Theology 101: Soteriology ~ How Does Jesus Save Us?

1442779_37518210On Sunday we looked at Soteriology, or the study of how Jesus saves us. We looked at different Atonement Theories. These are theories that seek to explain how Jesus’ death and resurrection actually saves us.

So we began by looking at what’s called Ransom Theory. This is the idea that Jesus pays the price, to buy our freedom from Satan. That we are held by Satan, and Jesus is exchanged for us. This view might be familiar if you’ve ever seen or read the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardobe which is used there.

The next we looked at recapitulation. This is the view that the “Son of God became man so that we might become God” (Irenaeus). The basic idea is this; that Jesus fully participates in God, so that we might fully participate in God. And like Ransom theory this theory too has biblical support, particularly Romans 5:17-19.

And there are lots of other views including Moral Influence Theory, Governmental Theory, Satisfaction Theory, and even more. Yet we finished by focusing on the two most current or prominent views, Penal Substitutionary Atonement, and Christus Victor.

Penal Substitutionary Atonement states that Jesus took our place (substitutionary) and took on our punishment (penal). Jesus died to pay the price of our sin and disobedience to God. And since God is just and holy he abhors sin and its need to be punished. So Jesus takes on the punishment rightly deserved for us. John Calvin puts it this way, “This is our acquittal: the guilt that held us liable for punishment has been transferred to the heart of the Son of God”.

And while this view is probably the default view of evangelicalism, and quite popular, it has some issues inherent within it. For example, God, as an act of justice, punishes an innocent person, which raises questions about God’s justice. This view also traditionally sees sin in a very individualistic manner rather than systemic. This view can also lead people to fear the Father (who pours out his wrath on Jesus) rather than embrace the Father.

So while this view is very popular, and has been incredibly helpful in leading people to Jesus (myself included!) – there are some complications or questions with it. So with that understanding we then dove deeply into my preferred, or privileged atonement theory: Christus Victor.

Christus Victor in short is: A picture of God in Christ liberating humanity out of bondage from sin, death, and the devil (Derek Flood). Jesus dies, not simply as payment for sin, but to destroy death, evil, and sin. Jesus enters into the dungeon of death, and breaks its chains and leads us to resurrection.

Derek Flood continues writing,

“Christus Victor understands our salvation within the larger picture of a cosmic victory over evil. It is about our healing, and the healing of our world. This is tremendously significant because it means salvation is not simply a private religious affair, but entails putting all of life under Christ – our social, political, economic, nation and legal systems all need to reflect Christ’s way. Christus Victor captures the full scope of the redemption of both us and our world”.

And so while I personally lean toward Christus Victor, none of these atonement theories are necessarily in competition with one another. You don’t need to believe one to the exclusion of another. Michael Bird, an evangelical systematic theologian, writes this: The doctrines of penal substitution and Christus Victor do not compete against each other. And he personally holds Christus Victor as primary, yet also believes that Penal Substitutionary Atonement explains the specifics of God’s salvation.

So the main point though is that regardless of how you believe that Jesus saves us, that you believe that Jesus is the one who saves us. This is the centre.

And we ended with the main idea that Jesus’ death and resurrection has secured our freedom. Our freedom from sin, evil, injustice, death, and all that is anti-God. So we can have hope. Even if we don’t fully understand how Jesus saves us, that doesn’t stop us from experiencing his salvation!

Derek Flood writes, “What happened to Jesus was horribly unjust, and yet it was how God brought about justice. It was wrong, but God entered into that wrongness and turned it around to make things right. This is the great reversal of the cross. God enters into our darkness and makes justice come about despite injustice. God chose to make something good out of something bad. This does not mean that God condones evil and pain, but that God overcomes evil with good. It means that God can enter into all of our ugliness, evil, and hurt, and turn it around.”

And that’s he beauty of the cross. That Jesus can enter into all our ugliness, evil, and hurt and turn it around. That was our challenge on Sunday; to let God into all our evil and turn it around. That whether for the first or hundredth time to let God in, to save us, and transform us.

The essence of salvation is not to obtain something but to live with God…Salvation is not a possession but a relationship. Andrew Sung Park

 

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Jesus’ death and resurrection has secured our freedom

Teaching Points:

  • Soteriology ~ Study of Salvation
  • Atonement means “at-one-ment”
  • We want to be unified in our belief that Jesus saves us, and allow diversity for how we believe that happens.
  • Ransom theory: Jesus died to ransom us back from Satan.
  • Recapitulation Theory: For the Son of God became man so that we might become God – Irenaeus
  • This is our acquittal: the guilt that held us liable for punishment has been transferred to the heart of the Son of God. John Calvin
  • “The justice of God is not primarily or normatively as retributive justice or a distributive justice but a restorative or reconstructive justice, a saving action by God that recreates shalom and makes things right”.   Chris Marshall
  • Christus Victor is a picture of God in Christ liberating humanity out of bondage from sin, death, and the devil. Derek Flood
  • What we see Jesus doing specifically in his life (healing, freeing, forgiving); Jesus is doing universally on the cross.
  • What happened to Jesus was horribly unjust, and yet it was how God brought about justice. It was wrong, but God entered into that wrongness and turned it around to make things right. This is the great reversal of the cross. God enters into our darkness and makes justice come about despite injustice. God chose to make something good out of something bad. This does not mean that God condones evil and pain, but that God overcomes evil with good. It means that God can enter into all of our ugliness, evil, and hurt, and turn it around. Derek Flood
  • God can enter into all of our ugliness, evil, and hurt, and turn it around. Derek Flood

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Had you ever heard any of the theories before? Which one resonated most with you? How would you explain why and how Jesus saves us? Do you have any questions that still need answering?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Talk to your kids about Jesus’ death and resurrection. Talk about how Jesus is stronger than even death, and how he conquered all sin, death, and evil. Ask them is there anything in your life that you need some freedom from? (Fear, worry, etc). And then pray to Jesus about it.

Challenge for the Week: Open yourself to Jesus today

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