Christ, the Substitute For His People
James Smith, 1856
God made man upright — in his own image — capable of knowing, serving, and enjoying him. He manifested Himself to him, gave him a law — and he was truly happy. Man knew, approved of, and could do, all that God required; obedience was to him easy, pleasant, and profitable. The precept of the law was to direct him, and the threatening to deter him; both were alike useful to him. He stood in Eden, as the father of the human race — the representative of his seed — the figure of Him who was to come. He reflected the wisdom, the holiness, and the goodness of his Creator — and doubtless, for a time, lived in sweet communion with him.
But he listened to temptation, fell into sin, and became a rebel against God . . .
his nature became depraved,
his disposition entirely changed,
his person exposed to the curse,
his heart was now turned against God
his conscience alarmed at the presence of God
— and he became separated from God.
He had no right to expect anything, but the immediate execution of the threatening; for he justly deserved to suffer and to die.
Justice appeared as his foe,
guilt filled him with terror,
and God could only be viewed as a Judge!
On the one hand was the threatening — and God was true;
on the other his crime — and God was just.
He was a criminal in a state of degradation and danger. He had no excuse, and he knew no way of escape. His situation was dreadful, for God must be true to his Word: and therefore the penalty must be inflicted. He, with his whole posterity, must die. His case appeared desperate — his condition hopeless.
But at the cool of the day, his God appears — He calls him out of his hiding-place, convicts him of sin, reveals a way of escape, and lays a foundation for hope. Before sin was committed by man — it was anticipated by God, and provision had been made for its expiation. A substitute had been found and accepted; and now the good news is published that "the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head!" A way of access to God on the ground of atonement is made known, and man is directed to take a guiltless victim, a beast of the field, and, confessing sin over him, to slay him — and expect mercy through the blood-shedding of the innocent victim. In the death of that victim, the sinner sees his own desert, and learns the important truth that "God himself will provide a Lamb for the burnt-offering." The beast was the substitute for the man, and set forth Him who was to appear once in the fullness of time, to "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself," Hebrews 9:26. Sacrifices were continued, and beasts substituted for men, during the whole of the patriarchal age; and thus was the gospel preached — hope sustained — -and salvation enjoyed.
At length, a clearer revelation was to be made — and Israel, who had been long held in bondage by the Egyptians, were to be delivered. Moses is commanded to direct every family to take a lamb — to shed its blood, to sprinkle that blood across the top and the two door-posts of the house — and shut themselves in until morning.
The destroying angel passed through the land, every Egyptian's house was smitten — but not one Israelite suffered. The lamb had been accepted for the family, and they could feast safely in their dwellings. This was to preach the deliverance of the Lord's people by the death of Jesus: and now that "Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us" — we are safe, and "should therefore keep the feast," 1 Corinthians 5:7, 8.
The lamb of the morning, and the lamb of the evening, offered on the altar before God continually, kept the subject of substitution constantly before the people, as did most of the other sacrifices. But it was on the great day of atonement that this doctrine was set forth, in all its fullness and glory. Two goats were to be selected and presented before the door of the tabernacle — lots were to be cast, and by lot it was decided which goat should suffer — and which goat should escape. The goat for the sin-offering was to be slain — and his blood taken into the holy place, and to be sprinkled before the mercy-seat, and upon the mercy-seat; and so an atonement was to be made.
Then Aaron was to take the live goat, and lay both his hands upon its head, and confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat — and then the goat was sent away by the hand of a trustworthy man into the wilderness.
The slain goat is substituted for the people, and it's death makes an atonement; and the sending away the live goat sets forth the complete removal of sin from the congregation. The whole service is full of Christ, and sets forth his substitution and perfect work.
By various types and shadows, this subject was kept continually before the congregation throughout the whole of that Old Testament dispensation; but at length "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8.) appeared — the fullness of time came, and God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons, Galatians 4:4, 5.
He had been announced as coming by all the prophets, and was declared to be "the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace," Isaiah 9:6. He took our nature. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth," John 1:14. "The children being partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same," Hebrews 2:14. He was made under the law and rendered perfect obedience to it; for this very purpose he came, as it is written, "Sacrifice, and offering, and burnt offerings, and offerings for sin, you would not, neither had pleasure therein — which are offered by the law. Then said I, Lo, I come to do your will, O God; yes, your law is within my heart," Psalm 40. Hebrews 10.
