The Scriptural View of Messiah’s Death
Abstract: The faithful in Messiah need to recover the correct theory of atonement as the correct basis for confirming our faithfulness to Messiah. The simple good news is that Messiah’s suffering and death offer an alternative justice in place of the normal justice, that allows us to be forgiven the penalty of the normal justice, and which in no way compensates the Almighty for sin. It only satisfies the forgiving-justice which he established for the faithful. It pays that penalty for those pledging loyalty to Messiah. He who does not affirm faithfulness to him is assigned the normal justice.
Justification: 1. the act or process of a judge deciding how justice will be administered or carried out. 2. The way in which justice is decided.
justify: of a judge, 1. to decide justice, 2. to administer justice, 3. to execute justice
substitution: When a judge decides that an alternate penalty is allowable in a case then the original penalty is changed to the substitute.
compensation: The satisfaction of justice by restoring what was lost.
punitive penalty: Pain, suffering, or death imposed as an expression of wrath against the sinner.
sin: violating the Almighty’s laws.
forgiveness: the cancellation of a penalty for reasons of mercy.
pardon: the cancellation of a penalty for reasons of mercy.
acquittal: the act of a judge by which the accused is cleared of all wrongdoing, and declared innocent of the charges.
guilty: the verdict of a judge in which the accused is found to have committed the wrongs he or she is charged with.
normal punitive justice: the sinner dies forever.
alternative justice: the judge decides to alter the penalty for a repentant sinner.
The Church has redefined justification to mean the process of declaring the sinner righteous and justify to mean that the sinner is declared righteous or acquitted. Further the Church argues that the atonement completely compensates God for sin, by offering a substitution of Christ that makes a full compensation for sin.
Firstly, in divine justice an acquittal is impossible for a sinner. It is the opposite of what justice requires. Through many centuries of rejection of the divine law, the Church has arrived at believing the very opposite of the Scriptural truth. We should not be surprised. Scripture tells us that the mystery of iniquity is working among the sheep. In many ways that iniquity at peak harvest with the Church openly approving of all manner of sin.
Secondly, compensation is impossible by a substituted penalty. Penalties do not restore the situation to what it was before the wrong was committed. Murder is not undone. The damage of lies is not reversed. The consequence of Adultery on children and future generations is not repaired.
The idea that the sinner is acquitted, and that the sinner’s sin is compensated for lead to the notion among sinners that sin is ultimately of no consequence to God or man. That these views crept in among the faithful over many centuries is the mystery of iniquity at work.
Firstly, justification means no more or less than a judge deciding how justice is to be determined. And being justified is not a declaring of a sinner righteous, but a deciding of how justice will be administered for the sinner. That is what the biblical terms mean.
Second all sinners are guilty before the Almighty Judge. There is no acquittal.
If the sinner has not repented, then the Judge decides justice according to the normal punitive justice, and the sinner is under the sentence of death. If the sinner repents then justification (how justice is decided) is carried out differently according to a merciful intent. Firstly, it is recognized by the Judge that sin cannot be compensated for (except partly in rare cases such as theft). What may not be justly restored by way of compensation is forgiven. Secondly, it is recognized that the normal punitive penalty for sin for the sinner is not merciful.
Therefore, an alternative penalty is provided as an expression of the Father’s displeasure with sin, and furthermore, this penalty is suffered by the Almighty Son. The original penalty of death for the sinner is altered for the repentant to the suffering and death of Messiah.
Since the Churches, for the most part, are opposed to the correct understanding of the cross, it is necessary to guard against ideas that corrupt it. Messiah’s death does not compensate the Almighty for sin. His death is in no way a commercial transaction by which equal values are exchanged. Therefore, we say the atonement is substitutionary, but in a qualified way. The substitution is done only on the penalty for the sin of the repentant after it has been altered by way of mercy from the normal penalty. When mercy and forgiveness are involved, the requirement for an equal exchange of value, eye for eye, or compensation, as in multiplied payment for theft, is canceled. The penalty is reduced to that suffered by the substitute. The substitute is not used to pay the Almighty off for sin, but because an expression of his wrath and displeasure against sin is to be retained by way of demonstration of the kind of death normal punitive justice would require. But is is not exactly normal punitive justice, 1. The Father decided Messiah could take our place, and 2. Messiah did not stay dead, but rose again. And both those items do not occur in normal justice.
The Church strives to explain the atonement of Messiah as satisfaction of the normal justice by way of compensation. It is not. The Church tries to explain the matter that the glory of Messiah is so qualitatively great that a temporal suffering and death is sufficient to compensate for the loss to the Almighty caused by sin. This idea is ridiculous in light of the fact that sin causes irreversible consequences. Sin leads to death and sinners will die forever. Even the faithful have committed sins that have been forgiven, but such sins have led to the death of others forever that cannot be undone. It is because of this that the faithful will cry, and will have to have every tear wiped away by a divine act. It is simply a further insult to the Almighty to suppose that he is as happy with the supposed payment for sin as obedience in the first place. To obey is better than sacrifice. Sacrifice does not compensate for obedience.
What is the Scriptural view of Messiah’s Atonement? First we have to understand what the punitive debt of our sins is according to the Scriptural norm. The temporal standard of punishment, to be applied by human judges, is stripe for stripe, burn for burn, eye for eye (Exodus 21:23-25). That is the basic law of punitive justice. What evil you caused is to be caused unto you. If you think about Adam’s sin, it was a simple act of disobedience, but it caused death. Some would say that God caused man’s death. This is true, but it is also true that when man fails to follow the operator’s manual for creation that a malfunction is bound to occur, and death is the one word summary for the eventual compounding results of a chain reaction of malfunctions. Disobedience is simply the intent to assume the governance of the complexity of creation for oneself. It’s not surprising then that things break down without following the instructions. The punitive penalty of death then should be viewed as a preemptive mercy. For without it, a worse spiritual malfunction is bound to happen without a limit on its duration or magnitude. Death is caused by sin. So by the law of retribution, punitive justice requires death.
