Atonement: Christus Victor

Christus Victor

Christus Victor is a phrase I imagine very few of my readers are familiar with. In fact, I’ve had to do a little study on it myself … because we in the Churches of Christ don’t spend much time talking about atonement theory.

Christus Victor is the name given to the theory that held sway among Christians for about 1,000 years — until Anselm argued for substitutionary atonement. Christus Victor is thus the theory of the early church fathers.

As Tony Jones explains,

CV falls under a broader umbrella called the Ransom Theory. In this understanding, the original sin of Adam and Eve placed all of humanity under subjugation to Satan. Christ, the second person of the Trinity, came to Earth and died, giving his life as a ransom for many.

At this point, CV may sound like the penal substitution model that many of us grew up with. But that’s where Aulén said we’re wrong. The early church did not understand the death of Christ as paying a penalty in some transactional sense that only God’s son could pay. The crucifixion is not, in that sense, cosmically necessary to reconcile God and humanity.

Instead, Christ’s death is God’s victory over sin and death. God conquers death by fully entering into it. God conquers Satan by using the very means employed by the Evil One.

Thus, the crucifixion is not a necessary transaction to appease a wrathful and justice-demanding deity, but an act of divine love.

God entered fully into the bondage of death, turned it inside out by making it a moment of victory, and thereby liberates humanity to live lives of love without the fear of death.

It’s a beautiful thing, the crucifixion, in this view. And, for those of us who are robustly trinitarian, it maintains an egalitarian view of the Trinity — one in which the Son and Spirit are not junior partners in the atonement.

(emphasis in original).

A key passage in support of this theory is —

(Rom 5:17-18 ESV) 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

Before the resurrection, Death reigned (basileuo = reign as a king) — was king! — but through the cross and the resurrection, death was dethroned and Jesus crowned.

As another author points out,

Satan – who had the power of death – no longer holds the sovereignty, but now those who are in Christ have been put back in their rightful place as viceroys over God’s creation. (Gen. 1:26-28). In Adam we are slaves, but in Christ we are more than conquerors, and seated with Christ at God’s own right hand. (Rom. 8:37, Eph. 2:6)

As our substitute, Christ willingly allows himself to be overcome by the full force of Satan’s kingdom to be our substitute, thus taking what we deserved and erasing the Law, which gave Satan access to accuse us and lord it over us.

Origen explains the atonement this way, according to Ray Shelton —

But it is Origen (c.185-c.254 A.D.) who raises the question to whom the ransom was paid, and denies that it was paid to God, affirming that it was paid to the Devil. Origen asks:

“But to whom did He give His soul as a ransom for many? Surely not to God. Could it, then, be to the Evil One? For he had us in his power, until the ransom for us should be given to him, even the life (or soul) of Jesus, since he (the Evil One) had been deceived, and led to suppose that he was capable of mastering that soul, and he did not see that to hold Him involved a trial of strength (thasanon) greater than he was equal to. Therefore also death, though he thought he had prevailed against Him, no longer lords over Him, He (Christ) having become free among the dead and stronger than the power of death, and so much stronger than death that all who will amongst those who are mastered by death may also follow Him (i.e. out of Hades, out of death’s domain), death no longer prevailing against them. For every one who is with Jesus is unassailable by death.”

Christ’s death, Origen declares,

“not only has been set forth as an example of dying for religion, but has effected a beginning and an advance in the overthrow of the evil one, the Devil, who dominated the whole earth.” From the moment of His birth, Christ’s life was a conflict with the powers of darkness. His passion and resurrection signified their final defeat.

Origen appeals to Col. 2.15

(“He [Christ] disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it [the cross].”)

I have to agree that Christus Victor picks up an essential theme of the atonement that modern Protestants often overlook. We simply don’t speak in terms of Christ’s victory over the powers, especially Satan and death. Not really. This is truly a biblical point of view.

Christus Victor has lately become very popular among many scholars because it avoids the difficulty of having to satisfy God’s wrath by the death of his Son. Yes, there is something about God’s wrath that the atonement deals with, but under Christus Victor, it’s not the need for justice or to appease God’s anger. Rather, it’s God’s ultimate victory over all evil — including death and Satan.

Through Jesus, God took Satan’s best shot, overcame Satan, and thereby freed God’s people from slavery to sin.

Moreover, there is nothing in Christus Victor that contradicts what’s been said earlier. God’s honoring his covenant with Abraham and Jesus’ learning obedience are also entirely biblical, and it makes sense that God’s covenant with Abraham ultimately blesses all nations by defeating the powers and authorities that stood against God. How else could the nations be blessed? Wasn’t it obviously necessary that God defeat that powers that kept them apart from God?

And what is truly ultimate obedience if not taking the best blow of God’s greatest enemies? You have to be willing to take the hit to prove that you can take the hit. It all fits together perfectly well.

The powers

The Christus Victor theory makes better sense if you take seriously the Bible’s teachings on the “powers.” It’s a subject that almost entirely foreign to most Bible students. It’s only recently come into evangelical conversation through the writing of John Howard Yoder and other neo-Anabaptists, but even they tend to ignore most of what the Bible says.

You see, as much as we claim to be “literal” and “conservative” readers of the Bible, we Americans all tend to be a little guilty of demythologizing the Bible a la Bultmann. We don’t deny the virgin birth or the resurrection, but we do tend to ignore or even deny much of what the Bible says about the powers that God defeated in Jesus. You see, it’s just so … not scientific.

For example, Peter writes,

(1Pe 3:21-22 ESV) 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,  22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Any halfway decent Church of Christ preacher can exegete v. 21! But who can tell us what the “powers” in v. 22 are?

Just so —

(Eph 6:11-12 ESV)  11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

— every child who’s spent much time in Sunday school knows about putting on the armor of God. But who understands the “cosmic powers” and “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”? Those passages don’t make it into our Sunday school classes and sermons.

The neo-Anabaptist view interprets “powers” and “authorities” largely in terms of earthly powers that stand against the realization of the Kingdom in its fullness — greed, corruption, unbelief, etc. And this is not so much wrong as incomplete.

We’ll consider what Peter and Paul have in mind in the next post or two. After all, we really can’t consider what it means to defeat Satan and the “powers” if we aren’t familiar with the Bible’s teachings on the powers.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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55 Responses to Atonement: Christus Victor

  1. Tim Archer says:

    Interesting series, Jay. While I tend to avoid -isms, I find myself identifying with much of what the neo-Anabaptists have to say. From what I’ve read, most see the earthly powers as a manifestation of spiritual realities. That is, while we find ourselves in a real struggle with the powers of this world, the battle that counts is the spiritual one that lies behind.

    Isn’t that what Revelation is about? That is, the idea that Rome isn’t just Rome but one of the nations deceived by Satan and used by him. The victory is won not through physical resistance to Rome but spiritual resistance.

    You may be headed here, but I thought I’d throw this in. I’d say the unique contribution of neo-Anabaptists to this discussion is the recognition that the spiritual powers manifest themselves in the physical powers, not that the earthly powers are the sole enemies.

  2. Royce Ogle says:

    The passage you quoted could well be a banner statement for what Price and I contend for.

    Rom 5:17-18 ESV) 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

    It says what it says.

  3. David Purcell says:

    Jay I am really enjoying this series. Like a bright light in a labrinth of horrors.

  4. Jerry says:

    It is because we do not contend with flesh and blood that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but are mighty before God in casting down every imagination of man that raises itself against our Lord.

    It’s high time we got into the real fight and forget about political solutions to spiritual issues and problems.