He honored the precepts by obeying them in his life — and the penalty by paying it at his death; that "as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous," Romans 5:19. He represented his people when he obeyed, and he represented them when he suffered; He was "the second Adam — the Lord from Heaven," 1 Corinthians 15:47.
All the seed of Adam were represented by Adam — sinned in him, and became the subjects of disease and death through him, Romans 5:12-19. Just so, all the seed of Christ were represented by Him, and obtain righteousness and life through Him.
He was the Surety of the better covenant — engaged to make peace — redeem the people, (John 10:16) — and see all the promises fulfilled.
He was the Shepherd of the sheep, who took their blame — became liable in their stead, and laid down his life as the price of their redemption, John 10:11, 1 Peter 1:18-21.
He was the Husband of his bride; and out of love to her became a substitute for her; as it is written, "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it — that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, having no spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish," Ephesians 5:25-27.
He was the Redeemer, giving his life a "ransom for many," Matthew 20:28; — dying for them, "to redeem them from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works," Titus 2:14.
He was the Savior called Jesus, because he came "to save his people from their sins," Matthew 1:21; who that he might make expiation for the people with his own blood, "suffered outside the gate," Hebrews 13:12.
Thus as a substitute he labored, suffered, and died; and God accepted his obedience instead of ours — his sufferings instead of ours — his life instead of ours. He died for us, or instead of us, Romans 5:6, 8; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15.
As Aaron put the sins of Israel on the goat — so were our sins laid upon Jesus. "All 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," Isaiah 53:6. Psalm 40:12. Jesus, as our substitute, really bore our sins, as it was predicted, "He shall bear their iniquities;" "He bore the sin of many," Isaiah 53:11,12. "Who, His own self, bore our sins in His own body, on the tree," 1 Peter 2:24. "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many," Hebrews 9:28.
In Him our sins were punished. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by his stripes we are healed. For the transgression of my people was He stricken," Isaiah 53:5, 8.
Christ also suffered for us. 1 Peter 2:21. "Christ also has once suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God," 1 Peter 3:18. "Christ has suffered for us in the flesh," 1 Peter 4:1. "Christ died for our sins, according to the scripture," 1 Corinthians 15:3. By him our sins are forever put away; they are as though they were not; therefore we read, "Behold the Lamb of God, which (takes up and) takes away the sin of the world," John 1:29. "He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself," Hebrews 9:26. "He was manifested to take away our sins," 1 John 3:5. "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us," Psalm 103:12. "I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day," Zech. 3:9. "You have cast all my sins behind your back," Isaiah 38:17. "You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea," Micah. 7:19. See also Psalm 32:1, 2; Romans 4:7; 1 John 2:1, 2; Hebrews 1:3; Romans 11:27; Dan. 9:24; Jeremiah 1:20; Romans 8:33, 34.
The death of Christ as a substitute was a real sacrifice for sin, infinite in its value, and eternal in its efficacy. His soul was made "an offering for sin," Isaiah 53:10. "Christ has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet-smelling savor," Ephesians 5:2. "This priest after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God. For by one offering he has perfected forever those for whom he made expiation," Hebrews 10:12, 14. "By the will of God expiation is made for us, by the offering up of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all," Hebrews 10:10.
The Savior offered his entire person a sacrifice for the sins of his people, by which offering justice is satisfied, sin is put away, reconciliation on honorable grounds is effected, (Hebrews 2:17. Romans 5:10. Colossians 1:20-22.) and "a way is opened for us into the holiest of all," Hebrews 10:19, 20. By His death He purchased His people; therefore we read "Feed the church of God, which He has purchased with His own blood," Acts 20:21. Every saint is "bought with a price," 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23, "redeemed by the precious blood of Christ," 1 Peter 1:18, 19, and forms "a part of the purchased possession" Ephesians 1:14.
He not only purchased our persons — but procured our pardon, Ephesians 1:7, secured our reconciliation, Romans 5:10, and raised every believer above the reach of condemnation, Romans 8:1, 33, 34; John 5:24.
As He represented us on earth, so He does now in Heaven; He, as our great High Priest, wears our names on his breast — calls us brethren — is preparing a place for us in his Father's house — advocates our cause against all our foes — intercedes for us with his Heavenly Father — stands as Mediator between us and the throne of glory — considers us as part of Himself, "members of His body, of his flesh, and of His bones," and will soon come to fetch us, that so we may be forever with the Lord.
