Jesus saved us from God. Augustine, and many church fathers, did say that we were saved from the guilt, and penalty of death. The distinction is that one believed to be sent from God through wrath, and another as the natural consequence of sin. ↩
- In the next post, I will present some more of the alternate views of atonement for you. Specifically within Christus Victor, Athanasius, and other contemporary theories. So if you don’t know what that is, no worries, next week I’ll give you an overview. ↩
- For a great video by Greg Boyd, explaining C.S. Lewis’ take on atonement (a more Christus Victor view as well) click here. ↩
- 2 Corinthians 5:19 ↩
- I plan to write more next week on the scriptural refutes against PSA. (Not all of my arguments are just philosophical.) ↩
One thought on ““Jesus Saves! …From God?” – Disgrace To Grace #2”
My name is Stavros Ioannides from Cyprus.
I came across your article and was delighted to see a theologian questioning the penal substitution theory. I became a Christian (born again) thorough a near death experience 3 decades ago, while studying in Southampton, UK. Soon I found out I could not settle with the explanation of the atonement which was prevalant among evangelicals. I could not comprehend it. A decade ago, while seeking knowledge form God on this subject, a veil lifted off me and begun to see the atonement from a very different perspective and slowly came to understand the fallacy of the prevailing theory.
I searched through the internet and gladly found out that I was not alone. I decided to explore the subject further and compose my thoughts in writing which I’m happy to share with you.
The Great Divorce
Adam and Eve were made in the image of God meaning that Adam and Eve were perfect reflections of God, sharing every potential to become like Him pure and holy in a relationship of infinite Love. When they chose to exchange relationship to knowledge, though they were warned by a loving God not to, by eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2v27),, thus acquiring empirical knowledge of evil which appears as good, their purity and holiness vanished in a grasp of breath, the nature of evil captured their will and emotions, corrupting their soul and body into a journey leading to death, “for the wages of sin is death” Rom (6v23).
That exact day they died to purity and holiness, so did everything under their rule. They could no longer live in unity with God as God is holy and there is no corruption in Him
Yet God promised them that Eve’s seed will crash the author of temptation, the father of lies, the devil, thus giving them hope that one day they will be saved from their fallen state and separation from Him.
Why is separation inevitable?
God is by definition Holy and Good (Is 6v3; Rev 4v8), utterly separated from evil and cannot coexist with evil. His holiness is demonstrated in scripture; At Sinai, the chasm between God and sinful Israel was underscored vividly (Ex 19v12-25). The tabernacle arrangement, with its holy place and most holy (Ex 2v22]) certainly was designed to teach the Jews of God’s holy nature (Ex 26v33). Jesus’ statement is clear: “No one is good” suggesting “only God is good” (Mark 10v18). The standards of His goodness and pure holiness transcend our human understanding. His Law is perfect and Jesus made sure He restored its moral absolutes (Mat 5v21-48). The prophet Habakkuk declared to God: “Your eyes are too pure to look upon evil; you cannot tolerate wrong” (Ha 1v13).
In truth Adam and Eve had separated themselves from the very essence of their Creator. The prophet Isaiah clearly states: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hid his face from you” (Is 59v2). When a person enters a state of sinfulness, he becomes spiritually dead (Gen 2v27, Eph 2v1), for, by that act, he has determined to separate himself from God. The initiation of this estrangement was not forced on us by our Creator; it was sin, the expression of evil, consumed by man and woman out of practice of their free choice.
In evangelical circles the word “wages” is often exchanged with the word “penalty”, which serves as un underlining principle to conjuring up a theory of redemption from a penalty rather than form sin and its wages (consequences). Similarly the word “price” is often replaced by the word “penalty” to justify the statement that Jesus paid a penalty to God instead of the heavy price to deliver men from bondage of sin and death.
This separation from God the Creator would eventually lead to ultimate separation (second death), soon the spirit departed from the body at physical death (Rev 20v14) and likewise from the presence of any remaining traces of His goodness the spirit enjoyed while alive on earth.
The plan of Salvation
The plan was conceived right there, in the Garden of Eden, the day sin entered in both man and woman. After all, they were the apple of His eye (Zach 2v8). He loved them with fiery love (Eph 2v4-7).
The rest of the Bible is dedicated on this hope. It’s only rational to imagine that man and woman needed to be saved; be set free from what had enslaved and corrupted them at first place. God let man and woman know this. He prophesied that Eve’s seed will crush the head of the prince of sin and in powerful symbolism He illustrated the cleansing of sin by covering the sinful flesh with a garment made of skin.
