Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Christian, will you defend the meaning of the cross?

The teachings of the Bible have always come under attack, and they will continue to come under attack as long as there is breath in man. Why has the Bible been the target of attack throughout its long history? Because what it says so goes against the depraved nature of man.

To be told that you are a sinner and that you can't help yourself causes the pride in man to shout out, "no not I, I'm basically a good person, I'm not perfect, but I'm basically a good guy." To be told that your religion and your good works are like filthy rags will do nothing less than cause the sinner to rise up in righteous indignation and exclaim, "away with your message of condemnation and judgement, I live the best I can, no, not perfect, but I'm a pretty good person."

Which brings me to what I would like to speak on today--- The bible's teaching on penal substitionary atonement. This core teaching of the gospel has suffered attack throughout the long history of the bible and it is being attacked today by many modern humanistic men who have an aversion to the meaning of the cross of Christ. Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology does a fine job in explaining penal substitution when he notes, "Christ’s death was “penal” in that he bore a penalty when he died. His death was also a “substitution” in that he was a substitute for us when he died.

There have been several theories put forth that sees humanity's main problem differently, and each theory explains how Christ's death solves that problem. Pay attention how two of these theories completely by-pass the thought or idea of Christ dying to appease God the Father for our/your sin,

Mark Dever in a cover story for (Christianity Today, 2006), outlines three theories in a very succinct way:

1.) The first set of theories argues that humanity's main problem is that we are trapped and oppressed by spiritual forces beyond our control. Christ's death, then, is seen as a ransom that frees us from captivity. His death and resurrection defeats the evil spiritual forces. These theories are generally summarized under the heading of ransom theory or Christus Victor (Christ the Victor).

2.)  The second set of theories deals with the subjective need of all people to know God's love for us. These theories emphasize that Christ's death on the Cross demonstrates God's love so dramatically that we are convinced of his love and are now able to share it with others. This set includes the moral-influence theory of Abelard, among others.

Dever then gives us the biblical description of penal substitutionary atonement in a little more detail than the above description by Grudem.

3.) A third set of theories assumes that our main problem is God's righteous wrath against us for our sinfulness, which puts us in danger of eternal punishment. These theories argue that Christ's perfect sacrifice for our sins is necessary to satisfy God's righteousness. Christ's death bore a divine penalty that we deserved. By taking our penalty upon himself, God satisfied his own correct and good wrath against us. Theories in this set, such as the satisfaction theory and the penal-substitution theory, emphasize how Christ represents us.

Dever goes on to note that the attack has been mounted against the last set of theories, namely the substitutionary atonement theory, he notes:

The new wave of criticism has targeted this last set of theories, especially the view of Christ as a penal substitute—a theory long central for most Protestant groups, especially evangelicals. The criticism follows a path laid by others throughout history, from Abelard to Socinus to Schleiermacher to C. H. Dodd.

My purpose of today's article was to make believer's aware of the attack and always be ready to give an answer to every man that asks the reason of the hope that you have within you. The cross will always come under attack, my charge to the body of Christ is, stand strong and proclaim with the loudest voice that your religion is the cross of Christ, your faith and hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.

I love this quote by Martin Luther:
“If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.”


  1. WE had better defend the Cross today, for we just might not be able to do so tomorrow...for whatever reason.


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