How to Hear God's Voice With 100% Certainty

Hearing God's voice is not as difficult as you may think. Some people think that they have to attend special classes or purchase an online course or apply spiritual techniques in order to hear God's voice. The slideshow below explains in simple terms how you can hear God's voice and know that He is speaking to you with 100% certainty. 

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Biblical Proof Jesus Died on Friday NOT Wednesday

By Chris Rosebrough

A lot of ink has been spilled regarding which day Jesus died. On the one hand, the Gospel narratives make it clear that Jesus died on the day before the Sabbath (Saturday).

“Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:50–56)

But on the other hand, if it is true that Jesus died on a Friday then it appears as if there is a contradiction in the scriptures. Jesus Himself explained that He would be in the tomb for three days and three nights:

“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40)

When someone quickly sums up the days and nights that Jesus was in the "heart of the earth", if he died on Friday, the math just doesn't seem to add up:

In order to resolve this problem, it is helpful to know that Jews do not count days according to a 24 hour time period. They count days according to night and day cycles. This way of counting days is revealed in Genesis 1. 

“And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” (Genesis 1:5)

“And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.” (Genesis 1:8)

“And there was evening and there was morning, the third day” (Genesis 1:13)

“And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.” (Genesis 1:19)

“And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.” (Genesis 1:23)

“And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31)

Note, scripture reveals that a new day begins at sunset, not midnight. But even knowing this information doesn't totally solve the apparent contradiction. The reason is that when you count up the days and nights that Jesus was in the "heart of the earth" if He died on Friday you come up short by 1 night.

Friday - Jesus dies during the day (+1 Day)

Saturday - Jesus is dead during the night (+1 Night) and during the day (+1 Day)

Sunday - Jesus is dead during the night (+1 Night) and rises shortly after sunrise (+1 Day)


Total =  3 days and 2 nights.

No matter how you add it up, we're missing a night. Yet, Jesus said:

“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40)

Some have tried to resolve this seeming contradiction by postulating that Jesus had to die on a Wednesday and that there had to be some type of special "High Sabbath" brought about by that year's Passover. This attempt at resolving the seeming contradiction is overly complex and results in an excess of days and nights which requires one to believe that Jesus rose from the grave at twilight on Saturday night (this explanation actually creates more contradictions than it resolves). However, the solution to the apparent contradiction is actually very simple and it is hiding in plain sight.

Remember that scripture reveals that a new day begins with night. That's all you need to remember. Now let's look at a few passages of scripture. 

We will begin with Amos' prophecy relating to Jesus crucifixion day:

 “And on that day,” declares the Lord GOD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.” (Amos 8:8–9)

Yep, you read that right. God, all the way back in the Old Testament told us that He was going to cause "on that day" the sun to go down at noon. What time of day, during Jesus' crucifixion did the sun stop shining? Answer:

“It was now about the sixth hour (noon), and there was darkness over the whole Earth until the ninth hour (3pm), while the sun’s light failed.” (Luke 23:44–45)

If God caused the "sun to go down at noon" and there was darkness from 12pm until 3pm because the "sun's light failed", did Jesus die at night or during the day?

Answer: Since God "called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night” (Genesis 1:5) the answer is obvious. Jesus died in the sunless darkness caused by God when he made the sun's light to fail at noon on 'that day', God calls darkness like that "night"!

With this data in hand we can now accurately make an accounting of the sequence of day and night which took place on Good Friday. Here is what it looks like:

Now when we add up the days and the nights, the math works perfectly:

Friday - Jesus dies during the night created by God (+1 Night) and sun resumes shining after Jesus' death (+1 Day)

Saturday - Jesus is dead during the night (+1 Night) and during the day (+1 Day)

Sunday - Jesus is dead during the night (+1 Night) and rises shortly after sunrise (+1 Day)


Total = 3 Nights and 3 Days just as Jesus predicted

The solution to the problem really is that simple!

Now you can have confidence that when you attend church for a Good Friday service and you remember Jesus' bitter suffering and death on the cross for your sins that you're doing so on the same day that He was crucified.

Church Growth Myths: Innovate Or Die

Sit down and have a conversation with a cutting edge innovative church leader or church growth consultant and they will likely tell you how the church, just like businesses, need to constantly innovate, change and adapt to changing market conditions or they'll die. They might even make a snide comment about the importance of churches not being stuck in the 1950's or how churches can't do church the way they did when grandpa came home from WWII or they'll become irrelevant and die. But, talk to someone whose actually been to business school, like I have, and they'll readily tell you that this idea of 'innovate or die' is only true for certain types of businesses and is FAR from being universally true. In fact, the world of successful corporations is filled with companies that rarely change and rarely tinker with their business model. When these companies do make changes they are done in such a way as to stay true to how they've always done things. These are some of the world's most successful companies precisely because of their consistency and utter lack of innovation. Here are just few examples of thriving non-innovative corporations:

In-N-Out Burger

I grew up in southern California and every time I visit my old stomping grounds I make a trip to In-N-Out Burger. The menu is exactly the same today as it was when I was 15 years old, 20 years old, 33 years old, and 40 years old. In fact, if In-N-Out decided to change things up I seriously doubt that I'd continue to eat there when I visit So. Cal.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is truly one of the most successful airlines in the world and they've achieved this success through a simple business model. They only fly 737's, they have 'open seating' and they don't utilize the traditional hub city model for their routes. This tenacity in sticking with their business model is what allows them to be a low cost airlines and maintain their profitability. If Southwest were to adopt the "innovate or die" mentality to their business it would destroy their brand and profits.


Nordstrom is not a department store that caters to everyone. Instead, they've been tenacious in going after only one segment of the retail market and that segment is high price, high quality with a heavy emphasis on great customer service. If Nordstrom decided to go after the same market segment as Walmart they'd destroy their brand and their customer loyalty in a very short amount of time. The people who shop at Nordstrom expect great customer service, high quality high end products and they're willing and able to pay for them. Nordstrom hasn't changed the way it does business since coming on the scene 1901 and that is exactly why they're still in business today.

I can provide hundreds of more examples like these from the Fortune 1000. "Innovate or Die" is not true for an extremely large segment of the corporate world. Instead, these corporations are more akin to institutions and they're guiding principle is "steady as she goes". Even Apple, the innovative leader of personal technologies, is successful because of their tenacious fidelity to their core principles. If Apple ever deviates from those principles they will cease to be Apple and risk losing their leadership in the personal technology market.

Voodoo Church Consulting

Those church consultants who claim to be implementing the lessons that have been learned in the world of successful corporations, especially when it comes to the slogan "innovate or die" don't know what they're talking about! Over and again we've seen examples from the business world of companies that have thrived as a result of their refusal to change and insistence on tenaciously sticking to the core competencies and principles that make them distinct in the market.

Similarly, the church is an institution that must tenaciously pursue its mission and reject chasing after innovations that would distract her from what she's been called to do. In other words, the Church was given a mission 2,000 years ago and the mission hasn't changed and the same core activities and core competencies that were needed 2,000 years ago to fulfill the mission are needed today.

When we look at the scriptures we learn that churches are called to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus' name (Luke 24:46–47), make disciples of all nations...baptizing and teaching all that Christ has commanded (Matt 28:19–20), preach the word in season and out of season (2 Tim 4:1–4), contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3), feed Christ's sheep (John 21:15–17), teach sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). These are the things that the church must excel in and accomplish with excellence and they're not optional. Yet, these are the very things that those churches who've adapted their methodologies and messages in order to meet the felt needs of the ever changing market have abandoned. Which then leads me to ask, "How can a church claim to be a church if it isn't doing the things that God has called her to do? Isn't that like an In-Out-Burger that refuses to sell Double-Doubles or a Norstrom's store that sells cheap low quality merchandise"?

The Shack Movie Bombs as "Evangelism Tool"

Just a few weeks ago Cru gave an non-endorsement/endorsement of the movie The Shack and even put together some study questions in the hopes that The Shack would be a great evangelism tool to introduce unbelieving friends and neighbors to Christianity. Now that the movie has been released how has the pagan world received The Shack? Have they thoughtfully begun considering becoming Christians as a result of this movie?

It would appear that the answer is an emphatic NO!

Here are just some of the reviews of the movie offered by secular critics:

"It's one of those movies where you'll either decide to give in right away and sob for two hours straight or opt to fight it while your resentment slowly simmers to a rolling boil." — Entertainment Weekly

"The Shack" wants to be a sincere exploration of faith and forgiveness but somehow manages to be both too innocuous and too off-putting for its own good. Since its publication, 'The Shack' has engendered a good deal of controversy within the Christian community for interpreting both the Bible and the Holy Trinity in ways that some consider to be heretical. Based on a viewing of the movie, I would label those charges to be nonsense; to be truly heretical would require a more cogent level of thinking than the awkward plotting and empty-headed New Agey koans offered up here." — Peter Sobczynski

"The Shack" is a grief-packed journey through loss, bargaining and acceptance that feels like an overly long church sermon." - Detroit News

"Most of its running time is taken with mollifying conversations between Mack and the movie’s New Age-meets-Bible Belt oversimplifications of the Holy Trinity. It fits right into a long tradition of quasi-mystical pseudo-parables." — AV Club

"copious amount of cinematic flaws that actually render it borderline incoherent and an absolute chore to sit through." —

If you were thinking that The Shack would be a great discussion facilitator so that your pagan friends would be interested in becoming Christians, think again. You have a greater chance of annoying your pagan friends with The Shack than starting a meaningful conversation about Christ and Him Crucified for their sins.

If you want to evangelize your friends and neighbors use the Bible and one of the four Gospels in the New Testament.  The Apostle John even says that the reason he penned his Gospel was for the purpose of evangelism, "these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31) Plus, if you share one of the Four Gospels with your pagan friends you don't have to worry about them being taught heretical doctrine. The same cannot be said about The Shack.

BTW Jorey Micah hates this critique of The Shack and thinks that it is racist and sexist ;-)~

Inauguration and Coronation

The time has come again for the United States to inaugurate a new president. It has been eight years since we’ve had a new Commander-in-Chief and regardless of your politics inaugurations are important.

