PENAL SUBSTITUTION IN CONTRAST TO THE NARRATIVE

Jesus always attributed the things he suffered in his death to the hands of sinful men. Not even once did he ever attribute it to the justice of God.

Likewise, You will not find a single instance in the book of Acts where the apostles ever interpret the death of Jesus as condemnation levied against Jesus from God. The apostles always hold the people responsible.

Stephen, who was not an apostle, also testified of the death and resurrection of Jesus while on trial before the Sanhedrin.

Stephen held the Jewish leaders responsible saying to those who were about to stone him that they had been betrayers and murders of Jesus, the Just One. Their forefathers had persecuted the prophets who had showed beforehand his coming and they had followed in their footsteps by their rejection of Christ. Stephen actually says that what they did to Jesus was that of resisting the Holy Ghost!

Isaiah the prophet had testified that Jesus would suffer an unjust death and this is exactly the same scripture that Philip began with when he preached Christ to the Eunuch in Acts 8.

“In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.”

Other translations say:

He was humiliated and received no justice …(NLT)

In His humiliation He was taken away by distressing and oppressive judgment and justice was denied Him …(Amplified Bible)

In His humiliation justice was denied Him …(Holman Christian Standard Bible)

In 1 Peter 2, the apostle Peter (who learned firsthand from Jesus what had happened at the cross) says the same thing when he tells us that Jesus suffered wrongfully and committed himself to the ONE who judges righteously.

When did the the ONE who judges righteously intervene? IN THE RESURRECTION!

God exalted His Son in righteousness in the resurrection and delivered unto him the Kingdom. The stone the builders rejected is the precious corner stone which God has chosen. Now all men are commanded to repent and serve him!

This is the gospel that is declared in your Bible.

Those who teach the theory of Penal Substitutionary Atonement often take isolated verses from different portions of scripture, (verses such as Isa. 53:4 and 6, Matthew 27:1, Ps 22:1, Rom 3:25, 2Co 5:21, 1 Peter 2:24, and Gal 3:13) and piece them together to form what they think is a systematic theology.

However, it is important to take into account the narrative revealed in scripture and context of those verses.

(1). Isaiah 53 is in context of the suffering of God’s righteous servant, who would be despised and rejected by men. Isaiah 53 even states that Jesus suffered unjustly.

(2). Psalm 22 clearly shows that verse one (quoted in Matthew 27:1) was a perception not the reality. God did had not abandon Jesus according to the whole of Psalm 22. Verse 24 says, “For He (God) hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath He hid His face from Him; but when He cried unto Him, He heard.”

(3). Romans 3:25 is in the context of justification by faith through the grace of God, not the wrath of God. The Greek word halisterion (translated propitiation in the KJV) is employed by the Septuagint to describe the Mercy Seat in the Old Testament. That which was foreshadowed by the mercy seat flows with the context of Romans 3. God has set forth Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement because of His mercy (not wrath) so that by grace He might justify all who believe in Jesus.

(4). 2 Corinthians 5:21 speaks of Christ our sin offering, not our literal sin or our sinfulness. Throughout the Old Testament the words sin and sin offering are translated from the same Hebrew word chattath. Chattath is translated as sin offering 118 times, and translated as sin 168 times.

In Hebrews 10:6, the writer of Hebrews speaks of sacrifices for sin. The words “sacrifices for” are added by the translators of the KJV for clarity. Literally, Hebrews 10:6 says: “In burnt offerings and sin thou hast had no pleasure”. However, we know that the author is not referring to sin, but to the sin offerings instead. We know this because of the context, and we know this because Hebrews 10:6 is a quote from Psalm 40:6 which says, Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required”.

The same Greek word (hamartia) used in Hebrews 10:6 which references the sin offering, is used in 2 Corinthians 5:21 for sin, and therefore should be understood as “sin offering”.

The sin offerings, which were holy offerings, were offered to make atonement or reconciliation. Reconciliation is the surrounding context of 2 Corinthians 5:21. The transference of personal acts of sin or of a sin nature is nowhere found in the context, nor was this the case under the Law when sin offerings were offered. The sin offerings had to be holy and unblemished and were offered on behalf of the sins of the people to reconcile the people to God.

God made him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be made the sin offering for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

(5). 1 Peter 2:24 is written in the context of Jesus suffering wrongfully (v.19-25). He is the shepherd of our souls and we are to follow His example when we suffer unjustly. Peter tells us that when Jesus suffered wrongfully, He committed himself to THE ONE WHO  JUDGES RIGHTEOUSLY.  Jesus bore our sins, not as one (who by transference) became guilty with our sins, but rather by laying down His pure and holy life for us, he made atonement through the shedding of His precious blood so that we could be cleansed from our sins. Had Jesus had our personal acts of sins and/or guilt transferred to him, he would not have remained pure. The scripture says we were redeemed by the precious Blood of Jesus as of a lamb WITHOUT BLEMISH AND WITHOUT SPOT.

(6). Galatians 3:13 is written within the context of the curse of the Law imposed on all who are under the Law. The only deliverance from the curse of the law is through the Messiah. Jesus was made a curse in that He was CRUCIFIED, or HANGED on a tree, being openly humiliated and put to shame by those who hated him. However, God raised him from the dead and declared by his resurrection, “this is My Son!”

