Introduction: Early in my life, as a young Christian, I heard of “Calvinism” - I had no idea what it was.
a. Then learned it was a system of theology attributed to John Calvin, who was born in 1509 in Noyon, France, and died in 1564. He was reared a Roman Catholic and later became a minister of the Reformed Church.
b. His famous work, “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” is still a basic text and influence within several denominations.
c. He gave logical form to traditions he had received and popularized the tenets in the well-known TULIP of Calvinism.
1) TULIP is an acrostic referring to:
Perseverance of the saints.
d. I thought the theology had developed in that order, but not so; rather these tenets are the outgrowth of a central concept: the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross.
1. This concept - substitutionary atonement - is not set forth in Scripture (i.e. men did not arrive at it by exegetical study (though now, try to find in Scriptures).
a. Historically, it has taken many twists and turns to reach its present form (though different religious bodies still cling to older versions).
b. I will briefly relate the history.
I. First, the idea of developing a systematic theology began in Alexandria about 185 AD, where Clement [155-c 200] used Greek philosophy to justify Christianity and to oppose Gnosticism.
A. Origen [185-c 254] synthesized Greek philosophy and Scripture: wild in his speculations as to how man is redeemed:
1. Men are enslaved to Satan by reason of sin.
2. In exchange for man’s release (freedom), Satan demanded Christ be delivered to him to torment; God agreed to deliver Him.
3. Christ’s humanity hid His deity – God deceived Satan.
4. Satan then discovered he could not hold Jesus ... who rose from the dead the third day.
- Thus was introduced the concept of substitution.
II. Idea developed to time of Gregory of Nyssa [c. 330-395]:
A. The Great Catechism, ch. 22: “After we had thus freely sold ourselves to the deceiver, He who of His goodness sought to restore us to liberty could not, because He was just too ... It was necessary therefore that a ransom should be paid, which should exceed in value that which was to be ransomed, and hence it was necessary that the Son of God should surrender Himself to the power of death.”
-Jesus is our substitute, taking our place, suffering in our stead.
B. Ch. 26: “A certain deception was indeed practiced upon the Evil one, but concealing the Divine nature within the human; but for the latter, as himself a deceiver, it was only just recompense that he should be deceived himself: the great adversary must himself at last find that what has been done is just and salutary, when he also shall experience the benefit of the incarnation. He, as well as humanity, will be purged.”
III. This concept that man has to be redeemed from the devil, that Christ was abandoned by the Father (suffered spiritual death) in hell, is still taught.
Modern proponents are Televangelists, such as Frederick K.C. Price, Kenneth Hagin, Paul Billheimer, Kenneth Copeland, Charles Capps, and Benny Hinn.
A. Frederick K.C.Price: “Do you think that the punishment for our sin was to die on a cross? If that were the case, the two thieves could have paid your price. No, the punishment was to go into hell itself and to serve time in hell separated from God... Satan and all the demons of hell thought that they had Him bound and they threw a net over Jesus and they dragged Him down to the very pit of hell itself to serve our sentence.” - Ever Increasing Faith Messenger, June 1980, 7 (in A Different Gospel, D.R. McConnell.)
B. Kenneth Hagin: “Jesus died as our Substitute. He who knew no sin was made to be sin. He took upon Himself our sin nature. And He died-He was separated and cut off from God. He went down into the prison house of suffering in our place. He was there three days and nights.” - The Word of Faith, April 1982, 3.
C. Paul Billheimer: “Because He was ‘made sin,’ impregnated with sin, and became the very essence of sin, on the cross He was banished from God’s presence as a loathsome thing. He and sin were made synonymous .... [I]t was not sufficient for Christ to offer up only His physical life on the cross. His pure human spirit had to ‘descend’ into hell .... His spirit must not only descend into hell, but into the lowest hell . ... The Father turned Him over, not only to the agony and death of Calvary, but to the satanic torturers of His pure spirit as part of the just dessert of the sin of all the race. As long as Christ was ‘the essence of sin’ he was at Satan’s mercy in that place of torment . .... While Christ identified with sin, Satan and the hosts of hell ruled over Him as over any lost sinner. During that seemingly endless age in the nether abyss of death, Satan did with Him as he would, and all hell was ‘in carnival.’” - Destined For The Throne, 1988, 83-84.
