The Most Serious and Severe Departure from the Faith in Our Day

Sam Storms: Heresy abounds. It always has and always will, until such time as Jesus returns and exposes the misguided theological fabrications of men and women and vindicates the truth of his Word. In our day, there are many heretical and deviant notions circulating within the professing evangelical church. But I am persuaded that the most serious and severe departure from biblical faith in our day is the repudiation of the truth of penal substitutionary atonement (together with the wicked, childish, inexcusable, or as J. I. Packer has put it, “the smarty-pants” caricature of penal substitution as “cosmic child abuse”). There is much that could be said about this, but today I restrict my comments to the declaration of Revelation 1:5b where John predicates of Jesus Christ “glory and dominion forever and ever.” And what is the ground for this doxology? Why is Jesus deserving of such praise? It is because, among other things, he “loves us and has freed

read more The Most Serious and Severe Departure from the Faith in Our Day

No Pow’r of Hell, No Scheme of Man

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.—Galatians 3:13 David Mathis: Great hymns have the ability to unite the family of God, throughout history and around the world, in the truths about God that matter most. But when voices from within the church begin to question or deny what the church holds most dear, great hymns become flashpoints of controversy. Such is the case with “In Christ Alone.” Some say they find it offensive enough to change one uncomfortable line, or abandon the song altogether. But I want you to see that the original line is deeply biblical and profoundly good news. The second verse says, Till on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied Some find this line so troubling they have changed it to “the love of God was magnified.” Love Magnified It’s certainly true that the love of God was magnified at the cross. Romans 5:8 says,

read more No Pow’r of Hell, No Scheme of Man

Divine Child Abuse?

    This is an excerpt from Donald MacLeod’s new book Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement (IVP Academic) We need a doctrine of the cross that faces up realistically to the enormity of the Father’s involvement at Calvary. Why did God do this—have to do this—to his Son? And what of the more specific claim that the cross is an example of “child abuse” (the adjective “cosmic” is quite redundant here, since it was not the cosmos, but God the Father, who was allegedly guilty of abuse). The charge is completely inept, because it isolates the story of the crucifixion from the total New Testament witness to Jesus. It ignores, for example, the fact that for most of his life Jesus enjoyed the love, protection, and encouragement of his heavenly Father. This is why he was able to live a life free from anxiety, confident that he was never alone (John 8:16) but that God was always within earshot; and this is why, too, he could say it was

read more Divine Child Abuse?

The truth about penal substitution

Michael Lawrence: Penal substitution does not turn God into a cosmic child abuser. It does not reduce Christ to the passive victim of some divine injustice. It does not put the Trinity against itself. No, in the God-forsakenness of Christ on the cross, the love of God and the justice of God are revealed on our behalf. United in purpose, Father and Son act in concert to save God’s people. The sinless Son of God bears our sin, and then God pours out the wrath that our sin deserves, and Jesus the Son endures it so that we, who deserve the wrath, might never encounter it. This is the gospel, the good news of the cross, and it calls is to forsake our sin, to turn away from it and embrace Christ, the forsaken one, so that we may not be forsaken. Christian, what sin are you cherishing these days that you should not be? What sin do you feel

read more The truth about penal substitution

Penal Substitution, Central and Controlling

Sam Storms: In the on-going debate about the nature of Christ’s atoning death, some have insisted that penal substitution is only one model among many others. My contention has always been that it is more than one of many models and is in fact the central and controlling foundation for everything the atonement accomplished on behalf of sinners. Without it, there is no gospel and there is no salvation. I was pleased to come across this statement by J. I. Packer in which he affirms precisely the same point. Packer proceeds to explain how penal substitution theologically explains everything else regarding the saving efficacy of Christ’s death. Note the following sequence. “What did Christ’s death accomplish? It redeemed us to God – purchased us at a price, that is, from captivity to sin for the freedom of life with God (Tit 2:14; Rev 5:9). How did it do that? By being a blood-sacrifice for our sins (Eph 1:7; Heb 9:11-15). How did that sacrifice

read more Penal Substitution, Central and Controlling

How God’s Wrath Equals and Reveals God’s Worth

Jonathan Leeman: The “penal” in the doctrine of penal substitution, being tied to God’s wrath, has long been a source of controversy inside the church and out. It’s criticized as overly “legal” or “forensic.” People want to look to the cross and talk about Christ’s love, not his enduring the divine penalty. But it’s worth stopping for a moment and meditating on what is behind a penalty. What is behind wrath? The answer is God’s worthiness or God’s worth. God’s wrath is equal to God’s worth, and that the “penal” in penal substitution therefore reveals this very worth. Wrath and worth are perfectly matched together. The former takes the measure of the latter and expresses itself accordingly. One is as precious as the other. So drop the “penal” from penal substitution and you diminish God dramatically. Despise his wrath and you despise his worth. To see this, it’s worth meditating for a moment on what the purpose of law is. The Reformers talked about the

