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On the cross when Jesus died, was ‘the wrath of God satisfied’?

I recently posted on Facebook a link to the decision in the Presbyterian Church (USA) to drop the  hymn “In Christ Alone” because the song’s authors refused to change a phrase about the wrath of God.

The original lyrics say that “on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” The Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song wanted to substitute the words, “the love of God was magnified.”

The song’s authors, Stuart Townend and Nashville resident Keith Getty, objected. So the committee voted to drop the song.

Critics say the proposed change was sparked by liberals wanting to take God’s wrath out of the hymnal. The committee says there’s plenty of wrath in the new hymnal. Instead, the problem is the word “satisfied,” which the committee says refers to a specific view of theology that it rejects.

In my experience, many Christians want to revise this phrase, and sing something different in practice. When I highlighted this, I was taken aback by the intensity of discussion, which ended up with more than 100 comments. What is at stake in this particular phrase? There are three aspects: what the NT says about Jesus’ death; the status of particular doctrines; and the issue of copyright in hymns and songs.

51CAuxMGYLLOn the question of wrath in the NT, several things are worth bearing in mind. First, in the NT, whilst there is plenty of discussion about God’s wrath (or sometimes just ‘the wrath’) God is never described as being ‘angry’. Wrath is always a noun, and never a verb. Stephen Travis in Christ and the Judgement of God talks of it as an effectus not an affectus, an attitude rather than a feeling. I remember his former colleague Michael Green describing God’s wrath as ‘his settled opposition to all that is evil.’

Secondly, it is described as something both present (for example in Romans 1) and future (in Romans 5.9). In fact, Romans 5.9 is the only verse in the NT which links Jesus’ death with deliverance from wrath explicitly, and here Paul clearly has the final judgement in mind, not some transaction which takes place on the cross at the time of Jesus’ death.

Thirdly (for the sake of good Anglicans) it is important to note that the Book of Common Prayer does make use of the idea of satisfaction:

All glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world…

But it is worth noting that the ‘satisfaction’ of honour is a mediaeval idea, originating with Anselm of Canterbury in the eleventh century, not one that is found in the NT in relation to Jesus’ death. In any case, the BCP does not talk of ‘satisfying God’s wrath’, and the emphasis here comes from its root in the Middle English satisfien, from Anglo-French satisfier, modification of Latin satisfacere, from satis ‘enough’ and facere ‘to do or make’ and thus means paid or discharged in full. Hence I am very happy to use the words of the BCP, but still not to sing the phrase in the Townend hymn.

The real danger in talking of Jesus satisfying God’s wrath is that we separate the actions of the Trinity in the cross. It appears to portray loving Jesus saving us from an angry God who metes out his punishment upon the innocent. Instead, we should see in the open arms of Jesus a welcome by a loving Father, who no longer counts our sin against us—it is from our sin and its consequences that Jesus saves us, rather than from a hateful God.

This moves us into the question of doctrine of the atonement. This is not the place to tackle this massive subject in full (!), but I noted in the FB discussion that the NT uses a whole range of metaphors for what happened on the cross—apart from the language of taking our place and bearing our sins (1 Peter), the cross and resurrection of Jesus dethroned the powers (Ephesians), ended our shame (Hebrews), brought us into friendship with God (2 Cor), recapitulated the story of Israel (Matthew and Acts), began the redemption of the whole creation (Romans 8), and started the recreation of humanity (Romans and 1 Cor). Tom Smail explores a whole range of images and ideas in his excellent Windows on the Cross which is a great resource for preaching. If we are going to engage our culture with the meaning of Jesus, we would do well to draw on the whole range of ways that Scripture uses.

However, in the FB discussion, one contributor commented:

I believe that the traditional language of the satisfaction of God’s wrath expresses the model at the very heart of the atonement and the Gospel…Further, if you don’t like the doctrine that the cross satisfied God’s wrath, don’t sing it, don’t call yourself a classical evangelical, and leave the COE. Since the BCP is part of the doctrine of the COE, to reject the BCP’s language about satisfaction is to reject the COE’s doctrine, and, for clergy, break their ordination vows. Further, Penal substitution has historically been a key belief for evangelicalism.

I began to see why so many comments were generated—if you don’t believe this phrase (even though it does not occur in the NT, is not found in the creeds, and does not in this form occur in the BCP) you are not really a proper Anglican, let alone an evangelical (though again the phrase is absent from both UCCF and CEEC bases of faith), so I suppose there is a question about whether you could call yourself a Christian at all! At one point, it sounded as though this correspondent was putting the doctrine of ‘penal substitution’ (that Jesus died in our place, being punished by God for our sins, and so satisfying God’s wrath) on the same level as belief in the Trinity, though in fact he pulled back from that in a later comment.

in-christ-aloneHere, as elsewhere, we have got ourselves into a very bad place of ‘culture wars’ in relation to doctrine, and on this (as well as eg the issue of women in leadership) it seems almost impossible to have a sensible discussion. More than that, for me it suggests a real problem in how we view doctrine. Is Scripture supposed to lead us to right doctrine, or does good doctrine help us to read the Scriptures? In my view, it is clearly the latter—it is Scripture that is ‘God-breathed’ (2 Tim 3.16) and not any doctrine textbook. This isn’t about saying truth is unimportant; it is saying that truth is not best expressed by a set of propositions alone. God did not make a mistake when he gave us the Scriptures, in all their variety and (apparent) contradictions. And our unity is not found in agreement on a particular statement of doctrine. It is found in the person of Jesus, crucified and risen, whom we proclaim as Lord. Our unity is, in fact, ‘in Christ alone.’

When Stephen Travis revised Christ and the Judgement of God, he included an additional chapter specifically responding to those proposing penal substitution as the main way to understand Jesus’ death. The chapter is a tour de force, a masterly exploration of the issue, fully engaging with alternative views, and is worth reading in full. He comments:

Most interpreters of Paul would agree with Howard Marshall, that ‘Paul’s vocabulary expresses the results of Christ’s death rather than its character, and this fits in with New Testament thought in general, which is more concerned with the nature of salvation than with the precise way in which it has been achieved.’ (p 181)

There is no place [in the OT] for the popular idea that in the sacrificial ritual God is somehow punishing the animal…or for the inference that something parallel to that is happening in the sacrificial death of Christ. (p 197)

Paul’s understanding of the death of Christ includes, but does not place at the centre, the idea that he bore the retributive punishment for our sins…To understand the atonement exclusively in those terms involves a misunderstanding of what Paul means by ‘the wrath of God.’ (p 199)

The meaning of the cross is not that God punished his Son in order to avoid punishing humanity, but that in Christ God himself took responsibility for the world’s evil and absorbed its consequences into itself. (p 200)

Finally comes the question of copyright. The Presbyterian Church were right to consult the hymn’s authors before changing the words in a published work. But what is copyright about? Principally two things: recognition of the author; and recompense for the work. It is not about hymn writers controlling our doctrine. In fact, if you read the words of the song, it is full of biblical language, and would be thought of as theologically conservative, even without this one phrase. There is plenty else here that I would hope the writers are pleased that people want to sing. So my recommendation would be to use it, to amend this one phrase, to credit the original writers, to note the amendment, and to pay up your royalty fee. Who knows? You might even end up provoking reflection on what Jesus’ death and resurrection (the NT holds the two together) actually mean for us.


