It is important to read the following two Scriptures regularly to remind ourselves of what Jesus has accomplished for us. Progressive Christianity has rejected penal substitution, seeing it as cruel and unjust, inducing self-loathing. The problem here is that they have not truly understood what God the Father has accomplished with His Son Jesus. There is no doubt that “the beginning of wisdom is to fear God” but that is not the end of the story.
“For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” Hebrews 12:18-24
What actually happened on the cross? If we put aside unhelpful traditions and consider what the Bible teaches us, there is much to celebrate.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
Jesus didn’t just carry sin, or pay for sin; he became sin. The perfect Lord of all, who humbled himself to serve his own creation, became all human brokenness. Paying for sin is one thing; becoming sin is far deeper. Jesus became every expression of human brokenness, and more than that became the cause of all human brokenness, which is judgement. His spiritual agony was so much worse than the physical pain of the cross. It is no wonder the sky darkened, as all that is good became all that is harmful.
It doesn’t stop there. Jesus became sin, that we might become the righteousness of God. In turn, this means that we become righteousness, as completely as he became sin.
The cross, then, is an exchange – of our lack for his supply, our brokenness for his wholeness, our fear for his love, which can all be summed up as our righteousness (“filthy rags”) for his righteousness (right-standing with God, forever).
“And 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, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him.” Colossians 2:13-15
The cross provides the forgiveness of sin, by cancelling our legal indebtedness. Sin and death were destroyed. The enemies of humankind were disarmed, triumphed over, and made a spectacle of. What a wonderful God we have.