Jesus Died In Our Place, For Our Sins: The Doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement

Credit: St. Michael’s Church (Leuven, Belgium)


We here at The Essential Church believe that preaching the Word of God is essential to seeing souls come to faith in Jesus Christ. Along these lines, we believe that the Church of Jesus Christ needs to learn biblical doctrine, that there is a lot of false doctrine in the church because few are taking time to preach and teach biblical truth.

To advance biblical truth and to be faithful to the Word of God, today’s sermon is titled “Jesus Died In Our Place, For Our Sins: The Doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.” We’re going to dive into this doctrine, emphasizing that Jesus died as the substitute for sin (He died “in our place”) and that He died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins. We’re going to dive into what this doctrine is all about, and look at what Scripture says about the doctrine (this will determine whether it’s real or not).

This doctrine is built upon the truth that Christ is the living God, that God so loved the world that He gave Jesus to save every person. Ephesians 5:25 says that Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, so this doctrine is important because the church is built upon God’s love for mankind.

Without further ado, let’s get into the details of this doctrine.

In Our Place: Jesus as Substitute, The Substitutionary Atonement

First, we’re going to look at the word “substitutionary” in the doctrine’s name, “Penal Substitutionary Atonement.” Jesus is the substitute atonement. What does this mean? It means that Jesus died “in the place of” someone or something; after all, that’s what it means to be a substitute. Who or what did Jesus die “in place of”? He died in humanity’s place. There are a number of passages of Scripture that point to Jesus as the substitute for humanity. Let’s examine them now.

First, there’s Romans 4:23-25. The apostle Paul says that Abraham’s imputation of the righteousness of Christ and his belief in the Lord’s promise was not written merely for him “but also for us” (v.24). Christ’s righteousness shall be imputed “to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses.” Jesus was delivered up “because of our offenses.” The word for “offenses” here in Romans 4:25 is “paraptomata,” a word that means not only “offenses,” “sins,” and “transgressions.” He was delivered up for us, for the world. What we find here is that our transgressions are the reason why He died in our place. The word “transgress” implies that a law has been broken, for which a penalty must be paid. Only a law or covenant can be transgressed, which implies that the law of God has yet to be done away with. This is an important point to bring out because we’ll study in some detail later on what’s known as the Governmental Theory of Atonement that says the Lord God “merely pardoned” sinners.

Romans 5:6-8 says that Jesus died for us, that we are ungodly and that Jesus’ death on our behalf for our sins shows the love of God: ” For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The phrase “still without strength” in the Greek is the word “asthenes,” referring to sickness, weakness (both moral and spiritual). In other words, Christ died for the ungodly (us) when we were unable to die for ourselves. We were spiritually weak, spiritually sin-sick, and He died for us. Few would die for a righteous man, yet some would die for a good man who does good deeds (few will die for religious leaders).

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The spiritual and moral sickness man was in tells us of man’s inability to save himself or herself. Calvinists struggle to understand what it means when Paul says in Ephesians 2 that we “were dead in trespasses and sins,” but this is what it means: it means that were spiritually unable to save ourselves, that we were (we are) so spiritually sin-sick that we cannot save ourselves now, nor could we save ourselves back over 2000 years ago! Man is too depraved, too sick, to save himself.

He cannot save himself, no matter how good his deeds, no matter how noble his accomplishments. Being “without strength” means that we didn’t have the ability to save ourselves from sin, that we were unable to die for our own sins. This is the Doctrine of Total Inability, which runs right alongside of the Doctrine of Total Depravity. We were “without ability” to pay the penalty for our sins and die the death we deserved, but Jesus died for the ungodly. The word for “ungodly” here is “wicked,” telling us the true nature of ourselves. The Scriptures testify to humanity being wicked:

5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. (Genesis 6:5-8, NKJV)

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.
9 “The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
10 I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings. (Jeremiah 17:7-10)

The Lord says here in Jeremiah 17 that the heart of man is wicked. Jesus calls man “evil” during His ministry:

9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”  (Luke 11:9-13)

Jesus referred to humans as evil by nature, something that our culture would do well to understand. The innate human tendency is to think that we’re good, to think that goodness is what we’re all about, that humans aren’t mean and cruel, but if we’re born in sin and shaped in iniquity as David says in Psalm 51, then we’re evil. If the heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked, the Lord God says in Jeremiah 17, then who are we to tell the Sovereign Lord that He is wrong? Rather, we are in the wrong if we think otherwise.

Romans 8, a chapter that has comforted and continues to comfort many Christians, tells us that the Lord Jesus was given for all:

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32)

God did not “spare His own Son,” a reference to the Father not sparing Jesus, “but delivered Him up for us all,” a statement that means Jesus gave His life for all humanity. Again, Jesus died for us.

There are other verses that attest to the substitutionary nature of the atonement. Another such passage is that of 2 Corinthians 5:14-15:

14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

Here is says that “He,” Christ, according to the biblical context, died for all. All who? All men. Christ died in our place.

Next on the substitutionary nature of the atonement is 1 Thessalonians 5:

4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. (1 Thessalonians 5:4-10)

In 1 Thessalonians 5:10, it says that Jesus “died for us.” This is a clear reference to the Lord Jesus dying on behalf of humans. Jesus died in our place, as is evident by the phrase “died for us.”

* 1 Corinthians 8:10-11

The Penalty for Our Sins, The “Penal” in the Doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement

We’ve discussed the substitutionary nature of the atonement. Now, though, we want to discuss the “penal” nature – that is, that Jesus died to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind. Jesus didn’t just die in our place; He died to pay the debt we owed for our transgressions.

Penalty verses:

1) Galatians 1:1-4 (v. 4)
Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

2) 1 John 2:1-2 (v.2)
My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

3) Ephesians 2:11-17 (v.13)

11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Christ Our Peace
14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

5) Ephesians 5:1-2 (v.2)

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

6) Romans 14:14-15 (v. 15b)

14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.

7) 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (v.3)

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

8) 1 Peter 2:21-24 (Jesus mentioned in verse 21, focus in verse 24)

21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:

22 “Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

9) 1 Peter 3:18

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

These verses teach about Jesus as the substitute for us, who pays the penalty for our sins. The Doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement argues that 1) Jesus died as the substitute in our place (He died for us), and secondly, that He died to pay the penalty for our sins. This implies that the Governmental Theory of the Atonement can’t be correct.

Just what is the Governmental Theory of Atonement? I’ll get into that next week. Until then, enjoy a closing song video below. May the Lord bless you and keep you until we meet again.

-Pastor D.M. Richardson,

The Essential Church

World Wide Web

One thought on “Jesus Died In Our Place, For Our Sins: The Doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement

Comments are closed.