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October 15, 2013

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Andrew R Walsh

Praise the LORD for your insights into Isaiah's prophecy of the Suffering Savior. This has helped me beyond words as I have been a strong Calvinist, penal substitutionary atonement believer for some years after converting from Roman Catholicism at age 21. I started to doubt this view PSA about 2 years ago and have struggled with it. Now I am more convinced than ever of the view you teach and the Christus Victor teaching as more compatible with scripture and the drama of Christ's life, passion , death, burial and resurrection. This Restoration view and Reconciliation go hand in hand. "Father forgive them for they know not what they do" makes me drop to my knees in thanksgiving and adoration of our Savior and Redeemer. Jesus was the Overcomer who obeyed His Father. The Father said several times, "This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." The Father was in Christ and was not separated from Him at the Cross. Love and forgiveness was in the heart of the Trinity not retribution. God's grace ruled and Jesus and His Father absorbed the blows. Thank you for posting. God bless you.

Joe

Thanks for this post. I just recently blogged on this specific thing and found your post after blogging - as I hadn't studied Isaiah 53 in detail. Feel free to comment on my blog, as this is kind of the beginning of me starting to discuss all of this openly, so I haven't done all the homework to defend my viewpoint. I do see the Scriptures in the New Testament teaching that God is good, and that Jesus died at the hands of angry humans, not at the hands of an angry God. I just haven't studied all the relevant texts yet.

Greg Rupert

In response to Josh: 40 years in various and numerous Protestant groups. THIS was the ONLY view To which I was exposed. When I ask my fellow Christian friends if they believe in penal substitution they reply with absolutely not. When I describe it the say of course, and won't even consider the possibility of another view. I would say, as a Protestant, you are the exception and penal substitutin IS the prevalent "Protestant view." Don't be offended, m'friend. Be proud that you've been willing to think outside the box!

Todd Holcomb

I think this article is asking the wrong question. It looks at who does the killing of the Son but not at who WILLS the death of the Son. Jesus' death was an act of submission to the Father's will. He is very clear on this in the Gospels, and the Epistles concur.

If Jesus death was not an atonement, then why send Him to die? Why is the forgiveness of this murderous sin committed by the mob necessary for breaking the cycle of sin and death? What about all of mankind's other sins? If, "God did not punish the Servant in order to heal us! Humans punished the Servant and God healed us in spite of and through it", then why can't God simply forgive sin? The key question is, "Why did Jesus have to die?"

We should keep in mind that Jesus is the Lamb of God who was slain from before the foundation of the world. Jesus was a willing sacrifice. That is very clear throughout the Old and New Testaments. He is the ram caught in the bushes who replaces Isaac on the altar. He is the Passover Lamb. He is the atonement. He is the scapegoat. He is the propitiation for our sins. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And He did so through His death and resurrection.

Roger Berry

Thank you for your very helpful article on Isaiah 53. I don’t regard it as an argument about doctrine - who’s got it right and who’s got it wrong. It’s about something infinitely more important - the true nature of God.

I would like, if I may, to add some of my own thoughts. Not on word-play, but on trying to understand the relationship of God and man.

Going back to Genesis 2 - to the peculiar set of events that happened on day 6. Animals were created and were without God’s breathed-in Spirit, then man was created in the image of God with the breathed-in Spirit. God sends Adam to the animals to show him that he cannot have a deep soul relationship with them because they are not his ‘kind’.
He then creates Eve from Adam who, by contrast, is his ‘kind’ and they are able to have deep spiritual relationship.
Adam is a type of Christ, Eve is a type of the Church. In order for Christ to have deep relationship with fallen mankind they have to be of the same ‘kind’ as Him.
In order for that to be possible, not only did Jesus have to become a human being, but also had to become like us in our sinful nature. Accomplished through His life and then His death on the cross.
In addition, man also had to become like Jesus by becoming spiritually alive (once again) which was made possible by Jesus’ resurrection. His death and resurrection were then an act of making it possible for Jesus and man to be of the same ‘kind’ so that intimate relationship could happen. The atonement is therefore primarily about identification – the bringing together of Jesus and man as the same ‘kind’.

This is made clearer in Genesis 3 when we read of the account of the fall.
Let’s consider for a moment the person of Adam. He is created as human number one, made by supreme love to live by love. He is fully equipped to head-up the human race and rule the earth in wisdom and love.
When Eve was deceived by the serpent, Adam was not deceived (1Timothy 2:13) but was faced with a very real problem. He knew that Eve would now have to die because God had told him (Genesis 2:17). To let her go meant losing the one he loved in the deepest possible way (Genesis 2:24) and then to face eternity unable to express his love – which was the reason for his existence.
But there was one other way open to him. He could take her sin upon himself and go with her and die with her. Jesus said (John 15:13), ‘Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.’
We may look upon Adam’s act as man’s greatest mistake, but could also be one of man’s greatest acts of love – which is what you would expect from God’s first (and un-fallen) created human being. This kind faithful love is also beautifully pictured in Ruth 1:16-17 – ‘Where you go, I will go . . . where you die, I will die’.

