Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:13-23)

 God’s Word In The Bible Makes The Gospel Quite Clear 

Let’s do something which is largely unheard in today’s highly subjective postmodern/postevangelical world; we’ll turn to the inerrant and infallible record of Holy Scripture as we examine the critical issue of the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.

In our text from the Gospel of Matthew, which remember, is his eyewitness deposition we read in verse 21:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.  (Matthew 16:21)

If we approach this verse without postmodern presupposition it’s pretty obvious that the Master is prophesying the sacrifice of His life. The following from J.C. Ryle proves helpful here:

We find our Lord revealing to His disciples a great and startling truth. That truth was His approaching death upon the cross. For the first time He places before their minds the astonishing announcement, that “He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer—and be killed.”

He had not come on earth to take a kingdom, but to die. He had not come to reign, and be ministered to, but to shed His blood as a sacrifice and to give His life as a ransom for many.1

However, we still see that the ever ebullient and impetuous disciple:

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” (Matthew 16:22)

But how could God not allow what He Himself had decreed some 700+ years before:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. (Isaiah 53:4-10)

Yet even within the evangelical community itself we have people denying outright  Christ’s penal substitutionary atonement. This part of liberal theology would slither into the mainstream of Christendom when it made the ill-fated decision to embrace e.g. the likes of  Living Spiritual Teacher and Emerging Church guru Brian McLaren.

For the sake of this discussion I’ll simply point you to McLaren’s ringing endorsement of The Lost Message Of Jesus (TLMoJ) by Steve Chalke with Alan Mann. Leaving aside the cult-like idea of some “lost message,” you need to remember that we were told this seminal book is supposedly really good stuff by none other than “The Rt Revd N.T. Wright.”

Wright says of TLMoJ that:

“Steve Chalke’s new book is rooted in good scholarship,… Its message is stark and exciting.”2

So here following is what McLaren himself says concerning this “good scholarship,” which is so “exciting” to N.T. Wright:

Steve Chalke’s new book could help save Jesus from Christianity. That’s a strange way of putting it, I know. Not that the real Jesus needs saving. But when one contrasts the vital portrait of Jesus painted by Steve with the tense caricature drawn so often by modern Christianity, one can’t help but feeling the “Jesus” of modern Christianity is in trouble. The Jesus introduced by Steve in these pages sounds like someone who can truly save us from our trouble.
Brian McLaren, author of The Church on the Other Side  ((Ibid. 1, emphasis mine.))

Note that 1) EC leader Brian McLaren actually does admit this is another Jesus, and 2) he says that Chalke paints “the vital portrait of Jesus”. High praise indeed; and not only that, but McLaren also tells us that Steve Chalke, “could help save Jesus from Christianity.” Has helped introduce the liberal Jesus into the very heart of Christianity is more like it.

Well, to refresh your memory, below is what Chalke writes concerning God’s Gospel of Christ’s sacrifice of Himself for sinners in TLMoJ:

The fact is that the cross isn’t a form of cosmic child abuse — a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a construct stands in total contradiction to the statement “God is love.”

If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and refuse to repay evil with evil. The truth is the cross is a symbol of love. It is a demonstration of just how far God as Father and Jesus as his Son are prepared to go to prove that love. The cross is a vivid statement of the powerlessness of love.3

However, returning to the passage of Isaiah 53, which I cited above, the great Hebrew scholar Dr. Edward Young brings out the truth in his classic three volume commentary on Isaiah:

Despite the innocence of the servant, the Lord took pleasure in bruising him. His death was not in the hands of wicked men but in the Lord’s hands. This does not absolve from responsibility those who put him to death, but they were not in control of the situation. They were doing only what the Lord permitted them to do.

Emphasis falls upon the Lord, for inasmuch as the end to be attained, peace, is founded upon the divine nature, the means by which it was to be attained must also be in accordance with the divine character and of divine appointment. The pleasure of the Lord had in view the accomplishing of the divine will. Hence, all attempts of sinful man to produce a Utopia upon this earth are not only wicked, they are foolish.4

Satan Speaks In Order To Try And Thwart The Will And Plan Of God

How sad that Brian McLaren et al weren’t paying attention to a real scholar of the Bible. The truth is, by denying Christ’s substitutionary atonement, men like McLaren are actually speaking for Satan. For you see, this is exactly what Peter himself was doing in our text when he rebuked His Creator by telling Him that He was not to go through with this vicarious sacrifice on the Cross — “Lord! This shall never happen to you.

And now look at who Jesus tells us was actually speaking in this denial of the penal substitutionary atonement:

But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:23)

As Dr. John MacArthur has written, “Christ came with the express purpose of dying as an atonement for sin (John 12:27). And those who thwart His mission are doing Satan’s work.”5 Then during his own insightful commentary on Matthew Robert Mounce hits the target dead on when he says, “those who oppose the will and plan of God are emissaries of Satan.”6

The truth remains that the Holy Spirit has told us with crystalline clarity that the “mission,” as well as “the will and plan of God,” for Jesus was for Him to give His life on the Cross as a sacrifice for sinners. The fact is, as they attack and deny Christ’s mission of the substitutionary atonement on the Cross, duplicitous deceivers like Steve Chalke and Brian McLaren are attempting to thwart our Lord’s work and opposing the will and plan of God.

Therefore, while doing the devil’s work as his emissaries they are absolutely not laboring for God at all. Rather, such as these are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing who truly do speak for Satan himself. So don’t let yourself be taken in by them. The vicarious penal substitutionary atonement is not merely some minor area of Christian theology in which we are free to disagree.

It’s a matter of the gravest importance.

Further reading


  1. J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007], 198.
  2. Steve Chalke, Alan Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004,], 1.
  3. Ibid., 182, 183.
  4. Edward Young, The Book of Isaiah [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1965], Vol. 3, 353, 354, emphasis his.
  5. John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005], 1155
  6. F.F. Bruce, New International Biblical Commentary [Grand Rapids:Zondervan, 1979], 164