Also when sin is willfully committed the penalty is banishment (Num. 15:31), and if the sin is serious enough it is death (Num. 15:32-36). These are penalties assigned by human judges appointed by the Almighty. Ultimately, however, the Almighty will be the judge, and the penalty he will assign is the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15; Ezek. 18:20). The ultimate judgment is the destruction of the sinner. The final penalty for all sin is death (Romans 3:23), because that is where even the smallest sins lead, and this is made plain even in the sacrifices for sins of ignorance, as an animal has to die to wipe away the penalty. So the norm of justice is eternal excision from life (Mat. 25:46). I emphasize the norm of justice. The norm of justice finally has to be applied in all cases where there is no repentance and no forgiveness. Yahweh’s mercy, however, does allow something different from the norm of justice. You can call this the law of justice if you like, but we have to remember that the law does not just have one form of justice. It has two forms. It has one form for the unrepentant and another form for the repentant. We call the former the norm, and the latter the exception.
Now obviously Messiah did not suffer the second death in the lake of fire. Therefore the suffering and death he went through do not satisfy the norm of justice. For that is what we really deserve. But the justice satisfied by Messiah’s death is apart from the norm (Romans 3:21; Romans 10:4). This is a special justice involving clemency (or mercy) by which the penalty is reduced from the second death to the first death, and instead of the exact suffering we deserve, representative sufferings are substituted, and finally instead of we the sinner suffering as normal justice requires, Messiah suffers in our place. The normal justice has been converted into an extraordinary justice, and a reduced penalty, which is paid for us. This means the normal justice requiring our eternal death is unsatisfied. But the Almighty’s justice is satisfied because he has legally allowed this exceptional justice, and he does not require the normal justice. The penalty reduced and commuted to Messiah is suffered on our behalf.
It should be plain then that the normal justice has been forgiven. The extraordinary justice that the normal justice has been changed into is simply necessary because Yahweh wishes to make the point that he still requires justice, even though it is a forgiving justice, and even though it is really a reminder of the justice we deserved but didn’t get. And indeed, even Messiah only gets a representation of that justice we deserve. Remember, he did not die the second death, but temporary suffering and death from which he rose again. I am not here minimizing the extent of Messiah’s death, but we have to realize a thing or two about some incorrect theories of atonement:
First there is the idea that Yeshua paid an infinite penalty. Now though he is the Almighty, he became a man. He limited the use of his powers, and even left his powers in the care of the Father, remaining Almighty as to his identity, but functionally being a man, which made it possible for him to die. There is some truth to what is called Kenotic Christology. The point is that having limited his divine power, infinite suffering becomes an impossibility. And this raises a problem. If Messiah pays the penalty by infinite suffering and other infinities of punitive retribution falling on him, then the punitive debt is fully satisfied. We may then ask how such a teaching is actually forgiveness? Well it isn't forgiveness. It is simply a transaction. That’s why they call this the commercial theory of the atonement, started by Anselm of Canterbury, refined by Thomas Aquinas, and the finishing touches put in place by Calvinism.
The satisfaction theory of atonement becomes even more problematic when we consider that the justice of satisfaction does not simply require full satisfaction of the normal punitive penalty. It also requires full compensation for all sin in the positive sense of restitution. In the normal scheme of justice the Almighty does not want the murderer to simply pay the price. He also wants the murder victim restored to life. But that is not possible, especially if the murder victim was spiritually murdered by a false teacher who did not tell them the way to life, and so they will end up being condemned in the last judgment. If the Almighty is to forgive the false teacher (who repents) on the basis of full satisfaction for the normal justice, then how is any sort of atonement theory going to bring the victim of the false teaching back to life?! There isn’t any viable theory. That is because there is no such thing as time travel, and there is no
CTRL^Z (undo, reverse) for reality. Even if there was time travel, it would not change the fact that there was pain and suffering at one time. How is that to be erased?
One should consider that if compensatory justice were always possible, then punitive justice would not exist. I mean perfect compensation where there are no hard feelings over sin, no grief left, no tears, and no pain remaining. But this is exactly how a lot of Christians treat sin. They treat atonement and sin as commercial exchange of equal values. So then, what is the answer? The answer was outlined above. I have taught this answer for quite a number of years, but have only recently discovered that it is nearly the same as what is called the “Moral Government” explanation of Messiah’s death. I do think that moral government is often badly explained. And please don’t let the Calvinists tell you what their opposition believes. They invariably misrepresent and twist the beliefs of their opposition into little straw men. Still, even holders of moral government theory badly explain moral government, and I think often eschew the language of paying the penalty too much. I think such language is fine so long as we hold two things. The penalty paid was not the normal penalty. And it was not for the satisfaction of normal justice. It was only for the satisfaction for Yahweh’s forgiving justice provisionally for the whole world, and specifically applied those who affirm faithfulness to Messiah.