I am proposing that Adam’s act of self-sacrifice is a foreshadow of the atonement – the greatest ever act of love. Just as Adam willingly took upon himself Eve’s sin, that they remain together even unto death, Jesus was pleased to take upon himself our sin for the same reason. To become ‘like’ us so He could enter into our death.
Of course, with Jesus it does not end in death, but in resurrection. So when we willingly accept him as our Saviour, we are, in effect, choosing to be ‘like’ Him in His spiritual perfection. Then the ‘likeness’ is complete and in oneness, we can rise to glorious new life through Him, and with Him.

Josh

Good article. Good basic understanding of the text. I would, however, object to your use of terms like, "the Protestant view." There are MULTIPLE views of the Atonement within the various Protestant traditions. I am a Protestant and personally hold to a more "Christus Victor" view, and have read and interpreted the text much as you have for most of my life. How about just calling it what it is: penal substitutionary theory, instead of labeling it something it's not? Thanks! Blessings man, good stuff.

Tiffany Roney

That is amazing. This gave me chills. And it helps me conquer the sin in my own life - to see that sin crushes Jesus. My Jesus, whom I love. Thank you so much for sharing this. And when I saw "restoration," I squealed aloud - it is currently one of my favorite things about God. Thanks again! God led me here for sure, I know it, because I recently heard in a song/verse (can't remember) that it pleased God to crush Him, and it hurt me to hear that, so this really helps. Thank you so much!

Brad

Re. 2 Cor. 5

'Substitution' might indeed be a fair term to describe the Isa. 61 type saving 'exchange' described in 2 Cor. 5. But this type of substitution is much different than the appeasement of retributive wrath often associated with that word. I see this in context as follows:

1. Christ identifies with those under the curse and steps in to bear the weight of our plight in solidarity and identification with us.

2. But rather than the Father then punishing the Son:

a. God is IN the Son,
b. NOT counting our sins against us (not NEEDING to satisfy his wrath, but freely forgiving us),
c. and Reconciling the world to himself.

So while substitution is surely a fair word, that's only so in the context of identification, exchange and forgiveness, rather than the assumption of wrath-appeasement found in Calvin or Edwards.

Clarion Journal

With regard to the 'optimistic idealism,' I would say Santo is drawing from the NT use of Zech. 12 which indeed does say that 'We will look on him, the one we have pierced, and we will mourn.' This is not just about seeing the crucifixion act and being swayed, but rather, the power of the revelation of the Cross as God's decisive act of love and forgiveness ... and how this can open the eyes and turn the heart to repentance. It was this kind of 'optimistic idealism' that seems to be in the heart of the Father when he sends his Son to save the world.

As for the parables, I think you make a point that is often overlooked. When the One (the king, master, tenant) sends his Son and the world kills him, he seems very, very retributive. But notice that the retribution is not directed at his Son. Moreover, the punchline of the parables IS the death and resurrection of Christ, where the just penalty of the murder of the Son is NOT in fact retribution, but rather, 'Father, forgive them.'

Dan

Just playing the advocate role, but what about 2 cor 5:21 - that God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness if God. Isn't that quite clearly substitution?

Mia den Hertog

Wow, how good is this!!
Love the way you described it and it reminded me of romans 4:25 where the word 'dia' was used.
Thanks for this!

Daniel Koerner

I am troubled by this article in many ways, but what I'll comment on particularly is the optimistic idealism that seems to lie behind the thought. It seems as though God's "beneficent act" of the forgiveness of the murderers of His only begotten Son is expected to "turn the tide" and shame the murderers into repentance. Human history itself gives the lie to that type of expectation. Besides that, the theological framing of the whole argument moves entirely opposite to Jesus own words in the parable of the tenant farmers who murder the owner's son when he comes to collect the rent. The Owner acts there with justice which is both retributive and redemptive (the kingdom continues, given to a new group of 'adopted' tenants)

Florian Berndt

Yeeessss! This confirms so much what I've been getting while meditating on this particular piece of Scripture - and it makes so far more sense in its overall context. Thanks so much for sharing!

Susannah

Wow! I love how you showed these verses in their true light, going back to the original languages! I had been especially troubled by verse 10 about the Lord "being pleased/willing to crush Him" - and what a relief to read what you shared about the way the Greek translates it...It just makes so much sense! He stops the cycle of sin and pain by giving us love instead of anger, forgiveness instead of retaliation. When we are shown such surprising grace right in the midst of our sin, it just melts our hearts and draws us to Him in love and awe... Thank you for this wonderful article, so great to read!

Rene Lafaut

Just love the article! What a fresh and wholesome presentation! It gives new understanding to the truth that Jesus actually identifies Himself with us and takes on our hurts, pain, and violation from the foundation of the world to the end... and He does so, so that He can heal us. The words: He became sin so that we could become the righteousness of God should paraphrased as: He became mutilated in the flesh so that we could become the health of God in the spirit.

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