Jeremy posted a comment that is both thought provoking and close to a theme of atonement discussion among Evangelicals:
The section about the wrath of God is interesting to me. I guess I’ve always just assumed Christ was crushed under God’s wrath not differentiating between God pouring out His wrath/punishing His son and His son being a suitable sacrifice. I think the key word here is “appeasing”.
How do you respond to the idea that God’s wrath was poured out onto His son and is demonstrated by Christ’s ……I’ll use the word….stress…over going to the cross? Did it come up in your conversation? There’s the “let this cup pass from me” verse and of course the agony demonstrated by sweating drops of blood. I’ve heard it argued that countless martyrs have gone on to brutal deaths, more brutal than Christ’s even, and yet were joyful even to the point of singing hymns. It’s then deduced that Christ wouldn’t be agonizing over losing his life at the hands of man but rather the facing of the wrath of God. Is there anything to this?
There’s no doubt that the Cross was stressful for Jesus, to say the least! God’s response to sin is a holy just wrath. The Scripture is quite clear and it also makes sense that a compassionate, loving God would be angry at the evil done in His creation and to His creatures. The legal versions of the penal substitution view of atonement is that main reason for the wrath is the just response to broken law. It’s not an "emotional" but a "rational" wrath, There is a penalty arising from broken law. There has to be punishment for the broken law and the penalty must be paid to satisfy the just demands of the law. God could pour out His wrath on sinners, but in His love, He poured it out on a substitute, the God-man, Jesus. So the cup Jesus refers to in the Garden is the cup of God’s wrath which He must drink.
This is a tight logic to this. But the thing I look for is not tight logic, but is it biblical? I’m not against logic in any way, but realize that logic is only as good as the premises. In this case the key premise is whether God must pour out wrath of it if can be satisfied in some other way. Must God always punish someone or can His just wrath be satisfied by a sacrifice? If you start with Noah at the end of Genesis 8 you find a bunch of instances where a sacrifice is made and "The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma." In Ephesians 5:2 this theme comes clear when it says, "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." This same sacrifice theme is all over the NT: For example, Hebrews 10:12 says, when Jesus "offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God." John says He is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," The reality of a blood offering given to satisfy the righteous wrath and just penalty of sin is very clear in Bible.
But what I don’t find anywhere is that the Father pours out His wrath on a sacrifice. He does pour it out on evildoers who refuse forgiveness in Jesus. John 3:36 intrigues me be because it’s from the "gospel of love" as some put it. But no where in Bible does it say that God punishes the OT sacrifice or that He punishes Jesus. What He does is accept the death of the substitute as a propitiation, appeasing His righteousness.
I’m interested in your responses.
The ECD discussion got very careful in our review of the draft. The key was to affirm as much as all the participants would give Credo to. I was amazed at both the breadth and depth of agreement on what was said. We left it in a quasi-confessional form because that has a familiar feel to it. Here’s the final version of statement:
By our common faith in Jesus Christ we acknowledge and hold as essential to the gospel these life-giving truths:
The Cross is central to the saving mystery of God’s plan for the ages to make all things new in Christ. Therefore it cannot be separated or isolated from the birth of Emanuel, His life and ministry, His passion and death, His resurrection to life, His exaltation to the right hand of the Father, His sending of the Holy Spirit, or His return in glory as judge. In Christ God renews fallen humanity and liberates creation from its ancient curse, the bondage to corruption.
The atonement, the passion and death of Christ, is a Trinitarian event. The Cross is a vicarious sacrifice, a satisfaction, wherein the incarnate God is our substitute, in which the justice and mercy of God are revealed, out of which comes our justification and salvation. Christ is the priest, the sacrificial victim – Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us – and, as God, the one to whom sacrifice is made. Christ’s death on the Cross is the propitiatory sacrifice that satisfies the wrath of God against sin and the expiatory sacrifice that cleanses guilt and shame. It is also Christ’s perfect spiritual worship of the Father, the source and example of Christian discipleship. The Father sent His Son into the world, so that the Son in obedience to the Father, through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself in the shame of the Cross as a ransom for many. In the Cross He disarmed and triumphed over the evil powers. In His death and resurrection, He overcomes death. In His obedience, He conquers disobedience.