Soon, prophesy was fulfilled. Jesus walked out of the “Garden of Eden”, clothed in our mortal humanity in the likeness of sinful flesh (Ro 8v3, Heb 2v14) and shared in our punishment (Is 53v5) as He entered our world ruled by evil, became vulnerable under the abuse of the enemy and in the exposure of its insidious snares and endured the consequences of the Fall, even our death.
That was the only way to confront the enemy so as to destroy its works (I John 3v8), strip off its power (Col 2v15), cleanse and set man and woman free from the corruptive nature of sin (Mt 1v21) and sin’s mastermind– the father of lies- and bring peace through reconciling them back to God (Is 53v5). Jesus’ mission could only be accomplished once He became exposed under the buckshot of the exact same weapon the enemy used against Adam and Eve, only this time to obliterate its power.
In the Garden of Eden, God’s prophetic word of the Son being bruised was a work not of the Father but of the serpent. The Son’s brutal sacrifice however, was the medium by which God took into His own body, in the person of Jesus, the wickedness of his afflicters and crashed the head of the serpent (Gen 3v15) through annulling its power; He did not, as Adam and Eve did, yield to any temptation that begets sin. While Jesus was being bruised, He neither threatened nor stroke back but instead loved the sinner paving the way to repentance. It is in that sense that the passage needs to be understood. God, being ingenious has hidden such a mystery!
Forgiveness and Divine justice
It is God’s will for men to know the mysteries of His justice.
1. Is divine justice served when we overcome sin through good works?
No, as every man and woman are sinful by their fallen nature and inclined to sin. When stricken by another’s sin, he or she responds in like manner as sin is contagious and gives birth to sin.
2. Be wrathful and punish the offender or forgive him?
There are two ways of dealing with sin committed against us. We can forgive the offence or punish it. Both of these options are founded on justice, because both admit and acknowledge the offence.
Forgiveness is not the same as overlooking or ignoring the offence. That course of action is not open to God, because God is just and righteous. For God to forgive does not contradict or undermine his truthfulness, holiness and righteousness. Forgiveness is not the alternative or opposite or absence of justice; it is contingent upon justice, dependent upon the moral and ethical framework of right and wrong. Forgiveness does not defy or deny justice but establishes justice for it is only possible precisely because of it. After all, if there was no justice there would be no concept or idea of forgiveness, as no law would be broken or penalty due.
Forgiveness breaks the chain of causality because He who forgives takes upon Himself the consequences of what men have done. In fact forgiveness is the mutually exclusive alternative to wrath and punishment but both serve justice. However, Justice is only partially served through penal conviction but entirely served when the offender is repented. In Ez. 18v23 and 33v11, the Prophet teaches that God finds no pleasure when a man dies because of his sins but only when he repents and lives. If an offended man is somehow contented by the court’s penal conviction of the offender, an offended God is wholeheartedly satisfied when the offender is genuinely convicted in the court of his heart. Anything beyond that makes God’s justice human’s business; vengeful and retributional.
3. If is to forgive, would God punish a just man as a precondition to forgive the unjust?
No by any means, as Jesus did not cry aloud “Father, punish me” but instead “Father, forgive them”. Debts are not paid by Jesus but cancelled off and nailed on the cross (1 Col 2v14). Forgiveness denotes cancelling, not payment of debts (Mat 18v27). The cup Jesus was to drink was man’s wrath against God, man’s enmity against his Creator (Ro 15v3) and not the opposite.
God is love (1 John 4v16) and Love is not dependent of wrongs as it keeps no records of wrongs (1 Co 13v5). God’s forgiving nature is derived from Love, therefore immanent, unchanging and unconditional. God’s nature is and was and will be immutable and not conditional to man’s or woman’s actions or the repugnance of his or her sins.
For God, who loves the sinner as a Father who loves His prodigal son and daughter, justice is only served through setting the sinner free and his conscience clean from the chains of sin’s corruptive power. For this reason, justice is consummated in its totality; the salvation of mankind, not its punishment.
Jesus supreme mission on earth was to save mankind through manifesting the God of love within the extremism of man’s sin. His demonstration was indeed costly to both the Father and the Son for it entailed a sacrifice as the cross supremely demonstrates.
He became worthy, having bore the sins of many, and to liberate humanity from sin – the sting of death- thus fulfilling the Father’s plan of salvation when conceived in the Garden of Eden.