The Scriptural Atonement provides three things. Firstly, it gives a visible demonstration of the justice that we should suffer (Romans 3:25). Secondly, this demonstration is Yahweh’s legal justice for the faithful. And thirdly, it is complete forgiveness, because the repentant faithful do not actually pay the penalty. The penalty paid for us by Messiah is a representative penalty of what we deserve, to give an example of his judgment against sin. By punishing his own Son instead of us, the Almighty is showing how very much sin grieves him. For the repentant faithful, all of our normal justice sin-penalty has been forgiven, and also all of the demand for compensation, such as is impossible to attain, is forgiven.
Points for thought:
1. We define formal guilt as being deserving of a penalty for wrong doing. Using this definition we cannot say that our guilt was put upon Messiah. This is because Messiah was not deserving the penalty. The penalty for guilt is assigned to him without assigning the guilt. And it was not the normal penalty, i.e. it was not the normal justice.
2. The Hebrew word for sin has several meanings, a) sin itself, b) guilt, c) a sin offering, d) a punishment or penalty for guilt. It is necessary to separate a, b, c, and d, and to not confuse the usages in different contexts which might make a mockery of Messiah’s death.
3. In Law a form of forgiveness or pardon is that the punishment for guilt is separated from the guilty party. An innocent party takes the place of the guilty party, and so the penalty is forgiven (remitted, canceled) for the guilty party. The guilty party still deserves the penalty, but the penalty was forgiven, because the law allowed the penalty to go to an innocent party. Justice is exactly what the divine law demands. So the law allows the substitution as a way of making forgiveness, then it is allowed. This makes no sense to pagans not believing in such justice. It is really forgiveness. That’s why they think it is foolishness. It comes labeled as justice, and they want see compensatory satisfaction and retributive satisfaction in it. But that’s not what it is. It is the merciful wisdom of the Almighty according to his exceptional justice. We may call this forgiving-justice. Now this may be plainer if I point out that justice = righteousness, and mercy = righteousness. You will then see that righteousness is composed of one part equitable justice and nine parts merciful justice.
Divine forgiveness is combined with a penalty for sin, wiped away by a substitute, to demonstrate divine disapproval against sin in the strongest way possible that still allows the sinner to be forgiven. Atonement (לכפר) in Hebrew means “to wipe away,” so wiping away happens at several levels. 1) compensatory justice is wiped away—forgiven, and 2) the normal penalty is wiped away—forgiven, and 3) the exceptional penalty, commuted penalty, is paid by Messiah, this wiped away for us.
The penalty is wiped away by an innocent party. But it is a punitive penalty which by nature of a purely punitive penalty does not compensate anyone for the wrong committed. The innocent party is deprived of life. This satisfies punitive justice, but punitive justice does not compensate the victim. Punitive justice, therefore, is an expression of wrath regarding sin, even when the wrath is taken by an innocent party. Retaining the requirement for a penalty even in forgiveness via a substitute underscores what God regards as justice: this is what you deserved ye guilty ones. But in his mercy he has caused it to fall on the innocent sacrifice, and we are to realize that our sin caused it. Remember the farmer who sees his favorite cow finishing the last bite of his garden after breaking out of the pasture? In his anger he puts a hole in the side of the barn with his fist instead of hitting the poor cow who did it, and ends up with wounded knuckles.
Therefore, penal substitution in the generic sense is correct, which is the sense that many of the faithful understand even when it is not the sense that their leaders understand it. I mean the Calvinists who have turned penal-substitution onto a commercial transaction that fully satisfies the normal justice and also is said to compensate God fully with the positive merits of Christ’s obedience. This theory is founded on lawlessness, because it makes sin of no consequence. God is fully paid off. And therefore logically speaking there is no benefit to repentance.
In the usual theological senses taught through Anselm’s theory and Protestant theory, it is not correct, because these theories teach that God was is fully compensated for sin. Anselm taught that the damage of sin to God’s honor receives full compensation (satisfaction). The Protestants taught that the entire debt of sin is paid without explaining that this had little to do with what normal justice demands.
To understand why this is wrong we must divide debt into a. punitive debt, and b. compensatory debt. The punitive debt is the legal requirement for the sinner to be deprived of life or liberty. The compensatory debt is that everything must be made right with the victim. Murder is an illustration. The Murderer is to die as a punitive measure. Compensation, on the other hand, would require life to be restored to the victim. In more general terms, sin causes death. Death causes sin and rebellion. If one commits a sin, then the consequences of that sin may be traced generation by generation causing many to hate God. Therefore, we see that sin results in irreparable loss to God. Adam’s sin is a good example of this. Many will die eternally as a consequence of his sin, because they will not repent and ask forgiveness, because death corrupts them. Adam may be punished with the first death. Such a punitive penalty does not compensate God. It does not undo the damage. The Almighty offers a substitute for Adam so that he does not have to die eternally, since he repented. But this substitute death (Messiah) does not compensate him either. For it does not undo all the damage or loss that God incurred due to Adam’s sin!
In fact, with respect to the death of Messiah, the idea of compensation is never mentioned. The penalty is punitive only. It is not an infinite punitive penalty either. It is limited in time and duration. And it does not have permanently negative results for Messiah, because he being the Almighty, rose from the dead. Therefore, it must not be taken as a commercial transaction, but as an example and expression of God’s hatred of sin itself. But the usual theory does away with forgiveness altogether.
The Penal-substitution theory in the sense of all the debt paid is an impossibility. Debt is a term used with monetary sin. If someone steals then the debt can be paid back with money, and therefore compensation may be made. The assigned penalty is to repay the debt and then some as an extra penalty. But this only applies to this particular type of sin. A great deal of sin causes irreparable loss to relationships and even spiritual life, and this cannot be compensated simply because there is no way to undo it. The murderer cannot restore the life of the victim. Even God cannot restore the life of the victim if the victim was also a sinner unrepentant of his or her own sins when they died. The murderer took away the possibility that that person may repent. Therefore, the damage done is both unknown to some extent as well as irreparable. God cannot do that which is logically impossible, nor that which contradicts his nature.
