Does our view of the atonement affect how we live as the Kingdom? This excerpt from “Apostolic Foundations”, written by a kingdom-minded Pentecostal Christian, explores the idea of Christ’s triumph over the powers and our reigning with Him.
We do not mean to promote everything by this author, nor to promote any specific view of the atonement as an “official position”, only to suggest that conversations around theologies such as atonement benefit from being considered not only in a theoretical sense, as being part of “systematic theology”, but also (perhaps primarily) from a practical sense, considering how it affects the daily living-out of our faith in and for the Kingdom of God
If you have further thoughts on the subject or a contrasting view to offer, we invite your response!
“The Message of the Cross” by Art Katz (public domain)
We need to have a view of the atonement in the light of a deeper understanding of the Cross, and what was performed there. It is more than the issue of individual or personal sin and forgiveness. The prevailing view of the atonement held today is essentially that the whole work of the Cross was a substitution, or a fulfilling of a satisfaction of God for sin by the sacrifice of Jesus. The atonement is understood only on a personal level to
remove the guilt of sin, and that is essentially the whole of it. It has nothing to say about the power of sin, but only of sin as personal, individual failing, and that the atonement is Christ satisfying some requirement of the Father, thereby expiating the guilt of sin.
The work of the atonement, however, was much more than just the expiation for the guilt of individual sin. The principal work of God at the Cross was destroying the works of the Devil, and defeating the power of sin and death. It was a victory over sin itself as power, and over the principalities and powers of the air. That victory is permanent, enduring and eternal, and the church needs to live in the consciousness of that triumph. It was the triumph over Satan, evil and death, much more than the issue of personal sin. Traditional Christianity has an inadequate view of sin, and sees it from a moralistic or even humanistic view as a kind of failing, rather than a power that resides in the human nature, as well as in the principalities and the powers of the air.
If this is a time of restoration, then one of the things which needs to be restored is the significance of the Cross, and what was actually performed there. It makes a profound difference how we view what took place there. If we see sin as only an individual, moralistic failure, a mistake that can be paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus to remove the guilt of it, and then tomorrow you perform it again, then we have totally misunderstood
God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. I do not know to what degree we realize that our whole Christianity is very individualistic, very personal: “My salvation, my going to heaven,” rather than the great issues of defeating the powers of the air that are competing in a cosmic rivalry with God over His own creation. And that it requires the corporate church in its full authority as an instrument to complete that victory at the end. To think of Jesus’ work as a triumph brings a very different view with regard to our place in the purposes of God. But if we are thinking only personally and individually, then heaven for us is a place where you go and enjoy an eternal vacation. If we are thinking of the triumph of God, then the heavenlies are a place that we will come to occupy in a governmental capacity to rule and reign with Him in the establishment of His
The view that sin is only a personal failing is trivializing sin. It is not a recognition of the radical power of evil that required the very sacrifice of God in His Son to defeat it at the Cross. I wish I could go on to explain what an inadequate view of sin means in terms of opening the door for the ravages of evil. For example, the Jewish rejection of the Cross,
and its meaning, and the disposition to push it away from our consciousness, and to look upon the crucifixion of Jesus as only a kind of momentary, historical accident of no great significance, means that Judaism and world Jewry have lost the one and great opportunity given by God to recognize the nature of evil. In other words, the revelation of evil comes
by seeing what it cost God to meet it and defeat it. The enormity and magnitude of what was wrought at the Cross in God being crucified is the most powerful provision given of God to glimpse the magnitude of the evil of sin itself as power.
The humanistic interpretation of the atonement has its ground in the failure to see the radical hostility of God to evil, and His judgment upon sin. It does not recognize sin for the evil that it is, but concerns itself essentially with guilt, and that guilt can be relieved by the propitiation that Jesus provided in satisfying the need of the Father for a just retribution. It makes God the Father look like a heavy-handed Old Testament deity who
demands a certain kind of justice to make the thing right, and Jesus was that necessary ‘sacrifice.’ This interpretation does not see that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, but rather that Jesus the man, the perfect man, and the ideal man, was the satisfaction that requited God the Father’s need for justice. It appeased Him as the God of vengeance and judgment. Well, if that is your view of God, then there is going to be every temptation to be drawn to something that is much more sentimental and consoling.
Jesus allowed Himself to suffer the full brunt of the powers of evil and death, and was raised from it by the power of the Father. There was a triumph over death, and over evil, by the wisdom of God in the humility, meekness, long-suffering and patience of the Lord. That is the true meaning of the Cross. It is much more than a God of vengeance being satisfied that an atonement was made, which is a very limited and inadequate view, and
will negatively affect our entire view of God Himself. There are purposes in the atonement that go far beyond the benefit that comes to us as individuals. It is not that we are absolved of individual responsibility for sin, but that we need to see that our sins are related to the power of sin. It was the defeat of the power of sin itself at the Cross, and therefore we no longer need to live in it, or yield our members to it. It is not just the release from guilt, but a new life being imparted, and a new principle of life that comes with the resurrection from that death.
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Thanks so much for the article by Art Katz! He makes an important point well. So much more needs to be done in helping us come to grips with the biblical language of the powers.