D. Kenneth Copeland: “[i]n hell He [Jesus] suffered for you and for me. The Bible says hell was made for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41). It was not made for men. Satan was holding the Son of God there illegally ... The trap was set for Satan and Jesus was the bait.” - Walking in the Realm of the Miraculous, 1979, 77.
2. Satan and every demon in hell tortured Christ’s allegedly “emaciated, poured out, little wormy spirit” … when suddenly God spoke and …
“[t]hat Word of the living God went down into that pit of destruction and charged the spirit of Jesus with resurrection power! Suddenly His twisted, death-wracked spirit began to fill out and come back to life. He began to look like something the devil had never seen before. He was literally being reborn before the devil’s very eyes. He began to flex His spiritual muscles .... Jesus was born again-the first-born from the dead.” - Believer’s Voice of Victory, September 1991, 4-6.
3. “The Spirit of God spoke to me and He said, ‘Son, realize this. Now follow me in this and don’t let your tradition trip you up.’ He said, ‘Think this way-a twice-born man whipped Satan in his own domain.” And I threw my Bible down ... like that. I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘A born-again man defeated Satan, the firstborn of many brethren defeated him.’ He said, ‘You are the very image, the very copy of that one.’ I said, ‘Goodness, gracious sakes alive!’ And I began to see what had gone on in there, and I said, ‘Well now you don’t mean, you couldn’t dare mean, that I could have done the same thing?’ He said, ‘Oh yeah, if you’d had the knowledge of the Word of God that He did, you could’ve done the same thing, ’cause you’re a reborn man too.’” - “Substitution and Identification,” tape #00-0202, side 2.
E. Charles Capps: “Jesus was born again in the pit of hell. He was the firstborn, the firstbegotten, from the dead. He started the Church of the firstborn in the gates of hell .... He went down to the gates and started His Church there .... The Church started when Jesus was born again in the gates of hell.” - Authority In Three Worlds, 1982, 212-213.
F. Benny Hinn: “Do you know what the word begotten means? It means reborn. Do you want another shocker? Have you been begotten? So was He. Don’t let anyone deceive you. Jesus was reborn. You say, ‘What are you talking about?’ … He was reborn. He had to be reborn … If He was not reborn, I could not be reborn. Jesus was born again ... If He was not reborn, I would never be reborn. How can I face Jesus and say, ‘Jesus, you went through everything I’ve gone through, except the new birth?” - “Our Position ‘In Christ’, Part I, 1991, videotape #TV-254.
IV. However, centuries before, the “substitution atonement” theory had taken a different turn:
A. In the late 11th or early 12th century, Anselm (c. 1033-1109), archbishop of Canterbury, repudiated the notion that the devil has rights over man.
[Why should he be rewarded for his own evil?]
1. Rather, satisfaction had to be paid to the Father due to His outraged majesty.
2. It was God’s justice that had to be satisfied by Jesus’ spiritual death and God’s wrath executed upon him.
B. Earlier, in the 5th century [451, Council of Chalcedon]: it was decreed that Jesus was human in spirit (the divine was co-joined with a human spirit).
a. This was a necessary step in the development – sins could not be imputed to God; so the Son of God had to be human in body and spirit.
b. Today, it is still being argued that in the body of Jesus were two spirits.
c. Some, on the other hand, claim that the divine Spirit was stripped of divine attributes and characteristics to become human. (Jesus was no different from other men: no powers or prerogatives than the prophets or apostles; only as given by the Holy Spirit.)
C. The concept of substitution prevailed. As expressed today:
1. “As Jesus bore our sins on the cross, he was abandoned by his heavenly Father, who is `of purer eyes than to behold evil’ (Hab. 1:13). He faced the weight of the guilt of millions of sins alone.” - Wayne Gruden, Systematic Theology, 1994, 574.
