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Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
My complete profile...
Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich
His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole
[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos
Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead
There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
| The Atonement Seems To Be A Hot Topic Lately...
|The various, competing atonement models all attempt to answer the same question: "How can a just God forgive a guilty sinner without compromising Himself in doing so?"
I believe the answer is simple, and because it is simple, many people miss it. I present it here, for your consideration. Feel free to correct me or raise any objections.
Perhaps the best place to start would be in James 5:4, "Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts."
Here is a truth that is clearly taught - it is fraudulent to withhold wages. If I agree to pay so much for the labor, and you perform the labor, I must pay what I have promised or I am a liar, a fraud, and unjust.
Now let's look at the other side of the same principle: for that I take you to the end of Romans 6 where we read, "the wages of sin is death."
You see, death is something we earn by sinning, and if God doesn't pay us our wage, that makes Him just as much a Liar and a Fraud, as He would be were He withholding some desirable wage. God cannot simply overlook sin for this reason: sin has a wage associated with it, and God must pay that wage or He is not just.
Likewise, it would be just as unjust to pay a man a wage he didn't earn.
In this same way we understand that Christ cannot receive the wage of death if He hasn't earned death by personally sinning. When David prophesies of Christ in Psalm 16 he says it this way: God will not allow His Holy One to see corruption. That is, God cannot pay Christ a wage he did not earn. Christ mentions the same sort of thing in John 10:18, namely that when He lays down his life He will be able to take it up again.
I see these biblical truths as foundational in my understanding of the atonement: God must pay the sinner the wage He has earned, and likewise, Christ cannot keep a wage He hasn't earned!
The problem is how can God pay the sinner his just wage and redeem the same sinner at the same time?
I believe the answer is found in our union with Christ (see Romans 6).
We were joined to Christ for this reason: so that when God justly poured out his wrath on us (on the cross) He would provide a means to justly raise us from the dead afterwards.
We have said that God could not keep Christ in the grave, and this is the key. The way in which we are atoned for is simple: a guilty sinner is united to Christ by faith alone, such that Christ joins that believer to Himself so that they are united on the cross where God punishes the believer.
I pause here to highlight what I think is a common misconception about what happened on the cross. If your understanding of the atonement is that God poured out His wrath on Jesus instead of on you, I think you have it wrong.
Now hear me out here:
I think what happened on Calvary was that I was joined to Christ (spiritually not physically) and that God poured His wrath out upon my spirit which was joined to Christ's. God wasn't punishing Jesus instead of me, He was punishing me and because I was joined to Christ, Christ received my condemnation. That was always the plan.
If the law required all convicted criminals to receive a lethal injection, and simultaneously required that no innocent man be put to death, then it would be as if Christ knew I was condemned, and in order to save me He made Himself my Siamese twin so that when I received the lethal injection that was due me, it killed both of us, but because the law required that no innocent man be put to death, Christ would have to be "raised up" - but since we were co-joined as siamese twins - Christ could not be raised apart from raising me, and in this way, according to Christ's plan - I was redeemed. I suffered the death, due me so the law was satisfied, it was not some pretend death - I really died, but because I was joined to Christ, I was raised again. Not that Christ was my substitute, but that Christ was in me and I was in Him so that just as my punishment slew us both, so his resurrection raised us both.
This is what scripture means when it says that love is as strong as death (SoS 8:6) My union with Christ could not be broken -- even by death. No one ascends into heaven who did not descend from heaven - no one goes to heaven except that they are united with Christ - He is the only Way and the only truth and the only life - the door of the shepfold.
God could not justly allow Christ to remain in the grave. Christ was innocent, and God -had- to raise Christ if He was going to remain just. But since we were still united together with Christ, in order to raise Christ God had to raise us too.
We were united together with Christ for this very reason - so that when God could not keep him in the grave, we could be justly raised with Him. That was always the plan - Christ would received our "old self" into Himself, and take it to the cross where God would execute His judgment upon it - this union however destroyed not only us, but Christ. But because Christ was innocent God gave him to power to take up his life again - and because of our union, when Christ took up His life, we were raised with Him!
THAT is the atonement.
