What Did the Early Christians Teach, Addendum to Lesson 5


Objections to the Moral Government Model:


Advantages of Moral Gov Model:


Main Objections, Dialogue:

Forgiveness or Pardon is granted by Christ going to the cross in our Stead, as a Substitute. Thus Atonement for our sin is made, once and for all time----Since Christ Cannot be Re-Crucified.

However, proponents of this system would object that since the Penalty is still in effect (Christ suffered no retributive justice on the Cross) so if the Redeemed Person Sins again, he falls back under Condemnation. Just as the Unjust Servant in the Matt18 Parable.


HOWEVER, in the Servant’s case, no Payment was made of his huge debt and the Master required no Substitution for his Penalty. Under MG Both a Payment and a Sub has been Made! Once made, HOW can be it be Due again? Even if it’s merely ‘Public Justice’ to show the Master’s disgust with the Transgression, it Provided a Substitution which Cannot be made again. So the Servant could not have been thrown into Prison after his initial Pardon or the Mater would be violating his own Satisfaction of Public Justice.


Which takes us to the second Objection. IF you Pardon someone by Mercy alone and require no Payment or Penalty on their part, you encourage further disobedience due to lack of respect for your sense of Justice. Certainly it would NEVER work in our human courts. The Criminal must pay for his crime in some capacity or he is bound to repeat it. MG teachers would say however that because of the overwhelming scope of such a great Sacrifice as dying on the Cross, the sinner would be motivated to Obey from a heart broken in humility. Sounds feasible…..BUT…..


Redemption in Scripture is: Release from Bondage by Payment of RANSOM! NOT Substitution. Repentance provides the Motivation to Return the Person to Obedience. Christ is shown as this Ransom, shedding His Blood on the Cross to Purchase the sinner from the Corrupting influence of Sin! You approach Him in godly Sorrow to be Reconciled through Repentance and Faith PROVEN by Deeds. In this Repentance is a Clearing of Wrong Doing, Vehement Desire Change, fear and Purity of heart. The old man of sin dies with Christ and the New man born of the Spirit can now OBEY having been Cleansed, Washed, Purged and Scrubbed of all sin and defilement, ignorance and lust. A Substitution and Pubic Display is NOT going to accomplish this.


The Recompense (payment) is the Repentance…..a Condition granted freely to Man, but MUST be Proven by DEEDS! So IF you Sin Willfully afterward, NO Sacrifice remains for your sins. WHY? The Ransom has ALREADY been Provided! Christ Can’t Die Again. That’s why the Scripture declares that it’s Impossible to Restore them again to Repentance because they Re-Crucify Christ and hold Him up to Open Shame! Falling back into Transgression was a Very Serious Matter to the Early Saints because to them Repentance has to FIT into this Model or it was FALSE.


A Second Repentance had to be Firmly Established in a Departure from Iniquity. Many who fell could NEVER be Restored because like Esau they had Sold their Birthright and could find no place for Repentance. A fearsome thought, but under MG this Fear has essentially been removed, because your Payment was Substituted on the Cross by Christ. (it can no longer be due) Surly Mercy Triumphs over Judgment, but trifling with Sin is no laughing matter! The Scripture also assures us that EVERY Transgression and Disobedience will Receive a Just Recompense of reward.


Our Substitution is REPENTANCE, NOT Christ! Here Restitution is made and a Reconciliation can take place. We Honor Christ’s Blood (Ransom) by Abandoning our Sin. Sprinkled on our Conscience it can then Purge us from Guilt and Purify our Hearts by Faith!


A Display of Public Justice and the Moral influence of Suffering in our Place CANNOT accomplish this! We may have Indeed ESTEEMED Him Stricken, Smitten by God and afflicted, wounded for our transgressions, but this DOES NOT make Him our Substitute. He was Made an OFFERING for Sin to Redeem us from the Power of Sin and Death! The Price of Ransom was His Precious Blood.