One simple truth blows the Protestant theory up. Since the victims of others sins are going to die the second death because their fathers forsook the covenant of redemption offered to Adam’s descendants it automatically follows that whatever form of atonement one believes in, it cannot restore the creatures that God has lost due to their sin, or will loose due to the nature of sin. Therefore, no correct theory of atonement can compensate the Almighty by restoring his loss. Given the Scriptural parameters of sin causing death and death causing sin, and a last judgment, it is a logical impossibility that all the damage is reversed. The whole debt cannot be repaid, not even by God, who will not make (cause or force) sinners to repent. He only encourages them to repent, and the rest are destroyed because of Adam’s sin.
It at once follows from these observations that a legal only imputed righteousness has no proper use. God cannot be compensated, so the fiction of putting righteousness on the record books in heaven where sin was written down does not compensate God. All that can be done is that forgiven, penalty remitted, be put on the books, and then the person given a name in the book of life. God expects us to be righteous through his power. But this is not compensation for the loss. Neither does thinking the sinner righteous for all time, past, present, and future, compensate him for the loss of sin.
What is wrong with the example only theory? Well for one thing, a penalty actually is required, and a penalty is actually suffered by the substitute. If the example theory is only one for positive moral influence, then that is inadequate also. The example must include how much God hates sin, even when forgiving the sinner.
4. Often we say a penalty is paid. Scriptural language is “atoned.” What we mean is that the law requires a penalty to be wiped away (לכפר). But its not a transaction. A commercial transaction is not taking place by which equal values are exchanged. If the payment of sin were viewed this way, then sin becomes a commodity which may be traded, such that everything is satisfied if the payment is made. It is really a doctrine of lawlessness. The priest will require penance, and then absolve the sinner, and then the sinner will sin again, and go back to the priest for absolution and penance. As long as the sin is paid for, everyone is happy. This theory works best where the suffering and pain caused by sin is well hidden.
5. One Commercial theory is that Messiah suffered eternal torment on the cross. The reason for this theory is to make the punishment suffered equal to the punishment paid for, i.e. the eternal death of the sinner. Three things are true, first scripture does not teach this, full payment is the aim of this theory, not forgiveness, and finally, it is not the good news. Its a false gospel.
6. The Governmental theory of the atonement (also known as the moral government theory) maintains that Christ was not punished on behalf of the human race. Is this true? Only partly. He was punished on behalf of all mankind in the sense that his death will wipe away their substitute punitive penalty if they repent (provisional). The wiping away is not applied unless they affirm faithfulness to Him. So he really died on behalf of anyone who will repent, and not efficaciously for the entire human race. Efficaciousness depends on their affirming faithfulness to Him. So one version of Governmental theory must be amended here. The Governmental theory also states,
God publicly demonstrated his displeasure with sin by punishing his own sinless and obedient Son as a propitiation. Because Christ’s suffering and death served as a substitute for the punishment humans might have received, God is able to extend forgiveness while maintaining divine order, having demonstrated the seriousness of sin and thus appeasing his wrath.
There is nothing really objectionable to this statement. And we can still have a penal penalty so long as it is not misunderstood as satisfaction of normal justice.
7. The deserved penalty for sin is the second death (the norm). In Messiah this is commuted to a substitutionary death in which he suffers and dies the first death, a temporary death. So in a second death sense, Messiah did not pay that penalty. By commuting the penalty to a substitute, the actual penalty is forgiven, and a lesser penalty put in its place, which then God himself took upon himself. His death was a substitute (penalty) for the penalty we deserved. In this way at least some Governmental theories must be amended. While what I state here is congruent to much in the Governmental views, it is problematic to label it as such as a means of explanation. This is because opponents then go out and find some Governmental view mixed with some error, equivocate it with what I am saying, and then condemn what I am saying based on those errors.
8. The Almighty determined that Messiah would suffer the penalty of the repentant sinner (commuted from eternal death for the unrepentant sinner), to show that even in forgiveness a penalty is required, even if Messiah paid it. Some Governmental theories are incorrect to deny any penalty is paid. Romans 3 make this clear. Rather it is the nature of the wiping away of a penalty that must be made clear, and its non-compensatory nature.
The governmental theory holds that Christ’s suffering was a real and meaningful substitute for the punishment humans deserve, but it did not consist of Christ’s receiving the exact punishment due to sinful people. Instead, God publicly demonstrated his displeasure with sin through the suffering of his own sinless and obedient Son as a propitiation. Christ’s suffering and death served as a substitute for the punishment humans might have received. On this basis, God is able to extend forgiveness while maintaining divine order, having demonstrated the seriousness of sin and thus allowing his wrath to “pass over.” This view is very similar to the satisfaction view and the penal substitution view, in that all three views see Christ as satisfying God’s requirement for the punishment of sin. However, the governmental view disagrees with the other two in that it does not affirm that Christ endured the precise punishment that sin deserves or paid its sacrificial equivalent. Instead, Christ’s suffering was simply an alternative to that punishment.
