Penal Substitution/Lutherans

Do Lutherans believe in Penal Substitution?

What I read is that penal substitution was proclaimed as part of the Lutheran faith in the Augsburg Confession at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530. I think some Lutherans accept the Confession.

Lutheran’s do believe that Christ died for our sins. See the following from Paragraph III of the Augsburg Confession:

Also they teach that the Word, that is, the Son of God, did assume the human nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, so that there are two natures, the divine and the human, inseparably enjoined in one Person, one Christ, true God and true man, who was born of the Virgin Mary, truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, that He might reconcile the Father unto us, and be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.

And here in Paragraph IV:

Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

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So thoughts here.

Thanks for all the responses. I have read the Confessions, as my spouse is a Lutheran (I’m a Catholic, but attend services with her), and already had a general idea about it. But perhaps I should have been more specific in my question. The Pastor at my wife’s church preaches and teaches about Penal Substitution, of course, esp. during Lent.
But the question I have is rather simple, and regarding God’s Wrath on Jesus on the Cross, mainly pouring out his wrath on Jesus, which the Pastor would naturally incorporate into his sermons. I understand what God’s Wrath is and pouring it out on humanity. But regarding Jesus, I do not completely understand. I know about the sacrifice of Christ, and what He died for us on the Cross, bearing our sin, and becoming sin, but not being sin itself. But how could God pour out his wrath on Christ when Christ is also God, the second person of the Trinity? How could God pour out His wrath upon Himself. It doesn’t seem theologically correct, nor correct from logic and reason. And since Christ is both fully man and fully God, and neither of His natures can be separated, then even if someone were to say that God poured out his wrath on the human person of Jesus, then it would deny that his being fully man and fully God, inseparable. Again, I don’t see how it is possible that God can pour out his wrath upon Himself. Please clear this up for me.

I’m not sure it can be cleared up. We know the Incarnation happened precisely for this to happen. Isaiah and other OT prophets tell us this.

I found this on the Lutheran Theology website

Paragraph III is basic Christian teaching. They went off the rails when they assumed that sin had no effect on one’s relationship with God. Absolutely anti-biblical and anti-apostolic.

Paragraph IV is no better. Why would Christ teach “Go and sin no more”? Was it just a goof? Why did Paul have a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5) if one was not separated from God by sin? Why did Paul forgive sin in the Person of Christ?

And penal substitution? God punished the innocent so as to acquit the guilty? Explain how that is not unjust. God hated Himself so much that He condemned Himself to death? Irrational as I see it.

The more you study it, the worse it appears.

Maybe this can help. There is a spiritual accounting of sorts in place. Christ made a SACRIFICE to atone for the fall of mankind. Saint Kolbe took the place of an inmate to be executed in Auschwitz. Saint Pio would sometimes satisfy divine justice for the sake of some of his spiritual children.

It is a small distinction that makes a huge difference I think for a Catholic.

Do you have a source where the Lutheran Confessions teach that sin has no effect on one’s relationship with God, because I have a number that refute that statement?

Can you explain where Paragraph IV says this?

Call Dr. David Anders and argue with him. I am only the bullet-riddled messenger.


You put the post up, Not Dr. Anders. You must have some justification for the comments, which do not reflect Lutheran teaching.

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Nowhere in our confessions do we state implicitly or explicitly that sin has no effect on one’s relationship with God.

Paragraph IV acknowledges again that we are justified by grace through faith, not by works, which is the explicit teaching of scripture. What you are doing is making an additional leap into antinomianism which paragraph IV specifically rejects by stating that works are necessary in the Christian life.

Penal substitution is a Biblical concept. In the Old Testament you have the sin offering, guilt offering, etc., to remove God’s wrath. Within the NT Galatians, 2 Corinthians, Romans, and Hebrews all discuss penal substitution. The Christian faith does not ask for God’s justice, but for grace. If you received God’s justice you would be condemned to hell my friend.

“For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified.”


The “wrath” idea isn’t quite accurate. God, Himself, took on the demands that justice would place on humans, His own creation, for sin. And in that He was satisfied that justice had been served even If He had to suffer the consequences Himself for us in order to accomplish this. Sin is a radical anomaly in nature, a rebellion of sorts of creation against Creator such that at least an equally radical solution would be in order to oppose it, and God supplied this solution, such is His love.

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