penal substitutionary atonement is central to the Christian gospel” and that “to deny penal substitutionary atonement (PSA) is to deny the Gospel.” I wholeheartedly agree. Without Christ’s penal substitution, there remains no saving gospel. There was no other way for the penalty of our sins to be fully paid for than for Christ to die as the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2). Moments before his arrest, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will,” (Matthew 26:39). In other words, “If there be any other way in which sinners could be saved, let this cup pass from me…” (See Jeremiah 25:15 or Isaiah 51:17 for more on ‘the cup’). Of course, there was no other way. Hours later Jesus was crucified on the cross as a substitute for sinners. Before he gave his final breath he cried out with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Why did the Father forsake the Son? Because there was no other way for us to be saved from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9). The penal substitutionary atonement of Christ was necessary for our salvation. It is the very heart of the gospel. Consequently, to deny PSA is to deny the gospel itself.My pastor, Jacob Reaume, has recently said that “
I certainly am not the only one in agreement with my pastor’s conclusion. PSA has been widely held and regularly preached by faithful pastors throughout church history. Prior to the 19th century, there was little (if any) opposition to it. Most opposition to PSA “can be traced to the rise of liberal theology in the middle of the nineteenth century.” In the decades that followed this rise of liberalism in the church, “various alternative accounts of the atonement emerged.” Since then, pastors and theologians have had to explicitly defend PSA and its centrality to the Christian gospel. What follows in this post is a collection of quotes (some are lengthy for context) to demonstrate that many faithful pastors and theologians within evangelicalism over the past 150 years are in agreement with my pastor’s conclusion—that PSA is the very heart of the Christian gospel and to deny it is to deny the gospel itself. This list is only a small subset of those that hold to this biblical conclusion. I’ve emboldened particularly relevant parts in each of these excerpts.
“If ever there should come a wretched day when all our pulpits shall be full of modern thought, and the old doctrine of substitutionary sacrifice shall be exploded, then will there remain no word of comfort for the guilty or hope for the despairing. Hushed will be forever those silver notes which now console the living, and cheer the dying; a dumb spirit will possess this dying world, and no voice of joy will break the blank silence of despair. The gospel speaks through the propitiation for sin, and if that be denied, it speaketh no more. Those who preach not the atonement exhibit a dumb and dummy gospel; a mouth it hath, but speaketh not…
Would you have me silence the doctrine of the blood of sprinkling? Would anyone of you attempt so horrible a deed? Shall we be censured if we continually proclaim the heaven-sent message of the blood of Jesus? Shall we speak with bated breath because some affected person shudders at the sound of the word ‘blood’? or some ‘cultured’ individual rebels at the old fashioned thought of sacrifice? Nay, verily, we will sooner have our tongue cut out that cease to speak of the precious blood of Jesus Christ.”
“Whether we like it or not, Christianity is a most intolerant faith. It says that this and this alone is right and true . . . the only basis of unity today, as it was the only basis of unity in the early Church, is the apostolic message. And whatever men may think or say we must assert this. Let them call us intolerant, isolationists, or what they will, we must take our stand with this man of God! It is not my opinion or anybody else’s opinion that matters—what does the Word teach?
. . . this is the foundation—that man by nature is dead in trespasses and sins; that he is under the wrath of God . . . unless you believe that man, by nature, is dead in trespasses and sins, and that there is such a thing as the wrath of God upon sin, whatever else may be true of you, you are not in this holy temple in the Lord, in which God dwells . . . But thank God it does not stop at that, it goes on to tell us about the grace of God . . . the Lord Jesus Christ, His Person and His work . . . it is by His death, by His sacrificial death, by His substituting Himself for us to bear the punishment of our sins, that we are saved. It is by the blood of Christ!
. . . there are people who call themselves Christians who scoff at it. There are leaders in the big denominations who say that it is scandalous to talk about a substitutionary atonement. And I am asked to be one in fellowship with them. How can I be? It is impossible. I have no choice; this is fundamental. The blood of Christ! ‘He bore my sins in his own body on the tree.’ It is by that alone that I am delivered, and by the power of God in regeneration, and the gift of the Spirit. Union with Christ!
