When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more (John 8:10-11).
Why didn’t Jesus punish this woman?
Why didn’t Jesus condemn someone for this woman’s sin?
How could Jesus truly forgive this woman without first satisfying His wrath against her sin?
A fundamental problem with the “theory” of Penal Substitutionary Atonement (remember it’s a theory) is that its definition of the character of God is NOT the character of God which was revealed in Christ.
The concept which says, “God had to first satisfy His wrath before he could forgive sin because justice demands punishment for sin is a very unbiblical view of God.
Yet, it is not uncommon to hear this sort of theology from those who hold to the theory of Penal Substitutionary Atonement – a theology which states that Jesus was sent to the cross to satisfy God’s wrath by dying as a substitute under divine justice. Those who embrace this theology hold to the view that since God is Holy and Just, His righteousness demands that the sin of the sinner be punished before God can truly forgive the sinner.
However, it is “unrepentant sin” that will be judged, not forgiven sin.
According to the Bible, true justice – God’s justice – delights in showing mercy and forgiveness. Consider the following verses:
As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33:11).
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon (Isaiah 55:7).
Those who teach according to the theory of Penal Substitutionary Atonement often over look important passages in the Bible; passages such as Stephen’s statement to the religious leaders of Israel, saying they had been the betrayers and murderers of Jesus (Acts 7:52).
If the crucifixion of Jesus was indeed a murder, then how was God’s Justice satisfied?
According to the prophet Isaiah, Jesus was deprived of justice from the time of His arrest until He died on the cross. Only in the resurrection was God’s true justice demonstrated.
Those who killed Jesus did so because they hated Him without a cause (John 15:24-25) and when they condemned Him they were gathered against the Lord (God in Heaven) and against His Christ (Acts 4:26-27).
Acts 4:26-27 (mentioned above)is taken from Psalm 2. According to Psalm 2, it is those who were gathered together against the Lord and against his Christ who are under the wrath of God. The words of the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 agree with this.
It wasn’t the wrath of God which was levied against Jesus in His death, it was the wrath of sinful men as stated in Psalm 2 and Acts 4:
“Why did the heathen RAGE, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.”
Christ was vindicated in His resurrection when God raised Him from the dead and exalted Him at His own right hand. This is why the apostles (throughout the book of Acts) lay blame for the death of Jesus to the people, yet the resurrection they attribute to God in opposition to what the people had done in condemning Him and crucifying him.
In 1 Peter 2, the apostle Peter (who learned firsthand from Jesus what had happened at the cross) reveals that Jesus “suffered wrongfully.” The apostle Peter goes on to tell us that Jesus committed Himself to the ONE who JUDGES RIGHTEOUSLY (a reference to God the righteous Judge). Peter makes these statements in view of the cross saying “Jesus bore our sins in His body.”
For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God ENDURE GRIEF, SUFFERING WRONGFULLY. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is ACCEPTABLE with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because CHRIST SUFFERED FOR US, leaving us AN EXAMPLE, that ye should FOLLOW IN HIS STEPS: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he SUFFERED, he threatened not; but COMMITTED HIMSELF TO HIM THAT JUDGETH RIGHTEOUSLY: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed (1 Peter 2:19-24).
Notice that the apostle Peter actually says that Jesus is our example of how we are to endure when we suffer wrongfully. According to Peter, Jesus bore our sins as one who suffered wrongly and Jesus committed himself to the ONE who JUDGES RIGHTEOUSLY.
To say that Jesus suffered under God’s righteous wrath would be contrary to the words of the apostle Peter here.
According to the Bible, at the cross God demonstrated his love towards sinners and not his displeasure. At the cross it was God’s mercy and not his wrath that was on display.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement (Romans 5:6-11).
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another ( 1 John 4:9-11, see also verses 12-21).
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16).
But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7).
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:4-8).
The Amplified Bible translates Ephesians 2:4 says, “But God—so rich is He in His mercy! Because of and in order to satisfy the great and wonderful and intense love with which He loved us…”
God satisfied His love, not His wrath, when Christ died for our sins.
God did not send his Son to change himself. God sent his son to change us by demonstrating His love, mercy, and grace through Jesus Christ. The Bible never says that God was reconciled to sinners but that sinners were reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5: 19 says, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them…”
When God sent Jesus to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, Jesus taught them that God was their Father. We know this because we have many examples of Christ teaching the people to trust their Father in Heaven. God was their Father via covenant because they were the children of Abraham.
Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we never read of Jesus presenting the gospel to the common people in a “Penal Substitutionary” manner. Jesus did not preach to them that they were sinners and their sins had offended God or that God was too holy to be approached by them.
Jesus was God manifested in the flesh. He was God with and among the people. In the person of Jesus Christ, God himself had come to man – sinful man!
Now please don’t misunderstand this, the common people certainly were sinners and in were need of forgiveness and reconciliation. They were as sheep that had gone astray and they needed God’s mercy. The gospel message which Jesus brought to them was not the message of an offended God who needed to satisfy his wrath. It was the message of a Fathering God who desired their forgiveness, healing, and redemption.
