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

How Does Jesus Actually Save Us?

Well come Sunday we are going to be talking about one area of theology that has had the most discussion. It’sOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA called Soteriology – the study of salvation. And specifically we are going to be examining what is called “Atonement Theories”. These are explanations for how Jesus’ death and resurrection actually saves us. If the question is “how are we saved” ~ atonement theories try to give us some answers.

Here’s the thing though that is interesting: there is no standard answer.

The early church in the creeds developed lots of theology around Jesus, the Trinity, and lots more. But there is no standard, all encompassing, or definitive statement. What all Christians believe is that it is through Jesus Christ that we are saved. How this actually works is where there is lots of discussion.

So we want to wade into this discussion and go over some of the different alternatives, viewpoints, and theories. The hope through this is that not only will we come to a better understanding of how Jesus saves us, but that we might continue to be saved and transformed by Jesus.

So before we get there why not give this some thought. How does Jesus’ death and resurrection actually save us? And come Sunday I’ll give you my best answer

Blood, Sacrifice, and Atonement ~ What’s it all mean?

1395375_73215192So on Sunday we began to explore this whole idea of sacrifice and what it means. The text we worked through was Hebrews 9. But before we could work through the text we needed to learn the context: how sacrifice functioned prior to Jesus, why sacrifice was needed, and what the Bible’s goal with sacrifice is.

The primary function of sacrifice in the Old Testament was to deal with the problem of sin and broken relationships. A whole system was created to ensure cleansing, forgiveness, and the assurance of peace. This was the role of sacrifice. You could offer a sacrifice, gain peace of mind, and assurance of forgiveness. That’s why it was needed and that’s why it was important. But in many ways the system didn’t fully work because the sacrifice of an animal couldn’t bring lasting peace or forgiveness. It simply wasn’t perfect or complete enough.

Fast forward to Jesus and Hebrews 9, and we have the author making an argument that Jesus is both a deeper and different sacrifice than what was used to. That while Jesus’ sacrifice brings peace and assurance of forgiveness of sins, like previous sacrifices, his is of a different kind.

Prior to Jesus we would offer a sacrifice to God to gain assurance of forgiveness. Now with Jesus, God offers a sacrifice of himself to assure us we are forgiven. This is a radical twist that actually ends sacrifice.

We can now be assured that God loves us, forgives us, and accepts us because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. We kill Jesus because of our sin (anger, vengeance, envy, fear, etc), and yet God still forgives us. Some of Jesus’ last words are “Father forgive them”, and his first words are peace. So if we can kill God’s only son, and his posture to us is still forgiveness and peace, what worse could we possibly do? 

If we kill him, and his response is to love us we no longer never need to doubt his love. We now no longer need to doubt or worry about God’s disposition towards us. We no longer need to offer sacrifices to God because Jesus has sacrificed himself to prove his love to us. Jesus’ death proves God is willing to welcome all of us because we all killed Jesus through our propensity to sin, scapegoat, and hurt.

Of course, there is so much more to unpack, but to do that just listen to the sermon.

But the main idea was this: Jesus’ death ends all sacrifice, assuring us of our forgiveness. And this is a beautiful thing. You can be accepted, you can be forgiven, you can be freed – and there is nothing you need to do. Jesus’ sacrifice does it for us.

So we ended the sermon with a simple challenge. Rest in Jesus’ sacrifice, that it covers everything, that it is enough. That means we don’t need to fear God because Jesus has given everything to prove God’s love for us. That means we can hope because we know that God’s stance towards us is open and welcoming. That means that we don’t need to be defined by sin, because we did our worst, and God did what he does best: resurrection. So we can live differently because sin and evil doesn’t get the last word.

The point is that Jesus’ sacrifice is important because it ends sacrifice, and assures us of forgiveness. And that’s a beautiful thing.


Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Jesus’ death ends all sacrifice, assuring us of our forgiveness

Teaching Points:

  • Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it can’t be life changing
  • Sacrifice brought peace and assurance of forgiveness.
  • The trajectory of the Bible is to limit, reduce, and abolish sacrifice.
  • The blood of Jesus is better and more complete sacrifice
  • Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t limited, and proves God’s mercy isn’t limited
  • We killed Jesus, and he offers us forgiveness and peace.
  • Jesus’ death ends all sacrifice, assuring us of our forgiveness

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? Were there parts that were confusing? What do you think was meant? Did you see sacrifice as beautiful, barbaric, or unnecessary before today’s sermon? What do you think of sacrifice now? Read over Hebrews 9 again and share with one another what gives you hope, assurance, of excitement in this passage. Are there portions you still don’t fully grasp? Which parts? Who can help you to understand them deeper?

Challenge for the Week: Accept and rest in Jesus’ sacrifice.

Talking about blood…

1327575_43238568On Sunday I want to talk a little about something that we think we’ve mostly grown beyond: sacrifice.

The truth is the language and theme of sacrifice pervades the Bible. It’s a part of the Old Testament with animal sacrifices, blood, and rituals and regulations. It’s also a part of the New Testament with discussions surrounding Jesus as our sacrifice.

But what isn’t as recognized is how sacrifice still functions and is a part of our world. We often think of sacrifice for back then but not for today. But sacrifices are still as much a part of our world, as it was a part of theirs; it’s just less visible.

Just look at the big movies and how they are centred on the theme of sacrifice: everything from the Hunger Games, to Lord of the Rings, to even the Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy. There is a recurring theme of someone’s sacrifice bringing someone else peace and life. So while we might not practice animal sacrifice we still live in a world full of sacrifice.