. . . the practical question therefore which we ask ourselves is this: Do I know what I believe about the Lord Jesus Christ? Do I know Him? Am I in Him, in this vital relationship? . . . [Or] are you just interested in a vague, nebulous Christianity that says that you must not be concerned about doctrine because doctrine separates? Is that your position? It was certainly not the position of the man who said, ‘But though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel . . . let him be accursed.’”
“So [penal] substitution is not a ‘theory of the atonement.’ Nor is it even an additional image to take its place as an option alongside the others. It is rather the essence of each image and the heart of the atonement itself. None of the four images could stand without it. I am not of course saying that it is necessary to understand, let alone articulate, a substitutionary atonement before one can be saved. Yet the responsibility of Christian teachers, preachers and other witnesses is to seek grace to expound it with clarity and conviction. For the better people understand the glory of the divine substitution, the easier it will be for them to trust in the Substitute.”
“Has the word propitiation any place in your Christianity? In the faith of the New Testament it is central. The love of God, the taking of human form by the Son, the meaning of the cross, Christ’s heavenly intercession, the way of salvation–all are to be explained in terms of it, as the passages quoted show, and any explanation from which the thought of propitiation is missing will be incomplete, and indeed actually misleading by New Testament standards.
In saying this, we swim against the stream of much modern teaching and condemn at a stroke the views of a great number of distinguished church leaders today but we cannot help that. Paul wrote, ‘Even if we or an angel from heaven’–let alone a minister, bishop, college lecturer, university professor, or noted author–‘should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!’. And a gospel without propitiation at its heart is another gospel than that which Paul preached. The implications of this must not be evaded.”
Note: Packer’s definition of propitiation – “in his sacrificial death for our sins Christ pacified the wrath of God.”
“Well, not much more could be more important than the question of whether Christ was, in fact, a just and merciful substitute for sinners, so that when he died for his elect, he actually bore their punishment so that they can experience no condemnation. That is the heart of the Christian gospel. If that goes, everything goes. Let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we perish (1 Corinthians 15:32).”
Steve Jeffrey, Michael Ovey, Andrew Sach
“Penal substitution lies at the heart of the gospel. As difficult as it may be, we can no more afford to sidestep this issue for the sake of unity than we can lay aside disagreements on the deity of Christ. This is of a different order to debates about the nature of church leadership or speaking in tongues. It is possible (and desirable) for Christians to retain unity in the gospel if they differ on those subjects. But when the gospel itself is the thing being debated, there is nothing around which to unite.
It seems that opponents of penal substitution are agreed on the magnitude of the issue. They contend that penal substitution is an unbiblical view of the cross without support in the historic church. They claim that penal substitution undermines the doctrine of the Trinity, without which Christianity would not be Christianity at all. More than that, they insist that penal substitution portrays God as an unjust tyrant, a vindictive child abuser, and a hypocrite who pays no regard to Jesus’ foundational teaching about love…We cannot pretend that critics of penal substitution are raising a minor point of dispute: they are accusing us of propagating a theological novelty, imposing our twisted modern world views on God’s holy word, unwittingly encouraging and justifying sadistic acts of violence, and worshipping a malevolent, hypocritical deity who bears no resemblance whatsoever of the loving God of the Bible. Disagreements over penal substitution cannot be ignored… If those who impugn penal substitution refuse to reconsider their position, there comes a time when we have no alternative but to part company. For the critics are right in this: differences over penal substitution ultimately lead us to worship a different God and to believe a different gospel.” 
“Let’s get this straight; [in the penal substitutionary atonement] we’re either seeing the truth, or a lie. This either is the Gospel, or, it is not. The dividing line is abundantly clear; we either believe that the sum and substance of the Gospel is that a holy and righteous God—Who must demand a full penalty for our sin—both demands the penalty and provides the penalty, through His Own self-substitution in Jesus Christ—the Son—whose perfect obedience, and perfectly accomplished atonement, has purchased for us all that is necessary for our salvation—has met the full demands of the righteousness and justice of God against our sin.
We either believe that, or we do not. …It is important that we understand that the central thrust of the Scripture, though, is undeniable. That’s one of the great accomplishments of the work that has been done in this field. Some of which, we will review. One of the most crucial of these works you were given, the Pierced For Our Transgressions book. If you will deal with it, if you will read it, if you will honestly reflect upon it—if you will work through the biblical texts—it will become a matter of irrefutable truth; that the central thrust of the Scriptures atonement, is that God demanded a punishment for sin, and requires it by His own holiness and justice, and that He provided it in Jesus Christ—Who died on our behalf—paying in full the penalty for our sin.
