Sunday, August 30, 2020

Soteriology: 3 Views of the Atonement


There is a savior for forgiveness. There is a way out of the wilderness. This is a journey that can be made, pain after pain, event after event, joy and sorrow, peace and unsettled, despair and ecstasy, knowledge after knowledge, humbled into pieces, reception of Christ Jesus, and reconnection born after, ever burdened by sin after sin, carrying the incredible weight of distance from his presence, but promised something we cannot see, taste, or touch, yet believing and hoping, against all odds, and on the way changing the world, sharing that fountain with others, day after endless day, eyes to the horizon, head in the clouds, feet on the ground, stunning and shaken, screaming in sadness, victorious shout, endless eternity awaiting those who can just hold out to the end. Great happiness to those who finish this journey. That's what it means to me.. being a Christian.

Today we are talking about soteriology, that is, the study of salvation. And in particular we are talking about the atonement today. We are talking about what happened at the end, when Jesus was judged as guilty, beaten, chained, and made to carry a hunk of wood to a dump to be executed.

I want to get you a general overview of the issues in the concepts of salvation that are prominent in evangelical Christianity. But ultimately I want to get to what this looks like for you practically. Essentially, we can boil down soteriology to the question: What does it mean to saved? What does it mean to possess salvation?

And for salvation, we must ultimately look to what happened at the cross of Jesus Christ. What was it about this event that was able to bring salvation to so many billions of people through history and to today?

There are three primary views within evangelicalism, they are first, penal substitutionary atonement, second, Christus Victor, and third, The Moral government view. Let’s go through these views one by one, and I think you’ll each of them portrays a good angle of what happened that fateful day.

Moral government view – This view suggests that the chief reason for the cross and how it impacts us, is for the purpose of “showing righteousness.” The idea here is that God’s wrath is shown at the cross, to show us how deadly the evil of sin is. The chief verse often used to defend this view is Romans 3:25-26 which says, “25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”

So this view is that God displays his own total authority over humanity and the world, and displays the truth that the universe is fundamentally moral. Every decision we make matter. So Christ’s death on the cross shows us the sinfulness of sin and the incredible value of righteousness. That is one perspective.

Christus victor view- This view suggests that the chief reason for the cross was for Christ to defeat Satan and all the works of the evil one.

This view suggests that the chief reason that Jesus came into the world was to overthrow the kingdom of Satan, for the scriptures say that this world is under the control of the evil one. You see that Jesus often cast out demons from people, and they see this is God’s kingdom program moving forward slowly but surely and defeating and pushing back the kingdoms of darkness. And the ultimate defeat of Satan’s kingdom was the cross and the resurrection of Jesus.

So they would see that authority over the world used to belong to Adam and Eve, but they sinned, and gave their authority to Satan, who ruled over the world until Jesus came, died and was resurrected and by so doing “disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public spectacle of them on the cross.”

So Christ’s victory on the cross sets us free from slavery to the evil one’s kingdom, slavery to sin, and slavery to death.

Penal substitutionary atonement view – This is probably the most common view, that Jesus Christ went to the cross because each of us individually owed a debt because of our sins, that we could not repay. We lived lives of sin and stood condemned before God. So Jesus Christ, the son of God came, and lived a perfect life, the sinless life none of us could live. And paradoxically, Jesus took the penalty for our sins. That’s why it’s called penal, penal refers to the penalty for sin. Jesus took our penalty for sin on the cross when he was slaughtered and God abandoned him to receive punishment for our sins. So penal, substitutionary in that Jesus stands in as a willing substitute for us. We were guilty of sin, deserved hell and punishment. But Jesus stepped in and offered himself as a substitute to be punished in our place. Penal Substitutionary atonement. Atonement, in that when Christ was punished for our sins on the cross, he atoned for our sins, he paid off the debt, and thus we are rendered perfect by Jesus. Our guilt is gone, our sin is gone, Jesus deleted it on the cross, and he rose from the dead as a display of what he will do for us after we day, raise us from the dead and give us eternal life. Jesus takes our sin, deletes it on the cross, and Jesus transfers his righteousness, his perfect life onto us, that’s why its called the great exchange. And that’s why in revelation it’s always pictured as the saints standing before the throne in white garments. That white garment is the righteousness of Jesus Christ that we wear in this life.

So those are the 3 main views, moral government, Christus victory, and penal substitution.

Now let’s scope outward for a second, because in soteriology there is also a wider debate about what salvation is. And these views can best be summed up as the classic debate between Calvinism and arminianism. I just want to give you a super quick description of this, just to give you an idea here, we aren’t going to go too far into this but, first,

Calvinism – TULIP
Total depravity- means humans are totally evil and lost and can make no approach to God on their own.

Unconditional election- nothing about us is good, God doesn’t choose us based on something about us, but in something about himself, his mercy.

Limited atonement- Christ did not die for the whole world, but only for those chosen by God for salvation.

Irresistable grace – No one can come to God, God forces us to come to himself, its not by choice.

Perseverance of the Saints- God keeps all those he chooses, you can never lose your salvation or fall away.

Arminianism 4 Motiffs
1. God loves all people – Jesus died for all people, and God wants all to be saved

2. Free Will - People are free to choose to accept or reject this love

3. Prevenient Grace - God graciously influences people to accept his love, but he does not coerce them.

4. Conditional Security - Believers must continue to maintain their relationship with God for their salvation to be secure.

These are the two main perspectives, but of course there are many variations on these perspectives. But that is the general debate within soteriology and theology today.

So how do we apply all this to our lives? I think very simply, we realize some key things about what Jesus did for us to save us. He died for us, to show God’s wrath against sin, and the great value of righteousness. Jesus also came to defeat Satan, and take back the keys of life and death, and set us free from the kingdom of darkness. And Jesus came to live the righteous life we couldn’t live and be a sacrifice for our sins.

And so we should explore theology and soteriology, Calvinism and arminianism to understand how this all works itself out. But I want you to recognize who you are in Christ:

"A Christian is not simply a person who is forgiven and goes to heaven. A Christian, in terms of his or her deepest identity, is a saint, a spiritually born child of God, a divine masterpiece, a child of light, a citizen of heaven."
- Neil T. Anderson

And to understand our place in this fallen world as Christians, those hwo have received atonement, Dietrich Bonhoeffer gives us a great understanding of that:

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. 'The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared' (Luther).” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

How does it apply to you personally?

You are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone.

And so join me brothers and sisters, indeed many of you already have, as we stand at this mission station, this citadel planted in the midst of the kingdoms of darkness and evil, surrounded by those who misunderstand and despise us, to carry the gospel day and night to win the lost to Christ…

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