As unsophisticated as this seems, this is where we must begin and end—by simply showing folks what the Bible says. Let me give you a few examples:
- Isaiah 53.6 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.
- Romans 3.25 Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.
- 2 Corinthians 5.21 He made Him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
- 1 Peter 2.24 He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross.
Those who deny penal substitution must be shown that, to do so, they must also throw out their Bibles.
2. Remind them that Christ died willingly
To say that the penal substitution theory makes God appear cruel or abusive simply makes no sense in light of what we know about Jesus. First of all, Jesus was a grown man when He went to the cross—and He went quite willingly (John 10.18). This understanding of the cross isn’t a picture of the Father dragging an unwilling, but helpless, boy up to a hill-top and sacrificing him in cold blood. Rather, it is a picture of a grown Man voluntarily (and lovingly) laying down His life for his bride, the church!
Furthermore, let us not forget that the grown Man who laid down His life for His bride was (and is) none other than the second person of the Trinity! Penal substitution is not a case of an all-powerful God pouring out His wrath toward sinners upon a poor, pitiful (mere) human being. Rather, it is about God becoming a human being so that He could pour out His wrath on Himself!
So, those who criticize the Bible’s teaching on penal substitution must not only be shown that their view of the Bible is faulty…but also that their view of Christ is too low. Calling this theory of the atonement ‘child abuse’ portrays Jesus as nothing more than a weak-minded, pathetic, mere mortal who got caught in a trap. Nothing could further from the truth!