NO Penal Substitution!
This is chapter 11 from my book Awakened! Enjoy!!
There is no coming judgment! What a beautiful truth! Just let that sink in! Let it roll around in your heart and your head, canceling every bit of fear! Every bit of insecurity. And every bit of feeling like you’re not enough!!
Most of the world lives in fear of the judgment of God!!
Feeling as if they can never measure up or do enough to please God. And for unbelievers, looking at the lives of most Christians only reinforces that belief. Many in the church world feel like they need to please God because they really have no understanding of His grace. We have presented Him to the world as a harsh, punitive judge. Requiring and demanding complete obedience, our devoted service, 10% of our income, and 100% perfection when it comes to sin. And when those “righteous requirements" aren't met, we believe that He withholds His blessings, favor, righteousness, and relationship. AND if we’re really “bad,” He sends judgment upon us… like sickness, disease, loss, tragedy, etc., so that we will turn back to Him. AND if that doesn’t work, and we never turn to Him, THEN He sends us to a fiery place called Hell to be tormented and separated from Him FOREVER!
Wow! What a twisted, WRONG image of God!! That’s NOT at all who He is!
I can see why my friend Matt professes to be an atheist…. and why he doesn’t want anything to do with a god like that. There is no love or kindness in that kind of god. But thankfully, that is NOT our God!! Our God is a GOOD Father who has ALWAYS loved us.
And I am on a mission to present Him to others as He truly is…. kind, generous, forgiving, merciful, good, and above ALL He is Love.
We’ve preached Jesus as the Mediator who goes between God and us, holding the Father back from punishing us. And as one who tries to smooth things over with God when we mess up. That’s a misunderstanding of the word mediator. The word mediator is mesites in Greek and means an agent of something good! I love that! Jesus came and revealed to us what a Good Daddy we have. He came to show us what His love for us looks like. Love that wasn't put off by sin. Love who hadn't turned His face from us BUT was personally present IN Christ on the cross reconciling us back to Himself, not imputing our sins against us (2 Corinthians 5:19).
I love the Mirror Bible translation of 2 Corinthians 5:19, "Our ministry declares that Jesus did not act independently of his Father. God was present in Christ when he reconciled the total cosmos to himself. Deity and mankind embraced in him; the fallen state of mankind was deleted; their trespasses would no longer count against them! He now announces his friendship with every individual from within us!"
Jesus was the FULL expression of the love of God and His goodness towards ALL mankind. AND we also are the FULL expression of His goodness IN Christ…. like Him, we are agents of goodness!
This revelation of no penal substitution helps me be a more effective agent of His goodness. Taking the truth of His radical, hyper, exceeding, abundant, over the top, more than you can imagine, OFFENSIVE to our sensibilities grace to people like my friend Matt.
But how can we release that kind of grace without an understanding of what His grace and goodness really look like?
And how can we be an agent of goodness if we think of mediator still in legal terms?
In addition to being an Agent of goodness, 1 John 2:1 tells us He is also our Advocate that we have with (pros in Greek) the Father. Remember, the word pros means FACE TO FACE. So, we have an Advocate who has placed us FACE TO FACE, ONE with the Father. I like how the Mirror Bible translates that verse, “We have Jesus Christ, who defines our likeness face to face with the Father!
He is our parakletos (our Advocate), the One who endorses our true identity, being both the Source and the reflection of the Father’s image in us!”
He endorses our true identity because He is the Source and the Reflection of our Father’s image IN us. The words advocate and meditator are both words of identity. But we’ve taken them and made them legal terms.
I used to understand Jesus as my Advocate, as One who has to remind the Father that I am righteous because He shed His blood for me. Having to remind the Father to accept me!! When all along, He was endorsing my true identity and defining my likeness FACE TO FACE with the Father. The penal atonement teaching has caused us to miss out on the truth in Scripture…. forcing us to spend years trying to please a God who we thought was a Judge but who, as it turns out, was ALWAYS pleased with us!!