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263 Responses to On the cross when Jesus died, was ‘the wrath of God satisfied’?

  1. Oliver Harrison March 27, 2017 at 8:16 am #

    So to recap: Phil believes in PSA on the twofold bases of 1.) parts of Isaiah 53 that the NT never quotes and 2.) a wildly extrapolatory reading of Romans 3:8b, where Paul’s actual phrase God “condemned sin in the flesh” becomes “God punished [sic] our [sic] sins in the flesh of Jesus [sic] on the cross [sic]”.

    Phil, let’s look at that last one: God “condemned sin in the flesh”. That’s “condemned”, not “punished”, “n the flesh”, not “in the flesh of Jesus” and no mention *at all* of the cross.

    You need to read what the Bible says and not what you want it to say. You even say “Paul says explicitly that God condemned sin in the flesh of Jesus Christ”

    Explicitly? Really? No, that’s simply not true. Either you know that and you are a liar or you don’t and you a fool — either way I’m running out of patience with you. I’m calling you out Phil: which one are you — a fool or a knave?

  2. Will Jones March 27, 2017 at 6:09 pm #

    Romans 5:9-10 – ‘Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.’

    Note that the saving from the wrath here follows as a consequence of being justified and reconciled by Christ’s death, and it is something that happens ‘by his life’, not by his death or punishment – the death reconciled us to God, and Christ’s life saves us from wrath. If Paul had PSA in mind he wouldn’t have said this. He would have said (something like): ‘Since Christ has satisfied the wrath of God on the cross, clearly now we will be saved from that wrath. For if God satisfied his wrath on his Son by punishing him on the cross, clearly we have thereby been saved from his wrath by the death of his Son.’ He didn’t say that – just look at what it says. You really can’t reconcile that with PSA. It clearly wasn’t in his Paul’s mind as he wrote Romans.

  3. Philip Almond March 28, 2017 at 10:04 am #

    Oliver

    In your Oliver Harrison March 27, 2017 at 8:16 am post you say:

    You even say “Paul says explicitly that God condemned sin in the flesh of Jesus Christ”.

    I assume that you are quoting from my Philip Almond March 25, 2017 at 7:28 pm post. But I point out that in that post I was quoting from Tom Wright’s ‘Caricatures’. I see that I did not put quote marks round the quote which may have misled you. Sorry about that.

    I plan to respond to recent comments from you and Will.

    Phil Almond

  4. Philip Almond April 5, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

    Phil Almond

    Sorry this has taken so long, and I have more to say.

    Will Jones March 8, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Comment on para 3 (I think we need to be careful….to… throw up logical, ethical and theological problems)
    The issues here are about ‘images’, ‘metaphors’ and ‘literal’ and whether or not the ‘metaphors’ are contradictory if taken literally and the logical, ethical and theological problems thrown up if taken literally.
    You enlarge on these points in para 6 (I accept that the NT…..to….. legitimate slave owner)
    As I see it the Bible uses metaphors and pictures to convey (often in a striking way) profound truths. For example pictures about the LORD looking on the heart; and the breath from heaven to breathe upon these slain that they may live. The truths conveyed to us in these pictures are true for God and true for us. They do not convey the whole truth as God knows it. Only God knows how he causes us to be born from above: many of these truths end in mystery. But they are, I stress, true for God and true for us. So the pictures you mention (bearing sins pictures sins being transferred, atonement pictures anger being appeased by a sacrificial offering, ransom pictures a payment being made to an enemy, and redemption pictures a payment being made to a legitimate slave owner – I will comment later on these) are all true – simultaneously true, true for God and true for us.
    Jumping ahead a bit: in your Will Jones March 9, 2017 at 5:55 pm you say:
    “The only meaning I can get is that in suffering under the curse of sin to save us it was as though Christ was bearing our sins for us, as though he had become sin for the sake of our salvation. That is completely fine, and a very helpful idea – but the ‘as though’ takes the literalness out of it and removes the difficulty’.”

    I am saying not ‘as though’ but ‘really, truly’ – all these pictures are true for God and true for us. There was a real and true transfer of sins, a real and true appeasement of anger, a real and true ransom/redemption.

    I will now try to answer your assertion about problems and mutually exclusive pictures, which cause you to reject ‘real and true’ and say ‘as though’.
    In answering the objection about ‘transferring sins’ (para 7) I draw attention to the first sentence in assumed common ground: ‘We all personally face God’s holy anger and just condemnation from birth onwards’. I point out now (perhaps I should have spelled it out in assumed common ground, though I did expand it in section 1 of my case, ‘Condemnation and Death from Adam’s sin’) that this sentence in assumed common ground is true because, as I say in section 1, ‘So ‘all sinned’ (Romans 5:12) means that Adam’s sin is reckoned to all humanity (apart from Christ)’ (by the way, this truth does not depend on Augustine’s faulty translation of Romans 5:12), and this is why we all face condemnation from birth onwards. This is the doctrine of the imputation of Adam’s sin to all his descendants, bringing condemnation on us all and death even to those ‘not sinning on the likeness of the transgression of Adam’ (Romans 5:14) – God chose not to reckon sin as disobeying the law before the law was given. And of course on the positive side, those who (5:17) ‘receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness’ reign in life through ‘the the one[man] Jesus Christ’. The righteousness is not our own, just as Adam’s sin is not our own. Compare ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness’ (Romans 4:3). Righteousness is reckoned to those in Christ (Romans 4:6 and 4:24). In the same way, the sins which God condemned ‘in the flesh’ (Romans 8:3 (must be in the likeness of sinful flesh of his own sent Son)) were our sins, which Jesus bore, carried up, offered up, on behalf of which he died. (More on Romans 8:3 later).
    I gather from Warfield’s article ‘Imputation’ (Studies in Theology page 305) that this is a long-standing disagreement. Warfield is discussing the ‘three-fold doctrine of imputation’ – of Adam’s sin to his posterity, of the sins of His people to the Redeemer, and of the righteousness of Christ to His people:
    ‘Radical opponents arose in the Reformation age itself, the most important of whom were the Socinians…By them it was pronounced an inanity to speak of the transference of either merit or demerit from one person to another: we can be bad with another’s badness, or good with another’s goodness, they said, as little as we can be white with another’s whiteness. The centre of the Socinian assault was upon the doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ: it is not possible, they affirmed, for one person to bear the punishment due to another. But their criticism cut equally deeply into the Protestant doctrines of original sin and justification by faith’.
    On the issue of whether the ‘mechanisms’ of the four ‘pictures’ you mention (bearing sins, atonement, ransom, redemption) are mutually exclusive:

    Using your definitions of atonement and bearing sins (see above):
    As I see it these fit well together. God condemns and punishes our sins in the flesh of Christ, thus delivering us from condemnation and punishment. Christ bears the wrath of God against our sins in his own body thus appeasing God’s wrath and delivering us from it.