Not only associating Himself with our sin, but becoming sin for us, in order that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. We come to understand that, not only is this the central thrust of the Scriptures, the Gospel as defined and presented in the Scriptures is reaffirmed and preached in the Reformation, and in the tradition that became known as the ‘evangelical’ tradition—and the evangelical movement. We come to understand that the atonement for sin is first objectively accomplished for those who come to faith in Christ through the perfect sacrifice of Christ, and the full satisfaction of God’s righteousness. We understand that this atonement is subjectively experienced by the believer through redemption, and through union with Christ, we understand that this atonement is divinely applied by the Holy Spirit, Who convicts the soul of sin; [and] opens and quickens the eyes and the soul to see and to believe, and then sets His seal upon the believer.”
“The Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. The Lord God Himself chose the sacrificial Lamb, the Servant, Messiah, the sacrificial Lamb. The Servant Messiah was voluntarily willing to submit Himself to become the vicarious substitute. God caused Him then to pick up all the guilt that belonged to us and take the full fury of divine wrath. Five different ways in [Isaiah 53:4-6], five different ways it speaks of the vicarious, substitutionary provision of Jesus Christ, dying in our place. This is the heart of the gospel.
Now, just a footnote. It wasn’t the sin that killed Him; it was God who killed Him. It wasn’t the sin. He didn’t have any sin. He was sinless, holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sin. Sin did not kill Jesus. God killed Jesus to pay for sin that He never committed, but you did and I did. Jesus didn’t die as a moral influence, showing the power of love. Jesus didn’t die as an example of sacrifice for a noble cause. Jesus didn’t die as nothing more than Christus Victor. That was a theory that came out in the 1930s and is still around. The idea was that Jesus died to gain a victory over hostile powers and to liberate humanity and the cosmos from social injustice. Jesus didn’t die because we are victims trapped in unjust circumstances and need to be rescued.
There’s only one way to understand the death of Christ and that is under the principle of penal substitution. He was our substitute to take the penalty for our sins, to satisfy the justice of God. The New Testament affirms this, doesn’t it? Second Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Peter puts it this way, “He bore in His own body our sins.” And Paul says in Galatians 3, “He was a curse for us.” That’s the New Testament affirmation of the truth of Isaiah 53. God has then not dealt with us according to our iniquities, He has not dealt with us according to our transgressions. But nor has He overlooked our sins, rather He has punished His Son, the Servant, the Messiah in our place and grace reigns over righteousness.”
Extra: Here’s a video in which John MacArthur calls out NT Wright as a heretic for his denial of PSA – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZJEZiLfYHk
“Is there more than one thing to say about the atonement? Absolutely. Are there a variety of implications and applications that can be drawn from the cross of Christ? Of course. But none of them make sense if Christ did not die in our place to assuage the wrath of God. Penal substitution is not a theory–one suggested idea that may or may not be true. Penal substitutionary atonement is the hope of sinners, the heart of the gospel, and the good news without which all other news regarding the cross is null and void.”
“The theory of penal substitution is the heart and soul of an evangelical view of the atonement. I am not claiming that it is the only truth about the atonement taught in the scriptures. Nor am I claiming that penal substitution is emphasized in every piece of literature, or that every author articulates clearly penal substitution. I am claiming that penal substitution functions as the anchor and foundation for all other dimensions of the atonement when the scriptures are considered as a canonical whole. I define penal substitution as follows: The Father, because of his love for human beings, sent his Son (who offered himself willingly and gladly) to satisfy his justice, so that Christ took the place of sinners. The punishment and penalty we deserved was laid on Jesus Christ instead of us, so that in the cross both God’s holiness and love are manifested.
The riches of what God has accomplished in Christ for his people are not exhausted by penal substitution. The multifaceted character of the atonement must be recognized to do justice the canonical witness. God’s people are impoverished if Christ’s triumph over evil powers at the cross is slighted, or Christ’s exemplary love is shoved to the side, or the healing bestowed on believers by Christ’s cross and resurrection is downplayed. While not denying the wide-ranging character of Christ’s atonement, I am arguing that penal substitution is foundational and the heart of the atonement.”
