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Definition

The penal substitutionary theory of the atonement holds that the most fundamental event of the atonement is that Jesus Christ took the full punishment that we deserved for our sins as a substitute in our place, and that all other benefits or results of the atonement find their anchor in this truth.

Summary

All people are in need of a substitute since all are guilty of sinning against the holy God. All sin deserves punishment because all sin is personal rebellion against God himself. While animal sacrifices took on the guilt of God’s people in the OT, these sacrifices could never fully atone for the sins of man. For that, Jesus Christ came and died in the place of his people (substitution), taking upon himself the full punishment that they deserved (penal). While there are other theories of the atonement, which point to other valid aspects of what happened in Christ’s death, the penal-substitutionary element of the crucifixion secures all other benefits that come to God’s people through the death of their representative.

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