Why did Jesus die for us? Include in your answer three models of the atonement, their strengths and weaknesses and a statement of your own view.
Why did Jesus die? or what was the purpose of the Atonement? Are questions that have for centuries after the actual
event been the subject of a wide range of interpretations by theologians, church leaders and
missionaries alike. For centuries theologians have interpretated the atonement in light of and for
their particular day. In this essay, I have chosen to review three of the models of atonement. These
being: Christus Victor, Moral Influence and the Penal Substitution. I will be giving a brief over
view of each reflecting on their strengths and weaknesses. In the Bible, atonement usually
means to become friends with God after sin has separated us from Him. In the Old Testament, the
Israelites bought sacrifices to atone for their sins. The New Testament teaches that Jesus Christ
made atonement for our sins when He died on the cross. Because Jesus died to make up for our
sins, we can have peace with God. (Mears 1998, p. 688)
The Christus Victor model is the classic view of atonement and goes back to the time of Iraneus
(c120-200). The idea was that when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, by eating from
the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they became separated from God. By succumbing to the
temptation set by Satan, they swapped their allegiance and relationship with God to another
authority. Satan now had an inroad and a subsequent influence over their lives. (Aulen 1950 p. 35)
The idea of Ransom and Liberty were central images in the days of the early church. Slaves were a
common part of every day life. They lived in bondage and could be redeemed for a price. We in
our disobedience were slaves to Satan and there was only one price that could be paid for our
freedom and that was the death of Jesus Christ.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom
for many.” (Mark 10:45)
The shedding of his atoning blood was necessary to set all and every captive heart free from the
beginning to the end of time. It was Jesus life given in death in place of ours. (Guthrie1994 pp.
252 – 253) The Devil believed this to be a good deal and agreed that in exchange for Jesus life we
the Captives could be released. It was because of God's great love for us that He allowed Jesus to
die in our place. Jesus, however, in his human obedience and divine nature proved to be too much
for the Devil who was deceived by his own deceit. Through his own miscalculation regarding Jesus'
divine nature he lost the ransom as well as the captives (Green & Baker 2000 pp. 121 - 122).
The Christus Victor model is supported by the New Testament in that it speaks of Jesus' death as
victory over the powers of evil. Sin, death and Satan are defeated at the Cross. Its image as
victory over the powers of evil is biblical. In sending Jesus to die for humanity, God is saying no
to evil, that evil will not have the last say.
Weaknesses of the Christus Victor model lie in the inference that the Devil has rights, and
that God cannot really be trusted as Sovereign power, Creator and Lord over all things. Too much
emphasis is placed on the Devil and the New Testament does not support this. Jesus death as a
ransom to free humanity from bondage to Satan, sin and death is a demonstration of God's
incomparable love for His created beings and this love being outward in actuality. (Green & Baker
2000 pp. 123 - 125)
It was this incomparable love that became the centrepoint of the Moral Influence model. This model was the work of Peter Arbland (1079-1142). In the Moral Influece model he depicts Jesus as a
teacher and perfect example for humanity. In this model Arbland's main focus is on mans
changed behaviour in response to what...
Bibliography: Aulen, G 1950, Christus Victor, S.P.C.K, London
Davis, J. D 1954, A Dictionary of the Bible, Moody Press, Chicago
Guthrie, S. C 1994, Christian Doctrine, Westminster John Knox Press, London.
Mears, H. C 1998, What the Bible is all About NIV edn, Regal Books, California USA
Morris, L 196, Glory in the Cross, Houghton & Stoughton Limited, Great Britain
Packer, J. I 1998, Celebrating the Saving work of God, Paternoster Press, Great Britain
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