From the book of beginnings, Genesis, to the very end of the Canon of Scripture, the book of Revelation, we have the crimson ribbon of substitution! Yet, it is this very core, this very foundation of Christianity, that is directly under assault today! It is the very core of the gospel, of salvation, that is being challenged today! I wonder, just where do you stand in this most absolutely fundamental teaching of Christendom? For there is no more vital truth than this. So, no wonder the enemy of souls would put it in his cross-hairs!
Little makes sense, when we cut into the middle of a narrative! So then, in the very beginning, Adam was warned, “In the day you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) And, immediately upon Adam & Eve eating of the tree – BOOM! There was a drastic change! Guilt and shame swept over the pair that had lived, till now, in perfect peace! What happened?! They became sinners, and of Christ we read that He is, “Separated from sinners.” (Hebrews 7:26) Yes, at the very core of the meaning of death, is separation!
What then would God do? Would He be heartless and let them stay in this predicament? After all, He had warned them! Didn’t they now deserve this separation, this death? Indeed. In fact, their bodies were now on the way to dying as well. “Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.” (Genesis 5: 5) Indeed, death would bring separation from those on Earth too! Not only this, but God speaks of a “second death,” that would be an eternal separation from abundant life in Heaven as well!
No question, sin has terrifying consequences! God was unequivocal, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) And, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22)
Yes, Adam & Eve thought garments made of plant material would work to bring them back into a right relationship with God, but no! No, God had to bring death to innocent animal(s), in order to provide a way for Adam & Eve to be brought back into a right relationship with Himself! So with Abel. He too, had to bring an animal that would die in his place. So with Isaac, an animal died in his place! So at the Passover, where many lambs died in the place of the Israelites! In fact, throughout the history of the Old Testament Israelite people, there were innocent animals dying in the place of guilty sinners! Every time a person sinned, they were to bring an animal to die in their place! They were called “sin offerings.”
Lamb of God
Upon reaching the New Testament, we read, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Immediately comes to mind all the lambs that were laid upon altars, dying in place of the guilty persons! With clear and resounding words we read:
“1Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.”
Nothing could be more plain! We were all like criminals in a country! And just like criminals, we deserved to meet head on with the justice of God! We deserved His righteous wrath! For we had rebelled against Him and gone our own way! We were not obedient to Him! We were condemned! Yet, God in His mercy, sent His only begotten Son to be your and my Saviour! This is grace! The undeserved, unmerited favour of God Almighty! That He would provide a way of pardon for us! A way of escape! This is simply incredible!
My Cry to God!
“For God so loved the world [you too!], that he gave his only [begotten] Son, that whoever [even you!] believes in him, should not perish but have everlasting life”! (John 3:16) Yes, it is true! Do you believe in the Saviour? Do you believe that He alone is able to save you and bring you into God’s glorious Heaven? That it is apart from any effort or doing on your part? That the moment you place your faith in Christ alone, that He saves you for time and eternity?
“The gospel…that Christ died for us in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1Corinthians 15:1-4) If then, Christ as the Lamb of God, already took the punishment for your sin. Then how could one ever be condemned again? For you have been purchased by the precious blood of the Lamb once for all! Therefore, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”! (Romans 10:13) What a glorious, undeserved promise from God!
The Imperative of Substitution
Clearly, without penal substitution, we have no gospel. Without it, there was no need for animal sacrifices. Without it, there is no justice. Without out it, God’s holy character is called into question! Without it, we have no hope at all – no Saviour! Without it, we would have to face the punishment of God in the lake of fire for eternity! Thankfully, Christ is our substitute! He did die in our place! He did take the wrath of God for you! This, that the righteousness of Christ could be given you in exchange! Let us not allow the serpent to rob us of our hope in Christ, the Saviour – our Saviour!
Paul the apostle said, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Christ and him crucified.” (1Corinthians 2:2)
Let us then not diminish the tremendous cost to God the Father of sending His only begotten Son to die on that cruel cross to pay the penalty of our sin, in our place! This that we could be placed into a right standing with God Almighty!
Therefore, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) For it is not our righteousness we can depend on, but Christ’s righteousness given us freely who believe!
Victor J. Reimer
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Photo credit: “Serina series 2006” by Ben Northern
*Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV), copyrighted © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.