Those who are united together with Christ are united in His death and in His resurrection - it is more than some stodgy old theology about how many people Jesus died for - it is the foundation upon which the Christian rests all hope of deliverance from sin's power - we died with Christ - literally - and when we begin to see this truth, we begin to understand that when Paul says that we are no longer slaves of sin because we were crucified with Christ, it starts to mean something!
Are you starting to see it?
The cross is where I died in Christ. Not metaphorically: literally. I will
Labels: atonement; theology, union with christ
posted by Daniel @
Straightforward? Confusing? Let me know.
Daniel, can you please elaborate on the 'literal' part of dying with Christ. He did in fact die physically on the cross whereas we have not. How exactly is that literal on our part?
Jim - Some argue that a man is made up of a body a soul and a spirit, while others would see no distinction between soul and spirit, so I want to be careful in answering you not to open up that can of worms - at least not in this post...
Suffice, for this discussion at least, to say that our present body is not going to go to heaven "as is" - the way scripture describes it this way "we shall be changed", "incorruptible" that our current curruptible must put on incorruption, and our mortality immortality' (c.f. 1 corinthians 15:52-53). Our body will not go to heaven as is, it will be changed, becoming incorruptible, and immortal. But that doesn't happen until judgment day - our flesh is not yet redeemed.
Now, it wasn't our flesh that died on the cross with Christ. If it was, we would all remember being there. Whatever was crucified with Christ on the cross -died- there with Christ, and in the same way our flesh will be made new, so to what died in Christ was raised new with Christ - a new creation. Not the old self, but a new creation.
The death in Christ was our "old man" - our "cursed soul" if you will, or if that nomenclature offends, our "condemned spirit" - the part of us that is in rebellion against God. That is what was crucified with Christ, and that is what literally died there on the cross.
It wasn't something foreign to, or separate from, us, but it had nothing to do with our flesh and blood either. Our sinews and muscles, our skeleton and organs, and even our brain - these are not the things that make us sin, these are the things that give into sin. Sin resides in our soul - it is a taint that is much deeper than the flesh, and the mind that is set on obeying it is hostile to God and cannot even become subject to God's law. That is what was on the cross. If you want to call it our soul or our spirit, it is inconsequential to the discussion - what is important is that it was destroyed in Christ and that a new creation was raised in Christ.
So what is literal about that is that the part of us that lives on after we die - the part that will go on to judgment for unbelievers - that is the part that God judged for believers - the judgment was guilty, the sentence was condemnation, and the sentence was carried out in full in Christ.
That is why there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus - because God has already condemned us in full, and raised us anew, in Christ.
Let me know if that clears it up, or just confuses it more.
Thanks Daniel, in a sense the reality of this transaction is so real that we can speak of it as having happened literally.
In some ways it really is a mysterious concept, that of our having been crucified with Christ and raised to newness of life with Him.
I see a huge distinction between the soul and spirit and while our soul is not destroyed, it must nevertheless be transformed by the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit within our spirit. This is the whole reason Paul emphasised walking in the Spirit so much; we must no longer walk according to our old way of thinking and acting but rather must put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.
This abiding in Christ will naturally produce the fruits of the Spirit without self effort and struggle on our part.
Jim - I would go much farther than saying that I can speak of it as though it happened literally - because language like that suggests that I do not believe that it literally happened, but only happened in some metaphorical sense.
I say it happened literally, not in a sense, but in actuality - it only seemed veiled and mysterious until I started to believe that it was true - then it became obvious - of course I was crucified with Christ! how could God deal with my sin otherwise? By punishing an innocent man in my place? - no, by combining who I am with an innocent man and punishing me so that we both die, then using  His righteous standing and  my inseparable union with Him, as the means by which I can justly be raised from the dead. It makes perfect sense, and knits seamlessly with everything I have ever understood in scripture.
I want to be crystal clear on this - I don't think of my crucifixion in Christ as a metaphor in any sense - it was as literal as literal can be.
I'm just too lazy to think about it right now...
I tried to keep the post small so that people would read it rather than scan over it, but it is a big topic.
Totally off topic...
Hi, just found your page via Rebecca Writes, and I wanted to invite you to join a new blogroll called Canadian Crossbloggers. It is meant to be a blogroll made up of Canadian Christians (or Christian Canadians, for those picky about whose allegiance comes first! ;-)) and a starting point for entering into dialogue with each other for the purpose of glorifying God and His Kingdom here in Canada. I hope it will both edify its members and become a reference point for the Canadian Blogging scene.
