Back on the topic of penal-substitionary atonement . . .

Ambrose talking to Augustine:

It is profitable to me to know that for my sake Christ bore my infirmities, submitted to the affections of my body, that for me and for all he was made sin and a curse, that for me and in me was he humbled and made subject, that for me he is the lamb, the vine, the rock, the servant, the Son of a handmaid, knowing not the day of judgment, for my sake ignorant of the day and the hour.

I learned this from Mark Dever.



  1. That CAN be understood in Anselmian terms, but there is nothing here that demands that it be.

    The problem with Anselm, et. al., is not the substitutionary part, but the question of how and what and is thereby accomplished. The early, Patristic answer, the answer that remains constant in the East, is that the death of Christ first and foremost expiates, that is, cleanses and heals from sin.

  2. What about this Greg?

    – written by a Christian in the generation after the apostles

    “When our iniquity had come to its full height, and it was clear beyond all mistaking that retribution in the form of punishment and death must be looked for, the hour arrived in which God had determined to make known from then onwards His loving-kindness and His power. How surpassing is the love and tenderness of God! In that hour, instead of hating us and rejecting us and remembering our wickedness against us, He showed how longsuffering He is. He bore with us, and in pity He took our sins upon Himself and gave His own Son as a ransom for us–the Holy for the wicked, the Sinless for sinners, the Just for the unjust, the Incorrupt for the corrupt, the Immortal for the mortal. For was there, indeed, anything except His righteousness that could have availed to cover our sins? In whom could we, in our lawlessness and ungodliness, have been made holy, but in the Son of God alone? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable working! O benefits unhoped for!–that the wickedness of multitudes should thus be hidden in the One holy, and the holiness of One should sanctify the countless wicked!”

    *”Epistle to Diognetus,” in Early Christian Writings, rev. ed., Andrew Louth, trans. Maxwell Stamforth (London: Penguin, 1987), 147.

  3. Love that quote, Todd! And the whole epistle as well as Ignatius, Clement, the Didache! I’m glad to see you’ve got that book!

    In the above, the operative concepts are “ransom” (as in the New Testament) “exchange” (His righteousness for our sinfulness) and, expiation (…”to COVER our sins” and “the holiness of the One should SANCTIFY the countless wicked”)

    Again, all of this CAN be read in Anselmian terms, but it wasn’t, until Anselm, and to do so, IMHO, takes the emphasis off the existentiality of salvation and leads to the purely external notion of imputed righteousness (when, in fact, it should be clear that God would only impute that which actually is, in this case, that which God has actually given).

  4. Actually, I don’t have book. At least yet.

    Greg, I see God’s mercy in God’s wrath. I know we have talked before (and links included by you) on God as a consuming fire.

    But I identify with what Richard Sibbes wrote,

    “When our sins are set in order before us, the sins of youth, middle and old age, our sins against conscience, against the law and gospel, against examples, vows, promises, resolutions, and admonitions of the Spirit and servants of God; when there shall be such a terrible accuser, and God shall perhaps let the wounds of conscience fly open and join against us; when wrath shall appear, be in some sort felt, and God presented to the soul as “a consuming fire,” no comfort in heaven or earth appearing, hell beneath seeming ready to revenge against us the quarrel of God’s covenant, Oh then for faith to look through all these clouds! the virture and merit of Christ’s sufferings, death, resurrection, and intercession at the right hand! the sting of death removed, sin pardoned and done away, and glory at hand!”

    Sin. Wrath. Mercy. One’s suffering. Glory. My perfect righteousness. Right now.

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