And here I thought a discussion on Limited Atonement would spark objections. Apparently any discussion on the nature of Christ’s atonement, specifically as it pertains to His substitutionary atonement is sure to bring out the objectors. Since it required a lengthy response that was related to part 2 of the post, I decided to publish the comment anonymously with the response. It’s significant to note that not 1 Scripture reference is made to support any of the claims.
From the comments on A Survey of the Cross: The Atonement , Part 1:
It seems rather obvious that the atonement was not substitutionary in the sense that Jesus took our punishment in our place. He was not our penal substitute, but our righteousness substitute, if you will. Hebrews seems to make it clear that, in the ceremony, Jesus is represented by both the priest (Son of God; mediator) and the goat (Son of Man; likeness of sinful flesh) that is slain. The goats in general represent man.
Jesus offered the sacrifice on behalf of the people–all of them. The atonement was for everyone. Only those, however, who identified with the slain goat, go into the presence of God with the priest. Those who do not are identified with the goat that bears the sins and is sent off into the wilderness. The Jews identified their salvation in the goat that carried the sins into the wilderness. They were wrong, as evidenced by the fact that they did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
The Passover is the image of our escape from judgment. It is from man’s perspective, and we see Jesus as a lamb going to slaughter. The Atonement is our reconciliation with God. It is from God’s perspective. The only people (goats) he sees is the goat he chose–Jesus Christ. Our only access to heaven is that goat; our identity in him. He sees the priest and the sacrificed goat. Jesus was not our substitute in punishment. He was our substitute in righteousness. We must be sacrificed with Christ (the image of baptism–buried and raised with him). The deal was we sin, we die. That happens. The deal with Jesus is not that we don’t die, but that we avoid the “but after this, the judgment.” Jesus died the “first death” so that we could avoid the “second death” that comes with judgment. That is the Passover. Jesus’ righteous, sacrificial life along with the sacrificial death is the atonement; it is the justification the Father needed to resurrect man. He is justified resurrecting perfect Jesus, and he is justified raising those who belong to Jesus (those who surrendered their lives to him and made him their Savior and Lord) and restoring them and the rest of the kingdom to Jesus, just as he restored everything to Job, who is the picture of that.
I am hoping this truth is reflected in your “Part 2.” It really is disturbing reading all the messed up theories on line. The Bible is pretty self-explanatory.
Thanks for the comment. Though you point out some truths, they seem intermingled with a lot of confusion or at best an incomplete view of the atonement. It would seem that the majority of your response is a product of eisegesis, or reading into Scripture. Hebrews does not infer that the goats from Leviticus 16 represent man nor is there any suggestion in the Levitical atonement that it was for everyone. In fact, just the opposite, clearly stating that it was for “the people of Israel”, not any other nations (Leviticus 16:16, 21, 34). The definite article “the” in front of “people” denotes it is a specific group of people, i.e. Israel. One can’t create a parallel for universal atonement where it doesn’t exist in the passage. I would argue on this basis that the parallel to the atonement of Jesus would likewise be “limited”, but that discussion for another day. Additionally, there is no need to make distinctions between 2 groups of Jewish people who’ve identified with a particular goat offering as this destroys the definition of a propitiatory, atoning sacrifice, but more on that in a minute.
I don’t mean to be rude or overly disparaging, but I must take issue with your response for several reasons, primarily being because it is a blatant denial of the Substitutionary Atonement of Jesus Christ. This is unsurprising, given the nature of this belief particularly within liberal theological streams, but likewise because the post to which you are replying has not yet made the connection between the Old Testament atonement as outlined in Leviticus and Christ, other than a brief look at the definition of atonement as provided by multiple sources. So you’ve made a quantum leap in your assumptions from the very start and provided your own interpretation as to what “Part 2” of the atonement discussion should say. But to the point, a denial of Christ’s Substitutionary Atonement is quite simply a smack in the face of the orthodox Christian belief, but more importantly it is a failure to recognize the central truths of the Gospel. It would seem (though I am open to correction) that your belief draws in part from the “Moral Influence of Atonement Theory” that would align itself as a polar opposite of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.