    On ‘ransom’ and ‘redemption’ pictures:

    Below I give the Greek words and Strong definitions and verses in which they appear:

    Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28

    For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

    lutron: a ransom
    Short Definition: a ransom, an offering of expiation
    Definition: the purchasing money for manumitting slaves, a ransom, the price of ransoming; especially the sacrifice by which expiation is effected, an offering of expiation.
    —————————————————————————-

    Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, Luke 1:68

    And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Luke 2:38

    Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Hebrews 9:12

    lutrósis: a ransoming, a redemption
    Short Definition: liberation, deliverance, release
    Definition: (in the Old Testament: ransoming from imprisonment for debt, or from slavery, release from national misfortune, etc.), liberation, deliverance, release.
    —————————————————————————–
    And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. Luke 21:28

    Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Romans 3:24

    And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:23

    But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 1 Corinthians 1:30

    In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Ephesians 1:7

    Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:14

    And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30

    In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
    Colossians 1:14

    And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. Hebrews 9:15

    apolutrósis: a release effected by payment of ransom
    Short Definition: redemption, deliverance
    Definition: release effected by payment of ransom; redemption, deliverance

    ——————————————————————————————-

    But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Luke 24:21

    Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Titus 2:14

    Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
    1 Peter 1:18-19

    lutroó: to release by paying a ransom, to redeem
    Short Definition: I ransom, liberate, deliver
    Definition: I release on receipt of ransom; mid: I redeem, release by paying ransom, liberate.
    ——————————————————————————————-

    But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. (held fast) Romans 7:6

    katargeó: to render inoperative, abolish
    Short Definition: I bring to naught, sever, abolish
    Definition: (a) I make idle (inactive), make of no effect, annul, abolish, bring to naught, (b) I discharge, sever, separate from.

    ——————————————————————————————–
    Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: Galatians 3:13

    To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Galatians 4:5

    Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:16

    Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Colossians 4:5

    exagorazó: to buy up, i.e. ransom, fig. to rescue from loss
    Short Definition: I ransom, redeem
    Definition: I buy out, buy away from, ransom; mid: I purchase out, buy, redeem, choose.

    —————————————————————————————

    And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; Revelation 5:9

    And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. Revelation 14:3

    These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. Revelation 14:4

    agorazó: to buy in the marketplace, purchase
    Short Definition: I buy
    Definition: I buy.

    ——————————————————————————————-

    All the cases translated in the AV as ‘redeem’ ‘redeemed’ ‘redemption’ ‘ransom’ contain the idea of paying a price.

    Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:28, Hebrews 9:12, Romans 3:24, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14, Hebrews 9:15, 1 Peter 1:18-19, Galatians 3:13, Galatians 4:5, Titus 2:14, Revelation 5:9 are about Christ’s death (‘give his life’ or ‘blood’ or ‘death’ or ‘gave himself for us’ in the verse or in a connected verse)

    In Luke 2:38, Luke 21:28, Romans 8:38, 1 Corinthians 1:30, Ephesians 1:14, Ephesians 4:30, Luke 24:2, Revelation 14:3, Revelation 14:4 the word is used in a general sense to cover the whole process of salvation, or in a sense of the consummation of that process.

    Redeemed/ransomed from what or from whom and by what?
    From slavery to sin – Romans 6:17, by the death of Christ (Romans 6:3) and by ‘obeying from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you’

    From ‘vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers’ 1 Peter 2:18-19, with the ‘precious blood of Christ’

    From all iniquity – Titus 2:14, by Christ giving himself on behalf of us

    From the curse of the law – Galatians 3:13, by Christ ‘becoming a curse on behalf of us’. The curse that the law pronounces is God’s curse on ‘anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out’ Deuteronomy 27:26. In Romans 2 Paul makes the case that both Jews and Gentiles are ‘under the law’. So redemption from the curse of the law pronounced by God through Moses, the curse that we deserve, is by Christ becoming a curse on behalf of us. Clearly a substitution.

    From slavery to the ‘elements of the world’ – Galatians 4:3, From being ‘under the law’ – Galatians 4:5, by God sending forth his Son, becoming of a woman, becoming under the law. Paul enlarges on this in Romans 7:1-6. In 7:4 he writes, ‘So, brothers of me, also ye were put to death to the law through the body of Christ…’. The penalty for disobedience to the law is death (Romans 2:12). When Paul says in Romans 3:26, ‘…for the to be him just and justifying the [one] of faith of(in) Jesus’ a reasonable understanding is that ‘just’ refers to God’s judging righteousness; that to be true to who he is and what he is like the penalty for disobedience to his law has to be carried out. It is also reasonable to understand Paul’s ‘Do we destroy therefore law through the faith? May it not be, but we establish law’ to include that thought. Note ‘Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation’ (Exodus 34:7). The thought of Christ bearing the penalty of the law on our behalf is difficult to avoid.

    In conclusion, the four ‘pictures’ atonement, bearing sins and ransom/redemption all fit together.

    In para 7 (7Your theory of punishment ….to from the coming wrath)
    You raised the question of my view implying universalism. We have discussed this already.

    Your paragraph 10 (The true mechanism…to… share in his glory) is very interesting. Your first sentence, ‘The true mechanism is that Christ by becoming human became subject to the curse under which humanity has been placed, and thus became subject to suffering and death which were the penalty for sin even though he was without sin’ is presumably a paraphrase of Galatians 3:10 and 3:13. But I thought your view of the ‘picture’ of redemption is that it is a ‘picture’, not the ‘true mechanism’. When you go on to say in this para ‘by suffering and dying as a man….’ there is a non-sequitur between your first sentence and what follows.

    Oliver Harrison March 9, 2017 at 11:33 am:

    Oliver, I am intrigued by your, ‘His (Will’s) reply would be pretty much mine except I don’t have a problem with the literal transfer of our sin onto / into Christ and him becoming sin for us. When I say literal what I mean is that if God says and sees it as so, then it is objectively so. Christ offers himself as/for our sin and God accepts that.’. It sounds like what you mean by ‘literal’ is what I mean by real and true. Do you agree?

