The Atonement – 2 Corinthians 5

The following passage from Paul is possibly the clearest description of penal substitutionary atonement in the New Testament. I particularly like the way it shows how this idea of the cross relates to a broader picture. We see here that Christ died FOR us. We see that as a result of His death and resurrection, something happened TO us. We see that this change is something GOD does to us — some in the comments section seem to think that God counts us as righteous after we have repented, but this could not be further from the truth.

We also see that the caricature of a loving Christ persuading a reluctant and angry Father is far from the truth since God is seen as active in what happened. We also see that “counting” or imputation is essential. Finally, we see in some of the most difficult-to-comprehend words in the Bible, Jesus, the Holy One, was made to BE sin on the cross so that we might become righteous. There was an active judgment of God that occurred through the cross.

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised …

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-21)

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