Salvation 2.0: Part 4.1: How — Atonement


So, if this is true, how does it work? How does someone enter the Kingdom? And how does the sacrifice of Jesus result in salvation for individuals?


Before we address how an individual enters the Kingdom, it would help to have some sense of how salvation happens. There are several theories taught by the theologians. They are largely not very satisfying.

The first theory is that God is angry and so is intent on sending sinners to hell. Fortunately, Jesus is willing to accept our just punishment, so we don’t have to. This is called “substitutionary atonement.”

The problem with this theory is that is starts with an angry God — which is part of what makes us picture God as, ultimately, unjust. NT Wright points out in Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good, God’s anger arises out of his love for us. He so desperately wants us to have better lives and to be with him, that he becomes angry when we fail — when sin defeats us. It’s like a father becoming upset when his child cheats on his homework. It’s not that he doesn’t love his child. In fact, if it was another child, one he doesn’t love, he wouldn’t care and so wouldn’t be upset.

The other problem with the theory is that it’s not just. After all, if I commit a murder, and the judge lets his own son suffer suffer the penalty for my crime, well, it’s just unfair. Why should I get off at all? What have I done to deserve this? And there’s no nation in which someone else can serve my sentence for me.

On the other hand, the language of Isaiah sure seems to point us in this direction —

(Isa 53:4-5 ESV)  4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 

Obviously, Isaiah says there’s some connection between our sins and Jesus’ death on the cross — but it’s not really explained. Maybe there’s another explanation?

Christus Victor

Another theory is that God defeated the principalities and powers — his enemies — through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus took the best the evil powers of this world could dish out and survived, even triumphed.

This theory finds support especially in Colossians —

(Col 2:15 ESV)  15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

The Jewish and Roman rulers could not prevail, neither could death itself.

N.T. Wright sees the atonement in even larger terms —

First, if Jesus is Israel’s Messiah then he is the world’s true Lord. …  For Paul, Jesus’ messianic status and his world rulership was based on the fact of his resurrection. As in the Wisdom of Solomon, it is the defeat of death, the return of the martyred righteous, that signals to the earthly rulers that their game is up. If we wanted to cash this out theologically a bit further, we might suggest that, since earthly rulers have death as their ultimate weapon, the defeat of death in the resurrection is the overthrow of the ultimate enemy which stands behind all tyranny. That, I think, is part of the point of 1 Corinthians 15:20–28 and Colossians 2:14–15.

But resurrection is more than defeat of an enemy. It is the inauguration of God’s new world, the new creation which has already begun to take over the present creation with the unstoppable power of the creator God. The resurrection of the crucified Messiah thus functions in Paul’s thought both as history, as theology, and (not least) as symbol, the symbol of a power which upstages anything military power can do.

N. T. Wright, Paul: Fresh Perspectives, (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2005), 69–70.

In other words, it’s not just that Jesus defeated Satan and the other demonic powers that stood between him and victory. Jesus’ victory in the resurrection also ushered in the Holy Spirit, which cleanses God’s people and molds their hearts and minds so that they become Jesus people — new creations.

The work of the Spirit is a miracle because it brings into the present the future presence of God within his church, as well as helping God’s people live as redeemed people, images of God. The Image of God in us helps us to live like the Image.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

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.
This entry was posted in Atonement, Salvation 2.0, Soteriology, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Salvation 2.0: Part 4.1: How — Atonement

  1. Royce says:

    The Bible is very clear about God’s wrath against sin. To somehow dismiss this truth on a technicality is curious. I continue to be amazed that the simple truths of historic Christianity could so easily be explained away. Wright is wrong in my humble opinion.

    Is there a penalty for sin? Yes. Did Jesus take the penalty for my sins? Yes. The Isaiah 53 passage says it about as well as words can convey.

  2. laymond says:

    Royce, I believe the word mentions false prophets, or teachers. I don’t believe I have ever heard your beliefs whether or not Jesus is God, or is Jesus the “lamb of God” God’s sacrifice for our sins.
    Just who died on the cross God, or “the lamb of God”?

  3. Monty says:


    Whose blood purchased the church? Acts 20:28 says God purchased it with his own blood. Question for you. Was it God’s blood or the lamb of God’s blood?

  4. laymond says:

    First of all Monty, if we believe what Jesus said, when he said “God is a spirit” and the bible said flesh and blood can’t enter heaven, we know Acts 20:28 was talking of bloodline or lineage such as father and son. the blood that was spilled was the blood of God’s Son Jesus, or as John the Baptist
    called him “The lamb of God”.

  5. laymond says:

    By the way Monty, if you can furnish blood from Jesus, blood from Mary, and blood from God. we can make a definitive decision on just who Jesus was. I don’t question who he was myself, seems others do. I would think that blood from God would be as rare as hen’s teeth.

  6. Dwight says:

    The point of Jesus blood was that he gave up his life in the shedding of it. It was a sacrifice, as Jesus said, “No greater love exist than when one lays down his life for another.”, which is what Jesus did. His sacrifice of the testator allowed another testament or law to come into play, which allows all to come to God through Him. This is atonement.
    Atonement is not just a NT thought. God wanted His people, the Israelites, to come to Him as a people. Still does with us.
    In the beginning man was with God, then man sinned and left God by following his own desires.
    We are called out of the world, not to an angry God, but to a loving God. Now God will punish those who are not his, because they have rejected him, but he will accept new family and family who have turned back. God was only angry with God when they disobeyed Him and not before that point. God is not an angry God, but a God who gets angry at those who purposely sin and don’t come back.

  7. Monty says:


    God the Father doesn’t have blood, but God the Son did. How so? By becoming one of us. He gave his life for us(life is in the blood). He shed his blood for us. A peasant rabbi (who is not deity-God in the flesh) cannot purchase a church, but God(come in human flesh) can and did ,with his blood. He took on flesh, that was John’s point in John chapter 1. He became flesh and tabernacled among us. God the Son left his throne (that he shared with his Father) and came down. He accomplished his mission(it is finished) and now his glory has been restored, he sits again on the throne.

    If you don’t accept the fact that Jesus was God in the flesh then there is no way you make sense out of Acts 20:28. God did purchase the church with(his blood). The blood he took on when he became a man.” No one takes my life from me but I lay it down.” No mere human or mere servant can make that claim. Jesus said, I have the power to lay down my life and I have the power to take it back up again.” It was his power. Only the power of God can resurrect.

Leave a Reply