In this political season as we watch the new president take office, recall that our true citizenship is not in any of the nations of this earth. The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20 that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”.  Since this is the case, let us reflect on Jesus’ coronation, the day He was officially crowned King. The scriptures record this for us in Matthew 27:27–31:

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

Yes, that is correct. Jesus was crowned King in the midst of His suffering for our sins. The Church Father Chromatius reflecting on the deep truth and mystery of this reality wrote of this passage:

These things were done to mock Jesus. But now we know these things happened through a heavenly mystery. Wickedness was at work among the former; among the latter, the mystery of faith and the light of truth. In the purple tunic Christ is dressed as king; and in the scarlet robe, as prince of martyrs, he is resplendent as precious scarlet in his sacred blood. He receives the crown as conqueror, for crowns are usually bestowed upon conquerors. He is adored as God by people on bended knees. Therefore he is vested in purple as king, in scarlet as prince of martyrs; he is crowned as conqueror, is hailed as Lord and is adored as God.

After His coronation, Jesus’ first act as King as was not to assemble His cabinet, start a war or even send a strong warning to His adversaries. Instead, Jesus first act was to bleed and die for His enemies so that they could be reconciled to God. Romans 5:6–10 says: 

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son

Through His death Jesus canceled the record of debt that stood against us so that we could be forgiven of our sins (Col 2:13-14). In all of the history of human kings you will never read of one more selfless and loving than King Jesus. He laid down His life so that you could be forgiven and live.

Our King is nothing like the kings of the earth or even the President of the United States. King Jesus truly is the Prince of Peace.

So, as we reflect on the changing of the guard in the White House, let us use the occasion to ponder the great tragedy and beauty of Jesus’ coronation because He is our King.

A Call to Repentance

Dear Friends:

We join with others in expressing our shared grief regarding these latest allegations, as well as our thankfulness for the courageous women who came forward to tell their stories. We join our prayers together that they will receive the care and support that they need to heal and move forward in their lives. 

In the wake of the initial revelation in June of 2015 that Tullian Tchividjian had engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship, a group of pastors and friends reached out to him in accordance with scripture’s clear admonition in Galatians 6:1–2: 

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

In the months that followed, we were encouraged that Tullian seemed committed to walking a path of healing and renewal through repentance under the authority of his church of membership. However, later disclosures, and these most recent allegations, cast grave doubts over the sincerity of this commitment. 

Inasmuch as Tullian Tchividjian has habitually and impenitently used his public platform, his family’s good name, and the name of Christ for his own selfish ends, we believe that he has disqualified himself from any form of public vocational ministry.

For the sake of his eternal soul, we implore Tullian Tchividjian to repent of his wickedness and demonstrate his repentance by submitting himself to the leadership of his church of membership, pursuing forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation with those whom he has sinned against.

We send our plea to Tullian in a spirit of gentleness and with broken hearts.

May Christ have mercy.

Pastor R.J. Grunewald
Pastor Kevin Labby
Pastor Matt Popovits
Pastor Donovan Riley
Pastor Chris Rosebrough
Paul David Tripp
Mrs. Elyse Fitzpatrick
Mrs. Kimm Crandall

Modern Restoration of Apostles?

What the N.A.R. Really Teaches
by Chris Rosebrough

For nineteen centuries the church has existed without any living apostles who operated in the same power, authority and office as Peter, James, John, Paul and the others whom Jesus sent into the world to make disciples. But for those who buy into the ideas and teachings of the New Apostolic Reformation (N.A.R.), this is a tragic turn of events and a grave error committed by the historic Church. Joseph Mattera, the head of The United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders, writing in Charisma Magazine about the historical loss of apostles in the church explained the problem this way:

It is tragic when the vast potential of an individual or entity is limited or eliminated because there is no room for their gifts. In the case of a lion, when captured and encaged, it loses its aggressive roar because it is forced to be localized into the confines of a cage.

It may be a lion, but it is no different from a house cat because, like a house cat, it no longer has to claim its territory and hunt to satisfy its hunger, and is content to stay confined within a building!

To me, all of this is related to the condition of the local church after it ceases to recognize the ministry and function of apostles. This results in cutting off the pioneering spirit and apostolic call to conquer and expand kingdom influence.

(I don't necessarily think people have to use the title of apostle; the function is what is most important.)

In the case of church history, centuries ago we replaced the title (and consequently the function) of apostle and replaced it with the office of bishop. This vastly changed the nature and mission of the local and universal church. Apostles in the New Testament were the "sent ones" who, as military generals, were called to lead the church in mission as they were sent out to conquer new territories by planting churches and kingdom influence in key cities of the old Greco-Roman world. (For example, Paul the apostle started churches in over 30 key cities before the commencement of the first century!)

The office of bishop was primarily meant to oversee and administrate local churches: First starting in a local church (1 Tim. 3) which then evolved into overseeing a parish, then a diocese and then a region that included other bishops (hence they became archbishops or metropolitan bishops). However, as bishops became the apostolic successors it connoted a change from adventure, pioneering and conquering new territories (e.g., Paul, who prioritized going where Christ was not named as we read in 2 Cor. 10:10-14) to one of settling and maintaining the church and focusing primarily on church life, polity and politics.

Not only that, but after the Protestant Reformation many (in response to the abuse of the bishops and popes) even eradicated the office of bishop and opted instead for a Presbyterian form of government (whether for good or bad) which only recognizes pastors, elder and teachers in the church. The eradication of the bishopric further isolated and fragmented the emerging evangelical church and resulted in numerous denominations and independent local churches. (For example, when the Eastern Church split from Roman Catholicism in the 11th century, it remained virtually unified and intact because they kept the bishopric and/or the episcopate.)

Getting back to apostolic ministry, it is essential that we recapture the function (if not the title) of apostolic ministry once again so the lions of the church are released from their cages to go out and hunt (metaphorically speaking) and expand kingdom influence! The early church never saw their congregations as separate from the apostolic ministry and function of their recognized apostles. [emphasis added][1]

Mattera’s believes (and a significant number of Charismatics would agree with him) the Church has been stymied and limited by the apparent erroneous belief that apostles were no longer needed in the church. Note that Mattera’s explanation is that Bishops filled the role of the Apostle’s but according to Mattera with the change of title also came a change of function and eventually a loss of the apostolic function altogether. The solution to this problem according to Mattera is for the church to change course and return to apostolic ministry. To do that God would have to send a new crop of apostles into His church.

C. Peter Wagner and his associates in the New Apostolic Reformation, openly claim that God has already restored the office of Apostle, and there are men and women around the world today operating from within that office with more on the way. Wrote Wagner:

Are there apostles in our churches today?

Most Christians would affirm that they believe in apostles because Jesus led a group of 12 of them. However, apostles are generally seen as figures of a bygone age, like Vikings, Roman legions, Spanish conquistadors, or pioneers in covered wagons. They made their contributions to history, but the world has moved on.

One reason why this kind of thinking is so prevalent is that this is what most of our church leaders were taught in seminary and Bible school. I know— I was one of them. The notion that there could be contemporary apostles never came up in the seminaries I attended, not even as a suggestion. We were taught that the original 12 apostles had a singular, one-of-a-kind mission that was completed by the time of their deaths, and that was that— the end of the brief life of apostles on Earth. Consequently, I graduated assuming that apostles did not continue long after the first hundred years or so of the Church.

Not so! We are now living in the midst of one of the most epochal changes in the structure of the Church that has ever been recorded. I like to call it the “Second Apostolic Age.”…

The Second Apostolic Age is a phenomenon of the twenty-first century. My studies indicate that it began around the year 2001.[Emphasis added][2]

Wagner’s claims are breathtaking! Regardless of whether or not they’re true, the claim that they are true is having and will continue to have an immeasurable impact on the church.

This paper will examine the claims by Wagner and others that God has restored Apostles to the church and then provide a brief Biblical rebuttal.

Scriptural Foundation for the Return of Apostles

The claim that God has restored Apostles to the church is huge. So huge in fact that one cannot make a claim of that magnitude without attempting to back it up from scripture. C. Peter Wagner in his book Apostles Today tries to provide a Biblical foundation for this claim. Wagner offers three verses to back up his claims. They are Ephesians 4:11, Ephesians 2:20 and 1 Corinthians 12:28. In Wagner’s interpretation of these texts, it becomes clear that he believes that they reveal an ecclesiastical structure that God intended to continue throughout the history of the church.  Below is Wagner's Biblical explanation for his claim that God has restored apostles to the church:

There are three Scripture verses that serve as the primary proof texts for recognizing the gift and office of apostle. Many other texts support this, but these three are core: Ephesians 4: 11, Ephesians 2: 20, and 1 Corinthians 12: 28. Let’s examine each of them.

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers (Eph. 4: 11).

As the verse indicates, the five foundational, governmental, equipping offices are apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. The “He” is Jesus, who gave these gifts to His people when He ascended into heaven after rising from the dead and spending 40 days with His disciples (see Eph. 4: 8). He subsequently gave gifted people to the Church on two levels: (1) the foundational or governmental level (see Eph. 4: 11), and (2) the ministry level through the saints (see Eph. 4: 12).

A common term for these five offices is “the ascension gifts,” because Jesus first gave them at His ascension. Many people refer to them as “the fivefold ministry.” However, this may not be the best term, because “ministry” is not mentioned in verse 11 but in verse 12, as the role of all of the saints, while apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are those who equip the rest of the saints to do their ministry. This may seem like a minor point, but it is the reason I refer to the five ascension gifts as “foundational” or “governmental” or “equipping” offices.

[The household of God, i.e., the church, is] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2: 20).

A well-known hymn states that “the church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.” This is obviously true in a general, theological sense because there would be no Church at all without the Person and work of Jesus Christ. However, in the nuts and bolts of the growth and development of the Church after He ascended and left the earth, Jesus apparently prefers to be thought of not as the foundation but as the cornerstone. The foundation of the Church through the ages is to be made up of apostles and prophets. The cornerstone is essential because it is the primary building block, the identifying, central stone that holds the foundation together and guides the laying of all subsequent blocks that go into constructing the building. If a church has Jesus without apostles and prophets, it has no foundation from which to initiate solid building. The two go hand in hand; there cannot be one without the other.

