Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.
Hebrews 10 says:
When [Christ] had offered for all time
one sacrifice for sins
he sat down at the right hand of God,
and since that time
he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool.
For by one sacrifice
he has made perfect forever
those who are being made holy (vv. 12-14).
It might surprise evangelicals to hear that the “substitutionary atonement” theory we learned in Sunday school and church is a relatively recent development in Christian history and theology.
In the first thousand years of Christianity, the most common view was likely the “Christ as Victor” view, which teaches that Christ died to defeat the powers of evil–sin, death, and the devil. This theory doesn’t provide a detailed explanation of how Christ shares his victory with us.
Another early view was the ransom theory: through Adam and Eve’s sin, the human race became hostages to Satan. Christ’s death was a ransom God paid to the devil to release us.
In the 12th century, theologian Anselm was offended by the thought of God paying a ransom to Satan, so he moved the atonement from a kidnapping and ransom metaphor to a debt and repayment transaction. His take was that we owe God a debt of obedience and honor, but our sin dishonored God and incurred a debt. Jesus paid the debt on our behalf and satisfied the injury done to the divine honor.
Late medieval and Reformation theologians changed the metaphor again, moving it into the courtroom. Our sin requires punishment, not just repayment of a debt. We deserve to die, but Christ stood in God’s courtroom and accepted the sentence of death, so the judge could declare us not guilty.
In other atonement theories, Christ is a suffering servant, not a sacrifice. For example, in the scapegoat theory, Christ was a victim, not of God’s wrath, but of human malice and anger. By receiving our sin, he exposed and rendered ineffective human violence.
In Mere Christianity, CS Lewis wrote, “Theories about Christ’s death are not Christianity; they are explanations about how it works.” He pointed out that we trust in Christ for salvation, not in our favorite theory about how his death works for us.
Our father, we receive the many pictures scripture provides to describe what Jesus’ death and resurrection mean for us.
In Isaiah’s story, we are sheep gone astray, and the suffering servant bears our iniquities and heals our wounds.
The author of Hebrews says that sin requires sacrifice for cleansing and forgiveness. We accept Jesus’ death as the sacrifice that washes away the dirt of sin.
Like the mob under Jesus’ cross, we have vented on Jesus our anger at you, God. But now we surrender to Jesus, receiving his prayer, “Forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
In the Lord’s Prayer we say, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” We owe you an unpayable debt, and we accept Christ’s payment on our behalf.
We have been hostages to sin. We accept Christ’s ransom that sets us free.
Like the prodigal, we are lost and we need to find our way home to you, our father. We accept Jesus as our only way.
In the courtroom of your justice, we see the evidence of our sin and we plead, “Guilty as charged”. We accept Christ’s offer to take our guilt and punishment, declaring us righteous.
Like a country defeated in war, we need a commander to lead us to victory. We accept Jesus as our king, who conquers sin and death, and leads us into everlasting life.
I’m Daniel, on the channel “Pray with Me”.