Question #69: Briefly elucidate on two false views of the Atonement.  State the Biblical View.

Christ's Substitutionary Atonement
Christ’s Substitutionary Atonement, Hebrews 9:28.

“Payment-to-Satan” theory is a false view of the Atonement.  The other false view or extra-biblical theory of the death of Christ is the “Commercial” theory.  Payment-to-Satan theorizes that Christ’s death was a ransom paid to Satan to free man from claims that Satan had upon him.  This view was held by men up to the Medieval and Scholastic periods and by Seventh-Day Adventists today.

The Commercial or satisfaction theory as found by Anselm of Canterbury, teaches that “the necessity of Christ’s death lay in the fact that God’s honor had been injured by sin.  Therefore, God’s honor could be satisfied either by punishing the sinner or by accepting a sacrifice.  The latter was chosen.  Beyond His perfect life on earth Christ went further and died, though He need not have died, which death brought supererogatory (the performance of more work than duty requires) benefit to the sinner.  Though Anselm believed in a substitutionary aspect of Christ’s death, he failed to recognize that a penalty for sin had to be paid.  Also, more than just God’s honor was violated–and yes, Christ also had to die.

Here’s the Biblical view: “The foundational meaning of the death of Christ is its substitutionary character.  He died in the place of sinners that He might purchase their freedom [redemption], reconcile them to God [reconciliation], and thereby satisfy the righteous demands of a holy God [propitiation].”1  Compare 1 Pet 2:24, 2 Cor 5:21, Heb 9:28 and Isa 53:4-6.


1 Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989), 323.


One-Minute Theology with Chaplain T features the question and answer portions of the Systematic Theology courses that were part of my seminary work at Piedmont Baptist Graduate School. I will be posting one Q & A everyday until my ordination council meeting set for February 2014.