Friday, April 22, 2011


The word 'atonement' is used as the term regarding what Christ did on our behalf by His death and resurrection to free us from sin and Satan. Theories of the atonement try to explain exactly how that atonement was accomplished.

The most common theory of atonement is what is called Penal Substitution. The idea is that Jesus satisfied the demands of justice by suffering for our sins, thereby relieving us of sin's penalty. This means that God was justifiably angry at our sin and that it must be punished. Jesus took our place in judgment so that we could be justified. I think that most of us agree on that. It is standard evangelical teaching.

But there was a theory, dominant in the church for many centuries, called the Ransom-to-Satan theory. It said that our sin put us in bondage to Satan and that Jesus, by his sacrifice, bought us out of this bondage. Jesus defeats Satan and frees us. Jesus' sacrifice is, then, a kind of ransom paid to Satan rather than a satisfaction of divine justice.

Now to many of us this will seem to be a strange theory not even worth considering as a proper theory of atonement. But I would caution the church not to throw out the baby with the bath water. I certainly do think that it is mistaken to consider Christ's sacrifice as a ransom paid to Satan, but there is something here that we will miss if we are not careful. The idea that Satan has mankind in bondage and that he must be freed is quite scriptural. Let's look at some scripture:

Hebrews 2:14-15 "Since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives."

Colossians 2:13-15 "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them in it."

It sure looks to me like Jesus in His atoning work defeated Satan as well as satisfying the demands of justice. Our transgressions are forgiven because our debt is satisfied. Then Jesus disarms (spoils) the demonic powers freeing us from bondage. But some would have you to believe that this is not necessary. All that is needed is forgiveness of sins.

Apparently, forgiveness of sins alone is not enough to free us from Satan. Satan must be personally defeated. And that is what Jesus did after He had finished satisfying the demands of justice.

Here is a natural illustration: Suppose someone offends a king and part of his punishment is banishment. He goes to another country where the ruler puts him in chains. But the king wants his old subject back, but not without punishment for his sins. The king then allows another to take his place in judgment. Another will suffer in the offender's place. The substitute suffers on the offender's behalf. Wonderful! Can the former-offender go back home now? No. He is still in bondage. The substitute (or someone else) must defeat the ruler of the other country. Only then is the former offender truly free.

Too often in the church we are led to believe that if we accept one idea that we must reject another. This is not always the case. We need to study all ideas and keep the parts that are true of each theory and discard the rest. We certainly do need to make the idea of penal substitution the centerpiece of our atonement theology. However, we must often blend ideas together to explain all the biblical evidence. We must be careful not to adopt an 'either-or' mentality.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sit, Walk, Stand

A friend of mine had a book by Watchman Nee called "Sit, Walk, Stand". He could not figure out what the title meant until he read it. It was a commentary on the book of Ephesians. 'Sit' refers to Ephesians 2:6 that says, "[God] raised us up with Christ, and made us sit with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus". 'Walk' refers to chapter 5, verse 2 which says, "Walk in love, as Christ also loved you, and delivered Himself up for you, an offering and sacrifice to God for an odor of sweet smell." 'Stand' refers to chapter 6, verse 11-12 which says, "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil; because we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers..."

First of all, I want to note that these three words also are prominent in the first psalm. "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of the sinner, nor sits in the seat of the scornful." Unlike the Ephesians passage, this psalm tells us how not to sit, walk or stand. The message here is a warning about how not to be, while Paul's message is positive.

What the psalm and Ephesians have in common, though, is the fact that the three words relate to each other. What I mean is that in the psalm, the psalmist is warning us not to sit, walk or stand in the way of evil. These things are related. If you do one, you will do the others. A person who walks in ungodly counsel will commit sin and develop a generally scornful attitude.

Paul, in writing Ephesians, no doubt had in mind Psalm 1 when he wrote to the Ephesians. He meant for us to relate these three words together in his epistle. First, we are told about how we (the church) are seated with Christ in Heaven. I am betting that most of you have never heard a sermon on this subject or know much about it at all. But Paul thought that it was so important that he prayed for the church at Ephesus that God would give them "a Spirit of wisdom and revelation" so they could understand this great truth. It is not something that we can figure out in our heads, we need a revelation of it by the Spirit.

So what does it mean to be seated with Christ? It means that positionally we are ruling with Him. He is seated at the right hand of God. That seat is a throne by which he rules. Are we ruling with Him now? Are we not going to reign with Him in the future? The answer to both questions is yes. We share in His authority in one aspect now, and it will be fully consummated in the future.

Ephesians 1:20-21 tells us that God "raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principalities, powers, might and dominion, and every name that is named." The expression 'principalities and powers' refers to the demonic powers in this world. These are the same demonic powers in that we read about in Ephesians 6:12. Jesus has absolute authority over the Devil and his demons. He has delegated that authority to the church.

"All authority was given to Me in Heaven and on earth." "Go into all the world ... in My Name cast out demons." (Matthew 28:18; Mark 16:17) These are the words of Jesus to the church right before he is seated at the right hand of the Father. He delegated authority over the Devil in this earth to us. This brings new light on the meaning of Ephesians 6 that says that we must stand against the Enemy. We do not have to defeat the Devil. Jesus has already done that for us. We do not have to try to get God to get the Devil off of us. We have authority over him in Jesus' Name. Jesus' Name is ours to use in our combat with the Enemy.

In order to stand against the Enemy we must first realize that we are seated with Christ. We cannot stand if we do not realize that we are seated with. We do not cry out to God for deliverance from the Devil. We must bind him and limit him and cast him out of our lives. Our dominion over the Devil is part of our redemption in Christ. We must realize our dominion and take advantage of it.

One more thing. It is also crucial that we walk in love. We do not wrestle with other people (flesh and blood) but against the Devil who is behind the evil that they try to inflict upon us. Failing to walk in love allows the Devil to defeat us. But if we walk in love, we walk in the light and darkness cannot overcome us.

If we want to walk in victory over the Devil we must sit, walk and stand.