Jesus Took Our Place

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:( I Peter 3:18)

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; (1 Timothy 4:1)

We are warned in more than one place, that the last days would be accompanied by a defection from the faith delivered “once and for all” to the church by the apostles. It is impossible to defect from that which you were never a part of, so this is a serious issue.

What they depart from is variously called, “the faith”, “the deposit” ,”the Truth” and “sound doctrine”, in the pastoral epistles of Paul. It is the body of truth, the revelation of the only  spiritual reality; of who God is, what is the state of man, and the gospel of Jesus Christ and his gift of salvation.

There are various and increasing defections from true faith, concerning the nature of God, the person of Jesus Christ, and of saving faith over the years. Our topic today concerns a distortion of the doctrine of the atonement. I refer to the denial of penal substitution, which in my view is the very core and essence of our faith.

What do we mean by the phrase “penal substitution”? We believe that Jesus died on the cross as a substitute for our sins. He had to die in our place to save us, he bore our penalty before God. The death and rejection by God the Father that we sinners all deserve, Jesus took upon himself. Jesus presented himself to the wrath of God, in our stead.

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. ( 2 Corinthians 5:21)

For He– that would be God the Father, made him who knew no sin,that would be Jesus the Son of the Father, to be sin for us, meaning, Jesus, the Son, was made a sin offering for us… that we might be made the righteousness of God, We the sinners who have come to believe in our substitute sin offering, have been made to be “right with God”. in Him, that is in union with Jesus our risen saviour.

The death He died on the cross was the payment of a penalty, for the wages of sin is death. We sinners deserve to die. We have forfeited our right to live in God’s universe! But Jesus, who though from eternity existed as God, became a human being, so that he could bear that penalty and die in our place.

The death of Jesus was a propitiation, that is a satisfaction offering. Propitiation presupposes guilt and Divine wrath, which must be satisfied. The cross of Jesus has satisfied the claims of the Law of God against us, we know this because on the third day God raised him from among the dead.

But there are modern objections to this doctrine. I have come to know evangelicals who adamantly deny that Jesus could ever be our substitute, it doesn’t make moral sense to them, therefore they reject the doctrine.

One british bible teacher went so far as to blasphemously suggest that Substitutionary atonement would be “divine child abuse”, because God required His son to suffer and die in our place.. There are others who take the view that forgiveness would not be truly valid should there be the requirement of a propitiation.

The denial of penal substitution is very prevalent in the “Emergent church” because they are ashamed of the doctrine of the wrath of God which PS presupposes. They decry the “courtroom model” of evangelism, with its talk of Justification, condemnation, Judgment, and wrath, as ineffective in comparison to more “relational” ways of understanding the gospel.

Admittedly the doctrine of the atonement is multi-faceted, Substitution is not the whole of the meaning of the cross. There are also  the doctrines of Adoption, New Birth, Reconciliation, Redemption, The New Creation, and a host of other aspects of the mystery of the meaning of the cross. I have no doubt that into eternity we shall be marveling at the marvel of what Calvary has done for us.

But make no mistake about it, substitution is central to our understanding of it, don’t let anyone tell you any different. Jesus took our place in the Divine judgment that was against us,“He bore our sins in His own body on the tree…”. Isaiah makes it quite plain,

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But 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. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.(Isaiah 53:4-6)

Where would we be if Jesus didn’t love us this way?

The late Martyn Lloyd Jones would not even fellowship with those who denied the doctrine of substitution in his day. Here is what he said about the matter, in his commentary on Ephesians,

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!

(David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God’s Way of Reconciliation Studies in Ephesians, Chapter 2, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972, p. 347.)

I will be posting articles as able to explore some of the arguments the deniers of substitution are making, in the threefold hope of, 1) fortifying true christians in faith, 2) reaching those who have never heard that someone has paid the price for your sins, and 3) calling those who are straying from this doctrine back to true christian orthodoxy.


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7 Responses to Jesus Took Our Place

  1. Mary Detsch says:

    Let us never be ashamed of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe. May we never part from the message of the cross as we await our blessed Lord’s return. May God be with you and may His peace fill your hearts.
    Pastor Bill I save all your blogs and read them word for word, and they are a great resource in my personal library. I thank God for you and Kristin, for the call of God on your lives and your obedience and faithfulness to His Word.

  2. Lyle Oesterborg says:

    We indeed will marvel and are marveling even now, even though how can you fully grasp all the God has done for us.

  3. Nick says:

    I think the biggest problem with those advocating Penal Substitution is that they fail to examine how Scripture itself actually defines “Atonement” – This Article shows the Biblical evidence points decisively away from Penal Substitution.

    • Jared says:

      Bill, thank you for writing about this. I recently had an exchange on the internet with somebody espousing this idea. That person denied that any exchange took place, that no “price” was “paid”. I pointed him to the words of Jesus. Jesus declared, “Telestai”; it is paid. Either we are to believe that Jesus was so delusional from the agony of the cross that He was mumbling about something He didn’t mean to say, or that He meant what He said. The price was paid, the exchange was transacted. Paid in full. That very same transaction was recorded in every book in Heaven, and on the day of Judgement, the books will be opened. The book of Life and the Lamb’s book of Life. The record of your life will be compared to God’s record, and the account will be settled line by line; transaction by transaction. Every detail of the ledger of your existence will be examined. The question to this generation is: When those books are opened, will “Telestai” be written next to your name?

      • Nick says:

        Hi Jared,

        I’m not sure if you meant to “reply” to my post, because it doesn’t seem to address the point I was making. Also, I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea “Telestai” will be written next to one’s name – I’ve not seen that in Scripture. When Jesus said “It is Consumated” on the Cross, that means everything He came to do had reached ultimate fulfillment; Jesus had given up His very last breath to Atone for us.

  4. Theodore A. Jones says:

    “It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13 From the content of your belief this fellow cannot be right.

  5. Jeff S says:

    Jesus did not ‘take our cross’. The Father is not a legalistic omnipower up in the sky demanding that a penalty be paid. Most of us don’t realize that our westernized evangelical interpretation of scripture is steeped through the Roman idea of jurisprudence, not to mention Greek philosophy. JESUS KILLED ADAM. He healed the cancer of sin on humanity, that through him, the world..the cosmos, would be reconciled back to God….and this was accomplished before the foundation of the world! God is triune! Father, Son, and Spirit. Existing in perfect union, harmony, fellowship, and love, who created humanity to share in this fellowship, who created to give something of himself…no to get something FOR himself. We need to stop watering down the finished work of Christ to being able to save a few people from hell. GOD REORDERED THE COSMOS THROUGH HIM. We have made the first Adam more powerful than the second.

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