Mar 29 2020

Redemption Theology Part 5

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Chapter 6

Of “Saint Paul the Apostle: His Life, Theology, and Works”

(By Fr. Matthew the Poor)

Theology of Redemption

Part Five

Second – Atonement by Substitution:

A punishment in place of our punishment – Christ died instead of us.

(continued from Part 4)

Correction of the Atonement Theory:

The Second Reason: (contd.)

Love in the New Testament supersedes the Old Testament Punishment:

So how it can be said that He died in our place to satisfy God’s justice?

The correct saying is that, by His death for us, we passed in Him and with Him through death and the curse of sin, fulfilling in us the judgement of the Law as sinners and we were justified. Thus the justice of God was fulfilled in us and we became immediately worth of His love and righteousness, “that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,” (Eph. 1:4). 

Again we repeat that Christ died for us and not instead of us.

Christ accepted the death judgement, not as a punishment, but as described in Scriptures, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame,” (Heb. 12:2). For Him, death was a joyful proposition. To Him death was a cup offered by the hands of the Father; a cup which He accepted with the joy of obedience. Christ’s death was a glory for Him, and for us it was the fulfillment of God’s justice for our iniquities.

Christ was not punished by death, but by death He revoked the punishment. His death was greater and much higher than punishment. It was love. Therefore, His death redeemed us to eternal life. It was not a punishment resulting in acquittal. Since it was a redemption through love; the love of the Father for the Son and for the world, it produced all befitting aspects of that love, as Saint Paul says, “Accordingly as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace,” (Eph. 1:4-7).

Are all these crowded results of predestined choice and sanctification, standing before God without blame in loveadoption according to the good pleasure of the Father, and the praise of the glory of His grace that was bestowed on us in the Beloved, blessings that were accomplished by the redemption which is both “in Him and for us” according to the richness of His grace, are all of these merely a result of Christ’s bearing of our punishment instead of us?? And did God accomplish a punishment in His Son instead of us??

Lastly, we never find in Paul’s epistles any indication of redemption by substitution. But all the verses focus on “for us” and never “instead of us”:

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Ro. 5:6-8)

“I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

“Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.” (Ro. 14:15)

“And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose.” (2Cor. 5:15)

“Who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him” (1Thes. 5:10)

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all …” (Ro. 8:32)

“And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you, do this in remembrance of Me’.” (1Cor. 11:24)

“Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1Tim. 2:6)

“Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Ti. 2:14)  

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’.” (Gal. 3:13)

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2Cor. 5:21)

“Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” (Gal. 1:4)

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1Cor. 15:3)

Dear reader, please look closely: Why St. Paul never said, even once, that Christ redeemed us by dying instead of us? Is not this because it conflicts with the reality of redemption? This redemption comprises our death with Him, which cannot happen if He died instead of usBut if He died for us in our flesh, then we died, necessarily, with Him!! As St. Paul said, “If One died for allthen all died.” (2Cor. 5:14)

Notice also, that it comprises that all has gone through death indeed, therefor He really has fulfilled the Law for us and did not spare us from death, but He went with us through death that He conquered, so we conquered death by His death and rose up with Him:

“And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose.” (2Cor. 5:15)

Third – The Hypothesis of Appeasing God’s Face1

This may be based on the hypothesis of an internal conflict within God Himself: His justice and man’s inequity. Sin is a direct offense against God’s righteousness. God’s justice stands in stark conflict with the guilt of man. Man is an aggressor to God’s righteousness and majesty with no way out except for punishment. Man’s guilt stands against him until it is lifted up and properly redressed or atoned for.

There is no one amongst God’s creation who is capable to atone for a deliberate offense against the limitless God almighty. The mediator must Himself be limitless also. Thus it was necessary for the Son of God to incarnate into the body of man such that only He can be in a position to atone for God’s judgment in order to usher in God’s love and mercy to the sons of man. The Son needed first to redress God’s judgment to restore His love and mercy to man, offering in man’s name an equivalent atonement to the offences that he committed, and continues to do, against God’s righteousness and justice.

Here the redemptive death offered by the Son of God in His humanity, is elevated by His Divinity to become adequate to appease God’s wrath in His limitless nature. Meanwhile, this manifests the Son’s utter obedience to His Father and reinstates His love and mercy to the Sons of man.

As much as this dialectic2 logic is consistent with contemplative philosophy, it is very far from the simplicity in Christ and the reality of redemption in its wounded and bloody picture. The cross, although representing God’s infinite wisdom, is comprehensible to a child in its simplicity.

                                                                                                                                       (To be contd.)

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Footnotes:

  1. Unfortunately, many of the early fathers, middle ages fathers, and even some of the recent fathers, have followed this theological thought.
  2. This is a logic that depends on dialogue, questions and answers, imposition and its opposite, and then reconciling the conflicts.

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