In view of the aforementioned, it must be stressed that while to undermine the significance of God’s justice and holiness is wrong, to twist their meaning to fit man’s perception of them is equally erroneous. The whole issue of redemption and atonement is not of juridical significance and its scope does not spin around the pivot of legalism. God does not demand payment under the banner of justice before pardoning the sinner otherwise forgiveness renders merited and if merited, is no longer forgiveness. God, therefore, is neither satisfied nor His wrath appeased in receiving payment for our sins but in saving us from them (Mt 1v21).
We are not meant to be saved from God but by God. Jesus’ sacrifice was a gift to men and women, not a payment to God.
Forgiveness, not punishment is the remedy to sin. The prophet Isaiah comprehended this when affirmed that:
“Because the Lord is a God of justice, He shall wait that He may be gracious to you and therefore He will be exalted that He may have mercy on you” (Is 30v18). It is for justice sake that God delivers his sons and daughters from the kingdom of darkness.
Indeed, the cross saves us from God’s holy wrath and the just punishment which we deserve (John 3v36, Ro 5v9, I The 5v9), but not because Jesus is punished by the Father but because He overcomes sin (I Co 15v55-57) that brought about God’s wrath in the first place, by nailing the passions and desires of men’s sinful nature on the instrument of punishment for sinners – the cross (Gal 5v24). Although true that Jesus ultimately liberates the repentant man and woman from God’s judgment, this being nonetheless the evident outcome of sin’s power being trampled and death being conquered (Is 25v8, I Co 15v57).
Truth unfolded and the double edged victory
The notions “Jesus was made worthy” and “bore our sins” comprise indispensable sacred mysteries. It is God’s will that essential truths are unearthed and hidden mysteries made known to believers (Eph 3v1-6).
Before looking at the “worth” of Jesus sacrifice, we need to underline two distinctive truths regarding the “bearing of sins”:
The first Truth: The consequences of a fallen and corrupted world were entirely endured by Jesus from birth to death.
The second Truth: Sin, expressed as enmity against God, was directed on Jesus and inflicted Him in every manner; betrayal and rejection, verbal and physical abuse.
In regard to the first Truth:
Jesus stepped down from Heaven, laid aside His Majesty, (Ph 2v6-7) to share in our humanity, our mortal, fallen world, outside Eden, (Gen 2v17, 3v23, Is 53v5, 1 John 4v9), ruled by evil and death (John 12v31, 1 John 5v19), in the likeness of sinful flesh (Ro 8v3, Heb 2v14), not as one of riches (II Co 8v9) with authority and power of men (Mk 10v45) but as a bond servant (Ph 2v7), homeless in birth (Lk 2v7), destitute and fugitive in childhood (Mt 2v13), outcast as an adult (Mt 8v19-20), abused and crucified (Mat 26v67-68, Mark 15v17-20). He in essence bore in totality the grave consequences of a fallen, mortal, evil and corrupted world, far distant from the glory of Heaven. He bore the wrath of men, (Ro 15v3), He was falsely accused and was unjustly found guilty and bore the punishment the Law commands of sinners, though from the beginning of times He was the only one who committed no sin, neither deceit was found in His mouth.
However, in His divine wisdom, He being “the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of His person”, “the image of the invisible God” and “the manifest love of God“ used man’s injustice to liberate man in His justice. His sacrifice begun in the womb and was culminated in the tomb.
In regard to the second Truth:
Jesus bore the sin of humanity/ the enmity against God and “swallowed” it in His own body to the extent He became disfigured and marred beyond human likeness (Is 52v14). While men sinned against one another and this was done as if it was against God (Mt 25v42-45), God’s manifest presence in the person of Jesus not only did not curb man’s sinfulness but, on the contrary, He became the subject of man’s vehement hostility (Ro 15v3, Mat 26v67-68, Mark 15v17-20). Incrementally, there’s Good News to this – He overcame man’s sin and crushed its power in what I call “double edged victory”:
1. HE DID NOT SIN AS NO TEMPTATION HAD POWER OVER HIM
2. HE EXCHANGED MAN’S ANIMOSITY WITH LOVE PAVING THE WAY TO REPENTANCE
The basis and impact of His sacrifice
The NT sufficiently discloses the hidden mysteries of the atonement through the sacrifice of the Lamb. The truth unveils like a backdrop that begins to come out in the forefront once we opt to unfold key passages from bible pages often rashly flicked through.
