This month we’ve been talking all things atonement as we prepare for Holy Week to arrive. So far we’ve deconstructed the Penal Substitution theory of the atonement on various grounds, and I have offered the suggestion that perhaps the Devil is the missing link (the agent of causation) within many atonement theories. Finally, I have suggested that the cross is best viewed from 50,000 feet where one can see an ancient battle between a benevolent God, and forces of evil.
While in my last post I focused on the word “ransom” and considered how this might influence our theology, it must not be missed that this Greek word also has strong connotations of liberation, as some astute commenters pointed out. This of course, invites the question, “Liberation from what?“
While I have already demonstrated that the chief work of the cross was to destroy the works of the Devil (1 John 3:8), I also believe that is just one side of a two-sided coin.
Track with me for a moment: the Bible calls the Devil (however one wants to define him/that) as the “accuser.” In this regard, it points to this force of evil as being someone/something that is constantly pointing out our sin and failures, which we all have. In fact, in Revelation 12:10 the accuser is described as one who stands before God and accuses us day and night– constantly.
This invites another question: On what basis are we accused?
Like a prosecuting attorney, the accuser must have the basis of an accusation rooted in the law. To disarm an accuser one would need to accomplish one of two things: either (a) prove the accused is innocent, or (b) change or end the law that calls them guilty. Sure– one who loves to accuse will keep accusing, but without the law to back them up their accusations would be totally disarmed and futile.
For us, we have all sinned– thus the former is not possible. However, to disarm our accuser (even if the accuser is ourselves), Christ has accomplished the latter: he has freed us from the OT law that only served as a barrier between ourselves and God.
In Romans 7 Paul writes that he wouldn’t have even known he was a sinner apart from the law (7:7), and that the law ended up arousing sin (v5) and death:
“But sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of wrong desires. For apart from the law, sin is dead.9 And I was once alive apart from the law, but with the coming of the commandment sin became alive 10 and I died. So I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life brought death! 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it I died.”
When considering what the law does, one could even say that the law itself is our accuser.
In this same chapter, Paul also argues that because of the death of Christ, we too have died to the law and have been freed from it– going as far as saying that the law was what controlled us (v6), and that without it we can find new life that is not “under the written code” (v6).
Thus, a chief work of the cross is that Christ has completely freed us from the oppression of living under OT law, which became the chief barrier between ourselves and God. To this Paul also writes in Ephesians that Christ has “destroyed the barrier” by “ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations” (2:15).
The Law of Moses resulted in death and a barrier between God and humanity, as it constantly accused us– so Christ removed that barrier by ending the entire system that served as a basis of accusation.
Beyond allowing us to find life and become new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), the result of bringing an end to the OT law had one final result: it disarmed our accuser(s). In Col 2:15 Paul describes it this way:
“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
As the new Adam, Christ not only completed the law and set it aside; he disarmed our accuser(s) and made a public mockery of it all.
I believed this was accomplished through the mockery of a public demonstration. This public spectacle– one we’re still talking about 2000 years later– showed that one could keep the law perfectly, but still be murdered under the weight of it– even if that person was God in the flesh. I can think of no stronger basis for setting something aside.
Thus, when we talk of the atonements in terms of “ransom,” we could say that Christ has ransomed us from the accusations of the law.
Now, does this mean we can live however we want and that there’s no such thing as sin? Of course not– we are under the law of Christ, which is a higher law. What it does mean, however, is that the complex and oppressive legal code we find given by Moses in the Old Testament, was defeated at the cross. This has been done that we might find life in following Christ– without the barrier, hostility, and accusations the law brought.
One side of the coin is our accuser. On the other side of the coin is the basis of accusation– and the cross has disarmed and defeated both of them.
Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.