    On your remark about Zechariah 13:7 I reply:

    I agree that the point Jesus is making is about the disciples. But that does not affect the fact that Zech 13:7 is part of the wholly trustworthy Old Testament (see my ‘further presupposition’). It is clear that in the prophecy the one doing the striking is the LORD Almighty (‘I will strike’ (Matthew 26:31)) and that the shepherd is Jesus. So my: “The LORD Almighty strikes the Shepherd with the sword” is not a ‘gloss’; it is just a rephrasing of what the Bible says.

    Your ‘…so you cut-and-paste and juxtapose and construct a case from decontextualised snippets and gobbets’ is not an accurate description of my case.
    In the next few posts you both use language about ‘satisfaction’ and ‘satisfies’. I ask questions about this. Because I don’t see how your mechanism ‘works’ if it excludes the truth that Christ bore the wrath of God and the penalty our sins deserve.
    Oliver Harrison March 13, 2017 at 11:43 am:
    Oliver, You say
    ‘Hi Will, I think it means he bears / becomes our sin for us but how that happens I don’t know. It’s substitutionary and it satisfies God.’
    In what sense and how does it ‘satisfy God’?

    Will Jones March 14, 2017 at 1:12 pm
    Will, You say:
    ‘But I think you’re right to highlight the idea that God has accepted Jesus’ sacrifice as a kind of satisfaction on the basis of which he forgives sin and withholds punishment’
    In what sense and how is Jesus sacrifice a ‘satisfaction’?

    Oliver Harrison March 18, 2017 at 4:44 pm
    Oliver, You say:
    ‘“God has accepted Jesus’ sacrifice as […] satisfaction […] the basis of which he forgives sin and withholds punishment.”
    Is pretty much a perfect statement, imho. The good news of the gospel and a Biblical account of the atonement’.
    Again, why did God accept Jesus’ sacrifice as […] (what does […] signify) satisfaction […], what do you understand by ‘satisfaction’ and why is ‘satisfaction’ ‘the basis of which he forgives sin and withholds punishment’

    Oliver Harrison March 19, 2017 at 10:16 pm

    Oliver, You say:
    ‘“On the cross as Jesus died/ The wrath of God was turned aside/ For every sin on him a laid”
    Yes that works fine. God did not vent his anger on his son (the plain way of saying “satisfy his wrath”) but the cause of God’s anger — our sin — was dealt with by Christ (and by God in / as Christ).’

    On what basis was the wrath of God turned aside? How and on what basis did Christ deal with our sin which, you rightly say, is the cause of God’s anger?

    My next bit is to explore your (Will and Oliver) posts on Isaiah 53.

    In Will Jones March 23, 2017 at 11:17 am you said, ‘I think that it (Isaiah 53) is referring to Christ: God laid on Christ the iniquity of us all. And Christ bore our sins in his flesh on the tree. And he was made sin for us. And the punishment that brought us peace was upon him. And by his wounds we are healed.
    And he gave his life as a ransom for many. And he redeemed us by his blood. And he is the propitiatory sacrifice presented by God for the sins of the world’.
    You the go on to reiterate your ‘figurative’ not ‘literal’ point of view which you raise again in Will Jones March 23, 2017 at 4:03 pm.
    I comment: I agree that the idea of a ransom payment to the devil is wrong. As you will know, nobody who agrees with my case uses that argument. But when you say, ‘but none of us, including Phil, think that there is a literal redemption or ransom being paid to anyone’ I point out that I have argued above that there is a real and true ransom paid to deliver us from the various things mentioned above, such as the curse of the law. When you say, ‘God does not punish the innocent’ we are back to the point that Tom Wright made in ‘Caricatures’ “– in Romans 8.3, where Paul says explicitly that God condemned sin in the flesh of Jesus Christ? Paul does not say that God condemned Jesus; rather, that he condemned sin; but the place where sin was condemned was precisely in the flesh of Jesus, and of Jesus precisely as the Son sent from the Father”. (I know you both dispute this understanding of Romans 8:3 and I plan to say more later).

    Oliver Harrison March 23, 2017 at 2:15 pm includes:
    ‘Yes, the part is Isaiah about the Lord laying the sin of all him (53:6b) is congruent with the what the NT says about Jesus. So although it is not actually quoted in the NT it seems to fit. So it may be about Jesus. Or not. I’m open to either option and easy either way’.

    So I conclude that Will is says he thinks all of Isaiah 53 is about Jesus but he considers it figurative and not literal. Oliver thinks it may all be about Jesus even the bits not quoted in the NT. But both Will and Oliver continue regard the bits quoted in the NT as more significant (is this the right word) than the bits that are not. But if the OT is as true (inspired by the Holy Spirit) as the NT and if the whole of Isaiah 53 is about Jesus (I know this is a big ‘if’ as Oliver sees it) then this idea of privileging the NT references above the OT references seems unsound to me.

    On Romans 8:3:
    How does Romans 8:3 fit into what Paul is saying in chapters 6, 7 and 8?
    As I see it 6:1 to 8:13 is a continuous line of thought. In 6:1 ‘What therefore shall we say? May we continue in sin, in order that grace may abound? May it not be. Who we died to sin, how yet shall we live in it?’ obviously Paul raises a question which is crucial to the Christian life – the struggle that all Christians have against indwelling sin and to obey God and his Christ.
    I attach significance to the similarity of ‘or are ye ignorant that as many as we were baptised into Christ Jesus, into the death of him we were baptised?’ (6:3) and ‘Or are ye ignorant, brothers, for to [ones] knowing law I speak, that the law lords it over the man over such time [as] he lives?’ (7:1). In chapter 7 Paul is still enlarging on his answer in 6:2 to the question posed in 6:1. Speaking very generally, chapters 7 and 8:1-8:13 are an expanded account of Galatians 5:16-17, ‘Now I say, in Spirit walk ye and [the] lust of [the] flesh by no means ye will perform. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, for these oppose each other, lest whatever things ye wish these ye do’. On this point I disagree with Lloyd-Jones (pp230ff in his sermons on 7:1 – 8:4). On the question of 7:14-25 (whether pre-Christian or Christian experience) I align myself (here but not everywhere!) with Schreiner: ‘I would suggest that the arguments are so finely balanced because Paul does not intend to distinguish believers from unbelievers in this text…. Paul reflects on whether the law has the ability to transform human beings, concluding that it does not. The law puts to death unbelievers who desire to keep it, since they lack the power to keep it. They are in bondage to sin and captives to sin, and when they encounter the law, death ensues. On the other hand, believers are not absolutely excluded from this text either. It would be a mistake to read the whole of Christian experience from this account, for, as chapter 8 shows, believers by the power of the Spirit are enabled to keep God’s law. And yet since believers have not yet experienced the consummation of their redemption, they are keenly aware of their inherent inability to keep God’s law’. When we fall into deliberate sin we may feel that we are wretched sinners who need to be delivered again from ‘the body of this death’. In Romans 8:1-4 Paul reminds us, and we have to remind ourselves, of the true position:

    ‘Then [there is] now no condemnation to the [ones] in Christ Jesus’ (8:1) condemnation: katakrima (STEP: punishment, condemnation, condemning sentence; Strong: punishment following condemnation, penal servitude, penalty)

    ‘For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus freed thee from the law of sin and of death’ (8:2) freed thee eleutheroó(STEP: to set free, liberate; Strong:I free, set free, liberate). What are these ‘laws’? I believe Lloyd-Jones gets this right (pp280ff in his sermons on 7:1 to 8:4). The ‘law of sin and of death’ is the Law of God given through Moses, the Law that works wrath. The ‘law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’ writes Lloyd-Jones, ‘is just another way of describing the gospel, the good news of salvation.’ ‘What has set me free from the Law of sin and death? It is the grace of God in Christ Jesus’.

