Worthy Is the Lamb that Was Slain: Penal Substitution and Christian Worship

Andrew Snider | May 24, 2010

By labeling penal substitution as “redemptive violence,” some have rejected the biblical view of the cross of Jesus as substitutionary and penal by claiming that His death was the ultimate example of pacifism. Others want to relegate penal substitution to the category of being only a metaphor of Scripture. Such distortions of the Bible have adverse effects on true Christian worship as a close survey of ritual offerings under the Mosaic Covenant reflect when carried forward into what the NT says about worship. Sacrifice has always been fundamental as a basis for true worship. The OT book of Leviticus devotes itself to explaining how sinful Israelites through sacrifices could make themselves pure in approaching a holy God in their worship. Four of the five offerings described there—the whole burnt offering, the grain offering, the peace offering, and the sin offering—had the purpose of dealing with sin and with guilt. Holiness achieved through sacrifice was paramount in having one’s sacrifice acceptable by God and effective in worship. The effective offering was costly to the worshiper and brought him into covenant fellowship with God. In the NT Christ came to be the ultimate sacrifice in fulfillment of all the OT offerings. Beginning with John 1:29, the NT uses sacrificial imagery in a number of places in anticipation of His work on the cross, particularly in His institution of the Lord’s Supper. The author of Hebrews in particular portrays Jesus as the perfect atoning sacrifice in fulfillment of the OT system of sacrificial worship. Christian worship without the doctrine of penal substitution is impossible.

Vol. 20, no. 2 (Fall 2009)

Read article

Read complete issue

Cite This Article

Snider, Andrew. "Worthy Is the Lamb that Was Slain: Penal Substitution and Christian Worship." The Master's Seminary Journal 20, no. 2 (Fall 2009): 215-230.