I have been reflecting on the atonement.

I have been doing some reflection on the atonement. I have to admit that I have never really been that interested in how the atonement works; instead I have been content with the knowledge that Jesus saves and that I am justified through his resurrection. Rom 10:9

It seems to my reading of the NT, that it wasn’t an overwhelming priority of the early church to teach how the atonement works. Yes we get hints of it here and there; but I can’t see within the NT any systematic framework that was taught to the early church, in the same way we do today. When it comes to the atonement, Leon Morris writes what I consider to be one of the better short and sharp synopsis of a number of the atonement theories. 

Recently I was talking to someone whom it seems holds that Penal Substitution Atonement  (PSA) is the actual gospel. I will say up front that I don’t think any theory of the atonement is the actual gospel message at all. They then told me that Romans 4:25a is one of the lynch pins for PSA in the letter of Romans.  He was delivered up for[p] our trespasses

In reading the translation notes I noticed a valid translation could be “Because of our trespasses…” 

Paul and Luke were long time travelling and ministry companions. It’s my belief that there is no dichotomy in Paul and Luke’s theology. That because of the sheer nature of their time spent together, they held a unity of thought. Paul speaks of the same themes of death and resurrection as did Luke when he recorded the very first sermon, which was delivered on the day of Pentecost. 

Acts 2:32 “God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this. 33 Therefore, since He has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He has poured out what you both see and hear.34 For it was not David who ascended into the heavens, but he himself says:

The Lord declared to my Lord,
‘Sit at My right hand
35 until I make Your enemies Your footstool.’[a]

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!”



In this first sermon of Peter’s, he makes no mention of Christ dying for our trespasses (within a psa framework) but, instead Peter makes the point of saying “whom you crucified…” In regards to Romans 4:25, this could be an valid interpretive key that Jesus was crucified because we handed him over for crucifixion…he died because of our trespasses. 

It’s important to note that no matter how we interpret and understand how the atonement works, its more important that we believe in the one who did the atoning work for us. Christ died. Christ was buried. Christ was raised. And Christ will come again. In his name is the offer of forgiveness of sin. Through his resurrection we are justified. 


About Craig Benno

I'm an average aussie guy who has lived perhaps a not so average life.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to I have been reflecting on the atonement.

  1. Brian Sleeman says:

    I don’t think they needed to explain how it works. The Jews, (and pretty much every other culture of the time) understood what was taking (or being pointed to) with the use of blood sacrifices. What Paul and Peter at el did was pointing out how Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and what that meant in relation to the reality / finality of that blood sacrificial process (in relation to this particular topic).

    Now if you look at your alternate translation for Rom 4 – it doesn’t really make for a different understanding to the “typical” translation, He was delivered up for our transgressions / He was delivered up because of our transgressions. He didn’t need to be delivered up at all, God at no point told man (Adam) that if he sinned, Christ’s death would be the consequence – so for / because doesn’t really have any distinction.

    Looking at Peters sermon in Acts, man delivered the sacrifice, so it makes sense (in a way) that Peter had to point out that “man” had performed the sacrifice of the Lamb. No doubt in a similar sense to Abraham and Isaac, where God provided the Ram for the sacrifice, yet Abraham had to actually deliver it up.

    Now, whether one can/should “limit” atonement to being simply Penal Substitution is another question.

  2. Brian Sleeman says:

    Oh, and I think your final paragraph is spot on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s