    ‘For the impossible thing of the law, in which it was weak through the flesh, God sending the Son of himself in likeness of flesh of sin and concerning sin condemned sin in the flesh’ (8:3) condemned katakrino (STEP: to give judgment against, condemn; Strong: I condemn, judge worthy of punishment). The ‘law’ is again the Law of God given through Moses. ‘Weak through the flesh’ because, as Paul says in 8:7, ‘the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for to the law of God it is not subject, neither indeed can it; and the [ones] being in flesh cannot please God’. The reason why there is no condemnation to the ones in Christ Jesus (8:1) is because of the condemnation referred to in 8:3. And ‘God sending the Son of himself in the likeness of flesh of sin and concerning sin’ was clearly to condemn ‘sin in the flesh’. There is clearly a link between ‘concerning sin’ (LXX usage indicates ‘to be a sin offering’) and ‘condemned sin in the flesh’. This can only be the flesh of Christ in which sin was condemned. And since the condemnation in 8:1 involves punishment, the ‘condemned’ in 8:3 which results in ‘no condemnation’ in 8:1 must also involve punishment. This is confirmed by other instances of katakrino: Matthew 12:41,42; Matthew 20:18; 1 Peter 2:6.

    ‘in order that the ordinance of the law may be fulfilled in us the [ones] not according to flesh walking but according to Spirit’ (8:4). This is the purpose of the great deliverance, another way of saying ‘conformed to the image of his Son’ – ‘how yet shall we live in it (sin)’ 6:2 when the purpose is to fulfil the ordinance of the law by walking according to the Spirit?

    My response in summary:

    Sin transfer, atonement (appeasement) and ransom/redemption were real and true events (not ‘as though’) and fit together.

    ‘just’ in ‘that he might be just and justifying the one of faith of(in) Jesus’ refers to God’s judging righteousness, supported by Romans 3:31 and ‘by no means clear the guilty’

    The whole of Isaiah 53 refers to Christ and prophesies real and true events which happened

    (I have not mentioned this before)
    ‘Because indeed Christ died once concerning sins, a righteous man on behalf of unrighteous ones, in order that he might bring you to God, being put to death on one hand in the flesh, quickened on the other in the Spirit……’ (1 Peter 3:18)

    Phil Almond

    • Oliver Harrison April 5, 2017 at 9:45 pm #

      1.

      “God condemns and punishes our sins in the flesh of Christ, thus delivering us from condemnation and punishment. Christ bears the wrath of God against our sins in his own body thus appeasing God’s wrath and delivering us from it.”

      Yes, that’s *exactly* what the NT says. Oh, no, wait a minute – IT DOESN’T.

      What is does is more like: “God condemns sin in the flesh, thus delivering us from condemnation and punishment.” (See Romans 8 — see point 3, below)

      2.

      “Again, why did God accept Jesus’ sacrifice as satisfaction […], what do you understand by ‘satisfaction’ and why is ‘satisfaction’ ‘the basis of which he forgives sin and withholds punishment’ ” and “On what basis was the wrath of God turned aside? How and on what basis did Christ deal with our sin which, you rightly say, is the cause of God’s anger?

      You are asking *me* why God does something? Christ’s offering of himself satisfies God and that is enough for me. I plead his sacrifice, a sacrifice which both pays the price and cancels (or “forgives”) the debt.

      There are two ways of dealing with sin committed against us. We can forgive the offence or we can punish it. Both of these options are founded on justice, because both admit and acknowledge the offence. For God to forgive does not contradict or undermine his truthfulness, holiness and righteousness. Forgiveness is not the alternative or opposite or absence of justice; it is contingent upon justice, dependent upon moral and ethical framework of right and wrong. Forgiveness does not defy or deny justice but is only possible precisely because of it: after all, if there was no justice there’d be no concept or idea of forgiveness as no law would be broken nor penalty due. Forgiveness is not the same as overlooking or ignoring the offence. That course of action is not open to God, because God is just and righteous (being, of course, the same word in New Testament Greek). And forgiveness is not the soft or easy option: it is extremely expensive to the one who forgives, as the cross supremely demonstrates. Tim Keller says the most frequent question he gets from young people in Manhattan is this: “Why did God have to have a sacrifice? Why does he require blood? Why can’t he just forgive?” His answer is outstanding: 1. we do not “just forgive” — especially when the offense is great. Forgiveness means the forgiver pays the price. 2. God does not require innocent blood — he gives his own blood.”

      “Forgiveness breaks the chain of causality because he who ‘forgives’ you – out of love – takes upon himself the consequences of what you have done.  Forgiveness, therefore, always entails a sacrifice.  The price you must pay for your own liberation through another’s sacrifice is    that you in turn must be willing to liberate others in the same way, irrespective of the consequences to yourself.”
       
      (Dag Hammarskjold, Easter 1960 from Markings)

      But it sounds like you want God to conform to your logic, which is that someone must be punished. I’m sorry to say (again) that the NT never teaches that. If you don’t like the way God works take it up with him, not me. The trouble here is your underlying presupposition that forgiveness and reconciliation are possible only after wrath has been vented, punishment meted out and/or retribution exacted. But is that what Jesus teaches in the Gospels? No. And is it what Paul teaches? No.

      3. Re Romans 8:3 “This can only be the flesh of Christ in which sin was condemned. And since the condemnation in 8:1 involves punishment, the ‘condemned’ in 8:3 which results in ‘no condemnation’ in 8:1 must also involve punishment. This is confirmed by other instances of katakrino: Matthew 12:41,42; Matthew 20:18; 1 Peter 2:6.”