He manages all our concerns in Heaven, and sends down His Holy Spirit to manage all within us, Rom, 8:26. Christ and His people are Owe; they were given to him, John 17:2.; they become one with Him, John 15:1. Ephesians 5:30. His love to them is . . .
as infinite as His nature;
as strong as His omnipotence;
and as changeless as His mind.
For them He engaged in covenant before time — for them He appeared to do and suffer in time, and for them he will come at the close of time, that they n ay be like Him, and with Him, when time shall be no more.
The result of the death of Christ is certain. He did not die at a 'perhaps'. He came into the world for a specific purpose, and that purpose must be accomplished. Whatever bearing the atonement may have on the world, as a means of moral government; whatever benefits may flow incidentally to others, from their connection with the saints, "Israel shall be saved in the Lord, with an everlasting salvation; they shall not be ashamed nor confounded, world without end," Isaiah 45:17. He "gave Himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God, and our Father," Galatians 1:4. He "gave Himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works," Titus 2:14.
It was expedient that He should die for the people, and also that He should "gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad," John 11:50, 52. "He was made to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him," 2 Corinthians 5:21. "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree; that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith," Galatians 3:13,14. "He suffered for our sins, that he might bring us to God," 1 Peter 3:18. "He died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 1 Thessalonians 5:10. He became "the Mediator of the new covenant, that by means of his death, we who are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance," Hebrews 4:15.
If he died to deliver us from the world — to redeem us from all iniquity — to gather together in one all the children of God — to make them the righteousness of God — that he might bring us to God, and put us in possession of the eternal inheritance — all these things He will do, for all power is given unto Him in Heaven and in earth. Surely he would not suffer and die (which is dreadful) to accomplish an end, and then refuse to employ his power (which is easy and glorious) to secure it. No, No! The Father has promised that "He shall see his seed;" with which he travailed in birth, "and be satisfied," Isaiah 53:10, 11. "A seed shall serve him; and it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation." "They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born that he has done this," Psalm 22:30, 31. He "came down from Heaven not to do his own will — but the will of Him that sent, him; and this is the Father's will, that of all which He has given him he should lose nothing — but raise it up again at the last day," John 6:38, 39.
As the Shepherd, he became responsible for the sheep; threfore He laid down his life for them, and said, "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold — them also I MUST bring, and they shall hear my voice: and there shall be one fold and one shepherd," John 10:15, 16. And speaking of all the Father gave him, of all for whom he became responsible, of all for whom he became a substitute, he said, "My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, who gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand," John 10:27-29. But of some he said, "You are not of my sheep, as I said unto you," John 10:26.
To represent the result of the death of Jesus as uncertain — appears to reflect upon the wisdom, justice, and holiness of God, and set aside the doctrine of substitution altogether. If, indeed, He represented HIS PEOPLE, if He obeyed the law for them, if He suffered and died in their stead, if "He lives to make intercession for them," and if He has unlimited power and authority — then will he not save them? If He really loved them, if He died to redeem them, if He atoned for their sins — will He — can He allow them to perish? If He intended to save them, and they are lost — is He not disappointed? And if disappointed, can he be God? — the God who says, "I will do all my pleasure!" Has He power to save whom He loves? If He really loves His people — then will He not exert that power to save them? His relation to His people as their substitute, flows from his love to them; His sacrifice is the effect of his substitution; having offered that sacrifice, He is proclaimed "Lord both of the dead and of the living;" and by his sacrifice, Spirit, and providence, He saves all whom He represented.
Whatever relation, therefore, the Savior may sustain to the world at large — it is clear that he fills a peculiar relation to his people. Their salvation is not left as a matter of contingency. He represented His seed; and as Adam's seed all died in Adam, so in Christ shall all his "be made alive," 1 Corinthians 15:22. FOR them He lived, suffered, bled, and died! TO them He sends the Holy Spirit, and they are made willing in the day of His power. At His throne they confess their sins, and seek salvation — by faith they embrace His promises, and receive His fullness. And as believers they are pardoned, justified, accepted, and saved. They have everlasting life. For them the law is magnified, justice is satisfied, and God is glorified in their salvation; their sins are put away, their persons are the purchased property of Jesus, and He constantly represents them before the throne. For them, He abolished death — for them, He conquered Satan — and to them, he has promised Heaven. He is made unto them of God "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption."
But someone may ask, "How may I enjoy this blessedness?" Believe in the Lord Jesus; and by faith you are entitled to every promise in the bible — every blessing that is in Christ — and every privilege of the church of God: "He who believes has everlasting life, and shall never come into condemnation!"