We were taught that He was a demanding God needing appeasement. Requiring sacrifices in the Old Testament to show them that the ultimate sacrifice would be His Son. Reading Scriptures like 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10 that says Jesus was the propitiation for our sins, only reinforced our understanding of penal atonement. The word propitiation is hilasmos in Greek. The Strong's Concordance defines it as an offering to appease or satisfy an angry or offended party or an atoning sacrifice to an angry god.
What a terrible definition! All that does is reinforce your belief that God needs appeasement.
Yet in 1 John 4:10, the word hilasmos is used in connection with the Father’s love for us…. herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
That doesn’t sound like an angry God who needed appeasement. It sounds like a Father who runs passionately to His children!! Like the father that we see in the parable of the prodigal son. The root of the word propitiation is hilaskomai, meaning having mercy on, showing favor to, and forgiving. That doesn’t sound anything like Strong’s meaning we read above! His Son was the expression of His mercy, His acceptance, and His forgiveness. And the ancient Hebrew root of propitiation is חץ — a tent wall. The tent wall separates the inside from the outside. He separated us from ALL that was outside of us (ALL that was not a part of our design, not a part of our nature)… He separated us from sin and death! He COMPLETELY removed or eradicated sin from the earth and FULLY destroyed death!
Understanding that makes it easy to realize that Jesus wasn’t appeasing God…. He was appeasing us! Mankind thought they needed a sacrifice to be forgiven (Hebrews 9:22). The cross was for our benefit!
God was not angry with man and therefore sent Jesus as a sacrifice to appease His anger. NO! He didn’t change His mind about humanity after Jesus went to the cross. Mankind had forgotten our true identity. They had forgotten that we were made in the image and according to God's likeness and given dominion over all things. Jesus came to reveal to us the love and union we have ALWAYS had with the Father. He didn’t give His life for God but rather gave His life for us, AS us. He came as a sacrifice because WE thought we needed one, not because God did.
He came to put an END to the sacrificial system by being the once and for all sacrifice…. IT IS FINISHED!! God’s heart has NEVER desired sacrifices. David understood that. He said in Psalm 51:16, “For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise, I would give it. You take no pleasure in burnt offerings.” Mankind had absorbed the teaching about sacrificial offerings from the pagan nations that surrounded them. God didn’t need the cross, MAN DID! The cross simply revealed the truth of what has always been true. We have ALWAYS been forgiven, ALWAYS been righteous, ALWAYS been holy, AND ALWAYS been saved according to 2 Timothy 1:9-10, “Who hath saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ before the world began 10 but is now made manifest (revealed) by the appearing of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Jesus was not God’s plan B for us. He was not God’s reaction to the fall. Our redemption was the eternal plan and purpose of God.
Jesus came in grace and truth, revealing who the Father is and who we are. And the law was given through Moses. The contrast in this verse in John is terrific. The law was given, it was put into place through Moses. Through is dia, which means completely, successfully through. Then it says THE grace and THE truth came dia… completely, successfully through Jesus.
The word came is the same word used in John 1:14 — the Word BECAME flesh. The ETERNAL Word was now REVEALED in the boundaries of time…revealed for us to behold. The same with grace and truth. Grace and truth didn’t just show up as an afterthought to the law that Moses gave. Grace and truth were NOW revealed completely, successfully for us to behold through the One who is FULL Grace and Truth. The word full is pleres in Greek, meaning full, abounding, complete, wholly occupied with. Jesus is Grace. Jesus is Truth. And now the Word becoming flesh made grace and truth something they could see with their physical eyes.
Mirror Bible says, "Suddenly the invisible, eternal Word takes on visible form - the Incarnation, on display in a flesh and blood Person, as in a mirror! In him, and now confirmed in us! The most accurate tangible exhibit of God's eternal thought finds expression in human life! The Word became a human being; we are his address; he resides in us! He captivates our gaze! The glory we see there is not a religious replica; he is the authentic begotten Son. The glory (that we lost in Adam) returns in fullness! Only grace can communicate truth in such complete context!"
