Jesus Saves, But How?
Office and Atonement

I. Jesus Saves, but How?
"The Son of Man must suffer" (Mark 8:31). Why? And what does the rest of Jesus' career mean?
Christians agree over his victory, but disagree over the battle plan (Eph 3:4-13).
Apostolic testimonies help interpret by covering more than Jesus' passion.
They generally begin at his baptism, center on his crucifixion, and conclude with events beyond his resurrection.
These display several roles or 'offices', and several aspects (or contesting 'theories') of atonement.
II. The Christ Story
Baptism is Jesus' anointing, his inauguration.
The offices are Spirit-empowered.
Each office ...
is grounded in Israel's anointed offices,
begins in Jesus' baptism,
is tested in the wilderness,
unfolds in Jesus' career,
climaxes on the cross,
continues in and through the Church, and
culminates on the Last Day.
III. The Priestly Office, and Sacrificial Atonement
Jewish priesthood is worship-leading.
Priests sacrifice, and are God's and Israel's sacrifice (Num 8:5-22) at their meeting place.
Priests intercede, teach torah, and discern and conserve Israel's holiness.
Dilemma: The blood required for cleansing (Ex 12:12, 24:8) cannot work (1 Sam 2, Isa 1:10-17, Mic 6:6-8, Heb 10:3-4).
Christ's priestly mission: offer the resources of reconciliation (Heb 9:14).
Luke casts his childhood in terms of righteous priesthood (as well as other offices; 1 Sam 2 in Luke 2).
His baptism declares his Sonship (Ps 2:7 in Heb 5:5).
Devil's (and later opponents') counterstrategy: put God to the test (Luke 4:9-12, Ps 91, Deut 6:16, Ex 17:2-7).
Highlights include teaching, cleansing, exorcism, healing, forgiving sins (Mark 1:21-2:12).
Jesus takes 'the Temple' with him, practicing 'offensive holiness'.
Climax: the cross as representative atonement (cf. Heb 10:12-13, Phil 2:5-11, 1 Cor 11:23-26).
Excursus: Atonement as sacrifice or reparation:
Jesus is the sacrifice that repairs the divine-human relationship.
Sin becomes guilt, grace becomes forgiveness.
Illustration: The Passion of the Christ, The Iron Giant.
Popular in Catholicism and evangelical and Reformed Protestantism.
A key term: Hilastêrion (Heb 9:5, Rom 3:25), meaning expiation or propitiation.
Variations: Satisfaction (Anselm) (Heb 2:14-17);
penal/vicarious substitution (Calvin; The Fundamentals).
Is Jesus qualified for priesthood? (Heb 7:14, Gen 14:17-20).
Is the cross a lawful sin offering?
What is just about requiring or accepting Jesus' suffering?
Is this (violent? cruel?) God the God whom Jesus reveals?
Are all redeemed, or is atonement limited?
Is his resurrection significant?
Priesthood continued: Jesus still intercedes (Heb 7:23-25, 9:24, Rom 8:34) ...
in ascension, having ratified the new covenant (Heb 9:11-28) that removes our sin (9:26-10:25),
and through us (Isa 61:6 in Rev 1:5-6, 5:10, 1 Pet 2:5-9)
who share his “power of the keys” (Rev 1:18, Matt 16:18-19, John 20:23, Vatican seal).
Jesus is the temple of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:22, 27).
IV. The Royal Office, and Atonement as Victory
Jewish monarchy is (mostly) a failure to trust God as king (1 Sam 8:1-22).
Yet King David, though a sinner, went "fully after God" (1 Kings 11:4-5, 2 Sam 6:14-23).
God promises David's eternal restoration (Ps 89:4, 132:11).
Dilemma: How can the kingdom of Israel be reconciled to the Kingdom of God?
Christ's royal mission: restore the Kingdom of David as the Kingdom of God.
This "son of David" (Matt 1:1-17) is born king (Matt 2:2).
His baptism declares the Son God's heir (Ps 2).
Devil's (and opponents') counterstrategy: reject God as King (Luke 4:5-8/Ps 2:7-11, Deut 6:10-15).
Jesus' signs and wonders bring the Kingdom of God (Matt 12:28/Luke 11:20, Luke 17:21) as a new arrangement: a new politics or order of holy relationships.
Highlights include calling twelve disciples, associating with outcasts (Mark 2:16), breaking tradition on his own prerogative (Mark 2:23-28, 7:1-13, Matt 11:19), inviting sinners to enter through his word rather than ritual repentance, and entering Jerusalem as its "king coming" (Mark 11:10, cf. Ps 118:26; Matt 21:5/John 12:15, cf. Zech 9:9).
Climax: the cross as the parable of the vineyard (Mark 12:1-12), Rome's execution of "the king of the Jews" (Matt 27:11, 27:29, 27:37, 27:42), and Jesus' exaltation (John 12:27-36).
Excursus: Atonement as Victory (Christus Victor):
Jesus conquered sin and death (Col 2:14-15, Rev 5:5, Gustav Aulén's Christus Victor).
Sin becomes oppression, grace becomes liberation.
