Penal Substitution in the New Testament: A Focused Look at First Peter

Paul Felix | May 24, 2010

A focused look at 1 Peter regarding the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement, taking into account 1 Pet 1:2, 18-19; 2:24; 3:18; and 4:1, typifies many NT references to that important teaching. Though 1 Pet 1:2 does not speak of penal atonement, the passage does speak of the death of Christ in language that recalls the language of sacrifice and substitution in the OT. The language of redemption in 1 Pet 1:18-19 includes substitution since the redeeming of one life requires the giving of another life. That passage also includes in its background a penal aspect since the blood of the victim clearly entailed His dying a painful death as a penalty for the sins of others. First Peter 2:24 does provide readers with an example to follow in Christ’s suffering, but it does far more. In line with the influence of Isaiah 53 on the passage, it views Christ as a sin bearer and substitute for those whose place He took. It also presents Him as the curse-bearer in bearing punishment for the sins of the people He came to save. In mentioning the sufferings of Christ and the death of the just one for the unjust ones, 1 Pet 3:18 confirms what 1 Peter teaches elsewhere, i.e., the penal substitution of the cross of Christ. Without adding further details but summarizing what Peter has already written, 1 Pet 4:1 adds an explicit reference to the death of Christ. The epistle clearly supports the penal substitutionary nature of the atonement.

Vol. 20, no. 2 (Fall 2009)

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Felix, Paul. "Penal Substitution in the New Testament: A Focused Look at First Peter." The Master's Seminary Journal 20, no. 2 (Fall 2009): 171-197.