God sent Jesus to save and deliver all who would trust in Him. This is why Peter says that the word which God sent to the children of Israel came through Jesus Christ as he preached peace to them (See Acts 10:36). Jesus’ message was full of the hope of salvation. It was the message of peace with God and was full of the mercy, compassion, and forgiveness that the people needed.
On the contrary however, it was the religious leaders who were oppressing the people with the Law rather than liberating them who were the ones with whom God was dissatisfied.
The spiritual leadership in Israel had gone so far away from the heart of God and instead of ministering compassionately to relieve the oppress and doing justly they used the Law of Moses to their own advantage to burden God’s heritage and this was not pleasing to God.
When Jesus arrived on the scene, he did not come burdening the people. Instead, He brought the Kingdom message of redemption and set many free from oppression. This of course infuriated the hard hearted Jewish leaders. Christ was everything they were not and they hated him because they hated the true God who had sent him.
Jesus had come to do the will of His Father and to finish His work. Jesus did exactly those things which He saw His Father do. Those who believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, were made partakers of His kingdom. Those who rejected Him and refused to repent were condemned.
It is very important to understand that reconciliation and forgiveness is never the result of God satisfying his wrath. Reconciliation and forgiveness is the result of God’s mercy and when God demonstrates his mercy He turns away from his wrath. Psalms 85:1-4 says the following:
Lord, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah. Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger. Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease.
Notice that the scripture reference above ends by saying “TURN US, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease.” It is when “we turn” to the lord in repentance that God’s anger and displeasure are turned away.
The theory of Penal Substitutionary Atonement sets forth a very un-biblical view of the wrath of God. The wrath of God is a Bible truth and one that we should take very seriously but one we must also understand correctly.
The Bible reveals that there are specific things which cause the wrath of God to come and the Bible reveals that there are specific things which cause the wrath of God to be turned away.
Those things which cause the wrath of God to come are scripturally attributed to actions such as those expressed by the ones who opposed Christ and put him to death. Yet those things which turn away the wrath of God can be seen in Christ and those who trust in Him for forgiveness.
Throughout the scriptures, the wrath of God comes because of such things as unbelief, rebellion, loving sin, rejecting the truth, worshipping false gods, and forgetting God. On the other hand, the wrath of God is turned away by things such as obedience, intercession, atonement, zeal for righteousness, the fear of the Lord, and repentance.
BIBLICAL REASONS THE WRATH OF GOD COMES
- UNBELIEF (John 3:36; Hebrews 3:7-19; Deuteronomy 9-11; Psalm 78:17-33).
- REBELLION (Hebrews 3:7-19; Romans 1:18-32; 2:5,8; Leviticus 10; Numbers 11:32-34; Deuteronomy 9-11; Psalm 78:17-33; Joshua 22:20; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6; 1 Samuel 28:18; Kings 22:13-17).
- LOVING SIN (John 3:17-21; Romans 1:18-32; 2 Peter 2:15; Numbers 11:32-34; Psalm 78:17-33; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6).
- REJECTING THE TRUTH (Romans 1:18-32; 2:5, 8; Deuteronomy 10; Numbers 11:32-34; Psalm 78:17-33).
- WORSHIPPING FALSE GODS (Romans 1:18-32; Deuteronomy 29; Numbers 11:32-34; Psalm 78:17-33; Kings 22:13-17; Kings 23:1-27).
- FORGETTING GOD (Deuteronomy 6:10-15; 8:10-20; Romans 1:18-32).
BIBLICAL REASONS THE WRATH OF GOD IS TURNED AWAY
- OBEDIENCE (Deuteronomy 10-11).
- INTERCESSION (Isaiah 53, Exodus 32:7-14, Numbers 21:5-9; John 3:14-17; Deuteronomy 9).
- ATONEMENT (Romans 3:25; 5:6-11; Numbers 16:46; Numbers 18:1-5; Numbers 25:11).
- ZEAL FOR GOD (Numbers 25).
- THE FEAR OF THE LORD (Jeremiah 32:40).
- REPENTANCE (Acts 13:39-41; Kings 22:18-20; Kings 23:1-27).
THE LANGUAGE OF SCRIPTURE
Simply, there is no – out in the open – language in the New Testament that clearly tells us that God poured out His wrath on Jesus. That is the image that those who condemned Jesus desired to portray.
There is no place in the New Testament where any of the writers explicitly says: “God poured out His wrath on Jesus,” or “God satisfied His anger when Jesus died on the cross.” It simply isn’t there. Yet, there is an abundance of scripture in the New Testament which reveals – out in the open – that God’s disposition in giving His Son was love, mercy, grace, and kindness.
In Jesus we have exactly what we needed, for in him God has reveled His love, and mercy, and grace towards us and will continue to reveal it to us.