The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Penal Substitution passages: Romans 8:1-4

Does anyone have any particular passages in mind that we could start another thread on in regards to this subject? I’ve got a few in mind that I think would be really cool if we discussed.

I think you should go for it, Jony

There’s no reason anyone else can’t also start a similar thread, and I’m eager to see what you have to say. :slight_smile:

I welcome this as well. I’d love to see some of these verses hashed out.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Cor. 5:21

Time for my 2 cents, i think the correct translation s/b “he made him to be a sin sacrifice.”

That would be a good one to do. I’m also interested in discussing some other things that PSA believers use to support their theory, like the idea of passover - many of them would use that to say that Jesus is our passover lamb so that we ourselves are saved from the God’s wrath and destruction

When Jesus was in anguish in the garden He pleaded with God:

This cup of suffering that Jesus would drink from was the wine of God’s wrath. Anytime in the Bible it speaks of a cup of suffering it’s ALWAYS referring to God’s wrath.

The cup of suffering and punishment always refers to the cup of wine of God’s wrath. Show me in the Bible where it doesn’t.

So if we believe this literally—that Jesus became sin (or “a sin sacrifice” as Steve7150 believes), then do we also believe that in Christ we literally become the righteousness of God?

Our sins become Christ’s extrinsically just as His righteousness becomes ours extrinsically - not intrinsically.

So in other words, “Our sins didn’t really become Christ’s; they are only imputed (counted) as His, and so He got punished for them . Likewise we don’t actually become righteous like God. It’s only that His righteousness is imputed to us (counted) as if it were ours, while we continue in sin.” — all a kind of pretending game.

No they really do become Christ’s just not intrinsically. It’s like how we are valuable creatures because we have been created in God’s image. This value isn’t intrinsic though - It’s extrinsic.

Oh, so you mean that our sins become Christ’s but they did not originate with Him. In that case, how about our “becoming the righteousness of God”?
Is this not a real righteousness which is actually intrinsic to ourselves? Not that we are the source of that righteousness through self-effort, but that the enabling grace of God, made available by Christ’s sacrifice, makes it possible for us to possess a real righteousness in ourselves.

Imputation just makes no sense to me at all. I keep hearing this from Christians “when God looks at you, He doesn’t see the terrible rotten and evil person you are, but he sees His son Jesus instead” I know that is supposed to make me feel better, but that actually makes me feel far worse. Like God had to come up with some plan because he cannot stand the thought of me, yet at the same time loves me? Err, what? That makes no sense. Imputation makes no sense. What makes even less sense about imputed righteousness is that it leaves the individual unchanged… He is still rotten to the core and always will be without that ‘covering’… Furthermore, if God is willing to both hate and love humanity at the same time, then he might as well just not limit his ‘imputation’, he might as well impute everyone, since we are all terrible rotten people. What difference does it make if one has a intellectual belief that Jesus died for his sins? Seems like a really petty and minor thing to rest someone’s eternal salvation on.

The more I reflect on it, the more I realize that this version the atonement (PS) seems to go hand in hand with eternal hell. It seems they are married… For example, it allows one to base someone’s final destiny on what they ‘profess’, whereas, if true salvation manifests itself not in our words, but in our conduct, then it becomes a bit more difficult to ‘control’ the masses, so to speak. It is easy to group people into a category of ‘saved’ or ‘not saved’ by asking a simple question “Do you believe Jesus died in place of you for your sins?” but without that rigid guidelines, you cannot be so quick to judge someone, you must judge them based on their conduct, probably something not a lot of immoral leaders would support, since the people who see how corrupt they were…


The righteousness is a foreign righteousness as the Bible says. It is ours even though it is extrinsic. The change begins in our hearts at initial salvation - is carried through by sanctification - and complete in glorification. At every stage of our salvation we wear the robes of righteousness.

Thanks Gabe. I see it much the same way. I don’t think God is interested in counting particular people righteous when they are not, and condemning all the others who have not “accepted that Christ has died in their place” (which is the vast majority of the human population).

Rather God is interested in REAL righteousness and avoidance of wrongdoing—those actions which harm others as well as oneself. For God knows that people can have rich and fulfilling lives if everyone treats everyone else with love and respect, and is ready to help them in a time of need.
Indeed, this is the very reason for Christ’s death—to deliver us from sin—indeed to do away with it altogether!

I Peter 2:24 He himself endured our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

II Corinthians 5:15 And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Romans 14:9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Titus 2:14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds .
Heb 9:26 …he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Here’s the Jonathan Mitchel translation, which I find interesting:

The first thing I see here is the “He constructed a sin”. Does this imply that the whole thing is a “construct,” or a manner of thinking, for our benefit? The Jews used to place their hands on the head of the scapegoat and “impute” the sins of the nation onto the goat’s head, then drive it out of the camp. Does anyone here think that sins literally went into the goat, or that the goat turned into sin somehow? WE needed the same thing needed by the ancient Hebrew people – to feel that our sins had been taken away somehow – maybe because we couldn’t conceive of God as simply forgiving them – because WE would never do such a thing for a person who had so grievously betrayed US. We humans needed to see that God “properly” disposed of the sin by punishing SOMEONE at least. How could He possibly just let it go? Especially in the society of Moses’ time? Such things definitely weren’t DONE, and weren’t even seen as a good way to do things. THAT was weakness and simpering fear – NOT the sort of stuff a primitive tribal people in constant danger from enemies all 'round wants their god to be made of.

Of course God turned the tables on that one by HIMSELF becoming the scapegoat. What shame for us that our God should carry in His own body on the cross, OUR sins, and by His death on our behalf, put to death the body of this flesh (our own bodies) so that we can follow Him into resurrection and live by the life of God.