  5. rich constant says:

    But it is Origen (c.185-c.254 A.D.) who raises the question to whom the ransom was paid, and denies that it was paid to God, affirming that it was paid to the Devil. Origen asks:
    Gen 3:15 And I will putH7896 enmityH342 betweenH996 thee and the woman,H802 and betweenH996 thy seedH2233 and her seed;H2233 itH1931 shall bruiseH7779 thy head,H7218 and thouH859 shalt bruiseH7779 his heel.H6119 …
    7779 overwhelm ,break ,bruise ,or cover
    sounds like the snake got one hell of a ransom

  6. rich constant says:

    i kinda like what john mark hicks puts out…

    What Did God Do To Sin and Death through Jesus Christ?
    John Mark Hicks

    “He was delivered over to death for our sins
    and was raised to life for our justification.”
    Romans 4:25

    Atonement means reconciliation (at-one-ment). It is God’s work whereby he provides the basis for and accomplishes the goal of reconciliation between himself and sinful humanity. Reconciliation is God’s re-creative (redemptive) act whereby his original intention of communion between himself and his creatures is fulfilled.
    God created the human community in order to share the loving fellowship of his own triune community (Father, Son and Spirit). By creation God invited others into the fellowship of his own life. In much the same way that parents bear children in order to express and share their love, so God himself created out of his self-giving and other-centered love. God created others to share what he already possessed–the fellowship of a loving community (John 17:24-26).
    But sin alienates God and humanity. God’s holy communion cannot embrace ungodliness any more than light can embrace darkness. There is no darkness in God, and there is no communion with sin in his light. Light must dispel darkness because they cannot coexist at the same time and in the same place. Therefore, sin separates God and humanity (Isaiah 59:2). The holiness of God’s community is at stake. The holy God cannot dwell among the wicked (Psalm 5:4). Thus, God excluded his original children from the Garden (Genesis 3:23-24), excluded wicked Israel from his presence (2 Kings 17:22-23), and will one day banish the ungodly from his eternal communion (Revelation 21:6-8).
    Yet, just as parents yearn for their children, so God yearns for his people. Even when Israel was a rebellious child, God compassionately yearned for their fellowship (Jeremiah 31:20; Hosea 11:8). Even when Israel was an unfaithful wife and had sold herself into prostitution, God pursued her as a husband yearns for reconciliation with his beloved (Hosea 1-3). Even while we were yet enemies, God demonstrated his love for us in that Christ died in order to restore fellowship with his people (Romans 5:6-11). In Jesus Christ God first loved us before we loved him (1 John 4:7-12).
    The holy God, then, takes the initiative in reconciliation. God invites us into his fellowship and seeks a renewed communion (1 John 1:3). The holy God wants to dwell with his people. In Israel, he gave them his holy presence as he dwelled among them in the tabernacle (Leviticus 26:11-12). In the church, he gives them his holy presence as he dwells in them through his Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20). In the new heaven and new earth God will fully dwell among his redeemed people (Revelation 21:3-4).
    But how can the holy God dwell among unholy people? Must he not exclude unholy people from his presence? Can he commune with ungodliness? Can God tolerate evil in his presence and deny his own integrity?
    Atonement means that God makes a “holy place” for himself by removing sin from his people so that he dwells among them in his transforming, life-giving presence. Atonement accomplishes a reconciliation between God and his people so that they dwell together in a loving, holy fellowship.
    God accomplished this mighty act of atonement through Jesus Christ. The earliest Christian confession, as Paul records it in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, is (1) that Christ died for our sins, (2) that he was buried, (3) that he was raised on the third day, and (4) that he appeared to Cephas. The gospel, in its most basic form, is proclaimed in those four facts. Jesus really died (as his burial verifies) and he was really raised (as his appearance to Cephas verifies). But these are not mere facts–they have meaning. They accomplished something. The death and resurrection of Jesus are God’s mighty act whereby he reconciled the world to himself (Romans 5:9-11; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19). God removed sin and offered his life-giving presence through the gospel. God destroyed both sin and death through Jesus Christ.