This version of the governmental atonement is correctly stated. The specification “penal-substitution” can be correctly applied to what is stated above, since a penalty is paid, albeit an alternative penalty. The difficulty, therefore, with penal substitution is not what the words describe, but what the Calvinist reads into it: that the normal or ordinary divine justice is actually satisfied by the penal-substitution. Like all deceivers the Calvinist loves the fallacy of equivocation. Penal-substitution is a correct description, but only when the Calvinist meaning of full satisfaction of the customary retributive justice is not imputed to the phrase. The Calvinist exploits the positions of some moral government advocates which reject the idea of substitution or who object to the phrase penal-substitution. He then equivocates the actual biblical teaching of penal-substitution with his false doctrine of full compensation for sin and all its effects as normal justice would require. It is sometimes necessary to minimize our use of terms with changed meanings, but only if the changed meaning is embedded the common language. Avoiding terms or phrases which may be correctly understood in normal language simply because an enemy faction has given it a technically corrupt sense only works in their favor. The enemy will surely equivocate using the term to corrupt the thinking of people who innocently use it without reckoning their false doctrine to the phrase.
1. “But now apart from the norm, the justice of the Almĭghty is made visible” (Rom. 3:21). Nomos means what is customary, the norm. The normal justice of death for the sinner was commuted, i.e. changed by divine mercy to a substituted justice suffered by Messiah in our place.
2a. “the justice of the Almĭghty, through the faithfulness of Yĕshūa” (Rom. 3:22). δικαιοσύνη means justice such as a Judge decides and not righteousness such as general moral quality. It is true that correct justice is a moral quality of the Judge, but it is a specific one. The English language is at fault in dividing a term that is the same in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin into two: righteousness and justice. If we were to use the term righteousness in this text, it must be clarified that it is the righteousness of the judge in deciding correct justice.
2b. “Through the faithulness of Yĕshua” describes how justice was decided to be carried out. Messiah’s faithfulness consists of his obedience to the Făther’s command for him to lay down his life at the cross.
3. “Having justice administered without deserving it” (Rom. 3:24a). Or having justice decided. The usual translation is justified. In the first century this term referred to the action of a judge in deciding a case or in executing justice. In dialects of English the term refers to the punishment of criminals. But in Church English and standard English the term means proved to be in the right. This sense has overtaken the older usages, in large part, due to the Reformed heresy. It is therefore necessary to not use this word in a plain sense translation. The idea of “proved to be right undeservedly” is an oxymoron. It is the mystery of iniquity to turn the judicial tables like this. What really happens is that the Father administers an alternative justice to Messiah in our place as his mercy allowed, which we did not deserve. It has nothing to do with God finding the guilty righteous in his eyes.
4. “Because we are accounting a man to have justice done by Mĕssiah’s faithfulness apart from traditional works” (Rom. 3:28). Paul starts his explanation of faithfulness from Hab. 2:4: “The righteous shall live by his faithfulness.” However, the LXX read the text, “my faithfulness,” referring to the Almighty. His readers therefore were predisposed to interpret the “his” in the original Hebrew texts as referring to Gŏd. Based on Romans 3:22 (cf. 2a-b.) it is clearly the faithfulness of Messiah. Justice is done for us in Messiah according to the Father’s decision of what would satisfy his justice for the repentant. It is done by Messiah’s work without our works. This is Paul’s meaning. We may call these customary works or legal works, which are the sort of works people do in an attempt to appease the divine wrath, as penance. What this phrase does not mean is what the Reformed heresy says: that a person is declared right (proved to be right) by his own faith or according to his own faith without works of the law. This view is based on the claim that Messiah’s death satisfies the normative justice, not to mention that the faithfulness of the faithful is expressed by good works. It is completely against the context and the original meanings of the words, and is the result of centuries of heretical thinking in the Church shepherded by Satan till when it bore its evil fruit.
5. “Yet with respect to the working the reward is not accounted as a favor, but according to what is due. But with respect to a failure to work (yet being a person who confirms faithfulness to the Almĭghty who justly punishes the wicked) His faithfulness is reckoned as justice just as David also speaks about the blessing of the man to whom the Almĭghty is accounting a justice apart from works” (Rom 4:4-6). This passage is the Fort Knox of Reformed theology where the golden truth is locked away by their reinterpretation of the passage. Firstly, the same person does good works and fails to do good works. Paul’s paradigm is not two people, one who works, and one who does not. That is what the Reformed heresy wants you to think. Romans 7 makes it clear that in his mind Paul serves the Law of the Almighty, but in his flesh the habits of sin remain. Secondly, it is Messiah’s faithfulness that is counted as justice for us. The problematic point is that in English the term “righteousness” implies that Messiah’s moral uprightness is put into the account of the faithful. But that is not what the term means. It means the alternative “justice,” of the cross. And Messiah’s faithfulness means his obedience to the cross. One might compare the sense of the equivalent word צִדָקָה in Hebrew, meaning charity, alms, beneficence. It is incorrect, therefore, to construe the term as meaning normative justice in this context or general moral righteousness. It means the special merciful justice apart from the normal justice which is unto the faithful through the faithfulness of Messiah going to the cross.
6. “Therefore having been administered justice by His faithfulness we have peace with the Almĭghty through our Adŏnaı Yĕshūa the Mĕssiah,” (Rom. 5:1)
7a. “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the norm but under loving-kindness? May it never be!” (Rom. 6:15). The norm is what is customary. They want you to be under the normal justice by claiming that Messiah satisfied the normal justice. What does normal justice require? It requires that sin be totally compensated for in all its effects and that the normal penalty be effected. But by claiming the normal justice is satisfied they make sin of no account. If sin is totally compensated for then let us sin because God is completely paid off to perfect satisfaction. By claiming normal justice is appeased the irreversible consequences of sin are treated as reversible. That is a serious underestimation of the eternal consequences of sin! No what they want is that you should think you are righteous in God’s eyes while you are still a slave to sin. That is because they have put you back under what is customary by insisting on the customary justice.
