A Substitute Sacrifice

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Notes on John Stott’s
The Cross of Christ
Chapter 6: The Self-Substitution of God

“How then could God express simultaneously his holiness in judgment and his love in pardon? Only by providing a divine substitute for the sinner, so that the substitute would receive the judgment and the sinner the pardon.”
~John Stott, The Cross of Christ, page 134

The second half of the theology of the cross is substitution. God must be satisfied–and He can be satisfied only through His own self-substitution.

The sacrificial system set up in the Old Testament sets the stage for an understanding of substitution. There were two basic types of offerings instituted by God–the offerings that recognize man as a sinner (sin and guilt offerings) and the offerings that recognize man as a creature (peace offerings, burnt offerings, and harvest festivals.)

The sin and guilt offerings are offerings that atone for and deal with man’s sin in order that fellowship between man and his Creator can be restored.

Even in the Old Testament, the idea of substitution is clearly seen. On the day of atonement, the priest placed his hand on the lamb’s head and confessed over it Israel’s sins–transferring the sins from the people of Israel onto the lamb. Then the lamb was slaughtered, sacrificed for Israel’s sins. It was not merely sacrificed because they had sinned–but it received the punishment for their sins in their place.

Of course, this type of sacrifice could never satisfy. Only a man can atone for the sins of man. And only God, having never sinned, is able to substitute. A lamb could only provide a picture, repeated year after year, pointing to the eventual day when atonement would be made once and for all. Every year when the lamb was slaughtered, Israel’s sins were ceremonially removed, only to return again.

But then in the fullness of time, Christ, fully God and fully man, the spotless Lamb of God, took up His cross and took upon Himself all our sins. A substitute, He stood in our place, received the punishment we deserved–the full wrath of God poured out.

“Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.”
~Stuart Townsend & Julian Getty, In Christ Alone

God was satisfied to substitute Himself in Christ for us and in doing so to restore us to fellowship with Himself. What an amazing, overwhelmingly awesome God!

(See more notes on The Cross of Christ here.)

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