    Christ Died For Our Sin

    Paul’s summary of the gospel essentially locates the importance of Christ’s death in the idea that Christ died “for our sins” (cf. Galatians 1:4). In other places, Paul summarizes this divine work as Christ’s death “for us” (cf. Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 2:20; 3:13). The mystery of the atoning function of Christ’s death lies behind these two ideas, that is, that Christ died (1) for sin and (2) for us.
    This is not simply Paul’s version of the mystery, but it is the witness of the whole New Testament. Peter writes that “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Peter 3:18; cf. 2:24). The writer of Hebrews talks about the expiatory significance of Christ’s death (“to take away the sins of my people,” Hebrews 9:28; cf. 2:17; 7:27; 10:12) but also its substitutionary character (“he might taste death for everyone,” Hebrews 2:9). John also testifies that Jesus’s death was “for our sins” (1 John 2:2; 4:10) as well as “for us” (1 John 3:16). Matthew records the teaching of Jesus that his death was both “for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28) and “for many” (Matthew 20:28).
    But what does it mean to say that “Christ died for sin” and “for us”? If this is the most basic Christian confession, why are so many Christians ambiguous in their understanding and inapt in their articulation of its fundamental meaning? What does it mean to confess that “Christ died for our sins”? I think four points summarize the meaning of this confession.
    First, God himself removed sin from his people through Jesus Christ. This is the most basic idea of atonement. The death of Jesus removed sin. It took away sin. It expiated sin. As a result of his death, sin no longer exists as a barrier between God and humanity. The wall that separated them was broken down at the cross. God reconciled himself to sinful humanity by removing the sin.
    This was the function of the Levitical sacrifices. They removed sin from the presence of God’s people and created a “holy place” where God could dwell among them. The “blood of the covenant” cleansed and sanctified the people, the tabernacle, the altar and the scroll. The law required “that nearly everything be cleansed with blood” (Hebrews 9:22). Through sacrifice, through the removal of sin, God made “holy space” for himself so that he could dwell among his people in a holy communion.
    This was also the function of the death of Jesus. Since sin has been removed through Jesus, God has created a holy place in our hearts through the indwelling of his Holy Spirit. We are now God’s holy temple in which he dwells through his Spirit (Ephesians 2:18-22). We are God’s saints, his holy ones. God lives within his holy people instead of merely in a holy temple. Indeed, the Levitical sacrifices were inadequate for God’s ultimate purpose. They were provisional and patterned after God’s own design in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:1-10:18). In the eternal mind of God sin is only removed through the expiatory work of Jesus (Hebrews 9:15) though provisionally given to God’s people under the old covenant.
    But in what sense did the death of Christ remove sin? Paul offers several metaphors for this work. One is a commercial. God canceled the debt of sin. He nailed the debt to the cross. Paul writes that our certificate of indebtedness, our “I owe you,” was canceled at the cross. It was nailed to the cross. By whatever means, God forgave our debt at the cross and removed sin from our account. The ransom was paid and we were freed from indebtedness.
    Another metaphor is legal in character. God no longer charges us with sin. The indictment has been revoked and we have been declared not guilty. God reconciled himself to the world by “not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). In Jesus Christ God no longer “imputes” sin and, therefore, there is no “condemnation” for those who are in him (Romans 8:1).
    Yet, how can the holy God remove the sin of a depraved people? How can God declare the guilty “not guilty”? How can God forgive a debt that is justly owed? God removes sin, but on what basis? We need to say more.
    Second, God identified himself with sinners in Jesus Christ. God did not keep his distance from his fallen, sinful people. Rather, he came near. He joined them in their fallenness and identified himself with sinners. The holy God entered the fallen world and shared the shame, pain and death of this world.
    God’s first act of identification was the incarnation itself. God joined us in our fallenness by sharing our flesh, our sickness, our fatigue, our hunger and our death. God became a slave for our sakes by becoming one of us. Jesus Christ “did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,” rather “he humbled himself” by “being born in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-8; NRSV). God did not send a sympathy card, but he came to sit with us on the mourner’s bench in order to groan with us in our shame and pain.
    Jesus identified with sinners when he was baptized. Jesus underwent a rite designed for those who (a) repent of sin; (b) confess their sin; and (c) are immersed for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4-5). The righteous one submitted to a ritual designed for sinners. The righteous one joined sinners in an act of humility and submission. Jesus identified himself with sinners.
    The cross, however, is the moment of God’s ultimate self-humiliation. There Jesus was “numbered among the transgressors” (Luke 22:37). There Jesus “became sin” for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). There “he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8). There he became a “curse” for us (Galatians 3:13). There he “bore our sins in his body” (1 Peter 2:24). There to one who knew no sin became one with sin as he died “for us.”
    But what does it mean for Christ to identify with sinners? How does he become “sin” for us? How does this remove sin? We need to say more.
    Third, God substituted himself for sinners in Jesus Christ. The cross is not fundamentally a human sacrifice. It is God in the flesh sacrificing himself for humanity. God himself takes upon himself the substitutionary role. This is not a human substitute, but rather one of the triune community represents the Godhead in this act of self-humiliation and offer himself for sinners. The triune community itself experiences the hideousness of sin through the Godforsakenness of the crucified one. The triune community offered its own life, community and fellowship for the sake of reconciliation with the world they loved.
    God acts against sin in Jesus Christ. He punishes sin. But he does so within his own life rather than externalizing that punishment by tormenting sinners. God himself experiences the torment of the sin rather than inflicting that torment on us. The Lord of glory cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). The triune community suffered within itself rather than inflicting that suffering upon humanity. The triune community internalized the horror and punishment of sin rather than punishing humanity with eternal wrath. God saved us from the “wrath to come” by experiencing that wrath himself in his own triune life through Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:10). This is the love of God that sent his Son into the world as a “propitiation” for sin (1 John 4:10).
    The cross is the moment of God’s self-substitution. God substitutes himself in such a way that it is just for God to “justify the ungodly” and “not impute sin” to sinners. God substituted himself in that he experienced and internalized within himself the wrath that was due to us. Jesus Christ experienced the curse we deserved, paid the debt we owed, and suffered the eschatological death we earned.
    But why did God substitute himself? Why did he not just “forgive” without substitution? Why did anyone have to “pay”? We need to say more.
    Fourth, God satisfied himself in Jesus Christ. We do not satisfy God. We do not life up to his holiness and emulate his character. We are unworthy servants even if we are obedient. We cannot deal with our sin or make up for our mistakes. We cannot pay the ransom for our own iniquities. Only God could pay it.
    To whom or what did God pay it? Some believe that he paid it to Satan as if God owed Satan something. Some believe that he paid it to some principle to which he was obligated as if there is a principle of justice that stands above God to which he must submit. God does not satisfy a law higher than himself. God is not subservient to some higher principle. On the contrary, God’s character is the highest principle in the universe. He owes nothing to no one (Job 41:11; Romans 11: 35).
    Instead, God acts consistently with his own character. God does not deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13). God must act in character and with integrity. This is the ground of God’s own faithfulness. He must be faithful to himself. He could not do otherwise and remain who he is. So God determined to redeem sinful humanity but he decided to do so in a way consistent with his character. Therefore, out of his mercy and because of his great love, God determined he would justify the ungodly, but in a just way. Because he loved his creation and yearned for their fellowship, he determined to satisfy himself in the light of his own holiness.
    The cross is the moment of God’s self-satisfaction. God purposed to set forth Jesus Christ as the means of averting his just wrath. The first chapters of Romans are replete with references to God’s wrath and just condemnation (1:18, 32; 2:2, 3, 5, 8, 12, 25; 3:8-10, 19-20, 23). God’s solution is to demonstrate his righteousness by a propitiation so that he could remain righteous and at the same time declare believers righteous. The clear implication of Romans 3:25-26 is that God could not have been just in declaring the ungodly righteous if Jesus had not been offered as a propitiation. God’s own self-satisfaction was necessary if God was to remain both just and justifier. God’s work in Christ is a divine self-propitiation whereby the triune community absorbs the eschatological wrath due us. Because of this self-propitiation God may now justify the ungodly (Roman 4:5).
    This understanding of the atonement has been criticized as unintelligible to the modern mind. It appears to value human sacrifice and thus sounds rather mythological and hideous. But the principle of inner moral conflict whereby one sacrifices himself in self-giving love rather than compromising his own principles is still valued. We see it in parents who are torn apart with conflicting emotions when their children go astray. They long to forgive, but not in such a way that condones or encourages the wrongdoing. True forgiveness is costly. It cost God something. God decided to deal with sin by taking it up into his own life where he destroyed its power. God offers himself as a substitute in order that his holiness might meet his love for the sake of his people. The triune community sacrificed its own unbroken bliss so that others might join their communion. I am not sure we can say much more.
    Ultimately, the mystery of the atonement lies beyond the images and metaphors Scripture offers. The mysterious reality which lies behind the fact that “God was in Christ reconciling the world” (2 Corinthians 5:18) and “God made Christ to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21) is beyond our finite minds. We will spend eternity not only worshipping God and the Lamb, but exploring the mystery which inspires our worship. The atonement is more than an example or a martyrdom. Christ died for sin. He did something to sin. He removed it, canceled it and destroyed it. We will never fathom the mystery of that relationship, but it speaks volumes about who God is (a holy love that cannot deny himself), what he has done (humbled himself) and how he has loved us (substituted himself).