      It seems you are going to infer “punishment” from the most tenuous and tangential of textual sources. Let me tell you now that katakrino does not mean “punished” (I can’t find a single English version of the Bible that translates it as that, although I haven’t checked them all. See also “lutron” – a ransom is NOT a punishment and is semantically even further from that idea than “condemn”, which is a least a judicial term).
      OK, back to Romans 8:3. You say “This can only be the flesh of Christ in which sin was condemned.” I take your phrase “This can only be . . .” to mean “Paul never actually says this but I believe he means . . .” You are wrong: “This can only be” what Paul actually says: flesh. It may be referring to Jesus and even if so then then not necessarily the “flesh” of his death on the cross as the whole perfect, obedience, sinless incarnation condemns all sin in (and of) all the flesh in a sort of “speak the truth and shame the devil” way.

      I’m with Will when he says “Thus not only is PSA not an idea found in the NT, but we have no need of it to explain anything, as the ideas which are found in the NT are more than adequate to satisfy our inquisitive minds.”

  5. Will Jones April 5, 2017 at 9:03 pm #

    Thanks Phil.

    That’s a very thorough response, and I agree that I have misconstrued ransom/redemption imagery. I had spotted this myself, but am grateful for the overview of biblical usage of the terms. Yes, their meaning is not restricted to what I had said, and indeed do generally mean making something good/right/free through paying the necessary price. So construed they are of course not metaphors but literal terms.

    On sin/merit imputation. I’m afraid I do take this as metaphorical because I do regard it as logically incoherent to speak of literally transferring bad and good actions from an agent to another agent, and the only alternative to literal transfer is fiction, and I don’t believe that salvation is based on God creating for himself a fiction to believe in. The sin of Adam which is inherited by us I understand to be Sin, that is, fallen human nature under God’s curse (thus dysfunctional) and under his judgement, condemnation and wrath. This is not a sin imputed to us but a state we have been placed in by God on account of Adam’s sin. To use an analogy: if we impose sanctions on a foreign country because of the conduct of their government this places all citizens of that country in a disadvantaged state and effectively punishes them on account of their government’s misconduct. However, we are not imputing the government’s action to the citizens, either literally or fictitiously. We are just treating them as a unit and responding to them as such. This is what God did with humanity in response to Adam’s sin. No imputation necessary, and certainly no transfer of bad action. I also don’t think God literally transfers Christ’s merits to us, but clothes us with Christ, i.e. treats those who are united with Christ as a unit, like before (with the first Adam) but good this time (with the second).

    But in any case, the real issue is wrath/punishment transfer. I feel the force of your argument about Isaiah 53, since that passage does appear to suggest such a mechanism. However, you haven’t answered my point that it also says he suffered with our diseases and for that reason we considered him stricken by God and afflicted, an idea which clearly was not literally fulfilled by Jesus. It also says he was shunned by men throughout his life because of this and very unappealing to people, but again that does not describe Jesus. So I think you need to be more cautious about your use of Isaiah 53 vis-a-vis Jesus.

    The most important point though is that, whatever Isaiah 53 says, there is no evidence that New Testament writers had wrath transfer in mind when they were writing about Jesus’ death. Take Romans for example: it doesn’t mention wrath in connection with Christ’s death until 5:9-10, and when it does what it says bears absolutely no relation to PSA. Here it is: ‘Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.’ But here saving from the wrath follows as a consequence, *not a constituent*, of justification by his death, and occurs ‘by his life’. No one with PSA in mind could write this.

    And that’s really the point: punishment transfer doesn’t appear in the NT, despite its apparent appearance in Isaiah 53. And that’s because it wasn’t in the authors minds as they were writing.

    So how did they think of it? They thought of it as a sacrifice of atonement/ransom/redemption as in the OT law. This is why it is a righteousness apart from law *to which the law bears witness* – a righteousness achieved by God presenting Christ as a sacrifice of atonement through his blood. This showed God to be just in respect of the sins which he had left unpunished because the law allowed that a person could be justified through a sacrifice of redemption/atonement in place of punishment. Thus in this way God condemns sin in fallen human nature (sin in the flesh) because he shows that it required a costly sacrifice of atonement to cover it (viz the blood of his Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh). This is what proves him righteous. Here it is important to remember that in the OT in a sacrifice of atonement there was no suggestion, not even a hint, of wrath or punishment transfer. It was an offering to redeem or atone for sin, not a wrath conduit. Thus the law did not bear witness to PSA in its use of atonement sacrifices.

    Now you ask why God is pleased to accept this sacrifice as the required price of redemption. And you want me to be obliged to say ‘because he has transferred our punishment to Jesus’. But I don’t need to. On one level I could simply answer: because he is God, and that is the redemption he has stipulated is acceptable for the sins of humanity. Its surpassing value demonstrates the gravity of the offence and thus proves him righteous. I think that is a good answer, and many people are happy with that. It is biblical.

    However, I think a better answer is to point to the fact that those who are so redeemed and forgiven are then united with Christ in his death and resurrection and are thereby made part of the new humanity in which they receive the regeneration of the new creation, and are sanctified through this participation in the life of Christ. Since Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection were all strictly necessary for creating this new humanity and reality, it becomes even more clear why God deemed it fitting to regard Christ’s death as the sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the world. It also becomes clear why it requires faith and personal response to make it effective. It is fitting, not only because of its surpassing value, but because it is the means by which humanity is not only forgiven and justified, but also sanctified and glorified. In accepting that as the sacrifice of atonement he has achieved so much more than simply forgiveness and justification, because all the qualities of Christ work together to create a transformative new reality for his forgiven people to inhabit. It is the perfect plan of salvation.

    Thus not only is PSA not an idea found in the NT, but we have no need of it to explain anything, as the ideas which are found in the NT are more than adequate to satisfy our inquisitive minds.

  6. Dave Williams April 15, 2017 at 2:10 pm #

    Hi Ian, I happily sing the whole song because it accurately reflects Scriptures including Isaiah 53 and Romans 3. I’ve expanded some notes here https://faithroots.net/2017/04/15/why-we-should-sing-that-on-the-cross-the-wrath-of-god-was-satisfied/ but I think a key point is that just because a medieval theologian like Anselm said something that this means it was a medieval idea. I find it ironic that on the one hand we are being told about how PSA doesn’t speak to honour shame cultures and then being told that the theology is too focused on honour/shame!

    • Oliver Harrison April 21, 2017 at 1:28 pm #

      Dave, first up I think it’s rude of you to not reply to or engage with the posts on this thread but instead stick up a link to your own piece.

      The reasons you give are actually dealt with here. Romans 3 does not say Jesus was punished for our sins and Isaiah 53 only works if you’re happy to use it in a way that the NT doesn’t.

      Basically the NT never teaches that Jesus was punished by God and/or bore the wrath of God.

      I’ll donate £100 to you and the same again to the charity of choice if you can find it in the NT.

  7. Philip Almond April 15, 2017 at 5:05 pm #

    Will, Oliver
    I notice that Ian Paul has started a new thread on this topic. Are you both agreeable to continue our discussion on that new thread please?
    Regards
    Phil Almond

  8. Oliver Harrison April 15, 2017 at 6:33 pm #

    I’ve got nothing more to say. It seems like you will believe what you want regardless of what the NT teaches. I’m out.