That aside, let’s look briefly at what the Bible has to say about Christ’s substitution beginning with John 11:50 as Caiaphas, the high priest, prophesies of Jesus’ death, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” Note he says here, “for the people”, which is nothing if not substitutionary language. Even if we were to examine the Greek word “for”, hyper, we would still see the definition as being “for the sake of” or “on behalf of”, which would do little to alter the substitutionary meaning. Another such passage that speaks to the substitutionary nature of atonement is Romans 5:8, “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Again we see the same language of dying in place of or as a substitute. Why would there be any need for Christ to die “for us” if death were not the requisite punishment for sin? The Apostle Paul gives a gospel summary for us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 utilizing again this same language , “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried , that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
I suspect your objection has less to do with the word “substitution”, as indicated in your statement of Christ as a “righteous substitute”, and more to do with what kind of substitution Christ made. To answer this we need look no further than Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” Here we see that Christ redeemed His people from the curse due to them because of their disobedience to the law and became a curse Himself. Again note this is substitutionary language, “becoming a curse for us”. But what of this curse? Is this some sort of voodoo witchcraft curse that was due believers? Not all, the curse is none other than the justice of God poured out through His wrath as the eternal punishment due to sinners. The infinitely worthy Son of God endured the wrath of God due to His people and by His blood satisfied or appeased the wrath of God towards all those who have ever or will ever believe. This we see as typified in the slain goat of Leviticus whose blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat as a propitiation or “atoning sacrifice” to appease the wrath of God (more on propitiation in upcoming posts). In actuality the blood of this goat did nothing to remove or atone for sinners, but instead was a typification or foreshadowing of the perfect sacrifice of Christ which was to come (Hebrews 10:4).
Secondly from our levitical system outlined in the post, we see a “scapegoat” being mentioned. While you seem to make an eisegetical mistake by reading in a distinction made between the Jewish people who identified with one “goat” or the other, the passage from Leviticus is quite clear, that BOTH goats were required for the people of Israel. One group did not pick a goat to be slain for them while another group picked a goat to take away sin. No both are necessary, the satisfaction of God’s wrath and the expiation or removal of sin, thus the definition of propitiation. I will grant that the Bible does not tell us what becomes of this scapegoat, other than it is set free, so my “implication” that it too would die goes too far in its inference, as we are only told it is lead to the wilderness (Leviticus 16:22). As Charles Spurgeon asserts , the death of the first goat represents the substitutionary death of Christ and upon completion of that, the effect was the removal of sin, which we see typified in the scapegoat. As a side note it should be mentioned that nobody other than the high priest entered into the “presence of God” as you say. As part of his priestly duties he made intercession to God for the people. Likewise, as we’ll look at in upcoming posts Jesus fulfills the role of High Priestly intercession by not only prayer, but through the mediation of the new covenant. It may sound like semantics but it is not with Christ that believers enter the presence of God, but through Christ.
If Jesus was only a righteous substitute then there would have been no need for His death. He simply could’ve lived perfect and imputed that sinless nature to believers. Instead His life of perfect obedience was necessary as well as His substitutionary death. If as a substitute Jesus did not pay the penalty that was owed to sinners, then that debt is left to be paid and we’ve not only assaulted the meaning of atonement, but subsequently Christ the Redeemer and the ransom paid, . The sins of believers do not magically disappear without a just payment, namely death, and in the believers case that was fully satisfied in the death of Christ. As Hebrews 9:22 emphatically states, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.” Jesus’ atonement, as a blood sacrifice, had to both satisfy God’s wrath AND remove sin, thus completely reconciling the sinner by faith to God. In doing this, God was able to be both “just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” Romans 3:26 There is a penalty to be paid for sin and we can either pay it ourselves or look to the One who paid it for us. We cannot simply pick and choose which parts of the atonement appeal to us because we like or dislike various aspects and then use other typifications of Christ’s death (i.e. Passover) to prop up our views. Although the atonement will never be fully understood this side of heaven, rest assured “Christ died for sinners, of whom I am chief.”
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18