    Christ Was Raised for Our Life

    While we often describe the death of Christ as “for us,” we rarely say this about his resurrection. We more readily speak of rising “with Christ”–and this is the more dominant language of the New Testament (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:14; Romans 6:5-8; Colossians 2:12; 3:1). However, it is also appropriate to say that Christ was raised “for us.” Jesus was raised for “our justification” (Romans 4:25) and so that we might be saved by “his life” (Romans 5:10). In much the same way that Christ died for us, he was also raised for us. Indeed, Paul explicitly says this in 2 Corinthians 5:15 (NRSV): “And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.”
    Just as with the death of Christ “for us,” so we must ask what it means to say that Christ was raised for us and for our life. But before we can answer that question, we must address what the resurrection meant to Jesus himself. Then we can apply it’s meaning to us.
    On the cross Christ experienced the Godforsakenness of the sin he bore. Through that suffering the Son of God experienced shame and condemnation. Jesus suffered on a “tree” and therefore suffered the curse of God. Consequently, the cross was a stumbling block for the Jews because the cross represented the curse of God (1 Corinthians 1:23). God’s Messiah could not hang on a “tree.” The Messiah was a conquering hero, not a crucified servant. Rather than “Jesus is Messiah” unbelieving Jews would say “Jesus is cursed.” While the cross in our post-Christian culture is an object of love, gratitude and appreciation, to the culture of the first century it was an object of horror, curse and humiliation.
    The preaching in Acts, however, accentuates the importance of the resurrection in this context. While the Jewish leaders crucified Jesus, “God raised him from the dead” (Acts 2:23-24; 3:14-15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:26-31). If Jesus’ life had ended on that tree, he would have been an accursed servant. But the resurrection of Jesus is the justification of the accursed one. When God raised Jesus from the dead he reversed the curse and vindicated his just one. God reversed the judgment of death. The “mystery of godliness,” according to 1 Timothy 3:16, is that God appeared in the flesh (incarnation and death), but was “vindicated by the Spirit” (resurrection).
    Death did not win. Satan was defeated. God’s anointed one was not left in Hades, but God raised him from the dead and proclaimed him Lord (Acts 2:24-28). The accursed one was justified. The resurrection of Jesus proclaims God’s victory over sin and death. The resurrection of Jesus destroys death.
    He was, in fact, raised “for our justification” (Romans 4:25). His victory is our victory. His resurrection is our resurrection. His justification is our justification. There are at least three ways in which this is true.
    First, our resurrection with Jesus is the presence of God’s transforming Spirit. Since Christ died to sin and we are dead to sin in him, we are now alive to God. Paul writes: “count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). The life we now life is not our own–it is the resurrected life of Jesus. We have been crucified with Jesus, and we have been raised with him. So the life we now live is his (Galatians 2:20). We live in the power of the life-giving Spirit who has given us “new life” in Christ.
    The presence of the Spirit is God’s gift by which he transforms us into the image of his Son. The work of the Spirit is sanctification (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). God’s Holy Spirit empowers our sanctification (Ephesians 3:16-17). By the presence of his Spirit, God transforms us “into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). God calls us to live holy lives and he gives us his Holy Spirit as a transforming power.
    This power is the vigor of a resurrected life that is lived out in the present as we anticipate the fullness of that power in the resurrection of the body. Paul raises this point in Romans 8:10-11: “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” Thus, the present experience of the transforming power of the Spirit by the fruit he bears in us is but a foretaste of our full redemption by the power of the Spirit in the resurrection.
    Consequently, the sanctified life we now live is by the power of the life-giving Spirit who gave life to the dead body of Jesus Christ. We called to be holy, then, because God has given us the power to be holy.
    Second, our resurrection with Jesus transforms our experience of death. Since God has defeated death, we no longer fear its hostile grip. The resurrection has destroyed death so that the keys of Hades are in the hands of Jesus (Revelation 1:18). His resurrection is a revelation of our future resurrection because he is but the “firstfruits” of the harvest to come. The resurrection of Jesus actually belongs to the end of time, but God raised him in the midst of history as a revelation of the end. God raised Jesus in order show us what the end of history is. He gave us the “firstfruits” in order to assure us of the coming harvest in which we will participate. Even though the future has not yet arrived, we know what the end is because of the resurrection of Jesus. The gospel has brought the light of resurrected immortality into the darkness of this fallen world (2 Timothy 1:10).
    Consequently, our experience of death is transformed from hopelessness, fear and despair into hope, expectation and anticipation. We no longer fear death though we hate it. We hate it because it is God’s enemy, but we do not fear it because God in Christ has conquered it. As the writer of Hebrews writes, Jesus “shared in [our] humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil–and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
    Third, our resurrection with Jesus in our “spiritual” bodies enables full communion with God in the eschaton. Since God has raised Christ with a “spiritual body,” we yearn for our spiritual bodies when we will experience the fullness of God’s Spirit in the new heaven and new earth. Indeed, the indwelling Spirit is our promise that we will be raised, and the power of the Spirit that now works in us to transform us into his glory will transform our vile bodies into the glorious body of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:11; Philippians 3:21). Our present mortal, weak, and fallen bodies will be transformed into immortal, powerful, and glorious bodies. We will have “spiritual bodies,” that is, bodies energized and empowered by the full transforming presence of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
    The present work of the Spirit which offers us daily renewal (2 Corinthians 4:16) will bear its full fruit in the resurrection when the Spirit will sanctify our whole person (body and soul). The Spirit who now sanctifies us will animate our bodies throughout eternity. The Holy Spirit will complete his work of sanctification through the resurrection and make us holy so we can abide in the presence of God forever by his power and by his holiness. God will fully dwell among his people when they are fully sanctified by his Spirit in the new heaven and new earth. That work is still in process and not yet complete. The indwelling of the Spirit is God’s promise that he will complete that work as we continue to trust in him (Ephesians 1:13-14; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5).
    Just as the death of Christ is the culmination and representation of all that is fallen about the world, so the resurrection is God’s pledge to restore the world to its original goodness. God acted decisively to reverse the effects of Good Friday. The resurrection is God’s pledge of eschatological reversal in a new heaven and a new earth. The resurrection is a new day of creation/redemption and signals the defeat of God’s enemies, especially the last enemy which is death. It is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.


    The death and resurrection of Jesus are God’s two mighty acts of reconciliation. The cross is God’s self-humiliating participation in human suffering in order to substitute himself for the sake of his own self-satisfaction. The resurrection is God’s justification of Jesus through which we presently experience the power of a sanctified life, live with hope in the face of death and expect our full sanctification by God’s Spirit in the eschaton.
    In Jesus Christ, God suffered with us and for us. He did not distance himself from our suffering, but joined us in it. He did not succumb to sin, but overcame it in his life and ministry. He did not leave us in our sin, but destroyed it through his death. He did not leave us in our death, but justified us through his resurrection.
    Atonement destroys sin and restores life. It cancels the debt of sin and gives back the life that sin stole. In Jesus Christ, God reconciles the world to himself. He fulfills his goal for creation. He again unites with humanity in one community and he will restore the Garden of Eden (Revelation 22:1-6).
    Atonement is God’s work. The gospel is what God has done in Jesus Christ. We do not “do” the gospel. We believe the gospel, trust the gospel, respond to the gospel and obey the gospel. But the gospel is God’s work of atonement whereby he reconciles us through submissive faith. God is the actor, and we are the receiver. God accomplishes redemption, and we accept his gift. We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8).
    Just as he created, so has he redeemed. God created out of his self-giving, self-sacrificing love, and so he has also redeemed. God has made atonement and overcome the barrier that separated him from his creatures. His self-humiliating, self-sacrificing, self-substituting love has acted in order to defeat sin and empower our holy, hopeful and immortal lives. In Jesus Christ God atoned for sin and death, and now we are called to receive his gift and emulate the one who loved us.

  7. monty says:

    “The early church did not understand the death of Christ as paying a penalty in some transactional sense that only God’s son could pay.”

    So, there were other options available that would have worked just as well? That idea is truly foreign to any teaching I know. Don’t believe it. God’s justice had to be satisfied for the punishment of sin. Only a sinless holy sacrifice could do it. All the blood sacrifices from the beginning of time only pointed to Jesus.

  8. Price says:

    Jay… how do you reconcile this sentence from the Romans passage you quoted…

    “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”

    I guess it depends on how one might define “leads” ??

  9. rey says:

    @Price “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”

    Just as Adam’s sin set a bad example for everyone, Jesus obedience set a good example for everyone. Seriously, I know I’m nearly quoting Pelagius here and a Calvinist like yourself can’t countenance that, but what do you expect me to do with the words “all men” here? If its about all men, then since all are not saved, obviously we aren’t talking about magico-instant salvation here.

  10. rich constant says:

    Adam brought about about separation from gods presence. transgressed gods will
    god being just.
    deviation from the, “now known good and evil “anyone deviating from good got the same
    judgement.death and no access to the tree of life
    the lords righteous act of going to the cross being free of sin is cursed for our redemption on the cross being faithful to the will of God not the law of god.
    Jesus was vindicated by god and over came death for all that are of the faith of Jesus

  11. aBasnar says:

    @ Monty

    You wrote:

    That idea is truly foreign to any teaching I know.

    You bet. But imagine: What you think is the correct understanding of the atonement was foreign to all Christians during the first 1000 years after Pentecost. What might be the reason for this?

    a) Christianity was gifted with the Holy Spirit only after Anselm or after the Reformation?
    b) The Apostles got it it right, but were incapable of passing it on – while we know it and can pass it on correctly?
    c) We have been terribly misled and brainwashed …


  12. aBasnar says:

    What is the “one act of righteousness”, Price? As far as I know we bpoth agree that Christ’s sinless/righteous life was necesary for the atonement, not just His blood. Had he sinned, death had had power over Him. You can also translate it as “justification”, then this “one act” means the resurrection.

    I see no conflict to Christus Victor in this verse, rather a confirmation, placing the emphasis on the resurrection rather than His death. It’s the resurrection by which we are justified, because He was raised for our justification. This means: He conquered Death and ransomed us.