The law was NOT grace. It was to point to the One who is Grace! David saw a glimpse of the Father's grace and truth when he realized that sacrifices and burnt offerings were not what the Father required.
He said in Psalm 40:6, “Sacrifice and offerings You did not desire, my ears You have opened to burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not require.”
David tells us that God opened his ears to the truth that He did not desire, didn’t delight, or take pleasure in sacrifice and offerings. He said, “You weren’t pleased with them. You didn’t require them.”
In other words, God didn’t ask for them, demand, or seek them. How did we miss that? God opened David’s ears. The word opened is karah in Hebrew and means to dig, to bore, or to open. And also means to lay a banquet. In other words, God literally ripped open the hard ground of law in David’s ears and laid a banquet of His grace and truth!
David’s ears were full of Moses’ Law… full of guilt, condemnation, and shame. David repeatedly messed up! And when he awakened to the revelation that God didn’t require sacrifices, he had just messed up with Bathsheba… he had committed murder, adultery, covetousness, etc. The Law condemned him. And YET he saw the truth of God’s desire regarding sacrifices and burnt offerings…. God opened his ears to grace and truth!
David’s ears were opened to hear the grace and truth regarding sacrifices and offerings. God did not desire them. The word desire is to be moved or bend down. God was not moved by sacrifices, nor did He bend down toward them as they offered them. We have been taught and have believed that the sacrifice of His Son was God being moved to accept us and bending down to extend favor, grace, mercy, forgiveness, etc. Believing that NOW because of the sacrifice He was able to have relationship with all of us.
But Psalms 40 tells us He was NOT moved by sacrifices or offerings.
We thought that the sacrifice of Jesus had appeased His wrath, and now grace could be offered to us. BUT we had a misunderstanding of the word wrath, and NOT understanding that He is Love and Grace. And because He is PURE Love, and PURE Grace, EVERYTHING He does flows out of love and grace.
Wrath is orgeo in Greek, meaning passion, it is where we get our English word orgasm. But it’s the root of this word that I really like… it is orego, which means stretching oneself out in order to touch or grasp something. What a beautiful picture!! Jesus stretched Himself out (on the cross) to grasp us. It also means to yearn after, to desire, to stretch toward, or to pull towards. In His love for us, the Father desired us and stretched toward us (through Jesus), pulling us to Himself (1 Corinthians 5:19). In the "wrath" of Jesus Christ, as He stretched Himself out on the cross, drawing ALL men to Himself AND as the Father was IN Christ on the cross reconciling the world to Himself!! There is nothing punitive in the word wrath.
Our ears today are FULL of the hard ground of penal substitution.
But Jesus in His incarnation (His birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection) ripped the hard ground of our ears with His love. He laid a banquet for us -- a banquet of His grace and truth. Hebrews 5:9 in the Mirror Bible says, “By his perfect hearing, he forever freed mankind to hear what he had heard.” Our ears have been enabled to hear what He knows to be true about the Father and ourselves. He perfected our hearing to be able to hear and understand God’s ALL-consuming love for us. To see His unwillingness to ever let go of us. And to hear, and grab hold of His passionate love that reached out IN Christ and reconciled us to Himself.
As Baxter Kruger explains so well, “It is His eternal yes to us, a yes to life and fullness of joy for us that translates into an intolerable NO to the destruction of the fall. Wrath is not the opposite of love. Wrath is the love of God in action, in opposing action.”
God is not an angry Deity demanding blood! He did not need the blood of Jesus to forgive anyone. God endured the cross because that is what we needed to reconcile us to Himself. And through it, He removed EVERYTHING that hindered us in our FACE TO FACE relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He met mankind where they were at. Speaking a language that they understood… law and sacrifice. We thought that sacrifice and offerings were necessary to appease an angry God to change His mind about us, believing that blood was required to extend forgiveness. But God’s mind was not the problem. Our minds were the problem! We were enemies and hostile to God in our minds. But in our distorted thinking, we thought it was God who saw us as enemies, responding hostile towards us UNTIL Jesus went to the cross. It wasn’t God who required blood… it was the law.
