The Doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement

Broadly, this doctrine states that Jesus Christ died in our place when he died on the cross. Instead of us, the guilty ones dying, Jesus, the pure and perfect one stepped in to take our punishment. There is a real possibility of us going free now. If we can take hold of what Jesus did for us here, we no longer have to pay for our sins.
The Bible says:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God
1 Peter 3:18

Clearly, according to this Scripture, God’s purpose in Jesus suffering and dying was that he might bring us to God. This implies that without Jesus’ suffering and death, it would not have been possible for Jesus to bring us to God. Without suffering and dying, Jesus could never have said, “No one comes to the Father but by Me.” (John 14:6)


This means that Jesus did not die simply to be an example to us. However it may be that we may suffer in doing the will of God, we are never going to pay for the sins of others through our sufferings, as Jesus did. Jesus in suffering and dying on the cross was not setting us an example to follow – as if following Jesus meant doing things with the purpose of suffering or arranging to get yourself crucified. To think like this is to overlook what the Scriptures say about the meaning of Christ’s death. And the people who wrote those Scriptures were those who were personally trained by Jesus and who experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost first hand.

Jesus’ suffering makes no sense if it is viewed as an end in itself. Jesus suffered not for Himself but for you and I. We can benefit from Jesus’ suffering. The extremeness of Jesus’ suffering reveals to us the extremeness of OUR NEED.

Our sufferings which we come into have a purpose – not just that we and others should learn to avoid doing stupid things that cause suffering. Not all suffering comes because of mistakes. Some suffering is ordained and/or permitted for higher purposes – which include benefiting OTHERS. Jesus suffered like this in a way we never could – because NOT ONE of us is worthy to take the sins the world upon our shoulders. Jesus alone did that, and its important that we recognise that.

I am troubled when highly followed preachers like Jay Bakker who attract national and international press coverage deny the doctrine of substitutionary atonement and make claims like “Jesus died because Jesus was inclusive” – whatever that means [sounds like part of a pitch for the LGBT agenda actually]. In any case, such preachers deny that God was requiring a punishment for sin. They think it AWFUL to imagine that the true and living God would ever demand BLOOD SACRIFICES for sin. Jay Bakker says, “Yes, I am definitely questioning the atonement and trying to discover how we can see it in a different way. We’ve got this image of God who needs some sort of flesh, some sort of blood, that needs some sort of vengeance to pay for sin.”

 But even a cursory reading of the Books of Moses reveal that this is EXACTLY what God DOES demand. God Himself instructed Moses and Aaron to kill lambs, goats, bulls and more in order to show forth the seriousness of sin and to make covering and satisfaction possible for the people of Israel.

And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 John 2:1b,2)

The idea of propitiation is that Jesus is given as a sacrifice that actually appeases the wrath of God against sin. According to the Bible, there is wrath, and there is an eternal hell, and its not some garbage dump around Jerusalem.  The same preachers that deny the existence of a literal hell are the ones who see God as basically a really nice generous guy who pours our favor on all and includes all in his family regardless of whether they believe in Him or not. But this flesh-pleasing picture is not the picture the Bible portrays about God’s love. The truth is, God’s love for us is COSTLY and it is costly because God is a God of justice, who punishes sin. Jesus had to die for sin to save us, for the same reason that sinners who finally reject both God’s law and God’s love will ultimately perish everlastingly. There is a side to God which is not much appreciated today in our modern age which celebrates “tolerance” as the supreme virtue. And that aspect is Divine Anger, even Divine Wrath. That there is such a wrath is revealed in the New Testament passage of Romans 1:18

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

There is an anger of Almighty God against the offense of sin. This anger was brought to bear on the sinless Son of God when He became a substitute for us. Jesus was just like the innocent lambs that were sacrificed as sin offerings in the Old Testament. He never did any wrong – yet He bore the brunt of God’s displeasure on the cross – because Jesus carried OUR SINS in His body when He died.

