Six Ways to Look at the Cross-Week 3 // Why did it happen? // Pastor Kate Murphy

Scripture: Genesis 15:7-21, Romans 5:6-11

Dear Church,

The first question that the cross inspires in us is why?  Why did this happen?  What was the point?

If you’ve ever asked that question, someone has probably tried to answer by saying that it had to happen–so that the penalty for sin could be paid, so that the wrath of God could be satisfied, so that God’s righteousness would no longer be offended by the sinfulness of humanity.  These are all different ways of describing what theologians call ‘penal substitutionary atonement.’ It’s the idea that God couldn’t show mercy to humans until someone suffered the consequences of all our evil actions, because mercy without punishment would be the same as condoning sin, which is something God’s righteousness simply won’t allow God to do.  So Jesus took the punishment we earned and deserved and now we can be forgiven by God.

Substitutionary atonement isn’t the only way to understand the cross, but it is the simplest and most popular.   But it bears a suspicious resemblance to the way our secular justice system works, so it’s faithful to wonder–is this how God responds to sin and evil or how we do?  Does the cross shows us redemption is accomplished by penal substitutionary atonement?  Or is that what we’ve learned to look for?

Today, we’re taking a deep biblical dive all the way back the Genesis 15 and God’s original salvation covenant with our father Abraham.  This story is teaching me new ways to look at the cross.


Pastor Kate

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