Hebrews 9:22 says, “Almost all things are purified in blood according to the law, and apart from blood-shedding, there is no forgiveness.” The LAW required that blood be shed for there to be forgiveness, NOT God! There are three words for forgiveness in Hebrew… salach (pardon, forgive), kipper (atonement), and nasa (to bear, carry, forgive). All three words aren’t even mentioned in the Old Testament until AFTER the Law was given!
Romans 5:13 tells us that sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged to anyone’s account where there was no law.
No forgiveness needed? You would definitely think Adam, Eve, Cain, Jacob, David, and others who made HUGE mistakes would’ve needed God to forgive them. But forgiveness was not necessary, no matter how big the mistakes. Why? Because sin is not charged to anyone’s account when there is no law.
No Law = no sin = no forgiveness needed!
From Adam to Moses was about 2500 years. And, incredibly, something that wasn’t even mentioned for the first 2500 years of history, has been a significant focus in the church today!
In the Old Testament, they continued to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings for the atonement of sins, for God’s forgiveness. And God continued to speak through His prophets, telling them that He didn’t want sacrifices, He had NEVER wanted them. He was meeting them where they were at. Allowing them to continue to offer these sacrifices because that’s all they knew. He was trying to bring them up higher and higher. Still, they rejected the prophets' words and kept offering sacrifices like the pagan nations around them.
Moses had come out of Egypt, where they worshipped and offered sacrifices to over two thousand gods. Abraham came out of Ur, where they did the same thing. Those religious practices carried over into Israel. So Moses set up a sacrificial system of atonement. Even though Jeremiah tells us that when God brought them out of Egypt, He never spoke to them or commanded them concerning sacrifice and offerings (Jeremiah 7:22).
God allowed these sacrifices until the time that Jesus would come and be the FINAL, once, for ALL sacrifice, doing away FOREVER with the Law's sacrificial system.
Jesus came and offered the final sacrifice and then SAT DOWN. The writer of Hebrews says this is the MAIN THING — we have a High Priest who sat down! The priests of the Old Covenant, of the sacrificial system, NEVER sat down. They stood continually, day after day, offering again and again, the same sacrifices which could NEVER take away sins. The writer of Hebrews tells us that it couldn’t perfect anyone or cleanse their consciences. In fact, all those sacrifices did was continually remind them of their sins.
In ascribing to a penal substitution theory, we have made God into someone He is not. And we have ended up worshipping a god of our own making. A god of wrath and judgment. Instead of God, who is our good Father, whose image and likeness we bear. A God who refused to remain in Heaven without us. A Father who sent His Son to cancel the handwritten code that was against us. To do away with the sacrificial system of the law that said that life was in the blood.
Grace and truth revealed that life was IN Him and reminded us that He had breathed that life IN-to us when He created us (Genesis 2:7).
Reminding us that we were never outside His love or His life, we simply forgot who we were.
Deuteronomy says they were not mindful of the Rock who begat them, and they forgot the Father who fathered them. 1 Peter 1:18 says, “They followed the aimless conduct received by tradition from their fathers.” Following the traditional way of doing things was passed on to them. They continued in the traditional way of living by their five senses, of living from a mistaken identity like their fathers. They followed after their ancestors, not being mindful of and forgetting Whose image and likeness they bore. Forgetting who they had always been the Father's sons from BEFORE the foundation. But Ephesians 1:5 says that we were predestined as sons… we were sons before anything was ever created. According to HIS good pleasure.
2 Timothy 1:9-10 says, “He has saved us and called us (past tense - FINISHED!) with a holy calling not according to our works but according to His purpose in grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus BEFORE TIME ETERNAL. 10 but is now made manifest (revealed) by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ.” (emphasis mine).
