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When Christians think of the atonement, their attention is riveted on Jesus Christ, the crucified one. And rightly so. But as proper as this focus is, the Son wasn’t the only member of the Trinity engaged in that act of sacrifice for human sin.
Indeed, we may think of the Father’s action in the death of his Son. After all, Jesus’s haunting cry of dereliction from the cross was, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:35, echoing Ps. 22:1). Then, with his last breath, Jesus called out loudly, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46). These gasping words of Jesus underscore the Father’s role in the atonement.
Less - Transparent - Role - Holy - Spirit
Less transparent is the role of the Holy Spirit. This is true in general, as theology is working to remedy the rather meager consideration it has often given to the Spirit and his work in creation, salvation, and consummation. Perhaps the work of the Holy Spirit that has been most neglected is his role in the atonement. And this brings us to our topic, with its twofold emphasis: (1) the role of the Holy Spirit (2) in penal substitutionary atonement.
Perhaps the work of the Holy Spirit that has been most neglected is his role in the atonement.
Emphasis - Number - Attacks - Substitution - Baker
This second emphasis was chosen because of an increasing number of attacks by some on penal substitution (Green and Baker; Weaver; Boersma; Heim; Baker). Others maintain that penal substitution is at the heart of the idea of atonement (Packer, ch. 2). Before we get too far, however, a definition is in order.
Penal substitutionary atonement is an interpretation or model of what Christ’s death on the cross accomplished. As I’ve written elsewhere, its major tenets include:
Atonement - Holiness - God - Hates - Punishes
The atonement is grounded in the holiness of God who, being perfectly holy, hates and punishes sin.
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