If Public Justice is a necessity in God’s Plan then the Blood of Christ certainly provides it. But the shedding is for the Payment of Ransom (Redemption!) Not to Substitute his Death for ours. We DIE with Him in Repentance! Formulating a theory based on Moral Government is problematic because it casts a subjective nature on Scripture. Where can it be found in the teachings of Christ? In the Gospel accounts did He ever present Himself as a Substitution or Satisfaction of Public Justice? He Purchased the Church with his Own Blood! That was the Payment and the Power to Redeem us from the Slavery of Sin and Death. No Satisfaction of Public Justice was Necessary. The Purchased Possession was the Soul of Man! God did not have to meet any Penal Demands of His Law or make some kind of Satisfaction to appease Himself as King of Kings.


Both Moral Gov and Penal Sub are speculative theories invented by men that alter the Nature of God and the Preaching of Repentance and Faith. By making Christ a Substitute (either moral or penal) you eliminate the need for a genuine Repentance. MG Preachers would object, but there’s no getting around it. If Christ’s Death was in my stead, I merely have to Accept, Trust and Receive what He did and I am Saved. You can require that I apologize to God for my life of Sin and call that Repentance, BUT HOW is that in line with a Clearing, Vehement Desire Change, fear and Purity of heart?

Remember in Early Times Repentance was the Purging of men’s Minds of all defilement, error and contamination of the heart ignorance had engendered. Repentance sweeps, scrapes and cast out of doors all sin and lust of the flesh, making the heart PURE for reception of the Holy Spirit. ONLY the Ransom Model can accomplish this by bringing the Sinner into Contact with the Precious Blood of Christ.

Historical Background:

·         The Governmental view of the atonement, developed by Hugo Grotius, was a modification of Calvin's view, although it represents in some ways a return to the general nature of Anselm's theory. According to Grotius, Christ’s death was an acceptable substitute for punishment, satisfying the demands of God's moral government. In this view, in contrast to Calvin, Christ did not specifically bear the penalty for humanity's sins; nor did he pay for individual sins. Instead, his suffering demonstrated God's displeasure with sin and what sin deserves at the hands of a just Governor of the universe, enabling God to extend forgiveness while maintaining divine order. The Governmental view is the basis for the salvation theories of Protestant denominations who stress freedom of the will as in Arminianism. Other theories on the nature of Christ's atonement such as the Moral Influence view, originally formulated by Pierre Abélard, can also be seen as opposed to the Substitutionary view.

It’s important to understand that that although Abelard denied the Ransom Model he did not teach any kind of Substitution or expiatory atonement. Grotius is much closer to the present Reform View of Penal Sub. Abelard being Latin got his concepts from the early Greek Fathers and like them emphasized the incarnation of Christ making man better. He appears to have been influenced by the teachings of Origen. Also he understood Repentance similar to Tertullian’s concept that it made satisfaction to God and removed the demand for Divine Punishment. Keep in Mind that the Penal View as we know it today was not codified until the 16th Century by Calvin and the early Reformers. 

Additional Reference:

Anselm's view can best be understood from medieval feudalistic conceptions of authority, of sanctions and of reparation. Anselmian satisfaction contrasts with penal substitution in that Anselm sees the satisfaction (i.e. restitution) as an alternative to punishment "The honor taken away must be repaid, or punishment must follow whereas penal substitution views the punishment as the means of satisfaction.

Broadly speaking, Martin Luther followed Anselm, thus remaining mainly in the "Latin" model identified by Gustaf Aulén. However, he held that Christ's atoning work encompassed both his active and passive obedience to the law: as the perfectly innocent God-man, he fulfilled the law perfectly during his life AND he, in his death on the cross, bore the eternal punishment that all men deserved for their breaking the law. Unlike Anselm, Luther thus combines both satisfaction and punishment.

Calvin appropriated Anselm's ideas but changed the terminology to that of the criminal law with which he was familiar - he was trained as a lawyer - reinterpreted in the light of Biblical teaching on the law. Man is guilty before God's judgement and the only appropriate punishment is eternal death. The Son of God has become man and has stood in man's place to bear the immeasurable weight of wrath; the curse, and the condemnation of a righteous God. He was "made a substitute and a surety in the place of transgressors and even submitted as a criminal, to sustain and suffer all the punishment which would have been inflicted on them.