If you read this blog much, you know how much I dislike the doctrine of penal substitution. Not only does it justify a Christian living as an enemy of Jesus, but it makes a monster out of God.
Proving penal substitution false is easy if it’s properly defined.
Penal substitution means that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. Sin requires death, so Jesus died in our place. Therefore, all sins are now paid for.
If you pay attention, you will see that they are not really forgiven. The penalty has been paid. If a murderer is put to death for his murder, he is not forgiven. Due justice has been had.
Thus, penal substitution removes all mercy from God. There is no mercy involved. Instead, there is the fulfillment of justice.
We know that this cannot have happened, though, because there is plenty of reference to both Christians and non-Christians having to face penalties for their sins. 2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us that we will all stand before the judgment seat of the King, and we will receive the deeds done in the body, whether good or bad. Whatever punishment you think we might receive for those bad deeds, they are a penalty. If Jesus had really paid the penalty for those bad deeds, they should not come up. Justice has been done, the evil deed should be off the books.
Some take the idea of penal substitution so far as to say that the unrighteous are punished not because of their sin, which has been paid for, but because they do not believe in Jesus. The Bible directly contradicts this, mentioning sexual immorality, uncleanness, and greed, then saying, “Because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6).
This passage is critically important concerning all the things evangelicals say about faith and works. The problem lies in the fact that verse 9 is almost never included with verses 6-8.
Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows, that will he reap. He who sows to the flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but he who sows to the Spirit will reap everlasting life from the Spirit. Let us not grow tired in doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not lose heart.
I highlighted a couple important phrases for us. We are warned not to be deceived about this. There are several passages important to the evangelical view of faith and works that are preceded this way (e.g., Eph. 5:6; 1 Jn. 3:7).
Second, notice the word “reap.” What possible context could reap have here?
I argue that it is obvious to the unbiased reader that Paul is equating sowing to the Spirit with not growing weary in doing good, and that what is to be reaped is eternal life. Thus, if you want to reap eternal life, you need to continue to do good without getting tired.
This is further justified by Paul’s statement in Romans 2:7 that God will reward eternal life to those who “patiently continue to do good.”
In this post, we are not talking about faith and works, however, but penal substitution. Clearly, if we need to do good without growing tired in order to reap eternal life, and if we are going to reap corruption for sowing to the flesh, then all our sins have not been paid for. We are reaping a penalty for sowing to the flesh, which is stated again in Romans 8:12-13.
Paul is very consistent about contrasting eternal life for spiritual living versus corruption or death for carnal living. There are those who interpret this death and corruption as being mere physical death. I consider this grossly inaccurate, but it’s irrelevant to penal substitution. No matter what penalty is meant by “death” and “corruption,” there is a penalty, which means the penalty has not been paid.
A quick searh for the phrase “Jesus paid” will show us that it occurs in the Bible exactly zero times. Those two words are a catch phrase among the evangelicals, but the the only purchase that the Bible itself ever hints at is Jesus’ purchase of us (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). The response Paul suggests when he mentions this purchase is far different than what evangelicals suggest when they mention Jesus paying a penalty.
Paul says, “Therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:21).
Trying to Justify Penal Substitution
I have asked for verses on penal substitution, and since there are none, usually none are provided.
Today, someone provided a whole list of verses supposedly supporting penal substitution. I’m just going to show you one of them.
In [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Eph. 1:7)
The list had several other verses, most of them even further from addressing penal substitution than this one is, which is my point. In what way does this verse suggest that Jesus suffered a penalty equal to that demanded by God for every sin ever committed, past, present, or future, which is what penal substitution teaches?
It doesn’t. It says that our redemption was accomplished through Jesus’ blood, which includes the forgiveness (not the satisfied justice) of sins.
Jesus’ blood was indeed shed for our sins. The Bible says that over and over again, and Ephesians 1:7 is just one example. We celebrate the fact that Jesus’ blood is “the blood of the New Covenant” whenever we gather in his name and eat the Supper in his name.
To transform that great truth into the troubling idea that God does not—or worse, cannot—forgive sins without demanding justice is an incredible insult to God, is it not? Am I taking it too far to say such a thing?
The rest of the verses that were given to me were the same, saying nothing at all on the subject of penal substitution. Instead, each verse taught only that Jesus’ blood had everything to do with our salvation.
Jesus’ blood does have everything to do with out salvation. It is the blood of the New Covenant. But let’s not transform that truth into the falsehood of penal substitution, nor let anyone else make that transformation.
I’m being treated for lymphoma, and I just received my third round of chemotherapy. I was released from the hospital yesterday to “stew” for a couple weeks. The chemo is still kicking around, getting stronger in my body. Please forgive any poor wording or writing today, as I am slightly “muddled.” I think the point I am making is easy enough to understand that I am going to leave the post like this after one edit to correct spelling.
God bless you, and may all of you who have believed the Gospel that Jesus is Lord honor and glorify him with your lives, knowing what a great price he paid to purchase you and make you his own.