7b. “To obey is better than sacrifice,” but they have made sacrifice equal to obedience. This sort of rebellion is equivalent to witchcraft. See 1Sam. 15:22-23.
8. “Because Mĕssiah is the end of the norm for justice to everyone confirming their faithfulnesss.” (Rom. 10:4).
Do not fear the Pope, nor Luther, nor Calvin, those who persecuted the Anabaptists. The High Church has been shorn of its power because it has loosed such forces of lawlessness that those forces of lawlessness are going to return upon them and destroy them (cf. Rev. 17:16-17). One need look no further than their ordaining of immoral ministers. No one can be tried for heresy, burned at the stake, or anything else done to them for disputing their false doctrines. There is now a window of opportunity for this generation. It is an opportunity to repent and trust the true good news. History stands on a knife edge of decision, a decision between a false gospel leading to lawlessness which cannot deliver, and the true good news that does. Which way will this generation turn?
Who in the Church will wait till the evil fruit is so evident that it leavens the culture to destruction? Who will recognize the truth soon enough to flee the error. Do not stand shoulder to shoulder with them. They preach humanistic causes, which to them is the form of godliness, but they lack the power of salvation from sin. If you cannot stand up and say the truth then flee to another place. For only that remnant will be delivered. Because staying and not speaking the truth is like an infection. One will become like them.
Matt Slick’s Attack on the Atonement (AKA carm.org)
This section is an example of the dishonest way Calvinists disagree with theories they do not like.
The moral government view of the atonement is a teaching proposed by Hugo Grotius (1583-1645). On one hand, it is a denial of the Legal Substitutionary view of the atonement held by the Reformers.
The Reformers really are not the standard, but the truth is that Grotius did not deny legal substitution. Calvinists claim he denied it only because he was an Arminian and did not agree with their version of substitution.
In the Moral Government view of the atonement, God is not an offended party regarding individual sins, nor is a debt owed to Him due to individual sins, nor is there an equating of sin with death, and there is no correlation between debt and sin.
I have seen this time and again, especially on this issue. The opposition simply cannot represent our views correctly. Truly God is offended by sin. The Bible could not be more clear. He is offended by both corporate sins and individual sins. Further, he is owed a debt of compensatory justice for every sin as well as the debt of punitive justice. Sin leads to death. Why should there be an equating of sin with death? That is to mix up the cause of death with death itself. Yet, we do not deny a correlation between sins and punitive debts or compensatory debts, but I only point out that it might be hard to figure out on an individual basis, when some sins are created by the contributing sins of others. God decided that one penalty suffered by the Messiah would be sufficient for his justice unto the faithful. That is not exactly an equitable correlation, but it is a correlation.
Instead, God is a moral governor who oversees proper moral truth and action, and He reconciles people to Himself without paying their legal debt on the cross. The cross, then, is an example of the horror of sin and a demonstration of its effect upon mankind as well as an exhibition of God’s displeasure with sin. The cross is to motivate people to believe in Christ (by seeing the horror of the effect of sin on God in flesh) and moves the sinner, by his free will, to choose to believe in God and repent of his sins.
Nope, they cannot represent our views correctly, because it would lead their followers to question their doctrines. Slick’s misrepresentation is a straw man argument. The legal debt is paid. But it is not what normal justice requires. It is rather a legal exception to the normal justice. The Scripture always laid out two forms of justice, one that did not involve mercy, and one that did involve mercy and forgiveness. The debt was legally reduced to Messiah’s death on the cross. This is so obvious that this is why they cannot actually state it correctly. Only a third party such as an historian who is not covering up for Calvinism can be expected to state it correctly. Except for the negative remark on paying the legal debt, I don’t think Matt Slick would want to deny that he also believes all the other things he just attributed to Moral Government.
Elements of Moral Government Theory of the Atonement
- Jesus suffered on the cross on behalf of humanity but did not bear the sins of individuals.
- Jesus did not pay the legal debt to God for the sins committed by anyone who has broken God's law.
- There is no correlation between sin and debt.
- Jesus’ sacrifice of Christ was not substitutionary for any individual, rather, it was a corporate sacrifice.
- Jesus’ sacrifice of Christ was a demonstration of God’s displeasure with sin.
- The sacrifice of Christ is a teaching example that is good for society as a whole and demonstrates God’s benevolence to mankind.
- The sacrifice of Christ reconciles us to God without paying our sin debt.
- Denies Original Sin, that is, we do not have a sinful nature.
- Jesus died to make salvation possible and is dependent on man’s free will choice to repent of his sins and believe in God.
Answers for Slick:
- He bore the penalty for every sin of the faithful. So the bold part is false representation.
- All of this statement is false representation.
- There is. Only God knows it exactly as possible. So again this is misrepresentation. What Slick is trying to imply, I think, without saying it, is that the debt paid for entirely compensates God for the evil effect of the sin so that the debt paid for is equal to the normal penalty for sin. As pointed out earlier in this guide, full compensation is impossible given the nature of sin. What cannot be compensated or paid by normal justice is forgiven and reduced to the extraordinary substituted justice of the cross.
- Again, misrepresentation.
- We do not think Slick wants to deny this.
- We do not think Slick wants to deny this either.
- The same misrepresentation is repeated again.
- More false representation in the bolded part. False equivocation with original sin. There was an original sin, i.e. first sin which lead to death and death to other sins.
