Summary: The reality of Christ’s atoning death on the cross is at the very heart of Christian faith. This truth has come under fire as of late by many who find ideas like the “punishment of sin” or the “wrath of God” to be unhelpful or even offensive, and certain
Dakota Community Church
February 14, 2010
Pierced for Our Transgressions:
Understanding Substitutionary Atonement
The reality of Christ’s atoning death on the cross is at the very heart of Christian faith.
This truth has come under fire as of late by many who find ideas like the “punishment of sin” or the “wrath of God” to be unhelpful or even offensive, and certainly archaic.
The idea that God would require this sort of a bloody sacrifice for sin in many minds lowers God to a position somewhere below what he requires of his followers – namely; forgiving enemies rather than seeking vengeance.
Why would God require us to forgive while He himself enforces justice?
Answer: Only God who knows the heart and is omniscient is capable of justice; thus we who do not have all pertinent information must leave justice to Him.
1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
The gospel by which we are saved is that Christ died FOR OUR sins, was buried, and raised to life again.
16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."
The gospel (Christ’s death for our sins, burial, and resurrection) is the power of God for salvation.
In the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed by faith from start to finish.
This idea of Christ dying in our place, for our sins to satisfy the wrath of God is known as the substitutionary atonement. Substitutionary for obvious reasons, atonement requires a little more definition.
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word is “kaphar” and means to cover over, expiate (make amends), wipe away, placate (appease), or to cancel.
In the New Testament the Greek word is “hiloskomai” and means to propitiate (to make favorably inclined), expiate (make amends), or conciliate.
The key thought is to cover over in God’s eyes or to wipe away.
Let’s look at the word in action in the New Testament:
9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ’God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ’God, have mercy (“hiloskomai 2433”) on me, a sinner.’
14"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
14Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement (“hiloskomai 2433”) for the sins of the people. 18Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Why do we believe in substitutionary atonement?
1. God’s justice demands it
God cannot simply overlook sin.
These first two points were perfectly illustrated in our Wednesday Bible study where one person expressed the idea that death on a cross seemed a little extreme as a punishment for their sin and another expressed the reverse that it seemed hard to believe that that was all that was required of them. (Faith that is)