Jesus endured the hostility of sinful men and was vindicated by God in the resurrection. Hebrews 12:2-3 says, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, DESPISING THE SHAME, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that ENDURED SUCH CONTRADICTIONS OF SINNERS AGAINST HIMSELF, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

  • The Amplified Bible says, “Just consider and meditate on Him who endured from sinners such bitter hostility against Himself [consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you will not grow weary and lose heart… (Hebrews 12:30).
  • Like 1 Peter 2:19-25, Hebrews 12:1-4 exhorts us to follow Jesus, who endured the cross, as our example of perseverance. He suffered cruelty from sinful men, not from God. Yet it was the will of God for Jesus to suffer so that, through Him, God might save all, who believe though Him.
  • The sufferings of Christ according to the will of God as expressed in the scriptures should be understood in the same way in which we understand others who, according to the will of God, suffered to glorify God. For example, both Job and Paul suffered for the glory of God, but it was not God opposing and afflicting them. Yet in their sufferings they were completely in the will of God. In much the same way it is important to understand that Christ suffered at the hands of men according to the will of God.
  • Under the Law, it was the corpses of those who had already been executed for such offenses as blasphemy which were hanged on a tree. In Galatians 3:1, the apostle Paul says, “Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross.” The crucified Christ is the emblem of redemption, and through the broken body of the crucified Messiah, we are free from the curse of the Law. The writer of Hebrews tells us that we are sanctified through the OFFERING of the BODY OF JESUS CHRIST once and for all. Christ gave to God a holy and sinless life to redeem us with his precious blood and through his slain body we are redeemed from the curse of the Law so that righteousness might come to all who trust in him.

Those who teach the theory of PSA create a narrative which is contrary to the narrative revealed in the four gospels and the book of Acts.

When we have as our foundation, the teachings of Jesus and the gospel preached by the apostles in the book of Acts, we will more accurately interpret the death of Christ in view of the whole counsel of scripture. For example, if we would ask the questions, “Does God condemning Jesus prove He is the Son of God, or does God vindicating Him prove He is the Son of God?” What what be the proper response to these questions?

If Jesus had died as a condemned substitute under the justice of God, how would that work with believing He is the Son of God? Those who crucified Jesus condemned Him of blasphemy, for claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of God. If Jesus had been condemned by God, God would have been siding with the people who condemned Him. Yet the scripture says that those who put Jesus to death were gathered against the Lord (God) and against His Christ (Acts 4:26). Those who condemned Jesus were opposing God!

Though He was unjustly condemned, He was vindicated when God raised Him from the dead. He is who He claimed to be, and when we believe and declare that Jesus is the Son of God we agree with the testimony of God who raised Him from the dead. This is revealed in the narrative and comes through clearly within the continuity of the scriptures.

Jesus was delivered over to death according to the will of God for the purpose of laying down His own life for our redemption through the shedding of his Blood.

This can be clearly understood when we will consider others who, according to the will of God, laid down their lives to serve the purposes of God. Stephen, for instance, laid down His life for the glory of God. Stephen was not condemned by God, but rather was a chosen vessel who suffered martyrdom for the gospel and the glory of Christ.

In the gospels, Jesus likened His own death to those who had died before Him for the glory of God. For example in Matthew 17:12-13 Jesus says the following.

But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. LIKEWISE shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

Notice that Jesus likens His death to that of John the Baptist. John was not condemned by God, but was a martyr who died for the glory of God. Jesus says, “LIKEWISE shall also the Son of man SUFFER OF THEM.”

We see the same line of thinking In Matthew 21:33-43 in the parable concerning the Husbandmen of the vineyard who rejected the Son of the the Lord of the vineyard. The Lord of the vineyard first sent many different servants and they were mistreated and killed by the wicked Husbandmen of the vineyard. In Verses 34- 39 we read the following. 

And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.

As we can see in this parable, the Lord of the vineyard was not the one condemning His Son. Instead, it was the Husbandmen who mistreated and killed the Son. They did to the Son as they had done to the other servants who were sent before Him. This is the narrative according to Jesus and His apostles concerning the nature of Christ’s sufferings. He died at the hands of sinful men who unjustly condemned Him. He was condemned by men, not condemned by God. 

As we continue reading this parable, Jesus says the following.

When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? (Matthew 21:40-42).

The significance of Jesus as the Stone which THE BUILDERS REJECTED and the ONE GOD ACCEPTED is abundantly clear throughout the Gospels and the Book of Acts.

Jesus, in accordance with the will of God, laid down His life, dying unjustly at the hands of sinful men, to redeem us with his precious Blood. In His resurrection, God overturned the verdict of sinful men who oppose God by raising his Son from the dead.

In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul tells us that through the cross, God has made foolish the wisdom of this world.

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.  As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know Him through human wisdom, He has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is THE POWER  of God and THE WISDOM of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

Christ crucified, is both the power of God (through His shed blood for our redemption) and the wisdom of God, who in the resurrection, overturned verdict of sinful men and has brought to nothing the counsel of the princes of this world who unjustly condemned His Son.

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