  9. Philip Almond April 18, 2017 at 5:50 pm #

    Oliver
    I know you have said you do not wish to continue this debate, so it is of course up to you whether or not you read this post.

    In your Oliver Harrison April 5, 2017 at 9:45 pm post you have a section which begins, ‘There are two ways of dealing with sin committed against us…’ and ends ‘……he gives his own blood.’

    I have checked as carefully as I can and am as sure as I can be that there is an identical section in your Oliver Harrison February 13, 2017 at 11:45 am post.

    In our exchange after your February 13 post you may recall that I drew attention to parts of that section which are key parts of my case. I began to wonder whether you were really agreeing with me and we were at cross purposes. In your reply you ‘took back’ the word ‘penalty’. I note that ‘penalty’ is there in your April 5 post, but I presume that is just a slip of the pen so to speak. But on further reflection I think deleting the words ‘penalty due’ from the section does not remove the concept as an implication of the rest of the section: because the stress on justice, on forgiveness being ‘contingent upon justice’ and ‘dependent upon moral and ethical framework of right and wrong’ and being ‘only possible precisely because of it (justice)’ and that without justice ‘there’d be no concept or idea of forgiveness as no law would be broken’ does imply the words you ‘took back’ – ‘nor penalty due’.

    Your quote from Tim Keller summarises my view.

    I draw attention to http://www.timothykeller.com/blog/2009/1/1/the-grace-of-the-law?rq=penal and the phrase

    ‘Third, we understand the law of God as fulfilled in Christ. This means two things. One we already mentioned. Christ completely fulfilled the requirements of the law in our place, so when he took the penalty our sins deserved, we could receive the blessing that his righteousness deserved (2 Corinthians 5:21.)’

    Of course that was in 2009 and perhaps Keller now agrees with you? Have you any evidence for this?

    Replying to your comments below about Romans 8:1-3:

    3. Re Romans 8:3 “This can only be the flesh of Christ in which sin was condemned. And since the condemnation in 8:1 involves punishment, the ‘condemned’ in 8:3 which results in ‘no condemnation’ in 8:1 must also involve punishment. This is confirmed by other instances of katakrino: Matthew 12:41 ,42 ; Matthew 20:18 ; 1 Peter 2:6 .”
    It seems you are going to infer “punishment” from the most tenuous and tangential of textual sources. Let me tell you now that katakrino does not mean “punished” (I can’t find a single English version of the Bible that translates it as that, although I haven’t checked them all. See also “lutron” – a ransom is NOT a punishment and is semantically even further from that idea than “condemn”, which is a least a judicial term).
    OK, back to Romans 8:3 . You say “This can only be the flesh of Christ in which sin was condemned.” I take your phrase “This can only be . . .” to mean “Paul never actually says this but I believe he means . . .” You are wrong: “This can only be” what Paul actually says: flesh. It may be referring to Jesus and even if so then then not necessarily the “flesh” of his death on the cross as the whole perfect, obedience, sinless incarnation condemns all sin in (and of) all the flesh in a sort of “speak the truth and shame the devil” way.

    ‘Assumed common ground’ in Philip Almond March 7, 2017 at 4:43 pm included
    ‘We all personally face God’s holy anger and just condemnation from birth onwards.
    What happens to the unsaved after the Day of Judgment is active punishment from God, specific, personal and individual, and in accordance with sinfulness’
    So in God’s terrible judgment on the unsaved condemnation leads to punishment.

    katakrima
    in 8:1is defined in STEP as punishment, condemnation, condemning sentence and in STRONG as punishment following condemnation, penal servitude, penalty. NAS Exhaustive Concordance gives word origin as from katakrino, definition penalty, NASB translation condemnation.

    katakrino (katakrinen in 8:3)
    in 8:3 is defined in STEP as to give judgment against, condemn and in STRONG as I condemn, judge worthy of punishment.

    So both STEP and STRONG in their definition of katakrima in 8:1 include punishment and STRONG gives judge worthy of punishment for katakrino

    I disagree with your dismissal of the significance of the other occurrences of katakrino I gave. But I confused matters (sorry about that) by giving 1 Peter 2:6 instead of 2 Peter 2:6. 2 Peter 2:6 is particularly significant as describing the condemnation by an overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrha, which must surely be a punishment.

    I assume that we are agreed that the reason why there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (8:1) is because of what the text says in 8:2-8:3. Whatever view we take of 8:2 I argue the following view on key phrases of 8:3: the meaning of ‘For the impossible thing of the law, in which it was weak through the flesh’: ‘the impossible thing of the law’ means that the law could not deliver from condemnation; ‘in which it was weak through the flesh’ means what Paul says in 8:7, ‘Wherefore the mind of the flesh [is] enmity against God; for to the law of God it is not subject, neither indeed can it….’. On the disputed phrase ‘condemned sin in the flesh’ you say

    “This can only be” what Paul actually says: flesh. It may be referring to Jesus and even if so then then not necessarily the “flesh” of his death on the cross as the whole perfect, obedience, sinless incarnation condemns all sin in (and of) all the flesh in a sort of “speak the truth and shame the devil” way.’

    I understand you to be saying that it may mean that God condemned (but, in your view, did not punish) sin in the flesh of Jesus on the cross, but not necessarily because it may mean that by sending his Son God condemned sin ‘as the whole perfect, obedience, sinless incarnation condemns all sin in (and of) all the flesh in a sort of “speak the truth and shame the devil” way.’ But I do not see how the latter alternative results in there being now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus.

    Phil Almond

  10. Will Jones April 20, 2017 at 11:44 pm #

    Hi Phil

    On Romans 8:3, I think it’s quite clear from the context that ‘he condemned sin in the flesh’ refers to the condemning of sinful human nature (the flesh) in such a way that those who are in Christ Jesus are no longer subject to its power and so can walk according to the Spirit rather than according to the flesh. In this passage flesh is a contrast to Spirit, and ‘in the flesh’ is a contrast to ‘in Christ’. Hence: ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh [sinful human nature], could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh [human nature], and as a sin offering, he condemned sin in the flesh [sinful human nature], so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh [sinful human nature] but according to the Spirit [in Christ Jesus].’ Thus we set our minds ‘on the things of the Spirit’ and ‘put to death the deeds of the body’. Paul sees this condemning of sin in the flesh as bringing an end to its power over those who are in Christ Jesus and thus who live by the Spirit. This links to the previous two chapters where dying and rising with Christ, through being united to him, frees us from the power and law of sin and the flesh.

    Thus I don’t think Romans 8:3 can possibly be construed as referring to the flesh of Christ, and thus as speaking of condemning and punishing sin in the flesh of Christ, which bears no relation to the context.