Foremost, the scriptures become self explanatory:
While Christ suffered in everything (Luke 24v26, Heb 5v8), was tempted in everything (Heb 2v18, 4v15) and at every opportune time (Luke 4v13). His unending ordeal, the cup He was to drink (Luke 22v43) served the divine purpose to ultimately trample over the enemy’s weapon – sin – which begets death to all men and women (I Co 15v55-56).
That’s when the cross comes in to play. Men and women are guilty and as the Law commands they should have been there hanging on the tree. The cross demonstrates the punishment of the profane. Jesus, God in the flesh, took that punishment instead in an exchange of sin with righteousness. The battle unto deliverance was bloody (1 Co 7v23, 1 Pt 1v18-19). Our sin has torn Him apart. On the cross He cried out “My God, my God why have you forsaken me” (Mt 27v46, Mk 15v34). We cannot imagine the pain of God being ripped apart by the ferocity of our sin unleashed at every stripe.
The sin He bore, manifested in physical and mental abuse, in betrayal and rejection, to the extent that His flesh was broken and His blood was shed to the point of being disfigured beyond human likeness (Is 53v54), it did not mar His soul. The bible teaches that while He was reviled, He did not revile in return, while He suffered He did not threaten, neither was deceit found in His mouth (I Pt 2v23). Even when He was worn out, throbbing in pain and grieve, hanged on a tree (Is 53v4,7, Mat 27v26), He pleaded not for His life, but for their life, my life (Luke 23v34) and asked His Father to forgive them. He chose to patiently endure the horror and exchange man’s animosity with peace, man’s hatred (Ro 15v3) with loving-kindness (Ro 2v4) thus crucifying sin’s power (Gal 5v24). Even as His hands were stretched out – nailed on the wood-, His concern was for them, whose death was near (Lk 23v 28-29).
Even at the expectation for a last miraculous sign, turning for His sake wine to water (Mat 27v 34, John 2v7), He did not yield to it. He overcame every trial and persecution by resisting every temptation no matter the circumstance (Lk 4v13) therefore, became perfected (Heb 2v10, I Pt 2v22-24) as He was found, all the way to the end, without blemish or spot (I Pt 1v19, Heb 9v14).
The punishment at the Cross was the price paid by Jesus and the cost borne by God (Mt 26v28) in the place of the sinner. It is the sacrifice and the substitution. His response to man’s sin is love and peace through forgiveness (Eph 1v7, 4v32; Co 2v13; Col 1v14, 3v13).
The scriptures demonstrate that Jesus Christ, having been perfected through trials and persecutions and assumed the horror of our sin into His own body, He obliterated sin’s power in a double edged victory, having put an end to the principle of eye for an eye. He conquered sin which the apostle Peter describes “sting of death” when prompted to exclaim “where death is your sting”. For the first time in human history, death’s sting has indeed lost its dominion over men and women (Gal 5v24), so it was with death, as Jesus disarmed the author of their power (I Co 15v54-57, Col 2v15), set man and woman free (Heb 2v14) and bestowed God’s righteousness on them (Ro 3v22).
He overcame, under all circumstances, every temptation that begets sin while exchanging man’s animosity with irresistible love. Such love drew men to Himself in genuine repentance and set them free in sanctifying forgiveness. His victory over sin and death was bequeathed to all who received Him as their Savior to become legitimate sons and daughters.
He used man’s injustice to liberate man in His justice
He was crushed for our iniquities and bore our sins so as to overcome them for our sake and in our place. He willfully entered our fallen world and eagerly became subject to its corrupted system of justice but made use of it to take upon Himself the iniquity of men, to exchange it with chaste love and having found to be without spot or blemish, He overcame its power.
How genius but also how infinite His love that Almighty God submitted to man’s injustice to take upon Himself the punishment sinners deserved to bear instead. What an amazing transaction soaked in pure love!
Is it not clear from scriptures that the battle between the Kingdom of Love and the Kingdom of evil ends up in victory of the Son of Man, having broken through the fight without blemish or spot (I Pt 1v19, Heb 9v14)?
Is it not clear that the devil right there from the start tempted Him, in one to one encounter, as he did with Eve to continue next through the sinners as he did with Adam?
Did not the devil use his family to dispute Him, His disciple to betray Him, His beloved Peter to deny Him, His followers to abandon Him, His people to reject Him, the keepers of His Father’s law to falsely accuse Him, the authorities to penalize Him, the keepers of civil law to crucify Him?
Was He not tortured, afflicted and abused in the hands of men? Was He not reviled, mocked at and provoked even at the foot of the cross? Did He not bear the wrath of men?