The wording of this verse—“ built on the foundation”— is another reason why I call apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers the “foundational” offices.

And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues (1 Cor. 12: 28).

The numbers in the verse, proton (first), deúteron (second), and tríton (third), indicate that this not simply a random selection of gifts and offices. Proton in this instance should be interpreted to mean that apostles are first in order or sequence, not necessarily in importance or hierarchy. Hierarchy is an old-wineskin concept. To put it simply, a church without apostles will not function as well as a church with apostles.[emphasis added][3]

It is significant to note that every time Scripture mentions the role of the apostles in the church that Wagner understands the texts to be discussing an ongoing set of offices in the church. This interpretation is accomplished by the changing of the noun “foundation” into the adjective “foundational”. Although at first glance this seems insignificant, Wagner’s changing of a noun into an adjective changes the whole sense and meaning of the texts. It is because of this shift in meaning that Wagner believes that these passages reveal an ongoing and never changing ecclesiastical structure for the church that Christ intended would remain in place until His return.

Wagner is aware of how the church has historically understood these texts, Protestants in particular. Wagner not only rejects this historical understanding, he believes that this misunderstanding has limited the church and held it back from fulfilling its mission:

The traditional Protestant Church has understood apostles and prophets to be offices relegated to the First Apostolic Age but not continuing in churches throughout history. Based on that understanding (that there are no longer apostles and prophets in our churches), then teachers, who are next in line according to l Corinthians 12: 28, would now be first in order. Obviously, this is not so.

Protestant denominationalism over the past 500 years has been, for the most part, governed by teachers and administrators, rather than by apostles and prophets. That means that denominational executives are actually administrators— good, godly and wise ones, but administrators nonetheless. Most pastors of local churches are assumed to be teachers (at least ever since the sermon became the central point of weekly congregational gathering), with the sermon being their primary vehicle for teaching their people. It is fascinating that even though we have had church government backward over the past two centuries according to 1 Corinthians 12: 28, we have evangelized so much of the world! Think of what will happen now that church government is getting in proper order. Administrators and teachers are essential for good church health and will function much better once the apostles and prophets are in place.[emphasis added][4]

Note that Wagner’s view assumes that we’ve been without apostles almost two millennia but in his mind that has already changed. Although the church has been effective in evangelizing much of the world it will be far more effective now that God has restored apostles and prophets and the Second Apostolic Age has begun.

In his discussion of the objections that some Christians may have to embracing the reality of the Second Apostolic Age, Wagner lays out his most significant interpretive point regarding Ephesians 4:11 and how he believes that this passage requires the church to always have apostles:

A major stumbling block in the minds of many who first hear this news of the Second Apostolic Age has been the assumption that once the apostles and prophets completed their work of laying the foundation of the Church in the first couple of centuries, that ended the divine assignment of apostles on Earth— as if they were no longer needed. This deeply entrenched notion cannot be biblically sustained, however, given the statement of Ephesians 4: 11. After saying that Jesus gave to the Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, the length of time they would be needed is then stated: “Until we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4: 13). Who in their right mind can claim that we have arrived at that point? The only reasonable conclusion is that we are still in need of all five offices.[emphasis Wagner’s][5]

Wagner believes that because Eph. 4:13 states “until we all come to the unity of the faith” that God has revealed that His original intention (which has been clearly thwarted) for the church was to replenish the apostolic office and raise up apostles until the perfection of the church.

Sources of God’s Revelation

It is one thing to say that my interpretation of the Biblical texts states that God never intended for the church to be without apostles and something entirely different to say that God began restoring apostles around the year 2001 and we’ve now entered the Second Apostolic Age. The first is a matter of rightly understanding Biblical revelation while the second requires an extra-Biblical source of God’s revelation. It is important that the reader understands that C. Peter Wagner and the N.A.R. as a whole rejects the principle of Sola Scriptura. They instead believe that God is speaking in many ways today. As a result, determining what God is saying and doing, in their view, requires Christians to read their Bibles, listen to what God is saying to modern prophets and apostles as well as rightly interpreting the current works of God.  Wagner calls this the phenomenological approach. His explanation for this approach is as follows:

I want to make it clear that my research methodology is not philosophical or theological (in the classical sense) nor exegetical or revelational, but rather phenomenological. I am not saying that any of these methodologies is right or wrong. Phenomenology clearly is not superior to exegesis. It is merely my personal choice. The phenomenological approach leads me to employ terms not found in the Bible, because I believe it is not necessary to only use the Word of God but to also combine the Word of God with accurate observations of the present-day works of God. I am not approaching this so much from the question of what God ought to do as much as what God is actually doing. What the Spirit has said to the churches is one thing, but what the Spirit is now saying to the churches is another.[6]

In other words, Wagner claims that he is a careful student of multiple streams of God’s revelation and is asserting that a significant portion of what he is teaching regarding the restoration of apostles is not based on scripture but has been revealed by God in other places.

This view that God is currently speaking outside of His written word has significant implications in regards to the church’s doctrine. Bill Hamon, another major thought leader in the N.A.R. who also subscribes to the same formal principle as Wagner, in his book titled Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God: God's End-Time Plans for His Church and Planet Earth explains how this approach to understanding the multiple streams of God’s revelation impacts the church’s doctrine:

First of all, fivefold ministers are the headship directors for establishing Biblical principles, teachings and church doctrine. trine. New Testament doctrine was established by proper revelation and application of the Logos Scripture, which was the Old Testament at that time. There was no collection of writings by the apostles or church prophets that was acknowledged edged as equal to the writing of the Old Testament prophets and the Law of Moses. Church order, doctrine and practices were not established by prophecy, visions, dreams or personal spiritual experiences of any private individual (2 Pet. 1:20). Doctrine that would be applicable to the whole Church was not determined by one great apostle, who could make papal decrees that would become binding doctrine for the whole Church. The scriptures dealing with the Council at Jerusalem show that apostles, prophets, visions and personal experiences are Biblical means that the Holy Spirit can use to gain our attention, enlighten our understanding or prepare us to receive a doctrinal truth that God is about to reveal. But such personal spiritual experiences should not be the sole basis for formulating a doctrine.[7]

Note that Hamon is arguing for the church to return to a pattern that he believes is revealed in the Book of Acts for determining doctrine. What is fascinating about his view is that while it acknowledges that there was a time in the church’s history that the Apostle’s writings and teachings hadn’t been collected he does not seem all too interested in putting much weight on what those Apostle’s later wrote. Instead, Hamon sees that time in church history reveals an ongoing pattern that the church should be currently emulating. Wrote Hamon:

I personally believe that in the 1990's and into the 21st century, as prophets and apostles are being restored back to proper order and function within the Church, many of these church councils of leading present-truth ministers will be necessary. One particular apostle or prophet or camp will never receive the whole revelation for the establishing of prophets and apostles back into the Church. Many will have visions (even of Jesus), dreams, rhemas, angelic visitations and supernatural personal experiences and sovereign moves of the Holy Spirit in their meetings. But doctrines that claim to be binding on all Christians must not be established by only one apostle, prophet or camp. There must be meetings of a church council with other leaders of past and present restorational streams of truth.[8]

It is clear from this quote that Hamon is arguing that the church should expect God to be revealing new doctrine today and that he believes these new doctrines are binding on all of Christ’s church.

How exactly then is the church to determine which current day revelations from God rise to the level of binding doctrine? Hamon proposes five principles:

Five Principles for Establishing Doctrine. When the fivefold fold ministers come together to consider doctrines and practices this way, they will need to keep several areas of insight in mind: (1) the claimed revelation from God; (2) the fruit of the ministry among those who have received the doctrine or practice; (3) the supernatural working of God accompanying it; (4) the Logos and Rhema word of God application and authority for the doctrine or practice; and (5) the witness of the Spirit and the unified consent of those present.[9]

In other words, Hamon, Wagner, and others believe that modern day apostles (just like Jesus’ apostles) not only have the authority but they also have a mechanism for establishing doctrines in the church. It is vital to understand this as the rest of this paper unfolds. The reason for this is that much of what follows regarding the definition and roles of modern day apostles does not come from scripture but is derived from the other streams of “revelation”.

Definition and Roles of an Apostle

Since Wagner, Hamon, and others in the New Apostolic Reformation believe that we have now entered the Second Apostolic Age and God has sent and continues to send Apostles into His church it is vital to understand how they define an apostle and what functions and roles they believe they fulfill.

Wagner, in describing the distinctions between ordinary believers and those holding one of the fivefold offices in the church explains the differences in terms of degrees and scope of direct revelation from God:

Whereas every believer can and should hear directly from the Holy Spirit, it is only the apostles, in proper relation to prophets, who hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Parents hear what the Spirit is saying to their families. CEOs hear what the Spirit is saying to their businesses. Teachers hear what the Spirit is saying to their classes. Pastors hear what the Spirit is saying to their church (singular). But apostles, along with prophets, are those who hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches (plural). That is what Paul means when he writes, “[ The mystery of Christ] which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” [emphasis was added by Wagner][10]

In other words, pastors should expect to hear directly from God revelations pertaining to his individual congregation. But prophets and apostles hear revelation from God that is meant to be believed and applied in many or even all Christian congregations. It is with this understanding regarding the type and scope of revelation that today’s apostles are to receive from God that Wagner proposes a definition of an apostle. Said Wagner:

An apostle is a Christian leader, gifted, taught, commissioned, and sent by God with the authority to establish the foundational government of the church within an assigned sphere of ministry by hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches and by setting things in order accordingly for the growth and maturity of the church and for the extension of the kingdom of God.[11]

It is important to note again that Wagner is relying on his change of the noun “foundation” to the adjective “foundational” to come up with this definition of an apostle. Although, Wagner provides a precise definition of what he believes an apostle is, the claim that apostles exist today opens up a whole host of questions, the most important of them being, “what are the duties and functions of the apostolic office that the church should expect the modern apostles to be exercising?” Wagner cannot point to a concise Biblical list of clear duties that those holding the apostolic office today are supposed to fulfill because, unlike the pastoral office, such a list doesn’t exist in scripture. Instead, Wagner, based on his observations from both scripture and what God is supposedly revealing in the church today has created a list of roles and functions that today’s apostles are supposed to accomplish. According to Wagner the duties of modern apostles are as follows:

• They receive revelation. Apostles hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Some of this revelation comes directly to them, some of it is received together with prophets, and at other times through proper relationships with prophets.

