The error of the Penal Satisfaction theory
/Thanks to my friend Lyndon Conn for the below
Jesus suffered greatly, taking many stripes, was bruised and beaten, etc. He did all of this FOR us, but those things were not Atonement themselves. It was His death (shedding of blood and Life for a life – innocent for the guilty) that made atonement. Animals were never beaten or punished BEFORE they were finally killed for atonement.
The Penal Satisfaction atonement teaches that Jesus was punished in our place as He was beaten and bruised by God. This is not true at all! He was mistreated by MEN as a form of punishment for something He did not do. He could not be truly punished by God for any reason whatsoever since He was without sin. God not only NEVER punished a sacrifice (but only accepted the acceptable sacrifice), but sin was never literally on either the animals or on Jesus – since sin is not a substance that can be moved or transferred. When the Bible speaks of ”Taking away” sins, it is talking about the born again experience and the transformation that takes place when a person confesses their sins. Sins are then ”taken away” but the person being made into a new creation – as old things pass away and all things become new. Jesus made provision for all men so that all they need to do is confess Him as the acceptable sacrifice, and in turn also offer themselves a living sacrifice. These are likened unto the day of atonement in the 2 goats for the entire nation (as Christ represents both, the acceptable sacrifice in goat 1, and the scapegoat in goat 2 by taking away the sins of the world). And our repentance is likened unto the offering of the bull for personal sins.
Sin is not punished in Christ and they are not ”paid for”! These are both lies passed down through the RCC and not biblical at all. We have had bad theology so heavily imparted into our thinking that we think many things are fact that are not at all. We have never questioned them, and hear it all the time, preach it all the time, and never think otherwise, but I will challenge this thinking. Not to teach a different doctrine, but to show a different understanding of the same doctrine. The end is the same, but the path that takes us there is flawed.
Nowhere does the Bible literally teach the following: Jesus PAID FOR sins; He was PUNISHED by God; He ”took our place”; He ”paid our debt”, and other financial terms that should only be understood figuratively. The literal is that He ”provided” for forgiveness; He did for us what we could not do for ourselves; and so on. Incorrect terms lead to many false doctrines like Limited Atonement and Universalism, and many are very inconsistent by not believing one or the other. Incorrect terminology can lead in 2 directions – one towards truth and the other towards error. With payment for sins – we might be able to draw a proper understanding from it (as I did for many years as well) – understanding that Jesus died for our sins and making the way of salvation for us – but the problem with the terminology is that it’s misused and could lead to error.
If Jesus ”paid for” our sins on the cross, then something that is paid for is completely finished and nothing else needs to be done at all. If Jesus ”paid for” the sins of the whole world, then all men are saved and do not even need to repent because their sins are already paid for. It is all done for them. This is why Calvinism has to create their doctrine of Limited Atonement – teaching that Jesus only died for the elect – in order to prevent Universalism. So then, Jesus ”paid for” the sins of the elect only, and did not die for the sins of the non-elect. As wrong as this is, it is actually more consistent with the teaching of ”payment for sins”.
The fact that WE are ”bought with a price” does not teach a payment for SINS. ”We” and our ”sins” are 2 different things. The wages of sin is and always will be death! Men still go to hell for their sins. Our only hope is to confess our sins to Jesus, the scapegoat of God, so He can ”take them away”. This is figurative! Sin is not a substance that can be put on another or literally taken anywhere. Sin is an attitude of the heart. It is a mindset that leads to actions that displease God. Man’s only hope is to have this part of him changed (transformed). It all starts with being Born Again. Old things are PASSED AWAY, and all things are become new. Sins are never punished IN man in this life (except by chastisement for the Christians if they sin and need to learn something). Sin itself is not punished at all. Man is punished and will be punished in eternity. So our only hope is to have sins ”taken away”.
Atonement terminology is mostly all figurative, but the figurative ALWAYS points to the literal! So we have to seek understanding of the literal, and be careful not to take the figurative itself too literally. This WILL lead to error. You cannot have ”actual and factual” without literal. We just need to understand what it actually and factually is! It is NOT a payment, but a provision! It is not punishment of Christ by God, but abuse of Christ by men – which He endured FOR us – but not literally in our place. No man could ever die for his own sins, therefore it could never be our place, but only HIS place to die as atonement. Men will still die for their own sins. There is no ”debt” that we owe, but only ”wages” to be paid. A debt is something to be paid to another, while wages are what we have earned and have coming to US. We do not owe God anything, but repentance and our lives. There is nothing at all that we could possible ”pay” to God to ”buy” our souls back. These are all financial terms, including ransom and redeem, which both refer to the work of Christ on our behalf. The financial terms are all used to help give us understanding by using terms we can understand , but they are all figurative and not to be taken too literally. We must look to the literal they point to.