    Penal substituition could be satisfied with the shed blood. The resurrection would not be necessary if it were just about paying the price. Think about it: What is the use of the resurection? What does the resurrection “add” to the shed blood? In fact – legally spoken – nothing: All has been paid hfor with this word: “It’s finished – tetelesthai – completely paid”. But this alone had not destroyed the powers of darkness! Satan was very pleased to get a hold of the Son of God and to do to Him as he pleased! How he mocked, beat, tortured and killed him in the most disgraceful way the ancient world knew of! This was his hour! But death could not hold Christ, because He was sinless – and in His resurrection, Christ conquered Hades and led captives captive.

    It’s the resuurection that makes our redemption complete. The penal substitution theory cannot fit it in logically.


  13. aBasnar says:

    P.S. And the resurrection is oh so necessary for our salvation, because we become one with His resurrected life and THUS liberated from the power of sin. Therefore the “excuse” does not count any longer: “But we are nothing but poor sinners …” That’s overcome by the resurrection and by our becoming one with His resurrection … in baptism. Therefore the plea for a good conscience in 1Pe 3:21 is not based on the shed blood of the Lamb, but on the resurrection of Christ!

    As long as I followed the penal substitution model, I always had a hard time fitting the resurrection in the big picture, but it is the resurrection that made Christ a Victor.


  14. Price says:

    Alexander…I’m not saying I disagree with Jay’s post. I’m not sure I’m smart enough to figure it all out, much less disagree…!!! I certainly agree with you on the necessity of the resurrection…Paul says in I cor 15…And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” I don’t think that leaves any room for disagreement.

  15. Royce Ogle says:

    We are reconciled to God by Christ’s death and saved by his life. I have never had any problem fitting the resurrection in. Penal substitution? Hmmm… Jesus died FOR us, the Just for the unjust. Let’s see, I sinned He did not. I deserved to die, He didn’t. But he did die in my place with my sin upon him and instead of me being crushed I Receice acquittal and the gift of righteousness because He was crushed.

    If you were sentenced to 30 days labor and someone convinced the judge to allow them to do your time that would be penal substitution, no?

  16. guy says:

    i think Christus Victor just doesn’t presuppose the sort of legal and juridical scheme of atonement-interpretation that many people continue to bring up here (Christ as paying satisfying the due penalty of a penal code, and God as Judge who means to exact that particularly retribution). i know N.T. Wright has argued otherwise, but i tend to think that Christus Victor simply isn’t compatible with the kinds of penal substitution schemes people keep introducing. Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be.

    And i also guess i don’t see how the “plain” reading of any scriptures will solve anything–as though there is such a thing. (Penal substitution *is* an interpretive tradition itself.) [No one has quite made the ‘plain-reading’ claim explicitly, but it seems to me that it underlies some people’s comments.]


  17. johnny says:

    As a young man I loved the way Carmen said it in the song “the Champion”
    He has won!
    He has won!
    He’s alive forevermore!
    He is risen, He is Lord,
    He has won!
    He has won!
    He’s alive forevermore,
    He is risen!
    He is Lord!

    Proclaim the news in every tongue,
    Through endless ages and beyond
    Let it be voiced from mountains loud and strong
    Captivity has been set free, salvation bought for you and me
    ‘Cause Satan is defeated,
    And Jesus is The Champion

  18. Jay Guin says:

    A couple of points —

    1. I’m not suggesting that Christus Victor is a comprehensive explanation for the atonement. Only that it seems true. I’ve already put forward other explations that seem true to me as well. There is nothing in logic or scripture that requires that Jesus died for only one reason or that our salvation results from a single theological doctrine.

    2. I have a problem with two elements of traditional atonement theory. Consider this very typical explanation commonly heard in a revival sermon:

    God is our judge, and we stand before him with countless sins charged against us. His holiness is so far above our own that we can’t imagine how wicked we appear in his eyes. Therefore, we deserve nothing but condemnation and eternity in hell.

    We stand before the bench, and God has heard the damning evidence against us. There is no defense. His gavel swings down, but just before he hammers his bench and pronounces sentence, Jesus comes forward — the judge’s own Son — and announces that he will accept our punishment for us.

    The judge, moved by the son’s sacrifice and love, allows him to accept the punishment that we deserve — but only if we believe …….

    It doesn’t ring true. The emotional appeal is powerful, but it doesn’t seem right.

    First, the story presupposes that God wants us damned and that only Jesus wants us rescued. The emphasis is entirely on God’s justice not his love, his grace, or his righteousness. And the scriptures do not really argue for grace from justice — unless you mistranslate Rom 3:26. It’s a forced conclusion although long hallowed in Protestant theology. (Did this begin with Luther? I’ve not looked it up.)

    It seems odd that such a fundamental doctrine — God’s justice — that drives the need for the crucifixion to so many is found in only this one verse.

    Second, the story presupposes that killing Jesus instead of us is somehow just. Imagine that a real judge kills his own son to free someone else. That may be a peculiar form of mercy, but it’s not justice.

    Third, why can’t God just forgive our sins? Why is a sacrifice necessary? Is there a cosmic law that sins may be forgiven only by sacrifice? by blood? If your own son sins against you, what sacrifice do you require? How much blood? And aren’t we supposed to forgive as God forgives?

    (Eph 4:32 ESV) 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

    The Hebrews writer has often been quoted at this point in the argument, as saying that blood is essential to forgiveness.

    (Heb 9:13-14 ESV) 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

    (Heb 9:22-24 ESV) 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. 23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

    The Hebrews writer speaks of the blood being used to “purify” “heavenly things.” The reference is to the blood of the covenant, in which the blood was used to purify the tabernacle and the people before the covenant was made with God. It was a purifying ritual.

    How on earth might blood purify “heavenly things” that you’d think are already pure? By defeating spiritual powers? Maybe.

    (Exo 24:5-8 ESV) 5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

    The peace offering was not for forgiveness but an expression of gratitude.

    “The ashes of a heifer” refers to Num 19, the ritual for removing ceremonial uncleanness.

    You have to figure that the author is more concerned with purification than propitiation. And so, why say: “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Is his point that Jesus had to die to satisfy the demands of the Law of Moses for an animal sacrifice? Or God’s demand for blood as a condition of forgiveness?

    Certainly, Hebrews doesn’t support the law court theory, but prefers a Mosaic sacrificial system metaphor in which even heavenly things must be purified by the blood of Jesus — which makes sense in terms of Christus Victor but otherwise is very hard to understand in anything but a purely, 100% poetical sense (that is, just for the sake of the metaphor).

    So why is blood necessary for sins to be forgiven? God’s defeat of the powers makes good sense, and that required the cross, and hence blood. Is this the thought behind the image?

    I just struggle with the bare statement that God only forgives when blood has been shed, as though there is a cosmic law higher than God imposing this requirement on him. Nor can I imagine God, in love, saying I will only forgive if you bring me blood.

    Therefore, for the moment, and somewhat tentatively, I go with Christus Victor + the learning of obedience on the cross. Both of these models make the cross essential without painting God as subject to the Law of Moses or some cosmic law demanding blood and yet, together, they require the cross in order for us to be forgiven.

    I prefer to imagine God loving and omnipotent, not looking to damn us (clearly untrue) and not subject to rules that prevent his forgiving us if he wishes. I can forgive you for sinning against me without demanding blood. I can show mercy without forcing someone else to pay the price.

    And so, imagine this scene:

    God is our judge, and we stand before him with countless sins charged against us. His holiness is so far above our own that we can’t imagine how wicked we appear in his eyes. Therefore, we deserve nothing but condemnation and eternity in hell.

    We stand before the bench, and God has heard the damning evidence against us. There is no defense. His gavel swings down, but just before he hammers his bench and pronounces sentence, God himself announces that he will accept our punishment for us. He gives up heaven and bliss to become like us, to live as we live and suffer as we suffer. He knows that forgiving us is not nearly good enough. We have to be purged of sin and sinfulness both. He must both forgive and transform.