• They cast vision. An apostle’s vision is based on the revelation he or she receives.

• They birth. Apostles are self-starters who begin new things.

• They impart. God uses apostles to activate His blessings in others (see Rom. 1: 11).

• They build. Apostles strategize and find ways to carry a project along its intended course, including any funding that may be required. •

• They govern. Apostles are skilled in setting things in order. Along with prophets, they lay the biblical foundation of the Kingdom (see Eph. 2: 20).

• They teach. Early believers “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching” (see Acts 2: 42).

• They send. Apostles send out those who are equipped to fulfill their role in expanding the kingdom of God.

• They finish. Apostles are able to bring a project or a season of God to its desired conclusion. They are uneasy until the project is done. They seldom burn out.

• They war. Apostles are the generals in the army of God. They lead the church in spiritual warfare.

• They align generations. Apostles have a long-range perspective on the purposes of God, and they raise up second-tier leadership for the future. Another way of saying this is that they father or mother children in the faith. “For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers” (1 Cor. 4: 15). An excellent resource for this point is Larry Kreider’s book The Cry for Spiritual Fathers and Mothers.

• They equip. Ephesians 4: 12 says that apostles equip the saints for the work of the ministry.[12]

From this list of roles and duties, it is clear that Wagner’s vision of what modern apostles are supposed to accomplish in their office today is much more expansive than the functions and roles that Jesus’ apostles were responsible for fulfilling. Clearly there has been an upgrade to the office and with the update has come new tasks. Not only has the Second Apostolic Age brought with it new apostolic functions, but it has also brought with it a variety of new types of apostles.

New and Varied Types of Apostles

In what could only be described as the most significant doctrinal “development” since Rome invented the doctrine of the Papacy, C. Peter Wagner, based solely on his observations of what God is supposedly doing in the church today, has discovered that not only has God restored apostles to the church, He’s also created new kinds and types of apostles. The three main types of apostles being:

• Vertical apostles: These apostles lead organizations, such as apostolic networks, and provide direct “spiritual covering” (counsel and correction) for those in their networks.

Horizontal apostles: These apostles lead groups of peers— such as all the pastors in a city or all the apostles in a nation— to work together to accomplish specific purposes.

Workplace apostles: These apostles provide leadership for Christians working in different sectors of society (for example, real estate, government, health care, or the media).[13]

Wagner also claims that there are subcategories of both Vertical apostles and Horizontal apostles. The four subcategories of Vertical apostles are as follows:

Ecclesiastical apostles: These apostles lead apostolic networks of churches and parachurch ministries; examples include Ché Ahn (Harvest International Ministry, based in Pasadena, California), Bill Hamon (Christian International Ministries, based in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida), and Naomi Dowdy (Global Leadership Network, based in Singapore).

Apostolic team members: These apostles are part of a leadership team that supports an apostle in the governance of his or her ministry. They can be other apostles who minister under the ecclesiastical apostle. Having an apostolic team allows an apostolic network to grow much larger because a single apostle can’t provide direct oversight of hundreds or thousands of churches— and direct oversight is seen as crucial to the health of the network. 150 For example, HIM— an apostolic network of more than 20,000 churches— is led by presiding apostle Ché Ahn but also has an apostolic team under Ahn’s leadership made up of apostles Sam and Linda Caster, Brian and Candace Simmons, Charles and Anne Stock, Mark and Ann Tubbs, and Lance and Annabelle Wallnau.

• Functional apostles: These apostles lead individuals or groups working within a specialized area of ministry; an example is Jane Hansen (Aglow International, an organization for women based in Edmonds, Washington).

• Congregational apostles: These apostles lead large churches, such as pastors of megachurches.[14]

The four subcategories of Horizontal apostles are as follows:

Convening apostles: These apostles call together peer-level leaders who minister in a specific field. Wagner has acted as the convening apostle over a number of groups, including ICAL, the ACPE, and the International Society of Deliverance Ministers.

Ambassadorial apostles: These are itinerant apostles who catalyze apostolic movements in nations and various regions of the world through activities such as convening regional apostolic summits or assisting apostles in organizing their networks. John Kelly— before becoming the convening apostle of ICAL— served as the coalition’s ambassadorial apostle.

Mobilizing apostles: These apostles mobilize Christians for a specific cause or project. For example, Cindy Jacobs mobilizes Christians in prayer and spiritual warfare efforts to reform America back to its “biblical roots.”

Territorial apostles: These apostles provide leadership in specific regions, such as cities, states, and nations. For example, John Benefiel is seen as a territorial apostle in the state of Oklahoma. Doug Stringer has been seen as a territorial apostle in Houston, Texas.[15]

With all of these new and varied types of apostles along with Wagner’s further observation that apostolic hybrids are also possible (i.e. Ambassadorial-Territorial apostles) how one goes about discovering they’re an apostle and which type they are is beyond the scope of this paper. Suffice it to say that its complex and almost impossible to figure out on your own (don’t worry though the N.A.R. has living prophets that are all to willing to help you sort this out once you agree to recognize that God is speaking directly through them).

A Brief Critique

There is much that can be said by way of critique when it comes to these claims that God has restored apostles to the church and has inaugurated a Second Apostolic Age. However, what is most obviously in error is Wagner’s, Hamon’s and others’ presupposition that the church has been without apostles and prophets for nearly 2000 years. Nothing could be further from the truth.

For nearly two millennia the church has confessed the belief in “one holy, catholic and apostolic church.” In so doing, the church has confessed that Jesus’ apostles are still in the process of fulfilling their duty to “make disciples of all nations.” Lutheran dogmatician, Francis Pieper, in discussing what it means for the church to be apostolic states:

The Church is Apostolic (ecclesia apostolica) inasmuch as all its members to the Last Day come to faith in Christ through the Word of the Apostles (John 17:20: πιστεύσοντες διὰ λόγου αὐτῶν εἰς ἐμέ) and cling to the Word of the Apostles (Acts 2:42: προσκαρτεροῦντες τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων), and this over against all departures from the truth of Scripture. Rom. 16:17: “Avoid them,” namely, those who “cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned.” The endeavor of the Romanists and the Anglicans to derive the Apostolic character of the Church from the “Apostolic Succession” has correctly been termed childish folly, because Scripture (a) makes no distinction between bishops and teaching elders, or pastors (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7) and (b) tells us to avoid all teachers who depart from the Apostolic Gospel, no matter whether they are called bishops, elders, or otherwise (Rom. 16:17; Gal. 1:6–8)[16]

In other words, confessing that the church is apostolic is to confess that she is built on the doctrine and words of Jesus’ apostles. Jesus, in the 1st century, speaking of the ones He would send (the apostles) said of them, “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16) Since Jesus never personally wrote any books or letters, the only way we learn of what Jesus taught and said is through the ones he sent to be his authorized envoys (a.k.a. apostles). This explains why scripture says that the earliest Christians, “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42). This understanding of the ongoing work of Jesus’ apostles then gives us the proper way to understand Ephesians 2:20. Rather than understanding it to be describing a ‘foundational’ governing structure in the church it instead reveals that the apostles are the ongoing foundation of the church with Christ as its cornerstone. Regarding this passage Francis Pieper wrote:

To be sure, Christ’s person is the cornerstone of His Church (Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:6). But we find Christ nowhere else than in His Word. Only as we believe, and stand on, the Apostolic and Prophetic Word, which is Christ’s Word, are we built on Christ the Cornerstone. That is clearly stated in the words immediately preceding: “built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets.” Whoever pushes the Word of the Apostles and Prophets away is not standing on Christ; Christ is not there. “When I am without the Word, do not meditate on it, and occupy myself with it, there is no Christ at home” (Luther).[17]


Ephesians 2:20 reveals that the church has never been without apostles. Instead, the church’s apostles have always been Matthew, Peter, James, John, Paul etc. This text also reveals that the church has always had prophets. They are Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Hosea and the rest. Both the Apostles and the Prophets continue to teach us by virtue of the fact that their words have been written down and now comprise the living and active Word of God. Therefore, whatever part of the church that God is building today will always be built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets through the written Word of God which they left us.

Another insurmountable problem for those who believe in modern day apostles is the fact that the Biblical requirements for one to hold the Office of Apostle as laid out in Acts 1:21-22; namely that the man must have been a part of the group of Jesus’ disciples from the time of His baptism, until His death and be an eye-witness of His resurrection and then be chosen and sent by Him (Acts 1:26) make it painfully clear that no one living today can meet these qualifications and therefore categorically rules out the existence of modern day Apostles altogether. Furthermore, since the scriptures do not provide the church with a list of qualifications and duties for those who aspire to hold the Apostolic Office like it does for those who aspire to the pastoral office, the scriptures assume, by this vital omission, that the office itself is closed, and no one will be filling the Apostolic Office after the death of those whom Christ put into that office. The fact that C. Peter Wagner has had to concoct his own list of qualifications and duties for those aspiring to be apostles today, despite his attempts at appealing to alternative (dubious) sources of divine revelation, is further proof that God never intended the Apostolic Office to continue in perpetuity. If God had always intended that, then God would have provided the list of qualifications and duties for apostles in scripture 2000 years ago.


This paper has examined the claims of leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation like C. Peter Wagner and Bill Hamon that God has restored the Apostolic Office and has inaugurated a Second Apostolic Age and has found that these claims cannot be squared with scripture.  Despite the fact that these claims cannot hold up even under the most basic Biblical scrutiny, it does not change the fact that there is now a small but growing army of men and women claiming to be apostles who’ve set up shop in the church today. Although they claim and believe that they are sent by Christ as His apostles, that is not the case at all. This means that at best they have sent themselves and at worst they were sent by the devil. This fact makes the New Apostolic Reformation one of the most dangerous and destructive movements in the visible church today.


