In the previous post in this series we asked the question, “If Jesus was not a sinner, why did He die?” It’s now time that I shared my own definition of Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA) which I wrote for a talk I gave last autumn. I thought I would also share the definition given by the authors of the new book, Pierced For Our Transgressions (PFOT). Wherever you are in the world, you can buy PFOT at 20% off the list price from The Good Book Company. That book, incidentally, is in my view essential reading for those aware of this debate, especially if you have already read C. J. Mahaney’s smaller, more devotional book called Living the Cross Centered Life.
I define PSA as follows:
Jesus died to take our punishment or penalty (i.e. penal), to substitute Himself (i.e. to take our place), and thereby to destroy sin and to turn away the wrath of God. This remedy is applied only to those who are “in Christ” — a union brought about through faith.“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (Romans 5:9)
Christ needed to “become sin” so He could justly be punished for sin. Why was that necessary? Because it was the only way that God could be right to let us off the hook.
We can only be saved because the wrath of God has been removed, which means that the following is true:
- It is only possible for God to forgive and lay aside his anger against us because he has punished sin in Christ.
- He can only accept us because He actively rejected Christ on the cross.
- Where the wages of sin is death, God arranged for Christ to pay the bill.
- We are saved by Christ from the wrath of God.
You can hear that definition in context by downloading the audio (you may need to right click and save it to your PC) of my talk on the atonement or listening to it here:
The authors of PFOT have a similar definition that in many ways complements my own:
“The Doctrine of penal substitution teaches that God gave himself in the person of his Son to suffer instead of us the death, punishment and curse due to fallen humanity as the penalty for sin . . . the Lord Jesus Christ died for us — a shameful death, bearing our curse, enduring our pain, suffering the wrath of his own Father in our place.”
I am very happy to endorse these definitions, and believe them wholeheartedly. What about you?