- “bore” here not as a sacrifice, but as one who bears the guilt of all the sins of the world; “abandoned” as rejected with the revulsion that God has to sin, i.e. spiritual death.
2. “As Jesus bore the guilt of our sins alone, God the Father, the mighty Creator, the Lord of the universe, poured out on Jesus the fury of his wrath. Jesus became the object of intense hatred of sin and vengeance which God had patiently stored up since the beginning of the world.” - 574-575.
D. Substitutionary atonement is the heart of Calvinism ... a concept much of the religious world has accepted. It has many ramifications.
V. From this concept flows the TULIP of Calvinism:
A. Since Jesus paid the (so-called) “debt” of sin, the sinner is released from guilt.
1. This guilt doesn’t come from one’s own misconduct — sin was removed before he was born — but is inherited from Adam.
2. One comes into existence “inherently and totally depraved.”
B. Since the debt is paid, not on the basis of what one may do (good or bad), then one is saved strictly on the basis of where God decides to place His grace, His unconditional election.
C. If Christ died for all men, all men are unconditionally saved … universalism.
1. But since Scriptures teach not all will be saved, Calvinism concludes that the atonement had be limited = limited atonement.
D. Since one is saved, not by anything he may do, he is saved solely by God’s grace, and since God is sovereign this grace cannot be resisted = irresistible grace.
E. The elect are then saved, and since sins are forgiven even before they are committed, there is no way the elect can be lost = perseverance of the saints.
— To accept the substitutionary atonement theory is to be drawn irresistibly into the theological system of Calvinism.
V. Keep in mind that the concept of “substitutionary atonement” was conceived at the end of the 2nd, or beginning of the 3rd, century.
A. The word “substitutionary” is not found in the Scriptures; the original word, translated “atonement” (katallage) as used of Christ is found 4 times, in every reference means reconciliation (so translated 3 of the 4 times in N.T.). [Rom. 5:11, 11:15; 2 Cor. 5:18-19.]
B. Bible words as found in Biblical usage are not sufficient to convey the Calvinistic doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement.
1. This should alert us: 1 Pet. 4:11.
“Substitutionary Atonement” of Christ
---- PART TWO ----
1. We have examined the theory of substitutionary atonement: its history and significance.
a. A theory derived not from exegeses of Scripture, but speculations of theology.
2. The theory contends that:
a. In order to appease His anger against sin, God imputed to Jesus all of the sins the world, even before we were born.
b. On the cross, God executed divine vengeance upon His Son, rejected Him (He died spiritually), and He suffered the eternal torments of hell (in a moment).
1) He took our place, suffered in our stead — “substitutionary atonement.”
c. Thus all men are saved, even the devil.
3. John Calvin realized that not all are saved … so he concluded that the atonement was limited.
a. Since the saved are limited, God’s saving grace had to be limited.
b. Since this grace applied in death of Jesus, then men are saved without condition — unconditional grace.
c. Those recipients of God’s grace were predetermined before they were born — predestination.
4. Before we continue to examine “substitutionary atonement,” we need to note some serious problems with Calvinistic theology. It is argued that …
a. Only the few God has predestined can be saved, so that His grace is limited to just the few … not unto all.
1. Titus 2:11-12, 1 John 2:2.
b. All who are predestined to be saved are already saved by the death of Jesus — they have nothing to do to be saved and cannot be lost. But not so —
1) Salvation dependent upon one’s obedience: Heb. 5:8-9; 2 Thess. 1:6-8; Heb. 11:6; Luke 13:3; 1 Pet. 3:20-21 (Acts 2:47); etc.
2) Once saved, one can fall from grace: Gal. 5:4.
4. We need now to examine the Scriptures misused by Calvinists, and answer their arguments:
I. 2 Cor. 5:21 – “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
A. When paraphrased according to Calvinistic theology (Living Letters): – “For God took sinless Christ and poured into Him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us.”