Please check us out: the url for now is http://crossbloggers.thehighplaces.com. Hopefully shortly the domain name http://crossbloggers.ca will kick in. If you would like to join, please let me know and I can add you to the roll and send you info on how to add the blogroll to your blog.
Thank you and God bless!
"He who knew no sin, became sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" II Cor. 5:20.
Are you saying that Christ didn't die in my place, Daniel? Rather that I died in Him literally, as if I was an preexisting soul/entity prior to receiving my body. This sounds more like Origen's idea on the eternality of souls, rather than Christian thought--if that's what you're saying.
I disagree with this, with all due respect. I do not believe that I suffered the penalty for my sin with Jesus Christ. How could I have? The consequence for sin is not merely physical death, is it? How could I have literally undergone an eternity of spiritual suffering in Jesus Christ?
The rammifications of me bearing my own sin seem disasterous for worship. Which is more exclusive of my boasting? That Christ bore my sin with me, or that He bore my sin for me?
Peter uses the metaphor of the arc and Noah. Noah was in the arc, and thus weathered the storm. But certainly the arc bore the fury of it, not Noah himself.
Finally, is there anyone else who shares this opinion of the atonement with you? I'd be interested to see who does and if they answered these questions.
As the Centurion prophicied, you have tweeked my short hairs.
I don't know if I can agree with you on this Dan. The first thing that comes to mind is that all the OT foreshadowing about Christ being our passover lamb seems to be against what you are suggesting.
Daniel, I love the image of Christ making himself a siamese twin with me! This post does help me clear up my own questions a bit. I've copied the bible passages that came to mind as I was writing - I'd wondered about their mysteriousness...
(3)Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (4)We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
2 Corinthians 4
(10)We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (11)For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. (12)So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
I guess I have to disagree a bit with Sojourner. While the ark surely bore the brunt of the storm, Noah surely suffered for it as well! Think of the smells, the crowding, the flies, the stale food supply, the heat, the work feeding and tending, and worst of all the sheer volume of poop that must have been produced! Then, when they finally got out, he didn't exactly have a house with a garden, a large screen TV and a plaque on the wall waiting for him...God didn't pick him up and set him on a cloud until it was over. He was required to participate (albeit finitely)in the saving of the planet.
First and foremost, I appreciate your willingness to address this with me. Thank you for that. I hope you will be patient with me as I try to answer your concerns.
The union between myself and Christ is not a physical, but a spiritual union. The moment I was saved, I was baptized, not into water, but into Christ, into a spiritual union with my Savior. That is what scripture teaches.
I personally have no idea how anyone could literally undergo an eternity of spiritual suffering in Jesus Christ, if that is what actually happened there. But I can't fathom the trinity either, though I believe it to be true because that is what the scriptures say. Notwithstanding, my inability to rationalize the eternal seems quite appropriate given my perspective, which is not to suggest that I accept this speculation as a given, but rather that whether I agree with the idea that Christ suffered an eternity on the cross or not is irrelevant, since even if I did share that opinion, I lack any perspective to make that opinion more than a speculation, even if I have a real good gut feeling about it.
With regards to boasting, I could agree with your conclusion providing I first accepted your description of the picture, but your description does not reflect in my understanding, what I was trying to paint. If you suspect that I am suggesting that I am my own co-savior, God forbid!
I am glad that you brought up the metaphor of the ark and Noah, because that is the exact metaphor that I would have used to describe it. Just as Noah was in the ark when God poured out the flood of His wrath on the earth, and because He was in the ark He was carried through God's wrath unscathed -- so too I was in Christ when God poured out his fury on Him on the cross, and because I was in Christ I came through unscathed. My point is that God was in no way directing His wrath at Christ, just as God was not directing His wrath at some ark made out of gopher wood - rather God was pouring His wrath out on sinners, and those sinners who by grace were chosen to be in the ark were not harmed by it, but they -did- pass through it.
