Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Penal substitutionary atonement and the theodynamic kingdom

In the cliffhanging conclusion of our last episode, we saw what God needs to do to establish his kingdom: he must deal with human rebellion, his own wrath, and Satan.
Christ established God’s kingdom by defeating Satan, God’s true enemy, who wielded a kingdom opposed to God (Matt 4:8; 12:26-28; Mark 3:27; Luke 4:5; 11:18-21; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; Col 1:13; Rev. 11:5). He anticipated this in his miracles (Matt 12:26-28; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:18-21), and finally achieved it in his death and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:23-28; Col 1:12-14; 2:13-15; Rev 5:5, 9-10; 12:5, 9-10). Christ’s penal substitutionary atonement thus establishes God’s kingdom. Satan wields his power, his alternate kingdom, by deceiving people into rebelling against God, then accusing them before God. Christ’s sacrifice satisfies God’s justice towards his people, removing their guilt, thus removing Satan’s ability to accuse them. God is no longer angry towards those who trust in Jesus. Christ has dealt with that, once for all. Those who trust in Christ are thus removed from Satan’s kingdom and brought into Christ’s kingdom.
To put it another way: the only solution to our human predicament is the gospel, which is the power (dunamis) of God (theos) for salvation. The gospel is theodynamic because the kingdom is theodynamic, and the kingdom is theodynamic because it is ruled by a dynamic God: a God who is active in fixing up our problem for us. We do not contribute anything to it. Our faith in Christ is not meritorious. We do not “earn” salvation through the “good work” of faith in Christ. Faith merely takes hold of God’s action. Faith is the only appropriate response to the theodynamic gospel.

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