End Notes

[1] Mattera, Joseph. "The Tragic Elimination of the Apostolic From the Church." Charisma Magazine. May 15, 2016. Accessed May 18, 2016.

[2] Wagner, C. Peter (2012-03-08). Apostles Today (p. 6). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[3] Ibid. pp. 10-12

[4] Ibid. p. 12

[5] Ibid. pp. 12-13

[6] Wagner, C. Peter (2012-03-08). Apostles Today (p. 77). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[7] Bill Hamon. Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God: God's End-Time Plans for His Church and Planet Earth (Kindle Locations 591-597). Kindle Edition.

[8] Ibid., Kindle Locations 615-620

[9] Ibid., Kindle Locations 620-623

[10] Wagner, C. Peter (2012-03-08). Apostles Today (p. 81). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[11] Ibid. p. 27

[12] Ibid. pp. 28-29

[13] Geivett, R. Douglas; Pivec, Holly (2014-11-14). A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement (Kindle Locations 974-979). Weaver Book Company. Kindle Edition.

[14] Ibid., Kindle Locations 991-1000

[15] Ibid., Kindle Locations 1002-1012

[16] Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, electronic ed., vol. 3 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953), 411–412.

[17] Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, electronic ed., vol. 1 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953), 124.


Geivett, R. Douglas., and Holly Pivec. A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement. Wooster, OH: Weaver Book, 2014. Kindle Edition.

Hamon, Bill. Apostles Prophets and the Coming Moves of God: God's End-time Plans for His Church and Planet Earth. Santa Rosa Beach, FL: Christian International, 1997. Kindle Edition.

Joyner, Rick. The Apostolic Ministry. Fort Mill, SC: MorningStar Publications, 2006. Kindle Edition.

Mattera, Joseph. "The Tragic Elimination of the Apostolic From the Church." Charisma Magazine. May 15, 2016. Accessed May 18, 2016.

Pieper, Francis, Christian Dogmatics, electronic ed., vol. 1 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953)

Tappert , Theodore G., ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959)

Wagner, C. Peter. Apostles and Prophets: The Foundation of the Church. Ventura, CA: Regal, 2000. Kindle Edition

Wagner, C. Peter Apostles Today. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Publishing Group, 2006) Kindle Edition

Debunking Postmodern Liberal Claims That Penal Substitutionary Atonement Didn't Exist Until 1,000 Years After Christ

Liberal theology is a funny thing. While claiming to be engaging in Christian theology, modernist liberals and postmodern emergent liberals both appear to be very busy deconstructing, denying and destroying the central doctrines of the Christian faith. One doctrine that is particularly offensive to liberal theologians is the doctrine of Christ’s vicarious penal substitutionary atonement for the sins of the world. Early adopters of postmodernity and recognized thought leaders in the Emergent Church Movement, Steve Chalke and Alan Mann, in their 2003 book The Lost Message of Jesus succinctly explain their disgust with the thought that Jesus’ death on the cross was the punishment for our sins:

The fact is that the cross isn't a form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement: ‘God is love’. If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus' own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil. [1]

Describing the belief that Christ died for our sins as a ‘form of cosmic child abuse’ pretty much captures their repulsion at the thought that Jesus death was vicarious. It 's hard to find a more vitriolic description of that doctrine. Along with the vitriol, the postmodern liberals have developed a sophisticated explanation for the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement that includes claims that it is a man-made doctrine developed over a thousand years after Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.

This paper will examine the veracity of the claims of Emergent postmodern liberals that the understanding that Jesus’ death was a vicarious and penal substitutionary atonement was unknown to the early church and was a late theological development as an explanation of Jesus death on the cross. It will do this by evaluating Isaiah’s Suffering Servant Song in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and how the Church Father’s understood this passage.

Did the Early Church Have No Concept Penal Substitution?

Tony Jones, one of the prominent leaders of the Emergent Church, a movement committed to redefining and reimagining Christianity for the postmodern generation, in his book The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier expressed his revulsion to penal substitution as a explanation of Jesus’ death on the cross. In the process he claimed that the first 1,000 years of Christianity contained no clear or robust articulations of penal substitution:

the atonement is the Christian doctrine that attempts to explain how Jesus' death on the cross amends for human sin and reconciles human beings to God. This pastor's understanding of the atonement is called penal substitution or propitiation, which is the theory that God's hatred of human sin was imputed to Jesus Christ, who then atoned for that sin with his death. Theologians call it a "forensic theory" since its evolution was concomitant with the development of the Western legal mind. The theory, based primarily on Paul's letter to the Romans and the anonymous letter to the Hebrews, is based on the idea that God's perfect justice demands an atonement for the egregious insult of human sin. Jesus, being sinless, is able to atone for the sins of humanity in his death, and that forgiveness is then available to any human being who accepts it. The first robust articulation of the penal substitution theory was Cur Deus Homo? (Why a God-Man?) by Anselm of Canterbury (1034-1109).(emphasis added)[2]

A few years later, Jones wrote a book dedicated to a discussion of “atonement theories” in which he further developed his claim that penal substitution was not taught or embraced during the first millennium of Christianity and the cultural reasons why he believes that was the case. The context of his discussion of the topic is Jones’ recounting of a face to face conversation that he and his fellow Emergent leader Doug Pagitt had with the famous Reformed pastor, John Piper:

We met on a September afternoon. I brought Doug Pagitt, and Piper brought three of his co-workers. Piper said he’d never heard of me before and that he was only vaguely aware of Emergent Village. His beef is with the writings of Brian McLaren and Steve Chalke. He’s read Chalke’s book, and says that he was “personally hurt” by Steve’s characterization of the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement as “cosmic child abuse.” I didn’t get the impression that Piper has read anything by McLaren, but McLaren’s endorsement of Chalke’s book was enough to concern Piper. The lunch was nearly two hours long, so I am not able to recount everything that took place. I will reiterate what Piper said at the conference: we are all passionate persons, and the dialogue was predictably fiery. But it was also very respectful and generous, on both sides…

I do not think that one theory interpreting that event to be sufficient. Every theory of the atonement is 1) human, and 2) bound to a context. For example, the penal substitution—while there are seeds of it in Pauline writings—is tied to the development of the Western legal mind. Nor am I willing to condemn the billions of faithful Christians who have lived and died in the past two millennia with alternate understandings of the atonement. When I expressed these thoughts at the lunch, Piper looked at me and said, “You should never preach.” His point was that my ideas about historical context would merely confuse listeners. He said this with a smile on his face, but then he turned serious and said that people need “fixed points of doctrine” in order to believe in Christianity. Not only do I disagree with that statement, I most definitely disagree with Piper on which points are most important.

Most of us in Western Christianity were raised with one version of the atonement—the same one that John Piper holds so steadfastly: the penal substitutionary view. There are reasons, both cultural and theological, that this understanding of the atonement has been dominant for the past 1,000 years. While some might argue otherwise, PSA was unknown before its development by Anselm of Canterbury in his 1098 book, Cur Deus Homo (Why a God-Man?). Therein, Anselm introduced the first substitutionary explanation of the atonement. Anselm rejected versions of the atonement that give Satan a hand in the transaction. It’s not Satan from whom we must be rescued, Anselm posited, but our own sin. Or, thinking of it another way, from the anger that God justly holds against us because of our sin.

“Every inclination of the rational creature ought to be subject to the will of God,” Anselm wrote, but our sinfulness precludes this possibility. Further, among God’s eternal characteristics is justice. By this reasoning, God cannot possibly forgive human sin without some recompense, for to do so would undermine the eternal laws of justice. And since every human being is sinful, there’s not one human who can make this payment. Only a perfect, sinless God-man can pay the price. Anything less would be unjust.

Any honest look at the genesis of PSA must take account of the era in which Anselm was writing. He was on the front end of the development of the Western legal mind. Just a century later witnessed the writing of the Magna Carta in 1215, the predecessor of the constitutions that now govern Western democracies. The Magna Carta was an attempt to limit the power of King John of England, and to convince the people that his decisions were based on law, not on the arbitrary whims of a monarch who inherited his thrown. Of course, the English monarchy remained strong for centuries after this, but the beginnings of its eventual devolution to the symbolic function that it holds today were written into the Magna Carta.

It’s not that the belief in Satan, required by the Ransom Captive theory (see below), had weakened in the Middle Ages; instead, Anselm was ahead of his time, articulating a sense of justice that eventually led to us living in the most litigious society in the history of our species.

This isn’t (necessarily) a criticism of PSA or of Anselm. It’s merely an acknowledgement of the obvious: Anselm was a man of his time; and PSA appeals to us in large part because our lives are governed by laws that attempt to instantiate justice. Consequently, PSA also lends itself to metaphors, allegories, and parables that appeal to us. For example, this old standby: A judge passes a sentence of death upon on a criminal who deserves nothing less; the judge then stands, removes his robe, and goes to the electric chair in the criminal’s stead.

Now, overlooking the obvious point that no criminal justice system would allow this to pass as justice, can you imagine a preacher in the Middle Ages using this analogy for the atonement? No, of course not, because they had no sense of courts, laws, or criminal justice. For a majority of Christian history this explanation of the atonement was nonsensical, and it still is in many parts of the world even today, that lack functioning legal systems.

Fortunately for us, there have been many other explanations of the atonement developed over the years. (emphasis added)[3]

Jones’ assertions and their implications are breathtakingly bizarre. The ones this paper will address are as follows:

  1. All Atonement Theories are of human origin and are cultural driven attempts to theologically explain Jesus death on the cross.
  2. Penal substitutionary atonement was unknown before it was developed by Anselm of Canterbury, who was the first to introduce a substitutionary explanation for Jesus’ death.
    • The genesis of Anselm’s explanation was the historical/cultural development of functioning legal systems.