    Therefore, he submits to the cross, defeating Satan and the powers, and also learning obedience. In learning obedience, he is enabled to enter our hearts and circumcise them, so that we become more and more like God himself in our ever-increasing obedient faithfulness.

    Because God’s goal is not merely to forgive but also to transform, he is only willing to enter the hearts of those who pledge to be faithful, who open their hearts to becoming like his Son by the power of his Spirit. This is not a commercial or legal transaction, a mere trading of forgiveness for believing the Son is part of the Godhead. This is an invitation to enter into an intensely personal relationship with the God of the universe, and that requires a special kind of heart, a heart prepared to become like God’s faithful Son and like God in his faithfulness by committing to follow Jesus — to be faithful to him.

    Therefore, Jesus had to die to take away our sins. He bore our sins because he paid the price that had to be paid for our sins to be forgiven. Without the powers being defeated and without God himself learning obedience, the relationship could not happen, God could not become Abba, and the Spirit could not transform us into obedience.

    Thus, we see, God paid the price just as he promised Abraham. He suffered for our iniquities. Our guilt was removed by the cross, and so our consciences have been purified, just as Hebrews says.

    It’s a working theory. I’m not sure it’s 100% complete, but it seems truer than “God can only forgive if human blood is shed.” In fact, human blood would never do the trick. Only the blood of God himself would be enough to defeat the powers and learn obedience.

  19. guy says:


    You wrote:
    “Because God’s goal is not merely to forgive but also to transform,”

    Surely that summarizes some of the basis of the debate. In penal subsitutionary theories, the transformational bit always seems ad hoc. In Christus Victor, the transforming *is* the saving.


  20. aBasnar says:

    Hmmm… Jesus died FOR us, the Just for the unjust. Let’s see, I sinned He did not. I deserved to die, He didn’t. But he did die in my place with my sin upon him and instead of me being crushed I Receice acquittal and the gift of righteousness because He was crushed.

    If you were sentenced to 30 days labor and someone convinced the judge to allow them to do your time that would be penal substitution, no?

    First, Jesus took my physical death, but not my eternal judgment on the cross. This is a “cheap” substitution, if may be so bold, if all hinges on this. He did not spend the eternity in hell that I deserved. And He only died ONE death instead of one death per sinner. But second: This makes it seem that you are only at odds with God, even God looks like an enemy. In fact WE behaved towards Him like enemies – but He towards us? Not really. What is not seen clearly in your summary of the substitution is the enslavement to the powers of darkness, our true and fiercest enemy. What also is not seen is the victory Christ won over these powers through cross and resurrection. All that is seen is “I, me, myself and my sin that is paid for”, but that’s just a fragment of the whole story.

    The ransom Satan thought to receive was the blood and life of the Son of God! You can get a glimpse at His eagerness to take Him for letting us go in the parable of the vineyard in Mat 21:33-41. Just look at the reason why they wanted to kill the heir in this parable:

    Mat 21:38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’

    And as for us: Satan could agree anytime to let us go (like Pharao), because he would chase us afterwards and get us again anyway. Getting Christ for Him menat, getting the universe, because He would kill the creator and destroy God (understood in the light of the trinity). But Christ not only defeated Satan by His sinlessness so death could not hold Him, but also by provided a means for us to become one with His resurrected life – and so the powers of darkness get drowned in the waters of baptism; we a liberated from the “Egypt of sin” forever.

    Therefore (and for other reasons) I think Christus Victor explains the Gospel more fully and sheds a more fitting light on a loving and compassionate God who fight for His people to the death.


  21. aBasnar says:

    One of favorite texts inthis context:

    1Co 2:8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

    I think he refers to these “powers” not to earthly kings and princes. I like God’s careful planning, the way He prepared the way for Messiah to come, without letting these powers see what He was up to; yet those with an open heart towards God (verse 9) could read between the lines of prophecy. Had they understood His plans, they would not have killed Christ. This would have meant their defeat! And they were “ambushed” by God!

    And also: It was THEM that killed Chrsit, not God. If “justice” only demanded death, then a rope, a bullet or a sword could have done the job, But the cross was the most terrible way of executing someone in the ancient world, reflecting Satan’s hatred against the Son of God.

    If someone points to Isa 53 that God crushed the Son, I’d point them to the LXX which was the Bible of the Apostles, approved by the Holy Spirit by its use in the NT. there we read nothing like that:

    Isa 53:1 O Lord, who has believed our report? and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
    Isa 53:2 We brought a report as of a child before him; he is as a root in a thirsty land: he has no form nor comeliness; and we saw him, but he had no form nor beauty.
    Isa 53:3 But his form was ignoble, and inferior to that of the children of men; he was a man in suffering, and acquainted with the bearing of sickness, for his face is turned from us: he was dishonoured, and not esteemed.
    Isa 53:4 He bears our sins, and is pained for us: yet we accounted him to be in trouble, and in suffering, and in affliction.
    Isa 53:5 But he was wounded on account of our sins, and was bruised because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by his bruises we were healed.
    Isa 53:6 All we as sheep have gone astray; every one has gone astray in his way; and the Lord gave him up for our sins.
    Isa 53:7 And he, because of his affliction, opens not his mouth: he was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth.
    Isa 53:8 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken away from the earth: because of the iniquities of my people he was led to death.
    Isa 53:9 And I will give the wicked for his burial, and the rich for his death; for he practised no iniquity, nor craft with his mouth.
    Isa 53:10 The Lord also is pleased to purge him from his stroke. If ye can give an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived seed:
    Isa 53:11 the Lord also is pleased to take away from the travail of his soul, to shew him light, and to form him with understanding; to justify the just one who serves many well; and he shall bear their sins.
    Isa 53:12 Therefore he shall inherit many, and he shall divide the spoils of the mighty; because his soul was delivered to death: and he was numbered among the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and was delivered because of their iniquities.

    Quite a different tone.


  22. Price says:

    Jay… It’s a healthy discussion and I appreciate that you are willing to admit that it’s a little fuzzy in terms of locking down the exact theology… I would like to think of God as a redemptive and gracious and compassionate God. I actually over the years have indeed transformed my thinking in that direction. However, standing before the Judge depicted, if I am found guilty then I am thrown into everlasting punishment burning alive for all time…that sort of does away with the warm and fuzzy feelings, huh? Perhaps the “cosmic” law that God holds to is Himself. I don’t know.

    Ray, I am not of Apollos or of Paul. I am a Christian. I’ve asked and pleaded with you to avoid attempting to demean people by putting them in categories of your choosing. You insist on continuing to label people according to your pronounced judgement on them. That makes you a jerk. I still hope that you will reconsider and play nice but it’s up to you.

    Alexander…what about the foreshadowing of the cross ? Wasn’t the sacrificial lamb or scapegoat innocent? How does that figure into the discussion or does it?

  23. laymond says:

    “Because God’s goal is not merely to forgive but also to transform,”

    And what transforms us ? the works that we do. If we do “good works” we water a pure soul, if we do evil, we sear over a good conscience. Our body does what our heart/mind tells it to do. Good works not only help your neighbor, but they protect your soul. there is more to the old saying “idle hands are the devil’s work shop” than it might first appear.

  24. laymond says:

    Price, I think you are crucifying Ray for what rey said— you are condemning Ray, to pay for the sins of rey. 🙂

  25. guy says:

    “And what transforms us ? the works that we do.”

    i was going to answer differently:

    What transforms us? The sacraments (and a sacramental life).


  26. Jay Guin says:


    What transforms us?

    (2Co 3:18 ESV) 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

    I think the Spirit is the primary source of transformation. Of course, the Spirit works directly on our hearts but also through other means, such as other Christians and the sacraments.

  27. Jay Guin says:

    Price wrote,

    However, standing before the Judge depicted, if I am found guilty then I am thrown into everlasting punishment burning alive for all time…that sort of does away with the warm and fuzzy feelings, huh?