Illustration: Prince of Egypt, Gran Torino.
Popular in the early Church, Lutheranism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Pentecostalism, liberation theology.
Variations: Ransom theory (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), Christ the healer, Christ the liberator.
Too 'respectful' of Satan, i.e., 'dualistic'?
If Christ defeated opponents, aren't all defeated?
If Christ defeated 'the power' of sin, aren't all saved?
Does liberation really solve our problem? (cf. Ex 15:21-17:7).
Royalty continued: Jesus' present reign.
Pentecost shows (Acts 2:33-36) the ascended Christ at the Father's right hand (Ps 110).
Apostles' evangelism proclaims, proves, and exercises Christ's rule over every nation and kingdom.
Jesus shares his rule with us (Rev 3:21, 5:10) as servant-kings (Rom 8:15-17).
Jesus returns and judges all things (and we do too, 1 Cor 6:3),
and we reign with Christ forever (Rev 22:1-5).
V. The Prophetic Office, and Atonement as Moral Influence
Jewish prophecy centers in revolutionary 'speech-act' (Jer 1:4-10, Hos 1, Jer 19:1ff, John 2:1-11).
Israel awaits a "prophet like Moses" (Deut 18:15-19).
Dilemma: he does not arrive (Deut 34:10-12, cf. Acts 3:18-26).
Christ's prophetic mission: announce the Kingdom's approach (Isa 61:1-2 in Luke 4:18-22, Matt 25:31ff).
Devil's (and opponents') counterstrategy: seek a sign (Luke 4:3-4, Deut 8:3; Matt 12:38-39).
Prophetic highlights: Jesus' work proclaims God's Reign, is misunderstood, and reveals the Father.
Prophetic climaxes: clearing the Temple (Isa 56:7 and Jer 7:11 in Luke 19:41-48), the cross.
Jesus is God's definitive self-revelation (John 1:18).
Excursus: Atonement as moral influence or example:
Peter Abelard and predecessors: Jesus' redemptive love changes our character (Rom 5:5-8, Acts 2:36-38, Heb 12:1-12).
Sin becomes concupiscence and ignorance, grace becomes revelation and inspiration (John 1:18, Rom 12:2, Phil 2:5).
"The Son of Man must be lifted up" (John 3:14-15, after Numbers 21:4-9): Facing the cross saves us.
Illustration: Spitfire Grill.
Popular in the early church, liberal Protestantism; increasingly popular in revivalism.
Variation: Jesus encounters us with saving revelation (dialectical theology in Barth, Bultmann).
Why do the cross's witnesses not comprehend or change?
Is salvation merely psychological?
Is crucifixion truly required for this change?
Is the underlying doctrine of sin adequate?
What 'love' would crucifixion express if it is primarily symbolic?
Prophethood continued: Jesus the living Word.
When Christ gives his Spirit, disciples become inspired prophets (Acts 2, on Joel 2; 1 Cor 11:5; John 16:12-15; Matt 28:20) with whom Jesus speaks clearly (Num 12:6-8; Mark 4:11-12, John 16:29).
Jesus' words open the final act (Rev 5:1-5) that defeats sin forever (Rev 19:15).
VI. Is Salvation Coherent? Soteriologies in the Stories of the Worshiping Church
There are further ways of conceiving atonement.
How do we honor complexity (e.g., Lev 16's two goats, Ps 107's varieties of sin)?
Is there underlying harmony among theories of atonement, or exclusivity?
One synthetic approach: Examine atonement along the narrative of Jesus' whole ministry:
Incarnation (Christmas): assumption, divinization.
God comes personally into creation to dwell as 'one of us.'
Baptism (Epiphany): identification, penance, empowerment.
In the Son, the Father forecloses old wrong relationships
and initiates new relationships between creation and the Holy Spirit.
Temptation (Lent): obedience, conformation.
Discipline grows right relationships of obedience, virtue (primarily trust = faith), and character.
Itinerant ministry (Ordinary): following, discipleship, replenishment.
Jesus 'takes office' as the Kingdom invades and the world responds
with resistance, then either rejection or migration and naturalization.
Crucifixion (Passover/Good Friday): intercession, reparative sacrifice.
Jesus' priestly sacrificial commitment to both the Father and us repairs the divine-human relationship.
Burial (Holy Saturday): 'omega', ransom.
Jesus takes on death as both the victim and heir of sin's curses,
defusing our 'strength' with God's 'weakness' and curing our weakness with God's strength.
Resurrection (Easter): 'alpha', victory.
Jesus risen defeats and discredits sin and death and transcends their consequences for himself and us,
grounding new lives of hope.
Ascension (Ascension): reparation, delegation, mission.
Jesus leaves for the Kingdom's capital to represent us as priest and receive the Father's glorious affirmation,
and to be represented on earth by his Spirit-empowered church.
Session (Pentecost): revelation/moral influence.
Jesus reigns while his memories, testimonies, and life change our character into a new community of love.
Return (Advent): judgment, glorification.
Jesus appears in glory to expel all that is unfitting for new creation
and promote his faithful representatives to eternal lives of exaltation and wise authority.