Rebecca Stark is the author of The Good Portion — God, the second title in The Good Portion series, a series written specifically to encourage women to immerse themselves in the depths of Christian doctrine.

The Good Portion — God explores what Scripture teaches about God in hopes that readers will see his perfection, worth, magnificence, and beauty as they study his triune nature, infinite attributes, and wondrous works. 

Rebecca also blogs at Out of the Ordinary.


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Theological Term of the Week


penal substitution

The teaching that in his death Christ substituted for sinners, atoning for them by bearing the just penalty of God for their sin in their place; also called substitutionary atonement or Christus Vicarious.
  • From the Scots Confession by John Knox, chapter 9:
    [We confess t]hat our Lord Jesus offered himself a voluntary sacrifice unto his Father for us, that he suffered contradiction of sinners, that he was wounded and plagued for our transgressions, that he, the clean innocent Lamb of God, was condemned in the presence of an earthly judge, that we should be absolved before the judgment seat of our God; that he suffered not only the cruel death of the cross, which was accursed by the sentence of God; but also that he suffered for a season the wrath of his Father which sinners had deserved.
  • From Herman Ridderbos in Paul: An Outline of His Theology, page 190:
    [T]he substitutionary character of Christ’s death on the cross … recurs time and again in Paul’s epistles, when it is said that Christ “died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:14); or “died for us” and “gave himself up for our sins” (Rom. 5:6, 8; 14:15; 1 Thess. 5:10; Rom. 4:25; 8:32; Gal. 1:4; 2:20). To be sure, the expression “for us” in itself does not yet signify “in our place; it indicates that the death of Christ has taken place “in our favor.” Nevertheless, the substitutionary significance of these expressions cannot be doubted. And it is corroborated by such expressions as that in 2 Corinthians 5:21: God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us; cf. Romans 8:3 and Galatians 3:13, where it is said that Christ has become a curse for us. In these passages the thought of the substitutionary (atoning) sacrifice is unmistakable, a thought that is enunciated in almost so many words when the phrase “One died for all’ is explained by the words “so then all have died’ (2 Cor. 5:14). Even is one could give certain passages taken by themselves another sense, the whole complex of the pronouncements mentioned above can allow no doubt to remains as to the “atoning,” substitutionary character of Jesus’ death, and every effort to detract from it readily does wrong to the most fundamental segments of Paul’s gospel.
  • From Athanasius, On the Incarnation, Chapter 4:
    But beyond all this, there was a debt owing which must needs be paid; for, as I said before, all men were due to die. Here, then, is the second reason why the Word dwelt among us, namely that having proved His Godhead by His works, He might offer the sacrifice on behalf of all, surrendering His own temple to death in place of all, to settle man’s account with death and free him from the primal transgression.

Learn more

  1. From Theopedia: The Penal Substitutionary Theory of the Atonement
  2. Dr. Steve SullivanSubstitution (.pdf)
  3. Al Mohler: Why Do They Hate It So? The Doctrine of Substitution (mp3 from this year’s Together for the Gospel Conference.)
  4. D. A. Carson: Why Is the Doctrine of Penal Substitution Again Coming Under Attack?
Have you come across a theological term that you don’t understand and that you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.
Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order. 

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Reader Comments (7)

Great theme!

Thanks Rebecca

April 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTodd Wood

...but also that he suffered for a season the wrath of his Father...

Is there any way to know where this 'season' was spent? I've heard different explanations, and I'm not sure what to believe.

April 27, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjen elslager

I think that when Jesus said, "It is finished," he knew that he had paid the penalty for sin in full. And I think that when he said to the thief, "Today, you'll be with me in Paradise", that means that's where Christ went directly after death.

But I know other people think differently.... :)

April 27, 2008 | Registered Commenterrebecca

See, that's what I always thought because what He said to the thief makes no sense any other way. But then there's the fact that His body was in the tomb for approximately three days before the stone was rolled away. I guess He went to heaven in spirit before coming back in whatever form of flesh before the ascension.

It can get a little confusing, but for some reason I tend to reject the notion that He went to hell for three days.

April 27, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjen elslager

I guess He went to heaven in spirit before coming back in whatever form of flesh before the ascension.

I believe that I Corinthians 15 tells us that what happened to Christ in death and resurrection is something similar to what will happen to us. For him it was only a three day wait until the resurrection. For us, it will be however long it is until Christ returns. But yes, I think your statement is correct about what happened to him.

I don't think he went to hell, either. I think that if the Apostles Creed doesn't mean by that phrase that Christ descended into the grave (which it might), then it's wrong.

April 27, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca

When I was growing up in the Baptist church, the phrase 'absent from the body, present with the Lord' was often used. I assume they got the phrase from 2 Cor. 5:6-8 which says something like this, though not exactly. The way the phrase was stated (mostly at funerals and such) was as though it was instantaneous, while the verses make it sound more like a statement of preference.

But somehow I do believe that when we draw our last breath we are in His presence. So when you speak of the time period until Christ returns, are you referring to our new bodies resurrected, or something like that?

I hope I'm not veering too terribly off topic. :)

April 27, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjen elslager

I mean that we will have to wait for the resurrection of our bodies. We will be present with the Lord immediately.

April 27, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca

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