    You forget that I agree with Edward Fudge that there is no perpetual conscious torment. I read the scriptures to plainly teach that the the punishment of the damned is finite and proportional to their sin, ending in utter destruction.

    God is always at least just.

  28. Jay Guin says:


    Thanks for emphasizing —

    1Co 2:8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.


  29. Larry Cheek says:

    What definition do you apply to “The sacraments”?

  30. aBasnar says:

    A sideremark about condemnation: Hell was prepared for the Devil and his angels. It was originally never meant to be a place for humans, but as long as we are in bondage to Satan, we will share his destiny.

    This also adds to the insight that God is not particularly against US, but against Satan.


  31. guy says:


    Yes, after i thought about the question “what transforms us?”, it’s actually vague–there’s a web of causal relations and means/mechanisms. God, the life of Christ, the Spirit, the sacraments, our spiritual family, and even in a sense (as Laymond already mentioned) our new behaviors and patterns of life.


  32. guy says:


    Well, that’s kind of a hard one. i’m learning that the Orthodox Church has never had a hard-and-fast list of the sacraments, but definitely at least baptism, chrismation, the Eucharist, confession, and marriage. But Orthodoxy actually views the entirety of the Christian life as sacramental. God can use just about anything to impart to us the life of Christ and remove the sin and death in us.


  33. Larry Cheek says:

    I asked you this question thinking that you might see it different than I do. In my studies it appears that the church has accepted ownership or control over what it calls The Sacraments. Normally, I see that The Sacraments refers to baptism and the Lords Supper. I cannot find a reference anywhere in scripture that identifies those actions being named Sacraments. Both of those actions were in place and being performed prior to the establishment of the church. I have never found in scripture where the church (the called out) while assembled, was given authority over either of the actions. The church was never given instructions to baptize anyone. Neither was the church given instructions to administer the Lords Supper. Baptism always preceded the action of The Lord adding to the church, Christ even stated that no one could enter the kingdom (church) unless they had been baptized in water. The Lords supper was instituted and given to Christians to do to remember Christ, it was not identified to become a ritual to be performed by the church, or clergy. Actually, these actions can be performed by any Christians at any time or place. In some places in the world Christians are not permitted to assemble in the way that we have been accustomed to, yet they can observe this instruction of the Lords Supper without a church officer present. Even though only two or more are gathered in his name.

  34. guy says:


    You wrote:
    “I cannot find a reference anywhere in scripture that identifies those actions being named Sacraments.”


    “I have never found in scripture where the church (the called out) while assembled, was given authority over either of the actions.”

    i don’t know why you or me or anyone should expect to find such things in scripture. i don’t see that any of the documents contained in the NT are the kind of works that should give rise to that expectation in us in the first place.

    If you’re expecting me (or anyone making claims similar to mine) to give a Sola-Scriptura-friendly defense of sacraments, then i’ll have to disappoint, because i don’t believe in Sola-Scriptura anymore.


  35. Royce Ogle says:


    Where did you find this?

    ” Christ even stated that no one could enter the kingdom (church) unless they had been baptized in water”

  36. Larry Cheek says:

    Just a quick search for the word “water” in the passages where Jesus was speaking locates it fast.
    (John 3:5 KJV) Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
    (John 3:5 NIV) Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
    (John 3:5 NRSV) Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.
    If you use the E-sword program parallel that verse in many translations. The context is almost exact in each one. I know that many men try to explain that that is not what the Lord meant, but I have not heard anyone explain how the Lord could have made a statement that he did not mean. Surely, we can’t just ignore this direct statement from Christ, could we believe that it is not truth? Maybe someone here can explain how either Christ did not mean it or if the translators somehow got it wrong.

  37. Royce Ogle says:

    Larry, your study method is seriously flawed. What you have is a refined method of proof texting. When you come to the Scriptures with your mind already made up and then search for texts to support your conclusions you aren’t going to learn much. Read the NT, all of it, and learn what all the evidence is and you might be surprised at what you’ll find.

  38. Doug says:

    Laymond, you asked “what transforms us?” and then answered “The works that we do”. I think you have the chicken before the egg on that response. It is clearly the Spirit who lives within me that teaches me how to do works. Left to my own heart/mind, I can do nothing (John 15:5-8).

  39. laymond says:

    Doug, I hope you are not telling me you can’t obey scripture without being made to do so. Or at least coaxed to do so. You have read in scripture what we are supposed to do, haven’t you?

  40. laymond says:

    Royce, are you telling us you have a photogenic memeory of the bible, you never have to reference the text – Oh I forgot you do have the HG to answer all the questions that pop up.

  41. laymond says:

    I must confess, I have many reference bibles, like Guy said I wish I had that inner power, but like Guy I was passed over. one can still hope, hang in there Guy 🙂

  42. Doug says:

    Laymond, I am afflicted with the same wandering and disobedient spirit as that of Adam. Of course, I can read scripture but can I love as God loves? No, I can’t… not without His Spirit helping me. What do you think the scripture I referenced (John 15:5-8) means? I think it means what it says.

  43. “If someone points to Isa 53 that God crushed the Son, I’d point them to the LXX which was the Bible of the Apostles, approved by the Holy Spirit by its use in the NT. ”
    Alexander, I would like to hear more detail about just HOW the Septuagint was “approved by the Holy Spirit”, as your usage here seems to demand that God’s approval of the Septuagint was both comprehensive and EXCLUSIVE. That’s a big, big claim. I would note that we also find in the NT quotations which no one can source clearly. By your reasoning, does the inclusion of these quotes in the NT then prove their unidentified sources also to be comprehensively and exclusively approved by the Holy Spirit? Should we perhaps look harder for those sources?

    We find first-century Greek-speaking writers quoting from a current Greek translation of the OT when recording a quotation from the Torah. That seems reasonable and to be expected. But how was this done? Did the writers see the Septuagint as a single authoritative document? Where is even a shred of direct evidence of some general agreement among the Thirteen to use ONLY the Septuagint– the “Bible of the Apostles”? When Jesus read from the scrolls in Nazareth, were those scrolls in Greek or Hebrew? Your reasoning gives exclusive divine approval to the entire source document, as its words are recorded in the NT. Was Satan quoting the Septuagint to Jesus, or was he quoting the Psalms? Was he speaking Greek, or Hebrew, or neither? Since he is the enemy of God, should we perhaps doubt whatever text he quoted?

    Alexander, I have no reason to attack the Septuagint, and no intention of doing so, but when we go this far in what we attribute, not to content, but to actual specific physical documents, I start asking questions. When we start making exclusive claims for such documents, I start seeking evidence.

  44. laymond says:

    Doug, I translate the scripture you quoted as saying, If you prefer to follow Satan, you will pay the price, but if you prefer to follow Jesus you will reap the reward. My bible tells me how to follow Jesus.

  45. Doug says:

    Laymond, I don’t know how to say this but your interpetation seems bent to fit your belief system. What does it mean to “abide in”? I take that to mean “whoever lives in me and I in him”. It might mean “is joined to me And I to him” or ” Shares my life and I share his”. It is clearly more than “whoever follows Jesus”.

  46. rich constant says:

    sorry you guys are so hung up on this….
    Jesus was god no sin…one with god’ only GOOD IN HIM NO EVIL something no man of flesh had ever been after the fall.
    all the Jews gentiles wanted him destroyed.
    PS. 2:2 The kings of the earth form a united front;
    the rulers collaborate
    against the Lord and his anointed king.
    2:3 They say, “Let’s tear off the shackles they’ve put on us!
    Let’s free ourselves from their ropes!
    2:4 The one enthroned in heaven laughs in disgust;

    2:29 “Brothers,55 I can speak confidently56 to you about our forefather57 David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 2:30 So then, because58 he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants59 on his throne,60

    2:31 David by foreseeing this61 spoke about the resurrection of the Christ,62 that he was neither abandoned to Hades,63 nor did his body64 experience65 decay.66 2:32 This Jesus God raised up, and we are all witnesses of it.