In the conclusion of the book In My Place Condemned He Stood, a book on penal substitution, Dever writes:
“The cross of Christ, thus understood, is, as the preceding chapters have argued, the heart of the apostle’s gospel and of their piety and praise as well; so surely it ought to be central in our own proclamation, catechesis, and devotional practice. True Christ-centeredness is, and ever must be, cross-centeredness…And clear-headedness about the cross, banishing blurriness in mind, is only attained by facing up to the reality of Christ’s blood-sacrifice of himself in penal substitution for those whom the Father had given him to redeem.”
“Sadly, this doctrine of substitution is probably the one part of the Christian gospel that the world hates most. People are simply disgusted at the idea of Jesus being punished for someone else’s sin. More than one author has called it ‘divine child abuse.’ And yet to toss substitutionary atonement aside is to cut out the heart of the gospel. To be sure, there are many pictures in Scripture of what Christ accomplished with his death: example, reconciliation, and victory, to name three. But underneath them all is the reality to which all the other images point—penal substitution. You simply cannot leave it out, or even downplay it in favor of other images, or else you litter the landscape of Scripture with unanswered questions. Why the sacrifice? What did that shedding of blood accomplish? How can God have mercy on sinners without destroying justice? What can it mean that God forgives iniquity and transgression and sin, and yet by no means clears the guilty (Ex. 34:7)? How can a righteous and holy God justify the ungodly (Rom. 4:5)? The answer to all these questions if found at the cross of Calvary, in Jesus’ substitutionary death for his people.”
“That Jesus died as the substitute for our sins is one of the central truths in the Bible… That’s what Jesus did for us on the cross, not only suffering the most horrific and ignominious death known in the ancient world, but in doing so, bearing our sins: ‘He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; you have been healed by His wounds. . . . For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God’ (1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18).
At the cross, we see the horrific ugliness of sin, the devastating consequences of sin, and the extraordinary, mind-boggling, totally humbling, incredibly massive love of God. And when Jesus rose from the dead, He declared victory over all the powers of darkness and provides our justification and vindication. That is our Savior and Lord!
It is therefore a terrible shame, not to mention a totally false and very ugly accusation, to speak of the cross in terms of ‘cosmic child abuse’ and to describe our heavenly Father as a ‘monster God’ and to liken Him to a pagan deity.
How could such selfless love be so terribly misunderstood? In response, I say to one and all, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1:29) As stated in John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son …’ That is the heart of the gospel.”
“Agreement on the nature of the atonement has long been a defining feature of evangelical Christianity. Today, however, all is in crisis. For some time, the writings of a number of scholars reared in evangelicalism have eroded, even denied, that the heart of the gospel is to be found in Christ’s penal substitutionary death and his glorious resurrection. But now—inevitably—this view has begun to appear in books written by popular authors who are viewed as contemporary, cutting-edge leaders. Sadly, much that is said and written unwittingly repeats what was long ago rejected as unorthodox.”
“Penal, substitutionary atonement is a gospel issue…in the sense that if we deny or disown penal, substitutionary atonement, the gospel is adversely affected.”
“This book is important not only because it deals so competently with what lies at the heart of Christ’s cross work, but because it responds effectively to a new generation of people who are not listening very carefully to what either Scripture or history says. One of the delightful features of this book is reflected in the subtitle: the authors make no apology for their thesis, but underscore the glory of penal substitution. This book deserves the widespread circulation achieved by corresponding contributions a generation ago – the contributions of Leon Morris, Jim Packer, and John Stott.”
“I’m thankful that believers who differ on the issue of baptism can still have wonderful fellowship with one another across denominational lines, and can have respect for each other’s sincerely held views. I certainly do not put the question of baptism in the same category as the denial of penal substitutionary atonement which you mentioned because that seems to me to be a denial of the heart of the Gospel.”
 Ibid., p. 34.
 From the Ask Pastor John podcast episode titled “Articulating the Glorious Cross to an Atonement-Rejecting Culture”
 From his 2008 T4G sermon titled, “Why Do They Hate It So? The Doctrine of Substitution”
 From his article “Did Christ Really Die as the Substitute for Our Sins?”
 From an interview with Adrian Warnock in 2006: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/adrianwarnock/2006/12/interview-dr-wayne-grudem-highlights-and-reflections/