Isaiah’s Explanation of Jesus’ Death

Isaiah’s song of the suffering servant in chapters 52:13-53:12, which predates Anselm of Canterbury by more than 1,600 years, is one of the clearest Biblical explanations for the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ. This passage is graphic in its descriptions and explicit in its explanations that the reason for Christ’s sufferings was due to his substitutionary work. The text reads as follows from the ESV (key phrases that explicitly teach PSA are emphasized):

Is. 52:13         Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
                        he shall be high and lifted up,
                        and shall be exalted.
14        As many were astonished at you—
                        his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
                        and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—

15        so shall he sprinkle many nations;
                        kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
             for that which has not been told them they see,
                        and that which they have not heard they understand.

Is. 53:1           Who has believed what he has heard from us?
                        And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2          For he grew up before him like a young plant,
                        and like a root out of dry ground;
             he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
                        and no beauty that we should desire him.
3          He was despised and rejected by men;
                        a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
             and as one from whom men hide their faces
                        he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Is. 53:4           Surely he has borne our griefs
                        and carried our sorrows;
             yet we esteemed him stricken,
                        smitten by God, and afflicted.

5          But he was pierced for our transgressions;
                        he was crushed for our iniquities;
             upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
                        and with his wounds we are healed.
         All we like sheep have gone astray;
                        we have turned—every one—to his own way;
             and the LORD has laid on him
                        the iniquity of us all.

Is. 53:7           He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
                        yet he opened not his mouth;
             like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
                        and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
                        so he opened not his mouth.
8          By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
                        and as for his generation, who considered
             that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
                        stricken for the transgression of my people?
9          And they made his grave with the wicked
                        and with a rich man in his death,
             although he had done no violence,
                        and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Is. 53:10         Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
                        he has put him to grief;
             when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
                        he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
             the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11        Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
             by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
                        make many to be accounted righteous,
                        and he shall bear their iniquities.
12        Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
                        and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
             because he poured out his soul to death
                        and was numbered with the transgressors;
             yet he bore the sin of many,
                        and makes intercession for the transgressors.

The phrases “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (53:5), “his soul makes an offering for guilt” (53:10), he “was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many” (53:12) all are speaking of Christ’s substitutionary work. We will consider each of them in turn. But before that the question that must be answered is how do we know this passage is making reference to Jesus Christ?

Is Isaiah 52:13-53:12 About Jesus?

Isaiah’s prophecies were penned more than six centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ. Modern Jews who reject Jesus as the messiah do not believe that this passage in Isaiah is about Jesus Christ. How do modern Jews interpret this passage and who do they think it is about? The answer to that question is complicated. Michael L. Brown, in his book Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections explains how there is no consensus of interpretation among Jewish scholars. Some interpret Isaiah 53 as referring the corporate people of Israel, while others believe it is referring to the messiah. Wrote Brown:

For the last thousand years, religious Jews have often interpreted Isaiah 53 with reference to the people of Israel, but that has by no means been the consensus interpretation, and it is not the interpretation of the Talmudic rabbis. So, for example, the Targum interprets the passage with reference to the Messiah—as a warring, victorious king, even to the point of completely twisting the meaning of key verses—while the Talmud generally interprets the passage with reference to the Messiah, or key individuals (like Moses or Phineas), or the righteous (for details on this, see 4.8). Note also that Saʿadiah Gaon influential ninth-century Rabbinic leader, interpreted Isaiah 53 with reference to Jeremiah. This means that virtually without exception, the earliest traditional Jewish sources—and therefore the most authoritative Jewish sources—interpret Isaiah 52:13–53:12 with reference to an individual, and in some cases, with reference to the Messiah. As stated above (4.5), this is highly significant.

While it is true that Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Radak all interpreted the passage with reference to Israel, other equally prominent leaders, such as Moses ben Nachman (called Nachmanides or the Ramban), felt compelled to follow the weight of ancient tradition and embrace the individual, Messianic interpretation of the Talmudic rabbis (found in the Midrash, despite his belief that the plain sense of the text supported the national interpretation). Noteworthy also is the oft-quoted comment of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, writing in the sixteenth century, “Our rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the Messiah, and we shall ourselves also adhere to the same view.” This too is highly significant, since Alshech claims that all his contemporaries agreed with the Messianic reading of the text, despite the fact that Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Radak had all come out against that reading. Could it be that Rabbi Alshech and his contemporaries came to their conclusions because the text clearly pointed in that direction? The Messianic interpretation is also found in the Zohar as well as in some later midrashic works.[4]

Brown’s scholarship makes it clear that there is no agreement among Jewish scholars, ancient or modern, regarding who Isaiah was writing about in chapter 53 of his prophecy.

In Christian theological discussion of Isaiah 53 all Jewish debates and uncertainties regarding Isaiah’s referent are inadmissible. The reason for this is that the Apostles, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit explicitly and repeatedly make Jesus the subject of Isaiah’s prophecy. The most explicit New Testament reference to Jesus being the subject of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is found in Acts 8:26–35:

“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” (cf Is. 53:7-8)

And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.”

In this passage Philip, clearly on a special assignment from God, is prompted by an angel and then Holy Spirit Himself to preach the gospel to visiting Ethiopian. As it just so happens, the visiting dignitary is reading from Isaiah 53 and inquires about whom the prophet is speaking and Philip, jumping on this opportunity explains that the passage is about Jesus. 

If the passage in Acts 8 were not proof enough, in Luke 22:35–37 Jesus Himself, references Isaiah 53 and makes it unmistakably clear that it is about Him:

And he [Jesus] said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment. (cf Is. 53:12)

Since there is no greater authority in Christianity than Jesus Christ, a Christian theologian cannot deny that Isaiah 53 is referring to Jesus without risking discrediting himself. Other New Testament passages that reference portions of Isaiah 53 and connect the subject of that passage to Jesus are Matthew 8:14–17, John 12:36–38, Rom 10:14–17, and 1 Pet 2:18–25. The text from 1st Peter not only identifies Jesus as the referent of Isaiah 53 but also explicitly teaches Jesus’ substitutionary work. The passage states:

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth (cf. Is. 53:9). When he was reviled, he did not revile in return (cf. Is. 53:7); when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins (cf. Is. 53:11) in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (cf. Is. 53:5). For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Peter’s quoting from Isaiah 53 is unique in that he has woven portions of that passage into his own eye-witness narrative about Jesus’ passion. In the resulting text Peter quotes from Isaiah 53 out of order while he filling in eye-witness details from Jesus crucifixion. What Peter produces is the perfect blend of prophecy and fulfillment along with theological commentary on the doctrinal meaning and practical implications for the life of all believers as it pertains to Christ’s suffering. G. F. C. Fronmüller in his commentary on 1st Peter not only writes about the explicit teaching of Christ’s substitutionary work in this passage, he ties Peter’s explicit teaching on substitution back to Peter’s use of Isaiah 53. Wrote Fronmüller:

All exegetical attempts to explain away the idea of substitution and the system of sacrifice closely connected with it, are altogether futile. As in the Old Testament, the expressions, “to carry one’s sin,” or, “to bear one’s iniquity,” are equivalent to “suffer the punishment and guilt of one’s sin,” Lev. 20:17, 19; 24:15; Ezek. 23:35, so “to carry another’s sin,” denotes “to suffer the punishment and guilt of another,” or “to suffer vicariously,” Lev. 3:19, 17; Numb. 14:33; Lam. 5:7; Ezek. 18:19, 20. Can this be done in any other way than by the imputation of the guilt and sin of others, as was the case in the sin and guilt-offerings? Weiss is quite arbitrary in persisting to exclude the idea of sacrifice from Is. 53, for v. 10 clearly refers to it. From a Jewish point of view such a separation of the doctrine of substitution from the idea of sacrifice is simply impossible, cf. Jno. 1:29; Lev. 16:21, 22.—The juxtaposition of ἡμῶν and αὐτός both here and in Is. 53 is not insignificant, but gives prominence to the idea of substitution. Calvin says: “As under the law the sinner, in order to become free from sin, offered a sacrifice in his stead, so Christ took upon Himself the curse which we have merited by our sins in order to expiate it before God.” Calov (emphasis added).[5]

These passages in the New Testament make it unmistakably clear that Jesus is the subject of Isaiah 53 and a careful scholar of 1st Peter has noted the clear connection that has to concept of substitution. In the next section of this paper we will consider the exegesis of three key phrases from the text of Isaiah 53 and demonstrate that they explicitly teach penal substitution.

Exegesis of Key Portions of Isaiah 53

In Isaiah 53 there are three statements that are made that unequivocally teach penal substitution. They are:

1)    “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (53:5)

2)    “when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days”  (53:10)

3)    he “was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many” (53:12)

We will examine each of these statements and consider what Old Testament commentators have written regarding them.

וְהוּא֙ מְחֹלָ֣ל מִפְּשָׁעֵ֔נוּ מְדֻכָּ֖א מֵעֲוֹנֹתֵ֑ינוּ מוּסַ֤ר שְׁלוֹמֵ֙נוּ֙ עָלָ֔יו וּבַחֲבֻרָת֖וֹ נִרְפָּא־לָֽנוּ׃

Translation:  and he is pierced for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace [is] upon him, and by his wound is healing to us

This statement from Isaiah’s prophecy is the clearest of the three that we will examine. This statement is also the most well known when it comes to the doctrine of PSA.  J. Alec Motyer in his commentary notes how the grammar and the construction of the sentence, especially as it pertains to the cause and effect implications from the Hebrew preposition min and its attachment to the words pesha and awanote(מִפְּשָׁעֵ֔נוּ and מֵעֲוֹנֹתֵ֑ינוּ) can only be understood according to substitution. Wrote Motyer:

