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He Substituted Himself

Posted by Tim McConnell on

What on earth does "He Substituted Himself" mean? Well, it means God, in Christ, put Himself in our place. He took on the unavoidable results of what we had done so that we could enjoy the unassailable benefits of what He had done. He died for us so we could live to Him. That’s what we are talking about this week in our series, The Cross. Jesus was not just a man dying for others. He was God taking up our sins and bearing their consequences to set us free.

People sometimes ask what they should be reading alongside a series. Boy, there are some great works about the cross. Let me just mention one and give you some bits. This is from John Stott's The Cross of Christ (InterVarsity Press, 1986), on what exactly happened that day when Jesus went to the cross as a substitute for us:

“But what exactly did happen? The sinless one ‘was made sin for us’ (2 Cor 5:21), which must mean that he bore the penalty of our sin instead of us, and he redeemed us from the law’s curse by ‘becoming a curse for us’ (Gal 3:13), which must mean that the curse of the law lying upon us for our disobedience was transferred to him, so that he bore it instead of us … Both verses thus indicate that when we are united to Christ a mysterious exchange takes place: he took our curse so that we may receive his blessing; he became sin with our sin so that we may become righteous with his righteousness" (148).

“Anselm was right that only man ‘should’ make reparation for his sins, since it is he who has defaulted. And he was equally right that only God ‘could’ make the necessary reparation, since it is he who has demanded it. Jesus Christ is therefore the only Savior, since he is the only person in whom the ‘should’ and the ‘could’ are united, being himself both God and man…The substitute bears the penalty, that we sinners may receive the pardon” (157).

“The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives that belong to God alone; God accepts penalties that belong to man alone” (159).

I don’t know what words like that do to you, but for me they are like diamonds. Clear and complete thinking, hard and fast and pure. They elevate my soul. Christ died for us. We live to Him.

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." – 2 Corinthians 5:21


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Tags: e-blast, the cross

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