The Bible says that He is the ”propitiation” for our sins – which literally means, ”He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins”. Propitiation is a term used in pagan rituals of offering their children to their gods as a sacrifice to appease their anger. It can give a picture of Jesus removing the anger of God against us, but should not be taken to the extreme to teach that He was an object of God’s wrath – with our sins literally on Him! Truth can be drawn and understood from this word; yet error can be as well if taken too far. There is no forgiveness of sins at all without repentance. There is provision for forgiveness that has to be received, but there is no actual forgiveness until then. The idea of a payment gives a false idea here, and it leads to false doctrines – making it easy for those who teach them to draw others into their errors. And Calvinism is growing stronger every day. I just heard a story yesterday about how so many Churches are turning Calvinist, and this has a great deal to do with it!
If you believe atonement is a literal payment, then who was paid? The devil? The Father? And if paid, then a payment cannot be unpaid, right? A provision is something that is done FOR us that we could not do for ourselves; while we must RECEIVE it through faith – or reject it. Sins are not ”carried away” until we receive Him and confess our sins to Him so He can take our sins away – and then, where there are no sins and there is no guilt. But if sins are ”paid for”, you cannot have them paid for one a person is ”justified”, or have payment applied only at that time. This can work in the figurative, but not in the literal.
If we go back to Leviticus, sins were never ”paid for”. The only difference is that Jesus was without sin and He could be the one-time sacrifice for all time. But the idea of atoning for sins was the same. There had to be an ACCEPTABLE sacrifice and a scapegoat for the yearly offering. This was provision for the nation as a whole, but individuals still had to bring their own personal sacrifices of a bull for their owns sins – which is likened unto our repentance and offering of ourselves unto God as a living sacrifice. Neither were any form of a payment! Such an idea is added by men, starting with the RCC in the 12th century under Anselm.
We are figuratively covered in His blood, in that because of the shedding of His blood and out acceptance of Him as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, as the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled, we receive Him and all that He did for us as we confess our sins before Him. Our acceptance of Him as the one-time sacrifice that was without sin allows us to confess our sins and be forgiven of our sins. Our act of true repentance and accepting Jesus is accepted as if His blood were literally sprinkled on us, but no person has ever had His blood literally on them. Let’s get real here. This is what the RCC would have us believe. In communion they teach that the literal body and blood of Jesus is transferred to the bread and wine. So then we are cannibals and guilty of drinking blood – which is forbidden in the law of God.
True atonement is very simple and not half as complex as men have made it. God provided a Lamb in Jesus. We can accept His provision and confess our sins over Him and have them taken away, or we can choose to go our own way. God did not die for only some. He did not choose some and reject others. His atonement was for ALL men – the WHOLE WORLD as a provision for whosoever will call upon His name. Now it is up to men to offer themselves (their bull) to God in the confession of sins and acceptance of His provision. Very simple. Very biblical. And with no need of the additions of men. God’s wrath does not need to be appeased! If sins are ”taken away” by changing the man, then there is nothing for wrath to be against. However, if sins return, and repentance does not, wrath will be against such a man – as it is against the world. Very simple and completely scriptural.
Sin is not a substance that can be passed down from one to another, but men inherit a condition that is passed down, and this condition is one that could lead us to sin. Romans 5:12 says that death is passed down. Men are born innocent, and therefore a baby is without sin and saved in its innocence. Sin is a choice – NOT something we inherit. Can the murderer blame their crime on their Father, or on Adam? No. Each man is responsible for his own choices and will be judged for them justly. Blame can never be passed to another, and neither can sin. Sin is defined in scripture as knowing to do right and not doing it, in which the opposite is just as true, in knowing something is wrong and doing it anyway. Sin is therefore a willful rebellion against a known law of God. For those who do not have His laws, Romans 2 says that their conscience becomes a law unto them. So whether we go against God’s law or our conscience, these are what define sin.
Every man and women are faced with choices between right and wrong. And each have the ability to choose what is right. Otherwise they could not be rightly judged for their choices, but because of spiritual death (separation from God), mankind will turn to his own lusts, having no guidance in life. They cannot choose what they do not know.
John 3:19 – ”And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”
Men are sinners because they sin – which is contrary to popular belief. It is the majority of the Church today that has been infected with false teachings and cannot see it. They are not the worst errors out there but they do lead to them. If we want to rid the Church of error and keep Christians from confusion, then we need to get rid of the little errors that serve as stepping stools for the true heresies. The ”Sinning Religions” of our day, the OSAS teachings (once saved always saved), and Calvinism all gain strength from these erroneous atonement ideas and false understandings of sin and death.
Tertullian – On Repentance, chapter 6 ”For repentance is the price at which the Lord has determined to award pardon: He proposes the redemption of release from penalty at this compensating exchange of repentance. If, then, sellers first examine the coin with which they make their bargains, to see whether it be cut, or scraped, or adulterated, we believe likewise that the Lord, when about to make us the grant of so costly merchandise, even of eternal life, first institutes a probation of our repentance.”Chapter 9 – ”but inasmuch as by confession satisfaction is settled, of confession repentance is born; by repentance God is appeased.”