Most Christians I know like using phrases like:
- "Jesus paid our debt"
- "Jesus paid the penalty for our sins"
- "We need to accept Jesus payment for our sins"
In the paying a debt analogy. Somebody owes something to someone, and somebody pays the bill.
So we think of us sinners, owing God something (our lack of holiness?). Jesus dies to pay the price God requires of us so our debt is canceled. Instead of God killing us (or torturing us for eternity), God in a sense kills Jesus.
(Please correct me if I'm wrong... but I think this is sort of how the thinking goes.)
Paying a Ransom
Scripture does talk of Jesus paying a ransom
1 Timothy 2:5-6:
"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time." (NIV)Matthew 20:28 (NIV)
"just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."Hebrews 9:15 (NIV)
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
In the paying a ransom analogy some bad/evil force is holding somebody captive. Somebody with enough resources pays off the bad/evil force, and buys back or sets free what was captured.
In this scenario, we don't think of God as being the bad evil force that is holding sinners captive. I think it is our selfish (sinful) ways that are holding us captive. We don't have the resources to free ourselves. Christ's work at the cross defeats sin and sets us free.
Redeemed also shows up a number of times. It means to buy back. I think the logic is very much the same as the ransom analogy. Here is two verses:
Galatians 3:13 (NIV)
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."Titus 2:14 (NIV)
who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Are you OK with the emphasis that God is against us, but Jesus is for us?
I don't know why the work of the cross is usually described in a way that fits with the Penal Subtitutionary attonment theory instead of looking at the rest of Scripture. Maybe it's not this simple. I know theologians have been debating this for centuries. I just don't feel comfortable anymore with the emphasis this theory often gets.
There are also other ways Scripture describes Christ's work on the cross. I plan to do a few more related posts soon.