- The last point we gladly admit to. But Slick believes in the false doctrines of individual predestination and regeneration as taught by Reformed theology. So, of course, he thinks that free will is a heresy.
You should know that not all elements of Moral Government Theology are held by everyone in that camp. But, in short, the Moral Government view of the Atonement is wrong since it denies the legal, substitutionary sacrifice of Christ.
But that is the one thing that Slick so emphasizes and the one thing that is not necessary for Moral government to deny. This is because the point is that the normal justice was altered to the form of justice meted out on the cross, which is paid by the substitute. The reason for the Moral government theory in the first place was to acknowledge the fact that sin cannot be fully compensated for as if it never happened, which normal justice would require. Since the penalty is altered through forgiveness and mercy the fact is acknowledged and substitution can take place. But Slick would rather criticize a caricature of the truth, and some proponents of Moral Government would rather define their own misrepresentations of Moral Government without substitution. One side opposes it because it opposes the true gospel, and the other side embraces it and removes substitution from Moral government to oppose the true gospel. Either way Slick is guilty of perverting the Scripture.
Debt and Sin
Sin results in a debt. The debt may be either paid or it may be forgiven. What happened was that most of the debt was forgiven, and the remainder was commuted to Messiah’s suffering and death, which was paid by him, not because it could not be forgiven, but because the Almĭghty required an example of the justice we deserved to suffer ourselves to be displayed, yet was forgiven us. So in fact the whole penalty was forgiven us, as well as impossible compensation (cf. Ex. 21:18-19 for a possible compensation). But an exemplary part of the punitive debt was transferred to Messiah. The transference is an expression of mercy. This punitive part was paid by him.
Scripture speaks in terms of forgiveness most often. “Forgive us our debts” (Mat. 6:12; cf. Luke 11:4). A debt is something owed (Rom. 4:4). To forgive a debt means to cancel it. It does not mean to pay it off. Forgiveness and demanding payment are opposed concepts. To say that the Father received full payment or full compensation implies that the Father is unforgiving. Forgiveness is a a letting go of that demand.
Can it be any more clearly stated that debt and sin are related by Christ Himself? I cannot see how anyone could deny it, but people do. Sin is breaking the Law of God (1 John 3:4). Therefore, when someone breaks God’s law, he has violated that law. And, what law is a law that has no punishment? There is none. Law breaking necessitates a payment--a penalty of some sort that corresponds to the breaking of that law. If I get a speeding ticket, I must legally pay a fine. If I get convicted of robbing a bank, I must pay the legal penalty of going to jail. There is a debt incurred when a person breaks the law. To deny this is unbiblical as well as illogical. Breaking God’s law results in a legal debt-- a debt which was paid by Christ to the Father. Consider the following verse.
Do you see Slick’s omission from the law here? He entirely omits the principle of clemency or mercy, which is perfectly legal for the Judge who can allow it. Atonement alters the penalty as an example of justice, and always how the penalty is applied. The retained penalty is a real one, a picture of what should have happened to the forgiven party. This is supposed to emphasize that forgiveness is real and that forgiveness is not acquittal, and that sin still makes the Almighty angry. A speeding ticket can be paid by another. The allowance of another’s money to pay the debt is not perfect equity. The accused does not suffer anything. But the example is carefully chosen by Slick to conceal the element of forgiveness, which he does not mention. The notion of a substitute lets go the legal requirement that it is the guilty who must be punished and not the innocent. This is actually forgiveness. What about the man with the unpayable debt that was forgiven in the Parable (Mat. 18:27)? No one else payed it. But it was forgiven. Debts were forgiven every seven years according to the Law. No one else payed them.
If someone robs a bank the law sends him to jail. However if the judge realizes that one of the robbers was a young person who was under peer pressure and did not intend to rob the bank, the judge may send the case to the governor, and the governor may pardon the offender. So even in human the principle of clemency (forgiveness) is acknowledged. The punitive debt is not actually paid. But Slick means to imply that the whole debt assessed by normative justice was paid.
Where I have bolded it, he means to equivocate the normal justice due to sin, both compensatory and punitive, with the penalty paid by Messiah. What Slick did not explain is that most of the debt was simply forgiven and an alternate penalty legally assessed by the Law of atonement. It is plainly obvious that perfect justice requires sin to be reversed as if it had never happened. That is, every single negative consequence on every other being in the universe must be erased and undone. It is also quite obvious that the law legislates very little of compensatory justice simply because it is not possible, and more often legislates a norm of punitive justice (cf. Ex. 21:18-19 for a possible compensation). But even this norm Messiah did not pay. He did not die forever. So he paid the alternate justice allowed by the Law. Death was assessed to the substitute. Raising the substitute from the dead was not made illegal. In fact, it was implied this would happen in the prophecies.
Reformed theology tries to provide a compensatory justice by claiming God nows sees the sinner as righteous, when the righteousness of Christ is transferred to the account of the sinner. But what does this legal trick have to do with real justice? Nothing. Those killed by our sins are still dead. Those lied to by our formerly false beliefs are still deceived. The children harmed by adultery are still harmed. The Scripture does not teach legal tricks. It does teach forgiveness. That’s what really happens.