The pronoun he is again emphatic, so as to bring the Servant sharply before us—‘He (and no other)’. Pierced: as in 51:9; when they called on the Arm of the Lord who dealt the monster Rahab a death blow, they did not know they were calling the Arm to his own death. Crushed: used of cruel agonies ending in death (Lam. 3:34). For … for: the preposition min means ‘from’, hence it is used of one thing arising from another, a relationship of cause and effect. Our transgressions were the cause, his suffering to death the effect. Like verse 4, this verse cannot be understood without the idea of substitution to which, here, the adjective ‘penal’ must be attached. Transgressions (peša’), wilful rebellions (1:2, 28; 43:25; 44:22; 46:8; 50:1); iniquities (‘āwōn), the pervertedness, ‘bentness’, of fallen human nature (1:4; 5:18; 6:7; 40:2; 43:24; 50:1). Punishment (mûsār): ‘correction’ by word or act, ‘chastisement’. Just as ‘covenant of peace’ (54:10) means ‘covenant which pledges and secures peace’ so (lit.) ‘punishment of our peace’ means punishment which secured peace with God for us. This peace was lost (48:18) by disobedience, and, since it cannot be enjoyed by the wicked (48:22), the Servant stepped forward (49:1) to bring us back to God (49:6). This is what he achieved by his substitutionary, penal sufferings. Upon: the same preposition as used in Leviticus 16:21–22. By: the particle of price, ‘at the cost of’. Wounds (ḥabbûrâ): used in 1:6 of open, untreated lacerations, hence the actuality of blows inflicted and experienced. Healed: (lit.) ‘there is healing for us’, the accomplished reality of restored wholeness. (emphasis added)[6]

Motyer is far from alone in his assessment of this passage and how it unmistakably is revealing that Christ’s sufferings were penal and substitutionary. Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch in their acclaimed 19th century Old Testament commentary wrote about how this passage is teaching substitution:

The meaning is not merely that the Servant of God entered into the fellowship of our sufferings, but that He took upon Himself the sufferings which we had to bear and deserved to bear, and therefore not only took them away (as Matt. 8:17 might make it appear), but bore them in His own person, that He might deliver us from them. But when one person takes upon himself suffering which another would have had to bear, and therefore not only endures it with him, but in his stead, this is called substitution or representation,—an idea which, however unintelligible to the understanding, belongs to the actual substance of the common consciousness of man, and the realities of the divine government of the world as brought within the range of our experience, and one which has continued even down to the present time to have much greater vigour in the Jewish nation, where it has found it true expression in sacrifice and the kindred institutions, than in any other, at least so far as its nationality has not been entirely annulled. (emphasis added)[7]

It is important to note that Keil and Delitzsch note only identify substitution being expressed in this passage but that they note that understanding, although unintelligible to other cultures was understood very well in the Jewish nation. That is significant because if true, that means that Tony Jones’ contention that PSA only arose as a cultural explanation of Christ’s death a thousand years after the fact is demonstrated to be false. If the citizens of the ancient Jewish nation of Israel understood and practiced substitution long before Christ’s death and resurrection, then PSA has its origins in the Biblical texts not the medieval cultural developments of Canterbury. Keil and Delitzsch in their careful exegesis of Isaiah 53:5 note how the grammar, especially the use of min, can only be understood to mean that Jesus was pierced and crushed for our sins, not His own:

In v. 5, וְהוּא, as contrasted with וַאֲנַחְנוּ, continues the true state of the case as contrasted with their false judgment. V. 5. “Whereas He was pierced for our sins, bruised for our iniquities: the punishment was laid upon Him for our peace; and through His stripes we were healed.” The question is, whether v. 5a describes what He was during His life, or what He was in His death. The words decide in favour of the latter. For although châlâl is applied to a person mortally wounded but not yet dead (Jer. 51:52; Ps. 69:27), and châlal to a heart wounded to death (Ps. 109:22); the pure passives used here, which denote a calamity inflicted by violence from without, more especially mechōlâl, which is not the participle polal of chīl (made to twist one’s self with pain), but the participle poal of châlal (pierced, transfossus, the passive of mechōlēl, Isa. 51:9), and the substantive clauses, which express a fact that has become complete in all its circumstances, can hardly be understood in any other way than as denoting, that “the servant of God” floated before the mind of the speaker in all the sufferings of death, just as was the case with Zechariah in Zech. 12:10. There were no stronger expressions to be found in the language, to denote a violent and painful death. As min, with the passive, does not answer to the Greek ὑπό, but to ἀπό, the meaning is not that it was our sins and iniquities that had pierced Him through like swords, and crushed Him like heavy burdens, but that He was pierced and crushed on account of our sins and iniquities. It was not His own sins and iniquities, but ours, which He had taken upon Himself, that He might make atonement for them in our stead, that were the cause of His having to suffer so cruel and painful a death. (emphasis added)[6]

The grammar of Isaiah 53:5 is inescapably revealing penal substitution. There is simply no way of avoiding it. The grammatical construction of this text cannot be understood any other way. If all we had was this verse from Isaiah 53 we would have all that we needed to demonstrate that Tony Jones’ assertions are false.

אִם־תָּשִׂ֤ים אָשָׁם֙ נַפְשׁ֔וֹ יִרְאֶ֥ה זֶ֖רַע יַאֲרִ֣יךְ יָמִ֑ים

Translation:  when his soul makes a guilt offering he will see his offspring, he will prolong his days

Although this statement by Isaiah doesn’t seem as clear regarding its implications regarding Penal Substitution, yet it can only be rightly understood as the servant acting as our substitute. Motyer explains it:

‘When his soul makes a guilt offering’: the precious reality at the heart of the saving work is the person (‘soul’) of the Servant. Because he was so uniquely fitted to be the substitute, his saving work was successful. (c) ‘When you make his soul a guilt-offering’: here ‘you’ is the individual drawing near to the Servant to nominate him as the needed offering for guilt, thus making his personal, individual response to what the Servant has done. Each of these is legitimate as a translation and significant as a truth. If we can see more than one meaning in what he wrote, we may be sure that Isaiah did too, and that he deliberately left it like that. The guilt offering is found in Leviticus 5:1–6:7. The heart of its distinctiveness is its insistence on minute exactness between sin and remedy. It could well be called the ‘satisfaction-offering’. It is used here not so much to affirm that the Servant bore and discharged the guiltiness of our sin, but that what he did is exactly equivalent to what needed to be done. (emphasis added)[9]

Motyer in explaining how this text points out that the type of guilt offering being reference here is found in Leviticus 5 and 6. It is details of this type of offering that highlight the substitutionary work of Isaiah’s suffering servant. Keil and Delitzsch in their exegesis of this verse they not only provide the details of the sacrifice in question, they explain how these details then form the basis of Anselm’s explanation of the Christ’s death. Although their explanation is extremely long, intricate and full of details. What they note regarding the asham (אָשָׁם֙) in this verse makes scholarly denials of penal substitution nearly impossible. Wrote Keil and Delitzsch:

V. 10. “And it pleased Jehovah to bruise Him, to afflict Him with disease; if His soul would pay a trespass-offering, He should see posterity, should live long days, and the purpose of Jehovah should prosper through His hand…

But if we adopt the following rendering, which is the simplest, and the one least open to exception: if His soul offered (placed, i.e., should have placed; cf., Job 14:14, si mortuus fuerit) an ’âshâm,—it is evident that ’âshâm has here a sacrificial meaning, and indeed a very definite one, inasmuch as the ’âshâm (the trespass-offering) was a sacrifice, the character of which was very sharply defined. It is self-evident, however, that the ’âshâm paid by the soul of the Servant must consist in the sacrifice of itself, since He pays it by submitting to a violent death; and a sacrifice presented by the nephesh (the soul, the life, the very self) must be not only one which proceeds from itself, but one which consists in itself. If, then, we would understand the point of view in which the self-sacrifice of the Servant of God is placed when it is called an ’âshâm, we must notice very clearly the characteristic distinction between this kind of sacrifice and every other. Many of the ritual distinctions, however, may be indicated superficially, inasmuch as they have no bearing upon the present subject, where we have to do with an antitypical and personal sacrifice, and not with a typical and animal one. The ’âshâm was a sanctissimum, like that of the sin-offering (Lev. 6:10, 17, and 14:13), and according to Lev. 7:7 there was “one law” for them both. This similarity in the treatment was restricted simply to the fact, that the fat portions of the trespass-offering, as well as of the sin-offering, were placed upon the altar, and that the remainder, as in the case of those sin-offerings the blood of which was not taken into the interior of the holy place, was assigned to the priests and to the male members of the priestly families (see Lev. 6:22; 7:6). There were the following points of contrast, however, between these two kinds of sacrifice: (1.) The material of the sin-offerings varied considerably, consisting sometimes of a bullock, sometimes of a pair of doves, and even of meal without oil or incense; whereas the trespass-offering always consisted of a ram, or at any rate of a male sheep. (2.) The choice of the victim, and the course adopted with its blood, was regulated in the case of the sin-offering according to the condition of the offerer; but in the case of the trespass-offering they were neither of them affected by this in the slightest degree. (3.) Sin-offerings were presented by the congregation, and upon holy days, whereas trespass-offerings were only presented by individuals, and never upon holy days. (4.) In connection with the trespass-offering there was none of the smearing of the blood (nethīnâh) or of the sprinkling of the blood (hazzâ’âh) connected with the sin-offering, and the pouring out of the blood at the foot of the altar (shephīkhâh) is never mentioned. The ritual for the blood consisted purely in the swinging out of the blood (zerīqâh), as in the case of the whole offering and of the peace-offerings…In the sin-offering the priest is always the representative of the offerer; but in the trespass-offering he is generally the representative of God. The trespass-offering was a restitution or compensation made to God in the person of the priest, a payment or penance which made amends for the wrong done, a satisfactio in a disciplinary sense. And this is implied in the name; for just as חַטָּאת denotes first the sin, then the punishment of the sin and the expiation of the sin, and hence the sacrifice which cancels the sin; so ’âshâm signifies first the guilt or debt, then the compensation or penance, and hence (cf., Lev. 5:15) the sacrifice which discharges the debt or guilt, and sets the man free.