You see, I am not suggesting that I was co-equal with Christ in this arrangement, the heart of my suggestion is that just as God was not directing his wrath at the ark, so too, God was not directing his wrath at Christ, but rather at the sinful thing Christ was bearing. Christ gave not only his body as the ark, but His spirit, and since my spirit and his were joined, when God punished me in Christ, Christ bore my death, in fact, my death became his death, not that he died in my stead, but that he died for my sake, because in dying with me, He put to death the thing that was killing me - "the sin." When God raised Jesus up, He raised me up with Him - a new creation.
I don't suggest that I bore my own sin, but that Christ bore "me" as opposed to my disembodied "sins" - and when I say "me" I am talking about the exact same thing Paul is talking about in Romans six.
Let me know if that clarifies or confuses. I know I am bringing strange things to your ears, but I am working through this in the open, and don't mind any correction or instruction in the matter.
Bobby asked, "Are you saying that Christ didn't die in my place, Daniel?"
Yes and no. You died in Christ, and with Christ if you are a Christian. That isn't a metaphor, it is -the- atonement. The question is whether God fixed gaze on you as He crucified His son, or whether He crucified you in Christ who died while bearing you there for the purpose of saving your life through the same union that killed Him, such that when God raised up Christ, He raised up you who were in Him.
The death that you died, you died in Christ.
As to preexisting souls and whatnot, I don't buy that idea at all. Time did not exist until God created a universe and set time as one of its attributes. If God exists aside from the universe, it is fair to conclude that He likewise exists aside from time itself - and as such, any speculation that limits the activity of God to a calander event is categorically flawed. I see nothing whatsoever inconsistent in saying that the age of my sould is absolutely inconsequential to my status in Christ on the cross. The pouring out of God's wrath happened in the spiritual realm, and it would be the height of arrogance to pronounce restrictions upon what God can and cannot do in a realm we know next to nothing about.
I see no biblical basis for the idea of a preexisting soul. I likewise do not imagine that God creates my soul the moment I am born - that would make my soul a new creation, and free from the curse (presuming of course that God does not create pre-cursed souls), leaving me with, I suppose, a traducian perspective - that is, that the soul is transmitted along with the body through the process of procreation - but even this is speculative. Scripture hasn't revealed a solid answer to this question, but I think the latter has perhaps the best footing from scripture. Either way, I am certainly not suggesting a preexisting soul.
Let me know if that cleared that up or not.
Bryan - what do you think about the scapegoat and the description of the atonement in Leviticus? It seems that would be a good place to start comparisons.
I am not sure how anything I have suggested would contradict the idea of the passover lamb, perhaps I am just dumb? Let me know what you see so I can think about it and possibly address it.
Ma-lady, I wasn't a big fan of the siamese twin image myself, but how does one picture an inseparable union so that God is not punishing an innocent man (Christ), but a guilty sinner (us), in such a way that the penalty kills us both, and at the same time show that the whole point of this union was so that when we died, our death would be legitimate, but that God would have a legitimate and righteous reason to raise us up again - because we were united to someone whom God cannot keep in the grave because He didn't deserve the grave.
I think Brad (sojourner) rightly identifies the ark and Noah as a biblical foreshadowing of the atonement. Brad's concern is probably centered in the language I was using - Brad is defending against the notion that I am my own Savior (albeit "in Christ"), I agree with him on that point.
I think people tend to overlook our union with Christ when they consider the atonement; whatever model got them through the door, that must be the right one, since it made sense to them at the time. Many times in sharing the gospel I have found myself sharing the Penal Substitution Model because it explains in a comprehensive way, that sin is a problem that is either going to be dealt with when we die (hell), or can be dealt with in Christ thereby saving us from sin's eternal consequences. It is only as I begin to look at it that I find the idea of a substitute doesn't mesh with scripture as harmoniously as that of a surrogate union.
Ma-lady, perhaps a better model than the siamese twins would have been that of pregnancy - whereby the sinner is thought of as a woman condemned to die, who is condemned to die by being given a lethal injection. In this model the union would be similar to Christ putting himself in her womb as an unborn child, at the moment that she receives the lethal injection - she dies for her sin, and Christ also dies with her.
But because Christ was innocent, God has to raise Him up again, and in doing so He must raise the sinful "mom" as well, since she is still joined to Christ whom God's righteousness determined must be raised.
No model is perfect however. But this one is perhaps a little better than the siamese twins.
Brad - one more thing, you asked if there was anyone else that I knew of that shared my understanding of the atonement.