read more How God’s Wrath Equals and Reveals God’s Worth

Christology in the 21st Century: A Discussion

Justin Taylor posts: Below is a panel hosted by Ligonier at the 2013 PCA General Assembly, with Sinclair Ferguson, Robert Godfrey, Ligon Duncan, Richard Pratt, and R.C. Sproul, moderated by Steve Nichols. They talk through the following: What is the biggest theological battle today and for the next generation? (00:00:00) What advice would you give to the next generation of pastors, especially church planters, as they try to address contextualization, Christology, and similar issues? (00:08:30) What might we learn from history about the parallel rising of Christianity and Islam? (00:11:35) What role does Christology play as we see the needs of the global church? (00:16:00) How do we guard against the various distortions when it comes to the person of Jesus? (00:22:40) Discussion on the work of Christ pertaining to justification and imputation. (00:30:45) The panel shares thoughts on substitutionary atonement, and how it is going to be an issue in the next generation. (00:41:52) Is the church in danger

read more Christology in the 21st Century: A Discussion

Penal Substitution: Central and Saving!

Sam Storms: One often hears that penal substitution is merely one model or theory of the atonement and thus should not be elevated as central to defining the way in which we are saved and reconciled to God. One author appeals to an analogy with golf. Just as Phil Mickelson, for example, would never think of playing in the U.S. Open with only a putter or a nine-iron, neither should we portray the saving work of Christ as if penal substitution were all there is to his sacrifice on the cross. Depending on where one is on the course (whether on the tee box, in the fairway, behind a tree in the rough, or in a sand trap), one selects the most appropriate club to advance the ball toward the green and ultimately into the hole. Likewise, depending on the circumstances, the personality of the individual to whom we are witnessing, their needs, the cultural influences to which they are

read more Penal Substitution: Central and Saving!

God Did Not Save Us On A Whim

Kevin DeYoung: Many Christians do not really grasp why God has forgiven us of our sins. It’s not as if God the Father woke up one morning and was having a great day, just feeling terrific about being the Sovereign of the universe, then decided on a whim to have mercy on his elect and look past their iniquities. God did not save us because the loving part of him finally out balanced the justice part of him. We must not picture God up in heaven muttering: “You know your sin? And all your rebellion and failures and disobedience? You remember all that? Well fuhgettaboutit. It don’t bother me. I love youse guys and I ain’t gonna mention your sin no more.” Without giving it much thought, many of us picture the atonement as nothing but undeserved mercy from a loving God. We forget that the mercy we receive is a mercy merited on the cross. God has not saved

read more God Did Not Save Us On A Whim

God takes action in Christ

“God takes action in Christ against sin, death, and the devil. The doctrine of justification is not about the workings of impersonal law in the universe, or about manipulating its outcomes, but it is about God. The moral law is simply the reflection of the character of God, and when God acts to address the outcomes of the broken moral law, he addresses these himself, himself taking the burden of his own wrath, himself absorbing in the person of Christ the judgment his righteous character cannot but demand, himself providing what no sinner can give, himself absorbing the punishment no sinner can bear and live.” — David F. Wells The Courage to Be Protestant (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 2008), 201 (HT: Of First Importance)

The dreadful cup

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42) Christ’s meaning in this request is, “Father, if it be thy will, excuse me from this dreadful wrath; my soul is amazed at it. Is there no way to shun it?” What! did he now repent of his engagement? Does he now wish to be disengaged, and that he had never undertaken such a work? No, no, Christ never repented of his engagement to the Father, never was willing to let the burden lie on us, rather than on himself; there was not such a thought in his holy and faithful heart. As man he feared and shunned death; but as God-man he willingly submitted to it. There was nothing of sin in it, it being a pure and sinless affection of nature. There was much good in it, and that both as it was a part of his satisfaction for our sin,

read more The dreadful cup

Is there a ‘Problem of Forgiveness’? Dissonant voices

Four voices.  Only one of them resembles the tone and accent of the Master. Faustus Socinus (1578) As we saw elsewhere Paul likewise instructs us to be imitators of God: just as he forgave our sins through Christ, we should forgive each other, but if God so forgave our sins through Christ, that he yet demanded the punishment of them from Christ itself, what prevents us from seeking satisfaction for ourselves for the offenses of our neighbours? Brian McLaren (2006) The traditional understanding says that God asks of us something that God is incapable of Himself. God asks us to forgive people. But God is incapable of forgiving. God can’t forgive unless He punishes somebody in place of the person He was going to forgive. God doesn’t say things to you—Forgive your wife, and then go kick the dog to vent your anger. God asks you to actually forgive. And there’s a certain sense that, a common understanding of the

read more Is there a ‘Problem of Forgiveness’? Dissonant voices

Stott on The Self-Substitution of God

We strongly reject, therefore, every explanation of the death of Christ which does not have at its centre the principle of ‘satisfaction through substitution’, indeed divine self-satisfaction through divine self-substitution. The cross was not: a commercial bargain with the devil, let alone one which tricked and trapped him; nor an exact equivalent, a quid pro quo to satisfy a code of honour or technical point of law; nor a compulsory submission by God to some moral authority above him from which he could not otherwise escape; nor a punishment of a meek Christ by a harsh and punitive Father; nor a procurement of salvation by a loving Christ from a mean and reluctant Father; nor an action of the Father which bypassed Christ as Mediator. Instead, the righteous, loving Father humbled himself to become in and through his only Son flesh, sin and a curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising his own character. The theological words ‘satisfaction’

read more Stott on The Self-Substitution of God

Lloyd-Jones on the folly of thinking God is only love and ignoring punishment and hell