It had nothing to do with man’s failure or the fall. He saved us and called us holy according to His own purpose and grace. It was ETERNAL! It wasn't His plan B after the fall! He had this GRACE plan before the foundation of the world.
What was that plan? Jesus' coming to reveal our Father's love and the Father's plan and purpose BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.
Revealing, we were whole (Greek sozo) IN Christ before time eternal. Jesus' appearing was not to save us or make us holy but to REVEAL (to make manifest or to make clear and plain) the Father's love and purpose before the world's foundation. He came and sat with us in our darkness, in our blindness and wild imaginations, ALL of which were hostile to God. Why? So that He could look through our eyes, hear what we hear, feel what we feel…. because anything less than that would be no help to us at all. There is no darkness that we haven’t been in that Jesus doesn’t personally, intimately know because He came and got inside it. There’s no anxiety that He has not felt. IN EVERY WAY, Jesus joined Himself to us in the Incarnation! He COMPLETELY assumed man’s fallen mind, but in every micro-moment, He refused to believe the lie and instead listened to and responded in love to the Father. Jesus got inside and experienced the bombardment of our thoughts in our darkness and hostility and REFUSED to follow Adam's path. He is the One who BELIEVED the Father, TRUSTED the Father, RECEIVED the love of the Father, and REFUSED the god that mankind had invented in their thinking.
And as the LAST Adam, He COMPLETELY healed us, and we (ALL mankind) raised up with Him a new creation — FINISHED, restored sons in the image and likeness of God!
We thought the gospel was subject to the appearing — in other words, when Jesus appeared, THEN the gospel was brought to earth. But NO!! The gospel was what the appearing confirmed. The gospel was BEFORE the foundation of the world! The gospel always was — it wasn’t a response to the fall. The fall didn’t change God’s mind about us! We were still who He said we were! We just lost sight of that!
Jesus in the historical event of His incarnation… from His virgin birth to His resurrection and seated-ness did not bring the benefits of the Father to us (i.e., our inheritance) BUT revealed them to us and showed us that we had them before the foundation of the world. IN HIM, we have redemption of sins not based upon a historical event two thousand years ago, but based upon being chosen IN HIM before the world's foundation. He IS the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.
We have to learn to interpret Scripture correctly. We cannot interpret it properly without a correct understanding of the nature of God. He is love! He is nothing but love and can do nothing apart from love. And He does not change.
And it is out of who He is, LOVE, that His motives, intentions, and dealings with mankind flow.
We often hear that He is responsible for earthquakes, tsunamis, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, etcetera. So many people are speaking for God today without a revelation of His love. So many "prophets" today speaking FOR God into people's lives, not what has ALWAYS been true (what is FINISHED) but speaking conditional promises to them. Telling them God would like to do this for you and IF you do this THEN, God will do such and such. Or God WILL do this for you (future tense) instead of, God FINISHED ALL of this for you from before time began JUST WALK IN IT! JUST BE!
But God is revealing Himself as 100 % Love and 100 % Good in men and women willing to disregard the wrong teaching they've accumulated over the years. Those who say, "Dad show me who YOU are. Because when You show me who You are, I will be able to see myself in that reflection. And then as I see ME as who I've ALWAYS BEEN and I see what I have ALWAYS HAD, it will flow through me affecting my life and those around me!!"
Letting go of the belief of penal substitution was challenging. It stretched my understanding. There were days where honestly, I felt like I didn’t know anything… not even sure how to write this chapter. Everything I thought I knew about our redemption was wrong. It was based on a complete misunderstanding of what took place BEFORE THE CREATION OF THE WORLD. This understanding didn’t happen overnight, or even at the end of a book! This was a 3 year journey for me to this point.
What an amazing Father we have! A good Daddy who covered everything from start to finish… who provided nothing but rest for us. And all we have to do is BE. That’s it… just BE!! Find out who He says you are and just BE who He created you to BE. We are sons who have never been anything but WHOLE AND COMPLETE IN HIM!!