Nope. Not even one. Which is why I prefer to say - this is my opinion and ask people to find what is wrong with it and instruct out of it if there is room to do so, rather than concluding that my opinion is right no matter what anyone else thinks. I don't hold it lightly, but I don't want to hold it if it is untenable.
Daniel - I got the idea of separate individuals with total identification and shared experience which is why I so liked the siamese twins model. I am a mom a few times over...my role as a pregnant mother is so different than my role with Christ that I can't equate your other analogy, though I see how it applies to your thought.
I do have a lot of digesting to do, and I am glad to read your stuff because you ARE a student of Greek (while I'm not) with a mind for Christ alive as well as theological excellence.
I suppose I'll be expanding my comments in a post back at "reflections" (if I find the time) because the subject of how righteous suffering fits in is really a side note to what you have here...but I think it is integral and I can't seem to ignore it!
MaLady, I like that aspect of the siamese twins model as well - the trouble is there really isn't any model that can both portray my death in Christ and my being raised in Christ. There are a few models that work well for one or the other, but when we try and find one that does both, it gets sloppy.
My hope is that my understanding of the atonement not only makes sense, but is entirely consistent with a straightforward reading of scripture in any language. There are a lot of views on the atonement, and several views are wonderfully rational explanations of how and why God did what he did. The only problem I have with the Penal Substitution model is that in it God punishes an innocent person instead of a guilty person, which does not seem harmonious with the character of God who would not destroy Sodom if even ten righteous men were found in it. The arguments for headship and substitution are all founded upon the idea that God --had-- to punish sin, and in that they are rightly grounded, but their apology for how that happens is where I have some difficulty.
According to my understanding of the atonement, the cosmic blindfolding of God is not necessary - God is free to punish "me" directly in Christ, We both die, but for Christ that death was both body and Spirit, whereas for me, it was only in my spirit which Christ had taken in union into His spirit.
This is one of those topics that I think few people bother thinking about. It is perhaps, the most important doctrine in the Christian faith, for it really is quite foundational to the rest of our soteriology.
Before I get to the main response, I want to make clear my concerns on this idea of atonement so that you'll know where I'm coming from:
1. By your own admission, this is a novel idea. While that does not make it necessarily wrong, it merits caution.
2. The idea of imputation goes beyond Christ dying in my stead. I'd like to hear how you understand our imputation of sin to Christ and his imputation of righteousness to us. This is the most alarming thing to me, because many Scriptures teach that our sins were laid upon Christ(Isa. 53:6,12; John 1:29; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 9:28).
3. I am concerned that this idea, though it may not make one "co-equal" in the atonement, does give us room to say that in some measure, we suffered for our sins.
Now, let me move on to some things I find confusing about the language:
"Christ gave not only his body as the ark, but His spirit, and since my spirit and his were joined, when God punished me in Christ, Christ bore my death, in fact, my death became his death, not that he died in my stead, but that he died for my sake, because in dying with me, He put to death the thing that was killing me - "the sin."
The bold section highlights the statement that you believe that God punished you, not Christ, on the cross. This idea is what I cannot agree to in the slightest. God punished your sins on the cross, upon that we can agree I believe. But the idea that He punished you is nowhere to be found in the Bible. The only place I can think of that could be contrued to teach such a thing is Gal. 2:20, but I do not think that this explanation will hold. There, it says that Christ "loved me and gave Himself for me." If you will look up the Greek word translated "For" huper you will find that with the genitive it can be translated "for, in behalf of, for the sake of." (Louis Berkhof argues with A.T. Robertson that in these and other places huper means "instead of"). I cannot see how this squares with the idea that God punished me and not Christ.
If Christ is dying in my behalf, and if he is dying for my sin, and if I am not bearing the wrath of God, and if I did not receive the punishment due for my sin, how can it not follow that Christ's death is then vicarious?
I suppose my question is how can it be that Christ died for my sake and not in my place? For example, if God's punishment for my sin would be for me to die of a gunshot, and Christ threw himself in front of the bullet, thereby sparing me, would that be vicarious suffering?
