Chapter 28 – Peter’s Atonement Passages

Author: Kevin George

This book is a work in progress. Posts on this blog are to enable readers to examine the manuscript and make commentary. These blog posts are NOT the final version!

1 Peter 1:18-19 “Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”

If you read carefully, you notice that the ransom is not about payment, it has to do with freeing from sin, “from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers”. Ransom here is used metaphorically (see Chapter 10, Ransom and Redemption). It is accepting the precious blood covenant established by Christ that frees from sin. Blood is not a magic substance that brings about freedom from sin, rather it is the basis of the blood covenant that applies to believers.

Sadly, the blood covenant angle is hardly known. Jesus referenced it in Matthew 26:28. Translated as… “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” NASB This implies that Jesus would make a covenant with God by which God would be able to pardon our sins.

But it seems to me that it should have more literally been translated as, “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many INTO the RELEASE of sins.” In other words, the blood covenant of Christ is something that people can enter into, and by so doing they agree to release their sins, which is to stop sinning! This does not have God demanding blood as some divine retribution for man’s sins. The plan is for man to stop sinning, and thereby stop offending God, and then he can be reconciled with God.

This falls in line with many other passages. Here are two of them:

Mat. 1:21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people FROM their sins.”

Titus 2:14 “who gave Himself for us to redeem [free/release] us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”

1 Peter 2:24 PSA misreads many Bible passages. Here is a classic one: “Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree…” (1 Peter 2:24). The claim is that our sins were literally put on, that is, transferred to Jesus, so he could pay for them. However, the context of Peter’s writing leading up to verse 24 shows what Peter was intending to convey, but this context is almost never considered. Peter wrote, “For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” NASB

That word “bore” in verse 24, when read in its surrounding context and with common sense, is not to carry, but to endure. Sins cannot be literally born in the sense of being carried, or transferred, because sins are actions which take place within time. Jesus endured the action of sinners in his own body. Peter says we should also follow this example and be willing to endure the sins of others. We can do this by identifying with Jesus, who endured humanity’s sin in his body. With this in mind we ought to consider ourselves as dead to sinning and live righteously.

In fact, this same theme of Jesus dying to stop people from sinning is used by Peter just a few weeks after the crucifixion, while people who were actually there in person still had it fresh on their minds. He said, “God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” Acts 3:26. Nobody at that time had any idea that Jesus had paid for their sin. That thinking came into Christianity about 1,000 years later.

Peter’s teaching of us being willing to endure the sins of others is meaningless if Peter is literally transferring our sins to Christ. Notice also that he specifies the reason Jesus bore our sins, and it was not so that God could forgive. Again, it was done to stop people from sinning. “He bore our sins…on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness”. (See also Paul teaching the same thing at Titus 2:14, Heb. 9:14.) The fact that Jesus’ death results in righteous living is not what we are used to hearing. But this crucifixion event should shock us into realizing how our sins (as humanity) led to the cruel crucifixion of the very Son of God, and should cause us to hate sin and to stop sinning. We must stop serving sin and become servants of righteousness, as Jesus was a servant of righteousness (Romans 6:16-18).

So, Peter 2:24, when read in context, teaches us nothing about Penal Substitution, and in fact ignores the core idea of PSA by ignoring the payment for sin idea and insisting instead that the death of Jesus results in the righteous living of the believer.

1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” ESV

Just as the above passages, this verse uses the Greek words “peri”, meaning “around, with respect to, or for the sake of”, and “hyper”, meaning “on account of or because of”. It would be more accurate to translate this verse as, “For Christ also suffered once with respect to sins, the righteous because of the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”