  11. Philip Almond April 21, 2017 at 9:28 am #

    Will
    Your view of Romans 8:1-4 does not work because of the meaning of katakrima and katakrino (see my post above): condemn, not break the power of.

    Phil Almond

    • Will Jones April 21, 2017 at 10:32 am #

      But neither does yours, since katakrino is ‘give judgement against’ rather than punish (sentence rather than penalty – krino being judge, like in critic), and in the context is clearly referring to sin in sinful humanity, which God has, by sending his own Son to be a sin offering for it, condemned (and thus, from what Paul goes on to say, broken its power – I accept of course that this is not implied by the concept but by the context).

      God didn’t condemn Jesus (or his flesh), but condemned sin in humanity by sending his own Son to be a sin offering for the sins of humanity. This condemns sin in humanity since by the very fact that he has had to send his own Son to be a sin offering he gives judgement against sin in humanity (just as the requirement for a valuable sacrifice in the OT gives judgement against the sin for which it is to be offered). The key words here are ‘his own Son’, since it is the surpassing worth of the sin offering which God has had to send which condemns sin in humanity. Thus: ‘By sending his own Son… to be a sin offering, he condemned sin in the flesh.’

  12. Philip Almond April 22, 2017 at 1:22 pm #

    Will
    But the meaning of ‘katakrima’ according to both STEP and STRONG, does include ‘punishment’ as well as ‘condemnation’. ‘No condemnation to those in Christ Jesus’ means that those in Christ Jesus are delivered from the final condemnation and punishment which awaits the unsaved on the day of judgment (as agreed in common ground). I assume that we are agreed (are we?) that the reason why there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (8:1) is because of what the text says in 8:2-8:3. Whatever view we take of 8:2, the phrase ‘condemned sin in the flesh’ is a key part of that reason.

    In your latest post, if I understand you, your line of thought on ‘condemned sin in the flesh’ is that the ‘surpassing worth’ of Christ’s sacrifice for sin demonstrates how serious and deserving of condemnation sin is in God’s sight. I don’t see how that can be a key part of the reason why there is now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. And your line of thought on ‘condemned sin in the flesh’ does not break sin’s power.

    Schreiner (pages 402-404) agrees with you that ‘Katakrinen’ conveys the meaning “break the power of sin” in this context’ but goes on to say, ‘but this is not to deny a forensic sense for the verb as well. Katakrinen in verse 3 relates to the noun katakrima in verse 1 but here the means of the judicial condemnation of sin is spelled out: God condemned sin in the flesh’. After a long discussion Schreiner says, ‘The sacrificial death of the Son of God, therefore, was the means by which sin was condemned. He took upon himself the punishment that those who violated God’s law deserved’. Schreiner goes on to say, ‘Verse 3, then, correlates with verse 1 in that it explains how no condemnation exists for those who are united to Christ: they have had the power of sin broken in their lives because Christ bore on the cross God’s condemnation against sin’. And further he says, ‘The forensic and transformative works of Christ should not be wrenched apart and played off against one another. The work of Christ on the cross freed believers from both the penalty and the power of sin’.

    I don’t necessarily agree with all that Schreiner says in his exegesis of 8:1-3. But I do agree that he sees that the judicial aspect of Christ’s death fits in well with Paul’s overall line of thought and is the foundation of what Paul goes on to say in 8:4 onwards.

    Phil Almond

    • Will Jones April 22, 2017 at 10:36 pm #

      Hi Phil

      You say: ‘I assume that we are agreed (are we?) that the reason why there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (8:1) is because of what the text says in 8:2-8:3.’

      No I don’t agree – the reason there is no condemnation is set out in the whole following passage: it is all an explanation of why there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The principal reason is 8:2: That ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.’ This law of the Spirit of life is what Paul then goes on to describe in some detail. Starting (though by no means finishing) with the condemnation of sin in humanity by God sending his own Son to be a sin offering (8:3), Paul then explains that this was so that ‘the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.’ There is no condemnation because those in Christ Jesus do not walk according to the flesh, which has been condemned by God sending his own Son, but by the Spirit, by whose ‘law’ the ‘just requirement of the law’ is ‘fulfilled in us. It is evident from the passage that this fulfilling of the just requirement is not, on this occasion, a judicial standing but an actual way of living – life in the Spirit. Since ‘those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.’

      I have emphasised the phrase ‘in the flesh’ to show that this is the same phrase as that which, in 8:3, was said to be where sin was condemned, and to show that it is clearly referring to sinful humanity, hostile to God. The reason there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus is because sin was condemned ‘in the flesh’, but ‘you are not in flesh’ (where there is condemnation), ‘you are in the Spirit’ (where there is life and peace).

      I agree that 8:3 is joining the judicial and transformative aspects of redemption, by connecting the sin offering with the power to ‘walk by the Spirit’. But I cannot see how you can get from that passage the idea that ‘in the flesh’ can refer to the flesh of Christ, when the phrase appears multiple times and always refers to sinful humanity. It’s just a strange and unwarranted inference.

      So how then is it that God, ‘by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh’, has ‘condemned sin in the flesh’? I say he has done so because sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin (as a sin offering) he has declared judgement (condemnation) over the sinfulness of humanity. Jesus, God’s own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, exposes its sinfulness by his own sinless life, and then by offering that sinless life as a sin offering for the sins of ‘the flesh’, declares judgement over that sin in the flesh. For God’s Son is to be judge of all flesh, and will separate those who are in the flesh (and thus condemned) from those who are in the Spirit (and hence saved). Christ has also, of course, by his death and resurrection, broken the power of sin and made it possible for those who walk by the Spirit to fulfil the just requirements of the law. I really do think this is quite clear in how the whole passage hangs together.

    • Will Jones April 23, 2017 at 8:37 pm #

      A further point that I don’t think we have sufficiently taken into account: ‘Sin in the flesh’ needs to be understood in the context of chapter 7, the immediately preceding passage, where sin is characterised as a power at work ‘in the flesh’, using the law to ‘kill’ and ‘work death’ in me (7:14-25). To say that God has done what the law was powerless to do and ‘condemned sin in the flesh’ is to say that God has declared judgement on this power which ‘weakened the law’ and caused it to work ‘death through what is good’. This condemnation of ‘sin in the flesh’ sets free from condemnation under the law those who are in the Spirit and in Christ Jesus because it was the law, weakened and turned to death by sin, which was condemning, killing and enslaving them. Since, then, God has now, by sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as a sin offering, condemned sin in the flesh – this power which condemns and enslaves and works death in those in the flesh and under the law – therefore those who are in Christ Jesus are set free from this power, ‘from the law of sin and death’. God has sent Jesus to condemn – to declare God’s judgement against – that which condemns us, and thereby to free us from it.

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