    67 2:33 So then, exalted68 to the right hand69 of God, and having received70 the promise of the Holy Spirit71 from the Father, he has poured out72 what you both see and hear. 2:34 For David did not ascend into heaven, but he himself says,

    ‘The Lord said to my lord,

    “Sit73 at my right hand

    2:35 until I make your enemies a footstool74 for your feet.”’75

    2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt76 that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord78 and Christ.”79

    1ST PET2:21 For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps. 2:22 He46 committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth.47 2:23 When he was maligned, he48 did not answer back; when he suffered, he threatened49 no retaliation,50 but committed himself to God51 who judges justly. 2:24 He52 himself bore our sins53 in his body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning54 and live for righteousness. By his55 wounds56 you were healed.57 2:25 For you were going astray like sheep58 but now you have turned back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

  47. rich constant says:


  48. aBasnar says:

    Alexander, I would like to hear more detail about just HOW the Septuagint was “approved by the Holy Spirit”, as your usage here seems to demand that God’s approval of the Septuagint was both comprehensive and EXCLUSIVE.

    Christ Himself read the LXX in Nazareth (check the quote in both versions) – and Galilee had a strong Gentile background. But also most quotations from the NT follow the LXX – even (and that’s imprtant) the letter to the Hebrews; and there Messianic prophecies are quoted that don’t even exist in the Masoretic text (or are worded very differently). The LXX was the Bible of the Jews as well until the synof of Jamnia (after the destruction ofthe Temple) disapproved it. It the OT ofthe whole church of Christ until Jerome, and in the East until today.

    I conclude – and you may disagree – that all who claim a-cappella singing for similar reasons must vote for the LXX out of consistency 😉 Anyway, I came to believe that the LXX is the text we should choose, since it is based solidly on a Hebrew Text family that is older than the oldest proto-masoretic texts we have; and from some finds in Qumran we know that such a Hebrew text-familiy indeed existed and that the LXX is a pretty accurate translation of these.

    For further information, you might want to get these CDs: Why don’t we use the same Bible as the Apostles?

    Just read the LXX version of Is 53 in comparison with the Masoretic Text. The “problem” of God “vcrishing His son” simply isn’t there at all. That’s why I brought it up. Our salvation however does not hinge on us usingthe LXX, Charles. But after some consideration, I made up my mind.


    P.S. I am gone for about a week now, so I won’t read your reply before my return.

  49. laymond says:

    Doug, have you ever heard Jesus referred to as “The Light” If you abide/live in the light of Jesus you live in the knowledge that he brought, if the light of Jesus abides within you, Jesus spirit of knowledge abides within you, and all this can happen without one being entering the other..

  50. Alexander, are you saying that as Jesus was quoted verbatim, and the translation we have of his words is in Greek, this proves he was reading the Torah in Greek? I think we have a little chicken-and-egg problem here. Where did the Greek text first appear, in the Nazareth synagogue or in the early Greek manuscripts of the Gospels penned at least 30 years later? And how do we know? Here, it’s not the Septuagint I have trouble with, it’s the reasoning offered.

  51. Larry Cheek says:

    I see that you did as good a job attempting to explain what Jesus was speaking about in this verse as anyone else has ever done that does not believe that water baptism is absolutely essential to the act of being borne again. If this message had fit your understanding about the borne again process, you would have been able to explain it to us. All and I state again all men that cannot explain what a verse says without exposing an error in their belief always attack the individual that provides the scripture. So I’ll give you another chance to explain. Did Jesus make a statement here that does not fit in perfectly with the rest of the teachings of the New Testament? It appears to me that you did not do as you explained that I do, that is read the rest of the text keeping it in context or subject matter surrounding this statement that Jesus made so you can understand it and explain it.

    You mentioned proof texting, yet you did not attempt to proof text any thing that you thought disagreed with what Jesus stated. In the method of reading and comparing all references on a subject in the scriptures an individual can see the overall concept and easily explain how and where all proof is. Try that, study this communication with Nicodemus and try to fit it into your understanding of the subject they were discussing . Then you might be able to explain to me what is the error that you think I believe.

  52. aBasnar says:

    Alexander, are you saying that as Jesus was quoted verbatim, and the translation we have of his words is in Greek, this proves he was reading the Torah in Greek?

    (Our train leaves in about 2 hours – so here I go once more): There is a difference in the LXX and the Masoretic in the passage read by Jesus. Let me show you:

    Luk 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
    Luk 4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

    Isa 61:1 (MT) The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
    Isa 61:2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor…

    Isa 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me; he has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken in heart, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind;
    Isa 61:2 to declare the acceptable year of the Lord, …

    This is a significant difference, because healing the blind was one of Jesus’ imortant ministries.

    Maybe a little less “spectacular”, but interesting as well. the crowds who wanted to crown Jesus King quoted the LXX, and Jesus went along with them:

    Joh 6:31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”
    Joh 6:32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.

    They quote the following verse from Psalms:

    Psa 78:24 (MT) and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven.

    Psa 78:24 (LXX) and rained upon them manna to eat, and gave them the bread of heaven.

    It might seem insignficant at a first glanmce, but the whole analogy “Bread of heaven – I am the bread of life” would not work based on the Masoretic Text, because it is based on the word “bread”.

    Christ grew up and lived in a bilingual area – the “Galilee ofthe Gentiles”, close to sepphoris a Hellenistic city, there were disciples of Hellenistic background in His ranks. He certainly was fluent in Greek. Second: Hebrw is not Aramaic. Aramaic was the language of the “Hebrews”, but Hebrew was a fairly dead language already at that time. There was a need for translating the OT even 300 years before Christ, and the NT-record – as I said, amazingly the letter to the Hebrews! – shows that the LXX was the main Bible even in Palestine, even in Judea. Stephanos quoted from it even before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7 – speaking of 72 people that went to Egypt; the MT has 70) – and they did not belittle him because of that. Quoting the LXX certainly was not a faux pas.

    Alexander the Great and his followers did a formidable job in introducing Greek language and culture throughout the mediterranean world. We might view this as a loss or even a blow to the Biblical culture of the Jews (which it was, and it resulted in the Maccabean Wars). But on the other hand it prepared the way for the Gospel! God’s word was available in Greek and the Jews were already dispersed among the nations attracting seekers that would be among the first to receive Christ. Paul’s ministry would have been unthinkable without the LXX – and even though I believe he was capable of Hebrew, he normally used the LXX.

    OK, now I have to grab my suitcases 🙂


  53. Price says:

    Larry… From “1Jo 5:4-6 ESV – [4] For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. [5] Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? [6] This is he who came by water and blood–Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

    Vs. 4 says that those who are BORN OF GOD overcome the world…but who is this person who is “born of God?” Vs. 5 defines who it is those “who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” Wonder how one would go about reconciling this passage to the one where Jesus speaks to Nicodemus? Perhaps vs 6 gives us some idea…

    Vs. 6 talks of Jesus as one who “came by water and blood”…. Was John thinking back to the cross where water and blood came out of Jesus when he was pierced? What exactly was the imagery of water and blood to convey? Did Jesus come in water (born of woman) and blood (atonement) or are we to see water immersion as the message?

    It seems clear that being born again is defined by John here at vs 5 as one who believes. Would it be possible for the same writer, being equally inspired, to contradict himself from having previously written John 3 ?? Seems improbable to me.. I know the John 3 passage has been debated for centuries by greater minds than mine but I have a hard time reconciling I John 5 with John 3 if water is meant to be a symbolism of baptism. It is completely consistent if the John 3 passage is meaning physical birth. And, the I John 5 passage is consistent with the entirety of the rest of the NT regarding Grace by Faith..

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