You may answwer, "No, it was only for your sake, God was aiming at you." I answer that it is then you who are overlooking the spiritual union of myself to Christ. Christ was so closely identified with me in this union that He took on my guilt and himself bore the consequence in my behalf. Is this not what 2 Cor. 5:21 teaches? I hope that this helps you understand the beginning of my objections.
Thanks for taking the time to respond to me on this.
1. I agree, my understanding is quite novel, and hence my willingness to be instructed out of it, if possible; and I agree wholeheartedly about the need for caution - to be sure, I would rather put it out there and have it rigorously questioned than to keep it in secret and let my confidence in it grow unchecked. My hope is, of course, that this exercise will be fruitful, not only for myself, but for all who enter into it.
2. My understanding of the imputation of my sin to Christ, and His righteousness to my account is summarized in Romans 6:3-5, that is, that I was immersed into Christ, and by this immersion, into His death, and through this same immersion into His resurrection, but I will explain the same in the verses you have sighted:
Isaiah 53:6b "...and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." [ESV]
The word translated here as "laid" is paga, and it can mean "join" or "to caused to be joined with" - your knowledge of the Hebrew, being superior to mine, and your good conscience, will inform you as to whether or not it is impossible to render the text thus:
"...and the LORD has caused to be joined to Him the sin of us all."
I don't suggest that the text demands that particular translation, I only suggest that it doesn't dismiss it.
But the point is not mooted even should this translation fail - for what is being said here does not contradict what Paul teaches about our union with Christ - that it is because our old self was united with Christ on the cross, that our new creation can be united with Him in His having been raised. Whatever is to be understood as "iniquity" here (singular) I would understand to be the thing Paul describes as our "old man" - and unless the language used here decisively defeats the idea of the union described in Romans six - I would say that this doesn't describe an imputation, but rather all our sin coming together in one person literally, and not by way of some forensic imputation.
Isaiah 53:12 - "Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors." [ESV]
My presumption here is you would like to know how I understand the bearing of our sin (singular) in this passage. I think Christ received our sin (singular), that is, what Paul describes as our "old self" - the thing that was crucified in Christ. I think that is what Christ bore - "the sin" of many, as opposed to the "sins" of many. If I said that Christ bore the "sin nature" of many, perhaps the distinction would be less confusing? Interesting to note - the word translated here as "make intercession" is the same word that was translated in our previous verse as "laid on" - that is, we may well not be harming the text if we translated it as "yet he bore the sin of many and joined to (met together with) the transgressors."
Again, not that we need such a clumsy translation, for the point is clearly understood without the translation, though veiled somewhat by the language.
John 1:29 "The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
In Leviticus we read about the scapegoat. You know the story - the one goat belongs to the Lord and it is the sin offering - the other, the scapegoat is for the atoning - the sins were confessed over that goat, and it was the one that was released into the wilderness to "take away" Israel's sin. I think this was the imagery being employed by John here. Jesus was both the Sin Offering, and the Scapegoat, His flesh would die as an offering for sin, and his spirit would be united together with the sinner's spirit that union described in Romans 6 so that when the true Scapegoat was released (died), He took with Him into the grave, all condemnation associated with sin - satisfying the righteous requirement of the law.
I think that what Christ took into the grave with him is described in Romans 6 - not merely my sins, but what Paul describes as my "old man" after personifying it previously in the first person plural ("we" were crucified with Christ, "we" were buried with Him, not that we were metaphorically in Christ through our water baptism, as some seem to understand this passage, but rather that we were literally crucified in Christ, buried in Christ - because, as Paul has just said - we have been baptized into (that is placed entirely within) Christ.
Christ took away not the sins (plural) of the world, but the sin (singular) of the world. He took our sin to the cross, and bore it so that He could take it into death with Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21 - "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
The problem with poetic imagery is that it doesn't make much sense unless we understand it as imagery. Perhaps this was a line from a hymn, or perhaps Paul was just waxing eloquent, but I do not think that Paul was suggesting that God turned Jesus into some sort of "generic sin thing" - but rather, God put on Christ something very specific - He made Christ to be our sin, and not just generic sin. and the righteousness that God made us to be is not generic righteousness - but the righteousness of God - specifically, Christ's righteousness.
I take this to mean that God is the one who put us into Christ, since we become the righteousness of God "in" Christ. The language is difficult to navigate, but it doesn't dismiss what I have been saying, and like all the other verses mentioned, seems to be a perfect fit.