So no, I do not believe that this verse means to tell us that Jesus Christ literally BECAME sin. I also don’t believe in transubstantiation – but I don’t see that it usually does a lot of harm for a person to believe in transubstantiation. I’m kind of ambiguous about penal substitution (which kind of depends on Jesus becoming sin (or at least on Him literally becoming guilty of sin). On the one hand, it makes no sense, even for ECT believers – except as a legal fiction – and I don’t believe that our God would stoop to that sort of silliness. He’s all about what’s real, not about constructing loopholes to let us off becoming righteous. On the other hand, PS seems to work for at least some universalists, and I really don’t care what sort of constructs they use, so long as it doesn’t interfere with their relationships with God and with themselves and in showing love to others. For me though, it stopped making sense, so I dumped it. Scripture doesn’t really support it – not when taken as a whole – so why would I feel the need to hang on to what is essentially nothing more than a tradition of the church? I’m interested in truth.

Jesus tells us the true story though, when he spins the parable of the Prodigal Son (or perhaps more aptly, of the Good Father). The father in the story receives back his son who HAS sinned against heaven and against him, and doesn’t even give Him the chance to blurt out his planned confession and self-debasement. God, our heavenly Father, wants us back. If we need a scapegoat, He offers Himself in the form of His begotten Son who always goes forth from the Father. He “says,” in effect, “Okay, so you need to blame someone? Someone to take your rap? I’ll do it then.” But in the process of appeasing (propitiating) US, He also does the needful thing. He saves us from our sins. He is interested in REAL righteousness and NOT in a make-believe legal fiction kind of “righteousness” that doesn’t translate into a change in behavior (including our thought lives). He wants us set FREE from sin.

Here’s what people who believe in Penal Substitution really believe about atonement and what Christ was doing at the cross:

Providing the basis for our justification

Completing the obedience that becomes our righteousness

Taking away condemnation

Removing God’s wrath

Pleasing the Father in His obedience and love

Showing love and grace to sinners

Cancelling the legal demands of the law

Purifying His bride

Bringing the elect to faith

Giving eternal life to all who trust in Him

Making us holy

Giving us a clear conscious

Delivering us from the present evil age

Healing us from moral sickness

Bringing us to God

Freeing us from the slavery of sin that we might die to sin and live for righteousness

Enabling us to live for Christ

Creating a people passionate for good works

Calling us to follow His example of love

Creating a band of crucified followers

Freeing us from the fear of death

Gathering His sheep from around the world

Forgiving our sins

“He accomplished a miss of the target…”

Just a little aside. It seems so common these days for people to define sin as “missing the mark”, which indeed was the original meaning of “αμαρτια” (hamartia). However, the word came to be ANY wrongdoing, not merely getting just a little bit off the mark of what ought to be. This seems to be a trivialization of sin.

Therefore do not let hamartia reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its desires (Rom 6:12)

Surely “hamartia” in contexts such as the above, means a lot more than a slight error in judgment, a “missing of the mark.”

And Cindy, I truly appeciated your comments. Here are some with which I could closely identify:


About this nonsense of “legal fiction”. Through faith we enter into a spiritual union with Christ. We are one with Christ. He is in us and we are in Him. So, when His righteousness becomes ours it is really ours. It required no “legal fiction”. Moreover, everyone who believes in Penal Substitution also believes there is a change in one’s heart. This is what the Bible teaches.

But are we actually perfectly righteous when this perfect righteousness is supposedly attributed to us? Because if we aren’t then it is nothing less than ‘legal fiction’.

Thanks, Paidion :slight_smile:

Cole, what you are talking about is not nonsense. But I’m sure you’ve heard others refer to what I’m going to say:

THAT is what I mean by legal fiction. I do believe that Jesus redeems us and makes us clean – BUT when Jesus redeems us, He DOES make us clean. He doesn’t just step in front of us to keep the Father from seeing our filthiness. This ‘making us clean’ is both instantaneous and a process that takes place over time. God is interested in remaking us, making us truly pure – not in pretending we’re pure because He won’t look at us except through the lens of His Son.

This means that yes, we DO actually have to stop sinning. A lot of people take that pretty lightly. They figure that since God can only see Jesus when He looks at us, they don’t have to give up that little guilty pleasure – whatever it is – let’s say it’s looking at porn on the internet. Father doesn’t wink at that. If we sin, we can repent, but true repentance entails a change in behavior. If we continue to cling to our sin, it will burn us badly. We will enter the kingdom, but as through fire. (As Paul said) The Father chastises every son He receives, and of course He does it for our good. Earthly fathers might chastise and punish just to vent their own anger and frustration (wrath?), but our heavenly Father chastises in order to help us become better than we are, so that there will be more in us that is lovely and loveable.

Paul tells us in Romans 8 that the Father is conforming us to the image of His Son. Jesus tells His disciples that if they have seen Him, they have seen the Father. So Jesus embodies His Father in every way. He is infinite. I wonder whether we will ever reach the point of being perfectly conformed to His image (since He is infinite and we presumably are not). We could be approaching His image throughout time without end, and never arrive at the kind of perfection that is Jesus Christ. I look forward to that! (And some people are afraid that ‘heaven’ will be boring!) We will be great and gloriously beautiful daughters and spectacular sons of God, yet we will always be approaching that goal of conformation to the perfect image of Christ. What a destiny!

What we will NOT be is poor worms who can never stand before our Father, always hiding behind our shielding elder Brother. No, we’ll not be God, but we will actually be like Him – more and more like Him, the further we journey on following Jesus. :smiley: I believe that’s what He wants. What every good father wants – for His children to always be better and better and better and better and better.