Jesus’ Death In Luke-Acts: The New Covenant Sacrifice -- By: John Kimbell

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 16:3 (Fall 2012)
Article: Jesus’ Death In Luke-Acts: The New Covenant Sacrifice
Author: John Kimbell


Jesus’ Death In Luke-Acts: The New Covenant Sacrifice

John Kimbell

John Kimbell is Associate Pastor at Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

Dr. Kimball earned the Ph.D. in New Testament from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and completed his dissertation on “The Atonement in Lukan Theology.”

A steady debate over the meaning of the death of Jesus in Luke-Acts runs through the heart of scholarly attention to Lukan theology. Alongside the growing recognition of Luke as a theologian in his own right, the uniqueness of his interpretation of the cross over against other biblical authors has been regularly emphasized. In this regard, it has become commonplace to affirm Luke attaches no direct soteriological value to the death of Jesus, or at the very least minimizes any such connection.1 More specifically, a broad contingent of critical scholarship has concluded that nowhere in Luke-Acts is Christ’s death presented as an atonement for sin.2 Rather, Luke’s soteriological emphasis is said to land squarely upon Jesus’ resurrection and exaltation as Lord.3

Without denying scholarship’s well-grounded assessment regarding Luke’s emphasis on the saving significance of Jesus’ resurrection and exaltation, the value Luke attributes to the death of Christ has been underestimated. A proper reading of the Lukan narrative shows the death of Christ is given greater direct soteriological significance in Luke-Acts than scholarship generally acknowledges. Specifically, Luke presents the death of Jesus as a substitutionary atonement that brings about the forgiveness of sins. This is not to say Luke emphasizes the saving significance of Christ’s death above other soteriological events such as resurrection and exaltation. Rather, it is to say that atonement plays a fundamental role in Luke’s soteriology such that when this aspect is rejected or minimized, Luke’s presentation of the cross and salvation is distorted.

The New Covenant Sacrifice

One significant way Luke presents his soteriological understanding of the cross to his readers is by showing that the death of Jesus was the atoning sacrifice that established the new covenant God had promised to make with His people.4 A key Lukan text for establishing this understanding occurs in the account of Jesus’ Last Supper

with his disciples. In his description of this event, Luke sets forth one of the most direct st...

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