We Believe in the Forgiveness of Sins Devotional Guide

Rev. Dr. Charley Reeb   -  

Monday: There are three main theories of the atonement. There is the “satisfaction theory” which expresses that Christ suffered as a substitute on behalf of humankind, satisfying the demands of God’s honor and justice so that God can justly forgive. There is also the “moral influence view” of the atonement which sees the passion of Christ as a dramatic act of love and obedience which influences us and ultimately persuades us to follow Christ. Lastly, there is what is known as the “ransom theory” or “Christus Victor” theory which understands the work of the cross as the ultimate battle between God and Satan, with God in Christ overcoming sin, evil and death and its hold on the world. All three theories have been emphasized throughout church history and can be summarized by stating that on the cross Jesus was doing something for us we could never do for ourselves. Which atonement theory is most helpful to you?

Tuesday: This week we are going to explore the “ransom theory” or “Christus Victor” theory of the atonement because it is not as well known in the western church. In Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45, Jesus described his upcoming work on the cross as giving his life… “as a ransom for many.” When a person is kidnapped, who are the kind of people who demand a ransom? Who are the kind of people who pay the ransom? Ransoms are paid by the loved ones of the kidnapped. Ransoms are not demanded by those who are good but by those who are bad. So, one way to look at the ransom theory is that “the cross was not a ransom demanded by God but paid by God to Satan” (Benjamin Corey). In order to redeem humanity from the clutches of the Devil, God sent Christ as a “ransom” or “bait” because the Devil did not know that Christ could not die permanently. At the cross, God tricked the Devil and when Christ was resurrected the Devil lost all power over humanity. What do you think about this understanding of the atonement?

Wednesday: There is another way of understanding the “ransom theory” or “Christus Victor” theory of the atonement. For some, the idea of “ransom” was not really a transaction but a rescue or liberation of humanity from evil, sin and death. We see this understanding of the cross in Genesis 3:15. When sin entered the world, God said to the serpent: “You will bruise his heel, but he will crush your head.” In other words, God was saying to Satan, “You may hurt Jesus and kill him for a time but you will be destroyed. Your head will be crushed!” After Jesus’ death and resurrection we see it confirmed in the New Testament: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work (1st John 3:8). How do you feel about this view of the “Christus Victor” theory of the atonement? Is it helpful? Why or why not?

Thursday: On the cross, Jesus faced the wrath of evil head on and defeated it with his transforming love. The only thing that could destroy the force of evil is the force of God’s love. Evil came at this world with everything it had and God in Christ stopped it in its tracks. When the cosmic bullet of evil came at us, Jesus jumped in front of us to save us. The cross was the climax of the cosmic war between God and evil and God’s love in Christ won. So based on the “Christus Victor” theory of the atonement the cross is not about satisfying the wrath and justice of God but about the love of God overcoming the wrath of evil. The cross means the love of God wins. Does this understanding of the atonement enhance your appreciation and understanding of the cross? If so, how?

Friday: I believe the final nail in the coffin for the Devil was that God in Christ forgave us for our sins. If there is one thing that evil cannot tolerate it is forgiveness. It is kryptonite to the Devil. On the cross, God’s forgiveness for us was on full display and this was the stake through the Devil’s heart. What does God’s forgiveness of your sins mean to you?