Hebrews 9:28 - "so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him."
I think the author is referring back to Isaiah 53:12, so my response would be similar to that.
Now, about the thing that you find most confusing about my language "when God punished me" - I was using the same language Paul used in Romans six only I used the singular first person where Paul used the plural. If Paul says that "we" were in Christ - I believe him, and I presume that as an inclusive member of those who are in Christ, it is not inaccurate to say that "I" am in Christ. That was where the language came from, but I can see how my wording here lends itself to more than I am trying to say.
Perhaps it is better (and more accurate) to say that I am inclined to believe that God's wrath was not directed at Christ, but was directed at that part of "us" which was in Christ at the time.
I cannot find a verse that refers to Christ as my substitute. But I do find verses in scripture that refer to my sin being borne by Christ on the cross, and I see that in Romans 8:3 God condemned sin in the flesh, presumably this was my sin that was condemned in Christ. Not that Christ was condemned, but that sin was condemned in Christ. Not that Christ was condemned as my substitute, but that something of myself was in Christ and condemned there in such a way as to destroy Christ along with it.
You ask, how can Christ die for my sake and not in my place. My answer is that it wasn't Christ's death that appeased God, it was the death of sin that appeased God. That is what God was condemning. Christ's death was sacrificial - he gave his life in this way - not as the appeasement in our stead, but as the vehicle by which we could be brought through the wrath of God unscathed - in exactly the same way that Noah's ark was the vehicle by which Noah passed unscathed through the wrath of God. Christ enabled our propitiation by giving God a "place" to condemn sin, He brokered our propitiation at the expense of his own life, but it wasn't as if his life were given in our place, rather it was his life was joined to ours so that God could destroy our sin, and still raise us up.
I believe I do understand the beginning of your objections, but correct me if I am wrong in these various presumptions:
I presume that you believe (as do I) that every sin that has ever been sinned, and ever will be sinned, must be punished or God is not righteous.
I presume that your understanding of the atonement boils down to us transferring our sin to Christ, and Christ being punished instead of us.
I too should like to know how you deal with a just God punishing Jesus. Do you make Christ truly guilty so that God can justly punish Him, and if so, how can God raise up a man who was truly sinful? Or do you keep Christ innocent, so that God punishes an innocent man instead of the guilty one (and if this latter one, how do you get around the injustice of such an act?)
One of the biggest problems I have with the penal substitution model is that either God has no grounds to raise up Christ, or if he does, he has no grounds to kill him.
In my "model" Christ is sacrificing his life in order to redeem what God is condemning - and Christ is not condemned, nor is God unjust for condemning sin.
This reply is long enough, and are you not supposed to be studying for your doctorate? I don't want to be a tool in our enemies hands in pulling you away from your studies.
But all the same, I do want to have a right understanding of the atonement, and as you seem to be the only one interested in really plumbing the depths with me, I readily am thankful for the discourse.
Thanks again Brad. If I seem to be contrary or thick skilled, please say as much, I am not in this to win an argument, but to sharpen my understanding. Please forgive the typos, mispellings, and grammar errors I didn't really proofread it.
I am not nearly as educated or as well-spoken as either of you but I did write out how I understand this topic over on my little blog "spot".
Your reference to the Hebrew word paga is exactly why I referenced your being a student of Greek - I'm very aware that identifying nuances are easily lost or limited in translation and I have to back off from being sure of them in response.
You mentioned that few people think of this in depth. I'll say that I've thought of it a lot and settled on the perspective that it is more of a 3-D or 4-D idea than an easily drawn 2-D line. God has a perogative to have more complicated thought patterns than us, no?
Just to let you know, I'm uber-busy today and tomorrow. If I don't get back to you tonight, it may be Thursday. I'm writing just to let you know that I haven't gotten bored and haven't let it drop because of that. I think that this is very important.
In short, I will say that God can punish Jesus, though innocent, because He chose to represent me. You can probably guess that I advocate a headship in Christ, the Second Adam. Jesus is a sort of kinsman redeemer who pays my debt; He did not acquire the debt, but He is able to pay the consequences of my burden.
Brad - I appreciate your schedule, I know what busy looks like ;-) and I look forward to hearing your continuing thoughts on the matter.