Those who take Bible prophecy seriously should be aware that the nature of substitutionary atonement of Christ was revealed in part to the prophet Isaiah, who wrote in his book, chapter 53:



4 Surely He has borne our sicknesses
And carried our pains;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Here we see a divine mystery. The Lord GOD has laid on Jesus Christ the iniquity – the sin and its consequences – of us all.

We see Jesus suffering here because of the things WE have done wrong (our transgression).

We see him bruised because of our inner sinfulness.

We see that in order for us to have well-being (“peace” Heb “Shalom”) HE took punishment.

We are fixed up because  of HIS brutal woundings on our behalf.

The doctrine of substitutionary atonement is revealed here in a very plain way. Jesus did these things for OUR benefit and not simply because suffering like that was a nice example. The Christian faith is not a form of masochism – taking pleasure in pain for its own sake. We may embrace pain in the path of fulfilling God’s commandment to LOVE – but this always results in a greater benefit. We seek to partner with the Holy Spirit in bringing God’s blessings to others even if it is painful to us for a season to do this. But ultimately, God rewards the faithful. Even Jesus “for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2)

Different Theories of the Atonement

You can learn something about different theories of Substitutionary atonment here. I hope that rather than majoring on one of these theories you will simply take the Scripture as it is written above and elsewhere in the Bible, and believe those things. We should not add nor take away from the Scriptures when it comes to a topic as important as Christ’s work and our redemption.

What Does the Bible Clearly teach about the Effect of Christ’s Sacrifice?

Again I want to assert that I believe the Bible itself is a pure source of truth, when correctly understood. Usually, unless its obviously poetry, or unless its quoting someone who clearly did not follow God rightly [like Job’s friends, prophet Balaam or backslidden Solomon, for example], it means exactly what it says and it teaches the truth about God. Of course, sometimes we need to research the meanings of Greek and Hebrew words and what they meant to people of the day. But usually the professional translators got it right. For example, the word “black” in the Hebrew does not actually mean “white”. You get my drift, I trust. For this reason, I am quite suspicious of uber-cool emergent church preachers with thick horn-rimmed glasses saying things like “we need to take the Bible seriously, but not literally”. When we are talking about the meaning of Christ’s work on the cross, we are treading on sacred ground. You dismiss the work of Christ at your eternal peril. Don’t do that. I pray God gives you revelation by His Spirit, so you will stand in awe of Jesus and His sacrifice for YOU.

We have seen that Christ died for sins TO BRING US TO GOD. 1 Peter 3:18.

The great purpose of Jesus dying on the cross was to effect reconciliation between the Lord GOD and ourselves. This is what God wants more than anything for human beings. Thank Him for that!

We see that SINS were the problem that were separating us from God. Again Jay Bakker is wrong when he says, “I think that the idea of God somehow being separated from us was more man’s idea.” This statement cuts across so much of Scripture which teaches things like “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Is. 59:2) and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and so much more from Genesis to Revelation. The whole point of Jesus dying was to solve a major problem that arose because of sin and sins.

Once you are reconciled to God and part of His family there are many benefits that come purely by God’s grace. We receive favour because we are adopted into God’s family and become co-heirs with Christ. We are given the Holy Spirit to drink. We have the hope of eternal life with God. We can ask and receive from the Father. Every spiritual blessing in heavenly places is ours.

Furthermore, we are delivered legally out of the hand of the devil. Jesus Christ overcome sin, satan and iniquity at the cross, and part of His achievement was to get us OUT of the Kingdom of Satan.

Colossians 1:13-14 says “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

Whenever the Scripture talks of the blood of Jesus, it is talking chiefly about the blood that flowed when He was crucified. Exactly how this works is a mystery, but we must realise that there is something about that blood, which represents the life of Jesus poured out for us, that is incredibly special and unique. It is so precious we would have to say that for us, it is INDISPENSABLE. This is the blood of Jesus Christ that “cleanses us from all sin”.








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