Question: I am a concerned Christian from the “Open Brethren.” In your gospel message, you emphasize that salvation is based on the fact that Christ “paid the penalty for our sins.” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance has no entry for “penalty,” nor did Jesus or the apostles ever mention that a penalty for our sins was paid. If I ask fellow Christians where to find this view in the Bible, they are either perplexed (because they don’t know the answer) or they imply that I am not saved. Since you use that statement so often in your gospel presentations, I pose that question to you.
Response: Nor is the word “trinity” in either the Bible or in Strong’s, yet it is a basic teaching of Scripture. Was not the casting of Adam and Eve out of the Garden a penalty for their sin? Isn’t the death that came upon Adam and Eve and upon all of their descendants to this day also a penalty for sin—a penalty that would continue in eternal separation from God without His pardon? In declaring “the soul that sinneth, it shall die (Ezekiel:18:13, 20)…sin bringeth forth death (James:1:15)…the strength of sin is the law” (1 Corinthians:15:56), is the scripture not saying that death is the penalty for sin?
Does not a penalty have to be paid? Granted, the Bible nowhere uses the exact terminology we would today about Christ paying the penalty for sin. But isn’t that what is implied when it says, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him: and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah:53:5), or “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians:15:3,) or “that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Hebrews:2:9), as well as in many similar verses? If death is the penalty for sin and Christ died for all, then surely He paid the penalty in full for all of us, or we would have to pay that penalty ourselves. Our salvation is a matter of God’s justice, “that he [God] might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans:3:26).
I don’t understand your objection to saying that the penalty was paid. Is not that the force of Christ’s triumphant cry from the cross, “It is finished! (Tetelestai!)” meaning “paid in full?” I am grateful that Christ paid in full the penalty for my sins so that God can be just in pardoning me, the sinner! There is no other means of salvation.