Penal Substitutionary Atonement.

It’s a big phrase. To make it simple, it really means we were traded. We were slaves who were traded for a free person. It’s the foundation for a non-works based belief of our status with God. The Christian would say that Jesus lived a sinless life and traded it for our sinful life. Some good verses of reference are: 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Galatians 3:13

Let’s break it down word by word to make it clearer.


Prescribing the punishment of offenders under the legal system. In other words: The system of punishment for those on the wrong end of a legal system.


Comes from substitution, or replacement. In other words: A person standing in the place of another.


Reparation for a wrong or injury. In other words: The fully paid price for something done wrong.

So it means

the punishment of someone on the wrong side or a legal system was fully paid by the punishment being placed on another person.

If you want a good example

You can even find it in the bible, with Barabbas. In Matthew 27:15-23

That’s a perfect picture of what Penal Substitutionary Atonement means. Another phrase that theologians have used is “the great exchange”.

That’s what it means to us. There was a death sentence, and someone better than us took our place and was put to death.

For More Reading Check Here:


J.I. Packer on Penal-Substitution

On a ground level

If you know Jesus:

you don’t have to work at paying God back

if bad things happen it isn’t because God’s mad at you, because He’s not

if good things happen it isn’t because God’s happy at you, even though He is

If you don’t know Jesus:

you can, it involves trust (email me for more here)

going to church won’t make God happy at you

if bad things happen it could mean God’s trying to bring you to Him

if good things happen it could mean that God’s NOT happy at you

Penal-substitution means you don’t have to, and can’t, work to please God.[Tweet That]