Images of Salvation in the Cross
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
1 Peter 2:24 ESV
Q. How does the death of Jesus Christ upon the Cross deliver us from the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil?
A. The Cross was not a defeat, but the astonishing victory of God over the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil. Seven images (metaphors) are used in scripture to describe the finished work of Christ on the Cross:
- Propitiation is taken from Temple worship: God satisfies his own wrath by offering himself to suffer the just punishment for our sins (Rom 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2, 4:10 NASB).
- Redemption is taken from the marketplace: Jesus becomes our ransom paying the debt of sin we could never repay (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Tim. 2:6).
- Justification is taken from the law court: God’s declaration that by faith in Christ we are declared righteous before him (Rom. 3:21-26; Gal. 2:15-16).
- Reconciliation is taken from the home: the Cross restores our broken relationship with the Father (Rom. 5:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:16-21).
- Victory is taken from the military: Christ has conquered Satan and his oppression, our sin and its enslavement, and death and its control (1 Cor. 15:57; Heb. 2:14-15).
- Adoption is taken from the family: we are granted legal status as sons of God and heirs of the Kingdom (Rom. 8:17, 23; Gal. 4:1-7).
- Healing is taken from the hospital: we are restored and all creation from the brokenness created by our sin (Isa. 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24-25).
Christ’s substitution is the foundation for all these images for he took our place, and paid the price for our salvation by absorbing the just judgment we deserved. Christ’s death was penal in that he bore our penalty. Christ’s death was substitutionary in that he took our place when he suffered for our self-absorption, self-centeredness, and self-conceit (Isa. 53; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24, 3:18).
Again throughout his theology, (Thomas F.) Torrance emphasises that in Jesus Christ we have the act of God and of man, of God as man in his one person. Justification, reconciliation and redemption therefore must be thought of not simply as the act of God for our salvation, but also as the real act of man, of God as man for us. the importance of this for Torrance’s theology and for understanding it cannot be overstated.
Justification is not simply the act of God judging sin, atoning for it himself and declaring us righteous in his beloved Son, it is man saying amen to the righteous judgement of God and at the same time fulfilling all righteousness in his own perfect life and humanity.
Reconciliation is thus not simply God reconciling the world to himself in Christ, but reconciliation worked out, achieved and realised by Christ as man within his own person, in his own mind, life, heart and soul.
Redemption is the mighty act of God in which mankind is liberated from bondage and decay into the new creation through the resurrection of the man Jesus Christ from the dead in the fullness of physical existence.
Thomas F. Torrance, Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ, ed., Robert T. Walker (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), xlv. (paragraphing mine)