Thursday, January 06, 2005

Penal Substitution and the Atonement

Though I do not tend to get into theological discussions per se, I could not resist giving an answer to this issue raised at both "Parableman" (here and here) and Adrian's (here). I do wonder why Wink has even attempted to make this point, which by the way I disargree with.

Wink is attempting to say that the Penal element of the Cross is not substitutionary. To this aI replied the following:

I do not think there is any way to deny "penal substitution", but first let me affirm the idea of Spiritual Union. I love to emphasize Spiriual Union myself in preaching the gospel.

Because I am Spiritually unioned with Christ, "I have every spiitual blessing in Christ". "Christ in me is the hope of Glory" and "the one who has joined himself to the Lord is one spirit with the Lord". I agree with you, if this is your motivation, that Spiritual union is underemphasized in American Evangelicalism. I endlessly preach that the Gospel is power and the foundation of this power is our spiritual union. In fact, to see the gospel as only penal and only about forgiveness and not power is a very weak gospel indeed BUT...

The penal element is thoroughly intended to be understood as substitutionary. My proposition is that a theological emphasis on union does not mean that the penal element of the cross should not be contemplated as substitutionary.

1. We agree that the cross has a penal element.
Matthew 26:28This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Ephesians 1:7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace. It is accepted that forgiveness of sin is reconciliation and the removal of our guilty standing before God due to sin. This is penal.

2. We agree that Jesus was punished for my sin.
Isaiah 53:5But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
Isaiah 53:10 But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering.Certainly Jesus was punished due to our sin.

3. Is this substitutionary or union? Well, I ask, "Can I celebrate that I do not experience punishment?" Yes. "Can I contemplate that Jesus experienced punishment due to my sin, but I do not experience punishment for my sin?" Yes.

This is exactly what we do contemplate and what produces affection. He willingly suffered as a perfectly free agent. He was without sin and therefore had no obligation to suffer except in order to alleviate my suffering. You are trying to seperate punishment from suffering which gives the word punishment no meaning. If punishment is a state of well-being then it is not punishement at all. Suffering may not involve punishment BUT, for punishment to have any meaning, it must involve some discomfort or to deprive one of some form of well-being. This discomfort and suffering due to God's wrath on sin was entirely taken from me and placed on Jesus. Therefore, because I will never suffer for my sin, it has no meaning to say that I share in suffering God's wrath for my sin with Jesus. This simply IS NOT TRUE. I will never suffer God's wrath for my sin. This is the penal truth of the Gospel!!!

This meaning then needs to be applied to "sharing in Christ's suffering". Christ's suffering was never for His sin, and, when I share in Christ's suffering, I am not suffering for my sin either. This view of penal substitution is clearly the intent of the Apostles and a key to our affection for Christ. Nonetheless, this does not negate that I have spiriutal union with Christ and that because He took my sin, I am able to share in His death. This death is death to sin not death on account of sin. When I share in His death, I am celebrating my liberation from sin and the flesh. "Do you not know that you are dead to sin".

I think it is appropriate to say that the penal element which is entirely substitutionary is seperate from the union element which is entirely linked only to Spiritual blessings and the fulfillment of the promise of liberation.

God Bless,

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