In the last article, we saw that the Doctrine of Penal Substitution is part of God’s Great Love story. I thought it might be helpful to highlight some other aspects of that Love Story.
The life-giving God who brings life where our sin brings death
We have already looked at this theme in the earlier article. We saw that the story is of a good God who creates a good world. Human rebellion brings death into Creation. The whole of Creation suffers so that death is also about De-Creation. In Christ, God brings Resurrection life and a New Creation. This is the central theme of the Bible’s storyline. All of the other stories illustrate and support this.
The husband who sacrificially loves his bride
Polytheism tends to work on the basis that the chief god has his consort or goddess. Christianity does not have a goddess-consort. Rather, the Bible’s story is of the God who creates a people to be his bride. In the Old Testament, Israel is the bride, chosen and made beautiful by him. However, she is unfaithful, idolatry is portrayed as prostitution and adultery. Yet, the loving husband continues to love her and takes her back (Hosea). In the New Testament, we see the Church portrayed as the bride of Christ. He gives his life for her. He does this so that she can be cleansed and presented glorious and beautiful. The hope of history points us to the day when the bride is ready and Christ returns for the wedding feast (Revelation 21-22).
The Father who loves his rebellious son
Hosea 11 tells us that Israel is God’s son, called out of Egypt, rebellious and wayward. Note, that the penalty for a rebellious son in the Law was stoning. The Father however refuses to give up or give up on his son. This is seen in the Luke 15 parables, just like a shepherd seeking out his lost sheep, just like a woman searching until she finds her lost coin, the Father loves, looks, waits patiently and welcomes back his wayward, wandering son who squandered the inheritance. I think there’s a marvellous and ironic twist in that the older son in the parable rejects his brother and begrudges the father’s ongoing love. The true older and obedient brother, Jesus is party to and instrumental in the plan to bring back the younger son. The Son’s guilt is forgiven and his shame is covered with new clothes.
The King who rescues and redeems his people, defeating their enemy
The people of Israel are outside of the land, they’ve been enslaved by the Egyptians. Yahweh God steps in to the rescue them. He defeats the Egyptians and their gods. He brings the people out of Egypt and defeats all of their enemies who block their path. Israel has a God who fights for them. One of the perspectives on the Atonement is sometimes called “Christus Victor.” Jesus on the Cross defeats and disarms God’s enemies.
Again, there is a twist in the story. Ephesians 2:1-3 tells us that we were not just the victims, not just the slaves. We were complicit, part of the enemy army. God would have been in his rights to crush us for the rebels we were. Yet, God chooses in his mercy to forgive us and to liberate us.
The Greatest story ever told is about underserved love poured out on us. The truth that God the Son bore the penalty of our sin, stood condemned in our place, died that we could live and became sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God is central to that story.