The Penal Substitution of Christ


Michael Horton



Israel's sacrificial system of guilt offerings, the prophetic anticipation of the Suffering Servant, and the main narrative and doctrinal themes of the New Testament converge in the concept of penal substitution. From the Latin word for "penalty" (poena), it reflects the church's proper recognition that Christ's sacrifice was the payment of a debt to divine justice in our place. It is impossible to understand the New Testament terms anti and hyper (in place of) as intending anything other than a substitution: Christ in the place of sinners; the guiltless for the guilty; the righteous for the unrighteous. "For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2Co 5:21). The penal aspect is evident in the phrase "made sin" (Greek, harmartian epoiesen), and its substitutionary aspect in the words "for us" (hyper hemon). He "suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous" (IPe 3:18), "suffered for you" (hyper hymon, 2:21), "bore ... sins in his body on the tree" (2:24). He was made a "curse for us" (Gal 3:13) and was "offered once to take away the sins of many" (Heb 9:28).


Pilgrim Theology. Core Doctrines For Christian Disciples. Michael Horton. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI. 2011. Page 201.