Has not the devil used the same old doubt casting technique “If you are what you claim to be…“, as He was hanged defenseless and vulnerable and His heart beat begun to fade away while He had all power to step down?
Yes indeed; He had all power to evade the agony, humiliation and dishonor, the horror of abuse unto death and to strike back against those callous villains. What an irresistible temptation! Who cannot relent and yield into it. How sweet vengeance would that be. After all, those beasts who called themselves humans absolutely deserved it. They are the ones that should have been there, hanging on the Cross at first place. They are the blasphemous sinners, not Him. That would have been justice, not the injustice He, the only righteous one, was called to submit to. Yet, did He revile back? When suffered did He threaten? Was any deceit found in His mouth?
Instead, He extended His Father’s forgiveness to them, not once they repented but while they gladly watched Him suffering in pain and dying. His love for these “beasts” was by far more irresistible than temptation. He, as a result, won the victory over the deceiver of men, the ancient serpent, overcame temptation that begets sin, trampled sin that begets death and conquered death for the sake of sinners. He accomplished what no one has ever or could ever possible do; manifest the true God in flesh, the God of Love!
Repentance made possible
Man’s and woman’s inability to defeat sin is inherent due to their fallen nature. Likewise, their inability to repent for their sin is the fruit either of their love for the fallen world or of their tarnished knowledge of God. When sin entered the world, their perspective of God’s unmerited love became immutably warped. The unrepentant heart is a heart hardened with sin and burdened with guilt. It does not see, hear or feel the holiness of His Presence.
God is both willing and able to forgive. It is man who’s not willing or able to repent so as to receive forgiveness. For this reason men and women are wretched as the apostle Paul neatly puts it forward:
“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me” (Ro 7v18-19).
The Good News is that the manifest power of God’s love, explicitly shown on the Cross, could change all that and liberate such wretched men and women from their inability to repent. The father’s forgiveness is extended in the person of Jesus while men and women were still sinners (Eph. 1v7, 4v32; Col 1v14, 3.13). It was the purest of gold, a demonstration of love with the power to restore their perspective of how God sees and values them, even in their wretched state. Remember the parable of the prodigal son? He thought that his best chance was that His father would receive him as a slave!
Nothing could restore men’s and women’s blindness -their tarnished knowledge of God- other than Love, manifested in flesh (Titus 3v4-5) in stupendous glory, unprecedented and unparalleled to anything humanity has ever known. It was manifested indeed, in a power that is both irresistible and capable to pierce through the strongholds and generate repentance. Only such precedence of unconditional Love, being apparent in both the life and the sacrificial death of Jesus in such a profoundly overwhelming demonstration (1 John 4v9-10) and being extended to all men and women could draw in and impact the wretched sinner, pierce through the hardness of his heart, pave the way for genuine repentance and set him free (Ro 7v25). It is God’s forgiveness manifested on the Cross, the powerhouse for man’s repentance and not the reverse (Ro 2v4).
It’s beyond doubt and supported by the totality of the scripture that forgiveness is interwoven, not with penal satisfaction, but with repentance alone but even so, it is a gift unmerited, extended unconditionally. Forgiveness becomes redemptive when unpacked by repentance; otherwise it remains a divine attribute not enjoyed by the sinner.
The sacrifice of the Lamb presented to the Father and approved as worthy (Rev 5v12) for its aroma was pleasing (Lev 1v9, Eph 5v2) is the only satisfying payment. It is a gift, offered unconditionally to all men and women but received conditional to their willingness to accept it. God is only satisfied in this because He is good and desires all men and women be saved (I Tim 2v4, Ez 18v23) and be declared righteous. Our only debt to Him is to accept by faith His gift and to abide in His love. If on the other hand the love for the fallen kingdom exceeds the love of His risen Kingdom, man’s fallen nature renders unpardonable. This is divine justice in its entirety!
1. Jesus, in double edged victory, sets the sinners free from the penal demands of the law not because they are indebted to God but because they are in bondage to sin – the sting of death.
2. It is not forgiveness but the manifestation of forgiveness that necessitates payment and this is not because of God’s inability to extend it but of sinner’s to receive it. In other words, it is liberty, not forgiveness that demands payment or else forgiveness renders merited, even if payment is made by another.
3. Forgiveness is indeed unmerited but made manifested to all men and women at a price. The price is His precious flesh and blood, paid neither to God nor to the enemy but to the sinner. It is a gift to all men and women and only those who receive it are born into a new life.