The record debt was nailed to the cross and legally wiped out by Messiah’s suffering and death. A record of debt is what normal justice would require. The alternative justice of Messiah’s dying was judged as meeting his justice, apart from the norm, by the Father, to erase the debt for the faithful. The Scripture does not say Messiah paid the same penalty that was due by normal justice to us, eternal death. For it is obvious that he rose again. But it says that Messiah is the end of the norm for justice (Romans 10:4) and that apart from the norm, the justice of the Almighty is revealed (Rom. 3:21). Therefore, Paul straightly explains the meaning of Messiah’s atonement. The justice due to us was altered to Messiah suffering and death (Isa. 53:5-8).
Messiah Canceled our Debt
Notice that in Colossians 2:14 our debt is canceled. That means it is wiped out. This concept is synonymous with forgiveness or pardon. The record of debt was nailed to the cross. But this metaphorical act of nailing does not mean that Messiah paid the normal penalty. The normal penalty demanded that the guilty party die, not an innocent party. Nothing is said in the text about the usual penalty being paid. Only cancellation of the debt record is mentioned. Messiah paid an alternate penalty assessed by the law when a substitute was allowed. The principle of an innocent party paying the punitive part of the penalty is an alternate provision of the law. But if justice were entirely equitable as claimed by the Calvinist, then the principle of compensatory justice needs to be addressed. The reason the law often only assesses a punitive damage is that compensatory justice is not possible. But that does not mean it would not be required under the theory of full equitable justice. In fact the Calvinist admits to agreement with the principle of compensation through their doctrine of imputed righteousness! But Biblical imputed righteousness is two things, 1. justice as decided by the Almighty involving forgiveness is counted as done in Messiah, and 2. real righteousness is counted to our account when we are faithful to keep his commandments. Ultimately this righteousness of the Almighty is fully imparted when we are fully transformed upon Messiah’s return to set up his kingdom. Nothing is said in Col. 2:14 about paying the usual puntive penalty. Only the guilty can do that.
Paul again speaks of Christ’s legal work of atonement that He accomplished on the cross. In Eph. 2:15 he tells us that Jesus abolished the enmity which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances (dogma)....Paul is telling us that Christ, via His crucifixion, abolished the Law of commandments against us. Now, this does not mean that He cancelled the Law itself. Rather, it means He cancelled the debt of the Law that we earn by sinning
Slick is surely contradicting his translation here. The traditional Reformed position is that the ceremonial law was abolished in Eph. 2:15. But Slick cannot say that here, because obviously if only the ceremonial debt was abolished (as he interprets it) then the moral debt remains unaffected. But something is abolished. Actually the word means “nullified,” or “made ineffective” in Greek. Let us stay with Slick’s assumptions for the sake of argument. He argues that it was the debt that got canceled. But he should say that the penalty is nullified or abolished. What penalty is that? The usual one. He would argue that the nullification of the penalty is after Messiah paid the whole penalty. In other words, it was just accounting after payment was made.
But the norm of justice is canceled by the use of a substitute, i.e. the use of a substitute is not the norm of justice. Ephesians 2:14-15 goes like this in the original text: The hostility, by way of his flesh, which is the usage of (norm for) charges in judgments, he has made to be without effect, so that he might create the two, by way of himself, into one new man, making peace. Two words were mistranslated in the popular versions. First Law, which is nomos, and means what is customary for something, or the norm for something. And second commandments, which in Greek included judicial orders or charges. So Paul says directly what was the customary outcome of charges concerning sin was made of no effect in Messiah’s death. If the norm is nullified, then what we received in Messiah is a legal exception. Slick still has the problem that his text says the Law was abolished and that he contradicted it. If we go by his text and not him, then any necessity of any justice disappears since the Law has disappeared. Slick realizes this problem, I am sure, but cannot solve it, because to do so would require departing from his false doctrine of fully equitable justice with no forgiveness. In Romans 10:4 it says “Messiah is the end of the norm for justice (what is customary for justice) to everyone faithfully trusting.” The norm demands justice perfectly equal to the crime in a punitive sense. Practically speaking the norm only exacts the maximum punitive justice: death. In principle, however, compensation is also required. The nations well know these principles. The cross is largely foolishness to them because their kind of justice is the only kind they consider perfectly just. The cross teaches forgiveness, something that is unique to Scripture, and not to the nations, and has been judged to be justice, an alternate justice by the Almighty. The Calvinist has simply fallen into the trap of a salvation by works in which there is no forgiveness. They may call it such, but they have nullified its meaning by their doctrine.
The concept of owing someone your life because they saved it in battle or from an accident or from a criminal is frequently a reality. Those who died in war defending the country paid for our freedom with their blood. They paid for our lives with the ultimate price. This language of owing and paying with respect to dying and suffering is common. In these situations no one dwells on who collected the payment as if the collectors of the payment received a positive value. Often those who die in battle defending freedom exact a much higher price of the enemy than their own side. No one however, considers the number of enemy dead an equitable trade for even one life of a comrade. Payment in these situations is a figure of speech for suffering that hurts. Sometimes a literal payment of money hurts because it is so much. A lot of toil and labor went into making it. That’s the idea. What is not the idea is that God is somehow paid off by Messiah’s suffering in an equitable or compensatory way for sin. One soldier pays the ultimate price to the enemy. But the enemy does not feel compensated for his looses by dead opponents. Payment in a context of suffering or death has nothing to do with a positive commercial exchange. It has little or nothing to do with compensation for loss. When a war is won, the winning side still feels loss even though all the enemy paid the price. That payment is never enough for just compensation.
The Calvinist wants to equivocate Messiah’s paying the ultimate price and his purchase of our freedom with a commercial transaction in which the Almighty has received full value such that he entails no losses after permitting sin. The full debt is satisfied as they would say, and not just a small part of the actual punitive debt, which is a representation of what we deserved.