I recently read a comment on Facebook that indicated the Apostal Peter and Isaiah 53 were juxtaposed on the issue of penal substitutionary atonement. I think a little walk in Colossians should help clarify that penal substitutionary atonement is biblical and more than that, without it the cross does not make sense.
Paul said in Colossians 2 “13And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.16Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” – (Colossians 2:13-16)
From top to bottom this passage is all about penal substitutionary atonement.
1. Paul makes it clear that is it a legal debt. “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands”. The concept of legal substitution is where we get the word penal.
2. Paul says that the legal debt was not just canceled on a whim, he mentions a price or action that canceled the debit “This (Debit) he set aside, nailing it to the cross”. Many other passages agree with Paul here: For example,
“You are not your own, you were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19b – 20a, ESV).
“knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:19, ESV)
3. Paul adds one final connection. The body of Levitical commandments and calling them “… a shadow of the things to come… “. Substitutional atonement is the core of the Levitical covenant with the animal being a substitute recipient for the judgment of the sin. If those are types of Christ, it does not stretch the understanding to see the connection between Christ’s work and the Levitical sacrificial system.
The question comes down to, did Christ fill a legal debt on our behalf? Paul is making that case that he did. That we were not just forgiven for sin but that debt of our sin was paid in full. There is were the need for the cross comes into the picture. If our sin dose does not constitute a debt that had to be paid why was death the price? Since the garden of Eden when God killed animals for their skin in order to cover the shame of Adam and Eve death has been “the wages of sin” (Romans 6:23). In the wilderness, God commanded death and blood from the Jewish people’s animals as the reminder of the death and blood that would be the Son of God’s portion. Final all this death and the death of Christ himself have no meaning unless there is price to be paid. If the sin was not a debt and could be forgiven without a price, there was no need for all the death, especially not Christ’s death.