I’m back on the “Jesus Paid It All” bandwagon again.
I saw a blog I won’t reference because I really liked it. I’ll link to it some other time when I’m not using it to point out an error that infects evangelicalism.
The blogger has some good things to say, but one of them reminds her that “Jesus has paid the price for all of us.”
I wish I could believe that she means what Peter means when he speaks of Jesus purchasing us with his precious blood. Peter meant that we were purchased by him, and therefore we owe him our life and obedience:
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of the King Jesus. As obedient children, do not conform yourself to your previous lusts which you had when you were ignorant, but as he who has called you is holy, so be holy in all your behavior. … Because you know that you were not redeemed with perishable things, like silver or gold, from your empty way of life received by tradition from your fathers, but by the precious blood of the King, as of a lamb without spot and without blemish. (1 Pet. 1:13-15,18-19)
She doesn’t however. She means, I’m certain, that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins so that we can have a ticket to heaven apart from works.
Problems with Jesus Paid the Penalty
1. The Terminology Is Unscriptural
Scripture never uses Jesus paid the penalty. In fact it never uses “Jesus paid.” It does say that we were bought with a price. That price, our purchase price, Jesus did pay, so that “we should no longer live for ourselves but for him who died for us and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:14).
2. There Is No Penalty To Be Paid
The only thing God asks in order to forgive sin is repentance. This is all over the Scriptures, both under the old covenant and under the new. When David sinned, he said God didn’t want sacrifice and offering. He wanted a broken heart and a contrite spirit. He promised forgiveness for that kind of repentance not just to David, but to any wicked person who would repent (Ezek 18:21-23; 33:14-16).
3. The Doctrine that God “Must” Punish Sin Is Blasphemous
I suspect that well-meaning Christians will avoid the charge of blasphemy because they don’t think through what they are saying.
God must punish sin?
It’s in almost every tract I’ve sin. God is merciful and he “wants” to forgive sin, but he is also just and he “must” punish sin.
What kind of crazy teaching is this, that the God of all the universe must do something he doesn’t want to do? What greater God is forcing him to do this? Is it a cosmic rule of the universe, greater than God himself, that has God in an arm bar and is forcing him to submit.
The idea is unscriptural, ludicrous, and blasphemous because it puts something above the will of God.
4. The Problem Is Not God
God has always had a way out for us. It has always been true that if we would simply repent and walk in his ways, then all our wickedness would be forgotten (Ezek. 18:22).
The problem is us. According to Romans 7, because of the sin in our flesh, the lusts of our body, there is no law that we can obey.
So what solution does Paul describe? Does he describe the penalty of our sins being forgiven because of Jesus’ death?
No, Paul says that Jesus’ death cured the sin problem so that we can repent, have our sins forgiven and forgotten, and go on to live in righteousness.
The end of Romans 7 is Romans 8:
There is now therefore no condemnation to those who are in King Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, for the law of the Spirit of Life in King Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death [i.e., from Romans 7]. What the Law could not do [described in Romans 7], God did. By sending his Son in the likeness of our sinful flesh, as sin offering, he destroyed sin in the flesh so that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (vv. 1-4)
Note here that it does not say that if we walk according to the Spirit we can set our mind on the Law and fulfill the Law. No the righteous requirement of the Law—not the Law itself, which was made for fleshly Israel, and awaited the expansion and fullness brought by Jesus’ new Law (Heb. 7:12)—will be fulfilled in us if we keep our eyes on the Spirit and on King Jesus, who sits at the right hand of the Father.
Paul later gives another reason, exactly similar to this one in Romans 8, why Jesus died:
For to this end the King died, rose, and lived again: that he might be Lord of both the living and the dead. (Rom. 14:9)
The Breadth of the Atonement
I cannot possibly sum up the meaning of the atonement in a one-thousand-word blog post. In fact, neither I nor any human can sum up the meaning of the atonement, period. Gene Edwards, by wisely using pictures and parables rather than mere explanation and teaching as I do here, may do the best job of all of helping us understand the cross … and to understand that the cross is way over our head. We should cherish it, embrace it, let it crucify us, and learn its depths in our spirit.
There is much more to the atonement than I describe in this post, though the “more” does not include God being forced to punish sin nor Jesus “paying the penalty.”
I can, though—I hope—save us from the crazy idea that God had to kill someone, just anyone, because we sinned and he “must” punish sin.
I can, I hope, save us from the idea that the penalty of all our sins are paid for so that if we just believe, no matter what we do, we’ll go to heaven. It’s not true. Just read on, all the way from Romans 8:1-4, which we quoted above, out to Romans 8:13. Read Galatians 5:19-21 and its corollaries, 1 Cor. 6:9-10 and Eph. 5:5. If we practice such things, we will find they are not paid for at all, no matter what we believe.
If I can get you to see those Scriptures, for they seem to be hidden from our sight and thought, then I can save you from having all your fear of God stolen by a doctrine that is at the heart of the problems I described yesterday.
For I did not speak to your fathers, in the day that I brought them out of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. This is what I commanded them, “Listen to my voice and obey all that I command you that it may go well with you.” (Jeremiah 7:21-22)
If you address as Father the one who impartially judges according to each one’s deeds, then conduct yourself throughout the time of your traveling here in fear. (1 Peter 1:17)
By mercy and truth iniquity is purged, and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil. (Proverbs 16:6)
The following articles are examples of the modern idea of Jesus paying the penalty for our sins. I think we all have to look at whether or not the idea is scriptural. Does this idea fit all of Scripture, or does it leave you with many contradictory verses? If so, you need a better idea, no matter how sweet it seems.