A Question I Was Asked:

Can You Give Us All a Reminder of What 'Substitutionary Atonement' Means?

I understand that you, and most of Christian theology, accepts the teaching of 'substitutionary atonement.' I think I understand what that means but can you give us all a reminder?

UK Apologetics Reply:

This is the very plainly biblical teaching that the sacrifice, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ was - and is - fully necessary in order for men and women to be saved, that is, in order for us to enter the kingdom of God. We Christians believe that we are already citizens of that kingdom and will more fully inherit it in the future. But more on this point later in this article, so make sure you read to the end.

Okay, so how does all of this work?

It is all according to the eternal design and plan of God. Mankind fell from grace in the Garden of Eden when they decided to follow Satan, rather than the Lord God, choosing his way of life (human experimentation without access to divine revelation). Yet God the Father so loved us, His human creation, that He sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to facilitate our salvation. Adam and Eve had chosen sin and rebellion as a path for all their future children to follow, now we were being offered a pathway back.

Jesus, the Word, became man and bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24), He died in our place, suffering the consequences of breaking the Law (1 John 3:4), which is physical death (Romans 6:23) and spiritual death (Isaiah 59:2), causing a full separation from God. So the Lord Jesus Christ became sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21), His sacrifice amounting to a substitution for us (1 John 2:2; John 19:30; 1 Peter 2:24). That action was fully legal since sin is breaking God's Law (1 John 3:4) and fully 'substitutionary' since Christ took our punishment (Isaiah 53:4-6) upon Himself, tasting death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9). So all of this involved an exchange in which Christ took our sins upon Himself, and we took His righteousness, so we are saved by His righteousness, certainly not by our own, of course. It could happen because the value of the life of the Son of God was far greater than the value of every single human being ever born in every age.

As a result of this mighty work of God, God's justice can be satisfied; Christian believers are released from eternal punishment (1 Peter 3:18; Matthew 1:21; 25:46; Romans 5; 1 John 2:2), and their sinful debt has now been cancelled (Colossians 2:14).

And that's it, that's 'Substitionary Atonement,' it is what the New Testament plainly teaches.

But do some modern Christians not accept this teaching? Most certainly, they are liberal Christians who rather like the idea of Jesus, but create Him in their own image. Some are uncomfortable with the whole idea that one had to die for many thousands or millions and so they change the essential message, but none of us has any right to do that, this is a divine teaching.

Of course, one might not fully understand the teaching and still be saved because we are not saved by knowledge, yet one should not attempt to tamper with this essential teaching just to be trendy, or for any other reason.

just before closing, it might be interesting to look at the three stages of how a true believer enters God's kingdom:

The three stages of a Christian's inheritance of the kingdom of God:

1. In this life, at the time of Christian conversion. See Romans 6:3-5; Romans 8:1-4,14-17; Ephesians 1:11-14.

2. After death, when our souls ascend to Heaven to be comforted and assured by God in the presence of the angels and in the company of the souls of other believers. See Luke 23:42-43; Acts 7:55,59; 2 Corinthians 5:1-9; Philippians 1:21-24; Revelation 6:9-11.

3. At the time of the resurrection of the dead when a Christian truly inherits "all things" and more fully enters the family of God (though, of course, never becoming 'God beings' as God is God). At that point, we are no longer just 'souls' but will have new spirit-empowered bodies! It is very likely that we will be able to travel, at great speed, between Heaven and Earth. Our God will surely then have other tasks for us but it is not yet revealed what these might be. For sure, we will then be in the company of God for Eternity. See 1 Corinthians 15:35-52; Revelation 21:1-4.

Robin A. Brace. February 20th, 2015.