1. Christ sinful – though did no sin. [Not so: Ezek. 18:20.]
2. We righteous – though actually unrighteous. [Not so: 1 John 3:7.]
B. Christ was not made sinful – He “knew no sin.”
1. He came to be a sin-offering, or a sacrifice for sin.
2. He prefigured in O.T. by “sin offerings” under the law.
C. What is translated “sin offering” in O.T. is word “sin” (chatta’ah).
1. In Leviticus, chatta’ah is translated “sin-offering” 50 times; 116 in KJV.
a. E.g. Lev. 6:25 – “Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, saying, This is the law of the sin offering: In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the LORD: it is most holy.”
b. Lev. 4:21 – “And he shall carry forth the bullock without the camp, and burn him as he burned the first bullock: it is a sin offering for the congregation.”
2. In the LXX, the Heb. chatta’ah is translated by the Gr. hamartia.
D. “Sin” (hamartia) defined: “sin (echo hamartia be sinful); peri hamartia often sin offering” (Concise Gr.-Eng. Lex. Barclay M. Newman, p.8.)
1. Peri hamartia:
a. Lev. 14:19 (LXX) – “And the priest shall offer the sin offering [peri tes hamartias], and make an atonement for him that is to be cleansed from his uncleanness; and afterward he shall kill the burnt offering:…”
b. Heb. 10:6, 8 (Psa. 40:6) – “In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin [peri hamartias] thou hast had no pleasure”; “Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin [peri hamartias] thou wouldest not…” [sacrifices and offerings italicised; also in Ps. 40:6].
— Note Gal. 1:14, 1 Pet. 3:18, Heb. 5:3, 10:18.
2. It is the Gr. hamartia that we find in 2 Cor. 5:21.
a. The context, verses 15-21, emphasizes what God through Christ has done in our behalf, rather than “in our stead.”
b. The Jewish New Testament, trans. by David Stern: (2 Cor. 5:21) – “God made this sinless man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in God’s righteousness.”
E. Christ is the lamb or God that takes away the sins of the world: John 1:29.
1. Jesus is our sacrifice: had to be without blemish: 1 Pet. 1:18-19.
2. Heb. 9:26b – “now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
3. Eph. 5:2 – “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.”
II. Jesus was as the scapegoat: Lev. 16:20-22.
A. The goat did not become a sinner, guilty of sin.
1. Used figuratively, symbolic of sins removed — sins were actually removed through the first goat: Lev. 16:15-19.
B. Jesus is the antitype of the blood atonement: Heb. 9:1-14, 23-26.
1. At same time, He is our high priest to offer the blood atonement to God.
2. Death alone did not complete the process of forgiveness.
a. Without the resurrection, entering the heavenly sanctuary, we still be in sin: Heb. 1:3; 1 Cor. 15:17.
III. Isaiah 53:4, 11-12.
A. He bore our sins: meaning to “take up, transport
1. Inspired interpretation: Matt. 8:16-17.
2. “Bare” (bastazo): to take up, carry, transport; idea of removal.
a. He took our infirmities; bare our sicknesses — did He make them His own? No, He removed them; not transferred them.
B. He came in our behalf; not in our stead (a substitute).
IV. Matt. 20:28: “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
A. Ransom (lutron): “the means or instrument by which release or deliverance is made possible … ‘to give his life as a ransom for many’ or ‘to die as a means of liberating many’ Mt 20:28.” (Louw and Nida, 37.130)
1. “For” (anti) – “the mng. in place of can develop into in behalf of, for someone, so that [anti] becomes = huper…” (Cite “a ransom for many” Matt. 20:28, Mark 10:45.) [Arndt & Gingrich.]
B. 1 Tim. 2:6 – “Who gave himself a ransom for [huper] all, to be testified in due time.”
1. If “ransom” is a means of deliverance, then all may be delivered.
2. If “ransom” is a price in place of all, then all are delivered. (Universalism).
Conclusion: As brethren accept the substitutionary theory of atonemement, they will be drawn into full Calvinism.
1. Calvinism is based upon speculation (theology), not plain exegesis of Scripture.
2. Are preachers to become theologians … or Bible students.