Every species of sacrifice had its own primary idea. The fundamental idea of the ’ōlâh (burnt-offering) was oblatio, or the offering of worship; that of the shelâmīm (peace-offerings), conciliatio, or the knitting of fellowship that of the minchâh (meat-offering), donatio, or sanctifying consecration; that of the chattâ’th (sin-offering), expiatio, or atonement; that of the ’âshâm (trespass-offering), mulcta (satisfactio), or a compensatory payment. The self-sacrifice of the Servant of Jehovah may be presented under all these points of view. It is the complete antitype, the truth, the object, and the end of all the sacrifices. So far as it is the antitype of the “whole offering,” the central point in its antitypical character is to be found in the offering of His entire personality (προσφορὰ τοῦ σώματος, Heb. 10:10) to God for a sweet smelling savour (Eph. 5:2); so far as it is the antitype of the sin-offering, in the shedding of His blood (Heb. 9:13, 14), the “blood of sprinkling” (Heb. 12:24; 1 Pet. 1:2); so far as it is the antitype of the shelâmīm, and especially of the passover, in the sacramental participation in His one self-sacrifice, which He grants to us in His courts, thus applying to us His own redeeming work, and confirming our fellowship of peace with God (Heb. 13:10; 1 Cor. 5:7), since the shelâmīm derive their name from shâlōm, pax, communio; so far as it is the antitype of the trespass-offering, in the equivalent rendered to the justice of God for the sacrileges of our sins. The idea of compensatory payment, which Hofmann extends to the whole sacrifice, understanding by kipper the covering of the guilt in the sense of a debt (debitum), is peculiar to the ’âshâm; and at the same time an idea, which Hofmann cannot find in the sacrifices, is expressed here in the most specific manner, viz., that of satisfaction demanded by the justice of God, and of paena outweighing the guilt contracted (cf., nirtsâh, Isa. 40:2); in other words, the idea of satisfactio vicaria in the sense of Anselm is brought out most distinctly here, where the soul of the Servant of God is said to present such an atoning sacrifice for the whole, that is to say, where He offers Himself as such a sacrifice by laying down the life so highly valued by God (Isa. 42:1; 49:5). As the verb most suitable to the idea of the ’âshâm the writer selects the verb sīm, which is generally used to denote the giving of a pledge (Job 17:3), and is therefore the most suitable word for every kind of satisfactio that represents a direct solutio. (emphasis added)[10]

In other words, Anselm knew what he was doing and he didn’t get his ideas regarding penal substitution from his culture, he instead was rightly understanding Isaiah 53, especially in regard to the אָשָׁם֙.

וְאֶת־פֹּשְׁעִ֖ים נִמְנָ֑ה וְהוּא֙ חֵטְא־רַבִּ֣ים נָשָׂ֔א

Translation:  and with the transgressors he was numbered and the sin of many he carried

This is yet another statement that can only me made sense of through Penal Substitution. In this portion of the text the suffering servant is being numbered with the transgressors. If he himself were a transgressor, then his being numbered with them would be the result of his own sin. Instead, the suffering servant becomes the sin bearer, just like the sacrificial sin offerings. Keil and Delitzsch highlight this fact in their commentary:

because He has suffered Himself to be reckoned with transgressors, i.e., numbered among them (niph. tolerativum), namely, in the judgment of His countrymen, and in the unjust judgment (mishpât) by which He was delivered up to death as a wicked apostate and transgressor of the law. With וְהוּא there is attached to וְאֶת־פֹּשְׁעִים נִמְנָה (He was numbered with the transgressors), if not in a subordinate connection (like והוא in v. 5; compare Isa. 10:7), the following antithesis: He submitted cheerfully to the death of a sinner, and yet He was no sinner, but “bare the sin of many (cf., Heb. 9:28), and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Emphasis added)[11]

Motyer, in his commentary notes that a great victory on the part of the suffering servant is being described in this verse. He then explains the four facts the victory is the result of:

this great victory rests on four facts. (a) He poured out: the Servant’s voluntary self-offering even to the point of death (Phil. 2:8ff.); (b) was numbered: his identification with those in need of salvation (we could translate, ‘He allowed himself to be numbered’); (c) he bore the sin of many (i.e. of all whom he designed to save): his effectiveness as substitute; and (d) made intercession, probably better as ‘interposed’ but, of course, it could refer to his mediatorial intercession whereby he ‘saves to the uttermost’ (Heb. 7:25): his work as mediator. The latter verb, however, is used in verse 6 for ‘caused to meet’ (niv ‘laid’). Just as the Lord placed him in the mediating position, so he personally took it as his own. (emphasis added)[12]

Motyer rightly notes that one of the four pillars of this victory was Christ’s effectiveness as our substitute. His understanding of this passage is based on what it so clearly says.

Over and again the careful exegete of Isaiah 53 will be confronted with the Biblical revelation that Jesus’ death on the cross was a punishment (penal) for our sins (substitution). Therefore, since doctrine is found in scripture which is the Word of God and since this doctrine was set forth over 600 years before Christ’s death and resurrection and more than 1,600 years before Anselm was born we can definitively conclude that Tony Jones’ contention that PSA is a man-made theory of the atonement that was developed a thousand years after Christ walked the earth is patently false. Technically PSA was revealed more than six centuries before Christ was born of the virgin.

In the next section we will examine some of the writings of the Church Fathers to test the veracity of Jones’ final claim that, “PSA was unknown before its development by Anselm of Canterbury.”

Penal Substitution in the Church Fathers Explicit References to Isaiah 53

Is it true, as Tony Jones contends, that PSA was unknown as an explanation of Christ’s death on the cross prior to the writings of Anselm of Canterbury? Considering the fact that Isaiah 53 clearly reveals PSA, it hardly seems possible that the early Church Fathers and every Christian theologian, bishop, pastor, and apologist for the first 1,000 years of the church never noticed what Isaiah said and taught. The truth of the matter is that the church was fully aware of Isaiah 53 and the doctrine it taught. Case and point, Clement of Rome,  in his 1st Epistle to the Corinthians circa 90 A.D. – 99 A.D. wrote:

For Christ belongs to the humble-minded, not to those who exalt themselves above His flock. 2 The scepter of the majesty of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, came not in the pomp of boasting or of arrogance, though He was mighty; but he was humble-minded, as the Holy Spirit spoke concerning Him. For He says: 3 ‘Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? We announced in his presence—he is as a child, as a root in thirsty ground. There is no beauty in him, nor comeliness, and we have seen him, and he had neither form nor beauty, but his form was without honor, deficient in comparison with the form of men; a man living in stripes and hardships, and knowing how to bear weakness, for his face was turned away, and he was despised and not blessed. 4 This is he who bears our sins and is hurt for us, and we regarded him as subject to pain and stripes and affliction. 5 But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins. The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed. 6 We all went astray like sheep; everyone went astray in his own way. 7 And the Lord delivered him up for our sins, and he did not open his mouth on account of his affliction. As a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb dumb before its shearer he opens not his mouth. In humiliation his judgment was taken away. 8 Who shall declare his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth. 9 For the iniquities of my people he has come to death. 10 And I will give the wicked for his burial, and the rich for his death; for he did no iniquity, nor was deceit found in his mouth. And the Lord wills to purify him from his wounds. 11 If you make an offering for sin, your soul shall see a seed with long life. 12 And the Lord wills to take from the labor of his soul, to show him light and to form him in understanding, to justify a righteous man who serves many well. And he himself shall bear their sins. 13 On this account he shall inherit many, and shall share the spoils of the strong; because his soul was delivered to death, and he was counted among the wicked. 14 And he bore the sins of many, and for their sins he was delivered up.’ 15 And again He says Himself: ‘But I am a worm and no man, the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people. 16 All who saw me laughed me to scorn, they spoke with their lips, they shook their heads [saying], “He hoped in the Lord; let Him deliver him, let Him save him, seeing that he delights in Him. (emphasis added )[13]

In this portion of Clement’s epistle he lifts Isaiah 53 right out of the LXX and preaches it straight from the text with practically no commentary. Yet the clear teaching of Christ bearing our sins and dying in our place as our substitute is crystal clear in Clement’s letter. Clement may not have called it penal substituionary atonement but he full well knew he was proclaiming Christ substitutionary work.

Another Church Father who clearly taught PSA was Justin Martyr. In his “Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew circa early 1st Century Justin wrote:

“For the whole human race will be found to be under a curse. For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.’ And no one has accurately done all, nor will you venture to deny this; but some more and some less than others have observed the ordinances enjoined. But if those who are under this law appear to be under a curse for not having observed all the requirements, how much more shall all the nations appear to be under a curse who practise idolatry, who seduce youths, and commit other crimes? If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family, yet you did not commit the deed as in obedience to the will of God. For you did not practise piety when you slew the prophets. And let none of you say: If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognise Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours. But if you curse Him and them that believe on Him, and, when you have the power, put them to death, how is it possible that requisition shall not be made of you, as of unrighteous and sinful men, altogether hard-hearted and without understanding, because you laid your hands on Him? (emphasis added)[14]

In this passage Justin Martyr only makes fleeting mention of Isaiah 53. But the context into which he weaves Isaiah’s words is his clear and concise claim that Jesus’ death was vicarious and His sufferings were the result of the Father will that the Son take our sins upon Himself so that He would suffer for us, in our place. If PSA were unknown to the church prior to Anselm, then why was Justin Martyr so familiar with it?

The last citation from the Church Fathers that we will consider is taken from the Demonstratio Evangelica of Eusebius of Cæsarea. In this passage Eusebius weaves together Isaiah 53 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 in order to explain the theological significance of Christ’s death on the cross:

And Aquila is in exact agreement with Symmachus. With regard first to the words which are apparently said in the Person of our Saviour: “Heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee,” you will notice in Symmachus they are not so rendered, but thus: “Heal my soul, even if I have sinned against thee.” And He speaks thus, since He shares our sins. So it is said: “And the Lord hath laid on him our iniquities, and he bears our sins.” [467] Thus the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world, became a curse on our behalf: “Whom, though he knew no sin, God made sin for our sake, giving him as redemption for all, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” But since being in the likeness of sinful flesh He condemned sin in the flesh, the words quoted are rightly used. [b] And in that He made our sins His own from His love and benevolence towards us, He says these words, adding further on in the same Psalm: “Thou hast protected me because of my innocence,” clearly shewing the impeccability of the Lamb of God. And how can He make our sins His own, and be said to bear our iniquities, except by our being regarded as His body, according to the apostle, who says: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members?” [c] And by the rule that “if one member suffer all the members suffer with it,” so when the many members suffer and sin, He too by the laws of sympathy (since the Word of God was pleased to take the form of a slave and to be