My thanks to Adrian Warnock for this: Lloyd-Jones could have been saying this for the 21st Century not the 20th. There really is nothing new under the sun: “All this modern preaching on the fact that God is love is an indication of the same attitude and spirit. We are told today that the old sermons that preached the law and talked about conviction of sin and called people to repentance were all wrong because they were legalistic . . .So it is said that we must return to the message of Jesus. We must get rid of all our theology, our argumentation and doctrine—it is all unnecessary. The business of preaching is to tell people that God is love. It does not matter what they are, or what they have been, or what they have done, or what they may do—God loves them. Nobody will ever be punished. There is no law; so there is no retribution and no

read more Lloyd-Jones on the folly of thinking God is only love and ignoring punishment and hell

Scorning what is holy…

My thanks to Todd Pruitt for this: “There’s nothing wrong with talking and singing about how the ‘Blood will never lose its power’ and ‘Nothing but the blood will save us.’ Those are powerful metaphors. But we don’t live any longer in a culture in which people offer animal sacrifices to the gods. “People did live that way for thousands of years, and there are pockets of primitive cultures around the world that do continue to understand sin, guilt, and atonement in those ways. But most of us don’t. What the first Christians did was look around them and put the Jesus story in language their listeners would understand.” – Rob Bell on the atonement from Love Wins To strip the atonement of its substitutionary nature, as Rob Bell does, is to strip it of its power. It is to take the “good” out of the good news. It is to rip the heart out of the Gospel and therefore the hope

read more Scorning what is holy…

A cursed Christ — for us

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.”  Galatians 3:13 “To the Jews, this was absolute blasphemy: a cursed Messiah on a cursed cross.  No wonder the cross was such a stumbling block to them!  To put it in the most shocking and yet perhaps the most accurate way, the apostolic message was about a God-damned Messiah.” Philip Graham Ryken, Galatians (Phillipsburg, 2005), page 115. (HT: Ray Ortlund)

Three Precious Words

This piece from Todd Pruitt sums up the thrust of my teaching here in Rwanda. “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for fall have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” – Romans 3:21-26 Martin Luther refered to Romans 3:21-26 as, ““the chief point, and the very

read more Three Precious Words

Our Representative & Our Substitute

“God displays his righteousness by judging sin as sin deserves, but the judgment is diverted from the guilty and put on to the shoulders of Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God acting as wrath absorber. The atonement had to be costly because it was necessary in light of the nature of God, which must inflict retributive punishment on sin. A marvelous wisdom of God consists in his establishing the Lord Jesus as our representative and our substitute because only he could bear and absorb the judgment due to us. Being our representative makes him our substitute, and so he suffers and we go free . . ..” – J. I. Packer, “The Necessity of the Atonement” in Atonement, ed. Gabriel N. E. Fluhrer (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2010), 15-16. (HT: Of First Importance)

Barrabas and Me

David Mathis asks the question: Who do you identify with in the Passion narratives? Of course, as good Christians, we say Jesus. He’s the good guy, our protagonist. As we relive the story, we pull for him, and against his enemies. And a long list of enemies it is: Judas who betrays him, Peter who denies him, the chief priests who hate him, Herod who mocks him, the crowd that calls for his crucifixion, Pilate who washes his hands and condemns him, and Barrabas who is guilty but gets to go free. Wait a minute. Barrabas—the guilty one who gets to go free? In his 23rd chapter, Luke leads us sinners, in his careful wording of the narrative, to identify in this significant way with Barrabas. As Jesus’ condemnation leads to the release of a multitude of spiritual captives from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, so also his death sentence leads to the release of the physical captive Barrabas.

read more Barrabas and Me

The Three-Fold Gift of the Gospel

“In order for the Christian gospel to be good news it must provide an all-satisfying and eternal gift that undeserving sinners can receive and enjoy. For that to be true, the gift must be three things. First, the gift must be purchased by the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Our sins must be covered, and the wrath of God against us must be removed, and Christ’s righteousness must be imputed to us. Second, the gift must be free and not earned. There would be no good news if we had to merit the gift of the gospel. Third, the gift must be God himself, above all his other gifts.” – John Piper, God is the Gospel (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2005), 14. (HT: Of First Importance)