Monday, January 3

Substitutionary Atonement: 1 Timothy 2:5,6

I wrote here that I thought I might post a detailed response to these posts of Wink's at Parableman, but I've changed my mind. These are well thought out posts arguing that the atonement is not substitutionary, and I've realized that I don't have the time nor inclination, nevermind the skill and knowledge, to do any sort of complete response. Yep, I've got a house to run, kids (and pets) to mind, and meals to make, so it works better if I keep things pretty short and simple.

(I did make a few comments on some of the posts at Parableman, so if you read Wink's articles--and you should--you might see them. There is also a response by Jeremy Pierce, the Parableman himself, posted here.)

I have a bit of an obsession with the atonement, though, and as a result I suppose I know more than many about the various atonement theories and the arguments behind them, so it's impossible for me to just let things pass me by completely. Also, in preparation for my planned response to Wink, I did drag out a few books to review some things, and I'd hate to just let that work go to waste, without blogging something on it, so I'm going to examine a few of the texts that I think point to the atonement being substitionary. These will be a little like the Purposes of Christ's Death posts--one text per post, since that's about what I can handle.

The first text is 2 Timothy 2:5,6:
For there is one God and one intermediary between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for all, revealing God's purpose at his appointed time. (NET)

In these verses we see Christ the man serving as an intermediary--a go-between--for both God and men. He represents God with men, and men with God. The way that Christ represents men with God is here described as offering a ransom payment for them. Herman Ridderbos says that
the root of this idea is the old Jewish legal custom set out in the law, according to which a ransom could be given for the forfeited life.*
You can find reference to this in Exodus 21:30, where it tells us that a man sentenced to death could pay a ransom price agreed to by the family of the victim in order to redeem his life from under the death sentence. In the case of this particular text, it is mankind that lies under the death sentence, but we don't pay our own ransom price--we couldn't! Instead, Christ pays the ransom on our behalf by giving himself. He pays for us instead of us paying for ourselves.

The idea is that the transaction takes place both on our behalf and in our stead. He pays what has been required from us, and we receive the benefit of his payment. Donald Guthrie points out that
the addition of the preposition anti, 'instead of', [to the root word lutron (ransom)] is significant in view of the preposition huper, 'on behalf of', used after it. Christ is conceived of as an 'exchange price' on behalf of and in the place of all....**
In other words, Paul intentionally adds the preposition anti to emphasize that this ransom is not only "on behalf of", which is what huper would normally mean to us; but also "in place of", which is the common meaning of anti.

We have been ransomed from our death penalty, and this was accomplished by Christ giving himself as our representative, but also as our substitute. He was our representative substitute.

*Paul: An Outline of His Theology, page 194.

**The Pastoral Epistles, page 72.