And this is what I want to examine on Sunday specifically. What is sacrifice? How does it function? And most specifically, why is Jesus’ death and sacrifice different?

So that’s where we are headed. We’re pulling back the veil on sacrifice to talk about how it works in our lives. But while we are moving there why not just pay attention for the next few days how frequent sacrifice still lives and moves in our world.

  • Watch for how we scapegoat and sacrifice others for our good. Like when we think “If only “they” weren’t around, things would be better… “
  • Watch for how often video games, movies, or TV shows regularly use sacrifice as a driving motif.
  • Watch for how when someone gives of themselves we gain life

Sacrifice might not be well understood in our world, but it is alive and well.

What is the New Covenant?

1354509_52789131On Sunday we looked at the language of priests and covenants in Hebrews. We began by noticing something interesting: that to be a priest in the Mosaic covenant you had to come from the line of Levi. But Jesus wasn’t born into the tribe of Levi, but the tribe of Judah. Deuteronomy 18:22 makes it clear that in that covenant priests must come from the line of Levi. So what does all this bloodline talk mean? (This is all worked out in Hebrews 7, and 8)

Well what it means is that with the shift in bloodlines is also a shift in covenant. Jesus isn’t a priest in the covenant, discussed in Deuteronomy; he has instituted a new covenant. And this shift makes all the difference.

In the Old Covenant, sin continued, and sacrifices needed to continually be offered. The cycle of sin, guilt, sacrifice didn’t ever stop. But with a new covenant a new way of living became possible. This new covenant was prophesied in the Hebrews Bible in Jeremiah 31, and is quoted in Hebrews 8, and comes to reality in the person of Jesus.

Jesus is the new high priest, in a new covenant, that functions differently.

And this “functioning differently” is key.

Because with Jesus there is one sacrifice that covers all our sin. That was offered once and for all. That means that all the failings, falterings, and sin that you and I have committed, can commit, or will commit is covered. Jesus’ sacrifice is greater than your sin, my sin, and the sin of the whole world. So we no longer need to have that cycle of sin, to carry guilt, or to carry any shame.

As Hebrews 10:1-2 says “The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship.  If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshippers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared.

But now we have a perfect sacrifice that can cover all our sin and our feelings of guilt. We can live differently because we have been made different.

And this is why that matters.

Because now, “we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

So you can boldly go to God without feelings of guilt, shame, or trying to earn his approval with your behavior or sacrifices. We can go boldly to God because of what Jesus Christ has done. And this is good news.

So we ended with the challenge that if we have this high priest, this covenant, and this all-encompassing sacrifice to go boldly into God’s presence this week. Because we can, not because of what we have done, but what Jesus has done.



Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We have a new high priest, covenant, and way to live.

Teaching Points:

  • A covenant is a binding agreement and relationship between two parties.
  • The priests were the representatives of the people and themselves with God dealing with the problem of sin.
  • Jesus isn’t a priest in the Mosaic Covenant sense.
  • For the law made nothing perfect.
  • Jesus is a new high priest, in a new covenant, in the line of Melchizedek.
  • We can go boldly into God’s presence.

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?

Was this discussion of Old and New Covenant’s – new to you? How does this new covenant give you new hope? Read the passage from Hebrews 10:19-25. What stands out to you most? What gives you the most excitement? Are there any areas of you life where you are living under the “old covenant”? Are there any lingering feelings of guilt or shame that you should ask Jesus to free you from? How can you boldly go into God’s presence this week?

Discussion Question for Families:

Instead of talking to your kids about today’s topic – why not experience it a bit. Have your kids paint, or write some things they struggle with on a piece of paper. Then take some paint and paint over their struggles with all sorts of colors and make a beautiful picture. Talk to them about how Jesus covers over our sins, so that we can be made beautiful to God and how he loves to do that for us.

Challenge for the Week: Go boldly into God’s presence this week.

New Language: Priests, Sacrifices, and Covenants

1271462_95663567On Sunday I want to talk a little bit about something that seems kind of not relevant to our lives but really is. I want to talk about priests, sacrifices, covenants, and bloodlines.

In all honesty, many times when we come across these themes in the Bible we see them as out-of-date, old fashioned, sometimes maybe barbaric even. But the truth is when we peel back some of the language, context, and understanding they can become beautiful and freeing.

Because even though today we don’t offer animal sacrifices that were offered in the Hebrew Bible, we still are caught up in some of the same cycles. We struggle with cycles of sin and seeking atonement or forgiveness. We might not use sacrifices of animals to find peace or atonement but we do use other sacrifices: prayer, confession, trying harder, making promises, and all sorts of things. But often these sacrifices still leave us locked in a cycle we can’t break out of: fail and sin, feel shame, guilt, confess and sacrifice somehow, and repeat.

We might not regularly sacrifice animals to find forgiveness but it is something we need. We need a new way to live, not stuck in cycles of sin, self-righteousness, or shame. And that’s what we are looking at on Sunday. And it won’t come as a surprise how we find that freedom and forgiveness: it’s in Jesus.

So that’s where we’re headed but before we get there, why not do a bit of reading and prepping on your own. Read Hebrews 8, 9, and 10: that’s where we will be really focusing on Sunday. And then why not spend some time thinking if there are any cycles you need freedom from. Is there a sense of guilt that lingers, a sin that keeps creeping in, or a hurt that lasts? And if so, come Sunday we are going to find how Jesus changes all of that.